“And we’re adding these instead of the bit with the Wildlings. Make sure the changes get into the final script.” Petyr shuffled through the bundle of pages with a critical eye before handing them to Olyvar.
The younger man nodded, “Yes, sir. Did you still want the music number with the puppets for the masturbation sketch at the end?”
“Baelish!” The roar directed at him was inversely proportional to the size of the oncoming threat barreling through the studio.
Petyr smirked. “I’ll let you know,” he replied lowly before turning toward his assailant. Olyvar ducked out behind him, abandoning him to face the wrath of his longtime (and ever-suffering) producer. Coward. He broadened his smirk into a guiltless smile. “Ah, the esteemed Lord Lannister. How was your holiday?”
“Considerably less relaxing than I’d hoped,” Tyrion huffed, glowering up at him.
Petyr wrinkled his brow in mock concern. “I’m sorry to hear it. Whatever for?”
“You know exactly why,” grumbled the shorter man, crossing his arms in pique.
“Hmmm, haven’t the slightest idea,” he denied, making a show of retrieving a cigarette and lighting it with flair.
His diminutive opponent glared. “The High Septon strip tease? The skit I specifically forbade you to do two weeks ago? And gave Bronn strict instructions that under no circumstances would it be broadcast?”
He took a long drag on the cigarette, savoring both the menthol as a pleasing burn in his throat and the increasingly obvious impatience in the man in front of him. “Ah, that. Were there complaints?”
Tyrion threw up his hands in disgust. “Complaints? Imagine my surprise as I lounged by the pool, enjoying a particularly fine vintage and the best views Lys had to offer, when suddenly my phone fairly explodes with outrage and scandal. Did you know what the worst part was? I had to defend your antics to my father. My. Bloody. Father!” he spat, shaking his head in consternation. The rocky relationship between them was well-known, as was the disapproval the elder Lannister had for his youngest son’s profession. Petyr felt a smidge of guilt for subjecting Tyrion to the old lion’s ire. On the whole, he actually quite liked the man. Tyrion continued sourly, “The crowning glory of all of it was finding the official letter from the Sept of Baelor on my desk this morning.”
Petyr couldn’t hide his amusement at that. “Did His Holiness object to the routine?” He rather thought the good people of the Faith could suffer a bit of pillory and comeuppance; he’d been a victim enough of their intolerance for original thought during his tenure at school. The memories were so vivid that sometimes he felt a phantom ache in his hands from the litany of switches and rulers applied to them. Their parting upon his graduation was a mutual relief, he was sure.
“Keep it up and the only kingdom you’ll be welcome in will be Dorne,” Tyrion threatened with little heat.
Petyr smirked. “You do know it was the highest rated program on air last week?”
“That’s the only reason I’m not shipping your arse there as we speak,” Tyrion groused. “Watch it Baelish, or you might find yourself out of a job. Or worse, sent down on decency standards violations.”
“That’s why I have you, isn’t it?” he replied carelessly. He hadn’t changed the name his Braavosi forebears had given him to cater to the whims of the crusty old shites, and he wasn’t about to spare their hypocritical, vacuous farce of morality either. Tyrion gave him another half-hearted glare before storming off. The producer’s threat didn’t worry him; he rather thought Tyrion, for all his public bluster, secretly approved of the stunt and had intended for him to sneak it through when the latter was technically off duty. Their views on (and disdain for) Westerosi society tended to align; it was why their partnership was so successful, though contentious at times.
He checked his watch; he’d have just enough time to swing by wardrobe before the read-through. Perhaps even grab a coffee on the way , he mused. He exchanged greetings with cast and crew on the trek from the set down to the basement where the costume and props departments dwelled. He was surprised not to see Varys on his travels; the effeminate man generally made a point to stop by when their respective schedules overlapped for a spot of friendly mutual needling.
Soon enough, he reached the large room stocked floor to ceiling with decades’ worth of clothes and oddities. He ducked inside, the creak of the heavy double doors heralding his entrance. He took a last drag of the cigarette in an attempt to stave off the musty smell that always hung about the room before dropping it on the cement floor and putting it out with his foot. Ordinarily a fastidious man, he engaged in the act of littering solely to annoy Ros, who was absurdly protective of her fabric kingdom. Sadly, she wasn’t at the desk to witness his trespass. “Hello?” he called out, his voice echoing off the high ceiling.
“Just a moment,” came an answer, but the voice was unfamiliar--light and feminine with a trace of Northern inflection not nearly as strong as the broad burr with which Ros often hurled abuse at him. Intrigued, Petyr stepped further into the cluttered room, trying to pinpoint the location of the speaker amidst the many rows of clothing on hangers. Fortunately, he didn’t have to wait long, as soon enough a vision in a white cardigan and jeans appeared from between the stacks--tall, leggy, and redhaired. His day suddenly became much more interesting.
He flashed her his most charming grin and offered a hand in greeting. “I don’t think we’ve met. I’m Petyr Baelish.”
“I know who you are,” she replied, gifting him a shy smile in return. He felt no shame in the satisfaction in being recognized (he’d worked hard enough, after all), and the resulting heat fed the spark of interest she’d already engendered in him. “Sansa Stark.”
“Pleasure to meet you, Sansa,” he drawled. Her hand was soft and warm in his grip and her name a delightful taste on his tongue. He relinquished the former reluctantly, aware his touch had lingered more than was strictly polite, but neither had she pulled away from him. Good start. “You’re new here?” he guessed. He definitely would’ve remembered seeing her before. He took note of the lack of any rings adorning her fingers, though of course that didn’t guarantee she would be unattached.
She nodded. “Ros asked me to fill in. She’s got family business to deal with back at home.”
“I see. Nothing too serious, I hope,” he let real concern color the query. For all their bickering, he considered the woman a friend.
Sansa shook her head with a small frown. “I don’t believe so, no.”
“That’s good then. How do you know Ros?” he inquired, taking the opportunity to admire the beauty in front of him without overtly leering. If he was right (and he usually was on such things) she was a natural redhead. She seemed to favor a subtle look with the barest touch of makeup adorning her already perfect features, eschewing the heavy palette in fashion currently.
She met his gaze with more confidence than before and, unless he was sorely mistaken, seemed to be checking him out as well. “I go to KL School of Fashion. She was an instructor for one of my courses last semester.”
He’d pegged her for late teens or early twenties, but that confirmed she was of age. Excellent. “Considering a career in the industry, then?”
“I suppose,” she shrugged. “I’ve only just started here.”
“I hope you enjoy your time with us,” he offered with a broad smile. He would make it very enjoyable indeed, if she let him. Steady on, mustn’t scare her off.
“Thanks,” she murmured, holding his gaze a beat longer before clearing her throat. “You’re here for the suit then?” He nodded expectantly. It was ever a point of contention between he and Ros, this requirement of his for a new tailored outfit every show (it was essential to him getting in the proper frame of mind for performing, and by now was a habit as well), but the seamstress always gave in regardless of the inconvenience it posed. He liked to think it was her understanding a fellow artist’s needs but he suspected it was because it was clearly outlined in his contract.
Sansa’s expression turned apologetic. “Unfortunately she left before she completed it. I’m sorry, but I’ll have to refit the jacket.”
Outwardly he acquiesced with good grace while inwardly crowing. It meant more time spent in her presence, even if it put him behind for the packed schedule that followed. They could all wait for him; it was his name at the top of the bill, after all.
She disappeared into the dark recesses of the shop for a moment, then returned with several hangers. The material was a gunmetal grey with deep red piping and liner--the trousers and waistcoat passed inspection, but the jacket lacked a smooth, finished look, still retaining pins in places. She helped him slip the rough garment on, careful to avoid sticking him with the remaining pins, which was far more consideration than Ros generally showed (though her disregard was patently deliberate as a sort of revenge for putting her to work).
“Would you mind making it a bit loose in the shoulders?” he requested. It was one of the things that irritated him most about off-the-rack suits and he made sure was corrected in his tailoring.
“I was warned you were particular,” she murmured, smoothing out the fabric over his chest before repinning the lines carefully, glancing up at him with a hint of a smile. He breathed in deeply but subtly, catching the delightful but not overpowering floral scent of her perfume. Combined with the soft pressure of her hands caressing him, albeit professionally, the experience added up to the most pleasurable fitting he’d ever been subjected to.
“Is that all Ros said? I’m a bit disappointed,” he tsked with a smirk.
The brilliant blue of her eyes fairly sparkled at him. “I censored some of the language so as not to offend your delicate sensibilities.”
He couldn’t help the chuckle that escaped. Not only beauty, but possessed of wit as well. He was doomed, but there far worse ways to go, he reasoned.
“You’re Northern?” he probed gently. Not his subtlest effort, but he was curious enough not to care.
“From Winterfell,” she confirmed. At his raised eyebrow, she clarified with a healthy dose of self-deprecation, “Yes, one of those Starks.”
Old family, quite rich, well established in the hierarchy he took the mick out of weekly. “I won’t hold it against you,” he assured playfully.
She merely rolled her eyes at him. “Gee, thanks.”
He suppressed a shiver as her hands brushed his sides to adjust one of the seams, and couldn’t help the added rasp to his next question. “What brought you to King’s Landing?”
If she noticed, she didn’t let it show. “School mostly. It’s the best program in the country. I’ve come to like the city a lot as well, though I admit it was a bit of a culture shock. Winterfell isn’t…”
“Dirty, crowded, and overrun by pretentious arseholes clamboring for a chance in the spotlight?” he finished for her, well aware of his adopted home’s reputation.
“You’re not all that bad,” she retorted, shifting her weight to focus on his left shoulder.
Petyr returned her mischievous smirk with one of his own. “Wait til you get to know me better."
“What about you? You’re not from around here either, are you?” she inquired with what seemed to be genuine curiosity, steadily working her way down his arm.
“The Fingers, originally,” he replied with reluctance.
“I’ve never been,” she noted. When she reached the cuff, he felt her gaze glance over but not fixate on his left hand, the missing portion of second digit the deformity which had earned him the hated childhood nickname “Littlefinger,” a moniker that he’d embraced as a trademark. He’d gotten enough material from the injury that he’d long forgiven his cousin for the accident that caused it. Tactfully, she made no mention of it, merely switching to the other arm.
“It’s a prime destination as long as your favorite pastimes involve mud, rocks, and sheepshit,” he intoned sardonically, which earned him a giggle.
“How could a girl resist?” she quipped in turn. “What brought you to King’s Landing?”
“Same as you I suppose. Opportunity and all that,” he shrugged. She nudged him to turn around, and when he did so, he was happy to note the angle of one of the mirrors would enable him to watch her.
Their conversation lapsed into a not uncomfortable silence as she became absorbed in her work, and he welcomed the chance to study her freely, her expressions more open and unguarded than before, apparently unaware of his scrutiny or too focused on her task to notice it. She went about her craft with a defter and more confident hand than he’d expect in one so young and presumably early in her training--he knew how it felt to be poked and prodded by amateurs, and she was nothing of the sort. “You’re quite good at this,” he observed, and she glanced up quickly, hands stilling on the middle of his back and meeting his gaze in the mirror with a startled expression as if just now noticing his attention.
She recovered quickly, however, explaining, “I’ve been designing and making my own clothing since my mother taught me to sew when I was little.”
“I’d like to see that,” he hummed.
She snorted in disbelief. “Sure you would.”
He furrowed his brow in mock hurt. “How close-minded of you to assume I couldn’t possibly have any interest in women’s fashion.” Truthfully, he was much more intrigued by the prospect of her modeling her creations for him, but it wasn’t as if he couldn’t appreciate style when he saw it.
She laughed, shaking her head at him. “If that’s true, then from what I’ve seen you have abysmal taste in skirts.”
Ah, so she was at least familiar with some of his prior work. He wasn’t above a spot of cross-dressing when a skit called for it--he was quite serious about his art, after all, and was secure enough in his masculinity not to be threatened by any assumptions it might provoke. “It’s good that I have you here to guide me then,” he countered slyly. She rolled her eyes at him and resumed her activities with another chuckle. “Fan of the show, are you?” It was fishing for compliments in the worst way, but he decided he didn’t care.
“My brothers are,” she admitted, “mostly because my parents hate it.”
He was probably closer to them in age than her. Best not dwell on that at the moment . “Do they? Why?”
“My mother is very religious. My father just thinks you’re an obnoxious berk,” she explained, mirth playing about her lips.
Inwardly he tensed, preparing himself for her judgement, but managed to keep his tone light, prompting, “And what do you think?”
“I’m not sure I’ve seen enough to really form an opinion,” she confessed, her expression apologetic.
Ouch. No matter, he could work with what was given. “Well you’ll have plenty of opportunity to critique me now. I’ll expect a full report,” he teased.
“Of course, I’ll get right to it,” she shot back dryly. “Ros said you were demanding, but I haven’t a clue what she was talking about.” She nudged him gently before he could retaliate. “All done. You can turn back around now.”
When he did, he was pleased to find himself standing much closer to her than before. From her widened eyes, she hadn’t anticipated their close proximity either, but she didn’t immediately step back, seemingly as reluctant as he to impose a more proper distance between them. Before he could second guess himself or let her do so, he ventured, “What are you doing tonight?”
She gave him an incredulous look. “I’ll be here. As will you, unless you always skip your own dress rehearsals?”
“I mean after that,” he clarified, heart thudding heavily but still hopeful. “Fancy a drink?”
She narrowed her eyes at him warily. “Do you make a habit of hitting on the staff?”
“Only the pretty ones,” he grinned, aiming for rakish. In truth, he was never lacking female company when he sought it (the name drop helped a great deal, as did sympathy for his lost portion of finger, to a surprising degree) but he sensed she would be different, and relished the challenge.
She shook her head, and he could detect the faintest of blushes in her cheeks, but there was still a smile there as well. She tugged on the sleeve of the jacket and he relinquished it with some reluctance. “I’ll have this done by tomorrow, but you’ll have to endure wearing one of your old suits for rehearsal.”
He would gladly put on a hair shirt if that bettered his chances with her. Besotted imbecile. “Is that a yes?” he pressed, searching her features for the slightest clue she felt even a fraction of the draw he had for her, and hoped he wasn’t deluding himself into finding it.
Several expressions flickered across her face, and he could sense her hesitation. “I’ll see you later, Mr. Baelish,” she demurred, though not unkindly.
“Petyr,” he insisted. It wasn’t an outright no. He could work with that.
She hesitated, biting her lip in the most enticing way before relenting with almost a sigh, “Petyr.”
His name had never sounded better. He offered his hand again, and, when she accepted, pulled it gently to his lips to press a kiss to the back of it. “Until tonight then, Sansa.”
He knew he didn’t imagine the shiver that provoked, and triumphed in her reaction to his touch, her hand lingering in his before they separated. He made his exit swiftly before he had the urge to do something even more foolish and impulsive, already missing her presence. It would be quite disappointing if she didn’t agree to go out with him that evening, but not the end of the world. He could be quite persuasive. He gave in to the urge to whistle, ignoring the startled looks of the crew around him as he took his place on the set. Things were looking up indeed, and not even the sight of Tyrion once more on the warpath--hurling vitriol at him from across the room and waving pages at him in a most threatening manner--put a damper on his newfound cheer.