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Hearts in Vain

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Sansa Stark heaved a sigh, leaned her head sideways on the seat of the crumpled tin box of a bus they were riding in, and reveled in the rare vision in front of her. Her daughter, with her heartbreakingly brilliant smile plastered to her face, was almost hanging out of the window of the almost-falling-apart-at-the-seams bus and she was actually making ‘whee-ee-ee’ sounds and making waves with her arm in the air and it was so unlike her rather sober as well as precocious 8 year old that Sansa felt close to tears with relief.


She had been so uncertain about this move, about uprooting her daughter from the life she had known since her birth and plunging both of them in a foreign life, foreign country and even more foreign culture. From Eyrie to Lys. From Westeros to the one of the tiniest islands in the Free Cities of Essos. She had almost had a nervous breakdown on the long flight from Wickenden to Myr after she had coaxed her daughter to a peaceful sleep. The decision to start afresh halfway across the world had been difficult to begin with, but she had also been sort of forced to make the decision in a hurry. She didn’t know where she would be right at this moment if she hadn’t accepted this job offer. But even the offer had come via an unexpected source. That, coupled with the fact that only a few weeks ago this time she had been the lady of The Eyrie and now she didn’t even know what else the Gods had in store for her and her daughter, was giving Sansa frequent panic attacks that she was keeping below the surface with superhuman efforts. It didn’t hurt that she had years of practice keeping her emotions in check. All for her daughter. From the day she first felt the quiver of life in her womb, it had been all about her. And this move too was all for her. Sansa gulped in another deep breath and she drank in the beautiful sight of her daughter’s bright smile as she let this view calm her unstable emotions.


Alyssa Baelish. She hadn’t even been able to name the most important person in her life. Her husband had named Alyssa after the legendary Alyssa Arryn of The Eyrie who also lent her name to the famous waterfall of Alyssa’s Tears. But Sansa hadn’t minded, rather she was reassured in the knowledge that Petyr was taking an interest in the babe contrary to what she had suspected while she was pregnant. Her relief was short-lived though. The older Alyssa got, the more criticizing Petyr got of her. Sometimes he was so contemptuous that it bordered on being verbally abusive. Sansa refrained from interfering with difficulty as she knew her shielding the child would only bring down the full force of Petyr’s wrath on her. He punished the child plenty for his own insecurities, jealousies, and fears as it was.


Sansa reached out a hand and smoothed Alyssa’s dark, heavy, windswept tresses back from her face. Alyssa was the total opposite of her mother in coloring. With dark hair, dark eyes, dramatically sculpted eyebrows, a straight nose and stubborn chin, she looked almost nothing like Sansa. Even their body types were different; whereas Sansa was the tall, willowy type, Alyssa was the petite, athletic type. The more Alyssa grew up to be her own person, the more Sansa witnessed Petyr’s resentment grow of her. Maybe it was the constant censure that had made Alyssa as independent as she was. She was a child intelligent, understanding and mature beyond her age. At times, to Sansa’s astonishment and amusement, she almost seemed to brood while thinking to herself. It was also that brooding that reminded Sansa of the real reason of Petyr’s bitterness against the girl. After all, it was when she brooded like that did Alyssa most resemble her father.


Of course, Petyr had known Alyssa wasn’t his. She couldn’t have been. But Petyr had been eager to help Sansa out of the sticky situation she had found herself in at the tender age of 17, pregnant and missing a baby-daddy. He had always been eager to help Sansa anyway. Even when she had been 11 and all of her family had been killed in a blast in a political rally, a consequence of her father’s political career which had been on the rise then. There had been no immediate relatives who were willing to take in the minor, even her mother’s younger sister who also became a widow as a result of the same blast, and there came Petyr. He had been so chivalrous to take in the minor as his ward and it wasn’t until Sansa began to flower did she ever suspect that there might have been an ulterior motive to Petyr's charity. Sansa, however, had been able to avoid Petyr’s increasingly lingering kisses and fondling hugs for a long time, until she found herself pregnant, helpless and totally at Petyr’s mercy. And that was the one crime she would never forgive the man she had once loved with everything she had: Jon Snow.


She had been 16 when she had laid eyes upon Jon Snow again. He was her elder brother’s best friend, lived with his parents in the estate next to Sansa’s parents. He had been orphaned at a young age and since then, though his Uncle Aemon became his legal guardian, he had been a near constant fixture at Winterfell. It had been a shocking surprise when she had seen Jon standing outside her college where she had enrolled for a short course in Child Care and Development. He looked so unsure standing there in his black leather jacket and his uncertainty was confirmed in the way he stuttered her name in a question. Sansa had felt like hugging him, a throwback to her childhood he had been, but her recently formed aversions to male touches had restrained her. He had informed her how he had enrolled in the most elite military forces in all of Westeros, the Night’s Watch, and how a special platoon was sent in the Vale to train with the famous Knights of the Vale. But to Sansa, he was neither a man of the Night’s Watch nor a blast from the past; to Sansa he had been a gust of the winds from North, he had been a sliver of home.


Sansa didn’t remember how long Jon’s platoon was supposed to stay in the Vale; she only remembered that for those 4 months with Jon, her feet didn’t touch the ground as she was flying, flying high. They were like wildfire, self-combusting from almost the first moment they touched each other. Their fire burnt so quick and so high! Sansa, who had been terrified of male attention of late, blossomed under his touches. It was, indeed, Jon who refrained from going all the way each time they started to get too carried way. It was actually a miracle that someone as shrewd as Petyr noticed so late what was happening right under his nose.


To this day Petyr’s reaction to her love affair with Jon was the most bizarre reaction he had ever shown Sansa. He said nothing to her, absolutely nothing. Lysa Arryn had a lot to say though. She had had her eyes on Petyr for years, had hoped to marry him when her husband died. Instead Petyr had taken on her own niece Sansa as a ward and Lysa only as a mistress. She spent more than half her time at the Eyrie and her only mission seemed to be criticizing Sansa herself or egging Petyr to do that. Lysa called her a slut and whatnot and implored Petyr to let Sansa go away with Jon. Petyr had quelled Lysa with a look.


Yet, despite his calm reaction to the news, Petyr started to insert himself into Sansa’s love life directly post his knowledge about it. Whenever Sansa would be about to go out with Jon, Petyr would need Sansa to stay back at home to tend to some back pain he had, or play hostess to some friends he had coming, or take care of young Robin while he and Lysa spent some ‘alone time’. If Sansa mentioned Jon, Lysa would be quick to point out how when everyone had washed their hands off of Sansa, it had been Petyr who took her in so magnanimously. It was on the tip of Sansa’s tongue several times that everyone only included her mother’s only sister Lysa who had washed her hands off an orphaned child, but she restrained herself as she knew that would worsen her life at home.


Jon never held it against her when she cancelled, but it was a source of frustration for them both. In the end though, it was Petyr himself who drove them over that unspoken line they had drawn for themselves. He got too drunk on his birthday party and demanded Sansa kissed him properly as a birthday gift. When Sansa tried to placate him with a chaste one, he grabbed her, kissed her forcefully and then shoved his hand under her skirts. Sansa had been horrified, pushed him off of her and ran from the house straight into Jon’s arms. Jon’s platoon had been housed in a hotel near the base camp of the Knights of the Vale. He had pulled her inside, listened to her sobs and her description of what happened and he had been beyond himself with rage. Then he had wanted to go punch Petyr’s teeth in and it had been Sansa who pacified him. One thing led to another, and somehow they found themselves wrapped around each other in Jon’s bed. This time none of them had the emotional strength to withdraw or make the other stop.


Sansa didn’t think she conceived Alyssa the first time they did it. Despite Jon’s tenderness, it had hurt and although it got better later, Jon couldn’t last longer as he kept his eyes trained on her. After he had finished, he kissed down her body to bring her to her peek with his mouth and that’s when Sansa had noted that most of his seed had been spilled on her belly and the crumpled white sheets. No, she was sure it happened the second time.


They had both drifted off to sleep and were still half asleep as Jon had reached for her hips and pulled her back to his erection. He had entered her from behind and his hand had worked at her nub. This time he had brought her to her peak even before he stared thrusting fast. When he had started thrusting hard and fast, she had felt another orgasm building in her and as he had lost control, they had come together. They had lain there together, not speaking, just touching each other, Jon still snuggly pressed inside Sansa and Sansa keeping his soft member inside by keeping her legs tightly closed. Just as she had felt Jon preparing himself to say something to her, Sansa had felt overwhelmed by all the events of the night and had burst into tear and Jon’s bedside phone had rung. With a furrowed brow, he had reached across Sansa and picked the receiver up. His posture had stiffened immediately, he had only been able to say ‘Sir” a bunch of times and then he had been off the bed in a flash. When he had slammed the phone in the cradle, Jon had started dressing, telling her his platoon leader had summoned him at once, he would be back soon and with a kiss to her lips, he had been gone.


Sansa had waited 18 whole hours for him in that tiny hotel room, the scent of their mingled pleasure turning into stench, her pleasure bubble turning into insecurity and terror. In the evening, when she knew men of the Night’s Watch would be returning from their training of the day, she knew she couldn’t wait any longer and had to leave. When she had reached home, she couldn’t look at Lysa’s disgusted gaze and Petyr’s blank one. Petyr had later come to her alone and apologized for his behavior the night before and said he had been terribly worried for Sansa. He informed Sansa he had called his contact in the Knights of the Vale and from there he had reached the platoon leader of the visiting platoon of the Night’s Watch. The platoon leader was the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch himself and Jeor Mormont had informed him that Jon Snow had left for the Wall that day itself on official duty. She hadn’t taken only Petyr’s word for truth though. She had rung Jon’s hotel when his cellphone had been unreachable and she had been informed that ranger Snow’s room had been let go by the platoon after his things had been cleared out by his mates. She had asked to speak to one of his mates and had been informed by Pyp or Grenn, she couldn’t remember who it was now, that Snow was back at the Wall on duty.


She had tried to make excuses for him, that maybe he was called away on important official duty, even though she knew he wasn’t that special of a ranger yet that only he would be asked to join on a special mission from his whole platoon. She told herself it might have been a matter of life and death and yet she knew he would have had to wait for a flight back to the Wall for hours and he could have easily had come back to his room for his things and for her. Most of all, she knew if he had wanted to keep their relationship, he could have called her, texted her, e-mailed her, or freaking written to her. He did none. His radio silence convinced her he regretted what had happened between them more than his desertion did. He had seen her crying, he must have known she had been overwhelmed with feelings. She was just 16, for crying out loud! He had claimed he understood her, so he should have known how vulnerable she must have felt after their time together. And yet he just up and left, in the name of duty apparently, and then forgot that she existed. Sometimes just to make excuses for him, Sansa imagined he had died in the line of duty. But she knew that was not the case. That was not what his mates told her and besides somehow she felt she would know if that was the case. No, Jon Snow had got what he wanted and then his luck had enabled him to swiftly abandon her.


Over two months, Sansa agonized and berated herself, until one day she fainted at the garden of the Eyrie. When she learned she was pregnant, her first reaction was joy. She had a person of her own in this world now. And then came the fear, uncertainty, anger, bitterness and vulnerability.


Petyr was again, very calm. He stoically informed they must marry. To Sansa’s horrified rejection, he had very quietly pointed out, other than the fact that the baby would be considered a bastard, even if Sansa didn’t marry Petyr, whatever she told to the contrary people would just assume Petyr was the father of the babe. If Sansa told her story of Jon, people would just assume Petyr used her and was now shirking his responsibilities. He asked her how could she portray him to people like that after all he had done for her. He coaxed her by imploring her to think of her unborn child; of the future Petyr could provide for the child. He apologized for his lecherous behavior of the past and then he pressured her to make her decisions before she started to show.


Sansa neither had the emotional strength nor the mental capacity to think a way out of the walls that were rapidly closing in on her. She succumbed. Petyr and she were wed in a surprisingly quick time. Petyr forgot his promises even quicker than that.


He had a fantasy about every state Sansa was in, it seemed. He was a pervert at heart. Sansa resisted his advances at every step. Throwing an emotional tantrum when he forced his hands under her dress on their wedding night, and then pleading hormonal imbalance due to the pregnancy later. But Petyr had leverage after Alyssa was born. The first time Sansa let Petyr fuck her was the time when he had wrenched Alyssa from her breasts and threatened to throw her at the wall of the nursery. At first he would even demand her participation in the depraved acts, threatening Alyssa in the event of non-compliance. Later, when Alyssa was older, four or so, the little soul learned to stay out of Petyr’s path by herself and Sansa stopped participating in Petyr’s games altogether. She still opened her legs for him occasionally when he would tend to become too censorious to Alyssa, but she made sure Petyr knew what lying with a block of ice felt like. Petyr soon understood her game; he turned to Lysa’s bed again and started picking on Alyssa like a dog with a bone. And after all of his tortures they endured, the bastard left not a penny for Sansa and Alyssa after he died.


Sansa had been on the streets with Alyssa after Petyr’s will had been read. He had written everything he had over to his mistress Lysa Arryn. Sansa was on some level glad that she didn’t owe that pervert anything in death, but still the face of her daughter had plagued her with worries. She had inherited her father’s estate after her family was killed, but title disputes and possible contest had prompted her father to put the estate in a trust in case of his untimely death. The trust could only be accessible to her once she reached 30. As it was, Sansa was penniless.


Then had come the unexpected e-mail. Mr Varys, whom she knew as her father’s aide and later his estate executor, had sent her a link to a job application of all things. He said he knew of her situation and he was sorry her estate couldn’t be handed over to her at this time and as he knew she had taken courses on childcare, he thought she would like to consider the job. Lastly, his cryptic mail had stated, Sansa might the find the change in scenery a most welcome thing at this point in her life and he urged her to take the plunge. Sansa had read the ad; a Mrs. Ygritte Wilde was looking for a nanny for her two infant sons. The job paid very, very handsomely, would provide separate accommodations, widows were preferred and they wouldn’t even mind one or two children. The only catch was it was half a world away as far as Sansa was concerned, all the way in Lys in the Free Cities. And in the end, it was Alyssa and her enthusiasm for the Free Cities that had tipped the scales for Sansa.


Now there they were, travelling from Myr Airport over the Disputed Lands to the coastline where they would take a ferry to Lys. Sansa heaved another sigh and with a feigned smile she attracted Alyssa’s attention, “Looking forward to the ferry, Lyssa?” Alyssa turned to her with an amused grin, “I know, you aren’t!” Sansa ignored her teasing and gathered her bag, “Get ready with your things. We are stopping and that must be the ferry now!”


Sansa gathered their bags and motioned Alyssa to go ahead of her with her own trolley bags. By the time she came out of the bus, adjusted her eyes to the late afternoon sun and looked for her daughter, she saw Alyssa was already in conversation with a rather bulky man standing by a powerful looking four-wheeler jeep. Another man, possibly the driver, was already stowing Lyssa’s bags in the back and the way his back muscles played at the movements told Sansa he must be one of those kind of men who loved to spend all of their times in the gym. Sansa furrowed her brows disapprovingly and marched to Alyssa. Her daughter had this annoying habit of always talking to strangers. But as she drew near, the bulky man smiled at her and spoke, “Mrs, Baelish? I am Sam.. Samwell.. Samwell Tarly! You can call me Sam though, everyone does! I hope you had a nice journey? Alyssa here was telling us you are not looking forward to the ferry ride? Too bad you know.. since we gotta ride it to get to Lys. This is Jon though. And he will talk to the captain of the ferry and we’ll make sure the journey goes as tranquil as possible! Oh sorry! I am not letting you speak. We came to pick Sansa Baelish and Alyssa Baelish up and Alyssa here confirmed that’s you-”


Sansa interrupted his babblings because she knew that was the only way she’d get a word in, but she just had to ask for her peace of mind, “Jon?” As she was looking at Sam for an answer, the other man turned and as she gasped really loudly, he answered as if she had called, “Yes, Mrs Baelish?”


Sansa looked at the face she had seen most nights in her dreams for the last 9 years and then at the innocent face she had lived for for the last 9 years, and the resemblance was so striking, that it nearly knocked Sansa off her feet. A sudden bile of anger, betrayal, hurt and sadness rose in her throat. Her head spun and she wanted to hurl every silent accusation of the past 9 years at his face. But there was such a naked rage, almost accusatory anger in Jon’s eyes that in that instant Sansa vowed that Jon must not ever see what she was seeing, the resemblance between Alyssa and himself. After all these years of purgatory in hell, Sansa was finally free and she would not drag herself or Alyssa into the muds of the past just so she could demand answers and justifications from Jon Snow. He could go to the hell he resided in for the past 9 years for all she cared. Dragging Alyssa behind her in a swift pull, she turned her head sharply towards Sam and said in clipped tones, “Please inform.. Mrs.. Mrs.. Yes! Wilde! Mrs Wilde that I will be unable to fulfill this position after all. Goodbye!”