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Ghost of You

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The knock makes her jump simply because she’s lived here for nearly two weeks now and her door has yet to be knocked upon.

 

Sansa approaches it hesitantly, unsure if she even wants to open it. Her parents are the only ones who know where she is – keeping it from all of her siblings and especially Jon – but still, she is afraid that maybe she hadn’t moved away as well as she could have and she’s already been found by one of them.

 

The person knocks again and Sansa looks through the peephole in the door to see who it is.

 

Well, it’s certainly no one she knows. He is tall, lean with a dark brown beard and matching, somewhat longish, hair. He stands there, seeming to be patient for her to answer, and since she has music playing in her flat, she can’t very well hide and pretend that she’s not home.

 

Slowly, she turns the locks and opens the door. The man, when he sees her, takes a moment to look at her as well and then he shakes his head slightly as if to cease him from doing it any longer.

 

“Hi,” he breaks into a warm, charming smile. “I’m Daario.” He sticks his hand out.

 

Sansa hesitates. “Sansa,” she then returns and shakes his hand, her hand barely touching his for more than a mere moment before she’s pulling it away again.

 

“I live across the hall,” Daario says and gestures his thumb over his shoulder to the door behind him.

 

“Oh,” Sansa says, not too sure what else she is supposed to say.

 

“I hate to ask this, but… the song… well, you’ve been playing it all day and to put it lightly, I’m about to bash my head against the wall,” Daario tells her.

 

Sansa’s eyes widen. “Oh! I didn’t know you could hear it!”

 

She quickly turns and hurries back into her living room, turning her stereo off, thus stopping from Sinead O’Conner’s Nothing Compares to You playing any longer. Having the song play over and over, the quiet that falls into the room is almost deafening.

 

“THANK GOD!” She hears a voice shout out from somewhere else on the floor echo out.

 

Sansa feels her cheeks explode in a blush.

 

Daario smiles at her. “Thin walls. You’ll learn.”

 

“I’m so sorry,” Sansa rushes out. “I didn’t think… I’m surprised no one has come to tell me before you.”

 

“It’s a good building. We all figured you were going through a breakup,” Daario tells her with a shrug.

 

Sansa feels her blush deepen even further until her cheeks feel as if they are actually on fire.

 

She doesn’t know if it’s actually a breakup if she just leaves without a word.

 

Sometimes, she sits on her new couch in her new flat and she wonders if she should have. Should she have sat down with Jon and told him why she was leaving? But then she thinks that the reason is rather obvious. Jon shouldn’t need her to spell it all out for him. And also, she keeps imagining that if she did sit down and talk with him, it would only give him more opportunities to tell her more lies and in her opinion, Jon Snow has already told her enough lies to last her another lifetime.

 

“Well, that’s a wonderful first impression to have made,” Sansa murmurs more to herself.

 

Daario overhears and he just smiles. “Don’t worry about it. I went through my own breakup a couple months ago and I liked to sing Nine Inch Nails’ Closer when I was drunk – which was all of the time – and the building didn’t pitch me out for that.”

 

For the first time in what feels like weeks, Sansa thinks she might actually smile at that.

 

Something stops her though from actually going through with it.

 

She looks at Daario and she begins to wonder what Jon is doing in that moment. Is he listening to music? Some breakup song on repeat like she is? Is he drinking? Is he drunk right now? Does he even miss her?

 

Sansa swallows thickly at that last thought.

 

She can hardly sleep at night, unable to think of much else except him and how much her heart aches and how much she loves him. Despite the pain he has put her through, she still is completely in love with him and how pathetic does that make her? To be awake at night, crying, and to be awake during the day, listening to gut-wrenching breakup songs, missing him, Sansa is aware she’s extremely pathetic.

 

Jon can have his choice of any woman in this world. He’s had his fair share of women – apparently – and Sansa is a fool for thinking that she’s ever been anything special to him. They lived together, he told her constantly that he loved her, but Sansa looks back at her relationship with him and wonders if any of it had been true; if any of it had been real.

 

Sansa remembers that Daario is still standing there. “I’m sorry for the music and thank you for telling me.”

 

Daario looks at her and seems to know that her mind is a thousand miles away right now; back in Westeros and Winterfell and everyone still there and certainly not here anymore in Braavos, across the sea in Essos.

 

He gives her a slight nod. “You let me know if you need anything. I’m right across the hall,” he reminds her. “And I work from home so I’m usually around.”

 

“Thank you,” Sansa says and again, she tries to give him a smile, but, again, fails horribly at forming one.

 

She takes a step back into her flat and closes the door, locking it once more.

 

She walks past her stereo, leaving everything silent, and instead, she heads into her bedroom. Her laptop is still on the bed where she had left it this morning when she and her mom had face-chatted with one another. Ned and Catelyn are the only ones to know where she is – Ned actually taking time off from work to come and help her get settled, renting this flat and then taking her shopping for some furniture. He had told her siblings that he was going on a business trip because Sansa hadn’t wanted any of them to know where she was going.

 

Catelyn and Ned don’t know everything, but they know enough and they are always reminding their children that nothing comes before family, but they can’t deny that Sansa feels completely betrayed by Robb and Arya right now and speaking to them is second to the last thing she wants to do right now.

 

The last thing being talking with Jon.

 

That morning, during their chat – after Catelyn assured Sansa that she was the only one home at the moment and no one else was there to see Sansa or overhear where she is right now – Catelyn had reminded Sansa that today is Arya’s birthday.

 

Sansa already knew that though and certainly didn’t need the reminder. She isn’t going to do anything about it though. Arya – like Jon – has shown Sansa that she doesn’t matter much, choosing Jon over her sister in keeping a secret that would absolutely devastate Sansa if it ever came to light – and that was exactly what had happened.

 

Robb and Arya had tried to tell Sansa - even though she hadn't wanted to hear it at the time - that yes, they knew about Jon sleeping with both Ygritte and Val during the night of the threesome, but they had assumed that Jon had already told Sansa about it. According to them both, it hadn’t been their business and both had just wanted to stay about of it.

 

And Sansa hates that she doesn’t know if she can believe them or not.

 

Sansa has always known that Arya’s never liked her that much and she has always known that Arya has loved their brother’s best friend far more than Arya has ever loved her – if she loves Sansa at all. So Arya keeping a secret like that from Sansa – whether that’s what she’s actually done or not – isn’t all that surprising to Sansa. It hurts, yes, but it’s almost expected that Arya would rather cover for Jon than think of Sansa and her possible broken heart.

 

But Robb… Robb and Sansa have always been close. She’s always looked up to her older brother and Robb has always done what was needed to do to protect her. Not knowing whether she can believe him or not in this matter feels devastating to her. Yes, Jon is his best friend, but she is his sister and if he knew his best friend had done something like this and if he knew that Jon was keeping it from her, Robb surely would have stuck up for Sansa and tell her about it instead of waiting for Jon to. Right?

 

Sansa lays down on her bed and turning her head on the pillow, she looks out her window. A soft rain has begun to fall and it taps steadily against the window panes. Sansa shivers even though she can feel the heat coming through the vents.

 

It’s in the middle of the day, but that doesn’t stop Sansa from getting beneath her covers, fully dressed. Curled onto her side, burrowing, she shivers again and keeps her eyes on the window and as the rain continues to fall, she can feel tears brimming in her eyes. Before now, before packing up and walking out on Jon and moving here, away from all of her family and friends, Sansa hadn’t known that a person could possibly cry as much as she’s been crying since isolating herself inside of her new flat.

 

She wonders what is going to be done for Arya’s birthday today. They’ll all go out to the pub tonight, Sansa doesn’t doubt that. That’s what they always do for one of their birthdays. Arya, Robb, Theon and Gendry. Will Jon be with them? Will Ygritte and Val? Will they all go out to celebrate and drink and dance and have the grandest of times while not thinking of Sansa at all? Do they think of her at all?

 

Sansa hates that she can’t imagine them doing so.

 

They’ve already thought so little of her, why would that change now just because she’s gone?

 

Chapter Text

 

At first, Arya doesn’t hear her dad when he says her name.

 

She sits at her desk in her bedroom, checking on Sansa’s Instagram account even though there hasn’t been a new post in almost three weeks. The last picture posted had been a selfie Sansa had taken of her and Jon that night before everyone else had arrived.

 

#firstdinnerparty and #loveofmylife followed with the emojis of a man and woman holding hands, a man and woman with the heart between them and the two glasses of champagne.

 

Sansa looks beautiful as always, holding her phone out and smiling happily, almost laughing, and Jon is right next to her, his cheek pressed to hers and he’s giving the camera his “puppy dog” eyes. They both look so happy and neither having the slightest idea of what was about to happen in just a short time.

 

Arya had grumbled about it, but in the end, she had gone with Robb and their other friends.

 

“Seriously, Sansa. You’re twenty-one years old,” Arya reminded her sister when she entered the flat Sansa and Jon shared. “What kind of twenty-one year old has an actual dinner party?”

 

“This twenty-one year old,” Sansa had smiled at her as she checked on the fresh loaf of bread she was baking and the chicken she was roasting.

 

Sansa used to post a new picture on her Instagram account every day – a picture of Jon, a picture of the two of them together, a picture of Jon’s dog, Ghost, a picture of some book she was reading or a picture of some pretty dessert she’s seen.

 

But it’s been almost three weeks and still, nothing new has been posted. It’s as if Sansa has completely disappeared off the face of this world and she might as well have. Arya knows their parents know where Sansa is, but they’re not saying a word about it – no matter how badly Robb and Arya beg and plead and yell at them to say. They won’t. They won’t betray Sansa’s trust. All Arya, Robb and Bran and Rickon know is Sansa has left Winterfell and no one knows where she went.

 

“Arya?”

 

Arya finally hears her dad and she lifts her head. Her bedroom door is open, but Ned still respects Arya’s “no entry without permission” rule and remains in the hallway.

 

“Want to go out for some ice cream?” Ned offers.

 

It’s her birthday, but for the first time in her life, Arya isn’t making a big deal about it. For the first time since she’s been old enough to understand about birthdays, Arya wishes she can just get through this day without a single person saying those two words to her. That hasn’t happened, of course. All day, people have been sending her texts and Facebooks messages, asking her for the plans for the evening.

 

Arya has ignored all of them and leaving the dorm on campus early that morning, she has spent the day at her parents’ house, in her bedroom, wanting to just ignore the world for the next twenty-four hours.

 

(She will deny that she’s spent the day, trying to find where Sansa has gone, and she’s definitely not waiting for some type of message from her older sister, wishing her a Happy Birthday.)

 

“Just us?” Arya asks.

 

Ned nods. “Just us,” he promises and confirms.

 

As promised, it’s just them and after paying for their root beer floats, they both go sit outside despite the less than warm temperature that afternoon.

 

Arya expects Ned to say something, but he stays quiet as he works on his treat and Arya sits next to him, eating her own almost mechanically, not even really tasting it. She loves her mom, but Arya has always felt so much closer to her dad. She knows it’s not the truth and that Catelyn Stark loves all of her children fiercely, but sometimes, it has felt as if Sansa is Catelyn’s daughter and Arya is Ned’s. So Catelyn keeping Sansa’s confidence and not saying where she is now is almost expected, but Arya can’t believe that Ned is keeping something from her and Robb after both have asked – repeatedly – where Sansa is.

 

“Can you at least say that she’s alright?” Arya blurts out, surprising the both of them.

 

Ned looks at her for a moment and it makes Arya want to squirm. She knows she doesn’t have to clarify who “she” is. There can only be one “she” Arya is talking about right now.

 

“I can say that,” Ned agrees, but then he’s quiet again.

 

“Well,” Arya bursts out. “Are you going to?”

 

“Even if it’s not true?” Ned asks her, his eyes looking straight into hers and Arya feels all of the air leave her lungs in a great gust.

 

“Is she not okay?” She asks, almost whispering now.

 

“Did you expect her to be?” Ned asks in return.

 

Arya opens her mouth to speak, but she has no answer to give. Of course Sansa isn’t okay. Arya already knows that. Even if Sansa hadn’t just left and moved away without telling anyone except their parents, Arya would know Sansa wouldn’t be okay. Jon – her #loveofmylife – has broken her heart. They all have.

 

No one ever saw Sansa happier than when she had been with Jon. And the same went for Jon, too. He was always broody; ever since he was a kid. But when he and Sansa began seeing one another, they all learned that Jon Snow was actually able to have a smile on his face for longer than just a few seconds.

 

Not that that matters anymore because Jon is gone now, too – having moved to Highgarden in the Reach.

 

He had sent her a simple text that morning – Happy Birthday, Arya – and that’s all it said. Not that Jon is some massive fan of text normally, but even those three words had felt heavy.

 

Arya’s far more concerned about Sansa though because she knows where Jon is and she hears from Jon. She has absolutely no idea where her sister is and it seems like her dad isn’t going to tell her.

 

“Are you ever going to tell me and your mother what happened?” Ned breaks into the silence. “This all just can’t be for a breakup with Jon because if it is, why did Sansa not want anyone to know where she is?”

 

Arya stares into her cup – the vanilla ice cream having now all, but melted into the root beer. “I made a mistake,” she whispers. “A really stupid mistake and Sansa… she hates me.”

 

It hurts her to says those words out loud; they leaving a burning in her chest that almost makes her flinch in pain because those words are true and Arya doesn’t know if there’s anything she can possibly do to fix it. When she was younger, she probably wouldn’t have cared much. Sansa was her older sister, yes, but sisters was all they had been. They were nothing alike and though, as they got older, they continued being nothing alike, they found themselves getting closer. It was as if both saw the differences in one another and decided that together, it completed them.

 

What Sansa lacked, Arya had and what Arya lacked, Sansa had.

 

Without Sansa, Arya is back to feeling incomplete. She wonders if Sansa feels that way, too.

 

Arya wishes she could go back in time and change everything. How far back would she go? Would she stop Sansa from going out with Jon that first time? No, maybe not. After their first disastrous date, they went out again and again and within no time at all, they had fallen in love and they were so happy together. Arya wouldn’t take that away. But she would go back to that damn night after Jon got back home from their first date, depressed and convinced that it was all over before it even could begin.

 

She would make sure that nothing happened that night and if she isn’t able to stop that, then Arya would want to change Jon’s decision to not tell Sansa about it. She would grab Jon Snow by his ear, lead him right to her sister and make him tell her. Arya would also tell Sansa what she knew about Jon, Ygritte and Val and she would do her best to explain and just hope that Sansa wouldn’t be mad at her.

 

If she can change just one thing, maybe Sansa would still be here. Maybe she and Jon would have broken up anyway, but Sansa would still be here, at home, and Arya wouldn’t have a burning in her chest, a constant reminder of how shitty of a sister she is and how she doesn’t deserve even something as seemingly simple as a birthday wish from Sansa.

 

Ned looks at her for a moment and then he moves closer to her on the bench. He puts his arm around her shoulders and Arya nearly tells him that she doesn’t deserve that.

 

“What do I always say?” Ned asks.

 

Arya doesn’t need him to clarify. “The Starks will endure,” she recites in a soft voice.

 

Ned squeezes his arm around her and kisses her head. “We always have. And I know, that in time, you and your sister – whatever has happened between you – will fix things and all will be right again.”

 

Arya doesn’t say anything to that.

 

She has grown up, always thinking that her dad knows everything and is always right, and even now, she’s never stopped thinking that, but for one of the first times, Arya knows that her dad isn’t right with this.

 

 

The water is freezing. She can tell. The ice has broken off and is now floating in thick chunks and Sansa knows that if she touches the water with any part of her body, she’ll freeze within minutes. Her body will go into shock, will start to shut down, will be unable to draw breath…

 

“Sansa?”

 

Her name penetrates her thoughts and she turns her head to see who it is because she doesn’t know anyone in Braavos still. Unless someone has found her-

 

It’s Daario. He’s standing at the end of the bridge, watching her, his face pulled tight in concern.

 

Sansa pushes herself back from the railing and turns to face him. The cold wind is a bit strong that early evening and it blows hair into her face. She pushes it back with her mitten-clad hands.

 

“I was just watching the water,” she explains and she wonders why she feels the need to explain anything to him. There are canals all over, flowing in and out of Braavos. Surely, Sansa isn’t the first person to stand on a bridge and look down.

 

Daario doesn’t say anything and he just keeps staring at her and she wonders if he can read her thoughts; if her thoughts are clear on her face and that is why Daario is wearing the expression of concern right now. Sansa nearly blurts out that she wasn’t going to jump. She really wasn’t. Yes, she had been thinking about it, but it had just been for a moment and she… she wasn’t going to kill herself. Jon Snow or her siblings or any of her “friends” don’t deserve that kind of power over her.

 

She doesn’t say anything though and glances away, back towards the canal and the ice chunks.

 

She could have made it look like an unfortunate accident. If I got too close to the railing and slipped…

 

No, Sansa, she tells herself firmly. Just no.

 

She looks back to Daario, who is still standing there, looking at her.

 

“I was just about to head off and get some dinner,” Daario says. “Would you like to join me?”

 

“No, that’s alright,” Sansa shakes her head. “I’m not that hungry.”

 

“I somehow knew you were going to say that.” He gives her a small smile from beneath his beard.

 

“Well, I can’t force myself to be hungry.”

 

“What about for free food?” Daario asks.

 

“Free? Are you planning on dining and dashing?” Sansa wonders.

 

Daario’s smile grows a bit wider and he takes steps towards her, closing the space between them. “In a way. I’m a food critic. I eat for free.”

 

“You’re a food critic?” Sansa asks as if she just wants to make sure she heard correctly. Not that she knows anything about her across-the-hall neighbor, but he just seems… well, he seems far too handsome to be something anywhere near a food critic. Model or trainer, perhaps…

 

She has absolutely no idea where thoughts like that have come from. He’s not handsome. No man is. On the exterior, they may be, but on the inside, they’re all the same.

 

“A pretty ruthless one, too,” Daario says and he sounds quite proud of that. “This city fears me when I walk into a restaurant and they don’t even know who I am.”

 

He lowers his voice to say those words and Sansa feels a prick on the back of her neck. It makes her take a step back and return some space to between them.

 

“Thank you, but I’m really not hungry,” Sansa tells him. Daario looks at her for a moment and then his eyes glance towards the bridge railing and the canal beneath them. “If I was going to jump, I would have done it already,” she announces to him before she’s able to keep herself quiet.

 

Daario looks back to her. He opens his mouth to say something to that, but Sansa doesn’t want to hear it. He makes her feel as if she’s done something horribly wrong, looking down at the water. She had just been wondering… she hadn’t been planning on doing anything. Honest. But who is he? He’s no one and Sansa shouldn’t feel the need to defend herself to or reassure him.

 

So before he can say anything else, Sansa walks past him and heads in the direction of her flat.

 

She holds her breath the whole way back, waiting for him to follow her and pop up at her side, but he doesn’t follow. He lets her go and he leaves her alone.

 

Sansa wonders if Daario has any idea that that’s the nicest thing anyone has done for her recently.

 

Chapter Text

 

She misses cooking. Ever since moving to Braavos, it’s been microwave dinners and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and takeout and she misses being in the kitchen, cooking and creating and filling the rooms with savory aromas that makes her stomach grumble in eager anticipation for the meal to come.

 

There’s a market near her flat and after showering and getting herself dressed and ready for the day, Sansa heads out, inhaling the brisk – yet refreshing – morning air of the city. It’s still a bit early so the sidewalks and streets and even the canals are not as crowded as they will be, she knows, in just a couple more hours. Sansa loves it though. She loves being up early and starting her day and, if she’s being honest with herself, she’s tired of keeping herself cooped up in her flat.

 

She passes by some sort of studio with a large front-plate window that shows inside to a large room and she stops when she sees what is inside. There are several men and an instructor at the front of the class and they are all moving gracefully, as if dancing, with long slender blades in their hands. It is a fighting class and Sansa has read about the particular brand of Braavosi swordplay. It’s called water dancing and she sees now as to how it got its name. It is like dancing. It’s beautiful.

 

“Interested in learning?”

 

Sansa jumps as the voice appears right beside her and she promptly turns her head and glares at Daario. He just gives her a grin though and she exhales a heavy sigh before going back to watching those inside and their practice.

 

“I am beginning to get the suspicion that you’re possibly stalking me,” Sansa comments.

 

“Damn. I was going for coincidence that everywhere I was going, you just happened to be there, too,” Daario replies. “Coincidence or even fate.”

 

“It’s not fate,” Sansa immediately disagrees.

 

“Why not?” Daario says and he smiles when she turns to look at him. “Don’t believe in fate?”

 

“Not anymore,” Sansa answers before she can stop herself.

 

She feels a flush of embarrassment from those two simple words; feeling that they have perhaps revealed too much. She feels horribly exposed just from saying them.

 

“Well, I can believe in fate enough for the both of us. Your ex can’t take that away from me,” Daario says and there is still a faint smile across his lips and Sansa keeps her eyes on the fighters inside the studio and the fluid movements they are practicing.

 

Sansa’s throat feels dry.

 

She hadn’t even realized that that was another thing Jon had taken from her.

 

“Have you ever seen someone water dance before?” Daario asks, changing subjects, and Sansa is massively relieved – as well as surprised.

 

She finds herself not wishing immediately for Daario to leave her alone and that is what is surprising.

 

“No,” Sansa shakes her head. “I’ve heard of it though. It’s beautiful.”

 

“If you’re ever interested in learning, I can teach you a few basic moves. I’ve got the basics down pat.”

 

Sansa feels herself smiling – genuinely – at his words and Daario seems to immediately take hold of her smile and not let go, grasping tightly for it to remain on her face.

 

“What?” Daario asks as if offended. “I’m not that incompetent despite what you obviously think.”

 

“No, no,” Sansa shakes her head rapidly and now, she feels as if she can almost laugh. That is even more surprising and she’s nearly taken aback for a moment. Not that she wants to be overly-dramatic, but she has honestly thought she’d never be able to laugh ever again. “It’s not that. It’s just… I’m not the kind of girl to learn how to fight like that. That’s more like-”

 

Sansa abruptly cuts herself off before she can speak her sister’s name.

 

Daario cocks his head slightly to the side, as if studying her. “Well, I don’t know if I believe that. You seem like a fighter to me.”

 

The dryness returns to her throat. She can’t tell if Daario is flirting with her or just being nice and what’s unsettling to her is she realizes that she doesn’t know what she wants it to be.

 

She decides that it’s her turn to change the subject.

 

“What are you doing up at this hour?” Sansa asks him.

 

Daario smiles as if he’s pleased that she’s asking him something. She feels the slightest edge of nervousness around Daario. He always seems to be smiling no matter what; as if he finds everything in this world to be something to be truly happy over.

 

And what’s wrong with that? She asks herself. What’s wrong with seeing the beauty and song in everything? She used to be able to do that, too.

 

“Early morning is the best time to head to the market,” he answers. “What about you?”

 

For a split second, Sansa considers lying to him before deciding that there’s really no reason in lying; especially since they’re going to the same place and will only run into each other there again.

 

“To the market,” Sansa says and her answer seems to widen Daario’s smile across his face.

 

“Well, then…” Daario steps back from the studio window and Sansa hesitates for only a moment before she does as well and together, they begin to walk, side by side, in the direction of the market.

 

They don’t talk and Sansa is glad for that, but also, at the same time, she wishes he would say something without her needing to speak in return. There’s something about Daario’s voice. She doesn’t want to say that it reminds her of Jon’s voice, but to be honest, it does. It’s deep and steady and there’s a calm to it.

 

Come to think of it, maybe she should be glad that Daario isn’t saying anything.

 

Inside the market, Daario gets himself a basket and he waits as she gets herself a trolley.

 

“You don’t have to stick with me,” Sansa says as they begin in the direction of the fresh produce section.

 

Daario smiles and shrugs. “I’m trying to be sneaky. I admit that I really just want to see what you eat for future reference.”

 

“Future reference?” Sansa echoes.

 

Daario’s smile splits into a grin as he begins perusing the stack of cantaloupe and Sansa stops the trolley as he does so, waiting for him to pick one. “One night, I’m not saying when, I’m going to invite you over to my flat for dinner and you will accept.”

 

“Oh, I will?” Sansa asks, the slightest laugh in her tone from his confidence. 

 

“You will,” Daario confirms and finally picks a cantaloupe, placing it gently into his basket. “What’s on the list for you?” He asks.

 

Sansa would expect it to be strange or slightly nerve-wracking to grocery shop with a man who is still, for all intents and purposes, a stranger, but Daario waits as she picks pears and lemons and she admits to herself that she’s glad for the company.

 

Once they moved in together, going to the market every Saturday morning became hers and Jon’s tradition and she would laugh as Jon would load their trolley with all sorts of junk food and he would whine like a small child as Sansa countered his junk food with healthy and organic foods. But she never got pears because she knew Jon didn’t like them and he never got any type of cookie except chocolate chip because he knew those were Sansa’s favorite.

 

She watches as Daario stops them at the cheese cases and he takes his time, looking over every brand and label carefully.

 

“Is this part of being a food critic?” Sansa wonders out loud.

 

“In a way. I know what good ingredients in foods should be,” Daario says and then plucks a block of bright yellow cheddar from the case. He leans into her so he can show her the label; that’s the only reason he leans in close, Sansa tells herself. “Read that,” he tells her.

 

“Milk, milk protein concentrate, water, whey protein concentrate, sodium phosphate… corn syrup?” Sansa recites and her nose is scrunched by the end of it.

 

“Right,” Daario smiles. He turns back towards the cheese case. “Braavos requires raw milk cheese to be aged at least sixty days prior to consumption and this brand, they make some of the best cheeses in all of Essos,” he snatches a block of mozzarella of a different brand and this time, Sansa leans in to read the label.

 

“Raw milk, cream, salt, animal… rennet… what’s that?” She asks.

 

Daario grins. “You really want to know?” He asks and she just looks at him, waiting. “It comes from the lining of the fourth stomach of the calf.”

 

“I don’t want to read ingredients anymore,” Sansa shakes her head and Daario laughs, placing the block of mozzarella down into his basket.

 

Sansa notices that he handles all of his foods with care. He never just drops something down or pretends a package or product is a ball and is shooting it into a net.

 

Without thinking of it, Sansa takes out her phone and takes a picture of the cheeses in their neat and color-blocked rows.

 

“Myr Cheese,” she reads the brand of the cheese Daario has taken for himself. “I thought Myr was only known for their finery,” she then says. Their lace, in particular, is lace Sansa bought when she had the extra money to afford it and something she was sewing was in need of it.

 

Daario smiles. “Nothing finer than a good quality cheese.”

 

Sansa returns his smile with one of her own.

 

 

Jon chucks the tennis ball and Ghost goes off tearing after it. By the time the dog returns, he is panting heavily and though they’ve only been in the park for less than thirty minutes, Ghost drops the ball at Jon’s feet and then collapses heavily onto the grass.

 

“Me, too, boy,” Jon agrees quietly.

 

It’s a lot hotter down in Highgarden and Jon isn’t surprised that he’s not the only one not used to it.

 

Jon crouches down, scratching Ghost behind his ears, and then he takes the tennis ball, standing up and going to sit on a nearby bench. Ghost lifts himself up to follow after him, only to collapse once again on the ground at Jon’s feet.

 

“Next time we come, I’ll remember to bring some water for the both of us,” he promises his dog.

 

Ghost pants in reply.

 

Jon sighs and closing his eyes, he tilts his head back, listening to the quietness of the park that morning. Despite the earliness of the day, the sun is already beating down and he has pulled his hair back into a man bun, but he can still feel the sweat pooling on the back of his neck.

 

He doesn’t like this heat whatsoever, but he didn’t know where else to go. After Sansa leaving, staying in their flat – or staying anywhere in the North – just wasn’t an option for him anywhere so he had packed his things up and had gotten the hell out of there. There was no point, in his mind, in staying in the North if Sansa wasn’t there with him.

 

So he went South to the Reach. He had honestly been praying that Sansa had gone down to Highgarden as well. Sansa had always wanted to take a holiday here and Jon had promised that they would go as soon as things at work slowed down a bit. He would have taken Sansa anywhere in the world and when she left, Jon had thought that maybe, she had come down here and he would find her.

 

She’s not here though. He’s been here for two weeks now and he’s been searching all over and unless she’s changed her name or appearance – both possibilities – Sansa isn’t here in Highgarden.

 

Jon has no idea where to look next, but he isn’t going to give up. Sansa is somewhere and Jon will find her. He has to.

 

Without Sansa, he can’t breathe properly.

 

Without Sansa… there is no him as far as he’s concerned. Sansa’s the best part of him and if he doesn’t have her, what’s the point of Jon Snow anymore?

 

His phone dings then – a new alert of something – and he nearly ignores it, but decides to take a quick look before it can ding again.

 

It’s a new Instagram post.

 

Jon bolts upright.

 

Sansa. She’s posted something. She hasn’t posted anything anywhere in three weeks, but this very second, somewhere in this world, Sansa has taken a picture and uploaded it onto her Instagram account.

 

Jon’s fingers are nearly shaking as he unlocks his phone and immediately goes to Instagram to see what it is, his heart beating so rapidly in his chest, he can hear the drumming of it in his ears.

 

He holds his breath as he sees what it is, hoping it’s a picture of her. It’s not. But rather, it’s a picture of… he leans in for a closer look. It’s a picture of cheese in a grocery store.

 

#myrcheese #thefinerthingsinlife #themoreyouknow followed by the cheese block and the cow emojis.

 

And then nothing more. Just a picture of cheese. No picture of her or a clue as to where she is.

 

Jon swallows down the disappointment. It’s okay. It’s more than okay, he tries to convince himself. This cheese picture shows that Sansa is out there, somewhere, and if Jon keeps looking for her, he’ll find her. He’ll find her and beg for her forgiveness and beg for her to take him back and promise to her that he will spend the rest of their lives, making it up to her and he’ll never hide anything from her ever again. From the moment he sees her again, he will always tell her absolutely anything and everything. No more secrets. Never again.

 

He’ll promise and do anything if he can just have one more chance. That’s all he wants in this world. He’ll do anything she wants. Absolutely anything. If he could just see her and talk to her…

 

Jon continues looking down at the cheese picture.

 

Myr Cheese. He’s never heard of it. Not that he pays attention to cheese brands in the store, but still, he doesn’t even recognize the label.

 

Curious, Jon brings up the internet on his phone and types in Myr Cheese into the search bar.

 

A brand of gourmet cheeses from Myr…


Sold exclusively to cities and towns in Essos.

 

Essos.

 

Sansa’s in Essos.

 

Chapter Text

 

“This whole time. You’re a nurse and I never knew.”

 

Sansa finds herself already smiling faintly before she even turns to look at him.

 

She closes her mailbox and with the few envelopes in her hand, she turns and sees Daario, he having stepped into the lobby of their apartment building, but stopping the instant he sees her at the mailboxes. She’s wearing her mint green scrubs today; her hair in a simple braid, loosely over her shoulder.

 

“I’m not a nurse,” Sansa shakes her head. “What is with you men and nurses?” She then asks.

 

Jon had had the same dark eyes that Daario has now when he had first seen her in her scrubs for work. He had then let out some sort of growl and Sansa had laughed as he enveloped her in his arms, kissing her over and over again while gently pulling her towards their bedroom.

 

She flushes and almost shifts uncomfortably now at the idea of Daario having those same thoughts.

 

“It’s the whole sponge bath thing,” Daario answers her question and then smiles when Sansa wrinkles her nose at that. “So, if you’re not a nurse…”

 

“Dental hygienist,” Sansa answers. “I got a job in an office just down the street. It was my first day today.”

 

She knows it’s not a career choice that most would guess for her to pursue. To some people, cleaning other people’s teeth all day is not something that sounds particularly wonderful to them, but Sansa loves it. She always has – first with brushing her own teeth and now, brushing others. She’s always loved going to the dentist. While her mother had to wrangle all of the other kids into the car every six months for their checkup and cleaning, Sansa always practically skipped and when the hygienist asked which one wanted to go first, Sansa was always the first out of her chair and none of her siblings even thought to protest.

 

“Such a beautiful smile,” their dentist would praise her and Sansa would just beam. She’s had a couple of cavities – mainly after Halloween when the temptation of caramel squares was just too much for her – but even then, her smile, and her teeth, has always been one of her favorite things about her.

 

She had gone to a college fair during high school with Robb and Jon when they were closer to graduate and both looking to their own futures and Sansa had accompanied them out of curiosity more than anything. She had looked over the pamphlets from the various universities scattered all over Westeros that Robb and Jon had taken – though she couldn’t imagine them going anywhere other than somewhere in the North – and when she saw one of the listed majors as dentist/dental hygienist, something very odd had struck Sansa in that moment. She looked at that and suddenly, she knew exactly what she wanted to be and what she wanted to do. Without a doubt.

 

“Have you been judging my teeth this whole time?” Daario wonders.

 

“Yes,” Sansa answers without pause and she lets out a soft laugh as he slaps a hand over his mouth. “Your teeth are fine, Daario,” she then feels the need to assure him.

 

More than fine, but she keeps that to herself.

 

She suddenly has a memory of lying in bed with Jon – of course – and he’s lying on his back and Sansa is lying on her stomach, partially on his chest, laughing as Jon keeps his mouth open for her.

 

“Well?” He asked.

 

“I’m not a dentist,” Sansa reminded him for the countless time, but with another laugh, she peered closer into his mouth, looking over his perfect teeth.

 

“For some reason, I feel like this is the most intimate thing we’ve done together,” Jon had said then and that made Sansa blush because he was right. Looking into his mouth at this close of an angle, there was something oddly intimate about it all.

 

“Jon!” Sansa then exclaimed amidst surprise and laughter as Jon suddenly spun them around, putting her on her back with him above her. Jon gave her a gin before he lowered his mouth to hers and Sansa moaned softly as Jon proceeded to inspect her own teeth with his tongue.

 

“I read your latest review this morning in the paper,” Sansa says to Daario now, shaking herself from the memory. So many memories and she wonders if she’ll ever be able to shake herself of them.

 

“Oh, yeah?” Daario smiles, pleased. “What’d you think?”

 

Sansa takes a step back so Daario can get to his own mailbox.

 

“Slightly scathing,” she replies honestly.

 

“Just slightly? Damn, I’m losing my touch then.”

 

“It doesn’t bother you that you can make or break someone’s business with a single review of yours?”

 

Daario shrugs at that and closes his mailbox again. They then begin climbing the stairs together.

 

“If they didn’t want criticism or opinions different from their own, they shouldn’t have opened a restaurant and proceed to serve me soup that was clearly from a can,” Daario says. “Do you like soup from a can when you go to a restaurant, expecting something a little bit better?”

 

Sansa’s not sure why, but she feels like smiling. So she does.

 

He does have a point. What’s the point of going to a restaurant if she can prepare exactly the same thing for herself in her own kitchen?

 

“I make a lemon rice soup,” Sansa hears herself say to him before she can even realize it. “I haven’t made it in a while, but now that you have me thinking about soup, I think I might this weekend.”

 

“Is this your way of inviting me over because if so, I more than happily accept,” Daario throws her a grin.

 

“After the way you eviscerated that restaurant in your review? I most certainly am not inviting you over to try my soup,” Sansa retorts and Daario lets out a laugh that Sansa can’t help, but think is a nice sound.

 

They reach their doors and while Sansa goes to hers, with her keys out to unlock it, Daario stands in front of his, not going inside, but rather, he looks at her.

 

“There’s a very good farmer’s market two times a month in Ragman’s Harbor,” he tells her. “It’s this weekend and I was hoping you would like to come with me.”

 

Sansa expects herself to immediately refuse. She wonders if Daario is viewing this trip to a farmer’s market as a date and if he is, she doesn’t understand why she’s not immediately refusing. She can’t go on a date. She’s nowhere near ready for something like that with anyone. She’s not over Jon. Not by a longshot.

 

The rational part of her knows that he probably hasn’t, but the irrational part of her thinks that Jon has moved on already. She’s been gone for a month now. She can’t imagine Jon just sitting around, waiting for her to come back. Maybe he’s gone on a date with another girl already. Maybe he’s already slept with Val and Ygritte again since that seems to happen when something doesn’t go well for him.

 

Does he miss her at all? Does he even think about her? She thinks of the life they had begun to plan together and she thinks back on it now and wonders if it had all just been a lie. Talks of diamond rings and adopting dogs and finding themselves a small starter home to buy together… Had any of it been real? Had he meant a single word he had said to her in the year they were together while blatantly keeping things and lying to her face every single day?

 

Her parents are the only ones who know where she is and she would like to keep it that way and yet, she wouldn’t mind calling Theon and speaking with him. She never would have guessed it, but Theon was the only true friend she had had. She hadn’t even had Robb and Arya like she had thought. True, he had just been making a joke about threesomes when he slapped Jon on the back “Right, Snow?” and the whole thing had come out then, but Sansa knows that Theon had only been telling the joke because he already thought that Sansa had known. She should have known.

 

She has no friends here – not yet. The other hygienists at the dentist’s office and the dentist himself, Dr. Mero, all seem so nice and Sansa thinks – hopes – that they’ll all be friends soon.

 

And is Daario a friend? Or is he looking to be something more to her?

 

Sansa admits that she isn’t sure how to think about either of those possibilities.

 

She looks to him and he is looking at her, still awaiting her answer to his invitation.

 

She takes a deep breath. It’s time to move on from Jon Snow. She’s not going back to Westeros and the odds of ever seeing him again are slim to none. She still loves him, but she can only hope that that fades.

 

“Yes, I would love to go this weekend, Daario,” she finally answers.

 

Daario lets out a breath and instantly breaks into a smile.

 

“And maybe when we get back, I’ll let you have some lemon rice soup,” she adds and when he laughs, Sansa finds herself smiling.

 

 

#farmersmarket #strawberryjam with the strawberry emoji.

 

She’s at a farmer’s market.

 

Jon studies the Instagram for long minutes – Sansa holding a small glass jar of what he assumes is strawberry jam, but there’s nothing in the picture except her hand and the jar. There’s absolutely nothing else that would alert him as to what farmer’s market she’s at and Essos is massive. She can be anywhere right now and searching how many farmer’s markets there are right now would just give him a headache.

 

Ever since he’s found out that Sansa is in Essos, Jon has spent every second he’s not working with trying to figure out where she is in Essos, but he has no idea. His one and only clue - Myr Cheese – is sold in markets all over Essos. Every city. Every town. She could literally be anywhere across the Narrow Sea. But that hasn’t deterred Jon. He’s been tempted to call Ned and Catelyn Stark and ask – beg – them for any grain of information, but he knows that he’ll be wasting his breath. He doesn’t know if Sansa told her parents about why they broke up or what he did, but it wouldn’t matter either way if she had or not. Jon may be their son’s best friend, but he’s now also their daughter’s ex-boyfriend; the ex-boyfriend who, when their relationship ended, she had fled from.

 

He’s also considered talking to Robb or Arya about it, but he’s always stopped himself before he can. He wants to be the one to track her down. He wants to be the one to find her. He wants to be the first one to get to her so he can be the first one to fall onto his knees in front of her and beg her for her forgiveness.

 

Jon stares at the Instagram post for another picture, looking at her hand – pale and soft looking as always. He misses her hands. He misses her hand tucked into his when they went anywhere. Her hands giving his shoulders a good rub after he came home after a stressful day at the office. Her hands when she was in the kitchen, chopping up something for dinner or smoothing icing over the latest cake she baked. Her hands combing through his hair as he moved above her. Her hands running down his back as he thrust between her thighs.

 

He can still feel her hands everywhere on him.

 

Does she still think about his hands? Does she still think about him at all?

 

He knows it’s only been a month and Sansa isn’t the sort to just forget or pretend that anything happened. Her heart is too big. She tries to pretend that it’s not, but she’s never been able to hide it from him or those close to her. She’s the kind who tears up when she sees a dead deer on the side of the road, but the way in which he broke her heart… maybe completely pretending he never existed to her is all she can do. She’s already moved to an entirely different continent to escape him and the relationship they had together and what he had done to fuck it all up.

 

Would he actually blame her if she doesn’t think about him at all?

 

No.

 

Hell, most days, Jon wishes he could erase himself from the world. He’s fairly certain he’d be doing a lot of people a favor if he was just gone.

 

Frustrated that the picture isn’t giving him an answer and he doesn’t know what else to do, he stands up from his desk before he throws his laptop across the room.

 

Ghost has been sleeping on the floor, but as soon as Jon gets to his feet, the dog gets himself up, too.

 

His flat here in Highgarden isn’t anything special. Pretty non-descript, to be honest. A box among a tower of other boxes. He misses his flat with Sansa in Winterfell. That had been pretty basic as far as flats went, but they had had tiny balcony and a deep bathtub that he and Sansa had used together more than once. There had also been a third bedroom in addition to their bedroom and his home office and she had mentioned, off-hand one random day, about that third bedroom being used someday for anyone else who might come along.

 

That had been one of the best things Jon is fairly certain he had ever heard. Sansa wanted a baby – with him. They were planning their life together and they had every intention of living happily ever after.

 

In the living room, he collapses on the couch, his body aching with exhaustion, and Ghost hops up to join him. It’s raining outside and Jon listens to it tap against the window panes, slowly driving him insane.

 

He should have told her. On their second date, he should have told her what he had done with Val and Ygritte and just gotten it out of the way. He should have given her the choice as to what she wanted to do after he told her. But he decided to keep it from her and have their friends swear that they wouldn’t tell her either and he had just stupidly hoped it was one mistake that would never come back to bite him.

 

Jon sighs and rests his head against the couch behind him. Sansa’s in Essos and she’s there because she obviously can’t stand breathing the same Westeros air as him. Maybe he should just…

 

He can’t. He won’t even let himself finish that thought. He’s a selfish prick, but he has to find her and after he begs her to forgive him and take him back, if she still wants nothing to do with him after that… well, he’ll deal with that if that happens, but he just can’t give up before doing anything.

 

His phone dings again and he opens it to see that Sansa has posted another picture on her Instagram.

 

Jon bolts upright when he looks at the picture. It’s a profile of a man with floppy dark brown hair and a matching beard. He’s leaning over and looking through a bin of – what looks to be – cloves of garlic. Jon then looks to what Sansa has captioned with the picture.

 

#foodsnob and then the emoji with one eye closed and the tongue hanging out. 

 

Jon stares down at the picture of the man and he can hear his heart pounding in his ears; beating so fast, it’s hitting his breastplate and it actually beginning to physically hurt. Sansa’s at a farmer’s market with a man. A man who’s not him and a man who is in Essos with her.

 

He can’t stop looking at the man and he wonders if this man has held Sansa’s hand.