Fic: Even When the Sun Goes Down [2/11]
Word count: 2,680
Warnings: 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: If you guys are interested in updates on the progress of chapters check out my tumblr.
Tyrion stretched in his office chair before drinking the last of his coffee. He’d just gotten off the phone with his father and he could already feel the slow build of a headache in his temples. It was only ten a.m. but Tyrion was already feeling restless, his muscles growing tired from remaining in the same position for hours on end.
He’d meant to take his father’s call that evening—their talks always left him feeling grumpy and drained and Tyrion had hoped to get some work done before being put in a sour mood.
There was a knock on his office door. Expecting it be the student who had emailed him about a research position, he straightened up some of the papers on his desk and sat up in his chair.
“Come in,” Tyrion called.
A dark haired young man entered his office, pausing in the doorway before introducing himself.
“Hi,” he said. “I’m Jon Snow, the one who sent you the emails. Is it all right if I…?”
Nodding, Tyrion said, “Please, have a seat.”
Jon took one of the two empty chairs in front of his desk. Pushing his glasses up his nose, Tyrion leaned back and took a good look at Snow. The boy was clean-shaven and he sat with his back straight, reminding Tyrion of a soldier at attention, even if the setting was markedly more casual.
“Tell me about yourself,” Tyrion said. “Are you in a graduate program?”
“No sir, I’m a junior in the criminal justice department. A lot of people seem to realize that I’m older, though. I was in the military for four years before coming here for school.”
“I don’t get a lot of students who are interested in research, most of them want to go into the police force. What are you interested in doing after school?” Tyrion asked.
“Once I get my degree I’d like to go to law school,” Snow said.
“Have you already taken statistics? Are you in research methods?”
“I took stats last year but I’m in research methods right now.”
“Excellent,” Tyrion said, grinning. “You don’t have to look so serious. I always need more research assistants, and your interest automatically makes you more qualified than most of the students in the department.”
Snow gave him a half-smile, instantly taking a few years off his appearance.
“The only other assistant I have is Penny, but she’ll be working on her own research in the fall so you’ll have to learn as much as you can from her in the mean time. We have lab meetings once a week, normally I bring coffee and bagels.”
Snow gave him a real smile then.
“What are you researching right now?” He asked.
“I’m looking at the rate of crimes being solved in the past five years compared to previous years, and I’ll be breaking down the types of cases that stay open, which crimes take longer to solve, things like that. It will get a bit technical, but I’ll mostly need you to help me gather data. When it comes time to crunch the numbers you can be as involved as you like, I know some students don’t feel very comfortable with stats at this level.”
“I want to learn as much as I can even if I’m not very useful.”
Tyrion laughed. He got the boy’s contact information and showed him a calendar of times when he could come into the lab. Once they had the details straightened out, Tyrion walked him upstairs where the office space was for his research. The room was smaller than a classroom but they had enough space for several computers, filing cabinets, a printer, scanner, and a white board with tasks written in blue expo marker.
“We’ll start with data entry tomorrow, so be here when you get out of class. If I’m not available then Penny will at least be here, she knows how to everything works in this lab.”
Snow promised to be there by noon the next day and he made sure to shake Tyrion’s hand before leaving. Yes, the boy had certainly been in the military, that much was obvious from his posture and his use of “yes sir” but he thought Jon Snow would be a good assistant, even if the young man was too serious most of the time to crack a smile.
Sansa had spent most of the past month with Jeyne’s family at the beach—they had been kind enough to delay their vacation until after her father’s funeral so she could come with them. Her mom had encouraged her to go, even if the only thing Sansa wanted to do was lay in bed and not get up.
Jeyne Poole had been her best friend since middle school, and even now, with Jeyne going to a small teacher’s college in the mountains, they still tried to do something together every summer. Sansa was sad to come home, knowing that when she walked through her parents’ house her father wouldn’t be there. She wouldn’t hear him come through the front door and drop his keys on the side table like he had every night of her childhood, she wouldn’t come downstairs on Saturday mornings to see him watching the news with his cup of coffee, and she would never get to hug him again after a long semester at school.
Sansa’s university was only twenty minutes from home, but she felt guilty for starting the July summer session instead of spending time with her mother and her siblings. Despite her worries, her mother had insisted that Sansa move into her new apartment and try to do things with her roommates.
“We have to carry on, sweetheart,” her mom had said.
Sansa was just as confused about what that meant as she had been the day of her father’s funeral.
She checked the name of the coffee shop twice before walking inside. Sansa had never been here before but it looked like the kind of place where students liked to hang out: there was a rack with local newspapers and copies of Mother Jones on the shelves, large bay windows that looked out onto the street, and a patron in flannel playing chess with a friend.
She saw Jon seated by the window, a paperback and a cup of coffee on the table in front of him. Sansa ordered a drip coffee and joined him at the table.
“Boo,” she said, sitting across from him. “You don’t look surprised.”
Shrugging, Jon said, “I saw you come in.”
“I didn’t think you were paying attention. What are you reading?”
Jon looked down and tossed his book into his bag. “A book about prisons. We don’t have to talk about that though.”
Sansa blew on the surface of her coffee. “Are you reading it for a class?”
She’d always thought of Jon as very difficult to read, but he surprised her when a bit of color became visible in his cheeks.
“No, just because. I think it’s interesting but I don’t want to bore you.”
It suddenly occurred to her than Jon was very handsome when he wasn’t forcing himself to wear a neutral expression. Startled by the thought, Sansa tried to take a sip of her coffee and ended up burning her tongue.
“It’s okay. I like reading too. I have a bunch of books on my kindle that I kept meaning to read this summer but I just haven’t gotten to them,” she said, trying to make conversation.
One thing that Sansa quickly noticed about Jon was that he actually looked at her when she spoke. He didn’t fidget in his seat or absently glance at his phone—in other words, he was nothing like Joffrey.
“What have you been doing for the past couple of weeks? Robb came to stay for a while, he said you were out of town,” Jon said.
“I went with Jeyne Poole’s family on vacation. I didn’t really want to go, but mom said it would be better for me.”
“Was it what?” Sansa asked.
“Was it better for you?”
She swallowed and bit her lower lip, surprised that he would speak to her so directly, but Sansa supposed that Jon had always been that way.
“I think so. I feel guilty though, for leaving mom to take care of Arya and Bran and Rickon.”
“It sounds like your mom’s okay,” Jon replied, leaning his forearms on the table. “I guess it wasn’t really like that when my mom died. There wasn’t anyone to take care of.”
“What about your dad?” Sansa asked, doing a poor job of hiding her curiosity.
He shrugged, taking a sip from his coffee cup before answering.
“He had his own family. My parents were never married. My mom was the other woman—he’s got a wife and kids and everything in D.C.”
“Oh,” she said, feeling embarrassed for asking. “I never knew. I didn’t mean to pry.”
“Robb never told you? It’s okay, I don’t care if people know.”
Sansa shook her head. “He never said anything. But if your dad’s alive then why didn’t you move closer to him? Why did you join the military?”
“It was just something I had to do. I wanted a job where I would be so busy I wouldn’t have time to think about what had happened. It’s not like my dad and I were ever close.”
Jon stood up and announced he was getting another cup of coffee. He asked her if she wanted anything but Sansa declined, having only drunk half of what was in front of her. As he approached the counter she realized that she had just learned more about Jon Snow in a fifteen-minute conversation than in over a decade of knowing each other.
While he was walking back to their table Sansa tucked her hair behind her ear, trying to get a good look at Jon without him noticing. He was taller than she remembered, with a good frame and distinctive gray eyes that were impossible to ignore.
They talked for another forty minutes about classes and friends and all the typical things that made up the life of a college student. Sansa didn’t even notice the time until she looked out the window and saw the pinky-orange hue of the sky.
“I’m parked around the block if you need a ride,” Jon said.
“Yeah. Actually, that would be great.”
As they were leaving she looked at the magazine rack again, seeing something that made her stop and grab the last remaining copy of that day’s News & Observer.
Her uncle Jon’s picture was on the front page of the paper, along with a glaring headline.
ATTORNEY JON ARRYN NOW UNDER INVESTIGATION FOR MURDER OF EDDARD STARK
Sansa tossed the paper back on the magazine rack. She felt a sharp buzzing in her hands, like her arms had fallen asleep and the blood flow was just returning, the floor and the walls looking fake and out of focus. She took in a shaky breath and felt herself grow increasingly dizzy.
Sansa felt a hand around her shoulders—in her distraction she had forgotten that Jon was there. He guided her outside and onto the sidewalk, seemingly unfazed by her behavior, his presence surprisingly comforting.
There weren’t many students out while they walked the block and half to Jon’s car. Sansa was grateful that there wasn’t an audience to witness her at this moment except for Jon, who would hopefully forget her bout of dizziness had ever happened.
It wasn’t that late, but summer was always a quieter time in their college town than during the academic year. He opened the door to his car for her, another surprise, another thing that made Jon Snow wildly different from Joffrey. Somehow the clean interior of Jon’s car calmed her, placing a physical barrier between herself and the newspaper with her uncle’s picture.
He got in the driver’s seat but made no motion to start the car’s engine.
“I get those too sometimes.”
Sansa looked up, her hands knotting themselves in the fabric of her jeans. “What?”
“Panic attacks,” Jon said, his tone casual, like her behavior wasn’t strange at all.
“Oh. I guess I was having one, wasn’t I?”
She’d had a panic attack before taking the SAT her junior year of high school, but the test had gone fine and Sansa couldn’t remember having one since, but it didn’t seem strange that they had come back, not when she really thought about everything that had happened the past few months.
“It’s just—I try not to think about what happened to dad most of the time, and then something will happen and it’s the only thing I can think about no matter how hard I try.”
Jon didn’t say anything but when she looked at him she saw how closely he understood.
“You want me to take you home?” he asked.
“Yeah, thanks,” Sansa said.
She gave him her address and forced herself to take several full, deep breaths, closing her eyes and letting her body relax to the sound of the car. She’d heard that breathing into a paper bag could help with panic attacks, but Sansa had never needed to carry one, and she didn’t want to bother Jon about it when he was being so nice.
When they reached her apartment building Sansa hesitated before opening the car door, unsure of what to say.
“Can I text you?” she said, the words spilling out of her mouth before she could think better of it.
“Yeah, any time.”
Sansa unbuckled her seatbelt and climbed out of the car.
Leaning down, she asked, “Did Robb ask you to check up on me?”
Jon’s mouth curved into a half-smile. “Yes, but I would have anyway.”
She believed him.
As soon as Sansa unlocked the front door Myranda Royce, her friend and roommate, greeted her.
“Hey San, where have you been? Out with Joff?”
Taking a deep breath, Sansa put her purse on the kitchen table and sat down on the couch, feeling especially tired all the sudden.
“No, I met up with Jon. He’s one of my brothers friends.”
Myranda was a sweet girl but she loved to gossip, and at the mention of another boy she joined Sansa on the couch, interest clear in her posture.
“Jon who? Is he someone I know?” she asked.
“Jon Snow. You probably haven’t met him, he was best friends with my brother Robb when we were growing up. We got coffee together.”
Now that she was home Sansa felt markedly less anxious, even if she didn’t feel like sharing every piece of information with Myranda.
“Was it a date? Does Joffrey know you’re hanging out with other guys?”
“It wasn’t a date,” Sansa said definitively. “We got coffee, we talked, he gave me a ride home. Me and Joffrey are on a break, anyways.”
“Since when?” Myranda asked, her eyes growing big. These were exactly the kind of details her friend loved to hear.
Sansa shrugged, saying, “I don’t know. When my dad died Joff was never there. We dated for two years—I guess I thought he would care more.”
Myranda put her arms around Sansa, holding her close in a tight hug.
“Want a mimosa? I just bought a bottle of champagne.”
“Why not,” Sansa said, kicking off her sandals and tucking her legs underneath her.
Already bustling in the kitchen, Myranda told her all about her day and the assignments she’d gotten and the dress she was planning to wear to her sorority’s next mixer. Sansa wished she were more interested, but all she wanted to do was lay on her bed, close her eyes, and just think. Her mind kept returning to the feeling of Jon’s arm around her shoulders and the unquestioning way he’d helped her.
Accepting the drink from her friend, Sansa made some excuse about needing to study. She was tired and everything about that evening had left her feeling drained and confused.