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Redamancy (n.) - the act of loving the one who loves you; a love returned in full

Chapter Text

Jon doesn’t really know why he still sets an alarm for each morning. He guesses it’s something about a routine being somewhat of a comfort to him. And comforts are hard to come by these days so he’ll take what he can get.

The springs in Grenn’s fold-out bed squeaked and strained as he turned, reaching up to the desk where his phone was charging. They squeaked again when he rolled onto his back, phone now in hand.

Jon didn’t need to get up today – or any day for that matter, but as he’s crashing at Grenn’s apartment, taking up residence on a creaky old fold-out bed in his friend’s spare room, he reckons the very least he can do is not mope around the place, bringing the climate of his friend’s flat right down to the decidedly depressive.

Deleting half of the fresh junk emails he’d received overnight, Jon bit at his lip as his thumb hovered over the twitter app icon. He didn’t follow very many people. Social media wasn’t really ‘his thing’. Being social at all wasn’t his thing most of the time to be honest. But he knows there’s one person’s twitter account that he’s only a few clicks away from; his ex.

The phone lands face down on his bare chest before Jon scrubs his hands up and over his face. He distantly registers that his beard feels like it needs a trim. He hadn’t opened the twitter app, and for that he is grateful. He doesn’t want to be one of those guys; hung up on a girl from his past. Even acknowledging that Ygritte is part of his past now stings a little in his chest.

It’s been almost two months since their break-up and echoes from their final days together still ring in his ears. They’d had what Ygritte had described as a ‘pregnancy scare’, although Jon wasn’t sure that the kick-start to his heartbeat had been from fear. As a motherless boy who grew up in the care system, bouncing from home to home, foster family to foster family, never claimed, never wanted, never loved, the chance to start a family of his own – to create something that he was denied as a child – there was nothing but pure, painful longing behind each thud of his heart when Ygritte asked him, wide eyed with terror to go buy her a home pregnancy test.

He had. He’d bought the long box that contained the test with slightly trembling hands and walked back to their Wintertown apartment as fast as he could. He’d sat on their sofa, next to his girlfriend as they both stared at the test on the coffee table, the little white stick that had the power to change their lives. Gods, his heart was in his throat.

The instructions said that two pink lines would appear for a positive result, a single line for a negative one. That second pink line never appeared, no matter how hard Jon stared at it.

He was disappointed. No, they hadn’t planned to conceive, but for a few minutes – from the time it had taken for Ygritte to send him out to get the test, and for that singular little pink line to appear – Jon was picturing it; being a father. Having a family.

Jon squeezed his eyes shut at the memory. He hadn’t had much experience with that feeling; hope.

Of course, with hope comes deep, crushing disappointment, so he tries not to dwell on how it had felt to have that sensation in the first place.

Ygritte had been overjoyed that the test was negative. Her relief was palpable and at complete odds with how Jon had been feeling. He’d set that aside. He squashed down that hunger, that longing, trampled on it until it could be hidden away and never thought of again. He had Ygritte. He didn’t need a son or a daughter – a little version of himself and her, the absolute unconditional love that comes with it. He had Ygritte. He didn’t want to push her into starting a family – something he now can clearly see she does not want. He had Ygritte. No one else will ever love this orphaned bastard boy. He should learn to be thankful for what he has. He had Ygritte.

But then, he didn’t.

The ‘pregnancy scare’ had been enough for her to flee. It had been enough for Ygritte to wake up and realise that Jon wasn’t worth sticking around for. That’s not how she framed the situation, of course. She’d made some excuse about not wanting to feel tied down. Wanting to be free. She still wanted to be friends though.

Jon grimaces at the memory of how he’d snapped in that moment. She wanted to be free of me. Like I was a dead weight. Shackling her to me. Perhaps I was? Perhaps I’ll always be that? The old anger had resurfaced. He remembered it well from his many rejections as a boy. She was going to leave him, so he pushed her away. The only person to have ever loved him and he picked petty fights with her and became sullen and shut off instead of acting like an actual fucking adult.

Jon’s phone dinged and buzzed against his chest with a notification. It was from a word-a-day app he’d downloaded once when Ygritte had teased him about his poor communication skills. He was good with numbers, but words? He’s not a bleedin’ poet.

Precipitous (adj.) - Done rashly: acting too quickly and without sufficient thought, the app informed him.

Jon groaned. How fucking apt?

He’s going to need to call his friend Sam today. Grenn is a great guy, but for the confession that Jon needs to make, it has to be Sam. Grenn will be no help at all.

Jon opened the email he’d received yesterday to reread the words and phrases that had been swimming around his mind during the midnight hours.

Dear Mr Snow,

Thank you for visiting our Wintertown branch and providing your donation last month. The Westeros Fertility Clinic Network adheres to strict industry regulations regarding full semen analysis for all our donations. We are happy to inform you that a sample of your donation has passed all health screenings and proved acceptable in terms of sperm count, motility and morphology.

Therefore, we are pleased to inform you that your sample has been accepted and will be added to our nationwide bank of donations. Your donation may be used to help create a future family, and we thank you for potentially playing a part in our client’s happiness.

Your sincerely,

The Westeros Fertility Clinic Network

Seven Hells, he is one dumb fuck.

In the history of knee-jerk reactions to life-changing events, Jon Snow walking into a fertility clinic to donate his sperm - as some form of backwards-thinking ‘fuck-you’ to the world, to Ygritte, to his Dad who refused to claim him, to all the foster families who returned him – was probably the most stupid of them all.

He needs to call Sam.

“H-hello?” his friend answers, voice thick with morning confusion. Jon cursed himself, forgetting how early it was. He may be between jobs at the moment but that doesn’t mean the rest of the world is on pause too.

“Sam. Sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you.”

“S’okay,” his friend replied, yawning down the phone, “my alarm’s ‘bout to go off in five anyway. What’s up?”

Jon closed his eyes and bit his lip. How to explain this utter lunacy that overtook him a few weeks ago when he walked into that clinic and filled that plastic sample cup? “Ahh,” he sighed, aware that there would be no way to make any of this sound like it makes sense. “I think I fucked up.”

Jon doesn’t like examining his emotions too closely. He certainly doesn’t like talking about them in any kind of depth. But if there’s one person he knows won’t judge him too harshly, it’s Samwell Tarly. Luckily, Sam doesn’t ask too many questions on Jon’s motives that day – how do you explain to someone who grew up with a loving mother, brother and sister and who has a wife and child of his own, how it feels to be unlovable? And that apparently, this makes you do stupid things.

There had just been something about the thought of starting a family.

“Sooo,” Sam says, dragging out the word after Jon had explained as best he could, “w-what exactly prompted you to donate your-your-“

“Sperm,” Jon provided.”

“Yes. That. What made you do that, exactly?”

Jon sighed, sitting up in Grenn’s fold out bed, the mattress springs creaking their protest under the movement. “Since Yg…” since she left me, “… I dunno… I’ve been thinking a lot about family lately and… well, I saw this ad where the clinic were asking for donors and I just thought-“

“You know you won’t be the one getting a baby, right?”

Jon huffed and flung himself back down on the bed. There was a water stain on the ceiling of Grenn’s spare room where the apartment above must’ve had a leak at some point. Jon glared at it.

“Sorry, sorry.” He could hear Sam’s smile in his voice “It’s just... what was it? A ‘fuck you’ to Ygritte?”

That stung. Hearing someone say her name made that prickle of rejection flare up in Jon’s chest again. He’s not going to explain it. He can hardly explain it to himself, only that, at the time, it had seemed like some sort of victory over the countless rejections he’s had… someone – some unknown woman will choose him for possibly the most important thing in her life… and yeah, it had kind of felt like a ‘fuck you’ to his ex too… just a little bit.

Still doesn’t stop him from feeling like it was a dumb fuck move in the cold light of day now though.

“Shall I ask for my… donation… to be removed from their bank?” Jon wonders aloud, scrubbing his free hand up and down his face. “That was an option. I can change my mind.”

“Is that what you want?”

Jon doesn’t know. He’s always only ever wanted to do what was right. Be a good man. People who follow that philosophy get rewarded in life, right? Or perhaps they don’t? Perhaps it doesn’t matter. Perhaps the Gods aren’t concerned with right and wrong or why anyone does anything. He glared at the water stained ceiling again.

Donating his sperm had felt neither right nor wrong at the time. It just feels kind of dumb now.

“The way I see it,” Sam interrupts his thoughts as though his friend knows he’s gotten caught on an eternal loop of pondering things over, going back and forth on the rights and wrongs in his mind, “is that regardless of why you did it, you’ve actually done something very good,” he states, and Jon wonders if that’s true then why does he still feel like he’s fucked-up? “Think about it this way; you’ve provided a means to help someone – people who are having infertility problems… or-or a single woman, or a lesbian couple. Someone out there has enough love and longing to use the clinic to have a baby and help make their life full.” Jon hadn’t thought about it that way. “And you had a hand in that… so to speak.”

Jon rolls his eyes but huffs out a laugh down the phone. He really hadn’t considered his actions in the sense of what it could mean for someone else. It could mean the absolute world. Perhaps his fuck-up is more of an oddly-intentioned good deed instead?

“But are you prepared for a kid… or multiple kids knocking on your door once they turn 18 and want to meet their biological father?”

Jon’s throat constricts and there’s a tight squeeze somewhere in his chest at the very word ‘father’. “Uh, yeah,” he replies, rather inelegantly, his brows pinching together. “Well, I actually opted for my contact details to be available sooner… should… “ he’s not sure why he can’t seem to say the words ‘child’ or ‘mother’, so he swallows the lump in his throat instead, “… should anyone want to contact me before then. They just have to ask the clinic for it.”

Sam hums a single acknowledging note down the phone. It’s a noise that Jon knows his friend makes as he’s thinking things over and it’s best to just let him do that. “Jon?” he says after a while, his tone cautious, which in turn makes Jon feel wary, “you are aware that even if they make contact, and that you are their biological father, you’re not… you won’t be their Dad, you know?”

Jon wasn’t feeling so good about this anymore. He felt dumb again. Logically, he knew. He knew and he’s told himself the exact same words that Sam is telling him now… and yet.

Isn’t it funny how something as good and pure as ‘hope’ can feel so Gods-damned awful when it finally crashes and splinters off into a million little razor-sharp shards that imbed themselves under your ribs? Hope is dangerous, Jon came to learn this a long, long time ago, but still to this day he can’t stop it from rising every now and again.

He shakes his head clear of all that. How can he grab that feeling of doing good again? Oh yes, he was helping someone. Someone who might not be familiar with the taste of hope’s ashes in their mouth. Just because Jon’s heart will never get what it’s longing for, doesn’t mean everyone has to be as miserable as he is.

“I know that, Sam,” he finally answers, and then silently to himself, as if just to make doubly sure. I know that.

Jon’s phone buzzes next to his ear indicating another call trying to get through. He briefly wonders who would be trying to contact him this early but brushes it aside. It’s probably a telemarketer anyway.

“Look,” Sam says, “I personally think that whatever the motive, the result of what you did is ultimately a good thing. Like a gift. You’re giving someone the means to have a whole new person in their life to love and that’s wonderful. But you have to make sure that you’re okay with the fact that there might be a person who is basically half of you out there, being loved and cared for by someone that’s not you.”

When Jon was a child, a boy with a mother who died bringing him into the world and a father who refused to even acknowledge his existence (because to do so, he would be giving truth to the rumours of his unfaithful ways) he had longed to experience even a fraction of the belonging most children felt when with their families. For someone to have enough love in their hearts for a child to seek help from a fertility clinic and be willing to create that child using an unknown donor? It’s almost unfathomable to Jon. That’s a scary amount of love in his opinion, and it’s exactly what every child should feel they have, it doesn’t matter that it’s not coming from him.

“Yeah,” he answers, “yeah, I’d be okay with that.”

After hanging up his call with Sam, Jon can hear that Grenn has arisen from his slumber-pit and is starting to make coffee and whatnot in the kitchen. Jon’s stomach rumbles faintly and he sits up to start his day. His phone dings and buzzes again; a missed call and voicemail.

“Hi Jon, it’s Brienne,” he hears on the recording. He’s briefly confused, until he remembers the woman in question; Brienne Tarth, used to work in HR at Castle Black Publishing before moving on to pastures new. “I hope you don’t mind me contacting you,” she goes on to say, “but I seem to remember that your contract with Castle Black was temporary and coming to its end.” It was true, he had joined the accounts team after some serious company restructuring, there had been a lot of straightening out to do as well as putting new procedures in place. Their records alone had been an utter mess before Jon had arrived. “Well, I’m currently at Red Keep Books. There’s an opening in the accounts department and so I thought of you. If you are at all interested, just get in touch and I’ll run you through the details.”

Jon frowns down at his phone and pulls up google. Red Keep Books seemed to be located much further south than Jon had ever ventured. All the way down in King’s Landing. Jon had never even been south of The Neck. Could he take a job there? Could he relocate to a completely different region? What’s stopping him?

Precipitous, he thought distantly before realising it really didn’t matter if he acted rashly or without proper thought. What the hell does he have to lose anyway?

Chapter Text

Sansa is determined not to think about it today.

She will not think about it.

The issue is, in reminding herself that she should not be thinking about it, she is, indeed, thinking about it.

Staring at herself in the mirrored over-sink cabinet, watching her fingers rub the moisturiser in small circles over the skin of her cheeks, Sansa wills herself not to slide open the little door to reveal the box inside. She mentally curses as she sees her own traitorous hand reach up and slowly push the mirrored front to one side, the image of her now moisturised face being replaced by the contents of her bathroom cabinet.

Just a little peek can’t hurt.

Washing her hands, Sansa straightened and chewed on her lip, eyes trained on the box with the pregnancy test within, ignoring all the other immaculately organised bottles, boxes and bathroom paraphernalia. She had been sure to get one of the fancy tests. It had cost a fair bit more than the standard ones, but she hadn’t cared. The home pregnancy test that she had chosen had a digital display that gives you a little happy face if you’re pregnant and a frowny one if you’re not. Sansa thinks that it’s rather presumptuous of the manufacturers to assume that every woman who takes the test will be pleased to find out their condition, but none of that is her concern because Sansa will indeed be wearing the biggest grin should she see that happy face smiling up at her.

She’s not meant to take the test yet. She is nothing but rigorous when it comes to research and Sansa knows all the forums say the exact same as the information the clinic had given her – if she takes the test too early, she might get a false-negative due to the amount of hormones not yet built up in her body.

But it might be in there, Sansa thinks to herself, glancing down and brushing her hand over the soft skin on her flat stomach, just above her lemon-yellow cotton sleep shorts.

She feels so excited and nervous, she might burst. But she mustn’t take the test yet. So, deciding to stop eyeing the thing up, Sansa slides the cabinet door shut again to conceal the temptation away. Tomorrow, Sansa reminds herself, tomorrow is the day! She’ll set an alarm extra early.

Her bare feet pad lightly against cream carpet and then the cold tiles of her kitchen once she’s done in the bathroom. There is sunlight spilling into her open-plan lounge-diner-kitchen through the large windows that overlook the city street below. It’s not the kind of sunlight that warms the patches of carpet it bathes; the kind that cats like to claim with stretched out paws and tired, twitching, territorial tails. This kind of sunlight is pale, diluted by the promise of later rains.

Sansa knew a heavy rain shower was forecast for later on today. She makes a point to know these things; keep informed, be prepared. How else can you feel any kind of control?

Her linden wood clock comes to life as she passes it, mounted on the wall. Instead of a wooden cuckoo emerging to chirp the hour, with little flapping wings, a tiny wheel appears with intricately carved and golden painted fish perched on minute spindles. As the wheel turns, the fish tumble over one another, looking like they’re leaping from their stream before diving back under. The chimes are soft – not at all grating like the ones the large grandfather clock used to shout back in Sansa’s childhood home. Some people might’ve switched off the chimes, finding the marking of each hour an irritation, but Sansa likes it. She likes the reminder that things need to get done and there’s no time like the present. Some people may also have not bothered hanging the clock; it’s a pretty thing to look at with it’s carved and painted wood, but it’s not exactly in-keeping with the rest of her fashionably dressed apartment. But the fish-clock had been her mothers, and her mother’s-mother’s Sansa thinks too. There’s no way that it’s staying packed in a box in storage along with her Christmas decorations and unused exercise bike.

Sansa keeps many photographs of her parents in her home, but it’s the one stuck to her fridge with the ‘Visit Winterfell!’ tourist magnet that Robb had sent to her as both a joke and a hint that she loves the most. It’s old; taken before she was born and with baby Robb clearly making her mother’s belly round and swollen. It had been taken on her parent’s rather rushed wedding. Catelyn was wearing a simple cream dress and was carrying a small posy of baby’s breath, Ned sported an ill-fitting grey suit and the biggest smile you’ve ever seen on a man as his hand lay on Sansa’s mother’s stomach – not caring that to most, the day could’ve been described as a shotgun wedding. He was marrying his love, and she hers, and together they were starting something special.

And since that day, Ned and Catelyn Stark could barely be separated from each other. Even in death, it seemed, they had been destined to do that together too.

Sansa smiled at the photo and pressed a kiss to her index finger before passing it along to her parents with a touch to each of their grinning faces. Good morning, Mama. Good morning, Daddy, she thinks, as she does everyday before opening the fridge to grab her morning smoothie. It’s been twelve years since their passing, and she misses them no less than she had when their loss had first truly hit home in that painful part of her heart.

Sipping on her smoothie, Sansa finds herself straightening the plastic magnetic letters she keeps on her fridge. Most are all organised in stringent, alphabetical and colour-coordinated rows (as Sansa is a stickler for order). The only letters with permission to break ranks are those that she has displayed to make up the phrase ‘you want it – go out and get it’. It had been something her mother had repeated to her as a little girl, time and time again. Sansa’s not entirely sure why Catelyn Stark had taken up that particular philosophy, but she thinks it might’ve had something to do with her grandfather, Catelyn’s father, forbidding his daughter from marrying her sweetheart and father to her child, Ned Stark. Catelyn had defied her daddy’s wishes and gone out and got what she’d wanted anyway, not sparing a single glance to look back. Grandpa Hoster had reluctantly come ‘round to accepting Ned as soon as Robb had been born anyway.

I’ll find out tomorrow if I’m getting what I want, Mama, Sansa nodded at the phrase on her fridge door, her hand going to her flat stomach as she took the last swig of smoothie from the bottle.

Sansa’s two bed apartment is clean and warm and welcoming. Well, that’s what all her friends say anyway. She’d been sure to decorate it exactly as she’d wanted when she first bought it, back when she was a student at King’s Landing Uni, years ago now. Not many students could boast to owning their own place, but Sansa would trade places with the renters in a heartbeat since she’d bought the apartment using her inheritance money.

In fact, she’d bought her two neighbouring apartments too, effectively making her the proud owner of the whole sixth floor in her apartment building. Uncle Brynden had taught her to invest and he and Robb had helped her with all the paperwork and legalities at the time. She definitely cannot say that receiving rent money from two properties and not having to pay rent herself hasn’t helped her at all.

She’s not some spoiled princess… though she may have acted that way once or twice when she had been younger. Life soon slapped that right out of her when a car accident took her Mama and Daddy away from her and Robb when she was a teen.

Sansa has a job. Now, she doesn’t necessarily need a job, but she enjoys what she does and she’s good at it too. She’s a Proof-reader for a local literary publisher, Red Keep Books. The salary isn’t fantastic, but that’s fine because Sansa gets paid to read. She reads and she corrects and finds that so many shades of satisfying she can’t even begin to describe it. Besides, they always send her the new romances to look over with her sharp eagle-eye for detail. And even if Sansa’s own love-life is pathetic and non-existent, it doesn’t mean she can’t live through a thousand other loves through the words on the manuscripts. The love she reads may be fictional, but she feels it nonetheless. And sometimes that’s enough to make her feel a little less lonely.

I won’t be lonely for too much longer, she thinks. Hopes. Her head turning towards the bathroom where her pregnancy test awaits.

Deciding to use a donor and have her baby on her own wasn’t easy. One doesn’t just add ‘sperm’ onto your weekly grocery shopping list between ‘milk’ and ‘cheese’ after all. But she just cannot control when her ‘Mr Right’ was going to walk into her life (if he even exists at all – to which Sansa does harbour some doubts). She can’t control that, just like she couldn’t control what happened to her parents, or her ex cheating on her, or her other ex suddenly deciding to up and move to Braavos without much care as to whether Sansa joins him or not. But this? There was some control to be had with this, and as big a leap as it seemed, Sansa found comfort in whatever control she can find.

For as long as Sansa can remember she has wanted children of her own. At the age of seven, she had amounted an impressive collection of baby dolls and each one of them was given loving care and attention every day. Robb had hated her for it, but Sansa was forever forcing him to ‘play house’ with her or take her and a few of her dolls into the back yard for a pretend picnic. She still smiles whenever the memory flits through her head now.

This isn’t child’s-play anymore though. This is real, and it’s frightening, and it’s wonderful, and it’s horrifically exciting and everything Sansa has ever wanted. Well, almost.

She hasn’t actually told anyone about the possible baby yet, or it’s unconventional conception. And even though Sansa has never subscribed to the ‘better to ask forgiveness than permission’ philosophy, she was willing to get behind it this one time. She’d gone round and round the pros and cons in her own mind enough for her to detest the thought of hashing them out with anyone else. She’d made up her mind, and that was that.

Besides, she thinks, looking down to her stomach, it might not have worked this time around.

Deciding that she needs to keep busy and to stop tempting herself to find out the answer to that question by ripping open that pregnancy test and praying to the Old Gods and the new for that little smiley face to appear, Sansa thinks that distraction is key. She’ll be welcoming a new tenant into her empty apartment today (the other being occupied by one Mr Theon Greyjoy, a guy that seems to want to stick with one Stark or another, having started off as Robb’s best friend up north and then took up residence in one of Sansa’s properties when he moved down south).

Brienne from HR had heard that one of her properties was vacant at present and asked if the new guy in accounts could rent it while in his probationary period in his new role. She didn’t know much about the guy except that his name is Jon, but Sansa figured if he’s utterly awful she can move him along after the six months is up anyway.

Still, never let it be said that Sansa Stark is unwelcoming. She has plans today to go out before the heavens open as forecasted so she can buy her new tenant a little welcome gift. Maybe this Jon will be able to distract her enough from that pregnancy test calling to her from the inside of her bathroom cabinet?

Chapter Text

Pluviophile (n.) - A lover of rain; someone who finds joy and peace of mind during rainy days.

Jon frowns remembering his word-a-day notification from his app. He doesn’t think he’s a pluviophile. Not today anyway, he huffs, shifting the duffle bag on his shoulder and bending to pick up some of the boxes from his trunk as cold, fat raindrops drip and roll down his neck and into his shirt. His hair must look an absolute mess. He should’ve tied it back.

Not having much in terms of possessions, Jon is hopeful that it won’t take him too long to get it all up to his new apartment.

The city is grey. Greyer than he thought it might be all this way down south. The air is warm but feels far too humid for his taste and the sky has wrapped the city in dull fluffy clouds that feel closer than they ought to.

And King’s Landing smells odd too. There’s a hint of saltiness that must be coming off Blackwater Bay and Jon swears he can practically smell the warmth and sunlight that bathed the city before the rain moved in.

Driving through the city was not fun. Too many junctions, too many pedestrians trying to dash right in front of his damn car, too many angry road users who obviously knew where they were going which is more than Jon could say. And the tall buildings all felt like they were pressing in on him too. Hell, he’s parked right outside what he thinks is his new apartment building but he’s also pretty sure he’s parked illegally. It’s like there’s just no space for anyone here.

The sidewalk is made up of large square grey paving slabs, stained a darker shade with raindrops. Jon dodges a particularly large puddle to make it to the relative dry safety of under the building entryway. Blue Rose Place, he reads on the brass plaque above the individual apartment buzzers and thanks the Old Gods that he’d found the right building. Shifting his boxes to balance in one hand, Jon fishes out his phone from his pocket. Brienne had emailed him the details of his landlady who would let him in and give him his key. He hopes the woman is already here because he really doesn’t fancy waiting around after such a long, arduous drive south.

His anxiety levels are on high and all Jon really wants to do is get settled and perhaps do something familiar in these new, unfamiliar surroundings – like read one of his favourite books, or go for a run. Jon grimaces at the feeling of his now soggy t-shirt clinging to his shoulders. A run is probably out of the question… unless I want to catch pneumonia. He’d probably get lost anyway.

Jon presses his new landlady’s number with his thumb and then secures his phone against his ear using his shoulder. He takes a moment to turn and scope out the neighbourhood as the ring tone beeps. The area seems pretty nice actually. There’s a bakery across the street and he’d passed a park on his way here only a block over. Even washed in the grey of a rainy day, Jon can tell that this is not too shabby.

From seemingly nowhere, slightly muted music chirps amongst the pitter-patter of raindrops and the noise of tyres on wet roads. He recognises it. It’s the theme-tune to a tv show or something. Florian and Jonquil, Jon remembers; that period drama romance that Ygritte used to detest so Jon stopped watching it.

The music stops and so does the call tone in his ear. “Hello?” a woman’s voice answers. She sounds younger than he had been envisioning as his landlady.

“Hi, I-“ Jon spins around to peer back into the locked glass doors of the apartment building but sees that there is now a young woman on the other side, looking directly at him with her phone pressed to her ear. “Um…”

She is definitely a lot younger than he had been imagining she’d be. And pretty too. Her blue eyes seem bright and clear, even when reflecting the dreary grey light of the day. Her hair though. That had jolted him at first, before he swallowed that particular thorn back down his throat, realising that this woman’s hair was a shade or two darker than Ygritte’s, and much more tamed too – even put up in the high messy bun she’s styled it in.

He blinks at her, watching as she removes her phone from her ear and points down to it. “Are you Jon?” she asks him through the glass, rose-gold bangles making a pleasant clinking noise when she moves. She’s wearing indigo skinny jeans and some kind of soft peach baggy sweater that is short enough to show a sliver of midriff and stylish enough to hang off of one of her creamy shoulders. Jon’s eyes are caught on the choker she wears around her neck; a thin band of dove grey velvet ribbon with a small silver pendant of a wolf’s head, turned up and howling in the centre.

“Uh. Yeah,” he says, coming back to his senses, lifting his head and allowing his phone to clatter to the front step of his new apartment building. You know, like an idiot. “Shit,” Jon hisses.

“Oh no!” his landlady gasps, quickly opening the door and bending to retrieve Jon’s phone as he himself stands there rather uselessly with boxes in his hands. “The screen’s cracked,” she grimaces, holding it up to show him. And yep, there’s a single crack jaggedly reaching up from one lower corner to the diagonally opposite corner. Right across the screen. Fantastic.

“Welcome to King’s Landing,” she says, still with that grimace on her face. Her expression is kind of cute, Jon thinks before shaking himself clear of the notion and tries for a smile. He hopes it didn’t look as forced as it had felt.

“I needed a new one anyway,” he inclines his head towards his now defaced phone before awkwardly taking it from her while still balancing boxes. “So, uh…you’re Mrs Stark?”

She laughs at that. A light, musical sound that Jon likes instantly but doesn’t allow himself to acknowledge just how much he likes it. “Just Sansa will do.”

Jon nods. “That’s a pretty name.” He can feel his cheeks flame as soon as the words are out. It’s true though.

“Thank you,” she smiles. Jon decides that he shouldn’t like that too much either.

Sansa guides him into the building and over to the elevator. It feels like an incredibly small space once they’re in there, both standing, watching the doors in silence. He can smell her perfume. There is definitely vanilla in it.

Sansa clears her throat. “So, how was the journey down from Wintertown?”

“Good,” he replies, head nodding like an idiot.

More silence.

Jon has never been great at meeting new people, or talking to women, so this was going swimmingly. He keeps a spare black hair elastic around his wrist just in case he needs to secure his locks. However, keeping it there, he seems to have developed a habit of snapping the elastic against his skin. Jon’s fingers itches to snap at the elastic now. Damn these boxes.

“You know,” Sansa finally says, deciding to have mercy on him and slice through the air of awkwardness, “I’m from up north originally.”

“Really?” he says, surprised. “You don’t have an accent.”

“Yeah. My mum sent me to boarding-school at Riverrun so I kind of lost it when I was a teen.”

Jon nods his stupid head again. So she’s gorgeous and comes from money, he surmises. Great. Moving to King’s landing suddenly seems like such a bad idea. He feels a bit like a fish out of water.

“Actually, my childhood home is pretty close to Winter Town. Winterfell.”

“The castle?!” Jon splutters, mouth hanging open a little.

Seven Hells!

“Yeah,” she chuckles. The elevator makes a ‘ding’ sound before the doors slide open. Sansa slips out and Jon follows obediently, boxes in hand. “Well, when I was very small my Dad had financial issues so had to enter a partnership with The Northern Historical Society. So, technically they own it, but we were allowed to live there and help with the running of the place.”

Jon vaguely remembers visiting the old castle on a school trip. There were guided tours and interactive exhibits. He recalls enjoying being taught how to hold a wooden practice sword and swing it at a straw dummy by one of the tour guides.

“It was great fun growing up there,” Sansa continues as she’s walking down a very plain looking hall. “I remember my brother and I would hide in alcoves behind tapestries and pretend to be ghosts calling to the tourists from the afterlife.”

Jon snorts at that.

“Well, technically that was more my brother doing that, with his friend Theon who lives down the hall by the way,” she gestures to the door at the end of the hall. There only seems to be 3 apartments on this floor; one that has a ‘welcome’ doormat flanked by potted plants, another with two sets of muddy wellington boots outside; one pair much smaller than the other, some sparkly unicorn pattern barely visible under the mud. That had been the one Sansa had pointed out as his new neighbour’s, Theon. The last apartment is rather non-descript and simply features a brass ‘6B’ on its door.

6B turns out to be Jon’s new place.

Sansa twists the key in the lock and leads the way into his new home. “I wanted to repaint that wall before you arrived,” she points over to a single wall painted in a deep midnight blue with a white fireplace in the centre. “The last tenant did it and I thought it might be too dark.”

Jon drops the boxes onto the kitchen counter. The wall looks fine as far as he can tell. Yeah, the colour is very dark, but the other walls are all white so it’s not like it makes too much of a difference. “What colour would you have painted it?” he asks.

“Me?” she turns to look at him then and Jon tries not to notice the cute way her nose twitches as she looks up to the ceiling in thought. “Probably a pale lemon yellow if it were for me,” she smiles before looking back to the deep indigo wall. Jon immediately ignores the urge to touch the soft wisps of loose hair at the nape of her neck and snaps at the elastic on his wrist instead. “Something bright and cheery… but if it’s for a new tenant, then I’d probably just paint it white to match the other walls. Neutral, you know?” Sansa says with a shrug.

Jon nods along but finds himself quite glad that the blue wall stayed. He didn’t much feel like he’d enjoy living in a pristine white box. Speaking of the apartment, he’d known it would be ‘part-furnished’ but hadn’t quite understood which ‘parts’ that would entail. Now that he’s here he can see that the only piece of furniture in the lounge is a small, grey two-seater sofa and a coffee table. He’s going to need to get a dining table he supposes. Or maybe not? It’s only him here after all.

“It’s uh, very nice,” he comments, looking around the room which is his new lounge, kitchen and dining area all in one. And he’s not lying, it’s clean, it smells like some kind of lemony cleaning product, and the room is a good size. Jon pushes the boxes he’d brought a little more squarely onto the kitchen counter and realises that he’s just knocked them into something there.

Peering around his belongings, he can see what appears to be an open wicker basket that he’d not noticed before.

“Oh, I made you a care package,” Sansa explains breezily like it was nothing at all. “There’s a few goodies from the bakery across the road as well as tea and coffee. I put some milk in your fridge too. I figured moving all that way is pretty stressful so it would be nice to have a few essentials ready to go.” She smiled that lovely smile at him again then and Jon wasn’t sure he was able to respond so he snapped at his hair elastic again.

“Uh… thank you, Sansa. Really, that’s… that’s really nice of you.” He says, finding that once he’s able to locate his tongue, he can’t help but stumble over the bloody thing.

Her smile only brightens. “No problem. Do you need a hand getting your things out of the car?”

Jon declines her help and is grateful that she doesn’t push it. He’s sure she means well but he’d rather just do it all himself and try to settle in.

Sansa nods her head and shoves her hands in the back pockets of her jeans after placing his key down on the kitchen counter. “Well, let me know if you need anything, I’ll leave you to it,” she says, continuing to nod and smile as she makes to leave the apartment. “Welcome to King’s Landing, Jon,” she calls before finally closing the door to his new home.

The breath Jon releases seems to make his whole frame deflate, his shoulders relaxing as he takes another look around the main area of his abode before checking out the rest. The bedroom is rather plain but there’s a bedframe, bedside table, a chest of drawers and a built-in wardrobe with sliding mirrored doors. The bathroom is small and blindingly white. That lemony scent is strongest in here and Jon thinks Sansa must have attacked this room particularly vigorously in her cleaning efforts. There’s also a set of fluffy pale yellow towels hanging on the rail with a note pinned to them.

A welcome gift! From Sansa x

He feels his lips twitch at that as he touches the softness of her gift. She didn’t have to do that.

It doesn’t matter anyway. How often is he going to see his landlady? He and Ygritte hadn’t even seen their landlord in person for the whole of the lease of their Wintertown flat. It’s probably for the best. She seems nice and all, but Jon thinks it’s best for him to stay away from women he’s attracted to right now. Everything’s so new to him down here and he needs to find his feet. Even then, even when he’s settled and he knows King’s Landing like the back of his hand, Jon’s not sure a fling with the landlady would be a good idea. And it would only be a fling, wouldn’t it? A nice girl like that? No way she’d want more from someone with his background.

She’s probably in a relationship already anyway, idiot, Jon scolds himself.

He shakes all thoughts of the pretty women who gave him cakes and coffee and fluffy towels out of his head. He probably won’t even see her again until it’s time for him to move on and hand back his keys. Deciding to unpack the boxes he’d brought up and pray that the rain might ease up a little so he can go get the rest of his stuff, Jon wanders back into the kitchen when his phone buzzes in his pocket.

He frowns down at the screen with the huge crack across its face and sees that he has a text message from the pretty woman who gave him cakes and coffee and fluffy towels; the very woman he’d just decided to forget about.

Hey! I forgot to tell you – I live in the apartment across the hall in 6A! Feel free to pop by tonight if you’re hungry for veggie chilli (I always feed Theon on Wednesdays so you’ll be able to meet him too) Sansa x

Jon finds himself snapping at that hair elastic again.

Chapter Text

“Go on. Tell me!” Theon begs, reaching his pinky finger towards her simmering pot of chilli to dip in and get a taste. Sansa slaps his hand away with a tut.

“Theon, I’m not telling you anything,” she says, resolute and unmoving. She made a promise to her friend and she intends to keep it.

“Oh, c’mon! There has to be something wrong with the guy?”

“Why? Because he’s dating Jeyne? Why does there have to be something wrong with him?” Theon hadn’t meant it like that, Sansa knows. She knows this because her brother’s best friend has been in love with her own best friend, Jeyne since that fateful drunken hook up that resulted in a very unplanned pregnancy almost four years ago. She doesn’t let on to Theon that she’s clued in on his heart’s desire though. Half the time she’s not even sure that he’s clued in on it himself.

He is, however, utterly besotted with Nerissa, their daughter, and she is the very reason that he even knows that Jeyne has a date next week – because Sansa will be babysitting ‘Issy’ while her Mama has a hot date.

“And why couldn’t I have my daughter while her mother is out galivanting with half-wits and plebs, hmm?” he asks, taking a swig from his beer bottle.

Sansa snorts at his dedication to getting his jabs in at the expense of this man that neither of them even knows. “Oh, I can just see how that would go down,” she chuckles, stirring the chilli. “Theon, can you watch our daughter while I’m out having the time of my life with this gorgeously suave guy who is very likely to sweep me right off my stiletto heeled feet with his big strong arms?”

He stares at her, blinking twice with his beer bottle paused halfway to his mouth for another pull. Totally unimpressed. “Well she wouldn’t phrase it like that.”

“Maybe not,” Sansa concedes, turning off her stove, “but that’s exactly what you’d hear in your head…or worse.” Theon winces at that and Sansa can tell that he knows she’s right. “Anyway, all I know is that his name is Daario. That’s it,” she says, putting on her oven gloves (the ones with the little lemons all over) to get her homemade seeded bread out of the oven.

“Daario?” he repeats, perking up now that he has a shadow of a slither of a hint of ammunition. “What kind of name is that? Sounds like a pervert or a psychopath. I don’t want this-this Daario anywhere near my Issy.”

Sansa levels him with a straight look. A look that tells him he’s being ridiculous and needs to rethink his words before they fly from his mouth. In the silence of her look, Sansa can just about make out the sound of the rain still beating on her windows.

Theon, to his credit, instantly hangs his head in defeat. “I know, I know,” he grumbles.

“Is there another reason that you don’t like the thought of Jeyne going out on dates?”

“No,” he answers, pretending to sound bored and uninterested. “There’s no other reason.”

Sansa really feels like she needs to knock some sense into him sometimes. She eyes her loaf tin, thinking it would most likely do the trick. “You date,” she points out, deciding violence is probably not the best answer.

“Hardly,” Theon scoffs.

“What’s the difference between Jeyne going on a date and you when you bring home those girls I find hungover in the corridor?”

“That was only one time!”

Her doorbell rings, cutting off any response she might have prepared on the tip of her tongue. Theon puts down his beer to go and answer it like the good little houseguest that he is whenever he’s over, scrounging for food. He does, however, turn his head and sticks out his tongue at her as he leaves the room and her instinctual response is to return the gesture.

“Uh… Sansa invited me over-“ she hears in a low masculine voice at her door and she instantly recognises it to be her new tenant, Jon. She hadn’t been sure that he would accept her invitation as he’d never returned her text but she’s glad that he’s here. He had been the perfect distraction from her temptation to take that pregnancy test today. Preparing his apartment and then greeting him had almost took her mind off it. He’d seemed sweet and quiet, and she knew if she’d said he wasn’t absolutely gorgeous then she’d be lying to herself. Yes, he was quite the nice distraction and she’s very happy to let him distract her further this evening.

“Come in, Jon!” Sansa calls as she moves the pot of chilli to the centre of her dining table for her guests to help themselves. He appears, looking no less shy than he had earlier but wearing much dryer clothes this time. Shame, some unbidden part of her mind whispered before she ushered the thought away. She hopes he can’t see the bloom of a blush she can feel on her cheeks from just remembering how his t-shirt had clung to his shoulders. Sansa decides to try to hide it by smiling extra wide at him and deferring attention to the two bottles of wine he has in his hands. “Oh, what’s this?”

“I didn’t want to come empty handed,” he tells her as Theon slips past him and returns to his usual position, spread out on her couch, “and I didn’t know what you liked so I got red and white.”

Sansa thanks him and steps forward, feeling herself beaming at him like a madwoman. God, turn it down a notch, she tells herself as she’s taking the bottles from him. She can’t drink them of course, no matter whether or not the test tomorrow shows her a little smiley or a frowny face, she’s trying to keep her body healthy to boost the chances of conceiving. Sansa finds herself looking down at the labels as she’s trying to think of a polite and discreet way of not consuming any of Jon’s gifted wine.

“I think I walked about seven blocks trying to find a convenience store,” Jon said, clearing his throat, “I’m sure there’s somewhere closer.”

“Out in this weather?” He must’ve gotten wet through. Her traitorous eyes flit briefly to his regrettably dry shirt and she wants to kick herself all over again because yes, he is a nice distraction, but he’s not a piece of meat, damnit! Get a grip, Sansa! “You really didn’t need to do that.”

“Yeah, Sansa won’t drink it anyway,” Theon butts in from his place on the couch, taking a swig of his beer. Sansa’s body goes cold. How does he know that? She hasn’t told anyone about the baby or the possibility of a baby. “She’s on some weird health-kick,” he adds with a shrug and Sansa feels her heart jump start again. Theon still has the capacity to surprise her sometimes. She had no idea that he had noticed her conscious efforts to stop drinking and choose healthy foods. She thought she’d been sly about that.

Jon looked a little deflated. “Shit. Sorry,” he mutters, reaching to take back wine, “I really didn’t know what to get you.”

“You didn’t need to get me anything,” Sansa answers, clutching the bottles closer. “But I’m keeping these now, it’s too late!” Jon smiles at her then and Gods-damnit that is a… a… a rather distracting kind of smile he’s got there. Sansa’s tummy does a little somersault that she instantly decides to ignore. “I’ll save these for… when my health-kick is over,” she tells him, moving to the kitchen to tuck the bottles away in a cupboard.

“If you ask me, the best part of a health-kick is when it ends and normality resumes,” Theon mumbles around a mouthful of tortilla chips that she had not given him permission to open yet.

Sansa rolls her eyes at him. “And this is Theon from 6C by the way,” she says, gesturing to the half-man-half-truffling-pig currently lounging on her sofa. Sansa swears Theon could snuffle out a snack from fifty paces.

The guys exchange greetings and Jon makes to join him on the sofa before looking like he’d remembered himself and turned to ask if he could help with anything in the kitchen. “No, I’m just about done,” she tells him with a smile. Jon nods his head, fidgets a bit with what looks like a hair elastic on his wrist and goes to sit with his other new neighbour.

“Mother hen wouldn’t let you lift a finger anyway,” Theon comments, offering Jon some chips and then a beer. He declines the snack but accepts the drink.

“What makes you think I’d stop you from helping?”

Theon waves a dismissive hand over his head at her. “You love playing Mummy, don’t deny it!” he says. Sansa decides not to comment and Jon takes a glug of his beer. “She’s always looking after me and the little squidlet,” Theon continues to tell Jon.

“Squidlet?”

“Nerissa, my little girl,” Theon answers proudly, whipping out his phone to show his new neighbour photos of the absolute best thing life has given him. Theon is many, many things, including an idiot, a sarcastic ass, a supposed ‘ladies man’ and a self-proclaimed eternal bachelor but all Sansa sees whenever he talks about Issy is a man whose whole world revolves around that little person smiling back at him on the screen of his phone. It makes her heart happy and ache all at once.

“Grubs up!” She announces, removing the apron with little lemons all over that match her oven gloves.

***

During the meal Jon had begun to relax a little, and Sansa’s mind had only wandered to the pregnancy test in her bathroom about 3 or 4 times. Only roughly half the words that came from Theon’s mouth were regarding his daughter. The rest were a mix of work, sports and his tips to Jon about where the best clubs in the city for picking up girls were.

She was caught watching Jon over the table then, for some reason feeling some investment in figuring out where he stands on casual hook-ups. It’s of no consequence to her if that’s the kind of thing he does, she tells herself. Darting her eyes away and reaching for some more bread, Sansa hopes that her cheeks aren’t turning pink.

“Er…” she can still feel his eyes on her, so she adds another helping of homemade guacamole to her plate in a bid to distract herself. Jon clears his throat. “That’s not really my kind of scene,” he says, eyes moving on to Theon. “One-night stands and all that.”

“What?!” Theon exclaims, leaning back in his dining chair, looking rather amused as he continues to chew on his food. “With a pretty mug like that, I bet girls would claw each other’s eyes out for a chance to be with you!” Jon’s face turns red and he shakes his head. Sansa tries not to be too pleased about it.

He was looking at her again. Watching for what, Sansa didn’t know, but Theon seemed to notice and interpreted it the way he pleased. “Oh, don’t worry about Sansa,” he said, “she’s the best landlady you’ll ever have and puts up with my talk of conquests. She doesn’t mind guy-talk,” he grins. Sansa wrinkles her nose. “One time, I brought this girl home, right,” Theon continues, leaning forward eagerly, “and we were both a little drunk, anyway, she leaves after I’ve unleashed the kraken and-“

“Ew. Theon. Gross.”

He laughs before continuing and Sansa almost doesn’t notice Jon’s low, quiet chuckle. “Anyway, she leaves after I’ve fallen asleep from our epic sexercise workout, right?” Sansa snorts into her glass of iced water, “and the next thing I know when I finally wake up is Sansa has the girl in here and they’re having fucking ‘brunch’ together and shit!”

“I bumped into her in the corridor on my way back in! She didn’t feel well.”

“And just like that -BOOM!- Mother hen strikes again!” Theon smacks his hand down on the table.

“She’s a really nice girl, actually! We’ve stayed in touch and I’m going to her hen do next month.”

“She’s getting married? Seven Hells!”

“Well I think it’s lovely,” Sansa told him with a nod of her head. “If you’ve found your special someone then why not?”

“You hearing this nonsense, Jon?” Theon nudges their newest neighbour with his elbow.

Jon coughs and uses his napkin to wipe his mouth as he finishes chewing. “I, er… well I’m not so sure about the whole ‘marriage’ thing.” Sansa feels herself deflate, and she’s not too sure why. Jon seems to notice her sag a little in her chair. “Not that I don’t think it’s not worth thinking about,” he’s quick to add, his words seeming to be for her benefit. “It’s just in my experience people don’t tend to stick around.”

“Exactly,” Theon points to Jon with his fork before delving back into his food. He doesn’t really seem to be listening to the man anyway.

Sansa thinks that there must be a story there; behind that sad shade to his eyes. He snaps the band on his wrist a few times in quick succession and takes a glug of his beer. “Sorry. That put a downer on the conversation, didn’t it?” His face is flushed again and Sansa can only smile and shake her head. The rain lashes harder against her windowpane.

“It’s okay.”

Later, when Theon has passed out in a food-coma and is snoring open-mouthed on her sofa, and Jon has ignored her protest at him helping her clear everything away, he steps next to her as he’s drying a spatula with her yellow tea-towel. “Thank you for inviting me,” he says quietly, clearing his throat before his brows draw together. “Uh, earlier, when I put a bummer on the conversation about marriage,” Sansa looks to him with a smile, taking the spatula to put away in the correct drawer before giving Jon her attention again. “Well, my Dad was a married man when he had an affair with my Mum.”

“Oh,” is all she can find herself saying.

Jon swallows and nods, fiddling with the tea-towel before Sansa gently takes it from him, folding it neatly and hanging it on the handle of her oven. His hands now free, Jon seems to unconsciously start to pick at that band around his wrist again.

“Yeah. So it’s sort of coloured my view on the whole ‘marriage thing’.”

Sansa nods. That’s totally understandable. She tells him so and waits to see if he’d like to elaborate or if perhaps his first night in his new home with new neighbours is maybe too soon to be picking apart his past with someone he only just met that day. This situation with his dad is obviously something that has shaped Jon in some form, be it in a large or small way. But Jon himself has admitted it has an effect on him and his views so it must be considerable enough for him to be conscious of it.

Sansa moves to wipe down the kitchen counter so as not to be just stood there watching Jon and making him uncomfortable. It doesn’t seem as though he wants to add anything further to what he’s shared though. And that’s okay, Sansa thinks with a smile as her hands move the washcloth in a circular motion, the glow of the under cabinet lights the only illumination in this dim corner of the room. Life’s complicated and families even more so. But Sansa wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to have one of her own for anything in the world. No matter how complicated.

Her tummy does a little flutter when she looks to Jon and she tells herself it’s because she’s thinking of the possible little life growing in there and not because Jon Snow had been watching her intently with those expressive eyes of his.

“Do you want to stay?” Sansa asks, “Theon and I normally binge a boxset after I’ve fed him, and we finished Florian & Jonquil last week so we’ll be looking to start a new one soon. Perfect timing.” She grins at him, pleased that he’s smiling back at her.

He shakes his head though. “Thank you, but I think I should be getting back,” he says, thumb pointing over his shoulder, “do a bit more unpacking, hopefully feel more settled before actually going to bed, you know?” Sansa nods. That’s probably wise. “Besides, I’m not sure Sleeping Beauty here would be up for watching anything,” he inclines his head towards Theon, passed out on the sofa. Sansa giggles and watches as Jon takes a breath like he’s about to say something, his hand fiddling with that band around his wrist again. “Thank you… again… for inviting me.”

He’s gone then, and not long after, Sansa shakes Theon awake. He promptly mumbles something unintelligible before dragging himself back to his own apartment.

And then she’s alone. Alone with that test in the bathroom.

Sansa tries so, so hard not to give in to life’s temptations, she really, really does. But sometimes, sometimes, she gives in and has that extra lemon cake, or presses the snooze button on her alarm, or makes the first move and kisses the boy, or allows herself to watch one more episode.

Temptation’s whispers are getting louder now – now that Theon’s not here to make stupid jokes and Jon’s gone so she can’t distract herself with the way his eyes crinkle at the corners when he smiles. She decides to switch on the tv, but it only takes her the length of two commercials to be standing up from the sofa and wandering into the bathroom.

Opening the box, Sansa slides out the paper instructions and reads them like she hasn’t already read them half a dozen times. She looks at her phone to confirm the time; just coming up for 10.30pm. Only an hour and a half away from midnight and then the minutes will actually be eating into the right day for her to be able to test.

The light in her bathroom seems particularly bright tonight as she chewed on her lip and bounced her hip, fanning herself with the instructions in her hand as she thought. An hour and a half wouldn’t make much difference, surely? How would her body even know?

It turns out that this is one of those times that Sansa’s temptations are too big for her to deny and before she knows it, she’s pushing the cap back on the ‘business end’ of a pregnancy test and gently placing it down on the coffee table to wait the three minutes for either a smiley face or a frowny one to appear. She sets a timer on her phone and lays that down next to the test.

Gods! A baby! Her insides feel like they’ve been shaken up and she looks around her lounge in a bid to stop staring at the items on her coffee table. A watched kettle never boils.

It’s either going to be a celebration: party of two, or a commiseration: party of one.

She looks to the digital display of the test again. Still nothing.

This is the longest three minutes of her life.

Sansa starts chewing on her nails. It’s a bad habit and she knows she shouldn’t do it, but she can’t quite bring herself to care right now. She’s about to find out if there’s a whole other person growing inside of her. A whole other person that she is going to love so fiercely and eternally that quite frankly, the concept of it is wonderfully terrifying. But this is a plunge that she’s wanted to take since she was old enough to understand that she could be someone’s mama one day. She wants to be someone’s mama so, so badly.

She wonders if all her friends and family even realise how badly she wants it? Well they’ll certainly get the picture once you tell them you went to a donor clinic, she tells herself, pulse quickening at the very thought of imparting that particular information.

It’s not something she’s allowed herself to fully think through; how everyone around her will perceive her choice not to wait for the illusive ‘Mr Right’. She thinks that they’ll be supportive, but perhaps a bit surprised. She hopes that’s how they’ll react anyway, because by the time Sansa will have anything to actually tell them, it’ll be a done thing and the bun will be safely cooking away in the oven anyway.

The test is still blank.

Sansa huffs and stands, moving into the kitchen area to go distract herself with the contents of her fridge. She doesn’t want anything to eat or drink so she has no idea why she’s staring at tonight’s leftovers, the little light bathing her front in a warm glow in contrast to the chill she can feel coming from within.

The timer on her phone starts to beep. The test is done. She’s going to know. Sansa stands there, still holding the fridge door open, unable to move. The hum of the refrigerator, the beep of her phone, the pulse roaring past her ears. It’s almost all too much.

This is it.

Sansa takes a deep breath, closes the refrigerator door and walks towards the coffee table. Her heart is in her throat.

The digital display isn’t blank anymore. There’s a little face on there. She can see it from where she stands.

Chapter Text

As tiring as moving all this way had been yesterday, Jon just hadn’t managed to catch a good night’s sleep. He’d dreamt of that woman again; the one who’s visited his dreams for so very long. He thinks she might be his mother, but in reality she's probably some care worker that his subconscious has latched on to. She always shows him kindness in her eyes and smile.

 

Most of his belongings were unpacked but the place was very far from feeling like a home just yet. And it’s just so damned difficult to really relax somewhere totally new. He’d kept waking up, confused about his whereabouts before remembering again.

 

The street he now lived on wasn’t the busiest, but it was still a lot busier than he had been used to back home in sleepy Winter Town. Everything comes with noise down here in the city and even once the rain had stopped lashing against his window, the sound of passing cars on wet tarmac and the occasional far off song of a siren had left Jon feeling unsettled of sorts. So here he was, up earlier than planned, considering he didn’t have to start work until next week and had no ideas of what to do with himself.

 

Jon chews on his toast as he looks out the window to the street below. Seagulls caw somewhere nearby and that wasn’t a noise he was used to either. There had been a little glass jar of lime marmalade in amongst the things Sansa had put together for him. He wouldn’t have known it was lime marmalade if it wasn’t for the neatly written label on the jar. He’d never tried it before and wondered if Sansa had made it herself. It was rather pleasant. He decided to have some more.

 

The city of King’s Landing was bathed in the warmth of the sun this morning, a vast change from the downpour that had welcomed him yesterday. Jon returns to the window with a fresh round of toast, leaning his shoulder against the wall as he continues to watch the morning commuters rushing about down below. On the windowsill he balances a steaming mug of some herbal tea or other (another welcome gift from his gracious landlady). He swallows down his mouthful of toast and raises the drink to his lips, grimacing the instant the hot liquid hits his tongue. Unlike the lime marmalade, he’s not too keen on this gift.

 

There are boxes of books at his feet. He’s going to need to buy some shelves as well as a dining table and he supposes today is as good a day as any to go out and start looking for his new furniture. He does have an idea of one place he’d like to visit first however.

 

Once he’d finally made up his mind last night about accepting Sansa’s offer of a meal, Jon had wandered the dark and soggy streets of King’s Landing searching for somewhere to get some wine so that he didn’t show up empty-handed. During that excursion, he’d managed to pass a gym that hadn’t looked too pretentious and had reminded him of the one he’d used back up north.

 

From the time he was a scrawny young teen, Jon had learned the boys that looked as though they could handle themselves in a fight were rarely picked on in the children’s homes. It was that herd mentality of preying on the weak. One of his foster families had an older son who was away in the army. The son had transformed a corner of the basement into a kind of home-gym with a lifting bench, weight bar and a collection of dumbbells. Jon would sneak down there as often as he could and by the time he was returned to the home (like he usually was) he’d built a bit of muscle on him and the other kids seemed to notice. He got involved in a lot less scraps after that. They’d left him alone.

 

Ever since then, Jon has always been a member at a gym. He doesn’t want to get crazy big; he’s no body-builder. And it’s not a vanity thing. It’s just that having a certain type of physique had been a kind of protection when he was younger so he’d just continued down that same road. Routine is his friend and working out has become a small part of that. Of course, it comes with the added bonus that girls had seemed to like his body too. He won’t deny that that makes him feel good.

 

Jon wonders if Sansa works out and then instantly wishes that his hands were free of toast and disgusting tea so that he could snap the band on his wrist and stop that train of thought dead. I bet she’d look good in yoga pants, he cannot help but think and this time he actually does put everything down onto the windowsill so that he can get that little sharp slap from the elastic against his skin. Don’t do that. Don’t be that guy.

 

Sansa has been nothing but welcoming to him since he arrived and despite initially feeling like a bit of a third wheel last night, he had ended up enjoying the company. He’d even told her about his father’s affair with his mother. Later, in the night, as he had laid there in his new strange bed, in his new strange apartment, in this new strange city, Jon realised how unexpectedly easy it had been to tell her that.

 

After finishing up his morning routine, he replied to the texts from his friends up north about how he’s settling in.

 

The south is warm. The apartment is nice. Don’t start work until next week.

 

He’s no great conversationalist but his friends know that about him already. His phone buzzed in his hand with a notification from the word-a-day app.

 

Gravid (adjective) - Pregnant.

 

Jon feels his insides shift uncomfortably before he promptly closes the app. It’s time to leave.

 

***

 

The gym is relatively small and that’s totally fine by Jon. It’s not uber modern nor outdated but some kind of perfect balance between the two. There is only one large workout room (the other two, smaller studio rooms being used for classes), the floorspace is divided in two: cardio and weights. He finds a bench close to where the cycle machines were lined up and adds weights to the bar; less than his normal amount for a set of warm up reps.

 

There’s two women turning the pedals on their cycles nearby and he hears their conversation come to an abrupt end when he nears, starting to prepare for lifting. Jon doesn’t want to turn around but he gets the feeling he’s being watched.

 

There’s a low murmur that he can’t discern over the music being played and both women giggle as he lays on his back and grips the bar above him.

 

“You’re terrible,” one girl laughs.

 

“What? Are you saying you’d pass that up?”

 

“Not likely! I could use a bit of fun.” They both cackle again and Jon tries to drown out their din by counting his reps and focussing on the beat of the music.

 

“Oh look! Look!”

 

“Oh, my gods!”

 

He doesn’t know what their twittering over now, and he’s not interested in finding out either. Finishing his warm-up reps, Jon can feel the dull warmth in the muscles of his arms that will soon build up to a burn when he really gets going. He stands to add more weight, finding that he can’t help but glance at the women on the cycles as they’re still clucking over something or other. Their high ponytails bounce as they pedal, the faster the talk, the faster they seem to cycle. Both woman look as though they treat a gym session as a social event more than anything, with perfectly coordinating outfits and make up on their faces.

 

One of them is whispering behind her hand, her long nails manicured and painted in a bright orange hue. Both girls laugh at whatever it was that she’d said. Neither of them are looking at him now, thank the Gods, but Jon’s eyes follow their own line of sight and land on a rather overweight girl stepping onto a treadmill.

 

Well… good for her, he thinks before looking back to the two cycling ladies with a scowl.

 

After completing his bench presses, Jon sits up, legs astride each side of his bench and gym towel slung around the back of his neck. All throughout his lifting those two women had continued to natter on about the larger girl. He glared at them now before looking back to the object of their amusement. She was striding on the machine – at a pace somewhere between a walk and a jog. Her thin blonde hair scraped back on her head and her face a bright shade of red. He wondered if she could hear the two idiots beside him talking about her.

 

“I mean, if I ever get like that then feel free to take me out back and shoot me!” They both laughed and Jon saw the larger woman screw her eyes shut. He’s pretty sure she heard that at least.

 

He normally makes a point of keeping himself to himself and not getting involved in anyone’s business, but this was just cruel. So, he wiped the sweat from his brow and walked over to the treadmills. The two cycling women fell silent. He could feel their eyes on him as he made his way to the machine next to the large woman’s.

 

He doesn’t normally use these types of machines. If he wants to run, he’ll run; outside, with the pavement moving beneath his feet and actual scenery going by, but he’ll make an exception today he supposes.

 

“Hi, uh, do you know how to work this thing?” he asks, feigning ignorance. He may not use these machines but he’s sure that they’re not rocket science.

 

She mumbled something and leant over to indicate to a few buttons, quietly telling him where to up the speed before her focus goes back to the tv screen mounted on the wall. It was showing some sort of game show but was kept muted.

 

“Thanks,” he tells her, setting his pace to match hers.

 

“Oh my Gods, he must be a chubby-chaser!” one of the cycling women hissed to the other before they were laughing about that too.

 

The woman next to him squeezed her eyes shut again, as if that could keep their rude words from hurting her in any way. Jon glared at the duo which seemed to shut them up pretty abruptly. They were both suddenly very interested in the control panels of their bikes, eyes downcast, faces a bashful shade of red.

 

“I’m Jon,” he says to the woman next to him, offering her a hand in greeting.

 

She looks to his outstretched hand for a second or two as they both continue to stride on the spot beside one another. “Walda,” she says, giving his hand a quick, clammy shake. “But if you are indeed a ‘chubby-chaser’, I have to tell you I like girls, so you’re barking up the wrong chubby-tree.”

 

Jon laughed. “Fair enough,” he said, shrugging.

 

The whir of their treadmills and the beat of the music pumping in over the speakers was the only sounds around them for a time. Both Jon and Walda were watching the game show on the wall mounted tv.

 

A new round of questions began to show on screen;

 

What was the name of the ancient realm-protecting order which manned a 700 foot structure made of ice?

 

“The Night’s Watch,” Jon answered out loud, keeping his pace and smiling to himself when the on-screen graphic proved him correct.

 

Aerion Targaryen is famed for death by consumption of wildfire. What moniker was he given in relation to his unusual demise?

 

Jon winced at the Targaryen name but opened his mouth to answer.

 

Walda was faster. “Aerion Brightflame.”

 

Which regional capital’s castle was reportedly built by Brandon the Builder?

 

“Winterfell,” Jon answered, his mind flashing imagined scenes of a young Sansa running up and down the old musty halls and hiding behind tapestries.

 

The category for the next round seemed to change and instead of being presented with questions, the screen showed four images of various landscapes that Jon surmised the players needed to guess correctly.

 

“That top right one is The Twins,” Walda said, beginning to huff on her treadmill, “and the bottom two are Pyke and Casterly Rock. But I don’t know that last one… looks somewhere sunny… Dornish maybe?”

 

“The Water Gardens?” Jon offered, not entirely sure since he’d never been there himself.

 

“Ooh, possibly!”

 

He was proved correct again and was rewarded with a high five from Walda. “Nice!” she said, seemingly proud of them both. Jon looked towards the cycles but they were now all vacant. Good.

 

They carried on for a while, upping the pace and then slowing. Jon decided to match his speed with hers. It didn’t do anything to raise his heartrate or get him out of breath of course, but it had seemed like the polite thing to do at the time. Besides, it made it a hell of a lot easier to answer the questions right the way through the game show.

 

About halfway through, a girl with hair dyed emerald green, styled into two braided pigtails and a mermaid tattoo on her arm approached the rowing machine in front of them both.

 

“Hi Wylla,” Walda offered with what Jon thinks was a bashful smile.

 

The other girl looked up and beamed at the greeting. “Hi,” she said, all toothy grin and twinkling eyes. Walda was quiet for quite some time after that, having seemingly lost interest in the game show.

 

“She’s pretty much the only reason I keep coming back to the gym,” Walda confessed in a hushed tone once Wylla had wandered out of earshot.

 

Jon nodded. “Why don’t you ask her out?”

 

“I will,” she answered, “…eventually… maybe.”

 

Jon smiled and nodded, raising his brows at Walda and giving her a pointed look when Wylla came over to use the other treadmill beside her.

 

***

 

“Jon! Jon!” He could hear his name being called from somewhere as he squinted into the crowd around him, the sunlight beating down and reflecting off glass fronted stores making it difficult to discern the origin of the voice. Sounds like Sansa, he thought, before being a little concerned as to why he should recognise her voice so soon. He was right though.

 

He’d spotted her, a head of silky straight shining hair bobbing and weaving excitedly towards him. “Jon!” she called again, her smile wider than he’d seen it last night. She neared and promptly embraced him in a hug as if they had been old friends reconnecting after years apart, not the almost-strangers that they actually were. Jon wasn’t sure how best to receive this hug, or quite why it was happening. “Isn’t it a wonderful day?!” she exclaimed after peeling herself away. She grinned at him and blinked her pretty blue eyes.

 

“Is it?” he wondered, a little bemused. The weather is much better today but he’s at a loss as to why that should be deemed wonderful.

 

“Sure it is!”

 

Gods, she’s cute, the thought came unbidden. He snapped at the elastic on his wrist.

 

Snap!

 

She smells so good too.

 

Snap! Snap!

 

“What have you been up to? Exploring the city?” Sansa bounced excitedly on her feet.

 

“Uh, just went to the gym,” Jon shrugged, “and actually, I think I made a friend there?” he said, the realisation just dawning on him. Walda had told him he should come back for morning sessions as he’d left (since that’s when the game shows are on).

 

Sansa giggled.

 

Snap!

 

“You seem surprised,” she smiled.

 

“Well…yeah… it’s not normally that easy.”

 

“To make friends? Sure it is!”

 

“For you maybe.” She frowned at that and looked as though she might enquire what he meant by it. “What are you up to today?” he asked, swaying the conversation in a different direction. A man in a suit and a rush barged past them both. Jon ushered Sansa to the side of the pavement out of the way of further oncoming inconsiderates and glowered at the retreating man’s head.

 

“Me?” she recovered quickly like she was used to that kind of treatment in the streets of King’s Landing. Perhaps she was? “Well, I’m meant to be reading this new manuscript they sent my way but I’m thinking of taking the day off to celebrate.”

 

“Celebrate?”

 

She opened her mouth and sucked in a breath to talk before Jon watched something flit over her eyes prompting her to close it again. “We need to celebrate you making a friend,” she decided to say, smiling. “C’mon, I know just the place.”

 

Before Jon knew it, he was being beckoned to follow an excitable redhead into a sea of people, not having the faintest clue where she’s leading him to, but finding that he’s following gladly nonetheless.

 

 

Chapter Text

Sansa knows exactly what she’s going to order as soon as the idea to take Jon to The Avairy comes to mind. A slice of lemon and poppyseed cake. She’s had it once before, the sweet treat had arrived at her table with tangy cream cheese frosting and was decorated with little purple and yellow edible pansies when she’d had it that one time. Sansa had picked off the flowers, unable to eat their pretty little faces.

It had been delicious, but that wasn’t the reason her choice was fixed.

Last night, Sansa had spent a good deal of time staring at that pregnancy test. Followed by jumping up and down excitedly because staring back at her had been that little smiley face she’d been hoping to see. A smiley face that indicated a new life was beginning inside of her. Sansa wanted to tell everyone. She wanted to run to the top of her apartment building and shout her news into the chilly evening air. Most of all she wanted to tell Robb. But she couldn’t. Not yet. It’s too soon.

But, when the time comes, her brother is going to be the very first to know.

So, she settled for posting her happy message on a chat forum she’d joined. The forum was purely for members who are like her and using a donor to create their families. Her eyes caught on a colourful advert along the header of the site and soon Sansa was downloading the pregnancy related app that was being advertised. It would tell you what to expect during each week of pregnancy, what foods to avoid, tips for ailments and at what stage of growth your baby has reached. This week, Sansa’s baby, a living thing whose existence she has only just been made aware of, is the size of poppyseed.

How mad is that?

The centre of her world right now, the person who she knows she will love more than anything, is the size of a poppyseed and growing in her tummy. She smiles just to think of it. So, yeah, lemon and poppyseed cake is a must today.

Each week the app will tell Sansa her baby’s stage of growth and compare its size to a fruit, or vegetable, or seed, or nut and Sansa wonders if each week she’ll be able to consume the corresponding food. She smiles at that thought too and at the corner of her eye she can see Jon studying her as they walk to their destination. Turning to face him, Sansa gives Jon a full-on grin because she’s just so damned happy. She might not be able to tell him why yet, but it doesn’t stop her.

She is tempted to tell him. She’s tempted to tell everyone. But she won’t. Robb will be the first to know and anyway, the clinic had advised her that one in every four pregnancies ends in miscarriage and those odds seemed awfully high to Sansa.

She’ll be safer once the first trimester is out of the way; once she reaches that twelve-week mark, she can tell every soul in Westeros. Until then however, Sansa feels like she’ll jinx this little poppyseed baby, and that’s a risk she’s unwilling to take. So here she walks, with her new neighbour and friend who doesn’t know she’s pregnant, amongst the people of King’s Landing who don’t know she’s pregnant, towards a park restaurant that will be full of more people who don’t know she’s pregnant either. But Sansa knows. It’s why she can’t stop smiling.

The Aviary is located in the centre of Visenya Park, a short walk from their apartment block. The building had been part of what once was a sprawling property used to house a menagerie of exotic animals to please the kings, queens and gentlefolk of years long gone by. The Aviary is all that remains of it now, kept and renovated into a rather charming restaurant and seated at the edge of a manmade lake that Sansa had once been told used to host a group of lizardlions.

“This seems fancy,” Jon comments a little nervously as they enter, craning his neck to see the high ceilings where once birds of paradise had twittered and flitted and sang.

The eating area is what used to be the aviary proper, with whatever material had originally been used to keep its feathered occupants captive replaced with many panes of glass. The effect is that its guests feel as though they are dining within a huge domed glasshouse. Tall, luscious green plants that Sansa thinks would be well suited in some rainforest or other are dotted about the place and just outside, the owners keep peacocks that are free to roam the whole of the gated park if they so wish, though they tend to stay close to where they are fed. It's warm in here and the cavernous space makes the occasional scrape of a chair on the floor or child's excitable squeal echo above the general happy murmur. 

“It’s much fancier in the evenings for dinner service, or so I’m told,” she tells him, picking a table and seating herself. Jon occupies the other chair as he’s continuing to look around. He doesn’t seem to be comforted by her statement.

“I’m still in my joggers,” he frowns.

His hair is wet too, slicked back into a knot at the back of his head, from the shower he’s bound to have taken at the gym. Sansa thinks he looks rather handsome actually, if a little uncomfortable. “I’m in my jeans,” she offers with a shrug and a grin. She’s not sure anything will wipe this smile from her face for quite some time.

“Yeah, but you look-“ Jon stops himself from completing that sentence and pulls on what looks like a hair tie around his wrist before he tries again. “You look nice. I’m sure you could wear a potato sack and still fit in anywhere.”

Her smile widens. “Jon, it’s midday and the sun is shining. Look,” she gestures over to the counter near where they had entered, “people are coming in to buy ice lollies. The building may be fancy, but it’s not a terribly formal place by and large.” As if to prove her point, a rotund topless man wandered in to purchase an ice cream to be taken back out and enjoyed in the park. He wore red, angry looking tan lines that gave the illusion that he was still sporting a pasty coloured vest.

Jon huffed out a laugh and shook his head. “Alright,” he conceded and fished around in his gym bag for something. What he brought out were a pair of black framed glasses to put on so he could study the menu.

Oh my. Sansa’s mind suddenly went rather blank before she licked her lips and tried to grasp at some coherent thought.

“Well, the prices aren’t too bad,” Jon murmurs, turning the menu over and scanning the selection.

“An accountant through-and-through.”

He looked up, smirking at her comment and causing something fluttery to dance low in her tummy. Sansa shook her head. That was nothing to do with Jon, that was her little poppyseed secret.

A waitress came to take their order and Sansa asked for her cake and a pot of camomile tea. Jon, looking a little undecided, quickly agreed to the same before amending that he would take coffee, black for his drink.

Outside, a male peacock struts past the panes of glass, his glorious long tail bobbing slightly with each step, and each beautiful eyed feather shivering when he gave his body a small shake. The magnificent bird paused to shriek a ‘kee-ah, kee-ah’ and people outside in the park stopped to admire him.

“I won’t get used to that,” Jon muttered.

Sansa tended to agree. “You don’t get many of those up north.”

“Not even in your fancy-pants castle?” he teased with a barely concealed smile.

Sansa pretended to scowl, which only served to make Jon’s grin more evident. That fluttery feeling returned, and she was suddenly taken by the thought that he was flirting with her. Is that what he’s doing? And is she flirting back?

Sansa was struck by the realisation that flirting with one’s tenant may not be the wisest thing to do.

A look passed over Jon’s face and it seemed like he had arrived at the very same conclusion as he averts his eyes and clears his throat. And is he blushing?

Sansa can feel her own cheeks colouring now. Why’d she have to go and think about Jon in that way?

It’s alright to be attracted to him though, she counters in her head. I mean… look at him!... It doesn’t mean anything.

And a little flirting is harmless, Sansa reminds herself once the cake arrives and she catches the look on Jon’s face when she groans around the first bite. Could even be a bit of fun.

That will have to be where it stops though, she decides. Jon is her tenant and neighbour – and hopefully they’ll become good friends too. Anything more than flirting brings complications, especially if it ends badly.

Besides, in eight months, Sansa will be a mother. That is what she has to concentrate on now, not flirting with Jon. No matter how snugly his t-shirts seem to fit across his shoulders, or how adorable he looks in his specs, or how she kind of wants to boop his nose with the cream cheese frosting on his cake…. And then maybe lick it off.

She smiles down at her own forkful, amused by her own thoughts.

“Is this part of your health-kick then?” he asks, bringing Sansa back to reality before he scoops another piece of cake into his mouth.

“Sorry?”

“The cake.”

Shit.

“Well… it’s more of a trying-to-cut-down-on-the-drink-kick, to be fair.”

“Admirable,” Jon nods his head once in acknowledgment.

Phew.

“Besides, we’re celebrating you making a gym-buddy, remember? And what’s a celebration without cake?”

Jon chuckles at that as he continues to dig at his cake with his fork, the sound of his amusement is low and warm and kind of makes Sansa want to press her ear to his chest as he does it so she can hear it rumble through his ribs.

Ok, dial it back a notch, Sansa, she tells herself, tucking some hair behind her ear and clearing her throat. “My mum used to make the best lemon drizzle cake,” she tells him with a fond grin, “she made it for every one of my birthdays.”

Jon’s answering smile is tight on his lips and it’s then that Sansa remembers that he doesn’t know. She hadn’t told him yet. Grief is a sneaky kind of bastard when it wants to be. It never goes away, only sits there, idle and yet present, awaiting an opportunity to jump up and give your heart a good, hard, unforgiving squeeze. Sansa forgets sometimes, that people don’t automatically just know that she lost her parents at a young age. That people can’t tell just by looking at her. That she’ll have to explain. That she’ll have to say the words.

Judging by the expression on Jon’s face, he’s trying to work it out without being forward enough to ask. He snaps at that band on his wrist too. “My mum used to” she’d said. Used to. Used to. Used to. That could mean a few other things; not necessarily that her mum passed away years ago. The implication is there though, and it’s better to just get on with it and explain. Rip it off like a plaster. She’ll only have to do it once with him, and then he’ll know.

“My mum and dad were in a car accident when Robb and I were teenagers,” is all she says, her eyes falling to her fork pushing around some cake crumbs on her plate. She doesn’t think she needs to say the rest.

“I’m so sorry, Sansa.”

She was right.

She nods her head and takes a sip of her tea, wondering if mama and daddy were still here would she risk her silly superstitions of jinxing her little poppyseed to tell them? She stares at the little black seeds dotted in the layers of her cake.

“My mother passed away when I was born,” Jon offers and it’s so unexpected that it makes her hold onto her breath.

Jon,” Sansa can’t help but say breathily as though she's been winded, just like she can’t stop herself from reaching across the table and placing her hand on his. “I’m so sorry.”

He’d looked like he’d wanted to say more but seemed caught off guard by her touch as he sat there, staring down at her hand over his. She gave his hand a little squeeze before retracting her own and offering a small smile, suddenly struck that she’d like to know more about Jon’s upbringing and family but deciding that she’ll wait for him to offer such information.

“Have you got time for a walk around the park after we finish up here? I always like to try and find peacock feathers whenever I come here. My record is five in one visit,” Sansa tells him, trying to grab at the light and happy atmosphere that surrounded them before.

“I’d like that,” Jon answers and Sansa thinks the soft upward tilt of his lips and the little crinkles at the corners of his eyes is just a lovely thing to look at. Someone should photograph Jon Snow with that exact same expression. He’s a very beautiful man. “What?” he asks as she continues to grin at him. “Do I have cake around my mouth?”

Together they manage to find three feathers, their iridescent eyes shimmering as Sansa runs the soft downy plumes through her hand. The afternoon was getting hotter, but Sansa knew that a storm was heading their way. The weather forecast had told her so, but she could just feel it in the air anyway.

“So is Theon threatening to drag you out on the town any time soon?” she asks. Jon grimaces in reply making her giggle as they continue their slow walk around the park. “You should go,” she tells him. “You’re new to the city. You should go and have some fun,” Sansa nods her head at her own sage advice.

“Will you be coming along if I do?”

“Not likely,” she grins. “Unless he’s forcing you to go to the karaoke bars down at Mud Gate, then I will absolutely be tagging along.”

“Well, lets hope it doesn’t come to that then," Jon snorts.

They make it to the large open wrought-iron gates that announce the edge of the park and Jon watches as Sansa sticks the three peacock tail feathers into the earth of a nearby flowerbed.

“Aren’t you going to take them home?”

“Oh no. They’re bad luck if you bring them into your house,” Sansa explains. She’s not entirely sure if she believes in all these superstitions, but she’s not one to leave things to chance and there’s no way she’s inviting bad luck into her home. “So I just leave them here for someone else to find.”

“And bring the bad luck into their home?”

Sansa’s eyes widen. She hadn’t thought about it like that.

Jon seems to find her expression comical because he’s grinning from ear to ear.

“Should we hide them?!” she asks, genuinely concerned.

Before Jon gets a chance to answer, they’re approached by a slim woman clutching a clipboard and wearing a neon orange t-shirt with some slogan printed on the front and back. “Excuse me,” she asks, “would you mind signing our petition to help protect our city parks?”

“Sure,” Sansa answers, reaching for the pen. She’d heard about the parkland over in the Flea Bottom area being sold off and building works had already started. It was terrible in her opinion. Residents of the city needed green spaces, not only for leisure, but for their souls. “I heard Flea Bottom Park is going to be a shopping mall, is that right?” she asks the woman as she’s signing her name and handing the clipboard over to Jon next to her.

“It’s worse, actually. Targaryen Industries is moving their head offices from Dragonstone, so it’ll be some huge multi-story office block eyesore!”

Beside her, Jon sucks in a sharp breath, the pen in his hand paused, hovering over the petition sheet.

Chapter Text

 

Dragonstone was a wet, grey island but Jon hadn’t minded. An excitement was stirring inside him that he’d never felt before in his young life.

The house was big; bigger than any he’d ever seen, and Jon had to wonder if only one family lived there? You could probably fit all his foster families inside its ancient-looking stone walls, as well as all the children at the homes, and still have plenty of room for more.

He hitched his backpack on his shoulder, soaking from the rain currently lashing down and feeling a ton heavier for it. A cold raindrop rolled from the tip of his nose as he peered through the black bars of the huge gated house. He could see the corner of what he thinks is a tennis court at the side of the property and he thinks… he thinks ‘what if’. What if it had all been different and his mother hadn’t died giving birth to him? What if he’d come to stay here for long weekends and summer breaks? Plenty of kids have ‘broken homes’ where they share their time with each parent. As things stand now, Jon doesn’t have a home, broken or not.

The sound of tyres on the wet road prompts him to back away, disappearing into the lush rhododendrons outside the walls of the house. The car pulls up, and as if by magic, the wrought iron gate opens inwardly with a low hum. Jon slips inside before they can close again, his trainers crunching on the wet gravel driveway as the enormous house looms over him. His jeans are soaked through.

“What are you doing?” he gets the instant the driver of the car steps out of it. Jon’s heart is trying to escape his chest. That’s his father, is all he can think, that’s his dad!

Jon shifts his backpack further up his shoulder again, clinging to the one strap with both hands. He feels like a hobo, like a beggar in comparison to the man standing there, his fine tailored suit getting dotted with the rain. “Um… Mr Targaryen, I’m-“

“Whatever you’re selling, I don’t want any,” the man snaps, eyes furious and full of ire.

“No, it’s…it’s not that-“ Jon stammers, his adolescent voice going higher than he would’ve liked before he cleared his throat to try again.

Rhaegar was faster.

“Whatever it is, I’m mot interested. Now, please leave my property or I’ll-“

“I’m your son,” Jon blurted, now shivering – from his clothes being wet through or from what might come of this meeting, Jon’s not sure. “I’m your son,” he repeats, voice only a fraction calmer. “My name is Jon.”

Rhaegar says nothing. He looks the boy up and down, eyes narrowing on his face and Jon wonders what he finds there because something akin to recognition passes over his features before the expression is schooled again.

Jon took a small step closer. “Thirteen years ago, Lyanna Snow worked for you. She… she was my mum.”

“Was?” Rhaegar asks, his head turning a fraction to the side although his eyes stayed on Jon.

“She died when I was born.”

Jon was cold. So fucking cold. Why hasn’t he asked him into the house yet? The man must be getting his fancy suit ruined in this weather and here they are, just standing here in the rain. Aren’t parents meant to care about things like this? About their kids getting pneumonia or some shit?

“I’m sorry for your loss.”

He didn’t sound sorry. Not really.

“I didn’t know her,” he shrugged. Pretending to be unaffected has become second nature to Jon, although his emotions still have a knack of sneaking up on him more often than he’d like – the most common one being anger. ‘Having a difficult day’ his social worker called it.

They continued to stand there in the rain, young boy and man, staring at one another as if each were expecting the other to make the first move.

Jon’s foot scuffed forward half a step in the gravel. “I’m your son,” he repeated in a weak voice.

That seemed to prompt Rhaegar, and later, Jon would wonder how long they would have both stood there, silently getting drenched, staring at one another if he hadn’t have broken the spell. “Look,” the man licks his lips and averts his eyes. Jon watches as he pats at his pockets and fishes out his wallet. He thumbs through the notes and brings out a wad. Jon’s stomach churns uncomfortably. “You can’t be here,” he says, holding out the money to his long-lost son.

“I don’t want your money.”

“Well what the hell do you want then?” he asks, shoving the notes back into his wallet.

Jon’s brows pinch. A father. A family.

He says nothing.

“I’m sorry kid, but I’m married. I was married when I knew your mother and –“

“I’m not a kid,” Jon snapped, feeling smaller than he ever had, stood there in the shadow of Rhaegar Targaryen’s huge grey stone mansion.

“I don’t know what to tell you.”

Jon’s gaze flitted around as if he could pull the right words from the immaculately kept garden and impressive stone steps; the words that would make this man see that he’s meant to love him. He’s meant to love him and care for him and do all the things that dads are meant to do with their sons. He needs to see. “Can-can you call the Winter Town branch of Child Services? They’ll arrange everything. You won’t need to do much. Just-“

“I’m not going to do that.”

Jon let out a breath as he stared up into the man’s striking violet eyes. “Why?”

Rheagar sighed. “Look…Jon?” Jon nodded, “you can’t just show up and expect things from people. You-” he looked Jon up and down again and he could see regret there in his gaze. “You have to go. I’m sorry, son, but I can’t help you.”

Everything was ruined. This had been Jon’s last chance at having a family. He thought it was going to work. This time it was supposed to work. He was stupid for thinking so. Some people are just unlovable. “I am not your son,” Jon snarled through clenched teeth, shivering as he stared at the man for a few more seconds before turning on his heel and crunching his way back out of the gated grounds.

 

***

 

Serendipity  (noun) – the occurrence or development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.

This wasn’t serendipity. This was bullshit.

Jon closed the word-a-day app and opened google. What the fuck is the opposite of serendipity? Because that’s what this is.

Zemblanity  (noun) – the inevitable discovery of what one would rather not know; the opposite of serendipity.

The word didn’t sound nearly strong enough in Jon’s mind. He sighed and pocketed his phone, ready to alight the bus at the next stop. He’d started work a couple of days ago and quickly found that driving the short commute to and from the Red Keep Book’s office block was akin to walking very, very slowly through the fires of all the Seven Hells.

He might only be exaggerating a little bit, but Jon is certainly no fan of congestion. He could now see why Sansa and Theon explained that nearly everyone in the city took public transport most of the time. And he especially envied Sansa for the amount of time she was able to work from home.

He pressed the bell to stop and got off the bus, his zemblanity following him.

Jon made a stop at the convenience store on his way home and found himself in front of the drinks chiller. With fingers curling around the plastic loop that held together a four-pack of beer, Jon’s other hand pauses in its journey to reach for another four-pack.

You have work tomorrow, he told himself. You’re new on the job. Don’t fuck this up.

It was tempting though. As coping mechanisms go, Jon will be the first to admit that drinking until you’re numb and enter a dreamless sleep so, for a time, you can just forget is a pretty shit one.

Once, when he was about seven or eight, Jon had spent some time with one particular foster family where the dad had depended on his old buddies, vodka and cheap cider. That man had had a problem. He’d hid it well until the authorities found out and removed all the foster kids from their care.

Jon hadn’t quite understood it at the time. Why did he feel the need to get blind drunk and pass out almost every evening? What was he gaining? The man’s wife was devoted to him, that much Jon can remember. He had the love and support of his family.

Every man has his demons.

And one of Jon’s comes in the form of Rhaegar Targaryen, his biological father. Jon makes sure to mentally use the definition; Rhaegar Targaryen may be his father via his DNA, but nothing more. He’d made sure of that when a thirteen-year-old Jon had approached the man and he’d refused to acknowledge him. Even now, that stings something awful.

His mum had not specified to her midwives who her baby’s father was, most likely planning to raise Jon as a single mother before The Stranger made his unexpected call. So there was a blank space left on Jon's birth certificate.But rumours of an affair between the CEO of Targaryen Industries and his secretary had followed Jon throughout his life, and when he’d taken the plunge and typed that name into google, he could see himself in the images of the man that came up; nothing concrete, nothing definitive, but Jon thinks he’d have to search far and wide to find another man whose eye shape, mouth and curve of the nose matched his so perfectly.

Jon had wondered what he inherited of his mother?

He’d clutched the opportunity that had arose; a trip one foster family took, taking a long weekend break to the island of Dragonstone. He had run away - nothing he hadn’t done before. Only this time, when he’s inevitably caught, Jon had expected to have someone on his side, someone who would want him to stay and not hand him over back to the authorities. He had expected Rhaegar Targaryen to be happy. He would be meeting his son, why wouldn’t he be? All these foster families and couples looking to adopt had overlooked him, rejected him. But his own fucking father wouldn’t, surely?

Well, what does Jon know about how fathers feel about their children anyway?

Nothing. He knows nothing.

It had been then that he’d sworn never to return to Dragonstone – to never lay eyes on Rhaegar Targaryen ever again. But now, it doesn’t look like his personal oath even matters because the fucker is moving to King’s Landing.

His outstretched hand trembled as it reached for that second pack of beer. He would really like to forget this feeling right now; the feeling of inadequacy. Like he was that thirteen-year-old boy standing on Rhaegar Targaryen’s gravel driveway again, all his worldly possessions held in a scruffy backpack slung over one shoulder.

His phone vibrates at his hip.

Sansa: Hey, do u have any lasagne sheets?

Jon: No. But I’m at the store right now. Want me to pick some up?

Sansa: U ABSOLUTE STAR! Yes please! I’ll feed u by way of thanks. I hope you like lasagne :)

Jon smiles down at his phone and decides to return the other four-pack to the chiller, giving the beer cans one last look before going off in search of lasagne sheets.

***

“Come in, Jon!” he hears her call through the door to her apartment. Jon likes the sound of her voice; he can admit that to himself. He allows himself to acknowledge that there are a few things he’s come to like about Sansa. But he stops short of listing them all together because it might seem like there’s too much for it to mean absolutely nothing.

And that’s exactly what it means; absolutely nothing.

He’s allowed to like certain aspects of his landlady-come-neighbour-come-friend, isn’t he?

Singularly, he can confess to himself that sure, her eyes kind of sparkle when she talks on a subject that means something to her, or yes, she’s extremely warm and welcoming, and okay, it’s taken him next to no time to stop associating seeing red hair in a crowd with his ex, and to start thinking of Sansa instead. And fine, he does want to sink his fingers into the cool silkiness of that hair.

But to hear all those thoughts, all at once? It kind of sounds like he’s developing… something… for Sansa, and that is just not what’s happening after being in King’s Landing for a little over a week.

He fidgets with the band on his wrist before pushing open the door and stepping inside.

Sansa is not alone it seems as a small child hides behind her legs when she sees Jon enter the lounge-kitchen-diner.

“Thank you for those!” Sansa beams, taking a stilted step forward to take the lasagne sheets, her movements hindered by the little hands wrapped around both her thighs.

A pair of eyes peek out from behind her and Sansa smiles down warmly at the little girl.

“Hello,” Jon ventures. Quiet children used to take to him quite quickly at the homes, what with him being quite quiet himself. The eyes disappear again.

“Issy, say hello,” Sansa prompts and Jon remembers that she’d told him something about babysitting Theon’s daughter, Nerissa before. Issy tugs on Sansa’s soft blue sweater, making her duck down to hear the girl whisper in her ear. “Oh, no, sweetheart,” she smiles, her cheeks colouring a bit. “Waymar lives over the sea now, do you remember?” Sansa turns to face Jon. “This is Jon.”

Jon’s eyebrows furrow in confusion.

“She thought you were my ex,” Sansa supplies in a hushed tone. Jon quickly bats away the thought that any guy whose stupid enough to have had Sansa as their girlfriend and then somehow become her ex is not anyone with whom he should wish to be likened to. His next thought is whether or not he looks anything like this ‘Waymar’, and if Sansa has a type? “What, sweetie?” Sansa says, cutting off his thoughts as she bends to hear the little voice again. “Oh! No, no, Jon’s not my boyfriend, he’s just my friend.”

This then prompts more whispering where Sansa is forced to admit that Jon is indeed a boy and her friend therefore by the logic of all three-year-olds, he is decreed as her ‘boy-friend’.

Jon bites his lip before he can stop himself.

More whispering ensues before Sansa lets out a giggle. “Well sure,” she says to the little girl, “Jon is very nice and I’m positive he would love to be your ‘boy-friend’ too,” she grins, eyes flitting over to him briefly before they’re back on Issy. “We can share him if you like,” she whispers loudly. “Why don’t you show him those stickers you got today while I get the lasagne in the oven?”

A little girl with straight, dark hair arranged into two low pigtails steps out from behind Sansa’s legs and takes a few tentative steps towards Jon. She clutches at a raggedy, floppy-eared bunny toy and looks back to Sansa for guidance. Jon lowers himself down to his haunches as Issy steps closer. “Sansa buyed me stickers today,” she tells him.

“Did she? That’s very nice of her.”

Nerissa nods her agreement. “You wanna see?”

“I’d love that.”

Some time later, Jon is seating himself at Sansa’s dining table, with Issy sat on a booster seat beside him,  his shirt covered in sparkly Disney Princess stickers and a purple plastic tiara perched on top of his head. Sansa looks to Nerissa, also covered in stickers and wearing a pink crown (bigger and glitzier than Jon’s, naturally) before her eyes wander to Jon and she has to bite on her lip to try and stop the grin from spreading. She fails.

“Well, you two look lovely,” Sansa smiles wide now and Jon adds this particular expression to his list of things he likes about her.

Not that he’s keeping track of that sort of thing. Not at all.

Chapter Text

"So how are things going with your gym buddy?"

Jon squinted at her in the sunlight as they walked side by side. "Good," he nodded his head before thinking again. "I think she's in love with this other girl that goes to the same gym though. I thought it was just a crush at first but the way she talks about her?" Sansa watched him, waiting for Jon to continue. "I don't know,” he shook his head, “I think it's more than that."

She thought about it for a few more paces as they ambled towards their destination. After finding out Jon was in need of some furniture, she had managed to persuade him to go with her to the antiques and vintage market that is held in Visenya park every other Sunday (weather permitting, of course). He'd grumbled something about preferring to order some flatpack generic boredom-in-a-box but conceded to her request to accompany her anyway. "Does the other girl feel the same?" Sansa asks.

Jon shrugged. "She comes over to use the treadmills with us sometimes and they talk. She’s nice. They both are."

Sansa thinks for a moment and bit her lip. "Mutual pining," she nods her head. "I hope that's what it is."

"What?"

Sansa will never be bored of proof-reading those kinds of manuscripts. "It's the best kind of love story," she explains, her heart already feeling a warm glow from just thinking of the subject. "When each party has fallen so deep but are scared to admit their feelings because there's just no way in hell that they would believe the other is secretly pining after them too." She sighed happily, not really caring that it all sounds silly and overly romantic. She likes what she likes.

Jon was quiet as they passed two different store fronts, one a pretty florist, with buckets of brightly coloured petals spilling over into the street, and the other a coffee shop. "Have you?... Secretly pined after someone I mean?"

Sansa grinned. "I can't tell you that! That would take the secret out of 'secretly pining'."

“Right,” half his mouth turned up into a small grin, “of course.”

Sansa decides the sight of that kind of smile on his face was far too lovely to look at directly, so she averts her eyes and clears her throat. “But whenever my heart decides to pine, the universe had better make sure it’s the mutual kind,” she tells him, her index finger pointed up as if to warn ‘the universe’ or the ‘powers that be’ or whatever. “Because one-sided pining? Nuh-uh, no thank you. That would be devastating.”

Jon furrows his brow as he concentrates on the paving slabs at their feet. “You know,” he starts, “I think I was victim to one-sided pining once.”

“Oh no! What happened?”

“It was when I was fourteen,” he shoved his hands in his pockets as they continued their walk. The sun was high but there was a pleasant breeze that picked up the leaves of the tree-lined street they’d turned down. “I… uh… well, I was staying with this family for a while and they had an older daughter. Seventeen I think she was, and I thought she was literally the coolest person I’d ever met. She could beat all the boys’ scores on Ms. Pac-Man at the arcade and she used to sneak out to smoke cigarettes at the side of their house.”

Sansa laughed. "Such high criteria you had for ‘literally the coolest person you’d ever met’.”

Jon turns to gift her with another blinding grin and she wishes her cheeks didn’t feel so warm. “These are the things that matter most to a fourteen-year-old,” he shrugs. “I was convinced it was love. She was going to love me back and we were going to grow up together and get married and have kids of our own.”

“Aww… what happened?”

“Well, one night, her parents decide to take the younger kids out bowling but me being the moody teen that I was, I didn’t want to go. So the daughter - she says she’ll stay behind with me and I’m thinking to myself ‘this is it, this is when I’ll tell her I like her’. So, I make sure to shower, put on my best shirt – which probably had a batman logo on it or something,” he paused to watch Sansa giggle beside him before continuing with his story. “I even used some of her dad’s cologne… in fact I probably doused myself in the stuff, it’s a wonder she couldn’t smell me from a mile off.”

Sansa chuckled softly at that. “You were making an effort for her,” she nodded her head, “girls like that.”

“That’s what I was going for.”

“It didn’t end well?”

“Well, I spend about half an hour gearing myself up to go to her room and spill my guts about how I thought she was amazing and that I really liked her before I found myself outside her door, an absolute bag of nerves.”

“What happened?”

“The neighbour kid.”

“The neighbour kid?”

Jon nodded his head solemnly. “He was 18 and rode a motorbike.”

“Ah,” Sansa replied, the puzzle pieces of Jon’s story suddenly coming together in her mind now.

“Her bedroom door was open just enough for me to get a glimpse of them on her bed, kissing with his hand travelling up her thigh.”

“Aww, poor little Jon,” Sansa pouted as they came to the entrance of the park.

“I know. Brutal. But here I stand-“ he raises his arms to gesture to himself, “a broken-hearted survivor of one-sided pining.”

Sansa flashes him a smile before surveying the park where, for today, a multitude of stalls has been set up with all sorts of vintage and antique homewares, clothes and knick-knacks for them to peruse. She loves doing this. “I know just the thing to heal your broken heart, Jon... Shopping!”

Jon scowls rather half-heartedly. “I’m not sure that I’m a fan of your particular brand of healing, Stark.”

“Come on,” she says excitedly, ignoring his faux-grumpy expression to loop her arm through his and drag him into the fray. She didn’t miss the way he looks down to her touch, but puts the fluttery feeling in her stomach down to her little secret. It’s as big as a lentil this week and yesterday she’d made herself some lentil soup.

Sansa points out a lovely dining table and chairs that looked pretty old but had been subject to a ‘shabby chic’ upgrade; being sanded down and painted a pretty pale duck egg blue. Jon wasn’t sure. That’s okay, she liked perusing the aisles. She found herself distracted for a time with a stall that had a huge display of vintage scarves, the silky colours and patterns slipping softly through her fingers. Jon stood back while she looked. She could feel his eyes on her but unlike when she’s been shopping with boyfriends, she didn’t get the feeling that he was pressuring her to hurry up because he’s bored.

Not that she’s comparing Jon to her boyfriends. Certainly not.

They perhaps get to the third aisle when she spots the stall she’s always eager to visit. Nestled between one that specialises in artefacts from Essos and another with an extensive selection of vintage leather bags and suitcases is a small stall that sells only jewellery and silverware.

“I was wondering when you might show up, my dear,” Rodrik, the kindly old trader knew Sansa well by now. “I’ve got two for you today,” he said, ducking his old bones down behind his trestle table adorned with silver, gold and stones of every shade. Jon looked to her in confusion as Rodrik handed over a small wooden box that he’d set aside for her.

“When I was small,” she turns to Jon to explain, “my mother wore a silver locket everywhere she went. My father gave it to her and he’d put a little photo of them together inside. When my brother and I were born, my mum added a photo of the both of us on the other side.” Sansa opened the lid on the box and peered inside before continuing with her explanation, feeling a stirring in her belly from having the complete and undivided attention of Jon’s grey eyes. She wondered how such a stormy colour could seem so warm? “We went on a family holiday to Dorne and my mum was so upset to find she’d lost the locket one day. It was never found.”

“And you’re looking for it?”

Sansa smiled. “Yes. And I’ve kind of started a collection.”

“You collect lockets?” Jon surmised.

“Not just any lockets,” Rodrik chimed in, giving them a wide grin as he polished a piece of silverware with his special cloth. “Miss Stark here collects lost love.”

Jon continued to look a little lost himself.

“I don’t just like to buy any old locket,” Sansa explains, reaching into the box and pulling out a necklace with a silver oval pendant. “I prefer the ones that still have the little photos inside,” she tells him, placing the box down on Rodrik’s display and prizing open the locket. The outside had clearly been engraved with some pattern or another but seemed to be smoothed away somewhat by touch and time. Inside was an old photograph indeed; the image of a man in sepia tones smiled up at them both. He had a pipe hung on his lip and an expression on his face as if he’d just shared a risqué joke. At least, that’s what Sansa thought he’d looked like. The other locket in the box wasn’t nearly as timeworn and was made from gold. The two images encased within looked only to be a decade or so old, judging by the hairstyles and what little clothes Sansa could see. There was a pair. Two women. Sansa couldn’t be sure, but they looked like sisters. She wonders if the locket was worn by their mother.

“So you only buy the ones with photographs still inside?”

“Yes… I-“ how to put this? “I feel like there must’ve been love there, you know? To go to the effort of cutting up a little photograph and wear it around your neck. It must’ve been of a loved one… and I… think that’s kind of beautiful.” She was definitely blushing now. She could hardly meet Jon’s eyes. “Is that silly?”

“Not at all,” he said in a low, quiet voice.

Sansa paid Rodrik for her lockets; a discounted rate for being a repeat customer of his, and they continue their search for Jon’s furniture.

“Do you wear any of them?” Jon asked, clearly having been thinking of her collection as they continued to amble slowly from stall to stall.

“No,” she shook her head with a smile. “They’re not my loves. I just like cherishing them.”

Jon seemed to continue to think on this as they walked and Sansa came to realise how comfortable she was in his silence. Silence often felt to her like an invitation to fill it. But not with Jon. She liked that.

Later that evening, when she’s adding her two new additions to her collection in her special jewellery box, Sansa’s fingers brush over the cool metals of round, oval, heart-shaped pendants before her hand finds her flat stomach. I’m going to get a locket to wear, she promises her little lentil, and I’ll put your photo inside.

Chapter Text

Oblivescence  (noun) – the process of forgetting.

Jon wishes he was undertaking that process right now. He can’t, however, because wherever he seems to go in this Gods-forsaken city he’s reminded yet again of the existence of one Mr Rhaegar Targaryen.

Years - years - he’s spent with the man being only a far away niggle right in the very back of his mind, sometimes coming to the forefront on Jon’s bad days but staying well away and manageable for the most part.

Jon grit his teeth and glares at the wall mounted TV screen in the gym as he completed his set of reps on the chest press machine with a grunt. A picture of the man appeared. He looked odd to Jon. Real. After so many years, Rhaegar Targaryen had been built up in his mind as something… ‘other’. Sure, he met him once on that rainy day in Dragonstone, but Jon’s sure his adolescent emotions running on high had coloured the memory for him. He was like some imaginary demon hiding under Jon's bed.

It seems the man and his company are running into some deep shit from the community for building on park land. Foundations are being laid but people are still out there protesting to get the land handed over to community projects instead of in the hands of the businessman and his associates.

Jon leans forward, his elbows resting on his knees as he continues to watch the soundless local news report. It looks as though a member of the press was trying to ask Mr Targaryen some questions that he was not prepared to answer as he held up his hand and dashed away from all enquiry.

“Fucking typical,” Jon muttered, slinging his towel around his neck and picking up his water bottle. It was almost time for the quiz show he watches with Walda… and now Wylla too.

“You know, I heard the city council are thinking of selling off Visenya Park to a private buyer as well,” Walda told him as he approached the treadmill on her left side. Wylla was already keeping a steady pace with Walda on her right.

“They better not,” Jon grumbled, pushing the buttons to get the machine in motion. He’s come to enjoy his occasional trips to the park with Sansa. He runs ‘round there of an evening too.

“Oh I hope they don’t,” Wylla adds, “I love going there in the summer – getting ice creams from The Aviary, trying to avoid peacock shit when you lay down to sunbathe or make out with a pretty girl.”

Walda laughed at that and Jon hadn’t missed the look they’d shared.

“Speaking of pretty girls,” Walda said, turning to Jon, “how’s Sansa?”

Jon almost forgot he was on an actual moving treadmill and promptly tripped over his own feet. “How do you know she’s pretty?” he asked, not looking at either of his gym buddies and opting to attack the button that made his machine move faster. He’d upped it to a jog and could feel both sets of eyes on him.

“So you fancy an uggo then, is that what you’re saying?”

“What?! Sansa’s not-… No!... I don’t-“

“Come off it, Jon!” Wylla chuckled. “The way you talk about her anyone would think she’s perfection personified.”

“I’ll just keep my mouth shut then, shall I?” Jon grumbled sullenly. They didn’t know what they were talking about. Sansa’s just… well, she’s Sansa and she’s nice. Her and Theon were the first friends he’d made here in the city.

Jon wondered if he’s even mentioned Theon to Walda and Wylla?

“You wouldn’t be able to stay quiet for long, Snow. The quiz is about to start and a know-it-all like you doesn’t give up an opportunity to prove that they do, in fact, know it all,” Walda told him.

Jon adjusted the speed on his machine back down to match the girls as they continued their brisk walking. “Alright, alright,” he conceded with an amused twitch to his lips. “Speaking of Sansa-“

“Here we go,” Wylla teased, a huge grin on her face.

“I’ll shut up then.”

No! Jon!” Walda whined, although her tone was completely drenched in amusement, “please say what you were gonna say… Tell us, we wanna know all about what your wifey has been up to.”

“I don’t know why I bother with you two,” Jon huffs as they both cackle at his expense. He can’t help smirking in return though.

After the laughter settled, Wylla urged him to continue and promised to stop teasing. Scout’s honour and everything.

Jon told them about Sansa’s locket collection. He’d thought the whole concept was remarkable, and, at the risk of sounding like a sap – beautiful.

“Holy shit!” Wylla exclaimed, hopping off her machine and coming ‘round to stand in front of his, her emerald green ponytail swinging behind her. “That’s beautiful!” He knew he wasn’t wrong to think so. “Isn’t that beautiful?” she looked to Walda who nodded her agreement. “I need to meet her. Can I meet her?”

Jon frowned. “Why?”

Wylla licked at her lips excitedly. “I’ve been wracking my brains trying to think up something for my end of term exhibition.” Wylla was studying art at King’s Landing Institute. “And every avenue I’ve explored hadn’t felt right. But this – Sansa’s collection – that would make an amazing art installation. Think about it – “ her eyes flit quickly between Walda and himself, “she collects love…. Lost loves… how fucking beautiful is that?”

Jon had to agree.

“So you think wifey will let me borrow some of her lockets?”

Jon rolled his eyes and huffed out a laugh. “I’ll ask her.”

***

Jon’s not sure how she managed it. He’d only meant to go over to Sansa’s to talk to her about Wylla’s proposition (to which she readily agreed), but here he sits, on her sofa tucking into a slice of her homemade raspberry pie, served with a splash of cream and about to settle down and watch the first episode of a new historical drama, The Knight of Tears.

“This is really good,” Jon compliments her through his chewing. Sansa beams at him from the other end of the couch, her legs tucked up under herself and the throw blanket hung around her shoulders. She looks so cosy.

His phone buzzes at his hip and Jon groans when he reads the text.

“Everything alright?”

“Yeah. My mates from Wintertown want to come down to visit me,” he frowns down at his phone.

Sansa giggles at him a little sleepily. “Isn’t that a nice thing?”

Jon shoves his phone back into his pocket and digs his fork into the perfectly latticed piecrust. “It is,” he agreed, “it’s just that they’ll want to be shown around or something and I haven’t had a chance to see much apart from the park, work and the gym.”

Sansa lolls her head against the back of her couch and smiles at him. “Just do all the touristy stuff,” she suggests with a shrug. Jon grimaces, which only serves to make her smile wider. He can’t help but grin back.

“Will you help me decide what places to go with them?”

“I’ll come with you if you go the karaoke bars in Mud Gate.”

“Nice try.”

Sansa chuckles and pouts at him prettily. It’s on the very tip of his tongue to yield himself to the adorable look on her face when, quite suddenly, her smile drops, and her skin turns pallid. “Excuse me!” she squeaks before jumping up and dashing to her bathroom. The sounds of her throwing up into the toilet making Jon wince.

Chapter Text

Sansa’s not sure why they call it ‘morning sickness’ when it can occur morning, noon and night.

She stabs her fork at a green olive in the salad she’d ordered from The Aviary as she waits with Jon for his friend, Wylla to arrive. Her secret was the size of an olive this week and she eyed the thing stuck on the prongs of her fork. How could something so small throw her body so off-kilter? She was tired - so fucking tired. Sansa’s not sure she’s ever been this tired before. And is it normal that everything smells so strongly and that scents she used to love now turn her stomach? She glares at Jon’s coffee with distain. She used to love coffee – especially the smell. But now it’s all Sansa can do not to pull a face like she’s about to throw up.Is she about to throw up? It’s hard to tell these days.

Is that what you want little olive-baby? You want to turn your mama against all her favourite foods?

Jon raises his tuna sandwich to his mouth and honestly Sansa wants to slap it right out of his hands before he even takes a single bite. The smell is so strong to her and she wants to weep – she loves tuna fish but right now it’s really quite hard to stop herself from gagging.

Reaching for her glass of lemonade, Sansa practically shoves her nose in it to mask all the other scents. This smell was fine, this smell was clean, fresh, sharp. The ice-cubes clinked against the dewy glass and Sansa decided to tip one into her mouth to suck on.

It helped with the nausea.

A little bit.

“Sansa? You alright?” Jon asks, breaking her concentration on the somersaults her stomach was currently doing.

“Hm? Yeah. Yeah, I’m ok.” She can feel her cheeks warm and takes another look at her salad before pushing the plate away. “I’m not as hungry as I thought I was.”

Jon furrows his brow and Sansa is reminded of how concerned he was for her a week ago when she’d had to sprint to the bathroom to throw up. Luckily, he had bought the tale she’d spun about eating some dodgy chicken. At least she thinks he did. It’s hard for Sansa not to imagine that she has the word ‘pregnant’ stamped on her forehead and flashing neon arrows pointing to her flat tummy. Her mind is so continually on her little secret that it feels like it must be plain on her face.

At least it won’t be long until she can tell people. Robb will be coming down to King’s Landing to visit for a weekend in four weeks’ time when she’s just over a week into the second trimester. The second trimester. That sounds exciting. This throwing-up-at-all-hours business will be over by then. She hopes.

She can’t wait to tell Robb. She can already picture the flustered but happy face he’ll wear. And then she can tell everyone else too. She can’t wait to tell Jeyne and talk about when she was expecting Nerissa. They could compare notes. The thought makes her smile to herself and her gaze drifts to Jon sat beside her, sipping his stinky coffee. She wants to tell him too. Why does the thought of telling Jon make her happy? They’ve only known each other for a little over a month but she thinks he’ll be pleased for her. She wonders if he likes kids? He’s been great with Issy the couple of times he’s seen her.

Sansa amuses herself with memories of Jon sitting at her dining table covered in glittery stickers and wearing a princess tiara, and how, after they’d eaten, he hadn’t bat an eye when Issy requested he read her favourite pop-up storybook five times in a row. He’d make a good dad, she thinks to herself. He’d be the kind of dad that his kid has wrapped around their little finger. The kind that indulges them because he just wants to see them happy. And the kind that didn’t need to shout and rage to let them know they were being disciplined. It was all about tone of voice. Sansa thinks he’d be good at that.

She wonders, not for the first time, what kind of man her olive-baby’s donor is? The file had said that he didn’t have any children. Did he donate his sperm because he felt he wanted help others have kids while not really liking children himself?

That was fine… she supposes. It doesn’t really matter anyway.

That familiar worry crawls out to show itself. Using a sperm donor and going through this journey into parenthood alone was a difficult decision to make. She hopes everyone will understand that when she tells them.

Sansa doesn’t make rash decisions. She had thought about this long and hard, and this was what she wanted. She knows that everyone who loves her will understand that. But it doesn’t make the thought of announcing how this pregnancy came about any less daunting.

It’s unconventional. And Sansa doesn’t often do unconventional.

She wonders what her mum and dad would’ve thought of it all. Would they understand? Catelyn Stark may have subscribed to the ‘you want it – go out and get it’ philosophy, but would she truly understand? For her own piece of mind, Sansa tells herself that she would. There’s no point in driving herself crazy over these sorts of things. Her father was a bit more of a traditionalist, however. He may have never fully understood why his near-enough romance-obsessed little girl forwent a romance of her own.

He would’ve loved a grandchild though. She can see his beaming smile in her mind’s eye and the ever-present ache flares up like a growing fire in her chest. They both would’ve been fantastic grandparents.

Sansa’s eyes prick with tears and oh no, oh shit! Don’t cry. Don’t cry. Do not cry!

“Sansa?” Jon’s hand covers hers and she looks to see his concerned face before quickly averting her eyes. “Is something wrong?” He’s so sweet but damn him! The very worst thing you can do to someone who is desperately trying not to cry is ask them if they’re alright. It’s like some sort of magic response, like drawing attention to the emotions you’re successfully building a dam against gives you permission to let the dam break.

“No,” she very unconvincingly responds, the sound bursting out half hiccup, half sob. Sansa removes her hand from under Jon’s to cover her mouth and tries again. “Nothing’s wrong,” she whispers, a single fat tear rolling down her cheek.

Daring a glance at Jon, she sees him sitting there obviously unconvinced and awkward. Of course he looks awkward – he’s the one sat at a table with the woman who was eating a salad one minute and burst into tear the next.

“I’m sorry, I just…” I’m pregnant and the hormones are driving me crazy, and I miss my mum and dad, and even though I know I can do this alone, every now and again I feel very alone-alone. “I haven’t been sleeping very well lately and… well...I miss my parents.”

Jon pushes his plate with the stupid stinky tuna fish sandwich away and leans forward, doing nothing but offer her a small smile and a nod.

“I know it’s been years, but it sneaks up on you sometimes, you know?” she says with a series of sniffs and wiping away the wetness on her cheeks with her hands.

Jon nods again. Somehow his silence is more comforting than words.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to embarrass you by crying in public.”

“I’m not embarrassed,” Jon answers simply.

Sansa huffs to herself. “Well, I am.”

“You shouldn’t be.” They’re both quiet for a while, Sansa composing herself by taking a few controlled sips of her ice-cold lemonade and Jon staring at the tablecloth, slowly nodding to himself as though thinking something over. He picks at that band he keeps on his wrist a couple of times before saying anything. “From what you’ve told me about them, your folks seemed like really nice people.”

“They were.” Sansa manages a smile. “They were the best.”

She’s reminded of how Jon had shared that he’d lost his mum too. Only that she had passed when he was a baby. He wouldn’t have even known her at all, and oh Gods, now her heart hurts for him too. Don’t cry again. Do not cry again!

Luckily, Sansa is saved from letting the dam break once more by the arrival of a girl with emerald green hair and a huge smile. Sansa does her best to act as though nothing were amiss and thinks that she mostly gets away with it – even with Jon watching her closely throughout, sweet concern ever present on his features.

Chapter Text

Wylla had liked Sansa, that much was clear. And Jon’s not surprised at all. Somehow, she’d managed to pull herself back from what looked like the bank of a river of tears, and within mere moments Sansa was smiling widely at the emerald-haired girl upon their first meeting. Jon’s not sure how she’d done that. How she was able to keep her emotions in check without even taking a moment to collect herself.

The two girls had chatted happily together. Jon was hardly needed for this meeting, but that was fine by him. Sansa had brought some of her locket collection and it was evident that she enjoyed sharing them with Wylla. The apple of her cheek blushed the prettiest shade of peachy-pink when Wylla kept repeating how she loved her collection, she loved the whole idea of the collection and she thought the whole notion was just beautiful. Both girls had taken turns in opening up the pendants and peering at the faded faces within, sometimes guessing at the circumstances of the loves inside, even going as far as giving a few of them names and backstories. Jon smiled down to his coffee.

He wondered if it was the lockets that had brought Sansa’s ache for her parents to the surface a few moments ago. It would’ve made perfect sense that she had been sat there beside him, thinking on how she was about to recount the story of her mother’s locket to a stranger – that she will have to explain again that her parents are gone. No wonder she was upset.

And she’d told him she wasn’t sleeping well. Jon has experience in that. The only way he could describe it was that sometimes his thoughts get caught on a loop, and there’s too many loops all spinning all at once, and these constant coils of memories, thoughts, imagined scenarios and conversations are not conducive to a good night’s sleep. He wonders if that’s what Sansa is experiencing.

When walking back home with her after a successful meeting with Wylla, the sun was shining down as she talked and he listened, or they ambled along in comfortable quiet. Jon realised that he wanted to tell her more about himself. Specifically, he wanted to tell her about Rhaegar and his upbringing in the care system. That realisation – that feeling that he desired her to know these things about him – was wholly unfamiliar. He’s told other people, sure. A select few. But it normally comes about when he’s been asked a direct question, or the reveal was unavoidable.

And then he would get one of two looks; the‘pity look’- this is the one he is most used to. It’s understandable, yet still grates on him something awful. Or the ‘look of suspicion’ – because everyone who grew up in the care system is ‘broken’ right? Everyone who went through that must’ve come out the other end jaded and bitter and dangerous.

He doesn’t know for certain what look he’ll get from Sansa, but for the first time in his life, he wants to find out. He hopes it doesn’t change things too much.

Jon bends to pick up a discarded tail feather from one of the peacocks and hands it to Sansa as they cross the lawn together. The indigo blue of its eye flashes in the sunlight but Jon prefers to look to Sansa as she smiles down at it. He thinks to tell her then, but that would seem awkward.

It’s funny how after a lifetime of avoiding talking about his family – or lack of – that now it’s as if there isn’t enough opportunity to broach the subject.

“Wylla seems really nice,” Sansa comments, fingers brushing through the floaty tendrils of the feather.

Jon nods. “She is.”

“And is there any progress with her and Walda?”

“I think they were making plans to meet outside of the gym…. So that’s good.”

Jon grimaces internally and yanks on the hair elastic around his wrist. Why is he like this? He’s never been the best with words but when there is something he wants to say it’s as though making conversation on any other topic is just plain painful. He snaps at the band again.

“Do you do that when you’re upset?”

“Do what?” Jon looked to Sansa.

She reached over with the peacock feather and tickled his wrist. “You pull on that band sometimes. I just… my brother has this ‘tell’ when something is bothering him, you know?” Sansa meets Jon’s eyes and tucks some of her silky hair behind her ear as they continue to walk alongside one another. “No one else would notice it, but when he’s agitated, he rubs the pads of his thumb and middle finger together. I just wondered if it was something like that.”

Jon blinks at her. He’s not sure that anyone has ever paid this much attention to some stupid habit he’s formed. And it is a stupid habit. He doesn’t even know why he does it. He just does.

“Or I could just shut up,” Sansa says, a self-deprecating kind of laugh chasing her words. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude.”

Jon is quick to set her straight because she’s definitely not being rude. Just caught him off guard is all.

“I don’t know why I do it, really,” he tells her, though he suspects she might be right on it being some unconscious tick ruled by his emotions.

They don’t talk again for a while and Jon feels like he’s made it awkward somehow as they walk out of the park gates. But then, Sansa looks as though she’s remembered herself and hops the couple of paces back into the park to covertly duck behind a large bush so she can hide her peacock feather.

“Not taking any chances,” Sansa beams at him when she emerges from the shrubs and it’s like everything is alright again. Just like that. “My conscience can’t handle being the one to encourage bad luck following some poor stranger home,” she tells him, and Jon really does have to admit to himself that his landlady, neighbour, friend is kind of adorable.

And this time he manages to stop himself snapping at the band on his wrist.

***

Palinoia  (n) - Compulsive repetition of an act until it is performed perfectly.

Jon has come to really enjoy Wednesdays. Wednesday evenings are when he gets invited to eat at Sansa’s along with Theon. Last week, when she’d cancelled on them, saying she was just too tired for company, he’d missed spending time with them.

His initial reaction to that realisation was to chastise himself. Growing up the way he had, Jon was used to his scenery changing, and the people changing along with it. It’s not good to become too attached to anyone because they could disappear in the blink of an eye. Trying to hold on to anyone was like trying to hold onto mist. Everyone has their own lives to be getting on with.

Still, he likes spending his Wednesday evenings with Theon and Sansa. ‘No man is an island’and all that.

Jon knocks on her door, bottle of the fancy sparkling lemon and lime water that he’s learnt Sansa enjoys in hand.

“It’s open, Jon!” he hears her beckon.

Sansa isn’t in the kitchen, as she usually is, a marvellous flurry of culinary activity, rich, mouth-watering smells somehow making Jon feel comforted. No, tonight, she’s sat on the floor on her living area, in front of where Theon is seated on her couch. They both seem to be watching something on her laptop which is perched on the coffee table in front of them.

“I wasn’t up for cooking tonight, so we decided to order from that Pentoshi take-out a block over,” Sansa turned and grinned at him from her place on the floor. Jon won’t deny that he was looking forward to Sansa’s cooking but he’s not about to voice his disappointment. He took a seat and Sansa passed him the menu before her attention went back to the laptop in front of her. Theon hadn’t even taken his eyes from the screen to greet him.

The intricately carved clock that’s mounted on Sansa’s wall chimes softly behind him and once it had finished it’s call and the little wooden fishes had finished their leaping, Jon could hear a woman talking on a video that both Sansa and Theon were watching.

“What’s that?”

“A YouTube tutorial,” Sansa explains, “Theon wants to learn how to do braids in Issy’s hair. I tried to instruct him myself, but it didn’t go well.” She wastes no time in handing him a little dish, offering him some kind of golden sticky somethings. “Candied kumquat?”

“Shhh!” Theon hushes her.

Sansa smirks to Jon as he furrows his brow and takes a couple of the exotic looking candied fruits. The flavour is sweet but tart on his tongue. The YouTube video is a short tutorial and once finished, it’s as though Theon has only just realised that Jon has joined them.

“Alright, mate?” he nods in greeting.

“I don’t know why you don’t just put her hair in pigtails with pretty little bows,” Sansa tells him. “Easy-peasy!”

Theon takes a swig of his beer and then puts the bottle down to reach for Sansa’s hair as she sits in front of him on the floor before answering. “Because Jeyne does these fancy braids in her hair and I promised the Squidlet that Daddy would do the same.”

Jon watches as Theon starts parting the soft looking strands of Sansa’s hair to begin practicing his braiding technique. Sansa passed Jon her notepad, complete with their scribbled food order and asks him to call the restaurant with a smile. Jon does so, standing and taking his phone and her notepad into the hallway to make their order.

Once he returns, Theon seems to have stopped and started all over again, his first braiding attempt having obviously gone awry. Sansa looks very content, sat cross-legged on her light grey woollen rug. Her eyes are closed and there’s a whisper of a smile on her lips. Jon reaches forward to take a beer from the four-pack on the table. For some reason, it’s hard to take his eyes from her. She looks… serene, and it’s a very rare sight to see someone in that state. Jon takes a sip from his beer bottle, content to just watch her do nothing in particular.

“Bloody hells,” Theon curses, shaking loose his creation so far. “How do they make this look so easy?”

“Have you tried getting used to a standard plait first instead of going straight for the Braavosi braids?” Sansa asks him. This seems more complicated than Jon had first thought. “I know,” she says, shaking free of Theon’s unskilled hands and reaching for her laptop. She scrolls and clicks then sets it back ont the coffee table. “Jon,” she says, turning to him with a hair elastic held between her teeth as she reaches back to separate her locks,” come sit behind me too.

Unsure of himself, Jon complies, sitting beside Theon.

“You,” she twists around and points to their neighbour, “are stupidly competitive. If Jon can do this, then there’s no way you won’t force yourself to learn so you can be better than Jon.”

Oh, I see where this is going, Jon thinks to himself, his tongue swiping over his bottom lip as he eyes Sansa’s hair.

“I do work better when trying to feed my own ego,” Theon agrees with a smirk and a swig of his beer bottle. “Come on, Jonny-boy, give me a run for my money.”

“I’ll try.”

Both Jon and Theon watch a short clip on Sansa’s laptop that apparently instructs them on how to create a ‘standard braid’ before it’s left on a loop as they set to work. Sansa had split her copper locks into pigtails set low on her head, her long hair shining down her back in two separate cascades; one lot of hair for each of them to work with.

Jon touched her hair gently, liking the way it feels against his fingers; cool and soft. He split it into three sections and tried to follow the instructions on the video, going well until he’d obviously made a wrong move and the braided pattern changed. He started again.

Concentrate.

His knuckles accidently brushed against the slope of Sansa’s neck and shoulder and he could’ve sworn that she’d shivered. She’s wearing a little blue vest top this evening, the strap hanging on her shoulder is thin and Jon has a sudden urge to push it aside.

Concentrate.

He needs to start again. Theon is making more progress in comparison. But Jon can’t help it; there’s little goose-bumps on her creamy skin and Oh Gods, he wants to press his mouth to them, warm them with his breath, lips and tongue.

Shit.

Jon shifts in his seat, incredibly uncomfortable right now as Theon carries on regardless and Sansa starts humming a low mellifluous tune.

“Jon and I wanted to watch that new historical drama, The Knight of Tears,” Sansa tells Theon as they continue to attempt manipulating her hair into something that resembles braids. “Fancy it?”

“Is that the one about those dirty sister-fuckers?”

Jon winces. Yes it is; the Targaryens. He’s not sure if his father is connected to the ancient royal incestuous bloodline or not. He hopes not.

“Yes, it’s about Queen Naerys and Aemon the Dragonknight.”

“Aemon the sister-fucker more like,” Theon grumbles, shaking loose a braid he’d been working on to start again.

Is Jon really related to all of that? He’s tried not to think about it. In a few weeks’ time, the city will hold their annual lantern lighting festival to honour the memory of those innocents who perished during the dragon attack a few centuries ago. That had been by the hand of a Targaryen too. His previous desire to tell Sansa everything about his childhood paled at the thought of the connection. There are plenty of branches of Targaryens, he’s sure, but this sits uneasily in his gut.

“It’s taboo, sure, but it’s romantic.”

Theon only grunts, too wrapped up in concentration – like Jon should be.

After they’ve eaten their take-out, after both Jon and Theon seemed to have mastered their braiding techniques, and after Jon has made up his mind about no longer wishing to watch ‘The Knight of Tears’, Sansa manages to completely change his mind.

Theon has already left to return to his apartment, and she sits there on her couch beside him, hair now in two perfect Braavosi braids with the best impression of a pleading puppy-dog look on her face that Jon has ever seen. “Please! I really want to watch it and I like binging box sets with other people… makes me feel less guilty somehow.”

So that’s how he came to be watching a show that may or may not be based on his ancestor’s sordid incestuous liaisons. Quite how he managed to wake up a few hours later, still sprawled on Sansa’s sofa, but with a pleasant warm weight against him, he’s not so sure. It’s late and the credits for an episode of the show that neither of them watched is reeling up the screen. He should wake her so he can go back to his bed. He has work in the morning.

It’s just that… having her arm draped around his middle and her head resting above his heart feels so good. He doesn’t want it to end. Jon shifts a bit and Sansa’s arm instantly tightens, her hand grasping at the fabric of his shirt and her face turning into him as though she wants to burrow closer. He’d certainly let her. It’s as if she doesn’t want this to end either.

Just five more minutes, Jon tells himself. Sansa sighs contentedly in sleepy agreement with his thoughts.

Chapter Text

Theon was fiddling with the salt seller and the collar of his shirt was askew. It shouldn't bother Sansa, but it did. 

 

The Suckling Pig wasn't what Sansa would call fancy by any means, but it was located in an area of Flea Bottom that was 'on the up' according local media. Besides, it was the only multi-cuisine buffet style place in the city (that Sansa was aware of anyway) and the dishes that she has tried have been delicious.

 

At one end of the dining hall the establishment boasts offerings from almost everywhere; honeyed duck from Pentos, dishes with noodles and tasty spices from Ashaai and seafoods from Braavos.

 

All the offerings look decadant in their many colours and the rich aromas floating by her nose would normally make Sansa salivate. Tonight however, she feels a little queasy and she can't figure out if it's due to her little kumquat baby or her nerves.

 

She shouldn't even be nervous, she tells herself, fiddling with the corner of her linen napkin. All she and Theon are doing is meeting Jon's friends from up north. It's no big deal. Or at least, it shouldn't be.

 

Then why in the Seven Hells does her tummy feel like there's a swarm of butterflies fluttering around in there?

 

She wants Jon's friends to like her, she realises before brushing the thought away. That's not it. She doesn't need them to like her, does she? Besides, Sansa likes to think that she is easy to get along with and at the risk of sounding big-headed, she is likable... isn't she?

 

A man walks by holding his dining plate, piled high with an assortment of foods from around the globe, the mixture of aromas turning Sansa's delicate stomach.

 

Oh, heavens! What if she throws up? What if she pukes all over the table and Jon's friend's meals? 

 

Gods, she's a mess.

 

Theon is still fiddling with the salt seller. Sansa snatches it from his grasp with a tut and leans over to straighten his collar for him.

 

"Thanks, mum," he grins and she can't help but chuckle.

 

"Hi," comes a voice she is now very familiar with. She ignores the way the sound of it excites the swarm in her tummy. 

 

Jon stands at the other side of the circular table, surrounded by three men. For a moment, Sansa can't even begin to register them. Jon's glasses are propped up on his head, pushing his messy curls back, making them look even messier. The buttflies start doing some form of energetic dance now, perhaps the Jive or Cha-cha-cha. 

 

He looks tired but happy and perhaps a litte nervous too. Quite what he should be worried about she doesn't know.

 

"Hi," Sansa greets with a little wave, grimacing internally. Why'd she wave like that? How embarressing.

 

"This is Sam, Grenn and Pyp," Jon introduces, pointing to each person in turn. Sam smiles widely and mimicks Sansa's mini-wave so perhaps it wasn't as embarressing as she first thought. "And this is Theon," Jon continues, now talking to his friends. Sansa tries not to notice the way he pauses to swallow before making her introduction. "And this-this is Sansa."

 

"Nice to meet you," the tall one, Grenn raises his brows suggestively, "Sansa."

 

Both Jon and Pyp elbow him in the sides and Sansa is left to wonder what that whole exchange meant. Had Jon told his friends about her? What had he said?  Or is Grenn just normally this cheeky?

 

"Gods, I'm starved!" Pyp exclaims, taking his seat.

 

Jon sits in the chair Sansa had left vacant between herself and Theon, leaning over a fraction toward her. "Hello," he murmurs in a low timbre just loud enough for only her ears, as though he hadn't already greeted her a moment ago. "How's your day been?" 

 

"Good," she answers, just as quietly, unable to stop the spread of a smile just for him. Between the way he licks his lips, pushes his shirt sleeves up to expose his forearms and leans a little closer, Sansa feels herself fidget in her chair, bordering on becoming a little flustered. Gods, what's wrong with her? "How was your day with the tourists?" She asked, inclining her head towards his friends.

 

Jon rolled his eyes and groaned. "Insufferable."

 

"Hey," Grenn piped up with mock indignation, snatcheding a bread roll from the basket and tearing a chunk off with his teeth. "We're right here, you know!"

 

"You made me wait in line to The Red Keep Dungeons Tour," Jon supplied in his defense as though that justified his statement. Sansa supposes that it did, a little bit.

 

"Come on! That tour was amazing!" Grenn defended, reaching for some more bread before he'd finished his first, "I particularly enjoyed the part where Jonno here almost decked a guy dressed as a ghost prisoner."

 

Sam raised his hand feebly as though he were in a classroom and asking permission to speak. "I-I did not particularly enjoy that part."

 

Sansa was confused. "What?"

 

Letting out a resigned huff, Jon gestures towards his friends, mainly Grenn and Pyp. "These two clowns wanted to do the scary dungeon tour or whatever, and Sam and I wanted to go to the military museum. It was a coin toss and the best choice did not win." Jon turns his head to meet her eye. Sansa wonders if he notices how they're both leaning towards one another in their seats and that they're incredibly close. It reminds her of how she'd awoken just a few nights ago with her cheek pressed to his chest, listening to the steady thump of his heart while her arm was slung around his middle, holding a very sleepy Jon Snow hostage there on her couch. The mere memory makes her feel a bit fidgety and she straightens in her chair to give them both a little distance.

"So we go on this tour," Jon continues, "and all the ancient prison cells are pretty interesting, but then you get led through this dark part where actors are all set up like they're being tortured with fake blood and gore and screaming all over the place. Jailers spring up jangling keys in your face shouting that you've escaped and all that stuff-"

 

Sam raises his hand again. "I didn't enjoy that part either."

 

Sansa offers him a sympathetic smile. She's pretty sure she would've point blank refused to go on this tour.

 

"So this one guy," Jon continues, "he's dressed as a dead prisoner or something - he's got a pale face, fake blood all over him, and fake guts spilling out of his stomach-" Jon is rolling his hands in front of his own belly, gesturing at some imagined gore before him. "- and he jumps out at this group of young girls but he just would not quit. He kept getting in their faces even though some of them didn't seem like they were enjoying it at all, grabbing at their hands and forcing them to touch his bloody intestines and stuff."

 

"Then Snow here decides to play the hero," Pyp adds, snatching the bread that Grenn was about to shove in his mouth to munch on himself.

 

Theon snorts. "Is that right?" He chuckles.

 

"I didn't do anything," Jon deflects.

 

Sansa must admit, she is intrigued.

 

Grenn puffs up his chest to make a show of himself, pushing his fists onto his hips in a comical superhero pose. "Never fear, ladies," he mocks in a deep voice, "Snowman will protect you!"

 

"Fuck off!" Jon protests although he can't help the hint of amusement that seeps into his tone. "I did not say that!"

 

"Maybe not," Pyp concedes, "but you did put yourself in front of those girls like some kind of fucking human shield against the big, scary actor and some fake blood."

 

"Some of them seemed genuinely frightened!"

 

Sam raises his hand for the third time. "I-I was genuinely frightened."

 

Chuckles from all ring around the table and Sam turns red even though he wears a huge grin. Sansa thinks she might like Sam very much.

 

"It was a good move though," Grenn continued after the gentle laughter subsided, "all them girls were swooning after you. You could've had your pick!"

 

Sansa's gut rolled uncomfortably and she glanced at Jon to see him wrinkle his nose. "They were barely in their twenties," he dismissed, reaching for a bread roll.

 

Grenn shrugged one shoulder, his eyes flitting briefly to Sansa before they lit up mischievously. "I suppose since none of them were redheads, you'd never be interested anyway." 

 

Jon started coughing on his mouthful of bread and Sansa's dancing butterflies were back with some kind of Mambo.

 

"That right, huh?" Theon thumps Jon on the back, "is the Snowman gonna be after Little Miss Sansypants?"

 

"Shut up, Theon," Sansa glares, reaching over to the glass pitcher of water to pour Jon a drink. He's still coughing up a storm.

 

"Well he did buy her a present today," Sam adds, earning himself a glare of his own from Jon, who was still coughing beside her.

 

"Seven hells!" Jon complains, making a fist and thumping his own chest which seemed to help. "I thought you guys were my friends?!"

 

Sam shrugs apologetically from across the table, his round face getting flushed.

 

"You got me a present?" Sansa asked, curious now.

 

Jon gives Sam a look along with one last feeble cough before bringing his eyes back to her. "Yeah, well... I was gonna save it for like a birthday or something, you know? Not just a random Saturday or whatever. It's nothing, really." He was having trouble keeping eye contact and his cheeks were colouring in the restaurant's low lighting. Sansa can't say she didn't enjoy the sight.

 

"Yeah right!" Grenn piped up with a laugh on his lips, "that's why as soon as you saw that place you legged it across the street to get in there and- Ow!"

 

Jon had evidently kicked his friend in the shin under the table and gave him a hard stare before turning back to Sansa. The whole exchange made her want to giggle like a schoolgirl.

 

"So, uh, we were wandering around aimlessly like proper tourists in the Dragon Gate area and I saw an old antiques place so went in to see if they might have any lockets for your collection-"

 

With breath caught in her throat, Sansa felt her lips part softly. He'd thought of her and her collection? He'd bought her a locket? 

 

"It turns out that the store owner didn't have any lockets with photos inside but, uh-" he paused, shifting in his seat to shove his hand in his jeans pocket and rummage around for something. What he brought out was a small, oval shaped locket on a chain. It was beautifully domed, round like a silver pebble, and on the front was an engraving of a peacock's feather, its wispy plumes swirling elegantly. Sansa wasn't sure what to say. "I don't think the chain he sold with it is real silver," Jon confesses, brows pinched as he swallows and licks at his lips, his eyes darting from his gift and Sansa's face, "a-and the feather used to have a jewel or something in the centre... I think..."

 

She stares down at the locket in her hands. Yes. She thinks he might be right. There looks to be an empty setting right in the eye of the feather where perhaps a deep sapphire coloured stone sat. She could imagine it perfectly, and yet the missing gem did not diminish the beauty of the locket - or at least Sansa thought so anyway. 

 

She realised all too late that she's yet to say anything and notices at the corner of her eye Jon getting fidgety with the hair elastic around his wrist. 

 

"It's beautiful, Jon," she says, making sure he can see the sincerity in her eyes. "I love it! Thank you so much!" Sansa unclasps the chain and silently asks him to help her put it on by turning and gesturing with her hands. Jon complies and she tries to ignore the tingle in that patch of skin his fingers brushed at the back of her neck.

 

"I saw the peacock feather and I thought this way at least you can take it home without the bad luck," he smiled. "Just don't blame me if your neck turns green with that dodgy chain." 

 

Sansa turned around and found it impossible not to grin at him - a grin that her tummy butterflies were very happy he returned. "Thank you, Jon," she told him again, placing a hand on his forearm as she leant forward to peck his cheek. The butterflies went wild at that.

 

"Well," Grenn said, smacking his hands down on the table as he stood, the legs of his chair making an awful scraping noise, "if Snow's finished trying to cop off with Sansa here, I say we should go get some grub!"

 

"I'm not trying to-" Jon starts to protest, standing to follow his friends as they make a start towards the buffet.

 

"Yeah, yeah. Save it, Romeo."

 

Sansa stayed seated for a little bit, fingers brushing against the cool metal of the locket. That was terribly sweet of him.

 

By the time everyone returned to the table with their food, Sansa found it hard not to chuckle. Every one of their plates was piled high with food as though each guy was trying to out-do the others in an eating competition. Sansa's portion of lemon chicken and various stir fried veggies looked like slim-pickings in comparison. 

 

Typically, talk was sparse amongst them while they ate... or while Sansa ate and the men had their noses in their troughs. She tried not to focus on the mix of aromas coming at her from all directions and somehow managed to fend off the queasy feeling with frequent sips of her lime and soda water.

 

By the time the first course was finished, everyone was slowing down, no doubt a bit more sluggish from all that food. The centre of the table was filling with empty beer bottles and stories of Jon and his friend's antics up north were being spilled.

 

Theon had ducked out before anyone even contemplated going up to check out the dessert offerings. He was grinning down at his phone as he left. In fact, he'd been checking the thing on and off all evening.

 

Sansa shared a look with Jon and she knew he'd probably come to the same conclusion - that their neighbour was begging off the rest of the evening with them to spend the night with some girl.

 

Conversation came around to what the guys would be doing tomorrow before they went back up north on Monday morning.

 

"You know," Sansa started, "down by the marina they do these glass-botttom boat tours in Black Water Bay. I hear some of the old shipwrecks are visible where the water is clearest. I've always wanted to go on one of those."

 

"We should do that," Jon said, taking a swig from his beer and looking to all his friends nodding in agreement before meeting her gaze again. "Do you want to come with us?"

 

Why did Sansa suddenly feel a little shy? She reached up to tuck some hair behind her ear. Jon took another glug from his drink as he watched her. She liked him watching her. "Yeah. I'd like that a lot," Sansa replied, fingers brushing self consciously against her new locket.

 

"The real question is what are we gonna do for the rest of the night?" Grenn asked.

 

Sansa's lips twitch mischievously.  "Well I have been trying to drag Jon to the karaoke bars."

 

"Oh! Let's do that!" Sam exclaimed excitedly. She knew she liked him. They beamed at one another across the table.

 

"Not you too," Jon shook his head.

 

The debate about where to go next progressed to Jon promising both Sam and Sansa that he would happily go to a karaoke bar the next time the guys visited him as part of an incentive to make sure they did visit. Grenn and Pyp decided to check out a club that was near their hotel and dear Sam told everyone he was going back to his room to Skype with his wife.

 

Jon begged off the cajoling his friends were doing to try and persuade him to join them at the club. He'd used Sansa as an excuse, saying that now Theon was gone he couldn't possibly let her walk or get a cab back home alone at this hour. Sansa can't say she minded being his excuse.

 

Besides, the cool evening air was refreshing on their cheeks as they stepped out into the city evening. They bade a good night to Jon's friends and made for their apartment block. Sansa found it impossible to resist linking her arm through his as they walked. So she did. To passersby they probably looked like a couple of lovers taking an evening stroll together. She hopes that Jon didn't mind. "It's getting chilly," she commented with a smile, as though that was a good enough excuse for her to be huddled up tight to his side.

 

***

 

The air around them seemed to change as they entered the elevator back at their apartment building. It was a familiar change; a shift in the atmosphere, a reveal of possibilities. It felt like at the end of a date when the guy drops the girl off and the girl's wondering if he's going to ask her out again, or give her a kiss.

 

Does Jon feel that too? Or is it just her? Is her little kumquat baby causing her hormones to excite themselves over nothing at all? She remembered the locket hung around her neck and her heart leapt in her chest again.

 

Jon cleared his throat as the elevator rose higher and higher. The sensation has never made her feel giddy before but now… is that what this feeling is? Is she giddy? Or is she just tired and happy?

 

“I’m sorry about my friends,” he said, looking up at the display above the doors, the numbers climbing higher, “they can be annoying but they’re good guys.”

 

“You don’t need to apologise, Jon,” she smiled. “I really enjoyed myself. They were good fun.”

 

She watched him fidgeting with the band on his wrist before he realised he’d been caught and shoved his hands in his pockets instead. “It’s hard to break bad habits,” he grinned sheepishly.

 

The elevator ‘pinged’ and the doors slid open. Jon raised a hand, gesturing for Sansa to take the lead. As she neared her apartment door, Sansa realised that she would really rather that this evening didn’t end. She’d had such a wonderful time with Jon and his friends and really, once this little kumquat baby meets the world, how often will she get to do things like this? She’s not sad about it though. Sansa would trade all the nights out in the world to hold her baby in her arms.

 

Turning abruptly to face him, Sansa receives a pleasant electric charge of surprise when she notices Jon’s eyes had most definitely been on her behind before she’d spun around. He’s slower to react than perhaps he should be, and she wonders how often he checks her out without her knowing normally? Does he do that at all? Or is it just because he’s been drinking? Whatever the answer, his cheeks are flushed pink and before she can stop herself, Sansa thinks that it is the most delicious shade of pink she’s ever seen. She remembers pressing her lips to that cheek back at the restaurant, how warm his skin was and how his whiskers had tickled and just how much she had liked it.

 

“Thank you for inviting me tonight,” she told him, taking a step forward.

Jon’s eyes were growing darker and he removed his hands from his pockets. Sansa had the sudden urge to take one into her own hands.

 

"Of course,” he replied, “my friends wanted to see my new life down here. I couldn’t have shown them that without introducing you.”

 

Oh, that had done it. Her dancing butterflies were back and she couldn’t stop herself from reaching for his hand even if she tried. She likes being a part of Jon’s new life. She likes that he is part of hers. Sansa found her fingers slipping down his wrist, meaning to take his hand, but stopping when she felt that familiar hair elastic; Jon’s little nervous tick. She raised it up between them as they both look down at the thing, wrapped around his pulse-point.

 

Is that suffocating to have that there? To issue yourself with little slaps and stings when you’re already uncomfortable? Like a punishment? Sansa frowned. She didn’t want Jon to punish himself.

 

Slowly, she slid the tie from around Jon’s wrist and placed it on her own. When she looked back up to Jon, his eyes were even darker as he blinked slowly. “I prefer your hair down anyway,” she half whispers, her thumb slowly sweeping back and forth across the inside of his wrist.

 

Jon swallows, his eyes dropping to her lips for a beat or two and the urge to kiss him is strong – oh, so very strong now. That can’t just be haywire hormones, can it? Is there more to this? Her tummy butterflies are all tripping over themselves at present.

 

“Thank you again for my locket, Jon,” she tells him for lack of anything better to say. If she hadn’t, Sansa suspects they may have been left stood there, staring at one another for quite some time. “It really was very thoughtful of you.”

 

Jon is still looking at her lips, and all the Gods should damn him in quick succession because his tongue rolls out to wet his own and Sansa feels utterly mesmerised by the gesture. “It’s nothing,” he tells her.

 

Sansa shakes her head, her heart pounding in her chest. “It’s not.” The words come out quiet and weak and she’s already moving closer before she can stop herself. She leans in, intending to brush her lips to his cheek once more; another show of gratitude from one friend to another. Only this time - this time - she can feel the corner of his mouth beneath her kiss and it is oh so easy to move that fraction closer on the second press of her lips.

 

She hadn’t meant for that second press to happen at all. Friends don’t tend to indulge in ‘second presses’ of lips on lips – or third, or fourth for that matter.

 

Jon groans and Sansa wonders how the sound had managed to make her tingle all the way from her toes right up to the roots of her hair. She drops her purse to the floor; a dull thud and a jangle of her keys spilling out that neither of them acknowledge before she wraps her arms around his neck and angles her head to better deepen the kiss. All those butterflies seem to be doing a million different dances all at once, but one thing's for sure; it certainly feels like all those damned butterflies were celebrating hard.

 

Jon pulls her close and groans again and -the Gods damn him twice over-  that noise is dangerous because it is doing things to her. She can feel herself getting wet already and this is only a kiss. She wants him to touch her, wants him to know what he’s doing to her, how her body is responding to him. The thought makes her screw her eyes shut tighter and kiss Jon harder.

 

He licks into her mouth and Sansa’s knees almost buckle out from under her. Jon has got her though. He’s got her in his strong arms, and it feels like he doesn’t ever intend to let her fall. "Sansa,” he utters between kisses, reverent and needy and just what she wants to hear.

 

Sansa shifts and tugs him along with her until she’s got him where she wants him, pressing her up against the wall beside her apartment door. “Jon,” she answers, fingers sinking into his inky curls. He feels warm, and very solid with his body pressing her against the wall. Sansa likes the sensation very much, it makes her feel desired and safe and alive.

 

Jon’s lips move down to her jaw where he begins to mouth and lick at the sensitive spot below her ear lobe. Her head tilts back, submitting herself to his attentions as a shudder rolls through her body when she feels a graze of his teeth. “I’ve wanted to kiss you for a long time,” he whispers, bringing his lips back up to hers.

 

“You have?”

 

“Hm-mm,” he nods, not breaking the kiss. Sansa can feel Jon’s hands hot on her waist, his thumbs sweeping back and forth against her skin just under the hem of her top. Close – so close – to her secret kumquat baby.

 

Sansa lets slip a little gasp into his mouth. “We shouldn’t.” Jon pulls away to meet her eye, he looks a little dazed, his lips are kiss-swollen, and his hair is all ruffled up. Sansa thinks he looks glorious. She watches him swallow nervously, his eyes dropping guiltily back to her lips, the desire still evident amongst the stormy grey of his gaze. “You’ve been drinking,” she tells him, licking along her lips where she can taste the tang of his beer.

 

Jon lets out a huff of a laugh, the tension he held released along with it. “You think you’re taking advantage of me?”

Sansa blinks at him, though she feels slow, groggy – like she were the one who had been drinking and not him. "Trust me,” Jon tips his forehead to rest on hers, his eyes so close now she can see the flecks of violet hidden amongst the slate grey, like chips of precious gems found in a mighty mountain, “I would want to kiss you if I were perfectly sober too.”

 

She feels relief, but that wasn’t it.

 

Her tummy flutters with excitement and guilt and fear. She doesn’t feel in control right now. Sansa has become used to having that control, it makes her feel safe. And yet, she feels very ready to hand over absolutely everything to Jon in this moment because he makes her feel safe too.

 

Jon presses a peck to her mouth, his lips soft and his beard pleasantly tickly. Sansa reciprocates so he issues another and then another until she opens to him and he’s pressing her against the wall again. She wants this. Oh, Gods, she wants him so badly. But this isn’t right. This wasn’t the plan.

 

Jon seems to sense her hesitation. She wasn’t aware that she’d flinched, or tensed or given anything away but he appeared to sense it nonetheless. “If it’s the tenant-landlord thing,” he mutters between kisses, “then I’ll happily move out. I’ll sleep in the Gods-damned park if that will make it any better for you.”

 

Sansa chuckles against his kiss and she can feel the answering upward curve of his mouth under her lips. His hand comes up to cup her jaw, the tips of his fingers spearing into her hair and causing little electric tingles all over her scalp. She can’t help the whimper that escapes her and relishes in the rumble from his chest that answers her. She’s not sure what possesses her, but before she can do anything about it, her leg hitches itself around his hip making him practically growl in response. Sansa’s not sure she’s ever made a man growl before but all she knows is that she wants to do it again. She grinds against him and Jon shifts, pushing his hips back into her. Sansa can feel the evidence of his arousal and oh, this is getting way out of hand.

 

 “I want you,” her traitorous tongue whispers in his ear, making him shudder with her words the way Jon had her with his kiss.

 

Sansa is quite content to allow Jon to continue to mouth along her collarbone as she clutches at his hair and rolls her hips against his before he hisses and stops. “Shit,” Jon mutters, straightening up to look her in the eye. “I don’t have a condom.”

 

Opening her mouth to speak, a million words fly through her mind all at once and yet somehow she says none of them. She closes her mouth again.

 

“Not that I’m presuming anything,” Jon is quick to add. “I’m not expecting anything. Just… whatever you want, whatever, uh..." he’s babbling now and Sansa would think it was rather adorable if it weren’t for the huge secret eating her up.

 

I’m pregnant,” she blurts, changing absolutely everything with only two words.

 

She sees the moment Jon registers what she had actually said. His brows crease and his head tilts to the side as if that would help him make more sense of it. "You're..." he seems unable to finish that sentence.

 

Nodding, Sansa lowers her leg from around his hip and Jon takes that as his cue to give her some space. She doesn't want any damned space though. She wants his hands and mouth all over her and his body pressing up against hers again. The butterflies in her tummy don't know what to do with themselves. "Pregnant. Yeah."

 

He's staring at her flat stomach. "Wow," Jon blinks, "that's-that's... congratulations," he stumbles, nodding his head and Sansa can't help but think he's trying to convince himself that this is a good thing. "Uhh...the father?..."

 

He doesn't need to phrase his question any more clearly. It's the thing people are going to want to know as soon as she tells them about her baby. Who's is it? Well, it's mine, Sansa thinks fiercely. She opens her mouth to tell him - tell him that there isn't a father in the picture, but before she can there's a click and the door to Theon's apartment swings open with a crash followed by two people shushing each other and then giggling.

 

Sansa's first reaction is annoyance. Trust Theon and one of his hookups to crash the very important conversation she was about to have. But then, she sees that the woman to emerge, red faced and giggly was none other than Jeyne. All four of them stand still, staring at one another like rabbits in headlights.

 

Chapter Text

Decathect (verb) - to withdraw one's feelings of attachment from (a person, idea, or object), as in anticipation of a future loss.

Jon stared dumbly at the deep indigo wall in his living room area, chewing a mouthful of lime marmalade on toast. He'd hardly caught a wink of sleep last night and in truth he'd spent an extraordinary amount of time reading and rereading the short text that Sansa had sent him after they'd scattered to their own apartments for the night.

We should talk more about this another time. Good night, Jon. Sweet dreams.

When this 'other time' would come, he was not sure, but he intended for it to be soon. His fingertips still tingled with the memory of her skin, his lips with the taste of her own. Sansa was a constant in his mind, and, if he's truly honest with himself, she has been for a while now.

But, after last night, everyhing had become... more. She kissed him. She'd done that. Sansa had chosen to bestow him with that kiss and allowed him to put his unworthy hands on her. There was somethng there, even if it is only lust on her part, it was more than Jon had previoulsy thought.

And she's pregnant. Gods, Jon's mind was still in an almighty spin over that. Who was the father? He tried to rack his brains to remember if she'd ever told him how long ago her last relationship was. Or was she seeing someone casually now? Jon wrinkled his nose. That didn't seem right. That didn''t seem very 'Sansa'... but then, what does he know anyway? Maybe she had a drunken one night stand? His head felt like it had been violently dunked into ice water just thinking about that - about someone else's hands on her, someone else's mouth on her, someone else's...

Someone else's. Sansa is having someone else's baby and Jon's angry at himself for allowing his emotions to bubble and simmer and fret over it. You've only kissed her the one time, idiot. That might've ended up being a one-off wihout the reveal of her condition and Theon and Jeyne's interuption.  Jon flings his toast crust onto his plate and angrily sucks the remnants of marmalade from his thumb. And you'd gone and started yabbering about condoms, like an over-eager schoolboy about to cop off for the very first time. Jon groans and drops his head to lean back against the couch. He has no right to feel any kind of way about Sansa having a baby..... and yet, he does.

He needs to find out what Sansa wants. Is she involved with someone? Was last night's kiss a mistake in her mind? "We shouldn't," she'd whispered feverishly into their kiss. Jon had thought it was because he'd been drinking, but perhaps there was more to it?

And if she's not involved with anyone? If the father of her child is like his own and doesn't want to take on the responsibilities of his own lust? There's an ache in Jon's chest at the mere thought. Sansa won't be alone in that case, he thinks to himself. I'll make sure of it.

His phone buzzes on the coffee table. It was Sansa.

Come over for coffee?

Jon almost made it to the door before realising he was still in the t-shirt and boxers that he'd slept in.

***

She was wearing buttercream yellow. Her knee-length light cotton robe matched with whatever it was she had on underneath. All Jon could see was a slither of fabric at her chest before the robe was pulled tight, folded over itself at her waist. Her copper hair had been scooped loosely to a bun high on her head, wisps and strands managing to escape here and there which only served to frame her face prettily. He liked that she hadn't bothered to dress for him, it meant she was as eager to talk as he was.

That's a good thing, right?

"Thanks for coming over," she smiled, moving aside so he could enter her apartment.

"Yeah... yeah, no problem, uh..."

He's never been here so early. The morning light spills in differently to her place, Sansa's windows being located on the opposite side of the building to his. It feels warmer, like her little lounge was glowing. There was a half eaten round of toast and some kind of cooling tea on her dining table. He thinks Sansa might've had lime marmalade too.

"This is awkward." She's standing in the doorway to her own room as though needing to better assess how to approach the conversation. How to approach him.

"Yeah, it kind of is." He tries for a smile.

"Um, I'm sorry for... blurting it out like that. That was really embarressing."

"Don't be embarressed." Jon means that. Sansa should never be embarressed. He takes in a lungful of air, eyes dropping to her flat stomach. "So... how far along is-is the pregnancy?"

"10 weeks."

She's been pregnant the whole time Jon has known her.

"And... the father?" The qustion has been itching beneath his skin thoughout the whole of the night.

Sansa shakes her head. "There isn't one."

Jon won't deny that there's relief flooding him now. Relief, and a small amount of confusion.

"I used a donor," she gulps.

Oh.

Oooooh.

"I know you might think that's weird," Sansa twists her fingers together and starts fiddling with the long belt of her robe, "I know I'm still young and I could meet someone and do it all the traditional way-" She's babbling now. Jon's never seen her like this and he wants to interject, tell her that it's not weird, he's not judging her. "- but honestly, the last couple of relationships I've had felt like massve let-downs and just a big old waste of my time!" She crosses the room, arms folded over her chest as she holds herself and looks out into the city morning that greets them. "And I do still want all that - all that love and romance and marriage, it's just..." Sansa turns and her red hair looks like shining copper with the sunlight kissing it through the window. "... it's just that... I want this more." Jon watches as her hand lowers to rest on her flat belly. "My mother always encouraged me to go out and get what I want because no one else was going to get it for me, so I planned to do this on my own."

Jon nods slowly. It all make sense, perfect sense. If there had been clinics that biomanufactured families, then he would've signed up for one of his own years ago. Sansa knew what she wanted most, and she went for it. You can't force someone to love you and want the same things as you do, but she could go out and get that thing she wanted all on her own. It's brave really.

And then there's that naggling little hopeful voice jumping up and down and waving its arms at the back of his head. He really, really souldn't entertain those hopes. And yet still he hears himself say, "was it an annoymous donor?"

"Yes," his heart plummets, "well, no, not completely. The donor's details are available at the clinic should I wish to ask for them."

That little voice is practically somersaulting now. Jon tries to calm it. The clinic must approve a lot of donations and by what kind of devine serendipity would it be that Sansa used his? Jon stares at her stomach again, his pulse quickening as he swallows and licks his lips. "Are you going to ask for them? For the donor's details? To find out who he is?"

Sansa's brow quirks and she narrows her eyes. He's asking too many questions. "Not yet," she responds slowly, "I plan on only asking for them should my child want to know about him."

Shit. Ok. "Don't you wanna know who he is? Whose baby your having?"

Sansa jerked her head to the side, eyeing him with a fierce expression he's never seen on her face before. "The baby is mine, Jon," she wraps both hands around her middle now and he know's he's put his foot in it. "It doesn't matter who he is. He's just a name on a database. Just a guy who jerked off into a sample cup."

Jon reached out to her even though they were stood too far apart for any kind of touch, let alone the sort he longed for. "I know. I'm sorry, that's not what I meant."

Sansa turns away to look out the window again. "I can do this on my own, you know."

"I know! I never thought that you couldn't."

He took a step closer and Sansa turned again to face him, dragging her hands down her cheeks. "This isn't what I wanted to talk about. We need to talk about last night." Jon nodded, not knowing where she's about to take this, where she's about to take them. "Last night was a mistake."

Oh.

Jon feels something inside himself crumble. That hopeful litte voice is being crushed by a falling weight. Sansa saw it in his eyes.

"A nice mistake," she's quick to amend, "a mistake I wanted to make, Jon, please believe me when I say that. I have... there is 'something' between us... I think." She's back to fiddling with her belt and looking unsure of herself again.

"There is," his voice is strained, thick and hoarse.

"It's just that... right now... that 'something' should be us just being friends. The way we were, before last night."

Jon doesn't know what to say to that. Should he tell her that it makes no difference to him that she's pregnant? That he'd gladly have her, and her child? All he can manage is to stare and blink.

"What happened last night wasn't in the plan," Sansa continues, rubbing her belly, "it's not just about me anymore. I need to concentrate on my baby."

Jon's stomach rolled. You're being rejected again, something deep and dark whispers in his ear. He tries to bat it away like an annoying wasp. This wasn't about him, this was about Sansa and her baby. He knew that. Everything she as saying made perfect sense. He could empathise with how she must be feeling about this whole situation. But still... she ddn't want him. At least, not the way that he wanted her.

He reached for the hair tie on his wrist to find it bare. Sansa had taken it from him last night. She wears it still, now. He wants to run.

"It's just that this is such a big thing, you know?" Sansa continues, looking a little glassy-eyed. "And I do-... there is... 'something' there that I feel for you, Jon, but I never planned for that 'something' to happen. I'd come to terms that maybe I'd never have that with the right person ever, and as much as I might want to, I can't persue that with you right now, Jon, I'm sorry." She lets out a shaky huff after her speech, her eyes shining and upset.

"When will be the right time for... 'something'?" he hears himself ask.

Sansa shakes her head, dislodging a singular tear that rolls down her peach-soft cheek. "I don't know," she says thickly with almost a hint of a laugh to her tone, "I don't know, Jon, and I can't ask you to wait until I'm ready," Sansa glances down to her belly, "until, we're ready," she amends.

Jon's eyes are on her stomach again. "You're worth waiting for," he offers quietly but no less sincerely, swallowing when he meets her eyes. "Both of you."

"Jon... no, I can't- ... that's not-..." Her gaze darts around the room, trying to pull the right words from behind the sofa or from under the coffee table. "Please... let's just be friends again?"

For a moment, all Jon can do is stare, but eventually, he's able to give her a small nod, his eyes falling to the carpet. He wants to run again... and yet he doesn't. He wants to stay and argue with her about this whole thing.... but that would hardly be fair. No means no, and not right now still means no, whichever way you look at it.

Chapter Text

Sansa has been looking forward to this day ever since she took that pregnancy test all those weeks ago. Today, she is twelve weeks pregnant, today her baby is the size of a plum, today marks the end of the first trimester, and today she is going to see a scan of her precious baby for the very first time.

And she feels terrible.

 

She's barely had a glimpse of Jon since their talk after that kiss. She'd begged off the boat ride around the marina, and in turn, Jon had seemingly begged off ever seeing her again. 

She dreams of the look on his face as she'd explained why they both couldn't take a chance on something more between them right now. Why it just wouldn't be fair on either of them. 

She's never been the cause of an expression like that before. It cut her like a knife and she's had this miserable sinking feeling eating away at her ever since.

She rises from the cozy nest of her bed, relieved that this morning her little plum doesn't seem to want to upset her tummy. It's not much consolation, though because there is an awful weight inside her chest to concentrate on instead.

Push that aside for now. Today is meant to be happy.

And she is very much looking foward to seeing her little baby on the screen, not that she's announcing it to anyone yet - not until Robb comes to stay next weekend. She brushes her hand across her belly. "You have to stay a secret a little while longer I'm afraid," Sansa tells her plum-baby in a hushed voice, even though she's alone in her bathroom.

She brews herself some ginger tea and decides on some museli and yogurt for breakfast. After she's eaten, washed up and dressed in some comortable yoga pants and a soft grey t-shirt, Sansa bunches her hair up loosly on the top of her head and secures with a clip. She spritzes on a couple of sprays of light perfume, eyes landing on the locket Jon had bought her where it drapes over one corner of her vanity mirror. 

That heavy feeling is back again, but she decides to wear it anyway.

She'd booked the day off work, so there were no expectations from the office as far as Sansa was concerned. Her scan appointment at the hospital wasn't until 2pm so she had a whole morning of pottering around on the agenda, and she was very much looking forward to it. Theon would be coming 'round to be fed this evening and she planned on prepping her duck in plum sauce and plum cobbler before noon.

Jon is invited too, but he's manged to swerve all her invitations in the past two weeks and she doesn't see how that would be any different this time around. Sansa can't say it doesn't sting, even if she understands why he feels the need to do it.

She dearly wishes to remain friends with Jon, but if that's too difficult for him now, after what happened that night, then she'll not push him.

A morning spent cooking and spinning around in the kitchen while she listens to one of her many musical soundtracks is a morning well spent as far as Sansa is cocerned. She dips her pinky finger into the plum sauce and hums happily to herself, sucking the rich, spicy sweetness from her skin. Next in store is routing around in her wardrobe where somewhere a bag lurks with all her knitting paraphernalia. She's seen some darling little patterns for baby booties and she'd love to start making some things for her little plum.

But first, her hair is slowly faling from its loosly gathered bun, wisps and strands tickling her neck. She goes to her bathroom to rectify the situation using the over-sink mirror, and, while she's here, she may as well have a quick pit-stop to use the loo as well. Sansa has found that even though her little plum isn't quite big enough to be pressing on her bladder, she's needed to heed the call of nature more often than usual anyway.

That's when everything changes.

Her day she had been looking forward to for weeks, the day she was to see her baby for the first time, to see it and make it even more real - her day took a sudden dive, much like the plummeting of her heart.

There were two small, pinkish smears in her undwear.

No, no, no, no... Sansa bunched a wad of toilet paper together and wiped herself only for there to be more pink - more, and slightly darker. No, no, no, no...

She stared at the cherry stains on the snow-white paper. What do I do? What do I do?!

Scrambling, Sansa rifles through her pregnancy paperwork with shaking hands. No, baby, no. Hold on little one! Should she call her GP or the practictioners at the fertility clinic? Should she call the hospital? All the numbers on her various forms and leaflets, paperwork and booklets all blurred as her head buzzed with the image of that blood on the toilet paper.

Ok, breathe, Sansa. It's probably okay... just... just concentrate...

Oh Gods, please be okay, little plum.

She could feel the sting of tears threaten her eyes but she needs to call someone, she needs advice, she needs a Gods-damned phone number!

Pausing to inhale deeply, Sansa finds herself slowly counting back from ten as she releases her breath. The pre-natal ward. She should call the pre-natal ward at the hospital. Once she'd made the decision, Sansa was able to quickly find the number.

Seven minutes later, and she's is reaching for her jacket. The midwife Sansa had spoken to on the phone had possessed a kind, nuturing sort of voice, and Sansa suspected she'd discerned the panic in her own. She had been calmly asked all sorts of questions - was she expiencing cramps? How far along was the pregnancy? What shade of red was the blood, and how much was there? Sansa was then told that 'spotting' can be fairly common but that the pre-natal unit would bump up the time of her scan should she want to come in and be checked straight away.

Sansa sure as shit wanted to be checked straight away. She wanted to know everything was okay. She wanted to know her baby would be alright.

She hadn't bothered with wasting time on changing her clothes, simply putting on her trainers and grabbing her jacket, bag and keys while her mind raced at a hundred miles per minute.

She wanted to call someone, she realised, twisting the key in the lock to secure her apartment. She wanted someone with her. She wanted her mama, her daddy too. She wanted Robb. Sansa is meant to be revealing the happiest news to her brother in a week's time, if she doesn't have that happy news to share... if she doesn't... she can't even begin to think about what kind of a mess she'll be if she loses this baby.

Before Sansa even knows what she's doing, she finds herself stood in front of Jon's apartment door, fist raised to knock. She taps her knuckles against the surface, her mind as steady as scrambled eggs. He's at work, she realises, her heart slipping low in her chest. Of course, he's at work. Sansa makes to leave, resigned to the fact that whatever news she recieves in the scan room, be it good or bad, she'll recieve it on her own.

And whatever happens after that - you'll deal with that on your own too, she thinks, shifting her bag higher on her shoulder and hurrying towards the elevator.

"Sansa?"

She spins around at his voice, such sweet relief flooding her viens when she sees Jon stood in his doorway, looking puzzled.

"Jon!" She hates that his name is almost a sob in her mouth, but loves that he's instantly affected by it. 

"What is it? What's happened?!" Jon's eyes scan her up and down as though searching for some kind of wound.

She hurries back to him. "I'm sorry for disturbing you but...ah..." She tucks some of the hair that's coming loose behind her ear and looks back down the corridor towards the elevator again. She wants Jon to come with her but... with the way things have been with them lately, will he hate her for asking? 

"You're not disturbing anything," he tells her. Sansa glances past him into the apartment. "I decided to work from home today," Jon clarifies before his brow furrows in concern again. He reaches out to touch her, hold her elbow gently she assumes, but appears to think better and retracts his hand. "Sansa, what's wrong?"

She swallows before answering. "I'm bleeding." Jon's eyes go wide. "A-and the hospital - they said it might not mean anything bad but I should go in for a scan so they can check-"

Jon turns, dipping into his apartment only to reemerge now wearing a jacket and bending to slip his shoes on. "Come on," he says, straighting to lock his door, "I'll drive you."

 

***

 

"Can you come in with me?" Sansa asked after Jon paid for his parking spot in the hospital lot. She hated how the question had made her seem childish, but had wanted to ask it all the same.

"If you want me to."

"I want you to."

They found the pre-natal ward with little difficulty and were told to sit in the waiting room after Sansa had checked in. She was handed an empty urine sample pot and told to fill it and hand it back before her scan. She would have to have blood tests before she left, too. Sansa didn't want to do any of this. She didn't want to wait. She just wanted to see her baby on that screen and for someone in a nice white coat to tell her that everything was going to be alright.

The waiting room walls were littered with pregnancy, labour and breastfeeding advice posters.There was a little station in the corner that had toys to keep idle children from succumbing to boredom. It lay empty now as besides Jon and Sansa, the only other person in the waiting room was one very heavily pregnant woman currently thumbing through an old magazine.  Sansa eyed her round tummy and looked back to her own. Jon bounced his leg up and down as he sat beside her.

There's a few comings and goings that they witness as they wait, midwives breezing through, sonographers with their noses stuck in medical notes. A disembodied voice calls the name of the other woman. She returns the months-old magazine to the coffee table and offers Sansa a small smile before disappearing into one of the consulting rooms. Sansa takes a breath and watches the second hand on the clock tick-tock its way past the numbers on its face and start all over again. Jon has a new hair tie around his wrist. He snaps it.

"I'm gonna go ask them how long we have to wait until your apointment," he mutters, rubbing his hands up and down his thighs before standing. He comes back with a shake of his head and no more information than they possessed before. They just have to wait.

"It's the size of a plum this week," she hears herself say in a sort of unattached way, like it hadn't been her to say it at all.

Jon stops his leg bouncing and hair band snapping, and sits up straighter in his chair. "What?"

"The baby. I've got this app on my phone." She looks at him now and her heart clenches to have his eys meet hers with such intensity and somehow, such softness too. "Each week it tells you how big the baby has grown. It compares it to the size of a fruit or vegetable," she explains, "this week it's a plum."

He says nothing, only offers a gentle smile. 

"I was making duck in plum sauce and plum cobbler for Theon tonight... and you, of course," Sansa adds, peering at him beside her.

She watches him take a breath. "Sansa, I'm sorry I've been avoi-"

"Sansa Stark to consulting room 3 please."

That horrid panicky feeling bubbles up and Sansa knows she's gone wide-eyed when she reaches over to grab Jon's hand. "Come in with me, please."

 

***

 

Sansa's grin is starting to hurt her face. "Can you believe it?" she asks, still staring down at the scan print-out in her hand. "That is a person. A whole other human. And it's in there!" she points to her flat tummy.

Jon chuckles and she can't help looking up to him and laughing too. "It's amazing, Sansa."

Sansa thanks all the Gods that the scan revealed a healthy pregnancy with a strong heartbeat. The moment the cool jelly had been squeezed onto her tummy in the dark scan room, she'd blindly reached for Jon's hand and took comfort in the way he instantly reacted, holding her own hand in both of his.

The sonographer had pushed the probe around on her belly and silently tapped at buttons before moving the probe around some more as he stared at the screen. All the while, Sansa couldn't breathe.

When he finally announced that everything looked normal and as it should, she couldn't stop the tears from coming. She was so incredily happy.

And then she'd seen it - her little plum baby. There was a head, with a nose, and arms and a little tummy and curled up legs too! All of that little plum-sized person was inside of her! She'd looked to Jon with joyful tears in her eyes. He'd beamed back at her and squeezed her hand.

"Thank you so much for coming with me, Jon," she tells him as they walk back towards his car in the lot. "I really needed someone today."

Jon shrugged. "It's nothing."

It wasn't nothing though. It was everything.

"Hey, what do you say to us going over there to celebrate your successful scan?" He inclines his head and indicates with his hand still in his jacket pocket. Sansa follows his line of vision to land upon a little coffee shop situated opposite the hospital.

"Sounds like a plan," Sansa grins.

The overhead bell tinkles to announce their arrival. The place isn't terribly big and reminds Sansa a little of a pretty garden room. There are potted plants everywhere and a lot of the tables and chairs are metal with tiled mosaic patterns on their surface, like ones you might find out on a posh patio. Sansa decides that she likes it.

"You take a seat and I'll order one of your disgusting teas for you," Jon smirks. He earns himself a light tap on the arm for that but she can't help the huge smile she still has plastered to her face.

"I'll have camomile," she laughs, moving away to find them a spot.

She's still grinning when he joins her. "Can I take a look?" Jon asks, reaching over to the scan picture in her hand but pausing for her response.

"Of course!"

She watches him study the image. "I'm really happy for you, Sansa," he says and she can tell that he means it.

"Happy enough to come 'round for dinner tonight?"

Nodding his head, Jon takes one last look at the fuzzy black and white ultrasound picture of her baby before handing it back. "Yeah... I'd like that. I'm sorry I've been... weird about it."

She's about to tell him that she understood, that she hadn't wanted to force a frendship with him, but that she had missed him too, but a waitress dressed all in black and carrying a tray appeared with their drinks before she could.

"Camomile," she announced. Jon pointed in Sansa's direction and her drink was set down in front ofher. Next, the waitress offloaded Jon's black coffee before declaring "and two fruit scones with plum jam, as requested."

Sansa thought that Jon's smile as the sweet treats were set down in front of them was possibly the best she's ever seen him wear.

 

Chapter Text

This week of pregnacy might possibly be Sansa's very favourite. Not only is her baby the size of a lemon, but Robb is coming down to Kings Landing for a visit and she can finally - finally - shout her news from the rooftops.

There's a niggling little worry in the back of her head though. She knows she ought not to care at all what people think of her, but Sansa has always played by the rules, been a good, rather predictable girl in everything she does and followed a traditional, well-worn route in life. Using a sperm donor and electing to be a single parent is not traditional, or well-worn. But it's the route she's chosen and the happiness fizzing up inside her tells Sansa that nothing but good things can come of her decision to wander off life's predictable path for a while.

Jon knows, and he didn't seem to have any qualms with the whole donor subject. But then again, he is not Robb, or Jeyne, her oldest friend. Not that anyone has any right to dictate what she does with her womb and her life. It's just... this is such a happy occassion for Sansa, and she doesn't want any reactions of shock to dampen that.

When she was a little girl, Sansa had certainly never pictured the beginning of her own little family to start like this. She'd imagined having a dinner party with all her loved ones seated around a huge dining table where she sat beside her loving husband, giving each other secret smiles before they shared the happy news together.

She imagined her mum and dad to be especially happy.

Things rarely turn out just as you picture them.

But today she gets to tell Robb! She's sure her heart is jumping up and down in her chest in anticipation. Quite how it's not going to be the first words that leave her mouth upon her innital sighting of him, she's not sure. Will she even make it back to her apartment? Will she just blurt it out on the elevator ride up or as soon as his foot hits the pavement when he's getting out of his car?

Sansa's not certain she'll be able to contain herself. It seems like it has been so long that it's just been her little lemon and her. And recetlly, Jon too. Her tummy's resident butterflies flitter their wings a little at the memory of his smile when she was getting her first scan, and later when he'd ordered them both scones with plum jam.

She told her butterflies to quit their flapping.

Jon Snow is her friend. And that's what's best for everyone right now.

The butterflies refuse to cease, but Sansa suspects their fluttering may have more to do with Robb's impending visit and how everyone is soon going to know her secret and Sansa feels like she might burst.

But she can't burst yet because she's in the middle of baking lemon cakes, a lemon tart, lemon-baked sole and making her own lemonade. She's going lemon-bonkers and she doesn't really care! She will have that dinner party announcement like the one in her girlhood dreams, loving husband or no.

Spinning around in her kitchen, Sansa sings to herself, feeling high on how ridiculously happy she is. Her phone buzzes on her countertop and she wipes her hands on her apron before picking the thing up.

Theon: Robb called. He's stuck just outside Harrenhall with car trouble. I've gone to pick him up. Will be back before your dinner thing.

Well, fudge.

That's screwed up her plans! They were meant to have a few hours together so she can tell him everything before people are starting to arrive for the dinner tonight and she can tell everyone! Maybe - maybe - she'll be able to seclude Robb away to tell him privately before she let's everyone else know about her little lemon.

Feeling a little better after that mild hiccup to Sansa's planned schedule, she checks on all her items in the oven, double checks the recipe printouts lined up on her counter, and then unties her apron and folds it neatly before heading to the bathroom to take a nice warm shower. When she gets there, the extractor fan whirring into life overhead once she'd pulled the light cord, Sansa finds herself staring at the reflection in the mirror. She has a large smudge of flour across one cheek and a little on her nose too. The smile she gives herself slowly blooms on her lips.

Today, everything is going to become terribly real, and she can't wait.

***


"Are you serious?" Jeyne snorted into her wine glass before taking a sip and using the glass to gesticulate, "there's nothing going on between you and that prettyboy tenant of yours?" Her brows were raised high on her head as though she were daring Sansa to say otherwise.

"No," Sansa sniffed, looking over the dividing counter from her kitchen into her living room area, where Issy was currently sat colouring at her dining table. Her little legs were swinging back and forth as she hummed some title tune to one of her cartoons. "His name is Jon, not 'prettyboy'," she cast a look over her shoulder at her friend as she continued prepping the veg for the meal tonight. "And nothing is going on between us."

There was silence behind her so she turned to look her friend in the eye again. Her brow was arched and her smirk was very accusatory. Sansa felt her cheeks begin to burn and her damned tummy butterflies begin to flitter-flutter again. She looked away and told herself it was the steam from her parboiled potatoes that was affecting her so.

The sound of Jeyne placing her wine glass down on the counter told Sansa that her friend probably had that infuriating determined look on her face.

"So, you're telling me, given the chance, you wouldn't ride that prettyboy until there was nothing left except his glasses and a wet patch?"

"Jeyne!" Sansa whirled 'round with a gasp, vegetable peeler still in hand. Her eyes flit over to Issy sat at the table.

"Don't worry about her. She's in her own little world," Jeyne dismissed. "So?" She picked up her wine again and took a sip as she watched Sansa fluster.

Oh, two can play at this game.

"Well, what about you and Theon?"

Jeyne's smirk slid off her lips before it reappeared and she raised her glass to her friend. "Touché."

Sansa felt her mouth twitch before she sobered and wiped her hands on her apron absentmindedly. "No, seriously," she broached in a more concerned tone, her eyes finding her friend's little girl once more, "what's going on between you two? Are you a couple now or...?"

Jeyne sighed but before she had the chance to answer, the doorbell rang. Sansa practically sprinted to get it. Theon hadn't returned with Robb yet and she's getting more and more anxious to just lay eyes on her big brother.

It wasn't Theon and Robb.

She smiled widely to greet Jon, Wylla and Walda though, the latter she had yet to meet but as she'd insisted that Jon should invite Wylla, and Walda would likely be there when he did, it would've seemed awfully rude. Besides, she was curious to see this suspected longing between to the two women that Jon had told her of.

Introductions were made all round and various bottles were offered to Sansa as thanks for the invitations. Its was nothing really, Sansa loves hosting these types of things.

"Jon!" Issy shouted, jumping down from her perch at the table and running over to him to cuddle his legs.

"Hey, Issy," he smiled, crouching down on his haunches when she finally let him go. "How you doing?"

"Aunty Sansy is gonna go on a pony ride," she proclaimed. Jon's eyes met with Sansa as she watched the pair, her brows creased but there was a smile on her lips for whatever fanciful makebelieve Nerissa was imagining now.

"Is she?" Jon asked.

"Uh-huh. She's gonna ride a pony called prettyboy. " It was at that moment that Jeyne almost spat out her wine. Her daughter carried on regardless. "She's gonna ride him through a wet patch. My mama said so."

"Issy, honey, why don't you show Wylla your drawing," Sansa said, slapping her friend on the back so she didn't choke on her wine. "She's an artist!"

Nerissa looked to the woman smiling at her with green hair - a woman she'd never met before. "Can Jon come too?" She asked apprehensively, tugging on his sleeve.

"Of course," he smiled, shooting that smile in Sansa's direction too.

Those damned butterflies better behave themselves tonight.

It was a little while later, when Sansa was adding the cream and garlic to her dauphinoise potatoes, that she heard his voice.

"How are you?" Jon asked her back, having obviously slipped out from where Issy was entertaining everyone sat around her dining table.

Sansa turned to face him, and even though she could see and hear her guests over the other side of the counter, the way he looked at her made it feel as though they were alone.

"I'm fine," she smiled.

Jon nods his head and glances around, eyes taking in all the mess of her cooking. His gaze lands upon the plate of lemon cakes sitting there ready for afters.

"Lemon?" He asks, brows raised as he inclines his head towards her tummy.

Sansa flushes, her hand flattening on her belly as she nods. "Yes. Lemon," she grins, like an absolute idiot, pleased that he's worked it all out. Jon is grinning back and those pesky butterflies are going absolutely wild for that grin.

Sansa's not entirely sure how long they stare at each other in her kitchen, smiling like loons over lemons. But something about makes her feel all warm and fuzzy and -

"Well, don't I even get a hello?" a familiar voice breaks into the little cocoon that Sansa had found herself in. Her gaze shifts from Jon to the man stood at the other side of her kitchen counter with his overnight bag slung over one shoulder.

"Robb!" she yelps, not missing the way he had been eyeing Jon before she practically dived for him, knocking the wind right out of him as she clung onto her brother as though her life depended on it.

He's here! He's here!

"Hey, Sansypants," Robb chuckled, wrapping his arms around her.

Sansa half-laughed, half-sobbed into his neck, holding him tighter. "Don't call me that," she huffed before proceeding to give into the emotion that's been threatening to overwhelm her for weeks now.

"Hey, hey," Robb strokes her hair, "what's all this about?" He chuckles, "I thought you'd be happy to see me."

"I am!" Sansa sniffles, feeling her tears wet the shoulder of his shirt. "It's just-"
She pulls away to look him in the eye, only for the sight of him to make it all worse. "I'm pregnant!" She blurts, her lips smiling but her eyes still glassy with happy tears.

Robb went rigid, his eyes widening before they looked past her to glare at the man she'd left in the kitchen.

Oh, wait, no!

Sansa took ahold of Robb's shoulder's to make him look at her again. It's no use. His jaw is tensed and he looks like he wants to murder Jon!

"It's a donor!" Sansa revealed, finally getting her brother's attention again. "I used a donor," she smiled. She watched as Robb's brows knit together.

"Wait," Jeyne called from where she was sat at the dining table with the others, "what's happening?"



 

Chapter Text

Tickety-boo (adj) – all in order; fine.

Jon, Wylla and Wanda could smell the mouth-wateringly gorgeous scents of Sansa’s cooking right from the moment they’d stepped out of the elevator into the hallway. “Mmmm! Something smells good,” Walda had commented. Jon grinned. They were in for a treat with Sansa’s cooking.

He’d decided to meet the girls at the gym, have a session and then they could all walk back to the apartment block together. His hair was still damp from the after-workout shower. He hoped no one would notice.

Walda seemed a little nervous. She’d changed into a green dress with white spots all over it and make up on her face. Both Jon and Wylla were in jeans and Walda’s eyes had darted about, embarrassed. “Am I overdressed?”

“Nonsense,” Wylla proclaimed, linking her arm through Walda’s with a grin on her face. “She looks beautiful, doesn’t she, Jon?”

Jon smiled and nodded his head. He’d never seen Walda in a dress or make up before. Green suited her, the colour almost matched Wylla’s hair.

Momentarily considering commenting on how Sansa would most definitely approve of the effort, Jon thought twice, knowing that whenever he utters Sansa’s name he’s teased endlessly for it. And he didn’t much feel up to being teased with regard to that particular subject right now. Not that he and Sansa weren’t in a good place  – he’s more than happy to have her in his life as a friend again (in truth, she’d never left his life, he’d been a coward and avoided her to lick his emotional wounds for a spell,) but it wasn’t quite the same as it was before.

There was a crazy-big ‘what-if’ hovering over their heads – well, at least to Jon there was. Sansa seems to have things handled much more than he ever could – like she’s taken whatever feelings she may or may not have for him and wrapped them up tight with a pretty bow and hid them in a drawer in her closet so she doesn’t have to think about them again. At least, that’s how it seems.

And Jon guesses that’s how it should be.

Jon had thought to say that he’d wait – for whenever she felt ready to try dating, he’d wait. But he knows that’s not fair. Putting that kind of expectation upon her? That’s not right. It’s not really fair on him either, but Jon doesn’t think that really matters.

So, for now, and the foreseeable future – it’s just friends. And isn’t that just tickety-boo?

So, why do they keep having ‘moments’?

Maybe they don’t?

Maybe Jon’s the only one to see it that way, but when he simply peeled away from where Issy was entertaining Wylla, Walda and Jeyne to ask Sansa how she was, it was like they were alone in their own little bubble. Her smile had gone and plucked the missing heartbeats right out of his chest and he should like nothing so much as to gather her up in his arms and bury his nose in her hair and whisper ‘fuck, darling, you can take all the heartbeats you want’.

But he can’t. He needs to stop thinking about her that way. He needs to follow her lead.

She’s going to make her big announcement tonight. Jon knows she’s excited about it and he’s happy for her, even if a part of him liked that he had been the only one in on her secret for a little while.

But then her emotions had gotten the better of her and Jon had wanted to be the one she’d ran to as she had wept. He’d never begrudge her wanting her brother at a time like this though – even if the man in question seemed to jump to some conclusions pretty damn quickly and looked as though he wanted to slaughter Jon on the spot.

Thankfully, Sansa had noticed and cleared it up, but then she was submitted to a barrage of questions fired at her from all ‘round. She looked quite tired by the time everyone sat down to finally taste the culinary delights Sansa had quite obviously slaved away on.

“What?” Sansa asked Jeyne as she tore a neat little mouthful of bread.

“Nothing,” her friend answered, a smile of both amusement and bemusement on her lips. Glasses and cutlery clinked around the table. “I just can’t get over that you’re doing this.”

“Well, you’ll just have to get over it, because it’s certainly happening now,” Sansa teased, her smile tight and her chuckle forced. Jon glanced around the table briefly, hoping that the others had noticed just how tired she was with their disbelief in her actions.

“Well, I think it’s great,” Wylla announced, setting her fork down and lifting her wine glass in salute, “you knew what you wanted and you went out and got it!”

Walda smiled sweetly over the table at Sansa and gave her a quiet “congratulations,” with a nod of her head.

“Thank you,” Sansa blushed. She caught Jon’s eye again and they shared a smile.

“Sans,” her brother, Robb ventured, wiping his mouth with a napkin as he sat beside her, “it’s not that Jeyne and I don’t think it’s great what you’re doing,” he looks to Jeyne seated across from him next to her daughter who was currently making an ordeal of stabbing some peas with her fork. Jeyne nods her head, offering a smile. “It’s just that it’s so... so... un-Sansa-like.”

Theon shovels another great forkful of food into his mouth, nodding his agreement but not really caring too much to lift his eyes from his plate.

“I just always thought you’d dreamt of Mr Right coming along to sweep you off your feet before you starting thinking of kids, that’s all,” Jeyne offered softly.

Sansa’s eyes found his again before darting away pretty quickly. “I was fed up of waiting on Mr Right when I contacted the fertility clinic, and I just-“ she faltered, eyes flitting about the table before she let out a breath that made the lit candles flicker and dance. “I can do this on my own, you know?”

“’Course you can, Sans,” Theon finally pops his head up, although his jaw is still chewing as he talks and grins. Sansa smiles in return, looking grateful for his support.

“No one ever thought you couldn’t, Sansa,” Jeyne adds, pausing to wipe some of Issy’s dinner from her daughter’s cheek. “You’ll be a fantastic mother. You really will.”

“Thank you, Jeyne.” There’s a twinkle in Sansa’s eyes and Jon thinks it comes from a place of happiness rather than the candles she’s decorated her dining table with.

Both Stark siblings pause to look to each other then and Jon feels like he should look away but finds that he can’t make himself do it. They share a smile – the same smile, one that blooms slowly across their lips.

“So,” Robb says, “I’m going to have a little niece or nephew to dote on when I visit, huh?”

Jon swears you can practically feel the mood from ‘round the table lightening as though the glow of the candles had picked up and bathed everyone in a happy golden light.

Or is that just Sansa?

He wonders if she’d foreseen these reactions and was bracing herself for them. He understands them, and is sure she does too, but if they had only been there when she’d seen her baby for the first time on that scan monitor, there is no way they would have any room left for concern when you see such joy in someone else. Jon doesn’t think he’s seen anyone as happy as that – ever.

“And me, Unkoo Robb!” Issy pipes up, making everyone chuckle.

Robb grins affectionately across the table at the little girl. “Of course, little squidlet!”

After that, talk turns to Wylla’s ideas for her exhibition of Sansa’s locket collection and the main course gets swapped out for lemon tart for dessert. Sansa seems more relaxed and Jon enjoys watching her with that pleasant glow around her. He doesn’t know if it’s pregnancy, being with her brother for the first time in ages or just the way she is. Warm, he thinks, already half dreading going back to his apartment later tonight where there is a distinct lack of warmth or pleasant glow of any kind.

***

“Hey, man,” Robb Stark says later, approaching Jon in the kitchen after he’d insisted to Sansa that he’d help out by loading her dishwasher. “Uh, sorry about earlier if I-“ he gestured with his thumb over his shoulder, “I just kind of put two and two together and came up with twelve apparently,” he chuckled and held out a hand.

“Uh,” Jon looked down to his own palm, wet from rinsing a plate under the tap. He wipes it on his jeans inelegantly and takes Robb up on his handshake. “Don’t worry about it.”

They both pause to look over to where Sansa is sat talking with Jeyne and Theon on the sofa, Wylla and Wanda apparently having sequestered Issy away to sit on the floor and show her how to play a game of connect-four. It doesn’t seem to be going well, but they look happy nonetheless.

“So how long have you known Sansa?” Robb asks, breaking him out of his reverie.

“Uh, a few months.”

Robb nods his head and takes a swig of his beer. Jon gets the feeling he wants to probe further but isn’t sure how to, or even if he should. Jon knows he definitely shouldn’t.

“She’s been great helping me settle down here,” Jon offers. “I was a bit like a fish out of water having never been this far south before – or living in a city for that matter.”

Robb’s brows rose and Jon knows he’s peaked his interest – some common ground. For a while they talk of the North, of the differences of living there and down here, and Jon soon finds that Robb Stark enjoys nothing more than to chat about his custodial position and his ancestral home, Winterfell Castle. And that’s just fine because Jon finds he enjoys hearing about it.

“Yes!” Theon hisses triumphantly, making both Robb and Jon turn their heads towards the gathering on the sofa. “You know you’ve thought about it, Sansypants, you know you have!”

Jon starts to wonder how much Theon has had to drink tonight as both he and Robb move closer to the couch to see what all the fuss is about.

“I have not!” Sansa contradicts as she taps on her phone. “I’m not that vain and I would love my baby whatever it looks like!”

Theon chuckles and takes a glug of his beer. “Yeah, but c’mon. If it’s gonna have a massive hooter for a nose or something then you wanna be prepared for that shi-oof!” Jeyne manages to cut off his swearing with a swift elbow to his ribs, saving their daughter from hearing a word she shouldn’t. She takes the beer bottle away from him for good measure.

“What’s going on?” Robb asks, leaning down to rest his hands on the back of the couch.

Jeyne twists in her seat to look up at him. “Theon and I were just saying that since Sansa can request the name of her sperm donor, that maybe she should ask for it now instead of waiting until her child is old enough to understand,” she said, palm turned up as she offered her explanation. “Sansa doesn’t have to do anything with that name and the contact details, but it might be nice just to have it. What if she or her child meets this guy without knowing it? He could be anyone!”

“Plus she wants to stalk him on social media,” Theon adds, unhelpfully.

“I do not!”

“Well, not for Theon’s reasons,” Jeyne says, giving Greyjoy a certain look, “but we were just saying that it might be helpful just to see what kind of guy he is so Sansa can warn her child if they ever want to meet him.”

“I’m not going to stalk him on social media,” Sansa says, resting her phone, face down on the armrest of the couch. “But I have been curious for a name... but that’s all he’ll be until this little one decides otherwise,” she smiles, placing a hand on her belly. “Even then, he’s not their dad.”

“So did you just request it then? Just now?” Robb asks, inclining his head towards Sansa’s phone.

“Yeah. But I don’t know if it’s an automated thing, or if they’ll send a letter or an email. I probably won’t get an answer until Monday I should think.”

Jon’s stomach has gotten itself into a knot that he is desperately trying to smooth out. He goes back to loading Sansa’s dishwasher for something to do. When he returns, talk has moved on to Nerissa’s upcoming third birthday party that Jeyne is trying to organise.

“Why can’t we have a pirate theme, squidlet?” Theon asks his daughter.

The little girl pouts and shakes her head. Her hair was done up in very neat Braavosi braids and Jon thinks that Jeyne must’ve done it. “No! I want Pack Patrol!”

Robb leans forward from the perch he’s found, stealing a dining chair from around the table and bringing it over to the lounge area. He grabs a fistful of peanuts from Sansa’s platter of after-dinner nibbles she’d laid out. “Pack Patrol? Isn’t that the wolf puppy cartoon?”

“Uh-huh,” Issy nods her head, “No job is too big-” she mimics what is apparently a slogan from the show, “-no pup is too small! Awooooo!”

The room bubbles with chuckles all ‘round and Issy looks a little shy and bashful at first but there’s soon a little grin to be seen between those rosy-red cheeks of hers.

Jon comes to sit next to Walda and Wylla on the plush carpet just before Wylla pipes up and offers her services as the official party face-painter – to which Jeyne readily accepts. “I’ll need to look up some designs and maybe do some practicing.”

Walda leans over and murmurs that Wylla can practice on her if she likes.

“Yeah, I’d like that,” she responds, teeth sinking into her bottom lip as they grin at one another, seemingly oblivious of everyone else in the room. Jon looks over to Sansa to find that she’s already watching the interaction unfold. They share a smile, knowing they are both thinking the same thing - mutual pining. Her phone buzzes over the gentle chatter of their little group and she scoops it up without much thought, wineglass full of some fruit flavoured water in her other hand.

With a furrowed brow, Sansa’s eyes squint and scan the screen before going wide, her lips parting. The wineglass slips from her grasp.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

What the actual fuck?!

Sansa’s world zeroed in on that name on the screen of her phone. She’s sure she must’ve widened her eyes and maybe even gasped because what she was seeing... what she thinks she’s seeing, is that Jon Snow, her tenant, her friend, the man currently sat on the floor next to Wylla and Wanda, the man who went with her for her first scan – the man she’s kissed – he’s... he’s her sperm donor?!

Distantly, Sansa realises her leg is wet and that Robb is talking to her. Did she spill something? Is that what she’s done? Everyone’s looking at her. She can’t speak. She can’t speak but everyone’s looking at her like she should say something.

Jon’s looking at her.

This has to be a mistake.

“Sans? You ok?” Robb asks, sat beside her. “You’ve spilt your drink.”

That’s right, Sansa thinks, only just now realising that yes, she had spilt her drink and that’s why her leg and sofa are wet.

“Sorry,” she hears herself say, although it doesn’t sound like her at all. “I’m so clumsy sometimes.”

“That’s pregnancy for you,” Jeyne says, getting up and striding into the kitchen to find some paper towels. “I once dropped a whole plate of pasta on my carpet and just sat down next to it and cried my eyes out,” she said, coming ‘round to help mop up the spill. “At least this won’t stain. Just you wait till you’re bigger and your whole centre of gravity shifts – then you’ll get clumsy!”

Jeyne is chuckling to herself. Other people are chuckling too. But Sansa can barely manage to lift her lips into a smile. “You ok, Sans?” Robb repeats his question and this time Jeyne pauses her dabbing of Sansa’s legs and the sofa beneath her to look her friend in the eye.

“You feel like you’re gonna throw up, sweetie?” she asks, face so close to Sansa’s that she honestly doesn’t know how she can’t see the truth etched there in her expression.

Sansa gulps. Yes, she does feel like she might be sick, actually. Her head is spinning from the rush of questions currently flooding it. And it would really help if everyone would stop staring at her right now, too.

She needs out.

“Actually, yeah,” she says, swallowing again as she rises. “I don’t feel too good.” As she makes her way to the bathroom, Sansa can hear Jeyne suggest that perhaps it was time they all left so Sansa can have her rest. She locks the door behind herself and sinks to the floor, back resting against the bathtub. Some voices murmur their thanks and good-nights through the locked door, Sansa accepts all their hopes that she feels better soon and Jeyne leaves her with a promise of a link to an article about morning sickness that really helped her when she was pregnant with Nerissa.

“Bye-bye Auntie Sansaaa,” Issy’s sweet little voice echoes from behind the door.

“Everyone’s gone,” Robb tells her with a soft knock. “Let me know if I can do anything for you.”

“I’m-“ her voice sounds croaky, as if this were its first use after a night of heavy sleep. She clears her throat and tries again. “I’m fine, thanks. I just need a minute.”

Sansa can hear her brother’s steps retreating from the door. There’s the gentle clink of glasses and she thinks he’s tidying up her lounge area after everyone has departed. Pulling out her phone, Sansa opens the page she had been viewing. She hadn’t expected to get an answer so soon, but her request triggered an automatic email that contained a pass code that unlocked the information on her online patient account with the clinic. She stared at the name again; Jon Snow.

This has to be a mistake.

Perhaps it’s a different Jon Snow? She checked the contact information her donor had left with the clinic when he’d made his donation.

Nope; both the phone number and the email were identical to what she had for Jon – her Jon.

What is going on?!

***

She’s still staring at the name on her phone. It’s the morning after she’d gained this new and highly confusing information and Sansa just cannot wrap her head around it. Sansa huffs and puts her phone back down on her nightstand only to pick it back up again as though the name may have changed during the few seconds her phone had been face down on the surface.

Nope. Still Jon.

How on earth had this happened?!

Well, she knew how it happened. He’d obviously made a donation and that donation is now-... it’s now-... her baby.

Why didn’t he tell her he’d made a donation and that there was a chance that her donor baby could be his? No. Not ‘his’. The baby is hers. Will always be hers. But why hadn’t he said anything?

Maybe he made his donation and didn’t want to think about it any further? But that can’t be right, can it. Sansa had made sure that the anonymous donor she’d chosen had elected for their contact information to be available upon request. Jon had made his information available upon request.

And Sansa had made that request.

And now her world has kind of turned on its head.

She was not prepared for this. Could anyone be prepared for this?

He’d texted her last night;

Jon: Hey, hope you’re feeling ok?

Sansa hadn’t known how to respond to that exactly. No, she bloody well wasn’t ‘ok’. She was very not ok. She was having a bit of a freak out, if she’s being completely honest with herself.

She’d ignored the text. Sansa knew she probably should’ve just sent a quick ‘yes, I’m fine now’ response, but her head cannot even compute communicating with Jon right now, not even to say that.

Although Sansa felt like all she wanted to do was to stay in bed all day and maybe try to catch up on some sleep that had alluded her during the night, Robb was here. And he’s only going to be here for this weekend. So she pushed herself to get up and try to act normal – like nothing out of the ordinary had happened. Like the father of her child isn’t just a hallway away.

Sansa cursed herself mentally. Jon isn’t ‘the father’. No one is ‘the father’. He is the donor though, and her head feels like this new information has reached into her skull and scrambled her brains like a fork does with eggs. She still doesn’t know how she truly feels about it. Will she ever?

Should I ask him to move out? Sansa briefly asks herself while staring into the mirror as she brushes her teeth. No. I couldn’t do that. Jon’s done nothing wrong.

Should we stop being friends? The thought hurt. It hurt more than it should if Sansa’s being honest with herself. Besides, if she goes down that route then the only fair thing to do would be to explain why she needs to distance herself from him and Sansa can’t even begin to think about telling anyone else this little secret right now. Especially Jon.

He’d make a good dad, an errant voice whispered in the back of her head. She paused her brushing to spit in the sink and shook her mind free of that particular path. That is not the plan. Yes, they’d had a very brief brush with a romantic sort of encounter. Yes, her tummy flutters with those damned butterflies sometimes when he looks at her. And yes, Sansa still shivers pleasurably at the memory of Jon pushing her against the wall, his lips on hers, his fingers buried in her hair and the way he’d groan and murmur how much he’d wanted her –

Heavens! She needed to stop thinking about that or she’ll need to splash herself with some cool water!

The point was; Sansa is starting a whole new, huge phase in her life and starting a relationship at the same time would be altogether too much. She and Jon had talked about this and agreed. It wouldn’t be fair on him.

And besides, he’s the one who made a donation. He signed the paperwork to say that he’s happy to have no paternal rights over a child that is biologically his.

Essentially, he is happy with not knowing. And Sansa can’t begin to fathom that changing any time soon because she can’t –she just cannot- tell him right now.

“Suck it up, Stark,” she tells her reflection in the mirror. “Just act like everything’s normal. No one needs to know.”

What if the baby has Jon’s adorable dark curls? Or his gorgeous grey eyes? What if her baby looks so much like him that he guesses that he’s the donor?!

Her stupid butterflies start kicking up a storm and Sansa wants to throw up.

“Hey, Sans? You up?” Robb calls. “I’m gonna make those cinnamon pancakes you like.”

Sansa swallows back the sudden urge to sob as she stares into the mirror. “Mama’s recipe?” she asks, though her voice sounds thick and stuck in her throat.

“Yeah. I bought her pan down with me.”

A tear escapes and rolls down Sansa’s cheek. Her mother always swore that the key to good pancakes was a good pan, and she’d used the same one and treated it with love and care as if it were the most expensive of heirlooms. “Yes, please, Robb.”

Oh mama, Sansa prays, squeezing her eyes shut and swaying a little on the spot where she stands. What should I do? I wish I could talk to you about this.

***

Today’s agenda was pretty loose. Robb has visited Kings Landing to see Sansa and Theon multiple times over the years and Sansa thinks they must’ve exhausted the sight-seeing options that the city has to offer. Besides, Robb’s trips are less about the city and more about spending time with his sister and his friend.

With that in mind, they find themselves ambling along streets aimlessly as they enjoyed walking and talking, catching up and reminiscing. But after a while, Sansa started to suspect that Theon had been subtly herding them along their way. Her suspicions proved correct when they found themselves in front of Frey’s Party Supplies.

“I don’t like the look of this place,” Robb says, eyeing the clown costume in the window.

“Oh, c’mon! I need to see if they have anything for the Squidlet’s birthday party,” Theon argued with a hand raised towards the store’s door. “Jeyne said I never help her with the organising side for things like this and I want to prove her wrong.”

“So you can win her affections more like,” Sansa corrected him as she walked into the store with a grin.

“Pfft! What? No,” Theon said, unconvincingly. “I just want to rub it in her face that I can do this birthday party planning malarkey just as well as she can. Better probably.”

Sansa and Robb exchanged a look.

Inside the store was divided in two; decorations, and costume hire. Theon went straight for the costume side and Sansa wonders if all he really wanted to do was play dress up. Sansa wandered the aisles, picking up this and that. She could hear her Theon trying to convince her brother to travel back down and dress up as one of the ‘Pack Patrol’ for Issy’s party with him. Robb was very non-committal; he had his hands full with his custodial job at the castle. Theon seemed undeterred though and proceeded to book two costumes for hire; one for a character called Grey Wind and another for one called Ghost.

“If you can’t make it down, then Jon can wear the other one,” she hears Theon say as she nears them, finishing up the booking at the counter. Her tummy does several flips and she finds herself standing stock still.

“Yeah,” Robb says, turning to look at her. “He seems like a nice guy.”

He’s watching her for a reaction, she can tell.  Robb narrows his eyes as Sansa fights a losing battle with her own blush. Gods, why must she be so transparent? She needs to deflect, or ignore, or something.

There’s a shelf nearby selling packs of eco-friendly lanterns of the Night of Lights Festival that the city holds each year. The tradition started for lighting candles to remember those that burned centuries ago in a dragon attack by the infamous Targaryen queen. These days people light lanterns and release them down by the marina in remembrance of lost loved ones. She snatched up a pack of three; one each for her parents, and the third she’ll save for the following year.

Robb eyes her, watching as she makes the purchase. “You and Jon seemed pretty cozy lat night when I walked in,” he says.

Sansa tries to ignore him.

“Oh yeah,” Theon comments, putting his wallet away in his back pocket. “They’re always eye-fucking each other. It’s so off-putting when all I wanna do is eat my food in peace without fear that they’ll make the beast with two backs on the dining table or something.”

“Theon!” Sansa gasps.

Robb blanches. “Dude. That’s my sister.”

Theon only shrugs as though he’d simply spoken the truth. Sansa thinks he’s being ridiculous, but quite frankly, she’d never got the impression that he’d paid much attention to whatever her and Jon were doing anyway. She’ll have to be more careful.

The door to the store tinkles with the bell overhead as they all step back out onto the pavement. Sansa would like the conversation to veer away from Jon Snow, thank you very much, but before she can instigate this change of topic herself, they’re stopped by a group of activists asking for signatures for a petition against the building on more of the city’s parklands. They all signed it happily. There were rumours that talks on selling off Visenya Park, and that concerned her greatly.

“Let’s go to The Avery for a treat,” she smiled, the worrying thoughts over losing her local park bringing the restaurant to mind.

***

The sounds echoing in the cavernous space filled Sansa’s ears as they entered The Avery. She slipped her lightweight jacket from her shoulders and breathed in the scent of coffee and sweet treats. She’d already picked up a stray peacock feather and proceeded to use it to annoy her brother, tickling his nose with the wispy tendrils. He swotted it away playfully and chuckled before they scanned the busy room, looking for a table.

Sansa spied an empty one, right by a window so they could watch a few of the kids who were playing Frisbee. But then her eyes landed on the table beside that one; Jon was there comforting a green-haired girl who could only be Wylla as she used a tissue to blot the tears from her cheeks.

With a heart that felt like it had both sunk and soared at the same time, Sansa wonders if she could get away with backing out of the restaurant and suggesting they go somewhere else.

“Hey, there’s Jon,” Theon announces, making his way over to their neighbour. Jon’s eyes lift to greet them and Sansa is forced to follow.

Oh fuck. Oh fuck. Oh fuck.

Briefly, an insane thought that he’ll know – he’ll just be able to tell – flits through her mind before she quickly ushers it away.

She wants to run.

She is curious as to why Wylla is upset. But mostly, she just wants to leg it out of there as fast as her pregnant ass will go because she’s sure she might combust if she has to sit there with the man whose sperm donation made her dreams come true, the man whose baby she’s carrying, the man who can make her melt into a puddle with just one look (like the look he’s giving her now, actually), and the man who is currently pulling out the chair beside him as he smiles for her to sit down and join everyone at the table.

Be cool, Sansa. Be cool, she urges herself, sliding into the seat and scooting it away from Jon’s side a fraction. He gives her a strange look and she cannot help but notice how lovely and dark his lashes are. She wonders if her baby will inherit those and instantly regrets the thought because she’s sure her cheeks are now burning under his gaze.

Jon opens his mouth to speak and Sansa just knows he’s about to be sweet and ask her how she’s feeling because that’s just the caring sort of man Jon is and urghwhy is everything so complicated?! Luckily, he’s interrupted by Robb asking Wylla what’s got her so upset. It’s a good thing too, because Sansa needs something other than the unsuspecting father to her unborn child to focus on.

Urgh! Not the father! The donor!

Not the father! The donor!

Not the father! The donor!

If she chants it enough in her head, maybe it’ll stick.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Capricious (adj) - given to sudden and unaccountable changes of mood or behaviour.

Sansa looked skittish for some reason. Jon didn’t like that. It’s most likely her pregnancy making her feel queasy or something, just like last night. But Jon can’t help but think she looks more nervous than he’s ever seen her. She looks as though she wants to protest when he pulls out the chair beside him for her, but Theon and Robb fill the other two vacant seats and so she sinks down into it gingerly before scooting it away a fraction.

That was odd.

Not that he’s hyper aware of everything she does or anything, but... well, yeah, okay, he is very aware of Sansa and today she just seems...not herself.

Has he done something? Has something happened?

Jon looks to Robb who had stayed at Sansa’s apartment last night to see if there was any tension about him. Perhaps they’d had a fight? But her brother seemed perfectly fine as he asked Wylla what had gotten her so upset.

That’s right, dumbass – your friend is upset. How about you concentrate on her instead?

“Oh, it’s... it’s silly really,” Wylla sniffed, fingers fiddling with the tissue in her hand.

It wasn’t silly. Jon didn’t think so at least.

“It’s just there’s this girl on my course who has sort of... well... she’s kind of copied my concept for the exhibition.”

From the corner of his eye, Jon sees Sansa finally lift her head. “What do you mean?” she asks in a quiet voice. He knows that Sansa has come to really appreciate just how much Wylla thinks of her locket collection. She’d once told him it was like a kind of validation in a way, that her odd little hobby could actually mean something if someone else thought it worth displaying. Jon remembers telling her that he didn’t think her collection was odd, in fact, he thought it was beautiful and that it already meant something because it means something to her. She had blushed at that.

“It’s so stupid,” Wylla sniffs, “I don’t know why I’m crying over it.”

“It’s not stupid,” Jon tries to reassure his friend, “you said the exhibition goes towards your final grade for this term.”

“It does... yeah... I just-“ she tucks some of her emerald hair behind her ear and looks down to her lap. “I feel silly getting so upset over it.”

Robb slides his forearms forward on the table. “Why don’t you tell us what happened?”

Jon glances briefly to Wylla as she takes a breath. He’s just heard this tale so his eyes move on to the others as they hear the story as well.

“I was so excited when Jon told me about Sansa’s locket collection and she said I could use it in the exhibition,” Wylla starts, gesturing to both he and Sansa with an upturned palm. “And I told this girl on my course, Margaery about it before we had to present our concepts to our tutor. At the time she told me she hadn’t decided on what her piece was going to be, but now she’s doing something so, so similar to mine, she has to be copying!”

Sansa’s brows knit together in concern. “What is she doing?”

“She’s displaying a collection of vintage engagement rings as a representation of past love – just like I was going to do with Sansa’s lockets! And she’s even going to display them exactly as I said I was going to  – each mounted in a box frame and under spotlights.”

“Engagement rings?” Theon asked, the corners of his mouth turned down in a frown. “How can a student afford to collect vintage engagement rings?”

It was a good point.

Wylla wipes at her nose with the tissue. At least her tears seem to have dried up. “Oh, Margaery’s dating some wealthy guy so that doesn’t surprise me. She’s always talking about him whisking her away on his jet or his yacht or how much he spends on her gifts.”

“She sounds lovely,” Theon commented in a deadpan tone. Robb chuckled under his breath and Wylla cracked a smile before sighing to herself.

“I don’t want to change my exhibit. Sansa’s collection is such a beautiful concept, but how can I compete with multiple framed thousand-dragon declarations of love?”

Jon tore his gaze away from Sansa to look to his friend beside him. “Easily,” he answered. “I don’t care how much those diamond rings cost her boyfriend, Sansa’s lockets would beat them hands down in terms of sentiment.”

There were murmurings of support for his comment from around the table, Robb’s head bobbed up and down in agreement but Sansa wouldn’t even look at him.

Wylla sighed again. “But... they’re representations of actual marriages. How can I top that?”

“Well,” Sansa ventured meekly and once again, Jon wonders if she’s not quite feeling herself today. “Part of the enjoyment of the collection for me is the imagined relationships, you know?” She was fidgeting with the sleeves of her pale yellow cardigan, pulling the fabric over her hands as she spoke, eyes intent on Wylla. “I like looking at the photographs and trying to guess who they are, who took the time to cut up their image to wear around their neck...who they were to each other. I’ll never know for sure if any of my guesses are anywhere near correct but...” Sansa paused to shrug her shoulder, “it doesn’t really matter... the relationships are real in my imagination, like... like reading a romance novel.”

Sansa chewed on her lip when she’d finished talking, a blush cresting on the apple of her cheeks. Gods, she was one in a million. Wylla blinked at her which propelled Sansa into explaining further. “Maybe you could... make your exhibit kind of... interactive? You could invite visitors to write down their own guesses about the relationships in the lockets.”

Wylla’s plum-painted lips parted. “That’s bloody brilliant, Sansa! That’s-... oh my Gods! This is such a good idea!” Her eyes were darting this way and that on the surface of the table as though they were trying to keep up with her own rapid thoughts. “I have to go,” she says, suddenly standing and grabbing her bags. “I have so much to plan and this is brilliant. Brilliant! Thank you so much, Sansa!” She practically dances passed the back of his chair to reach for Sansa, pulling her into a tight, one armed hug before she releases her and turns to Jon, one hand clasping his shoulder. “You need to keep a hold of your wifey here, she’s special.”

That had left him a bit flustered. He snapped at the hair tie on his wrist.

Sansa’s face reddened and her eyes went wide. When their eyes met, hers darted away nervously. “We’re not-“ Jon started to protest, but Wylla had already pecked both him and Sansa on the cheek and gave a beaming wave to Robb and Theon before she hurried out of the restaurant to go work on her project.

Jon glanced to the others. Theon was wearing a smirk as wide as his whole damn smug face and Robb seemed amused beside him too. Sansa still couldn’t seem to look him in the eye. He needed to change the subject. Fast.

Rooting around in his satchel, he pulled out the flyer he’d spotted on the bulletin board of his gym. “Uh, I saw that they’re starting up pre-natal yoga and meditation classes at the gym soon,” he handed her the information. She took it tentatively. Theon and Robb seemed to be watching them both closely. Too closely. He felt like an animal at the zoo. Jon cleared his throat. “I just thought it might be of interest.”

“Thank you, Jon,” she said, eyes downcast, staring at the paper leaflet in her hand. “Thats...that’s very thoughtful of you.”

He fiddled with the hair tie until he couldn’t stand it any longer. “Are you okay?” Something was up and he had to ask.

Sansa finally looked at him. She blinked a few times and inhaled, her lips forming the beginning of her words before she clamped her mouth shut and shook her head. “I’m fine,” she told him, looking away again. “I’m just feeling a bit queasy is all.”

Jon wanted to believe her. But there was just something about the way she was being that was... unsettling.

Almost as unsettling as your every move being watched very closely by Theon and Robb.

Jon decided to take his leave. He was in no mood to be scrutinised by Sansa’s brother, no matter how nice the guy seemed. He stood, murmuring his excuse to leave as well as his goodbyes and hitching his satchel over his shoulder. “See you later, Sansa,” he said, lightly touching her arm. She stiffened under his hand, only adding more fuel to his confusion.

If Jon had known that Sansa would be avoiding him solidly for the next three weeks, he might not have been in such a rush to leave that day.

***

Sansa has felt like she’s been living in fear for the past three weeks. Fear of bumping into Jon in the corridor, fear of him seeing through her flimsy falsities with regards to putting off her regular Wednesday meals with him and Theon, or how she’s responding to every ‘how are you?’ text from him with ‘so, so tired’ and nothing else.

Well, it’s not a lie. She is tired. But is that the pregnancy taking its toll or emotional exhaustion from trying to figure out her next move?

She doesn’t want to be avoiding Jon. She really doesn’t. But whenever she sees him there’s a tugging sensation deep within her chest and her head is trying hard to tell her it’s not there, but Sansa can feel it all the same.

In all honesty, she’s not sure how she’s managed to not tell him yet. She’s had daydreams of herself banging down his apartment door, blurting out that he’s the father of her child before she leaps into his strong arms and he welcomes her and her baby gladly.

Sansa rolls her eyes at herself whenever these fanciful scenarios play out in her mind. Not that she thinks Jon would reject her, it’s just... he was the one to donate his sperm – he was the one who signed the paperwork saying he was perfectly fine with there possibly being a child out there that was biologically his that he would have nothing to do with!

And even if Jon was willing and eager in all regards – eager for a relationship with her, and eager for a relationship with their baby –

MY baby, Sansa mentally corrects.

- this whole scenario puts a huge pressure onto the relationship before it’s even started!

Sansa can say now for certain that if she weren’t pregnant, she would be dating Jon. Without question. She, and her dumb heart have feelings for her tenant that aren’t just going to go away by will alone.

But she is pregnant.

And they had already agreed that starting a relationship now would be too much. Sansa has someone else she has to put first now and it just wouldn’t be fair on Jon to put that kind of pressure on him. Besides, with her past luck in love, it probably wouldn’t end well anyway.

And all that still hasn’t changed now that she knows he’s the father.

THE DONOR!

Sansa crunches into a pear almost angrily as she ponders the same things she’s been thinking over and over for the past three weeks. She used to enjoy the fruit when they were soft and ripe but she’s found pregnancy has her preferring them crisp and firm. The juice is still sweet though, and this week, her baby is the size of a pear too.

She’s going to see him today. It’s Issy’s birthday party and there’s no way Theon hasn’t roped Jon into helping in some way. Her butterflies are bumping into one another in her tummy.

The timer dings and Sansa slides off of her stool at the kitchen breakfast bar. These are the third batch of cupcakes she’s making for little Nerissa’s party, she just needs to get them out of the oven, let them cool and then add the icing and special rice paper Pack Patrol decorations.

Sansa just about manages to do this in the daze she’s put herself in before hauling her ass into the shower and preparing to leave to go help Jeyne set up for the party.

Jeyne and Theon have hired a little community hall over at King’s Gate for the occasion. As Sansa enters, one of her huge cupcake Tupperware tubs in hand, she sees someone from the hire company setting up the inflatable bouncy castle and Jeyne at the other end of the room fussing with a display of weighed helium balloons, all printed with a big silver number four on. Sansa smirks as she approaches her friend. “Couldn’t decide on a colour scheme?” she asks, causing Jeyne to jump and spin around. She rolls her eyes, making Sansa smile.

“I tried to get Issy to commit to just two colours – three at a stretch,” Jeyne explains. Sansa is well aware of her friend’s penchant for a colour theme. “But she told me that she didn’t want any of the colours to feel sad that she hadn’t picked them-“ she pauses to flick away a turquoise balloon that had floated in front of her face, “-and how can I say no to that? So here we are, with all the colours under the sun!” Jeyne grins while gesturing wildly towards the other clusters of balloon displays and to the multi-coloured tablecloths draped over the buffet trestle tables, complete with paper plates in every shade of the rainbow too.

“Well, I think it looks great,” Sansa beamed, handing over the tub full of cupcakes. From the corner of her eye she saw someone with dark hair enter the room, her heart thump-thumping at the notion that Jon might come early to help set up too. It turned out to just be one of the guys from the hire company. Sansa chastises herself and wills her nerves to calm the heck down. Her cheeks are feeling all hot and he’s not even here yet!

“You’re glowing,” Jeyne says, pausing her fussing of the decorations to look her over properly. Sansa finds herself ducking her head at the compliment. “I know it doesn’t feel like it to you,” Jeyne continues, “what with all the hormones making you feel a wreck, but pregnancy really does suit you, Sans.”

That made her smile. Her belly had only just started to show this week. There had been a firmness there before, in her earlier weeks of pregnancy, but she could only feel it when she pressed her hand into the soft flesh of her tummy. Now, that hardness has swollen and she finds a lot of her jeans are edging their way into being too tight to wear comfortably. It’s not hugely noticeable unless you’re looking for it, Sansa thinks, and sometimes she’s sure she just looks bloated. Nevertheless, her hands normally find their way to rest and cradle her little bump more often than not and she enjoys catching new glimpses of her pregnant body in reflections.

Helping Jeyne to arrange all the party food on the buffet trays, Sansa finds herself jumping out of her skin when someone pinches her sides from behind. She whirls around, her hand pressed to her chest in surprise.

“Sorry!” Wylla giggled. She had her green hair down and curled, and around her eyes she’d painted swirls and little shimmery bubbles and seashells. Walda stood grinning beside her. She had a face-paint design around her eyes that matched Wylla’s. They looked like a pair of mermaids.

“How are you, Sansa?” Walda asked.

Sansa found herself glancing downward, drawn to the fact that both women were holding hands. She smiled. “I’m great, thank you. You?”

Inhaling, Wylla reached forward to touch Sansa’s arm. “So much better after you helped me with my exhibit predicament.”

That was good. Sansa was pleased to have been able to help in any way she could. “I’m glad.”

“I mean,” she glanced back to Walda before returning her gaze to Sansa, “it’s been a lot of work. I’ve had to completely change my display format, beg for a larger exhibit space, get permission for the use of markers in the gallery and figure out a way to secure the lockets for security reasons but-“

“But it will all be worth it,” Walda finished for her, squeezing Wylla’s hand and looking as pleased as punch.

Wylla was staring at Walda again, her teeth sinking into her bottom lip as she tried to suppress a grin. “It will,” she agreed. “I honestly think it’s going to be so much better than what I had originally planned!”

“It’s going to be fantastic!” Walda proclaimed and for a while, the two just seemed to stand there grinning at each other like idiots in love. Sansa wonders if it’s gotten that far between them? Are they even officially dating yet? They haven’t said anything, not to her at least. Her heart gives a jolt when she thinks that she’d probably have heard news like that through Jon if she’d actually seen him at all over the past three weeks. Her eyes darted around the hall, half expecting him to be up a ladder hanging birthday banners or helping Jeyne fill the children’s party bags. He was nowhere to be seen and Sansa feels both relief and an awful stinging disappointment.

“Where should I set up?” Wylla asks, waving a big black bag.

Sansa stares at her dumbly. “Uhh...” She shook some sense into her head. Her face paints, of course! “Probably best to ask Jeyne,” Sansa deflects, pointing to the doorway to the little hall kitchen where her friend had disappeared to root out some more pitchers for juice for the children.

An hour later and the party is in full swing. Nerissa seems to have invited every pre-school aged child within the vicinity as shrieks and giggles pierce the air during a game of pass-the-parcel. Walda had volunteered to start and stop the music as the children all sat cross-legged in a huge circle on the hall floor. Jeyne was poised with a bag of cheap plastic Pack Patrol figurines to hand out to any kid who kicked up a fuss at the parcel not stopping with them. Sansa can hear Theon’s voice at the back of her head, teasing Jeyne for doing so, saying that children should just learn how to deal with disappointment early. Sansa would bet money that they’ve had that argument, but that Theon secretly loves Jeyne for not being able to resist making a disappointed child smile.

Jeyne leans over to Walda as they all watch the game in play. “I think this is the last layer of paper,” she whispers while the children continue passing the parcel. One child tries their luck by holding onto it longer than necessary. “Can you try and make it so that little dark haired boy in the green top wins?” she asks in a hushed tone.

Walda chuckles. “Are you suggesting I’m running a rigged game here?”

Jeyne edges closer and rolls her eyes. “Not that I like to listen to gossip or anything.” That was a lie. She totally does. “It’s just that I know his dad left him and his mum recently. Just upped and moved to Braavos with his twenty-year-old secretary! They had no idea until they found his goodbye note!”

Sansa’s eyes found the boy in question, small and sat crossed-legged on the floor with his friends. He seemed to be the quiet type compared to the other children. Sansa’s heart went out to him. What must that be like for a child? She tried to imagine herself in his little child-sized yellow Converse shoes. The exercise was a painful one. How could anyone do that to their child? Just up and abandon them? What type of person does that?!

Her heart lurches at thoughts of someone doing that to her child.

Would Jon do that? Sansa doesn’t think so. He’s not the type. But, then again, she never suspected he was the type to be a sperm donor either, so what does she know?

The music stops and unfortunately, the parcel had moved on to the next child. Sansa’s heart sinks for the little guy. Not that a new toy would make anything better for him. Luckily, Jeyne had misremembered and the present layer of purple wrapping paper is ripped away to reveal another one in blue. Sansa sees Walda give Jeyne a little nod as she’s pressing the play button. She’s going to try again.

The second time is a success and the children seem to divide into those that decide to scatter now that the game is through and they weren’t proved to be the winner, and those that crowded around the dark-haired little boy to inspect the Pack Patrol: Winter Terrain Rescue Vehicle Set that he’d revealed beneath the last layer of wrapping paper. Sansa hopes the new toy can give him some distraction from what must be an awful time for him and his mum – even if just for a little while. She smiles when the boy rises from his cross-legged position, running over to where his mum sits at the edge of the hall to show her his prize.

“Looks like the cavalry have arrived,” Jeyne mutters beside her. When Sansa glances over to her friend she finds her looking down at her phone. “About time too. I’m loathed to start a game of musical chairs.”

Walda laughs. “Why?”

“Kids get so competitive!” Jeyne explains. “And it’s just one of those games that ends in tears more often than not.”

“The cavalry?” Sansa asks.

“You know... Gusty Wind and Ghostie, or whatever the characters names are.”

Sansa’s lips form the start of her next question (because, what the hell was Jeyne talking about?) when all became clear. The doors to the hall opened and in walked two figures dressed in cartoon wolf costumes, complete with huge heads. The children flocked around them like they were superstars. “Oooh.” Sansa remembers now; the Grey Wind and Ghost costumes Theon had hired. “Who’s the other wolf?”

“Jon.”

Of course it was.

Sansa’s stomach swooped before she caught herself. He was bound to turn up at some point today. He’s her friend, he’s friends with her friends and Issy adores him. He was always going to show up. She just wishes she could go back to not going into a complete state of panic whenever she sees him.

And she misses him too.

Oh Gods! This whole debacle is awful.

Sansa stands there, at the edge of the room with a plastic cup of fruit juice in hand as she watches the man in a cartoon white wolf costume greet all the children. Issy has clamped herself around Theon’s furry leg but Jon seems to be getting away with not having any child attempt to climb on him yet.

They spend some time, doling out hugs to the kids and posing for photos for the parents to snap. Sansa finds herself unconsciously resting a hand on her tiny bump, wondering what tv character her little one will be totally obsessed over.

The dark-haired boy in the green top approaches Jon with his pass-the-parcel prize in hand. He shows the wolf his spoils and Sansa grins as she watches Jon go down to one knee and nod his head, pointing at all the toys displayed in the box of the boy’s new set. The young lad wraps his arms around Jon without hesitation, burying his little face into the shoulder of his costume. He doesn’t seem to want to let go. Jon doesn’t appear to mind though. He picks the boy up with ease and carries him around the room as he stops to wave a furry-gloved hand at the other children.

At no point did it look like he was trying to end that hug. It was as if he knew the boy needed it – needed something, even something this small. He wandered around the whole time with the quiet boy’s head resting on his shoulder and his little arms around his neck. When reaching Wylla’s face painting station, they paused to watch Theon, in his Grey Wind costume, force Jeyne into a seat and grab some of Wylla’s colourful paints as well as one of the sponges she had been using. Jon pointed and Issy shrieked in laughter when ‘Grey Wind’ started dabbing green paint all over her mummy’s face. The quiet boy grinned as he watched and soon after asked if he could have his face painted like Ghost.

Sansa’s chest started to ache just watching it all. She felt so happy in that moment. She didn’t want to think about anything that would complicate her happiness right now.

Sadly, after a while of goofing around with the kids, Grey Wind and Ghost had to depart. They waved to the children and not long after they left the hall, a very un-furry, warm-looking Theon and Jon appeared dressed in their usual jeans and t-shirts.

Sansa can’t help the way she watches him. He seems to be giving her some distance, which is something she can’t blame him for. No doubt he’s wondering why she’s been so evasive these past few weeks. She finds herself chewing on her lip as though she might be able to jolt herself out of this guilty feeling that ebbs and flows over her whenever she thinks of Jon.

Finally, he gives her a tentative glance and he executes it in such a way as though he’s not entirely sure he’s even allowed to look her way anymore. Gods, she can’t have that. That hurts. Sansa swallows down the awkwardness and the feeling of unease as she pushes herself off from the wall she’s been leaning on and wanders over to him. He watches her walk, his eyes dropping to her little mini pregnancy bump more than once and Sansa wishes she could evict those sodding butterflies in her tummy because they are wreaking havoc inside of her right now.

“Hi,” she says softly.

Jon lifts one hand to rub at the back of his neck as the other gets shoved into his pocket as though he hadn’t a clue what else he should do with it. “Hi.”

Seven Hells, this is awkward, Sansa thinks. I’ve gone and made it awkward by avoiding him for so long.

No, it was awkward the very moment you found out that he is the father of-... that he is the sperm donor.

Her hand moves to rest on her tummy and Jon’s eyes move with it. He licks at his lips. “You look well,” he offers before visibly wincing at his own words. “Beautiful – I mean... it suits you, pregnancy.” He’s nodding his head at her bump and his cheeks and ears are flushed with colour. It makes her grin.

“Thank you, Jon.”

They’re both smiling at one another and Sansa realises that she really has missed the way being around Jon makes her feel.

His features sober a little and he clears his throat. “It’s good to see you,” he tells her and the words feel as though they carry more weight than perhaps any outsider might guess. He’s looking at her so earnestly with those grey eyes of his with the little flecks of violet, it almost makes Sansa forget why it was she’d felt the need to avoid him in the first place. Why would she ever do that?

“And you,” she answers honestly. She finds herself scrambling for something else to say; further excuses for not hosting her weekly meals, a comment on how she’s looking forward to Wylla’s exhibition or how Wylla and Walda’s ‘mutual pining’ may have moved on a step, when there’s peculiar feeling low in her tummy. “Oh,” she says, hand moving to where she had felt it, brow creasing slightly.

“Are you alright?” Jon’s hand shoots out to gently hold her elbow as he watches her with concern.

“Yes,I... I think I just felt the baby move... that’s the first time I’ve felt it.”

Oh my goodness!

“Really?” He drops his gaze to her small bump again, a look of awe cresting his expression.

“Yeah. It... It kind of felt like a fluttery, rolling sensation. It was... really weird,” she laughed.

“Good-weird?”

Sansa nods her head. “Definitely good-weird,” she replies, grinning.

They’re smiling at one another like a pair of loons and Jon still has his hand gently curled around her elbow. Sansa doesn’t feel like she wants to shake off his touch anytime soon, but it’s not long that they’re both called to help out by ensuring all the children leave with a party bag and pitching in with the after-party clean up.

Sansa watches Jon at the other end of the hall, perched at the top of a ladder, taking down birthday banners. She’s barely even registering the plates of left-over party food she’s dumping into the black bin liner she has in her hand’s grasp.

“Is there something going on between you two?”

It’s Jeyne and the question nearly makes Sansa jump right out of her skin. “What? No!” Her friend looks unconvinced. Jon turned to glance back at her, giving Sansa a quirk of a smile when their eyes met.

“You sure about that?”

Chewing on her lip, Sansa felt herself caught between multiple paths. She glanced to her life-long friend. It sure would feel better to have someone along with me on whatever path I choose to take.

Inhaling a fortifying breath, Sansa’s mind is made up. “I need to tell you something.”

She watches as Jeyne’s brows rise, along with her interest. “I’m all ears!”

Taking one last look at Jon, Sansa links her arm through Jeyne’s and pulls her towards the door. “We need to do this somewhere more private,” she whispers, feeling a particular set of grey eyes following her as she leaves.

 

 

Chapter Text

Pursy (adj) - proud because of one's wealth especially in the absence of other distinctions. Purse-proud.

Wylla kept thanking him for taking time off work to come help her set up. In truth, after the past few weeks of not seeing Sansa so much, Jon had managed to accrue a decent bit of flexi-time, so taking the afternoon off to help his friend out was no big deal. Besides, he’d rather be here at Red Keep Art Gallery then stuck in the office anyway.

Luckily, Wylla’s campus studio was just a block from the gallery, otherwise he, Wylla and Walda would’ve really struggled moving her piece to her exhibit space.

“This is how you’re going to display the lockets?” Jon asked, feeling a little in awe. He remembers hearing all about the little box frames and spotlights she had originally planned to use; how she was going to align them rigidly in a grid, how she wanted clean, crisp straight lines – she’d planned it meticulously until that girl in her class took her idea for herself.

What Jon was looking at now was not clean, nor crisp. There was nothing rigid about it, in fact it was organic and kind of beautiful on it’s own without the lockets even being introduced yet. What he was looking at were five completely white trees, with gnarled branches and paper leaves. Wylla nodded at his earlier question, a proud beaming smile upon her lips.

“She made these herself,” Walda supplied, “aren’t they clever?!”

“Well, I had a little help,” Wylla said, knocking her shoulder playfully into Walda’s.

“The idea was all yours.”

Running his fingers over a branch and then down a trunk, Jon admired her work. The form was beautifully organic, and yet in its pure white state, with not another colour in sight it seemed to contradict that. The leaves were paper, for sure, and he thinks Wylla must’ve fashioned the branches from some sort of wire frame and plaster combination, while the trunk itself felt very real. It all blended seamlessly as though you could conceivably happen across a grove of these strange all-white trees. “So, where will the lockets go?” he asked, knowing Wylla had selected fifteen from Sansa’s collection.

“A few will be strung around the trunks,” Wylla explained, “and some will be securely hung on branches.”

Jon nodded his head. He could picture it quite clearly, the ones hanging on the branches might look like they’d snagged and caught, lost from their owner while they trampled through the peculiar white-tree wood. He liked the idea. “And people will write their ideas about the people in the lockets on the leaves?” That had seemed the most obvious place to him.

“Uh-huh,” Wylla confirmed, packing her storage box of last minute essentials she would need to set up her exhibition piece. “Or on the trunk, like people sometimes do with carving their initials into a heart. Jon liked that idea too.

“Won’t some people overlook the lockets in the branches?” Walda asked.

Wylla shrugged. “Sometimes relationships get overlooked. Sometimes they get forgotten about or carry on so smoothly and quietly that others barely notice them. Not all relationships are about big fireworks and grand gestures. Sometimes, they’re just... there.”

Walda bit her lip to attempt to suppress her grin. “I love it,” she said, approaching her girlfriend to peck her on the lips. That peck turned into two pecks, then three, then a longer kiss. Jon looked away to give them some privacy but soon found himself clearing his throat to remind them that he was, in fact, still there.

Carrying the trees was the most difficult part. They weren’t too tall, nor were they all that heavy, but they were awkward, and Jon was worried he’d break something the whole time. He managed to breathe a sigh of relief when all five were safely inside Red Keep Art Gallery.

The gallery space was as to be expected; white walls with various partitions that served as additional exhibition wall-space. Wylla had successfully negotiated a prime spot for her display piece – in the centre of the entrance foyer, the first thing every visitor will lay eyes on.

He can’t wait for Sansa to see it. Jon knows she’s going to love what Wylla has created and how she’s treated her collection with care and reverence. Sansa seems to be feeling a bit more herself lately – ever since Issy’s birthday party. Jon had genuinely started to wonder if he’d unknowingly done something to upset her or if it was just the pregnancy getting to her like she said. She still didn’t seem quite the same whenever they saw each other, but what does he know? He’s never been pregnant, he doesn’t know how it affects someone. Nevertheless, Jon feels relief that she no longer seems to be avoiding him.

It took a lot of pernickety manoeuvrings to get Wylla’s display trees exactly as she’d wanted them. They were arranged in a circle, not too close together that visitors couldn’t walk through them if they so wished, and not so far that the piece looked disconnected. Next came hanging and securing the lockets, making sure they were all open with their little found photographs on display. This activity proved to be a delicate one and Jon was shooed away rather unceremoniously when he’d apparently hung a locket in a manner that was not to Wylla’s liking. That was fine - he knows he was asked to help mainly for the grunt work of carrying and helping to rig the spotlights.

There were other students milling around, bringing in pieces to be displayed. Jon stood back and watched paintings being hung, and sculptures being secured to display plinths. There was even an installation of what looked like thousands of tiny lanterns, much like those that people use for The Night of Lights Festival. They were strung up in a corner of the gallery, flying about his head on what he thinks is fishing line.

“No, baby, I told you to get the antique ones!” a rather stroppy sounding voice could be heard from the other side of a partition. “It’s meant to be a collection of lost love! They have to be used engagement rings, not ones from this year’s Spring collection at Tiffany’s! Honestly, what am I meant to do with these?!”

Ah, Jon thought. That must be the delightful Margaery - the one who stole Wylla’s concept in the first place. Jon began wandering in the direction of her complaining, passing by one student hanging his photography between clear Perspex and another framing her watercolour pictures. He tried to seem nonchalant as he walked, though he couldn’t deny he was curious to see what this girl had come up with – how she had taken Wylla’s lovely idea of cherishing Sansa’s collection and twisted it into something merely masquerading as a celebration of love.

Shoving his hands in his pockets, Jon rounded the corner and saw a petite girl with soft brown curls tumbling down her back. She wore a figure-hugging dark green dress, the skirt clinging to her curves right down to below her knees – honestly, he’s not so sure how she manages to walk in that thing, especially teamed with the skyscraper stiletto heels that adorned her dainty feet. She stood there, back to him with multiple little turquoise bags in both hands, held out in accusation towards the man that Jon assumes is her wealthy boyfriend. “I can’t use these, baby,” she says, sounding very much like she was pouting as she thrust out her hands full of the bags that probably contained more diamonds than Jon had ever seen all at once.

For the first time, he looks to the boyfriend.

And then he freezes.

Honey,” the man starts, “it’s not a problem.” His hand disappears into his jacket pocket to retrieve a phone. “I’ve got a guy in the antique quarter, he can get some rings to you tonight.”

Rhaegar Targaryen’s violet eyes flit towards Jon before they go back down to his phone only to lift towards Jon again, narrowing as their gazes met. “Do I know you, son?” he asks.

Son. That foreign word echoed around and around inside Jon’s skull and suddenly he was a 13 year old boy again, standing on a wet gravel driveway to a huge house, his backpack soaked through as the sky continued to weep.

No, he wants to say, wills his mouth to make the sound, spit it at the man. You don’t know me at all. It wouldn’t be a lie. But he’s too slow. Jon averts his eyes and feels like he wants to bolt.

Rhaegar lowers the hand holding his cell phone. “Jon?”

He can’t bring himself to respond, only finding himself stood, staring. Margaery turns to look him up and down, still clutching her Tiffany bags.

“It is you... right?”

Jon shifts his weight, eyeing the man warily. “Yeah... Yeah, it’s me,” he says, nodding.

Rhaegar Targaryen takes a couple of steps forward and Jon’s whole body wants to recoil. He may have even flinched. In fact, he’s pretty sure he did, since Rhaegar raised his hands as though showing he meant no harm. Jon squares his shoulders. He’s not a soaked through 13 year old boy begging his dad to actually be his dad anymore.

“I... I wanted to reach out to you. I did,” he said, taking more steps until he was stood right before him. “I’m sorry that I didn’t.” Jon clenched his jaw and gave the man a hardened look. “And I’m sorry for how I treated you that day and.... and well, how I’ve been my whole life, actually.” Jon continued to be able to do nothing but eye the man. “You deserved better.”

Releasing a long breath through his nose, he crossed his arms over his chest. “I won’t argue with that,” Jon agrees. “I did. Any child deserves better than what I got.”

Rhaegar nods contemplatively. “I’m divorced now,” he tells Jon with a sad smile, stretching out an arm towards Margaery for her to join them. “This is Margaery. Margie, this is... well, this is Jon... my son.”

Managing to contain his sneer at the word, Jon finally looks to the brunette.

Margaery’s brows rise as she’s taking his hand to shake in greeting.

Fuck. You’re old enough to be her father, he thinks uneasily as Rhaegar gives him a winning smile.

“Are you exhibiting?” he asks pleasantly as though they were old pals meeting up at the country club or something.

Jon is about to explain why he’s there – about Wylla and her display, wondering if he’ll see any ounce of remorse on Margaery’s perfectly poised features, when the green-haired girl herself appears from around the partition, come to ask for help with her spotlights. Jon was relieved for the interruption.

In a complete contrast to the last time they met, Rhaegar looks regretful to let him go. “Will I see you here on opening night?”

“Most likely.”

Wylla bent her head close to his while they walked away. “Were my eyes seeing that correctly? Margaery’s boyfriend is that Targaryen prick?!”

Jon grimaced. “The one and only,” he says, rolling some of the tension out of his shoulders.

Chapter Text

The last time she was here, Jon was with her.

Sansa glances at the seats they had taken that time at her 12 week scan - when she had been scared out of her mind. It hadn’t seemed right to sit there again without Jon, she’d thought before realising what a silly notion that was.

“The best I could find was either Skittles or Haribo,” Jeyne announces, coming back from her trip to the hospital snack vending machine.

Sansa wrinkled her nose. “I’ll stick with my banana,” she said, reaching into her large handbag for the fruit. At 20 weeks, her baby will be the size of a banana, which Sansa thought was odd, since they come in a variety of sizes.

“Suit yourself,” Jeyne said with a grin, seating herself next to her and opening the Haribo.

Sansa thought about it for a second before deciding to give in; she reaches into the bag and pulls out a gummy ring to put on her finger. Jeyne smirks. She’s so very happy to have her friend here with her today, and happy to have Jeyne as a friend in general. She’d managed to help her more than she’d ever know with regards to this whole Jon fiasco...

 

“Wait, wait, wait,” Jeyne shook her head and waved her hands for Sansa to slow down. “Run that by me again.”

Sansa took a deep breath, preparing to repeat herself. “When I got the name of my donor through from the clinic, it was Jon. I hadn’t planned it. I didn’t know! I had the procedure before I’d even met him, but now I know it’s him and I don’t know what to do!”

Her friend blinked back at her. “Jon?... Jon Snow?...” Sansa nods her head, but as if Jeyne still can’t believe it, she continues on. “...Your Jon?... That Jon out there currently taking down my daughter’s birthday banners?”

Wanting to roll her eyes at ‘your Jon’, but not quite having the energy for anything more than pleading for advice, Sansa wrings her hands together and waits patiently for Jeyne to say something helpful- anything!

“Fucking hell!” Jeyne’s brows crease as she thinks this bomb of information through. “Do you think he knew that he was your donor before he moved in to your apartment? Do you think he sought you out?”

“No,” Sansa shook her head. “He doesn’t know. And he was very shocked when he found out I was pregnant.”

Jeyne narrowed her eyes. “When did he find that out?”

May as well come clean with it all. “We kissed... before I told you guys about it,” she admitted, making her friend’s eyebrows rise on her forehead. “We kissed quite passionately, actually.” Sansa could feel the apples of her cheeks heating up at the mere memory of it. “And... well, I think it would’ve gone further, but it didn’t seem right not to tell him so-“

“So he knew about the baby before anyone else?”

Sansa nods her head as she chews on her lip. A momentary shadow of hurt passes over her friend’s features, but Sansa can see her shake it off.

Jeyne looks to the side, focussing on nothing in particular as she contemplates Sansa’s position. “Do you want to be with him?” It was a direct question. She should’ve seen that coming.

“I...” Sansa stuttered, swallowing the lump in her throat. “I like him very much and I... well, I more than like him. I have very strong feelings for him.”

“Hmm,” Jeyne’s head bobs up and down, encouraging Sansa to continue.

“It’s just...” there’s so many things running through her mind right now, Sansa finds it hard to latch onto one clear thought. “This wasn’t the plan, and honestly, a huge part of me had given up on finding someone to be happy with. That was a big reason for me going the donor route in the first place.” She looks down and smooths both hands over her small bump. “This baby was going to be mine. Just mine.”

Sansa feels her friend’s warm touch lay softly on her arm. “And it still will be. It is! No one can take that away from you. You think Jon would want to do that?”

“No,” she answers, shakes her head at the notion. That wasn’t what she meant. Gods, why is this so hard to explain? “The point is, when we kissed and I broke it off, we agreed that it wasn’t fair on either of us to start a relationship at that point and those reasons still stand, it’s just... well, this complicates everything doesn’t it?”

Someone walks past the storage room that Sansa had pulled Jeyne into to have this conversation. Thankfully, it was just a cleaner. Jeyne closes the door and turns for Sansa to continue. “Are you going to tell him?”

“I have to... don’t I?”

“Not legally, no.”

Sansa lets out a huff, briefly looking up to the florescent light above them. “Morally I do....I think.” Jeyne says nothing, only tilting her head as a conceding gesture.”But what happens after that?” Sansa whispers.

“What do you want to happen?”

She wants everything to be simple, that’s what she wants. “I don’t know!” Sansa almost wails, plonking herself down to sit upon a janitor’s step-stool.

“Well... what do you think Jon wants?”

“I don’t know that either,” Sansa answers in a near-whisper, fiddling with the fabric of her wrap dress.

She knows what her friend is going to get at next – that Sansa, as much as she would like to, cannot plan for absolutely every eventuality, and sometimes, things don’t go according to plan.

And that’s ok.

Except there was this horrible little creature sat where her butterflies normally dance, and it’s gnawing its way through her gut, catching those butterflies as it goes and chomping on their pretty wings.

Jeyne seems to take pity on her, dragging a plastic chair over and sitting right beside her. “Ok,” she starts, “I think it’s clear that you are going to tell him at some point.” Sansa looks up as if to argue but Jeyne’s hand rises to stop her. “You will, Sansa. I know you and there’s just no way that you’d hide a secret as big as that from one of your friends.”

Sansa closed her open mouth. She had her there.

Jeyne grins. “So, whatever mental stress you’re putting yourself under with this ‘should I tell him or not?’ business can stop now, ok?”

Sansa takes a deep breath at that. She’s so thankful for Jeyne right now.

“So... let’s go through the best and worst case scenarios of what could happen.”

 

Sansa beamed as Jeyne squeezed her hand excitedly. The sonographer was explaining the image on the dark screen, pointing out a leg, an arm and along the spine. She couldn’t stop grinning, she felt like her cheeks might begin to ache from how big her smile was, but she didn’t care. Sansa knew her eyes were shining with happy tears in the dark room as the sonographer pushed the probe around her little bump. The baby on the screen – her baby – squirmed a little and kicked out a leg. Sansa gasped, sure that she had felt that as it had happened.

“They’re gonna be a little champion kickboxer,” Jeyne chuckled.

Sansa’s so happy to have her friend with her. Not just here today, but in her life. All her friends, really. And she’s bringing this little one into the world to meet them all and they’ll all love her baby too and-

“Do you need a tissue?” the sonographer asks gently.

Sansa hadn’t even realised the tears had fallen.

“Do you want to know the sex?”

She kind of did, but she kind of didn’t at the same time. Her sonographer smiled knowingly, obviously having come across Sansa’s facial expression quite a few times.

“Shall I write it down and put it in a sealed envelope in case you decide to do a gender reveal party?”

“Yes please.”

***

Sansa is excited for this coming week, not only is Wylla’s art exhibition happening tonight, but Jeyne has told her to pack a bag because she’s whisking her friend away for a week to a mystery location for a long overdue and much needed girl’s getaway!

Sansa’s butterflies wereflitting and fluttering as she stood in front of her wardrobe, contemplating her outfit options. She’s excited to see exactly how her locket collection is to be displayed. In truth, she’s not just excited for that though. Jon will be there – in fact, she’ll be riding the tram with him to the gallery. It felt a bit like a date, though it is most definitely isn’t. It was just two friends, supporting another friend. That’s all.

Ever since that talk in the storage room at the community hall, Jeyne had helped her sort through her tangle of thoughts. Sansa felt more free – not completely stress-free, mind you, but calmer, at least. Jeyne helped her accept that at some point, she will tell Jon the truth, but that pushing him away because of her jitters about possibly blurting it out wasn’t fair on either of them, and it definitely isn’t what she wants to be doing.

So, she’s focussing on being calm. She’s going to tell him, and at some point it’s going to feel like a good moment to do so – not a perfect moment. Sansa doesn’t believe that would ever happen - but a good one.

Working on reigning in her panic over what happens after that is a slightly different beast, however.

But she’s working on it.

You can’t control everything and that’s okay. You can’t control everything and that’s okay. You can’t control everything... and that’s okay.

Making her decision, Sansa opts to wear her forget-me-not blue dress, it falls to her knees with fabric that is stretchy enough to fit over her small bump. She likes the way it hugs her curves and yet is quite conservative at the same time. The neckline is a modest V shape and would be perfect for showing off a necklace. She picks the silver peacock feather locket that Jon had bought her and finishes off her outfit with a pale yellow cardigan. Just as Sansa seats herself in front of her vanity mirror to curl her hair, the doorbell rings.

“Jon,” she says, greeting him with a puckered brow. He’s not meant to be here for another 45 minutes yet. “You’re early.”

Jon’s eyes swept her up and down before giving her a guilty look. Fiddling with the hair tie at his wrist, he steps inside her apartment. “Yeah. Sorry. I...  I wanted to talk to you before we left.”

Sansa’s stomach swooped and her butterflies swooped along with it. Does he know?

Don’t be ridiculous.

“What is it?” she asks, joining him where he now sits on her couch.

Taking a breath, Jon twists his body to face her. He swallows, his eyes fixed downwards. “I... I never told you about my childhood.”

Sansa scrunches her brow. The statement was true enough but the importance right now was lost on her and wholly unexpected. “You told me that you never knew your mother... that she passed when you were born” she ventures.

“That’s right.”

He’s fiddling with that damned hair elastic again. Sansa itches to take it from him, settling for covering his fidgeting hand with her instead. “What about your father? Do you have a good relationship with him?”

His grey eyes find hers. “I don’t have any kind of relationship with him.” He’s watching her as she tilts her head in interest, licking his lips before he carries on. “I... my father never claimed me,” Jon says, turning his hands palms upwards as though offering her something, her own hand slipping from its place atop his. “I didn’t know him. I grew up in the care system.”

That took her by surprise. Sansa found herself sitting up, leaning back a little as though she were physically making room for this obviously huge piece of information about a man that she holds so dear to her now. How could she have not known this? He never spoke about his father. She only assumed things. The only snatches of information he’d offered her had been few and far between and now obviously very much lacking in greater context she realises. Sansa ached for him. She ached for him and she felt shame for her assumptions.

He’s still watching her, his eyes flitting back and forth between hers and Sansa cannot help but swallow when she feels tears for him threatening to well up. “I’m sorry, Jon,” she says in a quiet voice, hand reaching out to place into his again. “I didn’t know.”

Jon shifts a little as he averts his eyes. Is she making him uncomfortable? Sansa doesn’t want that. She doesn’t want him to think that she pities him. It’s far deeper than that. Thinking of what he’d said – that he’d grown up in the care system – that meant that he’d never been adopted, didn’t it? Just thinking of it – thinking of the lost little boy Jon had been - makes her heart hurt. She stays quiet and soon enough, Jon is clearing his throat to talk some more. “I found out who my dad was when I was about 10 or 11 and I sought him out when I was 13. I thought everything would change, I thought that he’d want me.” He’d been staring, unseeing at her coffee table as he spoke, only just now lifting his eyes to meet with hers. “He didn’t want me,” he said, shaking his head.

Sansa opened her mouth, ready to speak, although not really knowing what to say. Jon rubbed at the back of his neck and continued talking. “I’m telling you this now because... well, he’ll be there... at the gallery.”

Oh.

“How do you feel about that?”

Jon swallows, his attention back on the surface of her coffee table. “I... I don’t know really. I’ve hated him for so long but... as stupid as it sounds, I’ve wanted him in my life for even longer.”

Sansa squeezes his hand. “That doesn’t sound stupid, Jon.” She watches his lips twitch into a brief smile.

“It’s just, I’ve never had a family and when I bumped into him the other day, he... well, he apologised and... he called me his son and I...”

Sansa waited for him to finish, eyes intent on him even though he seems to be unable to look at her as he explained himself.

“...it felt weird to hear him call me that, you know? But good-weird... I think.”

There was a heavy feeling in her gut, like a sinking stone dragging down, down, down in deep, still waters. This man (if you could call him that) rejected Jon when he was just a boy. What kind of person does that to their own son? “Do you think he wants a relationship with you now?”

“I don’t know. Maybe?” It looks as though the same reservations as hers come to cloud Jon’s expression, keeping his hope in check. “Although I don’t know if that would be a good idea," he says, almost to himself. Gods, how her heart hurts for him.

She has more questions for him. She wants to know all there is to know about his childhood – even the painful parts. But Jon seems to shake himself of the conversation topic. “You look beautiful tonight,” he tells her, eyes soft and sincere and voice equally so. Sansa doesn’t think she’s ever wanted to kiss and hold anyone more than she does with Jon Snow right now.

 

 

Chapter Text

Atychiphobia (n.) – fear of failure; fear of not being good enough

Jon would agree that it might be a bit corny to say he felt like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. But he’s never been all that creative with words and can’t think of a better turn-of-phrase right now, so he supposes that will just have to do.

He smiles to himself as he sits, shoulder-to-shoulder with Sansa inside one of Kings Landing’s city tram cars. The evening is darkening already but the lights of the city and the residual warmth from the day’s sunrays make it feel alive. The tram ding-dings as it makes a stop and they watch a young couple hop off, the woman’s arm looped around the man’s as she pulls him along with a giggle. Jon glances beside him, Sansa is watching the couple with a smile on her face.

She looks positively radiant this evening in a pale blue dress that highlights her condition. Her cheeks are aglow and her hair somehow looks softer and shinier than ever before. It suits her, being pregnant.

He thinks to tell her that, but decides against it. It’ll all come out wrong and he’ll end up making a fool of himself, no doubt. And the very last thing he wants to do right now is upset the precarious balance of friendship between them. He’s meant to just be her friend. She’s going through, and will be going through a lot right now, and Jon can’t help but think if he missteps too much towards something resembling flirting then she’ll back away from him again.

And Jon doesn’t want to be ‘that guy’ anyway. He doesn’t want to push her for something she’s not ready for and make her uncomfortable.

No, he needed Sansa tonight. He needed someone to talk to about this whole thing with his father and his upbringing, and he just knew it had to be her. Besides, Jon would rather have her as a friend than not at all.

Their stop is just a block away from Red Keep Art Gallery. Jon steps onto the pavement, turning to offer his hand to Sansa as she alights the tram.

Some of the closed stores they pass keep their display lights on and every now and again there will be a late-night cafe, still with its tables, chairs and the rich aromatic scent of coffee spilling into the street. Jon stuffs his hands into his pockets for want of a better thing to do, trying to will away the urge to hold Sansa’s hand. He quickly dismisses the thought that should their circumstances be different, this would’ve been a perfect scenario for a date.

“Are you worried about your father being there?” Sansa asks quietly, eyes watching the pavement beneath their feet.

Jon’s lips twitch in thought. “A little.” He’s not looking forward to being in the same room as the man, that’s for sure. He glances around. “I didn’t tell you earlier but... well, he’s fairly well known. And not necessarily for the right reasons.”

“Oh?”

“Hm,” Jon nods. “Rhaegar Tarageryen.”

Sansa stops her leisurely stroll dead in her tracks. “The business mogul?”

“The very same,” Jon answers, waiting for her to resume walking and falling back in step beside her.

“He... he refused to-to... to help you, when you were a child? With all the money he has?!”

“I didn’t want his money. I still don’t.”

“No, but he could’ve set you up with some guardians or something. Get you out of the care system. That’s-...he-...he could’ve-“

She’s getting flustered and animated trying to get her words out and Jon can only think that he cares for her even more because of it. “He was still married at the time,” Jon shrugs as though that excuses everything. He knows it doesn’t. Sansa gave him a look that told him that she knew it didn’t too.

Jon sighed. He didn’t particularly want to talk further about Rhaegar Targaryen. That man has occupied a space in his mind for far too long, and Jon’s sure he will continue to do so for many years to come. “Have you put a picture in your locket yet?” he asks, unashamedly changing the subject rather abruptly.

Sansa blushes and ducks her head. “No. No, I’m going to put the baby’s photo inside,” she smiles.

Gods, her smiles do things to him. He offers her a grin in return as they walk side-by-side. “That sounds like a good idea.”

As they round the corner, the art gallery comes into view with light spilling out into the evening street. The ruins of the ancient Red Keep looms over them, lit up against the deep indigo sky as it sits atop its hill above the city. It’s pretty in a way, but Jon only finds himself grimacing at the reminder of Targaryen rule and Targaryen destruction.

“Oh my!” Sansa gasps as they step over the threshold into the very brightly lit Red Keep Art Gallery. There are people milling around as to be expected for the opening night, every wall surface is showcasing diverse pieces of art in beautiful colours and varying degrees of impact. But there could be no doubt to what draws both his and Sansa’s attention straight away. In the centre of the entrance area is a little grove of pure white trees with spotted lighting giving it a dappled glow, allowing for the odd shimmer of a silver chain or glint of a gold locket to catch their eyes. “That’s Wylla’s display?” Sansa asks, walking forward as if in a trance.

“Yep, that’s Wylla’s display.” Jon shoves his hands in his pockets and follows Sansa, a few steps behind. In all honesty, having seen the display before, he’s watching for his friend’s reaction more than anything else. He’s been looking forward to seeing it all day.

“Oh, my Gods!” she says breathily as she approaches. Sansa glances back to Jon with an expression of disbelief before a beautiful smile spreads across her lips. She cannot seem to help but start to circle the porcelain white grove, feet moving quite on their own and only stopping to find a locket here and there, each time delight colouring her features. “This is so beautiful!” she tells him once she’s made her way back around to his side.

“It is,” he says, smiling at her, the rest of the gallery seeming to melt away before he’s forced to focus on something that isn’t her.

There’s a little plinth nearby and sat atop it is a wide glass jar full of silver and gold inked pens and a printed invitation to write on the trees your ideas about the found love in the lockets. Both reaching for a pen, Jon’s pulse jolts when their fingers brush. Sansa giggles and he grins before grabbing the golden one they had both been aiming for and offering it to her.

A few leaves had been written on already. The silver and gold inks were a good idea, Jon thought – they seemed to add to the pristine white aesthetic, rather than tarnishing or taking away from it.

He smiled when he spied what someone had written on the trunk of a tree, right beside a locket opened on a rather chubby-cheeked, gummy-smile baby. ‘The owner of this locket was a single mother who had fallen pregnant unexpectedly. She was scared, but she was brave. She fell in love on the day she gave birth.’

He continued circling the trees, changing to weaving in and out to find a locket image that captured his imagination. There was a rather old looking one, the image of a dapper looking man in sepia tones peered out at him from it. A guest had written on a nearby leaf. ‘The wearer had been forbidden to marry her man because his status did not match hers. The classic story of a forbidden lover.’

Jon’s brows rose at that one.

He came to a silver locket caught on a branch. The photograph looked to be only a few decades old at Jon’s best guess. It was of a couple on their wedding day. He read the writing beside it on the paper leaf. ‘He loved her the very minute he met her.’

Jon chanced a look at Sansa. She too, seemed to be preoccupied with reading everyone else’s guesses rather than adding her own. His eye caught on Wylla sneaking up behind her with a gleeful look on her face. She spotted him and placed a silencing finger across her lips before approaching Sansa and pouncing on her with a light pinching tickle at both her sides, making her yelp and spin around.

Sansa squealed and Jon watched the two of them hug. “This is amazing!” she exclaimed to Wylla once she finally pulled back from their embrace. Sansa looked a little teary-eyed, but definitely elated. It made him happy to see.

Jon decided to take a wander around to look at the other exhibits and give her some time with Wylla to talk about the exhibit.

He found himself stood in front of Margaery’s display. A perfect grid of square box frames hung on the wall, all sharp edges and precise placement. Inside each box was a dazzling bit of sparkle. Diamonds and sapphires winked at him under the spotlights. Jon glanced this way and that, no one seemed to be stopping to take note of Margaery’s display all that much. A petty part of him was pleased by this and he tried to hide his smirk as a waitress appeared, offering him one of the glasses of champagne from her silver tray.

“There he is!” a pleased sounding voice said, prompting Jon to turn around. His stomach twisted in knots as soon as he saw the silver-haired man approach, a happy glint to his violet eyes. “This,” he says to the suited man who was accompanying him, “this is my son, Jon.”

With a heart that stuttered at hearing that word coming from his father’s mouth, Jon tried for a smile as he shook the hand of Rhaegar’s companion. In all honesty, as he stood there, listening to the two men talking, Jon hardly took notice of the topic or the words. He was still too taken aback by the ease in which Rhaegar had so readily called him his son. He’d seemed so pleased to introduce him as such, too. There was a warring set of emotions battling in Jon’s gut over the whole thing. He’d liked being called his son. He’d liked it very much. He’d never been anyone’s son before.

And yet his head was a little scared of just how much he’d liked it. Run, it whispered. Run!

The two men in fancy suits chatted on, sipping on their champagne and including Jon in the conversation as they discussed the art around them, business matters, or nearby restaurants. Rhaegar’s friend (whose name Jon had forgotten as soon as his father had introduced him) asked about his job, how long he’d been in Kings Landing and about the North. There was an odd ease to this, though his pulse hadn’t calmed down one bit. Rhaegar was watching him, engaged in what he was saying, eyes alight when he’d heard his son has a head for numbers. All while he was talking, Jon kept thinking he should walk away. He should walk away because no good can come from this.

But why did he enjoy it so much? He shouldn’t. He barely knows the man stood beside him, and yet there’s this urge rising up to prove himself to Rhaegar Targaryen. Prove his worth, make him proud. Prove he’s worthy of the title ‘son’.

And the more and more that his father listens, and smiles, and good-naturedly claps him on the back, Jon can feel that urge being fed.

He realised that he recognised the feeling. Jon felt like that 5 year old little boy again, trying so desperately to be a good boy, to tidy away his toys, and mind his manners, and eat up his vegetables, and colour inside the lines. If he did that, if he did all those things and many more, then his foster parents would adopt him. Only good little boys get a family and Jon tried so very hard to be that.

He never was good enough though.

But isn’t it meant to be different with your actual parents?

The man whose name Jon cannot recall murmured something about needing to take a call and swiftly left Jon stood there with his father. There was a silent beat where he distracted himself with the last gulp of his champagne while Rhaegar gave him an awkward smile.

“You know, I really am sorry about how I treated you that day,” he said.

Jon nodded, looking around at the other exhibits. He didn’t want to talk about this. Not now.

“Can I... can we exchange numbers?” Rhaegar asked and Jon finally met his eyes. Rhaeger blinked back as Jon thought over his request. “I know we don’t know each other all that well and... I’d like to rectify that.”

“Sure,” Jon mumbled, reaching into his pocket for his phone.

“Hey, let me take you out to lunch sometime next week.”

“I can buy my own lunch.” Jon felt childish as soon as he’d grunted out the words.

“I know,” Rhaegar said softly. “I know. Just... it would be nice to get to know you.”

Jon met his father’s violet eyes, wondering if he got his own grey colour from his mother. “Uh... sure,” he said, swallowing, pocketing his phone again once they’d exchanged information. “I’d...I’d like that.”

He kind of hated just how much he would like that.

Before he could excuse himself to leave, or indeed, carry on in conversation (Jon wasn’t quite sure which course of action he preferred in all honesty), he felt a hand grasp his arm. “Oh my Gods, Jon! You have to come see this!” He turned to see Walda’s beaming face as she tugged him away from Rhaegar Targaryen. Jon looked back to see his father raise his empty champagne glass in acknowledgement.

“What are we looking at?” Jon bent to murmur in Walda’s ear as they stood there, looking at a bench with Sansa and Wylla sat on either side of a white haired old man. He had one of Sansa’s lockets in his hands and was pointing at the photograph inside as he talked in a soft voice to the two girls.

“One of Sansa’s lockets actually belonged to his mother!” Walda supplied excitedly. “The photo is of him and his siblings when he was a child. Isn’t that amazing?!”

***

Jon hadn’t told anyone about his talk with Rhaegar. In truth, only Sansa would understand the significance of it all anyway so there was only her to tell.

But he still hadn’t said anything.

She had been so overwhelmed by Wylla’s beautiful display. And then her pretty blue eyes had sprung happy tears as she insisted that the elderly gentleman take his mother’s long lost locket home with him. Sansa was adamant on no payment in exchange for the piece of jewellery, bar an emotional hug from the grateful old man. Jon could see that the whole evening had left her over the moon. He hadn’t wanted to burst that bubble, so when she’d asked about Rhaegar, he’d simply said they’d exchanged a formal hello and that was that. Sansa had looked as though she might want to ask more questions, but Jon found himself steering the conversation back to Wylla’s brilliant display idea.

But now... now he wondered if he may have benefitted from talking more with Sansa about Rhaegar. It was weird, having someone to confide in about this particular skeleton in his closet. Good-weird though. He could get used to that kind of weird.

Jon checked his watch. He was almost half an hour early. Rhaegar had booked a lunch at some swanky restaurant in the more up-market part of the city and Jon was feeling all kinds of out-of-place.

No use hanging around looking out of place, he thought to himself when he spied an antique store across the road from the restaurant he’s to meet his father in. He shoved his hands in his pockets after the bell tinkled overhead, announcing his arrival. The intention had been to kill time more than anything else, but Jon had found himself heading straight for the glass cabinet that housed the jewellery. Gold, silver and jewels all glittered up at him and Jon knew this wasn’t the type of place to keep hold of any photos they found inside their lockets.

Still... it’s worth an enquiry. For her.

He wandered over to the large mahogany display cabinet that also served as a till desk. There was a huge, ancient looking silver till with swirling patterns etched on its side and lever-keys that looked as though they’d make a satisfying clunking sound to press all the way down. Jon glanced around, searching for someone to help him before he relented and dinged the old brass customer bell sat beside the till.

Twenty minutes later and Jon comes away from the store pleased that he’d bothered to enquire about any other stock they might’ve had. He’d only come away with a single silver locket without a chain and the photos inside were water-damaged, but the oval locket was pretty with its etching of little leaping fish and he’s sure it will bring a smile to Sansa’s face. It reminded him of her wooden clock and the trout that would rotate on spokes to announce the hour.

Jon tucked the little paper bag containing the locket into the inside breast pocket of his jacket before pushing open the door to the swanky restaurant his father had chosen. The eyes of the maître d' swept him up and down before offering a smile once Jon had given him his father’s name. Whilst being led to their table, he glanced this way and that. The lighting in here was dim and everything was crisp and clean. The seats were dark leather and the table cloths brilliantly white with a single white orchid perched on top to match. Jon couldn’t help but wish that he’d suggested they meet at The Avery instead.

The table was empty, but that was alright. Jon was still almost ten minutes early anyway. He took a seat, palms sweating for some reason, and asked for water to help his dry throat.  This felt like a big step. This felt like it could possibly be a good step. He was nervous, that was true, but he was also having trouble keeping that little bit of excited hope in check too. Jon snapped at the hair elastic on his wrist.

His water arrived and he thanked the waitress before taking a sip. And then he waited.

...and waited...

 

 

Chapter Text

“How are you more organised than I am?” Jeyne asks, changing down a gear to take a turning. “I arranged this girl’s trip and yet you’re the one with the snacks!”

Sansa grinned and tore off another piece of coconut cake to pop into her friend’s mouth while she concentrated on driving them to their mystery destination. “Snacks are extremely high on my list of priorities,” she explains, “as is knowing where it is I’m being whisked away to, but I guess I can’t have anything.”

“You know we’re going to a spa,” Jeyne mumbled around her mouthful.

“Yes, but I thought we’d be going to one closer to home!” They’ve been on the road now for close to three hours and Sansa’s sure that they’ve passed more than several perfectly acceptable spa hotels suitable for their girly get-away.

Jeyne swallowed her cake. “This will be worth it, I promise!”

Sansa already considered any time spent with Jeyne as ‘worth it’, besides, a few hours in the car, singing along to cheesy pop songs and 80’s rock ballads while stuffing their faces with treats and trying to obey Jeyne’s dodgy satnav was turning out to be just what Sansa needed.

You have arrived at your destination,” the disembodied voice rang around the car as Jeyne turned into a beautifully gated piece of land. The tyres of the car crunched on the long gravel drive that lead them to a large, rather grand-looking, red-brick manor house with white pillars and what looked like a dozen chimney pots along the expanse of its roof. Half the house was covered in wisteria, the plant’s pale violet blooms dripping beautifully from their vines.

‘New Crag House, Spa and Hotel’ the sign read as they approached, following the long drive, flanked by two rows of rowan trees. Looming over the scene behind the manor house, Sansa could see the old castle ruins of ‘The Crag’. She has no idea why Jeyne would choose this spa in particular, but she’s very happy to be here.

The foyer was full of polished walnut wood and plush soft furnishings in cream, sandy gold and pale olive green. Jeyne’s heels click-clacked on the flooring, while Sansa preferred her flats of late, finding them more comfortable. A neatly dressed woman with chestnut curls and a heart-shaped face beamed at them from her place behind the reception desk. Sansa turned to glance around at the pictures hung on the walls while Jeyne checked them in, only to be spinning back around the next moment when the girl at reception remarked, “oh! You must be Sansa?”

Furrowing her brow and opening her mouth to speak, Sansa is silenced when Jeyne turns to grin at her and the receptionist angles her body ‘just so’ to call into the little area behind her desk. “Robb, your sister’s here!”

What’s happening?

And, as if by magic, Robb appeared, wearing a huge grin and holding his arms outstretched to greet her.

“What on earth are you doing here?!” Sansa squeaked into their embrace. Jeyne giggled at that.

“Nice to see you too, little sister,” said Robb, grinning.

“You know that’s not what I mean, but... what are you doing here, exactly?”

Her brother’s hand twitched and Sansa didn’t need to look to know that he was rubbing the pads of his thumb and middle finger together – something he did when he was nervous.

“Sansa,” he said, turning to glance behind him and then stepping aside to give her a better view of the woman with whom he’d locked eyes with – the receptionist, “this is Jeyne Westerling, her family own the hotel and she runs the spa side of things.”

Sansa narrowed her eyes at her brother. His cheeks were turning pink.

“We met on my way back up north the last time I was down to visit you.”

“I got a flat at the side of the road and your brother stopped to help,” the receptionist added with a blush of her own.

“When Theon mentioned that Jeyne was looking for a spa break for you two, I thought it might be the right time to...” Robb licked his lips and glanced between Sansa and the woman who has so obviously captured his heart.  He took a breath. “It was really important to me that you two meet.”

Sansa smiled as she stepped forward and took the other woman’s hand. “It’s lovely to meet you.”

Jeyne Westerling’s brown eyes glittered as she beamed back at her. “And you.”

“You must be somewhat half decent in the sack, Stark, since your girl here is giving us a pretty hefty discount,” Sansa’s Jeyne murmured, nudging Robb in the side with her elbow, making the other Jeyne’s face colour a rather vivid shade of red.

Robb chuckled and ducked his head. “I try.”

A few hours later and Jeyne and Sansa have settled into their fabulously up-market room, complete with free mini-bar and view of the old Crag. Currently, they were reclined in swimsuits and fluffy white robes, matching towels wrapped around their heads and some form of avocado and oat concoction on their faces. Robb joined them, in identical fashion.

“The food is amazing here,” he said with an appreciative groan, seatting himself back in his lounger where they sat in the communal treatment area. There was some sort of water display all along one wall, millions of bubbles fizzing upwards while the water slowly changed colours through the use of its lights. Mellow pipe music sifted in through hidden speakers and the dim lighting only served to make Sansa feel so utterly relaxed that she’s in danger of nodding off any second.

Jeyne set down her flute of champagne. “Been here before then, have you, Robbo?” She had that mischievous twinkle in her eye. “Sampled the delights?”

“Shut it, Poole,” he responded, though he could not seem to help but grin. “Or perhaps we should start asking when you and Greyjoy are going to pull your heads out of your arses and actually be together?”

“Oh, no-no-no,” Jeyne said, wagging her finger. “Don’t go changing the subject. If its love-lives we’re going to be discussing, then...“ Sansa watched her friend’s gaze flit in her direction and she’s sure she must’ve seen her eyes go round as her pulse spiked in her veins. “...then it won’t be mine that we’ll be dissecting today.”

“Alright,” Robb conceded, picking up his own glass of bubbles, “tomorrow then.”

“Ha – ha.”

“Seriously though, you know that idiot loves you, don’t you?”

“Gods, Stark,” Jeyne said, rolling her eyes. “When we agreed that it would be nice for you and Sans to see each other, I didn’t realise niggling me about what I do or don’t do with the father of my child was on the cards!”

Robb nodded, more to himself than anything else, and angled his body in the recliner to face Sansa more. “I’ve missed you, Sansypants,” he grinned, the whole effect looking rather comical with his features peeking out from amongst the thick green face mask. “How are you? Anything new to report from Kings Landing?”

Sansa was suddenly very relieved to have her cheeks plastered in mushed up avocado because she began to feel rather hot. “No, no news,” she answered, trying for a smile. She didn’t like lying to Robb, but after talking to Jeyne and accepting that she needs to tell Jon the truth about her little coconut, it didn’t seem right to let anyone else know before Jon did. “What about you though? It must be pretty serious between you and Jeyne?”

Sansa’s heart swelled at the look of pure happiness on her brother’s face. She’s not sure she’s seen that look since he attended her University graduation ceremony.

“It is,” he answered. “Or, it’s getting there at least. I care about her a lot and... well, she’s thinking about coming to live with me at Winterfell.”

Wow. That was serious. Robb hasn’t had a girlfriend that serious in quite a few years.

“Won’t she miss running the spa?” Jeyne asked, sipping her drink. “I know you guys have got the hot springs up there but it’s not exactly the same as these amazing Jacuzzis.”

Robb licked his lips and sat up, leaning forward with his legs either side of his lounger. “See, I’ve been thinking that the castle could start holding events and... well, Jeyne really likes the idea and she wants to maybe be in charge of that.”

“Look at you, feathering your nest with an attractive job prospect to lure her in,” chuckled Jeyne.

Robb rolled his eyes. “I really like her.”

“I know you do,” Sansa smiled.

Before too long, the Jeyne in question appeared to take Robb to a different room for a treatment, much to the delight of Sansa’s friend.

“Work him over real good, Jeyne!” the other Jeyne called after them, causing Robb to flip her the bird as she cackled. “He’s got a lot of built up tension in those muscles that need tons of special attention! Enjoy your ‘massage’ Robbo!”

Sansa bit her tongue to try and stop herself from laughing at her brother’s flustered face. It almost worked.

***

“Do you need help up with your stuff?” Jeyne asked as she miraculously managed to find a parking spot outside Sansa’s apartment building.

“No, I’ve only got my roll-along,” Sansa said with a smile, eager to fall into her own apartment and be home. The trip was amazing, some time with her friend and seeing her brother again had really done wonders for Sansa’s spirits. Especially after seeing how happy Robb is now. He’d made her promise to travel up and visit in a few weeks time, claiming that Winterfell missed her and that she should do the trip before the baby comes. Sansa agreed. Although the place didn’t quite feel ‘right’ without mum and dad, Winterfell would always have her heart.

The evening was chilly, the threat of autumn biting on the breeze as she gathered her things and ducked to wave at Jeyne through the passenger side window. The building foyer was warm and the elevator hummed smoothly as she made her way up to her floor.

Sansa held her breath as she neared Jon’s door. There’s never going to be a perfect time to tell him the truth, so while she had been away, she’d come to the conclusion that she might need to create a half-way decent moment to ‘let the cat out of the bag’, as it were. In her mind, that moment could possibly be tomorrow. Tomorrow was Saturday, and she’d already decided to invite Jon over for lunch.... and the truth. Her butterflies felt like they were busy attacking each other low in her tummy as she strode through the hall, roll-along suitcase trailing behind her.

Except, something about Jon’s door caught her eye. It wasn’t closed properly. She could see a slither of the flooring in his little entrance hall and the heel of one of his shoes he wears for work.

Sansa nudged lightly at the door, making the thing open further. “Hello? Jon?”

Her tummy butterflies were eerily still. Something wasn’t right. Was there an intruder?

“Jon?”

A grunt made it to her ears and a little part of her breathed a sigh of relief that it definitely sounded like Jon. But then there was some shuffling and the unmistakeable sound of glass smashing.

Fuck!”

Sansa’s nerves fled her as she was overcome with the need to figure out what the hell is going on. She pushed the door all the way open and wheeled her suitcase just inside Jon’s apartment.

What she found as she stepped further inside was Jon, kneeling over what looked like a shattered whiskey tumbler, the glass shards scattered far over the tiled floor of his little kitchenette.

“Are you ok?” Sansa asked, rushing forward and placing a hand on his shoulder.

“S’fine,” he mumbled.

The acrid tang of liquor met her nose.

Sansa stood there for a beat or two, watching him clumsily try to collect the shards of glass.

Shit,” he hissed, a crimson bead welling on the side of his finger before he popped the digit in his mouth, swaying slightly as he sucked.

That seemed to shake Sansa out of the daze she was under. “Let me do that,” she said, moving to the cupboard under his sink, where she supposes he’d keep his dustpan and brush. She was right.

“Nah... I can do it.”

“Jon, just let me do it.”

He chuckled at that. His laugh slow and deep and somehow unsettling. “Yes, ma’am,” he said, not looking at her, wobbling a little as he stood. “I’ll just screw it up somehow anyway, I guess.”

Something has happened. That much is clear.

“You’ve been drinking alone?” Sansa asked, sweeping the last of the glass into the pan.

“Jus’ celebratin’ the weekend,” Jon mumbled from his place on the couch.

Well, that was bullshit.

Sansa came ‘round to sit beside Jon. He was resting his head back against the couch, eyes closed as he faced the ceiling.

“Jon... What happened?”

He snorted but there was no humour to the gesture. “Nothin’.” He lolled his head to the side and opened his red-rimmed eyes. Sansa’s heart began to ache at the sight. “Fuck, you’re beautiful,” he muttered, “d’you know that?” He grinned a grin that faded quickly.

“You’re drunk.”

Jon was looking at her earnestly then – as earnestly as a pair of drink-misted eyes can look. “You’re beautiful when I’m sober too.” Rolling his head away from her, he began to mumble to himself. “Beautiful and good. Too good.”

“Jon,” Sansa tried again, reaching out to place a hand on his arm. “Tell me what happened, please?”

“I told you,” he said, sounding a little snappy this time and flinching away from her touch, “nothin’. Nothin’ happened. Nothin’ that I’m not already used to.”

Should she let it lie? Or should she press on?

“I’m used to havin’ nothin’.” His head rolled back so he was facing her again, eyes glassy and yet somehow blazing too. “I got on alright when I was jus’ a kid. I di’n’t need him then. I aged out. I got myself through community college. I got jobs and promotions, di’n’t I? I did that. I di’n’t need him for any of that.” Jon’s voice had been climbing steadily, even with some of his speech coming out a little slow and slurred. Sansa’s heart plummeted. She could see the hurt in his eyes, the hurt he was denying himself. It made her own eyes prick with tears for him. “I got myself a god-damned job in fucking Kings Landing!” he hollered, jabbing blindly towards the floor with his finger. “I did that. Me! And I did it without Rhaegar fucking Targaryen!”

Jon’s head fell back against the couch again. Sansa was at a loss for words. Reaching over once more, she flinched when he shrugged off her touch. “Jon,” she ventured, “Jon, look at me.”

He huffed and rolled his head away from her instead.

Please?”

I’m fine, Sansa” he muttered.

He wasn’t. He was wallowing in something that seems to have been brewing for years and years and Sansa wanted nothing more than to let him know that he’s not alone.

“Jon?” she tried once more, waiting for him to look at her, for him to see. Still, he refused. That left her with no other option. She will make Jon Snow realise that she’s here for him. She stood, the action making him snort out a bitter breath through his nose, and she could tell what that snort had meant; that snort meant that he thought she was leaving – that she was doing everything that everyone always does in his life.

But she wasn’t leaving.

Sansa took Jon by surprise by straddling him, making him finally look up at her where she peered down into his half-lidded, bloodshot eyes. Placing her hands on either side of his jaw, Sansa felt his shuddering breath on her face, laced with the scent of drink and dark thoughts. “Talk to me, Jon. Please.”

He blinked up at her, slow and unsure. When he finally spoke, his voice was cracked and quiet. “Why couldn’ he try to love me?... just... try?” Jon asked, sounding for all the world like a little boy. “Why doesn’ anyone ever try?”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Selcouth (adj) – Strange, unusual and rare. Unfamiliar and yet marvellous. Wonderous.

Everything felt heavy. His limbs felt heavy. His head felt heavy. His tongue in his mouth and the blankets on his body felt heavy.

His eyelids felt heaviest of all.

And there was something inside his chest that rested so uncomfortably, that ‘heavy’ didn’t seem like a weighty enough word to use for it. What had he done to himself last night? He’s hungover, clearly, but what had sparked-

Oh.

Right.

Rhaegar fucking Targaryen.

Jon groaned and made to roll over, his head feeling worse off for the movement. Urgh. His mouth tasted as thought he’d eaten out of the bin. Does he need to get up today?

No, it’s Saturday. Thank the Gods for small mercies.

As he lay there, willing himself to go back to sleep, not yet feeling able to face the day and his memories and his thoughts, an aroma made its way into the bedroom. It was an unexpected smell, although not unwelcome at all – but entirely perplexing all the same.

Someone was cooking.

What the-?

Can he smell Sansa’s cooking from all the way over in her apart-

Wait.

Shit.

She was here last night. She’d seen him in the state that he’d gotten himself in. Pathetic. Something in Jon’s chest started to burn as a keen sense of shame flooded his sore head. What had he said to her last night? What had he done? Why was she still here?

He rolled back over and blinked in surprise. On the other side of his bed was a blanket that was not his. It lay there, rumpled like someone had slept under it – pale blue, with little yellow birds on.

Reaching out, Jon rubbed the material of the foreign blanket between his fingers. It was extremely soft and had some fringing, like the sort that is normally used for a throw blanket or comforter.

Sansa was singing in his kitchen.

Closing his eyes, Jon breathed deeply. He doesn’t think he’s going to throw up, but he kind of wants to.

It was no use. The wonderful scent of Sansa’s cooking was getting stronger and she was already on her second song. He can’t very well stay hiding in his bed when she’s out there, can he?

When he sat up, he found that he had slept in his usual attire of just his boxers. He hopes she didn’t have to help him undress. He hopes for a number of things.

Slinging on a t-shirt and a pair of joggers, Jon slips into his little bathroom to brush his teeth and take some pain killers from his over-the-sink mirrored cabinet.

He looked like death.

Sansa was still singing when he slowly, reluctantly rounded the corner into his lounge/kitchenette. She was at the stove, dressed in one of those floaty dresses she likes to wear – the ones that wrap across her little baby bump. This one was sage green.

I need love, love to ease my mind
I need to find, find someone to call mine
But mama said you can't hurry love –

Jon found he couldn’t help the way that the corners of his lips pulled up into a soft smile as he watched her hip bounce in time with her song while she stood there in his kitchen, doing something wonderful to whatever it was she was cooking in his frying pan.


No, you just have to wait
She said love don't come easy
It's a game of give and take
You can't hurry –

 

Sansa plated up and turned around, making Jon swallow as their eyes met. She licked her lips and gave him a shy smile. “ I think the baby likes it when I sing,” she said quietly, setting two stacks of pancakes down on the little Ikea table he’d bought that he knew she hated. “I know that sounds silly, but they squirm around in there more when I sing or listen to music so...” Sansa trailed off, sky-blue eyes darting around. “I’m sorry if I woke you.”

“I think it’s me that owes you an apology, Sansa.” His throat felt like it was closing up. Her brows drew together so he ploughed on. “For... whatever I said last night. Whatever I did. I’m sorry you saw me like that. I’m... you didn’t have to stay.”

“You wanted me to stay.”

Well now he felt even worse. “You should’ve just gone home.”

Sansa pursed her lips and for a second Jon thought he might’ve offended her. “Sit, eat,” she told him, pulling out a chair for herself. “I made cinnamon pancakes and coffee. You must want coffee.”

He did.

Jon hadn’t noticed the rest of the items on the table; a pot of coffee, a jug (that she must have brought over from her apartment because he sure didn’t own one) of orange juice, some maple syrup and a plate of what looked like pre-buttered toast shaped into stars. Jon furrowed his brow at those as he took his seat.

“Oh,” Sansa said, catching his confusion as she poured herself some juice. “Whenever my brother or I were feeling under-the-weather, my mum would make a batch of soup out of whatever she had to hand, but she would use cookie cutters to cut toast into different shapes to dip into our soup. Stars were always my favourite. Mama used to call it Sansa’s Special Star Soup and it always made me feel a little happier.” Jon watched her as she fidgeted and seemed to swallow down some nerves – although why she’d be the one to be nervous, he has no idea. “It-it was too early to make you Star Soup, so I...” she shook her head, staring at the plate of stars. “It was a stupid idea, I’ll-“ Sansa made to reach over and take the toast away.

“No,” Jon said, taking a buttered star, “no, it’s not stupid! It’s...” he glanced at the piece of toast in his hand. “It’s...”

It’s very ‘you’.

“It’s childish,” she finished for him, wrinkling her nose at her own idea.

Jon shook his head, finding the movement didn’t hurt as much as he was anticipating. He gave her a soft smile. “No. It’s lovely. Thank you.” He took a bite of his star. His stomach rumbled. “A tad wasteful though,” he mumbled and then took another bite, “what about the rest of the toast?”

“Ah,” Sansa replied, holding up a finger with a smile, “I’ve saved the off cuts for the breadcrumb crust on my salmon tonight.”

“Resourceful,” Jon nodded, continuing to chew.

They were stalling. He knew it, and he knew she knew it too. He ate his star as he watched Sansa tip syrup onto her pancakes.

He needed coffee.

“Cream?” she asked, full of politeness as he poured himself a cup.

“No thank you.”

This was both embarrassing and infuriating.

He took a sip. It damn near scolded his tongue. “Sansa...  what did I say to you last night?” There. The question was out now. All he has to do is hear the answer.

Sansa’s fork had been about to delve into her pancake stack. Currently, it hovered over its intended area of attack as her eyes found his. She swallowed again and placed her fork gently back down. “You told me about your dad.”

“He’s not my dad.”

Sansa nodded, changing her phrasing in a quieter voice. “You told me about Rhaegar. He did something to hurt you.”

He hadn’t told her everything then. Jon sighed. “I was an idiot and got my hopes up. We were meant to meet for lunch. He didn’t show.”

Her face screwed up. Out of context, he might’ve had the mind to find it adorable. “He just didn’t turn up? Didn’t ring to cancel?”

“His assistant called the restaurant,” Jon told her, the corners of his mouth turning down as he recounted the whole affair in his head. “She told me that Rhaegar Targaryen sends his apologies but his schedule had been double-booked... Said the maitre d knew to put whatever I chose to order on Rhaegar’s tab.”

Oh, Jon,” Sansa breathed, reaching over to place her hand atop of his. He stared down at it before sliding himself out from under her pitying touch.

“S’fine,” he shrugged, reaching for another sip of his coffee. “I just asked them to give me two whole bottles of their priciest liquor to go. Some whiskey from a remote distillery way up beyond the wall I think it was. Not worth the 400 dragons per bottle, but I guess that’s just the accountant in me talking.”

The smile and chuckle he attempted died pretty fast before he found himself swallowing thickly. This wasn’t funny. Of course it wasn’t funny. But what else can he do when Sansa’s looking at him like that? When she’d stayed here with him because he asked her to. When she’d gotten up and made him pancakes and coffee and toast stars for fucks sake?

“Look, Sansa... whatever I did, or said... I’m sorry, alright? Please just forget it. I don’t want to be making you feel uncomfortable.”

“You never make me feel uncomfortable.”

“Can we just forget that it ever happened? Please?”

Sansa held his gaze for a long time. “I don’t think what that man did... or didn’t do should be forgotten.”

Jon sat back and scrubbed his hands over his face. Of course it won’t be forgotten. He wants to forget it. He wants so desperately to forget about the whole existence of his father. But more importantly, he wants Sansa to not be looking at him like he’s going to crumble at any second. “What?” he says, utterly done. “You want me to wallow some more because you found out I occasionally get hammered and cry about my daddy issues?” Sansa blinked at him. “I’m fine, Sansa. I’ve been fine my whole life without him, and I’ll continue to be fine. Not perfect, but fine.”

As soon as he’d said his piece, Jon knew that he’d made an already uncomfortable breakfast an almost unbearable one. Sansa’s pretty blue eyes shone as they skittered around, not daring to focus on anything in particular. “You’re-you’re right,” she said, almost to herself, those shining eyes looking a little misty. She pushed her chair out, ready to stand. “It’s none of my business and I should...I should go.” Sansa stood. “You probably want to rest and be alone-“

Jon’s hand shot out, circling her wrist as she passed him. “No. Please,” he whispered, eyes still intent on the food on his table. Breathing heavier than he reasonably should be, Jon daren’t look up at her. He didn’t know what to say. He both wanted her to know everything there is to ever know about him – including all the dark, pitiful shadows that he tries to ignore – and he wanted for her to never be privy to any of that too. How can he begin to describe the emptiness? How can he let her see, without unravelling before her eyes?

Perhaps that’s what he did do last night? Maybe she’s already seen him unravelled and she’s moved to try and put him back together again. It won’t work, he knows.

But Gods, he’d let her try.

She’s still stood there, looking down at him as he sits, hand grasping her wrist like a lifeline as he refuses to look up at her. Slowly, he tilts his head to gently rest on her arm. It’s not words. He’s never been good at words. But Jon hopes she knows what he’s saying none-the-less.

Please don’t leave.

After a beat or two, he wonders if this is making her feel even more uncomfortable. He’s a grown man, for fucks sake! And here he is, holding onto her like an upset child. Thinking of letting her go, releasing her wrist and thanking her for the breakfast but agreeing that he should like to be alone, Jon takes a steadying breath.

But then he feels her hand.

Soft, delicate brushes of her fingertips stroke through his hair before sinking deeper, repeating the action over and over so that he might find comfort in her gentle caress. Jon’s eyelids close of their own accord, compelled by the slow tenderness of her touch. He allows his hand to slip from her wrist so that their fingers might entwine. She squeezes him and he’s never needed anything more than he needed that squeeze right then.

Please stay,” he says hoarsely. “I really want you to stay.”

“Of course I’ll stay.” Her voice was as soft as her fingers in his hair. Jon didn’t want her to stop touching him, didn’t want to let go of where their hands were linked. But it had to come to an end of course.

Taking a shuddering breath, Jon watched her seat herself opposite him again. “I’m sorry, Sansa, I... It’s always just been me, you know? And whenever I’ve gotten mad about something I just... dealt with it.” He paused and licked at his lips. “And yeah, sometimes I don’t deal with it in healthy ways but... it’s all I know and-... shit, you must think I’m such a pathetic idiot right now.”

“I don’t!” Sansa countered, reaching forward and taking his hand. “I don’t.” Jon looked from their joined hands up to her bright face. She smiled that Sansa smile at him. “I don’t.”

They shared a look for a moment or two and Jon’s never felt so light, until his stomach growled loudly, making her chuckle. “I suppose we should eat.”

“I suppose we should.” He dug out a forkful of pancakes and shoved it into his mouth, groaning and squeezing Sansa’s hand that he still held across the table. “Oh my Gods,” he murmured around his chewing, “these are amazing!”

Sansa beamed at him.

An hour or so later and Jon finds himself stood beneath the restorative stream of his hot shower. He wishes he could wash away all the baggage and shit from his past just as easily as he rubs the suds into his body. But it helps. A little bit.

Sansa has returned to her own apartment, wanting to wash up herself. Curiously, she asked if she could return because she had something to tell him. She seemed a little nervous and that had set him on edge. He has no idea what it is that she has to say that she couldn’t just come out with before she went back to her apartment.

Is she going to ask him to move out?... Is she moving out?... Has she... met someone?

Urgh. Guessing is futile. He’ll only think of the worst, he knows.

She said that Robb has surprised her at the spa... maybe she’s moving back up north?

Jon’s gut twisted at that as he shut off the water and pulled back the shower curtain. His little bathroom was all fogged up from the steam. He kind of wanted to just stay in there, clouded in warmth and the clean scent of his soap. He slung one of the fluffy towels that Sansa had gifted to him around his waist and used another to rub at his hair.

There was a knock at his door as soon as he’d dressed himself. It was Sansa. Her eyes went to his still-wet hair. He could feel it dripping onto shoulders and back, dampening his shirt. Sansa stood there fiddling with her own fingers. She’d changed into a buttercream yellow dress with a little white collar, and her hair was ties in a braid that swung as she walked after Jon moved aside to invite her in.

“Drink?” he asked as she seated herself on his sofa. “I have that flavoured water you like or...”

“No, I’m fine thanks.”

Every sense in Jon’s body was screaming that whatever it was she was here to tell him – it wasn’t good. He stalled, making himself another coffee, eying her from his kitchenette. She sat straight-backed, her spine rigid and seated almost at the very edge of the sofa cushion. It was as though she is likely to flee at any given moment.

As loathed as he was to pry out whatever dreadful news she’s about to impart, Jon was sick of guessing. “You wanted to tell me something?” he said as he sat next to her, putting his coffee down on the table in front of him.

Sansa took a breath. “Yes.”

Oh, Gods, this can’t be good.

“Jon...” She licked her lips and angled her body to be facing him more squarely. “You remember when I... when I requested the name of my donor?” He nodded, eyes falling to where she’s already cradling her little bump before returning to her face again. “Well... when the name came through it... it...” She was struggling, stroking her belly and tucking her chin down to focus on her lap. Her brows knit together as though great concentration was needed to get through what she meant to say. Her next words were almost a whisper. “You never told me that you donated to a fertility clinic.”

Jon’s whole world paused. He sucked in a breath through his nose, his spine pulling taut. What?

Sansa’s tongue rolled out to wet her lips as her gaze slowly rose from her lap to meet with his. Both her hands were still on to her baby bump. Jon shot her a pointed questioning look, his own eyes flitting between her face and the precious one she was cradling.

She nods her head in acknowledgment and all Jon can hear is a strange throbbing rush in his ears.

He shakes his head, unwilling to allow himself even a sliver of false hope. “Do you mean...?...You-you have to say it,” he tells her. “Please... you have to...”

“The name of my donor...it... it was you.”

There’s a whole bunch of white noise. That’s the only way he can describe it. Sansa’s staring at him – and maybe talking too – but all he’s focussed on his her little bump.

This can’t be real.” He means to only think the words, but his tongue seems to disobey him and they get spoken anyway. The world has shrunk to the size of his living room.

“It is,” Sansa answers. “It is,” she repeats when he’s finally looking at her face again.

Jon stands, not quite sure what to do with himself. “Wha-” His heart his thumping like a base drum. “How-”

“I think you know how,” Sansa answers dryly, though the smile she gives him when he meets her eye is soft and understanding.

He sits next to her again. “Yeah, but-”

Sansa reaches over for his hand. Jon grasps onto it as though she were about to pull him out from an unforgiving ocean. “It’s a lot to take in, I know. Trust me. I know.”

Jon’s heart was so used to caving in on itself that this feeling was wholly new to him. It wasn’t quite unbridled happiness. There was a flavour of panic in there somewhere too. He didn’t know what to, what to say. He wanted to snap at the band on his wrist, but that meant letting go of Sansa’s hand and he’s not about to do that.

“That’s...” his head inclined towards her stomach, “that’s my baby?... You’re carrying my baby?”

Fuck. Just saying the words gave him a little rush. Somewhere in the back of his mind, a voice was warning him not to use that terminology with Sansa. She’s protective and understandably territorial with her baby.

But, Seven Hells, did it feel good to say that!

“Yes,” Sansa smiled, apparently not minding his phrasing at all this time. “Yes, I am.”

Jon kind of wants to burst. But his head is moving a thousand mils a minute before it gets snagged on something sharp and jagged.

“Wh-“ He wets his lips, his throat gone dry. “What now? I mean... I know you don’t want-” a relationship with me.

And I have no actual rights regarding the baby.

Jon’s heart begins to sink. His fingers snap at the hair tie around his wrist.

Sansa retracts her hand and is back to looking at her lap, her fingers fiddling with her buttercream yellow skirt. “Well... I was thinking... maybe we could take it slow?”

“Take it slow?”

“Yes,” she said, blushing as their eyes met again, “maybe go on a few dates?” Her voice was high and hopeful, as if Jon would ever dream of turning her down.

“Yeah, yeah, I’d... I’d like that.” He felt a crease form between his brows and a part of him screamed to not question any of this, lest he ruin it all. “But... before... you said that a relationship would be too much pressure...?”

Sansa takes a deep breath. “You’re worth trying for, Jon,” she said, smiling, and Jon’s whole world was irreversibly changed with that smile of hers.