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When the White Winds Blow

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1.

“What do you want?”

He tells her, and Sansa is not the slightest bit surprised, and when he leans towards her, she doesn’t stop him.

They are wed in the godswood a fortnight later, beneath the weirwood just like her and Ramsay. That’s the only thing her two weddings have in common. It is a simple affair, just a handfasting with a septon brought in from the winter town, and Jon present as witness. There is no cloak exchanged, no audience. Jon’s displeasure at this union is apparent, as he carries all his emotions so clearly on his face. She doesn’t put much stock in it, though. Uneasy as their relationship may still be, he knows better than to chastise her.

She stays in her parents’ room, Petyr in his, and their marriage remains unconsummated. Nobody comments on this. She suspects most of the northern lords are happy about it. Makes it easier to annul their marriage, should it come to that.

Their days also stay much the same. He was her advisor before he became her husband, and that’s how things continue to be. The only difference is that she is now Lady Baelish.

Jon leaves to meet the Dragon Queen, and Sansa stays behind to govern in his stead. She may no longer be a Stark but she remains the Lady of Winterfell. She finds herself spending more time with Petyr, inviting him to her solar where a second desk is brought in, and they work in companionable silence.

Her nights are a different matter entirely. When Jon was there, they would often sit together, working on castle business into the wee hours of the morning until they were too exhausted to sit upright. She had her demons to contend with, he had his. Working until their eyes fell closed was their way of dealing with them.

Now, she sits alone in her room. Alone with her thoughts. She half expects Ramsay to step forth from the shadows, and sleep eludes her.

Finally, after a week, she finds herself at Petyr’s door in her nightgown. She stands there an awfully long time until she raps her knuckles against the wood, pushing it open at his call. He is sitting on his bed, propped up on a pillow and with a book on his hand. He marks his page with a finger, his eyebrow rising as he takes in her lack of proper clothes.

“What’s the matter, sweetling?”

“I...” She fidgets, feeling like a child. “I couldn’t sleep.”

He studies her a moment longer, his stormy eyes unreadable, until finally he smiles that half-smile of his and pats the bed beside him. “I gladly offer you my company, my lady.”

She slides under the blankets and furs, her cheeks hot, her hands cold as ice. She can feel his gaze on her back, until he settles back against his pillows, the page of his book rustling as he turns it. There are no words between them. None are needed.

The stars are beginning to wink out when she awakes, screaming and covered in a cold sweat. For a moment she thinks it’s Ramsay’s hands gripping her and she screams louder, twisting away and lashing out, until she smells mint and remembers where she is. The fire has burned down to embers and in the twilight, she finds temples streaked with grey, and dark eyes, brow furrowed with concern.

“It’s me, Sansa. You’re safe now.”

She takes hold of his hand, and doesn’t let go.

It becomes a habit. She will dress for the night in her own room, and when the castle has quieted down, she goes to his, slides under the covers next to him. Her nightmares don’t disappear. But they are somehow easier to handle when she knows that someone who bears her no ill will – loves her even - is right there.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

And then one day she is called to the gate, and there is Bran, who doesn’t return her embrace and seems to hardly take part in the things that happen around him, who looks at her with eyes that give nothing away at all.

Arya, next, down among the dead. “Do I have to call you Lady Stark now?”

Sansa shakes her head. “No.” At Arya’s questioning look, “Lady Baelish.” She laughs when Arya blurts out a disbelieving, “What?!”

It feels good to laugh.

Jon has been gone for more than a month. A raven arrives, asking Sansa and Petyr to come to King’s Landing. She sends Brienne in her stead, Brienne who so steadfastly distrusts Petyr and makes no secret of it. In the end, her knight bows to her order, leaving with Podrick.

Sansa watches them leave, until she can’t make out their forms in the swirling snow any more. Petyr takes her hand in his, and she allows it.

The siblings are sitting in Sansa’s solar as she reads the many letters the ravens bring. Arya is balancing a knife on her fingertip, something Sansa can barely stand to look at, and Bran sits by the window, looking out into the yard, silent as always. Silent, until...

“He held a knife to father’s throat.”

The sisters startle at Bran’s voice, Arya almost dropping her knife. She just catches it by the hilt. “Who did?”

He looks at them, with eyes entirely devoid of emotion, and a chill that has nothing to do with the cold runs down Sansa’s back. “Littlefinger.”

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

She finds him in his – their - room, working, and she slams the door behind herself, leaning against it, her palms flat against the wood.

“Sansa?” There is apprehension in his eyes, and she trembles with rage.

“Is there any member of my family whose blood isn’t on your hands?”

He meets her gaze steadily, the slight movement of his fingers curling more tightly around his pen the only outward sign of tension. And finally, he shakes his head ever so slightly. “No.”

She grabs whatever is closest to her, which happens to be a pitcher of water, and she hurls it at him with as much force as she can muster. He ducks, avoiding getting hit in the face, and just ends up drenched as the jug shatters on the wall behind him. Sansa screams at him, screams until she is hoarse and her throat raw with it, and he just sits there and lets her yell at him. He looks absurd, with water dripping from his beard and hair, and she finally collapses on the bed, her shoulders shaking with sobs.

His chair scrapes across the floor as he gets up, and the bed dips beneath her when he sits down next to her.

“I will not try to make excuses for what I did. I am, ultimately, to blame for their deaths.” She wipes at her face with her sleeve before looking at him. He’s looking down at his hands. “How long have we known each other now?”

Sansa fiddles with the hem of her cloak. “Six years. But I feel… like I don’t know you at all.”

He laughs at that, and she is this close to hitting him. “Does it honestly surprise you how involved I’ve been in everything that has happened? I didn’t think I had been that successful at pulling the wool over your eyes.”

She has no response to that because of course it doesn’t surprise her even a little bit. The knowledge does nothing to calm her anger, to dull the pain in her chest. “I should have you executed.”

Petyr’s smile is sad, and it looks almost genuine. “If that gave you satisfaction, my love.”

And there it is, his trump card. If there is one thing Petyr Baelish isn’t, it is a fool. He knows lying to her in this would effectively eradicate any trust she has in him. He may be a little too confident, too in love with his own genius, but at least in this, she has no reason to doubt the truth of his words. If she commanded it, he would hand her the dagger himself and kneel at her feet to accept the sentence.

It would also mean Sansa would be alone again.

She wipes the last tears from her cheeks before she turns to him. Her voice is steel when she speaks. “You knew what he was, and you gave me to him. You know what he did to me.” His face is unreadable, a mask, and she has to look into his eyes to see beyond the cover. He knows exactly what happened to her, and she thinks it may be the one thing he actually regrets. His hands ball into fists in his lap, and he nods.

Sansa feels like she is watching herself from outside her body when she leans forward, until there is but a hand’s width between their faces, and he moves towards her, until she can feel his breath against her skin.

“I expect you to make it up to me, Lord Baelish.”

His eyes widen ever so slightly and she almost laughs. His right hand uncurls and he lifts it, gently running his fingers through her hair, and she can’t suppress the shudder that runs through her. “Say the word, my lady. I am at your disposal.”

Her heart is in her throat all of a sudden, and she points at the floor at her feet, arches one eyebrow at him, and he slides off the bed without hesitation. Kneels before her on the cold stone, his head bowed, and Sansa feels something rush through her, something she struggles to name.

Power. Control. Satisfaction. It’s heady, and she leans forward and slides her hand into the short hair at the back of his head, grips it tightly and pulls, until he has to look at her.

There is a knowing smile on his lips, and she tightens her grip. “I suppose this is a start.”

Chapter Text

2.

It becomes part of them, of their relationship. Nothing much changes in public, although people of course notice that she moves out of her parents’ rooms and into his. “I really shouldn’t have let Jon talk me into taking the rooms in the first place. The King must have rooms befitting a king.” People smile and nod, and she knows they whisper about it behind her back.

It’s an open secret that none of her lords approve of her marriage to Petyr.

She finds that she doesn’t care any more.

Once the door to their bedroom closes behind her, things are very different. Petyr hands her the reins, with a smile on his face, and she can’t help but wonder why. Is it part of his plan? Does he enjoy relinquishing control to her? She doubts it.

He does not speak without her permission. Does not eat, or drink. Does not choose his clothes, doesn’t decide when the candles are extinguished.

She should feel ridiculous but instead she feels liberated. So many things that are out of her hands entirely but in here, she is in control.

One evening, when they’re already in bed, the candles extinguished except for one, she throws back the blankets and sits up, looking down at him. There is a question in his eyes, and she nods silently. He takes hold of her hand, entwines his fingers with hers.

“What’s the matter, sweetling? Can’t sleep?”

She shakes her head, a slight frown creasing her brow. Something has been niggling her for a while now, and her fingers twitch against his. “Take off your shirt.”

He stiffens, pulls back his hand. “I’d rather not, my love.”

Sansa reaches down, grabs his hair. Pulls. He grimaces but makes no sound, and she pulls harder. “Why?”

Petyr’s eyes are watering as he looks up at her, and she lets go with a gasp. He sighs softly when she releases him, runs a hand through his hair, and Sansa turns away, fisting the sheets beneath her.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt you, I’ll...”

“Sansa.” She turns, knows she must look like the girl she really is with her eyes wide and her lip between her teeth, but he doesn’t seem to notice. He reaches up, until the palm of his hand hovers next to her cheek, and she leans into the touch before she can think about it. He smiles. “You didn’t hurt me. And even if you had, it would still not be nearly as much as I deserve.” His thumb strokes her cheekbone. “We both carry scars on our skin. I wouldn’t want to burden you with mine, and the rather dull story attached to it.”

She can’t help it, she laughs then, and the startled look on his face only makes her laugh harder. It takes her a while to calm down again, and he is definitely annoyed with her now. She smiles, takes his hand into hers again. “I know about the duel. I’ve known for years.” She touches his chest, gently, with her free hand, and he jerks away, doesn’t look at her. “I know about the scar.”

His jaw works, and he sits up and swings his legs out of the bed. “How?”

“People gossip. People at court gossip all the time. One of Cersei’s ladies told me.” She moves closer, kneeling at his back. “Let me see.” He stiffens, and she leans closer. She knows she’s playing dirty now, and she doesn’t care. Her breath whispers against his ear, and he shudders. “Please.”

He doesn’t move for a long moment, and she is certain he will refuse her request. She jumps when he gets to his feet and turns to face her, his mask of indifference back in place. He just stands there, looking at a spot on the wall, his hands clasped behind his back, and it’s clear that he will not do the work for her, so Sansa reaches out and carefully undoes the ties holding his shirt closed.

She can’t stop the quiet, “Oh,” that falls from her lips at the sight, and he stiffens visibly. The scar is so much larger than she anticipated, from his collarbone to beneath his navel. It is a miracle he survived the wound, she thinks as she runs gentle fingertips along the length of it.

Petyr gasps at the contact, and he takes a step back. “Sansa...”

She grabs his shirt and pulls him back, until his thighs hit the side of the bed. Her hand is trapped between them, and he takes hold of her arms to steady himself. His cheeks are flushed, she realises, and when she turns her hand so the palm rests against his chest, his eyes flutter closed. She leans forward, to see better in the dim light, and he shudders again as her breath moves across his skin. “What did it feel like?”

He chuckles darkly at that. “Exactly how you’d think nearly being cut in half feels.”

She traces the scar again, bolder now. He is very pale, she thinks, but that is only to be expected since he is always covered, even back in the warmer climate of the south. He has relaxed slightly, she realises. “Mother should never have allowed this.”

He catches her hand then, his grip almost painful. “It wasn’t her choice to make, sweetling.”

Sansa wrenches her hand free. “And this isn’t yours. Not in here.” She places her palm on his chest, and he tries to step away from her again but she grabs a hold of his sleeve with her free hand and pulls him against her. It’s only then, when they are pressed together from chest to knee, that she realises he is hard in his trousers, and she releases him immediately and nearly bolts to the other side of the bed.

Petyr braces himself on the mattress with both his hands, his shirt hanging open, and he doesn’t look at her. “My apologies, Sansa, I didn’t mean to scare you.” His voice trembles a little when he speaks, and she shudders.

“I was too young to understand you back then. What you wanted from me.” She grabs the blanket and pulls it up to her chest, staring at him. “I understand, now.” He finally looks up at her, and she swallows hard at the heat in his eyes.

“Sansa, I would never hurt you. You know...”

“I don’t know anything any more!” She hates how weak her voice is. “I don’t know why I agreed to this marriage.” Her hands seize up around the blanket, and she feels tears well up in her eyes. “I don’t know why you’d want me.” And now she can’t stop the floodgates, the tears falling, tears she hasn’t thought she still had in her. Her voice cracks around a sob. “I’m broken.”

Petyr straightens, watching as she cries, before he sits on his side of the bed, keeping a careful distance between them. After a moment, he takes her hands in his, ever so gently prising them away from the blanket. She stares at him, the reflex to wrench her hands free of his grasp and push him away incredibly strong. “Sansa, I won’t pretend to understand what you went through. I couldn’t.” His lip twitches, and she senses that there is much he leaves unsaid here. “I expect nothing from you, sweetling. Nothing that you aren’t willing to give.”

She laughs harshly. “So if that doomed you to a few decades of this,” she pulls her hand free and motions at their bed, the space between them, at herself, “that wouldn’t bother you?”

He smiles his little crooked smile again. “If that meant spending those decades with you… Why not?”

She wants to hit him. Wants to rage against this apparent devotion to her, something he surely must be faking. Petyr Baelish doesn’t have a selfless bone in his body, so why should he tie himself to a woman he can never have, someone who has been broken beyond repair? It can’t be true.

Sansa shakes her head. “I’m sorry, Lord Baelish, I… I can’t.” She pulls her other hand free, pulls her blanket tighter around herself. Looks anywhere but at him. “I will send for the septon in the morning. We can have the marriage annulled, and...”

He leans forward and then he is kissing her, and Sansa forgets what she was going to say.

Three times he has kissed her now, she thinks dimly, so gently every time. He cradles her face in his hands, and when he finally breaks the kiss, she feels a little dazed. He doesn’t move away, his thumb caressing her cheek again, their breath mingling between them.

“I made you a promise, my love, and I keep my promises.”

“But...”

“No but, Sansa. I have no interest in having our marriage undone.” He keeps stroking her cheek, and Sansa can hardly bear the tenderness. “I’m a patient man, sweetling.” Another kiss, just a soft press of his lips to hers. “Sleep now. It has been a long day.”

She wants to protest. Wants to run.

But what he is offering her is too tempting. Not being alone. Having someone on her side. And so she slides under the blanket and lies down, watching as he ties his shirt closed again before he too lies back down once more.

Sansa closes her eyes when he blows out the candle, and listens to the sound of his breathing.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

It gets easier, after that. Her skin doesn’t crawl quite as much when he touches her, when he takes her hand as they walk through the castle. She doesn’t hide her night clothes beneath wide robes any more.

If she had to be honest with herself, it sparks a hint of excitement in her belly. Knowing he desires her, has done for years, and now he has her in his bed and yet – nothing. It is oddly reassuring.

It makes her feel powerful.

Chapter Text

3.

Samwell Tarly arrives one day, with Gilly and baby Sam. She has never met the man but Jon told her about him, about the girl and the child, and she welcomes them. He seems fidgety, and she knows the look on his face, the look of someone with a great secret inside of them. He asks to speak to Bran, and Sansa watches him go with a sense of unease in her belly.

Jon returns, and with him the Dragon Queen, beautiful with her silver hair and intelligent eyes. Shorter than Sansa expected. They ride in from White Harbour, ahead of her retinue, and Sansa and Arya exchange a knowing look when Jon helps Daenerys off her horse, his hands lingering around her waist.

The queen is friendly, greeting Sansa like an equal. Her words towards Petyr are decidedly chillier, and Sansa has to hide her smile. No doubt Jon told her all about Lord Baelish, and none of it is likely to have been particularly nice.

“Jon tells me you know my lord Hand?”

She steps aside, and the breath gets stuck in Sansa’s throat. Tyrion.

Petyr stiffens slightly by her side, and she nods. Tyrion is looking up at her, and she can’t quantify the emotion on his face. Her hands are trembling. “Yes, your Grace. We were married once.”

Apparently Daenerys senses the awkwardness, holding out her hand for Jon, and he leads her into the castle, her commander following. Sansa is about to turn and follow as well when Petyr’s hand on her arm stops her. “Why don’t you take a moment, sweetling. I shall go and show our gracious queen to her rooms.”

He leaves her there in the courtyard, looking anywhere but at Tyrion. Finally, he chuckles darkly.

“So you’re Lady Baelish now. Can’t say I saw that one coming.”

She has to smile then. “That would make two of us, my lord.”

He smiles with her, even though the frown doesn’t disappear. “Can I...” He shuffles his feet, walks towards her two steps, stops again. “Would you tell me… Is he good to you?”

There is so much doubt in his voice, so much guilt. Her smile becomes bittersweet, and she holds out her hand for him. His fingers are like ice. “None of what happened was your fault.” She squeezes his hand, and a muscle twitches in his cheek. She draws a deep breath. “He loves me.”

He always had the most expressive face, she thinks when his eyes widen in disbelief. “Forgive me but I find it hard to believe that Littlefinger is capable of loving anybody but himself.”

She laughs then, and he smiles. “I used to think so as well but… I see no reason to doubt him.” She stamps her feet, motions at the castle. “Would you come and have some mulled wine with me? I am most interested in what happened to you.”

The moment is broken, and they’re not an unhappily married former couple any more. As Tyrion begins his tale in front of the fire in her solar, she listens and wonders if maybe things could have turned out differently between them.

He doesn’t shy away from her questions. Did he really kill his father? Yes. Did he kill Joffrey? No. And finally…

“What happened to Shae?”

He stares into the fire for a long while, weighing his words it seems. His voice is very quiet when he tells her.

The rest of Daenerys’s company arrives, Lord Varys and Ser Jorah Mormont, and a tall, beautiful girl called Missandei who is the queen’s advisor, and the castle is finally bustling with life again.

She finds Jon in his rooms. He looks weary from travel but there is a quirk to his lips that she has seen often. Men in love all have that same silly, faraway look about them.

“She seems nice.”

He scoffs, takes off his cloak. “Doesn’t matter much, does it? She’s the rightful queen.”

“Maybe.” She watches him, the stiffness of his movements. “You saw our uncle.”

He nods glumly. “He died to save me.” His lip twitches. “Because I acted like a fool, he...”

“He’s been dead a long time, Jon.” She walks back to the door. “We need to think of the family we have left.” And then Arya walks in, and Jon’s eyes widen.

“Jon.” Arya’s voice is just a whisper, and there are tears in her eyes, and then she flies into his arms, and once again Sansa can’t help the jealousy bubbling up inside of her. Until Jon grabs her by the wrist and pulls her into the embrace.

There is a feast in the evening, and it feels better than she expected to see the hall filled once more.

She lets Petyr guide her to the high table when a rough voice makes her stop.

“I thought the woman was trying to be funny when she told me you got married.” She turns, and there sits the Hound, a tankard of ale in his hand. He’s looking at her curiously, and he even smiles a sarcastic little smile. “The little bird found herself a cock.” His words are harsh like always, but there is something in his eyes that makes her only smile in response.

“It is good to see you again, ser.”

He huffs and waves her away. “Told ya before, not a ser.”

Petyr purses his lips as he leads her to her seat. “Little bird?”

She smirks at him, lets him pull out her chair for her. “It’s what he called me back in King’s Landing.” There is an odd look in Petyr’s eye, and she pats his hand and turns to watch people arriving.

She sits beside Daenerys who proves to be very easy to talk to – when she can tear herself away from Jon, that is. He appears equally enthralled by her, and Sansa finds endless amusement in their attempts to be subtle.

Arya doesn’t sit with them. She is down below the salt, with the Hound and a boy with black hair and an easy smile, and she looks happier than Sansa has seen her since her return. Like the old Arya, who would throw pie at her and call her names.

The feast draws to a close, and Sansa finds the silver queen outside on the ramparts, her commander – Grey Worm, she called him – and Ser Jorah keeping watch from a respectful distance, and she goes to stand beside her. Daenerys looks up at her with a mild smile. “Lady Baelish.”

“Your Grace. I hope everything is to your liking so far?”

Daenerys nods gracefully. “It is all very different from what I am used to. The cold, most of all.” She motions at the night sky. “Dragons don’t do well in the cold, I’m afraid.”

Sansa can’t believe she didn’t see them before. She has heard stories of them, of course, but seeing them with her own eyes… “The tales don’t do them justice, your Grace.”

The queen watches fondly as the dragons fly lazy circles over the forest, like a mother watching her children play, and she points them out to Sansa. “Rhaegal and Drogon.” She takes a deep breath. “There was another. Viserion.”

“Jon wrote to me. Told me what happened.” She takes the queen’s hand and squeezes gently. “I’m very sorry. I can only imagine how hard that must be for you.”

Daenerys smiles sadly up at her before looking back to where the great beasts are flying, high in the night sky. “You’re very unlike your brother, Lady Sansa. Less direct.” She looks over at Sansa from the corner of her eye, her smile turning mischievous. “Better manners.”

Sansa chuckles. “We were raised very differently.”

“I can imagine.”

They watch the dragons in silence for a while, the sounds of the horses whinnying in the stable below and the snow falling quietly around them the only sounds. Daenerys has closed her eyes after a while, Sansa notices, with an expression of wonder on her face.

“It’s very quiet here. Not like Essos at all.”

“Lord Tyrion tells me you lived with the Dothraki. Surely their great grass sea is quiet.”

The queen laughs, and her knight gives a gruff chuckle from his post a few yards away. Daenerys beckons him over, and it’s Sansa’s first real chance to get a look at the man. Tall and serious, his face weather beaten, Ser Jorah cuts a striking figure despite his age, and from what Tyrion has told her, he is wholly devoted to his queen.

“What do you think, ser Jorah? Is the grass sea as quiet as the north?”

“Never, khaleesi. The grass is always moving, and besides, it is never quiet anywhere near a khalasar.”

Sansa is about to ask for a translation, the words meaning nothing to her, when Missandei appears behind them, a concerned look on her face. “Your Grace, Lord Stark wishes to speak to you. It appears to be rather urgent.”

The queen leaves with Missandei and her commander after thanking Sansa for her hospitality, and she instructs Ser Jorah to see Sansa safely to her rooms. It seems kind of ridiculous to Sansa as his last visit to Winterfell must have been decades ago, and she knows she is safe inside the castle’s walls. Still, it is nice to have someone look after her.

“Have you been with the queen long, ser Jorah?”

“Six years now.” He smiles wistfully. “Although I was away from her for some time, for many reasons.”

“How did you meet?”

“At her wedding.” He chuckles at Sansa’s look of surprise. “Her brother sold her to a Dothraki horse lord. They were married.”

“What happened to him?”

“He died.” He gets a faraway look on his face, and Sansa feels like an intruder all of a sudden. “She stepped onto the pyre, you know. Took her dragon eggs and followed him into the fire. And the next morning, when the fire had burned itself out, there she was, unharmed and holding the dragons.”

He’s in love with her, Sansa realises. He doesn’t just admire her, this slip of a girl who conquered the Bay of Dragons and united the Dothraki, he loves her. A dangerous thing for a man in his position.

“That must have been a sight to see.” He just smiles, and it’s all the answer she needs.

They reach her rooms then, and he stops her with a hand on her shoulder. “May I ask something of you?” She nods, and he takes a deep breath. “Watch out for your brother. He is a good man, with good intentions, but… We do stupid things when we’re in love. With what we’re facing, he cannot let himself get distracted.”

She nods, relieved that she is not the only one harbouring these fears.

The door opens, and Petyr stands there, one eyebrow cocked and his crooked smile on his lips. “I thought I heard voices.”

“Ser Jorah, you have met my husband, Lord Petyr Baelish?”

The knight doesn’t look particularly thrilled at the meeting as he nods at Petyr. “Lord Baelish.”

“Ser Jorah was so kind to escort me back.”

Petyr’s eyes narrow ever so slightly. “Yes, very kind indeed.”

Mormont huffs, nods at Sansa. “Merely doing my duty. Good night, my lady.” The nod directed at Petyr is curt. “Lord Baelish.” His steps echo down the hallway as he walks away, and Sansa allows Petyr to pull her inside.

He sniffs as he closes the door behind them, clearly annoyed. “You, my love, seem to have a talent for surrounding yourself with admirers who would gladly stab me in my sleep.”

She laughs as she unfastens her cloak and drapes it over a chair. “On the contrary, my lord.” He cocks his head to the side in question, and she grins. “I’m quite certain that ser Jorah would just as readily stab you when you’re awake.”

His lip twitches, and Sansa feels a twinge of terror in her gut as he reaches for her. “Why, you little...” He tosses her on the bed before she can react, and then he’s above her, and then he’s tickling her. She is so surprised she doesn’t move for a moment, and then she’s laughing, laughing until she’s screaming with it and trying to twist away, begging him to stop.

Finally, finally he does, half on top of her from trying to keep her in place. They’re both breathing heavily, and now it’s Sansa who reaches up, grasps the front of his shirt and pulls him down to kiss her.

It’s the first time she has initiated a kiss with anyone, and she feels slightly light-headed. She opens her mouth for him after a moment, and a shiver runs through her when Petyr moans softly against her lips. Cersei was right after all, she thinks. A woman’s body is her most powerful weapon.

He shifts his weight, and she can feel him hard against her thigh. Her first instinct is to push him away, and then she thinks, no. No, you don’t control me any longer.

Petyr notices the slight hitch in her breathing, and he pulls back, looking down at her. His eyes are pools of pitch. “Sansa...” His voice trembles, and she trembles in response.

She pushes him away with her palm against his chest, pushes herself up on her elbows. Her mouth is very dry, and she licks her lips. “My handmaiden in King’s Landing… She told me things. About men.” He is fighting a smile, she can tell, and she gathers her courage. “She said men touch themselves.”

Now he does smile, and she feels stupid. Like she’s a naive little girl. He takes her hand in his, gently runs his thumb along the back of it. “You mean their cocks.”

Seven hells, he should not be able to pull the rug out from under her like this with just a word, but she is a high-born lady, not some Flea Bottom whore. She nods curtly, and his smile widens a fraction.

“Men do that, yes.”

She is the Lady of Winterfell. She is a wolf.

“Show me.”

She almost laughs at the way he loses control of his face for a second.

She doesn’t laugh when he shows her.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

His body stops being a potential weapon after that. Seeing him like that, robbed of any semblance of control – it isn’t scary. Not in the slightest.

She doesn’t sleep at the edge of the bed that night, with her back to him. She still curls up around herself, but she watches him, her palm pillowing her cheek, as he lies next to her, catching his breath. The smile he gives her, soft and sleepy, makes something tingle in her belly, makes heat rise in her limbs.

“Was it how you expected it would be, sweetling?” His voice is raspy, hoarse, and a shiver runs down her spine.

She doesn’t answer. Doesn’t have the words. Petyr rolls to his side and takes her hand, brings it to his mouth, presses a kiss to her palm, another to the inside of her wrist. She shivers, and he does it again.

That is how she falls asleep: with Petyr holding her hand in both of his, his body no further than an arm’s length away from her.

Chapter Text

4.

Arya finds her at breakfast the next morning. “Jon asked to see us. Bran, too.”

“What about?”

Her sister shrugs and steals her slice of black bread, popping a piece into her mouth as she rises. “Let’s go find out.”

Jon stands at the window of their father’s solar when she enters, with his back to her. There is a rigidity to his shoulders that she has learned to associate with his distress. It’s something she has seen much too often on him.

Arya stops by the door, hands clasped behind her back. “What’s so urgent?”

“There’s something you need to know. It cannot leave this room.” Bran sits by the fire. He doesn’t sound as unaffected as she has grown used to, and it chills her to the bone.

Arya frowns. “Jon?”

“His name isn’t Jon. And he’s not our brother.” Bran looks up at them, an odd look on his face. “His name is Aegon Targaryen. He’s our cousin.” He looks over at Jon, and Jon’s hands curl into fists by his side. “And the rightful heir to the Iron Throne.”

It’s like a stone drops into her stomach, and she reaches for the back of a chair to steady herself. Even Arya seems lost for words for once.

“How? How can this be possible?”

Bran smiles one of his rare, sad smiles, and it hurts Sansa to watch. “Rhaegar didn’t abduct aunt Lyanna. She ran away with him. They married in secret.” He smooths the blanket covering his thighs, the most nervous gesture she has seen him make since he came back to Winterfell. “Aunt Lyanna was dying. She made father promise to protect Jon. To keep her secret.”

“Father lied.” Arya’s voice sounds hollow, and she’s staring at nothing with a sort of disbelief Sansa has never seen on her face before.

“No, he wouldn’t. He never lied about anything.” She doesn’t want to believe it. Can’t.

“To save the child of the sister he just lost? If anybody would, it would be f-… Your father.” Jon’s face contorts, as if he’s in pain, and Arya walks over to him and takes his hand, squeezing it. He takes a deep breath. “He said… He said he would tell me about her. My mother. When we left Winterfell, he said...” His voice cracks, and he falls silent.

Sansa’s mind is racing. “This… This changes everything. Jon, you have to...”

“I don’t have to do anything, Sansa.”

She stares at him, bewildered. “But you need to act. You’re a threat to her claim. If she finds out...”

“She knows. Bran told her.” He seems defeated, and Sansa almost feels bad for having to push him.

“And what is she going to do? Keep your secret?”

“I told her I have no interest in the throne.”

“And she’ll leave you in peace. Why? Because of your reassurance?” She scoffs. “Because she loves you?”

Sansa.” Arya steps between them, and Jon gives her such a look of contempt that she feels dirty all of a sudden.

“I kept quiet when you decided to marry Littlefinger, because he helped us and I thought I had no right to object even though I don’t know how you can even stand the sight of him after he sold you to that monster.” He walks over to the door, stops with his hand on the latch. “It was none of my business who you decide to share your bed with. Do me the same courtesy.”

She wants to apologise, but he’s gone.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

She finds Petyr in their solar, working as always, and she can’t believe the words that come out of her mouth. He looks equally stunned, but he puts down his pen and takes her hand, leads her to their bedroom. She crawls under the covers, only pausing to drop her cloak and kick off her boots, and curls up against his side. She cries, cries until there is nothing left in her. She cries for her parents, her brothers, for the aunt she never met. Cries for all the lives lost because of love, of all things.

Petyr holds her, strokes her hair. He doesn’t say a word, doesn’t ask why she cries. He lets her, and when she is done, he wipes away her tears and pulls her closer. It soothes her frayed nerves more than she thought possible.

“Do you want to tell me what’s going on, sweetling?”

She used to hate the endearment. It seemed… patronising. Overly familiar. Now she has grown accustomed to it. Expects it. Likes it, even. She is Sansa or Lady Baelish to everyone else.

She shakes her head, wipes at her eyes with the back of her hand. “I can’t.”

He doesn’t pry, and the gratitude she feels is absurd.

They stay like that, until her emotional exhaustion catches up with Sansa, and she falls asleep. Her hand is curled tightly into the fabric of his tunic, and the last thing she remembers is the press of Petyr’s lips to her forehead.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

It is well past midday when she wakes again, disoriented for a moment until she realises she is still in his arms. She blushes and starts to move away. “I’m sorry, Petyr, I didn’t mean to keep you from your work.”

He tightens his hold on her, gently pulls her back against him. “Do I look like I would rather be working?” His eyes are closed, and he smiles crookedly. “I’m not usually one for idleness but I find myself pleasantly distracted.”

She smiles despite herself and lets him hold her in place a while longer, listens to his heart beat beneath her cheek.

Finally Sansa pulls herself free, pushes herself up on her elbow and looks down at him. Studies his face, the lines around his eyes, the way his mouth twists up on the left side with his smile. She leans down, kisses the smile off of his face. He winds his arms around her, hums into her mouth, and his heart is hammering in his chest, beneath her palm.

A knock at the door pulls them apart.

The queen wants to see her.

Chapter Text

5.

Daenerys sits by the fireplace, a goblet in her hand. Her cheeks are rosy, and Sansa can’t tell if it’s from the heat or the wine. She doesn’t look up when Sansa enters, just continues to stare into the flames.

After what feels like hours, she speaks. “He told you.”

Sansa fidgets slightly, dreading where this is going. “Yes, your grace.”

Daenerys laughs, a laugh entirely devoid of humour. “’Your grace’. Not any more, Lady Sansa.” She finally looks up at Sansa, and it’s clear that she has had quite a bit to drink.

Sansa doesn’t look away, steadily meets the other’s gaze. “How did Bran convince you?”

Again, Daenerys is silent for a long time. Then, “When I was in Qarth, my dragons were stolen by the Warlocks. I went to get them back, and I had… visions. I saw the throne room in the Red Keep, in ruins and covered by snow. I saw my husband.” She grimaces, and her voice trembles. “And my son. My dead son. Your brother told me what he looked like, what his name was. There are two people alive who know his name, ser Jorah and myself.” She stares into her goblet for a long moment, then drains it before she looks up at Sansa. “I have seen many strange things since I left Pentos. A three-eyed raven is not particularly out of the ordinary.”

Sansa is silent, looks back at her calmly. Then, “Are you going to marry Jon?”

She looks stunned at the question, at Sansa’s boldness. Then she smiles, an utterly sarcastic smile. “Incest is outlawed in Westeros.”

“Not for Targaryens. Your grace.”

A heartbeat, and then Daenerys laughs, a real, full laugh. “You hold Cersei and her brother in such contempt, and yet you would have me marry my nephew?”

“I don’t hate Cersei because she beds her brother. I hate her because she is a monster. I hate him because he pushed my little brother out of a tower window. Both of them, because they created Joffrey.” She spits out his name like bile. “What they do in the bedchamber and with whom is no concern of mine.” Daenerys looks back at her with calm curiosity, and Sansa continues. “Jon… His time in the Night’s Watch has changed him. Hardened him. But he’s still very much the boy I knew, the boy who wanted to impress our father. To prove himself. He doesn’t want to rule. He didn’t want to be the King in the North, but he accepted because that’s what he does. He fights for what is right.” She motions at Daenerys. “And uniting the Seven Kingdoms is the right thing to do.”

“And you think our marriage would do that.”

She nods. There is nothing more to say.

The queen watches her a moment longer. “We’re very much alike, you know?” She studies Sansa’s face, cocks her head to the side. “How old are you?”

“19.”

The queen smiles gently. “19, and thrice married. Widowed.” She looks into the fire again, her fingers twitching in her lap. “I was 16 when my brother gave me to Drogo. 17 when he died.”

Sansa has a bitter taste in her mouth. “He loved you, didn’t he?” Daenerys nods, and Sansa smiles, without humour. “Then we have nothing in common, your grace.” She turns to leave, but the queen’s voice stops her.

“Lord Baelish seems to care a great deal for you.”

The sound of the door falling closed behind her echoes in Sansa’s head, all the way back to her rooms.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

She doesn’t see much of either Jon or the queen in the next days. They are busy planning, shut up in Jon’s solar with Tyrion, Ser Jorah and Ser Davos, and Sansa fights down her feelings of abandonment, of having been shut out. She keeps herself busy in turn, going over the ledgers of provisions so many times she feels she could recite them in her sleep.

Finally, she gathers her courage around her like armour and seeks out Jon. He is in the courtyard, inspecting the armour made specifically for Daenerys’s Dothraki and Unsullied. “Can’t put them in Westerosi armour and expect them to be able to fight,” ser Jorah had told her, and she could see what he meant when the men arrived, so heavily bundled up in furs they looked more like rather disgruntled bears than humans.

Jon is talking with Grey Worm, both men engrossed in their topic, when Sansa walks up to them, and it takes Jon a moment to notice her. The look on his face when he does stings more than she is willing to admit. But her mother taught her how to behave like a lady, and so she squares her shoulders. “We need to talk.”

Jon scoffs and turns away, dismissing Grey Worm with a nod. “Do we? I believe you’ve said your piece.”

She grabs his sleeve before he can walk away from her. “Don’t do this, Jon. Please.”

He looks down at her hand, quiet resignation on his face. So much like father, she thinks. “Say what you want to say, then.”

Sansa releases his arm, clasps her hands in front of her. “I want to apologise. For what I said. I was… overwhelmed.”

“You don’t trust her.”

She smiles, sadly. “How could I? I just met her. I don’t know what kind of person she is. What kind of ruler.” Deep breath. “But I trust you.”

He blinks at her, silent for a long moment before he takes her clasped hands and pulls her into an embrace. They stand like that, in the courtyard, brother and sister.

He smells like winter, she thinks, like the forest, like leather and furs and something primal and untamed and strangely comforting.

“Father would be proud of you,” she whispers into his hair, and his grasp tightens around her.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

That evening, she moves back into Petyr’s embrace in their bed, finds his heated gaze in the near-dark. “You had brothels in King’s Landing, didn’t you?” He nods, wets his lips. Sansa can’t look away. “How do they do it?”

He seems confused by the question. “Do what?”

“How do they… enjoy it?” She gestures at the ceiling. “I mean, they must enjoy it, no?”

Petyr chuckles as he releases her and rolls to his back. “Some do, I’m sure. The majority are just very good actors.” He runs a hand through his hair before he props himself up on his elbow, looking down at her. “Although that depends entirely on the wishes of the client. Some don’t expect their whores to get any enjoyment out of an encounter with them.”

She shudders, images of Ramsay popping up in her mind’s eye.

He notices how she stiffens beside him, and he lies down again, touches her hand gently. “Did your handmaiden tell you anything else?”

His tone is light, teasing, and she has to suppress a girlish giggle. “She did.” He raises his eyebrows in question, and she has to look away. “She… She told me about… how women touch themselves.” And now she is blushing, and he must think her completely ridiculous.

The room is silent except for the crackling of the fire, and she looks over at him from the corner of her eye. His eyes are closed, and for a moment she thinks he has fallen asleep, until his tongue slips out to wet his lips, and she realises with no small amount of horror that he’s probably imagining her doing… that.

He looks at her then, a small smile quirking his lips, and the heat in his gaze confirms her suspicion, and she blushes harder. “Did you try?” His voice is low, and it makes something coil in her belly.

She had indeed tried it after Shae told her, lying under her covers, her cheeks aflame with mortification. After, her fingers had been sticky and she felt strangely sore, and she didn’t understand why it was supposed to be so interesting.

But now, here, with Petyr looking at her with that dangerous look in his eyes, lying so close to her that she can feel his body heat against her skin – something throbs inside her, between her legs.

She turns her back on him and gives a non-committal hum. “Put out the candles, please. I’m tired.”

He chuckles softly before he complies, and she closes her eyes tightly, and wills her frantic heart to slow down.

Chapter Text

6.

Petyr has planted a seed in Sansa’s head, and when he is occupied elsewhere the next day, she crawls into their bed and pulls up her skirts to bunch around her waist. Her smallclothes lie discarded on the floor, and she sucks her lower lip in between her teeth and slides a hand between her thighs.

Here, in the safety of her home, with the faint scent of mint surrounding her, she can finally see the appeal after all.

She closes her eyes as her fingers move, and the memory of Petyr, of the look on his face and the sounds he makes when she watches him, rises in her mind, and her cheeks heat up. Her hand moves quicker, breathy little moans fall from her lips, and something coils more and more tightly inside of her, like a bubble ready to burst.

The door swings open then, letting in a rush of cold air and Petyr, and Sansa grabs the blankets and pulls them up to her nose, her cheeks on fire. Petyr smiles as he closes the door behind himself. “Tired again, sweetling?”

She rolls to her side, turns her back on him. Her thighs slide wetly against each other, and she blushes harder. “Just a little exhausted.” Her voice is muffled beneath the blanket, and Petyr sits beside her, gently placing his palm on her forehead.

“Do you feel alright? You’re feverish.”

She shakes her head, moves away from his touch. “No, I’m fine.” She tries to push down her skirts beneath the blankets, and Petyr’s eyes flick down at the movement. His mouth tilts up on one side.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure.” She tries to give some authority to her voice but she fails miserably, and Petyr slides down to lie beside her.

“You’re blushing.”

She does, even harder now, and she hides her face in the blanket. “I’m really not.”

He moves closer, until she can just feel the heat of his body behind her, breath whispering against the back of her neck. “May I guess at what you were doing?”

“I wasn’t doing anything.”

He tuts at her, the smile evident in his voice. “Oh, I think we both know that that’s a lie, my dear.”

She turns around, her embarrassment turning into anger. “I said, I wasn’t doing anything.”

He is much closer than she anticipated, her arm bumping into his chest as she turns, and the physical contact is like lightning in her veins. Petyr just watches her, silently, a calculating look in his eyes that only barely conceals the hunger in him.

Again, her instinct is to run. All the things Ramsay did to her… They taught her to fear what goes on between men and women, and this fear is so deeply ingrained in her, she can’t help but suspect that all of Petyr’s promises are lies. A trap. She knows better, knows that there are good men, men who would never harm her.

Still. Her heart beats faster, and the hair on the back of her neck stands on end, but she swallows drily. Licks her lips.

He watches the movement of her tongue, mirrors it. Looks back up at her. “May I touch you?”

She bites her lower lip. Nods, just once.

He reaches up, slowly, as though he’s trying to catch a bird, carefully so as not scare it away. She does feel like a bird, her heart hammering in her chest, telling her to bolt to safety. When he touches his fingertips to her cheek, slides his hand into her hair, ever so gently, the air rushes out of her lungs.

He leans forward, the tips of his fingers digging into her skull lightly as he kisses her, slowly, as if he has all the time in the world. Takes his time, until she is soft and relaxed, until her lips part for him, and he sighs into her mouth.

Finally he pulls back, looks down at her with dark eyes, and moves his hand down from where it’s still buried in her hair, down along the line of her throat and along her arm. Lets his fingers slide along hers, and she trembles beneath his touch.

He’s watching the path his fingers are taking, and she reaches up with her free hand and cups his cheek, pulls his head closer to her, murmurs against his cheek. “Show me how it’s done.”

His eyes close and his hand twitches where it holds her own, and there is that rush of power again. She watches his face when he pushes the blankets downwards, for she knows what he will see. Her physical wounds may have healed but the marks Ramsay put on her remain, and Petyr sucks in air through his nose when he sees. Bite marks on the inside of her thighs. Scratches, faint but still there.

“Oh, Sansa.”

That two words could convey so much meaning, she thinks as she reaches down and pulls up her skirts. He sucks in another breath, completely different now, as the tuft of red between her thighs is exposed, and he looks up at her with fire in his eyes.

She nods, and he reaches down, runs his palm along her thigh. Sansa shivers and looks at the ceiling with wide eyes, her hands fisted in the sheets beneath her.

“Tell me something, sweetling.” He keeps stroking her thigh, just a gentle back and forth. “Why do you think I pursued you the way I did?”

His voice has dropped, the accent that will forever mark him as a boy from the Fingers more pronounced, and she swallows heavily, tries to bring her nerves under control. “Because I looked like my mother.”

He chuckles softly, draws circles on her skin with his thumb. “In the beginning. I thought I had gotten a second chance. You were so innocent. So pliable.” His hand inches upwards, and it takes all her willpower not to close her legs, not to turn away. “But then you lied so beautifully, so distraught at not being ‘allowed’ to marry Joffrey...” He leans down, until his breath whispers along her cheek. “That’s when I knew. Really knew.”

Sansa makes herself look at him, and he is so close she can see herself reflected in his eyes. “Knew what?”

“That you would be queen one day, and that the Lannisters would all rot in the ground.”

His first touch is light, barely there, and she curls her toes into the mattress, her lip caught between her teeth. He watches her now, transfixed, and she grasps the sleeve of his tunic as he runs his fingers through the curls between her thighs before moving lower. Her legs tremble with tension, a flash of embarrassment coursing through her at the wetness he finds.

He brushes his lips against her jaw, softly. “I have dreamed of this for a long time, sweetling.”

She laughs, a high sound bordering on hysterical. “I wish I could say I was surprised.”

Petyr chuckles as he presses the palm of his hand to her mound, licks his lips when she moans, her cheeks flooding with heat. “Quite so.”

Sansa closes her eyes then, too embarrassed and still too anxious deep down, and instead focuses on feeling. On listening to herself, for the noises he coaxes out of her with deft fingers are like nothing she has ever heard from her own mouth. And slowly, ever so slowly, the pressure inside her builds again, just like before.

“If only you could see yourself,” he breathes into her hair as he slides a slim finger into her, making her draw up her knees, making her arch against his hand. He shouldn’t be able to make her feel this way, she thinks. Shouldn’t be able to give her such pleasure, after he has caused her such grief and pain.

But when he curls that finger inside her, strokes along some secret place inside of her, she gasps his name. When he kisses the point of her pulse fluttering at her throat, she spreads her thighs wider to give him easier access. And when he groans her name into her hair, when he curls his finger just so, the pressure inside of her peaks, and she comes undone with her back arching of the bed, with her breath catching in her throat, and her fingers digging into his arm so hard she thinks she must surely leave bruises.

Sansa blinks up at him, her blood still rushing in her ears, and he gently pulls his finger free. Brings his hand up for her to see, glistening with her wetness, and he catches her eye before he touches his finger to his lips, before he slides it into his mouth. Her eyes widen as his fall closed, and she feels the blood rushing to her head again with mortification, and he smirks crookedly down at her.

“The Dornish have a phrase for it. They call it the ‘little death’.” He runs the tips of his fingers, still wet, along her jaw, and she shudders. “Appropriate, wouldn’t you say?”

She can do nothing but nod.

Chapter Text

7.

They don’t talk about it. Sansa pretends it didn’t happen, and Petyr falls easily back into not speaking unless she gives him leave to do so.

She hardly does for a few days.

His eyes tell her everything she needs to know anyway.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

A raven arrives for Petyr one night, from the Vale. He climbs back into bed after thanking Maester Wolkan, and she sits up and lights another candle. Petyr breaks the seal and reads, a frown creasing his brow after a moment, and finally he crushes the paper in his hand.

“What happened?”

“Dark wings, dark words, indeed.” He drops the letter on the ground before he slides lower beneath the furs, and she moves closer, takes his hand. He smiles, and kisses her knuckles. “Do you remember Harrold Hardyng?”

“Harry the heir.” She nods. She met him at the Eyrie, a tall blond boy a few years older than her, rather too sure of himself.

“Harry the heir.” He chuckles darkly. “Apparently he took our dear Sweetrobin out for a ride, where the Lord of the Vale had one of his fits, fell off his horse and straight onto a stone.”

“That means...”

Petyr nods. “Exactly. Harry the heir no longer. Now he has become Harry the Lord.” He rolls to his back, his jaw working. “I have to go to the Vale.”

“You can’t.” She is surprised at the force behind her words, and so is Petyr. He cocks an eyebrow at her, and she pushes herself up on her elbow. “You’re brother-in-law to the King in the North now. You’re no longer Lord Protector, and Harry has no love for you. Going back now would be far too dangerous.”

He smiles then, softly, and he reaches up and gently runs his fingers along the line of her jaw. “Are you concerned for my safety, my lady?”

The earnestness in her voice surprises them both, and he stares up at her with something like disbelief on his face. Like awe, almost.

And something stirs inside Sansa, in her chest, something she struggles to explain even to herself.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Somehow, she has been sidelined, she realises. She is still present at the war council, her opinions still heard, but she is no longer Jon’s advisor.

It stings more than it should.

She watches Arya train, with Brienne and Gendry and the Hound, watches Tyrion and Samwell debate books, watches Jon and Daenerys who always stand just a little too close despite the revelations of who they are to each other.

Winterfell is as busy as ever, with the winter town, with Dothraki and Unsullied and all the issues that brings, and with preparations for war. She can’t decide how she feels about it. She knows it’s inevitable. The White Walkers will descend on them, will most likely kill every single one of them, but a part of her can’t stop thinking that finally, finally her family is in one place again. They’re whole, more or less, and she wants nothing more than forget about the dangers that wait beyond the castle’s walls.

And so she does what her mother taught her: she takes responsibility for the household while Jon and all the lords talk about war. She checks the ledgers – again – to make sure they will make it through the winter. She deals with the smallfolk and their complaints.

And when word reaches the lords of the Vale of Robin’s death, she reminds them of their oath, of their allegiance to Jon, “My cousin pledged house Arryn to the North. Has Lord Hardyng informed you that that has changed?”, and they send ravens south.

For all intents and purposes, she has become the true ruler of Winterfell and the North.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Two weeks after Daenerys arrives at Winterfell, the guards call them all down into the yard.

Jamie Lannister has arrived.

None of them are surprised when he reveals his sister’s betrayal. The South will not come to their aid.

“It was a gamble to begin with.” Jon rubs his eyes tiredly, and Daenerys takes his other hand, squeezing gently.

“We will make do.”

“It’s not like we have much of a choice, do we?” Ser Davos deflates slightly when the queen cocks an eyebrow at him. “Your grace.”

“What a merry bunch of misfits we make.” Tyrion toasts them with his goblet, and Sansa can’t help but agree.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

It grows markedly colder, and then a rabble of riders races into the courtyard, led by Tormund Giantsbane. Only a handful of the men they took to Eastwatch are still alive, Beric Dondarrion tells them as frightened whispers rise up in the great hall. Daenerys silences them with a gesture.

“How did they manage to breach the Wall?”

Dondarrion looks at his feet for a second, shifts uneasily. When he looks back up at Daenerys, Sansa feels a lump in her throat. “The Night King, your grace. He has your dragon.”

The queen becomes very still, her face a mask of disbelief. The silence in the room is so oppressive, you could hear a pin drop. “What… What do you mean?” Her voice trembles, and Jon shifts his weight in his seat, as if to reach for her. She pulls her hands into her lap.

Tormund steps forward, frowns deeply. “Turned it, he did. Blue eyes, like the dead.”

“He breathed blue fire, cold enough to freeze your soul. The Wall just… collapsed.”

Sansa starts when Petyr’s fingers close around hers. He’s staring straight ahead, and if she didn’t know him better, she’d think he was afraid.

The room descends into chaos as people start shouting, terror evident on their faces. Jon lets it go on for a moment before he rises, standing quietly, and soon the shouting dies down. He looks back at Sansa, and her heart sinks. He’s about to do something stupid, she thinks, and she sways forward as if to go and stop him. Petyr pulls her back, against him, as Jon starts to speak.

“We all know war. We’ve seen it, fought in it. We’ve all been hurt by it.” He looks around the room, from one man to the other. “We all knew this would not be like any war any of us have seen. This is old magic, far older than we can know.” He takes a deep breath. “There is no mercy in this war. No prisoners. There is only the dead, and the soon to be dead, unless we stop them.”

He looks back at Daenerys, and after a moment she rises as well. “Cersei Lannister will not send troops to help us. It’s on us alone, and I call upon all of you to gather your courage, and fight by my side.” A roar of assent, and she smiles weakly. “Death is not only a possibility in this battle, it’s almost a certainty.” She looks at Jon, and Sansa holds her breath.

“The North has done more for the good of the people than the rest of the seven kingdoms combined. Therefore, I am going to grant you your independence. A kingdom, ruled not by me, but by your own.”

More shouting, now of jubilation, and Sansa can feel Petyr’s grip on her tightening as Jon raises his hands to quieten the room before he turns and looks at her, points at her, and her heart drops into her stomach. “There must always be a Stark in Winterfell,” he says, with so much hidden meaning in his eyes. “The Queen in the North.”

Silence for five long heartbeats, and Petyr lets go of her. She can feel the heat of his gaze on the back of her neck, and she feels faint. And then Tyrion steps forward from his spot on the other side of the dais, sinks to his knee. “The Queen in the North!”

The cry is taken up by others, until it echoes throughout the castle’s courtyard, and Sansa reaches blindly for Petyr’s hand as she meets Jon’s dark eyes across the room, as he smiles softly.

Chapter Text

8.

There is no feast, no celebration. The impending battle looms too darkly.

She feels as though she’s watching herself from outside of her body, hovering above as she smiles and accepts her lords’ pledges of fealty, accepts the embrace Jon offers, the bone-crushing hug Arya bestows upon her. She exchanges a look with Daenerys, whose eyes show that she knows exactly how surreal this feels.

Soon after Jon’s announcement, Sansa excuses herself and lets Petyr take her back to their rooms. She doesn’t even take off her cloak, just sits on the bed and stares at her hands. Petyr leans against the door, watching her, his head cocked to the side.

After a long silence, he speaks, quietly. “The Queen in the North. Does that make me your king, my lady?”

She chuckles, because how does that work? “I suppose we’ll have to come up with a new title for you.” She finally looks up at him. “This isn’t what you had planned.”

He smirks shrewdly. “No, not exactly. I would be lying if I said it didn’t please me immensely.”

Sansa smiles and shrugs out of her cloak. “I suppose it really was inevitable, with Jon...” She catches herself, and Petyr raises a questioning eyebrow. “With Jon going off to fight,” she says and avoids his eyes. “Do you think they will get married, if we survive this?”

He smirks again. “They would be fools not to. They appear to balance each other’s faults.” She can see by the look on his face that he has not forgotten her slip up, and she rises to her feet, lets her cloak slide to the floor as she turns her back on him.

“Help me with my dress, please.”

A moment’s silence before he walks over to her and starts unlacing her with nimble hands, and Sansa tries to ignore the way her heart hammers against her ribs.

He works in silence, the rustle of fabric and the crackling of the fire the only sounds in the room. He carefully places her discarded clothes over a chair, one by one until she stands before him in her shift, and the heat in his eyes burns into her.

He offers her his hand, and after a moment she takes it and lets him lead her to lie on the bed. She shivers when he slides a gentle hand up her calf. He is always so gentle, she thinks, almost as though he is still afraid she’ll run from him, that he doesn’t have her after all.

Sansa sits up and cups his face with her hands, the same way her seems to always do with her, and leans forward, kisses him, slowly and softly. His stubble tickles the soft skin of her palm, and she finds herself stroking her thumb along his cheek, and she thinks that she could spend the rest of her days like this. Because this? Is simple, even if the man in front of her is anything but.

She feels heat rising in her veins, feels his skin heat up beneath her touch, and it doesn’t take long until he breaks the kiss and pulls back, looks at her with fire in his eyes, and Sansa falls back against the pillows. His voice is dark and full of longing, and it makes the hair on her arms stand on end. “There are ways other than words of swearing fealty to someone, sweetling. Allow me to demonstrate.”

She watches, wide-eyed, as he slides down on the bed until he rests on his belly between her thighs. Watches how he carefully pushes up her shift, as he removes her small-clothes, and the rush of her blood is a roaring in her ears.

Petyr looks down at her, at the place between her legs, at her cunt, and there is something like awe on his face. Like reverence. How foolish, she thinks, that men can literally be brought to their knees in pursuit of something as ordinary as a girl’s cunt.

He looks up at her again, and when Sansa blinks, he’s gone. Mossy eyes replaced by watery blue, precisely parted black and silver by unruly dark curls, and the gentle curve of a smile by a wickedly cruel grin, and Sansa screams and kicks and scrambles away. She almost falls off the bed but a hand wraps around her wrist and pulls her back, and she screams louder, she turns into a wild thing fighting to break free. She lashes out and her nails bite into skin, the smell of copper hits her nose, and the man lets go of her and gasps out her name, and when she blinks again, the spell is broken.

Petyr kneels in front of her, blood dripping off his hand where she has scratched him, and he’s staring at her, not with shock or disgust as she’d expect, but with pity and no small amount of guilt, and she bursts into tears.

He hesitates only a second, then he wipes his bloody hand on his tunic and reaches for her, ignoring her small whimper, and pulls her into his arms. She’s shaking in his embrace, tears streaming down her face, and she’s gasping for breath, her fingers digging into the fabric of his tunic, and even in her panic she can tell that Petyr doesn’t know what to do with her. After a moment he eases her down onto the mattress and covers her with the blanket before rushing from the room.

Sansa lies where he left her, and finally her breathing calms. She’s still crying, and after a while she curls into herself. Her throat hurts, and she stares at the dark crescents beneath her fingernails, red turning to black. She’s still doing that when Petyr returns, with Maester Wolkan in tow, and when the maester coaxes her mouth open and makes her drink something, she doesn’t resist. It doesn’t take long until her eyelids grow heavy, and she lets sleep pull her under.

Petyr’s face above her, the lines of it deepened with worry, is the last thing she sees.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

When Sansa wakes up again, she’s lying on her side, the early morning light peeking through the shutters. She feels… strangely light, as though all her crying washed something away. She tries a smile, and while it pulls at the skin around her eyes, it feels good.

Movement on the bed behind her, and then a warm body pressed to her back, an arm draped over her waist, a hand on her stomach. She sighs and lets herself be pulled closer, allows the embrace to tighten. Warm breath whispers over the back of her neck, and she closes her eyes.

“Did you really think he would be different?”

The blood in her veins turns to ice, and she lies motionless, not wanting to believe her ears. It’s impossible.

Ramsay – for it is Ramsay, pulling her flush against him – chuckles, his lips brushing against the shell of her ear. “Sansa, Sansa, Sansa. I thought you’d learned your lesson, dear wife.”

She tries to push his arm away but his grip is like a vice around her waist. “You’re not real.”

“Aren’t I?” He laughs and moves his hand to grab her breast, his fingers digging painfully into her flesh. “Does it matter? You’ll never get rid of me.”

She swallows heavily, tries to ignore the fresh tears that have sprung up in her eyes. “What do you want?”

He chuckles again, nuzzling her neck as he eases his grip on her breast. “To remind you of something. Two things, actually.” He slides his hand along her body, down her stomach, and she renews her struggle when she realises what he’s about to do. Ramsay just grabs hold of her neck with his other hand, holds her in place. There’s a snarl in his voice when he speaks. “One, that this,” he shoves his hand between her thighs, and even through her shift it hurts, “belongs to me.” She whimpers, tries to twist away from his hand. She only succeeds in pushing her bottom against his groin, and he groans against her shoulder. “You may call yourself Baelish now but that’s not what you are, are you?”

Sansa feels her face twist in anger. “You’re right. I’m a Stark,” and she elbows him in the ribs. For a moment, his grip on her loosens and she scrambles away as he catches his breath, but she doesn’t even make it to the edge of the bed before he’s on top of her, straddling her hips, his hand on the back of her skull pressing her into the mattress so she can hardly breathe. He laughs darkly, and the hard line of his cock against her bottom makes bile rise in her throat.

“Oh Sansa, you’ve always been a bit slow, haven’t you?” Ramsay rolls his hips against hers with a moan, and she whimpers again, her fingers fisting the bed sheet. “But that brings me to my second point.” He leans down, and she feels like he’s going to crush her. “He may speak to you with honeyed words and sweet promises but in the end, he’s a man.” He rolls his hips again, hisses against her ear. “Men usually only want three things, my dear wife. A roof over their heads, a full belly, and a pretty cunt to fuck.”

She freezes when she realises he’s pulling up her shift. She wants to buck him off, scratch his eyes out, fight him – but she can’t. She just squeezes her eyes shut and tries to ignore the way his fingers dig into her hip, the weight of his cock between her cheeks, how hot his breath is on her face when he leans down. “He couldn’t fuck your mother so he’ll settle for the next best thing. He doesn’t love you, Sansa.” He forces himself into her then, and she screams. Ramsay laughs and presses a sloppy kiss to her cheek. “No one does.”

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Sansa is woken up by her own scream. The room is dark except for the glow of the fire, and it takes her a moment to understand where she is. That it was just a dream, a nightmare.

The knowledge does nothing to change the fact that she can still feel Ramsay’s hands on her skin, can still feel… She shudders and pulls the blanket tighter around herself.

Movement in the corner, and her heart skips a beat before she realises it’s Petyr. He’s rubbing a hand over his eyes, then through his hair, and he blinks a couple of times before he focuses on her. He’s instantly awake, she can tell, and they stare at each other. A log cracks in the fireplace, and Sansa jumps slightly.

Petyr doesn’t move, just keeps looking at her. Then, “How do you feel?” His voice is hoarse from sleep, and she gives a half-shrug to hide the shiver that goes through her.

“Been better.” She pulls her knees up, winds her arms around them. “I… saw him. Before.”

His eyes look black in the dim light, she thinks, and his mouth tightens into a hard line. “I thought so.” He runs his hand through his hair again, a nervous gesture. “If…” He falters, looks away.

“If, what?”

“If I could undo it...” Petyr looks at her again, and something tugs at Sansa’s heart. There is so much pain in his eyes. He takes a harsh breath, looks at the fire. “I know how you feel.”

Her first instinct is to scoff, to ask him how he could possibly know, but the look on his face shuts her up. There’s a knot in her stomach as she watches his hand rise to his chest, to where she knows his scar is, and she remains quiet instead. Waits.

And then he tells her, his voice slightly unsteady, and she knows in her gut that he has never told this story to anyone. About the duel, again, how badly he was injured, and how her aunt Lysa cared for him. How she came to his bed when he was only half-conscious from the milk of the poppy.

He finally falls silent, and Sansa swallows heavily. “Is that why you killed her?”

Petyr gives her a crooked smile then and shakes his head. “No. I killed her because she was a threat to my plans.” His smile widens, and it’s a terrible, wicked thing. “It’s why I enjoyed killing her. Just like you enjoyed feeding Ramsay to his dogs.”

They stare at each other again, in silence, until Sansa pushes back the blankets on his side of the bed. He cocks an eyebrow, a question in his eyes, and she nods before she lies down.

The mattress dips beneath his weight, and when he has settled beneath the blankets, she moves closer, rests her head against his shoulder. He sighs, so softly, and Sansa smiles to herself.

Chapter Text

9.

When Sansa awakes – properly this time – she notices two things. One, that her arm is wrapped around Petyr’s waist, her face pressed to his back, and two, that she doesn’t mind. Not at all, she thinks as her cheeks flush slightly.

Her nightmare seems a distant memory as she listens to Petyr’s breathing, feels his heart beating beneath her palm. It’s… peaceful, and she wants to stay like this a little longer, for she knows what the day will bring. Goodbyes, most of them maybe – probably – final ones. She closes her eyes and buries her face between Petyr’s shoulder blades, willing the night to last just a little longer.

She must have jostled him more than she thought, as Petyr gives a sleepy groan, and he grasps her hand where it rests against his chest. “Sansa?”

“Did you expect anybody else, my lord?” She smiles, moves back as he turns to face her, her hand still in his. He smirks, rubs his eyes with his free hand.

“Cheeky.”

She laughs softly as she settles down again, rests her head against his shoulder, just like she did in the night. “Apparently I’m queen now. I think I can afford to be cheeky every now and then.”

He chuckles and squeezes her hand, and they stay like that, sharing each other’s warmth. The castle is slowly coming to life around them, sounds drifting up from the courtyard, and after a while, Petyr hooks a finger under her chin so she’ll look up at him.

“Are you ready for today?”

Sansa shakes her head, just a fraction. “I know they have to go, but...”

He lets go of her hand and raises his arm in invitation, and she scoots closer, lays her head on his chest. He strokes her hair, and a shiver runs down her spine. “But you’re afraid.”

She listens to his heart beat, stares at the shutters, at the sliver of light that creeps in through the gaps. “Aren’t you?”

His grip tightens, the tiniest bit. “Of course I am. Only a fool wouldn’t be. I want to run south with you more than anything.” He presses a kiss to her crown before he looks down at her. “But you, my love, are of the North, and I am yours to command.”

She stares back at him, and she feels like she could drown in the tempest in his eyes. His gaze flicks down to her lips, and she turns until she’s on her belly, propped up on her elbow with her palm over his heart. Her own beats thunderously in her chest all of a sudden, and she leans down and kisses him, kisses him until his arms tighten around her, until he moans into her mouth, until she again feels the heat he lit in her belly.

Sansa pushes back their blankets without breaking the kiss and rises to her hands and knees, and his fingers twitch on her waist when she moves to straddle him and pulls up her shift to pool around her hips, and again when he realises she’s bare underneath. He breathes her name against her lips, groans as she settles herself against him, and Sansa watches, fascinated, as he flushes, as his pupils dilate. His fingers dig into her, and she can tell she’s testing his self-control, so she plants her palm on his chest. His cock twitches against her, and again her instinct is to run.

“Sansa, please...”

It’s hardly more than a whisper but it runs through her like wildfire, fills all the little nooks and crannies of herself that she didn’t even know existed any more. It shouldn’t surprise her any longer but it does, every single time he lets her know how much he wants her, every time she sees how he denies himself what he could easily, so easily, take, because she wills it.

She rolls her hips against him, and his mouth falls open, so she does it again. And again. She pulls open the ties of his shirt, exposes the scar that he hides so adamantly, even from her, and when he lets go of her to cover himself again, she grabs his wrist and pins it to the mattress. His eyes flick to meet hers, a sort of disbelief in his gaze, and she smiles with another languid roll of her hips.

“Sansa...” Her name from his lips always sounds almost like a prayer, and she grinds against him harder as she leans down, as she kisses him. She can’t help but think of the girl she used to be, innocent little Sansa Stark who thought his kiss atop the Eyrie was the absolute height of wickedness. What would she think of her now, she wonders?

She’s breathless when she pulls back, looks down at him. He’s watching her with now undisguised desire, and she sits up, lets her fingers run over his chest, along his scar. He shudders beneath her, his free hand moving from her waist downwards, along her thigh. Sansa tilts her head and, with another slow roll of her hips, asks, “What were you going to do? Yesterday?”

It takes Petyr a moment to catch up with her words, with their meaning, but when he does, she has to suppress a giggle. His eyes widen, and then he smiles, rather like a fox that got into the chicken coop. “May I?”

She wants to know, she really does. But the thought of having him between her thighs like that again is unbearable, and she hesitates a moment too long, she knows. Until Petyr strokes his hand over her thigh, to her bottom, coaxing her up to her knees, and then he’s sliding down…

“Oh!”

It doesn’t take long at all until Sansa’s thighs are quivering from the strain of holding herself upright as he licks and kisses and suckles, as his hand slides underneath her shift to caress her back, feather-light touches that make her sigh softly. She has to hold onto the headboard to steady herself as her pleasure coils in her belly, and then Petyr moans against her flesh and she shudders, her nails biting into the wood of the bed frame.

His hands leave her hips, slide over her bottom, and she whimpers as he sinks a slim finger into her, as he intensifies his attentions on that one particular spot. She’s so focused on her own pleasure that it takes her a moment to notice the other sounds, and when she looks over her shoulder, heat rushes into her cheeks at what she sees.

Petyr has untied his breeches, has pulled out his cock, is stroking himself, and she feels herself clench around his finger at the sight, at the renewed reminder that she does this to him, that she reduces him to this.

She can’t look away. Simply can’t bring herself to look away. It makes her belly coil tighter, and when he takes her to her peak, it’s unexpected, makes her double over, makes her thighs clench around his head, forces a cry from her throat that she has never heard come from herself. It’s primal, almost inhuman, and she clamps her mouth shut over it so it ends in a muffled whimper.

Petyr groans against her again, the sound rumbling through her flesh and making goosebumps break out on her arms, and she looks over her shoulder again, watches him stroke himself to his own completion, and when he loosens his grip on her, she collapses to the mattress, her heart still thundering in her ears.

“What was that?” She stares up at the ceiling as she lies there, catching her breath, and Petyr props himself up on his elbow, smirks down at her. His chin, his beard still glisten with her juices, and she wonders fleetingly what it would be like to kiss him now, when he must taste like her.

“There are a number of names for it, one cruder than the other.” He strokes his fingers up her belly, up her arm. “Personally, I’m rather taken with what they call it in Highgarden.” Finally his fingers reach her jaw, and he turns her towards him gently, leans down. His breath brushes over her lips as he speaks, and her eyes slide closed. “Eating the peach.”

Sansa bursts into laughter. She can’t help it. Petyr looks at her with a slightly exasperated look on his face as she shakes with laughter, but then he too smiles, that crooked little smile that she’s come to….

Her laughter dies abruptly in her throat, and she ducks out from under his arm. The floor is cold enough to freeze her bare feet in place but she hurries out of the room and into their solar under a pretence. One that he rather obviously doesn’t believe for a second, but he lets her go regardless, and Sansa closes the door behind her, her heart hammering against her ribs.

Chapter Text

10.

The courtyard is filled to near bursting, men and horses everywhere, and it takes Sansa a while to find Brienne. Her knight had been so anxious to go and fight while at the same time reluctant to leave Sansa and Arya behind, but Sansa knows why the woman wants to leave. The looks she has been sending into Jamie Lannister’s direction haven’t been exactly subtle, and Sansa is almost certain that her attention has not been entirely unwelcome.

She finds her by the smithy, readying her horse with Podrick, and right beside her Jamie Lannister, and Tyrion and their sell-sword, Bronn. A merry bunch of misfits, indeed.

Their goodbyes are a little awkward, with Brienne never having been particularly comfortable showing emotions, and Sansa doesn’t know how much she can show, now that she’s queen and Brienne is still, technically, just a high-born lady. Podrick gives a low bow and switches between ‘Your Grace’ and ‘my lady’ at least four times in the three sentences they exchange, and she smiles and tells him to watch out for Brienne, and his earnestness only endears him more to her. Bronn gives her a wide grin and asks for a kiss, for good luck, which earns him a dark look from Tyrion, but Sansa just chuckles and kisses his cheek. His stubble tickles, and he laughs and gives her a low bow.

She should say something to Jaime Lannister. Anything. But she can’t make the words leave her mouth, and so she gives him a curt nod and turns away. She doesn’t get very far, though, for his hand catches her by the arm.

He doesn’t tell her anything she doesn’t know already – that he’s sorry, so very sorry, for everything he’s done, and she believes him – but there’s something in his eyes that softens the rage she still feels every time she looks at him, and just like with Bronn, she leans forward and presses a kiss to his cheek. “Protect her, ser Jamie.” He looks stunned when she draws back, and she smiles. “Protect her with your life. Just like she’ll protect you.”

Petyr meets her at the entrance to the Great Keep, falls in step beside her. She can’t quite meet his eyes, and she knows he notices, annoyingly perceptive man that he is.

“Jon asked to talk to you.” He gives her a sidelong glance. “Bran and Arya, too.”

He accompanies her to Jon’s room, and when she hesitates at the door, he cups her face in his hands and brushes a gentle kiss against her lips before he leaves.

Her siblings are already there, and it still takes conscious effort to not count Jon among them. He is talking to Bran, quietly, while Arya stands by the window, her hands clasped behind her back. Jon turns when she enters, and a strange sort of quiet descends on the room, only broken by the noise coming in through the window, the neighing of the horses and the shouts of men readying themselves.

Jon is tense, understandably, but she has to think back to before they all left Winterfell to remember a time where he didn’t look like he was carrying the world on his back. Arya has a similar look in her eyes when she turns around, and the three of them move forward almost as one, meeting in the middle of the room, arms going around each other.

“Don’t you dare die, Jon,” Arya hisses, “don’t you dare.”

He huffs a laugh, squeezing her tighter. “I’ll do my best, little sister.”

Sansa opens her mouth to say something, but she doesn’t know what to say. What could she possibly tell him? “Good luck,” doesn’t quite cut it. Jon just shakes his head. “You can do this, Sansa.”

Her smile trembles, and when they finally part, when Jon leaves to make his final preparations, Arya pulls a handkerchief from somewhere, and only then does Sansa realise that she’s crying.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

All those staying behind gather atop the East Gate. Sansa watches, watches the dragons circling over the endless throng of men and horseflesh, Northerners and Unsullied and Dothraki and Wildlings, and she knows her grip on Petyr’s hand is too tight. He doesn’t complain, just gently returns the pressure of her fingers.

She keeps watching until the last Targaryen banner is lost in the swirling snow, then turns to Arya. “We need to get ready.”

And so the castle readies itself for a siege no one is sure will come, and all hope won’t. Barrels of pitch are placed around and on top of the walls, the archers’ quivers filled almost to bursting, braziers put up every few yards. The residents of the winter town are moved into the godswood, the Broken Tower, the First Keep, even the glass gardens. The castle has never been this full of life, Sansa thinks, as she watches children chasing each other around the weirwood, their laughter making all the adults stop and stare for a moment, their ability to forget the danger they’re in simultaneously like a ray of sunshine and a punch to the gut.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

The temperature drops even more once night falls, the sky pitch black by the time they finally make it back to their chambers. Sansa is a Northerner born and bred, but she’s shivering harder than she remembers ever shivering, and Petyr pulls her to stand by the fireplace as he undoes her laces, and she breathes a sigh of relief as she slides under the blankets and furs, as her feet find the warm brick at the end of the bed.

Petyr follows soon after, and Sansa takes his hand and pulls him closer, lets him drape an arm over her waist, pull her against him. Shared body heat, her mind tells her, completely rational, but her body remembers his touch, remembers what he did that morning, and heat that has nothing to do with furs or hot bricks floods her limbs.

She is too wound up to sleep either way, and she stares at the wall, listens to Petyr’s breathing.

“We’re all scared, sweetling.”

She startles, his voice a murmur by her ear, and she turns in his arms, finds his eyes in the near dark. He looks tired, as tired as she feels, and she breathes, “I’m done being scared,” into the space between them before she leans forward and presses her lips to his.

His arms wind around her, and there is a fire in her belly. He must feel it, she thinks as she slides her fingers through the silver at his temple, as she sighs into his mouth. She kisses him, and it feels like the first time, like it’s something new. She… truly isn’t scared, not of him, anyway. Her hand wanders, down the line of his throat, tracing the edges of his scar through his tunic, and he whispers her name against her lips.

She feels bold. Fearless. She wants him, she realises, wants him to touch her, to show her what he knows, something she would have considered ludicrous a very short while ago, but she does. And so she takes his hand in hers and guides it between her thighs, and the shiver that runs through him at that stokes the flames inside her.

Again, her name repeated like a prayer, over and over, and his voice cracks when she pulls up her shift, when she lets him slide those clever fingers between her legs. And when he curls them into her, his thumb on the little bundle of nerves that makes stars pop behind her lids, she breathes his name into his neck, and he goes very still beside her.

There is a particular silence in the room, like the moment between two heartbeats, and Sansa realises that it’s the first time she has called him by his name without prompting from him. Until now, she has skirted around it, has called him ‘Lord Baelish’ and ‘my lord’, even ‘husband’ on occasion. Never Petyr, though she hasn’t thought of him as anything else in a long while.

And another thing that she realises: nobody calls him by his name these days. No one. His titles are all he has, and the thought makes something inside her ache.

Her hands are cupping his face now, his stubble prickling against her palms, and she kisses him, softly, carefully, she whispers his name into the space between them, “Petyr, Petyr,”, again and again like a secret only they know about, and he makes a sound like a wounded animal.

Again, her hands wander, stroke down his neck, along his arm and down to his hand that is still buried between her thighs, and it’s not very far at all to move her own to his hip, and before she really knows she’s doing it, she’s cupping him in her hand, and he flinches, as though struck by lightning.

“Sansa, you don’t...”

She shuts him up with her lips on his, and he groans, and she moves her hips on his fingers, moves her hand against him, and there is that rush of power again. She draws back, so she can look at him in the half-light provided by the fire, and she couldn’t look away again if her life depended on it. His eyes are wide, disbelieving, and she spreads her legs wider.

“Please, Petyr.”

It’s enough. He twists his fingers inside her, hits that spot that makes her back arch and her toes curl, and she comes apart with a long moan, and he buries his face against her throat as he spills into his trousers.

Sansa lies staring up at the ceiling, catching her breath, and despite all that has happened, all that is about to happen, she feels light. Safe.

Loved.

Chapter Text

11.

Sansa is woken not by noise, but by silence. A silence deeper than she has ever heard, and certainly deeper than should be possible in a castle full of people. No animal noises, no people talking in the courtyard. Just this silence, pressing on her ears.

Petyr is still asleep next to her, one arm slung over her waist, and she feels herself smile, feels her cheeks warm, despite the unease in her belly at this strange lack of noise. She rolls to her side, presses her back to him, and he murmurs into her hair, pulls her closer.

She never expected this kind of… closeness. He still visibly restrains himself, never touches her unless she gives him permission to do so, but when he does, it’s never absent-mindedly. It’s all he concentrates on then, and it makes her feel rather peculiar. Maester Luwin had a glass from Pentos that made things look bigger than they really were, and that’s what she feels like, like he can see every part of her when he looks at her like that. It ought to scare her. Ramsay also had a way of looking at her like that, like nothing but her existed in that moment, and it terrified her because it would inevitably lead to pain and suffering.

Petyr’s touch is gentle, and careful, and she likes it.

She likes it.

As she lies there, in the quiet, with his arms around her, his breath warm against her neck, as though the world were made up of nothing but this room, she feels that now familiar heat inside of her, that strange sensation of want curling in the pit of her stomach. She turns in his arms, and he frowns in his sleep, his grip tightening around her again once she settles against him once more. He is a very different sort of man than the ones she grew up with. He is, technically, a Northerner as the Fingers are part of the North, but he may as well be from a different land for all the differences between him and men like her father. He is… gentler, somehow, with his expensive clothes and his soft hands, and she knows that men like the Umbers or the Karstarks laugh at him. Sansa doesn’t care. She knows his apparent softness hides a mind as sharp as any blade, something that is arguably so much more useful.

It takes hardly any effort at all to lean forward, to press her lips to his.

Petyr stirs, and when he wakes, it’s with a soft sigh that sounds like her name, and he returns her kiss, slides his hand up her back and into her hair. She inches closer, until they are pressed together from chest to knee, and she feels him grow hard against her thigh, and the desire in her flares, hot and bright.

She remembers Theon then, a long time ago, how he told them about the brothel in the winter town, about the whores and the sounds they would make. Robb had laughed and Jon had glowered at him, and when Theon said, “They like nothing better than a thick, hard...”, Jon had punched him on the arm, hissing, “Not in front of the girls!” at him. Sansa remembers blushing furiously, and refusing to believe a word of what Theon said. Nobody could want any of that, could they?

But now she lies here, kissing this man, and she can feel the wetness growing between her thighs. He drags the tips of his fingers over the back of her skull, and she whimpers against his lips at the shiver that runs down her spine. Her own hands are trapped between them, and Sansa splays them over his chest, over where she can feel his scar through his tunic, and now he whimpers into her mouth.

Surely he can feel the fire burning inside her, she thinks as she moves closer still, as she presses, unconsciously, her hips against his. There is a sudden desperation in her, an acute sense of not just wanting, no, one of needing, and a part of her is petrified by the mere idea of wanting to do… that. Has she forgotten the pain already, that part of her seems to say, the tears and the blood and the despair? Are sweet words and a few gentle touches really enough to make her forget all the things that men to do women? To little girls like her?

And as he coaxes her lips open with his tongue, as he licks into her mouth with a moan, she thinks, no, she hasn’t forgotten. She’ll never forget, of that she is certain. But the things Ramsay did to her – that can’t be all there is, can it? Shae always seemed rather fond of it, for one.

And besides – she’s not a little girl any more. She’s a queen.

Petyr makes a small noise of discontent when she breaks the kiss and moves out of his embrace, but the question of, “What’s wrong?” dies in his throat when she kneels and pulls her shift up, over her head. The cold crawls up her skin and her nipples pebble, and Petyr draws in a sharp breath. She looks down at him; he looks like a man dying of thirst, and she is the oasis. His hand twitches at his side, and she nods, slowly, and he raises it, cups her breast, carefully. Sansa bites her lower lip, sucks in a breath when he rubs his thumb over her nipple, gently.

He watches her with an intensity that makes her squirm, and she leans down and kisses him, while her hands move to his waist, as she undoes the laces on his breeches. She knows she’s blushing as she pulls them open, and she hides behind her hair as she turns her head away, to look. Something in her throbs as she reaches for him, as she carefully wraps her fingers around his cock, and Petyr groans. He grabs her by the wrist and stills her hand, trembling, and Sansa looks up at him again. His eyes are black in the dim light, his lips parted.

“Are you sure you want this?”

She has to commend his self-control, asking her this even as he twitches in her hand, and she squeezes gently. He bares his teeth at that, groans, and she leans forward again until she can feel his breath against her skin.

“I’m sure.”

Chapter Text

12.

They are staring at each other, her answer ringing in her own ears, and finally Petyr lets go of her wrist, brings his hand to her face to cup her cheek.

“I don’t deserve you, sweetling.”

She leans into his touch, smiles softly. “No. You don’t.” Sansa sits up again and moves to straddle him, and he is staring up at her, his hand sliding along her throat, down the valley between her breasts, as she braces herself with her hands on his shoulders. She aches, an emptiness inside her that she could never have imagined. It almost feels like her body has developed a mind of its own, a mind that knows only one purpose.

It scares her even as she is nearly breathless with need. She has never felt like this before, has never had any true interest in being bedded. Ramsay certainly did his best to quash any desire she may have felt towards him.

But that’s not what is happening now, is it? She’s the one doing the bedding. This isn’t happening to her, she initiated it. And she couldn’t undo it, wouldn’t want to, she thinks as Petyr’s hands come to rest on the swell of her hips, as he looks up at her with dark eyes, and she slowly moves herself along the length of him. He licks his lips, and it’s like sparks go off inside of her, like the fireworks she once saw in King’s Landing, and she keeps moving, rolls her hips against him until she realises that she’s moaning and whimpering, and a blush rises in her cheeks.

“Sansa...” His voice is almost a growl, his eyes half-lidded as he watches her take her pleasure from him, and she whimpers again. “I’ve waited a lifetime for this, my love.”

And she knows she shouldn’t like hearing these things, knows his obsession with her is at the very least strange, but oh, it feels so good to hear him speak like that. She leans down and kisses him, one hand cupping his face, and he rubs against the little bundle of nerves as she moves, and she gasps his name into his mouth. His fingers dig into her flesh, her hips twitch forward, hard, and she buries her face in his neck as lights pop behind her eyelids. He guides her, with gentle hands, until she stops shaking, and when she can finally look at him again, there is a hunger in his eyes that makes her insides clench in something very much like anticipation.

Petyr moves a hand to the back of her head, kisses her with a gentleness that belies how hard he is beneath her, and she sighs against his lips. He kisses along her jaw, down her throat, breathes her name and whispered “My love”s into her skin, and she lifts her hips and slides a hand between them, takes hold of his cock. His breath stutters as she guides him along her folds, and she grabs her courage, now while she’s still in that post-orgasmic haze, and slowly, ever so slowly, takes him into herself.

It takes surprisingly little effort, she thinks, and before she can over-think what she’s doing, he’s all the way inside her, and his mouth twitches. “Gods, Sansa.” His hands go back to her hips, and she starts to move, slowly, the same gentle roll of her hips as before, and she curls forward, hides her face from him as tears spring up in her eyes, tears of relief that there is no pain, just a dull sense of discomfort, overshadowed by the pleasure coiling in her gut. Petyr kisses her crown, runs a hand up her back, and she can’t contain herself and sobs into his chest. He stills, his fingers curling around the back of her neck. “Are you alright?”

Sansa doesn’t stop, keeps moving atop him, but he doesn’t let her get away with it. His grip on her hip tightens ever so slightly, and Sansa draws a breath before she looks up at him. There’s a line of worry between his brows and a question in his eyes, and she leans forward and kisses him until he relaxes beneath her. “I’m fine,” she breathes into the space between them before she wipes at her eyes and smiles tremulously. Petyr raises his eyebrows at her, a doubtful look in his eyes, and she huffs a laugh. “I am. I promise.”

He wants to believe her, she can tell, and so she lifts her hips and sinks down again, slowly, so slowly, and his eyes flutter closed with a bit-off groan. “Sansa, I...”

She sits up, wincing slightly, and guides his hands back to her hips. “Help me, Petyr. Please.”

His eyes snap open and he stares up at her, his eyes impossibly dark, and finally he complies, gently guides her movements as her pleasure mounts, and Sansa whimpers. They find a rhythm, and Petyr slides a hand between her legs. Sansa gasps, digs her nails into his chest, and moments later, she tumbles over the edge, a roaring in her ears, and then he pushes her off of him with a groan, his seed splattering against her thigh.

She lets herself fall backwards onto the bed, staring at the ceiling as her heart slows down again, a peculiar warmth in her chest.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

The world is white.

It snowed during the night, and the castle is covered by fresh snow nearly two feet thick. It dulls her senses, and now she understands the quiet she heard that morning. Snow has a special way of dampening the senses, every Northerner knows that. Everyone seems cowed by it now.

Twelve people died in the night, she is told, four adults and eight children. “Could be worse,” Ser Davos says in that no-nonsense drawl of his, and secretly she agrees.

She breaks her fast with Tyrion, after Petyr excuses himself. Despite the war, financial obligations await, and he kisses her cheek before he leaves them to it. It isn’t until Tyrion clears his throat and gives her a pointed look that she realises she’s been smiling the whole time, and she flushes as she seats herself at the table. They eat in silence for a while, until finally Tyrion puts down his goblet.

“I hope you won’t find me impertinent,” and he smiles softly as she snorts an unladylike laugh at this, “but are there any… developments I should be aware of? As Daenerys's hand?” She looks back at him blankly, not understanding what he could be alluding to, and he sighs. heavily “Are you with child?”

Sansa is certain she resembles one of the bright red southern apples, blushing furiously, and she shakes her head. “No, I’m… Why do you ask?”

He looks at her for a long moment, and she fidgets in her seat. “You look happy,” he finally says, with a strange expression on his face that she can’t identify, and she swallows tightly before she answers.

“Do you think I would be happy if I had to bring a child into this world? Now?” Because by the old gods and the new, the thought terrifies her for so many reasons.

He shrugs, slides off his chair and walks over to the fireplace, turns his back on her. “I don’t know, Sansa. Would you? With your new husband?” His voice is dripping with a bitterness that catches her off-guard, and she feels breathless. Finally, his shoulders slump and he turns back to her, looks at her, and she has to swallow around a sudden lump in her throat. “I apologise. That was uncalled for.”

“I… I understand.” And she does, but it doesn’t stop the lightness she felt earlier from turning into lead in her stomach.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

The warriors have been gone a week when Ser Davos bursts into her solar, his face twisted in anger, and Petyr’s hand twitches towards the dagger she knows he keeps in his desk. He relaxes – minutely – when Varys rushes into the room a second later, putting himself between them and Davos with a little bow in their direction.

“Your Grace, your Highness,” and Petyr still puffs up ever so slightly when somebody addresses him like this, “your presence has been requested at the South Gate. A… visitor has arrived who should like to speak with you.”

Sansa exchanges a look with Petyr, and then they follow Varys, Davos falling in step. After a moment, he heaves a sigh. “I apologise, your Grace, for my entrance. I was… overcome with emotion.”

“I take it you know this visitor?”

“We both do.”

And Sansa knows who is waiting for her at the gate. “Jon banished her, didn’t he?”

“On pain of death.” Davos is almost vibrating with rage, and Sansa stops him at the steps down into the courtyard.

“I will need you to calm down, Ser. She knows what awaits her, so I’m sure she has a reason for coming here. Let us hear her.”

Melisandre of Asshai, it turns out, is soft-spoken and humble, not at all like Sansa remembers her. The woman makes no apologies for the things she has done, knows that there is no softening Davos’ heart towards her. His hand rests on the hilt of his sword, and his eyes are hard. Sansa is certain he only hears half of what the woman is saying.

“I have been to Volantis, your Grace, to consult with my sisters.” She looks… older somehow. Weary. They all do, Sansa thinks, herself no exception. “The Lord of Light grows stronger every day, and I cannot help but suspect that your brother and the queen joining forces is the cause of this.”

“Lord Snow banished you from the North. Why did you come back here? Surely not just to tell us this, when a raven would have sufficed.” Petyr almost lounges in his chair, rather too at ease in Sansa’s opinion, but it’s an effective look. Nonchalant.

Melisandre smiles. “Lord Snow may yet require my assistance in this fight, your Highness.” Sansa doesn’t like the way the woman emphasises Jon’s name, what she insinuates, and she pushes herself to her feet.

“We shall postpone this discussion. We have more important matters to attend to. You, Lady Melisandre, can stay for now,” she silences Ser Davos, who splutters indignantly, with a wave of her hand, “until my brother returns. I would hear his advice on what shall happen with you.”

Nobody objects to this, although Ser Davos looks rather like a beet, his face dark red in his rage. He storms from the room, Varys bowing to Sansa and Petyr – and that must sting, Sansa thinks, after the two of them were equals in King’s Landing for so long – before he leaves as well, and when Melisandre has been led away by two guards, Sansa sits on the edge of her desk and rubs her eyes. “Why in the seven hells anybody would want to rule is entirely beyond me.”

Petyr chuckles as he gets to his feet, and after a moment she hears the lock click, and then he is before her, cradling her face in his hands. “Heavy is the head that wears the crown.” She huffs a laugh, and he kisses her, gently. “Are you alright?” he asks after a moment, his thumbs tracing the lines of her cheekbones, and she winds her arms around him and pulls him closer, hides her face in the crook of his neck.

“I’m… I don’t know how I feel. This waiting for news...”

He kisses the shell of her ear, her neck, her jaw. “Let me help you pass the time, my love.”

And when he hitches up her skirts and sinks to his knees in front of her, Sansa doesn’t object as she would have mere weeks ago. She slides her fingers into his hair and leans back against the desk, and when he has taken her to her peak, when her heart is hammering in her chest, she tugs until he stands again, and the look on his face when she pushes aside his tunic and undoes the laces of his trousers makes heat swell inside her.

She comes apart once more, with his cock deep inside her and her legs wrapped tightly around his narrow hips, and Petyr curses into the crook of her neck, and Sansa laughs.

Nothing can touch her now, she thinks, no matter what happens next.

Chapter Text

13.

Another week passes without news. More people freeze in the nights, nights that incredibly grow ever colder, and Sansa wishes she could hide beneath her furs, in Petyr’s arms, hide from the harsh reality waiting for her outside their bedroom door.

But reality comes knocking, always, and it is with no small measure of regret that she rises every day to face her duties as a queen, when she would rather give herself over to the attentions of her husband.

She flushes slightly, her pen hovering over the page where she had been writing, an answer to the harbour master at White Harbor, and a smile tugs at the corners of her mouth. Once she had taken that step, had allowed him inside her, something fundamental had changed between them, though she can’t put her finger on what exactly. And now it seems like the memory of his hands, his lips on her are the only thing getting her through the day.

Arya, who is standing by the window with an apple in her hand, snorts, and Sansa raises an eyebrow at her. “What?”

“Nothing.” Her sister shrugs, tosses her apple into the air and catches it deftly. “I was just thinking, if only you could see your face.”

Sansa’s hand twitches towards her cheek almost reflexively, and Arya smirks. “What’s wrong with my face?”

“You’ve got that look.” She turns the apple over in her hand, brings it to her mouth. “Of someone in love,” she says before she pushes herself away from the wall and bites into the apple, and Sansa feels the blood rush to her face.

The door falls closed behind Arya, and Sansa sits staring sightlessly for a long time, her heart fluttering in her chest, until Petyr walks in, lips curled in a crooked smile, and Sansa realises that, gods have mercy on her, Arya might be right.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

That evening, she turns away when Petyr joins her in their bed, and after a moment’s hesitation, he settles on his side of the mattress, and Sansa curls in on herself, the way she would during her first nights with him. A log cracks in the fireplace, and she jumps, chastising herself immediately. Why is she so skittish? Nothing has changed.

Except everything has changed.

When she accepted his proposal, back when she was still raw and angry and lonely, she considered their marriage a political one. He had wanted her for a long time, Sansa knows, maybe from the first moment they met, and she never returned his affections, not even for a moment, not even when she felt a gratitude towards him unlike anything she’d ever felt. When he’d saved her from Lysa, Sansa could have kissed him from sheer relief, but there had been nothing beyond that.

And now there is a flutter in her belly when she thinks of him, of the way his eyes soften when he looks at her, of his mocking smile and his clever hands, and she has little choice but admit to herself that Arya, stupid little Arya who wouldn’t have understood subtlety if it hit her in the face with a brick – ah, but that was Before, wasn’t it? - , that her sister has seen right through her, has seen her heart even when Sansa herself can’t.

The blankets rustle as he shifts, and she can feel the heat of his body against her back. “Sansa.” She hums non-committally in response, pulls the furs tighter around herself, and he leans closer, until his breath ghosts over the back of her head. “What’s wrong, sweetling?”

“Nothing.” The lie tastes bitter on her tongue, and she squeezes her eyes shut. “I’m just… It’s all so much.” That, at least, is the truth.

He moves infinitesimally closer, and then he slides a careful hand to rest on her hip, bends his head to brush a gentle kiss against the shell of her ear, and she feels as though she might burst. “The dice have been thrown, my love. Now all we can do is wait for them to fall.”

Sansa is being torn asunder. She wants to push him away, wants to recreate the barriers that existed between them before, yet at the same time she longs to find solace in his body, in his love for her, and it leaves her reeling. She whimpers, and Petyr slowly moulds himself to her back, wraps an arm around her waist. He finds her hand and entwines their fingers, and Sansa starts to cry. She expects him to shush her, to try and stop her tears, but he just holds her and lets her cry.

And she does, cries until she can hardly breathe any more, and when Petyr hums against her neck, she feels a calmness settle over her. She is empty, a hollow behind her breast, and she wipes away her tears with the sleeve of her shift and turns in his arms.

She shouldn’t. Shouldn’t rely on him like this, bind herself to him like this, but she looks into his eyes in the half-dark, meets his calculating, too intelligent for his own good gaze, and Sansa realises she wants to fill that hollow inside her, and fill it with him.

She surges forward and catches his mouth with hers. Petyr hums against her lips, and with the taste of the salt of her tears on her tongue, Sansa tugs open the laces of his shirt, of his trousers, and he lets her. There is a sense of smugness about him, she thinks for a moment as she sits up and catches his eye before she pulls her shift over her head, but then his hands are on her, his thumbs teasing her nipples into tight peaks, and she grabs hold of his collar and pulls him up to kiss him again. He groans into her mouth, his arm going around her, holding her to him.

Every kiss, every touch, is like a drop of water, filling the emptiness inside her, drowning out her doubts and fear, and when he coaxes her to lie down, she complies, whimpering as he kisses and licks his way down her body. Her legs fall open for him, and something flutters inside her when he sighs, when he leans down and kisses the scars Ramsay left behind, as though he could erase them, replace them with gentleness, with his love. Finally, he bends his head to her cunt, and she cards her fingers into his hair, helpless beneath his attentions.

Sansa comes apart with his name on her lips, and he moves to kneel between her legs after, kisses her with her juices still on his tongue, and she tugs him closer with a whispered, “Please.”

There is that smugness again for half a second, mixed with a great deal of disbelief still, as she has never allowed him to have her like this, and he kisses her again, with a fierceness that scares her for a heartbeat, but then she slides her hand down between them and guides him to her entrance, and he slides into her with a groan that curls her toes into the mattress. She wraps her legs around him, and as he begins to move above her, there is a steady chorus of “I love this man” running through her mind, and she laughs, simply because it’s so utterly absurd.

But, she thinks, maybe a bit of absurdity is exactly what she needs in this time of dread, and she kisses him, murmurs his name against his lips, and when his hips stutter and his breath grows ragged, she thinks, let Arya think what she will. This is all that matters.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

And then, on the next night, Sansa is pulled from her bed by the sound of great wings, and shouts from the courtyard. Petyr catches her by the door before she can run towards the noise, pressing her cloak into her hands. Then he follows her.

More shouts, and torches being lit as the East Gate is thrown open. Outside she sees Drogon’s eyes reflecting the firelight as he paces, and then there is Jon, and in his arms…

He collapses to his knees, exhaustion ageing him beyond his years. Daenerys slides to the ground, her face pale and lifeless, and only then does Sansa see the blade in her chest. It glows, a cold, icy blue, and the queen’s clothes around it are stiff with frost. Ser Davos appears beside them, and he sucks in a breath before he grabs the closest guard and shoves him in the direction of the First Keep. “Get the red woman. Now!”

Jon’s hands are fisted in Daenerys’s cloak, and he hardly seems to notice what is happening around him, so intent on her in his fear and exhaustion. Sansa, however, can’t stop herself, she pulls his cloak off his shoulders, her hands searching, and when they come away coated in blood, she yells for Maester Wolkan.

Commotion at the gate, and there is Beric Dondarrion, half carrying Jorah Mormont, the knight’s left side dark with blood. It takes Sansa a moment to process what she sees, his arm looking odd in some way in the flickering torchlight, until she realises that most of it is gone, hacked off below the shoulder. Her stomach drops at the sight, and when the Maester appears, he looks between the knight and Jon before he mumbles an apology to Sansa and rushes to tend to Mormont.

She wants to be angry at being ignored like this, but she can’t. She looks at the bloody tracks the men leave behind in the snow as they rush into the Guards’ Hall, and she finds herself sending a prayer to the Stranger, to be merciful.

Moments later, Melisandre comes running, the ruby at her throat catching the firelight as she drops to her knees beside Daenerys, and for a second, there is confusion on Jon’s face, then recognition, and finally something very much like hope. “The Night King,” is all he says, and Melisandre nods.

“You know what this means.” She fixes him with a meaningful look, and Jon breathes a weary sigh even before she speaks. “Only life can pay for death, Jon Snow.”

It takes Sansa a moment to decipher the meaning behind her words, and she gasps out a, “No!”

Melisandre gives her a mild smile. “Fear not, my lady. Your brother is safe. He has paid his price already.” She looks at Jon, something passing between them that Sansa doesn’t understand. Then, the red woman pulls Jon’s dagger free and turns it around in her grip, places the tip at her breast. “I am destined to die in this cold country one way or the other. Let it be to bring her back.”

There is stunned silence for a moment, until Dondarrion steps forward, the furs he’s wearing over his armour stained dark with Mormont’s blood, and gently takes the dagger from her. “I don’t think it is your time yet, woman. I, on the other hand, am long overdue. The Lord of Light brought me back time and again. Let me repay him.” He looks at Jon, imploringly, until the younger man nods, almost imperceptibly.

They bring Daenerys’s body to her rooms. Jon allows no one inside but Melisandre and Lord Beric, and Sansa finds herself waiting outside, wide-eyed, with Petyr and Tyrion, all of them in their nightclothes. There is a crease line on Tyrion’s cheek from where his face was pressed into his pillow, and Sansa stares at it to distract herself from the terror in her chest.

She doesn’t know what she expects. Thunder, maybe. For the sky to darken. Instead what happens is… nothing. The snow continues to fall silently, the clouds don’t change, the sky stays the same murky grey.

Finally the door opens and Melisandre steps outside. Her face is drawn, the lines around her eyes more pronounced. She looks at them in silence before finally stepping aside, and they spare her hardly a glance as they enter the room.

Daenerys lies in her bed, pale as the sheets beneath her, her breath slow and even. Asleep. Jon sits beside her, staring at the steady rise and fall of her chest. The blade made of ice is gone.

In the corner is a body, covered with a sheet. Dondarrion. Sansa can’t tear her eyes away.

“I died, too.”

Jon’s voice is barely above a whisper but they all look at him with different levels of confusion, and Sansa’s heart is in her throat when he looks at her. There are tears in the corners of his eyes.

“I was murdered at Castle Black. Stabbed. This boy… He stabbed me in the heart. I was dead, for days.” It’s almost like watching him wade through a swamp, with the way he’s forcing out the words, and Sansa moves to his side, takes his hand in hers. His is cold as ice. “She brought me back. Davos made her bring me back.” Now the tears spill over, sliding down his cheeks, and something breaks inside of her at the sight. “I shouldn’t have allowed this.” He looks at Daenerys again, his face twisting with an emotion Sansa can’t define. Then he looks up at her, and her grip on his hand tightens. “There’s something wrong with me since I came back, Sansa. It’s like there’s a hole inside of me, and nothing can fill it. Some part of me is missing.” He looks back at the woman in the bed, this queen who looks like she will fade into nothingness, and his voice breaks. “I’m so selfish, Sansa. I should never have done this to her.”

Sansa sinks to her knees, his hand still clasped in hers. She can feel Petyr’s gaze on the back of her head, knows Tyrion is watching them with a look of shocked disbelief, and she cups Jon’s cheek with her palm and makes him look at her. He looks defeated, more tears sliding down his face, and she shakes her head. “You’re not selfish. She would have done the same.” She laughs, a shaky little laugh, and pulls his hand against her chest, her own eyes swimming with tears now. His fingers are still like ice in her hand, against her skin through the thin fabric of her shift, and she shakes her head gently. “We’re all broken, Jon. In one way or the other, there’s a hole in all of us. All we can do is help each other fill it.”

His expression crumbles then, and he pulls her against him, and then he’s sobbing into the crook of her neck, and when Sansa meets Petyr’s eyes over Jon’s shoulder, there is an understanding in his gaze that takes her breath away.

All her life she was taught that family was connected to blood, to tradition, to a name.

None of that matters any more, she thinks as she holds this man that she still thinks of as her brother in her arms, as his tears drench her shift. Her family is twisted and broken and made up of ill-fitting pieces, and she has no choice but learn to live with that. None of them can get through this on their own, she thinks.

Winter is here, and she thinks of what her father used to say. The pack survives.

Sansa fully intends to survive this.

Chapter Text

14.

It takes some time, but finally Sansa convinces Jon that he needs sleep, that his wounds need seeing to, and when Missandei arrives, sleep-tousled and pale-faced, a look of quiet dismay on her face when she sees Daenerys looking so small in the bed, and then proceeds to assure him that she will keep watch, he lets Sansa lead him away. Petyr follows them outside, frowning, and Sansa knows his mind is whirring. She knows hers should be as well but mostly, she feels numb. Overwhelmed, and so she just nods when he excuses himself to go look in on Mormont.

Jon lets her guide him to his room, lets her take off his cloak and his leathers, and only protests weakly when she tugs at his shirt after she sees the blood stains on it. He allows her to pull it over his head, watches her face, and Sansa steels herself. That doesn’t stop the barely there, “Oh,” when she sees his scars, and Jon turns his head away. Sansa can’t remember exactly when she last saw him shirtless, he can’t have been older than 10 back then, maybe when it was unseasonably warm one year and they all went to a nearby lake, him and Robb racing each other to the water. He had been flawless then. Now… Her hand hovers over the line above his heart before she redirects it to the wound on his shoulder, then to the one on his arm. He winces, and Sansa pushes him to sit. A maid is sent for fresh linens and water is set to boil, and Sansa busies herself with lighting candles, mostly to fill the now awkward silence.

When the maid returns, she brings needle and silk thread as well as the cloth, and Sansa realises that, with Maester Wolkan occupied with Ser Jorah, stitching up Jon’s wounds falls to her, and a small, slightly hysterical laugh escapes her. Jon looks up at her, confused, and she gives a half-shrug. “I had to think of Septa Mordane, and how she always praised my needlework.”

He nods, understanding now clear in the way his mouth hardens for a moment, and he turns so the light is better for her to work. Sansa sets to it, and tries not to gag at the first press of needle through flesh.

“I let the Wildlings come south. That’s why they killed me.” Jon seems to hardly feel the prick of the needle, and Sansa’s hand stills when he starts speaking. Has he ever told anyone about this, she wonders? “They called me a traitor, and they murdered me, and when I came back, I hanged them for it.”

She forces her hands to continue their work, to be steady. “They deserved it.”

The smile on his lips is grim, and bitter. “The boy who gave me this,” his fingers glide along the jagged line over his heart, and a shiver goes through Sansa, “was barely older than Rickon.”

Sansa’s heart seizes up at the name, but she manages another shrug. “Haven’t you learned yet that age doesn’t matter in this world? If he was old enough to kill his brother, he was old enough to die for it.”

He looks at her for a long moment, something in his eyes she can’t identify, and then he turns away to look at the fire instead, and Sansa finishes her work in silence.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Finally, Jon is asleep, and Sansa slides out of his room silently, although she’s quite certain he wouldn’t wake to a whole pack of direwolves howling beside his bed. The castle is eerily quiet, a wholly different sort of dread having gripped its inhabitants since Jon’s arrival, and Sansa makes her way into the courtyard. Drogon has taken to the air again, she sees, flying anxious, tight circles above her head, and she whispers, “She’s alright,” into the icy wind tugging at her cloak.

The Guard’s Hall too is quiet, with everyone having been woken when Jon came back, and she finds Maester Wolkan dozing in a chair next to Ser Jorah. The knight looks half dead, she thinks, pulled into the deep sleep of the milk of the poppy, but there is a sort of determined set to his jaw even in sleep, and Sansa hopes he’ll pull through. The Maester tells her as much when she shakes him awake gently, and she instructs him to keep her informed should anything change.

Something tickles the back of her consciousness when she steps out into the courtyard again, a sort of pull, and when she looks towards the East Gate, Ghost is there, limping slightly but otherwise seemingly unharmed, and Sansa pats her thigh, even though what she wants to do is bury her face in his fur and cry. But Ghost is Jon’s wolf, and she leads him into the castle and to Jon’s room, and when the big wolf curls up by the side of the bed with a tired huff, she closes the door and heads back to her rooms.

Petyr is sitting on their bed, on top of the sheets, his lap covered in parchment, and he is fast asleep, his chin resting on his chest, and he looks so peaceful for once that it makes Sansa want to cry for all this war has cost them. She drops her cloak where she stands and crawls into bed next to him, shoves the parchment off his lap and onto the floor, and buries her face in the fabric of his tunic, crying softly into his stomach, and he wakes with a start.

“Sansa?” He tries to tug her up but she resists, and his voice takes on an edge of concern. “What happened? Are you alright?” A pause. “Jon?”

Her sobs turn into laughter after a little while, and she rolls onto her back, her face hot with laughter and wet with tears, and when he looks down at her with utter confusion, she only laughs harder. I will be alright, she thinks, and grins up at him.

Chapter Text

15.

Sansa wakes with a start only a few hours of fitful sleep later, disoriented. The sky is light outside the shutters, and Petyr is still sleeping beside her.

She stares at the ceiling for a long while, before she forces herself out of bed.

The great hall is filled to bursting, but she’s only half listening. Small issues need discussing, incredibly – rationing, sleeping arrangements, fights between the small-folk – and Sansa knows it needs to be dealt with but her mind is very much elsewhere.

Jon was still asleep when she rose, the exhaustion of the night having caught up with him. Daenerys, too, is still asleep, with Missandei and Tyrion keeping watch.

No word from their army, and it makes Sansa want to scream.

Her weariness goes bone-deep, and she realises it must show on her face when Varys leans towards her and suggests she take a break, that she doesn’t need to be here for these matters, and she musters a grateful half-smile.

She returns to her solar, tries to concentrate on the letters piled high on her desk, fails miserably. All she wants to do is crawl back into bed and pretend. Pretend that she is 13 still, that her parents are alive, that the raven announcing the king’s arrival never came. How different things would be.

And suddenly, with a vengeance, it occurs to her that the man who set all these things in motion, who is to blame for it all, shares her bed. Kisses her oh so sweetly, and all of a sudden Sansa can’t breathe. She knows this, has known it for a fact since the Eyrie when her aunt Lysa confessed to poisoning her husband at Petyr’s behest, but only now does it hit her how many consequences this act has really had.

She jumps to her feet, and there is a roaring in her ears, a terrible pain behind her breast, and she can’t breathe, there is no air in the room, and she stumbles over to the window, throws open the shutters. Snow drifts down, lands in her hair as she drags air into her lungs, and she thinks for a second, What a spectacle I must make.

The door opens without a knock, and she whirls around, that roaring still in her head, and the confused look on Petyr’s face – for it is Petyr, of course it is – seems to stoke the flame in her belly.

You.” She doesn’t recognise her own voice, and Petyr stills, and Sansa stalks towards him, pushes him with all her might so he knocks back into the door. “This is all your fault!”

There is a calculating look in his eyes, before he goes limp, caught between her and the door. “Yes.” She steps back, lets go of him, and he drops to his knees before her.

Sansa stares down at him, at his bent head, and the palm of her hand tingles, as though she had slapped him. She is still so angry, so very angry, but the way he yet again accepts her anger and whatever punishment she might hand him – it disarms her.

“Stay there,” she hears herself say, and then she leaves him, through the door into their rooms, the door falling closed behind her heavily, and she gasps for air.

Gods help me, she thinks.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

She accompanies Jon, later, to see Daenerys. The queen is weak, confused, disbelieving when they tell her what happened, until Jon tells her about the Lord of Light, until they bring in Melisandre.

There is more planning, more strategies, until they have to admit to themselves that there is really only one strategy worth thinking about: fight with all they have. They fortify the castle as best as they can, arm even the smallfolk, and then they wait.

Sansa fills the rest of the day with visits to the women and children huddled in the godswood, and a visit to Ser Jorah who, to everyone’s amazement, has already woken from his drug-induced stupor. Sansa is not surprised when Maester Wolkan tells her about the first thing the knight said upon waking.

“She is alive, ser. Alive and well,” she tells him, and only at that reassurance does he relax, finally, his eyes drifting shut again.

And when she returns to her solar during the hour of ghosts, she almost falls over Petyr, still kneeling by the door, and her heart jumps into her throat.

She offers him her hand after a long moment of silence, and pulls him to his feet, and when she helps him undress, his movements awkward and stilted after staying on his knees for so long, he says, “I’m sorry, Sansa,” and she can only nod in reply.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

More days pass, a constant tension gripping hold of everyone, an anticipation. Daenerys and Jon keep to themselves, and it falls to Sansa to keep things going. Arya is by her side now, more often than not, a silent shadow, calm and confident, so different from little Arya Underfoot that it still baffles Sansa. She longs to know what happened to change her sister so fundamentally, but she knows its not the right time to ask.

The list of the fallen grows when the rest of their army finally drags itself back to Winterfell, and Sansa can scarcely wrap her head around it. Nearly half of the Dothraki, gone, a third of the Unsullied. Half the Wildlings. Grey Worm rides back through the gates with cloth covering the eye he lost, and Missandei throws her arms around him, tears rolling down her face, as soon as he has slid down from his horse.

Tyrion comes to her, a day later, with an expression on his face that she can’t place, and when he tells her of the plan, she is rendered speechless for a long while.

They gather in the godswood, only those that Jon and Daenerys would consider their inner circle. There is no virgin’s cloak, only a repurposed Targaryen banner which swallows the light of the torches, appearing almost black as Ser Jorah leads Daenerys to the heart tree. His mouth is set in a hard line, one Sansa is certain is not caused by the pain of his still healing wound.

“Who comes to claim her,” he asks, after he is done with all her titles, and Sansa’s throat tightens when Jon steps forward.

“Jon Snow.” There is a long pause, and Sansa realises she’s holding her breath, just like Arya behind her. Jon looks over to her, gives her one of his sad little half-smiles, and she nods. “Born Aegon Targaryen,” he continues, and a curious silence descends. “Son of Rhaegar and Lyanna, rightful heir to the Iron Throne. Who gives her?”

Mormont’s eyes are wide as he stares at Jon, and Sansa can see a muscle twitch in Tyrion’s jaw, and she steps forward. “Ser Jorah?”

He startles, turns his gaze to her, then looks back at Jon. There is something very close to anger in his eyes. “Jorah, of House Mormont.”

Sansa steps into the space between them and holds out her hand to the queen, whose eyes are just as wide as Jorah’s, just as surprised at Jon’s public admission. “Your Grace, do you take this man?”

Daenerys tears her eyes away from Jon, takes a breath. She puts her hand in Sansa’s, lets her lead her forward. “I take this man.”

Jon steps forward, accepts her hand when Sansa places it in his. “And do you take her for your wife?”

“I do,” he answers, and Arya steps forward, the bride’s cloak of House Stark cradled in her arms, and Jon takes it and places it around Daenerys’s shoulders as Sansa steps away.

“Then I declare you husband and wife, one flesh, one heart, one soul, now and forever.”

And then, when Jon has led Daenerys away, back into the castle, all hell breaks loose.

Chapter Text

16.

Why must men always shout when they’re angry, she thinks as she sits in her solar, watching Mormont yell at poor Samwell Tarly, watches Davos push between the two men, trying to calm the knight down (and failing miserably), watches the dismayed look on Tyrion’s face. He found a goblet and pitcher somewhere, and he’s clinging to them like a drowning man to driftwood.

Sansa sits, silently, Arya on her right, Petyr seated on her left, and she listens. Ser Jorah, it’s clear, is not just angry about the union, he’s mostly angry about being kept in the dark, and Sansa can’t blame him.

She also listens to the Northern lords who were present at the wedding, muttering amongst themselves, and her eyes narrow when she realises they are now questioning her claim, given that Jon is Lyanna’s son, and oh, if she has to think one more time about standing up for herself because she happens to have a cunt instead of a cock, she is going to scream.

There is a lull when Ser Jorah has apparently shouted himself hoarse, and she seizes the chance. “My Lords,” she says, quietly, and every head turns in her direction, “the six kingdoms now have a king and queen. Queen Daenerys granted us our independence, if you recall.” She catches Yohn Royce’s eye then, his voice having been loudest amongst those questioning her, and he looks away, clearly uncomfortable. “The North has always been strongest when a Stark wore the Winter Crown.”

“But he is a Stark, isn’t he?”It’s young Lord Umber who speaks up, timid as one would expect from a child of his age. There are murmurs of assent, and she exchanges a look with Arya.

“He is a Targaryen, Lord Umber. My aunt and Rhaegar were married by a septon, a legal marriage in the eyes of both gods and men.” She lets her gaze wander over the men before her, a challenge in her eyes. “I am the oldest child of Eddard Stark. Would you have me bend the knee to Daenerys, after she has already given us our freedom?”

It’s cheap, too easy. Northerners are made of iron, strong-willed, but these men in front of her are old and brittle, and it takes little effort to break them. The name Stark still means too much in the North, even though a voice in the back of her head whispers that technically, she’s no more a Stark any longer than Jon is.

She watches the men file out, finally, takes note of who makes their way to the Great Hall and the feast, who storms off to their quarters. Watches how Ser Jorah, despite the hurt still evident on his face, crosses the courtyard and steps into the Great Hall, to be with his queen. It reminds her too much of the sad songs, of knights and their ladies, of doomed love, and she closes the shutters.

Petyr winds his arms around her waist, presses a kiss to the soft spot behind her ear. “It seems I have underestimated the loyalty you Northerners have to names, my dear.”

“Have you?” Her voice holds just a touch of sarcasm, and she can feel him smiling against her neck.

She lets him take her to bed, lets him undress her with careful hands, conscious of how close to the end they are. What end, she is not sure, but if they are all going to die, she wants to have known as much of his love as she can, because in the end, isn’t this what separates them from the enemy?

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

In the end, the second Battle for the Dawn is fought before the gates of Winterfell, in the place where her brother died, where Jon nearly died fighting Ramsay. Sansa watches, anxiety roiling in her stomach as she watches the Night King’s army approach, the wind clawing at her cloak, as she ignores Petyr trying to lead her off the ramparts. She is the Queen, and these are her people, and she will die with them, if it comes to that.

The battle is long, and brutal, the living taking heavy losses despite their dragon glass and Valyrian steel, and Sansa finds herself muttering the southern prayers her mother taught her, and after a moment all those who surround her who hold to the faith of the Seven join in, their voices ringing across the courtyard.

The dragons are fighting far overhead, the pale shape of Viserion hardly visible against the sky, and Sansa watches how, finally, Drogon plunges his teeth into the skin of his brother’s wing, how Viserion plummets towards the ground as he loses the air, crashing to the earth with a scream that chills her to the bone, burying both humans and walkers underneath him. Drogon and Rhaegal follow, and Sansa wishes she were closer, that she could see what is happening when the dragons touch down.

Melisandre appears beside her then, looking weary, her eyes on the dragons as well, her lips moving silently, and Sansa knows that the woman is praying to her red god.

Another scream that dies in a gurgle that carries even over the din of the fighting, when Drogon rips out Viserion’s throat.

And then she can see the flame springing to life, where she knows Jon and Daenerys must be, and moments later, it is all over.

The walkers fall dead, the Others burst into glittering shards of ice, and an eerie calm descends over the field, before the cheering starts.

Sansa turns to Petyr, her own relief – and, frankly, disbelief – mirrored on his face, and he pulls her into his arms. “It’s over,” he murmurs, his hold on her bruising.

There’s a commotion at her back, and when she turns, she finds Melisandre on the ground, her hands moving weakly over the jewel at her throat, and now Sansa witnesses the magic of the red god as the priestess seems to age before her eyes.

Ser Davos bounds up the stairs, the look of triumph on his face quickly replaced by confusion as he takes in the scene, and Melisandre waves him over as she pulls the necklace free from her throat. “Burn it,” she croaks as she places it in his hand, and then she’s gone, her body crumbling like one burnt, and with the next gust of wind, that too is gone.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

There is no celebration. Too many have fallen, too many were maimed, and there is simply no time, the abled-bodied too busy with clearing the wreckage, with collecting the dead, caring for the injured.

The list of the fallen on Sansa’s desk keeps growing, going from two pages to seven, to a full twelve after just two days. Jon’s face remains stoic for most of it, until he finds his friend Ed Tollett, and he crumples the paper in his fist.

Gendry, too, is among dead, and Arya doesn’t leave her room for three days, and when she emerges, her face is still and entirely devoid of emotion.

Pyres are built on the field before Winterfell’s gates, and the stench of burning flesh lingers for a sennight, but despite all of this, things return to a semblance of normal frighteningly quickly. People need to be housed and fed, animals need taking care of, and even though the mood is subdued, small pockets of laughter pop up around the castle, and it doesn’t take long for Sansa to come upon lovers hiding in alcoves on her nightly walk around the castle.

It is decided that they will no march on King’s Landing now, not with the dragons injured and their army depleted so, and Sansa is glad for it. She can tell Daenerys wants to go, wants to take the throne, and while she shares the sentiment that Cersei needs to be taken off the board sooner rather than later, she has learned enough about military tactics to know that that would amount to suicide.

And then, there is a man at the gate, asking for her sister, a man with red and white hair, and when she asks Arya who he is, she smiles enigmatically, for the first time since the battle, and says, “No one.”

More people flock to the castle, even though Sansa has no idea where they might be coming from. Messengers from Southern houses declaring for Jon and Daenerys appear once the news spread, and then there is a girl with dark skin and jet black curls, and the banner of House Martell. She introduces herself as Arianne, oldest daughter of Doran Martell and lone survivor of Ellaria Sand’s vengeance.

“I was away, gone to Lemonwood with some friends,” the princess explains, “when we heard the news.” She glances at Tyrion. “I’m very sorry, my lord. Myrcella was like a little sister to me.”

A pained look flickers over Tyrion’s face, before he nods. “She was a sweet girl.”

Arianne leans forward in her chair, turning her attention back to Daenerys and Sansa. “Ellaria Sand and my cousins have vanished. Last anyone heard, they were sailing with the Greyjoys.” She grimaces. “I’m not sad to see them gone. I know she secured Dorne’s alliance with you, and nothing about that has changed. Dorne still supports your claim, your Grace.” The look on her face is calculating. “But we have demands.”

Daenerys looks back at the princess, a tiny smile tugging at her lips.