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A scandal struck the day after Sansa read the contract. She had woken up to Jeyne shaking her awake and practically squealing into her ear. She blinked sleepily and tried not to cringe at the sound.

“You are not going to believe this!” Jeyne said thrusting her phone in Sansa’s face. She reeled back at the sudden movement and took the phone from Jeyne so she could see it properly. She blinked at the screen and couldn’t quite believe what she was reading.

It was the hottest gossip site and Sansa was staring at a picture of Walda Frey and Roose Bolton. The picture was very telling. Walda was hanging off of Roose Bolton’s arm and staring at him adoringly while he scowled at the camera. The caption indicated that the picture had been taken the previous night. She scrolled to read the title and cringed.

Roose Bolton Engaged to Young University Student

The article went on to report that Roose Bolton had met university student, Walda Frey, through the popular dating app, Smit. It was filled with takes on the Bolton company and the boon that was Walda because of her father. There were many overtures about the age gap and the new trend of Smit and it’s very specific process. The article was subtly negative and one had to read between the lines to know that the writer was trying to emphasize the age gap. Sansa felt a small twinge of fear in her stomach. The comments were awful and many expressed their distaste of the relationship. 

For a moment, Sansa imagined the picture was of her and Tywin. There was excitement there and a warm feeling but there was also apprehension. Tywin was older than Roose Bolton and she was a Stark. She gave Jeyne back her phone and tried to breathe.

“I’m so happy for her! She seemed so happy the last time I spoke to her! I can’t believe they’re engaged! That was fast!” Jeyne was brimming with excitement but Sansa couldn’t share her enthusiasm. She was happy for the Frey girl but all Sansa could think about was what the headlines would look like if it ever got out that she was sleeping with Tywin Lannister.

“All those comments…” Sansa trailed off, hugging her knees. Jeyne looked at her and then sat down at once.

“They’re not all bad. There are quite a few that talk about how as long as they’re both consenting adults…”

“I’m seeing an older man.” Sansa didn’t know why she said it. She needed to say it out loud, she needed someone to know. She needed to make it real. One of her fears was that if she just kept it to herself, and things ended, would all of it just exist in her memory? Tywin made her feel like maybe love was real and not hopeless. She had felt so hopeless after Joffrey. But Tywin, he touched her like she was meant to be worshipped. He kissed her like she was all that mattered. And when he smiled at her, she felt like she could walk on air. Sansa hugged her knees tighter. All her fears felt very real and she didn’t know what to do. 

“Oh Sansa, I know,” Jeyne replied. She looked at Sansa with sympathy. Sansa gaped at her. 

“What?” Jeyne smiled.

“When I left for the break I noticed you standing outside the library. I was going to wave at you as I was leaving but I saw you climb into a black SUV. I only got a glimpse but well, it’s not like it’s hard to recognize the wealthiest man in Westeros.” Sansa didn’t know what to say. Jeyne had seen her and said nothing?

“Why didn’t you say anything?” She asked. Jeyne gave her a little rueful smile.

“I knew you would tell me when you were ready. You really think I didn’t notice how much you talk about Stannis. Or the last time we went to one of Arya’s matches and you practically stared at her coach the entire time?” Sansa didn’t think she had been so transparent.

“It’s not...normal, is it?” She voiced out loud. It was one of the things that ate at her. She couldn’t help but feel like her attraction to these men was unnatural. People frowned on age gaps, right? She knew her generation and younger were a bit more liberal but Sansa had been raised by Catelyn Stark.

How many times had she heard her mother complain about Aunt Lysa and her failed marriage? Her failed marriage to an older man, Jon Arryn. Sansa had heard her mother say that Lysa had been too young and Jon Arryn a dirty old man. Though, she always made sure not to say it around her father. 

She didn’t even want to think about what her father would say. If her mother always spoke about Aunt Lysa’s failed marriage then her father always spoke about her Aunt Lyanna. Both had been in age gap relationships and it hadn’t ended well for either of them. Sansa winced at that thought.

“I don’t think it matters as long as everything is legal and consensual. I mean, 16 and 26 is different from 26 and 36, isn’t it?” Jeyne tried to reassure. Sansa cringed. Her Aunt Lyanna had been 17. 

“Please don’t tell anyone. It’s complicated and I need time to figure it out,” she replied. She didn’t want to talk about it and she needed to start getting ready for work. Sansa also didn’t want to mention the NDA she signed. 

“Alright, of course. Just...please be careful.” Sansa nodded and Jeyne leaned in to hug her. Sansa welcomed it and did her best to relax. She had time to figure things out. Despite her fears and insecurities, she wanted to be with Tywin. She just needed to convince him that they could make it work.

. . .

“What are your options?”

“The Eyrie, Lannisport, and Dragonstone,” Sansa said. She bit her lip and waited.

“Well, the Eyrie, would that be Arryn Labs?” Ned Stark asked. 

“Yes, I would be working with Yohn Royce. I think it’s a solid option but…” Sansa trailed off. She knew the best choice for her career would be Dragonstone. She also knew that if she chose the Eyrie her mother would insist she stay with her Aunt Lysa even though the company she would be working with was owned by her Aunt’s ex-husband. 

“Dragonstone. Stannis is known for being picky about his employees, it’s a great opportunity,” her father finished for her. She knew it already but she wanted to talk to him. 

“I just...I’m worried that maybe he just offered it to me because of who I am,” Sansa blurted out. She tapped her fingers on the metal railing she was leaning on. 

“No, Sansa, Stannis isn’t like that. He chose you because you’re smart and a hard worker. You have talent and he knows it. That’s why he chose you,” her father’s voice softened and she smiled. 

“Okay, dad, thanks for listening. I think I know what I’m going to do,” she said. She glanced back inside and noted the time on the clock on the wall. Her lunch break was almost over.

“Alright, Sweet Pea, call me if you need anything. And I’m sure your mother would like to know what you decide on.” 

“Okay, bye dad,” she replied cringing at the thought of talking to her mother. She ended the call and sighed. 

She walked back into the building and made her way to Edric’s office. She knocked and waited.

“Come in!” She heard him yell through the door. She opened the door and smiled at Edric Storm.

“Sansa! Good afternoon! What can I do for you?” He asked brightly. 

“I’ve decided to go to Dragonstone for the summer.”

. . .

Friday came faster than Sansa anticipated. She looked herself over in the mirror and eyed her outfit critically. It was a blue sundress that had a low back. She kept her hair down in soft curls and light makeup. She was getting ready for a battle, to fight for what she wanted and what she felt. She didn’t want to dress too sexy, she didn’t want to use her looks as a weapon. And she didn’t want to dress too modest, guessing that Tywin would be able to sense what she was thinking if he saw her that way. So she settled for somewhere in between. The sundress was more her style anyway and she knew she would be in her element if she was comfortable.

Sansa clenched her hands into fists and tried to will her nervousness away. She couldn’t force Tywin to feel something he didn’t and she was more than ready to accept defeat if that was the case. But a part of her had to know, she knew he was capable of more than just a cold relationship, she had felt it. She had seen it in his eyes and in the way he touched her. There had to be more. There just had to be. 

She grabbed her bag and left her apartment to the black SUV waiting outside. She had finally given in and told Tywin her address though she had a feeling that he already knew it. Jeyne was studying and had given her a small smile before she left. She wanted to tell her everything, she wanted to talk it out with someone to try and ascertain how she truly felt. 

Sansa wanted Tywin but there was a part of her that whispered, “do you? ” Did she want to be with Tywin or was she just desperate for a connection, for a partner, a lover? She had her counter-proposal ready but there was a part of her that was already claiming defeat. There was a sinking feeling in her stomach and she didn’t know how to stop it. 

Tywin’s driver didn’t speak to her and it was a bit off-putting. Was she just another face to him? She wondered what he thought of her if he thought of her at all. He pulled up to a large building and Sansa stared at it as she exited the SUV. Tywin’s apartment building was more of a skyscraper than anything. It looked daunting and Sansa pressed a hand to her stomach to try and calm herself. She walked through the doors and smiled at the man behind a desk. He asked for her name and who she was seeing and she tried not to fidget as he called Tywin. Soon he was smiling at her and gesturing towards the elevators while he told her what floor to get off on. 

Sansa patted at her hair as she took the elevator. She didn’t know what to expect. Would he be familiar like he’d been the past weekend or would he be all business since they would be discussing the contract? She hoped he would kiss her and hold her. She wanted to feel it again since it might be the last time.

There was only one apartment on the whole floor and she had to remind herself to breathe when Tywin opened the door. He didn’t smile but there was a softness to his face when he saw her. She beamed at him and immediately stepped into the vast apartment. It was decorated the way she expected it would be but she couldn’t detect any hint of personal features from Tywin himself. She supposed there wouldn’t be. Casterly Rock was probably a different story and Sansa longed to see it. 

“Would you like something to drink or should we begin?” Tywin walked ahead of her leading her to an opulent dining room set up for what was obviously a business meeting. Sansa stopped dead in her tracks and he turned to face her. He eyed her curiously and she decided to be bold. 

She walked up to him, placed one hand on his chest, and kissed him. He kissed her back. It was a slow kiss with no rush and Sansa savored it. One of his hands went to her waist and she marveled at the feeling. Heat bloomed through her body and she wanted nothing more than to move things to the bedroom but she had a mission to accomplish and she wouldn’t allow this chance to pass her by. 

“Water will be fine,” she said huskily as she drew back. There was a quirk to his lips that made her smile and she made her way into the dining room and one of the chairs. She placed her bag beside her and pulled out her laptop. Tywin placed a bottle of water next to her and sat in the adjacent chair.

“You read the contract?” He started pulling out a small stack of papers. She nodded, twisting the cap off the water and taking a quick sip. 

“I did,” she replied, holding her breath for what was coming next.

“And?” He said a hint of impatience in his tone but his face was blank. She discreetly clenched her dress under the table and then folded her hands on top.

“I have decided that I can’t, in good conscience, sign this contract,” she allowed her statement to sink in and noted the minute way his body tensed and his eyes became cold.

“That is unfortunate,” he began, eyeing her critically. “If that is all…” he began to rise.

“I think I could love you,” she said. He stopped his ascent and stared at her. She couldn’t let him take control now that she had it. “I started on Smit wanting to have a physical relationship, you know I am attracted to older men. Older than me, at least. I never once imagined in my wildest dreams that you would be a possibility. It’s outrageous and scandalous and I will admit that excited me. But the more I have spent in your presence the more I can’t help but want more, feel more. This contract,” she gestured at the stack of papers with annoyance, “it’s cold and unfeeling. I want more with you, I wish to show you we could be more. If you want me to sign a contract, fine, but don’t throw feelings off the table. Because I think I could love you. And if that is completely out of the realm of possibility then okay, I’ll leave and you never have to hear from me again. I have enjoyed our brief time together.” She stood ready for his rejection.

“You’re right,” he said. She stopped putting her laptop away and looked at him. He was sitting now and glaring at her. Her chest tightened and the sinking feeling in her stomach intensified. “ Cold and unfeeling. I never wanted anything more from you than pleasure, you have deluded yourself. But, I should have known, shouldn’t I? Sansa Stark, innocent and pristine, have you ever heard the word no? Oh, that’s right, you have. I thought my grandson was an idiot for throwing you away but no, I see why. You ask for too much.” His fist hit the table and Sansa jumped at the sudden movement. This was the Great Lion she always heard about. This was Tywin Lannister. “Get out.”

Sansa grabbed her bag and walked around the table. Her stomach was in knots and her chest throbbed painfully.

“Joffrey is the one that is cold and unfeeling. He never treated me with anything but cruelty. I thought...I had hoped that you were different. But I see now, everyone is right about you.” She felt too empty for tears and she took a few more steps. “I’ll adhere to the NDA, you won’t hear from me again. Goodbye, Tywin.” She showed herself out and rode the elevator back down. She didn’t fully break down until she was back home. Jeyne was already asleep and Sansa didn’t feel like talking anyway. 

She was naive to believe that Tywin was different. His words replayed in her head until she was too tired to keep crying. How could he be so cruel? To say that Joffrey was right? She shook her head. The look on his face when he had told her to get out was still fresh in her mind. She told herself that he wouldn’t fall for her but she hadn’t listened. 

Sansa fell into a fitful sleep.

. . .

The days passed with a blur. School and her internship had taken over her life again. More and more students were talking about Smit and all it did was remind Sansa of what could have been. She hadn’t seen Harry again and then she heard that he decided to stay in the Eyrie. She was glad about it.

She was preparing for the summer and her stay in Dragonstone. She was glad the company had apartments available for employees and that she didn’t have to spend the entire summer in a hotel room. She had looked into Dragonstone and though, there wasn’t much to do, there was still plenty to see. The old Targaryen castle was a popular tourist attraction and Jeyne made her promise to check it out and take pictures. 

Sansa was moving on even if her days felt a little empty. The littlest things reminded her of Tywin. It was enough to drive her mad. But she persevered. She was a Stark.

Then the day came when the news reported Margaery and Joffrey’s engagement. Sansa was long past feeling anything for Joffrey. No, it was the look in Margaery’s eyes that bothered Sansa. The picture circulating was meant to be the official engagement photo but Sansa couldn’t help but feel like her former friend was unhappy. 

Her thoughts were cut short, however, when Professor Baelish joined her. She was sitting outside on campus studying for her finals. Thankfully, she had already taken his final and she had been looking forward to not seeing him again. He was relocating to the university in the Vale.

“May I sit?” He asked. Sansa nodded. She hated that she had to be polite. “You did well on your final.”

“Yes, thank you.” She didn’t know what to say and she didn’t know what he wanted. He smiled at her but it felt fake.

“You know I own The Mocking(bird),” he said. Sansa didn’t understand what he was trying to say. The Mocking(bird) was the hottest gossip site, the one that had posted that awful article about Roose Bolton and Walda Frey. She nodded. “I was rather surprised when I received this picture.”

Sansa took the photo he offered to her and stiffened. It was a grainy photo but the two people in it were unmistakable. It was her and Tywin at the Bed and Breakfast. It must have been when they had breakfast on the terrace for Sansa was smiling with a forkful of waffles. The look on Tywin’s face was warm and relaxed. The image made Sansa’s stomach flip.

“Now, I wonder what everyone will say when they see this. The infamous Tywin Lannister with the Northern princess, it’ll cause quite the scandal,” the word rolled off his tongue as he snatched the photo away from her. Sansa wanted to threaten him with lawyers but all she could think about was how this was the man that made a move on his student.

“What do you want?” She asked, swallowing and trying not to show how discomfited she felt. He smiled lasciviously at her.

“A date,” he replied, putting the picture away. Sansa couldn’t believe the nerve of him. 

“Can I have some time to think about it?” She asked worriedly. She tried to make herself seem small and unsure. She saw the moment he softened to her and he nodded.

“Of course, I’ll give you a week to think about it.” He smiled and gently cupped her chin briefly before leaving. Sansa looked around and thanked whatever gods there were that there was no one around. She grabbed her phone and called the one person she knew could help.

“Miss Stark, I believe the last time we spoke you said I would never hear from you again.” Sansa had missed that voice more than she realized. But she couldn’t think about that, not when Petyr Baelish had a picture of her and Tywin.

“Petyr Baelish has a picture of us, Tywin. He just blackmailed me with it.” She bit her lip in worry. If he didn’t help her, she would have to go to her father and that was the last resort. Tywin was silent on the other end.

“I’ll take care of it.” He hung up. Sansa sighed in relief but the ball of worry in her gut was still there. What was he going to do?

. . .