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To Be Alone With You

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She won’t pretend to not be hurt at the exclusion. Upon Jon’s sombre return through the east gate of Winterfell, a new silver-haired sovereign at his side, Bran and the Maester Tarly had sequestered him that night, and left Sansa to deal with the snarling lords and their indignation over his abdication. Sansa wondered over their meeting, thought of dark words in the depths of the godswood, but then—she would never know.

Afterwards, she doesn’t see Jon for a day and a night. His plump, sad-eyed Maester assured the gathered small court that he would return on the morrow, after—Sansa suspected—he found whatever he was searching for in the wolfswood.

That night, she looked out over the trees to the north of the keep, where the high-reaching evergreens and oaks swept the earth. A rumble of thunder startled a flock of ravens out of the treetops and they flew, screeching, into the clouded sky. She thought of Jon. Dark wings, dark words.

When he returned, and return he did (was there a part of Sansa who thought perhaps he had turned to stalk towards a quieter fate north of The Wall, where he had once belonged? She couldn’t say), his eyes turned restlessly upon Winterfell. Every turret, cracked stone, and hard-faced lord passed under his grey gaze, as if he were seeing them all for the very first time. Sansa suppressed a dull shiver when his eyes shifted over her.

He gathers her in the council chamber, Daenerys Targaryen and Tyrion Lannister at her side.

“Bran and Sam have told me something,” he begins, cryptic and sullen as he is wont to do. “Something about my past.”

He hesitates, the cogs of his mind spinning endlessly, and—“My future, really.”

“Bran said he saw the day I was born—he sees now, I cannot explain, he knows—who I was born to,” he looks at the Queen and surges on, as if he must seize his courage while it’s left to him. “I’m not the son of Eddard Stark.”

The words ring around Sansa like chiming bells. Her father’s proud face—Jon’s face—swims before her like a mirage in a sweltering desert. Not the son of Eddard Stark? She thinks mirthlessly. With eyes like those?

“Bran said that I’m the son of my aunt Lyanna,” he pauses, breathes, goes again: “—And Rhaegar Targaryen.”

Now he is looking at neither she nor the Queen, but intensely at the dusty rushes on the floor. She aches to pull his gaze, but knows not why.

“He says that Rhaegar and Lyanna—they loved each other, that he didn’t steal her, she went with him, and loved him. And they had me,” he says.

“In Dorne,” he concludes, a little clumsily.

There is a profound silence echoing about the room, and Sansa cannot find heads or tails of it. She flicks her eyes over the small queen standing to her left, eyeing her for a reaction. Will she be displeased?

The violet eyes shift in her porcelain face—“They said you are my brother Rhaegar’s son?”

Rhaegar, she much more likes the touch of her Valyrian tongue on all those syllables, over Jon’s graceless mumble.

“Aye,” Jon replies, as if there were no more to say about it.

“I see,” she says. She and Jon are sharing an intense, almost painful look. This will change things, Sansa thinks, after what has passed between them.

The silence shifts again. Sansa feels still, bolted to the floor. What can she say? She conjures up childish question after question, and answers them herself in swift reply—But he doesn’t look like a Targaryen. No, he looks like his mother. Why wouldn’t father have told him? To protect him. Why would Lyanna have gone away with Rhaegar? Because she loved him, the ghost of Sansa’s innocence reminds her gently. It’s always about love.

Despite her whirring thoughts, there is little to say here. Daenerys and Jon glance away at last, the heaviness between them palpable in the winter air, and it is Tyrion who breaks the silence.

“I see. Not that we don’t believe you,” he begins. “Or Maester Tarly, or your brother, but we will need to… verify this,” he says delicately.

Jon nods, his eyes caught up once again in his melancholy, hands clasped behind his back, as if he were awaiting the swing of an executioner’s blade for his admission.

Sansa leaves the room as quietly as she can. This is no place for me.

 


 

Jon comes to her that night. The un-shuttered grate of the hearth fire in her rooms signalling that she had not yet retired. Sansa didn’t think she could. Her mind was turning old memories—and fresh ones, too—over in her head like a water wheel, gathering up thoughts and reveries, scrutinising them, before throwing them back into the abyss, forgotten and useless.

Sansa supposed that there would be no way to tell—no way to unearth some old memory that would explain it all away. She longed to suddenly recall a moment, a look, a glance of purple in his sunlit eyes years before, an echo of noble bearing, or a forgotten silver-gleam in his hair—something that would help her to understand. But there was nothing. Jon was Jon, he always had been. She had not grown up with any Targaryen prince, no High Valyrian lord, no matter who his parents were. He was of the North, not of dragonglass beaches.

Jon comes to her then, his knuckles rapping on the solid wood of her door. She calls him in.

Standing in the doorway of her solar, dressed—as ever—sombrely in blacks and greys, Sansa cannot reconcile this newfound truth. There was not one drop of dragon-blood in this man, she thinks idly. Not a one.

He looks at her for a beat before stepping in to turn to the fire, but doesn't say anything. What should he say? She wonders. What could he say?

A silence settles over her like a soft blanket of snow, stilling her reflections. He looks tired.

“Are you alright?” She asks him. It’s the only question, she realises after a long moment, that she cares about. If someone had pulled her aside and told her she was the daughter of a dead prince and a forgotten relative, she’d hardly be at rights.

He lifts one shoulder, lets it drop. “I’m not sure.”

They don’t say anything else for a while. Jon sits in the spare chair across from her, his eyes down, brows drawn. He looks so young, so terribly unhappy, and so lost, her heart cracks along its fault line.

“Oh, Jon,” she says, before she can help it. “I’m so sorry.”

His eyes flick up to her, and she herself startles at her own words. Sorry? Should she be sorry? Jon is no unlucky pauper, he’s the son of a prince. He should be congratulated, not pitied.

But, as his eyes linger on her, she realises that she is sorry. More than swords and steel and command and respect, Jon is in want of a home. A family. Long nights spent laughing with his brothers; chasing Rickon about the yard with Bran atop his shoulders; teaching Arya to keep her heels down as she rides and mussing her hair when she doesn’t. He wanted family, not dragon-blood.

She leans forward, the auburn sweep of her hair falling messily over a bent shoulder, and takes his hand. “I’m sorry, Jon. You loved father.”

Father, she maintains, not uncle. He might not have been his blood or seed, but Ned Stark had looked into those sad grey eyes—the same ones that bore into hers now—and called him ‘son.’ That was enough.

“You’re the first person to say that to me,” he muses. “And probably the last.”

“You don’t want to be a Targaryen, do you?” she counters, voice soft. “You only ever wanted to be a Stark.”

“Aye, and now I will be neither,” he says, his hand lifeless within hers. “I’ll never be anything. Not a Stark, not a Targaryen, not a Snow, not a Sand. Just a prince’s bastard—and a dead lady’s son.”

He leaves her then. She lets him. She cannot think of another word to say. (Liar, she can: You’re my brother. You’ll always be my family. I’m sorry. I love you. I’ll stand beside you.)

The door settles into its hinges and the room falls quiet again, her steady beating heart and the crackling fire the only echo.

 


 

The news couldn’t be kept from everyone else, of course. No matter how much Jon would’ve preferred to never speak of it again, to carry that secret into the depths of the North and let it be buried with all his other pain and sorrow. But—alas—the truth must always be told, in one way or the other.

The Queen had been silent with her judgment and reflection. The succession line weighing on her heavily, Sansa suspected.

But Jon had no use for the Iron Throne—he never did. Starks do not covert gold and glory, she thinks fiercely, without logic. Starks belong in the North.

Once he conceded his claim—whatever it was, that of a bastard over a true-born daughter—Daenerys Targaryen is content. Nay, not content. Exalted. A solitary princess with no one to call her own suddenly finds family out of the nothingness.

And a lover, Sansa thinks unkindly.

Daenerys, not to be kept from her command, declares Jon her nephew for all to hear. Ravens fly south bearing heavy words, a feast is held, the Queen’s eyes roam over Jon happily—family, they say.

Sansa cannot find herself to be forlorn over such a thing. But she cannot find herself to be contented about it, either. 

Jon is a Stark, she thinks. He belongs in the North, with the snow in his hair.

She sits through the feast without a word.

 


 

She does ask him about it, later. As they walk through the godswood together, a sanctuary in a sea of fire-and-blood burden.

“Did aunt Lyanna name you ‘Jon Targaryen’?” she asks, thinking it a strange choice. Targaryens had always kept to the same naming patterns in their tradition. Sansa sifts through the history in her mind like loose sand: Aegon, Aemon, Aerys, Baelon, Jaehaerys—

“No,” Jon jolts out of her inattention. “She… and he—they gave me a different name.”

Sansa waits for him to tell her, but when he says nothing, she thinks he may be ashamed. Embarrassed, perhaps. Maybe they named him something ugly, like Maelkor or Duncan, or something evil and cursed, like Baelor or Aerys.

“What was it?” She prompts. “Do you know?”

Jon eyes her strangely. “Aye…”—a slow beat—“‘Visenya’,” he says. “Visenya Targaryen.”

Sansa’s earnest mind gives a little stutter. Visenya? Like Aegon the Conqueror’s sister-wife, who wore heavy plate-armour and carried Dark Sister?

Her mouth is moving before she has time to quiet herself, “That’s a girl’s name!”

Luckily, Jon doesn’t seem too offended. His mouth quirks in that way that it does when he shouldn’t find something amusing, but does. Sansa realises its the first time she’s seen him smile—if it could be called a smile—since he returned north.

“That’s what I said, too. The queen who ruled beside Aegon the first? The one with that great big sword, who killed her brother?” he says into the falling snow. “Bran says that… Rhaegar”—That’s a strange sort of venom, Sansa thinks, to lay upon your father’s name—“He was obsessed with recreating Aegon and his wives—part of some prophecy, he says. The ‘three heads of the dragon’.”

“The other two—my… his—Rhaegar’s other children, they were already called ‘Aegon’ and ‘Rhaenys,’ so I supposed he still needed a ‘Visenya’,” he tells her. “Maybe he was hoping I would be a girl.”

In the end, it does make a gloomy sort of sense. The Targaryens were a queer lot, and not to be turned from their way. If Rhaegar Targaryen had wanted another child for his destiny-bound triune, she doubted anything would stop him from having it exactly the way he wanted it—boy or girl.

Sansa cannot help herself, though—she really cannot: “They couldn’t have given you a boy-version of that name, then? They had to call you a girl’s name?”

Jon seems pleased with her concurring thoughts. “Aye, not Viserys? Or Viseryon? Or—or ‘Vis..engar?’”

She laughs true at his clumsy construction of vowels. “Gods, why did they have to name everything in such a complicated way?”

“I wished they had named me something easier to spell,” Jon says darkly. “Or at least something with not so many letters in it.”

“Although, I do suppose ‘Jon Targaryen’ sounds a little unimpressive,” she grins.

He eyes her, not maliciously, but seriously with those large grey eyes. “That’s not my name. It never will be.”

Aye, she thinks, smiling at him. You’re not a Targaryen, you belong in the North. You belong with me.

“No,” she agrees, taking his arm in hers. “You already have a name.”

She looks at the falling snow melting in the dark crown of his hair, and thinks it fitting.

 


 

She cannot bear to look at him as he prepares for the battle. Not because of fear, or sadness, or even love. But because of that big bloody dragon on his back.

After finding herself a nephew out of the blue, Daenerys had set about distinguishing him as so—without the ease of silver-gilt hair or violet eyes. Her seamstress—the same that draped her in all those splendid gowns and coats—had crafted Jon a set of robes, surcoats and fur-lined cloaks in the Targaryen fashion. If he didn’t look like a Targaryen, he may as well dress like one.

Embossed leathers, damask silk doublets, carved metal facings, soft wool capes—all emblazoned with the three-headed dragon of his father.

Sansa seethes. How dare she? Jon, a man of Stark blood, standing in the courtyard of Winterfell, cloaked in red-and-black dragons? He is no princeling to be paraded about.

Jon, for his part, says nothing—at least, not to her. He wears his embossed tunics and jerkins shoved underneath heavy black cloaks, his lonely armour hanging in the corner of his chamber.

Sansa cannot abide it. She will not. He may be a Targaryen’s son—but his is the blood of the North. You cannot weigh him down with fire, nor blood.

She stays up, sewing, knitting, cuffing hems with heavy punch-needles, cutting swathes of deep, soft fur with Old Nan’s scissors—found forgotten under the stairs where they had been left—she binds together new fabrics sent for from Torrhen’s Square, her father’s old leathers, even bits of silk from her own gowns.

She comes to him, then. To him alone, not wanting attention from anyone else.

“Here,” she says, passing along the soft cloak. It’s bordered with heather-grey fur, and lined with deep charcoal wool. The back of it bears the thin, delicate stitching of Sansa’s own hands. A ferocious direwolf’s head, rearing for attack. On the shoulders of the garment, made to sit on the collarbones, are two silver wolves’ heads, teeth bared.

He stares at it for a long while, touching his fingers to the wolf-clasps and their intricate detail.

“Grey Wind,” she introduces, nodding to the left, “And Ghost,” to the right. The wolves of kings, she thinks fiercely. Not conquering dragons.

He still doesn’t say anything, he looks as if he cannot. He opens his mouth to speak, closes it again, and repeats. His fingers move restlessly over its soft give.

“You’re my family,” she says, and can say nothing more. She hopes that it’s enough.

You’re my family, the blood of Winterfell. You are no dragon.

 


 

The day he leaves is a sad, wet day. He and Daenerys Targaryen are to mount their dragons—Drogon for her, the fiercest, named for her barbarous husband, slain by a curse; Rhaegal for him, the quickest, named after his lord father; the third, Viserion, which Sansa had never seen, struck down by ice and sunk into the frozen sea—and fly north to battle The Dead.

Half a Stark, half a Targaryen astride a dragon, with a direwolf nipping at his heels, she thinks. What a sight he is. 

She hadn’t meant to cause such a scene, of course. Sansa is—foremost and forever—a true lady, whose instinct is to please, but she cannot help herself. She has seen the weary looks across the yard, the men standing beside them, readying to war. Sees the suspicious distrust in their eyes, the echo of their opposition, despite their unwillingness to voice it under the shadow of dragon wings.

She did make a scene, however. Unavoidable, surely.

She had stayed up nights, desperately clawing at a way to help him through this. He didn’t want to be Targaryen prince, she knew, he would rather be a northern bastard, with a home and a family, not an eternal fate, nor a hollow crown.

She settles on a farewell blessing, at last. The Starks of old, who had been cold-faced and stony, who had come wandering out of the forest to build great halls in the snow-covered hills, they had been hunters first. The First Men—with tinkling braids in their hair and blood on their face, bound in wool and fur and deep northern pride—their battle practices had been forgotten, but some words had survived. Relegated to the history tombs, lost in memory and told only in Old Nan’s stories around the fire, but Sansa had needed something—something to tie him to her. To ground him, whatever the cost.

She settles on a farewell blessing. Blood, ash and prayer—there could be no more northern combination, she thinks. To ground him, to ground her, something, anything. It must be done.

The honouring called for the blood of a sacrifice—Sansa had chosen a young lamb from the flock and brought it to Gage the Cook to gather its blood in earthenware pots—and the ash of a weirwood. She gathered fallen branches from the snow drift on her hands and knees, and burnt it in the hearths of her solar in the dark of night.

She approaches him now, in the grass sprawling outside Winterfell’s gates, thick with muddy snow.

The Dragon Queen is standing beside her scaled mount, his black wings beating restlessly against the howling wind. She is garbed in beautiful silver armour, her white-gold hair bound in braids, her purple eyes fierce. What a sight they are, the light-touched Queen and Jon, with his dark eyes and hair. Two sides of a coin. But, as beautiful as they are, there is an awkward distance between them now, their fledgling bond severed before it could strengthen. Twittering servant-girls had informed Sansa that Jon had not visited the Queen after dark since he had been back, and she knows not how to feel about that.

Sansa has the blood on her hands already, shamelessly, the ash tied around her waist in a cloth bag.

Please, she begs him silently, please understand what I need to do, what I need to give you.

He looks over the blood dripping from her fingers. Over his shoulder, the Mother of Dragon’s eyebrows raise high.

He knows. He always did, her Jon.

Suddenly, it’s as if they understand each other terribly. She need not instruct him, he remembers the tales of how warriors were wished off by family from old tales, and kneels before her. The words, which Sansa had poured over last night with aching, dry eyes—please do not let me stumble, or forget. Let it flow out of me like water, like blood—came easily to her, even though the Old Language was never her strength in her youth.

She smudges the blood, first, over his brow—for wisdom, hygecræft, and strength to use it—then trails it, dripping, along his nose, over his lips and down to his throat—to lead him forward, ástýrian, stray not from your path. Her right hand, now dry of the lamb’s blood, drops to her side. Her left reaches up to swipe across his eyes, from temple to temple—forescéawung, watchfulness, keep a weather-eye on yourself, on your enemy.

She can feel the fluttering of his eyelids underneath her wet fingers, the shallow breaths spilling from his lips.

He stands then, and turns from her so she can reach up and brush the blood against the back of his neck, under his hair to ground him to home—hildeþrymm, steadfastness, come back.

Does he know? She thinks distantly. How could he know?

He turns to face her then, the blood on his face contrasting his eyes like deep-set grey jewels awash a red sea. She dips her hand into the velvet bag on her hip, gathering up a handful of the soft black ash. The wind carries some of it off as she holds her hand out, palm turned upwards to the snarling winter sky and blows, the ash floating across the small space between them to stick to the blood adorning his face.

Hinsíþgryre, the dread. May all who look upon you despair.

He looks fierce now, his grey coat slung over dragon-faced armour, blood streaked on his skin, the black ash of the weirwood clinging to the damp. A true warrior, he seems. A King of Winter.

Please gods. Sansa begs, Let him walk from this place a true Stark. Let the lords and ladies look upon him and see a son of the North, with the blood of the First Men searing in his veins. Let him know peace, please gods.

He looks at her then. There is something in his eyes she cannot place—gratitude maybe, love perhaps. You will not go forth from this place a stranger on leather wings, she tells him, eyes bright. You belong here in the depths of winter, with me.

He blinks darkly through the blood in his eyes, and she is thankful. He understands.

“God eow gehealde,” she tells him. “Bēo gesund.”

Gods keep you. Goodbye.

 


 

The Battle for the Dawn lasts nearly three moon-turns, but it seems an age. Sansa, kept within the confines of Winterfell to mind women and children, to make ready for the soldiers’ return and knit bandages, carve splints and sharpen searing blades, is restless.

A deep gloom has settled within her which she cannot shake, no matter how many soft northern faces she peers into, how many fierce, desperate prayers are pressed into the cold face of the heart tree in the godswood. She moves about Winterfell as if a ghost, her hope and belief never quite free of fear. This will all be for naught, she thinks, staring at shy children and crones about their chores, if the Night King is not defeated.

But he is, of course. The Long Night’s grasp on this world is broken with a fated swing of Jon’s sword, miles south of The Wall, atop bloody snow. The Queen laying injured underneath the still wing of her mighty black dragon, whose fire-breath would never alight again.

But dead as the Night King is—his ice-body blown apart and given into the winds he came from—it is not over. They never are, these wars. Things cannot be so simple, to cut off the head of the snake and be done with it.

The men of the North, along with straggling forces brought up from the south—crannogmen from The Neck; Jaime Lannister’s scarce red lions; tall and proud Tyrells underneath a bloodied golden rose; Dornish spears snapped in the ice—are forced to hunt the remaining White Walkers and wights throughout the land, and it is a horrid, vicious business.

Those who were thought to be kept safe from the carnage are thrust into it, as The Living hunt The Dead night after night. Some reach Winterfell, but none bring them any grief. Sansa makes sure of that.

It is months before Jon—or is it truly Visenya now? Atop his monstrous dragon, with fire and blood?—returns home. And when he does, he is different.

Daenerys had gone south to claim the throne, injured as she was, and Sansa hears she is successful. The people of King’s Landing, fearful, weary and bereft of ruling kings, allow her to march her cobbled army through the capital, and none oppose her dragon banner, as it hangs over The Red Keep with a finality born of war. It is not the reception she had hoped for, she thinks, the people are tired of death and blood. They will not love you just yet.

 


 

Jon stays behind at Winterfell, ostensibly to command the remaining, necessary defence, but Sansa can see the tiredness dripping off his bones. His dragon-armour lying forgotten of the floor of his solar.

He doesn’t say much to her, after his victory. If victory it was. Sansa thinks of all the bodies left in the snow, burnt on pyres, and hewn by brittle steel, and feels hollow, like an echoing hall left to rot.

He marshals his men with quiet words, stalks long steps between the beds of the injured, scratches concise missives onto thin scrolls, to be sent to his aunt.

Jon doesn’t say very much to Sansa.

She had held him when he came back, of course. Stepping down from the wings of Rhaegal, who bore new scars—stumbling off him more like, gods he looked so tired—and stepping into her waiting embrace. She had looked upon the blood and bruises and sorrow and that long Stark face and whispered inconsequential comforts—Welcome home. I knew you would prevail. I prayed for you. I’m so happy you’ve returned.

He ruminates in the godswood, sups with the men, walks with Ghost along the ramparts, and doesn’t say much of anything at all, to anyone.

Sansa doesn’t mind.

 


 

When Jon finally does open his mouth long enough for words to fall out—outside the realm of ‘Thank you,’ ‘Please,’ and ‘No,’—he speaks, stiltedly, of times before the war. When they were young, before things went to shit, and all they had to do was wonder about their studies, and training, and what Gage was going to make them for supper.

“Do you remember when we snuck off to swim in the river in the wolfswood?” he asks her one day, looking up from a stack of documents awaiting his signature.

There had been no formal proclamation, no coronation, nor crown for Jon just yet, with Daenerys still getting her bearings in the capital. She had not sent for him, but—

“We distracted the guard with Martyn’s big old dog, and made a run for it,” he says to her, thinking perhaps she doesn’t remember.

Yes, Robb had his arm in a sling from falling off his horse, she thinks, seeing Robb’s dusty face and wide grin in her mind.

“Your mother was so angry, she slapped both our ears,” he says. “She meant to make us clean the yard with rakes and brooms as punishment, but Robb had a broken arm. Do you remember?”

“Yes,” Sansa says. “You cleaned it all by yourself.”

He looks at her then, and says no more.

 


 

It continues like that, for a time. Jon offers her up halting snippets of conversations, pleasantries disguised like commands, the occasional compliment on her ledgers, or a casual comment over how fast the snow is melting. It’s enough for now.

Sansa replies evenly each time. Yes, I did see Lady Mormont’s plans for the Island rebuild; You’re right, it was warm last night; Thank you, although I still cannot keep the grain-count straight; There will be rivers of ice-water soon, won’t that be nice?

She aches to ask him more, to question him about what he saw beyond The Wall, about how he felt to cut through the undead like a knife through warm butter, about when he shall leave to take up his place beside the Queen. But she says nothing.

“Did you see the new pups Willem’s alaunt bitch whelped overnight?” An attempt. She replies: “Yes, Jon, I thought we might give one to little Addam Glover, what do you think?”

It’s enough.

 


 

The first time he talks to her—really talks to her, without the cloak of civility, or habit—it’s in the godswood. Jon is sharpening Longclaw against his knee with a ringing whetstone, the dark steel glimmering like spun silver, reflecting the snow at his feet. She sits nearby on a raised tree root, cutting her teeth slowly through a not-quite-ripe apple.

“Daenerys is calling me back to King’s Landing,” he tells her, his hands not slowing against the blade. She looks at him.

She did see the ravens coming, saw the purple wax adorning the scrolls, the three-headed dragon (or is it just one dragon now, with only Rhaegal surviving? Or one head for her, and one for Jon?) pressed deep into the seal.

“When does she want you to go?” Sansa asks, wearily. Despite their strained informality, it had been unbearably pleasant to have him home again. She would keep him here, if she can.

“She’s been sending for me for weeks,” Jon says. “I keep rebuffing her.”

Sansa thinks she understands. There is still work to do, and much to mend in the North, which was hit the hardest of all the seven kingdoms. But there is something more—

“I don’t want to go,” he says, looking at her plainly now, his hand still on his sword. “I want to stay here.”

“So stay here,” she tells him, as if it is some easy thing. “Stay and keep doing what you have been doing. The people need you here.”

As if she has exhausted his ability to speak openly, he snaps his eyes from her and begins his sharpening again. Sansa finishes her apple, and leaves him be.

 


 

“Why don’t you stay here?” she asks him the day after the next, in the solar, as she eyes over yet another frustrating report from the White Harbour. “In Winterfell, I mean.”

He considers his answer for a moment, as he likes to do nowadays, his mind always so guarded, before telling her: “I suppose I’m a… real Targaryen now. They all saw me riding Rhaegal—the men—wearing her black-and-red armour. I don’t think I really belong here anymore.”

Sansa’s heart breaks a little at the look in his eyes. Oh, Jon. He who had given all his days to the defence of the realm, who had faced down the darkness and lived, and died, and lived again. She was heart-sore for him.

“The lords, they—they don’t trust me anymore,” he says. “And I can’t keep pretending to be Ned Stark’s son.”

She hates to hear it. The lords and knights of the North might not have been as courteous to him as she’d have liked before The Dawn-Battle, the sting of his abdication to the Dragon Queen fresh and smarting, but they respected him now. The deference they’d paid to him as King in the North, the same they paid to her as Lady of Winterfell, had returned and the men once more bowed at his passing, and looked upon him kindly. Winter-Killer, they called him now. Deathbane.

“You do belong here,” she says fiercely, quietly. “All the men love you—as they did Robb.”

He says nothing, considering her.

“You might have been riding a damn dragon, Jon, but you had a direwolf on your back,” she says. My direwolf, it goes without saying. The cloak she made still hanging about his shoulders, a little worse for wear, but still splendid and stately. “They know that.”

“If you want to stay,” Sansa tells him. “I will find a way to make it so.”

They leave it at that.

 


 

The curiosity only baits him for a day—nay, not even a day—before he corners her outside the library, where she had been searching for the plans for the original Glass Gardens, in hopes of finding the key to its infrastructure.

“What did you mean, ‘You’ll find a way to let me stay’?” he questions her. Sansa had been thinking about it earlier, so takes his arm and walks slowly towards her study.

Knowing already what she wants to tell him, she says: “You might think you’re some destiny-driven king, or a dragon in a wolf’s pelt, or whatever they’re calling you these days. But you were raised within the walls of Winterfell, as I was. If you don’t want to go to King’s Landing and be Daenerys’ king, then I will find a way to allow you to stay and live here with me.”

It’s the most she’s said to him in months. “The future is never set in stone. There’s always a way around. I’ll find it.” She already has, but won’t tell him that.

She may look like a Tully, but Sansa is of the North. She will do whatever is necessary to keep her family safe.

 


 

It’s not until the next night, beside the fire, when he asks her to elaborate.

“Okay,” he says, voice steady. “Tell me—what is this way you will find?” That’s a fool’s question, Sansa thinks, how would I tell you if I hadn’t yet found it?

But, in some way, Jon knows she already has formulated this little escape plan for him. She wonders what he will think of it. She wonders what she herself thinks of it.

“It’s simple enough, in theory,” she tells him. “I’m the unwed Lady of Winterfell, and the Lady of Riverrun”—her uncle Edmure’s life-long struggle had come to a noble end during the Dawn-Battle, and the Riverlands had passed to her, through her late lady mother—“I command two kingdoms, am Wardenness of both, and have no heir.”

She pauses. “You’re the unwed heir to the Iron Throne, and the last Targaryen after the Queen.”

And adds, a little unnecessarily: “We’re cousins.”

Sansa sees the shadow of it pass over his eyes, as it had passed over hers. Sees the alarm and the disgust and the denial—just as she had felt it, keenly, in her own heart.

But this isn’t about love, or duty, or right or wrong, or good or bad—this is about home. He wants to stay, let him stay.

“You tell your aunt you wish to stay here and bind the Riverlands and the North to the crown,” she tells him, looking at him openly now—the crease between his dark eyes expected, but not altogether appreciated. “Tell her she may have one of your sons as an heir, when they come, and that you will rule the northern most kingdoms for her.”

A deep silence follows. His eyes don’t break from hers, although she wishes they would.

“And marry you?” he asks, the distain and disgust not quite disguised from his voice. Nothing she hasn’t thought herself before.

“Yes, that was the first part of the plan,” she tells him wryly, lips quirking. “You would live here. You’d still be a Targaryen, of course—I don’t believe she’d concede you that—but you would be Lord of Winterfell next to me, and your children would be Starks.”

He opens his mouth, pauses, shuts it, and again: “Your children, you mean.”

She sighs—it will take him a little to wrap his head around, she knows. He was always so bull-headed. “Yes, that’s still the first bit of the plan.”

“Look: I know you and her, you—there was something there, I saw it,” she says. “If you want a marriage of love and lust, go and marry her. I’ll not mind. Truly.”

“But you said you wanted to stay in the North, and this will accomplish that,” she tells him. “It will not be a marriage of love, and it will be hard—unbearably hard in some respects—but the end result is the desired one.”

She lets him sit with it for one beat, two, then—“It’s your call, Jon. Whatever you decide, I’ll support you.”

 


 

He refuses. Of course he does. Ned Stark’s proud and honourable son would take such a thing from Sansa, even if it were offered willingly. Jon would rather tuck his sadness and his loneliness away under his ribcage for a thousand years, rather than let it condemn his family. It was his way.

“Sansa, I… I appreciate what you’re offering me—I do, more than anything,” he tells her, standing in the shadow of her door, almost shamefully, as if they had already committed a crime. “But I can’t do that. It’s not your responsibility to make me a place, at the expense of yourself.”

He goes to turn from her. She sees the hard set of his shoulders, the weariness there and catches him in his swing, a hand wrapped around his elbow. Jon looks at her with those sad, lost eyes.

“You have already given so much, Jon,” she whispers to him. “You’ve given everything for the North. For us, without the expectation of getting anything in return.”

“It isn’t about what you’re asking of me, it’s what I’m giving you. You rode off to war, while I stayed here and kept the castle. Let me do this,” she says, looking at him.

“It is not too much—I can bear it. Take some more time to think about it,” she bids him, and lets her grip loose.

 


 

She was expecting him to mull it over more on his own time, really. The way he had done with other, similar big decisions. Taking to the godswood with his whetstone and Ghost to think over commands and laws in silence and solitude—that had become his habit.

She had expected him to give her a wide berth while he thought it over, before telling her his final decision later. Two weeks, she had given him in her mind. He’ll need at least two weeks, either way.

But, in the end, he doesn’t give her any sort of berth—wide or otherwise. He lulls into wordlessness for stretches of time, sitting beside her at dinner or in the solar, but he has now taken to heaping inane questions on her at random intervals, much to her irritation.

Take yesterday afternoon for example, when she had been overseeing the re-plotting of the stables (they needed to be bigger now, with the extra forces) in the light of the dull setting sun. Jon had appeared suddenly beside her, like Ghost does, silent and looming.

“The lords would never accept it,” he told her. The words too dirty and uncouth to speak, you were once my half-sister.

“Yes, Jon, I think they’d take some convincing,” she had agreed. “But most would understand the necessity of it.”

And a day later, in the small council chamber, after the weekly meeting—“You’d not be able to marry anyone else, you know? You’d be stuck with me.”

“Yes, Jon, I would,” she had said. “Who were you thinking I’d want to marry?”

Then, at dinner two days hence, quietly to her side: “You’d be marrying a bastard.”

She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye, annoyed, her spoonful of soup paused halfway between her plate and her mouth. “Yes, Jon, I’m quite aware.”

His lips straightened into a thin line.

“I don’t mind if you don’t,” she told him. (And she doesn’t.)

Finally—she had expected this one—he tells her: “We’d need to have children. Together. You and me.” It’s almost an accusation, but it doesn’t taste so dirty in her mouth as it once had. Somewhere in her stained heart she still believes she would be a good mother.

“Yes, Jon. We would,” she says, not looking up from her letter to Wyla Manderly about her upcoming stay. “One as the North's heir, one for Daenerys and one for the Riverlands. Four, I’d say, for security. Or even five, who knows?”

She teases him then, forcing herself not to smile: “We’d need to have sex, Jon. You know? When and man and a woman lie down together and—?”

His thundering footsteps out of her solar bring a shameful laugh to her lips. She shouldn’t mock him, but really, after Joffrey, and Tyrion, and Petyr, and Ramsey—had he thought he would be the worst, or hardest? Sansa had learnt quickly how to separate these things from each other, Jon would learn, too. If he needed.

Feeling a touch remorseful, she seeks him out later underneath the red leaves of the weirwoods. “It will just be another part of our duties to each other,” she tells him, as gently as she can possibly muster.

“I’d find the most advantageous time—perhaps twice a month, I’d say—and we’d just add it to our list of chores,” she says, pauses and then: “I’ve been told I’m not hideous to look upon. And it can be any way you’d like—in the dark, if you want.”

He looks at her as if he’s seeing a ghost.

“Just another thing to be done,” she tells him—tells herself. A small price to pay.

Then, feeling the sudden need to reassure him of her commitment, of her proclivity to the idea, she tells him honestly: “I know it’s… strange. It is a strange thought, I’ll not deny. But… it might be nice.”

“I’ve been married twice now, and both had been”—he looks at her—“Unpleasant. Horrible, really.”

“At least, with you, I know I’d be happy,” she says. “I’d be safe, and you’d not hurt me. You’d be a true husband.” 

She takes his hands in hers and tries her best to communicate the resounding thoughts hurtling around her head through one simple, honest look.

We must stand fast to each other. No matter the cost.

 


 

In the end, he does agree. Part of her maybe thinks he wouldn’t, that one day she’d find him gone with his horse and Ghost, off to be with his aunt, whom he actually desired.

A man with northern morals and honour like Jon wouldn’t stoop to fuck his own half-sister, even if it did give him back the home he’d always craved, Sansa thinks.

But he doesn’t go. In fact, it’s the opposite.

“Alright,” he tells her. Which confuses her for a moment, she had been in the middle of stitching a new lace pattern into the collar of a dress. She is puzzled, just for a moment, though.

“I’ll… I’ll marry you,” he says, fear and doubt clouding his eyes. How romantic, her evil mind crows, before she can help herself. It’s not as if the decision had been easy for her, either.

“Alright,” she says, looking back down to her needlework. “Write to your aunt.”

He leaves without saying anything further, and Sansa wonders over their future marriage. Will it be like this? Or will he learn to live with it, as I have?

Her thoughts wander to Ramsey Bolton, dead of his dogs, and their forced marriage in the godswood, and of the painful lessons she learnt from him. An unfair comparison to Jon, she berates herself. Jon wouldn’t hurt her, even if he didn’t want to lie with her. No, it shall be a true and goodly marriage. I will make sure of that.

 


 

The Dragon Queen is not pleased, as Sansa expected. The Targaryens had always wed within their family (like you’re doing now, her cruel thoughts turn, just like Mad Queen Cersei did—before Ser Jaime put his sword through her), so to have a handsome young nephew so near, and not for him to want to rule beside her is an affront, and one Jon cannot deny.

But with only one dragon remaining—one loyal to Jon at that—and bubbling discontentment rising up in several of her kingdoms, it’s not a war she can fight right now. It’s not as if she can bathe him in dragon-fire, nor can she drag him back to the capital and force him to wed her.

The wedding will go ahead, whether or not Daenerys Targaryen is pleased. It’s a good match, it makes sense, Jon wants to stay here in Winterfell, and that’s the least Sansa can do.

As it turns out, Jon is much more involved in the wedding planning than she thought he’d be. She thought he’d leave the plans and organisation to her, and simply turn up on the day, with his scowl and cloak unshakeably in place. But it seems that he does have requests and wants for the day, so Sansa listens carefully.

There is a rather long list, actually. No bedding ceremony (that was always a given); no great southern lords beyond those known to Jon or Sansa; no Karstarks, or Bolton bannermen, or Umbers; no pies to be served (her eyes light up maliciously at that). It will be in the godswood, not the Sept, no matter how unseemly it seems to Daenerys, whose family—his family—kept the Seven. He will wear Stark and Targaryen colours. And there will be not one single mention of the name ‘Visenya’.

They seem easy requests to Sansa, and she tells him it will be done.

“One more thing,” he calls her back. Their eyes have become more and more comfortable settling on each other, the closer they get to the wedding.

“After we are wed, my name will remain Snow,” he says to her. “Our children can be Starks, as you say—but I am neither a Stark, nor a Targaryen—no matter who my wife is, or my father was. I am a Snow.”

He glances down, and says it again, almost as if to reassure himself—Sansa thinks—over her: “I am a Snow.”

 


 

They are married on a crisp spring afternoon in the godswood, in front of the weeping heart tree, its solemn face staring down both judgement and penance upon them.

Sansa is dressed in deep blue—her Tully colours, to appease the River Lords who are gathered in the woods to watch the Lady Paramount of the Trident wed—and wears silver-star pins in her hair. Her maidencloak is a bright soft grey, with five direwolves stitched gently onto the back. The cloak has a white fur collar, and is hemmed with falling snowflakes.

She is beautiful that day—with her red hair falling to her hips, and her sapphire-blue eyes ablaze with an emotion not yet spoken aloud—no one can say otherwise.

Jon, too, is handsome underneath the red leaves. His grey clothes are covered by a thick, heavy black coat. As per his request, both dragons and wolves are emblazoned onto it, and neither bigger nor more prominent than the other. His mouth is set in a hard line and his hands are cold and firm within her own.

When they kneel before the heart tree together, the snow seeps through Sansa’s dress at the knees, and she feels the profound chill of Winterfell so deep in her bones, she is emboldened and frightened by it in equal measure.   

When Jon moves towards her to brush a quick dry kiss over her mouth, it feels not like love—but like absolution.

It is enough.

  


 

No bawdy bedding ceremony had followed, of course. Jon had been absolutely adamant. Not only about that, but about the entire tone of the night. Not one lively song was sung, nor taunting jests exchanged, there had been no stamping feet, or ringing voices. It was a serious night, almost dour to an outsider. The northmen knew the reason for the sobriety of the occasion however, and that was all that mattered.

And when Jon took her hand and led her from the Great Hall back to the Keep, the dull echoing voices of their guests followed them.

He had held her hand steadily in his the entire way, almost as if he were afraid of what might happen if he let go. When they stepped into the chamber—her mother and father’s chamber, Sansa thought emptily, but dismissed the thought as soon as it came—he had been gentle and sweet and noble with her, as she knew he would.

He was far from passionate, or ardent—things Sansa had never known to begin with, and did not, in any sense, expect from him—but sweet-tempered and kind, he was.

Gentling her with rough-hewn hands, he guides her distantly, as if he were touching her skin through a thick fog on the mountainside, and lays her down onto the soft furs of their marriage bed.

It isn’t love—but nor is it hate, nor bitterness, nor revulsion. It simply is what it is.

Although she married in the grey cloak of her Stark name, with Jon above her, Sansa can only think of her mother’s Tully words: Family, Duty, Honour.

Family first—no matter the expense; duty as duty does; and honour last. Always last.

When he finishes, and settles beside her, his chest rising and falling rapidly like thundering autumn winds, it doesn’t feel awful at all. He is home, as is she. They are safe. There are no undead creatures rising from watery graves to haunt them; nor malicious queens or princes to sentence them to cruel fates. There is only Jon and her, and the thick walls of Winterfell, and soon—Sansa prays it is as soon as it can be—there will be a babe for her to call her own, with a true northern face, and the spinning wheel of fate will begin again, with the Starks rising from the North like ironwood battlements on high.

Sansa thinks it’s the sweetest thing she’s ever felt.

The wolves will come again. She will make it so.

 


 

As a husband, Jon isn’t really all that different from what he was like before. The two continue on with their joint-rule over Winterfell and the North, and—with occasional counsel from Jon—Sansa presides over the Riverlands as its Lady, as best she can. They break their fast together in the Keep; they oversee the day-to-day running of the castle; take meetings with holdfast-keepers, Wintertown folk, and the household; they give and take quiet advice from each other in the godswood; and sup together at night.

Their coupling comes easier, too. At first, Jon’s affections had been strained and awkward, always eyeing her painfully and glancing away when she looked at him too long. The routine had helped, too, she thinks. She had conferred—rather uncomfortably—with Maester Tarly on the best times of the month for conception, and she had set up an easy regime. Jon, ever the clockwork soldier, takes to it faithfully.

“Will you sup with me tonight, Jon?” she would ask him, in the solar, with her handmaiden or his bookkeeper nearby. That had become the opening she would give him, as not to give anything away. This way, it wasn’t awkward for him to swear her off, when he needed.

But almost always, mindful of his duty, he would nod at her and give her a small smile.

Sansa had learnt quickly the things that eased the act itself. If she talked in the beginning, steadily and without long lulls, Jon would relax. She could ask him questions, recount meetings, or suggest law amendments, and Jon’s tense shoulders would loosen.

“Edmyn Poole has been asking again over that abandoned saw mill east of Wintertown,” she tells him, after they had retired to her chambers—never his, of course, Sansa likes to give him a little escape path afterwards. “I keep telling him, again and again, that deed transfers don’t just happen, but the man is possessed.”

She turns her back to him, to let him loosen the laces of her stays, and shimmies out of it when he’s done. When she turns, clad only in her shift—Jon hadn’t ever asked her to take it off, and she would never assume—he is looking at her with a fond look on his face.

“That man couldn’t take a hint if I beat him over the head with it,” he says, pulling his shirttails out of the waist of his breeches.

“I wish you would,” Sansa tells him drily, untying the ribbon at the end of her braid, to let her hair fall loose, the way she had discovered Jon liked it best.

Kissing was—well, it was a clumsy addition to their routine. It wasn’t a necessary part of the act itself, but it became rather uncomfortable if they did not. His kisses were, for the most part, polite and gentle, never overbearing and never overmuch it their intimacy. They always shared a scattered few at the beginning—it was the part Sansa liked best.

The scrape of his beard against her soft skin was a pleasant indulgence—however small.

He touches her then, hands over her shift, guiding her back onto the bed and under the furs. His hands smooth down her legs, elbows bracketing her head, the dark curl of his hair brushing against her forehead. Sometimes he bent down to press kisses into her neck, as he did now. She likes that best.

Having him inside her is pleasant enough—thank the gods for her bold little serving-girl, who had slipped her a vial of grapeseed oil, which helped immensely. It is always careful, never painful, and Jon makes sure to keep his weight off of her with braced shoulders. The steady snap of his hips and cadence of his breath becomes something of a comfort over time. Sansa thinks she likes the way his breath becomes deep and uneven, the closer he gets to completion.

Sansa, for her part to play, keeps one hand on his back—she secretly likes to feel the muscles move under his skin, but won’t tell him that—and one down near her thigh. She doesn’t say too much once the act itself has begun, not wanting to jolt him out of any reverie he might be attempting to conjure (she herself had found herself conjuring one or two, at times).

When he spills, he does it with a soft, almost-silent groan into her hair, his breath moving the strands to tickle her face. He usually kisses her then, his mouth soft, before rolling to lie beside her.

Sometimes he leaves, pressing a kiss to her hair and gathering up his clothes, and sometimes he doesn’t, pulling her over to nestle into the space along his body. He does the latter tonight.

Sansa thinks that it might be the sweetest part of this whole affair, and smiles at him when he snores.

In the dark of the night, she presses a hand against her belly, and whispers a prayer into the biting cold air. Let me give him a babe, she asks of the old gods and the new. Let us fill this haunted place with young wolves—and let it be soon.

 


 

And—funnily enough—it is soon. Sansa is not exactly used to getting everything exactly as she wants it, but five moons past their wedding, her monthly blood stops coming, and Maester Tarly confirms her nervous question with a sweet-sounding confirmation.

She waits a little to tell Jon—feeling almost a thief when she doesn’t discontinue their twice-fortnightly couplings, as not to give her secret away—for security. If anything were to happen, if would happen in the first few months, and Sansa would spare Jon the heartbreak, if she can.

Then, suddenly, two months have passed, and there is no blood or pain. Maester Sam gives her a gentle examination and, again, assures her of her health—“And the baby seems fine!”

The baby, Sansa thinks with a thrill. My baby.

The day she tells Jon is a warm spring night. It had been a day as normal ever, Jon had spent all day with Hoster the Keep Guard, talking over rotations and training, and Sansa had dealt with a River Lord come over to discuss the Riverrun’s inventories.

She catches his eye that night, asking him her sure question—“Will you sup with me tonight, Jon?”—even though is it one week out from their usual routine. He doesn’t deny her.

But when he reaches for her laces, pressing a kiss to her lips, she holds him steady. “Actually—there is no need for that.”

“No need?” He asks, with a crease between his brow. “You want to do it with your dress on?”

She laughs at him. “No, I mean, there is no need to go to bed at all. I am with child.”

The sweet, shocked look on his face at her words, and his stumbling disbelief—“Are you sure? Truly?”—alights a little fire within her that will burn her from the inside out, if she would let it.

“Truly,” she tells him, and she is impossibly glad. With trembling fingers, Jon places his hand over the still-flat plane of her belly, a reverent look on his face so ardent, Sansa thinks she will collapse with the weight of it. There is love there, in that soft, warm look. She is sure of it.

To her surprise, Jon still takes her to bed that night, pressing tiny, unending kisses to her skin, to her face, and her lips, over and over.

“Sansa,” he says to her, as a strange coil begins to unfurl within.

“Sansa,” he says to her, those stone-grey eyes a mortal vice.

 


 

She grows—gets bigger, gets wider, gets slower. She waddles about the Keep, in her blue dresses and grey coats, and feels content.

Sometimes Jon catches her about the middle when she passes to press a hand to her belly, regardless of whether she tells him the babe is kicking or not.

Jon is happy now, she realises one day, watching him training in the yard with the young boys, a smile on his lips. Her heart tightens unbearably when she thinks that she is part of that fledgling happiness—her and their babe, and Winterfell growing strong.

“What do you think of naming him Robb?” she asks him as they ready for bed, Jon having told her one day—red tinging the apples of his cheeks—that he liked to have her near him with the babe between them. “Robb Stark.”

He looks at her, and there is a tenderness deep within his eyes that she had never noticed before.

“Robb,” he says, trying the weight of it on his tongue. “I would like that.”

 


 

Sansa is happy, too. With the spring abounding, and the future sure. There are always lemon cakes in the pantry for her, and letters to write to her friends, and new dances to learn, and the sweet peace of rest that comes at night, with the covers drawn up and the windows thrown open to let the starshine and moonlight in.

And there is Jon. His handsome face, and his calloused hands, and his secret smiles, and his wide, loving heart.

It is enough.

 


 

Eventually, things pass as they should. A full, clear spring settles over the realm, from the crumbled remains of The Wall, through the shadowy depths of The Neck, all the way down to the glinting tip of Sunspear in Dorne.

The Queen makes a king out of the last remaining Tyrell son—Willas’ lame leg a sweet match for Daenerys’ crooked wing, an injury never quite set to rights after the Dawn-Battle.

Arya flits here and there with her loyal retinue of straggling fighting men—her Ser Gendry included—sending little letters and messages when she remembers, which are too far in between for Sansa’s liking, but often enough.

Bran, she can only hope, is happy again north of The Wall. He had quietly made his way back after the Battle had been won, and resumed his mantle as the Three-Eyed Raven once more. Ever her sweet brother, occasionally Sansa would glance up into the eyes of a passing sparrow or bashful fox and give it her gentlest of smiles, knowing it was her baby brother peering out to her. I am here, I am watching, I miss you, she almost hears, and says it back in kind.

Winterfell rebuilds, step by fragmented step. The torn towers and battered gates slowly rise up again, the Glass Gardens are rebuilt with Dornish sand-glass, and the ever-increasing sunshine brings up soft grass and daisy flowers in the humus of the godswood.

And her children come, too. Steadily and heathily, thank the gods. First a boy, who had been her very first quickening and who had come—screaming terribly—into the night with Jon’s dark hair and winter-grey eyes. A Winterfell lordling if she ever saw one. Sansa had called him Robb, for her sweet, beloved brother, who had loved her best.

Her second babe, meant as heir to the throne, is a girl-child—but Daenerys hadn’t seemed to mind. “I’m a Queen,” Daenerys had told her then, when she had waited upon her birth. “She shall be, too.”

Sansa conceded her daughter a Targaryen name, and called her Alysanne—for she would one day rule the Seven Kingdoms as Queen, and hopefully she would be as wise as her namesake, and the people would call her Good Queen Alysanne, and hang her dragon-and-wolf banners in the wind. But in her heart of hearts, she holds her dark-haired daughter to her chest in the dead of night and whispers to her, “Catelyn.”

It delights Sansa when her third child—born to rule Riverrun—gets her Tully looks. “Fate!” she had cawed to a sleep-mussed Jon. His little cap of red-gold hair and deep blue eyes reminded her of Robb and Bran, but she called him Edmure, for the first-ever Lord of the Trident and for her late lord uncle.

Two little tumbling babes follow, in an easy succession—Jon gets the hang of it, and comes without bidding to her bed, he loves being a father, loves his children, so he doesn’t mind—Eddard and Brandon.

When little Bran comes, and is old enough to be taken out of doors, Sansa bundles him up and takes him out to the woods outside Winterfell. She waits in the shadows of the trees until a young deer wanders up on steady hooves. He looks at her and she folds back the swaddling wool around the babe to show his face. “I named him for you, Bran,” she tells the deer, with all her great softness. “I hope you’re well.”

When a small, sharp winter falls upon them a few years later, Sansa gathers up all her children before the hearth.

Jon sits beside her, Alysanne on his lap, a tiny queen in the making, and Sansa tells her sons stories of their uncles. Of King Robb’s Winter Crown and his glorious victory in the Whispering Wood. Of Bran the All-Seeing, north of The Wall, with his messenger crows and foresight. Of fierce Arya stalking the realm to deliver justice and truth, the grey of her eyes keen, and her blade quick and deadly. Of Grandfather Ned, and Grandma Lyanna, and uncle Rickon, resting in the crypts to the east. Of Grandmother Catelyn, her laden boat set alight on the Red Fork of the Trident.

Of herself, and of brave Jon—twice dead, thrice alive—but still steadfast, and true, and strong. And of home.

No price too great, she tells them. No cost too high.

It is enough.