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Down from the Mountain

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Winter Break

 

Sansa was running late. She’d hurried away from the dinner table and set a timer on her shower so she’d have enough time to get ready, but it was five minutes before eight and she was just beginning to work on her eye makeup. First, she’d wavered between multiple hairstyles, curling the ends, then pinning them up in an elegant bun before taking the whole thing apart and letting it hang in loose waves. Next, she’d applied too much blush, attempted to balance it out with bronzer, and produced a mess of color she couldn’t fix unless she started over. She’d wanted to try out some liquid liner, too- Margaery used it sometimes, adding sharp wings to the edges of her eyes- but Jon had texted her that he’d left the station on time, and she didn’t want to keep him waiting longer than necessary.

It was probably for the best that her nerves had forced her to go with a more natural look. He’d said to dress warmly, and not to wear her highest heels. He’d said a lot of things, in texts and messages and phone calls, but their frequency had done nothing to diminish the thrill she felt every time his name flashed across the screen of her phone. She’d never been less focused on studying for her exams, constantly anticipating his next reply, but she couldn’t bring herself to ask him to stop, even for an evening.

Now she listened for the mutter of his car in the driveway instead of the buzz of her cell on the bathroom counter. When he pulled in and cut the engine, though, she was only half-finished, and she hurried through her eye shadow and mascara hoping that Robb, and not her mom, had answered the door to let him in.

After twisting her face from side to side in the mirror one last time, Sansa grabbed her purse and made her way down the stairs as quickly as she could, trying not to stomp loudly. The heels on her black booties were quite sensible, she thought, and she’d made concessions to warmth as well, wearing ribbed tights under her dove-grey shift dress with black beaded lace down the front. At the bottom of the stairs, she was greeted by Robb lounging in his wheelchair, Jon nowhere in sight.

“Guess you took too long getting ready,” he smirked mockingly. “Jon’s in the office with Dad. Talking.”

Sansa frowned. “Talking about…what?”

Robb laughed. It didn’t pain him to tease her nearly as badly, now, since his ribs were healing well after three weeks of immobility. “His intentions, probably. You weren’t going to be able to keep up your Thanksgiving, run-out-the-door-and-text-later strategy forever.”

Sticking out her tongue at her older brother, Sansa flounced over to an armchair to wait for Jon to finish his conversation with her father. She could hear Robb snickering as he wheeled back to his room, and she let out a sigh of relief. If he’d stuck around, he would have noticed the color that flooded her cheeks at the thought of her Thanksgiving date. Margaery had already teased her mercilessly about the stupid smile that found its way onto her face whenever Jon slipped into her thoughts, until Sansa had confessed everything about their time together. Robb, on the other hand, definitely wouldn’t appreciate knowing all the details.

 

They’d been in Margaery’s room watching Clueless as part of a 90’s movie marathon, celebrating their last Monday of classes, when suddenly Margaery had leaned forward and paused her laptop. It had taken Sansa a minute to notice; Jon had texted her a picture of a pan of brownies, burned black by someone at the station. Grenn almost set off our own fire alarms. I think your cooking inspired him to try it for himself. Halfway through typing a reply, Sansa felt her phone ripped from her hands.

“That’s the third time today you’ve had hearts coming out of your eyes after getting a text. Spill.” Margaery crossed her legs and sat up straight, grinning at her with speculative eyes.

When her best friend wanted answers-particularly answers that could prove good gossip- she was hard to refuse. Sansa reluctantly began to tell her about Jon and all the ways he’d helped her out when Robb was in the hospital. Margaery interrupted.

“Yes, I know, Jon’s your brother’s best friend, he’s such a great guy, whatever. I figured out that you liked him from your texts ages ago. I want details. What does he look like?”

Naturally, she wasn’t content with Sansa’s description, which prompted a highly unsuccessful search of her brother’s Facebook profile for pictures.

“I can’t believe he isn’t on Facebook.” Margaery frowned, flipping doubtfully between a smoky photo of Robb and Jon grilling burgers at a Fourth of July party and a shot of Robb and his friends celebrating after a playoff win, both from high school. “Does he ever smile?”

“Of course he smiles. Sometimes. Definitely more than when he was younger.” Sansa snapped the computer shut. “Those are old pictures, anyway. He’s a lot more grown-up now.” And filled out.

Margaery’s thoughts followed the same pattern. “He should be. And I bet firefighting keeps him in good shape. So, you’re texting each other? Are you going to go after him when you’re home for winter break?”

“I’m not ‘going after’ anyone! We’re just trying to get to know each other better,” Sansa sputtered. “I wish you could meet him, Marg, he’s so much nicer to me than anyone else I’ve ever dated.”

Margaery pounced. “You’ve already gone on a date? I knew you were holding out on me! Details, darling!”

Sansa began to tell her about their evening at the diner- his accidental confession that he used to watch her and her friends, his casual attitude about paying, how long they’d talked when he dropped her off at home. During her story, Margaery’s eyebrows bobbed up and down, drawing closer and closer together. Though she reacted with polite enthusiasm at all the right places, it was clear that she had plenty to say. Still, Sansa continued to describe their interactions, dwelling for a long time on the Thanksgiving dinner she’d prepared. Finally, Margaery couldn’t hold back her thoughts.

“You know that I’m thrilled to see you so happy- I only want you to be happy, Sansa, honestly- but don’t you think this is all a bit, I don’t know, hasty? I know you don’t have many fond memories of Joffrey, but at least he took you somewhere nice for your first date, not a greasy diner you went to when you were fifteen.”

Sansa took a deep breath. “It was comfortable, though, and kind of nostalgic, in a good way. It was really nice to go on a date where I wasn’t worried about crossing my ankles and choosing the right wine pairing. Jon’s not into all that pretentious stuff like Joffrey was.”

“Well, like I said, I want you to be happy.” Margaery looked doubtful. “And good job with cooking dinner for his station, by the way. So many girls don’t think about how to introduce themselves to a guy’s friends in a positive way. That was a smart move.”

Sansa smiled to herself even as she shook her head slightly. That was quintessential Margaery, always ‘playing the game’ as she flitted from boyfriend to boyfriend. She never treated anyone badly, but she’d never dated a man she didn’t have wrapped around her finger twice. She shared raunchy stories, of course, elaborating on the skills of her ex’s during heart-to-hearts over bottles of wine, and Sansa envied her confidence and her resilience, yet she’d never really seemed in love with any of them. She’d also never quite understand how Sansa could be attracted to safety and security and comfort, unglamorous as they seemed.

“So you were making out in his bunk room, and then…” Margaery prompted her.

Sansa gave up trying not to blush. “It was really sweet. He was so nervous, Marg, it was adorable, and we had to stop because all the guys were waiting for us to come back, and he was still on duty. Oh! But he asked me if he could take me out before he kissed me, so he came and picked me up…”

Margaery looked aghast. “You saw him twice on the same day?”

“I wanted to see him! I was only home for a few days, Marg, it wasn’t like I was going to make him wait three days to call me or whatever. Anyway, he picked me up and we drove to the movie theater at the mall, and he went right up to the desk and asked the guy what he thought the least crowded movie would be and bought two tickets. I was mortified.”

“Because you were on a date at the mall, or because kissing in the back of a movie theater is even more high school than your first date?”

Despite her critical words, Sansa could tell by the quirk of her mouth that Margaery was mostly teasing. Jon definitely wasn’t her friend’s type. “Because he made it so obvious. But I got over it, and there were maybe four other people in the theater. And then they turned the lights off. And then we kissed.”

“Sansa Stark, you have to do better than that. Is he a good kisser? Did he do anything else?”

Sansa used to think it was hard for her to share details about the things she did with Joffrey because she didn’t enjoy them. He had a knack for making her feel disposable in all areas of their relationship, sex included. Their only movie date had gone rather differently than her night with Jon; she’d been thrilled when he’d offered to take her to an adaptation of one of her favorite novels, until he’d spent the trailers grabbing her wrist and holding her hand to his lap, urging her to make it worth his time. She’d crossed her arms for the rest of the movie in anger and self-protection.

But it wasn’t any easier to talk about Jon, although her feelings about their date were radically different. He’d taken his time kissing her, slowly opening her up and learning her mouth touch by touch. He made her want to explore him, too, and find out what made him hum and groan. It felt like they’d spent hours just kissing, one of his hands tangled in her hair and both of hers clinging to his shoulders, before he’d leaned close and asked her…she forced his words out of her mind before she started panting like a fool.

Hugging one of Margaery’s pillows, she remembered the heat of his hand as it crept up her thigh and under her skirt while her legs trembled. Her back had arched sharply, almost painfully, when he’d gently touched her through her tights. Blood had poured into her cheeks and pounded past her ears, the noise so loud that even the action movie sound effects had faded away. Jon’s teeth had scraped and pinched sharp on her neck as he sucked in each breath, following the rhythm of the hand he worked against her. Even though they were alone, she had to lean forward and whisper it into Margaery’s ear.

Margaery shrieked. “Forget everything I’ve said. If this boy can get you of all people to relax enough to get off in a public theater, more power to him. You deserve someone generous, Sansa.” Then, she rolled her eyes. “But please, give him my number if he takes you on any more high school dates. I’ll give him some better ideas.”

 

Sansa whispered a quiet thank goodness when Jon left Ned’s office unaccompanied by her father. They hadn’t been able to spend any time alone the rest of Thanksgiving break, except for stolen moments as she walked him out to his car. So often, Jon looked out of place in their house when he wasn’t with Robb, as though he wasn’t quite sure he belonged, but now he walked toward her with sure steps. He was wearing scuffed Chucks under dark jeans that hugged his legs and a plain black windproof coat, left open over a light grey button-front shirt. Sansa was so absorbed in noting the details of his outfit that she yelped in surprise when he scooped her up in his arms.

“Hey.” She stopped kissing him to mumble against his mouth. “What were you and my dad talking about?”

Jon ran a hand through his hair. “Grab your coat, and I’ll tell you in the car.”

After he helped her into the front seat and cranked the heat, he answered her question. “I wanted to tell him about us. Dating. And make sure he was okay with it.”

That’s what she’d feared. “I’m not my father’s property. You don’t have to ask his permission before we can date.” Joffrey had sent a lovely letter to her parents before he’d taken her to his Christmas formal her second year. She still cringed sometimes at how charming she’d thought it.

“No, Sansa, it wasn’t like that. It’s more…your dad’s been like a father to me, in a lot of ways. I owed it to him to be frank about my intentions, man to man, if I was going to do something that would change the dynamic I have with your family.”

His words mollified her, somewhat. She’d worried so much about what Robb would think that she hadn’t really considered Jon’s relationship with her dad. He’d offered to pay for college, she remembered, if Jon had gone in-state, but he’d turned it down after getting the position with the fire department training program. It’s another decision her mom had criticized.

“I get that you have a unique relationship with him. But just to be clear, my decisions are my own, okay?” Jon nodded. “Now, where are you taking me? I’m dying to know.”

“We’re going downtown for a surprise, and then I thought we could grab a drink somewhere before we head back.”

Sansa tried once more to get him to tell her their destination. “I don’t think it’s fair for you to tell me how to dress without some kind of hint.”

“I said not to wear heels and to be prepared for the cold.” He paused and gave her a skeptical look.

“And I listened. Cold weather is what wool coats are for! And I promise you won’t hear a word of complaint from me about these shoes. Just don’t let me fall on any ice.”

Jon chuckled at her innocent grin. Their banter had taken them most of the way downtown, and Sansa enjoyed the view of streetlights decorated with garlands and bows. It felt good to be back in the city she called home. They drove past a block of restaurants, and she turned back to Jon.

“Thanks for understanding about dinner tonight. Mom always makes a big deal about having a family meal on the first night each of us spends back at home.”

“I get it. And I promise, one of these days, I’ll take you on an actual dinner date, at a restaurant with a wine list instead of a milkshake menu.” Jon’s tone was joking, but he looked serious. His words reminded her of Margaery, teasing her about reliving high school with him, and she tried to quell any insecurity he might feel.

“I’ve really liked all our dates so far. Even without a wine list. I think my last boyfriend may have spoiled fancy restaurants for me as an ideal romantic setting.”

Jon chewed on his lip for a while before responding. “I know we haven’t talked about it at all yet, but I remember how angry Robb was after he heard about the break-up. He called me to see if I’d met the prick when he visited Winterfell over spring break, but I hadn’t.”

Unexpectedly, the memory of Robb yelling threats on the phone as she sobbed to him made Sansa smile. “It was good to have someone around who felt plain angry about the whole thing. I was so hurt, and kind of numb, but Robb was nothing but a ball of righteous fury.”

Joffrey had been acting less and less respectful for weeks, but she hadn’t said anything. We’re just getting out of our honeymoon period, she’d told herself, so we’re finding things about each other that are annoying. Except that all of his complaints were about her appearance, her suggestions that they spend time together outside his fraternity house, her reluctance to walk over alone in the middle of the night for sex. On their final date, they’d been out to dinner when he’d told her to go to the ladies’ room and fix her makeup. She’d stared at the black and white tile of the bathroom wall and cried, dried her tears with a hand towel, and gathered the strength to force an apology out of him. Then she’d returned to their table to find him wrapped around another girl who’d slid into their booth, leering at her cleavage. She’d walked straight out the door and home into Margaery’s arms, sobbing all the way.

Jon was good at gently bringing her back into conversation after she got lost in her thoughts. “You know, it was Robb who convinced your dad to let you go to Florence afterward, for that summer art program. He said a change of scenery would do you good.”

“I didn’t know that,” Sansa said. “You and Robb have kept in pretty close touch for guys who haven’t lived in the same city in years.”

“He’s my best friend,” Jon stated simply. “He can’t get rid of me that easily.”

 

They drove down a curving road lined by young pine trees until Jon pulled into a parking lot. He cut the engine, but he didn’t remove his keys from the ignition. Instead he peered over the wheel and rubbed at his neck. Sansa hadn’t seen him look so nervous all night.

“Where are we?” she asked, trying to sound excited, not doubtful.

“We’re at the botanic gardens. They do some kind of winter light show, so you can walk through the gardens when they’re decorated for the holidays.” He looked up at her anxiously. “It didn’t sound so lame until I described it out loud.”

“It doesn’t sound lame. It sounds lovely.”

Once they entered the ticket lobby, Sansa remembered the building from an elementary school field trip. “Ooh! They have a koi pond here, don’t they? And an entire greenhouse full of tulips.”

The lady behind the front desk smiled. “You’ve visited the gardens before in the spring, then. Unfortunately the koi only live here in the warmer months. Our winter greenhouses have a fantastic display of amaryllis and snowdrops.” She looked encouragingly between them both. “Are you here for the lights? Would you like to rent 3D glasses as well?”

Jon noticed the giggle Sansa tried to suppress. “We’ll take tickets to tour the gardens, but I think we’ll skip the glasses this time around.”

Tickets purchased, they left the warmth of the information center for the paved paths of the gardens. Jon offered her his elbow and tucked her arm against his side, keeping it warm. They strolled slowly down an avenue of bushes covered in cheery red and white stripes, talking only to point out a detail of the decorations. Sansa felt like a heroine out of an Austen novel, taking a turn in the garden with a suitor to give him an opportunity to ask her hand in marriage, but without a gaggle of sisters peeking out the window at them.

Denver schools weren’t out for the holidays yet, so the paths were almost empty. Most people they passed were couples, but a few families drifted along too.

“It’s so quiet here. I barely feel like I’m in the city at all,” Sansa commented as Jon stooped under a branch decked in glowing icicles.

“Do you like it? I know the zoo does a light show too, but it sounded pretty hectic.”

“I used to go to the holiday lights at the zoo every year. My little brothers loved it. But I’m glad you picked someplace different.” Sansa squeezed his arm and leaned against his shoulder. “It’s special to go somewhere new, with just the two of us.”

Jon’s eyes glowed as he smiled at her, reflecting the twinkling lights of the trees. The next section of the path led them past ice sculptures lit by colored spotlights and covered in iridescent glitter. By the time they’d admired all the dancing reindeer and twirling figure skaters, Jon had abandoned his formal posture and laid his arm loosely over her shoulders. Sansa responded in kind, hugging him around the waist.

Soon they came to a wall of white lights, programmed to cascade like a slow waterfall. Nearby, blue and purple snowflakes flashed in time with the melody as “Silver Bells” filled the air, piped in through speakers in the trees. Sansa sang the words under her breath, and Jon hummed along, until she shot him a surprised look and he cleared his throat.

In Sansa’s opinion, the best part of the gardens was a gazebo draped in garlands built to overlook a still pond. Along the water, weeping willows dripped gossamer strands of lights that reflected in the surface like stars. The effect was amplified by soft blue lights, twinkling steadily among the trees. She and Jon sat down to admire the sight, and she gave a quiet sigh.

“It looks magical, like an enchanted lake from a fairy tale. I can imagine the snowflakes from the Nutcracker dancing under the willows, and then right out onto the water, smooth as glass, or ice.”

Jon wasn’t even looking at the lights. He studied her face with the same intensity with which she’d taken in the trees and the pond. Unable to meet his eyes for long, she ducked her head. “Sorry. I sound like a child, getting carried away by pretty lights. Maybe you should have taken me to the zoo instead.”

“Sansa.” In his tender voice, her name sounded almost like a prayer. Then he was kissing her. Behind her eyelids, lights swirled as if a soft breeze had ruffled the stillness of the pond, and fairies danced to the beat of the blood singing through her veins.

 

Once they finished walking the garden path, Jon took her to a restaurant nearby. They edged their way past a large party waiting to be seated and headed toward the bar.

“I’m going to run to the ladies’ room,” Sansa murmured close to his ear.

“Do you mind if I go ahead and order you something?” Jon asked. Sansa hesitated. She was picky about her alcohol, but Jon had proven himself a good judge of her taste so far, so she nodded.

Several women were waiting in line, gossiping about the predicted snow storm that hadn’t come last week. By the time she made it back to Jon, he was standing over two drinks on the polished wooden bar. He helped her onto a stool with a low back that made her inches taller than him and carefully handed her a pale green concoction decorated with mint leaves.

“Cheers,” he offered, picking up his own amber glass of whiskey. They clinked rims, and Sansa took a sip. Gin, with plenty of lime and just a hint of mint. She beamed at Jon.

“This is really good. Have you been here before?”

He shook his head. “I asked around the station for recommendations. I can’t say I usually drink at places with white tablecloths, but I wanted to try something a little nicer.”

“How much did they tease you?” Sansa asked knowingly.

“Plenty.” She laughed. “But it was worth it for our first date that I actually had time to plan.”

“Everything’s been lovely, Jon. Really,” she reassured him. He kissed her gently high on her cheekbone, near her ear, and smiled.

For more than an hour, they sipped their drinks and talked. Jon ordered Sansa a second gimlet as soon as she finished her first, but he stopped at one drink for himself. Draping an arm loosely over the back of her seat, he explained the fire department hierarchy in full, and where each of the men she’d met ranked within the station. She told him about Margaery, their tremendous differences, and the friendship they’d built despite them.

At one point, she caught a trio of women giving Jon interested looks from further down the bar. Instead of insecurity, she felt a stab of pride that they appreciated the figure he cut with his sleeves rolled up almost to his elbows. Feeling a bit daring from her second drink, she reached over and undid the button over his collarbone.

He looked down. “Is that how I’m supposed to wear it?”

“When I’m around.” Grinning, he leaned in to kiss her. It was brief- she could tell he didn’t want to embarrass her with an excessive display- but it left her feeling overheated nonetheless. She moved the hand still playing with his open collar to the back of his neck to hold him close. “I wish you didn’t have to take me home tonight. I wish we could…go somewhere else.” Somewhere we could be alone with each other, she willed him to understand.

He looked at her in silence for a long time before he spoke. “Sam’s hosting a poker night at our place for the crew that’s off tomorrow. But,” he raised his eyebrows and tilted his head slightly, “If you’re up for it, Robb has an empty condo downtown, and I have his spare key.”

“You’re kidding me.” The idea of having a whole space to themselves, even for a few minutes, thrilled her. The thought of Robb finding out terrified her in equal measure.

Jon pulled out his keys and sorted through them until he found a small silver key marked with a red sticker. “It’s up to you.”

 

There was little evidence in Robb’s condo that anyone had ever lived in it. No crumbs dusted the back of the kitchen counter, no mail piled up on the coffee table. He bought it so he would have his own space when he spent parts of the off-season at home, but he’d barely finished furnishing it in the weeks he’d spent there since October. Out of curiosity, Sansa opened his fridge and found expired orange juice, a box of rice left over from Chinese take-out, and a case of beer.

Jon emerged from the bathroom, fiddling with his unbuttoned collar uncertainly. Though he’d come up with the idea of using the condo, he’d been visibly uncomfortable from the moment they parked in the covered lot. In contrast, the sense that they were sneaking around made Sansa giddy with excitement. She pranced over to him and reached for his shoulders. He tensed beneath her hands.

“Sansa, maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.”

“Really? I’ve been thinking this was an excellent idea.”

He touched his forehead to hers. “Robb is going to find out, and then he’s going to kill me and feed my body to the wolves.”

Sansa slithered away from him, swinging her hips dramatically. “Then we should make sure you earn your punishment.”

Robb’s master suite was on the second floor- he’d sent her a floor plan when he’d bought the condo, so that she could give him decorating tips. Jon stared, hands on his hips, as she darted up the stairs. Once she reached the landing, she shimmied out of her black tights, leaving them behind for Jon to see. Quickly, she jammed her feet back into her boots and scampered the rest of the way to Robb’s room.

Seductress wasn’t a role she’d played before. Sansa sat on the edge of Robb’s bed, fiddling with her hands. She didn’t feel bold enough to let Jon find her already naked, so she spent precious moments debating how to position her arms, and whether to part her knees or cross them demurely. A floorboard creaked just outside the door. Startled, she flinched, and Jon found her propped halfway on her elbows, legs tucked to the side so that her spine twisted.

In one hand he clenched her tights. His throat bobbed up and down as he looked her over, eyes black as the shadow of his beard across his face. Sansa watched his chest rise and fall faster and faster.

“Take off your shirt.”

In her head, it had been a wish, but the words came out sounding like a command. Without taking his eyes off her, Jon yanked open the rest of his buttons and tossed his shirt onto the ground, next to her tights. Encouraged, Sansa tried again, rolling to her side.

“Unzip me.”

Jon ignored the silver ladder down her back. He crawled above her on the bed, planting his hands firmly on either side of her. “Later,” he promised, and then his kisses had her flat on her back, exploring the shoulders and chest that were every inch as well-muscled as she’d imagined.

Suddenly his weight disappeared, and she felt his hands moving up her legs and pulling at the waistband of her underwear. She arched her back to help him, realizing too late how exposed the position left her. Jon knelt at the foot of the bed, catching her knees gently before she could slam them all the way closed.

“Fuck, I bet you taste sweet, Sansa.”

“Jon, no, you don’t have to…” Sansa stopped awkwardly.

“Neither of us has to do anything we don’t want to do,” he replied seriously. His thumbs were rubbing circles into her skin, and his fingers tickled the backs of her calves, sending shivers all the way up to her core. It made it difficult to think.

“I don’t think guys really like that. Doing…that.”

“Do you like it?” Sansa could only gasp incoherently, gripping the bedcover tightly. “Let’s find out.”

He started by using his hands, like he had in the movie theater, only this was better. She could make noise, for one thing, and spread her legs wider when it felt good, and pull him closer with a heel in his back when it wasn’t quite enough. Then he put his mouth on her.

She was hot, and slippery, and weightless. It was so intimate, to let him lick into her, but slowly the vulnerability she felt melted away into an erotic haze. She twisted the fabric clutched between her fingers, bracing herself as she rocked her hips against his mouth. Eventually, the prickle of his beard and the faint press of his fingernails where they held her thighs apart were the only things real enough to tether her to the bed. The rest of her body was a fevered dream, clenching and tightening until she shattered into pieces.

Slowly, Sansa regained control of her senses. Jon lay beside her, smoothing strands of hair away from her face. “What did you think?”

She huffed. “As if you couldn’t tell.” His smile bordered on smug.

Sansa traced a finger around his belly button, then down the line of black hair that led to where the elastic of his boxers was visible above the empty belt loops of his jeans. A shudder rippled across his stomach.

“Wait, Sansa.” His voice was hoarse.

“I want this,” she said firmly. “I’m ready for this. Us. Together.” She ran her palm down his fly.

He took her hand and kissed each knuckle, nipping at the last one. “Then so am I.”

 

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Epilogue 

 

On the Saturday before Christmas, the Stark family gathered to trim the tree. Ned had put the lights on the week before, but according to tradition, they saved the ornaments and tinsel until everyone was home for the holidays. Arya had flown in the night before, so Rickon and Bran had taken turns carrying rattling boxes down from the attic all morning.

Unfortunately, tradition also dictated that the whole family wear outrageous Christmas sweaters, and Robb’s, a knitted version of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” complete with sleigh and reindeer, was nowhere to be found. Bran had grown out of his old one, which featured Santa grilling from a hammock on a desert island, and claimed their father’s extra, leaving Robb without options. He and Sansa were combing the closets, unwilling to believe his sweater had been permanently lost.

“Can you think about what you might have packed it with?” Sansa asked from the floor where she was sorting old hats and mittens, searching for a glimpse of yellow and blue yarn.

Robb thought for a moment. “I think I brought it on my skiing trip last winter, as a joke. It might be with the rest of my gear.”

“So, it’s at Winterfell,” Sansa said flatly, unimpressed by his utter lack of organization.

“Shit. Yeah. No, wait, I brought my skis and stuff to the condo, since it has all this extra closet space. Maybe it’s there!” He smiled charmingly. “Since I can’t drive, would you mind running over there to see if you can find it?”

“I’m not missing precious time decorating the tree just so you can wear your Christmas sweater.”

“Please?”

Sansa checked her phone. “No, but I told Jon to come over in an hour. You can call him and see if he’ll look for it on his way over, since he has your spare key.”

“Perfect!” Robb picked up his phone and put it back down. “How did you know Jon had a spare key?”

She completely froze. “What? Oh, um, he mentioned it…in a story. About how close you two were.”

“First of all, you’re a terrible liar. Second, you’re blushing like a fool. Why would he…?” Robb trailed off. In a low voice, he started again. “He took you to my condo, didn’t he?”

Sansa abandoned her attempts to make up a story. “We needed someplace to go! I couldn’t take him back here after a date, and he lives with all these firefighters with crazy schedules. Someone’s always awake, and there’s no privacy.”

“I give him my fucking blessing to date you, and then he goes and takes you over to my place to fuck you? My sister?”

Robb!” She should have been mad at him for his language, but Sansa could barely contain her laughter at her brother’s outraged face. She’d been genuinely scared of getting caught, the fear adding to the thrill of spending time with Jon, but Robb’s reaction was more melodramatic than threatening. His eyes bulged wildly, and his mouth hung open in a comic expression of disbelief.

“Tell me you had the decency to use the guest room.”

The tiniest shred of guilt took the edge off Sansa’s amusement. “Well, we didn’t use any of your condoms, at least.” He looked pained. “I mean, we brought our own. Safety first, obviously.”

“Stop. Do you think this is funny?”

“Actually, yes.” He made a pathetic attempt to lunge at her. “Oh, come on, Robb. You’re not that scary when you’re strapped into a wheelchair. You want me to date someone who respects me, and Jon treats me better than anyone I’ve ever met. We both know you’re going to grumble and roll your eyes and make a big deal about buying new sheets, but he’s still your best friend. And it is pretty funny.”

Robb caught himself rolling his eyes. “I’m still making him give the key back after he looks for my sweater.”

Sansa flashed him her sweetest smile. “Since you’re not using it right now…do you think you might let him keep it a little longer? Just while I’m home on break?”

Robb narrowed his eyes. “One more night. That’s it. And it counts as my present to both of you.”

She threw her arms around his neck. “I knew you’d get over it. Thanks, Robb.”

“Bah! Humbug,” he replied, and returned her hug with enthusiasm.