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Fox of Snow, Wolf of Winter

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With the Wolf at prowl
the Fox will play



It’s a fox that comes to test his honour.

She’s little more than a kit new into her woman’s body when she turns the wolf gone to shadows in his blood.

Youthful and flighty, she flits about his darkened halls with smiles bright as day and songs meant to entice falling prettily from her cunning mouth.

She’s a temptation come to haunt him, a fox of the snows with pale skin and paler hair a luscious long wave behind her every move.

Fluttery skirts do little to keep at bay the chill and yet she never shows herself to be cold; he wonders if she’s real and not a ghost of his dreams, a flight of fancy to keep his mind sharp when all he longs to do is slumber in the dark.

He’s lost some of the warmth of his youth, the passion faded long ago.

Motions, now, it’s all he seems to live with.

Rise, play the lord of a kingdom that never should have been his, act the doting husband gone on a wife never meant for him.

He was, once, but the years of watching fish seethe through her teeth at innocent pup not hers has turned his love to dust and left him baron of any true affection.

It’s only made the worse when the fox picks up the slack, smiles bright and happy and song-voice high and sweet as she plays amongst the wolves.

They marvel at her, and now he’s not the only one to notice the way she dances.

She’s older than his pups, but not by much, and it’s enough to keep him quiet, to keep him honest.

He’s old enough to be her father, had he started young, and it twists something inside of him that he should watch her and want.

He never takes the step, wary of playing into her game, and he knows it is, a game, that is.

She draws his eye without trying, fox-faced and pale, a snowy streak through his otherwise bleak life.

He wonders, when the scrolls of his day-to-day begin to blur and his mind has left his work, if she knows what she stirs within him.

He wonders if she knows what he would do to her if her nimble flitting proved to be too slow for the prowling of a wolf.

Could he catch her on his own?

Or would she grin the cunning vixen to have won a game he doesn’t see?

It’s strange, he muses, to think himself a prize to anyone.

Still, he never plays, but allows himself to watch because it’s what a lord should do.

It’s for that reason alone that he sees it at all, the way his own pups watch her too.

She dances about the halls, winter blooms blue starbursts in her snowy hair as the bards laugh and play their merry tunes.

He forgets what festival it is, too busy silently seething as his heir takes to her arms and twirls her about the floor.

There’s too much red, too much southern blue about the smear they make as they spin.

The white becomes dashed with blood and he’s back there, fighting in a sea of screaming men with his sword in his hands and his heart in his throat.

His fingers grip the arms of his lord’s chair and he wants to stand, to snarl, to let the hackles that have risen scare those in the hall away.

It’s her laughter that brings him back, the sweet morning trill of songbirds in the eves.

She soothes, and his hackles settle.

She soothes, and when he focuses his gaze again, she sets him to hunger.

There’s heat in the ice of her eyes, silver and sharp as blades beneath the docility.

She spins, playful, but she always finds him.

Heir is swapped for the boy he calls his bastard, and for a moment his body tenses again, but the steel of her spine softens and he knows there’s no game here, no test, no trick.

Jon is safe because she see’s him as her own, a frightened kit with no needs beyond love and affection, both of which she freely gives never mind the scant few years between them.

They dance for several turns, the girl from nowhere smiling softly as she smooths her slender fingers through curls the dark of night.

The contrast is severe, as if the very presence of the secret king has drained her of all colour.

He wonders if she isn’t drawn up from the very snows of winter by ancient magicks.

Another song ends, another begins, and on she soothes, smile soft and sweet on her lips as she cradles the head of his sad son against her breast and acts as the mother he’s never known.

He expects the sight to quell the storm within him, but the wolf settles not at all, and thunders through his veins all the more.

She stirs him, confounds him.

Dancing, flitting, laughing, at song.

She sways and he follows the roll of her hips.

He wants her, that dancing fox come to wake the once at slumber wolf in his blood; he wants her in a way he shouldn’t.

He’s thought of it, more times than he can count and always when he’s alone for long enough to take himself in hand and end the torment.

He’s thought of it, but he’s never thought of it.

Of going to her, following her trail, hunting the fox that plays through his den.

His blood heats as he watches her mother his bastard and it’s the first time he truly longs to have her, to answer her cries bayed out into the night with a howl of his own.

Would she keen so sweetly if the wolf came to put a pup in her belly?

He thinks she would, and contemplates it more than he should.

She would swell beautifully, carry well, and he knows just from watching her that she would love whatever bastard he got on her, whatever kit he put inside her to grow.

He lets the thought wander, flourish; how many could he get on her before the fish in his home began to notice the snowy little pups at play in their stone halls?

A smirk tugs at his lips and his eyes fire, for just a moment, as he meets her gaze and sees his mirror image.

It’s as if she knows, as if she has plucked the very thought from his mind and approves.

For just a moment, he contemplates following when the music ends and she flits away with a laugh and a swirl of skirts.

For just a moment, he contemplates hunting her down in her foxhole.

They would dance, then, beneath the moon, wolf and fox, and he would sow seed not meant for her within her belly without a single thought for the armour of his honour.

For just a moment…

He does not follow, and as he lays in bed with his fish-wife at slumber beside him, listening to the forlorn call of a fox at heat on the winds, he thinks himself a fool.

He rises the next morning and goes on as if he hasn’t spent his dreams buried deep inside a vixen's warmth.

Day in, day out, he plays at being a lord.

His children grow slowly, his life moves on.

He tries to ignore the fox as she calls to him, but she’s everywhere, that girl from nowhere.

It becomes difficult to hide it, the return of the wolf to his blood.

The fish doesn’t see it, continues on her path with her courtesies and her coldness.

The fox cries for him but he stays where the fish flounders, her southern sensibilities always at clash with his northern realities.

He wonders how she doesn’t leave, his fox, how she doesn’t grow tired of a game with only one player, but he learns, soon enough, why his halls have become her home.

Wolfs den and foxhole both.

It’s a cold day, even by northern standards, when he comes across them.

His mood has not been bright of late and the godswood has been calling to him, beckoning him to calm his mind beneath its bloody leaves.

He goes, and it’s there he watches as the truth unfolds.

His bastard is bleeding, a few slender cuts across a cheek gone pale purple.

He thinks to speak with his master-at-arms, to have words with his bastard as his own father once had with him.

Learn from your cuts so that you might avoid the next.

But the thought dies when he sees the tears, when he hears the muffled words of a motherless son weeping into the breasts of a girl not much older than him.

The fox stays because the wolf has already given her a pup to nurture.

She soothes and she sings, her voice a gentle lulling on the icy winds that pick up her hair and send it fluttering as snow about the leaves.

She is ethereal then, a wisp, a dream, and he wonders how he never saw it before.

There is something otherworldly about his fox, something that turns away his gaze to keep him from seeing the truth of her.

But he sees it now, when her guard is down, when her game is stilled that she might comfort their distraught pup.

She is broken behind the smiling mask.

Young, so very young, and yet she sinks beneath a weight he cannot see.

He wonders what horrors she’s seen with those silver eyes of hers, eyes that hint at a handful of centuries witnessed and not the scant few years she’s lived, but decides it’s a secret he never needs to know.

He continues to watch as the fox lulls the dragon into slumber, the dark-haired wolf pup slumping bodily into her arms with his fingers clutching weakly at her spine.

She sings, so very softly, and strokes that riot of dark curls back from his youthful face.

The smile she has just for him, the boy he calls his bastard just to keep him safe, is that of a mother in love, and it twists him in the chest to witness it.

He feels as a thief, as if by observing their moment he has sullied it.

He means to leave, to turn from his solace and return when fox and boy have taken to the shadows of stones instead of gods, but his limbs are frozen when his gaze meets hers.

The silver is molten, twin moons at glow to guide him through the dark, however it is not their strange colour that lures him, holds him, but the tears that twinkle as stars atop the rims of her lower lids.

She is a fox, slight and flighty, yet it is he, the wolf, who feels so very small beneath her gaze.

He leaves only when she has buried her tears in the fur of the pup at slumber in her arms.

It is only later, days after the fact, that he learns of the strike of fish against secret dragon, of nails sharp and words sharper.

Filthy bastard.

Whores son.

Unwanted cur.

He ponders how best to snarl at the fish without causing a war when the fox comes to bare her teeth to him.

Her words are a poison he happily drinks, the soft silver of her moonlight gaze gone to that of tempered steel.

She rails and warns, at fire about the southern crone come to harm her little kit.

She’s barely half his age and yet he is kept in his seat, a scolded child beneath the anger of a mother’s storm.

He finds it strange that a girl could speak as such when he doubts she’s ever even known the touch of a man.

At least he hopes not.

Such a thought lights a fire in his blood and it’s only her rage that keeps him grounded.

The wolf within him bellies down and whines, and for more moments than he knows, she fights him tooth and claw.

He’s lost track of how long she’s waged war before him by the time she whirls away in a wave of misty skirts and snowy hair.

Even long after she is gone, he is quiet, stunned into silence as he sits behind his large lords desk and ponders how a girl with no titles dared to tell her lord what would happen to his wife should she think to raise a hand again to the dark-haired boy with his sad smiles and his sadder eyes.

In the end he goes to bed and thinks no more upon it, and in the morning, he pretends as if nothing has changed.

But something has, something dark and deep and buried beneath a wolf long thought lost to his past.

She’s roused him, her howl a challenge he cannot seem to shake.

She is a tempest through his halls, a wisp come to turn his world to dust should any think to harm her pup.

Jon Snow grows under such care, and the sadness seems to seep from his smiles until a light takes to glowing behind the dark grey of his stare.

He’s never seen such life in the boy before, such pride.

He watches, as he always does, as the fox preens to see such joy.

It’s as if a sun has taken to calling his home its own, and the fox shines in a way that is blinding.

Days turn to weeks and his bastard blossoms under such affections.

But it does not last, as he soon learns that his gaze was not the only one drawn.

He finds them, fish and dragon pup, in a hall barely used but for those seeking solace from the bustle of everywhere else.

He means to intervene, to stop the barbs being hurled at the boy he spirited into his home, but he’s not fast enough, and it’s the fox that finds the nerve first.

He’s left speechless, they all are.

She is a squall at rage in that dark corridor, her eyes on fire as she snarls and snaps and after several long moments, sends the fish swimming away in a hurry.

The bastard goes easily into her arms, tears fresh against his pale cheeks as he thinks himself away from all sight, safe enough to show his fear, his weakness.

She shushes him with a soft voice, her hands gentle as she combs out his hair and holds him close.

The wolf feels shamed then, and slinks away to hide in his solar, to hide behind his title and his station and a desk he thinks will save him.

He half expects the fox to blow down his door, snowy tails of hair whipping in the winds she calls to cut them all down, but it’s not the fox who comes to chew on his bones.

The fish is vicious with her demands.

Incensed, she calls herself, as she takes to stomping back and forth across the stones of his solar.

Her hair glows like fire, her eyes promising war, yet he finds no draw to it, no secret pull.

She comes, she screams, she makes her grievances with the fox and the bastard known, and she goes again.

Her words are a blur, and he forgets most of them by the time she’s slammed the door between them.

He has a job to do, he knows, and one he must see to if any of them are to know peace again.

It’s with a heavy heart he hunts her, wolf at large in his blood as he stalks the halls that night and follows the cries of her mourning.

His bastard is asleep, lulled into dreams by a girl not many years his elder but a mother to him nonetheless.

The skies behind the halls of his home are dark by the time he finds her.

Her room is small, a foxhole indeed, but there’s something cosy about it, warm and inviting.

Her eyes track him as he steps into her space, as he closes the door behind himself.

He means to snap, to snarl, to warn her that her behaviour will not be tolerated and that to raise her weaponised words to his lady wife is a crime, but his own words fail him.

She watches him, and he takes to watching her in turn.

Her home is small, soft, as small and soft as she herself is.

He means to reprimand her, but the lord in him is left beyond the door he latches closed and he is naught but the wolf that has taken to needing her.

There is a moment of stillness between them and he knows it to be the calm before the storm.

The moment passes and he is on her in the next.

Words leave his mind as he tastes of her full mouth for the first time.

She is sweet in a way that shouldn’t be possible, and he licks behind her lips in search of more of her, more of the sweetness that so often stokes the flames burning low in his belly.

The sounds she makes are music to his ears, songbird trills that call to him and beckon, a laughing whisper in the mind to move him forward.

He rips her skirts in his hurry to lift them to her waist, and she sings for him when his fingers find her soft and wet between the thighs.

Her slender throat is bared to him and he takes to it with tooth and tongue, his heart at wild thrum in his chest as he strokes his fingers through the silk of her sex.



He finds he can barely sink a finger into her body without causing her to keen so beautifully it washes like a wave over him and sets a shiver rippling down his spine.

Thought leaves him as he takes her then to her bed, a fox’s warren if ever he's seen one.

She is starlight atop the piles of dark blankets, her hair a snowy riot of silky strands that flow freely with every jerk of her body as he takes to her with his mouth.

She is sweeter there, sugar topped snow, and she cries for him when he holds her knees apart and sups at her cunt as a man starved.

He is the wolf again, his blood up and roaring as he tosses her about the sea and sends her soaring into bliss.

She is honey on his tongue when she tumbles over, his pale little fox.

He thinks her a witch, for just a moment when he pulls away to look her over, but she is everything that is beautiful and witch feels like a word to call a crone and not the goddess come to tempt him in his den.

She watches him in turn, as he strips away his mantle.

Her fingers are slender and cold when she cards them through the hairs on his chest, just as they are ghosts upon his skin when she trails them south and strokes her nails lightly over the long line of his thick cock.

There’s a nervousness behind the silver of her gaze, he sees it, yet she smiles all the same and takes him to the root.

She is fire about him, tight and hot and a home he never wishes to leave.

He learns the comfort of her arms as she holds him, as she keens for him; he learns the sweetness of her tears as he kisses them away, as he samples her soft smiles and drinks her laughter into himself.

It’s like wildfire through his veins and he’s so far gone the tragedy of such a thought is lost to him.

Everything slips away, everything beyond that foxhole, beyond that fox.

He sinks into her as a stone tossed into a pond and he happily drowns in the bliss her body brings him.

It is a rising squall within him, and when it breaks, she holds him through his fall, and takes into herself all he has to give her.

The stars no longer shine by the time he gets his wits about him.

She is half at slumber, a soft smile on her lips as she gently combs his riled hair back from his face.

His stirring draws her gaze and he meets it, holds it, and knows that he will not regret this.

He has found a peace within her arms, a peace within the safety of her warren.

She is a warmth in his soul as much as one about his body, and he knows it to be so when he draws his softened cock from her and suddenly feels the chill of winter along his spine.

He has a moment to fear that he should never feel the warmth again, but she is there when he makes to dress, her slender fingers making easy work of the laces of his many layers when his own prove useless.

It is a comfort, as is the feel of her hands on his weathered cheeks when she holds him still for her perusal.

He is a lord, one whom answers only to his gods and his king, and yet he feels a nervous boy beneath her gaze.

Whatever she sees seems to please her, for the smile grows on her lips and settles in her eyes as a softness she’s never held there for him before.

It’s fondness, he thinks, at first, and it’s not until he’s several halls away that he curses himself a fool and thinks it something else entirely.

Fondness is not what he saw, and he knows it, but fear keeps him from naming what he knows that look to be.

He is a lord, he tells himself, and tries to pretend to be above what he’s done, but she’s there, everywhere, that fox from nowhere.

She glows now, truly a star sent to blind him, and he struggles just to keep himself at bay when she twirls about the floor at his eldest daughters nameday feast.

He worries, for a moment, that his little trout will scream the stones of his home to the ground when all eyes are drawn to the fox in their den instead of her, but she is bright and happy and full of laughter when she’s pulled into dancing with the snowy lass sent to haunt him.

The fish at his side silently seethes, but the fox he took to bed ignores her, attentions focused on the girl another year older.

Sansa is a pretty child, and her voice is high like bells as she gushes for weeks of wanting to be as the lady of the snows, with her pale hair and silver eyes.

His household shifts and his daughter takes to styling herself after the fox instead of her lady mother.

It causes a stir, but he pays it little mind.

His bastard is happy, his little trout is finding new outlets for her fanciful imaginings, and when his youngest daughter comes whipping passed him with mud in her hair and a grin on her face, he learns that she too has found the fox to befriend.

He isn’t surprised to find them playing at knights in the godswood not so many days later, a place the fish dare not swim for thinking herself unwelcome.

He watches, as he always does, as the fox dances with the pup and shows her the steps of death.

He wonders where she learned, and when the stars are bright that night and he stalks into her warren a wolf, he means to ask her.

He never does, and leaves again when the sun is breathing fresh fire across the skies.

He isn’t as surprised as he should be when he notes the change in her pace, nor is he torn by guilt or fear when he strips her of her skirts that night and finds her swollen just enough to show.

He waits for it, that fear, that shame; he ponders how his honour will stack up this time, should the truth be brought to light, but he finds he doesn’t care.

She grows before his eyes, hair a snowy glow and eyes alive with life as her once flat belly takes to rounding.

His bastard seems to puff up with pride for some reason and he feels the fool for not seeing it sooner.

There’s a bond between them, formed from being outsiders in their own homes; they are family.

It saddens him, to know that his bastard still thinks himself a part from the pack, but there’s some comfort, he finds, in knowing his son has a place with the fox.

Wolf, dragon; and now his bastard boy is a kit.

It amuses him, for quite some time, and he finds he no longer frets with worry when he sees the dark-haired boy on his own.

Life goes on, more feasts are held, and soon she begins to slow as her skirts have been altered and the swelling of their young has taken to truly showing.

There’s no hiding it, but no one seems to care, no one seems to question.

The fish does, silently and with poison in her eyes, but that gaze never looks to him, never connects the dots.

He thinks perhaps she points the finger at his bastard, and the thought tickles him enough that he chuckles over his scrolls and has to wave away the question riding the raised eyebrow of his castles maester.

The months slip by and it’s only when a storm rages and he wakes from his slumber to the nip of his rooms that he begins to worry for her.

Her foxhole is freezing, and the chill turns her skin icy to the touch more so than usual.

He worries enough to see her drowned in spare blankets, a concern that amuses her greatly from her place beneath the mountain of furs he piles on top of her.

He holds her, as the night slips them by, and holds her still long after the stars have faded.

She is well into her breeding by then, always tired and slow to flit now that his pup has taken to bruising her body and breaking her ribs.

He frets with the worry that forms as a ball in his chest when he learns of such things, when he goes to her and watches her struggle to sleep through the pain.

She is blue and purple before too long, and can no longer dance about his halls.

He fears for her, and curses himself to no end for ever having taken to her with cock and seed.

She’s too young, he thinks, over and over, and the guilt settles in with the rest of his bleak emotions when his bastard takes to pacing and worrying and avoiding his fish-siblings lest he snap at them for unintentional insensitivities.

He thinks it will drive him to madness, the worry, and he takes to following her so often he wonders that he’s never caught.

He stops caring for such a thing when it’s his hovering that sees him close to her when the waters of her womb gush about her thighs and stain her pretty skirts red.

He’s thankful his maester asks no questions when the wolf kicks down his doors and carries into his chambers a crying fox with her silver eyes full of starlight tears and fear.

He stays with her, though he knows he shouldn’t.

He stays with her, though he knows his absence will draw attention.

He doesn’t care.

Not for his titles or his station, not for his honour.

Everything slips away but for the sound of her sweet voice rising to scream, the song of pain like shards of glass in his ears and his mind.

He is not the Lord of Winterfell when he loses all feeling in his hand, her nails drawing blood to the surface as she cries and tries to show herself to be of braver stock.

His fox is too little, and guilt gnaws at his soul as he wipes away the sweat that salts her skin and leaves it glistening and clammy.

Hours pass and still his maester asks no questions.

He wonders if he already knows and simply doesn’t care.

He stops thinking of it when her vixen scream crests and her body draws tight as a bow.

Time stills as he waits, as the maester works and the snowy fox sobs and shakes and grips him so tightly he fears he’ll lose all feeling in his arm permanently; it’s completely numb by then, and when the release of her hand sets a rush of cold up his veins not unlike tiny knives beneath the skin, he thinks it the best pain he has ever felt.

The first cry of a newborn pup sets his heart soaring to his throat to choke him.

He stares, with eyes too wide for a dignified lord, as the snuffling babe is placed into his arms.

He doesn’t even acknowledge the answer to his suspicions, gone as he is staring down at the rapidly pinkening pup curled against his leather-clad chest.

He is in wonder, and it is as if he has never fathered a child before.

A strange feeling, to be sure, yet he feels remarkably young again, young and strong and proud.

So terribly proud.

And it only grows more so when the pup gives a squeaky yawn and opens eyes the exact shade of Stark grey he knows his own to be.

He holds his breath, and then laughs heartily when the babe sneezes and curls into as close a ball as a babe can get.

He is lost, so lost in the wonder of a newborn child that he misses completely the birth of the second until the sniffling pup is held out for him to inspect.

His heart really does choke him them, and he feels as if he has no bearings when the second is shuffled into his arms and left with him as maester returns to fox and helps her bring forth another.

He thinks he’s died, that the Wall has fallen and the Long Night has come again to claim them all in death.

When he finally gets his wits about him, he notes that Maester Luwin looks far too amused by it all, his own arms curled about a babe with the Stark look save for the dash of snowy hair atop their little head.

He studies them, his three new pups, his litter, and finally feels the dread set in.

There is no hiding that they are Stark’s.

Even only moments old, they are noticeably his.

He begins to worry, to fear.

The fish will know, eventually, and there will be no hiding behind the allusion of a long dead other, no hiding behind the fear of death in a year-long war.

He begins to spiral, mind reeling, until the lengths of his hair are caught in a tiny fist and tugged.

Thoughts leave him when he’s brought back to the moment, his gaze going from the tiny babe gripping a small handful of his hair and to the fox smiling softly on a bed of damp sheets.

For a second he’s once again south, heart still in his chest as he takes in all the blood and the pungent stench of oncoming death.

But it’s gone again with the soft snuffle of a newborn, and he’s there in his home, two wolf pups held gently in his arms.

He decides he doesn’t care for honour at that moment, when he watches as his pale-haired kit is placed at the pillowy breast of the tired fox-mother.

She’s beautiful, he thinks, and feels a swell of protectiveness wash over him as he moves closer and helps her settle another pup to sup at her teats.

She falls asleep, his pretty little lover, and he stays beside her, arms curled beneath the barely-there weight of his second.

He studies them then, ignorant to the lingering looks Luwin keeps sending him, and smiles to find he has three new sons, all healthy and whole and quiet besides.

They are pieces of himself, as if cut straight from his core, and he smiles as he watches the two at her breasts sup and snuffle until their bellies are warm and full.

It’s a shuffle, a dance he’s not used to as he trades one babe for another and sets about soothing small burps from the first son born to him of snowy fox and silver.

Hours pass, a long night spent testing the endurance of his strength as he swaps babes from arm to arm and settles into awkward positions just to keep the pups from howling.

So long, in fact, that he doesn’t realise he’s fallen asleep until he’s woken by the soft laughter of the fox come to den in his stone halls.

His neck hurts in five different places, but when he sees the smile on her lips and in her tired eyes, he forgets the ache and lets the solace of her grace soothe him.

He goes to her, then, after he’s stretched his sore body, and settles on the bed beside her.

She is propped up by soft pillows, and smiling down at the three sons cooing in bundles of grey between her spread knees.

He wonders how she can sit so easily after hours spent labouring to bring him his sons, but she seems settled, comfortable, and he fears bringing any pain to the fore enough not to bring it up.

Instead, he watches as she interacts with their pups, her silver eyes bright and vibrant despite the tightness around the edges, and the song returned to her lilting voice.

Warmth washes through him as he lifts a hand to the son closest to him, the third born with his snowy tuft of hair and quiet cooing, and feels the strength in the tiny fist that wraps around his finger and holds on tight.

They will be warriors, he thinks, and smiles sadly to see just enough of his wild brother in them to cause him a moment of sorrow.

It passes, however, when the second son sneezes loudly and startles his brothers into yowling their displeasure.

Everything beyond that moment seems not to exist, but the peace cannot last and is broken by the door opening with a loud and jarring creak.

His hackles rise, for just a moment, and he wonders if he hasn’t begun to growl within the broad wall of his chest when he looks up and into the startled grey gaze of his long kept secret.

There’s a fire in his bastard’s eyes, a flame he knows all too well to be that of the dragon in his blood.

Silence descends on the small room, and he half expects to be dragged out by his ear and strung up by his innards.

But it never happens.

The fox cuts the tension with a smile and a call to the boy she has claimed for her own.

She beckons him to her, a hand raised to him with her palm held up, and her voice is soft as she calls him sweetheart and bids him come to see his brothers.

Jon, quiet and sullen Jon, positively beams as he shuts the door behind him and rushes to the other side of the bed.

The dragon is gone from his gaze as he settles close, his dark curls dusted lightly with a snow he didn’t know had fallen through the night.

The fox shows the bastard boy her litter, two wolf pups Stark in colouring and one more the snowy kit than not, and there’s wonder in the grey of his youthful gaze, a gaze far too old to be in a body so young.

He’s gentle when he’s given a pup to hold, though he looks nervous and fearful for the first five minutes until finally he relaxes and allows himself to be studied by the babe in his arms.

He sees it, then, for what it is.

They are a family, small but tightknit despite the lives they live beyond that room.

There, she is not a fox from nowhere, a girl with starlight in her silver eyes and snow for hair.

His son his not a bastard, a boy that doesn’t fit in the pack despite the wolf blood coursing through his veins.

And he is not a lord, married to a southern fish with sons and daughters going about their days beyond the sanctuary of that room.

It frightens him, then, when he realises how calm he is.

He feels at home, at peace; he feels as though he has finally found his place.

It is a feeling he fears, not for the feeling itself, but for the shroud he will have to hide it behind.

He has found his family, his pack; he has his snowy vixen and now their litter, and he knows he must hide them and pretend they are not his.

It isn’t until a hand cups his cheek that he realises he is crying.

How weak he must look, a man beyond majority weeping for what he is about to lose but never should have had to begin with.

She’s there, his fox, his wonder, and her smile is soft and calm and all the reassurance he needs.

We’ll figure this out, her smile says.

Together, her eyes promise.

It settles something in him to know that she understands his concerns, that she’s prepared to weather the unknown seas with him.

She seems so sure of their course, so he accepts it, and pushes aside his fear, his grief, and enjoys the moment they are making.

It is the first they share as a family, a quiet moment just for themselves where the world beyond that room no longer exists.

But, then, when he meets her silver gaze and sees the mischief returning to the moonglow, he knows the fox is still very much at play.

He can’t help but laugh, just as he can’t keep himself from leaning down and stealing a kiss he shouldn’t hunger for but does.

He thinks he knows enough about her now to know her tricks, and for the first time since noticing her dancing about his den as a fox come to tempt him, he doesn’t think he’ll mind her games.