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It's a little after dinner when Arya popped into her room, and though she's on better terms with her sister now, unlike when they were younger, and that this scenario has become a common occurence since coming home, she still felt a little suspicious for Arya's appearance during this specific night.

Arya had volunteered to go to Robb's apartment and clean out his stuff tomorrow. When their mother asked which of them would be willing to do it, Sansa had been relieved when Arya instantly spoke up, because she's not sure she could've done it.

Now all that relief is starting to fade with the way her sister's eyes were begging her without yet voicing out what she's about to.

"Please, Sansa." was the only thing Arya had to say, and instantly she understood what her sister's asking of her.

"Arya, I can't. You know I can't." She replied guiltily, because under different circumstances, it would've been her instead of her sister who takes on the responsibility of gathering her dead older brother's belongings, but that wasn't the only thing she'd be doing if she had agreed, and that other thing seemed more horrible than the former.

"I have to take all my missed exams all day tomorrow or I'll fail out of my classes." Arya reasoned, throwing in a look that Sansa is sure is supposed to be a puppy dog face but still somehow looks fierce on Arya.

Sansa shut her eyes, already accepting defeat. Arya's missed a lot of school days since Robb's funeral, and she can't let her sister miss any more of it just becuase she's a coward.

"Come on, just for tomorrow. Gendry and I will come right after my exams are finished. I swear." Arya promised, as if that would make her warm up to the idea.

She's not sure anything can make the situation enticing. Not only will she be boxing up Robb's things, she'd also be in the presence of her ex-boyfriend, because Jon has lived with her brother since they were in college.

For a time, she'd lived in their apartment too, in Jon's room specifically, and that doesn't make things more easier, revisiting a place in her past that contained a lot of happy memories she'd rather not relive as not to hurt herself more.

She frowned at Arya, because that's all she can do at the moment. "Why can't Gendry just help me then? Why does he have to wait 'til your exams are over?"

"Because," Arya began, making it sound like Sansa's being ridiculous. "Gendry has plans early in the morning so he can't."

Sansa would've questioned Arya whether she's telling the truth or not, because there's something odd about all this, but she would also like to keep the peace between them so she keeps it to herself instead.

When she tells Arya yes, she noticed her sister trying to hide a smile. And just like that she immediately understood what she just got herself into.

"You're sure Jon doesn't mind?" She asked Arya skeptically, because now she knows what her sister's trying to do and l she has to be sure she's not going to pop up in Jon's apartment without his knowledge or consent.

She doubts he actually is okay with this if he does know, what with how curt they've been with each other lately, and how they both welcomed opportunities to avoid situations where they'd have to be together.

They've seen each other plenty of times in the month since Robb's death. All unavoidable situations and still so awkward as hell though they've broken up for years.

Jon's a real stand-up guy, and though he himself is grieving Robb's death, he still comes by the Stark home to check up on everybody once in a while.

When he comes over, he makes sure to bring Bran a comic bpok or if not, he's ready to talk about the recent one Bran lent him and they'd talk for hours until Rickon takes Jon away for his turn. He's great with Rickon too, whatever sort of game her brother comes up with, Jon would patiently play it. With Arya, he doesn't have to do much, because she has Gendry and she was much stronger than the rest of them. After he's made sure everybody else is fine, Jon would then come to Ned Stark's office, asking if he could help in anyway with her dad's business. Ned would usually let him, and they'd pour over tons of financial records, trying to track whatever it is her dad's looking for. Once finished, he'd go to the kitchen and help Mrs. Stark in the kitchen, and though they don't talk while doing so, Jon's lessening the burden for her mother simply by offering a hand.

It's only her he never approaches, and it's understandable due to their past. But she couldn't help but envy the rest of her family, because they all get to have time with Jon when it's something she'd forfeited years ago.

Arya nodded in confirmation to her question. "He says it's fine. If anything, he was just surprised, like everybody else, that you're still here."

She tried not to roll her eyes, choosing to keep quiet. Everybody's been asking her why she's still here, as if she needed some big reason for wanting to stay home. Then again, Winterfell isn't her home anymore so she could see why people would ask.

"Are you really not going to tell me what the hell happened in King's Landing?" Arya asked, sounding impatient.

When Sansa told her family that she quit her job and that she's coming back home, their reactions wasn't anything like she expected. She'd expected her mother to ask questions, to try and pry into the details of her resignation to both her new job in Baratheon Industries and her life in King's Landing. Instead, it's Arya who keeps pestering her about it and unlike her mother, Arya's persistence doesn't carry any subtlety, making the whole thing very irritating.

She's not planning on telling anyone the reasons behind her leaving. Officially, it's Robb. His death made her realize how precious life is and that she should spend it with the people she loves. Unofficially, it's Joffrey too, and getting as far away from any Baratheons as she could get, his mother most of all.

"Nothing happened in King's Landing, Arya. I just wanted to be home." She told her for the thousandth time.

Still, Arya looked at her disbelievingly, as if she knew something more to it. Sansa brushed that thought away, nobody would know what kind of hell she went through in the South. Partly because she'd never tell them and partly because anyone involved in giving her hell would deny it.


------


Jon spent the entire night getting wasted with Sam. Or getting wasted on his own while Sam watched. Out of all the nights his friend could've had an early shift at the hospital, it's tonight. So he's willing to stay up late like the good friend he is, but he can't risk getting a hangover in the morning.

"I thought you said you were over her?" He asked, giving Jon a look that said he knew otherwise.

"I wanted to believe I was." He admitted, swallowing down half the content of beer in the bottle he's currently holding. What was it? His sixth? Seventh bottle? He's not entirely sure anymore. His mind is a little hazy, and he prefers it that way, because that way, everything seems a little less daunting. "But how does one get over Sansa Stark?"

Sam shrugged. "I dunno. I never met her."

"The answer is, Sam," he began, keeping his eyes locked on his beer as he tried to scratch off the label. "that you will never be able to. You'll just keep on loving her even when you hate yourself for it." He laughed humorlessly, shaking his head in resignation to the fact. "All the while, she'd just continue living her perfect life, meeting one prince charming to the next until one day you'd just hear she's getting married and you're - " he stops at that, looking down at the palm of his hand and trying so hard not to cry. It's been two fucking years, Jon. Get your shit together. "And you're right where she left you, still trying to pick up the pieces she broke inside."

Sam gave him a worried look and he knew why. He's never confided in Sam about his break-up with Sansa and he would've kept it that way if she wasn't suddenly back in his life, derailing him every step of the way, and haunting him both day and night as if she were the one who died instead of Robb.

He's got to be grateful to her though, somehow the thought of her made the impact of Robb's death seem bearable. Though, he's not too sure he preferred having Sansa invade his mind constantly.

"What difference does tomorrow make though? You've already seen her a few times before."

He downed the rest of his beer before answering. "Nothing." He said, shaking his head. "Absolutely nothing."

Sam coughed, making him look up. His friend was eyeing him skeptically. "And that's the problem, isn't it? Because you want something to happen."

He let out a deep breath. There's no use denying it when it's so obvious. He hates himself for it but there's still some part of him that wants to be with her, even though he shouldn't.

"I don't know what's wrong with me, Sam." He confessed and this is something new because Sam is among his closest friends, but he's gotten used to keeping things to himself so this - the whole sharing his feelings thing, it's odd.

More than that, Sansa is a topic he avoided at all cost. She may have broken his heart but she's still his bestfriend's sister and that was off limits to talk about. So he'd gotten used to pretending he doesn't hear when someone asks about her or how he's doing post-break up. He's gotten so used to it that talking about it now seems to have torn off the bandaid he'd hastily put on his heart to try and hide the hole she left in there.

"There's nothing wrong with you, Jon. You just love her is all."

"And I shouldn't." Jon said, frustrated about the whole thing. "She broke my heart. I shouldn't love her at all."

Sam gave him a sad smile, obviously lost on what to say. Jon leaned back on his chair, staring at the six empty bottles in between them, all of which he drank.

Seeing Sansa again was painful, not only was his best friend dead, but the love of his life was there too... only she's never felt so far away. He'd barely managed to keep himself together and the only reason he did so was because he was always needed elsewhere. Wheel Bran's chair to the service, carry him to the car, help Mrs. Stark whichever way he could, entertain the guests when any one of the Starks seems too overwhelmed by something they said or help clean up after all the guests have left.

He had enough to occupy his mind for the funeral, but everything after that, no matter how busy he makes his mind, it still somehow lands back to her.


------

 

9am sharp, her phone told her. Just like she'd told Arya to tell Jon, Sansa was standing in front of her dead older brother and ex-boyfriend's apartment, ready as she'll ever be.

She didn't voice out her concerns to her sister, completely aware that her alliance is with Jon. Not that its a competition. It's just always been that way. Arya loved Jon like a brother, maybe even loved him more than she did Robb. When Jon and Sansa started dating, her little sister refused to speak to her unless to threaten her should she hurt Jon. Thankfully, she didn't act on those threats when they broke up eight years later.

She knocked on the door trice, and Jon opens it in just a few seconds, as if he'd already been waiting.

He looks a little tired, like he'd stayed up all night, but still as handsome as she remembered. Ironically, seeing Jon now made her miss King's Landing. At least there, she knew exactly what kind of horror to expect. Here with Jon, she feels lost and unbalanced and completely unsure of how to act.

He's standing in front of her with his trademark sweatpants and henley get-up and she forgets herself for a moment. For one short second, she almost steps into his space to press her lips to his, like she always used to when she'd come over. And then the second's gone and she realized how shitty it is of her brain to conjure up such memories.

She'd been in King's Landing through all of their break up, so it's easy to pretend she's moving on. There were no patterns to break, no places to avoid and no Jon at all. It all felt very easy and she understands now how much of a lie it all had been. It only took her a short moment at Robb's funeral when she saw Jon to realize that, nope, I'm so not over him.

"Come on in." He said, taking her out of her stupor. He steps aside to let her in and she does so a little reluctantly, looking behind her as if it's the last time she'd see the outside. That's always how she felt with Jon, because it's so easy to get lost in him. Unfortunately, it feels less exciting now.

Sansa's unsurprised to see the place unchanged. It's Robb and Jon's and housekeeping just isn't one of their strongest suits. She can even pinpoint the decorations she'd put up herself when they first moved in so the place would feel more homey and less than a dour-looking bachelor pad. They obviously didn't have any complaints so they kept them up.

She looked around, noticing that though nothing has changed in the place, everything already has with everything else. Robb's gone and based on Arya's statement some days ago, Jon's about to leave as well. Sansa's the unofficial border in Jon's room... and even she had left long ago.

He must have noticed her looking at the place, still completely intact even though he's got only a little time to sort it out and be out of the house after not renewing their lease, because he offered an answer to a question she was afraid to even ask.

"I put off packing for as long as I could. I couldn't do it." He admitted, rubbing the back of his neck nervously as he did. "But um, it, uh... It didn't seem right to stay. Without Robb, you know. "

She nodded slowly. If she had a dollar everytime someone in her family would say something similar. "Yeah, there's a lot of that going around."

Maybe they could do this afterall, be civil and act like mature adults. Maybe they don't have to tiptoe around each other like they've been doing the past three weeks.

She turns to catch his eyes for the first time since she entered the apartment and he's staring right at her. He's got that expression, the one where you just know he's trying to get past your defences to figure out what you're thinking, he's always been good at that with her.

"How are you?" He asked finally, his attention completely on her.

"I'm functioning, at least." She regards, a sad smile on her lips.

When she first heard from her mother through phone of her brother's accident. She'd been shocked to her core, holding the phone up to her ear with her mother's voice muffled from the ringing in her ears.

Sansa has never not had Robb in her life. He's her big brother, her first bestfriend and bodyguard. He's the typical 'hurt my sister and I'll hurt you' type big brother and she'd always loved how protective he was of her and how he always remembered to call and check up on her when she went away, even if it's late in the night and she's sure he's dead tired.

She turns to look at Jon and asked, "how about you?" Because Robb wasn't just Jon's bestfriend, he was his brother too. And Jon would no doubt be feeling as lost as she is now, despite all his efforts to hide it.

He shrugged. "I think what you said pretty much sums it up for me too."

"Don't you just want to get in your car, drive as far as you can and never look back?" She wondered aloud, wincing at her words the moment she said them.

They'd said something similar to each other when her family protested their relationship - mostly Robb and Arya, but it was stressful enough that they started fantasizing about running away together.

"Uh... I um - " jon takes a deep breath, avoiding her eyes. He seemed both surprised and upset with what she said.

When he finally speaks, he's completely turned his back to her and started heading towards his room. "I'll be in my room if you need anything."

"Fuck." She muttered, cursing at herself once Jon's out of earshot.

She should've shut her mouth before saying such a stupid thing. She and Jon are not friends, can't ever be friends, she can't just say random things without risk of ripping off bandaids from their past. She should've known better.

Their break up wasn't messy, which, to be honest, is a big part of the problem. They were together for so long, with plans of a future together, and it ended in less than five minutes during a phone call. Then it was just radio silence after that, neither one of them willing to reach out to fix things.

Days turned into weeks and then into months of no contact and she figured that was it, eight years of her life just evaporated into thin air.

 

----

 

It's torture, having Sansa so close yet feeling as though they're worlds apart. If he didn't love Arya to bits, he'd probably be pissed.

He's not stupid, Arya's not the type of person who'd make escuses to not do something.

Jon's aware that she's hurting and that maybe she really didn't want to pack up Robb's things out of the heartache it'll bring, but the Arya he knows won't let that stop her. In fact, Jon's pretty sure that will only spur her on. Arya's all about conquering her fears and being the master of it so if she's made such a lousy excuse to get Sansa to come here and do the work she was supposed to, she has ulterior motives.

And he could guess that it involves him. And Sansa.

This is his fault. He'd made the mistake of revealing that he still loved her, and now Arya's trying to... well, he's not entirely sure what she hoped would happen by getting him and her sister in the same place, but whatever it is, it's probably not going to end until Arya gets her desired result. And she's going to be extremely disappointed.

But maybe Arya anticipated how he'd be, because judging from the 3 hours that Sansa's been in his apartment, he could expertly say that he's fucking screwed.

The amount of time he had to remind himself that no, he's not supposed to feel this way and fuck, Jon, whatever you're thinking can't happen because she's getting married. Stop being an idiot, is extremely alarming.

The latter is the one thing thing that stops him all the time, because she'd been dating this Joffrey guy for less than six months and she'd already agreed with marriage. He doesn't know much about the guy, refused to look him up, but Jon hated him on principle.

It was painful, knowing some other guy was with Sansa, about to create the future he's always wanted with her. He didn't even come close to an engagement.

He planned to propose right after she graduates from University, only a year after his own. He had the ring and everything, even borrowed the money from Dany so he could afford it and give it as a grad gift for Sansa.

It was always where their relationship was heading. Engagement, marriage and then together for the rest of their lives. And then plans changed, because Sansa got scouted by a big advertising firm in King's Landing and it was such a great opportunity for her that he refused to give her a reason to say no.

He figured it's fine, they have the rest of their lives together, he doesn't have to propose right away. But she wasn't even gone long until they broke up. Or until she broke up with him. And gods, it's ridiculous how wrong he was for thinking about their future. It was all bullshit in the end.

"Jon?" Sansa asked, leaning over his doorframe as he was putting his clothes inside a luggage. The sight of her like that brings up so many memories from the past that he has to look away.

"Yeah?" He asked, looking anywhere but her. He can't. He can't look at her and not feel a torrent of emotions battling inside of him. He continued putting his clothes into the luggage, pretending this is no big deal, like talking to Sansa didn't feel like getting stabbed in the chest everytime.

With his alcohol-induced brain from last night, he actually fooled himself into thinking that this is fine. That he could talk to her and feel nothing anymore. But that's just not possible. He makes a silent promise to himself never to see Sansa Stark again.

He thought he's well guarded, that the walls he'd put up on himself would be impenetrable by her and yet those walls fell to dust the moment she returned and there's barely any of it left to keep himself safe.

"I, uh," she stopped for a moment and he could feel her eyes on him, piercing through him. There was a time he would've met her gaze with a smirk before pulling her into him. And kissing her. That time has long since disappeared. The way she's looking at him now, it's something close to pity and he hates that. "Are you... are you okay?"

"Fine." He says it harsher than he meant to, but he couldn't find it in him to feel guilty.

This is her fault, this whole mess in his head was her doing. She'd fucked him up so good that he can't even have the semblance of the guy he used to be.

The guy who didn't instantly assume that everyone he meets would leave him at some point. If he couldn't make Sansa Stark stay, the girl he loved with all his heart and soul, who's to say he can make anyone else stay with him when there's barely any of him left.

He'd only dated twice after her and both ended in a complete disaster. Things with Ygritte started out as something strictly physical. They'd both just gotten off long relationships and they needed something to dull the ache. And they were both angry at the world, thinking it was made purely to fuck with them. Their shared hatred of the world was why he thought, for a time, that he could love her. And he did love her a little, he really did. But he couldn't stay angry for long and that's all Ygritte wanted to be, so when the fire burned out in him... there was no point in them staying together.

With Val, things were much calmer and straightforward, they were co-workers so they spent a good amount of time together. He'd be a liar if he said he could see a future with her, because he didn't, he couldn't even muster up the energy to connect with her emotionally. It ended like it never even began.

"Did you need anything?" He asked, realizing that she must've come for a reason other than ask about his mental health.

"Yes. Can I borrow a sharpie?"

He moved to his desk to grab a black sharpie and handed it to her. "You need any help packing?"

She shook her head, looking a little uncomfortable. "No. I'm fine, thank you"

He can't really blame her for being uncomfortable, it must be so obvious how pathetic he is, unlike her. Gods, he wanted to hate her sometimes. She looks so unaffected, like the eight years of their relationship didn't even matter. How he wishes he could feel the same, but then again he'd always known he loved her way too much.

"How long are you in Winterfell for?" He asked her later, when they took a break for late lunch.

He made her a cheese sandwich, because anything more than that seemed... inappropriate, somehow. He's not entirely sure why he thinks that, but maybe it's because she used to cook for him all the time, and it always warmed his heart, knowing she made it with him in mind.

They've been quietly and very slowly eating their lunch, like they're waiting for the other to speak. To say something. Anything at all to make it less awkward. To make it okay. He doesn't want to talk to her, doesn't want to get even more screwed by opening himself up in one more way.

It seemed like a game, something to see who between the two of them is stronger, and no matter how many times they play, he'll lose, like he lost now. Because he's always been weak when it comes to her, and it seems like that hasn't changed either.

She plays with her food for a moment, before raising her head to catch his eye. "Truthfully... I don't know."

This answer intrigued him, because back when they were still together and she was working her ass off in her job, he thought there was nothing that could make her come back. It didn't matter how stressed she was all the time and how she barely had time to talk to her family, let alone talk to him. She had to stay and that was that.

It was an excruciating few months, it got a little better, then got a lot worse and then it flatlined.

He studied the expression on her face and he'll admit, the first time he saw her again he was surprised. Gone were the warmth in her eyes, and the soft lines that said she smiled a lot. She looked like Sansa, but a stranger all at the same time. It frightened him a little, realizing that he might not have been the only one to lose her to King's Landing, that somehow she lost herself too.

Now that he's looking a bit closer, he's secretly relieved that he got it wrong - to an extent - because he can still recognize the old Sansa on this masked person in front of him. She's still there, maybe she just had to supress it to survive.

"You're..." He trailed off, recognizimg the flow of thoughts battling inside her eyes. He still had that, at least. Still had the ability to read her. "you're staying, aren't you?"

She dropped his gaze, almost as if she was afraid that he'd see something else in there that she's not willing to say. Then, she shrugged, "I want to. But there's nothing for me here."

"You have your family." He said instead, trying to sound casual about it. There was a time she had him too, and maybe she still does, a little.

"Yeah, but they don't need me." She said in resignation, and that makes him sad, he doesn't like that she feels like she doesn't belong here, of all places. "I don't have a place in Winterfell anymore."

"And you do in King's Landing?" He asked, unable to stop himself, and she looked at him curiously, her head tilting slightly in that cute way it does, and he knows she's trying to pick apart the meaning of his question.

"No." She said finally, after letting the silence loom over them for a long moment. "I don't have a place anywhere."

"That's not true." He argued, honestly offended that she'd suggest such a thing. "You'll always have a place in Winterfell, it's your home."

She gave him a sardonic smile and then said,"You don't have to be nice, Jon. I know you hate me."

 

-----

 

"I don't hate you." He told her firmly, looking as if she'd hurt him for suggesting such a thing, somehow.

The words he said sounded so good to hear and that's exactly why she doesn't believe it. King's Landing taught her that pretty words were just lies, and odd as it sounds, Jon telling her that he doesn't hate her is the prettiest thing she's heard.

"You do. It's fine, I hate me too." She told him nonchalantly. It's not like it's a secret that he does. And she can't actually blame him for it, everything is her fault. Like it always is.

Joffrey's voice screams at the back of her mind, telling her she's stupid and worthless and she should fuck off before her stupidity rubs off on him.

Was it bad that she blames him a little for ever thinking that Joff was anything but charming?

Honestly, Jon had set the bar too high. He was brave, gentle and kind. He was always patient with her and always gave her the space she needed to breathe. He's always a gentlemen, never pressuring her into anything and always willing to keep things at her preferred pace. He's thoughtful and caring, and always found a way to let her know how much he loved her.

Gods, she wanted to believe that Joff could be that too, that he could somehow fill the void in her heart that Jon vacated without complaints. Instead, Joff made her regret it all. Leaving her far worse than she'd been when they'd met.

How foolish of her to think that anybody could take over that spot, when it'll always be Jon's, whether she liked it or not.

Hearing Jon say the words she'd been dying to hear spurs her on to speak, because she'd already spent two years trying to forget it, him, them, and never getting anywhere, it's high time she acknowledges it. "I should have taken it all back, I didn't mean any of it."

She doesn't say what it was, because like always, they're already on the same page.

He shook his head, letting his eyes fall to the floor. "You did mean it though, that's why you said it."

Instead of answering, she asks, "Why didn't you call me?"

It was a stupid question but she had to ask, it's one of the many questions that ate away at her as she cried herself to sleep every night after their break up.

Why didn't he call? Was it that simple for him? Was he just waiting for me to break it off? Did he want it to be over? Did he love me at all?

A big part of her wanted to make the first move and make things right but the fact that Jon didn't even seem to want things fixed made her recoil. The whole reason she suggested they should break up in the first place is because of the belief that Jon's tired of her and their relationship.

Everything he did, or didn't do afterwards, just confirmed it for her.

"Why did you say it?" He asked, voice a lot louder. "I believed you. Because if you didn't mean any of it, then why the hell did you say it?"

She flinched at the anger in his voice and threw a hand to her face defensively, expecting a blow. When Joffrey's voice starts rising, she can always expect physical pain. A slap on the face or getting thrown to the floor, whatever he thinks she deserved, he'd do it.

"Sansa?" Jon called, his voice filled with concern. She remembers that she's with Jon right now, not Joffrey, and no matter how heated things get, she'd always be safe with Jon.

She looked up, removing her hand on her face and caught jon's stricken face, as if she'd slapped him.

"Did you think I'd - that I'd -" he seems distraught with her reaction and she feels bad for making him think it's his fault. "I would never hurt you, Sans."

"I know, I know.." She reassured, wincing at the hurt expression on his face. "Jon, it's not your fault." She grabbed his hand and rubbed it slightly. "It's not you, it's just reflex."

She tries not to focus on where her hand is, because it's the first physical contact she'd had with Jon in three years, and it aches. She focuses on him instead, how confused he looked at her words.

"Reflex?" He asked, eyes looking deep into hers as if he's trying to dig his way down to find all her buried secrets after him. He'd probably even find tons of them.

"It's nothing." She assured again, dropping her hand back to the table.

He must've sensed her expression closing off because this isn't something she'd like to discuss so he repeats his question instead, voice calmer this time. "Why did you say it?"

She's quiet for a moment, because he's so close to her right now and his eyes are begging for some answers and it hurt, it still hurts so much.

"Because I was tired of disappointing you." She admitted finally, her gaze dropping down to her hands as she twisted her bracelet on her wrist.

"You have never - "

"But I did, Jon." She insisted, looking up to catch his eyes. He can't deny this, they both know it's the truth, that even if he'd supported her decision for going, he hated her for it too.

He looks torn between hugging her right now and running away, and she knows she's mirroring the same exact image. "Every moment I was in King's Landing, I was disappointing you."

He shook his head in disbelief, "I would never be disappointed with you for chasing after your dreams."

But that's how it felt everytime his enthusiasm would deflate when she tells him a story about her day, the people she's met and places she'd been to. He didn't realize that the only reason she told him all those was because it dulled the ache of being so far away from everyone she loved. Away from him.

But his mood dropped everytime so after a while she just stopped talking about it altogether and she'd just listen to him remind her of all the things in Winterfell she's left behind and badly misses.

By the end of it, he had stories of his own with people she's never met, making memories that she had no part of and she was just tired, so tired of feeling bad about her choices that the words just slipped right out.


-----


"Jon, I think we should break up."

He stopped in the middle of his story about his day, one she can't forget because it carried all her reasons for why the words fell out of her mouth in the first place.

He was going on and on about how crazy that day was, and though he never says it, she could hear how happy he is in his voice. She'd been with him eight years, knew the underlying emotions on his always sombre expression, knew the difference between his tone of voice, and for the first time in a couple of months, he sounded happy. And it wasn't even because of her. No, not her, because these days all she ever did was make Jon miserable, and so of course he'd find something else to make him happy.

That something came in the form of his co-worker, Val. He was bragging about her, telling Sansa how the girl wowed the entire faculty during the end-of-school dinner, and he sounded in awe. That stung, hearing him sound like that while talking about someone else. That someone used to be her, and then she wasn't.

"What..?"

"I think we should break up." She repeated, her stomach coiling up at the words she couldn't stop from coming out. She doesn't really want to, she'd had her entire future lined up, prepared like always, and she had Jon in it 'til the end of the line.

But she was so tired of getting hurt, of hurting, and this seemed like the best option for them before they lose themselves for trying to keep this relationship together.

Maybe he'd even want that too, maybe he's tired of it, tired of her and of her being so damn far. Maybe he just doesn't know how to end it. These are definitely things that lived in her mind the past couple months.

She was unhappy with the situation and he was unhappy with her. If he wasn't going to say anything, then maybe she should.

"I think we should end this." It's self-preservation, something she'd been doing a lot of since coming to a devious city like King's Landing. "It'll be better this way. Better it happens now than later when we have more of ourselves to lose."

He doesn't say anything for a moment and she could feel her heart breaking to a million pieces. She wanted to take all of it back, to just tell him that she'd come home to Winterfell like he wanted and then they'd fix things, but now that she'd said the words, she wanted to hear what Jon would say.

Because she had doubts, and that scared her. In all of the eight years they were together, she had no qualms about Jon and their future together. He'd been the one definite thing in her life. But then King's Landing somehow poisoned that, poisoned them, and she was no longer as sure as she had been before.

When he does speak up, his voice is hard and uncaring. "Fine. If that's what you want."


-----


They're quiet for a long moment before he speaks again, this time his voice is resigned because he knew she was partly right.

"I hated that the life you were making didn't seem to include me. That it didn't seem to have any room for me." He admitted and he feels lighter for finally saying the thing he'd been keeping to himself for as long as he could remember. "It scared me because I knew I was losing you."

"You weren't losing me." She told him firmly, as though saying that changed anything. "Jon, going to King's Landing was nothing compared to how much I wanted to stay. Here in Winterfell. With you. "

"Then why didn't you stay?" He asked bitterly.

"Because you kept pushing me to do it. You kept telling me what a good opportunity it was and that I shouldn't miss it. You kept pushing. And then - " she cuts herself off, tears bubbling in her eyes. "And then you didn't propose."

"What?" He asked, completely caught off guard.

She's right. He was pushing her to accept the offer to King's Landing, but only because he didn't want to be the reason she stays, not when it means she'd be giving up on a big step forward in her career. He didn't want her to hate him later, when she feels like she'd made a mistake because she chose to stay.

It's the other thing she said that caught him, you didn't propose, she was never supposed to know about that.

"I found the ring a month before my graduation. It was in your sock drawer." She said matter-of-factly, wiping her tears that started to fall as she spoke. "I was so sure you were going to do it during graduation, and I was excited, probably even more excited for it than finishing college." She sniffed loudly and all he could do was stare at her in disbelief. How is he only hearing about this now? "I waited all night for you to do it but you didn't. Then I kept hoping and hoping for weeks afterward that you would but all you ever did was talk about was how I should take that job - and I checked, the ring wasn't in your sock drawer anymore. I figured you changed your mind about us. So I took the job."

Shit. She thought he changed his mind. How could she ever think he'd stop wanting a future with her when she's everything he had.

"I taped the ring box under the bed." He said, unsure why he even said it.

"Why?" She asked curiously, her steel blue eyes watching him.

"Because I regretted buying it and I didn't want to see it all the time."

He could see hurt flash across her face and he immediately feels shitty for the way he's said it. What she's thinking wasn't what he meant at all.

"Not because I changed my mind. Well I did, but not because I didn't love you because I do, and that was the problem." She shot him a confused look and he proceeded to talk. "When you got scouted by that big advertising firm, that was the first time it ever sunk in that I will never, in a million years, deserve you. You were going places and you were going to do great things, and I was just going to be a teacher, limited by my four walls. That ring served as a constant reminder of that. Gods, it didn't even have a single diamond, it was made of rubies. Fucking rubies I got from my dad and then I borrowed money from Dany to have it made. Fuck, Sansa, you deserved so much better - "

"That's bullshit, Jon, and you know it. That ring could've been made out of paperclip and I still would've loved it - I did love it the moment I saw it, because it would've been the promise of our future." She interrupted, her emotions getting the best of her. "You kept doing that. You kept thinking it wasn't real for me, that I'd find something - someone - better than you. You couldn't just accept that you were it for me too. "

"Well I was right in the end, wasn't I? You did find someone -"

She laughed bitterly, it sounded like she thought he was being ludicrous, and it confused him so he just stared at her until she stoped.

"Better?" She asked bitingly, looking at him pointedly. "You mean better like Joffrey Baratheon? You think he's the kind of guy I deserve?"

"Well, yeah." He agreed, though he didn't truly want to. Thinking of Sansa loving some other guy crushed his heart. "He's the guy you always dreamed of, right? Your prince charming?"

She nodded slowly, looking as if what he said hurt her for some reason. He couldn't understand that, the hurt in her eyes. As if what he'd said proved something she always feared?

It was confusing, to say the least, especially when she said, "Maybe I did deserve Joffrey." and didn't sound at all happy about it.

Before he could say anything, the front door opened. They both heard it, and instantly they were wiping their tears away as Arya said, "We're here." from the living room, in a sing-songey voice.


----


"What the fuck happened?" Arya asked when she finally found them in the kitchen, looking between her sister and Jon as they stared blankly into their plates.

She glanced at Gendry, who looked equally alarmed. He shrugged helplessly at her and she looked back between the two.

She was hoping for a confrontation, for the two idiots to talk like adults instead of tiptoeing around each other all the fucking time. It was exhausting for everybody who saw them, and painful too, because anyone with eyes knew that they still loved each other.

Honestly, nobody even really understood why they broke up. Everyone was just expecting them to get married and be infuriatingly couple-y for the rest of their lives and then they were over and they refused ti say what the hell happened.

Arya tried to find out because she couldn't handle not knowing. And Jon wouldn't tell her anything because he didn't want Arya taking sides. That told her everything she needed though, and something she already expected.

Sansa broke Jon's heart. But she couldn't get mad at her sister, not like she initially thought she would be, because she knows Sansa loves Jon very much.

It was all so confusing, to be honest, because two people she loves were hurting each other and they wouldn't let anyone help.

Jon's struggle was more obvious because she saw him, even though he avoided her and her entire family - yes, including his roommate and bestfriend, Robb, which was so stupid - for a long time after their break up but that didn't mean Sansa struggled any less.

It's a lot harder to see what's going on with her though, because she was so far away. For Arya's semestral break during her second year in University, she flew to King's Landing for Sansa and though her sister was pleased about that, she still refused to confide in her.

It was infuriating, because she only wanted to help fix things. She's sure that it's just a misunderstanding, whatever it is, and all Jon and Sansa needed was a way to talk again. Unfortunately neither one of them seemed willing to fix it at all.

She felt extremely sad for Sansa, because in a span of a little over a year, her sister seemed so different and so closed off.

Anytime Arya would try and start an argument out of frustration, Sansa would just let it go. It was like she lost a sister and damn, a part of her was angry at Jon for it. He could've been here with Sansa, like he wanted to before they suddenly broke up, and they'd both be happy like they have been in the eight years they were together. And that's when she remembered that Jon's in an equally depressing state, and she had no clue what feel anymore.

Robb had said to give it time, that they just have to see the world seperately to realize they need each other. She'll admit that the idea had its merits, though she didn't enjoy giving Robb the credit. Anyway, agreeing that they just need time to mull things over, to realize that they're being absolute idiots, Arya conceeded to stop butting in.

But months and months passed with not so much as a sign that things between them were going to get better when suddenly, they were both seeing other people.

Sansa told Robb one night that she's going on a date with this Harry Hardyng person, and upon hearing this, Arya told Jon. She expected him to do something, to maybe try and get Sansa back now that he's running out of time, and really, she should've known better. She knew Jon the best afterall.

Instead of doing what she expected, Jon decided to 'move on' as well. Of course Arya knew it was a farce, he's just doing it to spite Sansa in his own mind, though she's not sure how Jon worked that out. And then he stayed with the Ygritte girl for four frigging months.

Robb glared at her everytime he came over for Sunday dinners, because it had been her fault why Ygritte was forced into their lives, her brother's especially. Plus, she really should've just shut her mouth, because Sansa only went out with the Harry guy three times before ending it, and Jon stayed with Ygritte for far longer.

Then after that, Jon was with Val, and Arya was extemely annoyed about that because she knew Jon too well, and she could see his heart wasn't in it at all, so he's only leading the girl on. And as if some gods were having fun messing with them all, Sansa revealed to them all that she's dating the son Robert Baratheon, their father's bestfriend, and within six months they were engaged.

Arya lost any hope of Jon and Sansa getting back together then, and honestly, she's not even sure why she's so affected by it. She'd been one of the few people that gave them shit for ruining the whole Stark/Jon dynamic, and yet when they did end, she's the one who swears they'll get back together. Unfortunately, as time continues to pass, it seemed less and less likely to happen.

Then the opportunity presented itself when Robb died, which is horrible of her to consider it as such because her brother just died - but then she reminds herself that she still had Jon and Sansa, and she refused to let them stay miserable when they could very well fix things and live a happy life when Robb never could.

It's Sansa who speaks first, bringing Arya back to reality, and says, "Well, this is what you wanted, right?" She raised her head to meet Arya's and though her sister's eyes were puffy and red, her voice held no proof she even cried at all. "We talked. Are you happy now?"

Arya winced. So she's not as subtle as she thought, Gendry told her much of the same, but she didn't really care if they knew what she's trying to do or not. All she cared about was that they're agreeing to go along with it.

Sansa left the kitchen, and by the way the front door gets loudly shut, she left the apartment too and Arya sighed, turning questioningly at Jon.

She expected something of the sort to happen. Gods, they couldn't have kept the charade up for two whole years and more without blowing up in the end, they had to get it out of the way somehow, and while she feels a little guilty for butting in, she knows it's what needs to happen.

When he finally looked up, he didn't really seem to have the energy to talk. But she needed to know, needed to understand just how much work she had to do to get the idiots back together. Jon saw her determination and without much of a choice, he told her what happened, in lesser detail than she would've liked but conceeded all the same.

When he finished, Arya shut her eyes. Internalizing it all. It's obvious by Jon's story that she's right, that they still, in fact, love each other.

A part of her wanted to punch some sense into them both, but more with Jon, because he was an idiot. An opportunity to tell Sansa everything he wanted presented itself and he didn't take it. Then again, he's never been good with words.

"Jon, they're not engaged." Was what she said first, because that seems to be the root of all this defensiveness in him, catching his confused expression, she adds, "I mean, they were, but not anymore."

"What does that mean?"

"It means I have to tell you something Margaery Tyrell told me."

"Margaery Tyrell? You mean Sansa's friend back there?"

She'd developed an odd friendship with the Tyrell girl after they met in King's Landing. With not so many words, Arya threatened her to protect her sister, and from their shared love for Sansa, Margaery became Arya's source of information. Telling Arya everything that concerns her sister. Marge doesn't like sharing the details, but whatever she says is always enough for Arya to fill in the blanks.

So while Sansa doesn't tell Arya a lot of things, she knows it. Knows all about that prick Joffrey and how badly he treated her sister.

She wanted to kill the little shit, even said as much to Gendry, but settled for a secret revenge she put into action once Sansa dumped his ass just days before Robb's death.

"You mean that prick beat her up?" Jon asked in the middle of her story, his ears ringing. Not once in his life has he ever raised a hand on Sansa - nor would he at anybody else, Arya knows, - and to think that some spoiled rich boy had done it infuriated her, and Jon now too.

Had that Joffrey no clue how much Eddard Stark loved and cared for his daughters? How he never raised a hand at them either? Who was this Baratheon prick to think he had any right to do that?

"Fuck." He said, slamming a fist on the table. "Fuck, Arya, I told her she deserved that Joffrey guy. Fuck."


-------


She wanted answers to her questions and she got them. Now she wished she stayed oblivious. She was right in the end, the pretty words were just lies, Jon did hate her.

She went home right after leaving Jon's, and ignored her mother and brothers as she passed the living room, heading straight to her room and locking herself in.

No one bothered her, probably because they all knew where she had been and rightly assumed that something bad happened between her and Jon.

She cried and cried until there were no more tears left and she's sure her face was a mess. She didn't care though, not when her heart was breaking in her chest.

She imagines how torn up it looks; like shattered glass being held up by adhesive tapes, some parts barely fit together, and with blood leaking out. The thought depressed her, because it wasn't just her heart that's broken. Everything inside her is.

She fell asleep at some point as she cried and woke up hours later to the ringing of her phone.

She blindly searched for it on her side table, not bothering to check before answering. It's muscle memory, as she'd done it a million times in King's Landing when all the people she loved were always on the other line.

"Hello?" She asked sleepily, turning to her side so she's pressing the phone between her pillow and ear.

"I love you."

Her eyes shot up instantly upon hearing the words, recognizing Jon's voice immediately. "And I'm sorry for ever hurting you."

She grabbed the phone and sat up from the bed, her heart beating wildly out of her chest upon hearing those three words. Her heart is begging her to say it back, to let him know she feels the same exact way, but a part of her thinks this is a trick of the mind, that it's not actually happening.

"You were right, I was pushing you to take that job in King's Landing, maybe I even pushed you farther than that. I knew that, I was doing doing it on purpose. I knew that once you widen your horizon you'd see that you can meet better people, people your level, and I was trying to protect myself when that inevitably happens. I just - " he sighed, and she knew just how hard this is for him. Jon's always had difficulty speaking his mind, but she had to hear this. "I don't know why you even loved me, but whatever that reason was I was convinced it wouldn't be enough for you to stay. You are incredibly intelligent, driven, kind, loving and beautiful and I can't -"

"You should've given me more credit then. If you honestly believed those things then you should've trusted me when I said I love you."

"I know, but it was just so hard to believe, Sans. Everyone always looked at me like I was a boytoy. Like you're just with me because someone better hasn't come along yet. Everybody thought that you'd see sense somewhere along the way, and I don't know, I started believing it too."

She knew people thought that, but she never considered Jon to take it to heart. Because she'd always been clear with him, always told him that he's her forever. She didn't care about what anybody else thought because she loved Jon, and that's all that mattered.

"You shouldn't have listened to them." She said softly, shutting her eyes as she listened to Jon's breathing.

She should've fought for him harder, she shouldn't just have given up. But Gods, she didn't think she deserved him either. She'd always felt like he could do so much better, find someone who was funny and intelligent and could hold a conversation with him about Westerosi History and never run out or just, someone better than her. She never even considered that he'd think it's the other way around.

"I know. " He informed her sadly, and her heart fell at how resigned he sounded. Like he's simply accepting the course of things again, like this is their closure.

She doesn't want closure, she won't take it even if he offered it. She just wanted him, still wanted that future.

"Sansa?"

"Hmm?" She asked, loving the sound of her name coming out of his lips.

"Would you - " He let out a shaky breath, then says, "Would you like to try again?"

She blew out a breath she didn't even know she was holding and said, without even a thought, "Yes."

Though she actually wanted to say it repeatedly, just so he understood how much she wanted it.

He's quiet on the other line and then something hit her window. She frowned, looking at it in confusion, squinting in the dark, until a pebble hit it again again and she understood. He'd done this once before, years ago.

She stood from her bed and saw him standing outside her house, holding his phone to his ear, and he's still the most beautiful thing she's ever seen.

Sne opened her window and leaned down the sill, staring at him and praying to all the gods that would listen, please don't let this be a dream. Let it be true. Please, let it be true.

"I also wanted to ask," He nodded to his car behind him, "do you maybe want to go get with me? Right now? So we could talk and just see where we can go from here. I swear you won't get in trouble this time."

She smiled at the sight of him, his eyes shining in the moonlight, and for the first time since coming back, she thought she might still have a place in Winterfell afterall.