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What We Found Beneath the Willow Tree

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“So, the scene of the crime,” Arya sneered, earning a harsh shush from Sam as she surveyed the aisle. “Classic literature M-Q.” Arya had been twenty minutes late for the meeting, claiming traffic, but Meera had the sneaking feeling that a certain black hair mechanic had a part to play in that.

“I don’t think that helps us,” Meera whispered back, scanning the titles. “What was he here for, do you remember, Sam?”

Poor Sam wrung his hands, a handkerchief held fast in their grip to periodically blot his forehead. “Orwell. Top shelf.”

“Top shelf? Bran can’t reach that,” Arya said, still too loudly, craning her neck.

“I think Olyvar was sorting back here, he probably grabbed it.”

Meera turned slowly to face Arya, her eyes narrowed. “Who, exactly, is this Olyvar?”

“Oh, just the new assistant librarian,” Sam said with a wave of his hand. “Showed up a little while ago with great references. Said he was new in town.”

“Well, he must be,” Jon said from his spot, leaning against a bookcase behind Sam. “I don’t think any of us have heard of him before. I say someone call Margaery, she knows everyone.”

“Do you think Olyvar had something to do with this?”

“We might as well find out, Sam.” The librarian huffed and turned on his heel to leave them to peruse the literature and their own suspicions. Jon turned to the girls, pushing a hand through his dark curls, “I’ll ask Sansa to talk to Margaery, but we might not hear back right away.”

“Better than nothing,” Meera shrugged, albeit rather bitterly. “I’ll check with some other people around town, see if they know anything about him.” Jon nodded and the trio started for the door, Arya still silent.

“Bran never mentioned that there was an assistant librarian,” she said, once they reached the front door, stepping back out into the damp, dreary grey of the autumn slowly forming into winter. “And he’s in there almost every day.”

Jon humphed noncommittally, pulling out his cell phone and calling his least favorite cousin. “Yes, hello, Sansa… Well. How are you?... That’s great. Arya dragged me to the library to talk to Sam, see if we could find out what happened, you know, and Sam told us about the new assistant librarian, Olyvar, and we think he might be involved… Could you ask Margaery about him? She knows everyone, she must know something… Thanks… I know. I hope everything turns out for the best… You, too… Yeah, see you then.” Jon returned the phone to his pocket. “She’ll ask”

“Of course she will,” Arya said confidently, striding toward her car. “She’d do anything for family.”

“Where are you going?” Jon called after her.

“I’m meeting someone!”

“Twenty bucks it’s Gendry,” Meera said in a hushed tone.

“Oh no, Reed, I wasn’t born yesterday,” Jon chuckled, turning to walk away. “No one is stupid enough to take that bet.” A brief smile flitted across Meera’s face, before a sinking feeling replaced any sense of amusement. Something greater was as work in Moat Cailin, and maybe Bran and Jojen were just the tip of the iceberg.

 

Jojen looked up from the spot on the counter he had been studiously analyzing for the last ten minutes when a shadow fell across the area next to him. Meera dropped down onto the stool to his right and propped her bony elbows on the counter.

“So…”

“So.”

“I’d ask how you are, but I have a pretty good guess.”

Jojen snorted mirthlessly. “Yeah, you’d have to be pretty dense not to figure it out. And you always were the smart one.”

“Naw, I’m just the one who’s good at math.” A long silence settled over the siblings, heavy with the weight of unsaid sentiments. The Reeds had never been known for their ability to express themselves. Ever so silently, Meera noticed, drops of water splashed onto the counter.

“Jo-”

“Bran used to help me with calculus.” Meera reached to wrap an arm around him, but Jojen straightened abruptly, rubbing determinedly at his eyes. “Gods, I’m crying about math! Calculus is enough to make anyone cry, but this is just pathetic.”

“You’re not pathetic, Jojen, don’t say that,” Meera insisted, grasping his shoulder. “Ever.”

He offered her a watery smile. “Have I told you recently what a good sister you are?”

She returned the smile and wrapped her arm securely around him, pulling him in for a brief sideways hug. “It’s really slow, if you wanted to take a break it’d be fine.”

“No, I’m fine,” he told her with a shake of his head. “Distractions are… good.”

Meera paused for a long moment, nodding absently, then an idea unearthed itself from her muddled thoughts. “Have you talked to Margaery? About her offer? It might be good for you.”

“What, wearing absurdly expensive clothes? I know what the shit at her boutique costs.” Aside, so quiet Meera almost couldn’t hear him, he added, “never should have let Myrcella buy that suit.”

“No, not the clothes, the change. New job, different scenery, it could be nice,” she elaborated. “And it’s certainly a better distraction than our coffee shop, which is deader that the Night’s King.”

“Maybe.”

One glance told her that he was not convinced. Okay, so she’d push him into it. What were older sisters for, right? “You should call her. Now. You have her card, don’t you?” Jojen opened his mouth to protest, but Meera immediately soldiered on. “Take your fifteen, the shop won’t burn down in your absence, just go for it.” When she all but pushed him off his stool, he pulled out his phone, with a heavy sigh, and slid into the back room.

“Margaery?... Hi, it’s Jojen Reed… I’m calling about your offer, the modelling thing… Yeah, I think I’d like to try it… You know, for a change…”

A breath of relief escaped Meera. Maybe solving the Bran thing wouldn’t be too big of a deal. First loves fade fast, don’t they. Don’t they?