Work Header

A Motherless Child

Chapter Text

The babe is always awake by the time Sansa leans over the side of the crib, her eyes wide and wandering. She and Jon have come to calling her Sweetling until he decides on a name. It’s not a perfect solution and she doesn’t understand why he won’t just settle on one, but Jon shakes his head at every suggestion. 

“What about Amaryllis?” Sansa suggests one evening. She’s sitting by the fire and warming her feet. After wading through the river with Theon, she hasn’t felt warm since. 

Jon, who had been feeding the little sweetling, looks up at her with a scowl that she’s starting to see more and more on his daughter’s face. They’ll look very much alike, Sansa is sure. She wonders about the repetition of history once more, how Jon was able to hide his Targaryen blood because he favored his mother. The North remembers, but Sansa knows the South, the East, and the West will, too. The world will not be kind to Targaryen’s and she wonders if it makes her a terrible person for her to hope the child is spared like her father was and looks only like the Stark’s. 

“Amaryllis?” Jon says the name like something sour.

“It’s a flower,” Sansa states, moving her feet closer to the flames. She notices that Jon never looks directly into fire anymore. “We could call her Amy, for short.” 

Jon puts the empty bottle on the ground and places the babe over his shoulder. He gently taps on her back and smiles down at his lap. 

“We?” He says, a slight tremor in his voice.

The look in his eyes when his eyes meet with hers stills the breath in her lungs. Her face blushes and she fights every urge to quickly look away, to smile behind her hand. 

“We.” Her voice is strong and confident, and she hopes her eyes are too as she keeps his gaze. 

Jon has to teach Sansa, who has proven to be horrible at holding babies, the proper way to grab and hold his daughter. Sansa is sure the babe hates every second of the teaching process. 

“You have to support her neck,” Jon shows, leaning close over her shoulder and guiding one of Sansa’s hands under the babe’s neck. “Once you have her neck, then you can lift her up.”

Sansa tries to focus on making sure her hands are rightly placed under Sweetling, not on Jon’s breath on her shoulder, or the way his hands felt over hers. He emits a warmth next to her, and Sansa wonders if he can hear her staccato heartbeat. 

Sweetling scowls at Sansa, which is something she’s taken to doing often when they are together. They’ll need getting accustomed to one another, but Sansa is a patient woman if anything. 

Jon shakes his head with a chuckle. “Not under her arms,” he moves in closer behind her and gently moves her hands. “Like this.” 

Sansa is a terrible student because she hadn’t been watching him at all, but caught herself unable to look away from his face that was so close to hers. She could see every line, every scar. They are deeper than she expected, and she knows they will always be an angry pink, never to fade. She speculates about the other scars he bears, the silent ones on the inside. She hopes those will fade in time for him, he’s been through too much to deserve anything less, but then she reminisces on her own scars, both on her skin and heart, and knows that healing is a long way off for them both. 

Focusing on Sweetling in Jon’s arms makes her feel better, a balm to the soreness of life.  She’s incredibly small in his large arms and seeing him smile so genuinely down on his daughter does something inside Sansa that is much too confusing for words or comprehension. 

“How about Elowen?” Sansa asks, needing to divert her attention from her growing feelings to something more tangible, something she can understand.

Jon instantly shakes his head. “That sounds like an old lady’s name.” His face contorts into a contemplative frown. “Old Elowen,” he says in a low raspy voice, mocking how he expects old people talk. “She’ll be the next Old Nan with a name like that.”

Sansa giggles. She hates it and she feels like a child, but she can’t help it. She doesn’t remember Jon ever being funny. His eyes meet hers, piercing and frighteningly vulnerable. They keep sharing secret glances like this and they torment her because she doesn’t know what to do and Sansa used to always know what to do next. She wants to scream at him and ask what he wants from her, wants to ask herself what she wants from him. Before, she thinks she would have known, but everything is complicated now. 

His daughter stirs in his arms, making cooing noises and Sansa is instantly taking the babe’s little fingers in her hand and kissing them. She’s quickly becoming smitten with the little girl. She pointedly avoids Jon’s gaze that she feels on her. 

Jon places the babe in Sansa’s arms and all she can think to herself is not to drop her. Jon must see the panic in Sansa’s eyes and places a calming hand under her elbow. It only makes her blush and lose her breath.

“Relax,” he says softly, his thumb stroking her arm for a moment and then he drops it back to his side. 

Sweetling is a silent one, doesn’t even fuss when Sansa–a stranger, for the most part–rocks her in what she hopes is a soothing manner. She scowls again at Sansa, who thinks maybe they got it wrong with temporarily naming her Sweetling, but the child settles and closes her eyes. 

“Who taught you all of this?” Sansa asks, keeping her eyes on the sleeping babe and not daring to look at Jon. It was a bold question, and she had prepared herself for an answer that could tear her heart a little more, but she wanted to know. 

“There….” Jon trails off then clears his throat. “There was a wetnurse. She had been the one to deliver her. She taught me how to make a bottle, how to change her, how to hold her.” 

Sweetling has one of Sansa’s fingers in a tight grasp. Sansa tries to move it, but the little one only grips tighter. She’s not sure what to make of the skipping in her heart when she does that, but she knows it’s a much different feeling than when Jon says her name or looks at her. Her chest is warm and her smile a permanent fixture when she’s holding the child, and she finds that she wishes to know everything about how she came to be. 

“What about….” Sansa still can’t bring herself to say her name. 

Jon is quiet. He shifts on his feet and Sansa is about to take her question back, tell him he doesn’t have to talk about any of it, but he reaches out his hand and places it gently on his daughter’s head. His fingers run through the babe’s hair; he sighs deeply. 

“She wasn’t very involved,” Jon says, and this is when Sansa looks up to see his face: sunken, tired. “She was so consumed with Cersei and winning the throne, she paid little mind to her child. I couldn’t forgive her for that. Or any of it. I don’t want to hate her. How could I when she gave me her?” Jon’s hand stills, he smoothes a finger over the babe’s cheek. “But I do, and it torments me.”

Sweetling opens her mouth in a wide yawn and Jon gently takes her back into his arms. He closes his eyes as he kisses Sweetling’s head and cheeks. He places her back in the crib, tucking her under the furs.

Sansa spends nearly every waking moment with Sweetling. When Sansa wakes, she hurries to the nursery with a large grin and waiting hands. She gets to the nursery earlier than any of the nurses, who one by one Sansa begins to kindly dismiss until just the wetnurse is left. Sansa is shy at first about watching the woman feed Sweetling, but the older woman is kind and understanding. 

The wetnurse waves Sansa over. “You may watch, Lady Stark.” 

Sansa walks to the rocking chair hesitantly. “Please, it’s just Sansa.”

Sweetling is a shy eater. She covers her face with a hand as she sucks from the wetnurse. She’s too young for her actions to have any rhyme or reason but Sansa can’t help but feel deeply responsible. She wants the babe to know she’s cared for, that she’s part of Sansa’s family. 

The wetnurse gently covers herself and repositions the babe. “Would you like to hold her?”

Sansa nods eagerly, and when she places a hand under her neck and the other carefully under the rest of her tiny body, Sweetling doesn’t stir or scowl. “Look at us,” Sansa grins down at the babe, “we’re making progress together.” 

Sansa takes the wetnurse’s spot on the rocking chair and smoothes a finger down the bridge of the babe’s nose. She can see the shape of it more clearly now as it grows and Sansa can tell the babe will have Jon’s nose. Sansa holds Sweetling’s little hand in her hers, stroking her fingers along her soft arm. Her little fingers wrap around Sansa’s and her heart stills. Sweetling’s eyes open then, wide and curious. Sansa half expects the babe to start crying, afraid of this stranger holding her, but she doesn’t; she reaches her little hand up and rests it on Sansa’s cheek. They sit like that for a long while, the babe’s hand holding onto Sansa’s face, their eyes looking into each other’s. Sansa isn’t sure why, but she starts crying softly. 

“I’ll keep you safe. I’ll protect you.” Sansa whispers into the babe’s ear. She blinks up at Sansa and though she couldn’t possibly think so, she swears the babe smiles at her. “I promise.” Sansa kisses the babe and a tear lands on her little, rosy cheek.

In the shadows, Jon watches Sansa with his daughter. He laughs quietly to himself as she figures out the best position to hold the babe, but when she gets it right and Sansa grins, Jon feels pride. He watches Sansa talk to her and it makes him forget what feeling cold was ever like. When he hears Sansa promise to protect her, echoing the same words he had promised to Sansa, he loses his breath. His hand flies to his chest and for the first time, he doesn’t feel the knife scars underneath that haunt him but his own heartbeat, steady and strong. He feels winded like he’d been running. He never had any love for Daenerys, but he did for Ygritte. He knows what it’s like to be so consumed by a person, to want to tell them every second that you love them and always will. He loves his daughter, gods he loves her in a way that helps him finally understand the quiet Eddard Stark who would, and did, risk everything for his children. But. What he feels now, for Sansa, is entirely different. It’s deeper. Perhaps, she is the deepest thing he’s ever known. 

His daughter starts playing with Sansa’s hair and she laughs down at the babe. “You are sweetling, aren’t you? Are we friends, now? Are you going to stop scowling at me?” 

Jon decides to leave them. Quietly, he leaves the nursery with his throat tight and heart lighter than he ever remembers it being. He wanted his daughter to have someone other than him, and Sansa is more than he could ask for, more than he believes he deserves. She needed the time with just Sansa. Perhaps they both did. 

She stokes the fire that Jon pretends to not notice dimming. “I have another name suggestion,” Sansa whispers.

Jon quirks a brow. “Have you now?”

“Yes,” she states with a nod of her head. “It’s been almost a month since you’ve gotten back and she still does not have a name. You’ve been no help, either. You turn down all my suggestions.”

Jon’s face tenses but he quickly softens it. He puts on a fake smirk and says, “Maybe I want to keep her name as Sweetling?”

Sansa shakes her head. “No, absolutely not.”

Jon stands straight and crosses his arms, playfully challenging. “If it’s another flower, Sans, I’m going to have to say no.”

She blinks hard when he calls her Sans, the affection heavy in his voice. She pushes the flipping in her stomach away. “I asked Sam and did some reading….” she bites her bottom lip, afraid of how he’ll react. “What do you think of Aleyx? It’s Valyrian… I thought you might want to keep those roots close to her….” 

Jon’s eyes harden. He’s not angry. She’s seen him angry, livid, absolutely murderous, but that’s not what she sees in him now. His eye twitches and she’s not sure what to call the tightness at the corner of his lips. 

Have they always been that plump? She shakes her head. 

He rubs a knuckle into his temple and sits slowly onto the rocking chair. “It’s a nice gesture, Sans.”

Sans. She bites her lip to keep from smiling. 

She sits on the ground next to him. “You don’t like it?”

He takes a deep breath. “It’s not that I don’t like it. It’s just….” his voice trails off and his leg begins to bounce. He starts biting at a nail and his gaze jumps from the ground to the fire and then back to the ground. 

“After everything that happened in King’s Landing,” his voice is low and raspy, “after Daenerys, I was lost. I had a country that needed me, a country that crowned me yet I knelt and left them.” 

He looks down at Sansa and his leg stops shaking. “I had you. Gods how I must have hurt you.” He closes his eyes and Sansa finds insane courage in her to take his hand in hers. It’s calloused but soft and she allows herself to relish in how right it feels to have his palm in hers. His eyes are wide open and curiously looking down at their hands, but Sansa nods for him to continue.

“And then I suddenly have a child whose mother I’d killed, who now needed me, too. It was all too much and I found myself thinking about fat–” Jon stops himself and clears his throat. “–of Eddard. What would he do? But, I realized I never had to ask the question. I always knew exactly what Eddard would do because I’ve seen him do it a thousand times: he always did what he thought was right.”

Jon goes quiet for a moment, but Sansa gently squeezes his hand. He squeezes back. “Eddard could have left me in Dorne and no one would ever know. Things would probably have been easier if he did. I would not even be a Snow. I would not have joined the Night’s Watch, wouldn’t have become Lord Commander. I wouldn’t have died.” Jon moves from the chair to the ground, facing her and sitting close, their hands tightly grasped together. “I would have never known you. I would never have the child I do now, the child who I could have left but never would. That’s not who Eddard raised as his son.” 

Sansa suddenly remembers an old memory she has of her father. When you’re old enough, I’ll make you a match with someone who is brave and gentle and strong. 

The air around them feels thick. She can only focus on their tightly intertwined hands. She’s not sure who is holding who anymore. “Is that why you haven’t named her?” Sansa asks softly. 

Jon nods but looks defeated. “I’m already a terrible father who can’t even name his own child. I don’t know what to call her. Snow? Targaryen? Did I father another bastard into the world where she’ll never know exactly who she is? That’s not the life I wanted for my child. A Targaryen is the last thing I want her to be, Sans. Does that make me horrible?”

“You could never be horrible.” She’s shocked to say it, but the relief in Jon’s eyes is worth it. He seems to take a breath for the first time. 

“But,” Sansa continues, “she’s not just a Targaryen. She’s also a Stark.” 

Jon’s jaw goes slack. “But, I’m not a Stark,” he whispers. 

Sansa takes hold of his face between her hands. Whatever it is between them, the questions, and the hesitations, all of it be damned. She leans her head against his and both of their breaths quicken. They’ve never been this close before and it makes Sansa feel daring. 

She takes a second to catch her breath. “You are to me.” 

Her voice is barely above a whisper and Jon seems to shake, but he brings a hand to the back of her neck and they stay like that, not caring who walks in or how long they’ll sit on the uncomfortable ground. All that matters is Jon’s hand on her, her breath colliding with his, and that they are here together, finally, finally together. 

“Her name is Stark,” Sansa says after awhile. “And I’ll hear nothing else.” 

She doesn’t say it, but the babe being a Stark feels right to Sansa, like there was no other option, no other name. It’s Sansa’s name, and now it’ll be the babe’s. She just wants it to be Jon’s, too. 

Jon chuckles, his thumb making soothing patterns on the back of Sansa’s neck. It gives her delicious goosebumps. “Now we just need a first name.”

It’s the first time they’ve spent time together outside of the nursery and without Jon’s daughter. They were in the small council room after a meeting was called by the lords and it had come with the most shocking of news. 

Sansa sat in silence. She didn’t know what to say, or maybe she did and she didn’t know if she wanted to. Jon sat with her, silently watching and waiting for her. It had been big news that she can’t say she was entirely surprised by, but she still felt odd. She’s glad Jon stayed. If anyone, she can talk to him. 

She picked at her nails. “They’re making me queen.”

She didn’t look up all the way, but she could see Jon tapping his fingers on the table. “They are,” he agreed softly. 

More silence. There was just the sound of their breathing. 

“Do you want to be queen?” Jon asked, leaning forward on his knees. 

Sansa looked up then, into Jon’s eyes. She felt safe in them, felt safe in how he looked at her, how she felt seen and understood. “I want what’s best for the North.”

Jon nodded understandingly. “You are what’s best for the North,” he answered immediately, and the lack of pause or hesitation in his conviction made Sansa feel all the better about it. 

Sansa stands abruptly, her chair scratching against the floor. The sound makes Jon jerk in his seat and look up at her in alarm. “There have been so many terrible rulers,” Sansa exclaims, the worry setting in. “I don’t want to be another mad queen, or always looking over my shoulder wondering who is plotting to kill me or the people I love.” 

Sansa paced the room, her thoughts like smoke in her head: impossible to catch and unwilling to clear. She felt clouded, even though she wasn’t sure how a person could actually feel like that, and her breaths were hard to come by. She knew she was right for the North, but the deaths of two previous queens, mad as they were, still weighs heavy on her conscious. 

Jon came up to her and stilled her with his two hands pressing down on her shoulders. “The North remembers, Sans,” his eyes are imploring and impossible to look away from, “they will always be loyal to you.”

“Queens are dropping like dead ravens these days.” She doesn’t mean for it to be a lash against him, but he flinches, full-body flinches and drops his hands. Sansa instantly shakes her head. “No,” she pleads, “I didn’t mean it like–”

“–but it’s true,” Jon interrupts and laughs sardonically. He rubs a hand down his face and shakes his head. They’re both still, Sansa watching Jon and Jon with his head hung and eyes closed. 

“When are we going to stop hurting one another?” Sansa meant for it to be a thought, not said aloud but it seems to be what makes Jon bring his eyes up to hers again. 

He takes a step closer to her. “I never meant to hurt you, Sansa. I swore to protect you, and I always will. You don’t have to be afraid because I will always be right behind you, shielding your back.”

She wasn’t prepared for such a declaration. She wants to think that Jon wasn’t either, but the way his eyes don’t leave hers and how he stands tall makes her believe he had been holding onto this, that these were words he had long prepared. 

Suddenly, with a fierceness on his face, Jon is unsheathing Longclaw and laying it at her feet, kneeling. “I’ve pledged my life to many other causes before, have knelt and offered my sword to other people and banners. You,” Jon looks up at her, “are my last and truest oath. I swear to you my sword and to safe-keep your council. Where you go, I will follow. Where you lead, I will trust. Allow me to be the first to say, Long Live the Queen in the North.” 

Sansa’s tears flow freely and she relishes for the first time how good it feels to cry joyful tears. Her cheeks hurt from grinning, her heart feels like it will burst from her chest. Standing above Jon feels wrong so drops down and kneels with him. Whatever it is that exists between them, she decides to follow it. She takes his startled face in his hands, and maybe she’s got it all wrong, maybe it’s not what she thinks, but damn it, this is worth the try so she kisses him. 

Jon stills and Sansa is afraid of what the look on his face will be when he pulls away, but he brings his hands to cradle her face as well and leans in. His lips are plump and warm and Jon is suddenly everything she didn’t know she wanted. He deepens their kiss and their tongues find each other and Sansa never wants to leave this moment. Whatever had existed between them is now closed, is finally named and sealed: love.

When they do take a moment to breathe, Sansa’s eyes are closed. Her forehead is against Jon’s and they’re breathing hard, but she can’t look up, can’t look at him and see the regret in his eyes. When his fingers gently tap her under the chin and bring her gaze up to his, he is beaming and Sansa is sure she’s never seen Jon, or any man for that matter, look the way he does now. 

And then he kisses her again. 

The babe is the only one in Winterfell to not notice a difference between Sansa and Jon. They had wanted to keep their developing relationship private, but the eyes don’t lie and they had been stealing one too many glances over council meetings and dinner tables. Ser Davos seems to be especially pleased. 

Jon and Sansa were finishing their evening in the nursery, the place where they had taken to spending most of their time. Sansa rocked on the chair, Jon laid on his back by the fire and was bringing the babe down to his face and placing kisses on her nose, and then lifting her up, then down, then up again. The little one seemed to like it, gurgling and cooing. Sansa was surprised to see Jon so close to the fire, but she made no comment on it. Perhaps, they were starting to heal. 

The little sounds the babe was making, her gummy smile, and Jon softly tossing her up and down, made her heart truly sing. It was a sight she had always wanted, even though it wasn’t how she expected it. She drinks in the babe, her growing curls and infectious smile. She doesn’t laugh a lot, but when she does Sansa isn’t sure if she wants to cry or laugh, too–she finds she does a mix of the two. She remembers her mother telling her once that love doesn’t happen overnight, that it is built slowly over time. Sansa despised such notions, but she knows now, as she looks at the babe, there is wisdom in what her mother had said. 

“Jon?” Sansa suddenly breaks the easy silence between them. 

He brought his daughter back down to him and blew a raspberry on her cheek, making the babe clap her hands. “Hmm?” He turns his head to Sansa, and there’s something about the look in his eyes that reminds Sansa of something she once heard: love comes in from the eyes. 

“What do you think of Genevieve?” Sansa asks softly, looking from Jon to his daughter now laying contently on his chest. 

He doesn’t frown or instantly shake his head. His brows scrunch together in thought and he looks back at his daughter as if trying to see if the name fits her face. 

Sansa crawls onto the floor and lays down beside them. She lays a leg over his, turns her head into the crook of his neck, and they look up at the beautiful little girl who is blinking at them. 

“The name Genevieve means family,” Sansa says softly, and there is no other word for this, for what she and Jon and the babe have. She feels boundless love, and it’s terrifying to love something so completely the way she does Jon and his daughter, but she does and she never wants to let them go. 

She turns her head and looks up to see Jon’s face. His eyes are wet with unshed tears. He keeps swallowing, his jaw clenching. He clears his throat and finally nods. 

“Genevieve,” Jon says to his daughter, and nods again, kissing the babe’s cheek. 

“Genevieve Stark,” Sansa completes, and for the first time she closes her eyes and sends a prayer to Daenerys. Sansa hopes she found peace and that she rests with the knowledge her daughter is immeasurably loved and that Sansa will always protect her. 

Two months later, Genevieve falls ill. 

Sansa hadn’t known until she was walking through the doors of the nursery, eager to see Genevieve, but she was quickly ushered out by Sam and nurses. 

“What’s going on?” Sansa shrilled in panic, trying to look over their heads and see inside.

Sam approached her with his hands up in surrender. “You can’t come in,” he said in a gentle, calm voice. “The baby is very sick and you can’t catch what she has.”

“Damn you, Sam!” Sansa shrieks. “Let me in!”

Sam shakes his head and Sansa can’t breathe. The panic of not seeing Genevieve when she’s ill and needs to be comforted by people who love her turns Sansa into a howling woman she doesn’t recognize. 

“Sam, you let me in or so help me!” Sansa slams her fist against Sam’s chest but he doesn’t budge. 

“I really can’t risk your health,” Sam says calmy. “I’m already risking Jon’s.”

Sansa looks up. “Jon’s in there?” She turns to the door and slams her fist on it. “Jon!” 

Sam steps closer to move Sansa away from the door, but she turns to him, her hair whipping him in the face, and Sansa is suddenly bellowing in Sam’s face, “Let me see my child!” 

Sam stills, his eyes wide and jaw slack. Jon had opened the nursery door right as Sansa had shouted in Sam’s face, and he was looking at Sansa stunned and glassy-eyed. Sansa could only stand there, her chest heaving and hands numb from debilitating fear. 

“Let her in,” Jon’s voice caught in his throat. “She should be in here.” 

Sansa shoves past them both and runs until she is beside Genevieve, who Sam had moved to a small cot. The corner of her eyes and mouth were blue, her chest moving up and down slowly. She let out a strangled cough and Sansa leans over her with a sob. Sansa takes Genevieve’s little hands in hers and kisses them over and over. Sansa cannot imagine her life without the babe who had seemingly overnight taken her entire heart. She knows what she said may confuse Sam and even Jon, but Sansa is starting to believe that it’s not the body that makes a mother, but the bond. 

She feels Jon sit beside her. He looks wrecked. His eyes are red and puffy. He takes one of Sansa’s hands and grips it tightly. They don’t say anything, but she knows what he seems to say: together. 

Sam works on Genevieve and tells them that she just has to make it through the night and the worst will be over. Sansa climbs onto the cot and places Genevieve onto her chest. She doesn’t let go for a single moment. She clings onto the babe even as Jon joins her on the cot. They hold hands and press their lips to Genevieve’s cheeks and head as if willing her to get better just by the love they have for her. 

When the sun rises, Sansa realizes that Genevieve made it hours without coughing. Sam comes in and checks her breathing. Jon and Sansa hold their breaths as Sam inspects the babe, but when he smiles wide and nods, it’s Sansa who stands and takes Genevieve into her arms, kissing the girl all over and weeping like she’s never wept before. She falls to her knees and rocks the baby back and forth, hysterical with relief and the fear that she could have died. Jon kneels beside them, his tears wetting his beard. 

Once they’ve calmed and Genevieve is peacefully asleep in Sansa’s arms, she looks up at Jon’s tired eyes. “Jon?”

He leans his head on her shoulder and hums. 

“I meant what I said,” Sansa says softly. 

Jon lifts his head and looks at her like it’s the first time he’s ever seen her.

“I know I’m not her mother,” Sansa continues, “but I feel like her mother. I love her, Jon. I love her more than my own life. I want to be her moth–”

Jon stops her with a kiss. He brings a hand to the side of her face and pulls her in deeper. He doesn’t let go until they’re gasping for air. “You are her mother.” 

Sansa makes the decree announcing Genevieve Stark as her child. Should Sansa bear any children from her own body, let all know that Genevieve is and will always be her first, that she is her mother and a Stark of Winterfell. 

If Sansa gets offered one more marriage proposal from the surrounding houses, she’s afraid Jon will ride out to them personally. 

Sansa rocked a sleeping Genevieve in her arms, who Sansa had begun taking everywhere, even small council meetings. Jon sat beside her, speaking to Brienne and Tormund about a small revolt at the end of the North. 

Ser Davos, who Sansa named her Hand, is unfurling a letter from House Glover and begins to read aloud. “Lord Glover presents his eldest son, Jacen, to the Queen in the North for the honor of her hand in–”

Jon stands abruptly, his chair scratching the floor and waking Genevive, who frowns and seems to roll her eyes. He snatches the letter from Ser Davos’s hand and tosses it into the fire. All are silent, watching Jon’s back as he breathes heavy. Tormund laughs softly. 

Jon takes a deep breath and then turns back around, his face calm as if nothing had happened. “What?” He shrugs. 

Sansa turns to Davos with an apologetic smile. “Would you mind taking her so that Jon and I may have a moment?” 

“Oh, not at all,” Davos eagerly takes Genevieve with a grin. “I think we’ll got for a walk, won’t we Miss?”

Bienne shares a pointed look with Sansa, and Tormund laughs again, but then the room is cleared and Sansa is turning in her seat with raised brows. “You had to throw it into the fire?” 

Jon says nothing. He looks from Sansa to the fire. When he looks back to her he’s frowning. “I couldn’t listen to one more marriage proposal.” 

Then ask me yourself, you fool. But she doesn’t say that, of course she doesn’t because Jon still sees himself as no one but the bastard of Winterfell. She goes to him and his eyes flutter close as she takes his face gently into her hands. Her thumbs stroke his cheeks, he brings his arms around her. She wants him to kiss her but he doesn’t move. 

“Jon,” she implores, wanting to look into his eyes and when he does look at her, Sansa presses an open-mouthed kiss on his lips. She’s fierce in the way she kisses him, her hands going to his hair. She wants him to know that she loves him and only him, that she will only ever be his. 

“Marry me,” she says, breathless. 

Jon’s brows shoot up as he takes a step back to look at her. “What?”

“Marry me,” Sansa repeats, stepping closer. “Marry me, Jon.” 

He has that look again, the one he had when she arrived at Castle Black, when he said yes to fighting Ramsey with her, when stopped beating Ramsey once he saw her, when the white raven came from the citadel and winter had finally come. He looks at her the way he does when he sees her with his daughter, now hers too. Jon nods fervently, and then brings Sansa to his chest and kisses her ravishingly. 

They marry in private to a small gathered group of their most trusted friends and family. They gather by the Weirwodd tree in the morning, and the most beautiful sunrise colors the sky orange and yellow. No one escorts Sansa. She takes no arms and no one gives her away, but she does walk down the aisle with Genevieve in her arms, their dresses matching. Jon grins when he sees them both and they both kiss the child they now share before handing her to Ser Davos. Jon kneels before Sansa, and when he looks at her she realizes that his are the eyes she knows best in the world. When he looks at her, she never wants to run and hide. She is comforted and protected, safe, and loved. 

You were right, father. He is brave, gentle, and strong. 

Sansa cloaks him with the direwolf sigil she stitched herself and he rises as Jon Stark, her husband, and father to her child. 

In the years that come, Sansa bears five children. The first child to come from Sansa’s body is a son, who they name Eddard with no contest. Then their twin girls, Lya and Robbyn. When Sansa and Jon had another son, they named him David to honor Ser Davos who had become a grandfather to their children. Sansa had thought she was done carrying children, but she was surprised with one last child, a boy she insisted on naming Jon. Her husband had been shocked by her suggestion, but she insisted that she had the life she did, the family she had, all because of Jon. He gave her back all that she had lost. 

Genevieve is the kindest sister to her siblings. She is their best friend, their secret keeper. The latter worries Sansa to no end, but she supposes that children get to an age where they don’t tell their mother everything and their siblings become their closest confidants. They grow up together and they know nothing but happiness and the love of their parents. Of all her children, Sansa is surprised but secretly overjoyed that Genevieve is the one who takes after her most. Genevieve is smarter than Sansa ever was, reads so many books that she’s run out of places to store them. She goes to every council meeting, and when small battles arise because peace is not forever and mankind can only go so long without bloodshed, she draws up battle plans that put Jon to shame. He is very proud. 

When she is old enough, Jon and Sansa tell Genevieve about Daenerys Targaryen. It is a difficult time for their family, and tears are shed and words are shouted. She decides to leave Winterfell for Meeren with one of Tormund’s lovesick son’s on her heels. Sansa thinks about her eldest child every moment of the day until she returns months later, smiling and bright-eyed, but Sansa is not fooled. She knows her child and sees the heaviness on her shoulders, the grief in her eyes. Sansa is afraid that Genevieve will always distance herself now, but when Genevieve is within arms reach she’s throwing herself into Sansa’s arms. They stay like that for a while, Sansa holding tight onto Genevieve with silent tears, until Genevieve finally pulls back. 

“I learned a lot about her,” Genevieve says, her eyes so much like her father’s. “But then I realized, it doesn’t matter what it is I find out or discover because I’m not learning anything about my mother is–I already know her. You named me. My first steps were to you. You sang me to sleep every night of my life. Daenerys Targaryen may have given birth to me, but I am Genevieve Stark of Winterfell and you, Sansa Stark, are my mother.”

Sansa weeps as she holds her child. She no longer wonders how things would have been different had Catelyn Stark loved a motherless child. There’s no way of knowing. What Sansa does know, is that Genevieve was never going to grow up in the world has a motherless girl without love and family. She would not have the same story has her father before her. She was loved every day of her life by a mother who chose her and never stopped choosing her, and this, Sansa believes, is how the past is mended. Once and for all.