“This is often the way crimes get solved- through a side door. The clue that led to New York’s “son of Sam” killings was a parking ticket David Berkowitz was issued for parking his Ford Galaxie too close to a fire hydrant near the site of his final murder”
― John Edward Douglas, The Killer Across the Table: Unlocking the Secrets of Serial Killers and Predators
Sansa mentally reviewed her to-do list while the shop was slow. Myranda had put on a John Mayer album again, and Sansa had heard it plenty lately, and had no regrets about letting her mind wander.
Finish pattern design final project. Pick up Robin from school. Study for history. Take Robin to his doctor’s appointment. Clean your bathroom. Ask father about going to Volantis with Mya.
She sighed. The last one was a no-go- she knew that her father would never allow her to go as far away as Volantis without him, and he couldn’t leave Braavos this summer because work would keep him busy. As it always did.
She hissed as the espresso machine she was cleaning burned her, turning to run her sore hand under water. When she looked up, she nearly yelped.
There was a man standing almost right in front of her, the most amazed look on his face. Sansa hadn’t heard him approach at all- and she wondered if her thoughts had simply gotten too far away from her, or if this man was some sort of secret agent.
She did that, sometimes. Made up little stories about the customers who came in to pass the time, and to live a bit vicariously through them. Ragman’s Harbor always had decently interesting characters, and It wasn’t as though she really got to have much adventure as Alayne Baelish, anyways.
After her mother’s death, years before, her father had grown overprotective of her and her brother to the point where Sansa, even as much as she loved her father, was feeling more than a little smothered. She hadn’t been allowed to move on campus for school, and she had gotten lucky that Braavos Central University had such a strong fashion program, as her father hadn’t wanted her to go as far away as King’s Landing or Oldtown, and he had flat out refused White Harbor when she had brought it up.
A secret agent. She decided. With lovers on every continent- his face was very handsome-and chasing a prolific crime lord across Essos. He’s ducked into my shop to avoid detection from one of the man’s own agents, who spotted him in the square along the way.
Sansa smiled at him, greeting him.
“What can I get for you?” she asked, observing his clothing. He didn’t look Braavosi- he wore a burnt orange shirt that had a colorfully patterned border at the sleeves- it stood out against his weathered olive skin. Sansa would have bet every cent in her meager bank account that he was Dornish. His eyes seemed to dance as he smiled at her, and she hoped she wasn’t blushing.
“You wouldn’t happen to have Dornish coffee, wouldyou?” the man asked, looking hopeful.
“Of course!” Sansa told him. “This is Braavos, sir. If it exists, you can probably find it somewhere in this city.”
“Very true.” The man agreed, his face serious even as his eyes sparkled. There was something almost boyish and mischievous to his face, and Sansa liked him immediately. “I figured I was more likely to find it here, rather than in the Purple Harbor.”
“You might still find it there-“ Sansa laughed as she rung up his order, “It’s just probably going to cost about three times what we’ll charge in this neighborhood, and might have some sort of odd herbal infusion in it.”
The man looked about as disgusted as she had ever seen anyone look- It was really rather funny.
“That-“ he muttered, shoving the change she gave him viciously into their tip jar, “-is not how anyone in Dorne typically drinks their coffee.”
“That’s gentrification.” Sansa shrugged, giving him a wry grin. “Everyone thought it was gross until they stuck it in a tiny cup, added some overpriced flowers, and charged about six dragons for it.”
The man barked out a short laugh.
“Can I at least count on a decent cup here?”
“You’ll have to tell me.” Sansa shrugged. “My best friend loves it, but I’m more of a tea drinker myself.”
“Fair enough.” The man chuckled, taking the cup she handed him. “Thanks for the heads up-“ he squinted at the nametag around Sansa’s neck, “-Alayne.”
“Of course- enjoy!” she told him, watching him wave at her as he walked away.
Oberyn’s hands were shaking as he dialed the number, impatiently pacing by the water a block away from the small coffee shop he’d just left.
“Pick up- pick up-“ he muttered, checking his watch.
“Hey Oberyn.” A slightly raspy voice answered at the other end.
“Lya.” He greeted shortly. “Is your wife there?”
“Aren’t you in a mood.” She chuckled. “Yeah, El’s just coming in from outside and asked me to answer while she washes the dirt off her hands. Her vegetable garden‘s been a resounding success so far.”
“Excellent.” Oberyn muttered, anxiety pooling in his stomach. “Sorry Lya- I really am glad to hear the garden is doing well, but it’s kind of urgent.”
“Sure thing. No one wants our secret agent man kept waiting, I gotcha. Here she is.”
Oberyn exhaled with relief.
“Elia.” He greeted.
“What happened? I know that tone.” Oberyn grinned.
“El, I think I just caught a pretty major break in the case.”
“Which one?” his sister asked, casually. Oberyn could hear water running in the background, and assumed she was washing vegetables. “Gods I can’t even specify ‘the kidnapping case’ because you’re working two of them.”
“Sansa’s.” Oberyn breathed, excitedly. There was a pause, and the sound of running water cut off.
“What are you saying?” Elia asked, cautiously. “That you have a solid lead?”
“No, El- I think I just found Sansa.”
There was a beat.
“You’re kidding me.” Elia breathed. “Oberyn, you can’t be-“
“I’m absolutely serious.”
“How?” Elia asked, sounding flustered. It was a rare thing for his usually calm sister. “Where? Oberyn, have you called Ned and Cat?”
“You can’t say anything to Ned and Catelyn until I can confirm it.” Oberyn told her, firmly. “I shouldn’t even be saying anything to you, but I’m still shocked that it happened- El, I walked into a coffee shop in Ragman’s Harbor and she was just there.”
“How did you know it was her?”
“She looks just like Catelyn.” Oberyn told her. “Same face, same eyes and hair, but her chin and height are all Ned Stark’s.”
“Oberyn I don’t want to doubt you-“ he heard Elia sigh, “-but a resemblance to Cat isn’t exactly ironclad evidence.”
“I know, Elia!” Oberyn exclaimed, nearly throwing his hands up. “Believe me, I know, but Gods I just have a feeling here.”
Elia was silent for a moment before Oberyn heard her chuckle.
“You and Lya and your hunches.” She told him, affectionately. “Just the other day, she came in ranting and raving about corrupt businessmen and a money trail she’s following on nothing more than a hunch- although I think most people who encounter Roose Bolton assume he’s not exactly law abiding- or at least leave the meeting feeling slimy about the whole affair.” She was quiet for a moment. “But I trust Lya’s gut, and I trust you too. I won’t say anything to Ned and Cat, but Lya’s probably going to grill me about this the minute we get off the phone.”
“That’s fair.” Oberyn admitted. “As long as she doesn’t say anything to the Starks yet- particularly Catelyn, who will have my head if I make a mistake here.”
“What are you going do next?”
“She’s going by a different name-“ Oberyn frowned, “which is unsurprising, all things considered. Dig into her records- see who she is, where she’s from, and once I have enough evidence to justify it, I’ll get a DNA sample from her.”
“You’re just going to compel one?” Elia asked, tone incredulous.
“No, that’s far too risky.” Oberyn shook his head. “We had a bit of a chat today about the inauthentic Dornish coffee that Braavosi hipsters are trying to sell for an absurd amount of money in a certain neighborhood, so there’s a bit of rapport there. I might just come in a few times this week to see if I can repeat that- maybe I can catch her on a break and just talk.”
“Just be careful.” Elia reminded him. “I know you, and I know you’re good at what you do. But if someone took the time to take Sansa and raise her all the way in Braavos, they may not take kindly to someone trying to take her back.”
“I will, don’t worry El.”
“I always worry about you.” Elia chuckled. “So does Doran. Call him sometime, will you?”
“I will.” Oberyn promised, feeling guilt curl in his stomach. “I talked to Ty and Nym just yesterday- I’m not completely cut off.”
“Is Bara still deployed?”
“She’s teaching at the Military Academy in Kings Landing at the moment.” Oberyn told her. “Just got back recently- while we’re on the subject of calling, she’d probably love to hear from you and Lya.”
“We should be able to make that happen.” He heard the smile in Elia’s voice.
“Excellent.” Oberyn muttered, glancing behind him. “El, I need to run. I have to go talk to Daemon about this before he leaves the Braavosi PD for the day.”
“Alright. Be careful- and let me know as soon as you find anything Oberyn.”
“I will. I promise.”
Sansa was surprised to see the Dornishman back two days later in the shop, another man trailing behind him and looking decidedly less cheerful than the colorful man before her.
“I take it the coffee was authentic?” Sansa asked, smiling at him.
“More so than any other place we’ve tried in Braavos so far.” The man snorted. “My partner doesn’t believe me, so I dragged his grumpy ass here with me so you could prove him wrong.”
“Sure.” Sansa laughed. “Two Dornish coffees then?”
“That would be fantastic. For here if you would.”
“That, we can do.” Sansa smiled, quickly fixing their drinks. “Are you two here for work then?”
Oberyn nodded his head, yes.
“We both work for the Westerosi Bureau of Intelligence- the WBI.” He told her, with a flirty smile. She blushed, but smiled back.
“The footwork can be a bit dull.” Daemon grumbled, gladly taking the coffee she handed him. “Thank you.”
“Of course. Let me know if I can grab anything else for you guys.” Sansa offered, before directing her attention to the next customer.
Oberyn and Daemon Sand- significantly more awake now, thanks to the coffee- sat down at a table farthest from the register and other prying eyes and ears. Oberyn pulled out his phone, and showed a picture to Daemon while the man sipped on his drink.
“You took a picture of the girl already?” Daemon asked, looking incredulous. Oberyn shook his head.
“That’s a picture I got from the Starks- that’s Catelyn Stark as a teenager.”
Daemon’s eyes widened near comically, but he kept his composure.
“Alright. I’m on board with your hunch. You were right. Do you want me to say it in Rhoynish, too?” He sighed at Oberyn’s cheeky grin. “Gloat all you want, asshole. What’s our next move?”
Oberyn yelled an obscenity, watching in amusement as Daemon nearly jumped out of his chair next to him at the Braavosi WBI Building.
“You want to explain what you’ve found?” Daemon asked, tiredly rubbing his eyes. “And no dancing around it, Oberyn. We’ve been at this records search for days.”
“Come look.” Oberyn pointed at his computer screen, his fingers trembling with excitement or anger or adrenaline- perhaps all three. Maybe it was simply the caffeine.
Daemon rolled his chair over, following Oberyn’s finger with his eyes, and promptly swore in three different languages.
“Alayne Baelish. Baelish!” he hissed. “All this time he was right under our fucking noses.” Oberyn growled. “Made sure he had an alibi that we couldn’t contest, and he took her and hid her away all because he couldn’t take a woman’s rejection.”
Daemon’s eyes widened as he read through the files that Oberyn had pulled up.
“Alayne and Robin. Their mother’s name was Alys Ehrling?”
“Lysa Arryn.” Oberyn huffed. “The pictures on record for her son aren’t great, but it’s almost definitely Robert Arryn- that’s Jon Arryn’s nose if I ever saw it. She apparently died five or so years ago- ESRD according to the reports.”
“Alayne attends university at Braavos Central-“
“Shit.” Oberyn swore, spinning around in his chair, clutching fistfuls of his hair. “She’s probably walked past Arya on campus at some point- Catelyn is going to have kittens-“
“We have to figure out a way to confirm it before we do anything.” Daemon pointed out, ever the sensible foil to Oberyn’s impulsiveness. “And we have to be careful- if he gets even a hint that we’re about to catch him-“
“He’ll run with Sansa and Robert.” Oberyn muttered. “I’m not sure that compelling a DNA sample from either of them is the way to go- it could frighten them and spook him enough to leave.”
They were silent for a moment.
“All these years looking on two separate cases and they converged right where we never expected them to.” Daemon said, his tone disbelieving. “You did, I suppose. Gods- your theory was right.” He suddenly grinned at Oberyn. “I’m going to fucking clean up in the office betting pool.”
“There were people who bet against me?”
“Not Rhaenys.” Daemon chuckled. “I promise, your niece still believes in you- wants to be just like you for some godsdamned reason. The Blackfish is going to lose a bit of money though.”
“Tully should know better than to doubt me by now.”
“He’s close to the case.” Daemon shrugged. “It is his family, after all.”
“A family that was torn apart by the very parasite they invited in, years ago.” Oberyn gritted his teeth. “Catelyn mentioned a few times that Lysa was obsessed with Baelish when they were younger- I’d guess he didn’t bring Lysa to Braavos with him until a year or so after the Arryn investigation began. We looked into him initially- Catelyn was certain Lysa would get in touch with Baelish if she could.” He shook his head, combing a restless hand through his dark hair. “I don’t doubt that Lysa was complicit in Robert’s kidnapping, but we knew there was no way she would be able to hide so well, and for so many years on her own. Sansa didn’t have a choice, but-“
“But we don’t know how devoted she is to him.” Daemon finished. “Nothing about this is going to be clean, Oberyn.” He warned. “She’s probably attached, Robert’s probably attached-“
“-and it’s going to be difficult to separate them from him.” Oberyn sighed. “Gods- if I could go back in time and warn Hoster Tully-“
“You can’t.” Daemon shrugged, ever the realist. “All we can do now is catch the wily bastard, and hope like hell the media doesn’t eat Sansa and Robert alive.”
Oberyn swore again, glaring at the image of Petyr Baelish that had appeared in the WBI’s databases. Smug, intelligent, and utterly without conscience. Listed below his name it simply said:
‘Children: Alayne Baelish (20), Robin Baelish (14)’
Their pictures were clearly displayed, and he wondered how in the seven hells it had taken them this long to put it all together.
Catelyn was going to be a wreck when she found out that her childhood friend- the same friend who had assisted the Starks in the search for Sansa, and had funded and coordinated local law enforcement efforts to find the girl- was responsible for the eighteen-year horror story that her family had been forced to endure.
Baelish had returned to Westeros after the kidnapping to ‘show support’ to Catelyn- giving him a solid alibi for the actual crime. Oberyn suspected if they dug deep enough into financial records, they would be able to find records of a payment from Baelish to a hired contractor. Someone, somewhere, had to know something. Either that, or there was a body trail they would have to follow.
What turned Oberyn’s stomach the most, though, were the Braavosi records. He had gotten in touch with the correct departments, and while it was certainly possible the Baelish had simply backdated the documents, Oberyn knew enough about him to know that he was a planner. He had produced a birth certificate for Alayne Baelish immediately after she was ‘born’, and Braavosi records clearly showed that he had married a woman named Alys Ehrling two years prior.
His lip curled as he clenched his teeth. Baelish had laid the groundwork, and laid a paper trail so absolute, that without DNA samples, Oberyn would have a hard time proving anything. He had planned this whole thing as soon as Sansa had been born. He had watched and waited with the patience of an ambush predator- striking when the Starks were least expecting it.
Oberyn would bring the sick fuck down if it was the last thing he did.
This idea is sponsored by me listening to old episodes of 'My Favorite Murder' and wondering 'what if?'
The idea kind of grabbed me and wouldn't let go- and has a pretty clear idea what direction it wants to go in.
The title comes from 'I Shall Wear Midnight' by Sir Terry Pratchett:
"There have been times, lately, when I dearly wished that I could change the past. Well, I can't, but I can change the present, so that when it becomes the past it will turn out to be a past worth having....Learning is about finding out who you are, what you are, where you are and what you are standing on and what you are good at and what's over the horizon and, well, everything. Its about finding the place where you fit. I found the place where I fit, and I would like everybody else to find theirs"
I'm excited to see this one through! Let me know what you think
Chapter 2: Bitter Truths
When Sansa had sat down in the shop after work to get some studying done, she hadn't exactly expected to have the world pulled out from under her feet. Special Agent Martell is determined that she hear him out though, and so she does.
Turns out, studying for finals is going to have to take a backseat to assisting an investigation.
“Behavior reflects personality. The best indicator of future violence is past violence. To understand the "artist," you must study his "art." The crime must be evaluated in its totality. There is no substitute for experience, and if you want to understand the criminal mind, you must go directly to the source and learn to decipher what he tells you. And, above all: Why + How = Who.”
― John E. Douglas, Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit
Sansa was finally off work, and had decided to hang around the shop for a little while longer to finish some of her homework. They were reaching the point in the semester where final exams were at the forefront of most of the students’ minds. Sansa had a lot of planning to do for her pattern design exam- as well as a history course to begin studying for. Her history professor had at least been kind enough to let her write her final paper for the course on the history and role of clothing in ancient Lys, which would make it considerably easier, as well as more interesting for her.
“Do you mind if I join you?” she heard a familiar voice ask. Sansa looked up, into the face of one of the Dornish WBI agents that had come into the shop a few times recently. She gave him a hesitant smile.
“Sure.” She agreed, noting that there didn’t seem to be any other tables open at the moment.
“Are you a student?” He asked, sitting down with his coffee and laptop.
“At Braavos Central.” Sansa told him. There was something odd in the way he was looking at her that was different than their previous interactions. Not like he was eyeing her inappropriately, but it was as though her was studying her, watching for her reactions. It didn’t make her uncomfortable- merely curious. “I study fashion merchandising and design.”
“You would get along well with my daughter.” He grinned. “She’s working in the Industry in Kings Landing at the moment.”
“Oh wow-“ Sansa’s eyes widened, “She must be very talented.”
“Nym is a staff writer for Vogue.” He told her, eyes smiling. “She’s always been passionate about fashion, and loves getting to cover the fashion shows there.”
“It sounds like a dream job.” Sansa answered, honestly. “I’m still trying to pass my finals, much less find employment.” She paused. “I’m sorry, I’m not sure I caught your name?”
“Oberyn Martell.” He gave her a wide grin. “Special Agent Oberyn Martell.”
“I’m Alayne Baelish.” She introduced, feeling herself relax a little. He didn’t seem like a threat, after all. “But everyone calls me Sansa.”
He froze for a moment- only for the briefest of seconds- but Sansa noticed it nonetheless.
“That’s an interesting nickname.”
“It’s what my father has always called me.” Sansa shrugged. “Most people do, now.”
“Well, Sansa Baelish, I haven’t been entirely honest with you.” Oberyn told her, not breaking eye contact. He was an intimidating man- she wasn’t surprised he worked with law enforcement. “I actually wanted to ask you a couple questions- I think you might have some unique insight into a case I’m looking at.”
“Me?” Sansa asked, skeptical.
“I’ll grab you another tea if you hear me out.” Oberyn offered, gesturing to the now-empty mug next to her. After a moment’s pause, she nodded.
“Black with lemon if you would.”
His answering smile was reassuring, and Sansa took a deep breath. She wasn’t in trouble, he just wanted information. Her father would be furious- he hated law enforcement- but Sansa had always liked spy movies- the romantic, adventurous side of her was almost excited to see what information she could possibly have that would aid a WBI investigation. It wasn’t like her father needed to know anyways. It would be good to have something- however small- that she could keep to herself.
Oberyn knew that Sansa was suspicious, and that he would need to tread carefully to avoid her completely shutting down. He brought over her tea, and she thanked him, a genuine smile on her face at the sight. She breathed in the scent of the tea and gave a small, near imperceptible sigh.
“It’s been a long day.” She admitted. “I’m normally a bit more polite than this, I promise.”
“Think nothing of it.” Oberyn waved a hand. “One of my daughters is around your age, and she called her mother just the other day in tears over her own exams. Chemistry, I believe.”
“That sounds dreadful.” She admitted. “I just have a few huge projects to finish- I only have 3 actual exams to worry about.” She cleared her throat, looking down and feeling awkward. There was a pause. “What did you want to discuss?” Sansa finally asked, looking across the table at him, looking more than a little nervous.
“A couple of things, if you have the time.” Sansa nodded. “How long have you lived in Braavos?” Oberyn asked, stretching his long legs under the table.
“About as long as I can remember.” Sansa tells him. “I lived with my father when I was little- we moved here from the Vale for his job, and mother and my little brother followed us after father had established his business enough to support all of us.”
“Your Valyrian is very good.” Oberyn told her, watching as she blushed at the compliment.
“Thank you. My father insisted we speak it at home for the first two or so years after we moved here, so that I wouldn’t have trouble when I started school. It’s easy enough to swap between Valyrian and Andaii now, and Robin has more trouble remembering Andaii at times.”
“How old is your brother?”
“Is it pertinent to your investigation, Agent Martell?” Sansa asked innocently, tilting her head to one side. Oberyn almost laughed. Catelyn Stark’s daughter, raised by Baelish, and he should have guessed she’d see right through him. It was interesting though, that she seemed instantly protective of the boy, and more reluctant to talk about him than herself.
“You don’t beat around the bush.” He told her, approvingly.
“Are you trying to make me more relaxed around you with small talk?” Sansa asked, raising a brow in a way that way so heavily reminiscent of Ned Stark that Oberyn nearly told her right then and there. “Or is this actually relevant to your investigation?”
“A bit of both.” He confessed, watching her face settle into that neutral expression she’d worn when he walked over once again. “I actually wanted to ask you about Lysa Arryn.”
“I’m sorry, who?”
“Formerly Lysa Tully-“ Oberyn told her, watching carefully to see if anything sparked a reaction, “A Westerosi woman from the Riverlands. She married Jon Arryn, the last of an old line of Westerosi nobility, and a prominent businessman in the Vale. You said you were from there?”
“I don’t remember much of it, but we lived in a little house in the Fingers for a bit when I was a girl- near Gulltown.”
Oberyn nearly whistled. That was boldof Baelish, to hide the girl right under Jon Arryn’s nose, especially when all records Oberyn had been able to obtain from the time showed Baelish living in Braavos. He really needed to look into Baelish’s contacts back in the Vale- there was a good chance he’d been living under an assumed name, but the possibility of another accomplice was too great to ignore.
“I moved here with my father before I started primary school, though.” She continued. “Father may have mentioned him, I’m not sure. The name sounds familiar. Did something happen to his wife?”
Did it ever. Oberyn thought, sardonically. Lysa’s disappearance had been a huge scandal in Westeros at the time, but Oberyn knew that the Braavosi had had a few political scandals of their own, mostly involving corrupt bank officials, around the same time as her disappearance. The fallout in Braavos likely would have eclipsed most coverage of the Arryn case that was coming out of Westeros. The Stark kidnapping case had been different- making international headlines for months, due to the sensational nature of the case- but Sansa would have been too young to remember the frenzied media coverage that had followed her disappearance.
“She disappeared about 13 years ago, along with her then infant son, Robert Arryn. Jon Arryn is a well-known man in Westeros, and the case became a media firestorm. We had conspiracy theorists practically coming out of the woodwork when the bureau wasn’t able to locate them.” Oberyn told her. “It was a political marriage, largely, and a lot of people suspected that Arryn was complicit in it- he and his wife had not been particularly affectionate, but he was absolutely devastated by the loss of his son.” He cleared his throat. “The bureau cleared him as soon as we could, but he completely left the political world. He drew back from his business and poured his resources into finding them.”
“Gods, that poor man.” Sansa murmured, horror and sympathy clear on her face. “Were they ever found?”
“Not yet.” Oberyn told her, reaching into his bag to pull out his tablet. “One of the theories that we’ve looked into in recent years involves the possibility that Lysa Arryn left of her own accord, taking Robert with her.”
“That’s-“ Sansa shook her head, lips pressed together, “That’s awful. I can’t imagine what my father would do if anyone took one of us away.” She paused, looking up at Oberyn, who carefully kept a straight face. “What information would I have about the case, though?”
“Have you ever seen any of the pictures from the case?” Oberyn asked, flipping through files. Sansa shook her head, no. “I’d like to show you a few- see if you’ve come across any of these individuals.”
Sansa nodded and closed her laptop, leaning over the table to look at the photo that Oberyn had pulled up. It was an older man, with blond, rapidly graying hair. There was something familiar in the set of his jaw, but Sansa didn’t know him.
“I don’t recognize him.” She admitted. “Is he a suspect?”
“That’s Jon Arryn himself.” Oberyn told her, sliding to a second picture, of Jon Arryn, holding a red-haired infant in his arms.
“He looks so happy.” Sansa murmured, feeling her heart ache for the older man.
“His previous marriages had all ended with stillborn children.” Oberyn told her. “I think he’d given up on the idea of being a father before Robert.”
He slid to the next picture, and Sansa immediately frowned, and then paled, the implications hitting her with the force of a freight train.
“That- that’s my mother.” Sansa stammered, recoiling slightly and looking up at Agent Martell, whose face was firmly set. “She can’t have been wrapped up in this. Agent Martell-“
“That’s a picture of Lysa Arryn-“ Oberyn told her, his voice gentle, “-taken the week before she and her infant son vanished.”
Sansa’s mind was spinning, and she drew in a deep breath, meeting the agent’s eyes.
“This can’t- my mother died five years ago, Agent.”
“I’m aware.” Oberyn told her. “I’m sorry for your loss.” His words were sincere, but Sansa still had mixed, messy feelings surrounding the woman. Sansa had never quite been enough for her mother, who had always doted on Robin and had told her father that he spoiled Sansa. She’d never been an affectionate woman with anyone but Robin and her husband, and Sansa had had to work to earn her praise. She had loved her mother, but she had sometimes been a difficult woman to love.
“It’s fine.” Sansa said, somewhat stiffly. “It’s been several years, after all. Agent, are you insinuating that my brother is-“ She trailed off, not able to bring herself to say it.
“We’ve been looking into records for the better part of six months now, and the timeline fits.” Oberyn told her, not unkindly. “In all likelihood, your mother, Alys Ehrling, was actually Lysa Arryn, and your brother Robin is her son, Robert Arryn.”
Sansa’s hands tightened around the mug she had picked up, and she gulped down a mouthful of lemon tea, the bitter tang on her tongue a cold comfort.
“Robin was- our mother kidnapped Robin? Her own son?” she asked, feeling oddly detached. She could hear the horror in her own voice, but she wasn’t sure yet that this was real. “but he’s…”
She trailed off, unable to find the words. Oberyn was giving her a look that she couldn’t put a name to. It wasn’t malicious or gleeful, just analytical and sympathetic.
“This isn’t happening.” Sansa heard herself mutter. “It’s not- she couldn’t- she had me-“
Something cold crept up Sansa’s spine at the thought, and she gripped the table in front of her.
“Did Lysa Arryn have a daughter before her son?” She asked, her voice almost a whisper.
Oberyn’s sympathetic face was answer enough. “Oh my god.” Sansa heard herself saying. “Oh my god.” She felt nauseous and light- like she had just stepped off a roller coaster. She had gone on a few with Sweetrobin, who loved them, but Sansa had never enjoyed the sensation of her stomach falling out beneath her.
This couldn’t be happening. Her mother hadn’t been a kind woman, and had either been devoid of affection, or smothering with it, but she had raised Sansa and Robin. If Sansa wasn’t her mother’s daughter, and Robin wasn’t Petyr Baelish’s son- what did that mean? Who was Sansa’s mother, if not Alys Baelish, who she resembled so strongly that no one had ever questioned them? Did her father know? Sansa shivered, drawing her arms in tightly to herself.
“That can’t be possible.” She told Oberyn Martell, her voice as firm as she could make it. “I look exactly like my mother- so does Robin. There has to be…” she trailed off.
“Sansa-“ Agent Martell’s voice was kind, but Sansa didn’t want to hear it.
“But my father-“ she began, breaking off and biting her lip, “-he’s never- I don’t-“
“Sansa.” Oberyn’s voice said, more firmly this time. Sansa opened her mouth, but immediately shut it at his expression- kind and fierce at the same time. What was she thinking? This man was a stranger- she knew nothing about him, and yet, she almost wanted to believe him. She wanted to believe that Alys Baelish or Lysa Arryn- whoever the woman had been- wasn’t her mother. For a split second, Sansa had wanted to believe that she wasn’t this woman’s daughter, and hated herself for it.
“Are you alright?” Oberyn asked her, looking genuinely concerned as he tilted his head to meet her eyes.
“I’m- I’m confused.” Sansa managed to get out. “What does- If she wasn’t my mother, then who was?” she swallowed, shaking her head and biting her lip. “I’m sorry- you probably don’t have any way of knowing that. But I-“ she felt a tear slip down her cheek. “I looked just like her. My- my father was lying to me?”
Another, horrible thought occurred to her.
“Robin-“ she looked up at Agent Martell in horror, “Robin idolizes our father- he loves him, and looks up to him, and he’s struggling in school lately- oh my god.” She whispered, clapping a hand over her mouth. “He’s going to be devastated.” She looked up at him, desperately. “Please- Agent Martell- what’s going to happen to my brother? Are you going to take Robin away?”
“His father would like him back, once we get a genetic confirmation of his identity.” Oberyn told her, gently. “But I’m sure that no one is going to keep you from your brother, Sansa. I promise you, I’ll ensure it myself if I have to.”
Sansa managed to nod, exhaling shakily.
“My-“ she tumbled over her words, a horrible idea coming to the forefront of her mind, “My father- he said Robin was his. He wasn’t involved, though. He couldn’t have been.”
Oberyn gave a heavy sigh, running his hands through his hair, and Sansa felt the pit drop out of her stomach.
“No.” she said, sounding much more confident than she felt.
“Petyr Baelish used to be one of the most prominent businessmen and politicians in Westeros.” Oberyn told her, watching her carefully. His eyes saw too much- There was a sharpness in them that Sansa didn’t like- didn’t want directed at her. “But about twenty-two years ago, he just vanished. Dropped off the map in Westeros. Records showed that he had moved to Braavos- that he had married. Had a daughter two years later, and then a son. It’s all backdated- official records show that both you and your brother are the children of Alys Ehrling and Petyr Baelish.”
“But Robin isn’t.” Sansa said, dully.
“Neither are you.”
Sansa felt her head snap up and she locked eyes with Oberyn Martell.
“Petyr Baelish is my father.” She told him, feeling very far away.
“The funny thing about Petyr Baelish,” Oberyn told her, gently, “Is that he’s terribly connected to all the right people. He was a master businessman in Westeros because of it, and all of his connections tended to be based off of a childhood friendship with the children of Hoster Tully.”
“Was he my mother’s- Lysa Arryn’s father?”
“The very one.” Oberyn nodded, approvingly. “Lysa apparently had a very intense crush on him- her father didn’t approve, and sent Petyr away when they were teenagers. They stayed in touch though, and Lysa helped him climb a ladder that he had been born too poor to reach on his own. It’s a shame that Petyr loved the wrong Tully girl, though.”
Sansa’s eyes widened, near comically, and her breaths became so shallow that Oberyn began to worry she was going to have a panic attack. She seemed to catch herself, though, and pursed her lips.
“Enough dramatics and half-truths, please, Agent Martell.” She managed to get out, teresely. “Please- just tell me what you’re trying to tell me.”
Oberyn was impressed with her composure, but she was rapidly fraying around the edges. He glanced around, as he had been doing constantly, to ensure that no one was listening to them. The shop was noisy enough to drown out their words though, and tucked in the back, there was little chance of drawing attention unless Sansa began shouting. Based on prior observation, Oberyn didn’t think she would, but he had several officers waiting to grab Baelish if Sansa did panic and alert him to what was going on. He would prefer to ease Sansa into the idea, but he would see Baelish behind bars one way or another.
“My apologies.” He told her, somewhat genuinely. His daughters- Elia in particular, who was around the same age as Sansa- often told him that he had an overblown sense of the dramatic. There was no getting around it, though- this story was about as dramatic as they came. “Petyr Baelish loved Catelyn Tully, Lysa’s older sister. So much so that he openly tried to fight one of her earlier boyfriends for her hand- never mind that Catelyn had no interest in him.” He shook his head in disgust. “Catelyn Tully never thought of him as anything more than a childhood friend, and she married Eddard Stark- the hereditary lord of one of the oldest families in Westeros, and an even rarer thing- a good man.”
He watched Sansa carefully- her face itself was expressionless again. The only thing that betrayed her unease now was the way she continued to smooth out invisible wrinkles in her skirt.
“Lucky her.” Sansa murmured.
“Indeed.” Oberyn agreed. “Catelyn and Ned Stark have been married for about 26 years now- far longer than many are able to make it- especially considering the tragedy that befell them 18 years ago.”
“You’re not familiar with the Stark baby kidnapping?”
“Only in the broadest sense.” Sansa admitted, looking embarrassed. “My father never really liked true crime, and-“ she cut herself off, pursing her lips. “I’m sorry, keep going.”
Oberyn wondered when she would put it together. If he had learned anything from their conversation already, it was that Sansa was far smarter than he had given her credit for. Catelyn was sharp, but he suspected that a good deal of Sansa’s cleverness was innate, as well as shaped by Baelish, who was a horrible man, but a frighteningly clever one.
“The Stark family was staying in White Harbor at the time-“ he told her, “and one morning, the household awoke from a drugged sleep to find their oldest daughter- a two-year-old girl who favored her mother’s side of the family- gone from her bed. There was only a ransom note left in her place.” He briefly closed his eyes. “I was called in almost immediately, and-“ he paused, as he noted the beginning flickering of horror rising behind Sansa’s eyes, “-It’s not a scene I’m ever likely to forget. Catelyn was clutching her other children to her as we reviewed the scene- We shouldn’t have allowed them to be there, but she refused to be separated from them at the time. I had never seen calm, collected Ned Stark so terrified- I thought we would need to sedate him.”
“That poor family.” Sansa murmured, fists beginning to clench. “That’s-“ she broke off, a muted choking sound dying in the back of her throat, and simply shook her head.
“If the child were alive today, she would be twenty years old.” Oberyn gently told her. “Her name was Sansa Stark.”
Sansa couldn’t breathe.
Nothing about this made sense.
But it does, though, doesn’t it? The small voice in the back of her head whispered. Father would never let you go anywhere- never let you travel, or even leave Braavos to go to school. Haven’t you looked in the mirror and wondered why you didn’t inherit any of his features? Why your mother seemed determined to dislike you? Seemed jealous of you?
Sansa clamped down tight on those thoughts, and took a few deep breaths. Mya had taught her a couple of exercises after a poor experience with a boyfriend had left Sansa shaky and anxious for weeks after. Granted, Mya had also helped beat the living daylights out of the asshole, which Sansa really didn’t think her best friend would be able to do in this situation.
“What are you implying?” she finally managed to ask Oberyn Martell, meeting his eyes- challenging him. To his credit, he didn’t back down.
“That your name isn’t Alayne Baelish.” Oberyn replied, simply. “That your name is Sansa Stark. That Petyr Baelish kidnapped you, or more likely, paid someone to do his dirty work for him, eighteen years ago.”
“You don’t have proof.” Sansa heard herself say, voice far colder than it typically was.
“We have evidence. The timeline fits. Would I approach you with this if I wasn’t certain?”
Play a game. The voice whispered. Play father’s game. Why would Oberyn Martell accuse father of this crime? Why would he think it was you?
“When I want to understand someone’s motives, sweetling,” her father had once told her, during a breezy dinner out on their balcony, “I play a little game.” He had grinned at her, and Sansa remembered feeling slightly floaty, from the wine she had drunk, and smiling back at him as he spoke again. “I assume the worst. What’s the worst possible reason a person could have for saying what they say, or doing what they do?”
“The worst, father?”
He had crept behind her, putting his hands on her shoulders and lowering his mouth to her ear.
“Ask yourself, then, sweetling- how well does that reason explain what they say and do?”
Sansa typically found it an exhausting way to live- constantly assuming the worst of everyone and everything- but her father was one of the smartest men she knew. Sansa’s few memories of not taking her father’s advice had generally ended poorly.
What’s the worst possible reason that Oberyn Martell would accuse Petyr Baelish of this?
He could be trying to frame her father- either to discredit him, or to get revenge for some slight, real or imagined. This man in front of her seemed more the type for revenge- not a man who would let things go.
But why would he want revenge? Her mind poked at her. What slight could father have leveraged against him?
Sansa didn’t know enough about the Martells or the WBI to know the answer to that question. It didn’t make sense, though. If he’d wanted revenge, going to Petyr Baelish’s daughter first was hardly the way to go about it.
Her father had his own way of looking at things- of assessing situations- but Sansa had found that people always acted with a reason, and with logic. Sometimes, that logic fit in with their own perception of the world, and wouldn’t have made sense to another person, but people generally made the choices that were logical, given their motives. Acting emotionally, even was logical in certain situations. She didn’tlike assuming the worst about anybody.
If Oberyn Martell wanted revenge on her father, or wanted to discredit him, then he would be a fool to attempt to turn the man’s daughter against him without solid proof that Sansa would betray him. And Oberyn Martell is a very smart man, she noted, somewhat uneasily. She thought of the way he had gradually begun to frequent the shop, establishing himself as someone who wasn’t a threat, and earning her trust- or at least enough goodwill for her to listen to him.
What’s the worst possible reason that Oberyn Martell would accuse father of this?
The thought echoed in her mind, loud as thunder.
Harming father. She thought, desperately. Harming me. Harming Robin. Tearing apart our lives. But there was something poking at the back of her mind, and she desperately tried to ignore it. Why, after all, would a WBI agent like Oberyn Martell risk his career just to harm her family? Revenge? Does someone in Westeros want to harm us?
Her father talked often about the corruption inherent in Braavos’ legal system, after all, even if Sansa knew very little about the Westerosi system. Oberyn Martell could simply be a small piece in a far larger plot.
Liar, her mind accused, bringing back a memory of her father.
“Never lie to yourself, sweetling.” Her father had told her, after her first failed boyfriend at the age of 14- all limbs and acne and long hair. The boy had been a jerk- breaking up with her for one of her friends- and Sansa had been too infatuated to notice the warning signs.
“Lie to others as long as it protects you, but self-deception is a waste of your time. You knew something was wrong, but you didn’t want it to be true, and so you lied to yourself. And now you’re hurting.”
He had put an arm around her, and listened to her sniffle about him for another twenty minutes. Her mother had been out with Sweetrobin, or she would have been furious that her father was being more affectionate to Sansa than to her.
“Listen to those warnings that your mind and body give you- your subconscious can see far more than you can, sometimes.”
What’s the worst possible reason that Oberyn Martell would say these things?
Sansa pushed down at the nausea she felt bubble up in her throat as the answer came to her.
Because they’re true. She realized, swallowing down her panic. Because father did these things. Because this man isn’t taking any pleasure in this realization- He’s not trying to hurt me, or my family.
Because my father lied to me.
Oberyn watched as Sansa seemed to process the information. She was silent for a long time, seemingly lost in thought. Her calm, quiet voice was a surprise when she chose to use it.
“You have evidence.” She told him, her face bizarrely placid. “But not enough evidence. Not yet at least. That’s why you came to speak with me. You want my help.”
Oberyn could hear the bitter refrain behind those words.
You want me to do your dirty work for you.
“If your mother and father are both innocent parties in this, you could easily exonerate them.” He shrugged. No point in lying- she seemed to hear the requests behind his words as loudly as if he’d shouted them.
“What do you want?”
“DNA.” He answered, simply. “Samples from you and your brother. Once we have those, I can tell you within a few days whether my words have merit or not. If your samples don’t match the DNA we have from the Stark and Arryn families, then there’s no reason for you to worry.”
Oberyn watched Sansa close her eyes and take a breath. She looked small, despite her height, and fragile. Almost like she was trying not to fold in on herself. Nevertheless, she straightened her spine- steeling herself. It nearly made him start- it was a gesture he had seen Catelyn Stark perform more times than he could count. She would bolster herself against the inevitable updates from Oberyn and his team- the dead ends and false hopes, holding her shoulders high like a queen.
Oberyn had very few doubts what the DNA would tell them.
Sansa opened her eyes, and he was caught in a bright, steely blue gaze.
“How do I get it for you?” she asked.
We'll get more and more into the details of the case as the investigation goes on, but Sansa's certainly gotten the shock of her life. She's smart enough to read between the lines of what Oberyn is and isn't telling her- let's hope she's smart enough to keep this secret from Petyr Baelish.
Next chapter we'll see a bit more of the ramifications of Sansa's choice, and how she handles the situation, as well as interactions with Robin, Petyr, and Mya!
This particular chapter took forever to write, because it's really difficult to imagine a scenario where you tell someone they were abducted at birth. Oberyn, of course, makes it as dramatic as possible, but isn't without some sympathy for her. Daemon is probably lurking outside of Baelish's workplace and watching the creepy jerk- he and Oberyn thought this would be better as a one-on-one conversation.
Thanks so much for your kind comments! I absolutely love them, and I'm really excited about this story.
Chapter 3: Corrosive Secrets
Sansa decides to do some investigating of her own, and confides in her best friend when her father starts behaving strangely.
Across the city, Oberyn Martell finally gets the news he's been waiting for.
“It wasn't by eliminating the impossible that you got at the truth, however improbable; it was by the much harder process of eliminating the possibilities. You worked away, patiently asking questions and looking hard at things. You walked and talked, and in your heart you just hoped like hell that some bugger's nerve'd crack and he'd give himself up.”
― Terry Pratchett, Feet of Clay
Sansa went to the library later that night, sitting down at a guest computer to log in and begin typing. It was better not to use her personal laptop- her father wouldn’t be pleased to learn that she was researching true crime. He had often told her he worried it was too violent- that it would frighten her away from living a full life.
Now, Sansa wondered if that had ever been true. Had his concern masked his desire to conceal all evidence of his crimes fromher? Sansa knew she wasn’t stupid- her father had often praised her mind, and Sansa knew he had been slightly disappointed that she had gone into fashion, rather than studying business or politics. Her father had always liked to follow politics, though Sansa had not, and hearing his recounting of Westerosi elections had bored her to tears as a child.
Her father. Not her father.
She didn’t know what to think, and could feel a buildup of tension in her forehead. She decided that she couldn’t dwell on the possibility until she had the necessary information. She pulled up google, punching in ‘Stark Kidnapping’ and refreshing the page.
Over five million hits, she realized, paling.
Sansa, already slightly overwhelmed, clicked on the first article from a news source that she recognized- the Braavosi Times. Skimming it, the details of the case seemed to be exactly as Oberyn Martell had told her.
The baby- a two-year-old Sansa Stark- had been taken from her bed in the dead of night while the Stark family visited White Harbor. There had been a ransom note left, but the kidnappers- she tried not to think about her father- had never shown up to the meeting. The article included a picture of the house- a well-kept manor by the ocean- as well as a picture of Sansa Stark, who was smiling and clinging onto a boy who was slightly older than her, but with similar features. Robb Stark, according to the article- the eldest child of the Starks.
Sansa zoomed in, staring at the picture and searching desperately for similarities. Sansa Stark’s hair was lighter than hers, although their eyes were the same color. It was impossible to put her finger on it, but there was a sort of rough resemblance in their features. The more Sansa looked, though, the more it felt like she was imagining it- creating features and similarities that weren’t there. It was giving her a headache, and she rubbed at the back of her neck, trying to ride herself of some of the tension.
She pulled up several more articles, clicking through the additional information provided. The WBI had theorized that it was an inside job, she learned; aside from the household staff, no one had known that the Starks were spending the weekend in White Harbor. They had suspected an older member of the household- a housekeeper named Nan Anders. The woman had committed suicide later that year, apparently under the immense pressure of the investigation, and the investigators had cleared her name shortly after her death.
Sansa pursed her lips, feeling tears well up in her eyes at the woman’s picture. She couldn’t imagine how terrible it must have been for her- to brave that kind of media circus, and be suspected of such a horrible thing.
Was this- this false speculation- what she was about to put her father through?
She shook off the thought, shuddering, and opened another page on the kidnapping. There were a number of conspiracy theories floating around, apparently, and a popular one was that the Starks had been responsible for their own daughter’s disappearance- with people assuming that they had murdered their own daughter.
Eddard Stark had apparently completely lost his chance at an elected position thanks to the sway of those rumors in Westeros, but Sansa couldn’t bring herself to believe that the tall, somber man had had anything to do with the crime. She couldn’t explain it, but his eyes seemed gentle, even as the dark circles under them grew larger.
This page wasn’t just information, though- there was a video below. Sansa stuck her headphones into the computer, and cautiously hit the ‘play’ button.
Immediately, she wished she hadn’t. The video had been taken by a reporter, at what looked like a press conference, and Sansa watched in silent horror as Catelyn Stark- the tall, proud matriarch of the family- visibly crumpled, sobbing and wailing for her daughter, and pleading for the girl’s return. Sansa pressed a hand to her mouth, and barely kept herself from crying out. Eddard Stark and a man Sansa didn’t know- another redhead, but older, stood next to her, and gently helped her up from where she had collapsed, in the middle of making a plea, in front of at least fifty cameras, for her daughter’s life.
Sansa was horrified. Had her father caused this- this tragedy? Was he even capable of that? Had Oberyn Martell gotten the right man, or was her father simply the scapegoat?
Either way, Sansa thought, staring at the video- frozen on Catelyn Stark’s grieving face, I need to find out.
Tomorrow, she decided. She would meet Agent Martell tomorrow, and give him what he wanted.
“There we go!” the nurse praised her, pressing a cotton pad to the crux of Sansa’s elbow as she withdrew the blood sample. “Sorry, I know it’s a hassle, but blood holds up better than saliva in court.”
“It’s not a problem.” Sansa smiled, wanly. She was still pretty tired from the previous night at the library, but made a point to be as cheerful as she could. “What else did you need from me?”
“Just finish this form up, and you’re all good to go!” the nurse told her, patting Sansa’s shoulder. “I’ll get your sample to Agent Martell if he isn’t too busy flirting with the receptionist.”
Sansa’s eyes widened when she exited the lab and saw Oberyn Martell doing just that.
“I thought you were married.” She said, eyes immediately widening as she realized how rude that was. Apparently, she was more tired than she realized, if she was slipping like that.
Oberyn simply laughed though, joining her and taking the remaining paperwork and samples from the nurse.
“Ellaria is the mother to my children, and the love of my life, but she and I both enjoy flirting far too much to ever give it up.” He quipped. “She and I are very… relaxed in our relationship that way.”
“Oh.” Sansa mumbled, face flushing. “Er- that’s great for the two of you.”
“It’s not uncommon in Dorne.” Oberyn shrugged. “It just takes communication and trust- two things I think need to be in every relationship, regardless of how open.”
Something ached in Sansa’s chest at his words. Aside from Mya, she didn’t know if she’d ever trusted anyone that much. Her father- not your father- often said that blind trust was for fools. Sansa had never been sure whether or not to believe him, but if the test came back conclusive, him telling Sansa not to trust people would take on a horrible tone of irony. It might end up being the only true thing he’d told her in her entire life.
It was a sobering thought- the idea of that many lies- and Sansa was grateful when Oberyn dropped her off at the shop without commenting on her silence during the drive over.
When Sansa closed the door behind her at home, later that night, she was unsurprised to see her father still up, sitting at their counter with his laptop out and financial records spread around him.
“How was studying, sweetling?” he asked, absently, not glancing up.
“It’s history, so I expected it to be dates and names, but Dr. Jensen wants us to focus on the different movements and their impact on the periods.” Sansa told him, hanging up her bag and walking over to put the teakettle on. Her stomach felt like it was churning, and she desperately wanted ginger tea, but her father would notice, and suspect that something was wrong. She had told him she was out studying with Mya, but what if he caught her lie?
“So it’s a bit harder than I thought, but nothing I can’t handle.” She continued, keeping her voice even. “Mya and I are about as prepared as I think we can be, but we’re studying tomorrow as well. Tea?”
“Earl grey if you would, Sansa.” Her father answered, looking up. “Did Mya drop you off here?” Sansa nodded. “Good. There’s been an uptick in muggings in the area recently. He gave her a shrewd look. “Have you considered finding a summer job closer to home? The coffee shop isn’t in the best area, and I worry.”
“Ragman’s is apparently a quickly gentrifying neighborhood.” Sansa quipped, a grin tugging at her mouth, despite her anxiety. “At least if Randa has anything to say about it- she’s been writing her sociology paper on the subject, so we’ve heard all about it.”
Her father frowned.
“That girl worries me.” He told her, and Sansa felt the familiar feeling of his smothering wash over her. “She could get you in trouble with one of those protests of hers- are you sure you want to keep spending time with her?”
Sansa bit her tongue. Pointing out that she worked with Myranda would only persuade her father to argue further that she find a different job, which she really didn’t want to do. It was one of the only things in her life that she felt like was hers- and she didn’t want to give it up. It was hard work, being on your feet, but Sansa loved getting to meet all of the interesting people that came through, and having both an excuse to talk to them when she wanted, and the ability to excuse herself when she felt like a conversation was done. Randa teased her- calling her a ‘gregarious introvert’, but Sansa didn’t mind. She liked working with the brash, outspoken girl. She didn’t concern herself with what anyone thought of her, and did what was good for her, propriety be damned. Sansa envied her that, a little.
“She’s more bark than bite, father.” She gently responded, reaching up into the cupboard for their tea. “Besides, I’m content to just watch her live large- I could never be the activist and organizer that she is.”
If her father relaxed at this, Sansa didn’t pay it much attention. She definitely didn’t wonder what it meant, that he wanted her to stay out of public attention.
“Have you thought any more about Volantis, sweetling?”
“I still want to go.” Sansa admitted, placing the mug in front of him, and sipping at her own. “And if we go, it would be wonderful to have Mya there with us the way you suggested the other night.”
“As long as you remember to include your brother in your activites.” Her father raised his brows, giving her one of his sly smiles. “He looks up to you.”
“Of course, father.” Sansa answered, honestly. She didn’t have any desire to exclude Robin. Even if Oberyn’s theory about him was accurate, she wouldn’t let them take him away. She let an impish grin cross her face. “Do you think Sweetrobin would want to go to the fashion museum with us?”
Her father laughed, although Sansa noticed that it didn’t completely meet his eyes. There was something there that she couldn’t pick out, but it was too well hidden to determine.
“I think Robin is a bit too old to follow you around like a little bird.” He responded, taking a sip of his tea. “But I know you would enjoy that- I don’t see any reason we can’t go there. Robin can spend an afternoon among clothing to make his sister happy, or he and I will have a chat.”
Sansa beamed, feeling some of the panic leave her. His smile now was all warmth and indulgence- she must have imagined the earlier tension- and he was her father again. The man who had taken care of her, dried her tears, and stayed up late with her when she was sick.
“Thank you father!” she pecked his cheek, sitting down across the counter from him. “I’m already looking forward to it.”
“As a matter of fact, I was thinking we might extend our typical two-week holiday there a bit.” Her father told her, flipping through a set of documents. Sansa’s stomach dropped into her feet, but she didn’t drop her smile.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I was thinking of expanding some of the restaurants- opening a few in Volantis. It’s a good time for it, economically- the market is strong- and we could do a bit of scouting and research while we were there.” He grinned at her, sly and knowing. “You could spend your entire summer exploring the Garment District of Old Volantis- I know you’d enjoy that.”
“Of-of course.” Sansa stuttered. “It’s just surprising- I thought you had business ventures here you needed to watch?”
He knows something.
“Oh, business is a fickle enterprise.” Her father waved off his hands. “Besides, sweetling, new experiences are always good! Didn’t you want to go to school at Volantis’ Art Institute initially?”
“Well- yes,” Sansa admitted, “but I like the program here- I’m glad you suggested it. The professors are all so supportive, and I really like the department.”
Her father hummed, glasses perched on his nose as he looked at her.
“You’re not thinking of moving us, are you?” Sansa asked, her voice suddenly very small. “Father, I don’t want to leave Mya and the program here.”
What does he know?
“You’ve always been quick.” Her father praised her in the same, encouraging tone he’d use when Robin was throwing a tantrum. “Sweetling- don’t think too much on it yet. There’s research to be done, and a whole list of things to sort out before we can think on that. But I need you to promise me, though- If we do move, I need you to be the lovely, mature girl I know you are, and help your brother through the transition.” Sansa’s heart clenched at the thought of Robin, alone and friendless in a new city. “You know how he struggles with new environments- it would simply break his heart if we had to leave and you didn’t come with us.”
“I would never leave him, father.” Sansa promised, the words tasting like ash in her mouth. It was his ace- his trump card- and he knew that she would never do anything to upset Robin.
He’s not your brother.
She needed to sleep- this was all too much. Even if a DNA test confirmed Oberyn’s theory, it didn’t make Robin any less her little brother.
“Are you alright, sweetling?” her father asked, looking at her with concern. Sansa could see the calculation behind his eyes. This was the analytical father- the man who thought sixteen moves ahead, and could sell the Titan of Braavos in his sleep. She wasn’t sure if this version of her father was better than the warm, kind, protector he’d been when she was younger, or worse. Right now, it only validated the presence of the lead weight that had appeared in her stomach.
“I’m just exhausted.” Sansa admitted, honestly. “Exams and projects have been a heavy load this week. I’m going to get some sleep- I promise I’ll be more cheerful in the morning.”
“Alright. Goodnight Sansa.”
She pecked another kiss onto his cheek, smelling the familiar aftershave that her father had used since she was a child. She tried, desperately, to banish her wandering thoughts.
When Sansa leaves work the next day, the first person she texts is her best friend of almost eight years.
Sansa Baelish: Ey
I’m headed to the Northside Library on campus
Want to join?
Mya Stone: Binch you know I’m swamped af
I need all the study motivation I can get
Physics is kicking my ass
Not the shop?
Sansa: Not in the mood
I’m stressed like crazy
Randa’s driving me up the wall
Won’t stop talking about Harry
Luv her, but can’t blame u
Meet on the steps?
See u there
“Something’s bothering you.” Mya told her, almost immediately after seeing Sansa on the library stairs. “Is it exams? The Hardying asshole? Randa? I can tell her to let up- she owes me for last week at the pub-“
“Let her have her fun.” Sansa muttered, giving her best friend a small smile. “It’s the closest thing she has to a spectator sport, and she’s stressed out about the fundraiser she’s helping run.”
“Not sure why she doesn’t just hook up with Hardying.” Mya snorted. “She certainly finds him attractive.”
“Randa’s never going to settle down.” She shook her head, soft grin still in place. “She lives better than any of us, I think- I just needed more calm today than she can give.”
“That, I can help you with.” Mya declared, throwing her arm around Sansa as they made their way to one of the corner tables by the massive library windows. “Are we talking studying calm? My-grades-are-good-and-my-skin-is-clear calm? My dad’s being a wanker and I need to rant about him before I can be calm, calm?”
“All of the above.” Sansa groaned. “He’s just so-“
“Overprotective?” her friend asked. “You guys have like, no boundaries.” Mya pointed out. “He doesn’t even want you to move out- which sucks because I really need someone to live in the other room in my apartment or I’m going to be on the hook for double the rent.”
“He still won’t let me go to Volantis alone with you.” Sansa griped, pulling her study materials out of her bookbag. They had managed to snag a few of the armchairs, and dragged over a small table to pile their stuff on.
“Yeah- he suggested that if I wanted to go, we could maybe take a trip as a family. He did invite you, though.” Sansa pointed out. “He likes you a lot better than Randa.”
“Randa attracts boys to the two of you like flies- she’s too personable for her own good- and I scare them off.” Mya quipped, throwing a leg over the arm of her chair and cracking one of her books. “It’s my sunny personality, really.”
“You’re 6’1 and have horrific resting bitch face.” Sansa raised a brow at her friend, who promptly burst out laughing. “It’s a good power to have. Besides, you didn’t scare Michael off.” Sansa grinned mischievously as her friend blushed.
“Michael is the exception.” Mya blustered, burying her nose in the book.
“He’s a sweet guy.” Sansa’s voice softened. “I like him- I think you two could be really good together.”
“If I can ever pull my head out of my ass long enough to have a conversation with him that doesn’t involve stuttering, maybe.” Mya muttered.
“What are you talking about? You were perfectly fine the other day when you two were debating the merits of that new study.”
“The climate change report?” Mya frowned. “Yeah, but it’s so much easier when I have a script to follow. Like, I know ecology, but the minute the subject changes, I’m back to being totally lost.” She groaned, throwing an arm over her eyes. “It’s hopeless, San. I’m just going to be an awkward giant for the rest of my life. My mum will be so disappointed.”
Sansa’s laughter died in her throat as she remembered her own mother.
Not your mother.
“Alright, spill, San.” Mya barked, startling Sansa out of her funk as she leaned forward. “I thought you would perk up if you got to tease me about my nonexistent relationship status, but apparently even that isn’t funny enough for this. What’s up?”
Sansa fidgeted with her hands in her lap, looking anxiously into the worried, electric-blue eyes of the girl she’d been friends with since both of them were awkward middle-schoolers. She loved Mya like a sister. She trusted Mya- more than almost anyone else. Mya knew every complaint Sansa had about her father, and every worry she had about Robin.
Even more importantly, Mya knew how hard her mother’s death had been for Sansa- how she had struggled with the woman’s coldness to her, and Alys Baelish’s attempt to be kinder to her daughter during the last months of her life in the throes of a morphine induced delirium. Mya had never breathed a word of any of it to anyone- not even when she and Sansa had fought over a boy their freshman year of high school and Sansa had been horrible to her.
If she couldn’t trust Mya, who the hell could she trust?
Decision made, she took a deep breath, glancing around to ensure no one could hear her.
“You can’t say anything about this to anyone.” She told her friend. “Seriously- it’s not a matter of embarrassment- it could have legal consequences.”
“Shit, girl.” Mya raised her eyebrows. “What did you get involved with?”
“It wasn’t intentional.” Sansa moaned, burying her face in her hands. “Please, Mya, you have to promise me-“
“Hey, you don’t even have to ask, San.” Mya told her, gently, a soft smile on her face. “I’ve got your back. You know that.”
And oddly enough, Sansa did. She lifted her head to meet her friend’s eyes.
“A member of the Westerosi Intelligence Bureau questioned me yesterday in the shop.” Sansa confessed. Mya’s eyes widened.
“He thinks my father committed a crime back in Westeros- before we moved here.” Sansa told her, rushing through her words.
“I don’t know what to do.” Sansa confessed, looking up at her friend in desperation.
“Do you believe him?” Mya asked, looking worried. “Isn’t there statute of limitations stuff that keeps the police from investigating old crimes? Like- is this guy even a real agent?”
“Not for this type of crime.” Sansa shook her head, her breaths heavy. “And he is. He’s on record speaking publicly about several of his cases- I checked.”
“You’re really pale, San.” Mya told her, leaning closer to her, a worried look lining her face. “Are you okay?”
“A WBI agent accused my father of a horrible crime.” Sansa buried her face in her hands. “More than one, actually! I’m fantastic!”
“He could have the wrong guy, San.” Mya told her, worry resting on the bridge of her nose. “He could just be following up on a lead and trying to scare you into giving him information- I mean, I don’t always like your dad- he’s way too overprotective and he’s kind of obsessive about things, but he’s not a criminal. I mean, what’s the accusation?”
“I can’t tell you.” Sansa whispered, exhausted. “But he was acting weird last night- he mentioned the Volantis trip, and said something about looking at business opportunities down there?”
Mya’s eyebrows shot up into her hairline.
“That is weird.” She muttered, pursing her lips.
“I mean, he just finished everything with the opening of that new club uptown-“ Sansa continued, biting her lip, “-and he implied that we might stay there for a while? I don’t know!” she shook her head, hysteria creeping into her tone. “Normally, I wouldn’t think twice, but what if he knows, Mya? What if he found out I was talking to the agent? I-“
“One thing at a time.” Mya cut her off, taking her hand. “Okay? Just- I know this is a lot, but we consider all the ‘what-ifs’ at once.” Her blunt voice was a comfort- it gave Sansa something to focus on as she nodded at her friend. “Okay, good. So your dad is acting weird- that’s not abnormal, San.” She raised a brow. “It’s weird, yeah- but did the agent have anything concrete? Like, did he have a way of proving his accusation, or is he still getting evidence together?”
“He has DNA to run.” Sansa whispered.
“Fucking hell.” Mya swore, looking dumbstruck. “San- you really- you seem like you think he’s guilty.”
“I can’t-“ Sansa sniffled, burying her face in her hands again, “I don’t know, Mya!” she wailed, attracting more than a few raised eyebrows from the other library patrons.
“Okay.” Mya nodded, clearly thinking the situation through. “Okay. So they have a way to prove or disprove the accusation, right? It's not just this guy's hunch?”
“Right.” Sansa nodded, weakly.
“So you wait.” Mya shrugged. “It’s not ideal, obviously, but I mean- what the hell else can you do now? There’s not much use worrying about a crime your dad may have committed- I mean- he may not have, for all we know.”
She sounded far more certain than Sansa suspected she felt. Mya had never really liked her father, so Sansa appreciated her defense of him more than she knew how to express.
“I mean- what do you think?”
“I think-“ Sansa started, pausing as the words caught in her throat. What did she think? Was she going to believe a wild story from a WBI agent, or her own father?
Her father had always given her and Robin everything they needed, and indulged Sansa’s choice to study fashion, allowing her to pursue it even though Sansa knew it wasn’t what he had wanted for her. He had come to the shows that she had sewed costumes for in school when his business allowed, and been at most of her chorus concerts to hear her sing. He would smile and tease Robin, and always saved a special wink for her when Robin was being difficult. He was just- he was her father. That’s all there was to it.
But Sansa couldn’t shake that haunting image of Catelyn Stark, breaking down in front of a reporter’s camera as her husband rushed to her side. Her face had been so similar to Sansa’s own, and surely that couldn’t be nothing even if Catelyn Stark was Alys’- was Lysa’s sister. The woman’s face had been contorted in a cold grief that Sansa didn’t understand, but couldn’t help but pity, and she kept seeing her stricken face- even when she closed her eyes at night.
Only the DNA will tell. She thought, banishing the image as well as she could.
“I don’t want it to be true.” Sansa admitted, the words practically rushing out of her. “I don’t- I don’t want to believe it, Mya, but what if I have to?” her stomach was turning, and Sansa hugged her arms to herself.
What if I don’t have a choice but to believe it?
Oberyn was nearly shaking with anticipation when he finally received the results of the DNA test, and gave such a loud whoop as he read the message that half the WBI office turned to glare at him.
He didn’t care. This was what he had been working towards for eighteen years. They would just have to endure his joy.
“Daemon!” he barked, summoning his partner, who took one look at the message and began to laugh.
“You did it- you wily bastard!” He chuckled, pounding Oberyn on the back. “I didn’t think anybody could, but you’ve managed it!”
“And you get to collect a tidy sum of money from the Blackfish.” Oberyn pointed out, wryly. “As does my niece apparently.”
They grinned at each other, the ebullience and sheer exhilaration of a break in the case hitting them both in that moment.
“We have to go through channels on this one.” Daemon pointed out, after a moment, taking Oberyn’s good mood down a notch. “He could bolt at any second.”
“He’s not taking the kids with him if he does.” Oberyn muttered, determined. “I’m not letting Ned and Catelyn’s daughter slip through my fingers this time.”
“We need to organize a SWAT team-“ Daemon was muttering, under his breath, “-alert the commander, keep the press outat all costs-“
“Agreed.” Oberyn sneered, thinking about the vultures. “We can share with a few reputable sources once we have him in custody, but I’m not letting the tabloids get a hold of Sansa or her little brother.”
“Gods, this is going to get messy.” Daemon groaned, as the reality of their discovery set in. “I’ll handle press details once we get the fucker- Sansa’s more comfortable with you, and I don’t think we should leave her on her own- even at the station.”
“Sounds good.” Oberyn nodded, his head already whirling with plans for the next day. “As soon as we arrest him, I’ll need to call Ned and Catelyn. I don’t want to do it before we have him, though.”
He had worried for so long that he was never going to be able to deliver answers to the Stark family- to have them all fall into his lap, seemingly within a matter of weeks, was a heady feeling. Oberyn just hoped that his luck lasted.
Please don't ask me about the minutiae of forensic analysis- I genuinely don't know how it works, and I apologize if this is a gratuitous misrepresentation of forensic genetics haha.
We get to see Sansa and Petyr interact! It was the hardest scene to write yet, so I hope Sansa comes off realistically. She has this habit of pushing down and repressing trauma in the books, and so I imagine that she's doing a lot of compartmentalizing to keep herself from losing her mind here. Sansa has a lot of mixed feelings about the idea that Petyr stole her, and about Petyr in general, but even her justifications for why he couldn't have done this include a few warning signs- parents being overly controlling is absolutely abuse- although sansa doesn't really have a baseline here for what's normal and what isn't, so she doesn't find his behavior entirely off-putting, even if she's starting to chafe under his thumb.
Also, let's be real- we would all google it if we learned that we might be at the center of the most scandalous news story of the decade. Hopefully, Sansa using the internet helps set the story a bit more- a few of you asked what time period it took place in, and that should help clear things up :)
Mya! I love her, and I really would like for Sansa to have more female friends. is she Robert Baratheon's daughter, here? only time will tell. (Also, I love writing dialogue via text- it's super fun. expect more of it).
Oberyn Martell seems to have accidentally become the second main character in this story. It wasn't intentional, but I love him, so it's not unwelcome. I think he's going to play a major role in Sansa's life going forward, and help her with the transition to an extent.
For those of you wondering- Jon will most likely appear in the next chapter. He has a big part in the story, there's just a lot more exposition with Sansa's situation than I was expecting. It's the opposite of a problem, but it does mean that Jon makes a later entrance than I intended.
Thanks so much for all of your kind comments!! I love all of them, and you guys are fantastic. Let me know what you think!
Chapter 4: Flight Risk
A single call from Agent Oberyn Martell to Sansa sets off a chain reaction- leading the agents on a chase that threatens to turn deadly, and raises more questions than it answers.
“Being a homicide detective can be the loneliest job in the world. The friends of the victim are upset and in despair, but sooner or later - after weeks or months - they go back to their everyday lives. For the closest family it takes longer, but for the most part, to some degree, they too get over the grieving and despair. Life has to go on; it does go on. But the unsolved murders keep gnawing away and in the end there's only one person left who thinks night and day about the victim: it's the officer who is left with the investigation.”
― Stieg Larsson, The girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Sansa sat in the police station, numb to the world around her. Her knuckles were white where they gripped the edges of Agent Sand’s jacket. It was several sizes too big, and practically swallowed her up, but he had insisted.
She was in shock, he had said. She had been shivering, despite the warm summer breeze.
There had been so many flashing lights and screaming sirens- she could still hear their cries in her head now, even as the hectic thrum of the station buzzed around her. She wondered where the agents had gone- and if they’d forgotten about her- their prey well and caught.
Robin had gone with several of the other agents- furious about the arrest and the loss of their vacation, he’d been yelling at anyone who would listen. She hoped he was alright- he was still a child, after all, and facing down the barrel of a horrific loss. He had been nearly silent when he’d come back from giving a statement to them, and hadn’t said a thing to Sansa since.
Sansa pays little attention when the phone rings at work- she has a line of six people, all looking rather disgruntled that the shop’s ice machine had broken that morning. Sansa couldn’t entirely blame them- it was one of the hottest days she had ever experienced in Braavos, with the sun’s glare nearly blinding her where it reflected off the water outside. Sansa knows better than to think the canals are clean, but even she had been tempted to jump into the cool river water when taking the ferry to work earlier in the morning.
Instead, Sansa’s manager, Elissa, darts over to grab it, giving a hurried greeting with a plastic smile on her face. Sansa is so occupied with the man in front of her- who is loudly complaining about the fact that he can’t get an iced drink- that she almost misses the way Elissa’s face shifts, and the confused expression she adopts. She resists the urge to tell the man that he could find a drink somewhere else if he was going to be so rude about it, and merely smiles and nods as Elissa comes over, the receiver covered with one hand.
“Phone’s for you.” She tells Sansa, giving her an odd look. “Seems important. I’ll grab your register.”
Sansa thanked her, wondering who on earth would have needed to call the shop phone to get ahold of her.
“This is Sansa Baelish.” She greeted, holding the phone up to her ear.
“Sansa.” A familiar, warm voice answers. “How are you?”
“I’m doing well. It’s nice to hear from you.” Sansa says to Oberyn Martell, without yet knowing whether it really was nice to hear from him or not. She glances up at the clock- it’s only 12:15. She has a few hours before she can go home and finish studying for her history exam, and a feeling that they’re going to go very slowly.
“You’re very polite.” She hears Oberyn chuckle on the other end of the line. “I’m sorry to interrupt you at work, but I needed to chat with you sooner than later.”
Sansa’s heart leapt into her throat. It had only been a few days since she’d had blood drawn for the forensics lab, and she hadn’t expected to hear from the agents about it this soon.
“What about?” she managed to get out.
“We have results from your DNA test.” Oberyn told her, his voice sympathetic even through the phone. “Sansa- you’re not Petyr Baelish’s daughter. I’m so sorry.”
Sansa feels an odd sense of calm, despite the fact that Oberyn’s words have effectively obliterated her entire reality. Later, she chalks this up to shock.
“So I’m a Stark, then?” Sansa hears herself ask.
“Yes.” Oberyn confirms. “A complete match to Eddard and Catelyn Stark.”
“Ah.” Sansa answers.
“I’m sorry-“ Oberyn repeats, and Sansa wishes she had the words to tell him that he, of all people, didn’t have anything to be sorry for, “I know this is probably a shock.”
Sansa didn’t know what to do. She opened her mouth and then shut it again, and there was a long silence over the phone line.
“What happens next?” she finally managed to whisper, feeling lightheaded.
“We’re planning to arrest Baelish later today.” Oberyn told her, not entirely managing to hide the slight vindictive glee in his voice. Sansa can’t fault him for it- when she had looked up the case a few days ago, she’d found out that Agent Martell had been investigating it from the beginning- almost twenty years. It must have been horrible, trying and failing to find answers for a grieving family for that long. That image of Catelyn Stark collapsing at a press conference after the kidnapping has haunted her since she saw it, and she can’t imagine what the past twenty years have been like for the Starks.
But she can’t quite forget about her father. He wasn’t her father, apparently, but he was all she had ever known, and there was a small part of her that still wasn’t sure that all of this was real. She also couldn’t shake the dread that had begun building in her stomach- the knowledge and fear that Robin wouldn’t react well to any of this.
“Are you going to hurt him?” she hears herself ask, voice embarrassingly small.
“No, Sansa.” Oberyn reassures her. “I promise you, we don’t want any harm to come to him. We’re sending a unit to pick your brother up from school, and an officer will be by to escort you from work-”
“Agent Martell- Robin didn’t go to school today.” Sansa interrupts him, confused. “He wasn’t feeling well this morning.“
“We have a slight problem.” Oberyn muttered, after getting off the phone with Sansa. Daemon looked up from his computer screen.
“Is Sansa alright?”
“So far.” Oberyn told him. “She took the news as well as could be imagined under the circumstances. It’s Robin- Sansa said that he stayed home from school today- so we’ll have to be careful when we arrest Baelish. Do we have any idea where he is, yet?”
“He falls off security cameras at his restaurant office at around 11:45 am.” Daemon told Oberyn, focused intently on the information their tech analyst was streaming them as he bent over his computer.
Oberyn swore loudly, frightening a junior Braavosi officer who jumped nearly a foot in the air at the sound.
“Can we set up a perimeter of some sort? Limit where he can go?”
“We can try-“ the chief of police told him, back ramrod straight as he stood next to Oberyn, “But the canals make enforcement of that difficult- and the metro system won’t shut down over this- people would panic, and that could make it harder to find him.”
“Are there cameras in the metro?” Daemon asked, looking up from his screen.
“The analysts should be able to stream video from them.” The chief nodded, “But we hardly have any cars here, Agent. The metro tends to be too crowded; you may as well try to pick a needle out of a haystack.”
Oberyn swore again, and Daemon’s lips quirked.
“We knew that he wouldn’t be unprepared.” Daemon pointed out, as he typed directions for the tech analysts. “Baelish is meticulous- he’s prepared for every eventuality, even if he doesn’t yet know that we have him. We only have evidence against him in the first place because of Sansa-“
“He couldn’t predict- or didn’t predict- that she would doubt him enough to assist us.” Oberyn muttered. “Is Sansa still at the shop? She may have some insight into where he would be right now.” He pointed at one of the junior agents. “Call Maggiore’s Coffee- see if Sansa Baelish is still clocked in and working.”
The agent ran off to the phone, and Oberyn watched closely as Daemon began to sort through the gigabytes of data they were being sent from the metro cameras. Daemon had always been better with computers and data than Oberyn- his daughters frequently told him he was useless when it came to those sorts of things.
The junior agent came back in, holding his thumb to the phone to mute it. His face was an ashen gray.
“Agent?” he interrupted. Oberyn turned to look, but Daemon kept combing through the files. “I just talked to the owner and the manager on shift today. Sansa Baelish left the shop about forty-five minutes ago- said she wasn’t feeling well. Manager said she was running a fever, and was having issues with a migraine.”
Oberyn felt a pit open up in his stomach. Sansa had seemed fine on the phone earlier.
Sansa had never faked an illness to get out of work before, but she’d also never been a person of interest in an international kidnapping case either, so she figured it was just going to be a week of firsts. It had been easy to convince her manager that she wasn’t feeling well- She’d certainly taken care of a sick Robin often enough to fake it convincingly.
Walking as quickly as she could down the busy avenue near the harbor, Sansa wondered how fast she could get home if she ran part of the way. She needed to be there with Robin when the agents arrested their father- if Agent Martell needed to put a team together, she might have a chance to beat them to the house. Her brother would be devastated, and she couldn’t risk anything happening to him if he tried to stop the agents.
She also needed to talk to her father. Sansa had seen the DNA results herself, but she still couldn’t entirely bring herself to believe that he had done what Oberyn had accused him of. Maybe it was a mistake of some sort. If she was the missing Stark child, maybe someone else had been responsible for stealing her. Maybe her father had taken her in, unaware of the circumstances.
You don’t really believe that, do you?
Sansa quickened her pace as much as she could. If she could just talk to him- if they could just find out what had happened…
Agent Martell had said not to contact him, but she needed to know. She needed to find Robin and get him out of there.
Sansa Baelish: Are you and Robin still at home?
Petyr Baelish: We’re headed out for a few errands
Petyr Baelish: Why don’t you join us?
Sansa Baelish: Sure
Sansa Baelish: I’m on Pyntos street- I just left work
Petyr Baelish: Head towards Antaryen’s Circle- your brother and I will meet you there
Sansa didn’t know what he wanted to do, but this could be her only chance. It would take her father and Robin a few minutes to make their way over on the ferry from the barrier island their neighborhood was in, so she had enough time to make it if she hurried.
“Where the hell would she go?” Daemon muttered, agitatedly spinning from one direction to the other in his chair. “You can’t reach her?”
“Not yet.” Oberyn muttered, looking at the most recent text he sent, asking where she was. “There has to be a reason she’s not staying put, though.”
“Baelish has her brainwashed?” Daemon snorted, clearly frustrated. Oberyn shook his head, no. “Do you think she’s going to warn him?”
“She’s scared of him.” Oberyn muttered. “I don’t know that she realizes it- I think it’s more subconscious than anything- but I would bet anything she walks on eggshells around him. You should have seen her when I told her that we suspected him. She immediately jumped to the possibility that he might be guilty, but she would have sworn up and down that he wasn’t.”
“She’s been psychologically dependent on him in a bastardized parent-child relationship.” Daemon argued. “He’s likely had her since before she could remember. She’s attached to him- it’s not out of the realm of possibility. Victims can end up empathizing with their abductors- coming to care for them in some cases.”
“She was more protective of her brother than Baelish, though.” Oberyn muttered, pacing as he ran his hands through his hair. “Didn’t want me asking questions about him, but talked about Baelish freely enough. She’s smart- figured out half of it on her own before I could get to the nasty details. When I told her that it would exonerate Baelish if he was innocent, she agreed to give me a sample almost instantly. She cares about him, but she doubts him, too.”
“So she wouldn’t warn Baelish, necessarily-“ Daemon began.
“But I don’t think she would leave her brother alone either, knowing we were planning to arrest Baelish.” Oberyn nodded. “She mentioned how attached Robin was to the man- that was what she was most upset about when I told her about Lysa. That Robin would be devastated by the news. Hardly said anything about Lysa- she was more worried that Robin would be taken away from her.”
“She’s going to try and get to her brother.” Daemon concluded.
“Most likely.” Oberyn muttered. “Damn!” he swore, smacking a fist against the wall. “Her brother is probably going to be with Baelish, so Sansa will be too. We get to that house and he’s not there- he’ll know we’re onto him. He’ll run. He might even take Sansa and Robin with him.”
“Can we set up a trace on his cell?” Daemon wondered, typing frantically “It’s a long shot, but it could help narrow down where he’d go.”
“Can’t hurt. We don’t know how much Baelish knows, though.” Oberyn muttered, perching on the back of an office chair, fingers tapping the chair’s arms. “That’s the problem. His behavior is tricky to predict, but if he thinks he’s safe, he’ll stay put. If he’s feeling cornered, he might try to flee. Send a couple of units down to the docks and the airport just in case if we have the men to spare.” He told one of the officers, who nodded, jogging off to the command center.
“But if he doesn’t try to run-“ Daemon started, warily.
“-then we’re stuck going through the city with a fine-toothed comb.” Oberyn muttered, shoulders drooping.
Sansa only realized where they were headed once they crossed over to the mainland.
“Father, are we going to the airport?” she asked, keeping her voice as steady as she could. She smiled at him, as she gripped the edge of her armrest in the passenger seat of the car.
Meeting them at Antaryen’s Circle had been the easy part- but she had assumed that they would either walk or take a water-taxi to wherever her father wanted to go. But he had led them to a car- a rarity in Braavos, where most of the city streets weren’t large enough for anything but the smallest vehicles. They had passed over the long concrete bridge that separated the main islands of the city from the rest of Essos, and it only made sense to take this highway if they were going to the airport.
“I can’t keep anything from you.” Her father grinned. “Excellent. You’re aware of your surroundings, unlike a certain brother of yours…” he trailed off, and Sansa smiled nervously as she glanced back at Robin, who was completely absorbed in whatever video game he was playing on his DS. He hadn’t seemed to notice anything out of the ordinary- Sansa knew that would make it harder to separate them later, and was frantically trying to think of an excuse to take Robin out with her when they got back.
“Why though?” she asked him, noticing the way his hands tightened minutely on the wheel.
“You’ll see, sweetling. It’s a surprise, but I think you’ll enjoy it.” He pronounced, smoothing his hair back.
Sansa nodded, giving a small smile and doing her best to look excited. Her phone buzzed, and she plucked it out of her pocket to see who it was. The ID read ‘Jaymes Hartyn’- the pseudonym she had used for Oberyn Martell in her phone.
Jaymes Hartyn: Where are you headed this afternoon? Was hoping to study for history with you. If you have to watch your brother like you said, it’s fine if he tags along.
“Anyone interesting?” Her father asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Just someone I know from my history class.” Sansa shook her head, flashing the screen for her father to see. “He wants to study later, but I told him I promised to stay home with Robin.”
A part of Sansa didn’t like how easy it was becoming to lie to him. She had started doing it long before Agent Martell had entered their lives- a white lie here and there, to allow her a night out with her friends, or the occasional date that she didn’t want to have to bring home for her father to vet. She had lied about the internship in White Harbor she’d applied for- filling out everything on Mya’s laptop to keep him from finding out that she had bigger dreams than staying in Braavos with him and Robin for the rest of her life. Even the larger lies were easier, now.
He still didn’t know about Agent Martell, after all, and Sansa had never kept such an explosive secret in her entire life. She texted him back, willing her fingers not to shake.
“He could have a way to monitor your messages.” Agent Martell had warned her. “Be careful what you send me, if anything.”
“Are you sure this is a good idea?”
“I’ve told you-“ Oberyn repeated for the third time, teeth clenched, “Sansa is smarter than you’d expect. She’ll understand the message even if she doesn’t respond.”
“And if she doesn’t?” The police captain snapped. “You’re letting a lot ride on the whims of a twenty-year-old girl, Agent Martell.”
“We’re looking into other options as we speak.” Oberyn snapped, stepping forward until he was almost toe to toe with the man. “But bringing Baelish in is secondary to getting Sansa and Robin back safely- so someone needs to be monitoring her phone.”
Oberyn whipped his head around at the sound of Daemon’s voice. The man was holding his cell out, eyes wide, and practically threw it into his hands.
“She got back to me.” He murmured, quickly looking at her text.
Sansa: My father forgot that I have an exam tomorrow- He wanted to run a few errands on the mainland. We’re near the airport now
Sansa: I don’t know what time we’ll be back, but I have to watch Robin
Sansa: He’ll have to come with if you want to meet somewhere.
“She must be with Baelish now.” Oberyn muttered. “I mentioned the possibility that he was reading her texts earlier, so she’s probably trying to obscure a hint so Baelish wouldn’t understand it.” He reread the messages. “The airport. They’re headed towards the airport.” He sprang up from his chair. “Chief, I need you to send all available units there as soon as you can. Redirect as many as you can- and call the airport. See if we can delay some of the flights- I don’t know which airline they’re taking-“
“I don’t think they are.” Daemon interrupted, brows furrowed. “If I had to guess a destination, I’d say Ibben maybe, or Volantis- neither of them will extradite prisoners to Westeros, so Baelish wouldn’t have to worry about being caught and returned- but there’s no record of them on any of the passenger manifestos for flights going there.” He turned to look at Oberyn as his phone buzzed again.
“Another text from her.” Oberyn muttered, showing it to Daemon, who nodded.
Sansa: did you manage to figure out question 6F on the homework? I’ve never seen anything like it before
“He could have bought tickets under a false name.” Another agent pointed out.
“He could.” Daemon agreed, “But I don’t think he did. The airport has a couple of hangars for private planes, and one of them is scheduled to leave later this evening. The destination isn’t mentioned because it’s not a commercial flight, but according to our tech analysts, it’s being stored in-“ he squinted at the screen as Oberyn leaned over him to follow his mouse, “-Hangar 6F!” he exclaimed.
“Like Sansa’s text.” Oberyn muttered, already storming out of the room. “Airport. Now!”
Her father flashed his ID at the runway gate, and they drove straight onto the tarmac, only stopping at something that reminded Sansa of a warehouse, labeled ‘6F’ above the door. She quickly sent off another text to Agent Martell, praying that it was clear enough for him to understand. When the doors opened, though, there was a small, private jet waiting there, with the doors open. She pocketed her phone and followed her father and Robin, stepping out of the car to look up at the plane.
“A business associate of mine is allowing us to borrow it.” He told her, looking up at the private plane and smirking. “What do you think?”
“Father, I don’t understand.” Sansa told him, hands trembling. “What are we-“
“I thought I would surprise the two of you!” he grinned, gesturing wildly. “You’re finished with exams- I thought we should celebrate with an early trip- head out later tonight to Volantis!”
Robin let out an excited whoop, eyes sparkling.
“Can I go look inside?” he asked eagerly, dashing off the instant their father nodded.
“I still have my history exam left, father.” Sansa said, softly, watching Robin disappear into the plane’s cabin. Her father’s grin was razor sharp, and far too bright, and something was wrongwith it.
“You said that was just an elective course, sweetling.” Her father reassured, putting an arm around her shoulder. “I’m sure it won’t hurt if your grade isn’t an A for once.”
That certainly wasn’t like the man who had raised her.
“But you said-“
“Sansi- you have to come see!” Robin called, sticking his head out the plane door. “It’s so cool in here!”
“Just a moment, Robin!” she called back, looking back at their father. “Father- I haven’t packed anything for a trip- neither has Sweetrobin. And I-“ she chewed her lip nervously, “I can’t go- I still have that exam left, and then I have work-“
“Life is more than working, Sansa.” Her father told her, placing a hand on her back to guide her towards the plane. “Look how excited your brother is!”
“He still has school for a few more weeks.” Sansa muttered, wringing her hands. “Father-“
“Relax, sweetling.” Her father crooned. “I’ll talk to his teachers- Volantis is teeming with history and culture, and doing an extra credit project there will probably teach him more than he can learn in a classroom.”
Sansa bit her lip, unsure.
“He’s struggled so much this year though-“ she murmured, trying to stall him, “He only has a few friends, and it can’t be good for him, socially, to miss all of the end-of-year celebrations-“
“He’ll benefit more from a vacation.” Her father dismissed, patting her arm. “It’s kind of you to think of him, though. Sometimes, I think you’ve mothered him better than Alys ever did.”
Sansa’s eyes widened at that admission, but before she could respond, a tall, well-built man in a suit and tie stepped into the hangar, and headed straight for them.
“Excellent!” her father clapped his hands beside her. “Arlan- right on time-“ he turned to her, “Sansa, sweetling, this is Arlan Dothoryos- our pilot for the trip. Would you mind keeping Robin company for a moment while we chat about logistics?”
It wasn’t a request. Sansa nodded, and began to walk away, but caught a glimpse of a black shape on the inside of their pilot’s jacket, and her blood ran cold. A gun. Their pilot had a gun.
Suddenly, she wanted to be as far away from him as possible.
Robin had been so excited to see the interior of the plane that he was practically vibrating with it, but Sansa couldn’t share in any of it. On top of her worry for her father, she couldn’t shake the fear that had bubbled up in her stomach when she had seen the pilot’s sidearm.
Guns were largely banned in Braavos- only the police carried them, and they were a rare sight. It wasn’t like the Bay of Meereen region, where they had next to no firearm regulations, and Sansa had never seen one before she met Oberyn Martell.
She pushed down on the worry, though- her father had called her back out again, although Robin had excitedly stayed in the plane with their pilot. He had been largely silent for a few minutes.
“You remember my associate, Dontos?” her father asked, suddenly breaking their silence. Sansa nodded.
“The very one.”
“What about him?” she asked, unable to keep herself from glancing back at the plane where Robin still was with Arlan Dothoryos.
“He mentioned something rather odd to me yesterday.” Her father told her, one eyebrow raised. “He was at the coffee shop you work at the other day, and mentioned to me that you’d been talking to a WBI agent.”
Sansa was taken aback. She hadn’t remembered seeing Dontos Hollard anywhere near the shop.
“Sansa.” Her father warned, with a smile that didn’t reach his eyes. “Don’t lie to me, Sweetling. Oberyn Martell, was it?”
Sansa froze, staring at her father in shock.
“He stopped in for Dornish coffee-“ she managed to get out, “He just wanted to ask a few questions about mother.”
Her father’s lip curled.
“How many times have I told you that law enforcement is dangerous?” he asked, his tone smooth and seemingly unaffected. Sansa knew better, though. His eyes were furious.
“He just wanted to know when mother had moved here.” Sansa protested, resisting the urge to take a step back. She knew from experience that it would only make him angrier. “I didn’t- I didn’t leave the shop-“
Sansa’s words were cut off as the hangar doors began to open wider, and the bright wail of sirens came on so suddenly that Sansa nearly jumped three feet in the air. Police cars were skidding around them, and her father grabbed her wrist- gripping it tightly enough that Sansa knew it would leave a bruise later.
“On your knees, Baelish!” she heard a familiar voice shout. Daemon Sand was circling them, gun trained solely on her father, and Sansa froze at the sight of the barrel.
“I’d listen to him, you sick motherfucker.”
Sansa was simultaneously relieved and worried to see Oberyn Martell come up from the other direction, his own weapon pointed right at them. There was a velvet fury in his voice, and something quiet and vindictive in the tight set of his mouth.
“Sansa, get back.” Oberyn ordered.
“Are you going to shoot him?” she managed to get out, panic gripping her like a vise. Her eyes flicked back and forth, from Petyr to Oberyn. Agent Sand was over to the side of Oberyn, his own gun out as well, and trained on her father.
“Not if he comes in quietly.” Agent Sand reassured her, pitching his voice low. “We don’t want any of you to come to harm. We just need to take Mr. Baelish into custody.”
Daemon Sand’s voice was calm, and Sansa latched onto it like a life preserver. It was a balm, in light of Oberyn Martell’s barely restrained wrath.
Earlier, Sansa would have said that she trusted Oberyn Martell to keep a cool head, but looking at him now, you would never know that this was the same warm, funny family man that Sansa had been starting to trust- to like, even.
She had never seen Agent Martell so furious before, and it was terrifying in its sheer intensity. His lips were curled back in a snarl that was almost inhuman, teeth bared, and the fury in his eyes was a frightening thing. Only the guns trained in her vicinity kept Sansa from taking a few steps back. His glare hadn’t shifted from her father, and his ire seemed solely focused on Petyr Baelish.
“Put the guns down, gentlemen.” Her father spoke, his hands raised, and his voice infuriatingly calm. “No one needs to get hurt today.”
“Get on the ground.” Oberyn snarled. “Hands in the air, and behind your head.” He tipped his head to one of the uniforms. “Cuff him, and make sure he doesn’t have a weapon.” He turned to look at Sansa, gun still clearly pointed at Baelish. “Where’s your brother?”
Sansa opened her mouth, but nothing came out.
“Sansa please.” Oberyn’s voice was desperate, ragged. “We need to know where he is.”
She swallowed down bile as she nodded, taking a deep breath.
“in the cockpit.” She managed to get out. “there’s a man- a guard- maybe the pilot- I don’t know- with him.” She was sure her eyes looked practically manic at this point, wide as they were. “Oberyn, he had a gun. He had a gun oh my god-“ She slapped a hand over her mouth to stifle the hysteria bubbling up, as Oberyn directed several agents towards the plane.
Suddenly, it didn’t matter that one of the officers was shoving her father towards a police car- she needed to get to Robin- gods she had forgotten her own brother- what was wrong with her-
“Sansa!” she heard a shout, and then someone was restraining her- keeping her from running- keeping her from Robin- as her brother emerged and walked down the stairs out of the plane, the pilot trailing behind him, hand going to his gun as he took in the scene with surprise.
Faster than Sansa could register, the pilot had his gun in hand- pointed at Oberyn- and there was an almighty crack, an echo of a shot, and Sansa heard someone screaming.
It took her a moment to realize that it was her. Daemon was holding her back- not tight enough to harm her- but she couldn’t move, even as she tried to fight against him. Robin was wearing a confused face, and he started to turn, only for Oberyn to grab him and pull the boy to the ground, shielding him from further fire. Sansa hoped it kept him from seeing their pilot, the sight of the guard, crumpling to the ground, his own gun falling limply from his hand.
He was covered in blood, and his face- his face was gone.
Sansa remembered reading an article once about how exit wounds from bullets were horrible, gaping things, sinew torn to shreds by the force of the metal casing ripping through flesh. She had never, in any imagining of her life, thought she would see such a sight, but the shells had torn through the man’s head like it was nothing more than paper. Officers were rushing towards the corpse, and Sansa’s mouth was still open in a silent scream.
A second shot rang out, echoing in the wide hangar. Sansa’s legs buckled, and the next thing she knew, she had hit the ground, Agent Sand covering her with his own body.
“Oberyn!” he shouted, keeping her head shielded. “Get Baelish out-“
Sansa whimpered as a third shot rang out, only Daemon’s mumbled reassurances steadying her as she gripped tightly at his arm. Her other hand was digging into the tarmac, and was beginning to sting- she had scraped it when Daemon had pushed her down, and there was gravel digging into her palms.
“Robin- I need to-“
“He’s fine- he’s safe-“ Daemon reassured her, not letting her go, “Oberyn has him. Oberyn has him, he’s safe!”
“He just- he shot him!” Sansa heard herself stammer.
Oberyn was yelling something as he continued covering Robin’s body, but it took Sansa a few tries to figure out what he was saying.
“A perimeter?” she heard herself say, dazed. “But why-“
“Stay down!” Daemon told her, not letting her up. “Sansa- Sansa you have to stay still. That shot didn’t come from any of us- you could be in danger-“
“Oberyn is not gonna let anything happen to your brother- I promise!” Daemon told her, his body still covering most of hers. Sansa was going to have horrible bruises on her knees later.
“There’s so much blood.” Sansa whimpered, clutching his arm. “He shot him- he-“ she choked on a sob as Daemon gave her an alarmed look, “He’s dead!”
“We can’t help him, Sansa-“ Daemon told her, still restraining her at the same time he held her up. Sansa suspected that if he let go, she’d simply crumple to the ground. “He’s gone- and you need to stay put.”
“But-“ Sansa’s eyes filled with tears, and if they were already tender from crying the night before, the tears leaking from them hurt. “But- I need to see- I need to see Robin!”
“Shh- it’s okay.” The agent reassured, as Sansa went limp against the ground, sobbing. “I’ll take you over there as soon as we secure the scene, okay?”
Sansa could only nod, hiccupping and shuddering as the activity around her faded to a dull roar. She couldn’t hear Daemon’s voice anymore, and there were too many people around- too many police officers- and it was setting her even more on edge. Eventually, Daemon helped her up, and she stumbled a bit as the blood rushed back to her legs.
But when Oberyn steered Robin over, Sansa finally shoved herself out of Daemon’s grip, throwing her arms around her brother with a shudder as she combed her fingers through his hair and whispered his name.
“Sansi.” He cried, melting into her embrace as he hadn’t done since he was a child. Sansa could hear him hiccupping and she rubbed slow circles into his back, feeling her own tears subsiding as she soothed him.
It was an old nickname Robin had for her- father had hated when he used it though, and he had gradually dropped the habit. To see it coming back in full force now was… more than a little disorienting.
She pulled back to look him up and down. He was uninjured, but for a small speck of blood on his forehead, which Sansa discreetly wiped off before he could notice it.
“It’s going to be okay.” She told him, shakily. “I promise.”
“Straight headshot.” Oberyn muttered, walking over to Daemon after chatting with the responding EMT’s. He had managed to get a near-hysterical Sansa and a furious Robin into a car, and an officer was driving them back to the station now. He was almost positive that they hadn’t been the intended targets- the officer escorting Baelish had been hit, but nothing had come close to Oberyn or his partner when they’d shielded the siblings. “Pilot’s name was Arlan Dothoryos- he died instantly.”
“There were three shots fired, though.” Daemon frowned.
“We’ll have to wait for ballistics to confirm the trajectory of the second and third bullets,” Oberyn muttered, flipping through the preliminary report, “But I’m pretty sure they were intended for Baelish.”
Daemon shook his head.
“Thank god you didn’t call the Starks yet.”
“They have more motive than nearly anyone in the world to want Baelish dead.” Oberyn agreed. “But neither could have possibly known about him yet.”
“Unless we have leak at the police department or in the bureau.” Daemon muttered.
“Baelish is on a lot of people’s lists, but it can’t be a coincidence that he almost gets shot the day we arrest him for the Stark and Arryn kidnappings.” Oberyn muttered. “But you and I both know that Ned Stark would sooner tear Winterfell down, stone by stone, before hiring a hit man.” He didn’t say it, but Oberyn was also sure that if Catelyn Stark had wanted revenge on the man who took her daughter, she would have wielded the gun herself.
“It’s a little early to say whether we’re dealing with a professional.” Daemon pointed out.
“The shot was long distance-“ Oberyn pointed out, “The killer would have had to position himself somewhere that would allow a line of sight- the reeds on the other side of the airstrip are tall enough to conceal a man lying down- it’s what, about 800 feet from the edge of the tarmac to the hangar? That’s well within range for a trained sniper.”
“You think they’ll find a blind in the grass?”
“I’d be surprised if they didn’t.” Oberyn told him, examining the scene more closely. “If the shooter had been any closer, we’d have seen them. He was probably waiting for Baelish and Dothoryos to come back out- we sped up his shot by opening the hangar door to arrest him.”
“He saved us a bit of trouble though- Dothoryos had a gun on him and was ready to shoot you right before he went down.” Daemon commented, kneeling to examine the fallen weapon next to the pilot’s body. “It’s next to impossible to get a firearm in Braavos unless you’re in deep with the local crime syndicates- I’d be willing to bet Baelish was involved with them one way or another. if we can trace where Dothoryos got the gun, we might be able to find a trail that proves it.”
“I’d be surprised if his tracks weren’t covered there, but it’s worth a try.”
Daemon sighed, deeply, shaking his head.
“We have the bastard in custody, but a hundred more questions than when we began. What the hell do we do now?”
“The only thing we can do.” Oberyn shrugged, clapping his partner on the shoulder as he surveyed the chaos in front of them. “Keep searching for answers.”
Sansa looked up, barely registering the beautiful woman in front of her in the wake of her own exhaustion.
“Sorry-“ the woman apologized, sitting down next to her, “I don’t know if Oberyn mentioned me- I’m Ellaria Sand.”
“His partner.” Sansa nodded, blearily, giving an exhausted smile. “It’s nice to meet you.”
“I wish it was under better circumstances.” The woman admitted, her tone mournful. “How are you holding up?”
“I’m more worried about my brother.” Sansa admitted. “He hasn’t said much to anyone since we came in, and he wouldn’t talk to the officers either.”
“You’ve both had a horrible shock.” Ellaria nodded. “I can’t blame him if he doesn’t want to speak with anyone right now. But how are you doing?”
Sansa blinked, realizing that tears were starting to well up in her eyes again. She frantically blinked them away, trying to refrain from wiping her cheek with the back of her sleeve. Her father- not your father- would have called that bad manners.
“I’m-“ she opened her mouth, but nothing came out, “I- I’m really tired, Ms. Sand.” She blanched. “Or- or Mrs. Martell? I’m sorry- I wasn’t-“
“Ellaria is fine, love.” The woman gave her an understanding smile. “There’s enough that’s confusing right now- let’s not add having to worry about what you call me into the mix.” Sansa nodded, looking at her feet and blushing. “You said you were tired though?”
Sansa realized at that moment, that she would have liked nothing better than to curl up and sleep, right there in the middle of a crowded police station.
“I wanted to call my best friend.” She found herself saying. “But the agents won’t let me talk to anyone yet. Father’s- his arrest hasn’t been made public.” She brought her knees up to her chest, curling in on herself as much as she could. “Our house is a crime scene.” She whispered. “I don’t know where we’re going to go tonight.”
Ellaria gently reached over to smooth Sansa’s hair back in a comforting gesture. Sansa half wanted her to stop- it was such a kind, motherly thing to do, that she felt a fresh wave of tears threaten themselves. The last thing she wanted to do right now, though, was more crying.
“Love, Oberyn called me about that.” She assured Sansa, who was half-shaking with the stress of the day. “You and your brother are going to stay with us for the night if that’s okay. I came to bring you two back to our house.” She looked slightly uncertain. “Is that alright with you?”
Her voice was so earnest and kind that Sansa couldn’t hold back her sobs anymore, and nodded, voice choked up as she thanked the woman through her tears.
“I’m sorry- I don’t mean to burden you-“
“You’re no burden, love.” Ellaria reassured her. The Dornish woman was shorter than Sansa, but the calm in her eyes was infectious, and Sansa felt herself relax, if only marginally. “It’ll be lovely to have some company, and we have plenty of room in the house. Let’s just go and grab your brother, and then we can go back and get you two fed, alright?”
Sansa could only nod, letting herself be led over to Robin, where she did her best to explain to him what was going on. He was silent, but nodded when she asked if he was okay staying with Ellaria, and they managed to get out of the precinct without any major incidents. Robin fell asleep about five minutes into the drive. He’d always been that way- even as a child, Sansa remembered. Motion was soothing to him. She wished it was half as calming for her.
As she stared out the window, watching the lights of the city flicker in the evening fog, Sansa couldn’t even bring herself to wonder what was going to happen next. She didn’t know what would happen to her father next, and she didn’t know how angry Robin would be about it in the morning. She couldn’t muster up the concern for any of it, though. Her father had been arrested, Robin had almost gotten hurt, and Sansa had watched a man die right in front of her- all earlier in the same day. It had been too much.
All Sansa wanted right now was a place to sleep, and the oblivion of her dreams. The next morning would be hell, she was certain, but at least she could have a few undisturbed hours to rest, before the real storm began. She already knew it was going to be rough, and wanted to be as prepared as possible.
Well, as prepared as a person could be, in a situation like this.
She smiled weakly at Ellaria as she helped Robin out of the car, and up the stairs of Oberyn’s townhouse, and when Ellaria showed her to a guest room, she didn’t even wait for dinner before collapsing on the bed and shutting her eyes.
I really didn’t plan for this story to be quite so suspenseful or dramatic- but it kind of demanded to be a crime drama/thriller, and I’ve watched a lot of criminal minds with my sister in the last few days.
I’m not sure what the hardest part of this was- figuring out how the confrontation was going to happen, writing Baelish, or figuring out general Braavosi geography so that the locations made sense. Bless whoever made a map of it for references.
This chapter did NOT want to cooperate with me. I actually moved in the last week, and have been so busy that I haven’t had much time to write, but even then, it was hard to sit down and actually get this part of the story sorted out. I ended up rewriting and scrapping it three separate times. I’m happy with it, though- it came out a lot better than I thought it would. It's considerably longer than intended, but I knew where I wanted to end it, and the middle just got a little unwieldy.
Petyr is in custody! Robin is angry! Sansa is tired, and Ellaria is a freaking godsend. I don’t think Oberyn realized how angry he was going to get in his confrontation with Baelish until he actually had the chance to get in front of him, but he’s going to have to address that with Sansa at some point.
And someone wants Baelish dead- but who? There's a long list of people who dislike Petyr Baelish, and It's going to keep Oberyn and Daemon pretty busy trying to figure out the newest development in the case.
Thank you all so SO much for your kind words and reviews- their encouragement has literally kept me writing this
story, and I'm excited to finish the next chapter.
Up next: Breakfast with Ellaria, Ned & Cat get the news, we see how Robin is handling the situation, and we meet Arya and Gendry for the first time! Sansa deals with the complicated emotions surrounding her situation, and we start to see that the Stark kidnapping may just be the tip of the iceberg in a much larger plot.
Chapter 5: The Morning After
The fallout begins for Sansa, Ned and Cat get a life changing phone call, and Tyrion overhears a strange conversation.
“It is like walking up the stairs to your bedroom in the dark, and thinking there is one more stair than there is. Your foot falls down, through the air, and there is a sickly moment of dark surprise as you try to readjust the way you thought of things.”
― Lemony Snicket, The Reptile Room
Catelyn Stark was used to her husband’s work keeping him up at odd hours. Clients were sometimes in different time zones, and the type of business that Ned Stark ran didn’t always keep a nine-to-five schedule.
What was odd, though, was the way that Ned’s personal cell kept going off in the middle of the night. He’d rolled over several times, smacking it off before going back to sleep- but it wouldn’t stop ringing.
“Just answer it, Ned.” She murmured, turning to face her sleepy, grumpy husband. “It could be important.”
He muttered something unintelligible back at her, but picked up his cell the next time it rang, swinging his legs over the side of their bed to stand up.
“Eddard Stark speaking.” He answered, only a slight lag in his voice to indicate that they’d been asleep mere minutes ago. He nodded, then jerked awake. “Oberyn?” he asked, his tone incredulous. “Is everything alright? Did something happen to Arya?”
Catelyn sat up at that, nervously looking to her husband. His face was inscrutable, but her relaxed a fraction, so she could likely assume that Arya was fine.
“Good news?” Ned asked, wearily, raising his eyebrows as he met Catelyn’s eyes across their room. “What do you mean?”
Catelyn didn’t know what Agent Martell had just said to her husband, but the blood drained out of his face so suddenly that, if she hadn’t witnessed it for herself, she’d call such a thing impossible. Suddenly, he looked furious.
“Oberyn I swear by the old gods and the new-“ Ned growled, before falling silent again, “It’s not a question of your ability-“ he abruptly stopped talking, and Catelyn got up out of bed, throwing on her bathrobe quickly to go to his side. He looked like he was trying desperately to restrain his emotions, and that couldn’t be good.
“Is everything alright?” she quickly asked, placing a gentle hand on her husband’s arm. When she looked up at him, Ned Stark’s eyes were glassy with tears, and a strange sense of foreboding filled Catelyn’s stomach.
It couldn’t be- but they had never found a body. They had never stopped looking, but there was a part of Catelyn that didn’t want her daughter to be found if all they were going to bring home was bones. Was that- was that what Oberyn was calling Ned about? Or was it a break in Lysa’s case?
She felt her chest tighten, seizing as the implications washed over her. Had they found Sansa?
“You’re sending a picture?” she heard Ned choke out, and her head snapped back up to his face. Her thoughts were racing frantically, and she could hear her own breathing speed up.
“Ned-“ she managed to get out, placing a hand on his face to turn it towards her, “Ned, please-“
“Alright.” She heard Ned say to Oberyn, his voice weak. “I’ll talk to Cat. When should we expect to hear back from you?” he nodded to an answer that Catelyn hadn’t heard, and she felt his shoulders slump. “Please do. And Oberyn-“ he paused, looking down at Catelyn with a hope in his eyes that immediately put her on high alert, “Thank you.”
The gratitude in his voice was palpable, and he dropped the phone away from his ear, locking eyes with Catelyn, who was trembling in anticipation- whether in dread or hope, even she wasn’t entirely sure.
“What was it?” she immediately asked. “Ned-“
“They found her.” Ned looked at her as though he had never seen her before. “Cat- they found Sansa.”
Catelyn’s stomach dropped.
“They found a body?” She managed to choke out, shaking so badly that she couldn’t maintain eye contact with her husband.
“No!” Ned rushed to correct, cradling her face in his hands. “No- Cat-“ a smile began blooming on his face, and it was the most beautiful and most terrifying thing that she had ever seen, “She’s alive. Sansa- our daughter- she’s alive.”
“How do you know?” Catelyn managed to say, tears threatening to choke her vision. “How does Oberyn know? Is he certain?”
Her last sentence was tinged with hysteria as she felt tears running down her face. There had to be a catch. It couldn’t be real.
“Oberyn ran her DNA.” Ned told her, his own tears catching in his dark beard as they ran freely down his face. “He waited for the results to call us. It’s really her- she’s in Braavos.”
“I don’t know.” Ned rushed, pulling her into his chest. Both of them were shaking, and she could feel his erratic pulse. “I don’t know, Cat. Oberyn’s sending- he said he would send a picture-“
Catelyn hiccuped, laughing as she cried.
“When?” she managed to ask, pulling back to look at him again. They were both grinning like schoolchildren now, and Ned kept his hand steady on her waist. Catelyn was glad for it- she wasn’t sure her legs wouldn’t give out from under her if he let go.
“He said as soon as he could.” Ned whispered, guiding her over to sit down on the edge of their bed. She leaned over to rest her head against his chest, her heart fluttering with hope and anticipation and the horrible, horrible fear that this would all turn out to be yet another dead end- another false lead.
But Ned said they have DNA. She thought, firmly. Oberyn wouldn’t lie to us.
Ned’s phone dinged, and Catelyn shot up so fast that she almost slammed her forehead into his chin.
“Is- is that-“ she couldn’t even bring herself to finish her question, her voice was shaking so hard.
Ned opened the text message- it took him three tries to unlock his phone, and Catelyn couldn’t blame him. His hands were trembling so violently that he clicked the wrong message first, bringing up an earlier text from Rickon before he managed to open up what Oberyn had sent.
“Oh my god.” Catelyn sobbed, putting a hand over her mouth. “Oh my god, Ned.”
Ned didn’t say anything, but his breath was hitching as he looked at the smiling girl in the photo- it was a school ID photo for Braavos Central- her daughter was a student at Arya’s school- and Sansa’s red hair was long and gently curled, her eyes sparkling even in the low quality photo. Catelyn tore her eyes away from Sansa’s photo to Ned, whose uneven breathing culminated in a watery sob, a smile on her husband’s face as he broke down and cried, letting Catelyn wrap her arms around him as he shuddered.
If they stayed wrapped in each other’s arms for the next forty minutes, waiting desperately by the phone for Oberyn to call them back with more information, that was between the two of them, and only them.
Getting off the phone for the second time with Ned and Catelyn Stark, after making plans to get them to Braavos as quickly as possible, Oberyn Martell felt like he had never been more exhausted in his life. He could only ever remember being this tired after his father’s funeral as a child, standing next to a stoic Doran and crying Elia at the gravesite while his mother kissed his father’s casket one last time.
Sansa was likely experiencing some similar emotions, he reflected, thinking about how pale and silent she had been on the drive from the airport. Baelish had been her abductor, but also her parent, and Oberyn knew only too well what it was like to lose a father- much as he hated to think of Baelish that way.
Ellaria had picked up Sansa and Robin from the station last night- it was close to nine o’clock in the morning now- and he hoped that both Sansa and her brother had managed some sleep. Oberyn had woken up Ned and Catelyn- it just about three in the morning in Winterfell, and he wondered whether they had woken Bran and Rickon to give them the news.
Oberyn was ready to pass out on the couch in his office for a few hours, but had one more phone call to make before he could get the three hours of sleep he’d been denied the night before. It certainly wasn’t one he was looking forward to. The deputy director of the WBI had been skeptical of Oberyn’s theory at best, and openly disdainful at worst.
Oberyn was trying to stay professional about it- it was a very personal case for the old man, and when Oberyn had suggested that the Stark and Arryn cases were connected, the insinuation that Lysa Arryn may have been culpable in her son’s disappearance hadn’t sat well with the old grump. He unlocked his phone, thumb hovering over his keypad before he finally groaned, dialing the number.
“Martell, it is four o’clock in the goddamn morning-“ the Blackfish’s irritated voice came through his phone, “You had better have a good fucking reason to be calling at this obscene hour.”
“I found Sansa.” Oberyn told him, deciding to eschew formality. “DNA confirms it. She’s alive, and in Braavos- I got off the phone with Ned and Catelyn just a few minutes ago.”
There was a beat of silence over the line.
“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.”
Sansa awoke before anyone in the townhouse, quickly showering and changing her clothes so she could run across town and take her history exam. She had promised to meet Mya on campus half an hour before their exam- she still didn’t know if Oberyn would allow her to say anything to her best friend, but it wasn’t something she could keep from Mya much longer.
She couldn’t bring herself to care about last minute studying for the exam, instead, pulling her sketchbook out of her bag along with a few pencils. Sansa hadn’t had a chance to go back and get the rest of her things, but she almost never went anywhere without a sketchbook, and it was absurdly comforting to sit in the kitchen and just sketch as the rest of the house seemed to wake up.
She was in the middle of doing a few studies of her hands- quick contour drawings that she could distract herself with- when Ellaria came into the kitchen, a fluffy robe wrapped around her. She was lovely, even with sleep mussed hair, and Sansa suddenly felt extremely self-conscious.
“Good morning.” Ellaria greeted, kindly, a tired smile gracing her features. “How did you sleep?”
“Well, thank you.” Sansa lied. “I’m sorry I wasn’t very good company last night.”
Ellaria raised a brow.
“I would hardly expect you to be, after the day you had.” She reminded Sansa, gently. “Besides, your body needed sleep, clearly.” She chuckled. “Oberyn hasn’t even made it back yet- but I trust Daemon to shove him into a cab and send him back when he hasn’t slept in more than 48 hours.”
Sansa managed a small smile. Ellaria was kinder than she deserved- especially considering that Sansa still didn’t feel like she could string a sentence together.
“He’s very devoted to his job.” She commented.
“That’s a polite way of saying it. I wish all my children were so tactful.” She smiled. “Can I offer you something more than water? Oberyn mentioned you were a tea drinker.”
“He did?” Sansa asked, startled.
“He’s good about small things like that.” Ellaria smiled. “It’s a good trait in a person, especially if they work as much as Oberyn does. I know he’s always going to make an effort, even if he’s busy at the bureau, to remember the small things for me, and for our daughters. You might meet a few of them if they can get out of bed.” She chuckled. “What are you in the mood for, breakfast-wise?”
“Whatever’s convenient.” Sansa gave a tight smile. “Really, please don’t go to any trouble-“
“It’s no trouble, really, Sansa.” Ellaria promised, meeting her eyes. Sansa looked down, sheepish. “I was going to make myself an omelet- would you like one?”
“That sounds fantastic.” Sansa answered, weakly. “I don’t know if Robin is going to make it down before I have to leave, but he has a dairy allergy, and might be a bit picky, so I can put together something he can grab.”
“Obella’s going through a vegetarian phase.” Ellaria told her, smiling. “it’s gotten a bit more vegan than Oberyn and I like, so she doesn’t like having dairy with her breakfast either- it won’t be a problem to put together something that Robin can eat.” She frowned. “You have to leave?”
“I have an exam at 11:00.” Sansa admitted, glancing up at the clock. Still not quite seven yet. “I don’t think we can expect Robin to go to school today, so he might still be asleep when I leave.”
“Teenagers are like that.” Ellaria nodded, clear amusement in her eyes as she set a mug of tea down in front of Sansa.
“Sansa, I would never ask you to do anything while you’re here- you’re our guest, after all-“ she smirked, “-but I might just kiss you if you manage to get Dorea to pick up some of your manners.”
Sansa gave her a tired smile.
“Are you sure you’re up to take an exam, though?” Ellaria asked, looking concerned. “I’m sure Oberyn could write you an excuse note if you needed.”
“I’d rather just get it over with.” Sansa admitted. “My best friend is in the same class- I said I’d meet her a few minutes before the exam so we could catch up.”
“Alright.” Ellaria conceded, concern clear in her eyes. “I’ll let Oberyn know- he’ll probably call you to set up a time for you and Robin to come in and start giving statements, but I’m sure it can be put off until tomorrow if you have too much going on.” Her voice very much suggested that she would dig her heels in and refuse to let Oberyn so much as ask Sansa a single question if she wasn’t completely ready for it. Sansa gave her a grateful smile.
“Thank you.” She managed to tell the woman, emotion clouding her voice. “Just- thank you for letting us stay here.”
“It’s your home for as long as you need it, honey.” Ellaria reassured, her dark eyes gentle. “Just make sure you keep taking care of you.”
Mya took one look at her and instantly enveloped Sansa in a massive hug when they met on campus. Sansa sniffled, trying not to cry as she buried her face in her best friend’s dark hair.
“Okay-“ Mya mumbled, “You’ve gotta tell me what’s up with you, San. You’ve been a wreck all week, you didn’t text me back for like, five hours yesterday, and you look like you didn’t sleep at all last night. What’s going on?” she pulled back, her expression so concerned that Sansa nearly burst into tears right there. “Robin’s okay, right?”
“He’s fine.” Sansa mumbled, looking at her feet.
“Then what’s going on?” Mya asked, her face confused. “Is it that thing with your dad? You mentioned the other day-“
“Just a sec-“ Sansa muttered, glancing quickly around, only to see a few girls from one of her pattern drafting courses walking towards them. Sansa gives a plastic smile and wave when one of them grins at her, before moving over towards an alcove in between buildings. It’s shady and quiet, and there’s a single small bench that she sits down on, her shaking legs glad for the respite.
Mya, of course, has quietly followed her, and gingerly sits next to Sansa on the bench. Sansa leans over, letting her long, loose hair fall to cover her face as she takes a deep breath.
“I didn’t realize how long your hair had gotten.” Mya observes, playfully flicking a lock of it as Sansa huffs. “You usually have it in all those braids and twists.”
Mya’s words are a small respite from her anxiety, and Sansa appreciates it. Her best friend has always had a knack for reading Sansa that no one else had really had. Not Robin, not Myranda, and not her father- not Petyr. Mya knows to give Sansa time to articulate her feelings before barraging her with questions. And isn’t it strange to think about- that the girl sitting next to her knows more about her than a man whose every action had been taken to control Sansa and her life since she was a child.
Sansa knows she shouldn’t go down this path- shouldn’t start thinking about her father- Petyr- whoever the hell he was, but she doesn’t know whether she’s angry or confused, and the whole thing feels like mourning- but with considerably more resentment involved.
For a moment, she’s very vividly reminded of how she felt when Lysa died, but even now it’s far easier to detach herself from the woman who claimed to be her mother than from the man who had pretended to be her father. Sansa doesn’t want to think about what kind of a person that makes her.
“I was too tired for any of them this morning.” She manages to admit, looking up to meet Mya’s concerned eyes. Sansa had always loved her best friend’s eyes- envied the bright, electric blue that riveted people in place when she spoke. Sansa’s eyes were a more subtle shade of blue, toned down and placid.
Petyr had green eyes. She suddenly remembered, feeling sick to her stomach.
“That’s not like you.” Mya gently observes, giving Sansa the space to take a breath and relax. Mya wasn’t going to run. She wasn’t going to tell anyone, and she would wait for information if Sansa asked her to be patient, but Sansa desperately needs to tell somebody, and the words are spilling out of her mouth before she can stop herself.
“They arrested my father.” She confesses.
Mya’s eyes bulge out of her head, near comically, and she actually chokes on the sip of coffee she’s taken. Sansa almost laughs at the picture her friend makes, sputtering and trying to blot coffee off of her shirt before their exam. Her face smooths out though, and there’s nothing but understanding in her eyes, even as Sansa can tell she’s pushing down on her innate curiosity.
“Are you alright?” she asks, softly, as Sansa desperately tries not to let her own tears fall.
“I don’t know.” Her voice is barely a whisper, but Mya hears her well enough.
“Where are you and Robin staying?” she asks, putting a comforting hand on Sansa’s shoulder. “Do you need a place to crash? I’ve still got that spare room-“
“No-“ Sansa sniffled, wiping her eyes. “We’re staying with an agent’s family right now- thanks though.” She gave Mya a watery smile. “I think- I mean- it’s kind of a complicated situation and I can’t really move Robin- and there’s-“
“Whoa-“ Mya held her hands up, interrupting Sansa’s breathless tirade, “-Relax, San.”
Sansa took a bracing breath.
“Sorry.” She muttered, tucking her hair behind her ears.
“Nothing to be sorry for.” Mya reassured her, looking a bit hesitant. “So wait- everything you said the other day about your dad being accused of-“
“I can’t tell you yet.” Sansa managed to get out, biting her lip. When she looked up at Mya, her friend seemed to have deflated slightly- her smile just a bit too fixed. “No- it’s not like that, Mya- I promise.”
“No- it’s okay.” Mya reassured her, giving her a small smile. “Sorry. You know how I’m nosy sometimes. I don’t want to stress you out-“
“You’re the opposite of stressful.” Sansa promised, meaning every word. “And I want to tell you what’s going on- really, I do. I just-“ she shook her head, pressing her lips together, “What’s your schedule look like later tonight? Can you come over to Western Bay?” She hoped Ellaria wouldn’t mind. Sansa wasn’t willing to have this conversation anywhere near a public space.
Mya’s eyebrows raised.
“You’re staying there? Damn.”
“It’s impossibly nice.” Sansa shook her head, thinking of the roomy townhouse. “Like you wouldn’t believe. You’ve got to see it for yourself.” She managed a grin, which Mya slowly matched. “It’s not that I don’t want to talk to you about it- I just-“ she groaned, letting herself slump, “Trust me when I tell you that we can’t let any of this be overheard.”
“Okay. You got it. But you’re gonna have to come with me- I don’t know how to get around that fancy neighborhood.”
“Me neither.” Sansa confessed, giving a nervous giggle. Mya laughed right back, and just then, it felt like things might be okay.
Even if she was about to fail her history exam.
Later, at the police station, after hours of questioning by Braavosi detectives who seemed to believe that Sansa knew more than she was telling them, she was starting to suspect she had jixed herself simply by thinking that any of this was going to be easy. Oberyn had arrived midway through Detective Valman berating her about her father’s apparently questionable tax returns and asked to speak with him outside in the most dangerous tone Sansa had ever heard.
She felt bad for the Detective- he was probably under a good deal of stress from his superiors, and she couldn’t help feeling guilty at her near palpable relief when Oberyn had him removed from the room. She could vaguely hear Oberyn arguing with the man from a nearby interrogation room but was more concerned with her brother at the moment, who was refusing to speak with any of the detectives.
Agent Sand was hovering at the edges of their conversation, and Sansa felt horribly guilty that the man- who had been nothing but kind to her and Robin- had become the misplaced target for Robin’s frustration.
“Come on, Sweetrobin-“ Sansa coaxed, her own voice cracked and exhausted.
“Don’t call me that!” he snapped, shaking her hand off of his arm. Sansa flinched back.
“I’m sorry, Robin.” She said, softly. “I don’t really understand everything right now-“
“They arrested father!” Robin cried, turning to look at her, and there was such confusion and worry in his eyes that Sansa almost cried. She had been afraid of this- afraid that Robin would crumble with their father’s arrest. “And you haven’t done anything to help him!”
“I talked to Agent Martell a bit earlier.” Sansa told him, sadly. “They won’t let either of us see him right now- but he said soon.” She ran a gentle hand through Robin’s hair, and was relieved when he didn’t shrug her off. “Agent Sand wanted to get a DNA sample from you- have you gone with them yet for that?”
“No!” Robin protested, hotly. “I don’t see why I should.”
“They arrested father!” Robin shouted, drawing sympathetic gazes from all over the police station. Sansa winced. “They shot Arlan! I don’t want anything to do with them!” His voice broke, and Sansa reached over to hug him as she saw tears in his eyes. He pushed her away as a sob escaped his throat, and Sansa’s heart broke for him. “I don’t understand.” He whispered, angrily scrubbing the tears from his face.
“They think that father did some terrible things.” Sansa told him, as gently as she could. “I don’t know the whole truth just yet-“
“Well of course he didn’t!” Robin exclaimed, looking hopeful again. “Sansa, you don’t believe any of that, do you?”
Sansa wanted to fold in on herself. Nothing in the world could have prepared her for this.
“I’m confused.” She admitted. That much was truth. “Robin- you need to consider the possibility that father may be guilty.”
The betrayal on her little brother’s face was clear, quickly twisting into a wicked anger that Sansa did not like.
“How could you think father would do- do anything like they said?” he sputtered, recoiling from her.
“Robin, you don’t even know what they’re accusing father of-“
“He’s our father!” Robin snapped. “What more reason do I need?”
Sansa didn’t know what to say to him.
“You need to listen to the detectives and give them the sample they asked for.” She told him, tiredly. “Robin, you know as well as I do that father can take care of himself. I promise you, I don’t want anything to happen to him-“
“Liar.” Robin spat, crossing his arms like a child. “I don’t believe you. You wanted father gone because he wouldn’t let you take your trip to Volantis alone! And I’m not giving them anything!”
Sansa blinked at him, willing her tears not to fall.
“It doesn’t matter what you think of me.” She told him her voice an exhausted shadow of what it normally was. “They have a warrant to compel your DNA Robin. You can give it to them, or they will take it by force.” She blinked rapidly, standing up. “I’m- I’m going to get something to drink. Agent Sand is going to take you back so that one of their technicians can take a sample from you. If you fight them on this Robin, they can arrest you- do you understand?” she met his eyes, sullen and angry, but hurting bitterly, she knew. He didn’t mean to hurt her- he was just in far more pain than any teenager should have to shoulder. She didn’t know if the Braavosi police would really pursue an obstruction of justice charge against a fourteen-year-old, but she was too exhausted to even risk the possibility right now.
“Listen to me-“ she carefully took his chin, tilting it towards her, and was gratified when he didn’t pull away, “You cannot do anything to help father if you’re in a cell yourself- do you understand?”
After a beat, he nodded, looking down with clenched fists. Sansa leaned forward to gently kiss his forehead, nodding at Daemon Sand, who gestured for her brother to follow him. Sansa watched them leave and willed her knees to keep her standing.
She had forsaken the man who raised them- Robin hadn’t been wrong about that. It was a grim thought, and Sansa felt her stomach twist. He had betrayed her- lied to both of them and stolen her from the life that she should have had. He had probably killed men in the process- he was dangerous, and she didn’t belong with him.
So why did she feel as though she was the one who had done something wrong?
Sansa perched on the couch in Oberyn’s office after her very public argument with Robin, gingerly wiping her eyes. She had been doing alright this morning when it was just her and Mya, but everything felt like too much right now. To have Robin angry at her was almost more than she knew how to handle, and she desperately tried to hide her splotched face when Oberyn knocked gently at the door, pushing it open with a sympathetic smile.
“How are you holding up?”
“I’m fine.” Sansa sniffed, trying to return his smile and failing dismally. He came over to join her on the couch, resting his elbows on his knees.
“I spoke to your parents.” Oberyn told her, gently. “To Ned and Catelyn Stark.”
“I have parents.” Sansa muttered, still somewhat dazed. “I suppose so.”
“They’re taking the next flight out to meet you. They’ll be here on Saturday.”
Sansa pressed her lips together to quell the rise of all the strange emotions that threatened to spill out.
“It’s really real, then?” she whispered, another tear leaking from her eye.
“I’m sorry.” Oberyn told her, placing a comforting hand on her shoulder. “I wish it didn’t have to be so hard for you.”
“I don’t know what to say to them.” Sansa shook her head, in dawning horror. This was an avenue she hadn’t considered yet. “I have no idea- I don’t- I’m not- what if I’m not good enough for them?”
“Oh sweet girl-“ Oberyn told her, a sad smile on his face, “You don’t have to be anything but you. That’s all you really need here- Ned and Catelyn are going to be overjoyed to see you after all these years.”
“But- I’m-“ Sansa shook her head, squeezing her eyes shut, “I’m not- Robin’s already so furious with me, and I just- I’m going to make a mess of it, I just know-“
“Sansa.” Oberyn’s voice was stern, and it snapped her out of her head enough to look up at him. “Listen to me. Everything you are? Everything that’s made you into the wonderful girl I met in the coffee shop? The Starks are going to see that, and see you, and love you for it. Everything that you’ve become- it’s going to be enough, Sansa.”
Sansa found herself nodding, sniffling as she tried to discreetly wipe her tears.
“Would it help to know a bit about them?” Oberyn asked, gently. “I’ve gotten to know them quite well over the years, and my sister lives near them, along with my niece and nephews.”
“M-Maybe.” Sansa stuttered, taking a stabilizing breath. “I don’t- I looked them up. Online- that is. I just- I saw the news articles, but I don’t- I don’t even know what their voices sound like.”
It was true. She didn’t remember what they had said, or how they had sounded when saying it. The image of Catelyn Stark, collapsing in a fit of grief- her high, keening wail at the press conference- still haunted Sansa’s dreams, though.
She wanted to call Mya now- the childish part of her didn’t want to wait until later. She wanted to rant and cry and scream to her best friend, but the police still hadn’t released the information to the press yet, and the bureau hadn’t wanted leaks. So Sansa was stuck here, in this dingy, crowded station, surrounded by pitying looks, overzealous detectives, and an angry brother.
Oberyn wasn’t too bad though- although she couldn’t seem to erase the image of his fury from her mind. The look of sheer poison that he had directed at her fath- at Petyr- had terrified her. He looked so earnest now, though, and really had been very kind to her, but there was a small part of her that was still hesitant to fully put her faith in a man who had drawn a gun on Petyr.
“What do you want to know?” he asked, gently, ripping her away from the overwhelming thoughts that had been gathering. She was being silly. Oberyn Martell had saved her brother’s life in that hangar. He had never done anything to make her think that she couldn’t trust him- she just needed to give him the benefit of the doubt.
“Anything.” She told him. “Everything. Who- who are they? As people, I mean.”
Oberyn grinned, and settled into the couch further.
“That, I can help you with.”
“And what about Robin’s father?” she asked, softly, after he had spent almost an hour answering her questions about the Starks. There were so many of them, apparently. Sansa didn’t know how she was going to keep up. “Jon Arryn?”
“I’m planning to call him later today.” Oberyn reassured her. “We just need to let the lab finish running Robin’s DNA to ensure a match.” Sansa must have looked confused, because he hastily continued. “We have to be careful in cases like this- if I were to alert Jon Arryn before we have a confirmation, it could get us in some trouble in court, later.”
“Court.” Sansa repeated, her head spinning. It made sense, but for some reason, she hadn’t thought about a trial yet.
“One of my nephews- Jon- is finishing up with law school at the moment.” Oberyn chuckled. “You’ll likely meet him at some point- they’re very close to the Stark family, and he’s good at translating legal jargon into language that everyone can understand. He should be able to help you out there.” Sansa nodded, absently. She couldn’t think about all that now, or she would falter.
“There’s going to be a trial, then.” Sansa murmured, looking down at her feet. “That’s…”
She trailed off, helplessly.
“We’ll take it one step at a time.” Oberyn reassured. “No need to worry about that yet. Let’s start with small steps.”
“Like what?” Sansa asked, looking up to meet his eyes again.
“You have a younger sister.” Oberyn reminded her. He had told her this already, but the news was still dizzyingly new to Sansa.
“I always wanted a sister.” She managed to answer, absently.
“Would you like to meet her?” Oberyn asked, his voice quiet. Sansa’s head snapped up to him in shock.
“She’s a student at Braavos Central.” Oberyn told her, giving her a crooked grin. “You may have even seen her on campus before.”
If Sansa got another surprise like this, there was a good chance she was actually going to have an aneurysm. At the very least, the way she was gaping like a fish at Oberyn was exceedingly embarrassing.
Arya was definitely not holding hands with her boyfriend as they walked down near the wharf after her last final exam, enjoying the late afternoon sun. They definitely weren’t quietly enjoying each other’s company either, because that would have been far too cliché and sappy for either of them. Gendry grinned down at her as they watched a kid run away from his mom, screeching something about ice cream.
“I could use some ice cream myself.” He commented. “Wanna find a place?”
“You’re gonna have all your teeth rot and fall out of your mouth before you’re thirty if you keep eating sugar like this.” Arya retorted, glancing out towards the black and white checked speedboats that were filling the harbor. Police vessels, even if none of them were flashing their lights at the moment.
There had been some sort of disturbance near the airport the day before yesterday- she’d gotten an alert on her phone, although it hadn’t been specific at all- and there were more police boats in the harbor now than she’d ever seen before. Arya watched one of them pull into a dock, several officers talking quietly to each other in tones she wished she could overhear.
“Yeah, but then you’d have to spoon feed me every meal.” Gendry smirked. “It’d be romantic.”
“I’ll show you romantic you jerk-“
Her phone began buzzing, and she glanced at the caller ID.
“Ugh, sorry- Uncle Oberyn will call eight more times if I don’t answer.” She groaned.
Gendry smirked and poked her side as she glared at him.
“Are you done with exams for the day?”
“Have been for a while now, and yes, I’m having a lovely afternoon and doing great, thanks for asking.”
“Sorry kiddo.” Arya frowned. There was very little bite to Oberyn’s tone at all- which was unusual- but he did sound energized somehow. “Got bigger fish to fry at the moment. Where are you?”
“Down by the wharf with a friend. Why?” Gendry made a face when she said ‘friend’, and she flicked him on the nose.
“I need to send a boat for you- I need you down at the police station.”
“What?” Arya almost physically recoiled. “Why? Is everything okay? Did something happen to Ned Dayne? My family?”
“They’re all perfectly fine-“ Oberyn assured her, “but this is going to come as a bit of a surprise. We caught a break in a big case a couple weeks ago, and made an arrest the other day- a big one.”
“Who?” Arya asked, frowning. “Does this have anything to do with that thing at the airport?”
“Can’t say about the airport thing.” Oberyn told her, sounding excited. “We brought in Petyr Baelish.”
Arya’s eyes widened.
“Mum’s old friend, Petyr Baelish? The creepy one?”
“Keep your voice down kiddo- it’s not public knowledge yet.”
“Fine, fine-“ Arya muttered, impatiently, “What did he do, then?”
“What hasn’t he done?” Oberyn muttered darkly. “But if you want specifics, you need to know that the two cases he’s been arrested in connection with are the disappearances of Lysa and Robert Arryn, and the Stark kidnapping.”
Arya inhaled sharply, tugging Gendry with her into a quieter alley, where there were far fewer ears to overhear her.
“Uncle Oberyn-“ she began voice only shaking slightly, “Did you find bodies? Is that why you’re calling?” Gendry’s eyebrows shot up into his forehead, and he put an arm around her shoulder, tucking her into his side. Arya would never admit it, but she liked how he was big enough for her to melt into, if she wanted. She rested her head against his chest, anxiety welling up inside of her.
“No.” he assured her, and Arya let out a sigh of relief. “Better, kiddo. I found them.”
“Your sister and Robert are alive.” Oberyn breathed, voice singing in anticipation. “They’re at the station right now- they were a little shaken up the other day, but they’re fine.”
Arya’s jaw had dropped, and she was sure she looked like a massive idiot, but couldn’t bring herself to care at that moment.
“You’re fucking kidding me- I swear to god, Oberyn Martell- I will sic Aunt Elia on you-“
“I’m not kidding.” Arya immediately shut her mouth. It was more serious than she had ever heard him sound. “Arya, she’s here. Sansa is here, right now, and we’ve run the DNA- it’s her and she’s alive.”
He sounded so overjoyed that Arya wished she knew what to say, but her mouth didn’t seem to be working.
“You want me to come to the station?” she finally managed to get out. “You mean like, to meet her?”
“I’ll send a ride for you if you give me your location.”
Arya rattled off the address, and then hesitated, looking up at Gendry.
“We’re keeping silent on the arrest so far-“ Oberyn told her, “complete media blackout, and I know it’s going to be difficult, but you can’t say anything to anyone yet, understand?”
Arya didn’t answer, still slightly stunned.
“Sorry Oberyn- don’t get your panties in a twist. I’m not gonna say anything.” She scoffed, sticking her nose in the air. “I’m not Robb or Egg, for fuck’s sake.”
“And thank goodness for it- although if you keep using that sort of language like they do, Catelyn Stark may blame me for it, and I don’t want to be on the receiving end of your mother’s wrath, so cut down on it a bit, kiddo. Boat’s gonna be there in ten- they’ll drop you at the station and we’ll go from there.”
“Yeah, okay.” Arya agreed, a bit numbly. “Sure. Bye.”
She didn’t say anything for a good few minutes, and Gendry rested his chin on her head.
“Everything okay?” he asked, pulling back and looking so genuinely concerned for her that Arya wanted to smack him. And then maybe kiss him. She was a bit jumpy, emotionally, and wanted to say something, even though Oberyn was insisting on absolute secrecy.
She looked up into his face, radiating sincerity and concern in his electric-blue eyes.
Arya made a decision.
“It’s perfectly okay.” She said, feeling a nervous grin grow on her face. Oberyn was going to be pissed off, but that wasn’t exactly new, and Arya could care less. “Actually, better, maybe. My sister- Sansa- Sansa Stark- she’s alive, and Gen- she’s here.”
“We got ballistics back on the sniper’s weapon.” Daemon announces, tossing a folder onto Oberyn’s desk almost as soon as he ends his call with Arya. “And it’s a doozy.”
“A .22 caliber Scorpion automatic?” Oberyn frowned, reading the investigator’s conclusion. “That’s not a common weapon at all. I thought they stopped making those years ago?”
“They’re still manufactured in a few places, surprisingly.” Daemon tells him. “The Ibben military issues them to snipers, and they’re available in certain regions of Sothoryos. Most concerning though-“ he pointed to a note on the file, “They’re standard issue for a certain parts of the Westerosi Marine Forces-“
“Shit.” Oberyn swore. “That can’t be good. You have an agent running down who in Westeros has access to them, then?” Daemon nodded.
“It’s only a few units, and they’re only issued to snipers, so we’ll be able to get a list pretty quickly.” He responded, pulling up another window. “One of our tech analysts is looking into it, but we’ll need access to General Selmy if we want the full list without any redactions. Can you put in a request with the Deputy Director?” Daemon asked, looking up, tiredly. “Tully knows the General personally, and I don’t want to have to file a formal injunction to get the information if that’s what it comes down to.”
“They’ll stonewall us if we aren’t careful.” Oberyn agreed “The politics of the situation have the potential to get messy, but finding his grand-niece and nephew seems to have netted me some credit with the Blackfish. I’ll talk to him about it.”
Daemon nodded in relief.
“I think it’s worth running down the other possibilities here, though.” He told Oberyn. “Baelish has a lot of enemies- we can’t rule out someone who got their hands on that particular rifle illegally.”
“How easy are they to get ahold of on the black market?”
“I’ve got another analyst tracking that down.” Daemon assured him. “Ballistics think the gun was modified- it ripped through Dothoryos’ skull with way more force than you’d expect from a typical Scorpion make- usually, you don’t see exit wounds quite that large with them.”
“We’re definitely dealing with a professional, then.” Oberyn muttered, staring at the picture of the bullet they’d had to pry out of the tarmac. He’d figured, but a modification of an already complex weapon was all but confirmation of a professional hit. “Someone with the means to get ahold of a relatively regulated piece of equipment, and the know-how to make it even more deadly.”
“No luck on tracing Dothoryos’ gun yet- serial number was filed off, so he was probably involved in a local syndicate. The chief of police sent a few of his own officers to follow that particular lead, but they haven’t made much progress yet. It might give us more insight into Baelish’s criminal record, but I would doubt that we’re going to find our sniper that way. If he’s a professional, and not a gang member, that certainly complicates things.”
“No shit.” Oberyn snorted. “A contracted kill increases our suspect pool exponentially. Figuring out who hired the gunman, as opposed to simply finding the bastard himself.”
“I knew that nothing about this case was going to be easy when I was assigned to work with you.” Daemon shrugged. Oberyn chuckled.
“You’re not wrong, there.” He told the younger man, still reading through the report. “I heard from Arianne this morning- she says hello.”
Daemon’s face was suddenly bright red, and Oberyn gave him a gleeful grin.
“That’s nice of her.”
“We’ll be back in Westeros soon enough-“ Oberyn pointed out, “You two could give it a try again.”
“She broke up with me over more than just distance.” Daemon muttered, decidedly not looking at Oberyn. “Besides, if she wants to talk to me, that’s her call. She was pretty clear about not wanting to hear from me the last time we spoke.”
He blushes again, and Oberyn throws his head back and laughs.
“What do you mean, you handled it?”
Tyrion froze as he stepped off the elevator at Lannister Enterprises. He was supposed to be meeting Jaime for lunch, but his brother was late, and neither he nor Cersei were answering their phones.
“I told you, father, I-“
Well that explained where Cersei was. Odd though- usually, when you couldn’t get in touch with Jaime, it meant he was with their sister.
“What you’ve just told me-“ their father hissed, “-is not information that we should be discussing here.”
“I said later Cersei!” Tywin Lannister hissed, as Tyrion walked through his office door. He turned his gaze to his youngest son, and Tyrion’s eyes widened ever so slightly. It had been a long time since he had seen their father this angry- there was a visible vein in his neck, and his green eyes were blazing. “What do you want?” he snapped, looking down at Tyrion.
“Lovely to see you as well, father.” He responded, raising his eyebrows. “Charming, as usual, Cersei.” She simply sneered at him, crossing her arms. “I’m looking for Jaime- he was supposed to meet me for lunch.”
“He’s taking Tommen to a doctor’s appointment.” Cersei snapped.
“Last minute, then, I presume.” Tyrion sighed, glancing down at his watch. “Very well then, do me a favor and let him know he needs to stop screening his calls when you reach him then.”
There was an awkward beat of silence before Tywin Lannister sighed.
“Leave.” He commanded. “Both of you.”
“We haven’t finished our conversation.” Cersei replied, mulishly.
“As far as I am concerned, it is over.” Tywin snapped, turning his fearsome gaze on his daughter. Tyrion snickered as she winced. “I have several meetings this afternoon- all of which are more important than whatever problems my adult children are experiencing-“ he spat, “and I need to discuss a few of our Northern investments with Roose Bolton before my own lunch hour is over. Out! Both of you!”
Tyrion frowned as he turned to leave, a sneering Cersei at his heels. There had been a split second when he mentioned Roose Bolton that Tywin Lannister had looked at Cersei with the sort of abject hatred and fury he typically reserved for his youngest son. Cersei’s marriage to King Robert Baratheon had paved the way for Tywin to nurture several incredibly lucrative business relationships, and Tywin typically allowed many of his daughter’s more foolish actions to slide in ways that he would never dream of granting Tyrion.
He wondered what on earth Cersei could have done to invoke their father’s wrath like that.
“After you, your highness.” He gave a mock bow as the elevator doors opened.
“Freak.” Cersei spat, storming past him to slam on the elevator buttons.
What indeed? Tyrion mused, smirking at the way Cersei’s anger aged her about ten years.
The good news here is that part of the reason this chapter took so long to get out was that I kept getting distracted by writing the next chapter. So that update will be much quicker than a two-week turnaround. Sorry about that, folks. Life happens, and it decided to throw massive selective writer’s block my way the past two weeks.
But here it is!! And I hope you all enjoy this latest update, because I’m enjoying writing it. We have Ned and Cat! And Oberyn calling the Blackfish! (who is the deputy director of the WBI- everything is largely based on U.S. law enforcement). Sansa is still trying to figure things out, Ellaria is lovely, Mya is a REALLY good friend and will continue to be, Robin is struggling (but he’s being a brat in a very sympathetic way don’t worry he’ll get better), and Arya and Gendry finally show up! I hope I do them justice- I think they’re adorable.
I love writing Oberyn and Sansa’s dynamic, and we get some hints about Jon in this chapter. He is ACTUALLY in the next chapter, and will feature heavily in the one after that, so again, apologies for all the exposition. I accidentally ended up with a pretty big ensemble cast and they’re all demanding plot.
Next time, we’ll see Oberyn questioning Sansa about Baelish a bit more, Sansa’s going to start really seeing some of the inconsistencies in her relationship with Baelish, and she’s going to MEET ARYA. Which I’m excited about, because the next chapter is actually what I wrote first for this story, weirdly enough. We’ll also be meeting Jon and Robb for the first time!
Thanks so SO much for all of your kind words and comments- they really motivate me, and help me plow through writers block. All of you who wrote me an essay in the comments: you’re literally the best humans on the planet. Keep being awesome and thank you so much!!!
Chapter 6: Super Trouper
The Blackfish has an interesting conversation with Oberyn, Sansa is hanging in there despite all of the questions getting thrown her way, and the Stark sisters have a very eventful dinner.
Across the Narrow Sea, Jon experiences a rather rude awakening, and has his world turned upside down.
“Because traumatic life events invariably cause damage to relationships, people in the survivor’s social world have the power to influence the eventual outcome of the trauma. A supportive response from other people may mitigate the impact of the event, while a hostile or negative response may compound the damage and aggravate the traumatic syndrome. In the aftermath of traumatic life events, survivors are highly vulnerable. Their sense of self has been shattered. That sense can be rebuilt only as it was built initially, in connection with others.”
- Judith Herman, Trauma and Recovery
“Yes I know it’s risky-“
“You’re damn right it’s risky.” The Blackfish hissed, causing Oberyn to wince and pull his phone away from his ear. “That’s my grand-niece you’re talking about, Martell. Not just some mob floozy you can use as bait.”
“Agent Sand and three other agents had eyes on her the entire time she was out of the house yesterday.” Oberyn assured him, trying to keep his voice calm in the wake of Brynden Tully’s anger.
When they had arrested Baelish on Wednesday, Sansa had mentioned an exam she had to take the next day, and had come the closest Oberyn had ever seen to actually arguing with him. She was interesting that way- there was something steely under her skin, despite her often sweet words, and Oberyn had never seen someone more determined to attend an exam before. He certainly wouldn’t have been.
Figuring that Sansa was going to go whether he wanted her to or not, he had arranged a protective detail for her without her knowledge. If they happened to catch any of Baelish’s associates trying to follow Sansa in the process, then so be it. Apparently, though, one of the field agents had tipped the deputy director off to Oberyn’s plan.
Heads might roll if he ever found out which one.
“Even while she was taking her exam?” the Blackfish snapped.
“Yes.” Oberyn groaned. “For fuck’s sake- do you really think I would risk one of Baelish’s cronies getting their hands on Sansa after everything Ned and Catelyn have been put through? After everything Sansa’s been through? I had an agent audit the exam.”
“It was an unnecessary risk.”
“Yeah, maybe it was.” Oberyn snapped. “But goddamnit, listen to me, Tully. It wasn’t my intention at all to use Sansa as bait.” It was largely true. It hadn’t been his intention, but he couldn’t deny it gave them an opportunity that they would be stupid to miss. The deputy director would probably agree with him, if the case weren’t so damn personal.
The old man went silent on the other end.
“Oberyn, my niece and her family have been through more than anyone should ever have to.” The old man huffed. “I was the one who called Cat today to tell her and Ned that Lysa- that her sister- played a pivotal role in keeping Sansa from her.” his voice was almost shaking, with a strain that Oberyn had never heard. “I apologized to Cat for ever bringing Baelish into our lives- for evertrusting him- and you know what she did?” he barked out a grim laugh. “She fucking forgave me, Martell. I bring this scum into a position where he gets to ruin my family, and she tells me it wasn’t my fault.”
There was only heavy breathing on the other line, and Oberyn passed an uncomfortable moment wondering if Brynden Tully was crying.
“Director-“ he began, only to be cut off by Tully’s gruff voice.
“Don’t even think about saying whatever platitudes you think I want to hear.” He told Oberyn. “I’m not looking for anything from you, except that you keep my grand-niece and nephew safe.”
“Then let me keep doing that.” Oberyn told him, his tone more measured this time. “Listen, Tully- Sansa is doing an admirable job of keeping herself together right now and, honestly? I don’t know how.” He shook his head. “She’s calm, she’s even-keeled, and she held her own yesterday with Valman at the station trying to use her to make his own goddamn career.”
“You took him off the case?” Tully barked. “I’ll personally call the Chief of Police if we need.”
“I talked to him yesterday about Valman’s conduct, but it might help if you greased the wheels there.” Oberyn admitted. “Your office carries more weight with him.”
“Done.” Tully agreed, instantly. “I’ll have a few words with him, and remind him that the Westerosi press will have no trouble crucifying him for any missteps here. You said Sansa’s doing okay, though?” His voice was almost anxious, and it was such a strange thing to hear from the usually gruff man.
“On the outside, she is.” Oberyn told him. “She’s doing her best to help Robin adjust- and no, he won’t answer to Robert, so it’s not a battle we’re going to fight here- but she’s been very restrained.” He paused for a moment. “I think she processes internally- that there’s a lot more going on in her head than we realize. She’s smart, Tully.” He chuckled. “You’ll be astonished at how much so when you meet her. But I think she’s clinging to what’s normal- and she was hell bent on getting to that test.”
“And so you let her.” the Blackfish muttered.
“I’d do it again.” Oberyn baldly stated. “She’s going to crack and break down at some point, but I’d like to disrupt her life as little as possible. It was a piece of something normal. Once this news breaks, normal is going to be a thing of the past for both of them- but Sansa’s case was infamous back home.” He sighed. “I need you to trust me on this, Tully. You and I may have our differences, but I do have eight daughters, and I know a thing or two about psychology- I’m not going to stress Sansa out more than absolutely necessary right now, alright?”
There was a long silence on the other end.
“Has anyone taken a statement from her?” the deputy director asked. “Questioned her at all?”
“Unfortunately, that’s the necessary part.” Oberyn winced. “But I’m not letting Valman near her again- I’m planning to do both later today.”
“Be careful with her.” the Blackfish warned.
“You know I will.”
“But Martell?” the man’s voice was quieter than usual. “Get enough from Sansa to nail that bastard to the wall.”
Sansa was exhausted, even after sleeping for ten hours the night before. The Braavosi police had questioned her yesterday- one of the detectives had spent the better part of two hours all but accusing her of having been complicit in her father’s- in Petyr’s scheme. Oberyn had read him the riot act, screaming at the man in front of the entire precinct, but it had left Sansa drained- especially after facing Robin’s anger in the same day.
She had almost fallen asleep at the dinner table in front of Ellaria and her children, blushing when Obella shook her shoulder, apologizing to the others, but Ellaria had been very kind about everything, and hadn’t been irritated at all. Sansa had apologized again, trudging upstairs to the guest room that had been set up for her. Robin had spent the night shut in his own guest room, and hadn’t been any more willing to talk to her on the ride over to the police station that morning. She understood, but it still stung.
Today will be easier. She told herself, putting one foot in front of the other as she walked up the steps into the precinct. Oberyn and Daemon were going to be questioning her and Robin today- and she liked both of them far better than the Braavosi detectives- both of whom had seemed determined to use the arrest to bolster their own careers.
And Robin seemed to like Daemon Sand- or tolerated him, at least. He had been quieter after his conversation with Daemon yesterday, and far less outwardly aggressive than he was towards Oberyn, who he seemed to blame for the whole situation. Sansa’s shoulders drooped as she thought about Robin’s behavior towards the man who had opened his home to them, and it was hard to take the last few steps into the station. At least Robin was polite to Ellaria, though. Sansa would have had to put her foot down if he had glared at their hostess the same way he did Oberyn.
“Do you want anything to drink before we get started?” Daemon asked them, kindly.
“If it’s not too much trouble, some tea would be lovely.” Sansa answered, looking to her brother. “Robin, do you want anything?”
“No thanks, Agent Sand.” Robin shook his head, looking down at his feet. Sansa’s eyes nearly bugged out of her head at the polite response, and she felt a wave of relief wash over her.
“Tea shouldn’t be too hard.” Daemon smiled warmly at Sansa, gesturing her towards one of the soundproof interrogation rooms. “You’re with my partner, Sansa- he should be in soon- and Robin, you’re with me today.”
Sansa watched her brother nod, and follow Daemon to the room he’d indicated. Daemon turned back to face Sansa.
“Sansa, you’re welcome to wait for Oberyn wherever you want- I’ll be right back with some tea for you after I get your brother settled.”
She nodded, sitting down on one of the benches outside the interrogation rooms. Only a few of the Braavosi police officers actually knew the truth of their case- the WBI was keeping a tight lid on everything- so most of the officers didn’t spare her a second glance.
“Sorry to keep you waiting, Sansa.” Oberyn grinned, apologetically, opening the interrogation room door and gesturing her in. “Detective Valman and I were having a few words with the chief of police- he’s not going to be involved in the case going forward.”
Sansa felt a twinge of guilt as she sat down. She hadn’t wanted the man to lose his job over the case- she’d just wanted a break from his accusations.
“It’s no problem.” She told him, clutching the paper cup of tea that Daemon had brought her in her hands.
“How are you holding up?” Oberyn asked, sympathy clear in his eyes. “Ellaria mentioned that you were pretty tired last night.”
Sansa blushed at the reminder.
“It’s been a lot.” She admitted. “But nothing I can’t handle. I’m more worried about Robin- but he seems to be doing alright with Daemon.”
“As opposed to me.” Oberyn nodded. “Can’t say it surprises me- I’m the one who put Baelish in handcuffs, after all. Are my children making you feel welcome?”
“Oh of course!” Sansa assured him. “Obella’s been lovely- and Dorea and Loreza are very sweet- they invited me to their school chorus concert.”
“Ah!” Oberyn grinned. “They’ve been excited about that for a month now. I told my boss that if I didn’t get the night off, I was going to turn in my badge right then and there. I hope you won’t feel obligated, though. They know you’re busy.”
Sansa forced a smile. She had sung in her high school choir, but Petyr hadn’t been one for school events- even after Lysa’s death.
“I’d enjoy it.” She told him, honestly.
Oberyn gave her a long look.
“What?” she asked, feeling self-conscious.
“I’m sorry, Sansa.” He apologized, shaking his head. “You’re just very selfless and terribly kind for someone whose world is getting turned over.”
Sansa gave another weak smile, unsure of what to say to that. Oberyn seemed to understand, though, giving her a reassuring grin.
“Ready to get started?”
“Sure.” She lied.
“When did Lysa pass away?” Oberyn asked, looking over his list of questions. For now, Sansa was helping him create a rough timeline of events that Oberyn was hoping to use at Baelish’s trial. “I’m sorry- I remember you mentioning it at our first meeting, but the time frame escapes me.”
“Five years ago.” Sansa told him. “I was fifteen.”
“How did she pass away?” Oberyn asked. “I’m sorry- I know this is just another intrusive question atop a mountain of them.”
“We weren’t particularly close.” Sansa shrugged, looking down uncomfortably. “She was much closer to my brother. To Robin.”
Oberyn suspected that there was a lot buried behind that particular sentiment, but simply nodded, jotting down a few notes.
“ESRD.” Sansa said, giving a grim smile. “End stage renal disease- she had issues with her blood pressure, and she was a decently heavy drinker for a while. I know she had a lot of infections leading up to it- she spent about six months on dialysis before she died.”
“Do you remember her physician’s name?” Oberyn asked. “We’ll just need to get the records for our timeline.”
“Dr. Colemon.” Sansa told him, with complete certainty. “He was- he was very kind to Robin and I.”
“Did he ever suggest a transplant?”
“She wasn’t eligible.” Sansa told him, her mouth twisting a bit. “She had some prior drug use that disqualified her here, legally.”
Oberyn frowned. It sounded like something of a sore spot, but from what he knew of the Braavosi healthcare system, it seemed entirely plausible, if odd. He’d have to interview Dr. Colemon at some point to check up on that.
“Tell me about Lysa.”
“What specifically?” Sansa asked, after a pause.
“Well,” Oberyn continued, “You told me that you weren’t close. Can you elaborate on that at all?”
Sansa swallowed, nervously.
“She wasn’t terribly affectionate towards me.” She managed to get out. “Not unless I was doing something for Robin.” She paused. “She was- she was a complicated woman.” She told him, looking down a bit. “But she was kinder- calmer, right before she died.”
“I’m listening.” Oberyn reassured her when she paused.
“There’s not much more to it.” Sansa said, so softly he almost didn’t hear her. “Just that. She was complicated. That’s all.”
“Why don’t we take a short break.” Oberyn suggested, gently, after they didn’t have much luck with identifying her father’s associates. They’d been chatting for several hours. Sansa seemed frustrated that she couldn’t remember more, and Oberyn kept reassuring her that it hadn’t been her job to pay attention to Baelish.
If he got a hold of Valman, he was going to strangle the detective for putting those ideas in her head- for making her feel guilty because she hadn’t managed to see through a man who, from all accounts, was a master manipulator.
“I’m sorry.” Sansa murmured to him, looking guiltily up as he stood. “I’m sorry I can’t help more.”
“You have nothing to apologize for.” Oberyn reassured her, something in his face softening as he took in her dejected form. “You've been fantastic, Sansa. Here- I’ll go grab you some more tea, and there are a few bagels in the break room if you want to get one to snack on. Daemon usually keeps cream cheese in the fridge, as long as the detectives haven’t eaten it all.” He made a face, and actually pulled a small smile from Sansa.
Thank god. Oberyn thought to himself, relieved that she hadn’t completely shut down yet. He was impressed- she was holding up relatively well, all thing considered. Granted, he really wasn’t looking forward to the conversation they would have to have in a few minutes.
He hoped like hell that both of them were up for it.
“Sansa….” Oberyn began, looking genuinely contrite after they returned from their break. “You’ve held up really well, but I do need to ask you about one more thing.”
Sansa’s stomach dropped, and she felt sick.
“Did he ever make any sort of sexual advance on you?” Oberyn asked her gently. Sansa pursed her lips, squeezing her eyes shut and shaking her head.
“Never.” She whispered, the very thought beyond repulsive to her. She was sure her face had completely drained of blood- she had been expecting the question at some point, but that hadn’t helped prepare her for it. “I don’t- he never treated me like that.” Her face flushes in embarrassment, welling up deep inside of her.
This is what people are going to assume. She thought, feeling suddenly dizzy. That I was his victim, and nothing else.
Sansa was suddenly deeply grateful for Oberyn Martell, who had calmly taken her shaking hand in his own. His palms were dry and warm, and his eyes were kind, anchoring her as the ramifications of the investigation began to set in. The realizations of what people would think happened to her. Was it not bad enough that Petyr had lived in her father’s skin for eighteen years? That he had tricked her into loving him as a parent?
“Sansa?” he asked, gently. “Are you alright? We can stop- take a break if you need.”
Sansa remembered, then, that Oberyn Martell had eight daughters. Remembered Ellaria’s kind, perceptive gaze every time she looked at Sansa.
You can trust him. Her mind whispered. He’s never lied to you before, and he won’t let anyone take advantage of you, now. He practically ripped the detective apart when he began insinuating that I knew more than I was telling him.
“I’m sorry.” She told him, her voice barely above a whisper. “It’s just- that’s what everyone is going to assume, aren’t they?” she sounded small and pathetic, even to herself.
“That depends.” Oberyn told her, not letting go of her hand, giving it a comforting squeeze. “You’re completely in the driver’s seat here, Sansa.”
She gave a weak, forced laugh.
“I never learned how to drive.” She admitted. Oberyn gave her a fond look.
“What I mean, smartypants,” he gently teased, “Is that you get to make that decision. What you want the public to know. What comes out during the trial.” He paused, looking her straight in the eye. “What you want to tell Ned and Catelyn, even.”
“I thought you were going to give them the case file.” Sansa frowned, confused. Oberyn shook his head.
“I think that decision is up to you.” He told her, his warm voice a balm to Sansa’s agitated nerves. “What Baelish did to you was horrible, even if he isn’t specifically the type of predator people are going to assume he was.”
“I trusted him.” Sansa admitted, sniffling a bit. She tightened her grip on Oberyn’s hand, and it felt like her only, tenuous link to reality. “I- I loved him.” She admitted, letting tears fall down her face at the thought that she hadn’t vocalized. “I- I thought he was my father.” She whimpered, feeling her face crumple.
“I’m sorry.” Oberyn told her, his face open, and honest, and anguished. “I’m sorry that he betrayed that trust Sansa. I can’t imagine how that must feel.”
Sansa nodded, and then, with a shuddering breath, just crumpled, folding in on herself with silent sobs. Oberyn was immediately by her side, his face so full of concern that it prompted a fresh batch of sobs to bubble up from Sansa’s chest.
She knew she was selfish to make other people worry about her like this, but she just couldn’t stop herself from clinging onto Oberyn as he wrapped her in his arms, humming something soft and reassuring as she shook. He probably did this sort of thing for his daughters all the time when they were upset- held them, let them cry, told them everything was going to be okay.
Everything a father was probably supposed to do. It was just so alien to Sansa that it only made her cry harder. Ultimately, though, she managed to calm down, and Oberyn pulled back, sitting himself on the floor in front of her, his arm draped casually over his leg.
“You are not allowed to apologize to me, Sansa.” Oberyn told her, raising an eyebrow. There was humor in his voice though, and it made something in Sansa relax. “But I may need to apologize to you.”
“What?” Sansa’s head shot up.
“You’re aware that the Starks have another daughter?” Oberyn asked her, looking sheepish when Sansa nodded.
“I don’t remember her name, but she was younger, right?” Sansa sniffled.
“Arya.” Oberyn nodded. “I spoke to her earlier.”
“Is she- is she here?” Sansa asked, confused.
“She’s actually a student at BCU.” Oberyn grimaced, slightly. “She’s actually headed down here, but I called her to talk before we had our conversation just now.” He tilted his head, looking genuinely concerned. “I do need to chat with her about a few things here, but you absolutely don’t need to meet her now if it’s too much for today-“
But Sansa was already shaking her head, determined.
“No-“ she protested, a small spark of hope flickering in her chest, “I’d like to. She’s coming here?” There was anxiety welling up in her chest, but it was eclipsed by the sudden thought- the thrill- of a sister.
“Yes, but she’s not going to be upset at all if you don’t want to-“
“I want to.” Sansa cut Oberyn off, gently, sniffling a bit as she thought about it. “When is she going to be here?”
She could do this one thing right today. She could do this.
Oberyn just sighed, smacking his hand against his forehead when Arya Stark strolled into the station, a tall boy with a shock of black hair behind her giving him a sheepish smile. Jory met his eyes, shaking his head as if to say ‘what can you do?’
“I thought we agreed not to tell anyone?” he asked, pointedly, nodding his head towards the boy, who looked appropriately embarrassed. Arya just stuck her tongue out.
“It’s just Gendry.” She told him, crossing her arms. “Besides, you did say that you wanted to meet my boyfriend.”
“I didn’t mean in the middle of an investigation.” Oberyn tried to resist the urge to grin, failing miserably. “Does your mother know?”
“Jon and Rhae do.” She pouted, looping her arm into the boy’s- Gendry’s- arm.
“Oh so Catelyn Stark doesn’t know yet!” Oberyn crowed, crossing his own arms and leaning back to look down at the girl. Gendry was easily as tall as Oberyn, but Arya Stark definitely took her short stature from the Tully side of the family, and was at least six inches smaller than her shortest brother, although Lyanna was on the shorter side as well. It tended to make the Stark family Christmas card photo hilarious- he couldn’t wait for her to see that Sansa took after Ned in terms of height.
“Mom’s still annoyed about Talisa- what’s Gendry done to be thrown to the wolves?” Arya snorted. “I’ll introduce them when they get here- they’ll forget to be annoyed about Gendry once they meet Sansa.”
“Smart.” Oberyn chuckled. He wasn’t entirely fooled, though. Arya’s grip on her boyfriend’s arm was tight, and her mouth was set in that stubborn way that he recognized from when Lyanna was upset. He couldn’t blame her if she was- it was one hell of a situation. “Speaking of which, she’s in my office right now.”
“I get to meet her?” Arya asked, eyes widening in a rare display of vulnerability from a girl that Oberyn knew was tough as nails.
“Of course.” He reassured her, relaxing his own posture with his hands on his hips. “And she’s eager to meet you too. Just remember- she’s been through a hell of a few days- poor kid got up to take an exam this morning, after we arrested Baelish- who was passing himself off as her father- yesterday.”
Arya had started to walk forward, but stumbled slightly.
“He did what?”
Oberyn winced. He would need to bring her up to speed so that she didn’t overwhelm Sansa with questions.
“Let’s chat then, before you meet Sansa, alright? She’s having a bit of a rough week, and I think it would be best if we were gentle with her.”
Arya’s first impression of the girl who was apparently her sister was that she was almost inhumanly pretty. The second was that she looked as though she had been crying, and the third was that she was still just as pretty with a red, splotchy face.
She pushed down the brief insecurity that flashed over her when she realized exactly how similar Sansa looked to her mother- their mother- and knocked on the door, gently. Jory and Gendry were sitting uneasily in the waiting room- Jory, the only member of the Stark security team that had accompanied Arya to school- had been nearly as anxious as she had on the drive over, after she had gotten the call from Oberyn Martell, and had a frantic five minute conversation with her mother and father before they had to board their plane.
Her nerves felt completely shot. Jory and Gendry were waiting out in the bullpen, while Oberyn’s partner led Arya over to Oberyn’s office.
The Red Viper himself appeared to be comforting the girl, with a hand on her shoulder, and soft murmured words. Arya saw the girl nod, and then look up, her face immediately looking confused, and then hopeful, and then shuttered to a cool politeness. Arya opened her mouth, but nothing came out. All she could hear was her heart pounding frantically in her chest. She was saved from gaping like a fish by Oberyn’s next words.
“Arya, come in.” he greeted, giving her the same broad smile that she was used to from Aunt Elia. “We’ve been waiting for you- Sansa, this is Arya Stark. Arya, Sansa.”
The red-haired girl- Sansa- her sister- gave her a small smile.
“It’s nice to meet you.” She said, standing up, despite Arya’s protests that she didn’t need to, and offering Arya her hand. “I’m sorry- I’m a bit of a mess right now, but I really do mean that.” Her smile was soft and genuine, despite her red eyes and nose.
“Oh- yeah, of course.” Arya managed, mentally kicking herself. She sounded like Gendry, the stupid lug. “Uh- it’s nice to meet you too.” Sansa’s watery smile widened, and she looked so hopeful that Arya didn’t have a clue as to what to say.
“So, we’re sisters, I guess?” she managed, promptly kicking herself at how stupid she sounded. Sansa didn’t seem to mind though, and simply nodded.
“Agent Martell told me you went to BCU as well- what are you studying?”
“International relations.” Arya told her, sitting down at the small table when Oberyn gestured for her to.
“I’m going to get Sansa some tea- Arya, do you want anything?” he asked.
“Coffee would be awesome.” She grinned, weakly at him. “Thanks Oberyn.” He nodded, smiling at the two before he shut the door, leaving them alone.
“That sounds pretty interesting.” Sansa responded, smiling weakly, discreetly wiping her eyes with manners Arya could never hope to emulate. Oddly, it reminded her of her mother. Their mother. Gods, what a mess. “What made you decide on that?”
“Couldn’t figure out what else I wanted to do.” Arya shrugged, feeling sheepish at her answer, but Sansa was smiling and nodding encouragingly. Seven hells- she felt like she should be the one trying to make this girl more comfortable- not the other way around! “What about you then- what do you study?” she asked, watching Sansa brighten a bit.
“Fashion design and merchandising.” She answered, actually looking enthusiastic for the first time during their meeting. “I would love to get to see King’s Landing fashion week sometime- but father hasn’t wanted me to leave-“ she immediately cut off, looking stricken as she clapped a hand over her mouth. “I’m- I’m sorry. Of course he’s not- I mean- Petyr-“
“It’s fine.” Arya tried to sound comforting, but winced when her voice came out harsh and cutting. “I mean- don’t worry about it. It’s gotta be kind of confusing.”
“I’m sorry.” Sansa lowered her head, shaking it and looking like she was holding back tears again. “I’m ruining things again. I’m sure this can’t be easy for you-“
“For me?” Arya interrupted, incredulously. All of her earlier nerves seemed to have disappeared, replaced by a single-minded need to keep Sansa from crying any more. There was just something so completely vulnerable about this girl, at the way she held her head and spine straight while her world shattered.
Arya remembered watching a video in the astronomy class she’d taken with Lommy and Hot Pie- a film about dying stars- supernovas- and all of that energy folding in on itself as the star collapsed. Sansa was every inch as beautiful as a supernova, but thinking of Sansa collapsing left a pain in Arya’s chest. So, naturally, she opened her mouth, and said something incredibly stupid.
“You’re kidding, right? I’m not the one who just found out that her entire life was-“ she broke off, wincing.
“A lie.” Sansa nodded. “It’s alright- you can say it.” She paused, giving Arya a hint of a smile that didn’t reach her eyes. “I’d rather not dance around it, anyways. It’s- I just don’t really know what to feel.” She admitted, wiping a tear from her cheek again. Fortunately, Oberyn picked that moment to reappear, handing Arya and Sansa both to-go cups.
“Thank you.” Sansa told the agent, who gave her a brilliant smile, and clapped her on the shoulder.
“Of course.” He said, as though the entire situation was normal. “Are you girls hungry? We can go grab some dinner out- the press doesn’t have a hold of the story yet, so we’re still anonymous as could be.”
“Starving.” Arya answered, ravenously. “You?” she directed towards Sansa, who looked a bit confused.
“I- I guess.” She responded, looking uncertain. “Agent Martell, where is Robin? He didn’t talk to me at all after his conversation with Agent Sand, and I-…” she trailed off, looking miserable.
“He’s heading over to stay with Ellaria and the girls.” Oberyn was quick to reassure her. “I’m sorry- I asked Daemon to let you know, but he must have gotten caught in something. We have a police detail on the townhouse, though- he’s perfectly safe, just working through a few things.”
Sansa let out a sigh of relief, and Arya noticed that she had circles under her eyes.
“That’s good- I think he likes Ellaria.” She mumbled. “She won’t let anything happen to him.” She said, seemingly to herself more than anyone else. Oberyn gave her an encouraging smile, and Arya’s stomach lurched. Robin? “Um, I suppose I could eat.”
“Late lunch?” Oberyn raised a brow, and Sansa looked sheepish.
“I haven’t- I ate breakfast, but I was too nervous to eat lunch today.” Oberyn’s eyes widened, and he looked briefly annoyed. Sansa seemed to catch that and looked down, seemingly embarrassed, but Arya knew Oberyn well enough to know that it wasn’t directed at Sansa.
“Can we go to Marza’s?” Arya asked, suddenly eager to distract Sansa. “Gendry is here, can he come?” she winced, and turned to Sansa. “Uh- sorry. Gendry is my boyfriend. Are- would you be okay with that?”
Sansa gave her a kind smile through the tears on her face, and Arya briefly wondered how in the hells this girl was so nice.
“I love Marza’s.” she replied, “And I would love to meet Gendry.” Her tone was warm, and Arya didn’t detect even a hint of deception in it. She smiled back at Sansa, a strange warmth blooming in her stomach. This girl- this was her sister.
“Awesome. He’s kind of an idiot, but he’s okay.”
What Arya Stark had not been prepared for was for Sansa to know Gendry.
“I’m Alayne- Sansa Bael- I’m Sansa.” She had greeted, shaking Gendry’s hand. He had looked just as awkward as Arya had felt earlier, and she smirked at him. “I’m sorry if this is weird, but were you in Jensen’s 10am history of Essos class? You look familiar.”
“Uh, yeah.” He had answered, giving her an awkward grin. “I’m sorry- I’m usually too tired in the mornings or I would have recognized you.”
“Don’t worry about it.” Sansa waved a hand. “He’s phenomenally boring. My friend Mya and I both took his class- we had to work together to make sure we stayed awake.” She laughed. Arya had felt a brief flare of jealousy- Sansa was gorgeous, and she was decidedly… not as beautiful as Sansa. But Gendry turned back and wrapped an arm around her shoulders, and she relaxed as Sansa smiled that genuinely kind smile again at the sight of them.
You’re being ridiculous. She admonished herself, feeling slightly embarassed. This isn’t about you.
“How did you two meet?” Sansa asked, after they were finally seated, in the most sheltered corner of the restaurant. It was a Friday night, and there were small groups of students celebrating the end of exams all throughout the place, but Marza’s was generally quieter than most places on weekends. Oberyn had gone to have a conversation with the manager, and Arya suspected he was checking the kitchen security asking them to keep their visit under wraps.
Jory was still glancing around, scanning for stray reporters, but relaxed a bit when he didn’t spot any. Sansa hadn’t realized who he was- hadn’t remembered him at all- and their introduction had been fairly awkward on Jory’s side. Sansa seemed to possess the singular ability to make the people around her more comfortable, though, and had gotten him to relax, asking about his family and smiling at his stories about his nieces, who lived in the north near the Starks.
“I’m on the fencing team.” Arya had grinned, shooting Gendry an amused look. “My friend, Ned- well, he’s sort of like my- well, our- cousin, is on it with me- and I wanted to get him a really nice saber for his birthday last year. A decorative thing, you know?” Sansa nodded, despite probably not knowing what Arya meant at all, about Ned being their cousin, or about the saber. “I went to talk to the metals club, and this lunk claimed he could make exactly what I was looking for.”
“I could.” Gendry snorted, making Sansa grin at the two of them.
“Naturally-“ Arya continued, as though Gendry hadn’t spoken, “I called his bluff. But he managed it. And I agreed to go out with him.”
“You cornered me in the forge and told me I was taking you out to dinner.” Gendry pointed out, affectionately. Arya smacked him.
“Yeah, but you agreed.” She retorted. Before Gendry could respond, though, Oberyn returned, sitting down with a flourish.
“I called Ellaria.” He told Sansa, taking a sip of the water he had ordered. “Your brother is doing fine- he’s calmed down since earlier. She said he was watching a movie with the girls- that there was a lot of popcorn and junk food involved.” He smiled at her. Sansa looked visibly relieved. Arya, meanwhile, was more than a bit confused. Brother?
“I’m glad.” She said, quietly. “He’s always looked up to fath- to Petyr. He’s going to be angry for a while, but it’s good to know he’s not spending his night alone.”
“He’s not angry with you, dear.” Oberyn reassured, taking her hand. “He’s a teenage boy- from what my brother has told me about his own sons, they spend an awful lot of time being angry for no reason whatsoever- and Baelish lied to you and him both. I would guess the boy doesn’t know his own mind right now- and he’s confused.”
“You heard him earlier though-“ Sansa whispered, and Arya glanced at Gendry, who looked as horrified as she did when Sansa started to cry, “He hates me for this- he does!”
“Sweet girl, he’ll forgive you.” Oberyn soothed. “You’ve done nothing but expose a lie. Nothing at all to be angry about.” It took a few more minutes of Oberyn’s gentle prodding, but he managed to convince Sansa to stop crying and take a few bites of her food, once it arrived. Arya desperately tried to think of what to say, but her mind just went blank.
What was there that she could possibly say to make any of this better?
Sansa wiped her face, grateful for Oberyn Martell’s steady presence at the table. If she hadn’t been so upset, she thought she might have laughed at Arya and Gendry’s identical panicked looks when she had started to cry. She hadn’t meant to- it was just that everything around her seemed overwhelming all of a sudden. She could push down her tangled feelings about her father- about Petyr- after her conversation with Oberyn earlier, but having Sweetrobin upset with her had pushed something over the edge.
He had always been a difficult child of sorts- their mother- not your mother, his- had been overly indulgent of him, and although he had matured significantly since her death, he still tended to save his best behavior for Sansa. He was a sweet boy, she knew, even if he didn’t always know how to handle his emotions. He didn’t have many friends, but he had always been sweet to her, and had loved her even when Lysa had been unkind to Sansa. Hearing him blame her for everything- well, it was her fault. She was foolish, just like father- Petyr- had often said.
She sniffled, looking up into Oberyn’s comforting dark eyes, Arya and Gendry’s identical looks of panic, and Jory’s pained expression. She felt horrible. They were trying to make her feel welcome, and all she could do was cry.
“I’m sorry.” She apologized, fidgeting with her napkin in her lap. “I don’t mean to make this uncomfortable.” I just ruin everything. A stupid, foolish girl.
“You don’t have anything to apologize for.”
Sansa looked up, startled, into Jory’s determined face. He had kind eyes, she decided, trying to figure out what to say.
“This isn’t exactly a typical situation.” Oberyn agreed, exchanging a look with Arya’s bodyguard. “Think nothing of it, and don’t allow yourself to feel guilt for being upset at a situation that has been nothing but unfair to you.” His words were gentle, and Sansa could feel tears begin to well in her eyes again at his kindness, and at Jory’s. She was horrified at her behavior, but couldn’t seem to stop them.
“Thank you.” She whispered, taking a sip of her water. Sansa didn’t drink very often, but she had never wished more for a glass of wine. Something, anything, to relax her.
“Like I said, think nothing of it.” Oberyn waved off, focusing a grin on Arya. Sansa was grateful for the distraction- it gave her a chance to collect herself a bit. “Now- a question for you, little Stark. Does your father know that you’ve found such a handsome young man?”
Sansa wasn’t sure who turned redder- Arya or Gendry. Arya scowled.
“Dad will be happy- he’ll like Gendry.”
“And your mother?”
Arya immediately paled, but schooled her face the next minute.
“Mum will like him too.” She stubbornly insisted.
“You told me she kept trying to set you up with ‘that nice Frey boy’.” Gendry pointed out, incredulously. “And you said that she still doesn’t like Talisa.”
“Mum will like you, or she’s not gonna like the alternative.” Arya growled. “Just because Robb is too chicken to tell her off about Talisa-“
“Lady Stark likes Meera Reed just fine.” Jory pointed out, hiding a grin behind his napkin as Arya threw her hands up.
“That’s because everybody likes Meera!” she exclaimed. Sansa raised a bemused brow, and Arya looked sheepish, hastening to explain. “Mum is- well- she has high standards, I guess. Robb- my- our- oldest brother is about to graduate from Oldtown, and he’s been dating a girl from Volantis for a while. Mum hasn’t exactly- well, Robb decided that he was going to spend part of his summer hols with Talisa’s family after they started dating, and mum was furious that he didn’t come home. It’s been interesting ever since. Tal is nice though- I like her just fine.” She shrugged.
“What are they all like?” Sansa asked, folding her hands together to hide her anxiety at the question. “Your family?”
Arya looked thoughtful for a second. She seemed more relaxed now that they were talking about a subject she knew, and Sansa was able to let out a breath in turn.
“Well, there are a lot of them. Robb’s the oldest, then me, and there’s Bran and Rickon, my- our- little brothers. Robb’s an idiot who spends way too much time working out, and believes everything Tal’s brothers tell him, which is hilarious most of the time- they convinced him once that it was polite to bow to people in Volantis, and Talisa sent us video.” Gendry snickered at the memory. Sansa raised her brows, the ghost of a smile on her lips. It was easier, like this, she thought. Just listening, while Arya talked.
“He sounds… interesting.”
“He’s an overprotective idiot sometimes, but we like him.” Arya told her. “Bran’s a huge nerd- he lost the use of his legs in a climbing accident, and he’s been the world’s biggest bookworm since. I think he changes what he wants to major in at college once a week, and he has the dubious honor of being the only Stark child who is dating someone that mum likes.” Sansa did smile at that.
“What does he like to read?” she asked.
“Anything he can get his hands on.” Oberyn snorted.
“Pretty much.” Arya agreed. “I think he’s probably going to major in history- he and Jon- he’s Robb’s best friend and pretty much an honorary Stark-“
“He’s my sister’s son. Well, stepson, technically.” Oberyn chimed in, taking a swig of his drink.
“They like to talk about history all the time.” Arya said, shooting Oberyn a glare for interrupting.
“Stepson?” Sansa asked, feeling a bit weak-kneed- which was an improvement over her earlier panic. She would have to remember to eat consistently- she felt far more steady now that she had inhaled almost an entire dish of spaghetti. Still, this was going to be quite a few names to remember. She almost felt like she should be taking notes.
“Uh, yeah.” Arya responded, looking a bit flustered as she seemed to realize how overwhelmed Sansa was. “Jon’s mum, Aunt Lyanna, was good friends with our mum and dad in college. Aunt Lyanna got involved with a guy- Rhaegar Targaryen- who didn’t tell her he was married and had two small kids already with Oberyn’s sister Elia Martell. When Aunt Lya realized that she was pregnant, she told Rhaegar, who freaked out, and told her that he was married with kids.”
“My sister wanted Rhaenys and Aegon, her children with Rhaegar, to know their brother, Jon, and so she befriended Lyanna.” Oberyn added. Then he gave her a huge grin. “They got married a year and a half after Elia and Rhaegar got a divorce, and have been together since.”
Sansa gaped at him, and then began to laugh, for the first time in several days. It felt almost rusty, after the week she had had.
“He’s not.” Arya confirmed. “They live in the north, near Winterfell, so Jon, Rhae, and Egg basically got folded in with the rest of us. This guy-“ she jerked a finger in Oberyn’s direction, “and his seventeen kids were apparently part of the package deal.”
“I only have eight daughters.” Oberyn stated, not looking ashamed at all. “The gods have not blessed me with quite so many, unfortunately. But yes, I did like to bring my girls to meet their cousins, and the Stark children seemed to be a part of that- my sister and Lya lived in Ned and Catelyn’s guest house for several years before they got their feet off the ground- by that point, Ned and Catelyn had gotten far too used to them to have them leave, and simply allowed them to renovate the guest house for more room.”
“That’s quite something.” Sansa said, weakly.
“And there’s Rickon, too.” Arya added, sheepishly. “He’s the youngest Stark- he’s as wild as they get. Plays rugby and soccer, and got penalized last month for nearly biting a chunk out of someone’s ear.”
Sansa was not proud of the way she choked on her water, but at least Gendry was snorting as well, apparently having heard the story before.
“So,” she managed, once she caught her breath, “Robb, you, Bran, Rickon, Jon, Rhaenys, and- Aegon?”
“Egg is a bigger idiot than Jon and Robb combined.” Arya snorted. “But yes. Rhae is the oldest, and she’s not home very often anymore- she works near Highgarden, and she’s dating a Tyrell.” Arya said the word with an air of disdain, and Oberyn let out a roar of laughter.
“Willas is a perfectly fine man.” He told Arya, wiping tears from his eyes. “Maybe a bit old for my niece, but he’s boring enough not to get her into any trouble.”
“Oberyn is friends with Willas Tyrell.” Arya told Sansa, as though this was an enormous character flaw.
Sansa, having absolutely no idea who Willas Tyrell was, spared a glance for Gendry, who merely shrugged his shoulders at her as though to say ‘what can you do?’
“And what about your- our mother and father?” Sansa asked, softly, the words tasting odd on her tongue. “What are they like?”
Sansa watched Arya exchange an uneasy glace with Gendry.
“Dad is sweet, but kind of a sap. He’ll- well, he’s not the most talkative guy, but he’s a really good father!” Arya insisted. “He talked mum into letting me attend school here- they have the best fencing program in the world, and I got a scholarship to come here. She wanted me to stay in Winterfell, but he talked her out of it.”
“You’re on a scholarship?” Sansa felt herself smile. “I’ll have to come watch a match sometime- you must be very good.”
She watched as Arya blushed.
“I mean- I guess.” She mumbled.
“She’s being modest.” Gendry snorted. “She’ll probably make the Westerosi Olympic Team in a couple of years.”
“Shut up.” Arya elbowed him. “Jerk.”
Sansa chuckled and Arya looked up at her
“Oh yeah- and if you come, you can meet Ned!”
“Ned?” she asked, perplexed.
“Yeah, Ned Dayne.” Arya grinned. “The friend I mentioned getting the saber for? He’s sort of our cousin- Uncle Brandon- Dad’s older brother, is married to his aunt Ashara. So not technically related, but sort of. He’s a decent dude.”
“Sounds perfect.” Sansa managed to get out, trying to press down her panic at all of these names. She had been prepared for one family- not however many people Arya had managed to mention so far. Smile, laugh, charm them. She heard father’s- Petyr’s- voice in her head.
It’s always important to make a good impression, sweetling.
“What’s our mother like?” She asked, trying to banish the thought of Petyr.
“Mum is- mum is a lot sometimes.” Arya admitted, fidgeting slightly. “She’s really overprotective a lot of the time, and cried for days when Robb wanted to go to oldtown for Uni.”
Because of you. Sansa’s mind filled in. Because you disappeared.
“She’s a stay-at-home mom, mostly.” Arya continued, oblivious to Sansa’s sudden guilt, hanging heavy in her stomach. “She manages a lot of the charitable stuff the Starks are responsible for. Galas, charity dinners, fundraising- all that stuff.”
Sansa’s eyebrows shot up.
“That sounds like a lot.” She said, before she could think better of it. Arya just nodded, though.
“Yeah- she loves planning that sort of thing, though. It’s gonna be hilarious when Robb eventually asks Talisa to marry him. Mum’ll be over the moon planning the wedding, even though she still hasn’t warmed up to Tal yet. Total doublethink kinda thing.”
Oberyn actually snickered at that.
“Mum’ll be really excited to hear that you’re into fashion stuff, though.” Arya continued, enthusiastically. “She’s always liked shoving us all into nice clothes for those events of hers- she’ll be glad to have someone besides Rhae to dress up.”
“You don’t like to?” Sansa asked with a smile. Arya was brash, and didn’t seem to always think before she spoke, and Sansa found that she was starting to really like the girl. The way Gendry mooned over her too was just adorable. It almost reminded her of Mya, pining after Michael Redfort.
Sansa considered the implications of that thought, and promptly did a double take when Gendry grinned at Arya. That smirk. Those electric eyes. It couldn’t be…
“It’s not my favorite.” Arya admitted, twisting her face.
“Mrs. Stark apparently doesn’t let her bring her sabers to parties where she has to wear a dress.” Gendry snorted. Arya smacked him, and Sansa actually let herself genuinely laugh for the second time that evening.
She could worry about Gendry’s strange resemblance to her best friend later. She was probably overreacting.
Jon was asleep when he slowly awoke to the sound of someone banging on his front door. Swearing, he looked at his phone. 1:15 am, and more than one missed call. Brow furrowed, he looked closer. 30 missed calls from Robb, 2 from Ned Stark, and a voicemail from Aunt Catelyn- and 70 unread text messages?
He opened the messenger app as he shuffled to the door, hoping that Sam and Gilly were still asleep. Most of the texts were from Robb, again, but there were a few from Bran and Rickon and Arya, and even his moms, and about fifteen were from his brother. Rhae had sent him a simple message that just said to call her as soon as Robb had finished talking to him.
Sure enough, when he opened the door, he was greeted by the most frantic Robb Stark he had seen since Bran’s accident.
“What the-“ he asked, half asleep, “Robb.” He greeted, opening the door to let his best friend in. “where’s Tal?”
“The ER-“ Robb muttered, running an agitated hand through his hair. He was almost drunk already, Jon realized. “She couldn’t get the night off- I texted her, and apparently they’re a bit swamped. Something about the full moon.”
“Right.” Jon muttered. “You want to tell me why I have almost twenty-seven voicemails from you?”
“They found her.” he said, eyes wide.
“Found her?” Jon blinked, blearily. He had years of experience dealing with a tipsy Robb, but it didn’t always make it easy to suss out what he was on about.
“They found Sansa.” Robb told him, waking him up almost instantly. He was talking so quickly that Jon almost couldn’t understand him. “She’s alive- and she’s been living in Braavos all these years. Uncle Oberyn found her- he and Arya are with her.”
“They- what- Sansa?” Jon managed to get out, shocked.
When Robb nodded, he went over to the cupboard, grabbed 2 glasses and a bottle of bourbon, and poured one for each of them.
“You can explain to Gilly tomorrow why we were up late making noise if she gets mad at us.” Jon told him, clinking his glass with Robb’s. “Cheers, mate. Now you want to elaborate on what the fuck is going on?”
Chapter title is referencing Sansa, who is an emotional wreck here, but still a trooper, and I feel like that’s a fairly reasonable response to the situation. She is having a VERY rough week, but I promise you, she is not going to cry her way through the entire story. I love writing the relationship between Sansa and Oberyn- it sort of happened very organically, and I think the dynamic between the two is going to act as a sort of anchor for the rest of the relationships we’ll see Sansa begin to develop, as she meets this massive ensemble cast we’ve got going.
Also, holy cow this chapter is long. I really hope you guys enjoy it! It didn’t feel right to end it any sooner, so it’s a bit of a read. I wanted to get it up sooner, but I ended up having to do a lot more editing and rewriting than I expected. Also, life. You know how it is.
The scene at dinner where Sansa meets Arya, Gendry, and Jory (who is quiet, and used to hanging in the backround, which is why we don’t really hear much from him), is actually the first part of this story I wrote, and as a result, I had to do some serious editing to it. I have a habit of writing out of order, just to get the ideas down, and then doing extensive editing later, so I actually have a decent amount of the story written, it’s just getting the pieces in between that’s kind of tricky. But I ended up really loving the dynamic that got created- Gendry’s a few steps removed from the mess, so he’s able to loosen Arya up and make Sansa laugh a bit. I’ve never tried writing Gendrya before, so I hope you guys enjoy!
Writing that brief questioning scene between Oberyn and Sansa was one of the hardest things I’ve done in this story- everything for Sansa is really emotionally charged, and Oberyn is a federal agent who is used to having to ask hard questions, but this is a personal case for everyone involved. We haven’t entirely closed that chapter yet- we’ll see more of what Sansa told Oberyn in future chapters as he and Daemon start taking a closer look at things.
And hey! Jon is here!! His introduction, and a continuation of it, were also some of the earlier pieces of this story, and I thought we’d segue into the rest of the Stark/Targ clans through Jon finding out the news from Robb.
Next chapter is going to focus more on everyone in Westeros, as Sansa prepares to meet Ned and Catelyn. We’ll get a window into Jon’s world the way we’ve gotten to see Sansa, and we’ll start looking into some of the impacts that a trauma like Sansa’s disappearance would have had on the family. Also to look forward to: more Sansa & Arya interactions that I hope will help lighten up the whole thing a bit.
Thank you guys so SO much for all of your kind comments and reviews!!! I absolutely LOVE writing this story- and I’m so blown away by how many of you have enjoyed it as well. You’re all fantastic for leaving me great reviews, and I love reading them!
(The quote from the beginning of this chapter is taken from the book I’m reading this week: ‘Trauma and Recovery’ by Judith Herman. It’s been a fantastic resource for this story, and I would highly recommend it).
Chapter 7: First Impressions
Sansa's had her entire world turned upside-down in the last week: Robin is still struggling and angry with everyone except Daemon Sand, she's trying to memorize the names of probably a million family members, and she's about to meet her biological parents for the first time. If it weren't for Ellaria and Oberyn, she'd be completely lost.
Seriously, she's nominating Ellaria for sainthood at the first chance she gets.
Across the Narrow Sea, Jon and Robb have something of a rough morning, Jon discusses the ramifications of Sansa's case with Arya and Rhaenys, and Samwell Tarly makes some damn good points.
“I often don't say things out loud, even when I should. I contain and compartmentalize to a disturbing degree: In my belly-basement are hundreds of bottles of rage, despair, fear, but you'd never guess from looking at me.”
― Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl
9:30am, Friday morning in Oldtown
(7:30 pm, Friday evening in Braavos)
Sure enough, Gilly wasn’t pleased with them the next morning, both hungover and passed out on the couch, but was a good deal more sympathetic when Robb explained the situation in-between groans. It wasn’t every day a family member came back from the dead, after all. She had sighed, told Robb he was welcome to stay, but that if he made a mess it was his to clean up, and headed off to her shift at the hospital, where Talisa would likely fill her in on the details.
Sam was incredibly confused by the whole thing, and Jon ended up filling in the details for him, as Robb was too busy freaking out about the possibility of meeting Sansa.
“We have to fly to Braavos.” He insisted to Jon. “We have to go see her. Shit, Jon- she’s alive.”
“You’ve told me this.” Jon responded, swallowing a few advil. While Robb was, in all likelihood, still drunk, Jon was sober enough to feel the hangover looming. “Aunt Cat left me a voicemail though- she and your dad are flying there tomorrow to meet her- they’ll work out what’s going to happen next.”
“But she’s there right now!” Robb whined. “I need to see her!”
“In your state?” Sam asked incredulously, looking up from the table where he was grading term papers. Jon privately thought that Sam made a damn good point, even as Robb made a rude gesture in his direction, without lifting his head from the couch.
“You’re going to overwhelm her if you all go at once.” Jon pointed out. “Did you look at any of Arya’s texts? I think they're having dinner right now.”
Robb briefly flipped through his phone, and groaned as Sam moved the curtains and sunlight hit his face.
“Okay fine.” He muttered, throwing an arm carelessly over his face. “We wait to go see Sansa. And kill whoever took her.”
“Took her?” Jon raised a brow. “Well, yeah, man, but it’s not going to be us doing the killing. Leave that to the courts system.”
“Is it going to be tried here, do you think?” Sam asked Jon, briefly looking up from his workload.
“Depends on who the kidnapper was.” Jon shrugged. “I think even if he is a Braavosi, though, the king will insist that parliament make a demand to extradite him. He knows how hard your dad took Sansa’s disappearance, and the Stark name holds a lot of weight still. But if the kidnapper- he or she- is from Westeros, then the trial will be definitely be held here.” He directed his next question to Robb. “Have you heard anything about who it was?”
“Mum and Dad won’t tell me.” He groaned. “Can you text Uncle Oberyn? Maybe he’ll give you a heads up about it.”
“Sure.” Jon nodded, absently, firing off a quick message to Oberyn Martell.
Jon: Robb wants to know if you found out who kidnapped Sansa
Jon: How’s Arya taking it?
Oberyn: We have.
Oberyn: Can’t say anything yet
Oberyn: WBI’s keeping it under wraps until Ned and Cat get here
Oberyn: Bran & Rickon are with El and Lya
Oberyn: Arya has a boyfriend
Oberyn: A much older boyfriend
Oberyn: With quite a few muscles
Oberyn: Did you know about this?
Jon: I have the legal right to refrain from incriminating myself
Oberyn: Law school is making you stuffy
Oberyn: I like him
Jon: Gendry seems decent
Jon: Arya skyped me with him a couple times
Jon: Seems smitten enough
Oberyn: He’s been very kind to Sansa- he and Arya have managed to make the poor girl laugh at dinner a few times
Jon: How is she doing?
Jon: Gods this is weird
Oberyn: No shit
Oberyn: Sansa’s holding up decently, all things considered
Oberyn: She’s a bit overwhelmed and confused
Oberyn: But you wouldn’t know it if you weren’t looking very closely
Oberyn: She keeps everything in
Jon: When are Aunt Cat and Uncle Ned getting there?
Oberyn: As soon as the next flight does, apparently.
Oberyn: Tomorrow afternoon I think
Oberyn: I told them that we need to do this at Sansa’s pace though
Oberyn: Arya told her about all of you guys and I thought she was going to pass out she was so pale
Oberyn: She looks just like Cat
Oberyn: It’s uncanny
Oberyn: I told her she and Robin could stay with us as long as it took
Oberyn: Poor thing looked absolutely relieved
Oberyn: There’ll be paparazzi swarming the place as soon as this breaks
Oberyn: Maybe keep Robb occupied so that he doesn’t tell the whole world
Jon: I’ll try
Jon: Give Ellaria and the girls a hug from me
Oberyn: Will do- we’ll probably be moving back this summer
Oberyn: With the case mostly wrapped
Oberyn: So you’ll see more of us then
Oberyn: The bureau owes me a shit ton of vacation time when this is over
Jon: Sounds good
Jon set his phone down, noting with no small degree of relief that Robb was asleep again, dozing precariously on the edge of the sofa.
“Do you mind if I make a call?” he asked Sam, who simply shook his head, no, and kept grading. He dialed the familiar number and waited until she picked up.
“Robb’s done freaking out?” Rhaenys asked him, the sounds of a city clearly behind her.
“He’s asleep on my couch at the moment, so temporarily, yeah.” Jon muttered. “What the hell is going on, Rhae?”
“Well I assume Robb filled you in.”
“In between drunken sobbing. Uncle Beryn said that Sansa was staying with him and Ellaria- that they had had dinner with Arya and Gendry.”
“Oh, so Uncle Beryn got to meet the new boyfriend?” his older sister asked, curiously. He heard a car door shut, and the noise of the city dampened. “I’m a bit jealous. I texted her to tell her to bring him home this summer- if Sansa’s going to be here, I’ll definitely be able to get Willas to spend some of the summer up in Winterfell.”
“He said Sansa seemed to be overwhelmed.” Jon told her. “Uncle Beryn, not Robb. Robb was too busy being drunk to consider thoughts more advanced than ‘she’s alive’ and ‘I’ll kill the bastard who took her’.”
“Yikes.” Rhae remarked.
“Yeah, I haven’t seen him this bad since he and Tal had that big fight two years ago.”
The line was quiet for a moment. Jon would have bet all the money in his bank account that her mind was working in overdrive, analyzing every bit of information they’d been given so far.
“I didn’t ever think we’d find her.” Rhae murmured. “It felt like we were always dancing around the fact that she was probably dead, and then when I started at the WBI, we learned more about kidnapping stats, and actually studied Sansa’s case, and they weren’t shy at all about the likelihood that she was alive being slim.”
“Did they know you were there?” Jon asked, incredulously.
“We’re Targaryens, Jonny, not Starks. People don’t realize that we grew up in Winterfell. Everyone always assumes Dragonstone because of Gramps. So no, and it was better that no one knew. I got to hear about the case without anyone dancing around it, for once, like everyone does at home.”
“Yeah, we covered it in one of my classes first semester in law school.” Jon muttered. “Similar thing. Professor Thorne though- the asshole- was so detached when he talked about someone breaking into the White Harbor house and stealing away the eldest Stark daughter. Brought up that fucking theory that her parents killed her. I had to call Aunt Dany and rant for an hour before I could look at him without wanting to chuck a law textbook at the guy.”
“That sounds about right. Hopefully you told her not to go on the warpath, though.”
“You can’t really tell Aunt Dany to do anything.” Jon sighed. “You know how she is. But Thorne is still alive, with all his appendages still in place, unfortunately.”
“Well, he got lucky.” Rhae laughed. “Especially if he tried to say things like that about Uncle Ned and Aunt Cat. The kidnapper probably won’t get to escape Aunt Dany that easily though. If you think it’s going to be prosecuted in Westeros- she might get the case.”
“Yeah.” Jon sighed again, running a hand through his messy hair. “She’s just a step away from Attorney General, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they assigned it to her, with her closure rate.”
“That’s one way to put it.” Rhae responded. “She’s ruthless when she thinks that justice needs to get meted out.”
“True.” Jon muttered. “Have you talked to the asshole at all? I can’t imagine he gets to know yet. Uncle Ned still hasn’t entirely forgiven him.”
“I think dad’s going to find out when the press does, but not sooner.”
“Yeah. Egg knows?”
“He only left me- hold up, lemme check-“ Jon glanced down at his phone and groaned, “-fifteen texts.”
“Huh.” Rhaenys muttered, surprised. “That’s restrained from him.”
“I think he’s stressed out with work. One of them was a message that shared some very unkind sentiments about dad, accompanied with a photo of him flipping off dad’s office.”
“Nice.” Rhae sounded approving. “I’ve got to run though- my lunch break is almost over.”
“It’s Friday.” Jon groaned.
“Tell that to the Bureau.” Rhae snorted. “I'll be working tomorrow, too. Normally I’d be pissed they’re making junior agents work weekends, but I know I can’t say anything to Will or Margie yet, so I’m kind of grateful for that chance to avoid them.”
“Fair.” Jon admitted. “I’ll call Egg later.”
“Tell him that if he bribes Connington with Arbor Gold, he might be able to get him to shove a Xanax down dad’s throat.” Rhae snorted. “Bye.”
“Will do. Bye.”
Jon put his phone down, scrubbing his hands through his hair in exhaustion.
“Is your sister working weekends again?” Sam asked, in the middle of putting on the kettle. “Tea?”
“I think this situation is going to require coffee.” Jon muttered. “I’ll make some, thanks. And yeah- she’s still on-duty.”
“Doesn’t seem particularly fair.” Sam muttered. Jon bit back a smile. Sam was reserved enough that he didn’t always get along with Egg or Robb, but he and Rhae got along like they'd been best friends in another life, and Rhae thought he and Gilly were adorable. Jon suspected his sister had just been thrilled to have friends that were as enthusiastic about musical theater as she was. She and Gilly had bonded over their shared love of ‘Wicked’, and Rhae’s perpetual calm complimented Sam’s shy, steady temperament well.
“Your girlfriend is about to work a weekend, as is Robb’s, and if my eyes don’t deceive me, you’re working through Saturday as well.” Jon pointed out, indicating the massive stack of papers next to Sam. “Besides, she says she’s glad for the chance to avoid Willas and Margaery. Doesn’t want to let the cat out of the bag.”
Jon wasn’t worried about Sam, Gilly, or Tal telling anyone. It was Robb he needed to keep an eye on. Hopefully, though, he would be sleeping for a while.
“Seems fair.” Sam admitted, bustling around the kitchen. “How are you holding up?”
“Well, yeah.” Sam laughed, giving him an incredulous look. “Oh come on. One of the biggest unsolved mysteries in the last century is solved- it’s enough to turn anyone’s head. But you’re actually involved, mate- or is that not Robb Stark snoring on our couch right now?”
Jon let out a ragged sigh, closing his eyes as he leaned against the counter next to the coffee machine.
“It doesn’t feel entirely real yet.” He admitted. “I just- we were so young when she was taken that I don’t even remember much about her. Mostly just what Aunt Cat would say, and the photos we had.”
“Well that might be a good thing, don’t you think?” Sam asked.
“What do you mean?”
“None of you really have any expectations about who she is.” He shrugged. “Can you imagine the amount of pressure she feels like she’s under? At least this way, none of you have any ideas about who she should be or how she should act. I know none of you can really relax with this situation, but that should give everyone a little comfort.”
Jon just looked blankly at him, until Sam began to fidget under his stare.
“If Sansa comes to Winterfell, I’m going to need to you there to remind everyone periodically about what you just said.” Jon interrupted, giving him a tired smile. “I don’t think everyone there is going to be as wonderfully rational about it as you are.”
1:30pm, Friday, in Oldtown
(11:30 pm, Friday, in Braavos)
“Gods Jon she is so fucking nice.” Arya groaned, flopping back on Gendry’s bed and ignoring his raised eyebrows at the way she was lying on top of most of his laundry. “Like, you would not even believe it, nice. I don’t know how- it’s a batshit crazy situation in the first fucking place- I would have screamed at Uncle Oberyn for like, six hours if he had tried to tell me that dad had actually kidnapped me as a baby, not just cried a bit and then had dinner with the man!”
“Really? Never would have guessed.” Jon chuckled, and Arya could hear papers rustling in the background. He was probably studying- it was late at night in Braavos, but somewhere around late afternoon in Oldtown, she thought. “You? Confrontational? A real shocker, there.”
“Shut up.” She muttered. “It’s just weird. Like- I want to help her, but I don’t know what to say to her. Even Gen seems better at it than me!”
The boyfriend in question casually stuck his tongue out at her from where he sat on his desk chair and she grinned at him.
“I can’t even imagine what it’s got to be like.” She heard Jon’s voice say, somewhat absently. “I mean- I’ve heard lots of people talk about the case at school- one of my professors last semester was a real asshole about it-“
“I hope you tried to sic Dany on them.” Arya muttered, to Jon’s apparent amusement.
“I told her about it, yeah, but unfortunately, being an insufferable douchebag isn’t enough to go after someone legally.” He let out a snort. “She’s trying to cinch that Attorney General position within the next few years, anyways, so she can’t just go setting fire to people’s cars or going after assholes like Thorne without a really good excuse. That’s what Rhae and I told her, at least.”
“Shame. That thing with Moro’s truck was really funny.”
“Yeah. The point isn’t that my aunt can’t engage in recreational arson or that Thorne is an asshole, though-“
“Although if he was being a dick about Sansa, he absolutely is-“
“-The point is that it’s a really incendiary case for a lot of reasons.” Jon said, firmly. “Enough people spread that false theory about your parents that it ruined Uncle Ned’s chances at that parliamentary seat. A lot of journalists actually ended up indicted for libel with what they’d printed, even though the damage to the Stark name had already been done. The story was all over the country for years- ended up going international, and the tabloids were having a field day with it.” Arya heard him sigh. “Arya, Sansa probably knows about this story. She’s probably heard it told and gossiped about and speculated upon- can you imagine hearing about this massive kidnapping case as a kid, and then growing up and realizing that you’re the child at the center of it all? If she didn’t have a nervous breakdown at the police station, I would be amazed.”
“She seemed mostly normal.” Arya shrugged. “I mean, a little stressed out, but she seemed more upset about her brother than anything else.”
“Yeah, apparently mum’s sister’s kid- Robert Arryn.” Arya told him, to complete silence on the other end. Then,
“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.” Jon muttered. “I cannot believe- actually- I can absolutely believe that Uncle Oberyn would keep this quiet, but I texted him this morning and he didn’t say anything about that.”
“About Robin? I mean- Robert?” Arya asked, trying to figure out what Jon was going on about. “Sorry, Sansa kept calling him ‘Robin’ so I’m mixing them up- I think that was the alias.”
“Yeah.” Jon mumbled, swearing under his breath. “That was his working theory- that Lysa and Robert’s disappearance had something to do with Sansa’s.
“He’s going to be insufferable about this.” She heard Jon mutter.
“Yeah but he did kinda solve the case of the century.” Arya pointed out. “I think he probably gets to be insufferable for like, one Christmas for that.”
“Stop being reasonable.” Jon whined. “If I wanted to hear reasonable things, I’d call Rhae, or Bran probably. I already live with Sam, and he’s reasonable enough for twelve people.”
Arya took a moment to think this over.
“That’s probably fair.” She agreed. “Though once Sansa comes back, I think she’s going to get lumped into the ‘reasonable’ category. She’s much nicer than you jerks.”
“Psh.” Jon scoffed. “Maybe Egg and your oldest brother and Theon, but I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m delightful. Besides, who else is going to give you free legal advice?”
“Your aunt.” Arya smirked. Jon groaned, and Arya heard a smack, like he had let his arm fall over his eyes.
“Don’t bring Dany into this yet.”
“Afraid you’ll be replaced?”
“Look, we don’t need Targaryen Madness involved here just yet.” Jon muttered.
“You’re a Targaryen.”
“In name only.”
“No involving Dany until the trial, okay?”
“I wasn’t planning to.” Arya told him, honestly. “I love her, but she’s way too intense for this. She’ll terrify Sansa if we aren’t careful.”
“We’ll just have to be, then.” She heard Jon mutter. “I can’t imagine having Aunt Dany happen to you, especially after everything else Sansa’s dealing with.”
Arya audibly snorted, making Gendry look up in amusement. She flipped him off, and blew him a kiss- giving his face that goofy smile that she liked so much.
“We’ll help her out, Jon- as much as possible.”
“I hope we can.” He muttered, muted on the other line.
Arya couldn’t help but agree.
“She’s meeting mum and dad tomorrow.” She told Jon, her tone more serious. “I gave her my number- you know- if she needs anything.”
“That’s good.” She heard Jon mutter. He sounded distracted, and she wondered what thoughts his mind was running away with now. “That’s good.”
“I wish this whole thing came with instructions.” Arya admitted, drawing a sympathetic look from Gendry. She hadn’t mentioned her worry in any of her texts to Bran, Rickon, or Robb, but she and Jon had always been close. She knew he wouldn’t overreact like Robb, or tease her the way Aegon might. “I Just feel... lost. And if I feel lost, then how the hell is Sansa feeling?”
“I don’t know, Arya.” Jon sighed. “I really don’t know yet. All we can do now is wait.”
“I hate waiting.” She muttered, pouting slightly.
“You and me both, short stuff.” Jon snorted.
9:45am, Saturday: Braavos
Sansa was drawing a diagram in her sketchbook as she sat back against the wall in one of the guest bedrooms in Ellaria and Oberyn’s townhouse. Mya had left earlier, but not before asking Sansa if she wanted her to stay. Sansa knew that Saturdays were Mya’s regular time with her mom, who had a decently hectic schedule, and she hadn’t wanted to keep her friend from seeing Ms. Stone, who Sansa absolutely adored.
She’d been in a mild state of panic since Mya had left, though, and so Sansa was doing what she did best in a crisis.
This meant that she was making a chart. A family tree, specifically. Color-coded, so that she knew who was actually family, and who the close friends were. Ned and Catelyn Stark were coming to meet her today, and she was terrified that she wouldn’t be prepared. Arya had given Sansa her number (as well as Gendry’s), and Sansa had been texting her all morning with increasingly detailed questions.
Sansa: Who’s Brandon married to again?
Arya: Aunt Ashara
Arya: Ashara Dayne- they don’t have any kids, thank god.
Arya: Uncle Brandon’s absolutely insane
Sansa: Good information to have
Sansa: And is Rhaenys dating Willas Tyrell? Is it Willas or Willis?
Arya: Ur just like mum with the planning
Arya: It’s Willas
Arya: but I told u
Arya: it’ll be way funnier if you just NEVER get anyone’s name right
Arya: What are they gonna do? Call you on it?
Arya: ‘sorry u were kidnapped as a baby how dare u not know our names’???
Sansa: hahahaha excellent
Sansa: Bold strategy, but workable
Arya: too far?
Almost immediately, her phone pinged again. She grinned to see Gendry’s name pop up next to Arya’s- those two were adorable beyond belief. Sansa was a little jealous of their apparent ease and casual banter- none of her previous relationships had ever been quite as comfortable- though none had lasted long. She’d forgotten to ask Arya how long she and Gendry had been together- they acted like a cute old married couple, and Sansa welcomed the distraction from her nerves that they provided.
Gendry: Hey Sansa
Gendry: Sorry my girlfriend is so blunt sometimes
Gendry: We’re working on it
Sansa: no, I’m genuinely laughing at that
Gendry: u sure?
Gendry: I can pick her up by the ankle with one hand and it really annoys her
Gendry: so lemme kno if you change your mind
Sansa: Sounds promising
Sansa: I’ll give it due consideration
Sansa meant what she had said- Arya’s blunt words were reassuring, in an odd sort of way, and so she declined Gendry’s offer (even though an impish part of her thought that particular picture would be really funny). She would have to figure out something to do to thank her for answering every question Sansa had sent her in the last eight hours- some slightly more frantic than others. She’d nearly had a full-on anxiety attack when she realized that there were three Stark brothers, and not two, and had to calm herself down before Ellaria came upstairs and realized something was wrong.
She and Mya- who had come over last night after dinner at Sansa’s insistence- had practiced a breathing technique for anxiety after Sansa had spilled everything to her best friend. Mya had been horrified, but had held tightly to Sansa’s hand the entire time they spoke, squeezing it reassuringly when Sansa would start to drift off into her own head. Mya had distracted her by suggesting they try a ridiculous DIY project she had seen that involved a lot of cut paper and messy glitter, and they had ended up making a card for Robin- hoping that it would prod him into speaking to Sansa again.
Sansa had thanked Ellaria profusely earlier in the morning, after Mya- who had slept over- left. Ellaria had simply smoothed Sansa’s hair back from her face and smiled at her.
“It’s no trouble at all, Sansa.” She had promised, smiling almost sadly. “I’m glad you have a friend you can turn to now- how are you feeling about later today?”
Sansa had opened her mouth and promptly shut it again before she looked like a fish in front of Ellaria. Petyr had often criticized her for that habit, and her situation was no excuse to forget her manners in front of a woman who had been nothing but kind to her.
“I- I think-“ Sansa paused, all of her fear and frustration and panic swirling around ominously in her stomach, “I think it’ll be fine.” She finally lied, smiling at Ellaria. She wasn’t sure that the older woman had quite bought the act, but either way, she didn’t press the issue, and Sansa was grateful for it.
“Well let’s get some breakfast in you, then, before they get here later.” Ellaria placed a gentle hand on her back, guiding Sansa into the kitchen. “How do you feel about French toast?”
“You don’t really think I’m like- an insensitive jerk or anything, right?” Arya asked, out of the blue. Gendry’s head whipped around so quickly that he was surprised there wasn’t an audible crack from the motion.
“Of course not!” he told her, furrowing his brow. “You know I’m kidding, saying that to Sansa right?”
“You actually can lift me up with one hand, though.” Arya shrugged, not quite meeting his eyes. “Can never quite tell, really.”
“Hey-“ Gendry’s voice was softer now, and he got up from the floor where he’d been leaning against her bed to come sit next to her, “I’m sorry- I didn’t mean to upset you. I won’t say that you’re blunt again if you don’t like it.” He grinned, throwing an arm around her. “It’s actually one of my favorite ‘Arya things’.”
“Oh shush.” Arya pouted, leaning into his embrace anyways.
“It is!” Gendry insisted, pulling back to meet her eyes. He loved her eyes- the intense silver-gray had practically pinned him in place the first time they had met. Granted, she'd also been bullying him into making a sword, and he had found it oddly charming. “You know- everyone else is probably going to tiptoe around her for a while.”
“Well, duh.” Arya pointed out. “She’s kinda got a lot going on.”
“Yeah, but Sansa seems to like that you don’t.” Gendry pointed out. “I think she likes that you’re honest and straightforward about the whole thing.”
“Really?” Arya wrinkled her nose.
“Yeah!” Gendry grinned. “I think Sansa just looks like she’d be fragile- she’s got a spine of steel like you, though.” He snorted. “Must be a Stark thing.”
“Oh wait until you meet Robb.” Arya muttered, trying not to blush at the compliment. “He’s more like a noodle.”
“Well, Stark women then.” Gendry corrected. “I think you’ve just gotta keep being real with Sansa, and back off if she ever gets overwhelmed. She’s been texting you all morning though- she must like you.”
“Yeah, well so has Rickon-” Arya snorted, “- and he just wants the password to my Hulu account.”
“Your parents don’t have one?”
“They locked him out of the accounts last week for punching another kid at rugby practice.” Arya told him, smirking. “Kid’s got some anger-management issues, but one hell of a right hook, apparently.”
“You know, every time you talk about them, I get more and more excited to meet your brothers.” Gendry deadpanned.
“Yeah-“ Arya sighed, “Even with the whole ‘kidnapped-at-birth-and-now-I-probably-have-massive-trauma’ thing, Sansa’s probably still going to be the easiest family member to meet.”
10:00 am, Saturday, in Braavos
Sansa nervously bit her nails- a habit that Petyr had hated- while she texted with Arya, who was just sending her memes now. Mya had sent a few pictures of cute dogs to Sansa, who could feel her blood pressure actively lowering every time she saw another canine in human clothing or a funny hat.
Ellaria was cooking breakfast for the both of them, hoping to lure her own children downstairs with the smell. The three Sand girls had welcomed Robin into their fold last night for some sort of movie marathon- Sansa and Mya had passed the TV room coming upstairs, but had just caught the strong scent of caramel popcorn and the sound of explosions on their way to Sansa’s room.
“Daemon called your brother.” Ellaria told Sansa, gently. “The DNA came back for Robin- he’s Jon Arryn’s son.”
“I feel like I should be surprised by that.” Sansa murmured, feeling oddly empty at the thought. Ellaria laughed.
“Sweetheart, your capacity for surprise is already stretched to the maximum- cut yourself a little slack.” She patted Sansa’s shoulder, gently, setting a full plate of breakfast in front of her. It was a new experience for Sansa, who had never really had anyone cook for her before. She had always been the one to do that for Petyr and her brother.
“Thank you.” Sansa murmured. It smelled delicious- it was a shame her stomach was so knotted up. “Has he come out of his room yet?” Do you know if he’s okay?
“I brought him a plate earlier.” Ellaria reassured her. “Daemon is coming to take him bowling in a few hours, so that you can meet the Starks without any extra worries.”
Sansa appreciated that Ellaria called them ‘the Starks’ and not ‘your parents’ more than she knew how to vocalize. She decided on a grateful smile instead, and the older woman seemed to understand- her eyes softening as she nodded at Sansa.
“That’s good.” Sansa managed, after successfully swallowing a bite of breakfast. “The toast too- certainly- but I meant that it’s good that Daemon is taking him.” She paused, looking down at her plate, a twinge in her chest. “I’m glad he’s talking to someone about all this, at least.”
She hoped Robin would forgive her soon- she had to figure out where they were going to go this summer, and really didn’t want to separate herself from her little brother while he was dealing with so much.
“He’ll come around, Sansa.” Ellaria reassured her, sitting next to her at the table. “He’s a teenager with too many emotions and not enough experience to deal with them just yet.” She smiled, gently. “God knows I’ve seen this kind of thing from Doree and Loree before, and they aren’t having to hold even half of what you and your brother are dealing with.”
Sansa managed a watery smile her way.
“I’m surprised Robin didn’t try to get Agent Sand to take him to play laser tag.” She sniffled. “He loves that.”
“Oh he did.” Ellaria declared, baldly. “I think he would have suckered Daemon into it, too, if Oberyn hadn’t pitched a fit about security.” She grinned at Sansa, who managed to laugh at the image, feeling slightly better about her brother as she took another, tentative, bit of her French toast.
12:45 pm, Saturday, in Braavos
When a sullen Robin came to meet Daemon Sand at the door, the agent wasn’t surprised. ‘Sullen’ seemed to be Robin’s default setting since he had lost his temper with Sansa the other day at the station. He could hardly blame the boy- both of the kids had been dealt a pretty terrible hand in life so far- and Robin was dealing with middle school on top of that.
“Hey kid.” He greeted, giving a slight grin as Robin nodded at him. Every bit counted, at this point. “What’ve you got?”
Robin was holding a piece of folded paper with some very colorful designs on it, and kept flicking his eyes down towards it. Daemon tried not to crane his neck too much to see it, but he managed to catch a lot of writing on the inside. A card, then.
“Sansa and Mya made me a card.” He mumbled, fingers gripping it a bit more tightly than necessary. Daemon suspected that Robin felt more than a little guilty after yelling at Sansa the other day, but also suspected that the kid didn’t entirely realize what he was feeling yet. Either way, he didn’t seem inclined to let go of the card his sister had given him any time soon.
“That’s a pretty big card.” Daemon observed, noting the small upward tilt to Robin’s mouth.
“Mya has big handwriting.” He responded, opening it again. “Sansi’s is smaller and really curly though.”
“What did they say?” Daemon asked, waving to Ellaria on her doorstep and opening his passenger side door for Robin to hop in the car. Daemon had spent most of yesterday afternoon brainstorming something he could do with Robin to keep him occupied while Sansa met the Starks- he was a sensitive kid, despite appearances to the contrary, and Daemon wanted to keep him from picking up on the inevitable stress Sansa would experience. It was also his hope that keeping Robin out from underfoot would make things a little less stressful for Sansa as well.
Robin had perked up at the thought of laser tag, but Daemon couldn’t ensure security in a place like that, and had carefully suggested an alternative. So, in a weird turn of events, Daemon was taking the kid bowling. Oberyn had snickered at the thought when Daemon had called him about it, but he had gotten a long text from Sansa a few hours earlier, detailing foods that Robin liked and his various allergies. It had also thanked him for being there for Robin.
It had been an incredibly sweet gesture on Sansa’s part, especially considering everything she was trying to deal with at the moment. Daemon let his gaze flicker to Robin in the passenger seat; hopefully, they could talk about Sansa just a little bit tonight. Daemon didn’t think Robin was a bad kid at all- he was just struggling with the hand he’d been dealt, but he was taking it out on the one person likely to understand how he felt, and Daemon was hoping they could fix that.
“It's just a bunch of sappy stuff.” Robin muttered, still refusing to set the card down.
“What kind of sappy stuff would that be?” Daemon asked, beginning to drive.
“Mya told me to hang in there.” Robin said, staring down at the writing again. “that I was a ‘tough cookie’. She drew a really weird looking cookie in it, too.”
“Remind me who Mya is?” Daemon asked, furrowing his brow.
“Sansa’s best friend.” Robin responded, crossing his arms.
“What’s she like?”
“She’s pretty cool.” Robin admitted, somewhat begrudgingly. “She does rock climbing- she said she would teach me if-“
He cut off abruptly, turning to face the window.
“If what?” Daemon gently pressed.
“If our father said it was okay.” Robin mumbled, so quietly that Daemon almost didn’t hear him.
They were quiet for a moment. Daemon hoped that if he gave enough space, Robin might begin to actually talk. A few minutes later, it actually paid off.
“Agent Martell and Ms. Sand talked to me this morning about it.” Robin muttered. “After you told me on the phone that father wasn’t my actual dad.”
“Oberyn mentioned that.” Daemon answered him, flicking his eyes over to the boy as they drove towards the ferry. “How are you holding up so far?”
“Fine.” Robin bit out.
Daemon remained silent. 3…2…1…
“I just don’t understand!” Robin exploded. Daemon suspected he would see tears if he turned to look at Robin, and determinedly kept his eyes forward. The last thing he wanted to do was to spook the boy.
“What don’t you understand?”
“Why would my mother do this?” Robin yelled, gesturing furiously. “I mean- what was so bad about this Jon Arryn guy that she literally just ran away?” he sniffled. “I mean- didn’t she think about what would happen when she left? When she lied?”
Daemon inhaled, sharply. Robin didn’t seem ready to place any blame on Baelish at all- he’d been expecting it- but it might make it difficult to talk about Sansa.
“I don’t know what your mom was thinking when she left with you.” Daemon admitted, steering onto the ferry. “It’s hard to know now that she’s gone.”
“Father couldn’t have had anything to do with it.” Robin shook his head. “Mom was the flighty one.”
“What do you mean by that?”
Robin shuffled, uncomfortably, and the car was silent for a moment.
“She was kind of erratic.” He mumbled. “She would change her mind a lot. She never got mad at me, but she would get on Sansa a lot if things weren’t perfect.” He shrugged. “She got kind of paranoid before she got sick.” He turned away again. “I guess she was worried you were gonna find us.”
“Why did your mom give Sansa a hard time?” Daemon frowned slightly. Robin shrugged.
“I don’t know. She was just really strict with Sansa.” He muttered. “Not that she needed to be.”
“What do you mean?”
“Sansa’s just- she’s just good at everything.” Robin snapped. “She always gets good grades, and everyone likes her and she’s really good at drawing and cooking and dad always told her so! She could get away with anything because he always liked her best!”
He was breathing heavily, fists clenched, and Daemon was glad he had put down the card that Sansa and her friend had made for him before he accidentally crushed it.
“He always liked her best.” Robin muttered, roughly wiping the tears away from his face with his arm. “Why would she betray him like that? Why would she help Agent Martell arrest him?”
Daemon didn’t miss the fact that Robin apparently didn’t hold him accountable for any of it, but he didn’t dispute it for now. The kid desperately needed to know that someone was in his corner, and for now, wasn’t willing to believe that Sansa was.
“Sansa’s not his daughter, though.” Daemon pointed out, quietly, as the ferry began to move. “How did you feel when you found out your mom had taken you away from your biological father?” He was careful not to say ‘your real dad’.
“I-“ Robin paused, biting his lip, “I was confused.” He finally managed to get out. “I didn’t know what to think.”
“Do you think Sansa might have felt the same way?” Daemon asked, carefully.
“Sansa never gets confused.” Robin scoffed. “She always knows what she’s doing- she’s always so stupidly calm.”
Daemon chuckled a bit. Robin glared at him.
“That sounds a bit like my older sister.” He admitted. “She was always the smart one- always had her shit together- gave me a rough time because I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life for a while.” He looked back towards Robin. “She was always a force of nature- so determined and strong and hard-working.” He paused. “And then, out of the blue, I got a call that she was in the hospital. She’d tried to hurt herself, but fortunately, they were able to fix her up.”
“Why would she do that?” Robin asked, slowly. Daemon could almost hear the gears turning in his head.
“She’d been really stressed for a really long time.” Daemon told him, a bit of a sad smile on his face. “She always felt like she had to be perfect, and so she never told us if she was confused, or if she was hurt, or if she doubted herself at all. She kept it all in- so she looked perfect, but was really struggling with herself and the things around her.”
“But why wouldn’t she tell anyone?” Robin asked, still seeming confused.
“She didn’t want us to worry.” Daemon shrugged. “She spent a lot of time worrying about everyone else, and I spent a lot of time being annoyed at how perfect she was- until, suddenly, she just wasn’t.”
Robin was silent for a moment.
“Do you think Sansa does that?” he asked, slowly. Daemon nodded. Robin was a smarter kid than he suspected people gave him credit for.
“I think Sansa worries about a lot, and I think she might not want to show you how upset she is about everything right now, because she doesn’t want you to have to worry more.” Daemon told him. Robin’s face crumpled, and he looked like he might cry at the slightest push. Daemon wished he could go easy on the kid, but some things just had to be said.
“Do you think Sansa loved your father?” he asked Robin, softly.
“She- she made him a really fancy red velvet cake for his birthday a couple months ago.” Robin muttered, lip trembling. “She stayed up almost all night to pipe icing letters on it for him.”
“Sansa agreed to give Oberyn her DNA because she wanted to exonerate your dad.” Daemon told Robin. The boy’s eyes widened, near comically. “She did it because she didn’t want your dad to have done something as bad as taking her from her biological family, and she wanted us to know that he was innocent too.” He paused. “But he wasn't. He'd hurt her biological family terribly, and he had hurt her, without her ever knowing. Do you think that’s fair to Sansa?”
“No.” Robin muttered, crossing his arms against his chest.
“She’s having trouble with this the same way you are.” Daemon told him, gently. “But Sansa may not let you see how upset she is, because she doesn’t want you to worry.” He met Robin’s watery-blue eyes. “But she’s the one person in the world who might be able to imagine feeling how you feel, because she’s going through the same thing right now- finding out she’s not who she thought she was, and that her parents weren’t her parents.”
There was a long, pregnant pause while Daemon drove. It was nearly eight minutes before Robin spoke again.
“What if she’s too mad at me to want to talk?” he asked, sniffling. There was an undercurrent of real fear there, and Daemon’s heart went out to him.
“Do you think that Sansa would ever be too mad to talk to you?” he asked, gently.
Robin shook his head, lip trembling.
“Then there you have it.” Daemon assured him. “Kid, I promise you, you get to be as mad as you want to be about this situation. It’s really damn shitty, and nothing erases that.” He pulled a grin for Robin, who looked like he was trying not to smile at Daemon’s language. “But Sansa’s always taken care of you, right? Always tried to make you feel better when you were sad?”
“Yeah.” Robin muttered, looking out the window.
“Well, what if you try to do the same thing for her?” Daemon asked, shrugging. “I think she might need a shoulder to cry on, and I think it would mean a lot to her if you tried to help her out. Besides-“ he waggled his eyebrows, leaning over to tease Robin, “-you can always be as mad at Oberyn as you want. You’ve totally knocked him off his rhythm- it’s hilarious.”
Robin actually did laugh at that, looking for a brief second like a kid again. The rest of their ride was quiet, but Robin seemed far more thoughtful than before, and Daemon hoped that at least some of what he had suggested would stick.
For Robin’s sake, as well as Sansa’s.
1:15 pm, Saturday, in Braavos
“Sansa!” Ellaria called gently, interrupting the game of monopoly Sansa was playing with Loree, Doree, and Obella. They’d been at it for an hour, now, and the girls seemed determined to cheer Sansa up by any means necessary. They were energetic and sweet, and Sansa adored them already, even if she was still worried about Robin and their impending houseguests. “Oberyn called, sweetie.”
Sansa’s stomach dropped. It felt like going down the first big hill of a roller coaster, but instead of the sun and wind kissing her face, everything was just dark and sickening, and she was plummeting into a world she didn’t know and couldn’t see.
She forced a smile for Ellaria.
“They’re on their way, aren’t they?” she softly asked, grateful for the way Obella gently took her hand. She smiled at the other girl, eyes crinkling at the kind gesture.
“He just picked up Ned and Catelyn from the airport.” Ellaria told her, her eyes kind and voice gentle. “They’ll be here in about half an hour.” She paused, studying Sansa carefully. “Is there anything I can get you, sweetheart?”
Sansa shook her head, no, but Loree was already jumping up excitedly.
“I have some really nice orange blossom tea Sansi- want me to make some for us?”
Sansa briefly relaxed at the excited look on the girl’s face.
“That sounds wonderful, Loree- thank you.” She gave the younger girl as wide a smile as she could manage. Obella squeezed her hand, and it didn’t escape Sansa’s notice that Doree deliberately went past a property on her next turn so that Sansa could buy it instead.
She felt her eyes fill with tears as Loree excitedly set several mugs in front of them and brought out a plate of shortbread she and Doree had made the other day. The cookies were slightly burnt- the girls were still learning how to bake- but as the girls took turns making increasingly ridiculous jokes to try and make Sansa laugh, she thought that they were the best cookies she’d ever tasted.
1:56 pm, Saturday, in Braavos
Sansa looked up at the two figures that entered the room, and her first thought was an odd realization that would have seemed out of place, had any of this been even slightly normal.
So that’s where the height comes from. She thought, looking at Ned Stark. He was a tall man, with a long, somber face, and he looked like he hadn’t slept in a week. His wife- Gods, her mother- gave off a sort of frantic energy that almost made Sansa flinch. She looked like her sister, Sansa thought, but less harsh. Both she and Ned Stark had hopeful expressions on their faces, and Catelyn Stark looked as though she’d been crying, her hand tightly gripping her husband’s.
She was relieved when Oberyn came in behind them. He gave her an encouraging nod from behind the other two and followed them in to guide everyone towards the kitchen table.
“Sansa?” Catelyn asked, taking a step forward, eyes glassy. Her hands were slightly wrinkled, and she looked different from the woman in the video that Sansa had come to associate with Catelyn Stark. Her spine was straight, her shoulders back, even as her eyes betrayed her anxiety.
Sansa wondered how much this woman could read on her own face as she stood up to greet them, smoothing her skirt, nervously. The collared blouse and her deep yellow skirt were all clothes that Sansa had made herself, within the last six months. The embroidery on the collar of her shirt had earned her extra credit from one of her design professors- little red anemone flowers with vines twining around them that had drawn praise from her normally stoic instructor. Sansa had spent an hour and a half the night before frantically trying to figure out what to wear with Mya's help, and had settled on one of the only outfits she had with her that was hers alone.
It hadn’t seemed kind to meet the Starks while she was clothed in garments that the man who ruined their lives had given her.
She stood up slowly, smoothing her skirt again with nervous hands. Ned Stark was gripping the edge of the doorframe like he’d seen a ghost- ashen white and wide-eyed. Catelyn was shaking, slightly, but came closer towards Sansa, a look of utter astonishment on her face.
“Hello.” Sansa whispered, as Catelyn came closer, cradling her face in smooth, warm hands. She could feel tears in her eyes- she hadn’t wanted to cry, but apparently the mood in the room was contagious.
“My baby.” Catelyn whispered, stroking a thumb across her cheek. There were tears escaping the woman’s eyes now- her mother’s eyes- and Sansa barely had time to prepare before Catelyn had thrown her arms around her, shaking with barely concealed sobs.
Sansa froze, briefly, but let herself sink into the embrace- trying to forget how little she knew of these people. They had suffered so much from her disappearance- the least she could do was let them have this. She let her arms close around Catelyn, and realized that there were tears running down her own cheeks.
They weren’t tears of joy, or tears of sorrow- Sansa desperately tried to fit her feelings into one of those boxes, but more than anything, she was anxious, and she was terrified of making some sort of misstep. She’d alienated Petyr, after all. What happened if the Starks didn’t want her, either? She suddenly felt cold, and realized that Catelyn had stepped back, staring at her with an expression of awe- like Sansa was some sort of priceless artwork to be admired.
Eddard Stark stepped forward now, and it was amazing the way his entire face softened when he met Sansa’s eyes. All the harshness she had seen melted away, and he looked as hopeful as his wife.
“Sansa?” He breathed, seeming frozen in place, as though she were a fawn in the woods that could be scared away by a single loud noise or sudden movement. Briefly, the absurd thought that he would be a terribly interesting subject to sketch crossed Sansa’s mind.
“Hi.” She managed to stammer, summoning a shaky smile that Ned Stark slowly matched.
He stepped forward, and then, letting out a strangled sob, tucked Sansa against his broad chest, his arms wrapping around her as she embraced him back. Sansa felt her own breath hitch, and then she was crying again, and Catelyn was hugging her for a second time. Sansa suspected that her knees were about to give out as she shook- like the still standing husk of a burning tree, the lightest breeze could probably have knocked her over.
She didn’t know what to think. These were her parents- her actual parents- but nothing felt like it should. She didn’t automatically fit into the hug with the two of them (wasn’t that what always happened in books?), and there was some awkward adjusting, and Sansa had to deliberately practice the breathing technique Mya had shown her, so that she didn’t start hyperventilating.
It was just too much. Everything about this had been too much, but she had to keep calm. She couldn’t lose it. If Robin heard that she had panicked now, she would never get him to agree to meet with Jon Arryn. Gods. How on earth was she supposed to convince Robin to do anything right now? She was a mess.
She focused on her breathing, and several minutes later, when Ned and Catelyn had pulled away, they all stood, giving each other nervous grins with varying degrees of sincerity. Sansa was pretty sure that Ned and Catelyn's smiles were genuine, but she wasn't sure whether her own was or not.
Ellaria guided them over to the table, bustling around and setting out several mugs of tea on the table. Sansa sniffed hers as she sat, and tears sprang to her eyes at Ellaria’s kindness- it was the lemon-black tea that she loved; she had told Ellaria earlier that it was her favorite blend. She took a few large sips, trying to keep her hands from shaking. The bitter, slightly sour taste was calming, and she managed to even her breathing as Catelyn spoke.
“So- tell us!” Catelyn sniffled, just a bit too brightly. “About you!”
“What- what do you want to hear?” Sansa sniffled, trying for a smile. Catelyn was beautiful- it was unnerving both how much she resembled Lysa, as well as Sansa’s own face.
“Anything.” Ned answered, his thick accent muggy with emotion. “Everything.” He had the most expressive eyes Sansa had ever seen in a person- a piercing gray that could easily have been called silver.
“We’d love to know anything you want to tell us.” Catelyn took her hand, squeezing it. Sansa let her lips curve upwards, and Catelyn looked as though she was on the verge of a fresh batch of tears.
“Um-“ Sansa felt mild panic, as though her mind had gone blank- what would they want to know? What did she want to tell them?
They don’t really know me. Sansa thought, somewhat nauseous as she tried to think. They don’t know how I loved Petyr- cared for the man that hurt them. There was another horrifying thought. They would look at you with disgust if they knew. Her mind whispered. If they knew that you had so completely betrayed them.
The voice sounded like Petyr, and Sansa desperately tried to banish his image from her mind. He had never really hurt her, after all. She just needed to think of what to say- anything that wasn’t about Petyr.
Fortunately, her guardian angel picked just then to make an appearance, saving Sansa from the anxious storm brewing in her own mind.
“Sansa's a student at Braavos Central.” Ellaria returned briefly to set down a plate of lemon cookies that looked far prettier than the shortbread the girls had offered her earlier. "She was telling me about her program earlier- it sounded fascinating." The implication that Ellaria had barred both Doree and Loree from the kitchen while making these cookies was both amusing and centering, and Sansa managed to take a deep breath, relaxing marginally as Ellaria winked at her before leaving again.
“Oberyn mentioned that on the phone earlier.” Ned smiled at her, eyes crinkling. He had a very kind face, she decided. There was something sort of severe about his features that reminded her of Arya, but when he smiled, it transformed his whole countenance. “What are you studying?”
“Fashion design and merchandising.” Sansa blushed, as Catelyn gave her a wide grin in between her tears. “I- I always liked sewing when- er- when I was younger.“ Sansa mentally winced at the reminder of her childhood, but the Starks seemed to be hanging on to every word. Catelyn hadn’t let go of her hand, and Ned had one of his hands on his wife’s back, as if reassuring himself that they were both still there. “I liked the historical costumes-“ she heard herself continue, “-from all of the old stories.” She blushed. “I tried to make a Dornish dress for Halloween, once.” She admitted. “In the style they would have worn during the war of the Five Kings.” Catelyn clapped her hand over her smile as she hiccupped, and Ned’s grin could have outshone the sun.
“How- how old were you?” Catelyn tentatively asked. She looked so eager that Sansa found herself replying almost instantly.
“Eight.” Sansa responded, almost sheepishly. Ned threw his head back, giving a joyous laugh. “I was- I was ambitious.”
“That sounds wonderful.” Catelyn whispered, looking wistful. “Are there- I mean- do you think we could see-“ she broke off, dabbing her leaking eyes with a napkin.
“I might have a picture on my phone.“ Sansa murmured, not entirely sure of what she was offering. “If- if you wanted, that is.”
She had been planning to play it cool- to keep it together. Oberyn had reminded her earlier that there were no expectations on her- and here she was, volunteering to show them a photo from her childhood. She couldn’t quite pick out why, but there was a part of Sansa that so desperately wanted their approval now that they were here and real in front of her.
“We’d love to.” Ned answered, his voice thick. Catelyn didn’t seem to be able to summon the words, but nodded.
“My best friend sent it to me last week-“ Sansa felt herself saying as she scrolled through her texts, “She was trying to convince me not to worry about a pattern drafting exam- that I'd been doing it too long to worry about the grade.”
She finally found it, lifting her phone with shaking hands to show the picture of her eight-year-old self near one of the canals, and next to a 3-year-old Robin in a cute red wagon. She remembered being so proud of that dress- she’d tried to learn embroidery just so that she could embellish the front. It looked like a mess to her, now, but she remembered how impressed her fath- how impressed Petyr had been with her. The thought of Petyr while she was with Ned and Catelyn made her stomach twist uncomfortably, and she had to stop herself from grimacing.
Ned’s eyes widened at the photo, and he slowly reached a shaking hand out to zoom in on little Sansa. Catelyn promptly burst into sobs, her shoulders shaking violently as she saw the picture. Sansa felt stricken.
“I’m- I’m sorry!” she told them, panic creeping into her tone. “I didn’t want- I didn’t mean to upset you.”
Ned Stark looked up at her with those bright eyes and gave her a slow, sad smile.
“Sansa, sweetheart-“ he murmured, “You have nothing to apologize for. Nothing.”
Sansa could only nod wordlessly, biting her lip as Catelyn dried her face, sniffling as she looked back up at Sansa with red eyes and a bright smile.
“I’m sorry-“ Catelyn apologized, dabbing at her eyes, “I’m just- we’re just so happy-“ she broke off briefly, taking a deep breath. “You must be a very good seamstress now, if you were making things like that when you were eight.” The amount of compassion in her eyes as she looked at Sansa was unlike anything she had ever seen. It certainly was nothing like the way that Lysa used to look at her- it was almost disorienting. “We would love to see some more of your work sometime.”
She sounded so eager, and Ned looked so hopeful that Sansa looked down, flushing as she fidgeted with the ends of her skirt.
“Well I made the outfit I’m wearing-“ she managed to get out, “-if that counts.”
Catelyn looked astonished, her eyes hungrily devouring Sansa from head to toe, and Ned had a soft, almost proud, smile on his face.
“The embroidery as well?” Catelyn asked. Sansa nodded, managing a soft smile.
“What kind of flowers are they?” Ned asked softly, indicating the design around her collar.
“Anemones.” Sansa blushed. “They’re- well, there’s an old Volantine myth about how they were created from the tears of a goddess.” Ned and Catelyn seemed to be hanging on to her every word and it was a little disconcerting. Even Mya, who had always wanted to know the inspiration for Sansa's pieces, had never looked this engaged with the mythology of Sansa’s designs. “I- I liked the story.” She finished, lamely.
“They’re lovely.” Catelyn breathed. “And such a cute skirt!” She grinned at Sansa, her river-blue eyes curving up slightly.
“I like bright colors.” Sansa admitted, feeling more than a little embarrassed at the admission. “In my clothes, at least.”
“You’ll have that in common with Rhaenys, at least.” Catelyn smiled.
Sansa experienced a moment of mild panic, desperately trying to remember the chart she’d made earlier. Arya had been sending her a lot of memes in between names, and her memory didn’t seem to want to recall any of it.
“Er- Elia and Lyanna’s daughter?” she managed to remember, drawing a surprised look from Catelyn.
“Yes-“ she sounded astonished that Sansa would know that. “Did Oberyn tell you about everyone?” she asked.
“I- ah- I had a bit of inside help.” Sansa admitted. Catelyn still looked bemused, but Ned smiled.
Sansa nodded, giving a thin smile.
“She’s been lovely.” She told them, meaning every word. “She helped me with a few of the names during dinner.” And she keeps sending me galaxy-brain memes now.
“I know they’re looking forward to getting to meet you.” Catelyn told her, hope shining in her eyes.
“But we can go at your pace.” Ned interjected, giving Catelyn an amused look. “It’s a lot, I’m sure.”
Sansa felt her words stick in the back of her throat, and she managed just to nod, feeling tears pool in her eyes for some reason. Fortunately, Oberyn’s timing was just as good as Ellaria’s, and Sansa wondered how closely the two of them were listening in the hall.
“Ah, she’s already got Arya in her corner.” He chuckled, clapping Ned on the shoulder as he surveyed the scene. “You just stick with her, Sansa, and I’m sure she’ll gladly stab anyone who gets too close with that saber of hers.”
Sansa felt a near hysterical giggle bubble up in her throat at Oberyn’s glib remark, and Catelyn looked as though she didn’t know whether to laugh or scold the man. Sansa met Ned’s eyes, and he gave her a slow nod and a steady smile.
It was Oberyn’s surreptitious wink, though, along with a glimpse of Doree and Loree comedically trying (and failing) to see what was going on from the balcony above the stairs, that truly helped Sansa to relax enough to fall into a decent conversational rhythm with the Starks.
It wasn’t perfect yet- but it was something, Sansa realized, as she made Ned laugh, telling him and Catelyn a story about Robin as a child. She could come to care for these people, after a bit, she thought. They seemed kind, and eager to know her, and that was something of a novel experience in and of itself.
Maybe this wouldn’t be quite so horrible, after all.
I’m not gonna lie, having Rhae call Aerys ‘gramps’ in conversation with Jon is something I find VERY funny. Also, this took forever to get done because the chapter itself is MASSIVE (even with me making cuts and moving things around) and also super emotionally charged. You guys don’t seem to mind the long chapters though, so that’ll probably be the name of the game for a while. (this chapter also took forever because I had to help one of my sisters evacuate from Hurricane Dorian, and the other one was visiting from halfway around the world where she lives, so things have been a little busy recently).
But you guys asked- and have been asking- and this is the chapter where it finally happens! Sansa meets Ned and Cat!!! It tore my heart out! It was emotionally a mess, and quite frankly, that might be a theme for the next few chapters. Reunions, man. What can you do?
Sansa has sort of a ‘baseline of unease’ from living with Petyr- she almost doesn’t really recognize what’s normal and what isn’t. She has a nasty tendency of seriously repressing her emotions, and she’s going to need to do some work on that so she doesn’t completely overwhelm herself. We'll see much more of that going forward.
I did not plan that scene with Robin and Daemon in the SLIGHTEST, but I actually ended up loving it. Robin’s being a bit of a little shit, but if anyone gets to be a little shit, it’s him, because the kid has a LOT on his plate. He loves Sansa a lot, though, and I think Daemon’s suggestion of ‘taking care of Sansa’ is going to resonate with him more and more as the story goes along.
We got to see quite a bit more of Jon in this chapter- interacting with Robb, with Sam and Gilly, and chatting with his sister and Arya. There are some hints at the dynamic between the Stark/Targ family members that we’ll get to unwrap more and more as the story continues. I loved writing the scene where Jon chats with Rhae on the phone- they both picked their careers in part because of what happened to Sansa, and they’re the two who are going to be most involved in her case going forward.
I hope everyone loves Ellaria, Oberyn, and the girls as much as I do. The level of empathy contained within teenage girls can absolutely astound you, and it was a lot of fun to write them trying to cheer Sansa up via poorly played monopoly and over-baked cookies. Also, Ellaria is an actual angel.
Sansa/Arya interactions are really fun to write- I think Arya’s a really compassionate person with a heavy dose of ‘no-bullshit’, and that sort of dynamic is comforting to Sansa, because it’s nothing like Petyr or Lysa. Getting a bit more into Arya and Gendry’s relationship was interesting as well- Arya is a super strong person with some funny insecurities like all of us, and she really really wants to make sure she’s doing what’s best for Sansa- she just doesn’t entirely know what that is yet, so she’s sending Sansa lots of funny texts and more memes than should be humanly possible.
Also, big shout-out to Samwell Tarly for immediately grasping the complexity of the situation. I know Robb doesn’t seem to be handling it well, but remember that he’s the only Stark child who actually remembers Sansa and her kidnapping- that’s enough to kick-start a massive guilt complex that can manifest in the form of some risky behaviors. Jon is so used to Robb being, well, Robb, that he’s probably not the best person to pick out that Robb’s behavior isn’t entirely normal. We’ll go there in the story, I promise.
Thank you all so SO much for all of your kind words, lovely reviews, kudos, and all of that. You guys leave me such lovely comments on this story, and it just makes it even more fun to write a story I already love when I know that all of you are enjoying it as well. To those of you who write me essays: I love you. To those of you who write me anything: I adore you as well, you lovely humans. To the people commenting on every chapter: If I could nominate you for sainthood, I would. You’re all lovely, delightful people.
Next time, we’re going to do something a little different- more in the vein of a few character studies. We’re going to get a sense of the dynamics of the Stark/Targ family, and see how the different members interact with each other, and learn a bit more about each of them, and how they react to the situation. We’ll also get to see a bit of domestic bliss featuring Lyanna and Elia, because of course Jon calls his moms on the regular to chat, and especially calls them in the wake of this particular event. It’s a bit more light-hearted, because we need a bit of a breather from all of this emotional weight, and the format is going to be a bit unique. You’ll see :)
Chapter 8: Interlude: Texts from Westeros
The ‘Winterhell™’ groupchat is crazy active, everyone’s taking the piss out of everyone else to avoid their own stress, Jon catches up with his moms, Sansa makes plans for her Sunday afternoon, and there is a serious amount of Sarcastic Sibling Energy going on.
“If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance.”
― George Bernard Shaw, Immaturity
9:50 am, Saturday: Oldtown
11:50 am, Saturday: Winterfell
[1:50 pm, Saturday: King’s Landing]
[7:50 pm, Saturday: Braavos]
“Hi sweetheart. How are you holding up?”
Jon sighed, swirling the cup of coffee in front of him and watching the milk slowly mix with the black coffee.
“I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. How long are we going to be able to keep this from the press? And when are Aunt Cat and Uncle Ned going to get there?”
“So many questions.” Elia Martell’s gentle voice came through the phone, steady and calm. “They should be there right now- Cat texted and said that they met Sansa, but I haven’t heard much else. As for the press, I think we’ll be alright for now. Your uncle is working overtime to keep this quiet, although he’s been texting Lya and I all morning.”
“Yeah.” Jon sighed. “I know he’s got it covered. Arya’s a bit on edge though.”
“She got to meet Sansa, didn’t she?”
“She said she seemed nice.” Jon replied, taking a generous sip of the coffee. “Almost too nice, and too calm for the situation, according to Arya.”
“We can’t all be quite so vocal as Arya.” He could hear the smile in Elia’s voice. “I’m sure the poor girl doesn’t know which end is up. It’s wonderful that she’s alive though.”
“Uncle Oberyn is going to be insufferable.”
His mother laughed, loud and long.
“I think this time, he’s earned the right to be a little insufferable.”
“Ugh that’s exactly what Arya said, Ama.” Jon groaned.
“She’s a smart girl. How is Robb?”
“A human disaster.” Jon winced. “Talisa took him home last night though, so he at least wasn’t freaking out in my living room for more than one night.”
“He’s in good hands, then.” Elia told him. “She’s got a solid head on her shoulders. Besides, Robb’s always blamed himself a bit for Sansa’s disappearance, even though you were both far too young to really know what was going on. It wouldn’t surprise me that he’s struggling with this.”
“Yeah, I’m glad Tal came to get him.” Jon sighed. “I really don’t know what to say to him, Ama. I’m nervous to meet her too- but I just keep thinking that there are so many of us- how’s she going to deal with all of it?”
“It’s not exactly the kind of situation that comes up regularly, sweetheart.” His mother told him. “All we can do going forward is make sure that we’re listening to Sansa, and giving her the space and support that she needs. For me and your mum, that probably will mean reminding Cat to relax and give Sansa and everyone breathing room. For you, it could mean supporting Robb when he needs a place to land, or helping your brother get time off work to come up to Winterfell this summer.”
“…You talked to Rhae already, didn’t you? That sounds like her idea of a bad joke.”
“She called me and your mum right before you did, sweetie.” Elia laughed. “If it wouldn’t upset your brother so much, I would call Rhaegar myself. But he won’t mind nearly so much if you tell your dad you both need the time this summer.”
“Yeah, I’m going to call him later.” Jon muttered, mentally swearing at the lack of coffee in the coffeemaker. “How on earth did Rhae beat me to calling you this morning? It’s not even 10am on a Saturday.”
“Well she didn’t get to talk to Lya.” Elia laughed. “And it’s almost noon here. Your mum’s only woken up about 20 minutes ago- she’s almost through her first cup of coffee. Go easy on your sister. She just wants to help out- she knows that you and your brother are stressed out.”
“Yeah, I know.” Jon mumbled. And he did. Rhaenys had the habit of knowing everything about everyone and periodically interfering in everyone’s lives when she thought someone needed a push, or could be struggling. It came from a good place, and usually had good results, but he had no idea how Rhae managed it without losing her mind. Willas’ interference, he suspected.
“I have to run, sweetie- I need to take Rickon to practice. We can catch up about how your exams are going later, okay? Do you want to talk to mum?”
“Sure- thanks Ama.” Jon told her, smiling gently despite himself. “Love you.”
“Love you too, sweetie. Wish me luck with Ricky- one of your old friends, Tormund Giantsbane, is an assistant coach for his team now. The practices are considerably intense.”
“Oh God.” Jon groaned. “Good luck. Talk you you later, Ama.”
There was a brief rustling before Lyanna Snow’s voice came over the phone.
“Hey kiddo.” His mum’s raspy voice greeted. “How’s life?”
“As well as can be expected, all things considered.” Jon told her. “You know, people back from the dead, Robb having an existential crisis in my living room last night, law school exams- the usual.”
“Very funny.” Lyanna snorted. “You keep an eye on that boy- I wouldn’t be surprised if he was a mess and a half.”
“I let him drink the nice bourbon.”
“That’s my boy.” Lyanna said, laughing. “You don’t have Thorne this semester, right? He’s the one who said all those shitty things about Sansa’s case?”
“Yeah that was him, mum.” Jon sighed. “But I don’t have classes with him right now, and he’s not the only one who’s going to start throwing speculation around when the story breaks. I know it’s selfish to say, but I’m really not looking forward to trying to find a quiet place to study for exams if the press gets ahold of this, and decides to follow Robb around.”
“Oberyn said something yesterday about getting you two a security detail in Oldtown when the news breaks.” Lyanna hummed. “It was in between absolutely crowing about solving the case on the phone. Mostly to me- El stopped being impressed with her brother years ago, and for some reason, he thinks I’m a better target.”
“A security detail? Seriously, mum?” Jon scoffed, running his hands through his hair and pacing around his kitchen.
“You don’t remember what it was like when she went missing, Jon.” His mum told him, her voice uncharacteristically heavy. “There were reporters everywhere, and a lot of people didn’t care whether the starks were innocent or not. I couldn’t go to work without being swarmed by my colleagues, who knew I lived at Winterfell, and a lot of people wanted to assume the worst about Ned and Cat." She sighed, deeply. "Cat actually got attacked by someone when she was grocery shopping with Bran and Arya, and she was a mess for weeks afterwards. It was the story of the century back then- my boss at the Wintertown Star wanted me to get an exclusive with them, and I almost lost my job when I refused. Thank god for Jeor Mormont- he’s a good editor, but a better man, and he made them back off of me. He couldn’t do much to stop the tabloids from eating the Starks alive, though.”
“They wanted you to cover the case? That’s awful.” Jon wrinkled his nose in disgust.
“That’s the business.” Lyanna snorted. “It’s going to be another shitshow at the paper when this gets out, but I’m planning to ask Jeor to help us keep a lid on it. People got really out of hand last time, and I don’t want you and Robb, or any of your friends, to get harassed by the paparazzi every time you set foot outside your apartment.”
“Okay, fine.” Jon grumbled. “Security, then.”
“It’ll make your Ama happy too.” Lyanna pointed out, and Jon could hear the smile in his mum’s voice. “She’s worried about all of you- Egg because he’s working with that asshole, Rhae because she gets involved with solving everyone’s problems but her own, Robb because the poor boy has a guilt complex the size of the reach about Sansa, and she worries that you’re going to be under too much scrutiny when you’re trying to get through your exams.”
“I’ll be fine. You and Ama can worry about Robb, Rhae and Egg.” Jon grumbled.
“Oh we are.” Lyanna agreed. “But me and your Ama know you, kiddo. You and Elia are too much like each other- you internalize things and worry about everyone else but yourself.”
“You just said that Rhae does that.”
“Yeah, but Rhaenys has an adoring, wealthy boyfriend- soon-to-be-fiancé if I had to guess- to look out for her.” his mum pointed out. “And you haven’t dated anyone since Ygritte.”
“Law school isn’t exactly a picnic, mum.” Jon scowled. “And Egg is single too.”
“And I worry about your brother just as much- although at least he calls me regularly, even if it’s only to bitch about Rhaegar. It’s not a personal attack, kiddo. Just an observation that neither your Ama nor I want to see any of you struggle with this. It’s not exactly a common situation. There aren’t really hallmark cards that tell you what to say to your adoptive family when their sister comes back from the dead, solving the case of the century."
"There really aren't." Jon chuckled. "Maybe that's a market to look into."
"You can get on that." Lyanna's tone was dry, but sounded amused at the idea. "Gods, your uncle is going to be completely insufferable about this entire thing.”
“That’s exactly what I said!” Jon exclaimed, throwing up his arms. Lyanna just chuckled.
“We’ll keep his head from getting too big, don’t worry kiddo.”
12pm, Saturday: Oldtown
2pm, Saturday: Winterfell
4pm, Saturday: King’s Landing
10pm, Saturday: Braavos
Robb: Alright bitches we’ve got planning to do
Robb: Mum and dad MET Sansa TODAY apparently and we have to figure out what we’re all going to do about it
Arya: Who the hell put you in charge
Robb: Someone has to coordinate this!! We need to celebrate!!
Robb: our sister is alive you cretins 🤩
Theon: excuse me what the actual FUCK stark
Jon: ….Robb, I thought we agreed YOU were going to tell Theon
Rickon: lmfao noice
Aegon: HAHAHAHAHA THEON
Theon: guys what the hell do you mean ‘Sansa’???
Jon: Call me, idiot. I’ll explain
Arya: Nice going, Robbert
Robb: IT’S BEEN A BIT OF A LONG DAY OKAY
Robb: IT’S NOT EVERY DAY A DEAD RELATIVE COMES BACK TO LIFE
Arya: Jesus fuck Robb
Arya: so dramatic
Arya: Please don’t do this when she comes back
Arya: you’re going to scare the shit out of her
Bran: So wait she’s coming here? When?
Arya: Idk man- haven't talked to mum n dad about it yet- but I can’t imagine that she’s staying in Braavos
Arya: the press is going to eat us alive when they get wind of this
Rhaenys: I’m sure Uncle Beryn has a plan for you guys
Theon: Jesus CHRIST guys why did no one call me to tell me Martell found Sansa???
Theon: Found Sansa ALIVE????
Theon: thanks JON
Theon: This is like next level Maury shit
Rhaenys: …exactly the sensitive reaction I anticipated from you, Theon
Aegon: he’s right tho
Aegon: you ARE the daughter!!!!
Aegon: *raucous screaming from audience*
Robb: I’m sorry but we need to PLAN guys
Jon: will you chill?
Jon: Let your parents actually get to know her first, idiot
Rickon: ^lmfao 🤣🤣🤣
Bran: Arya you met her right?
Bran: what’s she like?
Robb: ARYA YOU MET HER AND DIDN’T SAY ANYTHING
Arya: you didn’t ask, dumbass
Jon: That’s because he was at my apartment all of last night and this morning, alternating between drunk and hungover
Aegon: hey no fair! Why wasn’t I invited??? 😭
Rhaenys: I’m sure it wasn’t exactly a preplanned event, Egg
Rhaenys: …not to mention that it’s kind of a long drive just to get pissed
Rhaenys: can’t you do that in King’s Landing?
Rhaenys: anyways, I want to hear the answer to Bran’s question
Rhaenys: If that’s ALRIGHT with you
Rhaenys: wouldn’t want to interrupt you and Robb’s whine fest about who was and wasn’t invited to get drunk @ Jon’s
Jon: There was very little wine involved
Jon: mostly bourbon 🥃
Rhaenys: I love you, but you are on thin fucking ice Jonathan Targaryen
Arya: omg Jon
Arya: @Bran she’s really nice
Arya: like, really fucking composed and kind all things considered
Arya: I can’t believe she hasn’t had a nervous breakdown
Arya: btw @Theon we’ve got a media blackout rn according to Oberyn
Arya: so DON’T TELL YARA YET
Theon: you ruin my fun
Jon: Aunt Dany’s probably going to catch the case, so she’ll find out soon enough
Jon: but you can’t say anything
Theon: why does everyone think I’M the one who’s going to ruin it???
Theon: might I remind u that Egg still exists
Aegon: Thanks bro 👍🏼
Rhaenys: I have enough blackmail on him to keep him quiet for the rest of our lives, Theon
Rhaenys: that’s why
Rhaenys: also Rickon if you say anything I will tell everyone about the girl you have a crush on
Rickon: the FUCK Rhae
Rickon: I haven’t done ANYTHING
Bran: she’s right bro
Bran: zip those lips
Rickon: I h8 u all
Robb: wait Rickon likes a girl??
Arya: IRRELEVANT ROBBERT
Arya: you were the one who wanted to have this convo!!!
Bran: Did you have to remind him?
Jon: Also no one can tell Aunt Dany yet
Jon: or significant others
Jon: You guys are gonna terrify her
Jon: Sansa, that is
Jon: Aunt Dany knows you’re all assholes already
Aegon: I resemble that remark
Jon: that wasn’t an ENCOURAGEMENT Egg
Jon: Maybe we all take a fuckin' chill pill??
Jon: Arya seems to have managed it long enough not to TERRIFY Sansa
Arya: thanks bro 👀
Rhaenys: we should figure out what we can do to make her feel welcome at Winterfell?
Rhaenys: if she comes to Westeros, that’s where she’ll be, right?
Jon: Rhae, you are a fucking angel and 100% exempt from my remark about chilling the fuck out
Bran: might be better not to spring everyone on her at once
Bran: you guys can get pretty intense
Robb: exCUSE me
Bran: that comment was 100% directed at you, Egg, and Theon
Robb: I’m not going to do anything to make her uncomfortable!!!
Robb: I extend no such promises to Egg or Theon 😜
Theon: fuck you, Stark
Theon: I’ll cede to Jon, Rhae, and Bran here
Theon: u guys have the braincell this week
Theon: lemme know what u think is best, and I’ll help in any way I can
Rhaenys: THANK you Theon <3
Arya: hey wtf Greyjoy??
Arya: I’m reasonable
Theon: Yeah but those three are boring
Arya: …you’re on thin ice but fine
Rickon: u guys are ridiculous
Rickon: Just tie Robb up in the basement until Sansa’s comfortable
Jon: Robb is making incoherent squawking noises right now
Jon: kudos Rick
Bran: …that’s not actually a terrible idea
Rhaenys: I have a spare pair of handcuffs we can use
Aegon: Ew like I want to know what kind of shit you and willas get into
Rhaenys: Aegon Targaryen don’t you DARE
Rhaenys: they’re from WORK you moron
Rhaenys: standard issue for agents
Rhaenys: anyways we can handcuff him to the radiator pipe in the basement below the kitchen
Jon: I’ll bring duct tape
Robb: wtf guys??? Do I get a say in this??
Jon: maybe manage to type without half falling off my couch for the SECOND time this weekend and we’ll talk
Bran: you genuinely might freak her out, Robb
Robb: I h8 this family
Bran: Rhae do you have an extra pair for rickon too?
Rickon: FUCK U BRAN
Rickon: I don’t want to freak out Sansa!!
Arya: lmfaoooo I am on BOARD with this plan 😏
Theon: I like the part where I’m not relegated to the basement with Robb
Theon: and possibly Rickon
Theon: and probably Egg
Aegon: I have literally done nothing wrong, ever, in my life
Rhaenys: our mums would disagree with that
Rhaenys: Arya, can you call me? I know it’s late in Braavos, but I want to hear your thoughts without the filter of these idiots
Rhaenys: Jon, Bran, and surprisingly, Theon excepted
Arya: yeah, gimme 10 minutes
Robb: So no one is on board with my idea of a welcome home party?
Bran: Jesus, Robb, read the room
Bran: not yet!!!
Jon: ….we’re all doomed.
[12:15 pm, Saturday: Oldtown]
[2:15 pm, Saturday: Winterfell]
[4:15 pm, Saturday: King’s Landing]
10:15 pm, Saturday: Braavos
Sansa: Hi Elissa
Sansa: I’m not going to be able to make my shift again tomorrow
Sansa: I’m so sorry- I can’t seem to shake this stomach bug
Elissa: I’m just going to schedule other people for your shifts for the next two weeks
Elissa: We can chat about your schedule when you come back
Sansa: I am so sorry- I didn’t anticipate any of this
Elissa: shoot me a doctor’s note at some point if you would
Sansa: as soon as I can
[12:40 pm, Saturday: Oldtown]
[2:40 pm, Saturday: Winterfell]
[4:40 pm, Saturday: King’s Landing]
10:40 pm, Saturday: Braavos
Sansa: Hey Robin! ☺️
Sansa: I hope you had fun with bowling today
Sansa: Agent Sand told me that you beat him by about thirty points!
Sansa: guess he underestimated the three time Wii bowling champion 🎳
Sansa: I just wanted to give you a heads up- The Starks are coming for brunch tomorrow here
Sansa: You’re more than welcome to join us if you want!!!
Sansa: I’m sure they would love to meet you
Sansa: Ellaria’s ordering food from that place down near 3rdstreet
Sansa: The Myrish restaurant you like so much!!
Sansa: I’m sure she’d be willing to order something extra for you to have if you’re too tired to join us- there’s really no pressure
Sansa: You’re always welcome though
Sansa: Just let her know what you want tonight so she can order in the morning and you can sleep in if you want to 😉
Sansa: I’m so sorry that I upset you- I can understand why you’re angry
Sansa: I was just so scared that they would take you away if you hadn't listened to Agent Sand
Sansa: You can always come find me if you need me
Sansa: if you need anything, really
Sansa: Mya says hi
Sansa: She hopes you liked the card
Sansa: She wanted you to know that she was the one who drew the goofy salamanders on the inside
Sansa: she was pretty proud of them
Sansa: Just please let me know if I can do anything to help you, okay?
Sansa: I love you 💕
Sansa: Sleep well
Read: 10:57 pm
1:15 pm, Saturday: Oldtown
[3:15 pm, Saturday: Winterfell]
5:15 pm, Saturday: King’s Landing
[11:15 pm, Saturday: Braavos]
Rhaenys: Thanks for curbing Robb and backing me up
Rhaenys: Jeyne’s a good influence on you 😉
Theon: How the FUCK did you find out about that????
Rhaenys: I’m omniscient, fool
Rhaenys: Also, you live with my brother, and he’s a terrible gossip
Theon: fucking hell, Egg
Theon: don’t tell Robb yet
Theon: it’s still a new thing
Theon: I really don’t want to scare her off
Rhaenys: omg that is so cute
Rhaenys: my lips are sealed, bro 😉
Theon: when is Willas gonna make an honest woman of u and propose?
Rhaenys: …don’t ruin the moment, Greyjoy
1:15 pm, Saturday: Oldtown
3:15 pm, Saturday: Winterfell
[5:15 pm, Saturday: King’s Landing]
[11:15 pm, Saturday: Braavos]
Bran: Is Robb okay?
Bran: Or does he have alcohol poisoning
Jon: He’ll be fine- just needs to sleep it off and start working through his anxiety like a normal person
Jon: aka, without crossfit
Bran: Or scotch
Bran: I’ve been trying to teach him how to meditate but he’s too jumpy
Bran: I just worry how he’s going to react to actually meeting Sansa
Bran: he tries to hide it
Bran: but I know he drinks himself to sleep every June 12th
Bran: Probably because of guilt
Jon: Yeah, but if you bring that up right now, you might set off a guilt spiral that even Tal can’t weather
Jon: He’ll be okay
Jon: We all will
Jon: it’s just a… unique situation.
Bran: Now you tell me
Jon: Don’t worry so much about Robb
Jon: We’re supposed to be the ones worrying about you
Bran: I’m not the one drunk in your living room on a Thursday afternoon
Jon: Cut him some slack, bran
Bran: It’s so stupid tho
Bran: I wish he could see that it isn’t his fault
Bran: he was a fucking kid
Bran: You all were
Jon: Everyone handles things differently
Jon: there’s a time and a place to talk to Robb about his stress-drinking
Jon: And right now might not be it
Jon: But if you want to, I’ll help you later
Bran: I don’t know what to do
Bran: I thought she was dead
Bran: we all did
Jon: I know
Jon: my criminal law class covered the case in a lot of detail
Jon: the odds of her safe return are nothing less than a goddamn miracle
Bran: yeah but just because something’s miraculous doesn’t mean it’s good.
Bran: getting struck by lighting three times in the same spot is miraculous
Bran: and also likely to cause cardiac arrest
Bran: Rick is so calm
Bran: I don’t understand how he can keep playing video games with his friends when this fragile world is falling down around us as we speak
Jon: very poetic
Bran: it’s the aesthetic I go for
Jon: people handle things differently
Jon: Rick handles stress in his body tho
Jon: you hold it in your head and overthink it
Jon: literally, none of us kno what to expect
Jon: there’s no precedent for this kind of case
Jon: Just hang in there
Jon: Cut Robb some slack
Jon: We’re all doing our best
1:45 pm, Saturday: Oldtown
[3:45 pm, Saturday: Winterfell]
5:45 pm, Saturday: King’s Landing
[11:45 pm, Saturday: Braavos]
Rhaenys: if you say anything to anyone about Sansa, I’ll tell Aunt Cat what really happened to her Manolo Blahniks two summers ago
Aegon: that was RICKON
Rhaenys: No it wasn’t
Aegon: come on
Rhaenys: This is what you get for insinuating that my work handcuffs are somehow sexual IN THE GROUP CHAT
Aegon: Am I not already suffering enough??!?
Rhaenys: you were the one who wanted to
Rhaenys: and I quote
Rhaenys: ‘show dad what he’s missing’
Rhaenys: you could have worked for Uncle Doran, or Uncle Ned, or even interned with Tywin fucking Lannister
Rhaenys: but daddy issues prevailed
Aegon: he’s just such an asshole, Rhae
Aegon: but I can’t back out now
Aegon: but if I have to get him one more triple-espresso five pumps of caramel and lavender latte I’m going to murder someone
Rhaenys: If you want to murder dad, I’m pretty sure Uncle Beryn would let you get away with it
Rhaenys: so just point it in his direction the next time you feel a homicidal urge
Aegon: that makes this SO much better
Aegon: we can’t all be Uncle Oberyn’s favorites
Rhaenys: just hang in there
Rhaenys: in six months, you’ll have enough on your resume to get hired by anyone in the world
Rhaenys: I will literally kill you if you tell anyone I said this, but I believe in you
Rhaenys: you’re smart, and hard-working, and you’re gonna be a much better businessman than dad
Aegon: can I tell Jon
Rhaenys: but only because he already knows
Rhaenys: we talk about u, u know
Rhaenys: plus Jon hates dad more than either of us
Rhaenys: so he’s always down for encouragement and/or homicide when it comes to him
Aegon: you know, sometimes I wonder how much you guys are kidding when you bring that up
Aegon: all things considered
Rhaenys: our venture into law enforcement is entirely coincidental to our rabid dislike of dad
Rhaenys: besides, if anyone’s going to kill him, it’s going to be Uncle Oberyn
Rhaenys: or mum
Aegon: it’s probably going to be mum
Aegon: it’s that northern wildness
Aegon: it’s the reason Robb and Rickon are batshit crazy
Aegon: I think northerners are just Like That™
Aegon: and Ama would probs just let mum do it
Rhaenys: you are….not wrong
Rhaenys: but still, smart money’s on Uncle Beryn
Rhaenys: mum doesn’t typically carry multiple knives on her person
Aegon: no wonder mum and Ama fell for each other so quickly
Aegon: both our families are apparently batshit insane
Rhaenys: don’t look at me
Rhaenys: I’m planning on marrying the most delightful, mundane, sane man and ignoring all of you for the rest of our lives
Aegon: good luck getting that one past our moms
Aegon: plus wtf Rhae
Aegon: he’s a TYRELL
Aegon: they’re not exactly sane either and if ur gonna argue about this I’m going to remind u of the incident at Renly and Loras’ wedding
Rhaenys: outliers bro
Aegon: 2 words for u, jerk
Rhaenys: …three words, but you’ve made your point. I’m taking Will and moving to Yi Ti when we get married to escape all of you
Aegon: I mean, u can TRY
Aegon: but good fucking luck
2:00 pm, Saturday: Oldtown
[6:00 pm, Saturday: King’s Landing]
[4:00 pm, Saturday: Winterfell]
[12:00 am, Sunday: Braavos]
Rhaenys: Egg is really stressed out
Rhaenys: I know you hate dad
Jon: seriously, Rhae?
Rhaenys: he likes you better
Jon: I wish he didn’t
Rhaenys: Just call him
Rhaenys: If you talk to dad, he’s more likely to agree when Egg asks for time off this summer to meet Sansa
Jon: that’s a low blow
Rhaenys: yeah, but are you gonna do it now?
Jon: …I’ll ask him
Jon: I can’t believe you
Jon: I’m going to tell ama you’re blackmailing me like this
Rhaenys: only emotional blackmail
Rhaenys: besides, she and mum are both working from Winterfell to watch Rickon for Aunt Cat and Uncle Ned
Rhaenys: Ama’s just going to give you that look
Rhaenys: I know for a fact she mentioned it to you- I brought it up with her this morning
Rhaenys: and mum’s just going to laugh at you
Rhaenys: take one for the team, jonny
Jon: I hate you
Jon: and him
Jon: but mostly him
Rhaenys: we all do
Rhaenys: he’s the reason we’re all on anti-anxiety meds
Rhaenys: but seriously, Egg is miserable right now
Rhaenys: just help him out
Jon: I will
Jon: I wish he had said something to me
Rhaenys: he didn’t want to stress you out
Rhaenys: I think he knew Robb was going to occupy most of your time
Rhaenys: he’s a hot mess about this Sansa thing, huh?
Jon: Yeah, he’s been driving Gilly up the wall
Jon: but I’ll get her and Sam theater tickets to apologize- she loves those
Jon: another thing to ask dad for
Jon: Gilly mention any shows she wanted to see recently? I know you 2 are theater buds
Rhaenys: Dear Evan Hansen’s good
Rhaenys: She and Sam both want to see Waitress too
Rhaenys: Uncle Doran could probably hook you up- he helped me snag tickets to Rent for Will's and my anniversary a couple months ago
Jon: that would be vastly preferable to owing dad a favor
Jon: but Egg knows that I can deal with him AND Robb, right???
Jon: like, he’s my brother
Jon: Like, I want to know when he's got stuff stressing him out
Rhaenys: he’s an insecure mess sometimes, and that gets exacerbated whenever he’s within 20 feet of dad and Jon Connington
Rhaenys: it’s not you, it’s dad
Rhaenys: take him out for drinks or something, sans Robb, when you see him
Jon: I’ve gotta run- I’m making Robb buy me and Sam dinner
[2:25 pm, Saturday: Oldtown]
[4:25 pm, Saturday: Winterfell]
[6:25 pm, Saturday: King’s Landing]
12:25 am, Sunday: Braavos
Mya: Eyyy 😎
Mya: How you holding up?
Sansa: I’m good
Mya: Callin' the bullshit 🐮💩🐮💩🐮
Mya: you went through the emotional WRINGER today
Mya: no way ur anywhere near nonchalant ☹️
Mya: Robin doing ok?
Sansa: We’re having brunch delivered in tomorrow
Sansa: Still hasn’t said anything really
Sansa: I think he’s still angry
Sansa: I texted him and he didn’t respond 😢😥
Mya: I say this in the most affectionate way possible
Mya: No way he can be an angry lil shit for longer than four or five days
Mya: He’s got a low emotional stress threshold 🤷🏼♀️
Mya: Knowing Robin, the words will just bubble up outta him sometime soon
Mya: He never stays mad for long
Sansa: I know
Sansa: probably a good thing that he doesn’t
Mya: he’s not going to hold everything in and let it fester
Mya: You’re his big sister 💕
Mya: You’re literally Robin’s favorite person in the world
Sansa: I think Agent Sand is taking that particular title at the moment
Mya: well SOMEONE’S being a bit of a Debbie downer
Sansa: My bad 😅
Sansa: Ur right
Sansa: I’m just a lil worried about brunch tomorrow
Sansa: I desperately wish you could be there ☹️
Mya: If you want me there, I’ll break through a police barricade to get 2 u
Mya: just give me some warning so I can prepare for mission impossible 🦸🏻♀️
Sansa: Please don’t get arrested
Sansa: I luv u, and I really would rather see u when I’m not visiting u in jail 😘
Sansa: I think I owe it to them to give them some time tho
Sansa: Without me dragging you into the fucked up soap opera of my life just yet
Mya: I luv the fucked up soap opera of ur life tho 💕💕💕
Mya: and u, of course 🥰
Mya: didn’t say anything to mum, but she says hi anyways
Sansa: Give her a huge hug for me if ur staying with her tonight
Mya: will do👌🏼
Mya: Srsly tho- are you okay? I can come over again if u want company
Sansa: Ur the best
Sansa: I’m tired as hell and terrible company- hang out with ur mom instead
Sansa: She’s much cooler
Sansa: decidedly less dysfunctional
Mya: that’s funny 😂
Mya: Seriously, San, what can I do?
Sansa: I was actually gonna ask if u can meet me at the house tomorrow afternoon
Mya: Your house?
Mya: Am I bringing eggs? Tp? Spray paint?
Sansa: haahahahaha nooooo
Sansa: Just yourself
Sansa: I think they want me to come spend summer in Westeros
Sansa: I don’t have most of my things at Oberyn & Ellaria’s
Sansa: I haven’t been back yet- Oberyn grabbed a few outfits for me the other day but I think I have to pack for a whole summer
Sansa: I need more underwear lmao
Mya: Say no more
Mya: I’m there 👍🏼
Sansa: you’re the best 💕
Sansa: I just
Sansa: I don’t want to go alone.
Mya: You won’t have to.
Mya: I’ve got u
Mya: Oberyn seems like a chill guy- I’m gonna have to meet him soon
Mya: He’s gotta be cool if Ellaria’s anything to go by
Sansa: they’ve been amazing
Sansa: I have no idea how to even start repaying them
Mya: I don’t think they’re gonna expect u to
Mya: but we can talk about that later
Mya: Go to bed, u loon
Sansa: good idea
Sansa: tired af
Mya: I knowwww
Mya: stop trying 2 be superwoman and get ur butt in bed
Mya: luv u
Mya: Text me what time tmrw
Sansa: luv u too
Sansa: I will
Sansa: Thanks Mya
Mya: I gotchu
Mya: now SLEEP u loser
Mya: I’m ur emotional support cattle prod
Mya: S L E E P 😴
Sansa: I’m going!!!!!
[11:15 pm, Sunday: Oldtown]
[1:15 am, Sunday: Winterfell]
[3:15 am, Sunday: King’s Landing]
9:15 am, Sunday: Braavos
Sansa: Sorry to bother you if you’re at the station working-
Oberyn: Not a problem in the slightest 😁
Oberyn: Everything okay?
Sansa: All is good
Sansa: I was planning to get some of my clothes this today from Petyr’s house
Sansa: I just needed to check if my friend Mya Stone could join me
Oberyn: There’s a list of approved visitors to the property
Oberyn: Anyone who can get behind the police line has to be on it
Oberyn: If you can send me a pic of Mya’s gov’t ID, I can add her name to the list ASAP
Oberyn: when were you planning to go?
Sansa: Early afternoon
Sansa: Thank you so much!
Oberyn: Not a problem in the slightest
Oberyn: Let me know if you need a ride there
Sansa: Ellaria said she was able to take me over, and Mya’s walking distance
Sansa: Thank you, though!
Oberyn: Good stuff
Oberyn: She’ll probably be fine with it, but if you want your friend to come over and stay for dinner, just check with her first
Oberyn: I’m 100% good with the concept
Sansa: The girls will love her
Oberyn: Awesome 😁
Oberyn: Gotta run and get back to work
Oberyn: Daemon’s hassling me
Oberyn: Hang in there, kiddo
12:40 pm, Sunday: Oldtown
4:40 pm, Sunday: King’s Landing
[2:40 pm, Sunday: Winterfell]
[10:40 pm, Sunday: Braavos]
Aegon: Just had a convo with The Bastard that didn’t make me actively want to walk into the fucking ocean
Aegon: Something about spending part of my summer working remotely from Winterfell?
Aegon: U have anything to do with this?
Jon: You cannot leave me to face Rhae by myself
Jon: Please- you’ve gotta come home
Aegon: Did Rhae guilt u into talking to him?
Aegon: …Of course
Aegon: On the condition that U help me avoid Rhae’s interrogation as well
Jon: We’ll tag team
Jon: Got a fake relationship plotted out, yet?
Aegon: If Rhae doesn’t chill, I’m considering it
Aegon: Although I think she’s distracted with the Sansa thing
Aegon: When we were texting earlier, she didn’t mention it at all
Aegon: I wonder if she found out Theon’s got a gf- she could be harassing him abt it
Jon: He has a gf???
Aegon: She’s pretty cute too 😂
Jon: ??????? ??? ????
Aegon: Ask him yourself, dude
Jon: he hasn’t said ANYTHING
Aegon: Yeah well u knew about Arya’s bf before me, so we’ll call it even
Aegon: Arya’s been kind of quiet lately anytime I text her
Aegon: way different from Rick, who’s giving me the most detailed possible play-by-play of his soccer game
Aegon: He didn’t bite anyone this time, but apparently kicked a kid in the stomach for making a gross remark about Ama
Jon: We taught him well👌🏼
Jon: Bet Tormund didn’t even try to penalize him for it
Aegon: According to Rick, ur absolutely right
Aegon: but Arya
Aegon: How’s she doing?
Jon: …probably sleeping
Jon: it’s the middle of the night in Braavos
Aegon: I know THAT, jerk
Aegon: I’m not doing international business with Mr. 'Stick-Up-The-Arse' Targaryen for nothing
Aegon: I know how time zones work
Aegon: But she wasn’t responding much to me earlier either
Aegon: Or Robb
Jon: I haven’t really heard from her since the group chat
Jon: I think she has her last exam on Monday?
Jon: She was probably with Gendry or studying
Aegon: I just can’t imagine being the one to make the first impression with Sansa
Aegon: It’s a lot of pressure
Aegon: I’m nervous as hell to meet her at Winterfell
Aegon: When are you headed home?
Jon: Uncle Oberyn hasn’t really given me any indication of when they’re headed back
Jon: But my last exam is Tuesday morning, so I was going to book a flight that afternoon/evening
Jon: U talk to him at all today?
Aegon: just a bit
Aegon: He said they were giving Sansa a bit of breathing room
Aegon: Trying to go at her pace
Jon: That’s good
Jon: I’m a little worried about her meeting everyone
Aegon: …You mean meeting Robb?
Jon: I mean, I’m a little concerned that he’s gonna turn on that ‘big-brother’ thing he does anytime anyone’s having a hard time
Aegon: Yeah I can see that
Jon: he’d approach the whole thing just wanting to protect and help Sansa-
Aegon: but how’s Sansa going to react to that?
Aegon: I’m almost a little worried about her meeting Rhae for similar reasons
Jon: Yeah that’s actually a really good point as well
Aegon: less weighty to have a convo with Rhae about it tho
Aegon: I’ll try to sound out Robb if u talk to Rhae
Jon: I’m a bit worried about the inevitable trial though
Aegon: the fuck, man??
Aegon: isn’t that a bit far ahead?
Jon: I can’t help but think about the legal implications
Jon: They may assign Aunt Dany as the prosecutor
Jon: You know how intense dad can be about work stuff?
Aegon: don’t get me fucking started, bro
Aegon: I’m about one passive-aggressive comment away from a manslaughter conviction against JonCon
Jon: I know a guy who’s really good with those charges if it comes to that
Jon: But the point is that Aunt Dany is MORE intense than dad when she’s working on a case
Aegon: You’ve gotta be kidding me
Aegon: Looks like ur gonna have to chaperone
Jon: Better than working with Uncle Viserys
Aegon: I’ve been just avoiding him like the plague while I’m here
Aegon: No way we can let him meet Sansa
Jon: 100% no
Aegon: …u might wanna talk to dad about that when the story breaks
Aegon: he’s the only one Uncle Viserys ever listens to besides gram and gramps
Jon: why am I always the one who has to ask dad stuff???
Aegon: Because he likes u best, loser
Jon: I would literally give my left arm for him to stop
Aegon: yeah, I feel that
Jon: Hang in there, man
Jon: You're literally the best of them
Aegon: awwwwww thanks jonny
Jon: ...are you and Rhae ever going to drop that?
Aegon: Not in a million years, jonny
3:10 pm, Sunday: Oldtown
7:10 pm, Sunday: King’s Landing
5:10 pm, Sunday: Winterfell
1:10 am, Monday: Braavos
[REDACTED]: Release it
[REDACTED] : When?
[REDACTED]: As soon as possible
[REDACTED]: Get it done
[REDACTED] : I’ll drop it as soon as you make the first payment
[REDACTED]: should take about an hour to process
[REDACTED]: Immediately, you understand?
[REDACTED] : Understood
[REDACTED] : Should be enough to make the 10pm news in the capital
[REDACTED] : I’ll expect the second half as soon as it releases
[REDACTED]: Just do it
This chapter is kind of a breather, letting us get to know a few of the characters in a decidedly lighter format then we’ve been working in lately. I enjoyed writing in text format- it allows for a different perspective on a few things, and lets me set up some exposition and flesh out a bit of detail. (the formatting was HELL tho tbh) I hope y’all enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it! (the time stamps are mostly so I could keep everything straight, but they'll be helpful if anyone's confused about the fact that the next chapter is probably going to resume on Saturday evening in Braavos).
There’s some deliberate humor going on here, because often, that’s how people deal with big, difficult events like this. I’ll tell you, it was a lot of fun to put together. I’d love to hear what your favorite one-liners from the chapter are- I’m torn between Jon saying “I wish he didn’t” about Rhaegar, and Rhae’s “I’m omniscient, fool.”
We get to see more of the Stark/Targ groups, and get a feel for how certain characters are handling things. There is a TON of sibling energy going on in this particular chapter which was fun. Robb’s a bit of a ham here, but remember that it’s pretty easy to keep people from seeing how you actually are when you’re just texting. He’s like an onion with all those layers- you get a bit more about him from the characters around him.
You get to see some of the dynamics between the characters more, here. Rhae is nosy and all-knowing, Aegon’s a goof that gets really thoughtful quickly when he’s talking to his siblings, Theon’s doing his best, Bran’s pretty stressed about Robb’s behavior, Jon’s annoyed he always has to be the one talking to Rhaegar, etc.
Next time, we’ll get to see brunch with Ned & Cat + Oberyn, Ellaria, the girls, and possibly Robin. We’ll follow Sansa and Mya back to the Baelish house to pack, and see Sansa learning that it’s next to impossible to keep any kind of secret for long. Next chapter's definitely going back towards our previous, more serious tone, and I'm REALLY excited to finish it and share with you guys.
Thanks so SO much for all of your kind reviews and comments and kudos’ and subscriptions- it still ASTOUNDS me how much you guys seem to enjoy this, and I could not be more thrilled! I was looking at fic recs on tumblr the other day (I’m @Mkstrigidae on tumblr) and TWO WHOLE PEOPLE put this story in their rec lists which absolutely blew my mind. Thank you, everyone!!! You’re all lovely people.