A knock upon his solar door alerts Jon to a visitor. He looks at the crate besides his chair with a smile on his face, knowing who knocks by the softness of the resonating sound.
Sansa enters and shut the door, skirts swishing behind her. His wife’s autumn-red hair is pulled back from her face in a simple braid, the day's fading light pouring from the windows and glinting off it like a thousand copper coins. She has only grown more lovely since her girlhood, beautiful in her own strength and commanding confidence. The tight sleeves of her dark gown are pushed up to her elbows. She had been working on something, then, although Jon is not sure what.
“You wanted to see me, Jon?” She ask timidly, still shy to think of him as husband. They had been married for a few moons now and still it was uncomfortable for them both. It had been Queen Daenerys' order, to solidify his position as Warden of the North because his bastard status still rankled some of the lords. Especially his status as a Targaryen bastard. Despite their protests, Dany had said that a cousin marrying a cousin was not so strange, even though that still sometimes thought of the other as a sibling. Jon had suggested that he find some other Northern bride, a Mormont or a Karstark or a Manderly.
But a Stark of Winterfell had always been the beacon of their realm, the North's guiding star in war and against rebellion. A woman untrained in battle, like Sansa, would not be able to offer the same protection or surety of handling the Queen's Justice. So Dany insisted upon Jon, and insisted upon his marriage to secure the position. The blood of Winterfell would flow in his children, and any of them, girl or boy, could inherit the title and role, if they proved able in strategy and strong in fighting.
“Yes, come here.” Jon motions her forward with his hand, shaking away his long, dark stare. He smiles wider, so she knows that he is not upset.
He hopes that his surprise will plant a seed to bloom into a different kind of fondness between them. They are husband and wife before the new gods and the old, but they do not act like it except for in the night, when they meet as man and wife are meant to. But even then, Sansa is never there when Jon wakes. And only a few days ago, she informed him she was with child, the heir to their kingdom. Overwhelmed by joy, that quickly ended when he realized he could no longer use their duty to produce a child as a reason to see her and bring his name to her lips like a prayer.
"Have I displeased you?" She asks, hands clutched tightly in the apron around her waist. He does not understand this display of stress, but it is a constant whenever they are alone.
Jon laughs, a sudden, stark thing, for his request for her to join him in his study is for the exact opposite reason. "No! You could never displease me. Whyever would you think that?"
She jolts at his laugh, and Jon shakes his head. He does not know why she is so skittish around him now. She has never been so much like a startled horse. If they are meant to spend a lifetime together, he wants her to be happy with their union, not just their children. Moreso, he wants her to be happy with him. “I have something for you.”
Sansa steps closer, gaze curious. The crate next to him rattles again, and Sansa nearly jumps in fright. Jon can’t help but laugh.
When he motions to a seat, she takes it. “I know we have been distant, Sansa, but I wanted to show you my appreciation for all your work in Winterfell.”
Sansa turns scarlet across her cheeks, like fire on a field of snow. She knows the distance he means, between the night and day of their lives. She just never thought they would talk about it once the babe growing in her stomach came to exist.
“You needn’t do anything for me.” She says, and glances at the hands curled in her lap. Sansa sets a protective hand across her belly, as if giving strength to their child.
“Well, I have already.” He peers back into the crate, at the bundle of fur within.
“You’ve what?” Her voice is shy, almost scared.
“Gotten you a token of my appreciation.” Jon says, lifting the grey ball of fluff from within the crate by the scruff of its knock. But he is interrupted by Sansa’s squeals of delight.
She leans closer, and the puppy licks her on the face. All pretense of fear from whatever he might have said is gone, replaced by a wide smile and childlike giggles. Jon gingerly sets the puppy in her hands. Sansa and the puppy inspect each other, and her smile is brighter than he thinks he’s seen since they were reunited.
Jon leans back in his chair and observes as the pair become acquainted. The puppy is the most mild mannered of the mutt litter that was born in the kennel just a few moons ago. The kennelmaster was unclear which dog had sired the batch, and his apprentice had speculated it was one of the dogs of the winter town. Because of their unclear ancestry, the puppies wouldn’t be used as hunting dogs. But Jon thought one could be a good companion for Sansa. He had been jumpy with excitement for the dogs to be weaned, but it had taken weeks for them to be ready. This morning, he had gone down to select one from the bunch to present to her.
Sansa runs her hands over the puppy’s fur, combing out the dirt that was speckled along it.
“She’ll need a bath, of course,” she mumbles, mostly to herself. When she reaches a spot on the puppy’s side, the dog leaned in for more. Sansa scratches it enthusiastically, having found the puppy’s favorite sensitive spot.
“I know it’s not a direwolf - ” Jon begins.
“It doesn’t need to be. She’s perfect.” Sansa emphasizes. She glances up from the puppy’s side, but continued her ministrations. “Thank you, Jon.”
“It was the least I could do for you, who has done so much for all of us.” Jon blushes as she smiles like the sun at him. Sansa startles him when she leans across between them and places a delicate kiss upon the scruff of his cheek.
“Really, thank you Jon.” His wife bites her lip and it is an incredible distraction. Sansa leans back in her chair. “I think I’ll name her Frost.”
“That’s a lovely name.” He says, as she told him always to do long ago.
Sansa smiles secretively as if she, too, remembers.
She turns her attentions back to Frost, and though Jon has much to do and they both should prepare for dinner, he does not send her away. Instead he contents himself to watch his wife in the twilight, playing with the little pup. And Jon cannot help but hope for the day that her tenderness is given to their own children someday, laughing and running and playing in the godswood, with their mother and father chasing after them.
Eventually, Sansa rises, cradling Frost in her arms. She steps close to Jon and kisses him gently upon the scruff of beard that covers his cheek. "Thank you, husband."
"Anything for you, my lovely wife."
It isn't much, but it isn't nothing, either, this relationship between them. Sansa stills besides the door and glances back over her shoulder. She smiles soft and gentle, the puppy pawing at her braid and her eyelashes blinking tenderly his way. "I only thought I had displeased you because, well . . ." Sansa bites her lip, looking away and then back again, "will you come to me tonight? Or summon me to you?"
Jon is startled by her question. "Now, although you are with child?"
Sansa's face falls. A pain worse than the stab that kills him shoots through his chest to have made her look so sad. She glances to the rushes on the floor as Frost plays in her hands. "I thought, well . . . the Maester says its still safe, if you would like to exercise your marital rights."
"But our duty is already done." He says, his confusion writ plain across his face. "I wouldn't want to bother you with -" He waves his hand, lamely, not wanting to speak of the nighttime activities they participate in, even though she was once his sister.
Sansa's Lady Stark mask comes crashing down faster than he's ever seen it. "Yes, of course my lord. I'll stop bothering you and wasting away your time."
What has he said now? She seemed so happy from his gift, at the puppy curled up in her arms. How could she transform so quickly.
"Sansa, what's wrong?"
"Oh you know nothing, Jon Snow!" She snaps and makes to open the door and storm out of his study.
He rises at the crack in her voice, coming over to her with a fierceness on his face enemies might recognize from the battle field. Jon grabs her hips in one hand and Sansa tries to wretch away from him. He has her pinned between the wall and him, sure she can feel the heat of his body like he feels the cold of hers. He tilts her chin up with his free hand. "Just bloody tell me already. I don't understand what angers you so."
Sansa holds his eyes fiercely, a gaze to burn fires that would make Drogon jealous. And then her lips are on his, hungry and raw and primal, and suddenly, Jon understands what a fool he's been. This has been here, he realizes. She did not just say his name in the night and moan beneath his tongue because she thought he wanted to hear it. He realizes that now, as she moans against his lips in the fullness of a fading evening. Sansa wants Jon as much as he wants her. He pulls her close, kisses her hard and deep until Frost squeaks between them.
He pulls away from his wife, sure he is blushing harder than she is. They share a bed, why should he feel shame for kissing her? Jon presses a gentle kiss upon her lips, quick as a hummingbird's wing drop.
"I'm sorry, love." He whispers into her hair, kissing along her forehead. "I'm so so sorry."
"It's alright. Your ever were a fool for women's thoughts and desires." She sighs. "I must bathe this one, but . . ."
Her question lingers between them, obviously not wanting to have to ask again after the rejection from only moments before. Jon pulls away although all he wants right now is to drown in her eyes and her love. "I'll see you then, at dinner. And after, perhaps, we may retire to your chambers? If you'll have me."
She nods, a small smile on her swollen lips, and Jon swears Sansa sashays a little as he watches her walk off down the hall, dreaming of the night to come.