Sansa knows they’re close as soon as she hits the Clyde. The trees change markedly then and from there it’s a solid half hour of narrow twists and turns shared with impatient motorists and seasoned truck drivers hopped up on Speed. The steep descent alone is enough to cease all conversation in the car as Sansa focuses on not killing the both of them on the way down. She’s gripping the wheel like a little old lady now. Car in semi-auto mode, gears shifted down manually so the car is forced to slow. The last time she hadn’t thought to do that, she had suffered the rest of the week with gummy brakes.
Petyr takes this time to look around him, taking the scenery in silently. It’s a memorable drive, if you’ve done this road before. Sansa glances at him once, twice, and it’s like he’s got that look that crosses his face sometimes when he sees something he remembers or recognises. It’s a fleeting look, it soon passes. Sometimes it’s a false alarm, where he thinks he’s seen it before when actually he hasn’t.
The road gradually flattens, the twists and turns loosening like curls in seawater. Sansa lets out a breath she hadn’t realised she had been half-holding. His hand steals across into her lap and she squeezes it now, a smile stretching across her face.
“They moved here when I first started Uni,” she explains, pulling his hand up to rest high upon her thigh. Intimate, but not yet close enough to cause a traffic accident. “After twenty-five years of living in the frigid cold, my mum finally turns to my dad and says, ‘We’re moving to the beach.’
"And that was that, apparently. We used to holiday here every summer over the Christmas-New Year week. Just became a standing booking for us every year until mum and dad decided to just buy it and do it up. They sold Winterfell and moved everything to the coast — and then named the beach house New Winterfell anyway as a joke. Dad commutes to Sydney and Canberra, which works alright for him. This all happened when I was in my first year, by the way, so I hardly got a say. And then of course I started working almost immediately so I’ve never really lived there. New Winterfell still feels more like a summer house to me than anything.”
“I’m really looking forward to seeing it for myself,” he smiles at her now. “It still holds a lot of your history, your memories.”
Sansa’s heart squeezes at his words.
“Are you nervous?”
“Should I be nervous?”
“I’m nervous,” Sansa admits, but then looks properly at the man to her left now. “I think we’ll be fine. They’ll love you. I love you.”
“And I you.” And he raises her hand to his lips and kisses it soundly.
“So…” Jon finally clears his throat. “Um… yeah… what do you do?”
They’re all lounging around the various settees in the living room. Jon, his special Ygritte, Robb and new-ish wife Jeyne, even soulful Bran and hyper Rickon too. And then Arya, whose eyes are glinting with barely bridled mischief, who’s suspiciously, sickeningly silent. She’s the one to watch out for most of all.
They’re lounging around, but it’s no coincidence that Sansa and Petyr are left sitting slightly apart on the dining chairs, just half a head taller than everyone else in the room. On show, live now at the New Winterfell Living Room Theatre.
“I’m a barrister,” Petyr replies pleasantly.
“You don’t look like one,” Rickon pipes up, scanning Petyr's well-loved Abercrombie & Fitch T-shirt and his seasoned khakis. Petyr laughs good-naturedly.
“No, I suppose not,” he concedes, his eyes merry. “I’m a bit of a dag, really. Sansa is the far superior clothes horse between the two of us.” He reaches over and rubs her back fondly.
“How long have you been a barrister?” asks Ygritte now, and Jon barely hides how he nudges her leg with his own. She grins back at him unrepentantly.
“Oooohhh, I’m not sure, actually…” Petyr stretches, scratches the back of his head and thinks. “My memory isn’t too good. There are gaps in my knowledge, but from what I can gather, the safest answer would be… long enough to know better.” He grins, and there’s a collective groan as Sansa chuckles.
“I’m forty,” he volunteers amiably after that, and there is a telling pause in the room that Petyr seems not to notice. He wraps an arm around Sansa, pulling her closer. She turns to look at him and smile. Also unrepentant.
Rickon is doing the math, but Bran beats him to it. “Eighteen years,” he intones for everyone’s benefit.
“Thank you, Bran,” Sansa replies drily but shoots a glance at Arya, just waiting for the barb, the punchline. But nothing. Arya is smiling but silent.
Someone clears a throat. They seem to be waiting to ask the obvious, or say the obvious, although no one seems entirely sure what the obvious actually is.
Sansa squelches the urge to suck face with Petyr right then, just to get a reaction. Anything to burst this pimple. She shifts in her chair, and catches Petyr’s eye right at that moment. He seems to think the same and she suddenly has to stifle the biggest snort of laughter.
Hysteria, maybe. She had always suspected it would be pretty awkward at first, but she never anticipated such nerves. She hopes they like him eventually. Sooner rather than later. That they’ll see for themselves what she has long known about their connection. That age really is just a number. She hopes to god they love him. That he will be family like Ygritte and Jeyne.
And if they don’t?
He squeezes her hand now.
How could they not.
There’s the sound of the dogs going nuts at the back of the house, and the crash of aluminium against the frame as someone or other enters the kitchen noisily. Everyone hears their father’s voice as he curses that screen door for the umpteenth time.
“How many times do I have to fix this bloody thing…”
“It’s fine, Ned. Leave it alone.”
“It’s supposed to close softly. It’s the pneumatic. It’s bung again, and I only just changed the thing last year.”
“Here, mum!” cries Arya now, flinging herself over the arm of the couch and waving them over with big arms. “Sansa’s here!” The slightest pause. "With her new boy!”
And there’s the punchline. Ygritte buries her face in the crook of Jon’s neck and audibly snorts into his mop of curls.
“Sansa?” Catelyn calls out and her daughter duly sits up a little straighter.
“Hi Mum!” Sansa calls sweetly in reply.
There’s a quickening of bare feet on the vinyl plank floor and before Petyr can ask his question, the matriarch of the family he’s desperate to impress strides into the room. There is no disputing now who Sansa gets her gorgeous head of hair from.
Mrs Catelyn Stark’s smile freezes and she stills so suddenly that the air itself in the room seems to stiffen.
“Petyr Baelish?” Catelyn’s voice is low and unsure. “Is that you?”
Sansa stands up slowly, as does he. Her hand steals to her side, groping blindly for him until her fingers lace with his, thankful to draw strength. Determined to prove their solidarity.
“Yes, Mum… this is Petyr…” A crease forms in Sansa’s brow. She doesn’t ever remember telling her mother his last name.
But her mother is walking slowly to them now, and her face is etched with worry and something else far less fathomable. “I don’t… How did you…”
“Sansa?” And the entire room swivels now to survey the Head Stark at the archway. There is a moment of bewilderment before Ned Stark's gaze hardens as well.
“What is the meaning of this!”
Sansa turns to stare at Petyr, but the poor man beside her is a portrait of confusion himself.
“Um… Mr Stark,” Petyr begins, but Sansa’s father cuts him off.
“I don’t know what you’re playing at, Baelish. But to come into my house…” Eddard's eyes flick down just then to their hands squeezed tight and the look of incredulity that results from the understanding makes Sansa flinch visibly.
“Are you with him!”
“Sansa—please tell me you are not with this… this…”
“I uh…” Petyr starts, before he stills. His posture changes slightly. “There seems to be a misunderstanding, Mr Stark.”
Petyr’s voice is clear and commanding, though no less pleasant and Sansa is taken back briefly to their days at Uni when he was still her lecturer. She wouldn’t be surprised if he uses this tone in court as well. And why wouldn’t he. It is almost always eerily effective. Her father blinks.
Petyr seizes the opportunity to state his case. “You both… seem to know me, Mr and Mrs Stark. But I have... no memory of you. You see—“
“Petyr’s an amnesiac, Daddy!” Sansa pleads and the stunned silence that follows is almost comical if Sansa herself isn't in the middle of this melodrama.
“What are you talking about, Sansa?"
“Petyr is an amnesiac. He was in a terrible accident and now he can’t drive…”
“I do not remember the first thirty-three years of my life,” Petyr explains calmly. The room is riveted now. Even Rickon has stopped twitching. “I’ve… had to recover my history… my sense of self, of who I was… what I was…” He lifts both his hands up in a small gesture of helplessness. “Forgive me if I’ve offended you now, or in the past. And if I don’t remember. I can’t. But if I’ve hurt you or your family in any way, any way at all… I just… I beg your forgiveness now.”
Catelyn looks stricken, shocked. Ned is shocked as well, but his frown tells all. He doesn’t quite believe Petyr.
“Daddy… please. I’ve seen how Petyr struggles. I know him now. Very well. Believe me. He’s genuine. He’s not lying. I’ve been to the doctors' with him. He’s a good man."
“Amnesia doesn’t make you good, just forgetful,” Ned returns and Petyr flinches.
“Maybe I should go,” Petyr murmurs quietly into Sansa’s ear and it is clear to everyone now that he is upset. His face is tight, and he’s rubbing his chin with the back of his fingers. “I should go,” he says more to himself now than anyone else in the room.
“No, Petyr—please, it’s okay.” Sansa holds his face gently with both hands, willing him to look at her.
“No, sweetling… I don’t want to spoil your family's holiday.”
“Petyr.” And at the sound of Catelyn’s voice, both Sansa and Petyr still, turning to look at her anxiously.
The older woman swallows. “I’m so sorry to hear about your accident and all that you’ve gone through. Please… you’ve made the trip already. Just stay.” She shoots a warning look at her husband before she continues, her voice clear as a bell now. “We’d love for you to stay. Get reacquainted.”
The relief on Sansa’s face was not quite mirrored in Petyr’s own. Ned scowls but says nothing and after a pause, Petyr nods slightly and smiles. “You’re very kind, Mrs Stark.”
“This is a mistake.”
Catelyn glances at her glowering husband and sighs. Everyone had eventually managed to mumble their excuses before making their escape to their various burrows, each child pairing off and scurrying away—no doubt to do exactly what the senior Starks are doing right now. Working out how they feel about Sansa and Petyr.
“You’re probably right.”
“I know I haven’t had to deal with the man in a while, but if he’s anything like he was ten years ago, I don’t want him hanging around Sansa.”
“Petyr seems changed.” But even Catelyn sounds unsure. Ned makes a noise that sounds like a cross between a harrumph and a groan.
“That load of cock and bull. Amnesia! Bloody convenient.”
“Ned!” And again that frown of reproof. “No matter what your feelings are for that man, we all saw his reaction. I don’t think he’s faking it. He didn’t recognise me at all. And when you came barrelling out at him like that, he actually looked intimidated.” She pressed her hand on her husband’s chest and looked him in the eye seriously. “In the time before when you dealt with him… have you ever seen Petyr stumped for words? That downstairs, what we saw… that wasn’t an act. I think I believe them both. He doesn’t remember us.”
He doesn’t remember me, thinks Catelyn with a jolt.
He can’t remember.
And she can’t forget.
Ned’s lips thin into a grimace. But he doesn't add his protests this time — and that is a start at least, thinks Catelyn.
“I forget that he’s some childhood friend of yours, sometimes,” Ned muses aloud, after a length of silence. Catelyn turns to look at him now, watchful.
“All I remember is what he eventually did to Howland's legacy. Seeing the aftermath, after it happened… The guy’s a snake. A ruthless sonofa-B. Real piece of work.” He shakes his head as if to rid himself of some unpleasantness.
“And maybe he’s not anymore,” Catelyn replies gently. “Maybe the accident changed him.”
“Like a leopard rearranging his spots?” Ned stares into his wife’s face, absently brushing her hair back behind her shoulders. He brings her in for a hug. “I know you want to keep the peace for Sansa’s sake, Cat. But I’m a lawyer. And I think some things are just hardwired into people. In fact, I’ve seen it countless of times.”
“Are you okay?"
They’re sitting on the edge of the bed now. Sansa’s rubbing his back gently, long sweeping circles the way she knows he likes it. She waits for him to relax and so far, he hasn’t really.
Petyr leans on her suddenly, his head tucked up underneath her jaw. Sansa brings her other arm across and holds him close in a loose embrace, breathing him in.
“I must have really been… something else,” he finally says after a minute of quiet. Sansa waits.
“A bit of an asshole, probably — did you see the way your father looked at me?” And her grip around his shoulder tightens protectively, defiantly.
“It’s not the first time, as you know…” And he trails off. And Sansa holds and tries to rock him gently.
It’s not the first time, of course. Every time Petyr uncovers something new about his past… every time there’s a hint of the man he used to be… Manipulative. Grasping. Fast and loose with the truth. And utterly, utterly faithless and self-serving. She watches as he struggles to reconcile the person he is with the creature he doesn’t remember but that everyone else cannot and will not forget.
She watches as he tries to reinvent himself. She knows when he struggles to like himself.
On impulse, she pulls his face roughly to hers and kisses him deeply, their tongues soon starting a familiar dance that comforts immeasurably even as it thrills.
It’s when he likes himself the least that she must love him the most.
Dinner is five kinds of salads and an endless stream of barbecued meat from the brand new outdoor kitchen at the back. Robb and Jon do the chefing honours at the grill and Petyr, bless him, sticks around the back with them to shoot the breeze, taking over whenever one of them goes off hunting for a beer, a piss, or a chat with the woman they love.
When they finally all gather 'round the dinner table, now extended twice by furniture odds and sods to accommodate them all, Petyr looks remarkably cheered and Sansa beams back at him as he takes his place beside her. He squeezes her thigh playfully under the table and that is always a good sign.
There’s a rhythm that gently builds as dishes are passed around, as family banter rises and Petyr sits back now to observe them all quietly with a growing sense of calm — the first he’s felt all day since walking through their front door.
Eventually, though, the conversation turns back to him.
“So tell us how you met, Sans.” Arya’s eyes are big and round, and she fools no one for a second, he doesn’t think.
They look at each other, and he opens his palm towards her, as if to say, “Go ahead."
“Well…” Sansa begins, and because it’s Sansa, he knows that she’s been secretly rehearsing this spiel for a week before this moment.
She looks at him now, still smiling widely even as she explains to everyone around the table. “He was one of my lecturers — although nothing came of it back then, I swear!” Some lighthearted ribbing about her stellar grades and both of them have a chuckle.
“He almost flunked me, actually. I misunderstood the assignment entirely.”
“She exaggerates,” Petyr interjects mildly. “She came to me two weeks before the paper was due — the only one to have almost completed the assignment, of course. I merely gave her a tip—“
Another snort from Ygritte who is just full of articulate snorts, it seems.
“—and she did very well after that.”
“I’ll bet she did,” murmurs Arya with a grin.
Neither Catelyn nor Ned looks thrilled. Ned stabs a thick lamb sausage with vigour before slicing it into thirds deftly.
But if Sansa notices her father at all, she does a pretty job of ignoring him and sticking to her script.
“He was only a casual lecturer anyway. And I only had one class with him. He’d told us all one time what his firm does, and I remembered that. About a month after I started and was on rotation at Legal Aid, there was a gentleman with a complex family dispute who really needed some commercial litigation as well. And I thought of Petyr, so I called him to ask if he knew someone who could help. But in the end, he personally took the case and even did it pro bono, so yeah… we started chatting more, and then having lunch now and then… and you know… we’re together now.”
“Awww… that’s quite sweet, actually!” Jeyne pipes up suddenly, and Sansa is so grateful that she reaches across Robb to squeeze her hand.
“Pro bono,” Ned repeats and something about that is now sticking in his craw. He’s chewing now as if the meat’s gone bitter and hard, and Catelyn touches his wrist, a warning look in her eyes and a subtle shake of the head that Petyr notices anyway.
But Eddard Stark now has a bone to pick.
“I don’t recall you ever giving anything out for free before.”
And a shadow passes over Petyr’s face before he forces his features to arrange themselves into a benign smile.
“Whether I did or didn’t, I really cannot say, I’m afraid. My memory… but anyway, I try to do that more now—especially when I know the client’s in a stink that isn’t of his own making, and needs all the help he can get.”
“How magnanimous,” Ned replies and his opposite meaning is clear. Sansa tenses.
“See, the Petyr I remember would have only done something for ’nothing’,” Ned hooks his fingers as air-quotes, "if he stood to extract his pound of flesh plus loose change.”
“And it worked, didn’t it. You saw an opportunity like you always do, and you took it. In this case, you do a ‘good deed’ and my daughter swoons and falls into your lap.”
“Ned!” Catelyn grits out through her teeth, “please pass the salad. Now.”
Ned relents, grabbing the bowl and passing it to his wife who takes the biggest clump she can and dumps it squarely on his plate.
“Have some greens,” she fairly orders him in such a quiet, lethal voice that the rest of the Stark children immediately turn back to their plates and dutifully finish their own.
But Sansa has had enough of this rudeness now and before Petyr can stop her, she’s demanding that her father explains himself right this instant. “Why are you being so horrible to him! You know what happened to Petyr. Hasn’t he been through enough!”
And this time, Catelyn purses her lips so hard, she looks like a sock puppet.
“Has he been through enough?” Ned Stark repeats incredulously. “Sansa my darling, this man that you claim is your ‘boyfriend', that you claim is all good and innocent now… I’ve watched him get big tobacco companies off with penalties so minor, it’s an insult all over again to the victims to even mention his victories. He’s represented them all — tobacco, alcohol, barely-disguised prostitution rings, crooked gaming manufacturers. Rorting banks and murdering pharmaceuticals. That’s him. The youngest, sharpest, hungriest shark in court. And maybe that just makes him the sleaziest sonofabitch around.
“Except he goes and steals Howland Reed's firm from under him. His clients, his files, his lawyers, all of it. Howland! The most unassuming man alive with a quiet practice in Adelaide. Why? Because of the one time that he lost to Howland in court. This man here,” Ned points his knife at Petyr, "has a memory as long as the Murray Darling River, my girl. And he holds a grudge like no other.”
There’s a deathly silence that falls over the table and even Arya looks sorry she ever opened her mouth.
Sansa is shaking so badly, she can hardly bring the glass of water to her lips. Everyone watches her try before she gives up the desperate effort for calm, shakily placing the glass back down on the coaster again.
“Mr Stark,” and Petyr’s voice is strained. “I’m sorry I hurt your friend so… significantly. I’ve learnt since my recovery what I had done… how I was.” His face is ashen now, his five o’clock shadow suddenly darkening his usually smooth face so he now looks haggard. Older. Defeated.
“I don’t know why I was the man I was before… but I am changed, I think. I try anyway, every day. I know it’s no consolation, but shortly after the takeover, I met with the accident. It… it’s not been entirely established yet if it really was an accident, or an attempt on my life. And from what you just told us, I probably had it coming,” Petyr observes bleakly. "But in any case... long story very short... I lost it all.”
A loud groan of wood as Sansa stands up abruptly, scraping her chair hard against the timber deck hardwood instead of picking the chair off the floor like she was taught. She throws her napkin on her plate, balefully glaring at her father as she does so, before rushing from the table. There’s a full second’s hesitation before Petyr mutters his excuses and leaves to go after her.
Ned looks as if he’d just accidentally vomited all over the table. Or kicked a kitten. While vomiting all over the table.
Catelyn whips her own napkin from her lap and throws it hard at her husband of twenty-seven years. “I told you to shut up and eat your greens,” she can’t help biting out.
Petyr finds her in the first place he thinks to look. She’s sitting in front of the vanity but turns and stands the moment she sees his reflection in the mirror before her.
He closes the door to their bedroom behind him, sliding the privacy lock in place by feel.
“Are you alright?” he murmurs to her, worried. Somehow the question seems to break her heart a little more. They fall into each other’s arms in an instant, their embrace as tight as it is fierce. Her mouth crashes into his and he answers just as determinedly. A silence falls heavy in the room as they consume one another and a small cocoon of peace starts to build tight around them.
And then they’re peeling the layers off each other with practised urgency. Her pale blue cotton blouse is the first to go, pulled out of her tiny pair of light beige shorts. Those shorts are the next he dispenses with, yanking at the drawstring top and fumbling with her zip. She unbuttons his shirt deftly, pulling it back over his shoulders to expose his heart to her. Layer by layer is peeled and summarily discarded. And then they bare themselves completely before dropping together into bed.
They are of one mind, one soul, both determined to feel as close to the other as humanly possible. He lies on top of her, toe to toe. Face to face. Leg pressed fully into leg. Every inch of skin that can kiss her own is therefore flush against hers. She clings to his back, pressing him so close to her that he’s almost afraid he might crush her chest with the weight of his own.
He groans when he finds her already slick, his fingers making hot, wet sounds as he works her sweet little sex slowly. And then he’s brushing the full length of his rigid self along her seam, her juices coating his cock as he presses and slides, presses and slides along her heated fleshy curtain. He works her clit this way, glancing off that little bud, close, so close to just slipping inside of her one of these strokes. It’s never enough and she wants to scream.
“Please,” she half-gasps in his mouth and from the way she’s pulling her legs up, he knows she wants to feel him richly, fully, deeply.
They both suck their teeth when he enters her in a single, swift stroke, embedding himself so he hits the very deepest part of her. He’s devouring her hot, sweet mouth again when there’s a knock on the door.
“Sweetheart…” Catelyn. “Are you alright?”
They both freeze and Sansa tears her mouth away from his.
“I’ll be fine…” She gropes for words. “I just need some time, that’s all.” It’s good, he thinks. It almost sounds like she’s crying.
“Oh darling, of course.” There’s a pause. “Is Petyr with you?”
Half a beat as they stare at each other. “Yeah…?” “Yes, ma’am.”
His cock can’t decide if it wants to deflate or harden even more now, with all this tension.
“Can I speak to you now? Alone?”
Petyr thinks about the privacy lock on the door. If Catelyn tries it and it opens, they’re busted. If she tries it and it doesn’t… Well, that’s still a dead giveaway.
This must be how fucking during high school must’ve felt like, Petyr surmises grimly.
“Mum… can I just have some time with Petyr first? I’d like to talk to him now. Alone.”
They both wait, breathing shallowly as Catelyn seems to baulk at the idea before she moves away. He’s still buried deep inside of his Sansa but neither of them dares to move until a long minute has passed.
“Ho shit!” Sansa breathes out finally and they both share a shaky chuckle.
“Do you want to stop?”
“No,” Sansa replies. “I still have things I need to say." She stares at him as he feels her clenching down from deep within and that fuels his cock to stir, blood rushing low once more.
He lowers his mouth to hers and starts to thrust.
These are the sounds of truest comfort, he learns. The soft slap of skin on skin. The stifled, swallowed moan when it's almost too much. The telltale creaking of wood, marking their shared and mounting pleasure.
So here's my very first Meet-the-Fam Fic. It's turning out to be longer than I thought, so here's the first half for now. As usual, thanks to apocketfulofwry for the initial prompt and being my ideas bouncing board.
And as always, I look forward to hearing from you. xx
Yes. It's now a three-parter. I'm still writing. Meanwhile, there's this.
They had not meant to fall asleep after that, entwined with one another, safe in that cocoon of their own making. When Petyr wakes today, a small sense of dread grips his insides. But he kisses his Sansa awake, makes the most of their nakedness, and then everything feels a little better, the world now at a more even keel.
As if a switch had been flipped overnight, the family seems warmed to Petyr today. They now appear to take him as he is — a man obviously devoted to their sister and daughter, a man who’d lost his memories, a man who has a past. And apart from that, a man like any other.
And in turn, he gets to learn a little more about them.
Robb and Jeyne had only recently and very suddenly married. A shotgun wedding two years ago that seemed all for nothing when Jeyne miscarried anyway in her fourth month. Twins, they had been. Sansa points out their graves when they take a wander after breakfast and turn into a tiny parish.
And yet they look as devoted as any true newlyweds would be. She would not have been Robb’s first choice, Sansa had whispered to Petyr. Nor their parents’, for that matter. And yet somehow things seem to have a way of working out anyway.
Petyr takes comfort in that, squirrelling that nut away. Robb would know. Robb would still remember what it’s like to bring home someone who, at first glance, seems like such a lousy idea.
Jon Snow is an interesting one. A cousin who ended up in the care of Ned and Cat when Ned’s sister had died from complications in childbirth. The identity of the father is still a mystery, a secret that had died with her. As far as the rest of the siblings are concerned, he is brother to them all. But Petyr watches Cat and he wonders if her maternal love quite extends to a child who did not come from her own loins.
Another strand, another useful thing he knows they have in common.
Ygritte is almost nothing like the rest of them. She grew up sleeping rough and there is an unrestrained wildness about her that could be equal parts electrifying and unnerving to watch. There is no filter between her mind and her mouth, and she’s constantly teasing Jon for “all his airs”. La-di-da, she’d say. And yet there is a tendré between them in fleeting, unguarded moments that is rather sweet to watch.
Petyr watches her and he wonders if he had been a kind of wildling once. An urchin, if things had been left as they were for any longer. It’s what he alludes in passing when Ygritte mouths off something about his hipster clothes. Mutton dressed as lamb. She uses sarcasm to bond. The more she derides, the more she is trying to befriend. He gives back as good as he gets and watches as she changes her mind about him.
And because she has a change of heart, he knows she will change Jon as well.
Arya is unusually quiet. Petyr had expected worse ribbing, even outright hostility from Sansa’s biggest sibling rival. But apart from a quip or two, the girl remains mostly silent. Even Sansa is surprised. She’s determined to get to the bottom of this later. As much as the sisters used to get on each other’s nerves, Sansa wants her sister’s approval.
Bran is quiet but watchful — a quality that can be disconcerting as well, except he blows neither hot nor cold on Petyr. His is a sort of bland neutrality, an impersonal indifference. He is Teflon and inscrutable. Rickon, in contrast, is barely into his teenhood. He is young and eager and wears his emotions bright and bold on his sleeve and his face. Rickon is the easiest to bring to his side and Petyr soon finds a friend and admirer in the boy.
It is in Rickon that Petyr finally finds his wedge. They all decide after lunch to take the walk down to the beach not two-hundred feet away and they eventually settle a mile east of the house. He finally whips off his T-shirt then, and it's the first time that any of them sees his scar.
“Cool!” Rickon enthuses, taking in where the scar thickens into a rope across his torso. The length of it, the unevenness — it’s obviously not a surgical scar and Petyr is soon peppered with questions.
“How did you get it? When?” And then, “Why!"
“I honestly do not remember.”
This brings up even more questions, and now the rest are starting to pile on. Bar fight, someone guesses and Ygritte snorts. “You probably lost, ya skinny twat,” she points out and the others laugh a little nervously until he breaks into a self-deprecating grin.
He got glassed. He got knifed. He got mugged. He fell out or through a window. He tried to save a girl. Maybe the other guy had it worse.
Ned isn’t there at the beach with them. But Catelyn makes the trek eventually. They’re still guessing and it’s taken a turn for the ludicrous and even Sansa is laughing and joining in. Maybe his organs got harvested in his sleep. Maybe he’s Batman. Or Lex Luthor.
Catelyn is silent through it all. Petyr glances over now and then but she seems to be on another planet at present, her mouth pinched.
“What is it like, not remembering being my age?” Rickon asks now with all the bluntness that comes with youth and innocence. “Do you know anything at all?”
“A little,” he admits. “I’ve tried to piece it together. When I finally came conscious again, all I had was my keys and my wallet. My phone didn’t make it. They were the only things linking me to my present and my past. Turns out, I kept a pretty spartan apartment. I’m guessing I must have just moved in. I didn’t even have any photo frames.
There’s more to that that he doesn’t say. There were passwords he couldn’t recall, files he couldn’t access. He had been a fastidious sort of man. The encryption was beyond the usual tech head. That haunts him more than he’d ever care to admit.
Even more than the fact that he had no real friends.
“But then, you know, the authorities try. They provide the facts. Where you’re born, who your parents were, that sort of thing. But the rest… what I liked, what my favourite toys were, whether I was into soccer or kissed girls… I had none of that. But it’s not all bad. A bit like a puzzle, a bit of a game, trying to put it all together.”
“Doesn’t it drive you nuts?” Robb pipes up suddenly. “Not knowing that much?”
“It can be an obsession,” Petyr replies pleasantly, as if he’s talking about the tennis. “I try to keep things… light. I keep a box of facts about myself as I uncover them. Snippets of memories, literally. When it’s completely full, I know it’s when I should stop digging. Otherwise it just never ends.”
Sansa is almost relieved when her mother suggests, not very subtly, that she joins her for a walk along the shoreline alone. She’d been waiting for this chat all morning.
As soon as they’re out of earshot, mother and daughter talk on top of one another.
“Mum, I know he’s a lot older—“ “Sansa, there’s something I need to tell you…”
They pause and laugh, and then Sansa insists her mother starts first.
“Your father said some things yesterday that I know must have hurt both you and Petyr… Is Petyr alright? Are you?”
Sansa thinks about it and nods. “I think he understands the anger. It upsets him, which upsets me. But Petyr isn’t blind to what he was. He’s uncovered enough to know that he’s hurt people while doing his job.”
There is more to say about that, mother and daughter know. But it is early days and the holiday has only just started. And Sansa’s just arrived. And she’s not seen her daughter in a whole year and a half.
But she needs to say this next part, at least. It feels wrong to hide it now.
“I’m not sure if you guessed from yesterday that I recognise Petyr… I knew him when I was a younger woman. A girl.”
“Oh?” Sansa is surprised. “I thought you knew him through Daddy's work.”
“I knew him before your dad ever had anything to do with him,” Catelyn replies. “And for the record, your dad never actually dealt with Petyr directly. It wasn’t as if Petyr and your father faced off in court. But the legal circuit can be small once you’re at a certain level, and men gossip as much as women.”
“How did you know Petyr then?”
Catelyn takes a deep breath. “Petyr lived with my family for a little while. When he was a boy.”
Sansa’s jaw drops. “What!”
“I know,” Catelyn nods. “You can imagine how I felt when I walked into that room yesterday and saw him. And then realised he was your boyfriend. ‘Coincidence' isn’t even the word for it. It was… surreal.”
But Sansa was shaking her head now. “Petyr can’t have known. He would have told me. You need to tell him.”
“I will,” Catelyn assures her.
“But oh — do you know what this means, Mum?” Sansa’s eyes are starting to shine now as the implications start to click in place. “You can fill in quite a bit of Petyr’s gaps! That’s the part of his history I think he has the least knowledge of. And to think… you, of all people, have the answer!” And Sansa laughs. She can’t help it. It’s insane. Her mother’s right. This isn’t coincidence. This is providence.
Catelyn smiles and tries to share in her daughter’s enthusiasm. But of course, part of her is unsure and even apprehensive.
“Just… don’t get your hopes up. He might find this quite traumatic, you know. It puts him — us — in an awkward position, potentially.” And at that, Sansa starts to deflate.
“You’re talking about the age difference?”
“There is that as well, my girl.” And Catelyn stops, turning to face her daughter now. “You are still so young.”
But Sansa is already prepared for this. “I’m twenty-two,” she replies. “When you were my age, you already had Robb, Jon, and me.”
“I just want you to be wise. Don’t rush. Look around more.”
And right then, Sansa wants to throw down her trump card. I know you and Dad were already expecting Robb before you married. You’re telling me to be wise and not rush into things? But doesn't Petyr always say to keep such cards close to the chest?
Spend your knowledge wisely, sweetling. Each little nugget is gold.
So she swallows it and changes the subject smoothly. “What was Petyr like? When he grew up with you?”
“He was actually quite sweet,” her mother replies slowly, her own blue eyes faraway now as she remembers. “Your father came to know of him at a different part of his life. But the Petyr I first met was a dear boy who would have never hurt the people he cared for.”
Sansa stares at her mother. “You have to tell him that,” she urges her mother now. “It will mean so much coming from someone else other than me. He’s come to expect it of me. But to hear it from someone who was a witness to the person he was… This will mean so much to him. Please, Mum. You have to tell him.”
“Of course, sweetheart,” Catelyn assures her daughter even as something within her twists uncomfortably.
She finds her sister outside, hair still wet from her shower and dripping on a faded black tee about a heavy metal band that Sansa remembers having to listen to because of thin walls. She settles on the wooden deck chair beside Arya, careful not to spill her steaming mug of milk tea. Arya, of course, is chugging down a bottle of Coke.
Some things don’t seem to change, no matter what the age and stage of life. And yet, Sansa is curious.
“You’ve been very quiet.”
“About your boy?” Arya replies archly and Sansa smacks the back of her sister’s head in retaliation, although both of them grin.
“Would you rather I gave him a serve?”
“I just think you’re planning something huge and awful that’s all,” Sansa admits. “Makes me nervous, you being quiet.”
And Arya deepens Sansa's bemusement all the more by merely answering that with an enigmatic grin. It is decidedly very un-Arya like, and Sansa freaks out after thirty long seconds.
“Okay. Spill. Tell me what you think.”
“You don’t need a report card from me.”
“Who says I need a report card!” But Sansa wants to know anyway. Because it matters.
“Look, I know he’s older than what many of you think is proper—"
“Actually, that doesn’t bother me.” And Sansa is surprised.
“Is this it? The Happily Ever After? Petyr’s your shining knight?” And even though the words are mocking, the tone isn’t. Arya is genuinely curious now. And so Sansa answers truthfully.
“I’ve never been happier.”
“His past doesn’t bother you?”
“I like who he is now. And I see a future with him.”
That seems to be an answer that satisfies the younger Stark daughter. She takes another swig of her Coke and both of them stare into the view of the rolling ocean beyond the raised deck.
“You’re lucky then,” Arya finally concedes. Again, another surprise. Sansa chews her lip and says nothing until an epiphany steals across her mind.
“You’ve met a boy!” And from the way Arya scoffs, Sansa knows she’s hit the jackpot and she laughs. Of course. And oh. It must be deadly serious if Arya can’t bring herself to tease her sister mercilessly.
“Tell me about him,” Sansa prods and then adds on a hunch, “is he older?”
Arya smiles. She’s not given to blushing bright red like Sansa is. Arya never blushes, but this is probably the closest she gets to looking embarrassed or sheepish or something else far more tender. Sansa is delighted.
“What’s his name!”
“Jaqen…” Sansa toys with the name on her tongue. It sounds foreign, exotic. She looks at her sister curiously, slightly amazed that they’ve finally found something in common between the both of them.
“Is this it? The Happily Ever After?” And Sansa adds slyly, “your knight in shining armour?” And Arya makes a gagging sound and sticks her finger down her throat. But then something about her eyes makes Sansa think she’s crossed the line where this is no longer fun for Arya, not really.
“You’re lucky, you know. Even with all that memory loss and Dad being an asshole. He’s here, isn’t he.”
“It’s intense.” And Arya squares her shoulders, as if bracing herself for a blow. “He just can’t… easily walk away from who he is.”
She’s trying not to feel self-conscious in her own house, but Catelyn is so unused to a man being useful and willing in the kitchen.
At first she had resisted as she always did, shooing the children out — even the girls. This is her way of indulging her family. Catelyn supposes it’s not teaching her boys, especially, the importance of not looking at the kitchen as solely a woman’s domain. God knows Ned never once stepped in to help, not even after the births of each of their children.
But Petyr is in her kitchen now and somehow she’s allowed him in. It is a sort of kindness, she supposes. In a roundabout way. There’s something about contributing to the household that makes you feel like you truly belong. And she knows he wants to fit in, for Sansa’s sake.
And so they’re both doing this for her. He helps out most meals now. First it had been the washing up, but now he's cutting up the ingredients for a warm salad of his own making that she quite likes the look of herself. He’s a good cook. She wonders if it’s something he is drawing from his past somehow — like muscle memory — or if it’s something new he’s picked up in the last few years.
“Please tell me if I’m being too rude,” she finally says, “but how does it work? Sansa had mentioned your legal practice… Did you have to do it all over again?”
“I had to sit for something like the bar again, yes. Just to prove that I can still practise and my mind works. Somehow, the part of the brain that holds that sort of knowledge didn’t get wiped. The brain can be such a funny thing.”
“But you’re not doing what you used to do?” Cat ventures to ask.
“My clientele has changed,” Petyr replies quietly, going straight to the point as he seems to do. There is such an openness with him. A transparency. “I like to think I now fight for the little guy instead.” The inference is clear. There is much less money in that. There is perhaps more peace as well. A neutralising of past demons.
They continue to work alongside each other quietly after that. She finds she rather likes his company. It is all still surreal, and there’s so much that she wants to say but she wants to pick her moment as well.
“I’m sure you know that Sansa has told me about my childhood with your family,” he says mildly, out of the blue. “How did that come about?”
“Your father was a single parent and serving in the Special Forces. He was friends with my father when they were on duty together. And so my father took you in for the years your father was away overseas.”
“How many years did I live with you?”
“About eight, I think. Maybe even ten.”
Petyr mulls over that for a while, rubbing his chin. “That’s quite a long time.”
Catelyn looks at him now, searching his face for something. A flicker of a memory, maybe. “Do you really not remember anything?”
Petyr smiles but it looks polite more than anything. There’s a shadow that falls over his face but it passes swiftly. “It can be complex. The more I uncover, the more I wonder. Sometimes, I think I've recalled something. Sometimes, I wonder if it’s just my mind filling in the gaps. Imagining the past, almost. Making false memories. It’s… hard to trust what I know.”
“Has anything of the past come back to you?”
He nods. “Only wisps of it. It’s hazy. There is no context, so I cannot make sense of it. I remember riding around in a bright red tricycle, for example. Just tearing around the corners. But that must be when I was a very young boy. Probably before I came to live with you. I vaguely remember a woman. I like to think she was my mother.”
Catelyn smiles. “Edmure used to have a red tricycle like that. I remember him doing something similar.”
“Ah. Then maybe I remembered wrong. Maybe that was Edmure after all. Or his tricycle. And I was just projecting.”
God, Catelyn thinks now. How awful to live day to day like this, second-guessing your mind and what it thinks it knows…
“It must be so hard,” she says feelingly now, “to have lost such a significant part of yourself.” She smiles at him warmly. They have stopped cutting now. They’re just standing in the kitchen, chatting to each other.
“For what it’s worth,” Catelyn continues, wanting to offer at least some measure of certainty, “I remember what you were as a boy and even though we both know you changed a lot after that… Let’s just say that the man you are now is more similar to the boy that I grew up with. I know you’ve changed after your accident. But maybe you’ve… been restored. To factory settings.”
They chuckle a little at the analogy. It's pretty clever, Petyr thinks. And then because Catelyn is kind, she adds, “I think I like who you are now.”
His smile is lopsided and something catches inside her when he replies with, “Yeah… but not who I was before.”
It feels like a mini-breakthrough somehow and Petyr cannot help but feel euphoric. Dinner passes swiftly after that. There’s a rhythm he now understands. He is seated towards the middle of the long dining table and not off to the side, and so he’s able to play catch-and-throw with any dinner conversation now. Bada bing, bada boom. And he’s listening to Arya argue with Jon about the rugby. He’s taking Arya’s side until they talk about Australian Rules, and then he’s telling her that she’s on her own now. He’s with Jon on that one, to the mock disgust of the younger girl.
Robb talks a lot about the housing market, and seems genuinely interested in what Petyr knows. Ygritte has taken to calling him the Old Fuck, and she’s the Urchin now. “Pass your warm salad, Old Fuck,” she loftily commands and it’s only because she’s Ygritte that she gets away it, really. Sansa shoots Arya a look and then they’re dying with repressed laughter. Their mother looks pained, torn between her genteel sensibilities and her determination to accept Jon’s choices. She shoots a warning look at Rickon who knows better than to take Ygritte’s lead. Bran, as usual, is off with the fairies.
Even Ned and Petyr keep things light, sticking to politics and world affairs. Never about work.
He and Sansa help Catelyn wash up after dinner, and then he declines an invitation with the boys to crunch the three kilometres to the nearest pub. As soon as he can, as soon as it’s decent and safe to do so, he steals off with his Sansa. Arya and Ygritte see them slip away upstairs and Ygritte sticks her tongue lewdly into the side of her mouth when she catches Petyr’s eye. “Going up for a fuck?” Arya drawls and Sansa pretends not to hear even when the two of them start making sucking noises like high school kids.
This time she flicks the privacy lock across and giggles when he grabs her around the waist, tossing her on the bed. He strips himself in no time flat but stops her when she’s about to start on her panties. “No,” he says and his voice is already husky with such want. “I want the pleasure.” Her eyes never leave him as his arms snake across the bed. His thumbs hook into the thin white straps and then he’s pulling them down so deliberately, feeling every inch of her soft, supple sun-kissed skin as he grazes past the full length of those legs that go on forever.
And then he grabs her thighs and pulls her roughly to the edge of the bed so those long legs are thrown over his shoulders carelessly, one on each side. He presses his thumb over her, rubbing slowly upward until he brushes against her clit. And there it is, the shuddering breath. She’s already getting dewy with expectation. Their eyes meet then, and they smile at each other. She feels like a goddamn prize and today, it feels like he finally deserves her.
He presses his mouth to her cunt, her pussy, her sex. The apex of the legs, the woman. Those fleshy lips, he presses his heated mouth to now and revels in her musk. He knows she’s waiting by the way she’s suddenly stilled and her breath has gone shallow. He leaves it for a second or two. Maybe three. And then he pushes his tongue in and starts to fuck her in earnest.
He licks her and laps her and laves her slowly, building a rhythm that is slow and intentional. She’s turning to liquid before him, her juices sweet, coating his tongue and he tastes her and sucks her and drinks her down greedily. He’s so happy, so happy today and he just wants to share. When he finally nuzzles her clit, she whimpers her half words and hopes into the air. She’s getting vocal and he doubts she knows just how loud she’s getting. When he sucks on that slick pink pearl of flesh, her legs grip his head and her hands sink into his hair.
“Oh yes, oh Petyr, just like that, oh please please please please please, please please please..”
In hindsight they really should have put on some music to give them cover, he thinks with faint bemusement. But no matter. There are other ways, he knows. He gets to his feet now, clambers on the bed up and over her. It’s only natural that he slips inside her then, one long stroke that knocks the air out of her before his mouth descends and meets her own.
Just the knowledge, he thinks, of where his mouth has just been. The taste of her on his very tongue, he’s guessing. No matter — something about that kiss sends her over and it’s just as well that his mouth covers her so he swallows her cry as she shudders, her hips rising now and pushing hard against him so he hits the very deepest parts of her.
And there he stays perfectly still as she comes. It lasts a full ten seconds, maybe a touch longer. He releases her mouth then, and she’s drawing long shaky breaths, overwhelmed. “There you are,” he smiles into her eyes that crinkle back at him in the shape of love and wonder.
It’s been a damn fine day. One of the best.
“Do you think it’s going better?” Petyr wants to know.
“I think my family is warming to you, yes.” Sansa rolls over now and faces him squarely. “I never doubted it for a second.”
“I think I’ll show Rickon my memory box,” he replies and Sansa’s smile stretches even wider, reaching down to the heart. Such a personal thing and yet he’ll share this with her little brother. Her whole family. She loves him even more for it.
“Just be sure to remove the naughty pictures first,” she teases and Petyr grins.
“Yes,” he agrees, his eyes narrowing and proprietary, his broad smile lascivious now. “Those memories are just for me.”
Later when she's asleep, Petyr retrieves his little blue velvet box from that discreet little compartment in his suitcase, the pocket that’s bigger than it looks. He opens it now, the hinge of the box still stiff and new. The moonlight catches instantly and as he stares at his offering, he wonders if it will ever be enough.
True to his word, he brings down his special box after breakfast this morning. Rickon is beside himself with excitement like it’s Christmas. They run through the contents together, and even the rest are starting to gather now.
There’s news articles about the accident, which Rickon rushes through and discards but Bran picks up thoughtfully and reads, eyebrows furrowed. A copy of his birth certificate. Another of his mother’s death, then his father’s. A very small family tree drawn in his own hand, the names added on in different pens and colours over time. A photocopy of his testamur beside a university medal. A picture of him in a pub with friends whose names he eventually learns and writes on the back, but they’re not close. More photos of him standing beside men in suits who look powerful and fat and even corrupt. An article by him in the Business Law Review. Another photo, professionally taken, of him in a wig, arguing in court. Another picture of him being made junior partner somewhere. More news articles of court cases that never mention his name.
There’s a disposable coaster from a club or a bar that Catelyn picks up now. But Petyr tells her he doesn’t know its significance. Only that it must have been significant. “I don’t put anything and everything in this box,” he explains now to the room. “Only the things that strike a chord or mean something or help me understand. In this case,” he nudges at the coaster, “it’s a mystery about my past I want to crack."
When Jeyne holds up an old copy of The Australasian Lawyer, everyone starts cackling and jeering to mask their admiration and surprise.
“Look at you, Mr Metrosexual!"
“Front cover, Petyr Baelish! And looking very thought-leadery, holding up that biro...”
“God. Check out your pimp look. Seriously. A goatee?”
Ygritte nudges Sansa and stage-whispers something about beard burns. Thankfully, her mother had left the room by then.
And then there’s more recent things. A lock of Sansa’s hair, tied in a braid. “Very old-fashioned,” Sansa blushes. “But Petyr really wanted it.” A corsage, dried and still faint with her perfume. A selfie of them at the movies. A snapshot of them at a lake somewhere. Fishing! In a tiny boat and the boys tease her about how she absolutely hated the idea, growing up, always refusing to step inside “that smelly thing”.
The age difference between Petyr and Sansa is dissolved in these happy snaps and there’s a general feeling of goodwill and happiness from each of the Stark siblings for both of them.
They are still trawling through the contents of his memory box when Catelyn returns with an album. “Here,” she says stiffly now and settles beside Petyr on the couch. When she opens the hard cover to reveal the first page of six photographs, there’s a collective gasp and squeal as the others crowd in to look,
“Ohmigawd Mum, is that you?” And there’s a hoot of laughter from Rickon.
“It is. And there’s your Aunt Lysa. And Petyr.”
“I always thought he was your neighbour or something.”
“No,” replies Catelyn blandly. “He wasn’t.”
“Lookatcha,” Ygritte nudges Petyr, who is still too astonished to speak. “You really were a shrimpy little ass. Skin and bones. Like me.” She sounds almost proud that they have that in common.
Petyr is stunned, really. He traces his form on the page, the ghosts of his lost youth. Flickers of this and that cross his own face and Sansa reaches over to him now, clutching his other free hand. What a moment.
“It goes all the way,” Catelyn explains. “It’s mostly you in the album, but we played together a lot as kids. There’s you and Edmure again. There’s more towards the end, when we’re all older. I think it’s because we finally each had our own camera and took our own photos.”
Sansa barks a laugh. “Mum! Look at your hair!”
“Well, yes,” Catelyn laughs, slightly embarrassed. "It was still the end of the ‘80s after all! We were big on really tight perms.”
When Petyr finally reaches the end, he closes the hard cover and there’s a finality to it. He takes a deep breath and looks Catelyn in the eye. “Thank you,” he says gruffly, and it betrays just how very touched he actually feels. He makes to return the album to Catelyn but she stops his hands.
“It’s yours,” she says with feeling. “It’s yours. I want you to have it.”
“Are you sure?” But his voice is hopeful all the same, even as he tries to keep that note out of his voice. It’s too much. It’s too generous a gift.
“I can think of no one else who needs this more than you do,” she replies and the room is inclined to agree with her.
“I’ll make my copies. I promise to return this to you.” But she shakes her head and smiles.
“No need. Seriously, Petyr. Keep this. It’s the least I can do for all the help you’ve given me this week."
That night, after dinner, when he’s washing up after insisting that Sansa joins the others in the balcony and puts her feet up… That night, Catelyn watches as Petyr dries the dishes, his lower lip caught in his teeth, lost in thought. She washes up as he dries and she knows, right then. She can sense that something big is coming.
And so when Petyr finally asks if there’s a time when he can speak to her and Ned alone, Catelyn already knows what he wants. What he’s come to ask them for.
She tells him, “Not tomorrow… maybe after that. I’d like to speak with you privately first, if I can.”
They pick their moment when Ned’s out with the boys fishing and he barely hides his relief when Petyr doesn’t follow, citing a migraine that seems to be a common thing with him. Catelyn has co-opted Jeyne — the most discreet of the three — to organise a girls-only brunch followed by a movie. The result is that they’ve cleared the house for about six hours so Petyr and Catelyn are finally alone.
In the end, Petyr suggests a walk and they do just that, taking a longish trek that leads them up to the bluff. Catelyn fills him in with trivia about the land, occasionally recalling family holidays of the past before they moved here permanently. Petyr is mostly silent, soaking it up like a sponge in seawater. There’s so much to take in but he’ll absorb whatever he can.
Petyr's the consummate gentleman, always careful to climb ahead but not too far, then turn around to offer a steady hand. Catelyn likes that. He does it as a matter of course, almost as if it’s second nature to him. It shows a general courtesy, a consideration for others that surprises her. It’s old-fashioned chivalry and Catelyn feels reassured for Sansa. Almost envious. Her own husband loves her deeply but he can be so clueless about these sorts of things. He sees only her strength and forgets that she could do with feeling treasured.
When at last they reach the bluff and are looking out into the big blue, the salt air whipping Catelyn’s dark rust locks streaked now with the occasional silver, Petyr starts to put his case forward.
“Mrs Stark,” he starts, reverting once more to the more formal but respectful address. “I know you must have reservations about my relationship with your daughter. I’m… guessing you want to speak to me privately about keeping off the grass—“
“Actually, no.” And Catelyn’s answer surprises Petyr sufficiently so he falls silent, his well-prepared speech stymied for now.
Catelyn stares at the expanse of water in the distance, trying to form the words. Trying to find the means to begin what she needs to say. The words don’t come, so she falls back on his assumptions about their talk. Maybe she can circle back later and try again.
“You’re much older, of course.” It’s a statement of fact. “She’s very young.”
“She’s guileless yet mature, sagacious yet kind. And judging from what I’ve seen all week, she gets that a lot from you.”
Complimenting a family resemblance is just the kind of thing that your daughter’s boyfriend might say to butter you up. But Catelyn catches her breath as a flashback blinds her suddenly. And the sentiment, at least from him, sounds so sincere. The eyeroll doesn’t — and cannot — come.
“If you’re concerned that I’ve taken advantage of her somehow, or worse — that there’s some… sordid intention or—or predilection…” Petyr sighs. Daddy kink is what he really wants to say. But he knows that’s hardly going to endear him to the mother of the woman he wants to marry.
“What Sansa and I have — the age difference hardly matters at all. It’s a meeting of two like minds, spirits, hearts... there’s nothing... Freudian about our love for each other.” He looks at Catelyn now, trying to press his meaning home.
“Nothing Freudian,” Catelyn echoes in a strangled voice and a curious expression flashes across her face. She turns away and stares again at the water, letting the wind whip her hair back. She pulls her shawl tighter around herself and wishes that she doesn’t feel so…
“Petyr,” she says finally, opting for the plain, unvarnished truth, “I didn’t come out here to dissuade you from marrying Sansa. I came out because I feel I need to tell you more about your past before you make your decision to be part of this family.”
She spies a bench just diagonally behind them, not fifty feet away. “Shall we sit?”
“How does your memory work?”
“How do you mea—“
“Is there any chance that you’ll get it all back one day? Is that how it can work?”
Petyr shrugs and the movement is flippant but his expression has turned serious. “It’s been known to happen. But it’s also been seven years. And the little that gets through can hardly be counted. I daresay I’ve lost it all, as painful as it is for me to admit it.”
Catelyn nods gravely before taking a deep breath. “There’s something you need to know about the time you lived with my family, Petyr. And I’d like to ask that you let me say it all from start to finish before you ask your questions. Please. This isn’t an easy thing to say.”
Petyr lifts his eyebrow. “I’m all yours,” he replies and notes how Catelyn winces at his choice of words.
She takes her time and he sits and watches her. The past seven years has taught him how to wait.
“We grew up together, the four of us. All of us quite close in age. I’m a couple years older than you, and you’re about Lysa’s age. Edmure came much later — he’s a whole ten years younger. And so I think, even though he’s a boy, you played with Lysa and I a lot more.
“You came to us, I think, when you were eight. And then spent about ten years with us. And as teenagers are prone to do, the three of us would get curious sometimes. Harmless kissing games, that sort of thing. ‘Practising' for the boys we had a huge crush on in high school. We uh… we practised on you.
“It was always harmless. We’d all laugh about it after that, and you could get pretty cheeky yourself. Except over the years, Lysa’s infatuation for you only grew stronger. And well, to put it bluntly… you held... a torch... for me.”
Petyr’s eyes widen a fraction. But true to his word, he doesn't speak and allows Catelyn to carry on.
“And so after a while, things got rather tense. Lysa wasn’t speaking to me much anymore. Growing up with Lysa was already tough enough; the sibling rivalry between us had always run hot, and I wasn’t always very kind or patient with my sister. I mean, she’s hardly a walk in the park but being older, I think I really should have done better.
"But with you in the mix, and suddenly it was bad. She was annoying to you, and I didn’t quite know how to deal with your affection towards me. I think it was hard on us all.
“And then in my second year of college, I started going out with Brandon whom my father really liked. He had the title and the wealth — all the things important to my father at the time. And you were miserable. Which only made Lysa hate me more.
“And then somehow, there was a dance held at a club. 'Gold Arbor'." Catelyn nods as a spark of understanding lights Petyr's eyes. The coaster.
"Lysa begged to be taken along and you were only too happy to gatecrash and — I suspect — sabotage my date with Brandon. Somehow Lysa got it into her head that I was intending to lose my virginity to Brandon after the dance. You went to keep an eye on me, and Lysa went to keep an eye on you.
“And you didn’t let me out of your sight. And I’ll admit, you were pretty charming that night. You had rented a suit and had your hair swept back and the almost twenty-year-old me really liked the attention. Brandon could be stand-offish. I let you dance with me most of the night, partly to punish him.
“And then I overdid it, I think. Brandon left the club and I couldn’t find him. Those were the days before mobile phones, of course. I was pretty devastated and I think, after dancing with me the whole night only to watch me pine after someone else… well, you started drinking and I joined you. And Lysa joined us.
“I’m a pretty sheltered girl, all told. So was Lysa. We couldn’t hold our liquor all that well — and neither could you, for that matter.
“So believe me please when I tell you that I really don’t remember much about that night after we got drunk. Except the next day, you were adamant that we had spent the night together. While Lysa was adamant that you had been with her.”
Petyr’s mouth falls open then and Catelyn turns away, deeply ashamed of herself.
“Can I speak now?” He asks after a full minute has passed.
“There’s more?” And Catelyn looks truly upset now as she prepares to recount what follows.
“I slept with Brandon shortly after that night. Lysa had been right — even if I hadn’t been planning to sleep with him after the dance, it was only a matter of time, really. Lysa found out — I don’t know how! I never told her anything. And of course, she told you.”
“And the next thing I know, you come barrelling out when Brandon calls on my father. You were upset — you were beyond upset. You really wanted to kill him, I think. Except he’s six years older and about a head taller than you, easy. And still you took him on with all that rage. And… that is how you got your scar, Petyr.”
Catelyn looks at him now and her eyes are huge with shame and empathy and not a little guilt.
“It gets worse.”
“Really!” And the word sounds harder than he intends it to be. But this is a lot for an amnesiac to take in for one day.
“Somehow, I think, that fight broke you. I was really upset about Brandon, except I took it out on you as well, unfairly. I was so mad with you, I didn’t even visit you in the hospital. I was terrible. But Lysa was there all the way. And then after that, you got drunk most nights and I hardly heard from you… until you got my sister pregnant."
Petyr tensed then, every hair on his body at attention now. Every muscle clenched.
“What happened.” His voice is hoarse.
“You said it was only the one time and you were groggy, under medication. My father hit the roof anyway. Lysa wanted to marry you. I think you were too catatonic to know what you wanted yourself. My father objected outright and made her get an abortion, refusing — in his words — to let her ‘throw her life away on some no-name who can’t keep his…’” Catelyn takes a shuddering breath. “Anyway. That was the last I heard about you for a while. You won a scholarship eventually and then another. And the next time I hear your name, it’s from Ned.”
Petyr opens and closes his mouth. Nothing comes. What does one say to such an incredible admission? To such a spectacular traffic accident of a past?
“I’m sorry,” Catelyn blurts finally, hugging herself. “I’ve been struggling to decide if I should tell you everything. Not even Ned knows! Not most of it anyway. But I know that you want to marry my baby girl… and I thought about what if. What if after a while, after you’re married, it all comes rushing back to you. I don’t want you to feel like you’ve been deceived. You deserve to know the truth about your past with me and my sister.”
“Is… Lysa alright?”
Catelyn nods. “We’re not close. She’s a widow now. Her husband died and left her a very comfortable fortune. She has a son.” What Catelyn doesn’t say is how much Lysa struggled to have children after that abortion. Or how her screaming absence at their father’s funeral was all anyone would talk about.
“Umm…” And Petyr stands. He starts rubbing his arms as if he’s cold. “Ah… if it’s alright with you, I think I need to take a walk.”
“I hope…” And Catelyn looks upset now. “I hope this doesn’t change your intentions with Sansa.”
And he cannot look her in the face now. Not after that, it’s too soon.
“I need some time to think, Mrs Stark.”
They spend lunch apart in the end. Petyr doesn’t return until two in the afternoon and by then, Catelyn has made a sandwich she doesn’t eat, and two cups of tea she doesn’t drink.
He enters through the back door and into the kitchen, greeting her with a small, self-conscious smile that doesn’t quite warm the eyes. Petyr puts the kettle on and silently makes them both a cup of strong black tea. He hands her a mug and she takes it gratefully, muttering her thanks.
She tries not to show just how anxious she is. How she fervently hopes she didn’t just derail her own child’s happiness because she couldn’t bear to keep this secret for any longer.
“I love Sansa,” he begins and trails off, fingering the handle of his mug absently. “I don’t want my past to taint what’s good about my present and our future.”
“Can I ask… that night after the dance, after all those drinks and then in the morning… Did we sleep together?”
Catelyn tells him what she absolutely knows. What she’s always believed, and what she told him repeatedly even then.
“No, Petyr. We didn’t sleep together.”
Petyr stares into her eyes and something in them seems to give him the answer he’s looking for. The tightness in his face disappears then and Petyr looks relieved. “Thank god,” he laughs a little laugh and Catelyn lets out a breath herself.
“Let’s… keep this between ourselves, Mrs Stark.”
“I agree, Petyr… and can I suggest, going forward, that we just stick to first names? It would be a lot less awkward.”
He grins then. “It would. Catelyn.”
And Catelyn smiles. She’s so relieved, she feels ten pounds lighter and two years younger immediately.
“Will you put in a good word for me with Ned?”
“It would be my pleasure.”
He’s lying on his side when she opens her eyes.
“How long have you been looking at me?”
“A while,” Petyr replies softly. Sansa gazes into his face, her eyes adjusting to the light still. It’s early; the room is dark still but there's a sheen of pale yellow gold and the window behind them is ajar, a steady breath of cold air stealing through the gap. She snuggles further under the covers, still gazing back.
His eyes are inscrutable. She doesn’t quite know what he’s thinking. She guesses that he’s thinking about her.
“I had a nice chat with your folks last night,” he begins, turning his gaze away. He reaches over behind him and when he turns back, there is a box.
She pulls herself up to sitting, temporarily forgetting the cool of the room on her skin.
The box is just the same as his special memory box, right down to the latch and the padlock. The only difference is the colour; whereas his memory box is patterned in a marbling of heavy green and gray, this box is a brilliant, brilliant aquamarine.
“Open it… please.”
Her heart starts to beat wildly. She takes the box, takes the key he proffers. Fits the key in the lock, and twists open.
The box is the size of a standard box file, maybe slightly bigger but not by much. The only thing in the blue-green box before her is another. Another deep blue box, though much, much smaller.
And then she knows.
He’s speaking now, his mellifluous voice telling her how he’s asked both her parents for permission and their blessing. And how they eventually said yes.
Even Ned, who predictably takes him aside after and reminds him tersely that he has four sons — two of which are able-bodied and pretty darn good in a bar fight, should Petyr turn out to be an ass.
But now Petyr's explaining that beautiful big blue box.
“I’ve had enough of digging up the past, Sansa. This new box is for the memories that we will make and keep together. That is… if you’ll make me the happiest man in this world by becoming my wife.
"Sansa Stark, will you ma—“
“Of course,” she squeaks and then she laughs because hers is a joy like no other. “Of course. Of course, of course…”
He puts his finger up. “Wait… there was another grand gesture planned.” And with that, he produces the key to his old memory box. The greenish-gray one, the one he’s carted around for years. He holds up the key, and then pushes the window behind them open. With a flourish, he draws his arm back and throws.
There’s a small twang as the key hits the metal frame and bounces, landing behind the headboard instead. Both of them stare in disbelief before they burst out laughing.
Then he opens the tiny velvet box and pulls out her ring. Their eyes are transfixed as he slips the band on her left ring finger.
“Oh!” she whispers, absolutely taken. It’s a princess cut and it catches the morning light right now, a small spray of colours dancing on the ceiling.
She reaches for him now, her newly adorned left hand holding his dear face. When their lips meet, she knows she will never forget this moment.
The boxes soon make way for them both, pushed to the side as he crawls back under the quilt which is warm with love and a new heat. Theirs is a languorous, sensual coition this morning, as they vanquish the last remnant of uncertainty with this new and passionate contract. She takes her time to mark his skin, relishing the freedom to proclaim her ownership of this man. This man she’ll never forget.
They face each other on their sides as equals, their bodies meshed tight as they give and take, give and take. It’s the first time she feels so giddy. They’re grinning like goons, laughing even in the midst of coitus. Even when his teeth are on her neck and nibbling a path that cannot be hidden from her family later at breakfast. Even when she’s moaning softly in his ear, his fingers buried inside of her — an act so intimate, so generous, so possessive.
She is his.
Her leg is hooked around his waist now and he’s pushing into her with a familiarity that is as delicious as it’s comforting. When she comes, it’s a gentle rolling that seems to go on forever, as natural and inevitable as the tide coming in. Sansa muses at how it's such a poor imitation of the violence of her love for this man that she feels in her gut, her heart, her soul, her mind, her sex.
She can hardly wait to show the family, and tell them of their news. But first, Petyr points out, it’s probably best that they each jump into the shower. Sansa goes first and Petyr watches her lazily from the bed as she scurries about the room picking out what she’s going to wear. It’s an auspicious day, she says. She wants to be sure to take photos. Something to add to their new memory box.
He hears the water turn on before he slides out of bed and dives underneath to fish out the key that had fallen behind the headboard. Just as well that he missed, he thinks.
His wallet is on the tallboy and he reaches for it now. It’s the same one he’s had all those years ago since the accident — though it looks terrible, frankly. But Petyr is sentimental like that.
Behind the second section of his wallet where ticket stubs and receipts disappear to fade and wane, there is a photo. Petyr fishes it out now, the cool bluish tones standing out from the small stack of print on white.
Ah look — there it is. He, sitting on that bed. Shaggier mop, not a trace of silver anywhere. A rebellious cigarette in the mouth, looking decidedly sloshed. But happy. Happy as all hell. Happy as fuck.
And she’s beside him, lit cigarette in hand, head leaning on his shoulder as they grin at the countdown of his camera. Three… two… one… Her breasts were higher and perkier then, of course — even without a bra. But boy were they creamy and full. He squints now. He can barely make out her cunt, shrouded as it was by that dusky red tuft of hair that was almost as wiry as that atrocious '80s perm.
Cat had been right. She had been very drunk. He, less so.
She certainly couldn’t remember. But he never forgot.
He slips the key into the lock of his old greenish-grey memory box and chucks the photo in. This time, when he throws the key, his aim is sure.
Freud "was an Austrian neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis, a movement that popularized the theory that unconscious motives control much behavior." I'm probably not doing his theories justice here, but the upshot is: he posited that certain behaviours result from people subconsciously wanting to fluck their parents.
(Sorry if you already know all this. If you do, just skip along — or feel free to correct me on my assumptions here. I'm no Psych student, though. So you can tell me that Freud is more about giraffes mating and if you're persuasive enough, I'll take you at your word.)
As always, thank you for reading this far. And do drop a Hello if you can. I do so enjoy chatting. ;-)