Cry for absolution
Sansa never thought that things would fall into place so perfectly. Riding her mare back to Winterfell alongside her half-brother – cousin – made her relieved and finally she can see that peace wasn't a dream anymore. They haven't spoken a word since she dragged him out of that cell, saving him from a sentence he didn't deserve.
She had stood still, her fingers intertwined on her lap as the man opened his cell door. When their gazes met, Sansa saw the confusion and the question on his eyes. She also saw wildness and sorrow. But she didn't see regret. And for that, she was glad. "Let's go home." she had simply said. Jon closed his eyes, nodded and followed her to the place he had always belonged to.
Leaving King's Landing was easier this time. Her head was always upwards, her eyes gracefully cold, her lips closed in a thin line that wasn't worry or fear, just desire to return to the comforting cold of the North. With Jon at her side, silently, Sansa said farewell to her younger sister and said that home would always wait for her. Arya Stark only nodded with a smirk on her lips.
Sansa held the reins of her mare tightly at the sight of Winterfell from afar. There were still much to be done, so much to rebuild, but she was back and she didn't intend to leave soon – or ever. Her heart already warm from the feeling of belonging. She looked at her right side, where Jon stood silently the whole journey and caught a glimpse of a smile on his lips. Their eyes met and for the first time in years, she felt happy.
Two days after they arrived, Sansa gathered the lords from the North. She had brought their King back home and she felt ready to finish what they started before the war.
"They will not accept me back, Sansa." He said, his constant sad eyes making Sansa want to hold him and never let go. "Not after everything I've done."
"You saved us, Jon." Her voice was certain, because she knew none of them would be alive if her brother – cousin – hadn't done what he did.
She sat by his side as the lords started coming. Sansa welcomed them with a small nod and a brief smile, but she felt tense. Despite having said those words to Jon, she knew that betrayal was not taken easily by the North. The North remembers.
She looked at her right side and saw the frown on Jon's face. His lips twisted. Sensing her gaze on him, he turned to her with a certainty that she had never seen on his eyes. Jon pulled his chair closer to hers and leaned his face next to her ear, as if he wanted to tell her a secret. "I don't want it." He whispered. She looked back at him, startled.
"Are we going to start this or not? I intend to come back home before dusk."
"My Lords, would you excuse the King for a moment?" Sansa said in her usual polite and distant way. She pushed the chair she was sitting away and stood looking down at her brother.
She heard the lords making complaining noises, but she was already halfway to the door when Jon stood to follow her.
"What do you mean?" She asked inside the nearest empty room she found. Her heart was beating fast. He didn't want the crown anymore? He didn't want to stay?
"I do not make good choices, Sansa." He told her. "I'm not the King the North deserves."
"You are the King we have." She spat. "You can't do this again, Jon." She felt betrayed once again.
"Sansa…" He started, watching his sister's accusatory eyes. "I'm not leaving." He answered firmly, knowing that she was afraid of being alone. He was as well. "Never." He said taking her hand, brushing their fingers lightly. "I just can't be their King."
She closed her eyes and sighed at the reassurance, but when she opened them again, her gaze was fierce. "We are going to discuss this with the lords." Sansa said taking her hand back, already leaving the room.
Back at the Great Hall, Jon sat and heard all of the lords sending accusations his way, knowing they were right. He wasn't as affected by their words as Sansa was, he watched her jumping on his defense, claiming that there was a bigger threat at their feet when Jon had made the decision of bending the knee, giving up the throne. It was a conversation they had had before, but it was a betrayal that cut deep within their people.
"I know no King in the North." Lord Cray shouted. Everyone looked at him and the hall was pregnant with a heavy silence. Before Sansa could open her mouth to ask what he meant, he continued. "I'm loyal to Sansa Stark, the Queen in the North." and he kneeled.
Sansa's eyes got impossibly big when the lords before her started to kneel. When Jon was crowned after the battle against Ramsey, she felt a clench in her heart, knowing that these lords would rather have a bastard as their King than a true-born woman. She resented that Jon took the crown without thinking of her, without even feeling guilty about it. But she understands now. Jon needed the validation at the time. Needed them to know he was a true Stark.
She barely heard the loud noise that Jon's chair made when he pushed it away. Sansa looked down and saw only dark hair, his face aiming at her feet as his knees reached the floor.
"Queen in the North!" She heard them shout. "Queen in the North!" She heard Jon chanting beside her.
Jon's first word when they arrived in Winterfell was her name. Sansa felt a sense of warmth in her body, a familiarity that she only remembered hearing by her Father. When she was little, he would say her name to praise her good manners, admire her needlework or her calligraphy. She could still hear the Northern accent, the pride in his voice as her name came out of his lips.
Getting off his horse, Jon looked at her and said her name. His tone was a little rough, but his eyes showed her admiration. Their home was being rebuilt brick by brick at her hands and, at that moment, he thought that there wasn't anything that she couldn't do. She marched South with her army, with the people who trusted her, only to get him back. He silently swore that his life would be dedicated to protecting hers.
When he said her name that night, she truly felt like a Queen. "Sansa, you are the rightful ruler."
"I didn't know they'd do that, Jon." She swore, worried that he could feel betrayed. But as he approached her on her solar, his hands taking hers, there was nothing but respect in his eyes.
"I believe you." his hands still on hers, a small comfort. "It should have been you since the beginning." He finished mournfully. She took her hands back, the reminder of what he did to Daenerys hanging in the air. If it had been her since the beginning, Sansa would never have bent the knee, and maybe they would all be corpses walking towards the South. She wondered if the Dragon Queen's ghost would ever disappear from his eyes.
Sansa walked her way to the comfortable chair near the fire. Jon followed her and sat by her side. "Will you help me?" She asked, her blue eyes full of hope and expectation, she even looked younger.
"Always." he swore.
A year passed after Sansa's coronation. The North was thriving, despite the harsh winter that was long and cold as promised. They rationed the food and built more glass gardens to grow vegetables and tubers, so they wouldn't starve. The livestock died on the first months after the war against the Walkers, not surviving the cold and starvation.
Sansa often wondered why she would willingly try to rule a land devastated by war and snow. But at the Great Hall, she watched the Lords and Ladies visiting with their newborn children, ready to fill in their castles with joy and laughter that only babies could provide. Sansa sighed observing the relieving smiles that parents had on their faces when she helped in sensible matches to unify the North once more, new weddings meant new winter children.
In a few years, she hopefully will see the new generation learning to take care and love the North like they did. She will see young boys and girls training in the courtyard, missing the target with the bow and arrow, she would see children learning how to sew, to cook, to plant. They will pick up from where the adults left and Sansa remembered why she chose to rule. Because she wanted to see the North prosperous and successful, it was her home.
Jon, she observed, was always doing something. He never stood still, she could never see him sulking in a corner, like she used to when they were young. He insisted in selecting people for her Queensguard, though she didn't see a reason to take able-bodied adults from the quest of rebuilding their homes to protect her from an imaginary threat, but Jon was adamant so she let him choose and train a small, but competent force that followed her everywhere she went.
Sansa was always busy during the day as well, from meeting with petitioners to choosing what they would eat for the week, Sansa felt exhausted at the end of the day.
After they arrived from King's Landing, Jon would often meet with Sansa in her solar to recount their days, or just to stay together in silence while he read and she embroidered. In these quiet evenings, Jon would only leave after she yawned or when he noticed that her hands were getting slower, but she never asked him to leave. He supposed she was too polite for that, but the truth was the she enjoyed being with him after an agitated day, where she had to do inspiring speeches, bring answers for problems that had no solutions, bring two Northern enemies together for a common goal. Sansa appreciated his quiet company, a moment when she could just exist without having expectations thrown at her.
Other evenings, she brought wine and they talked. The subject of their conversation would often be a silly episode of the day, or a memory of their childhood or even how they saw the future. Jon didn't speak much, but he listened well and comforted her with meaningful eyes and nods.
"They are impatient." She said after a long drink.
"You shouldn't listen." He commented looking at the fire.
"I have to listen. It is my job." She said matter-of-factly.
Sansa sighed tiredly. She looked at the fire waiting for a response from her brother, but it never came. He knew they were right, her throne would never be secure without an heir, but he wished that it would be her choice to when and with whom to have those children.
"Let's not talk about this." She said and he nodded respectfully. "How are your new recruits?" Jon explained that the few warriors left were getting new swords and armor and they would be dedicated to protect her.
"They need training, but they are very loyal to you." She nodded and Jon secretly wished he could watch her chambers' door all night, afraid that she would be taken, assassinated, raped. His greatest fear was being too late in a situation where he could save her if he had stayed close. But he would never voice his concerns, he knew they were illogical and born out of past experiences and different circumstances.
"Our enemies are dead, Jon." Sansa said softly. He looked at her, but his eyes were elsewhere. They were dead because he killed them. He allowed Daenerys to burn a whole city, helping in a slaughter and then killing her afterwards.
"Many would hurt you to hurt me, Sansa." He never told her that he was terrified of Grey Worm's revenge. "She inspired an entire army. It only takes one person…" He was dismissive, but Sansa knew what he meant.
"Do you ever regret it?" She asked tentatively. It was the first time they talked about this. They usually skipped those months as if they never existed when they talked about the past. Even now, Sansa is afraid that he will leave without answering her, offended and hurt. But he is neither, he only looks at her with tired eyes.
"Never." His answer was short and Sansa didn't push for more. A tense silence falls between them and Jon's lips held back a confession that had been bothering him since the day Sansa was crowned. "I don't think I loved her." He finally says.
"How can you tell?" Sansa asks.
"I think about you and Arya and Bran." He starts, fishing Sansa's eyes from the fire. "If you decided to decimate an entire Northern House, if you were cruel enough for that, I could never kill you."
"But you had love for her, Jon." Sansa knew they shared a bed, not in Winterfell, never at their home, but he was awed by her, by her power and her courage. Sansa imagined that any other woman would seem less after taking the Dragon Queen to bed. "I've seen the way you looked at her."
"I did." He admitted. "She was… captivating." It was all he said on the matter.
"Was it worth?" Sansa asked bitterly.
"Giving up the North for her?" She finished her question with an expression that Jon dreaded. She was disappointed.
"I've never given up the North, Sansa. I gave up a crown." He said tightly. Maybe it was time to talk about this after all. They avoided that conversation for a year.
"You gave up our independence, Jon. We swore to never bend the knee for a Southern monarch again and you betrayed us." There was a fire in her words that burned him.
"To save the North!" He insisted. His eyes just as fiery, he knew he had made mistakes, but Sansa must know that without Daenerys the battle would have been lost.
"No! To have a queen warming your bed!" The words left her mouth without her permission, like she had kept them too long and they wished themselves out of her lips. Jon's eyes became big, his face flushing from anger and embarrassment and shame.
He got up his chair, avoiding her eyes, ready to leave her solar. It was the first time they fought about the past since they were back and Jon wondered if they would ever forgive each other, or if their resentment would always linger between them.
"If this is what you think of me, why did rescue me? They would have hung me for treason, which you insist I am guilty of." Jon asked, his chest weaving up and down.
Sansa was still sitting in her chair. She looked up at him, noticing his hurting eyes, the way he willed to die and she felt ashamed. Her voice was calm as she answered "Because you are my brother."
"I'm not your brother." He spat, but Sansa was unaffected.
"Cousin, then. Family." Sansa wanted him to know that she was disappointed, but she loved him enough to forgive him; but she couldn't muster the words. She prayed that he could read the words in her eyes, as he did once, before a certain queen.
"Sansa, I am guilty of wanting her, but my duty to the North was never clouded by it." His shoulders gave up, he was pleading. "My only regret is helping her destroy the city."
They looked at each other, a long conversation held by their eyes. Forgive me, they pleaded.
"I know." She sighed. "I'm sorry."
"You have every right to be disappointed in me, Sansa, but I chose you every time." Jon was still standing, his feet pacing her solar.
"What do you mean?" She asked with narrowed eyes.
"She didn't want me to tell you about my blood." He told her. "She was afraid that you would do exactly what you did."
"I am not saying sorry for that, Jon. I do not regret it."
He sighed tiredly. "But I told you anyway, because my loyalty has always been to you. Always." There was something fierce in his eyes.
"As my own to you, Jon." She answered. "I didn't mean to betray your trust, but I couldn't let another tyrant take control of my House."
"Do you know why I killed her?" Jon asked.
"Because she burned an entire city…" Sansa answered.
"No. I'm not that honorable, Sansa. You must know that what drove my sword into her heart was the thought of seeing you die by dragon fire. Because I knew you would never bend the knee, because I knew you would defy her." He wanted to confess that for so long, but it wasn't her burden to carry, so he kept his silence, but not tonight.
"It's my fault, then? That you killed your lover." Sansa's tongue was sharp, ready to cut him in million pieces.
"It's my fault that I swore to protect you." Their discussion was getting heated again.
"I never asked you to." She said coldly.
"I am your brother. It is my duty!" He replied furiously.
"I thought you weren't my brother." Sansa said back. "You do have to decide what I am to you, Jon."
"Family." He repeated. "We have to protect each other."
"I was protecting you!" She shouted this time. "You should have listened to me, confided in me before making a decision!"
"I know that! I am sorry, Sansa, but we can't change the past. If you can't forgive me, I…" he stopped. He wanted to threat leaving Winterfell, but he would never leave her alone, not even if she hated him.
"I do forgive you, Jon." Sansa responded, her voice calmer. "But you have to trust me better."
"I do, Sansa. I will always trust you. I will do anything you want me to." He swore once again looking at her eyes. She only nodded, her face back into the flames before her. A minute of silence passed between them before she finally opened her mouth to speak.
"Then help me finish this wine." She offered him a goblet with a smile that always charmed him. He smiled back at her, despite of himself.
"Of course, Your Grace." Minutes later it was as if they had never hurt each other with words, such was the calm between them. Jon sat back next to Sansa in his usual chair and a lighter subject passed between them.
Jon only left her solar that night when he noticed that Sansa was almost sleeping in her seat. He bid her goodnight and she stood up, leading him to her door.
Before she opened the door for him though, Jon asked. "Sansa, have you ever been in love?" She blinked a few times before answering, not understanding why he asked that so suddenly.
She looked at him with sad eyes, a longing that she wasn't aware that existed anymore inside of her. "No. Never." Jon's eyes never left hers when he took her hands into his and led them to his lips, kissing her knuckles.
"I hope you love someone one day. You'll understand me when you do." And he left without saying anything else.
Another year passed, two years of winter though it didn't seem as devastating as promised. It was still cold and they hadn't exactly had anything prepared for the season, despite Ned Stark's warnings that the winter was coming.
Jon watched how easily Sansa made her decisions towards the low provisions to keep her people fed and warm. He never doubted her abilities, but how gracious she was as she commanded was a surprise. The way they fought from the beginning to the ending of his short-lived passage as King made him think that maybe she wouldn't be as loved as he was, for she was ruthless and sometimes even cold, but he underestimated how grateful people could be when their bellies were full and their children were warm. Sansa not only brought up their loyalty, but also their love and appreciation.
Sansa was sitting in her solar, waiting for Jon to tell him what she and Bran had been discussing about the Wall. She saw for herself the enormous hole that permitted the passage of the White Walkers, but she couldn't grasp why it was so urgent the need to rebuild it, since he guaranteed they would not emerge again throughout their lifetime. Sansa wanted to claim the lands up until the Wall as the North, but she didn't have the men to spare to rebuild it, so Bran wanted the land so he could send his own people to do it.
Of course Sansa wasn't happy to share responsibilities and she was a little upset that Bran would be so adamant over something that obviously didn't matter anymore, at least not in an urgent way. Her brother had never sent a raven asking if she needed help to feed her people, but sent innumerous replies over claiming perimeter. The Wall had no use anymore, in her opinion, not even as a place to send criminals and she was determined to pardon the men who still lived there and bring them back to help rebuild the North.
They resolved the matter by Sansa giving up the land for a period, and if the men in the Night's Watch helped, they would be given a farm within the North to recommence their lives.
"Sansa, do you think it is wise to doubt our brother?" He asked, sitting next to her.
"I am not doubting him, I honestly can't spare the men, Jon. You know I can't." She offered him a cup of wine. "We should wait until the winter is gone, at least."
"If he is being insistent, it must be important." Sansa sighed, agreeing.
"I need something of you, Jon." She started and Jon knew that he was not going to like it. "I need you to oversee this construction. I need to know if I'm doing the right thing by pardoning those men."
"You're sending me back to Castle Black?" Jon asked, resigned.
"I'm not sending you back, you know I need you here." Sansa squeezed his hand briefly. "You would go there every couple of months for a few days, that's all I ask." He only nodded, but she knew he wasn't happy with it.
They shared a silence for a few minutes before Jon got up to leave, but Sansa took his hand again, stopping him.
"No, Jon. Stay, please." He looked at his sister and resigned again, sitting back in his chair. "I know you don't want to go, but who else can I trust?"
"The Lords love you, Sansa. You know they will do anything you ask of them." Jon comforted her hand, brushing his thumbs on the back of her hand.
"Not like you…" She admitted and he couldn't deny. "I can send someone else if you like, I don't mean to upset you."
"Sansa…" He started, and then stopped. He wanted to tell her that he didn't want to go back there, where so many painful memories lay, but couldn't find the words without sounding weak.
"I know, Jon… I'll send someone else. I'm sorry I asked." She said raising her hand to rest on his shoulder. "I know you don't like to remember your time there, and I know I am being selfish, but Jon, you being in the Night's Watch saved my life. Sometimes I think about going there and finding you gone, or dead and I…" Sansa shook her head, trying to erase her thoughts. "I wouldn't have survived, Jon."
Jon knew what she meant, he also thought of that possibility. If she had gone there a few days before or a few days after, she wouldn't find him at all and he didn't like to think of what would become of her if they hadn't found each other that day.
"We are here now, Sansa." He took the hand that rested on his shoulder by the wrist and brought to his lips, kissing her fingers.
Sansa appreciated the way he comforted her by taking her hand, often kissing her knuckles. Jon was always very respectful, gallant, even without noticing and he might be the only man she will ever trust, so when he took her hand, the only thing she could do was smile fondly. She caressed his cheek, feeling the rasp beard that he kept on his face. "Thank you, Jon. For being there and for being here."
He only closed his eyes, feeling her hand navigate on his face until it finally left. He opened his eyes when she withdrew her hand back to her cup of wine.
Another silence lingered between them. This had been happening often, the way they touched each other, for comfort. They were the only people who knew how much they needed that. Sansa never let anyone touch her, besides her family. She often wondered if she would always be like this, if she would mistrust every man she saw. Sansa knows her duty as Queen, she knows she needed to marry again and produce heir to the North, but she couldn't fathom the idea of falling in bed with another man, not right now and maybe ever.
"Jon," She called his attention. "How is it, to fall in love?" She observed how his eyes grew over her question, hiding a smirk, though her cheeks became hot. She had an idea, her feelings long buried, but she wanted to know what it was to love right.
"You're asking the wrong person, Sansa." He replies quietly. Love was not his forte, he had been with only two women in his life and both were dead because of him.
"I don't dream about these things anymore," she sipped her drink. "but sometimes I wonder…"
Jon sighed, didn't know what to say. He wanted to tell her that she was young and beautiful and powerful, but those were the reasons why she had been sold over and over until she came back to him at Castle Black. He wanted to tell her that she was more than her face and her crown, but couldn't find the words.
"You deserve to love, Sansa." He tried. "You deserve to have someone taking care of you."
"I can take care of myself, I'm sure you know that." He chuckled, of course he knew.
"I know… But you deserve that nonetheless." Sansa only acknowledged his words with a faint movement on her eyebrows.
"How is it?" She asked and Jon sighed again.
"I… don't know. It's like being someone else. You care about them and it makes you weak…" He went silent.
"I'm sorry, Jon. You don't need to say more. I'm being silly."
He regarded her for a while before responding "You're not silly for wanting that, Sansa. I'm just not the best person to ask. My experiences were not happy ones."
Sansa looked back at her brother, her eyes recognizing the sorrow in his face, the regret. She stood up for a moment, not knowing exactly what to do once she was up, but decided to bend over where he was sitting to hug him. Her dress enveloped his body in the chair, she felt the way his hands clung into her back. Jon's beard was in her neck, causing a minor discomfort, but she wanted him to stop hurting and a hug was the best she could do.
They stayed like this for only a short moment before her back started to hurt due to the uncomfortable position she found herself, but the tenderness she saw on his face after she left him was more than enough reward. All Sansa wanted was to see her brother happy.
She sat back in her chair, not noticing the small tear hanging in her eye. Sansa remembered that very moment that she knew what love was, she knew that love was not like the tales she heard on songs and read on books, love was raw and protective and powerful.
"You deserve that too, you know? Someone to take care of you…" Sansa said with a small smile.
"What a pair we are…" He said mirroring her smile.
She huffed humorously. "At least we have each other."
"That we do."
Jon has taken to watch Sansa lately. He admired how sure of herself she looked while listening to petitions or informing the Lords of a political decision. He never sat beside her, he knew his presence was still a little unsettling to some people in the North and being their former King could give them the wrong idea. Sansa was the one in charge, the only one. So he sat next to the northern Lords and Ladies while he watched her as she spoke firmly to her people. He watched when she allowed a new construction to be build, a place where the small folk could learn a skill.
They lacked blacksmiths, stonemasons and carpenters. Sansa knew, when they asked them to join the fight against the dead that they would die if they went to the battlefield, they were not soldiers and most of them had never killed anyone. But she stood there and watched them part from their families, willingly walking towards their own demise. Now, because of that, the North lacked skilled workers. Some remained and agreed with teaching the boys too young to battle a talent that would help them restoring not only Winterfell, but the whole North. Mostly, they needed people who knew how to deal with the ground, people who knew how to keep their plants alive, so they would have something to eat during the long winter.
During the war, only the women and children stayed in the North, which meant that most men were dead or crippled. The ancient Houses in the North were now empty, no heirs could be found to fill the Bear Island or the Last Hearth. A dozen castles were destroyed by the Others and another dozen were empty because its Lords were dead. Sansa wrote a decree saying that the bravest and most honorable soldiers would inherit the empty Houses, small folk or highborn. Some Lords protested, but Sansa was firm. It was the only thing she could do to reward the bravery of the men who fought for the North.
When the meeting was over, the Lords bowed to their Queen and left the Great Hall, but Jon saw that Alys Karstark remained. She wanted to show Sansa her firstborn, a little girl with red hair and chubby cheeks. Jon watched as Sansa lift the small child into her arms and he could almost pretend that it was hers, the hair was right. The fair skin and copper hair were just like Sansa's. He watched her smile that never quite reached her eyes, a few words congratulating Alys for her beautiful daughter.
Jon saw when her eyes went big when the only Karstark left announced the name of the baby. Sansa. It felt right, he thought. Maybe she would grow to be as beautiful as Sansa was.
Later in the evening, Jon went to Sansa's solar, as always. He knocked and opened the door when he heard her saying that he could enter. She knew it was him.
Sansa was embroidering a wolf in her new handkerchief. She smiled fondly when she saw him and nodded towards the chair next to her, silently telling to sit next to her. He did as told, but didn't utter a single word.
Jon would usually bring a book, but he was empty-handed tonight. This didn't go unnoticed by Sansa.
"There's wine on my desk, if you want." She offered, knowing that maybe he wanted to talk tonight.
Jon got up and filled his goblet with wine. The peaceful atmosphere relaxed him. This domestic setting between them, every night, grounded Jon, made him forget the horrible things he saw and did during the war. He almost felt like he was forgiven of his sins.
"I saw you today with little Sansa." Jon said, sitting back in his chair.
Sansa shook her head with a smile on her lips. "Little Sansa. This is new."
"Get used to it. Half of the girls in the North will be called Sansa, you'll see." He said sipping on his drink. "At least it's a pretty name." He grinned at her.
"You think?" She asked softly, concentrated in her handwork.
"The most beautiful name. Sansa" He said, his northern accent amplified as he spoke her name.
This time she chuckled. "You saved her life, remember?" She asked, her smile fading.
"I found a husband for her when you were in White Harbor. Told her that she could keep her name. He is a Forrester bastard. Sweet boy."
"She looks happy…" Jon offered, sensing her unhappiness.
"She is. She told me her husband is honorable and she is pleased with the match. Happy marriages and new children." She said. "It's what we need to go through winter."
"Did something happen?" Jon asked and she sighed.
"It's nothing. Only the usual 'what-ifs'". Sansa was still working on her handkerchief when she responded.
"Sansa, tell me." He pleaded, wanting to know what bothered her.
"I'm not a little girl anymore…" she starts, her eyes focused on her work. "I know the world is unfair." Sansa takes a moment before continuing. Her heart felt heavy and inwardly she thinks that such thoughts would never go away, that she would always resent the things that happened to her. "Why couldn't it be I who had a fine match with a fine boy? Why couldn't be I showing a pretty little red-head off?" Her voice didn't falter as she spoke.
Jon didn't know how to respond that. Why indeed? All he ever wanted was to see his family happy, unharmed, safe. Seeing Sansa envying the life of a girl who might have had a miserable life since his father was killed broke his heart. He saw the wishful looking she had in her eyes when she held that baby. He knew his cousin wanted it, more than anything. Jon darkly wished to give her just that.
"Sansa, Alys Karstark lost her whole family. She is the daughter of a traitor. Her life was on the hands of a person she had never seen in her life. She suffered too." He drank. "Robb's war hurt her. She should hate our family, instead she named her firstborn after you."
Sansa didn't say anything else. Her eyes fixed on the needlework in her hands and Jon wondered how much time it took to embroider such a small piece of cloth.
As the silence dragged, Jon regretted his words for a moment. Maybe he was too harsh. Sansa deserved a moment to vent, he chastised himself.
"Your life isn't over, Sansa." He said roughly. "What she has today, you will have it too someday."
At this, she scoffed. "Maybe." It was all she responded.
Jon got up from his chair and opened the window of Sansa's solar. The cold was subsiding, he thought. Three years of winter and they are surviving.
"Bran sent a raven." Sansa spoke finally looking at Jon.
"Is he well?"
"He is. He asked about Dragonstone." That was a delicate subject, she knew. Jon rejected every Targaryen part of him, including his title as Prince, heir to the throne and Lord of Dragonstone. He had been a bastard once, then a brother of the Night's Watch. Jon was certain he would spend his whole life with no titles or land. Now, however, he was one of the most powerful Lords of Westeros, the last of the royal lineage of the South.
"I don't want it." He repeated his motto and Sansa couldn't help herself and she laughed, openly. Jon was mesmerized with that sight, it was so rare and precious to hear such sounds coming from her mouth.
"You have to stop saying that, brother." She said and immediately his mind screamed "cousin!"
"What? Do you want me to claim Dragonstone? I am not going South, Sansa." He was resolute.
"I know that." She stood up and filled her own goblet of wine. "Write our brother to send someone to take care of the castle. It is yours by right and it's the estate you'll leave to your children."
"My children?" This time he scoffed, much like Sansa had moments prior.
"Yes, your children." She said looking at him near the window. "Your life isn't over, either." This time he laughed to hear his own words against him.
Sansa approached him and felt the cool air coming from outside.
"Do you ever feel hot at night?" Sansa asked looking at the darkness. She didn't notice how Jon's cheek reddened.
"What?" He asked startled and she looked back at him.
"The nights are not as cold." She explained. "I often sleep with the windows open now. Winter is almost over, I think."
"Ah." he huffed. "It's definitely warmer now." He felt warm indeed and somehow he knew it had nothing to do with the weather. He eyed his cousin fully. Her hair was down and her gown was simple, but well styled. She was too close for his own comfort.
"I can't believe we survived the winter."
"You did a good job keeping the people healthy, Sansa." He spoke proudly looking at her eyes. "We are lucky to have you as our Queen." He enjoyed the adorable blush on her cheeks.
"Thank you, Jon."
She walked back to her chair, Jon followed in silence.
"You want to know what bothered me about Alys Karstark?" Sansa asked looking at the fire. Jon didn't answer, only looked at her. "Her husband helped her climb her horse. There's nothing strange in this, of course, but before he kissed her on the lips. A kiss like Father gave Mother sometimes." She looked at Jon. "Did you know I've never been kissed like this?" Her eyes were harsh, full of resentment. Jon gulped. "I am twenty and three, and never been loved. Married twice, though." She drank. "I thought I had outgrown those childish whims, but I was wrong, apparently."
"Sansa…" She shook her head.
"Forgive me, Jon. I don't feel well. I must rest." She said quickly standing up, inviting him to leave her.
Jon immediately stood up as well, out of respect, but he didn't want to leave. He wanted to show her what it was to be kissed, to feel warm lips pressed against hers, to feel hands roaming on her back, to feel loved by a man.
Recklessly, Jon stepped closer to Sansa, his eyes on her lips full of intent. He was but a breath away from her lips when he leaned even closer. Instead of finding warm lips against his own, however, he found nothing. Jon saw the way she leaned her head away from him, her eyes wide and full of questions.
Instantly, Jon walked away from her. Without looking back, he left her solar, shutting the door behind him.
Jon was avoiding her, she knew. He hadn't been in her solar for almost a month and she barely saw him during the day anymore, and whenever they were in the same room – never alone – he wouldn't look at her. Sansa felt punished for something she hasn't done and she inwardly wanted to scream at Jon, tell him that he was her only friend and that he had no right to jeopardize their friendship.
But he gave her no opportunity whatsoever and she was too much of a Lady to barge into his solar and chastise him. Knowing him, he would flee before she even said anything.
Sansa sighed and wished that she never told him about Alys. Why had she done it? Of course Jon would try something so foolish, he thinks himself the hero of a silly song, a hero that needed to save the helpless princess he thought she was. A pathetic girl who craved for men's attention.
She had just dismissed a maid, such was her fury that night. Sansa was pulling the braids in her hair down, smoothing it before lying down to sleep. Her woolen shift felt hot against her skin, the cold no longer made her shiver and she was thankful that the she had made through the winter.
With her head on the pillow, she thought about how much she missed talking to Jon. The end of the winter meant that she would receive even more marriage proposals and she certainly needed him to help her with the decision. Sansa closed her eyes, distantly remembering the feeling of Jon near her that day lulling her to sleep.
When she opened her eyes the next morning, she saw easy eyes on her, a small figure next to her bed looking at her without ceremony. Before her brain registered who was the person in her bedroom, she reached for the dagger Jon had given her before assembling the Queensguard with a jump.
"If I wanted to kill you, you'd be dead already." The monotone coming from the figure was reassuring, even if the words were hard.
"Arya!" She yelled. "How are you…"
"There were no guards on your door. You sleep with your windows open. It's like you're asking to be killed." The younger girl said with a concerned face. "Where are your guards?"
With a sigh of relief, she sat on her bed, watching Arya sitting by her side. Sansa approached Arya, hugging her awkwardly due to their positions on the bed, but the warmth of it was unmistakable. "They must have been changing shifts."
"It's dangerous, Sansa. You need to be careful." Arya warned with a somber face. "You are a Queen. I thought Jon was taking care of that."
"He is." She grimaced. "Don't tell him you got through the guards, he'll want to guard my door himself." Sansa said, but suddenly she questioned herself, would he still do that? Even after their semi-fight? Did he even care anymore?
Sansa got up the bed and looked herself in the worn-out mirror next to her dressing table. Arya was still sitting on the bed, watching Sansa prepare herself for the day. They heard a small knock on the door and Arya rushed to open it, finding Sansa's handmaid ready to help the Queen dress and comb her hair.
"It's okay, Gale, my sister is helping me this morning. Go see if your aunt needs your help in the kitchen." The girl bowed her head and turned around to leave the corridor.
"I'm not combing your hair." Arya deadpanned, as if the thought was preposterous.
"I'm not asking you to." Her sister answered. "Contrary to what everyone seems to think, I can take care of myself."
She brushed her own hair leisurely, waiting to hear what Arya was willing to share.
"I'm going north of the Wall." The younger Stark confessed. Sansa stopped her motions and turned to look at her sister.
"Why?" She asked, but Arya only shrugged as an answer.
"Gendry is coming with me."
At this, Sansa pursed her lips tightly. She knew of Arya's affections towards the young bastard turned Lord of the Stormlands, but last she heard of him, he was married to a young Lady, a baby already on its way.
"Arya…" She couldn't help, but scowl. "He's married."
"Yes, I'm aware. Lovely girl." She said without emotion.
"Arya, what are you…" She started.
"What do you want me to do? Be jealous of a little Lady he only sleeps with to breed?" She said with her usual detached tone. "I'm not."
"You're keeping him away of his land, away from his wife and child." Sansa knew this wasn't right. She felt empathy for the wife, knowing very well it could have been her in another life. Being disgraced by a careless Lord husband.
"I didn't come here to be judged by you."
At this, Sansa stopped her trail of thoughts. This was his sister and Gendry was old enough to make his own decisions. Neither of them needed her to point out their mistakes. "Very well. Help me choose a dress, then."
She opened the wooden closet near them, showing Arya some of her dresses she made herself. She took one of them in her hands and showed it to her sister. It was deep grey, made of wool. Long sleeves and a turtleneck.
"You'll look like a septa in this."
"Oh, come now, it's beautiful." She said defending her own craftwork. "But perhaps it's too warm."
Sansa took another dress, this one was also grey, but lighter and it had little details in golden silk. The sleeves were short, making her forearms exposed.
"This one is better." Arya approved. "You need to show more skin if you want to find a husband."
Sansa frowned at this and Arya noticed she had made the wrong joke.
"I'm sorry." She whispered. "I heard you were looking for a consort."
"I should. But I'm not." Sansa said equally low.
"I'll finish dressing by myself now, sister. Go find Jon, he'll be happy to see you." Sansa all but shoved her out of her chambers.
Arya stood in front of her door for a few seconds, blinking as if she was still trying to understand what had happened. Shaking her head, she followed her sister's advice and sought Jon.
She found him already breaking his fast. A pout on his lips and tired eyes adorning his features. When he saw her, she was happy to notice how his face lit and a smile appeared where once there was a slight frown.
"Brooding again?" She admonished lightly.
"I don't brood." He said as he always said.
They embraced warmly when she got close enough, his arms encircled her middle in a tight hug. Arya's own hands hooked on his neck. After long moments, Jon let go of her reluctantly. Arya repeated his plans to Jon, hiding the fact that Gendry would come along this time.
"There's nothing over there, Arya." He said with a somber voice. "Only snow and death."
"Perhaps it was like this once, but it's different now, I heard. The Free Folk are building cities."
Jon didn't have more to say about her plans, choosing to nod and sigh.
Before they could share anything else, Sansa appeared on the Great Hall. She was all grace and propriety, her dress showed more skin than Jon was used to and he found himself unable to tear his eyes off of the milky skin she exhibited. Inwardly, he wondered if she felt cold and he thought that he would love to warm her up.
He's been thinking about that a lot lately. How beautiful she looked. Tall and thin, all copper hair and tight dresses. Jon was smitten, he admitted, but didn't know where that came from. He knew she only thought of him as brother, and he couldn't help but hope that maybe he could change her mind.
Not that he was helping with that. He felt embarrassed, their almost kiss followed by her instant rejection made him flush with shame. Their friendship was so precious to him, so important, and he was afraid of ruining it, as if he hadn't already. He knew she was hurt by his withdraw from her life. He also missed their evening talks, their easy silences. Now it was all awkwardness and sorrow and Jon felt lost, not knowing what to do to mend their relationship.
Sansa's eyes found his immediately. She wanted them to go back to how they were before Jon tried to kiss her. More often than she wants to admit, though, she wonders what would have been if she had let him. Maybe it would have been good, maybe they would have even repeated. But she knew it was out of pity, and she couldn't let this hang between them.
Now their sister was back, and Jon couldn't retreat. He watched Sansa taking a seat across from him on the table.
"Good morning, Jon." She greeted. She only saw glances of him these days.
"Sansa." He nodded briefly.
Arya looked between the two of them and noticed how completely forgotten she was as soon as her older sister entered the Hall. Jon was blatantly staring at Sansa and Arya knew men enough to recognize that look. She immediately frowned, her expression became closed off and serious, her stance more rigid than before.
"What's going on?" She asked looking at Jon, but neither of them answered. Jon stared at his breakfast as if they were interesting enough to capture all his attention and Sansa blushed despite of herself.
"Are you two fucking?" Arya asked dryly.
"Arya!" Jon shouted her name and Sansa stood up rapidly, as if her seat was on fire. "Of course not!"
She continued looking at Jon, enough to see the truth in his words.
"I can't believe you're asking that." Sansa started. "Not everyone is like you."
Arya ignored the taunt, choosing to stand up and leaving both of them alone.
"She's mad." Sansa said, still a little spooked.
Jon never answered her, his breakfast became interesting again. Sansa sighed and shook her head. She stared at him for a few moments before she paced away from the hall, asking her maid to bring her breakfast to her chambers.
Alone, Jon admitted to himself that he desired Sansa and that was exactly what his sister saw moments ago. He longed for Sansa's company, longed for the looks she used to give him, the mirth in her voice when they talked in the evening. He knew that Sansa might accept him back, forgiving like she is, but the truth was that he wanted more. He didn't want to be her friend, her brother or even her cousin. He wanted to be something else, something new, something they could discover together. Jon wished he had the wits or the courage to confess, or to show her how he truly felt. But the fear of another rejection paralyzed him completely.
Now, to add to his problems, Arya knew. She saw it, her perception augmented by her training (or maybe he didn't know how to hide that well).
During this time apart, Jon took his time to understand what he felt for Sansa since that night. At first he thought it was a selfless motion, kiss her to make her feel what a true kiss was, but in his own chambers that very evening, he admitted to himself that he wanted to feel her warmth, that he wanted that kiss more than a friend or a brother should.
He compared what he felt for Sansa with the other women he had in his life, scarce as it was. He remembered lying to Ygritte and to himself, remembered how she loved him first, how she stole him for herself out of insistence. He told himself back then that it was duty, orders to disrupt Mance's army. But before he could help himself, she carved a place into his heart and suddenly he had to choose between love and duty. Before he could choose, however, their story ended by the hands of a little boy who later he had to hang for treason.
He told Sansa that his experiences with love weren't happy ones, but he had happy moments, especially with his wild girl kissed by fire. He wished he could have learned more about her, know her as much as he knew Sansa. With his cousin, Jon felt he had a new chance to love right, to start slow and build from there.
He compared what he felt for Daenerys as well, but the thought hurt him too much. His feelings for her were all consuming, all fire and blood. She was ruthless, strong and difficult and a Targaryen in all the ways that he wasn't. Her strength was also what made her dangerous. Jon felt blind by her command, he wanted to give her everything and never expected anything in return, but Sansa showed him how wrong that was. What he has with her is a true partnership, no threats, no difficult orders that he had to choose between her and his loved ones.
Her ruling was so different. Although both had the respect of her people, Daenerys ruled out of fear. She had dragons and she had her family name. Sansa didn't have dragons to threat anyone, but her family name was strong, she used it to make people loyal to her, not to fear her.
What he told her years back was true, though. Even if Sansa was as ruthless as Daenerys, he couldn't have thrust a sword into her heart. He would have died before harming her. Loving Sansa was consuming as well, but not in a way that made him feel overwhelmed, it was easy loving her in a way that loving Daenerys never was. She wanted him to serve her, and he was willing, but he wasn't certain that she knew how to love someone in a selfless way that Sansa certainly can.
In the end, what he feels for Sansa is like what he felt for Ygritte when he was young. All butterflies and easy smiles. But it also had that Targaryen fire that burned within him.
Jon wanted to find Arya so that he could explain to her what she saw on the breakfast table, but a whole day passed and she made herself invisible. At night, however, she went to his bedchambers.
When he heard her sure knocking, he thought that it could be Sansa, as it was around that time they usually talked, before he ruined it. His face fell a little when he opened the door and saw his little sister.
"Not who you were expecting?" she asked, noticing the slight change in his face.
"I wasn't expecting anyone." What else could he say?
Arya entered the bedroom quietly dragging her eyes around his chambers and adjoining solar.
"How long has this been going on?" She asked and watched Jon clenching his teeth with a wince.
"Arya…" He sighed, sitting in front of the fire and motioning her sister to sit as well. "Nothing is going on…"
"But you want it." It wasn't a question.
"Yes." No point in lying.
"She's our sister."
"She's not my sister!" Jon wondered when he stopped seeing her as his sister, if he's ever done it to begin with. They were never close as children, but he knew he loved her fiercely and he knew she loved him just as much.
"I'm not your sister either, then?" Arya asked with withering shoulders.
This gave him some pause. Standing up, he looked at her and he saw the little sister she's always been to him, the little sister that wanted to learn battle movements instead of dance steps; the little sister that had always been better than him with the bow and arrow. Jon never averted his eyes as he spoke. "What I feel for Sansa will never change what I feel for you." He put his hands on her right shoulder, squeezing it as if he wanted to shake her. "You are always going to be my sister."
Arya took a step away from him, giving him her back as she looked at the fire. "When has this started?"
He sat back into his chair. "I don't know." And it was true. He suspected it started from the moment she told him that they had to win their home back, when she was still his sister, but he would never utter that.
"She feels the same, you know." His head snapped at the words, but she was still on her back so he couldn't see the truth in her eyes.
"How do you know?"
"I've seen it." She turned around. "Before."
"Before what?" He gulped.
"Before we knew the truth about you." Her eyes were hard on him. "She was hiding something. I thought she wanted to betray you, but it was something else…"
"She never said anything, but I saw it." She observed silently when Sansa almost started a war with the South and the Unsullied to free Jon.
"It's none of my business." He knew she was lying, but he felt relieved nonetheless.
"I don't think she feels the same, Arya." He said after a moment of silence. "She still calls me brother."
"Maybe it's a kink." She said crudely. He winced. "Maybe she doesn't want to get hurt."
"I would never hurt her." He swore.
"Does she know it?" Arya asked walking away. "Besides, if you do hurt her, I will come back and cut your prick off." She left his room without seeing Jon's shocked eyes, knowing she didn't make idle threats.
She left two days later when Gendry appeared on Winterfell's gates.
The moon was already high in the sky when Jon decided it was time to go back to his chambers and sleep. He walked the dark corridors inside the Keep hastily, a low noise of boots meeting stone as he moved. He opened the door to his bedchambers and was welcomed with the warmth of a well-fed hearth and a candle-lit room.
Jon started to undo the laces on his tunic when he heard a "What are you doing?" from behind. He was startled, not expecting anyone in his chambers at that time and especially without any announcement of their presence.
He fumbled to find Longclaw, but soon he deemed it wasn't necessary. The person was his former sister, current cousin, Lady Sansa Stark. Jon shouted her name in all but dread to see her there.
"I was waiting for you, Jon." She sat on his bed, her back was straight and her hands perfectly folded on her lap. "We must talk."
Jon was speechless, seeing her on his bed made his blood run faster inside his veins, at night, alone in his chambers. The whole ordeal wasn't proper at all for a single Lady and he wanted to shove her out in name of keeping her honor. Instead, he only pushed a chair do sit in front of Sansa.
"We do." He said, but his lips closed in a thin line, not really willing to speak. He watched the cool features on her face melt and a concerned expression invaded her eyes.
"Jon, how can we go back?" She pleaded. "I want us to be friends again. I miss you."
"Sansa…" he said, but halted when she stood up.
"You had no right to do that!" She said as she paced the room. "I was confiding in you, I wasn't expecting you to do anything about that."
"I was trying to help!" Sansa huffed after hearing this.
"You can't help me, Jon. I only wanted you to listen. It was enough." She looked down to where he sat. "I can't afford letting anyone know I have such childish dreams, Jon. I can't afford these fickle Lords know I have a weakness. You're the only one I could ever talk about those things and you go and do something so foolish! Why? To humiliate me? I don't want a pity kiss, what were you thinking!" Jon couldn't do anything but sit and wait her finish her rant. It wasn't like he didn't deserve to hear those things, he knew it was wrong to try to kiss her, for that reason more than anything. He wanted to confess his love, however, he wanted to let her know that the next time he tried to kiss her would be out of love, but he lacked courage. He observed how her chest raised and fell, like it often did when they argued and he wildly wondered how it would look like if there wasn't any clothes covering her body.
"What kind of kiss do you want, then?" He asked suddenly. The words flew out of his mouth without filter.
"What?" Sansa stopped her pacing and looked at him, still sitting in his chair. His eyes were meeting hers in a heated connection.
He never answered her, his stare was heavy on her, waiting. They stayed like this for a little while until Sansa looked away, her cheek blushed as she muttered. "Don't be foolish, you're my brother."
"I'm not your brother!" He said loudly, catching her attention. "You are not my sister!"
"Jon… What are you saying?" her voice was low, spooked even.
"I'm saying I want to be friends with you no longer." He stood up from his chair and Sansa looked at him curiously. He was close now and Sansa felt like a deer staring at a her predator, her first instinct was to flee, but as soon as she made a movement to leave, Jon put both of his hands on her face. Sansa's breathing hitched, her eyes got big and then she melted with his lips on hers.
Jon was terrified. The kiss was tentative, just a brush of lips. His hands softened and his thumbs caressed her cheeks in a comforting motion. Slowly, Sansa's hands moved from her sides to his shoulders and Jon took that action as an encouragement to kiss her a little harder. He sucked her bottom lip and felt when she sighed into him. Sansa started to mimic his lips and Jon felt his own knees falter, the smell of her so close to him, the warmth of her mouth and her hands getting bolder was everything he wanted since that night and he faintly thought that maybe it was a dream.
"Jon…" was all she said when they parted. Her breathing was a little heavy and her cheeks had an adorable shade of pink. Jon wanted to explain what he went through with their separation, but as soon as he opened his mouth to speak, she drew him back to another kiss. This time, Jon let go of any restrains and put both of his hands around her, their bodies flushed and their mouths hot. Sansa's hands cupped his face to keep him close and Jon opened his mouth to taste her lips.
This kiss was desperate and needy, a mess of lips, teeth and tongue, hands that hovered anywhere they found bare skin and low moans left their mouths without their consent. Sansa abandoned his lips suddenly, her hands still on the back of his nape and her hot breathing hitting Jon's neck, making him shiver.
"Jon…" she whispered again.
"Sansa… I don't want to be your brother." He whispered against her cheek.
"You're not." And she kissed him again. This one was less desperate, but just as deep. Jon took his time exploring each corner of her mouth, darting his tongue inside with licks and probs. His hands now laced in her hair, bringing her face close to his. Sansa felt her body pressed against his, their chest so close together that she could barely breathe, his leg was pressed between her legs and his knee touched her in a way that only a husband should.
She opened her eyes and ended the kiss abruptly, using her hands to put some space between her and Jon.
"I must go." She said and her breathing was still fast.
"Sansa… I'm so-" Jon started, feeling that he might have ruined his relationship with her forever.
"Don't!" She interrupted, her hands touched his. "It was lovely." She said, watching him relax with a deep sigh. "I must go."
Sansa walked towards the door with both her hands pressed against her chest, but before she could leave his room, she turned back to him and asked "Come to my solar tomorrow evening?" Jon could only nod.
And she left.
The following night was just as feverish. He entered her solar tentatively, not knowing what to expect, but soon his doubts evaporated when Sansa pushed their bodies together in a heated kiss. Her hands grabbing his loose hair between her fingers with more strength that Jon thought she could. Quickly taking control of their embrace, Jon spun them around to pin Sansa on the door, never leaving her mouth.
"I love you." He blurted without thinking. His mind was still foggy for lack of oxygen and his senses dulled by the feel of her in his arms.
Still catching her own breathing, Sansa's eyes were impossibly big with his confession. She knew they loved each other, but she never thought that this was the kind of love they could ever share, not after their shared childhood as siblings, not after Daenerys.
What she felt for Jon after Castle Black was confusing, in the least. After leaving for King's Landing, after her father's beheading, Sansa was never treated as a person anymore. She was the key to the North, a pawn used by powerful men and women to control the land that had always been rightfully hers. After escaping Ramsey, however, she met Jon again. A man newly back from the dead just for her, to help her, to see her. And she couldn't help but fall in love.
She knew it was wrong and she never truly admitted to anyone or even herself. Sansa saw in her brother a man who would die to set her free, to give back her home without asking for anything in return. She struggled to hide her feelings then, because it became so easy to treat him as a husband. She used to sew his clothes, she cut his hair, shaved his beard, as she herself had seen her mother do many times to her Lord husband, her father.
When Jon left to Dragonstone, she managed to keep her feelings at bay. The distance, and her occupied days left little time for daydreams. When he returned with Daenerys at his side, she knew that he had fallen in love, as he would eventually, because she was no woman for him, she was his sister. She suppressed that feeling so much that she even forgot they were there; it was so easy to pretend.
After she saved him from execution, they were back to that easy routine. It was different from when they first took Winterfell, they were more distant and the lines between them were clearer. She didn't shave him anymore, or sew his clothes. He was truly her friend, her brother, or cousin. Nothing more. She was content with their relationship. Until that night, when he tried to kiss her. Out of pity.
But something changed between them. Arya saw it before she did. The repressed feelings came back as a waterfall after they kissed each other the previous night. Sansa spent the whole day thinking about their kiss, longing for his mouth and tongue in a way that she never allowed herself. Her heart beat fast when she saw him training in the courtyard, surrounded by Northern children that she could so easily pretend they were theirs.
She waited for him in her solar, and time could not go any slower. When she finally heard him asking for entrance, her heart beat fast and she suddenly knew what she wanted from him, without shame, without self-deprecation.
Still being held between his body and the door, she put some distance between her face and his. "How long?" She had to ask.
"I don't know, Sansa. I can't explain…" He said with his eyes unsure, afraid that his confession was made too early. "I know you don't feel the same, but I ca-"
He was interrupted by her own confession of love "I feel the same, Jon." She said with her palms cupping his bearded face. "I've loved you for a long time."
"Sansa…" It was a whisper, his head falling on her right shoulder. "I'm sorry I didn't see it before, I should have seen it."
"It doesn't matter now, does it?" She said with her fingers on his curls.
"Everything would be so different if I had seen it, Sansa."
"It doesn't matter now." She said with more certainty now. "Kiss me, Jon."
They kissed in earnest that night and the following nights. Each evening more heated than the other, with experimentation and daring touches that made Sansa blush.
Weeks after their confession, Jon had Sansa sitting on her desk and he was between her legs. Their mouths were glued to each other and hands everywhere. He nipped on her lips and traced a path of kisses on her chin and jaw until she felt wet kisses on that very spot on her neck that she discovered to give immense pleasure. He sucked and nipped until she shivered and allowed his hands to explore more of her. He pushed her skirts up until he could feel Sansa's bare skin on his fingers. Light touches on the softness of her legs and thighs in her fingertips.
Sansa was lightheaded with the sensation of being explored with hands and tongue, moans leaving her mouth without her consent. She felt Jon's hands up her legs, up and up and up until she felt him cupping her sex lightly. That was when she opened her eyes abruptly and pushed him away from her, earning a confused look following the start of an apology.
She left her desk and stood up with her chest raising and falling. "Don't apologize, Jon."
"What did I do wrong?" He was equally breathless.
She turned around to hide the flush on her cheeks. "I've been married twice, Jon. You know I'm no maiden." She turned around again to see him. "But I'm still a Lady."
Jon stared at her for a few moments before realization hit him. When it did, a chuckle escaped his lips and he closed the distance between them once again. "That you are, my love."
"Well, then. You know." She said watching the way he held her knuckles.
"Marry me, Sansa. Tonight." He kissed her hands so sweetly and she considered him for a moment.
"Jon, the Lords would never allow you to be King again." She sad as softly as she could with her hand touching his face.
"I'm not asking to be King, Sansa. I only mean to have you."
"Would you accept being a consort? Your family name is powerful, Jon. You'd be the last Targaryen." Sansa warned him that if he accepted being her consort, their children would have the Stark name.
"That family should've ended with Daenerys."
"Then yes." She said simply, earning a smile she rarely saw on his features. "But we must have witnesses, and a Maester to record it."
"There are two guards outside your door. And we can wake Maester Wolkan up any time. I'm sure he won't be angry." He said with an excitement that she had never seen on his face. It was contagious and she walked around the room while Jon watched how her skirts swung with the movement of her hips.
The Heart Tree was dark and cold, but the couple marrying under the Old Gods were bursting in joy. Maester Wolkan was not as willing as Jon thought, but he left his room with his books to officiate the union. Jon and Sansa ran back to her bedchambers with feverish touches barely waiting the door closing to consummate their marriage. Thrice married, Sansa thought. Once loved.
Jon was soft and patient, but Sansa asked for more, and harder, and deeper. They only slept when the dawn was almost approaching that night.
The news of their marriage spread like wildfire. The guards outside Sansa's door never let the handmaidens enter her bedchambers the following morning, allowing the newlyweds a few more moments of peace.
Jon woke up first. Sansa's open window allowed him to see the radiance reflecting on her red hair and her milky skin. She slept with her belly down and Jon smiled thinking that even sleeping she was like a Lady. Her legs were pressed together, making her ass plumper and full. All he could think of was "mine" with his lips tracing the bones of her spine, softly and ardently at the same time. His hands teased her ribcage, making her wake up with a moan that made him hard immediately, reminding him of the night before.
"Good morning, my Lady." He said with his lips still pressed on her back.
"Good morning, my Lord." She said with a smile, her voice coarse.
Jon continued down until she kissed each cheek of her ass, leaving hot and wet traces until he found her cunt, a gasp of surprise left her lips as he licked her warmth. She opened her legs to allow a more access and he hummed on her, pleased with her willingness.
Sansa closed her eyes and hugged her pillows as she felt him slip two fingers in her, her arched back making the whole ordeal a bit awkward, so Jon suddenly flipped her around easily. She opened her eyes a little startled, but soon she melted again with his tongue circling the bundle of nerves that she discovered the night before. His fingers resumed his movements inside of her and Jon felt the way she rocked her hips to find his fingers midway. "Peak for me, wife." He whispered on her cunt, his fingers working her sweetly.
"Jon…" It was all she could manage as she felt the powerful sensation of an explosion happening within her. Her legs shook and her hands held her pillows for dear life as her mouth whispered incoherently on them.
Jon watched the way she wore her peak out and thanked all the gods that he could be the one to see such a sweet image. He waited until her body calmed down to rest beside her.
Sansa put a hand on his face and he leaned on it for a few moments with his eyes closed. "I can't believe I got married again." She said grinning.
"I hope it is the last time." He jested.
"It is. I promise, Jon." She said solemnly.
"I love you." He said with a kiss on her mouth. They kissed leisurely, the morning slumber still hanging on their room.
They slept once again, Sansa rested on her pillows while Jon's head was on her breasts.
Jon woke up with Sansa moving beside him. With his eyes still closed, he felt her hands roaming on his body and her lips finding his once more. He kissed her back fervently holding her hair with a possessive feeling that he didn't know he had inside of him.
He opened his eyes when she left his mouth and positioned herself on his lap. He looked up at his newly wife as if she was a goddess and felt with a sigh when she entered him, moving her hips lazily. Her pace meant to entice him and drive him mad, he thought. Jon's hand found her breasts and he touched them as the sacred things he was sure they were.
It didn't take long until he spilled inside of her, hoping secretly that his seed took root, already imagining his wife full with a baby that was made in this very bed, by two people that loved each other.
Sansa fell back on his arms after his release, her hand caressing the beard on his face.
No one had ever loved him so sweetly.
Jon woke up with the sounds of a baby fussing beside him. She was already three months old, but Sansa couldn't let their fourth child out of her sight for a minute. Jon understood, because he felt the same, but less in intensity.
When Lya was born, the Maester said she wouldn't survive the night. She came out of Sansa's womb too early and she was so small when they first held her, so delicate and beautiful. She has black hair and grey eyes and she reminded them so much of Arya
It was a stormy night, Sansa's screams were often muffled by the thunders. Jon stood outside the room, but when he heard the baby crying, he stormed in with a happy smile that faded immediately when she saw the amount of blood coming out of his wife. One of the midwives handed him the sweet girl so she could work on Sansa, they were trying to stop the bleeding. He felt desperate, remembering how his own mother died in a birthing bed.
Maester Wolkan didn't spare him of another cruelty, telling him that the child was early and she had little chance of survival. Jon remembers little after that. He held his daughter fiercely, kissed her wet brow and kept his child warm for as long as he could, trying not to break apart.
But theirs was a story of survival. Both mother and child lived through the night and Jon spent the following night praying by the Heart Tree, thanking the Old Gods for keeping his family safe.
Since then, Sansa has kept Lya close. She arranged a small cot so she would sleep in the same room as their parents. Jon woke up in the middle of the night sometimes just to see if she was breathing. He knew Sansa did the same.
He opened his eyes and saw Sansa nursing their baby. He observed for a while before getting up and kissing both their heads as he started to dress himself for another day. He was interrupted by a knock on the door.
"It's Robb." Their firstborn. The heir of Winterfell.
He was but a lad of ten and one. Dark curls on top of his head and grey eyes making him a copy of his father. He was a cool-tempered boy, a winter child. Dutiful and honorable. But differently from what everyone would think, he was not taken to swordplay, like his father. He tried to learn and would always obey his trainers, but his passion lay with books and the lessons he learned from the Maester. Jon was proud, certainly, but he was his mother's child through and through.
"Mother, Father." He said, very politely. "I was wondering if I could skip our training this morning. I have an assignment for Maester Wolkan that I wasn't able to complete."
So proper. Just like his mother. "Of course, son. Finish your assignment. We'll train tomorrow."
"Thank you, Father." He smiled brightly and Jon could tell that he was nervous for asking such a thing. Robb knew that he was their heir and that someday he would be the King in the North, which meant that he also knew he should be able to swing a sword should the times of peace end. But that wasn't him, he knew. This was Rickard, his younger brother.
Rickard was a shy boy, quiet and brooding like Jon Snow. He was only eight, but he longed for a sword on his hands, bragged as he defeated his brother, even though he was younger. He had something to prove, it seemed.
Jon never thought that he would see violet eyes again. Rickard was born with Tully hair, Tully freckles, but Targaryen eyes. That violet color haunted Jon's dreams even after so many years. When his third child was born, Jon looked at him for the first time when he was in his wife's arms. Small, but healthy. His wet hair was darker, but it was clear to him that he would be a copy of Robb Stark. But then, he opened his eyes. The unmistakable color had Jon out of his wits, Sansa was surprised, but not spooked. He left the room a few moments later and didn't return.
As the days passed, Jon would visit the child once a day, but never lingered too much and avoided taking him on his arms. Sansa was deeply hurt by her husband's response and feared that he would reject their child for his eye color, it wasn't fair.
When the boy was a month old, Sansa confronted Jon. "If you can't love him, I think it's best if you left."
The following night, Jon didn't go to her bed and Sansa mourned for the end of her marriage. But as she woke up the next morning to nurse Rickard, she found Jon sitting in a rocking chair that she used to feed her babies, their newborn in his arms. Jon explained to her that he had spent the night with him so he could see himself on the baby. He started to recount the similarities that he saw on Rickard: his ears were just like Sansa's; his nose was unmistakably his own; his hair looked so much like Robb's red curls. There wasn't anything inherently bad in violet eyes, he supposed.
As he delivered their son to his mother, Jon said that they would raise a good, strong and just child. Sansa could only agree.
"He'll want to know why his eyes are different, Jon." Sansa asked as she felt the baby suckling on her breasts. "Will you be prepared to answer?"
Jon knew that he would have to learn about his family. As Rickard grew, he started to notice how people avoided looking at him, how they would always look at anything in his face except his eyes. One day he asked Jon about it. "Why are my eyes purple?" And Jon started to tell him old stories of the Targaryen family. Stories and glory and villainy. The rise and fall of his family. Jon saw too much of himself on the boy and he wondered what he could do to lessen the sense loneliness. Sansa had the perfect answer, as always. "You used to be the last Targaryen. Now there are two of you." It wasn't completely true, since the name wasn't passed on despite his looks, but saying that helped Jon give Rickard a sense of belonging that he craved.
Differently from their boys, their second child and only daughter for nine years, Phyllis was a mixture of Jon and Sansa. Her red hair had Sansa thinking that she would make her daughter a proper Lady, like herself. But she was mistaken, for Phyllis was interested in combat. Trained by her father, she held a sword when she was only six, the only opponent worthy of Rickard Stark. In the present, she is nine, and she is tall and clever. Phyllis reminded them a lot of Arya, but her posture on the table was much better.
They knew better than to name favorites, but it was known that Phyllis was Jon's weakness.
Jon was out of his reverie when Sansa came behind him with a kiss on the back of his neck. "I think it's time for Lya to sleep in her own room." Jon shivered with her suggestive proximity. "It's been a while."
Jon agreed. Strongly. The last time they were together was months before Lya was born and she was already three months old. All he wanted was to bury himself inside his wife again.
"Tonight?" He asked full of expectation.
"Tonight." She answered with a smirk.
It was a promise.