Tattered Pages || Sansa Stark and VanillaCola

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  1. [​IMG]

    For the first time in quite a while, Ryan was trying something new. As someone who liked to stick with what he knew, Ryan had to admit that he was worried about making a change. Keeping to what you knew was safe, after all, and Ryan often liked 'safe'. It didn't carry consequences with it, it was usually easy, and it relieved him of any unnecessary stress that often managed to creep into his life. Being a professor was no easy task and often brought with it stress on a massive scale, especially when dealing with any of the students' stress on top of it. With any luck, this upcoming trimester would be a little easier, though he doubted it. College was never easy, even for the professors, so why would this year be any different?

    But no, back to the change at hand. The morning had been going well, Ryan had gone through his usual routine that he did almost every day. He was dressed sharply, though not too formally. The trimester hadn't started yet, so there was no reason to get too dressed up. But he thought he looked nice in a more smart-casual outfit filled with beige and light blues. For the second time that week, he had considered shaving, only to shake his head at the thought when he remembered what he looked like with a lack of any facial hair. I don't want people to think I'm too young to be doing my job, he had reminded himself, more than happy to keep his well-groomed facial hair in tact. Washed, dressed, groomed, and with his messenger bag in tow, Ryan walked down to his usual coffee shop – only to find it closed. A notice had been stuck to the locked front door, and after peering through the window to find that there was definitely no one inside, he looked over at the note. 'Closed down indefinitely due to health and safety violations'. Ryan's eyebrows shot up. He hadn't noticed any health and safety violations, though it was clear that not everyone knew what happened behind closed doors. And even if there were rats running around or mould or whatever, the coffee still tasted good, and Ryan couldn't help but feel a little sorrowful that his favourite place was now closed. And that was when the change needed to be made, and the 'new' crept in.

    With a sigh, Ryan pulled out his phone and did a quick search for any nearby coffee shops. Surprisingly, he found directions for one not too far away from where he was, one that he had never heard of before. It was a coffee and book shop, no doubt being one of those fusion-type places that some of his co-workers went to and often raved about. With just a slight bit of hesitation, Ryan followed the directions on his phone to the shop. It seemed pretty out of the way – no wonder he had never heard of it before. After a few minutes of staring at his phone and trying not to bump into people whilst walking, he finally arrived at the coffee/book shop. From the outside, it looked like a pretty nice place, and he couldn't see any immediate issues with it. Hopefully it doesn't have rats in it like my old one apparently had, he thought, still mourning the loss of his former coffee shop.

    Heading inside, Ryan glanced around and immediately smiled. He wasn't used to seeing books in a coffee shop unless people had actually brought them with them, so the sight made him grin more than he probably should have been. After looking around the strangely welcoming shop, Ryan decided that he already quite liked this place. Maybe change could be good after all. He only hoped that the coffee tasted as good as it did in his previous go-to store. Looking around once more, he decided to take a seat at an empty nearby table, his gaze still wandering around the shop as he took it all in and took mental notes of anything interesting. To be honest, this place looked much nicer than his former coffee shop, and was probably less prone to health and safety violations. Taking his bag off and placing it down on the table in front of him, Ryan had a quick glance around for any members of staff, his mind already thinking about what coffee to order.​
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    Sansa watched him enter, the door ringing with the little bell that alerted her to the presence of a customer. "The Lion's Den" was a hole-in-the-wall coffee and bookshop combined, popular during the school year, but not when breaks occurred. During the summer, people much preferred ice cream and frozen yogurt to coffee and treats, swimming pools over reading books, but perhaps this dapper man was different. He dressed nicer than her usual customer, that was certain. He was handsome, too. Sansa could deduce that much. She peered her head over the top of the glass-covered cooler holding cakes and breads, before ducking behind it with a gasp. She pulled out her phone instantly. Arya would want to know about this. It wasn't often Sansa found someone attractive, so when it happened, the sisters gushed about it for some time. Shae looked at her curiously from the kitchen, but Sansa did not address her immediately.
    [SENT 9:37 AM]
    Arya, there's a good-looking guy in the shop right now and I'm suddenly all nervous.
    [RECEIVED 9:37 AM]
    [RECEIVED 9:37 AM]
    TALK TO HIM. You need a good man.
    [SENT 9:38 AM]
    No I don't! Shh. I'm going to take his order.
    [RECEIVED 9:38 AM]
    For a taaaaall drink of water, amirite?

    Sansa shook her head and chuckled. She didn't feel like herself lately, the demons of her past coming to haunt her while winter was gone, but she was the kind of girl to find good things in odd places. Something as little as a singing bird, a happy dog or a handsome stranger could make her realize how wonderful each day could be. She looked up to Shae and gestured with her head to the occupied table. Shae, getting the idea, winked and gave her a thumbs up. "Go!" she mouthed. Sansa stood from her crouched position, straightening her oversized sweater and adjusting her orange bun. She snatched the notepad from the counter and a pen, approaching the man at the table with a friendly grin. Her pitch was well-practiced. She would not blow her cover. Merely talking to someone she fancied was enough to be considered a highlight.

    "Hello," she said with her charm and graceful accent, waving her free hand. "Welcome to the Lion's Den. Can I get you some coffee?"
    • Love Love x 1
  3. [​IMG]

    Ryan had gotten a little distracted by glancing at the bookshelves, wondering what books this shop had on offer. He would have gotten up and taken a closer look at them if he wasn't waiting for his order to be taken, and the last thing he wanted to seem like was rude or all-over-the-place. So he remained seated, moving his messenger bag off of the table and placing it down on the floor instead, just so he had room for his drink. As he looked around the shop, he thought about how strange it was for the place to be so empty. Then again, Ryan could imagine that such places were more popular during the school year, when people were studying and needing coffee to get by.

    Distracted by his curiosity, Ryan hadn't realised that someone was approaching him. Upon hearing the charming accent, he looked over at the source, face almost immediately lighting up as his gaze found a young woman. Her accent was unexpected, though entirely pleasant, and the friendly grin on her lips caused Ryan to smile himself. He had to admit that she was rather attractive – well, very attractive, but he tried not to focus on just that. He was there for coffee after all, not to act like some sort of creep. Her whole aura seemed pretty friendly, though he didn't know if that was because of her natural disposition, or if it was because she had done this so many times before. Regardless, it was nice to be greeted with such warmth.

    “Hello,” he replied once he had pulled himself together. “Yes, coffee would be nice. Could I get a latte please?” Catching sight of some cakes and baked goods over in a cooler, Ryan realised that he could perhaps do with some form of breakfast other than coffee. Despite the knowledge that breakfast was vital, Ryan often found himself skipping it altogether, instead snacking on whatever he could a bit later on in the morning. Though he couldn't pass up the opportunity for something sweet. “And what kinds of cakes do you sell? Or better yet, what do you recommend? I'll have whatever you suggest – I imagine you know what's best.”

    Ryan was really jumping into this change, he realised. He didn't know what it was: the new location, the nice day, the beautiful young woman taking his order... Whatever it was, Ryan was enjoying doing something different for a change. And considering how much he liked the Lion's Den already, he imagined he would have to drop in much more often. All that was left was for the coffee and food to taste good, and he would definitely make this shop a part of his morning routine.​

    • Love Love x 1
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    Sansa took notes for his order. He seemed like the kind of guy who wanted straight coffee, black with nothing else, but she liked making lattes and would oblige her customer. "One latte, coming up. As for food, the lemon cakes are my favorite. None of the pastries are bad, but I've loved lemon cakes since I was little. I have my mother's old recipe." But that wasn't something a customer wanted to hear, was it? Sansa bit her lip and clicked the pen nervously. "Ah, nevermind. I'll get you taken care of." She closed the notepad with a smile. "Feel free to read while you're waiting. All the books are free, just make sure you bring it back before the end of the week if you take one." Sansa curled stray strands of hair behind her ear, and left the handsome stranger to whatever he planned to do.

    When she made her way back to the kitchen, she closed the door and let out a long breath. Had her hands been shaking the whole time? She rubbed them together and turned to a worried Shae, who stood in front of the counter adding frosting to a cake. "Did it go badly?" she asked. "I can kick him out."

    "What? No! It--it went fine, I just..." She sighed. "I guess it's just a lot to take in. I mean, I shouldn't be flirting with customers. And he's probably twice my age."

    "You've always liked that," Shae replied with a wink. Her accent was heavier when she was being sassy. "So what if you're nervous? He probably won't cross boundaries. Take a chance. Not all men are going to hurt you."

    Sansa frowned. Shae would know, wouldn't she? If anyone understood what Sansa fought with, it was Shae, a girl from a trafficking ring who escaped and found a better life. She was always a beacon of encouragement for Sansa. Why should she ignore her advice now?

    "You're right. I suppose I can. Arya thinks I should, too."

    "There's nothing wrong with flirting. Just let me know if he says anything. I'll kick his ass."

    Sansa chuckled at that. She fashioned a latte and created a little leaf pattern in the cream, and walked back to the main area of the cafe, alone if it weren't for the stranger. She grabbed a small lemon cake from the cooler and placed it on a little plate, setting both before him with a napkin. "There you are," she said kindly. "Did you, uhm...did you find a book?"
  5. [​IMG]

    Watching as the young woman wrote his order down and then began to talk, Ryan couldn't help but smile even more. There was something about listening to her talk about cakes and her mother's recipe that made her charming, and Ryan couldn't quite understand it. In fact, when she stopped, he wanted to hear more, having been drawn in by her words and aura. But he wouldn't push her – he was just a customer after all, and she did have a job to do. Though he was the only one around, so maybe it wouldn't hurt to strike up some conversation. The information about the books was good though, and his eyes went over to the bookshelves. Now he had no reason not to check out this shop's library. “Thank you,” he said before she headed off, watching her head over to the kitchen before he turned his attention back to the books.

    Ryan got up from his seat and headed over to the bookshelves, interested to see what was on offer. To his surprise, most of the books seemed to be in good condition. Whoever looked after them clearly took great care when handling them, and he couldn't see any dust on the shelves or books themselves. After skimming through the shelves, Ryan found a title that made him grin. He pulled the book out, getting a good look at the cover. There was some natural cracks in the spine and a bit of wear and tear, but the pages seemed to be in good condition. Not like mine at home, Ryan thought to himself. His version had been through a lot, though he still loved the book itself.

    Hearing the kitchen door opening, Ryan returned to his seat, watching as the young woman came over to his table with his latte and lemon cake. He smiled as she placed them down in front of him, and gave her a kind “thank you” in return. When she asked if he found a book, he nodded and showed her his choice. “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” he read out. “In my opinion, everyone should read this book. I used to read a lot when I was young, but no book caught my attention more than this one. I keep my own copy in a bookshelf, but it's not doing much except collecting dust, since I haven't read it in years.” Realising he was perhaps talking a bit too much, Ryan stopped himself and placed the book down on the table, his gaze going to the latte and cake in front of him.

    Seeing the leaf that had been drawn into the latte, he grinned. “Did you draw this?” He asked, regretting asking as soon as he realised she most likely had. “You're more artistic than I am.” Deciding to let the latte cool down, Ryan moved his attention to the lemon cake, taking a bite out of the small cake. He was pretty surprised. Ryan was never usually one for the citrus flavours of some fruit, but this cake tasted more delicious than he had anticipated. “That's...very nice,” he said, nodding slightly. “I can't begin to imagine what your mother's recipe must taste like.” Was it weird to mention the waitress's mother? Perhaps, but Ryan had said it now, and there was no taking it back.

    “I'll have to come here more often. To think, I only dropped by since my old coffee place got shut down. I can't believe I've never been here before.” He paused. A part of him felt like he shouldn't be talking this much to the young woman, yet another part of him wanted to throw caution to the wind. He was the only customer in there, and perhaps he did want to get to know this redhead some more. After taking a sip of his latte and finding that it was much better than the ones his previous coffee shop served, Ryan smiled just a bit more. “I guess you've got yourself a new regular. I'm Ryan, by the way. Might as well know that if I'm going to be visiting more often.” There – he had told her his name. That was a good start, and hopefully not at all awkward. God, it had been ages since he had done all of this...friendly chatting. How long had he just made friends with co-workers, met up with a couple of old college friends, or caught up with distant family members? He didn't even do that often, preferring his own company. It was time for more change, and Ryan could see it beginning here in this coffee-book shop.​

  6. [​IMG]
    "Well, I'm glad you like it." Sansa beamed at his declaration of loyalty, and she knew inside that she wouldn't mind seeing him more often. "The owner here is one of the best people I've ever met. I'm sure you'll meet him someday, if you continue to come back." Tyrion was very protective of Sansa, however, and when he heard that she fancied this stranger in his coffeeshop, he would want to investigate. Rich people. She didn't feel the need to warn this man, though, as a little background check would suit Sansa just fine. She could never be sure of people anymore. The world was a cruel place, and she was not a light to be tampered with. Not anymore.

    "1984 is one of my favorite books, by the way. You've made a good choice. I'm a sucker for political fiction." She curled her hair behind her ear and cautiously took a seat across from him. "I--oh, it's okay if I sit here, isn't it? I'm sorry, I should have asked..." But he seemed kind and talkative enough, so she took her seat and folded her hands on the table. He had mentioned books and food--two of her favorite topics. She felt more at ease.

    "If you like 1984, you might like Animal Farm and Fahrenheit 451. Those are also really good. As for my mother's lemon cakes, I asked Tyrion if I could make them here, but he said I should try selling them on my own in a bakery. As if I had time for that." Sansa chuckled to herself, looking up at the stranger with a nervous smile. She could do this, couldn't she? She could allow herself a moment to break away from her walls and socialize with someone she was attracted to. It had been so long, and Sansa was so very young, but her soul was aged beyond its years. Perhaps he would notice that. Perhaps he wouldn't, and she would be back at square one.

    But that didn't matter. So long as her family was together, Sansa would be just fine.

    "I'm Sansa, by the way. Sansa Stark." She offered her hand with a courteous smile and hoped he would return the gesture.​
  7. [​IMG]

    Seeing the young woman beaming at him and his declaration of loyalty, Ryan couldn't help but smile back. Her description of the owner of the shop made him even more certain that he would come by often. Good owner, great staff, excellent food and drink...the Lion's Den seemed more and more perfect the more Ryan found out. “Well, since I plan to come back, I'm sure I'll meet him eventually. I can only hope we get along well,” Ryan said before taking another sip of his latte.

    Hearing that Nineteen Eighty-Four was one of her favourite books, Ryan found himself becoming even more interested in her. But it was the confession that she was a fan of political fiction that had him leaning forward in his seat slightly, not bothered by the fact that she had joined him at his table. When she brought attention to it, he shrugged slightly and shook his head. “It's fine, no need to apologise. I don't mind at all.” The conversation between the two of them was what mattered most to Ryan now, and he had no issue with her sitting down with him.

    “I've already read both, two great classics,” he said in response to the mention of Animal Farm and Fahrenheit 451. “The Handmaid's Tale is another excellent novel – the politics it contains concerning gender and social standings is very interesting, and you could perhaps even say has some kind place in discussions about today's political climate.” He stopped himself from talking any more, realising how close he was getting to a full-blown lecture. “Sorry, I can sometimes get carried away when it comes to politics.” Ryan let out a slight chuckle before allowing the young woman to speak some more, his attention focussed solely on her. As she spoke, he could sense that she was beyond her age somehow. Whilst she looked young, the way she spoke and carried herself implied that she was more mature, for lack of a better word. Something about her seemed to transcend her age, and it put Ryan at ease. He felt as if he could relate to her, as if the two of them were on the same page in some way. It felt good to be able to be so in sync with another person.

    When Sansa offered him her hand and revealed her name, Ryan found himself to be quite intrigued. “If we're going on a last name basis as well, then I'm Ryan Harlow,” he told her, taking her hand and giving it a gentle, but also assertive, shake. That was what people did nowadays, wasn't it? You shook hands with people? It was what Ryan was used to, but in such a situation as this, he wasn't sure. Trying not to linger on the thought for too long, he returned Sansa's smile and drank some more of his latte before his curiosity got the better of him. “That's a lovely name, by the way – Sansa Stark. I've never known anyone with a name like it before. Though I'm guessing from the accent that you're not exactly from here.”

    Hoping that he wasn't being rude, Ryan finished off his cake and waited for Sansa to respond. He was so interested in her and what she had to say that he hadn't noticed that he had finished his latte as well as the lemon cake, only realising when he went to take a sip of his drink to find that he was drinking down the last dregs of coffee. Acknowledging the fact that he may need to leave soon, Ryan thought about his next move. He desperately wanted to see and talk to Sansa again, and though he had confessed that he would become a regular of the Lion's Den, he wanted to see her outside of the shop. Was it bold to want to do that after only meeting her once? He didn't know, but what he did know was that he wanted to take a chance. If she rejected him, then at least they had had a nice chat. At least, that was what he would tell himself to try and feel better. Calming his nerves and composing himself, Ryan thought about what to say before letting his words flow. “I know this may be a little forward, but I was wondering if you'd like to exchange phone numbers?” He paused, allowing a nervous smile to grow across his lips. “I know I could probably see you here anyway whenever I dropped in, but this meeting has been so nice and I don't want to inconvenience you by stopping by every other hour of the day just to chat.” He laughed before continuing. “You don't have to if you don't want to, I just...want to get to know you more, preferably whilst being somewhere that isn't your workplace, as great as it is.”
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  8. [​IMG]
    "I..." What? Her number? Sansa blushed and curled her hair behind her ear, a nervous habit she was often prone to. It wasn't that she wanted to reject Ryan's offer--on the contrary, she was interested. Very interested. It wasn't often someone tolerated her love of politics, or even listened to her, especially in America where voter turnout among youth was virtually nonexistent. But what did this mean for Sansa specifically? This man was clearly interested in her, and her in him, but she had been lonely for so very long, never having known a touch of love or what it meant to be cherished romantically. This offer was more than just a phone number; it was opening a door to something foreign. Frightening. Sansa shifted in her seat and looked down to her painted nails.

    What should I do?

    But the answer came to her quickly. Coming to America was a chance to escape what happened, to branch out and spread her wings. And who knows, maybe Ryan would be far more accepting of her situation than others had been. Jon had found Ygritte, hadn't he? And Arya with Gendry. There was no reason why Sansa couldn't find her own happiness, too. She did not belong to the Boltons anymore.

    "Uhm...here." Sansa took a napkin and clicked her pen, writing down her number with graceful penmanship. She slid it across the table when she was finished, all jittery and nervous with excitement. She never acted much like a teenager, but she felt like one then. "You can text me. Or call me. Or, you know, whatever you want to do." She smiled sheepishly. Her leg began to bounce under the table, but she stilled it with a conscious thought. "I'll take that book recommendation, by the way. It sounds wonderful. Political books addressing gender stereotypes are some of my favorites..."
  9. [​IMG]

    Ryan had picked up on Sansa's habit of curling her hair behind her ear, and he could tell it was some kind of nervous gesture. For a moment, he was worried that he was being too forward, or that he had said the wrong thing. As much as he wanted to backtrack and apologise, he didn't say anything, and didn't dare push her. Ryan wasn't like that, all aggressive and demanding. As agonising as it was, he was willing to sit back and wait for Sansa to respond. His eyes began to wander around the shop, looking away from Sansa as she thought over what to say.

    When she responded by taking a napkin and writing down her number, Ryan couldn't stop himself from smiling out of both relief and happiness. Sansa's excitement was infectious, and Ryan felt like he was fifteen years younger, giddy like a teenager who had just asked someone out to prom. “Thank you,” he said, taking the napkin and reading the number in his head. “I'll be sure to text or call you, or whatever, when I can. I have to admit, part of me wasn't expecting you to give me your number, but I'm glad you did, so...thank you again.” Grabbing his messenger bag, Ryan tucked the napkin into one of the inside pockets and pulled out his wallet. “I'm glad you're taking the recommendation, it's a fantastic book. A bit uncomfortable at points, but isn't most political fiction like that?”

    Just as he was about to pay, he realised that he wasn't sure of the price of everything in the shop. But he was too happy to care, pulling out the usual amount of money that his former – very expensive – coffee shop often charged. “Here,” Ryan said, placing the money down on the table. “If there's any change, it's yours.” Looking over at the copy of Nineteen Eighty-Four beside him, Ryan decided to take the shop up on their 'return at the end of the week' rule. He tucked the book into his bag, deciding he may read it whenever he had the time. It was in better condition than his own copy, and probably had all of the pages in it as well. “Well, I guess I better be going.” Ryan stood up from his seat, an air of reluctance surrounding him as he made his move to leave. “But I'll probably be back soon. Maybe even tomorrow, since I loved my time here so much.”

    Making sure that he had everything, Ryan gave Sansa a smile and polite nod. “I'll speak to you soon, Sansa.” With that, he went to leave the shop, aware that he had quite a few things to do that day. The trimester hadn't started yet, but it was around the corner, and there was a lot to do in preparation for it. As much as he wanted to stick around and chat some more with Sansa, he had responsibilities to get around to – boring, repetitive responsibilities. Though at least now he had Sansa's number, and Ryan knew that as soon as boredom struck that day, he would be sending her a call or text as soon as possible.​

  10. [​IMG]
    It had been weeks since the coffee shop. Sansa had received a text from Ryan the night after their initial meeting, and since then the two had been talking virtually non-stop. He was considerate with her anxiety and patient with her hesitation. Sansa respected his maturity. Though they had yet to discuss age and occupation, Sansa felt she was getting to know the real Ryan Harlow. She'd become so comfortable over phone calls and texts, that when he asked her on an official date, Sansa was quick to accept. She stood before the mirror in the outfit Arya and Rickon had helped her pick, feeling like a naked fool, a shy naked fool at that. She kept her hands to her side and bit her lip. "I look so...available," Sansa commented, brushing out the sky blue skirts of the small dress. "What if he thinks I'm asking for something I don't want?"

    "Clothes are inanimate objects. They don't say, 'hey old guy! Fuck me!'"

    Rickon laughed at Arya's profanity, and Sansa shot her an angered glare. "I know that. Don't talk rubbish around him." Sansa faced the mirror again. "And Ryan's not old."

    "Totally is. But it's fine, as long as he takes care of you."

    "I can take care of myself." Sansa sighed, toying with her curls. "I've been doing it for a long time."

    "Yeah, but take this moment to enjoy someone doting on you." Arya sat on Sansa's bed, chewing on a toothpick. "He seems like a nice bloke. And I want a new pair of shoes, so marry him fast so I can steal his money."

    Sansa huffed. Still, she did not refuse to smile. "Goodness, Arya. What am I going to do with--"

    The doorbell rang. Sansa's stomach fell to her feet--she hadn't even put on perfume, much less found which shoes to wear! And what would Ryan think of her ramshackle home? But before she could stop him, Rickon had barreled out the door, followed by Arya, and clambered down the staircase to open the front door. "Ooooo!" called Rickon at the sight of Ryan. "Sansa, Sansa! He's all dressed up!" Arya was heard snarling. "Back off from our princess, ye can't have 'er, she's our lady and no vampire's gonna bite the heir to England!" "What's going on?" called Bran from the living room. "Why is everyone shouting?" In the backyard, all four of their dogs were heard barking.

    Oh, God. Sansa buried her face in her hands. This is not how I wanted this to go.
    • Love Love x 1
  11. [​IMG]

    The weeks that followed the first coffee shop meeting had been filled with talking and anticipation, with quite a bit of anxiety from both sides. Ryan didn't mind the hesitation, it was natural. He felt the same, if he was being honest. For so long, he had been alone, and it was strange to suddenly be thrust back into the world of 'seeing someone'. They hadn't been on an official date yet, and calling the situation a 'relationship' just didn't sit right for now. But Ryan wasn't going to deny that he enjoyed talking with Sansa, whether it be over the phone or in person at the shop. When the time had come for him to ask her on a date, he was more than pleased when she quickly accepted. A part of him knew that she would, but it was always nerve-wracking whenever such a big step had to be made. Though he felt the time was right to make that move, and he was glad that he had. All that was left now was for the night to go well.

    With the need to impress weighing heavily on Ryan's mind, he had made sure to pick out a suit that he felt would fit the date well. At first, he was worried that he was a little overdressed, but he needed to look good, and dressing up nicely was Ryan's way of doing that. Before he could convince himself to find another suit, Ryan grabbed everything he would need for the night and headed off, not allowing himself to be consumed by anxiety. However, that was easier said than done. The drive to Sansa's home was filled with questions and worries, both big and small. Did he have the right address, was the reservation done right, was today even the right date? Get a grip, he told himself. Just calm down.

    Upon arriving at Sansa's home, Ryan parked up and sat in silence for a moment or two. He checked himself in the rear-view mirror, making sure that nothing was out of place. And then, after a deep breath, Ryan left his car, locking it and heading up the front door of the house. After a brief second of hesitation, Ryan rang the doorbell and waited for a response. He took that time to glance around the exterior of Sansa's house, finding that it wasn't exactly what he had expected. But then again, he didn't think too negatively of it. It was fine, and nothing to criticise. From behind the door, he could hear what seemed like a stampede rushing to the door, and he prepared himself for the worst. When the door opened, revealing a young boy, Ryan was immediately reminded of the mention of siblings. And since Sansa's younger brother was opening the door, he assumed Sansa wasn't ready yet, and he would be left to the mercy of her siblings.

    He smiled at who he assumed was Rickon and his comment about how dressed up Ryan was. Then he heard snarling, and looked over in the direction of the sound to see who must have been Arya. Her words at first jarred him a bit, with the barking coming from outside not helping, though he soon recollected himself. Ryan's mind flittered back to a memory of his family, specifically of his niece. Back when he used to actually see his family, Ryan used to entertain his niece with notions of princesses and dragons and all sorts of fantasy scenarios and characters. “I'm not a vampire,” he told her, a slight smile tugging at the corners of his lips. “I thought Sansa would have told you by now that I'm a werewolf, and since we hate vampires, no one will be biting the heir to England on my watch.” He gave a timid smile, imaging that his lame jokes weren't all that interesting. Hearing someone else – Bran, was it? – calling out from the living room, Ryan could feel nerves building up again. There was something anxiety-inducing about being stood in front of Sansa's siblings, ripe for judgement. He was much older than Sansa, didn't look all that interesting at first glance, and was probably already at a disadvantage in front of Sansa's siblings.

    “Am I allowed inside?” He asked the general household, still keeping his smile up. “Or do I have to wait for the princess to let me in?” Whatever the response, Ryan just hoped Sansa would appear soon. Her brothers and sister didn't seem too intimidating, but he wanted the safety of Sansa's presence, just so he didn't feel like a stranger in this house.​

    #11 VanillaCola, May 17, 2016
    Last edited by a moderator: May 17, 2016
    • Love Love x 1
  12. [​IMG]
    Sansa cursed under her breath. "Uh--I'm coming!" she shouted from her bedroom, taking the first pair of shoes she could find--black heels--and slipping them on her feet. A single squirt of perfume was rubbed on her wrists, neck and behind her ears, subtle and sweet. She gave herself a final glance in the mirror. Oh, God. I look like arm candy. But there was nothing she could do about it now, was there? Ryan was here. In her house! She couldn't leave him standing in the doorway, not when it was clear he had little anxieties of his own. Sansa took a deep breath and stepped out of her room, down the stairs to where the "werewolf" was waiting.

    Christ, he was handsome. He was dressed sharper than anyone she'd ever seen, and it took all she had not to blush outright. She stepped down to the main floor and curled her hair behind her ear, clutching her bag in front of her. "Hi," she chuckled sheepishly. "Uhm. Sorry you had to meet my family like this, they're pretty intrusive."

    "Hey. Jon's not here. Who else do I bother?"

    "Bother Sansa! Bother Sansa!" Rickon jumped excitedly up and down. "When you have a date here, you'll get to have us bother you the whole time."

    "No! I mean--Rickon, enough." Sansa was stern and motherly in her scorn, and Rickon giggled before he fell silent. She straightened her back and sighed. "I guess I should introduce you to my family," she said to Ryan shyly. "This is little Rickon." He waved. "This is Arya," said Sansa, and the punk teen gave Ryan a nod. "That's Bran, over by the living room." She pointed back to the boy in the wheelchair, who waved with a kind smile. "And that's Hodor in the kitchen."

    "Hodor!" shouted Hodor.

    "Osha isn't here, she works nights at the bar down the street, and Jon has his own place downtown. But he stops by often enough. He's the cop I told you about."

    "Oooohhhh my god," Arya groaned. "Bloody hell, get out. I want a night without Mom Sansa around. Go!" She took Rickon by the arm and skipped back into the living room. Bran followed with an apologetic laugh in Ryan's direction. "Bye Sansa! Bring me food!"

    "No," she replied. God, couldn't they leave her alone? "I'll be back before midnight, please don't burn the house down. It's all we have."

    "If it does burn down, at least I know Summer would rescue me." Bran settled in by the couch, and when the XBOX was turned on to some game the three of them liked to play, Sansa turned to Ryan again. This time, her face was as red as her hair.

    "Sorry," she apologized. "They're kind of a whirlwind."
    • Love Love x 1
  13. [​IMG]

    Ryan was left speechless when he saw Sansa coming down the stairs. He could feel his jaw going slack, his worries stopping as soon as his gaze fell upon her. She looked absolutely beautiful, literally stunning. Ryan almost missed what she had said, his mind having stopped working. But he soon shook himself from his daze, a half-warm half-anxious smile forming on his lips. Before he could open his mouth to say hello, Sansa's siblings were speaking up again, and Ryan watched as Sansa addressed them. It was a little surprising to see her being stern, but he could tell that she was like a mother to her brothers and sister, and he couldn't doubt that she cared for them.

    As he was introduced to the family, Ryan smiled and nodded at them, still a little nervous about what they thought of him. Though judging by the waves and smiles, he wasn't disliked all that much. In fact, they seemed more eager for Sansa to leave so they could get on with whatever it was they had planned. Ryan relaxed, watching as Arya, Rickon, and Bran returned to the living room. When Sansa turned back to him, her face as red as her hair, Ryan couldn't help but grin.

    “No need to apologise,” he told her, shaking his head. “I remember you telling me about them – I probably should have expected it.” Ryan wasn't used to big families. Growing up, it was only him, his parents, and his brother, and they were all distant now. Seeing a family so close was refreshing, and whilst Ryan may have been nervous around them, he was glad to see how tight-knit Sansa's family was.

    “Should we get going? The restaurant isn't a long drive from here, but they can apparently be quite strict with reservations, and I'd hate for this date to go wrong so early – or at all.” He sighed, and then gave Sansa a timid smile. “I think we should go before I ruin everything.” He chuckled, and then held out his hand for Sansa to hold. He would only be walking her to his car, but he felt the need to be as accommodating as he could be. Heading to his car, Ryan opened the passenger-side door for Sansa and allowed her to get inside before closing it and getting into his own side. “It's an Italian restaurant,” he said as he started up the car. “It's meant to be rather new, but I've heard good things, and considering the prices, it's either the best restaurant in town or the biggest con in history.” A genuine laugh – not a nervous or worried chuckle – escaped Ryan, and he began to drive away from Sansa's home, following the GPS to the restaurant. Just being in Sansa's presence was allowing him to calm down, and as he drove to the high-end restaurant, he could feel his anxiety washing away. “You look lovely, by the way. The blue suits you.” Meeting Sansa's family had caused him to completely forget to compliment her, not that he felt obliged to do so. With how much she had stunned him, Ryan felt that she deserved to know what kind of effect she had had on him as soon as he saw her. Besides, he was more than happy to shower her with such words. It was the least he could do to thank her for agreeing to a date with someone like him, someone who should have been far from her idea of a date. Ryan really couldn't believe how lucky it was, and it was that thought that made him want to impress Sansa even more than before.​
    • Love Love x 1
  14. [​IMG]
    "Thank you," Sansa replied with a shy chuckle. "I feel so bare. I wanted to wear something more modest, but I promised Arya and Rickon that I'd let them help me pick something out--hang on. Prices?" She turned to him with a deep frown. "Oh, Ryan, you didn't have to spend so much. I'd feel terrible if you broke the bank just for me. I'm not that special." Sansa opened her wallet and fished inside for cash. She found three ones and seventy-five cents. Her heart sank knowing she couldn't offer more than an indecent tip by means of paying for the meal, and then she'd have nothing to pay for after dinner. What kind of date was she? There wouldn't be an "after dinner" at this rate. This was the twenty-first century, men shouldn't have to pay for the whole night, especially one as expensive as whatever Ryan had planned. She nearly bit her lip until remembering she was wearing lipstick. "I'm sorry, I don't think I can help. I left my debit card in the other wallet. Ah, what a foolish thing to do..."

    She could hear Arya in the back of her head, chewing her out for feeling bad. "Let him spoil you!" she'd shout. "Just get over yourself and get pampered." But Sansa couldn't listen to that kind of attitude right now, not when she felt the evening had already taken a sour turn. No chivalry could make up for dropping an outrageous amount of money on someone like her. Sansa took a shaky breath and tried not to let anxiety get the best of her pride. It wouldn't do to show him this side of her mental state so early; it'd scare him away in a heartbeat.

    And then, like always, she'd have no one. But at least having no one was familiar.

    "Uhm--if we turn around, I can grab something. Or stop at the bank, it's not too far from where we're going I don't think. Or I could just pay you back at a later time? I could do that, too. Oh, but payday is Friday of next week so I don't know..." And now she was blabbing. She shook her head. "Ugh. I'm sorry. Ignore me." Sansa resigned to look out the window and keep her mouth shut. It seemed to be doing more harm than good.​
  15. [​IMG]

    Ryan's smile remained on his lips until Sansa questioned the prices of the restaurant. Grin faltering, Ryan glanced over at her, though he soon returned his eyes to the road. A car crash did not make for a good first date. One of her comments caused him to shake his head, unconvinced by her words. “You are special,” he told her, the confidence in his voice filling his words and making them strong. “And I'm not breaking the bank, I can afford to take you out on a good first date. You deserve it, Sansa.” Out of the corner of his eye, he could see her looking through her wallet, no doubt in search of cash to help him pay. But even if she did find any, Ryan wouldn't accept it. He had asked her out on a date, and he was going to accommodate her. “Don't apologise, there's no need to.”

    Sensing the rising anxiety, Ryan began to worry himself about this night. But he wouldn't let it take a bad turn so quickly. He wasn't going to let Sansa's night be ruined before they even arrived at the restaurant. Reaching a red light, Ryan slowed the car down to a stop and turned to look at Sansa. She was staring out of the window, and Ryan knew that he had to approach her with caution. She was anxious, he could tell that much. “Sansa, you don't need to pay for anything tonight.” With as much care as possible, Ryan slowly moved his hand over to Sansa's, hoping that its presence would soothe her somewhat. “I planned this night because I wanted to make you feel special. And maybe I did want to impress you, but that wasn't the main reason...” Trailing off, Ryan chuckled nervously. “I mean, I don't have much going for me except luck. But I haven't decided to go somewhere expensive so I can look flashy, throw cash around and try to force you to like me. I've decided to do it because I want you to have a good night. Though, if it makes you feel any better, I suppose you can pay me back whenever, but just know that I may not accept it so easily.” He threw a smile in her direction and let go of her hand, returning his attention to the road ahead as the lights went green.

    Soon enough, they arrived at the restaurant. Ryan drove around for a couple of seconds, finding that a lot of parking spaces had been occupied, but he soon found a spot not far from the restaurant and parked up. Getting out of the car, Ryan stood by Sansa's side and waited for her to get out before he locked the car and led her down the street, strolling over to the restaurant. It still had that air of freshness about it, the clean and modern look allowing it to stand out on the little corner it occupied. From the looks of things, the place was packed, with almost no empty tables in sight. Glancing over to a waiting area, Ryan saw quite a few people stood around, most of them probably having not reserved a table. At least, that's what he hoped.

    “Hello, how can I help you?” The restaurant host had approached the two of them, the man taking his place near the front door. He smiled at them, and though it was a pleasant smile, it was one that was clearly practised.

    “I have a reservation for tonight. A table for two.” Ryan replied as he returned the host's smile.

    The host moved over to the reservation book, ready to scan for the booking. “Name please.”

    “Ryan Harlow.”

    After a few seconds of skimming, the host looked up from the book and grinned. “Right this way, please.” The host gestured toward the back of the restaurant, and then led Ryan and Sansa down to a free table. Whilst it was further back, it was probably one of the nicer places to sit – not too close to the kitchen, and beside a large window that gave the two of them a good view of the lit-up city. Once the two of them had taken their seats, the host placed the menus down in front of them and nodded. “A waiter will be with you shortly.” With that, the host returned to his spot, leaving Ryan and Sansa alone.

    “I can see why people like this place,” Ryan mused as he picked up his menu. Looking it over, he tried to ignore the prices and instead focussed on the actual food and drink. He had to admit, he was a little lost at some of the Italian, and thankful for the short descriptions underneath each item. Though even with that, he wasn't sure what he wanted. “I have no idea what to order,” he muttered, chuckling a bit at himself. “Do you know what you want to order? We can get one of those sharing dishes, if you want. I don't mind. Or do you want starters? Whatever you want, it's on me.”

    • Love Love x 1
  16. [​IMG]
    Sansa was eased by the touch of his hand. Did he know how to deal with people who had anxiety? Who suffered from PTSD? Could he sense the darkness of her past lurking behind a deceptively beautiful face? Sansa didn't want to think of it. She was already stressing enough about the date, about whether or not he would find her a suitable girl to call his own. Not that she needed a man, but Sansa ached for someone to hold her at night, someone to laugh with outside of the family who'd known her struggles. She wanted someone to call home.

    I'm getting ahead of myself. Sansa took her seat inside the rich restaurant and sipped heavily at the water provided for her. She took the menu and skimmed through the possibilities, ignoring the prices as Ryan had instructed. He was so kind, wasn't he? She smiled just thinking about it, and when she'd chosen her meal for the night, she placed the menu down on the table to look at him. Perhaps it was true--perhaps he had done this all for her. Many had come into Sansa's life promising protection and safety, but she began to wonder if Ryan's offers were truly genuine. He did not seem a liar. In the few weeks they'd been in contact, he had neither tried to use her or harmed her in any way. The night is still young, she thought, but much to her surprise, her suspicions fell away piece by piece throughout the night. Though her walls were there, she allowed Ryan to see a part of herself that she didn't show just anybody.

    "I think I'm going to try the seafood alfredo," said Sansa decisively. "And I'd like to share a lemon cake with you, if you don't mind. I have to try lemon cakes at anywhere that has them. I'm weak." She laughed fully, quite possibly for the first time in Ryan's presence, and looked out the window to the star-studded skyline. The city was beautiful. It had always been beautiful, but now Sansa could appreciate it without an immense amount of worry tainting the sight. The candlelight danced along her red curls, making her appear like a goddess of fire, of passion. She couldn't see her reflection, but she felt beautiful. For Sansa, that was enough.

    "So," she said at last, facing Ryan fully. She folded her hands atop the table and leaned slightly toward him, a more relaxed smile on her painted lips. "Tell me all about Mr. Harlow."
  17. [​IMG]

    Once Sansa had decided on her meal, Ryan knew he had to make a decision soon. “I'll have the classic lasagne then,” he finally decided. “And I'll take you up on the offer to share lemon cake.” The genuine laugh that Sansa let out elicited a chuckle from Ryan, and he grinned at the sound that had escaped her. Just hearing her laugh was enough to assure him that the date was going well so far, that Sansa was enjoying herself. It seemed that the anxiety in the car had faded away, been taken out to the ocean by a wave of reassurance. Ryan felt the tension being swept away, his body and mind calming down. No need to be worried, he told himself, shutting out the part of him that said otherwise. Just take it easy.

    With their orders taken by a waiter, Ryan turned his attention back to Sansa, watching her as she took in the city. The candlelight played on her features, and with the bold background behind her, she looked like the focus of a Van Gogh painting, stunning and invaluable. Ryan was taken away by her, and was reminded once again of how fortunate he was to be able to take her out on a date. Nights like this didn't happen to him, not in a long time. All he could hope for was that such dates could happen more often between the two of them.

    As Sansa turned her attention back to Ryan and leaned slightly toward him, he felt himself doing the same, Sansa drawing him in. The relaxed smile on her lips was easily noticed by Ryan, and he was glad to see that she was calmer now. “Mr. Harlow, is it now?” He remarked, chuckling. With a shrug, Ryan gave Sansa a somewhat apologetic smile. “There's not much to know about me. My life's pretty boring, if you cut out the few interesting things that happened way back when I was younger. Can't say much has happened to me in recent years.” Pausing, Ryan thought for a moment. “Do you want the short run-down of my very plain life? Born to two people with a bit of money and a lot of knowledge, did well in school, said no to every drug, liquor and type of cigarette out there – had a bit of a wild stage during college, but we don't talk about that – and now I'm doing what I wanted to do since I was in high school.” Thinking about it, there was a bit more to it than just that. Well, a lot more to it. But that was the brief description of his life so far. Ryan couldn't help but laugh at the next thought that came to mind. “I must sound like the most uninteresting man alive. More than thirty years and I don't have much to say about myself.” It was a fact that was almost cripplingly painful to think about, and so Ryan pushed it as far back into his mind as he could. “I mean, what do you want to know about me? Any particular secrets you're trying to dig up?”

    Ryan shook his head. “I'm not selling myself well, am I?” He had always been terrible at that, even years back when he actually used to go on dates more regularly. Always seeing the flaws, never highlighting the strengths. But he was an honest man, and as someone who was truthful, he often put it as it was – meaning his plain life was never really explained with much flashiness. “Besides, I'm sure your story is more interesting than mine, Miss Stark. In fact, I'm sure a lot of people's stories are more interesting than mine – now that is a fact about me you may not have known before.”
  18. [​IMG]
    "Selling yourself?" she asked with a chuckle. "Are you a ham? I'm not here to purchase anything, you know." Sansa grinned playfully behind her glass of water as she took a sip. The idea of someone with a particularly boring life was immensely attractive to her. She needed someone like that. Calm, unscarred. A fresh mind. On the other side of that coin, however, Ryan might be frightened or pushed away by the story she had to tell. Spending her life with anyone meant the other person helping her deal with effects of events long past. Sansa's smile seemed to fade at the thought. She could envision all this laughter and relaxation with another person slip away when her past was revealed. It was too much for most people. It was too much for her.

    "Thirty years without major issue is a good record. Keep it up and you'll have a happy life." Her smile was bittersweet. She dodged the implied question of her own story, and instead reflected the subject back on him. It was safer that way. "There must have been something to interest you in politics, though. What was it? If you don't mind me asking."
  19. [​IMG]

    Sansa's glass may have obscured it, but Ryan saw the playful grin on her lips. So she wasn't fazed by the idea of him being boring? That thought made Ryan smile. Standing out from the crowd was something he had been told to do by many people, and according to some, that couldn't be done without having some kind of interesting story to tell. But Sansa didn't seem to mind, and her playful comments were enough to ease Ryan of his worries. “I am in fact not a ham,” he replied, chuckling. There's something he never thought he'd say. “You're learning so much about me already.”

    Noticing that Sansa had deflected any questions concerning her own story, Ryan decided not to mention it. It was clear she didn't want to talk about that, at least not yet, and he was willing to let her have that degree of privacy. The bittersweet smile on her lips caused his own grin to falter slightly, though he tried not to bring the mood down by focussing on something that Sansa clearly didn't want much attention placed on. “Well, I didn't say there weren't any major issues – I just said I didn't have much to say. There's a couple of skeletons in my closet, but they're in there for a reason.” Ryan was glad when Sansa moved the subject onto politics and why he was interested in such a thing. Now, politics was something he could talk about. “It was from my father. He was very interested in politics, and had me read up on a lot of it from a young age. As soon as I could understand the basics, he was reading me books on politics instead of bedtime stories, and would shower me with textbooks, novels and journals on birthdays. Not that I didn't like it – politics was actually something I grew interested in because of my father and all of his encouragement. I suppose his desire to run for mayor also fuelled my interest in politics. My father took my brother and I to every rally, speech, and God knows what else that he could. At the rate he went, I would have been surprised if I wasn't into politics by now.”

    A warm smile grew on Ryan's face as he recalled his past. Both of his parents had encouraged him to read into different areas, but it was his father who had driven him to politics. “Thankfully, my father did not get into office. As much as I love him, he was a little too 'eccentric' to be mayor. Still, he took defeat well, and I guess just decided to push his ambitions onto me. But I'm glad to be interested in it all. Politics is the foundation of the country, it's good to know what it's all about and what lies politicians will come out with next. Plus, someone's got to be interested in it.” Then, Ryan turned his attention to Sansa. “What about you, if you don't mind answering? It's unusual for young people to be so interested in politics nowadays, unless it concerns them directly. What got you into it all?”
  20. [​IMG]
    Sansa gasped excitedly. "Mayor! Oh, that's wonderful. In a big city like this, I bet he could have made some real change. You should consider running for office someday. Taking action politically is everyone's duty, but you seem to have the right temperament for it. Attentive, patient, a good listener, accommodating, a genuine nature and a great smile." Sansa would have blushed to say those things, but instead a little laugh passed her lips as she tried to focus on raising him up instead of giving a flirtatious compliment. Her words were intended as both, though. "I could even vote for you now that I'm a citizen of the United States. I get voting rights and everything. But perhaps that's something to consider another time."

    Sansa thanked the waitress when she brought their food. The smell was nearly intoxicating and she sighed happily when it met her nose, just dying to dig in. "Oh, goodness. That smells delectable." But Sansa was a proper lady, and would not take her first bite until she'd finished talking.

    "My father got me into politics as well. He was a politician like yours, only my father was perfect for his job. Thirty years, he worked in Parliament. I loved my father's work, but I was never into politics when I was a little girl. All I wanted was to marry Prince Harry and ride off into the sunset with a crown of my own." She chuckled at the memory, but like always when she talked about her father, her expression became sad again. "It wasn't until after he died that I picked up interest. I inherited all of his political books and I studied them front and back, determined to make things better in the messed up government that took my father's life. That's why I'm studying political science. My ambitions go as high as Prime Minister someday, but all in due time I suppose..."

    Sansa smiled shyly when she looked up at him. It was a lot of information for spew all at once, and perhaps she had said too much and thrown him off.​
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