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To Mend This Broken Thing

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The torch outside her chambers was reflecting in his eyes, turning the dark grey to fire as they stood like statues, staring at one another. She’d just kissed her husband for the first time. It was no more than a timid peck. He looked like she’d slapped him.

His chest was heaving as if they’d just run the distance from the Great Hall to here. Hers was, too. They hadn’t been quarreling at all but it felt very much like when they did.

Despite the wine she’d indulged in, if he refused her tonight, she’d surely spend her night sobbing into her pillow.

His eyes dropped to the floor and he clenched his sword hand. “Sansa…” The rasp of his voice could raise gooseflesh. “I’m not sure if…”

Tears it would be. “Go on, then. Go back to drinking with your men.” She wanted to sound hard as steel, as if she didn’t care. Her voice was a shameful croak.

She turned but felt a hand on her hip, stopping her. It was hot even through the layers of her gown and shift. He’d never touched her like that until now.

She swallowed hard as their eyes met. No tears had fallen yet. Perhaps none would.

He walked her backwards through the open door and kicked it shut behind him. She shivered when he deftly spun to bar it. That threat of tears had been smashed to pieces. Her blood thrummed through her veins and her tummy began to twist with a new variety of nervousness. And lower still, a heat was stirring.

“Are you sure you want this? I know you’ve never…” His words were measured but trailed off before he could bring them to an ending point.

Her words tumbled forth from her mouth like a lark singing about the morning. “No but I want to know what it’s like. I don’t want you to go and for us to never…don’t leave your wife still a maiden. I wish you weren’t going at all but you’re going in the morning and I want…I want…” I want you.

He pulled her to him so swiftly she gasped and clutched his muscled arms. He smelled of ale but also pine and leather. His lips were full and they’d felt soft when she’d given him that first kiss. Would he initiate the next kiss? What would it be like?

They were back to staring at each other and Sansa wondered if he was changing his mind. But no, he was merely studying her face, his eyes flickering between her lips and her eyes. She was about to find out what his kisses were like.

Her toes were already curling in anticipation when he tilted his head slightly and held her firmly by the waist before his lips crashed into hers.

 


 

 

Sansa had thought that night was the beginning of their song, of a love song, but that must’ve been its ending.

The memory of that night had brought her comfort throughout their separation. Now, it seemed that separation might never end. And not because he’d fallen in battle. No. Her husband was choosing not to return home again. She’d thought they could mend each other but perhaps he preferred them both broken.

In the songs she’d loved as a girl, the knights were always brave and carried magical swords. The maidens were fair and would capture the heart of a worthy man. If there was a villain in the song, he would be defeated. Perhaps forbidden lovers might share a kiss though their endings were not always happy.

That last part was accurate at least.

A singer might lament a broken heart but what about a broken person? No one sang songs about that, did they?

Sansa had stopped believing in the songs a long time ago. She’d told herself she had anyway.

But when she’d reunited with Jon, things had been different. For a time, she’d believed they could truly rebuild their shattered lives and broken dreams together as they fought to reclaim their home. For a moment, she’d known joy again. Despite all the bad, she’d believed that there could be a happy ending out there for them.

She should have known it would never last.

She’d no longer been alone. She’d no longer felt so broken inside. He’d told her she wasn’t alone, that they would stay together. He’d said she wasn’t broken either and, in her heart, she’d secretly cherished a little spark of hope that he might be right.

There were songs about hope, weren’t there? Sometimes, they were nothing more than a dream of what might be. Was that what she had now? If so, her hope, that dream of what might be, seemed to be flickering precariously like a candle in the wind at present.

 

But back to before…

 

Lord Baelish had arrived at the head of an army when they’d needed him desperately. It was only desperation that could’ve induced her to summon him back into her life.

And, no sooner than they’d defeated one enemy, he’d started working to sow discord between them. She’d been forced to play the game because they’d still needed that army. She’d done what was necessary for the sake of her family, counting down the days until she’d no longer need him.

Jon had said he understood but it was clear he had not liked her appeasing the man.

To say Jon had been reluctant to wed would not be a lie. He’d stubbornly insisted it was not necessary but Sansa had swallowed her pride and worked to sway him. He’d needed protecting so she’d convinced him that the union would make their house stronger and bring much needed stability to their kingdom.

As it so happened, it was precisely what Lord Baelish had wanted after news of Robb’s will had come to light.

“There are those who believe this will is truly the words of your brother. There are those who would support Jon Snow as king despite his parentage.”

“He does not want it,” she’d argued.

“Can you be sure of that? You’d said you weren’t particularly close growing up.” It had stung to recall the distance between them as children when he was so dear to her now. “But why wage a war when you can negotiate an alliance? What better alliance than a marriage?”

“Jon still views me as his sister.” She had not admitted that she’d ceased to view him as a brother.

“Does he? I’ve seen the way he looks at you. You may be surprised at the baser thoughts men conceal in their hearts.” She’d wanted to slap him for that. Who was he to lecture her on the baseness of men’s hearts? “I have faith you’ll win your sullen cousin over in time, sweetling. And while he’s away waging this war he speaks of with such fervor, you will secure your claim and rule.”

Jon had not spoken of claims or ruling. He’d only said that Winterfell was hers by right. His eyes had been turned northward towards other matters. But the truth of his parentage had turned so many against him. There had been no time for these petty squabbles. A greater battle had loomed and Sansa had won the argument in favor of marrying in the end.

He’d wed her in the godswood but he had refused to bed her that night. “Not until it’s something we both desire…if ever,” he’d murmured before leaving her alone outside her chambers, strangely bereft and yet relieved as well.

She’d appreciated his delicacy but she’d already had one marriage go unconsummated. It was not a risk she’d been willing to run a second time even if she’d wished to give them more time to grow into their union, to grow comfortable with the truth of who they were to each other.

And in her most private thoughts, Sansa felt a flutter around Jon that she never would’ve anticipated as a girl. A wild and reckless longing came over her whenever she earned one of his rare smiles and she’d feel the urge to sing. There was something there, wasn’t there? Couldn’t there be something more than duty between them someday? For her, there already was.

There’d been a feast the night before he’d left with his army to face the enemy to the north and Sansa had decided they’d waited long enough. Fortifying herself with wine for courage and to reduce her mortification if he refused her, she’d talked him into walking her to her chambers and then invited him into her bed with one tremulous kiss.

After his initial hesitancy, he’d come along far more willingly than she’d hoped with tugging hands and a hungry mouth. And although his kisses had tasted of ale, nothing he’d done to her had seemed like the clumsy act of a man in his cups or the dry and dutiful kisses of a bridegroom merely carrying out his duty. He’d been quite passionate. He’d been incredibly tender as well.

That night had stayed with her all through his absence. It had been like a sweet song, a promise of what they could have if they survived the winter. Even when she’d awoke to an empty bed that morning after only to catch one final glimpse of him as he’d rode out that day, he’d looked back at her, his fleeting smile stealing her breath away and filling her heart with hope.

She should’ve known it wasn’t meant to last, not for a broken thing like her.

After Jon had marched North and once their position had been secured, she’d eliminated the threat she’d been forced to keep close for far longer than she’d wanted.

Thank you for your many lessons.

The Knights of the Vale had proven themselves loyal to her, not Lord Baelish. News arrived that the Dead had been defeated. Jon had won the war, the only war that should’ve mattered. There were other threats out there but this should be a time for celebration. Then, the two of them would work to regroup and prepare to fight anew for their people and the North.

 

Except now, Sansa was told her husband would not be returning to her.

 

“He’s won’t be returning, milady,” a man-at-arms said.

The hall had fallen silent but there was a ringing in her ears and a rising sense of panic. “I beg your pardon?” Her heart was lodged somewhere in her throat.

“Apologies, Your Grace. King Jon is alive but says he’s not returning to Winterfell,” a knight clarified.

She sighed wearily and her own heart started beating again. “But you said…”

“He ain’t coming back. Says he means to stay beyond the Wall.”

The hall was filled with the victorious warriors, all who had survived…all save her husband. They were looking at her with a mixture of curiosity and pity. She felt nauseated.

“I don’t understand,” she stammered. If he was alive, why wasn’t he coming back?

They all started speaking then, a flock of them cawing out their unwelcome news as she sat there visibly poised but internally quaking.

“After the battle…well, you would’ve thought we’d lost. He was filled with darkness, Your Grace.”

“I never seen a man so angry.”

“Nor so forlorn to find himself still breathing.”

“He said he did not belong here, Your Grace.”

“I’m sorry to say you might be better off without him, my lady.”

“He’s dangerous, half wildling these days.”

“He might hurt you, milady.”

Jon hurt her? That could never be. Jon was stubborn and impulsive at times. He could be cold in his anger or quick-tempered by turns. He was withdrawn upon occasion but Sansa did not fault him for that. He’d died and come back. He’d had his identity torn from him. He’d suffered things these men could not imagine.

He felt forced to marry his half-sister.

She put that unpleasant thought away.

She knew enough of his inner turmoil to appreciate how this battle must’ve left him shaken regardless of their victory. It was these men who did not understand him. Jon was no monster. He just needed someone brave enough to go after him, to make him see that he was still wanted.

Perhaps our song is a different sort. Perhaps in our song, the maiden rescues the knight.

“Jon would never hurt me. He may be feeling lost at the moment but I will find him and bring him home. This is where he belongs.”

“But, my lady…”

“I will find him,” she said more firmly.

She set off the next day.

 

Chapter Text

 

“But will he stay dead this time?” she asked Lord Baelish.

He backed away, not wanting to hear another word.

 

The dream faded and he awoke with that heavy stone sitting where his heart had once beat. He thought of her smiles and wondered which of them had been true if any. Perhaps all of them had been false. False smiles and a false wife for a dead man.

I loved a maid as red as autumn with sunset in her hair…

I loved a maid as changeable as the seasons with treachery in her veins.

It was no more than an unnatural beast like him should’ve expected.

He’d come back from the dead. That was true. But he’d come back wrong. How else could he explain the shameful thoughts he’d had when he’d still believed her to be his half-sister?

Bastards were born of lust. There was no honor in them but even dishonorable men did not want their half-sisters, did they? What did that say of him?

He’d been lost when Sansa had first come back into his life, betrayed by men he had called his brothers. No matter the actions of the priestess, it had been Sansa who had truly brought him back. Her smiles and her sweetness, he’d never thought how much he would miss those things back when they’d been summer children.

She’d suffered in their time apart just as he had. He’d sworn to protect her. He’d done his best to ignore his forbidden urges. He’d keep her safe…even from himself.

Then, he’d learned that his whole life was a lie. He was not Ned Stark’s bastard and everything he’d believed was mistaken. All the shame of being a bastard son was inconsequential when he could no longer claim the man he’d admired most as his father. The knives of his brothers were a passing infidelity by comparison. He’d felt stripped and raw and torn down to nothing by the truth.

It was Sansa who he’d ultimately turned to for comfort and she’d gladly given it, soothing him with gentle words and soft touches, guiding him through his anger and grief towards acceptance. And that disgusting animal he was had found one shining ray of hope in the truth. Sansa was not his sister.

Now, he wondered if it would’ve been better if he’d just stayed dead. Twice he’d been adrift and Sansa had saved him from himself. This time, he would not expect that of her, not after everything. His only comfort was knowing she was safe within the walls of Winterfell.

The hovel was just enough for him and Ghost. He could hunt and fish and occasionally he’d meet with some of the free folk or travel down the Castle Black to trade for other goods. He could tell himself it was enough. He could shout that a simple life of solitude was what he wanted. It was all a lie of course.

It was still bitterly cold most nights despite the promise of spring so he was grateful for Ghost’s warmth.

“I should send you to her,” he mused, staring at the direwolf. “You could watch over her for me.”

And I could slip my skin and see that she is well and safe and happy.

But if he did, he’d be completely alone with not even the wolf’s company or warmth in the night.

Was that how she felt? Was she lonely? Was her bed cold at night? Or would she take a lover?

He should not think on that. It made the white-hot anger course though his blood when he had no right to be jealous.

She is my wife. I have a right to feel jealous of that.

She was never meant to be yours…and she does not want you.

He hadn’t held hopes of winning her affections. At least, not beyond the sisterly ones she showered him with. Why would she ever want him, a broken man with an unwanted claim to what was hers?

He had never expected her to welcome him into her bed. What could she see in him, a man who’d been her half-brother once?

But she had pushed for the marriage, saying it would bring them some security. He’d sworn to protect her, hadn’t he? Wasn’t this another way to do so?

As a boy, he’d had guilty dreams of being Lord of Winterfell and having a family.

But when it had all been within his grasp, the prospect had tasted bitter on his tongue if it only meant a marriage born of duty and for the sake of stability. He’d wanted to be Lord of Winterfell and have a family but he’d wanted her love even more.

And for one night, he’d had it…

Sansa’s petal soft skin flushed with the wine and their kisses. Sansa’s quiet moans as he’d loved her, her auburn hair spread across her pillow in the firelight as her hooded eyes had watched in curiosity as he’d kissed his way down her body. Her blush and gasp when he’d reach his destination.

The bliss of sinking into her wet heat and the primal satisfaction he’d felt when she’d cried his name. Her sweet words afterwards as he’d held her before she’d drifted off; a promise of what they could have together, like something from a song.

Even a dead man would not forget such things.

That next morning, he’d left her bed before the morning light. He’d had to get up to keep from shaking her awake and making love to her again. What would his lady wife have thought if he had? Why hadn’t he tried it?

It didn’t matter. He’d broken his fast listening to his soldiers talk with the besotted smile of a green boy in love on his face. No, not a green boy. A man in love. Quiet joy had filled his soul.

Jon Snow was not meant for such joy, was he? His very conception had set the realm on fire.

Regardless, his feet had carried him back to her chambers an hour later. He’d not quite made up his mind between declaring his love or kissing her until they were both breathless first.

It was then he’d heard Lord Baelish’s voice within.

“I’ll see you get what belongs to you. There will be many men riding with the king. A moment’s distraction, a quick move and you’ll be free. Widowhood will become you, my dear.”

Sansa had been silent for several moments and Jon had held his breath, waiting and desperately praying.

Then, she’d replied evenly, leaving his heart torn in two more surely than any blade. “But will he stay dead this time?”

He’d stumbled blindly through his preparations for his departure after that. He’d successfully avoided her until he rode out two hours later. But, he’d not been able to resist a final look back. There she had stood watching. He could not help the tenderness that crept into his expression then regardless of the horrible truth. She had given him a small smile and a wave. It had appeared loving. But men he’d once called his brothers had shown him the folly of trusting too much.

He had vowed to himself then that his life would be a small price to pay if it meant she would be safe and have everything she wanted. He should’ve died fighting. His life would’ve been worth it to know the Dead would never touch her. And at least in death, there would’ve been no pain, no aching memory of what he was never meant to have.

Ghost’s great head rose from where it had been resting on his paws. He growled softly, drawing Jon from his unhappy memories. He could hear horses whickering. He could hear men…and a woman. He knew that voice.

He walked out into the snow, leaving footprints in his wake as Ghost followed.

She was bundled up in heavy furs. She reminded him of a bear cub. Her hair brought molten copper to mind as it shone in the sunlight. She was as beautiful as he remembered. The hard winter had done nothing to diminish that. Her face seemed softer, some strain had been lifted. But she worried at her bottom lip when she caught sight of him.

“What are you doing here?”

She winced at his tone. His voice was gruff after so little use of late but maybe he’d meant to sound gruff, too.

He noticed the men, their hands already upon the hilt of their swords. Perhaps they’d come to see to it he stayed dead this time. He would command Ghost to do nothing. False wife or not, he would never see her harmed.

His wife smiled at him though there was a tremulousness to it. “I’ve come to bring you home.”

“Why?” Hurt flashed in her eyes. He refused to feel guilty over it.

“Because it’s…it’s where you belong, Jon.”

 


 

 

 

She could not believe her ears, nor could she curse her ill-luck enough. Jon had overheard that wretched conversation she’d had with Littlefinger right before he’d rode out, right after their single night together and not long before she’d had Lord Baelish executed for his many crimes.

“I would never wish you dead, Jon!”

“Really? You didn’t seem too keen to disagree with him at the time.”

Her husband believed her the coldest of women and why shouldn’t he? To hear such words after she’d asked him to wed her, after she’d convinced him to bed her? He’d thought it all some scheme to assure her claim as queen.

“I felt I must keep him humored until I was ready to act.” It was true but, as he stood there staring at her, it sounded so pitiful to her ears. Why would he believe her? Why hadn’t she brought him into her confidence? Because you knew how much he already hated Baelish. “I put a stop to his conspiracy to have you murdered.”

“Aye, that was thoughtful of you.” His distrust and resentment were still burning beneath the sarcasm. He sat down upon the room’s sole chair. She stood there with her mouth opening and closing as she struggled to explain. “You had him killed you say?”

“I did. We held a trial and…it was him I wanted dead. I never…”

“I expected to die anyway,” he shrugged.

He was so cold, so different than he had been before he’d left. She supposed if she’d spent five moons thinking he’d conspired to kill her, she might feel the same.

“I’m sorry for the…misunderstanding.” He scoffed at her choice of word. “We’ve been riding for two days and…”

“Two days? It’s not more than a day’s ride to the Wall from here.”

“Yes, but we had to go slow because…”

“You’ll make better time heading back,” he said with a chilling finality.

She gasped like he’d struck her and there was a brief moment where his eyes flickered with regret. But soon enough his expression hardened and he turned to stare at the fire.

“I’d hoped that you would…” I’d hoped you would come back to me. I’d hoped we might mend each other and build a life together.

“I don’t belong down there. You’ll rule the North wisely and well without me.”

“You do belong. You’re a good king and we’re stronger together. We…”

He acted as if she’d not spoken. “I free you of our vows. No one knows that we…” He paused and guiltily licked his lips. “Marry someone of your choosing for once.”

His words were like a dagger to her heart. But I chose you. I want you. I love you. Why could she not induce the words to spill from her mouth?

Her heart seemed to crack and splinter as he continued. “Tell them Jon Snow is dead beyond the Wall. I shall not return.”

A flutter of panic set her lips in motion. “Not even for…” She bit her lip to stop herself from finishing.

She had come all this way but it did not matter. It would not change his feelings for her. A few words said before the heart tree and one night of passion did not make theirs a love song. At least, he knew the truth.

Well, most of it.

Perhaps in time he’d even stop hating her.

But if he was not willing to return for her, she would not force him to do so for their child. If this was where he wanted to be, so be it. They had never been close as children and the closeness they’d had for a few precious moons had passed. He would never love her as she loved him. She had humbled herself enough and she had a kingdom to see to. She’d have a child to raise alone, too.

His eyes stayed focused on the fire, angrily clenching and unclenching his sword hand. He wished her gone, she supposed.

“Good-bye, Jon. I wish you…happiness. Good-bye, Ghost,” she whispered, choking on the tears she would not shed even if it killed her.

She fled his hut before he could answer. Rather, she fled before he would feel forced to speak to the wife he’d never wanted.

 


 

 


His heart felt hollow, hollower than it had when he’d believed the worst of her. He may as well be dead again. Except the nothingness around him was not painless this time. This was the complete opposite of painless.

After his angry accusations, he’d been stunned by her response and ashamed for thinking she would ever have conspired with Littlefinger. He hadn’t seemed capable of summoning a single rational or coherent reply. His emotions had been running riot within him as he’d sat there behaving like a sullen boy.

Why had he sat there mutely and let her leave? Where had his courage gone? Was he so afraid to hope?

She didn’t want me dead. Still, doesn’t mean she truly wants me.

Doesn’t want you? She invited you into her bed. She pushed for the marriage. How much effort must she extend for you? And why should she bother?

He did not know the answers and now he likely never would. But the biggest question was why. Why had she come all this way?

She might love me.

His pressed his lips firmly together and shook his head, smothering the ache in his chest at the very slight possibility that she might have come because she loved him, not as a sister or a cousin but as a wife.

And if that were so, what had he done? He’d shunned her. How could he live with himself if that was true? It was better to cling to denial. How could she possibly love him as he loved her? And what could a broken man give her anyway? How could a wild thing like him ever be what she needed?

She deserves better than me.

But what if she wants you anyway?

Outside the walls of his hovel, he could hear the men mounting up. They’d come from Winterfell to beyond the Wall and into the Haunted Forest but he’d refused their queen, his wife. They’d have to make camp tonight. Castle Black was too far for them to make it there this late in the day. At least, they would keep her safe. They would see her home again.

You could’ve seen her safely back to the Wall. You could’ve seen her all the way back to Winterfell. You could’ve gone home with her.

Why was he choosing exile over his heart’s desire when he knew the truth now? Even if she wasn’t in love with him, couldn’t he try and win her love? Perhaps be the man she deserved some day?

Ghost whimpered and he reached out to stroke his head. The direwolf withdrew from his touch, his red eyes full of judgement.

“You can hate me if you like. I promise you no one can hate me more than I hate myself.”

All this way she’d come. Was he really going to let her go like this? Did he really want to live up here all his days hating himself and wondering?

Are you such a craven, Jon Snow? Are you too afraid to even try?

He rose from his feet as that feeling of indecisiveness from earlier started to fade. He was a man of action. There was only so much sitting and brooding even he could stand.

But before he could move, there was a cry outside his door. Something was wrong.

“Your Grace! Fetch the maester!”

He opened the door to find an armored man carrying an unconscious Sansa towards him with the maester following, squawking at them all. Why had the maester traveled with them?

“What happened?!” He allowed his hand to brush her cheek as the guard eyed him with suspicion and anger.

“She should not have rode all this way. She’s tired…and heartsick. She needs rest,” the maester said giving him a churlish look.

Jon stood helplessly to the side as the guard laid her down upon his pallet. Her furs were tugged away as the maester called for water and more wood for the fire. Jon felt his breath leave him in a great whoosh. Her belly was unmistakably rounder than it had been five moons ago.

Five moons and…gods. He cursed himself and bid the guard to step aside so he might assist the maester.

“She is my queen,” the man argued.

“She is my wife.”

 

Chapter Text

 

Sansa could hear the comforting sound of logs crackling in the hearth. Outside the wind was blowing fiercely but here she was safe and warm. It was a lovely feeling as she stretched. She felt languid and boneless.

Her mind was a little bleary. Had she drank too much wine last night? Was it morning? That did not seem right. An inner voice murmured she should be in no great hurry to answer these questions so she allowed herself to drift a while longer.

Safe and warm and loved. It was a sweet song.

The furs covering her were a touch musty but a familiar scent clung to them. Pine and leather and something that was just him.

His kisses had tasted of ale and his dark grey eyes had been filled with desire. He’d tugged her shift over her head, leaving her in nothing but her small clothes. He’d groaned with neediness when she’d pulled those off next. She’d blushed as those eyes had drank their fill of her. “My sweet wife,” he’d said before his strong arms had picked her up and carried her to the bed.

Her husband spoke plainly most of the time. He was not a man to spout flowery words very often but that night they’d dripped like honey off his tongue.

Speaking of his tongue, as a lady she should’ve fainted over what he did to her. She had not fainted. She’d sang his name and pulled at his hair a good deal though.

He’d been so gentle. The pinch and invading fullness had not been awful like she’d feared as a girl. And once they’d begun to move together, he’d shown her a new sort of bliss.

They’d laid curled together afterward, their bodies slick from their loving and their hands intertwined. Sleep had been ready to claim them both and she didn’t want to think on what the next day would bring.

“It’s like a song or a dream…a dream of what could be,” she’d mumbled.

“All my dreams are filled with you, wife.”

How she’d missed him, missed this feeling of being loved.

The fire popped loudly as her mind began to finally wake. A foul stench greeted her nostrils but she smiled to see Ghost beside her, panting happily. She scratched behind his ears. “Hello again, Ghost.”

Her smile quickly faded as memory returned of time and place. She was beyond the Wall. She’d come to rescue her knight who didn’t wish to be rescued. Not by me.

Melancholy filled her. A dream was all that night had been though a sweet one. She thought it crueler of the gods to grant her that one night if it was all she was ever to have.

The door opened, letting in a great blast of cold air, and she squeezed her eyes shut. She did not want to talk to him. The door closed again and there was a heavy silence. She would swear he was watching her. She remained perfectly still, scarcely breathing with her hands balled up and her mouth clamped shut.

He huffed a laugh for a heartbeat which piqued her temper. Then, she heard what must’ve been wood being added to the fire. Opening one eye, she spied Jon bent over the fire tending some pot there. She could smell roasted meat and onions. It was more pleasant than the direwolf’s breath.

She took a moment to study him at leisure whilst he was unaware. His hair was longer than she’d ever seen it, the curls reaching his shoulders. His beard was shaggy and full but it did not make him any less attractive to her eyes. She didn’t like admitting that to herself at present.

The furs he wore were those of a wildling. At least, his hands were cleaner than they’d been when they’d spoken earlier. She wished she could see more of his face to read his expression. Jon’s moods were not always easy to gauge but she liked to think she’d learned the way of it.

“A change in the weather is coming, Ghost, a bad one.  Don't worry though.  We will manage here.”

He was not telling the direwolf. He was telling her. He knew she was awake. He’d known it from the moment he’d entered with the firewood. It would be silly of her to continue pretending otherwise.

“Lie still,” he ordered when she started to rise. Irritation filled her at his tone. He noticed and amended his command with a quiet, “Please.”

She acquiesced just as the rest of the day’s events returned to her. Her heart thudded heavily and her hands flew to her belly. She’d not meant to endanger her child. Women journeyed during pregnancy frequently enough. She was still three or more moons away from her confinement and they’d traveled at a snail’s pace. She’d taken every precaution the maester had listed but she’d fainted before she’d managed to mount her horse to leave.

What if…

Fear gripped her and she wanted to weep. “The maester?” she croaked.

“Outside at present. I said I’d watch over you…if that’s alright.” Her throat felt thick and tight. She could not speak and only nodded. “He says the babe appears to be well and that you were merely overcome from the long ride and the, um…disappointment.”

She could breathe again. But Jon was staring at her and the relief was short-lived. Her heart knew no relief. The disappointment, he called it. Yes, thank you for referring to you spurning me as a disappointment, she thought bitterly.

He wanted to ask her more she would wager but he was holding back out of concern for her condition or the babe. He turned back to the fire before taking the pot from its hook above fire and ladling out a serving into a crude bowl.

“It smells…nourishing.”

She received a rueful grin. “Aye, that’s probably the nicest thing you could say of it.”

She did not reply. That grin had made her heart flutter. Damn him and his grins. She did not want any fluttering.

She already felt vulnerable enough after being refused. Yes, he’d had a valid reason for staying away but he had accepted the truth of the matter regarding Littlefinger quick enough. But even after she’d done her best to explain, he’d still elected to remain in this desolate place rather than come home to her and try again. Her feelings were wounded most grievously. Didn’t her feelings ever matter at all?

And now, he knew the truth of her condition and he was taking pity on her, caring for her when there were probably dozens of other things he’d rather do. She hated it. Why did he have to see her like this?

“I’m sorry to impose on your hospitality further.” She’d thought to sound polite. Courtesy was a lady’s armor, wasn’t it? She supposed it sounded more stiff than anything.

His eyes reflected grief and concern but also a hint of amusement. “You’re no imposition, Sansa.”

“I’m sure you’re busy with…” She looked around. What did he do with all his time here anyway?

He bit his lip and he’d soon be chuckling she suspected. Damn him. “I’m not busy, never too busy for you.” She huffed in disbelief but he either didn’t hear or chose to ignore it. “The maester said to give you something when you woke. It’s a simple stew. Nothing grand.”

Why’d he say that apologetically? Had they not dined on nothing but stale bread and dried meat for days at a time when they’d been traveling the North together, seeking allies for their fight?

She thought back on those times as a sweet ache overtook her. The weather had been harsh and their comforts few. They’d met with more than one unfriendly host and they’d quarreled more and more as their nerves had begun to fray and their fears had taken root. But in another way, that had been a happy time for her, the most consistent time of contentment and even joy she’d known since they’d first left Winterfell.

The two of them had been working together for something that mattered. What mattered now? She subconsciously stroked her belly and knew one thing that did.

His dark eyes were sharp and she’d learned that there was little they missed. A tender smile was directed her way as he sat on the floor beside her, gently blowing on the steaming stew before offering it to her. Why was he treating her thusly? Was it all because of the babe?

But she was a creature raised on her courtesies so she gingerly accepted the offered bowl and took a sip. “It’s, uh…good.”

“Always the courteous lady,” he snorted.

“Should I be otherwise?” she asked sharply.

Would he prefer something other than a lady for a wife? She knew he’d had a lover amongst the wildlings once. Did he have one now? Jealousy festered in her heart immediately like some gaping, screeching beast.

“No, Sansa. I only meant…gods!” Frustrated, his head sank to his chest as he rammed his hands into his hair. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

Her hands covered her belly defensively. “To what purpose? You don’t want to come home. I didn’t wish to burden you.”

“Burden me?” He lifted his eyes to her again. They were filled with tears. She’d only seen them that way once when he was at his lowest point after learning Ned Stark was not his father. What did that mean? “You are no burden to me. Sansa, I don’t wish to burden you.

Anger and hurt boiled to the surface. Her voice was hard and crisp. “Burden me? Since when have I made you feel like a burden?”

“Never but…”

Her voice broke and trembled next but she was resolved not to cry. “You truly believed I’d want you dead after everything we shared that night?”

“No, I…I was wrong.” He hung his head.

“I wished you’d have come to me over what you heard.”

“You could’ve shared more of what he was up do before I ever heard that! For fuck’s sake, Sansa! He was plotting my death and your only concern appeared to be would I stay dead?! What was I supposed to think of that?!”

Anger on both ends now and the guilt smote her heart. She’d never meant to hurt him. Her pride had been pierced but his trust had been more so.

“I should’ve told you about him and his plotting from the start. I thought I could handle him alone. I did but…I didn’t have to. I’m sorry, Jon.”

He gave a jerky nod of acknowledgement. Their chests were heaving and a brief withdrawal followed. Tension filled the small space but Sansa might’ve called it a skirmish rather than a battle.

“We do not speak with each other so well as we should but we certainly have fighting down,” she said sarcastically to herself as much as him.

He shook his head, grinning again. Damn those grins of his. He spoke more quietly. “I should have come to you and you should have shared more, agreed?”

“Agreed.”

His eyes flickered to her belly with remorse. “I should not have stayed away. I should have come home. I shouldn’t have let you find out I wasn’t coming back from others. I’m sorry.”

Was it only guilt speaking? Guilt that he’d have left her to raise their child alone if she’d never come to him? She didn’t want his guilt. She couldn’t bear being only a duty to him either.

“You don’t want to be married to me.” The tears were flowing freely and she could not stop them.

“That’s not true.”

“You said you freed me from our vows.” She felt like a pendulum swinging between anger and hurt. And in the middle was the love she bore him, clamoring to be heard in spite of everything.

“I was wrong to say that.  I'm sorry.”

“You never loved me. You never will.”

“You are wrong!”

She gasped at his vehemence but then angrily shook her head. “Don’t lie! Don’t pretend you care now only because of…”

“I’m not lying! I cared about you! I do care about you! I more than care! I…even when I thought you hated me, even when I thought you wanted me dead, I…”

She did not want to listen yet. The feelings were all too raw. “Then, why did you refuse to return?!”

“Because I believed I’d never be the man you need or want!” he roared.

There was a stirring from outside. Her guards would burst through the doors any second now with swords drawn. “You’re wrong about that, Jon.”

She could see the doubt and hope at war in his eyes. He wanted to believe her. It hurt that he wasn’t sure he could but in a different way than earlier. They wanted to put their trust in each other but trust was not something they readily gave, it seemed. Those painful lessons from the day they’d left Winterfell as little more than children were always with them.

Our faith and trust has been broken and torn down so many times but we could learn again, couldn’t we? We could mend these broken things along with this marriage.

Before any more could be said, the door swung inward with the maester and the captain of the guard coming inside. Both men eyed Jon warily.

“Your Grace, the weather is turning quite foul. The greybeards among us say a storm is coming.”

“The older men are right,” Jon said. “I can smell it in the air.”

The captain looked to her as if Jon had not spoken. He is still your king. “The tents will not be sufficient shelter we fear.”

Her heart sank as worry and another variety of guilt needled her. His hovel was too small for all the men and certainly too small for their horses. She had led them here and now they might be in danger because of it. Politics, diplomacy and managing a household or a kingdom were where her talents lay. She knew nothing of life beyond the Wall or surviving these harsh lands in a blizzard. She held her head, wishing for a solution.

“Whitetree,” Jon said. “Make for Whitetree. It is an abandoned village of the Free Folk not more than a league from here to the northeast. The largest Weirwood I’ve ever seen stands at its center. It’s hard to miss. It is no more than a handful of crude dwellings but it will provide shelter for your men and the horses from this storm.”

“Very well, Your Grace,” the guard said with a begrudging bow his way.

“The travel may prove difficult for you, my lady,” the maester added concernedly.

Sansa gnawed at her bottom lip, uncertain what to say. She did not wish to endanger her child and she would only slow them down.

“My wife stays here.”

A stubborn desire to refuse wanted to assert itself at his words but she dismissed it. This was no place for it and they clearly needed to talk more.

They waited for her final word which she soon gave. The men nodded and left. She would remain with her husband for the night at least.

Alone together beyond the Wall with only a direwolf to watch over us. There’s that damned fluttering again.

 

Chapter Text

“Because I believed I’d never be the man you need or want!”

“You’re wrong about that, Jon.”

Was he? He wanted to believe that. He wanted to be worthy of her.

“You don’t want to be married to me,” she’d said, the tears coating her cheeks.

Had he made her feel that way? And why would she weep to say it?

Because she loves you, you fool.

He’d known his feelings for her for a long while. And once he let go of his insecurities, it was simple really. He could see all the ways she’d shown him her love even when he’d been denying the possibility. Not just during that one night he’d held her in his arms but every single day they’d been together. From the moment she’d ridden through the gates at Castle Black, she’d become his focal point, his center and his measure.

It may had started out as two people finding comfort and strength in each other during difficult times but it had grown into more for them both. They loved each other. They’d just failed to admit it.

He thought back over their conversation from earlier after she’d stopped pretending to be asleep on his pallet. She knew he had learned she was with child, something he had not known when they’d spoken earlier. Did she think that was what had brought about his change in demeanor towards her? Did she think his concern was merely due to the babe?

It did concern him but not the way she thought. He had decided to go after her before she’d fainted but she did not know that. He would tell her.

And what if she’d never come up here to find you?

He shuddered at the mere thought. She would’ve been forced to raise their child alone as rumors swirled and whispers followed her. Who’s child was it? Was their marriage ever consummated? Had Jon Snow fathered the child and then abandoned her or had she taken a lover and borne a bastard?

Sansa would’ve been left to endure those things as he whiled away his lonely existence, nursing his belief that she’d played him false and feeling sorry for himself, completely ignorant of what he’d condemned his own child to after knowing what it was like to grow up a bastard.

He had to prove that he was returning because of her and not just because she was with child.

And how will you convince of her that?

He needed to tell her…everything. He had left her in doubt about his feelings for her for far too long. He’d cruelly cast aside his oath, the oath he’d sworn before the heart tree to be her husband, to shield her and shelter her for all his days, after she’d come all this way to bring him home.

Can she ever forgive me?

That he did not know but there was only one way to find out. He would gladly spend his life making amends for his earlier coldness if she’d allow him the chance to love her as she deserved.

But now that the men had left, despite that being what he’d wanted, he found himself puzzled as to how to proceed. He might be a renowned swordsmen. He knew how to lead others and also how to follow when necessary but he felt miserably out of his depths when it came to this.

Could you possibly ruin things more than you already have?

He hoped not.

Sansa stood straight and tall with her hands clasped before her, the picture of serene ladylike composure even though he suspected she was feeling much like he was. He kept clenching and unclenching his hand, a nervous habit he’d developed after it had been burnt all those years ago.

He wanted to pick the thread back up of their earlier discussion. Unfortunately, he couldn’t think of a graceful way to do so. Perhaps she knew better than to expect grace from him at this point. He smiled ruefully to himself at the thought.

She was watching, her brows knitted together as if she were trying to decipher what his smile might mean.

“Would you care to sit?” he asked, indicating the chair by the fire. It was as good a start as any.

A mutinous look of refusal for half a second and then she sighed and sat. He knelt on the other side of Ghost who was between them at the hearth, not wishing to crowd her.

What would please Sansa? He was no poet or singer. Pretty words did not fall easily from his tongue. He could not give her jewels or lace or even pick her flowers here beyond the Wall. He did not wish to offer her some empty gesture either. He wanted to tell her what was in his heart.

But how might he begin?

Be yourself…just don’t act like an arse.

Oh, that’s likely.

The winds howled outside his hovel and it brought to mind cold nights in Winterfell when they’d all be gathered around the fire as Old Nan or even Father might tell them a story. Jon would often sit apart from the others, feeling the difference of his birth so keenly in those days. He’d be close but not amongst them whilst yearning to belong.

He remembered how Sansa had loved those evenings and the stories as a child. He recalled the way her hair would shine like copper in the firelight. He could almost hear the quiet gasps she’d utter when the story was frightening or her dreamy sighs when the story was the sort she liked best, a tale of knightly valor, fair maidens and true love. He’d liked those stories as well.

And for one who was always such a perfect little lady, her posture would suffer those nights as she’d lounge against Robb or have her back up against Arya’s while she’d be hanging on every word. He loved his lady wife and her ladylike ways but there was something magical about those nights before the fire if they could make even Sansa relax her usual decorum and just be for a time.

I’m no storyteller like Nan. Sam could tell stories and so can Sansa. Even Tormund can tell a good yarn but that’s not me.

You can try for her, can’t you?

He cleared his throat to garner her attention. “Since we’re stuck here alone together for the night at least, I was contemplating a pleasant way we might pass the time.” Her eyes grew wide with alarm and he scrambled to explain himself. “Seven hells. I didn’t mean…much as I might…” He huffed a laugh and started over. “I meant talking, Sansa.”

“Oh. Talking is good.”

“Yes, like you said earlier, it’s something we need to work on with one another but I was thinking of something a bit different. May I tell you a story?”

“A story?” There was a spark in those blues eyes for a second, quickly replaced by suspicion. He supposed he deserved that. As children, the others had teased Sansa some over the stories she loved best. He had as well a time or two. “I never knew you to be a storyteller.”

“That’s because I’ve never tried to be but I’d like to for you if you’ll permit me.”

“Alright then.” She was still perched on the edge of the chair with her hands laced together but she was listening.

“Once, there was a boy who dreamed of being a great hero.”

“This sounds like the dreams of many boys.”

“I suppose it is. Do girls dream of being heroes?”

“Yes, though perhaps in quieter ways than boys. No shouting or brandishing of magical swords.”

He snickered and nodded, remembering his and Robb’s antics from boyhood. “That is good because it suits my story.” She opened her mouth to inquire but he continued. He would get to that. “Despite this boy’s very common dreams of accomplishing heroic deeds, vanquishing evil men and rescuing lovely maidens, there were two things he wanted even more.”

“What were they?”

“For one, he wanted a place to belong.”

“Was he an orphan?”

“No…and yes.”

She smiled at his curious reply. “And what was the other thing?”

“Something he desired with all his heart though he feared he would never have.”

“Which was?”

“I’ll get to that.” She harrumphed at his evasion, making him chuckle. “So, the boy left his childhood home because he felt he’d have no place there once he reached manhood.”

“That is a shame.”

“It was but he was in too much of a hurry to seek his adventures and prove himself at the time, heedless of all he was leaving behind.”

“Children can be headstrong that way.”

“They can. Sadly, it wasn’t long after he left that he realized all his boyish dreams were just dreams, dreams that seemed foolish once he became better acquainted with the realities of the world.”

“The broken dreams of childhood,” she whispered sadly.

His heart ached, knowing she spoke from experiences as bitter and horrid as his own. He wished to take her into his arms but he would not, not yet anyway. “Yes. Despite that, the young man did find a place to belong though it did not resemble the hallowed order he’d imagined he’d be joining.”

“Did he become a knight?”

“No, he became a man of the Nights Watch.”

“Oh, I see,” she smirked knowingly. “He sounds heroic.”

“He thought he was at the time. Anyway, the young man had to learn more than a few things but he did learn. He wound up spending many days of his life fighting. Whether it was wildlings, his own brothers or even worse things, he did not balk from his duty and tried very hard to uphold his vows.”

“To guard the realms of men.”

“Aye. He did wind up forsaking his vows more than once but he did not desert the Watch. He remained a man of the Nights Watch until his death. He became very good at fighting. It was probably the thing he was best at though he did not like it. He longed for peace but he had found a place to belong and he figured that would be enough.”

“What about that other thing he wanted?”

“It was never meant to be his…at least, he never imagined it could be.”

She was leaning forward now, no longer sitting straight and tall, completely absorbed in his story. “Is there a maiden in this tale?”

“There is, the fairest maiden the man ever saw.”

She smiled brightly at those words before she could help herself and his heart beat harder at the sight. She had schooled her features back into polite interest when she asked, “And was the maiden running from a wicked man and his designs? Was she seeking something she’d lost when she met…or perhaps was reunited with the man?”

“She was indeed. Have you heard this story perhaps?”

She giggled and shook her head. “And did this young man save her?”

“No. Well, perhaps he did a little but mostly you’ve got it wrong.”

Her brow became furrowed. “How so?”

“The maiden’s the hero of this story, Sansa.” Her brow was smooth once more as her sweet lips parted in surprise. “May I continue?”

“Please do.”

The hitch in her voice and her dreamy sigh made it hard to keep any distance between them. He scooted around Ghost to sit at her knee. “He tried to do what was right but failed more than once. They made him the lord commander and his life became much more complicated. It was quite annoying at times.”

She was biting her lip now, amused at his piqued tone. “Did he find it a great headache?”

“A very great headache.”

“Being in charge is not easy…especially alone,” she said in a sadder tone.

“You’re right. It is,” he replied, feeling another wave of guilt at all he’d left her to deal with these past several months. He lifted his eyes to meet hers, wanting to apologize but she gave him a tap on the shoulder, his signal to keep going. “Even when he did what he thought was right, he was always left feeling that he was letting someone down. A visiting king and queen, his brothers or the Freefolk, he could not seem to please any of them at times.”

“It would be difficult to keep such different groups appeased.”

“Aye and he was not the best at communicating with others. Actually, he’s rather abysmal at it.” Her laughter made him want to laugh as well. “He failed to make himself understood and he underestimated the anger some of his decisions had created. His brothers stabbed him to death one night.”

“This is a sad story,” she said solemnly, taking him by the hand. His pulse thrummed at her touch.

“It was…but then it wasn’t, you see. This is where the maiden, his hero, came along to save him the first time.”

“The first time?”

“Oh, yes. She’s saved him more than once.” He kissed her hand. She was so absorbed by his words she barely noticed. He kissed it again. “The maiden of this tale, she’s the bravest person the man has ever known.”

She swallowed hard and shook her head. “She’s not. Heroes are brave. She’s…”

“She is. There are many forms of bravery and not all of them involve storming into battle with a sword in hand, Sansa. Bravery is standing back up after you’ve been knocked down when you hold no sword at all. Bravery is choosing to do what is right especially when it is not easy. Bravery is remaining kind at heart when the rest of the world shows you nothing but cruelty. Bravery is continuing to fight for your loved ones even when they’ve given up or let you down. That’s the kind of brave she is.”

“Jon…”

“Without you, I would’ve given up, Sansa. When you came to Castle Black after what happened, it was the first time I’d felt anything resembling joy in a long while. I was lost, ready to ride south and ignore the threat that I knew in my heart could not be ignored forever.”

“I…”

“And then after I learned the truth about Father…my uncle…it was…my whole world was turned on its head. I was lost all over again and again you came to me and gave me the strength to pick myself back up and keep going.”

He felt her squeezing his hand now, the soft touch of her small hand in his larger, rougher one giving comfort. Did she know he drew courage from it?

“Twice I was ready to give up, to retreat from everyone and everything. Twice you saved me from myself.”

“I only…”

“And then you came here to bring me home after I’d retreated from you in such a callous manner. It must’ve been an arduous journey to get here in your condition.”

She opened her mouth perhaps to utter a denial but then closed it again.

“That boy who wanted a place to belong was me of course. All my life I wanted to be a Stark, to feel like I belonged and you did everything you could to make me feel like one.”

“And what was the other thing that boy wanted?”

“He dreamed of being a lord with a highborn lady, kind and caring, to love who would love him in return. He wanted a wife to give him a family of his own someday.”

“Oh. And you thought you could never have those things.”

“Aye but then I did and it seemed too good to be true. Sansa, I’m sorry for hurting you earlier. I will not make excuses for my behavior especially once I learned the truth of the matter with Lord Baelish. I can only say I deeply regret it, more than anything. After you left, I was at war with myself. I know you think I had a change of heart upon learning of your condition but that is not the case. My heart has known itself for some time. It was my self-doubt that stood in the way but I had resolved to chase after you and apologize...only the guard was carrying you to my door before I could do so.”

“You were going to come for me?”

Her hopeful expression was enough to give him all the courage he needed to confess the rest. “I was though I cannot prove it to you. I can only hope to prove it by my actions and devotion from this day forward if you’ll allow. I’m sorry for everything I’ve done to make you feel as if I didn’t care or didn’t want you when I should’ve been telling you from the very start…I love you. I’ve been in love with you for many, many moons.”

Her smile in response to those words rivaled the rising sun and his heart beat all the faster.

“I did not plan to fall in love with you obviously. I’m ashamed to admit that it began before we learned the truth. But I fell in love with you while we traveled the North, looking for aid and longing for home, arguing one minute and confiding in each other the next as we struggled to put the painful parts of our pasts behind us.”

“It was the beginning of our story in a way.”

“It was. Maybe I started falling in love with you from the moment I laid eyes on you again as you stood uncertainly in the yard at Castle Black.”

“Why were you so reluctant to wed then?”

He grimaced to think of her asking and him demurring. The lady was the one who was supposed to be asked. “When they made me king over Ned Stark’s trueborn daughter, I didn’t feel worthy of it. Once we learned of my parentage, I felt even less so. Robb’s will aside, I worried I’d stolen your birthright and then you offered a marriage. You had already been forced to marry against your will once. When you spoke of security and duty in terms of us marrying, I believed…”

“That I only saw it as a political marriage?”

“Yes.”

“I’m sorry.”

“No, don’t say sorry. I’m sorry. I wanted you to find happiness and not feel bound by duty if I wasn’t what you wanted. But in my selfish heart, I also wanted you. I wanted your love.”

“And you didn’t think those things could align?”

“I was a fool.”

“If you were a fool, then so was I.”

“I’m going to disagree with you there. I am blind to my hero’s faults if she possesses any.” She was laughing again which he took as a good sign. “Sansa, I want to come home with you. I want to be your husband and spend my life showing you how much you mean to me. I want to be a father to our child. I want to help you rule if you’ll allow. I want…you.”

“I want those things, too. I love you.”

He knew it in his heart but hearing the words was better than any song. He leaned forward. She met him half-way and their lips met, a soft kiss, the first of many to come, he hoped. “Can you forgive me, wife?”

“Husband…” He loved hearing her call him that. “I already have.”

 


 

 

They continued to talk and to kiss until it was quite late and her head began to bob. She did not wish to sleep. What if she awoke and it had all been a dream?

“To bed, wife,” he said gently. “We will talk again tomorrow. We will talk tomorrow and the next day and the day after that.”

“You promise?”

“I promise. We will talk until you bid me to shut up.”

She relented at that and readied for bed. As she removed her gown, Jon stared intently at the fire, clenching and unclenching his hand. Once, she might have misinterpreted that. She understood him better now. It was not lack of desire but rather he would not expect anything from her after their separation until she indicated it would be welcome.

“I am very tired tonight.”

His eyes met hers as he nervously licked his lips. “Or course, you are. You are swaying where you stand. My pallet is not much but it is comfortable enough.”

“I thought so earlier when I laid there but I should like to be held tonight.”

His chest heaved and his eyes were so soft. It filled her with affection for him. “I should love to hold you.”

“And in the morning, I hope that I will not wake alone.”

“You’ll not wake alone.”

A few hours of talking could not mend everything but it was a start. A strong marriage required much effort from both parties in addition to patience, trust and understanding.

Theirs had had a rather rocky start, she knew, but then so had other couples who had ultimately found much happiness together. Hadn’t that been the case with her parents after all? There was no bastard child between them though, only the whispers of a malicious little man who was already dead and their own doubts and insecurities. Those things could be overcome. Sansa was certain of it. And their labors would be well rewarded in the end.

The hovel was not dark with the fire kept burning against the cold. It was not quiet either between the howling winds outside and the direwolf snoring within. But Sansa fought sleep, a superstitious part of her still fretting over what the morning might bring.

“I’m not going anywhere,” he whispered. “Rest, my love.”

“You should rest, too.”

“I will. I’ll dream of you.”

She felt her eyes drifting closed even as she struggled to stay awake just a bit longer, to relish the way it felt to be held in his arms and the way he looked at her.

“Oh!” she yelped just as she’d started to nod off.

“What is it?”

“Just a hearty kick.” His eyes widened, the earlier look of love and desire replaced by wonder and no small amount of concern. “Do you wish to feel it?”

He gulped and nodded so she placed his hand upon her belly where the kick had been felt. In no time, there was another, several actually.

“Our child thinks it is time to be up and playing, I’m afraid.”

Jon said nothing at first. The awe and adoration in his eyes said it all. But when she yawned, he tilted his head downward and spoke to the gentle swell of her belly. “Let your mother sleep, sweet babe. She has been very busy saving your father yet again today and needs her rest.”

She laughed softly and let him pull her closer. The babe’s movements quieted and she found sleep at last, enjoying that feeling she’d experienced the first night they’d laid together, the feeling of being loved.

When her eyes fluttered open the next morning, he was studying her face. He had not left her side.

“It was not a dream,” she sighed.

“It was not a dream.”

She rolled to face him, her hand idly tracing his chest. She did not miss the way his eyes darkened as she did so. “Why did you leave that first morning? Were you hungry?”

“Aye, very hungry…but not for food.”

Her heart flipped at his words and the heated way he stared at her. “What were you hungry for, husband?”

“You, wife.”

“And why did you not…indulge your hunger then?”

“I was afraid of what you’d think of your husband and his lust so soon after he’d taken your maidenhead the night before.”

“Sounds like you did too much thinking and not enough acting.”

“Obviously. And I could kick myself for ever leaving that morning. If I hadn’t…”

She pressed her finger to his lips, quieting his regrets. That was in the past. Instead, her hand roamed from his chest down to his belly…and further. “Are you hungry this morning, husband?” she asked boldly despite the color that was certainly blooming on her cheeks.

“Famished. What of my wife?” he asked huskily.

“The same.”

His mouth closed over hers the next instant. Her skin felt flushed and tingled everywhere he touched her, the hard lines of his body against her softer one. Their kiss went on until they were breathless. One deep breath and they were kissing again whilst tugging off what clothing they wore.

“Gods,” Jon groaned just as Ghost let out a whine. “Don’t go anywhere,” he begged her before he hopped out of bed.

“I won’t.”

He led the direwolf to the door. Their connection still amazed her. She thought of Lady and wondered if she might’ve shared something like it with her.

Before melancholy could consume her though, a blast of cold air hit her. She squealed and pulled the covers up around her and ignored Jon’s chuckling. She hoped her men had reached Whitetree safely but loved the layer of freshly fallen snow that met her eye. She enjoyed the sight of her husband without a stitch of clothing on, shivering as he hurriedly closed the door and stoked the fire before joining her again.

“Ghost can let us know if the others are alright. We can join them in a couple of days.”

“A couple of days? Is it as bad as that?”

“No, but my wife needs to rest herself. I’m sure the maester would agree,” he said with feigned innocence. She smirked at him. “Now, where was I?”

“About to indulge our appetite, I believe.”

“Oh, yes.” He tugged the covers over them both and then slithered downward, his beard lightly pricking her skin as his mouth kissed and licked and suckled every inch of her it met.

Life is not a song so much as it is a story, Sansa decided but that morning she sang. She sang his name more than once as they loved each other well into the morning.

And she sang a song for him as he stirred their porridge over the fire later on.

“Are you singing about Bael the Bard?” he asked with a sly grin.

“Yes.” She was wrapped in his furs and snug on the pallet, waiting for him to join her with their very late breakfast.

“The wildling king beyond the Wall who stole a Stark daughter.”

“It’s a good song though a sad one.”

“It is. Perhaps we’ll sing a happier song.”

“Would you truly sing a song for me, Jon?”

“If you ask it, wife, I’ll sing though your ears may regret it as much as your tongue may regret my cooking.”

She giggled as he handed her a bowl of the porridge. “It looks…filling.”

“Thank you, my lady,” he snorted.

“I am determined that I will regret nothing now that we are together again and you are not to brood over past mistakes either.”

“As you command, sweet wife. So, shall I sing you a song?”

He'd already given her one.  “No, husband. Tell me a story instead.”