Fic: Even When the Sun Goes Down [1/11]
Word count: 2,840
Warnings: cannon character death, sexuality, mentions of past abusive relationship
Summary: The murder of Ned Stark shocks all of central North Carolina. While the police investigate the circumstances surrounding Ned's murder, his daughter Sansa Stark reunites with Jon Snow, an old family friend. An Afghan War veteran, Snow takes it upon himself to investigate Ned's mysterious death--whatever the cost.
AN: Most of the locations/schools in this fic are real. If you can guess where certain events are taking place then I'll write a drabble request : )
The smell of flowers was heady and overwhelming, the intensity of it making Sansa hold her breath as she walked past the large wreaths and bouquets that had been placed in the kitchen by friends of the family. With so many people in the house the air felt stuffy, but opening a window wouldn’t solve the problem, it would only let in the oppressive June heat. She pulled her hair out of the tight knot her mother had coaxed it into, easing the pain in her temples.
Dragging her fingers through her hair, Sansa couldn’t get the voice of Joffrey’s mother out of her head. Of course it was Catelyn that did it. They said the car window was down, that he knew the person he was speaking to. He was probably having an affair, that’s always how these things happen.
Hearing Cersei Lannister whisper about her parents had made Sansa want to turn around and shake her, but she’d walked into the kitchen to get away from everyone and now she could hear her aunt Lysa talking to Petyr Baelish in the hall. As quietly as she could, Sansa opened the door to the laundry room and slipped inside.
She took one of the recently folded towels out of the basket of clean clothes and spread it on the tile floor. Sansa kicked off her heels and pulled out her cell phone, trying to come up with a reply to Joffrey, who had asked if she minded that he’d left the wake early. She couldn’t think of anything to say.
I need you, Sansa thought, but that wasn’t really true. Joffrey had never been the best at these kinds of moments. Once, after a party, they’d had a fight and she had started crying. Sansa remembered Joffrey telling her that they would talk when she was ready to stop being so damn emotional.
She pressed the button at the top of the phone to turn off the 3G. Maybe if she just stayed in this laundry room she could forget that her father was dead, that there was a wake happening in the middle of her house, that her boyfriend of two years couldn’t be bothered to comfort her. Sansa wiped at her eyes with the towel, leaving black smudges all over the clean fabric.
Jon clutched the glass of scotch in his hand like he was holding on to a talisman, his knuckles white from the strain.
He was standing with Robb, listening white Robert Baratheon waxed poetic about his time in the Marines and feeling out of place in his black suit and tie. Jon took a deep swallow of his scotch and nearly choked on it when he felt his cell phone start to vibrate in his pocket.
“You alright?” Robb asked.
Jon nodded and took another swallow.
Robert Baratheon put his meaty hand on Jon’s shoulder, his breath reeking of liquor.
“Robb tells me you were an Army Ranger,” he said, admiration clear from his tone.
“Yeah. In Afghanistan.”
“Good on you,” he replied, roughly patting Jon on the back. “Ned told me you were in the service. He was very proud—of both of you.”
Thinking about Mr. Stark made Jon’s stomach turn in a way that reminded him of loosing his footing. Despite attending the funeral that morning, Jon couldn’t find it within himself to believe that Ned Stark, the man who had been like a father to him, was truly dead.
“I tell you, Snow, if I find out who did this to Ned then I’ll give you a call. Rangers are supposed to be top marksmen, right?”
“Right,” Jon said, nausea creeping up the back of his throat.
Robert nodded to them before leaving Jon and Robb’s company, his broad frame easily parting the crowd.
“Ignore him,” Robb said quietly. “He’s an old drunk, he doesn’t know what he’s saying.”
“You’ve thought about it though, haven’t you?” Jon said, half-wondering if he was crazy for imagining scenarios where Ned Stark’s murderer was discovered, dead from a gunshot wound of his own, comeuppance for robbing a much-loved man of his life.
“I don’t know,” Robb said, looking pained. “It doesn’t seem real to me. Even now, I feel like this is happening to someone else.”
Jon had heard those words form people before, but usually those people were veterans, people who had seen their friends die or suffered life-altering injuries. He drained the rest of his drink and pulled out his cell phone. Surprisingly, the display said he’d missed a call from his father. He’d been expecting a routine call from his roommate Sam, who always became worried sick about Ghost not eating, even if it was typical behavior for the dog whenever Jon had to spend the night away.
“I’ll be right back, I’ve got to call someone,” he said.
Jon looked for a quiet place where he could call his father back but there were more people in the Stark residence than he had anticipated. Hoping that it would be deserted, he opened the door to the laundry room and quickly realized that he was almost certainly intruding on Sansa, who was sitting on the tile floor with no shoes and makeup streaming down her face.
“I’m so sorry,” Jon said, immediately. “I can go, but, are you okay?”
Sansa sniffed and wiped at the corner of her eyes with a stained towel. “It’s okay, Jon. I’m fine.”
Turning around, he ducked into the mostly deserted kitchen, pouring a glass of water and finding a box of tissues.
“Here,” he said, returning with the water and tissues. Feeling sheepish, he added, “I thought you might need them.”
“Thank you,” she said, still pretty despite her bloodshot eyes and running mascara.
“Sorry, I’ll go.”
“No,” she said, making Jon pause in the doorway. “You can stay. I just couldn’t stay out there any more. The way people talk…”
Jon knew exactly what she meant. He eased the door closed behind him, leaving it barely cracked, open enough to let him know if someone was in the hall but affording them some privacy. Jon eased down onto the tile floor, leaning against the washing machine with his legs stretched out in front of him.
After drinking half the glass of water Sansa offered it to him.
“You keep it, I’m fine,” he assured her.
She wrapped her arms around her middle, looking like she was physically holding herself together.
“What happened?” Jon asked, hoping that he wasn’t being too prying.
He considered asking Sansa how she was doing but the question seemed moot considering that morning’s funeral.
“It was just something Mrs. Cersei said,” she admitted, not meeting his eyes. “My dad and her never got along, it’s a stupid thing to be upset about.”
He was surprised to hear her share such details. Growing up, Jon had never been especially close with Sansa. He and Robb had been inseparable, and he’d gotten to know Bran and Arya very well after so much time in the Stark household, but Jon had never developed the same bond with Sansa. She had always seemed more interested in her friends from cheerleading and the gang of wealthy boys from the upper grades.
“You’re not wrong to be upset,” Jon said, noting how she fully looked at him at that. “Don’t be too hard on yourself.”
Sansa closed her eyes and sighed, her crossed arms falling slack at her sides. Her blue eyes surrounded by smudged eyeliner, she asked, “Does it every get any better?”
“No,” he said sadly. “Over time you start to forget, but I don’t know if that’s better or worse.”
By the time Sansa left the laundry room she and Jon had exchanged cell numbers. They were going to be at the same university in August, and he’d urged her to get in touch with him if she ever just wanted to talk.
“Even if it’s not about all this,” he’d told her, gesturing to everything around them with one of his shoulders.
By the time she returned to the wake most of the guests were leaving. Sansa saw her uncle Benjen walking Robert Baratheon to his car, choosing to drive him home instead of allowing the obviously drunk man behind the wheel. Robb was sitting at the kitchen table with his suit coat over the back of the chair, a plate of uneaten food in front of him, their Aunt Lysa going on and on about how any of them were welcome to come stay with her over the summer.
Spending time with her little cousin Robert was the last thing Sansa wanted to do, but Robb was polite enough not to reply. Lysa hugged each of them, even Gendry, who had stuck by Arya’s side during the entire funeral service and wake. It was then that Sansa realized that Joffrey had left without even saying goodbye to her.
“I think I’m going to lie down,” she said, but no one seemed to be paying any attention.
On her way to the stairs Sansa saw her mother sitting in the dinning room with her uncle Jon, one of her father’s closest friends and her father’s partner at Stark and Arryn. She knew what they were most likely talking about, but Sansa could not stop to listen, she couldn’t even allow herself to think about it. Taking the stairs two at a time, Sansa bit her lip, hard, trying not to remember the horrible details surrounding her father’s death.
Ned Stark had been murdered in the driver’s seat of his parked car. He had stayed late to work on a big case and hadn’t even left the parking lot of the office when an unknown gunman fired six rounds into his chest and neck. One of the bullets had gone through his jaw and trachea. It was why they hadn’t been able to have an open-casket funeral.
Sansa shut herself in her room and, even though it was only mid-afternoon, crawled under her white fluffy down comforter. She was still in the dress she’d worn that day and it would surely get wrinkled like this, but she didn’t care. Sansa swiped the touch screen of her phone and began texting a message to Joffrey.
I don’t think we should date anymore.
She hit send and turned off her phone. On the nightstand were two small, round pills. Her mother had given her some Ativan to calm her down before they went to the service that morning, but Sansa hadn’t taken it. She needed them now. Sansa swallowed them dry and pressed her face into the pillow, trying to cry as quietly as possible before she drifted off to sleep.
The drive from the state capitol to his home was short. Jon tried to pay attention to the traffic in front of him but he was distracted the whole time, thinking about what Robert Baratheon had said at the wake. By the time Jon got home he had a headache, his dress shirt was plastered to his skin, and the mid-afternoon heat was making him sweat underneath his collar.
He opened the front door to find Ghost, his pure white German shepherd, eagerly waiting for him. Jon crouched down and let the dog lick him a few times before the animal rolled onto his back for a belly rub.
“I missed you too,” Jon said.
He dropped his overnight bag in the bedroom before wrapping his knuckles on the doorframe of Sam’s room. Jon heard a muffled “come in” in reply.
Opening the door, he asked, “You studying? I just wanted to let you know I got back.”
Sam Tarly, one of Jon’s oldest friends and current roommate, looked up from his anatomy textbook.
“I didn’t even hear you come in. How was the funeral? How’s Robb?”
Jon shrugged. “The funeral was fine. I hadn’t seen most of those people since before mom died. I told Robb he could come stay here if he wanted to, figured he might want to get away from all of that.”
Tugging at his tie, he said, “I think I’m going to get a shower.”
However, instead of heading for the bathroom Jon went into his bedroom, Ghost hot on his heels. He shed his suit jacket and sat on the edge of the bed, overwhelmed by just how quiet the late Sunday afternoon truly was.
He pulled open the drawer of his nightstand and pushed aside an old photo album before his hand found the familiar grip of his Glock G22. It had been the first major purchase Jon made when he came back from Afghanistan. His father had offered to send him to a therapist when his time in the service was over, but Jon slept fine knowing that he had a gun within arm’s reach.
I tell you, Snow, if I find out who did this to Ned then I’ll give you a call.
He couldn’t get Robert Baratheon out of his head. Jon didn’t know who had killed Mr. Stark, but he couldn’t deny the feelings of sadness, anger, and confusion that gnawed at him. It wasn’t right that someone as good as Robb’s dad had been murdered. Ned Stark had been the only person to look out for him after his mother died, and when he joined the Air Force the Starks had sent him letters and packages and offered to let him stay with them when he’d first gotten back from his deployment.
Jon put the gun back in the drawer, knowing that Mr. Stark wouldn’t want him to go after someone on his own, even considering the circumstances. In the Rangers he’d become an excellent shot and that knowledge only made him feel all the more bothered by the fact that Ned Stark’s murderer was able to go free while Robb and Bran and Mrs. Catelyn were left with their grief. He thought of Sansa in the laundry room, crying over a mean-spirited comment from her boyfriend’s mother at her father’s own funeral.
Jon threw his tie on the bed and shut himself in the bathroom. He started the shower, feeling sweat drip down the back of his neck in all the humidity. When his mother died there hadn’t been a bullet-riddled body and a killer walking free, just an illness that he didn’t understand. Jon didn’t know if he could help Sansa at all, but he didn’t want her to feel as alone as he’d felt, not when Mr. Stark had been like a father to him.
Summer arrived in North Carolina with all its unforgiving heat and sweltering humidity. Jon got up at six thirty every morning to go for a run and by the time he made it back to his doorstep an hour later, Ghost panting at his side, it had already begun to get hot. Before going inside he’d taken to turning on the water hose and rinsing himself down while the dog tried to drink from the running stream.
He and Sam both had summer classes but Jon still managed to end up at the bar with his friends a couple times a week. One night he met up with Pyp, Grenn, and Satin for tacos and beer and Jon fell completely silent while his friends talked about the different items on the menu. The restaurant had a TV mounted behind the bar and the evening news was playing, with Ned Stark’s face displayed on the screen.
“Look at this,” Jon said, nodding to the news.
His friends fell silent. He tried to hear what the reporter was saying but it was neigh impossible with so much background noise. However, Jon couldn’t fail to miss the headline in all caps at the bottom of the newscast:
AUTHORITIES STILL LOOKING FOR KILLER OF LOCAL ATTORNEY. CASE STILL OPEN.
An image of the law firm where Mr. Stark had worked came on screen. The headline at the bottom remained the same.
“They still don’t know what happened?” Grenn asked.
Jon shook his head, a bitter taste in his mouth, but before he could say anything else their waiter came up to the table for their order. Once he’d ordered his food Jon tried to see if there was anything else about Ned Stark on the news, but the report was covering Jaime Lannister and his campaign for governorship.
“The election isn’t for another year. Lannister isn’t even conformed as a candidate,” Pyp said, exasperated.
“He will be,” Jon said darkly. He’d seen Jaime and Tywin Lannister at the wake and Jon remembered how Joffrey used to talk about his dad at school, like it was inevitable that his father would be governor someday.
Looking at the picture on the news of Jaime and Cersei Lannister with their three children, he had to force himself not to scowl. It was wrong that people like the Lannisters were whole and safe while Robb’s family had someone they loved more than anything taken from them.