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What We Found Beneath the Willow Tree

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Jojen tapped aimlessly at his AP Calculus textbook, willing the answers to fall out of the pages. He hadn’t meant to sleep through class, really he hadn’t, but nightmares of skeleton men in the snow had kept him awake. Not that it did snow much in Moat Cailin. His calc teacher had allowed him to sleep, and when he tried to apologize she said she’d rather have him sleep through class than get injured due to a seizure triggered by exhaustion. Truthfully, he hadn’t experienced a major seizure in almost a year, only auras that he’d come to refer to as ‘seeing green’. He’d read about people smelling paint thinner or fudge, or hearing static, but he saw the world in green.

He was still pouring over the same problem when the bell over the door jingled softly. Jojen straightened to his full, and rather unimpressive, Reed height, and shoved his homework out of sight, pushing blonde curls out of solemn green eyes. Half past two, same as always, the auburn haired boy pushed through the door, glaring at anyone who dared offer any assistance as he navigated his chair to the counter. Today, however, he wasn’t alone. There was a dark, petite girl beside him, not touching the chair, and she looked ready to fight anyone who got too close. Apparently, the boy’s new companion didn’t know how to whisper either, as he could clearly hear her as they came closer.

“So, do you come here for the cute barista? Because I could get behind that,” she said easily, combing fingers through her wind tossed pageboy haircut. Jojen shifted unconsciously, straightening his plain, dark blue sweater.

“Arya, will you please shut up,” the boy sighed, exasperated, as he shrugged off his grey jacket. “The coffee is good and it’s quiet, like most places you aren’t.”

“Gods, Bran, you don’t need to be so mean,” the girl huffed, stuffing her hands into the pockets of dark jeans. Probably his sister. Gods knew Jojen and Meera had had enough of those conversations.

He did his best to smile, and act as though he hadn’t been heard them. “What can I get for you?”

“The Vienna coffee,” the girl said, grabbing for her wallet. “Bran?”

“The usual,” he said, before turning his attention to his sister. “You don’t need to pay, Arya.”

“I forced you to let me come,” she replied. “By paying I’m rebuilding lost older sister cred.” The boy—Bran—shook his head, smiling like an indulgent father. A smile that had Jojen in its clutches until the girl interrupted, “Hey, don’t I know you from somewhere?”

“Um, maybe?” They probably had gone to high school together since this girl was Bran’s older sister.

“He’s in Father’s picture of the Reeds, Arya,” Bran nudged her along. “You know, his best friend, Howland Reed. He owns this bookstore.”

“Oh!” Arya passed Jojen her money, “I could swear I knew you from somewhere else, though. Did you graduate with the class of 2014?”

“No, I graduate this year,” he said simply, counting out her change.

She nodded, obviously about to continue, but Bran was already pulling her toward a table in the back corner of the shop. When Jojen brought over their coffee, he heard him say to her, “You wanted to talk about the mechanic, so talk.” Presumably he meant Gendry Waters, the boy adopted by Tobho Mott after he was left in a cardboard box in front of his garage as a baby twenty years ago. There was talk about his resemblance to Robert Baratheon, mayor of King’s Landing, but no one ever thought much on it beyond the odd comment.

Arya’s comment stuck in his mind, “do you come here for the cute barista?” He didn’t know if that was true, but he admitted to himself that he asked to work the afternoon shift to see Bran, even when he didn’t know his name. He also admitted that it was weird. And so, vaguely irritated by his own pathetic love life, he went back to calculus in hopes that he might find solace in the possibility of intelligence. He found none. Half an hour and three unsuccessful attempts later, Arya was leaving and Bran was approaching the counter, empty cups in hand.

“I’m sorry about Arya,” Bran said, his voice oddly gentle as he offered the cups. Usually his words were clipped and sharp, if he spoke at all. “She doesn’t always know when to stop.”

Jojen shrugged, accepting the cups, “It’s fine, not the worst customer I’ve had.”

Bran nodded, noting the textbook. “You know, I got pretty good grades in calc last year, I could help you. Not that you need help, but you’ve been staring at that page since before we came in here.”

“Oh, ah, that would be great, actually. I mean, it’s a week and a half into the school year and I’m already lost.” He wasn’t blushing; his face didn’t feel disproportionately warm, nope, not at all.

“Great, when do you finish work?”

“Not until seven, but Loras usually gets here by six and I don’t think he’d mind if I cut out early.” Oh gods that probably sounded desperate, came unbidden into his mind, followed by a justification, except I am, I’m shit at calculus.

“Great, I’ll see you then,” Bran said, turning toward the door. “You don’t mind getting that door do you?”

Jojen hid the grin threatening to appear on his lips. “Of course not.”

 

“Wait, do you have a date?” Meera demanded after overhearing her brother ask Loras Tyrell, one of their fathers few hires not based in nepotism, to cover for him. Actually, Loras had been hired to cement a relationship with the Highgarden Pastry Company that operated out of the Reach in the south which would allow the Reeds to use Tyrell recipes in their café kitchen.

“No, someone it just helping me with homework,” he said, trying to be vague as he untied his white apron. Of course, the ludicrous little smile tugging at his lips gave him away.

“So it is a date,” Loras insisted, throwing and arm around the shorter boy and ruffling his hair. “Little Reed is finally all grown up.”

“It’s not a date,” Jojen hissed, ducking out from under the brunette’s arm. “Bran is just helping me with calculus.”

“Is that what the kids are calling it these days?” Loras asked suggestively before wilting under the intensity of his green-eyed glare. “Whatever, just go. You’d cover for me if I wanted some time with Renly.” He exchanged a knowing look with Meera while her brother’s back was turned. It wasn’t as if they hadn’t noticed the way he looked at Brandon Stark, son of one of the Neck’s most well-known business men. The Starks were entrenched in the world of medical equipment, and would have been rich as the Lannisters of Casterly Rock if they weren’t quite so involved in charity. Ned Stark was just about everyone’s favorite person, and if not it was one of his children.

Jojen was still shoving books into his bag when Bran arrived, choosing to wait outside instead of dealing with that godsforsaken door. They didn’t speak as Bran led him to the Moat Cailin public library which was a few blocks from Good Reeds, a name that Bran asked after to break the silence once the entered the building.

Jojen chuckled softly. “About twenty-five years ago, my father attended the May music festival at Harrenhal. That was where he met your father and your aunt, Lyanna. On the second night of the festival, he revealed that he wanted to open a bookstore, and Lyanna drunkenly proposed the name, which he drunkenly agreed to and soberly, five years later, she held him to it.”

“That sounds like Aunt Lyanna,” Bran agreed, opening the textbook at a table. “All right, tell me what your problems are.”

 

This was the beginning of a tradition, particularly seeing as Jojen never did get better at calculus, and every Friday afternoon he would leave early for the library and Bran would help him muddle through math. In return, Jojen taught Bran how to analyze text in AP Language and Composition. Early September turned into early October, and Meera began her junior year at Moat Cailin University. Loras and Renly Baratheon began to plan their long anticipated wedding much to the chagrin of both families. Bran’s cousin, Jon, returned from beyond the Wall with a fiancé, and Robb and his wife announced that they would have a child by next June. All was as it should have been. At least, until Catelyn Stark had something to say about it.

Chapter Text

“Hey, Bran?” Rickon asked from where he lay on the living room floor.

“What?”

“So, are you actually dating the weird, skinny guy or are you two still saying you aren’t dating even though you are?”

Bran started, jerking suddenly enough for his copy of The Picture of Dorian Gray to go tumbling out of his hands onto the carpet. Before he could correct his younger brother and call him a nosy idiot, or some variation thereupon, Arya saw fit to interrupt, “Oh yeah, they’re totally dating. You should ask him to go to the wedding with you before Loras gets too far into the table planning.”

“We are not dating,” Bran growled, spurring Summer, his Alaskan Malamute, to jog over and hop into his lap. Summer had been a gift from his parents the day he came home from the hospital, after he visited the willow tree, three years ago. His therapist, Dr. Luwin, had expressed concerns about Bran developing depression, as it was known to run in his mother’s side of the family, and had suggested a dog as a companion that would promote both responsibility and activity. Summer, as large dogs are wont to do, considered herself a lap dog and seeing as her sitting on Bran didn’t bother him he didn’t exactly seek to discourage her. Jojen had a pygmy lizard-lion named Raven that Bran had yet to meet in person though he had seen pictures. Jojen had liked Summer, and Summer had liked him which would have given anyone points in Bran’s book.

Rickon opened his mouth to issue what he would have considered a witty riposte only to be cut off by his mother. “Regardless of who Bran is or isn’t dating, the Reeds are coming over for dinner tomorrow night and I require your best behavior.”

The youngest Stark flopped over onto his back, groaning loudly, “Really, Mom? It’ll be a Saturday!”

“Yes, it will be,” Catelyn replied sharply, picking up Bran’s book and returning it to him over his dog’s back, “and I’ll have no pranks out of you. Howland Reed’s son is epileptic and I won’t risk him getting hurt in my house over some silly joke. Is that understood, Rickon Benjen Stark?”

“Yes, Mother,” Rickon mumbled sullenly.

Arya grinned wickedly as their mother exited the room. “I guess your unboyfriend is coming to dinner.”

Bran’s only response was to glower at her before gently nudging Summer off his lap in favor of grabbing her leash. Strap in hand, he pushed out of the front door and sending a text to Jojen in case he wanted to join him—oh gods. They did act like boyfriends.

It was this thought that caused Bran’s heart to jump into his throat when Jojen texted in reply that he was on his way. He began to make his way down to driveway, the wheels of the chair collecting the wet, red, fallen leaves of the maple trees in the Stark yard, with trepidation roiling in the pit of his stomach. Summer walked beside him, her excited pants, and the stern grey sky, punctuating his developing despair. Jojen was smart, easy to talk to, gentle, and actually quite attractive for all people said he looked like a rodent. People at school, underclassmen mostly. Of course, Jojen never talked about relationships. He could be aromantic and only want strictly platonic associations. Not that he cared. He most certainly did not have a crush on Jojen Reed and he absolutely did not care that his parents were having the Reeds over for dinner.

 

Brandon Stark was very good at lying to himself. Or at least, he thought so.

 

Despite the lie, he was still combating embarrassment when the blonde boy arrived. He wouldn't have immediately noticed, either, if Summer hadn't made such a fuss about greeting her new favorite person. Jojen knelt to give her a sound petting, much to her apparent delight.

"Traitor," Bran muttered, just loud enough to be heard.

"She'll always be yours, Bran," he replied seriously, making quite the ridiculous picture with his dour, contemplative expression while Summer joyfully licked his face. "I can't have a dog in the apartment."

"I was being facetious."

"Oh."

"It is nice to know, I suppose," he continued, passing over the leash, "that the only thing stopping you from absconding with my dog is a single rule at the Greywater Watch Apartments."

"Really? Absconding?"

"I've been reading Oscar Wilde so wipe that smirk off your face, it doesn't suit you."

Jojen chuckled softly before lapsing into a comfortable silence. Or rather, an uncomfortable silence on Bran's part. Not a drop of rain was falling, and there was no thunder rumbling in the distance over the Bay of Seals. It was, for a day in October in that part of the world, truly extraordinary. Naught but a biting wind blew in from the water as they strolled along the sidewalk. That is, Jojen strolled, Bran wheeled, and Summer trotted. And Bran shivered, recalling that he was clad in only a tee shirt, having wanted only to escape the suffocatingly crowded Winterfell Manor. A soft, warm weight settled over his thin shoulders, compelling him to pause and look up from the concrete. Jojen was still as well, now sans coat with a small, pleasant smile.

“Thank you,” Bran almost whispered, terrified to break the peaceful air between them as he slipped his arms through the sleeves before the coat lost the lingering body heat.

“Of course,” was the murmured reply. Neither moved for what felt like at least a minute, though it was likely shorter, until Summer jerked rather savagely on her leash, pulling Jojen a few feet to his right and onto the damp ground.

“Are you alright?” Bran exclaimed, moving forward as quickly as he could manage, only to find the blonde hysterically laughing. “What’s funny, are you in shock?”

“Don’t worry,” he gasped out. “Your dog it just a self-satisfied cockblocker.”

“Um, pardon?”

“I was going to ask if I could kiss you, but your dog decided she was done waiting.”

“Summer, sit!” Bran called to her, ensuring that they might have a few more moments for Jojen to laugh it all off as a joke. He reached for the back of his friend’s head. “Are you sure you didn’t hit your head when she pulled you over?”

“Pretty sure.” Shit, Jojen looked to be in earnest.

“This doesn’t have anything to do with my parents inviting your parents over for dinner does it, because I swear—”

“What? No, I don’t know anything about that,” he insisted, pulling Brans hand out from behind his head and twisting their fingers together. “I really would like to kiss you. And have you as my plus one to Loras and Renly’s wedding. Unless of course you don’t, in which case I don’t either, or rather I do, but I respect that you don’t want to. I get it, I’m kind of weird, and I stared at you in Good Reeds for, like, a really long time, and I don’t understand math for shit, and my only marketable skills are making cappuccinos and scones, and I look pretty strange, and… yeah.” By the end of his tiny speech, Jojen was staring at the ground between them, breathing a little faster than would be deigned normal.

“You know,” said the voice above him, “you can’t really kiss me from down there, and I can’t reach you, so get your ass over here Prince Charming.” Green eyes glanced up to see the impish glint dancing in Bran’s expression. Ever so slowly, Jojen got to his knees, resting one hand on the armrest of the chair and the other on Bran’s knee, then proceeded to lean in, intending to give the redhead ample time to push away.

Irritated, Bran grabbed hold of Jojen’s collar and pulled him the rest of the way to a chaste, hard, inexperienced kiss that likely lasted far longer than it should have under the circumstances. They pulled away, eyes still shut, air rushing harshly from their lips.

“So,” Bran questioned hoarsely, “are you taking me to Loras’ wedding or not?”

Jojen laughed breathlessly, wind whipping his blonde hair into his face and Bran decided, almost instantly, that sitting here in the cold Autumn would be counted among the finest moments of his lifetime.

“Brandon Stark, Jojen Reed, how nice to see you taking the air. Together.” Scratch that, it was the worst.

Chapter Text

A deceitful smile twisted thin lips, and what little light there was shone on over slicked hair. Cruel eyes were dull in a narrow, witless face. Jojen stood abruptly, unconsciously placing himself between Bran and the intruder. Granted, they were out of doors in a public place, but it was still quite the intrusion in a court of common decency. A heavy silence fell between them. The trespasser made no move to continue on his way, and the pair of adolescents were frozen in shock.

Bran cleared his throat, keenly aware of every gargled crackle he made, and called out, “Summer, come!” She was by his side in seconds, weaving around Jojen’s legs.

“Love,” the man continued unabashedly, “seems to be blossoming in Moat Cailin, first Loras and dear Renly, then your sister and Margaery, and now the two of you. I’ve even heard your cousin has brought his own sweetheart down from beyond the Wall.”

“And where did you hear all that?” Bran retorted defensively.

“Oh, I’m always listening, Brandon,” he simpered, giving Jojen a look that made him want to run home, burn his clothes and shower. “Do give my best to your parents.” With an absent minded wave, the man continued down the street, an unearned swagger further tainting his already obscene passage.

“Who the hell was that?” Jojen demanded as soon as he was out of sight, snatching Summer’s leash of the ground.

“Friend of the family.” He paused, then amended, “Ex-friend. Petyr Baelish was my maternal grandfather’s ward, he and Mother grew up together. Then he got super creepy and way too attached. He runs a cyber-detective service now, I think, scrounging up dirt on cheating spouses, fraudulent businessmen, the scandalous of the upper echelon. He also kind of stalked my sister at one point.”

“Singular,” Jojen snorted derisively as they proceeded on their way. “Did she get a restraining order?”

“No,” Bran huffed, obviously frustrated, “but my dad said that if he ever came near Mom or Sansa again he’d have him arrested and jailed for the foreseeable future.”

“Wow.”

“Yeah, takes a lot to ruffle Dad, but Baelish did it. ‘Mockingbirds are easily crushed in the jaws of a wolf’ he said.” Bran shuddered, remembering the cold look in his father’s eyes as clearly as if it were yesterday, though it was actually five years ago. Sansa had been seventeen then, and their father had been dead set on having Baelish arrested for harassment. Catelyn had just barely convinced him otherwise, and Bran would never understand why she would bother defending a man who had threatened the safety of her underage daughter.

“Is that why Jaime Lannister works for your family?”

“Yep, my uncle, Rhaegar, introduced them directly after the fact when Dad was looking into private security. He and his wife Brienne were looking to live somewhere other than King’s Landing, anyway. Probably to keep their kids away from their pretentious ass cousin, Joffrey.” Jaime and Brienne Lannister had two of their own golden haired children. Myrcella, who was their age, and Tommen, who was a year younger.

“He’s a Baratheon, right?” Jojen inquired. “He’ll be at the wedding?”

“I honestly don’t know.” As far as Bran knew, the Baratheons weren’t particularly fond of Renly and Loras’ relationship, nevermind it was the healthiest in that generation with Stannis and Robert both bound in loveless marriages. “I certainly hope not.”

They carried on walking, pausing only once more for Jojen to duck into Moat Cailin’s only new age shop and say hello to Maggy Frogge, a friend of his mother. They hardly spoke for the next hour or so that it took to get back to Winterfell Manor. At the edge of the driveway, Bran made a move to take off Jojen’s coat and return it, but the other boy stopped him.

“Keep it,” he insisted, leaning in to kiss Bran’s cheek. “You can give it back when I see you again.”

And that was the reason Bran entered the house hardly realizing he was grinning like a complete and utter dork, ripe for mocking by Arya and Rickon, only to have them beaten out by a different Stark entirely.

“Bran, whose jacket is that?” Catelyn questioned patiently, though she blocked his path through the hall.

“It’s Jojen’s, I forgot to wear a coat and he gave me his,” he explained, wondering if that sounded platonic or not.

Apparently, Catelyn didn’t think so as she narrowed her eyes shrewdly, getting out of his way, “I see.”

After releasing Summer and stowing her leash, Bran made his way upstairs. He passed Rickon’s room, the door almost vibrating from the force of the bassline of the song he had playing. Next was Sansa’s room wherein he could hear enough tittering and giggling to assume Margaery was over for a visit. Last, across from his own was Arya’s room. Just under the out of place, angsty, indie rock from the University station was… sniffling? He knocked urgently, Arya Stark did not cry. Ever. Not even when Sarah and Karl didn’t end up together in Love, Actually.

“Who is it?” was the muffled reply, as if spoken through a pillow.

“It’s Bran.”

A little clearer, “Come in.” He moved into the room, pushing the door safely shut behind him. Arya was sitting on her bed, arms wrapped around her giant stuffed wolf, Nymeria, and her eyes were ringed in red. She sniffed loudly, sounding choked as she spoke, “He hates me, Bran.”

“The mechanic?”

“He has a name,” she spat angrily, “and it’s Gendry Waters. Gendry Waters hates me and I’m fucking devastated.” She buried her face in Nymeria’s polyester fur, shoulders shuddering.

This infatuation was far more serious than Bran had originally assumed. “How do you know he hates you?”

“I went to Good Reeds this afternoon to get a book for a class and he was there, as soon as he made eye contact with me he left the shop! He doesn’t even want to be near me, Bran!”

He awkwardly patted his sister’s knee like mothers did in period films. “He might just be shy, Arya, you are kind of intimidating.”

“Oh, sure,” she laughed bitterly, “that’s exactly why.”

“Please! He has absolutely no reason to hate you!” he tried to reason. “Maybe if you reached out to him through social media he’d have an easier time talking to you?”

“I’ll try,” she sniffed, not seeming convinced. “Thanks, Bran.”

“Of course, but seriously, if he doesn’t want to date you he’s a fucking idiot.”

This time she chuckled genuinely before asking, “So how’s Jojen? Oh, don’t look at me like that, I saw him walk you to the driveway. You two a real item?”

“Maybe? I don’t know,” he sputtered. “He kissed me, or I kissed him and it was great, and then Baelish showed up and was super creepy—”

“Baelish?” Arya’s eyes widened.

“Yes, don’t interrupt. Then Baelish left and we kind of laughed it off and kept walking and didn’t really talk until we got back to the house. Then I tried to give him his jacket back, he gave it to me before we kissed ‘cause I was cold, and he told me to keep it until I saw him again which will probably be tomorrow night and it’s going to be so embarrassing.” He looked over to see her smirking her ‘I-told-you-so’ smirk.

“You guys are so going to be the cutest couple at Loras and Renly’s wedding.” Bran blushed furiously, turning to exit the room and leave her to her whiney college music.

Out in the hall, he could hear raised voices from his dad’s study. Well, rather his mother was speaking loudly and his father’s voice was steady as ever. He moved closer, just near enough to make out what was being said.

“...this rate I won’t have any grandchildren, Ned!”

“You know that isn’t true, Cat. Bran could do a whole lot worse than the Reed boy.”

“I know Howland Reed is your friend, Ned, but it needs to end before they both get hurt.”

“Is this really about grandchildren, or are you just scared of letting another one of your children go? Or is it because you don’t think he could take care of Bran?”

“With his condition?” Catelyn scoffed, a tone that sent a shard of ice through Bran’s heart.

“Howland says the boy hasn’t had a seizure in almost a year, it is manageable. He could be good for our son, just give him a chance.”

Not wanting to hear anymore, Bran went to his own bedroom, shutting his door as quietly as possible. A lump rose in his throat and his eyes stung. How dare she! His own mother. After getting onto his bed, he pulled out his phone. He couldn’t text Jojen, obviously, but he had one other friend that would listen to him.

 

To: Myrce

You okay to talk?

 

From: Myrce

Yeah. What’s up?

 

He paused a moment, unsure of exactly how to phrase his current predicament before deciding on the absolutely obvious. 

 

To: Myrce

Mom’s being a bitch.

 

From: Myrce

What’s she gone and done now?

 

To: Myrce

Reduced my boyfriend to his illness, ignoring the fact that she’d go all mama-bear on anyone who did that to me.

 

From: Myrce

Wait, you and Jojen are official? That’s awesome! I mean, not your mom being awful about it, but did you expect anything less.

 

To: Myrce

I guess not, but honestly I don’t know where she gets off saying shit like that about people. The son of my dad’s best friend, no less!

  

From: Myrce

She thinks she’s doing what’s best for you. You hear Petyr Baelish is back in town?

 

To: Myrce

He showed up right after I kissed Jojen.

 

From: Myrce

You kissed him?! Details!

 

There was a knock on his door.

 

To: Myrce

Can’t talk now, I’ll fill you in later.


Chapter Text

“Not the green, or the red,” Meera insisted. “The blue will bring out your eyes.”

Jojen rolled his eyes, letting his arm drop from where he held the forest green button down against his torso. “What does that even matter? I doubt the Starks will care.”

“One Stark might.”

He sighed, picking the blue shirt off his bed. She was right the navy did make his eyes look more green, but was it worth giving her the satisfaction? For Bran, always. He started to pull off his tee shirt.

“And that’s my cue to leave,” Meera said quickly, shielding her eyes as she all but ran from the room. “Wear the black slacks!”

Jojen laughed, buttoning up the shirt. She was only bothering him in order to avoid the dress their mother had chosen for her to wear. It wasn’t necessarily that she hated dresses, she had painstakingly explained, it was that this dress was uncomfortable. He had tried to tell her she looked nice it it, he reasoned as he grabbed a black belt off one of the hooks in his closet. She replied that no one could possibly look good in that peach monstrosity. Though, it was actually very simple. He chalked it up to nerves. Even though they’d lived in the same town their whole lives, the Reed children hadn’t formally met the Stark patriarch and matriarch since they were about two and five years old and were therefore too young to remember it. His phone buzzed with a text from Ed Storm inviting him to hang around with him, Ned Dayne, Trystane Martell, and Myrcella. He apologetically declined, citing the dinner, and mentioned that he needn’t bother texting Bran.

He tied the laces on his black dress shoes and went into the apartment living room to feed Raven. He carefully filtered the crickets into the large tank and watched him feed, fascinated even years later by the habits of the murky brown reptile. Howland Reed’s large hand touched his shoulder.

“You know, you could have probably waited another half hour before getting ready, your mother’s going to take that long,” his father said, a pleasant light in his Reed green eyes.

“I know,” Jojen sighed. “Just nervous, I guess.”

“I’m sure they’ll be fine with you and Bran being together,” Howland told him calmly. “Ned Stark is reasonable.”

“I’m not worried about him.”

“Bran’s mother, then?”

He nodded. Over the past few weeks of knowing Bran he’d heard quite a bit about Catelyn Stark née Tully and her intransigent nature. If she didn’t like him from the start, it would take an act of the gods, Old and New, to make her like him. At least, that was what he thought it would take. Bran said it had taken the announcement of Robb and Talisa’s expectation of a child that had warmed his mother to his brother’s wife. The general hope was that the baby would be born at least a week before what people were calling the Rose Gold Wedding. Well, the tabloids were calling it that, but the residents of Moat Cailin were simply referring to it as The Wedding.

“If Catelyn doesn’t like you, it isn’t your fault, son,” he said, trying to be comforting.

“But what if she tries to stop me from seeing him? You know she would, and probably could.”

“Ned wouldn’t let her do any such thing, you just have to trust me.” Jojen fell silent, watching Raven while his father relaxed on to the couch, an old fashioned piece of furniture upholstered in green leather with exposed, reclaimed wood. The Reed apartment was decorated in the rustic, craftsman style considered characteristic of the crannogmen, the original inhabitants of Moat Cailin.

 

About a hour later, the Reeds were sitting around the Stark dinner table. Meera was discussing nursing, her chosen profession, with Talisa, and their parents were deep in conversation with Ned and Catelyn. Jojen, however, couldn’t conjure much of an appetite. Bran, who sat on his left, gently nudged him.

“Are you okay?” he inquired softly.

Jojen nodded minutely. “Just not very hungry is all.”

“Mum would probably take it as a compliment if you ate more,” the redhead pointed out, “and I’d certainly feel better.”

Armed with that small comfort, he proceeded to eat with as much care as he could muster determined not to embarrass himself. It wasn’t that the food was bad, far from it, he just felt completely off that evening. No one would’ve known though, his expression betrayed nothing but the flat calm of a placid lake on a still day in midsummer when not even a breeze stirs ripples in the clear water. Only Bran knew, and he also knew better than to mention it.

“So, Jojen,” Ned Stark said, capturing the attention of the whole table, “what are your plans for after graduation?”

He swallowed, then spoke in what he sincerely hoped was a steady voice, “I’ve been accepted into a gap year program. I’ll be taking a year off to travel and occasionally teach English in Europe and Asia.” Bran smiled, remembering the day Jojen had gotten the news, how sincerely happy he had been.

“And after that?”

“I’m not sure yet,” he admitted, a tad sheepishly. “That’s why I’m taking the extra year.”

Stark nodded. “Better to take time to figure out what you want than to choose something you’ll hate.”

“That’s what I said,” Jyana Reed interjected, “We expect young people to know what they want out of life by the age of eighteen. I didn’t know I wanted to teach until I’d almost finished my sociology degree.” Mrs. Reed was a biology and zoology teacher at Moat Cailin High School, and a great favorite of anyone who took her classes.

“Yet I’m sure some direction would not go amiss,” Catelyn pointed out, just a little bit smug.

“That’s quite the funny word, direction.” Jojen’s voice was dangerously quiet. “Direction means something different to you, I think. To you, Ms. Stark, direction means money, upward mobility. To me, it means knowing what important and acting on that.” He paused. “Which definition is better, I wonder? Well, ultimately, it doesn’t matter. By my definition, I have direction, and you may as well give up on yours. The crannogmen don’t play politics, we live our lives instead.”

Catelyn regarded him coolly, and the rest of the room fell so completely silent that the clatter of Rickon’s fork on his plate sent everyone a few inches out of their seats. Across from him, Arya smirked and silently toasted him as conversation slowly resumed. Mrs. Stark neither addressed him nor looked at him for the rest of the night.

It was nearly eleven when Bran and Jojen finally got a few minutes alone, standing in the foyer of Winterfell. Jojen hung his head, utterly defeated as Bran passed back his coat.

“That’s it,” he sighed. “I blew it.

“Not really,” Bran insisted, pulling Jojen down into his lap for a hug. “You impressed Father and no matter how much Mother can influence him, he’s the one who makes the decisions. And he wouldn’t make my choices for me.” Jojen didn’t answer, pushing his face into the crook of his neck with a sad exhale. Bran rubbed his shoulder, doing his best to be comforting. “I will say, you are higher on Mom’s list than Arya’s perspective boyfriend.”

He barked out a sardonic laugh, unconvinced. “Gendry Waters, the mechanic?”

“Yeah, as soon as they get together, she won’t care one jot that I’m dating you.” At least, Bran hoped it was true. It wasn’t as if he was going to tell Jojen the real reason his mother had doubts; he didn’t need that on top of tonight.

They heard footsteps coming from the living room. Jojen gave Bran’s cheek a swift kiss and stood up putting a respectable distance between them. His parents and Meera collected their jackets, bidding the other Starks goodbye. In a bizarre fit of old world gallantry, Jojen took Bran’s hand, kissing the back before walking out the front door, with a wave to the other rest of the family. Once the door was shut Ned turned to his wife.

“What did I tell you, Cat, he’s a wonderful boy.”

 

Chapter Text

Bran heaved a sigh, still not believing he’d been talked into this mess. Arya gave him a thumbs up from the car when he turned to glare at her one last time. He was sitting outside of Tobho Mott’s Garage to get his sister’s phone number, and an invitation to the Stark’s All Hallows’ Rave, to Gendry Waters. When did life come to this? With a heavy heart and lead in his stomach, he shoved through the door of the office and prayed to the gods that Gendry wasn’t there.

Actually, no one was there. They were all gone out to lunch, the sign on the front desk proclaimed. Relieved, he quickly scribbled Gendry’s name on the envelope, his fast scrawl oddly resembling what his sister claimed as her own handwriting, and tossed it on to the desk. He met Arya outside where she bounced on the balls of her feet by the driver’s side door.

“Well?” she asked urgently, wringing her hands.

Arya with a crush was not Bran’s favorite version of his sister, though she was far superior to angry Arya. “He wasn’t there, I left the invite on the front desk. Don’t worry about it, he’ll come.”

“But what if he has other plans?” she fluttered nervously.

He rolled his eyes. “Arya, the only other thing in Moat Cailin to do on All Hallow’s Eve is go to Maggy Frogge’s yearly midnight seance and I don’t really see Gendry as the type.” She nodded absently. “Now, if that’s all you needed me for, I’ll be going.” By which he meant he had an invitation for Jojen, and by extension Meera, burning a hole in his pocket. Of course, he was mostly counting on his boyfriend choosing not to go because he didn’t want to go either. Raves meant flashing lights and flashing lights went into the ‘Bad for Jojen’ category.

He opened the door to the cafe of Good Reeds and moved inside. Instead of Jojen, Loras was behind the counter, looking oddly grim, glancing back to the ‘Employees Only’ door every so often. In fact, he didn’t even notice Bran until he came up to the register.

“Is everything alright?”

Loras jerked, startled, before saying, “Yeah, pretty much. Jojen’s in the back. He wouldn’t mind you being with him, I’m sure.” Confused, he followed the brunette to the back door where he paused while Loras stuck his head inside, speaking briefly to someone in the other room, before opening the door fully. The office was clean with plain wood floor and a single dark oak desk sat off to the left with its chair missing. Directly ahead was a well worn couch. Next to the couch was Meera in the swivel chair. Laying with one hand beneath his head and a knee braced against the cushion was Jojen, relaxed and lethargic. His sister spoke softly, petting his hair. “It’s alright,” she said. “I’m right here with you.” She looked over at Bran and smiled weakly.

He tried to smile back, nearing slowly. “How is he?”

“Still recovering,” she told him, looking fondly down at her brother. “It was less than a minute, normal, and he got in here before it started.”

Bran nodded. “I can stay in here if you want to go back to the counter,” he offered.

“That’d be great. When he’s lucid, have him text our mom to take him home.” Meera got up and moved the chair out of the way so Bran could take her place. He maneuvered into a semi comfortable position parallel to the couch as the door fell shut behind her. It was set high enough from the ground so he didn’t have to bend too awkwardly to caress Jojen’s cheek. Minutes passed, he spoke gently as Meera had done, waiting for a response. Bran could have sat there for hours just waiting.

Some time later, Jojen began to shift into a sitting position, drawing his knees close to his chest. Bran helped as best he could, guiding him up slowly.

“You with me, Jojen?” he asked, trying to keep his voice level. The blonde blinked once and drew in a deep breath, releasing it before replying an affirmative. “Meera said you should text your mom.”

Jojen looked as him, apparently confused. “You weren’t here were you? When it happened?”

Bran shook his head, auburn hair falling into his face. “It was over when I got here, you were already on the couch.”

He nodded in a removed manner, accepting the phone when Bran offered it. He tapped out a quick text and settled back on to the cushions, justifiably exhausted. They sat in a rather distressing silence in the moments that followed. In the two weeks that had followed the Stark dinner, Jojen had explained his experiences with epilepsy to Bran in vague terms, mostly what to do if he had a major seizure. He had been glad to know anything at all. The feeling of not knowing how to approach someone else because they refused to tell you things that were fairly important to them was not entirely unfamiliar to Bran. He hated the feeling, the way it gave him a sense of being worthless in that person’s life. Such a feeling would fester, painful and hidden in the back of one’s mind until the relationship fell apart. That was the absolute last thing he wanted with Jojen.

“Did you want to talk about something?” Jojen asked suddenly. “I mean, you came to see me at work and usually you just text.”

“Oh, um…” He struggled to string the words together in an order that made sense. “So, the Stark kids host a rave every year for All Hallows’ Eve. I usually don’t go. I mean, up ‘til this year I wasn’t allowed, but I wouldn’t want to anyway. And so I’m not inviting you to that, I just thought we could do something together. If you’re not busy. The rave invite goes for Meera, too, if she wants to go.”

“I’m not busy,” Jojen replied shyly. “Well, there is one thing, but you could come with me.”

“What is it?”

“So, Mom is really good friends with Maggy, right? Anyway, she did her a huge favor years ago, got her out of a scrape with the Lannisters, and now Maggy’s way of repaying that debt is by doing Readings for me and Meera every All Hallows’ Eve. Apparently that’s when the veil between worlds is thinnest or whatever and spirits can cross over to help read tarot cards. I don’t really get it, but it makes her happy.”

“Aren’t you supposed to do those privately?” Bran asked, confused.

“Not necessarily,” Jojen replied. “Meera and I usually go together. Anywhere you’d like to go after?”

“The Crossroads got a new chef, and old friend of Arya’s. It’ll probably be mostly abandoned.” Jojen’s eyes widened incredulously. The Crossroads could quite safely be considered the nicest restaurant in Moat Cailin. Like, once a year anniversary/engagement nice. However, that might not have been the case for Starks.

Through the door, they could hear Meera speaking animatedly with her mother, indicating that their time alone was just about over. Jojen leaned over, kissing Bran before replying, “I’d love to. Meet you outside Maggy’s at sundown?”

Bran blushed, agreeing as the door swung open. Jyana swooped down on her youngest child with Meera in tow. He moved out of the room quickly, nodding briefly to Loras on his way out. All Hallows Eve could not come fast enough.

 


 

Cool, blue eyes peeked over the top of Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. They watched the auburn haired boy as he left the shop, calculating. This was good. This was interesting. This was a challenge. Full, pale pink lips drew into a taunting smirk.

“Wolves can’t kill mockingbirds,” the lips whispered to the air. “No one could believe a bad thing about a sweet, little songbird.”

 

Chapter Text

“Let me get this straight,” Myrcella said, fighting a smile. “Bran is taking you on a date to the Crossroads and you want me to help you choose an outfit?”

Jojen sighed, rolling his eyes. “Yes, Myrcella. That is exactly what’s happening.”

An alarmingly high pitched squeal exited her mouth as she threw her arms around his neck. “I’ve waited my entire life for this!”

“Myrce, you’ve only known me for about four years,” he grunted, attempting to extricate himself from her smothering grasp. She let him go, hands clasped together while her blonde curls seemed to vibrate with anticipation.

“What’d you say, Jojen?” Trystane laughed as he approached them from across the school courtyard. “I haven’t seen her this thrilled since I got her tickets to see Tom O’Sevens at Harrenhal on her birthday.”

“I’ve accepted my fate,” he said grimly at the same time Myrcella cried, “I get to dress him for a date!”

“Date with who?” Trystane asked suspiciously.

“Bran, you oblivious nerd,” she told him affectionately. “On All Hallows’ Eve. To the Crossroads. It’s cute.”

“Oh, right, you two are a thing. In that case I should probably mention the creepy guy I saw hanging around him at the library yesterday.”

Jojen’s heart sped up. “A weird old guy who looks like he was a villain in the silent film era?”

“No, some tall blonde guy. Looked like he was baiting, but Bran wasn’t biting. New librarian’s assistant, I think,” Trystane answered, looking a little confused. “I kind of feel like I’ve seen him somewhere before, but I couldn’t tell you why.”

The bell to end lunch rang before Jojen could inquire further. It was Thursday, the day before their date. He had his sixth period, then work, then Typhoon Myrcella was blowing in from the west. He climbed the stairs to his AP Language and Composition class with a certain amount of trepidation. Jealousy wasn’t exactly a trait he, or anyone else for that matter, would associate with him. But Bran had a funny way of turning his world upside down. And he had a funny way of being okay with it.

He slid into his seat in the back of the room, to the right of Ned Dayne who was going over the previous night’s homework one last time before class started. Jojen and Ned had only become friends this year after being thrown together as partners in three classes. Ned and Bran, however, were long time friends. ‘Pre-accident’ Bran had phrased it, causing him to cringe internally.

“Did Trystane tell you about the weird blonde guy?” Ned murmured as he flipped to the first page of “A Modest Proposal”.

“He told you about weird blonde guy before he told me?” Jojen demanded, irritated.

“No, we were both there when we saw weird blonde guy,” Ned corrected him, laying his highlighter ridiculously parallel to the top of his desk. “It was odd. Not that people being attracted to Bran is odd, but there was something about this guy. He looked a little too intense. I didn’t trust him.”

“Hence, he is weird blonde guy.”

“Quite so.” They settled into an easy silence as their teacher, Mr. Curtis, launched into the finer points of Jonathan Swift’s use of satire.

 

“Of course we have to buy you something,” Myrcella insisted, her grip on his wrist nearly bruising as he pulled him up the high street toward a men’s fashion boutique. “You have absolutely nothing to wear!”

“What are you talking about? I have clothes, Myrce!”

“Not date at the Crossroads, clothes.” Jojen could only huff in response, which his soon to be ex-friend saw as a sign of defeat and proceeded accordingly. Meaning of course that she pushed him through the door into the dimly lit shop with altogether too much faux-rustic wood paneling and distressed denim and then to the back section of formal clothes. After brief consideration she snatched up a few items in varying tones of grey and black and shoved him into the fitting room.

While he slowly made his way through donning the slacks, the shirt and the two vests* she had chosen, he heard Myrcella talking animatedly with someone he didn’t notice when they came in. He quietly stepped out into the hall and uneasily awaited her approval. However, she had her back to him and was entirely distracted by Margaery Tyrell, whom Jojen belatedly recalled was the manager of the shop. The Tyrell’s held court in two industries: fashion and baking. Your wedding cake probably came from a Tyrell bakery, and your dress from one of their bridal salons.

Margaery stopped midsentence, staring at him, mouth partly open. Myrcella turned around, her eyes widening as if in shock. He shifted from foot to foot, letting his gaze fall to the floor and wishing he could shove his hands into the pockets.

“Gods,” Margaery breathed, “Bran Stark is one lucky bastard. Give me that tie, Myrcella.” She tied it quickly and turned Jojen toward a mirror, tilting his chin up.

Myrcella knew what she was doing, he grudgingly admitted as he took in the entire ensemble.

“He’ll just die!” she gushed, “I knew this was the right way to go, a blazer just wouldn’t show you off.”

“If you have any free time, Jojen,” Margaery began, her expression calculating, “I’d love to have you model for me. Baelish sent us a skinny blonde model, Olyvar, but he just looked too cold for the Tyrell aesthetic.”

“Um… I’ll think about it?” he said, perplexed. She patted his arm before she sashayed toward another part of the shop, leaving him embarrassed and Myrcella happier than ever as she nudged him back into the fitting room so she could purchase the clothes.

“I didn’t get you anything for your nameday last year,” she reasoned through the door as he passed her the items, “so I’ll get you this and glory in my greatest success.”

Jojen pushed the door open once he finished redressing and gave her a swift side hug. “You really are the best, Myrce,” he told her seriously, “don’t let anyone tell you differently.”

“If they did, my mom and dad would kick their ass from here to Asshai,” she said brightly. Jojen laughed. They would, and could. There was a reason no one dared cross Tommen and Myrcella Lannister: Jaime and Brienne were two of the scariest people in the known world.

 


 

“Need help?”

Bran glanced over his shoulder. It was the new assistant again, Olyvar, motioning toward the shelf Bran had been trying to reach. He nodded. “The Age of Innocence, if you would,” he said with as much dignity as he could muster.

The young man reached over him, allowing the young Stark a front row seat to his toned stomach when his shirt rode up. This wasn’t the first time Olyvar had seemed a bit overly attentive to Bran, not that he particularly minded to help. Harmless. Olyvar was harmless.

The blonde passed him the novel saying, “Don’t you think Newland Archer was a bit of an idiot?”

Bran shrugged. “He was stuck. May was by far the safer choice.”

“Perhaps,” Olyvar conceded, before insisting, “but sometimes you have to take the risk. What’s safe isn’t always best.” And with that, he left, brushing his hand down Bran’s arm almost absently as he went. The touch made him shiver slightly, raising goosebumps on his skin.

Yeah, he’s totally harmless, his inner voice mocked as he proceeded to the checkout counter where Samwell Tarly, the head librarian, was reading what looked like an incredibly dull book on local history and munching on a lemon cake. He looked up when Bran approached, wiping his hands before taking the stack of books. Sam was a good friend of his cousin, Jon, so they knew each other a little by extension. Most of what Sam knew about Bran was what he checked out of the library, though, which is why he got a fairly awkward tongue lashing from his cousin when he checked out the library’s only copy of The School of Venus, a seventeenth century erotic novel long relegated to the dark and dusty corners of the rare books section. Of course, Bran could have gotten away with it if Sam wasn’t the only person in Moat Cailin who knew the library better than he did.

“Edith Wharton again, Bran?” Sam asked, apparently surprised as he made his way through the pile.

“Why not? She’s more interesting than F. Scott Fitzgerald,” Bran pointed out. “I’d rather Newland Archer than Nick Carroway any day of the week.”

Sam chuckled. “Too, true. Back in four weeks or sooner.” Bran accepted the books and made his way out of the door. It was already way past five, so Jojen would be off work and there was no point in going to the cafe. A loud, familiar laugh caught his attention across the street.

Just stepping out of The Hound and the Little Bird was Arya. With her arm around a young man. A young man with messy black hair and broad shoulders. Gendry Waters. Who looked incredibly grim.

“Arya, you’re drunk,” he told her patiently, “too drunk for half past eight.”

“That’s not true!” she cried, “I’m not nearly drunk enough for half past eight!”

Gendry sighed, obviously a bit annoyed, and gently guided her into his car. Bran shook his head at her antics, she’d regret this enough in the morning.

Gendry spotted Bran on the opposite sidewalk and called over to him, “I’ll take her back to my place to let her sleep it off.”

“Probably best,” Bran agreed as thunder began to rumble overhead. Gendry nodded, sliding into the driver’s side of the car. Luckily, his ride was Sansa who he’d agreed to meet outside of the shop Margaery managed for her grandmother. The first few drops of rain fell as Gendry pulled away from the curb.

Chapter Text

The sun was just dipping below the horizon when Bran arrived at Maggy’s shop. The wind from the bay pushed against her antique sign proclaiming “The Three Eyed Raven: Fortunes Told, Palms Read” above the gold metallic embossing of a gnarled tree with a mournful face. Jojen was already there in a black top coat, leaning against the wall, one leg bent with his foot pressed against the red brick facade behind him. He pushed away from the door when Bran approached, leaning over to kiss him sweetly, his lips rather cold from the autumn chill. They entered the shop silently, Jojen helping Bran maneuver the chair the unfamiliar space.

The front of the shop was dedicated to physical wares. The shelves were packed with packets of dried vervain, mistletoe, and wolfsbane, crystals and rocks, amulets, herbal tinctures, and, in a locked case behind the register, boxes of moon tea. They went through a doorway covered by a gauzy curtain into the Reading Room. Well, this was where regular customers got readings done, but not the Reeds apparently because Jojen didn’t stop there. Instead, he opened a door, almost invisible, on the back wall and moved the pair of them into a room lit with only candles. Maggy sat at the round table in the center of the room, relaxed to one side.

“Good evening, Jojen, Brandon,” she said, opening her eyes. “Do make yourselves comfortable.” Bran moved into the space beside the chair already set up, where Jojen sat down, folding his hands on top of the table. “I know I usually just have a Three Fates spread, but tonight I’m feeling something a little bit different: A love spread.” Maggy produced a large deck of cards from somewhere within her fairly voluminous sleeves and began to shuffle. She then sat for a moment, eyes shut with the cards in her hands before fanning them out across the table.

“What now?” Jojen asked.

“Choose a card to represent yourself,” she told him, “And place it here.”

Next was a card to represent Bran, then a connection card, a card to represent their strengths, followed by their weaknesses. Last, she asked for a true love card. The manner in which Jojen chose seemed random to Bran, but then, he reasoned, there could be something he didn’t understand. He had studied tarot briefly, when he was in the hospital.

Maggy flipped the first card. “The Queen of Cups. We’ve seen her before, I think. Insightful, the one represented by the queen is a gifted counsellor, wise as well as highly imaginative. Her spirit is what is beautiful, and she fosters deep connections. She is prone to flights of fancy, however, occasionally too focused on dream rather than reality. The second card is the Fool. He is unconventional, untested, and uninhibited by the rules perceived by others. He is unrealized potential, the spark that will set great events aflame and in himself he has unwavering confidence. The Fool stands for beginnings, new journeys in new territories, but with this comes a risk.

“Your connection is represented by the Two of Cups. A harmonious union of two parts of a whole, two sides of the same coin. The Sun is your strengths, there is nothing that stops the sun from rising in the east and shedding the light that is the source of all life. This is a combination of great power and great joy that has the potential to withstand tide and time. The fifth card, you see, is the Hermit in reverse. Your weakness is introspection. You look within for your answers instead of seeking wisdom from an outside source; you ponder occurrences instead of speaking about them openly with each other.” Maggy took a long pause, not touching the final card, looking between them.

“What could happen if we were to ignore the Hermit?” Jojen asked, as if he expected this.

“What has happened before?” Maggy asked rhetorically. “Rifts between you will open, insult and injury will fester, and imagined slights become real.” Before. Bran realized the Hermit must have appeared in a different reading for Jojen, but before he could ask, she flipped the final card. “The Nine of Cups. I must say I almost expected the Lovers, however this is, in a way, more fitting. This card symbolizes emotional stability, contentment, spiritual bliss, and the strengthening of bonds. An emotionally fulfilling situation of the highest order. The only warning this card bears is moderation, if you enjoy too much, if you delve too far and let go of other relationships around you, all you will find is misery. It is paramount in this relationship that while you create a wonderful whole, you retain your identity as an individual. Do you have any questions?"

"I don't think so," Jojen said, rising. "Thank you, Maggy, it's always a pleasure." She nodded, waving the pair of them out of the room. Bran drove them to the Crossroads, he'd been licensed in hand controls since he was 17. It had taken him and his father forever to convince Catelyn it was a good idea.

The Crossroads was right on the beach, with a pier that came out into the bay. It was too cold to sit there now, but it was perfectly lovely in the summer. It was almost as old as the city itself, using the willow tree motif that could be found on most of the original buildings like the city hall and the library. It was almost deserted baring a skeleton staff and perhaps one other couple.

After they had been shown to their table and were awaiting their food, Bran decided to broach the subject. "Maggy said the Hermit had appeared for you before, what did she mean?"

Jojen sipped his water, stalling, then chose to explain. "When I was nine the Hermit appeared in reverse. It was when I started having auras. I thought I could figure it out on my own, research it and find a solution without bothering anyone. Then it was July of the next year. We were on the beach, just having fun, Meera, me, our parents. And it happened. One moment I saw green and the next I was on the ground under the willow tree. I had a concussion, a gash on my forehead from hitting a rock when I fell. I ignored the Hermit, and I regretted it. I know it could have just been a coincidence, but there's something about Maggy, about the tree, and it makes you believe."

Bran nodded. There was something about Moat Cailin. "I used to climb it. The willow tree," he said, looking out towards it through the broad window. "I used to climb everything. Our roof, the statue in front of the high school of the direwolf, anything remotely off the ground. When I was 13 and Arya was 14 we had what we thought was a wonderful idea: we would go to the Dreadfort."

"Find old Ramsay's ghost?" Jojen joked pitifully. Ramsay Snow, otherwise known as the Bastard of Bolton, was Moat Cailin's greatest legend and greatest shame. He was a serial killer. No one knew all of the proper details considering most records about him were sealed or destroyed in the late 19th century, but everyone knew a few things: first, at least fifty young women were murdered in relation to the case; second, Ramsay was responsible for ending the Bolton family; and third, they all died at what was locally called the Dreadfort.

"No, but I looked for it. I climbed the old tower, the big one. I didn't realize the moss would be slippery. Arya yelled be careful. Arya never says things like that. I got to the window. The moss was thick on the sill, wet from the rain. I lost my footing. For the first time since I started climbing. I fell. I was in a coma for three weeks. When I woke up it was the middle of the night. I was alone. I couldn't feel my legs. I cried. I never told anyone. I was 13, I thought I was weak to cry. Until the doctor told my family I would never walk again. Robb cried. Dad cried. Even Rickon cried. But I didn't. I'd already done my crying. I'd already known.

"They sent me to a psychiatrist, they thought I might be depressed. When I was released, they gave me Summer. Before that, I went to the willow tree. I just sat there for hours, looking up at the branches, just wishing I could touch the ones at the top one last time."

Jojen reached over, covering Bran’s hand with his own, featherlight in case he wished to throw it off. It wasn’t as if there was anything to say. The young Stark wouldn’t hear an ‘I’m so sorry’, that he knew. Starks were, by nature, defensive. When Lommy Greenhands made insinuations about not only about the nature of Bran’s injury, but also about how stable Ned and Catelyn’s relationship was Jojen had been gifted the immense the honor of a front row seat of Arya slamming the blonde upstart into a locker bay. He never did tell the principle how his nose got broken.

They chatted about nothing through dinner, receiving a visit from Hot Pie, Arya’s friend and the new chef, before dessert. Following that they began the lit walk down the beach toward the tree. The moon shone above them, half illuminated. When they reached the protective arch of it’s branches, Bran made to tug Jojen into his lap, but the blonde dodged his grasp, instead grabbing ahold of the tree branches. Soon, the redhead lost sight of him in the pitch black above, the only sign a continual rustling and grunting as he climbed. Suddenly, he heard a loud snap, like a branch breaking, then Jojen descended, far quicker than he had gone up. A little out of breath, he presented the bough, no larger in diameter than a dime, to Bran.

“From the top of the tree,” he whispered, wearing a tiny smile.

Chapter Text

“Gods, could you two be any more nauseating?” Edric asked, tossing a pillow at Jojen’s head.
Edric, Ned, Myrcella, Trystane, Bran, and Jojen had taken up residence on the floor of the Lannister’s den. Jojen was leaning up against the couch, knees spread for Bran to sit between them. Myrcella had constructed a throne of sorts from the cushions with Trystane’s head in her lap. Ned was the only one who had opted for the time honored cross legged arrangement and Ed had lain out on his stomach with a pillow to support his chest.
“We could make out,” Bran offered, a sinister smile playing on his lips.
“I didn’t know you were into exhibitionism,” Ned deadpanned quietly, “and as your lifelong best friend I feel slighted that such information was not revealed to me in a late night texting session.”
“We don’t have late night texting sessions,” Bran replied, rolling his eyes as Trystane passed him the next card in the deck. “What is my secret power?” Soon enough, five cards were dropped in front of him: Mr. Clean, right behind you, a bleached asshole, anal beads, throwing a virgin into a volcano, and being a motherfucking sorcerer. “Why thank you Myrce, I am a motherfucking sorcerer.”
The blonde lurched forward, snatching up the card, lifting it victoriously into the air. “Five cards!”
“Great. So, movie?” Ed proposed, jumping up to face the film cabinet. “How about some Lord of the Rings?”
“Hell yes,” Jojen agreed.
“We need popcorn.” Myrcella exited the room, running up the stairs.
"Jojen, we could get through three Harry Potter films in the space of one Lord of the Rings extended cut," Bran reasoned, hand affixed to Jojen's knee as he twisted to face him.
His boyfriend stared blankly. "And?"
Bran huffed and turned around, falling against his chest, minorly pouting. Thin arms snaked around him, holding him close. "Next time," Jojen promised, whispering in his ear. "When it's just us." Bran smiled, triumphant and took Jojen's hand in his, kissing the back.
"See, Ned," Ed cried, pointing to them with a scandalized expression, "truly and completely nauseating."
"Ed, shut up."

Bran drove Jojen home in morning, getting his first look at Greywater Watch. The apartments were built over the marsh in Moat Cailin, connected by a series of wooden causeways. The apartments had been designed by Bran the Builder in the nineteenth century. His intention was to make seemingly unusable land usable, but the idea was abandoned upon his death, leaving Greywater Watch as the only completed version of the project.
“You could come in, if you want,” Jojen offered, looking from the car window toward Bran.
“For a little bit,” Bran acquiesced as he pulled into a parking spot. “Are you sure your parents won’t mind?”
“They won’t be home. They have a meeting with the Tyrells in King’s Landing today and Meera is managing the shop.”
They made their way toward the Reed apartment, one of the units at the very back of the complex. Some of the walkways had awnings, some had railings, and some had neither. However, Bran silently applauded the design which had not required large amounts of stairs.
“After Bran the Builder died this place was abandoned, wasn’t it?” Bran asked, breaking the silence.
“Yes, it fell into disrepair until the fifties when the crannogmen found it,” Jojen said, ducking under a low hanging tree branch. “There used to be stories, that the homes in the marsh would move so you could never find them, that only the people who lived there knew how where they were.”
“Sounds more like there just weren’t actual roads and people would get lost,” Bran commented when they stopped. Jojen just laughed, opening the door and ushering him inside.
It was far smaller that Winterfell, but it only needed to house four people at any given time, not seven or more. The style of it reminded him of Good Reeds with its natural wood and green leather. In the corner was a large aquarium which Jojen immediately walked over to, motioning Bran to follow.
“This in Raven,” he told him, carefully lifting the reptile from his tank. Raven was no larger than Bran’s forearm from nose to tail and murky brown in color, perfect for hiding in bogs. True lizard lions were quite large, nearer in size to alligators.
“You know how people say that your pet reflects you as a person?” Bran asked, reaching out to stroke the lizard’s scales.
“What about it?”
“Raven reminds me of you.”
Jojen arched an eyebrow incredulously as he placed Raven back into the aquarium. “How so?”
“The sharp eyes and perpetual frown culminating in an entirely mournful expression... trust me, there’s a distinct resemblance. But I should go, history homework and all.”
The blonde nodded. Bran caught his hand, tugging him down gently for a kiss goodbye. That was his intention except for the fact that Jojen hadn’t been expecting the gesture and fell into his lap which turned the planned less than a minute kiss into a quarter of an hour make out session. Bran left with slightly swollen lips and mussed hair, but he, rather proudly, left Jojen with a fairly conspicuous hickie. Which Ed would course mention on Monday, hypocritical bastard.

When he reach Winterfell, he was surprised to see extra cars parked outside. He vaguely recalled his mother mentioning guests, but he couldn’t remember who it was. The car, however, was a dead giveaway: a striking, black 1969 Pontiac Firebird. The only person the Starks would invite into their home who drove one was Rhaegar Targaryen, coincidentally Bran’s favorite uncle.
Jon, their son, was pulling a box out of his car trunk when Bran parked. “Hey Bran, how have you been?”
“Just fine, but I’m sure Sam already told you that,” Bran replied with a smile.
“Yeah, he said you stopped coming to the library for a few days, I just assumed you were sick.”
“Huh. I wasn’t, I was with Jojen.”
Jon backed into the front door to push it open. “Your boyfriend, right? Well, at least he’s getting you out of that stuffy library. You’d never meet anyone there.”
Bran barked out a laugh. “Then how did Sam get a girlfriend? He’s in that library more than I am.”
Jon shrugged. “Just lucky, I guess.” The unsaid sentiment being that Bran was very unlucky, which he, for the most part, wouldn’t argue with.
A woman with red hair sidled up to Jon saying, “Please don’t leave me with them again, I thought your aunt was going to rip me apart.”
“Don’t worry about what she thinks,” Bran said, well aware she hadn’t noticed him, “no one else does.”
“She’s not a fan of Jojen?” Jon questioned. “He’d the son of one of Uncle Ned’s friends though, isn’t he?”
“This is my mother, Jon, she didn’t like Talisa.”
“Robb’s wife?” the woman, probably Ygritte, Bran decided, asked. “She seemed like Catelyn’s favorite in there.”
“Because she’s pregnant,” Bran explained, “my mother wants grandchildren, hence she likes Talisa now and has reservations about Margaery. Really, there’s no way to win.”
“So this is where you all got off to,” Lyanna said, taking the box from Jon and calling behind her, “Rhaegar, your favorite nephew is finally here!”
“That’s me then,” Bran sighed. “Good luck, Ygritte.”
“Thanks,” she said with a wan smile, “I think I need it.”

Chapter Text

Jojen marched toward the beach, head bowed as the rain cascaded down like shards of ice against his too-warm cheeks. Lightning split the sky above the bay and his eyes stung. It hurt to breathe. As soon as he reached the walkway he broke into a run. He was soaked through when he arrived at the tree, dripping as he collapsed beneath it. His body was wracked with a series of short, silent sobs that contorted his usually placid expression into one of the most fervent pain and he raised a fist to his mouth, biting against the first knuckle to ensure no sound would escape. His cell phone had been vibrating since he left the library. With shaking hands, he pulled it out of his pocket.

13 New Messages

He turned it off, sagging on his side against the trunk, back to the path. Tears began to slide down Jojen’s face, mixing with the previously present raindrops. Under the branches it was still dry, the wooden platform showing no signs of water. The sky continued to darken, the clouds above dimming. If Bran had been there he might have said he resembled a half-drowned cat.

Bran.

A whimper escaped his mouth before he covered his face with both hands, stifling further noise. Over the sound of the storm he could hear footsteps behind him, approaching. The person moved around the kneel in front of him. The scent of coffee and lavender soap engulfed him. Meera. A light hand touched his shoulder.

“Do you want to talk about it?” He shook his head. “Do you want me to leave?”

“No.” It came out in a quiet, cracked whisper, hardly gone from his mouth when she wrapped her arms around him tightly, using her height advantage to rest her chin on top of his head.

“Whatever it is, whatever happened, it’ll be okay,” she told him matter-of-factly. “Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday.” Jojen didn’t reply, clinging to her like she was all he had. At least, that’s how it felt.

No, he reminded himself sternly, logically, You have Myrcella, and Trystane. Just because Bran is gone doesn’t mean they are, too.

He sniffed loudly, clearing his throat, “Let’s go home.” Meera pulled away, nodding and helped him too his feet. He didn’t let go of her hand until they reached her car. In the distance, Jojen thought he heard a wolf howling.

 

“Hey, Meera!” A loud voice called from across the Moat Cailin University campus. She turned, just in time to see Arya Stark barrelling toward her at full speed, nearly tumbling over her own feet when she abruptly stopped in front of her.

“Good, I wanted to talk to you.”

“Talk to me?” Arya spat. “What the fuck is up with your brother?”

“My brother!” Meera cried indignantly, eyes flashing. “What the fuck is up with your brother? Jojen told me everything last night. Did Bran really think he could get away with it?”

“Get away with what?” she asked, confused. “I’m talking about your brother not answering his phone. Bran kept trying to call him all night! Sansa only convinced him to stop around four this morning.”

“Jojen’s phone has been off since yesterday.”

“Why?” Arya demanded, irritated.

“Because,” Meera explained sharply, hefting her bag up from the bench where she had been sitting, “your brother is a cheating ass and Jojen didn’t need to hear any excuses.”

Arya’s grey eyes widened considerably, mouth open slightly in shock. A moment later she spoke, barely audible, “I’m going to kill him.”

“Not if I do first.” Arya grinned wickedly, extending a hand to her, which she gladly shook. “But we might want to gather some information.”

“Right, because whoever this other guy is needs to answer for it, too.”

Meera nodded. “I have class until 11:30. I’ll meet you at the library at noon?”

“Absolutely.”

As she walked away, Arya turned back toward the way she had come, pulling her phone out of her pocket. If they were going to the library they were going to talk to Sam, and Sam wasn’t about to talk to her, but quite luckily the one person he would talk to was in town.

“Arya, I’m kind of busy right now,” Jon told her, sounding a little breathless.

“I really don’t care if I just interrupted you and Ygritte having sex,” she replied, sitting on a different, dry bench in the shadow of Old Main, one of the lecture buildings. “This is important. It’s about Bran.”

“You find out what was going on with his boyfriend?”

“Yeah, and you’re not going to believe it.”

“Try me, little wolf,” he sighed and Arya could hear the rustle of fabric over the line.

“I’m not that little,” she retorted before continuing, “Jojen caught Bran cheating.” There was a thud, like a phone hitting hardwood. “You still there, Jon?”

“Yes, I’m still here,” he said, his voice getting closer to the speaker again. “Are you sure?”

“That’s what Meera, she’s Jojen’s sister, said.”

“It could be just some misunderstanding,” he reasoned.

“And if it isn’t?” she asked rhetorically. “Anyway, Meera and I are going to the library, that’s where it happened, I think, and we’ll probably be asking Sam and you know he won’t tell us anything…”

“You want me to question my best friend about whether or not my cousin is cheating on his boyfriend?”

“It kind of sounds like a soap opera when you put it like that,” Ayra laughed humorlessly. “Can you be there at noon?”

“Sure, but…” Jon trailed off, thinking. “This just doesn’t sound like Bran.”

“I know.”

 

Jojen had stopped crying when he fell asleep at about two am. Sitting on his bed with his mom’s cat, Josephine, in his lap and his phone locked in a desk drawer he had never been happier that schools had a two day break at the end of November; it saved him from the abject humiliation of facing Bran at the high school.

There was a soft knock on the door. “Come in.”

Jyana leaned inside, speaking gently, “Loras is here, if you want to talk to him.”

Bewildered, Jojen nodded, gently shifting Josephine’s claws from where they were digging into his thigh. His mother disappeared and the door opened fully, revealing Loras carrying a pastry box and a grocery bag. He set them down on the bed and closed the door.

“I figured out what happened from the way Meera was angrily muttering during her shift this morning,” he explained, flipping open the box. “So I brought you the customary carb fest.”

Jojen smiled weakly. “You really didn’t have to. You have a wedding to plan.”

“Please,” Loras said, rolling his eyes, “I’ve planned my timeline perfectly and I absolutely have time to help you get over this, starting with donuts. If anything comes up Renly can deal with it. Or rather Margaery can. Renly’s pretty much useless when it comes to this sort of thing.”

“Margaery asked me to model for her,” Jojen said, thinking of it for the first time since it happened, “when I went to get a suit for… well, that’s not important.”

“You should think about it,” Loras insisted, taking a bite out of a Danish, “something new, different, out of the ordinary. It could be nice.”

Jojen nodded, taking one of the donuts. Josephine meowed loudly, standing up in his lap to stretch and jumped off the bed. “Seriously? I stopped petting you for thirty seconds!”

“She’s a cat,” Loras reminded him, “and hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. That’s why you’ll probably be angry about everything after you sleep off the sugar.” She reached up on the door jamb and began to scratch at it, forcing Jojen up off the bed to open it for her. “Hell, I was angry enough with Renly when I thought he was cheating that I didn’t let him see me for almost a month.”

“Why did you think Renly was cheating?” he inquired, sitting back down.

“It’s ridiculous, really, and a bit unfathomable that it actually happened. His sister-in-law, Robert’s wife, hired someone to make it look like Renly was seeing someone else so we’d break up. Apparently us being married wasn’t her idea of respectable, never mind that women like her love to have gay friends as accessories.” Loras sneered derisively, faking a gag.

“Well, it doesn’t matter now. You’re getting married anyway.”

“Too true, my friend, too true.” Honestly, Jojen wasn’t sure when he and Loras had made the transition from coworkers to friends, but he was glad for it. Myrcella was lovely, but she had only ever dated Trystane and they had never even considered breaking up. It was better talking to someone who knew exactly what it felt like.

“I never expected this,” he murmured, drawing his knees to his chest. “Everything was going so well.”

“I know. It may never make sense, but it’s not a reflection on you, what he did; you have to remember that.”

Jojen blinked back the tears that threatened to fall. “I do. I just wish it was different.”

Chapter Text

“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?

Chapter Text

One Week Later

“So, Olyvar is definitely new in town,” Margaery said, her seamstress’ tape measure nearly strangling Jon as she wrapped it around his neck, “but you knew that. He’s from King’s Landing, 20 years old, and he is currently an unemployed actor taking jobs through a temp agency.” She ripped the tape measure from his neck and jotted quickly on her notepad before violently jerking Jon into position to measure his arms. “He’s a pisces, his eyes have a little green in them, and he graduated from an alternative high school the locals call Flea Bottom.”

“Um, Margy,” Sansa piped up from one of the lovely antique armchairs that were scattered around the boutique, “how do you know so much about him?”

An angry sigh burst from her mouth and a sneer contorted her usually lovely face into something more resembling a snarling bear. “I’ve met Olyvar before,” she ground out. “Moron didn’t even think to change his name.”

“Where? When?” Jon demanded while Margaery continued to forcefully push him this way and that to get her numbers for his wedding suit.

“Last year. Kings Landing. Now stay still! I will not be held responsible if you cut yourself on my two hundred dollar manicure.”

Jon and Sansa exchanged a look. “Is it him that’s got you all wound up? It can’t be the wedding, you and Loras are right on schedule,” Sansa asked soothingly.

Margaery stopped her brutal pinning and collapsed into a spare straight back chair. “It’s just… so you remember when Cersei tried to split up Renly and Loras? Well she used an agency to hire someone to do it. A fixer. The person they hired was Olyvar. I can’t say for sure, but this nagging feeling in the back of my mind tells me this is the same situation.”

“Who ran the agency,” Jon asked, wracking his brain for suspects.

“Petyr Baelish. Who else?”

Sansa jerked to her feet, eyes narrowing. “I’ll see you both later. I have to talk to someone.” Without another word or even a look in their direction, Sansa flew from the shop.

Margaery returned to her feet brandishing a new pin. “Well, lets finish up that suit.”

 

Sansa made a beeline for her car and admittedly drove home at a more than alarming speed. She almost didn’t turn the car off after she swung into the driveway, jerking the keys out of the ignition and slamming the door behind her. The front door proved too much of an obstacle for her to unlock quickly. She heaved a deep breath and calmed her shaking hands as she carefully dealt with the door, slipping inside the house.

“Mom?” she called out, a slight shake in her voice.

“Kitchen, darling,” her mother replied. Sansa dropped her purse and coat in the entry and started toward the kitchen, stopping briefly in the den to ruffle Bran’s hair from his place on the sofa. He didn’t respond, staring studiously at the book he was reading.

“Did you need something, Sansa?” Catelyn asked when she came into the kitchen. “I thought you were spending the day with Margaery.”

“I was.” Sansa slid onto one of the stools at the island in the center of the room and picked up an apple from the fruit bowl, turning it over in her hands. He gaze flitted across the clean white cabinets and dark marble countertops as she attempted to form her question. Catelyn had not yet looked up from the bell peppers she was slicing at the counter right in front of the window looking out into the wooded wilderness behind the Stark home. “Mom, are you still in contact with Petyr Baelish?”

Catelyn’s hands stilled. Her shoulders stiffened.

Ever so slowly she slid the knife away from the vegetables and laid it carefully on the counter. “Why would you ask that, Sansa?”

“Margaery gave me some information,” she phrased carefully, “that points to Baelish being involved in the situation with Bran. It seems petty, I know-”

“Petyr always has been petty, dear.” Catelyn turned from the window to face Sansa, her expression unreadable. “But I see no reason for him to attempt to break up two teenage boys.”

“He did it to Loras and Renly, Cersei Lannister paid him to do it. I thought maybe he’d tried to contact you about it. I’m sure the Reeds have nothing to do with it.”

“No, they wouldn’t.”

The two were silent for a long while, the air growing heavier and heavier with the accusation that Sansa hadn’t relayed. It was no secret that Jojen wasn’t Catelyn’s favorite of her children’s significant others, and that she and Petyr Baelish had once been friends. It hurt Sansa to even think of the possibility of her mother doing this to Bran, which also begged the question who else would?

“I’ll bring this up to your father. If Baelish has some sort of hand in this, he’ll want to know. Don’t worry, Sansa. No more harm will come to you.” Without offering any more information, Catelyn returned to her chopping. Sansa lifted herself off of the stool and replaced the apple, turning to exit the room. As she continued make her way toward her bedroom she caught sight of Bran through the doorway to the den.

“It’s not me I’m worried about,” she murmured to herself.