Jon and Sansa are friends.
They used to know each other back in the day, when he lived in Portland and went to school with her brother. That was over ten years ago, before his mom died and he came to live with his father in New York. He is a few years older than her and they never got along. They meet again when she comes to the city for her masters. She has a scholarship from NYU, and she studies political science, because she’s smart like that. She is roommate’s with Myranda Royce, because Nestor Royce was once close with Hoster Tully, and Jon and Myranda know each other because of their dads. She also went to law school, like him, and they’ve been attached by the hip ever since. They never dated, because they don’t actually like each other like that, but they’ve slept together multiple times, whenever they weren’t dating someone else. Myranda says they’re friends, so Jon agrees. She introduces him to Sansa one morning, when he is standing shirtless in the kitchen, eating cereal after staying over from one of their late night hookups. He stays in silence while Sansa laughs, and Myranda asks if they know each other. He’s one of the nerds who used to play videogames with my brother in our basement. Myranda laughs as well, and soon the three of them are eating breakfast together at least once a week, simply because Jon’s flat is just four blocks away and he always forgets to buy food for himself.
He and Myranda are trust fund kids, so despite having jobs at their parents' firms, they don’t really do much work. Family businesses leave a lot of free time when you’re the youngest, and that’s just another thing they both have in common. Sansa doesn’t know much of the city, so in between classes, the three of them roam around, giving her the tourist guide and the non tourist guide to Manhattan, and even venturing themselves around Brooklyn and Queens, so that Sansa can get a “full experience”, as Myranda puts it. They go to all the museums and all the bars and Jon comes up with a game where the winner is the one who kisses the most people by the end of the night. The loser needs to buy them pizza. Myranda usually beats him, and Sansa doesn’t play because she has a boyfriend back home, who she apparently likes very much.
Jon is not all that convinced.
But they’re friends, and things are different now that they’re older. Sansa is the smartest person he knows, but she’s not a snob about it, which he deeply appreciates. His family already makes him feel stupid enough. She has a few friends from University but they’re not close, so when Myranda starts dating Harry Hardyng of all people, he and Sansa start hanging out more, just the two of them. They go to the movies, to the park, he helps her study and listens to her complaints about the professors and her thesis. He talks to Robb when she facetimes with him, they cook dinner together on Fridays and she’s the one that forces him to binge Gilmore Girls with her so that he can truly be my friend and understand how my mind works. She laughs at his jokes and he thinks that she’s brilliant and it takes him four months to realize how much he likes her.
Sadly, it’s a little too much.
They’re supposed to go to the movies one afternoon. Sansa says she likes watching films at the cinema better than at home, so they do that a lot. He walks to her flat and she usually meets him downstairs, but she’s not on the sidewalk and she’s not answering his texts, so he comes up. Myranda has been living in the same building for the past two years and all the doormen know him, so it’s no problem at all to get in. He rings their doorbell three times, even tries to call Sansa but there’s no answer. He gets a strange feeling inside his chest that he later recognizes as panic, and he worries that she might have fell in the shower and died, which sounds stupid later but completely plausible at that moment. He’s considering breaking the door open when the doorknob turns, and he’s now facing her. Her eyes are puffy and red, the blue seeming even more bright. Her nose and cheeks are flushed and her lips look a bit swollen. She’s been crying, a lot it seems, and suddenly he doesn’t know what to do with his hands. I’m sorry, I was in the shower and I didn’t hear you. A lie. Her hair is dry and styled in pretty curls, and she’s wearing high waisted jeans and a burgundy top. What time is the movie again? I’m almost ready, I just need to fix my makeup. And she leaves the door open for him, turning away without another word. He walks in, closing the door behind him, and follows through the apartment. He’s never been in her room before, which seems strange, because the flat is smaller than his and Jon spends a lot of time there, sometimes he doesn’t even go home for days on a roll, crashing on their couch whenever he’s too lazy to walk the four blocks back. The sheets on her bed are baby blue. Her walls are all white and filled with shelves, colorful books and picture frames in them. There’s some art too, framed and unframed drawings that he knows are hers, and he wishes he could take a better look, but he hears water running. She has her own bathroom and the door is open, so he just stands there, in the middle of her room, watching her wash her face in the sink as he wipes his sweaty hands on his jeans. He sees her look at herself in the mirror and she sighs, and he hates how sad she sounds. She then turns to him, and smiles. They stare at each other for a moment, her lip trembles and her eyes fill with water, and he’s putting his arms around her before the first tear rolls down her cheek.
I’m sorry, she tells him. He’s still cradling the back of her head against his chest. I don’t usually cry all over people’s shirts. He kisses the top of her head. He doesn’t mean to, but his lips are brushing her hair before he can stop it. She smells like strawberries, or what the artificial scent for strawberries must be. He thinks that might be his favourite scent now. It’s okay, you can cry on my shirt anytime you want. He doesn’t mean to do that either, to say that, but he does it and she laughs and it makes him proud to know that he made her laugh. He hates feeling like this. Do you wanna talk about it? She sighs, sounding so broken and he pulls her closer to him, wraps his arm around her more tightly, threads his fingers down her hair, his lips still pressed to her scalp. Her voice is small, he feels her mouth moving against him through the fabric of his shirt. It’s nothing. I had a stupid fight with Willas, that’s all. Everything is fine, I don’t know why I’m like this. His skin burns. He feels like he should let go, like he should never touch her again, not like this, but he can’t seem to move. After a while, she does, her eyes redder than before when she looks up at him to smile. She asks him if he can make some tea while she finishes getting ready. He dutifully goes to the kitchen, not noticing how they’re not gonna make it to the movie on time. His hands feel numb while he heats the water, and when she comes out to meet him she has some makeup on, still looking sad but not as much as before. Jon doesn’t even like tea, but he drinks it quietly while he hears her talking about anything but Willas. At some point, Myranda gets home, looking stressed and angry, and she demands that the three of them order pizza and watch Love Island together, so they do. After five episodes, he tells them he’s going home. Randa waves at him from the couch and Sansa opens the door for him. She stands on her toes to kiss his cheek. She smells like pepperoni and wine and strawberries, a strange mix that he thinks he loves. Thank you, she tells him.
For being you.
He doesn’t know what to say, so he doesn’t say anything, and she smiles at him again, before closing the door. He feels lightheaded and tired. He thinks his chest is going to explode.
After that, he tries to avoid her, which sucks because he misses her a lot, but he still tries to do it for a month. He starts making excuses as to why he can’t make it to dinner on Friday and why he can’t go to the movies on Thursday while simultaneously starting to spend more time with his brother after work. Aegon knows the weirdest type of people and Jon finds himself jumping from party to party most Saturday nights and waking up next to strange women most Sunday mornings. One of them tries to steal his night lamp, another succeeds in stealing his wallet, and soon he thinks he should give it a rest because all he thinks about is Sansa and there’s not enough redheads in Manhattan to make him forget about her. He knows he’s being an asshole, cause Myranda tells him so, multiple times, via text and voice messages, but also because Sansa doesn’t say anything. She’s always very nice when he blows her off and she never tells him she’s upset or lonely or all the things Myranda claims that she feels. She’s still new to the city and Jon told her he would have her back while she settled and then he ditched her. So after coming home so drunk he throws up on the carpet and sleeps on the floor instead of his bed, he decides to get his head out of his ass and behave better, because she deserves better, even if he’s not good enough for her. Next Wednesday, Sansa comes home from class to freshly cooked pasta on the stove and Fleetwood Mac on the stereo. Myranda set the table and is working on a playlist for them. Jon’s wearing her apron with the pink cats on it and he offers her a glass of wine. She smiles at him, dropps her bag on a chair, takes the glass from his hand and proceeds to sit on the counter while he works on the pasta sauce. He tells her about his day in the office and she tells him about the new book she’s reading and just like that, they’re friendship goes back to normal.
A month later, Myranda throws a party at his place.
She never throws parties at their flat because she doesn’t like strange people touching her things. Jon doesn’t give a shit, so he lets her use the place whenever she wants to. Almost everything here was bought for him by someone else. The apartment was a birthday gift from his father, decorated by his eccentric aunt and he barely uses any room that isn’t his own. So when Randa asks him if they can throw a party on Saturday, he shrugs and says of course. It’s been a while since they threw one, haven’t done it once since Sansa arrived, and she seems pleased with the idea of hosting something. She also tells him she’s excited to see his place. We’ve known each other for almost six months and I’ve never been inside your apartment. He wants to correct her, tell her that they’ve known each other for over ten years, but it doesn’t seem true. They were kids back in Portland and they barely acknowledged each other. In New York, with this adult version of themselves, who go out to bars and cook dinner together and binge watch TV shows, they’re friends, close friends actually, and he’ll settle for that even if he wished they were more.
Somehow during the night they end up sitting together, Jon’s arm resting behind her on the couch, Sansa’s body pressed to his side, their thighs rubbing against each other in the dim lit living room. He’s in dark jeans and a black tshirt, she’s in a tight blue dress, spaghetti straps, a soft material that felt good to the touch when he rested a palm at her lower back in the kitchen, and black tights, the sheer kind, with the little ankle boots he loves so much. He hates that he thinks that, hates that he loves her boots. He shouldn’t love anything about her, but he does. He’s on his fourth beer, maybe fifth, she is drinking wine from a water glass for some reason, her red hair down and smelling of strawberries and cigarettes, and when she laughs at something Myranda says he can tell she’s a little tipsy, just as he is.
His apartment is crowded, yet he doesn’t know most of the people here. They’re mostly Myranda’s friends - actually Harry’s friends, who Jon can’t stand - and Sansa also invited a few people from school. They’re not as close to her as he and Myranda. She told him once she was very good at making friends back home and at UVA, but here it is harder and she hasn’t quite figured out why. I think I’m doing something wrong. The girls hate me and the guys just want to fuck me. And the professors have this way of making me feel like I’m the stupidest person on Earth. He felt like a piece of shit that day, because of how much he wants to fuck her, and of how lonely she must’ve felt when he was avoiding her. He wishes fucking her is all he wants, he wishes he isn’t so mad about her to the point of dreaming of her voice and her eyes and her hair, of wanting to tell her first about everything that happens in his boring life, of feeling impossibly sad whenever she has to cancel on him and their plans. He takes another sip of his beer, that has somehow gotten warm, but he swears he just opened it, and tries to focus on the conversation around him, but Sansa is too close and that’s distracting. He could put his arm around her shoulders if he wanted, pulling her even closer. He could caress her hair, touch her shoulder, the back of her neck. He could lean forward and place his lips to her ear, whisper all the things he wants to do to her, tell her all the ways he’s dreamed of loving her, yet that would be insane and wrong and he hates that he’s even thinking about it.
There’s a lot of talking, and someone turns up the music. Myranda is walking away for some reason he doesn't know and Sansa turns her face to him. He’s scared of how close she is. There’s other people sitting on the couch but it’s weird that she’s this close. It’s not weird at all when he thinks about it, it feels like she belongs there, next to him, body warm in the crowded room, face so close he could count her lashes if he wanted. He wants to, and he starts to, but he loses count when she starts talking.
“Tell me again why we never hang out here.”
It’s one thing to be at her place, where he’s surrounded by her things and Myranda’s things and literally a million reminders of why he shouldn’t want what he wants or feel what he feels. If he brings her here, if he lays in bed with her, because his room is the only one with a TV, and they watch shows and eat pizza and talk about life, if he does that, if he has to watch her lying on his sheets, her head on his pillow, if they’re surrounded by his things, it’s much harder to understand why she can’t also be his. He wants to tell her that, which is insane because he can’t do it, because it will ruin what they have and it will hurt her, but he doesn’t know what to say, yet she’s looking at him with her ocean blue eyes and she’s waiting for him to say something so he can’t be quiet.
“Your place is nicer.”
She rolls her eyes at him. “True, but it’s only because everything is so dark here. I could redecorate if you want.”
He smiles. “You would do that, wouldn’t you?”
“Of course I would.”
She’s smiling again, then she takes a long sip of her wine. He still doesn’t understand why she doesn’t have a wine glass. Does he even have wine glasses? His aunt must’ve bought him some. He’s a grown man and he’s not sure if he has wine glasses in his own apartment. He’s never been embarrassed about the way he lives his life, but now he is, now he wishes he had proper glasses so that Sansa could drink her wine. He’s about to ask her why she’s drinking from a water glass when she smiles at him, closing her eyes.
“Oh, I love this song.”
He’s not even paying attention to the music coming from the sound system, but she starts singing the words so he watches her lips moving. Do I wanna know // If this feeling flows both ways? // (Sad to see you go) // Was sorta hoping that you'd stay // (Baby, we both know) // That the nights were mainly made for saying things that you can't say tomorrow day. She’s enjoying herself and he realizes that he knows the words, so he starts singing along with her. Someone calls her name and she turns her head. He doesn’t understand what they’re saying, but she laughs again, throwing her head back against his shoulder. He’s looking at her and listening to the song and something compels him to move, to place his lips on her ear, and sing along with the words. So have you got the guts? // Been wondering if your heart's still open // And if so, I wanna know what time it shuts /// Simmer down and' pucker up, I'm sorry to interrupt. She’s still facing the other way, to whoever it was that called her, but he sees her eyes closing, sees her mouth parting, hears the small sigh that leaves her lips. It's just I'm constantly on the cusp of trying to kiss you // I don't know if you feel the same as I do // But we could be together if you wanted to.
There’s a strange feeling of euphoria when the words leave him. She turns her face, eyes locked with his, so close he can feel her breath on his lips. He knows it’s wrong of him to have said that, to whisper to her like that, like he means every word, like he’s dying to kiss her, but right now he doesn’t care, because it’s all true and in that moment he felt like he should let her know. She doesn’t seem to care all that much either, from the way her gaze keeps dropping from his eyes to his mouth. He tries darting his tongue out to wet his bottom lip and the blush that appears on her cheeks is the most adorable thing he’s ever seen. She looks lovely tonight, she looks lovely always, and he really, really, wants to kiss her. He’s desperate to. Deep down he knows he shouldn’t, but he’s also aware that she would let him if he did. They're really close now, so close that all it takes is for her to move her face up and their lips would brush. He knows she would taste like wine and maybe something sweet, because he bought a bunch of lemon cakes and stuck them in the fridge for her to find. She opens her mouth, but then closes it again, and he decides that he'll kiss her, now, in his living room, in front of all these people, he'll kiss her because he can and because he wants to.
There's a series of loud pings and a vibration on his thigh. Something shifts between them and she looks down, so he does the same. It's not his thigh, it's hers, and it's her phone, the one that's on her lap. They're still pressed together and she doesn't move, just lifts the phone to have a look at the screen. Several text messages, unopened, from Willas. They stay looking at her phone for a moment, heads down, until she glances at him. It's quick and he barely notices it, but he does, so now he's looking at her, only her, but she's looking at her phone. Then she stands, abruptly, and he's startled by the movement. She walks away, disappearing between the sea of people, not looking back at him for a second, and he's immediately cold despite the high temperature inside the living room.
His hands feel very sweaty.
He places the beer on the coffee table. A minute goes by. Maybe two. He doesn't understand what's happening until he's already halfway across the living room, heading towards the front door. He lives on the top floor and above them there's the roof. He showed it to her when she got there, early, to help him set things up. The sun was setting and the view was very nice. Her hair was glowing under the orange light. She looked like an angel, radiant, like the sun itself. His own personal star. He wanted to take a picture of her, so he asked and she let him. The picture is on his phone right now, and there's this urge to take it out of his pocket and look at it, to see if it's real, if she's real, if anything they ever shared was ever real. He climbs up the steps two at a time and gets to the steel door, opening to the roof.
The cold air hits him hard. He closes his eyes for a moment, letting the cool wind hit his face, helping him calm down. It was too hot inside the apartment and yet cold the minute she left him. He felt like he couldn't breathe. Here is better, he feels better, if only for a moment, until he hears a voice.
He opens his eyes, searching around, to see her leaning against the side wall, arm around her waist, the other holding her phone to her ear. Their eyes meet and they stay there, locked in the moment, the city lights shining all different colors in her hair. Then she blinks, looking away from him.
"Sorry, I'm here. Yeah, I'm fine, I saw a pigeon and I got distracted."
She's talking on the phone. To Willas, most likely. He should go back downstairs, leave her alone, get some water and some sense back to him. Instead, he walks to her, mirroring her position, back against the wall. He fishes his cigarette pack from his pocket and lights one, the flame from his lighter fluttering against the cold.
"Just a party, at Jon's." He looks at her at the mention of his name. Her eyes are still facing forward. "Myranda's friend." A pause. He watches as she inhales. "Yes, that Jon."
There's something there, in the way she says it, something that tells him there's a lot he doesn't know, a lot he doesn't understand. And still, he smirks, and now she looks at him, and she seems angry. He doesn't know if she's angry at him or at Willas or maybe even at herself, but he takes another drag from his cigarette and offers it to her. She looks at his hand, then back at him, then takes the cigarette, their fingers brushing, and she places it on her lips. He turns his eyes forward.
"Yes, Willas, I'm well aware of what you think about him."
Her hand brushes against his, offering the cigarette back. He takes it, moves it to his lips, then his hand is brushing against hers again. Still looking forward, he intertwines their fingers, and she lets him. His thumb caresses the back of her hand while she speaks. "Well, I don't agree with you." He uses his left hand to smoke now, keeping his eyes forward the entire time, watching the city lights while his thumb rubs circles on her skin. He hears her sigh, and her hand tightens around his. "I think I'm gonna hang up now. I'll talk to you tomorrow." He hears as she hangs up. He doesn't move, stays looking forward, hand on her grasp, waiting.
"Why did you sing that?"
He takes a breath, lets the cool air fill his lungs, exhales. "I think you know why."
He finishes the cigarette, drops it to the ground, steps on it. She is still holding his hand, and she turns her body to face him. "You can't say these things to me." Her voice is not angry, is not hurt, so he feels safe to turn and face her. She's looking at his eyes, watching, waiting for him to say something, and despite being completely aware of the answer he asks her anyway. "Why?"
"I think you know why."
He smiles at her using his words against him and he sees the corners of her mouth wanting to move up, he sees that she wants to smile too but she bites her lip instead. There's something in her eyes, something hidden behind all that beautiful blue and he takes a step forward. Just like that, they're close again, their chests almost brushing, their hands still clasped together, and he sees her eyes drop to his lips, like they had in the living room, and when she speaks it's almost a whisper.
"Don't kiss me, Jon."
If he was a better man, he wouldn't. He would let go of her hand, he would take a step back, he would leave her alone. If he was a better man he would've never sang to her, would've never dreamed of her, would've never hoped to have her when she was already taken. But he's not a better man, he's far from it, and her voice sounds like a pleading to his ears, almost as if she's saying kiss me, Jon, almost as if she's begging him to be the one to take that final step, just so that she can have someone to blame when things get out of hand.
He's not sure if it matters but it's important that he hears it at least once, so he'll know why he's doing it, why he’s risking this good thing they have going on for something that probably won’t last long.
"Cause I'm gonna kiss you back if you do."
For a second, he thinks about using her own words against her. You can't say these things to me. But it's only a second, a thought that goes by quickly, a passing thing, right before he takes that final step, his free hand coming to cup her face, his lips meeting hers. She opens up willingly and he finds that she indeed tastes like wine, and a little bit like the cigarette they just smoked together. It's very easy to push her against the wall, to press his body to hers, to let go of her hand to grab at her hips, his other still gently caressing her cheek. There's no urgency to the kiss, no rush to it, no plan in getting it over anytime soon. It's slow and sweet and it warms him from inside out. Her free hand is on his curls, gentle and loving, the one holding her phone is pressed right on top of his heart, now a constant hammer in his chest, beating for her and only her. He can feel his blood racing and his cock hardening and he can't contain the involuntary movement of his hips, grinding against her shamelessly, making her gasp, and he swallows that first one along with the rest as he repeats the movement, pressing himself more forcefully against her like he's trying to make them become one.
There's loud pings and vibrations again. He groans. "I'm gonna break that phone." She's laughing, her mouth still brushing his, just momentarily, until she pulls away to look him in the eye. Her phone is ringing now, loud and clear, the noise just adding to the ones around them. They don't kiss again until it stops, and then they still don't kiss. He keeps his hold on her even when he already knows what comes next.
"This isn't right."
He thinks he's ready but he isn't. It hits his chest and it shatters him, the blow going straight through his heart.
"I can't do this, I need to go."
He barely realizes how he drops his hands, how he relinquishes his hold. She stays there, looking at him, not touching him anymore, never once having been his. Her eyes are very blue, even in the dark, and she looks sad. She opens her mouth and then closes it, he just stands there, doesn't say a word. Maybe he is supposed to, but it's hard to speak without lungs, and he feels as if his have been cut off with a kitchen knife. His chest aches terribly, and he thinks he might pass out. A tear rolls down her cheek, and she quickly wipes it away with the back of her hand. Then she's moving past him, the rooftop door opens and closes, and he's alone. It feels strange and cold inside him, as if a fundamental part of him has just been taken away, and now he has to learn how to be whole again without ever truly being possible. He takes a deep breath, his hands shaking from the pain, and he thinks about lighting another cigarette just so he'll have something to do, but the flame reminds him of her hair so he gives up, just turns to look at the city lights instead.
Jon and Sansa were friends.
And now they're not.