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Patient Bullheaded & Sneaky

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 In a dark corner of the busy alehouse teeming with Unsullied, Free Folk, Northerners, and even a Dothraki or two, the former King in the North sulks into his tankard of ale. Tormund drains his, lets out a content sigh, and waves at the serving wench to fill it up again. Ever since returning from Dragonstone, Jon has looked like he hasn’t had a proper shit in moons--and it only got worse after he talked to his odd little brother, who’d seen something important in a vision.

Tormund’s not sure what Jon learned. No one is, because he's always been more fond of brooding than talking. And now he’s been storming about the place like an angry little thundercloud intent on bringing even more gloom to the world--as though Winterfell’s not been glum enough since the arrival of the Dragon Queen. So Tormund did them all a favor and dragged Jon to the Smoking Log to loosen his tongue with some drink. Sour goat’s milk would’ve done the trick much sooner, of course, but the alehouse only has casks of grape water and the weak piss they call ale, so Tormund makes do with what’s available.

It takes three tankards of ale downed in companionable silence before Jon opens his mouth and shares what’s plagued him the last few days: as if Lord Commander and King weren’t enough, he’s no bastard at all but a bleeding prince. Pretty lad’s gotten more titles thrown at him than he’s had women.

But then he’s only had two, so perhaps that’s not much of a feat after all.

“All my life, I thought Ned Stark was my father,” Jon mumbles, face twisted together as though someone spitted his pet pig and ate it for dinner. “But I was wrong.”

And then he goes on and on and on.

Tormund does his best to grunt in the right places and keep a sympathetic look on his face, despite struggling a bit to understand why it should matter whose seed squirted into whose womb. Ned raised Jon. That makes him his father. Jon’s brother is still his brother, and his sisters are still his sisters, and yet he’s so upset he’s sniffling and wiping at his eyes. Odd, that.

Stroking his beard, Tormund ponders it, really ponders it.

If this news changes anything at all, it’s not his relationship with his family but his relationship with the Dragon Queen. He’s fucked his aunt, there’s no way around that, and that does put a damper on things. Not even on the coldest of nights did Tormund ever feel tempted to fuck one of his aunts--and he had a whole village full of them. Some of them were even ginger!

Although, he has heard stories about those Targaryens and their perverted ways and, he supposes, to frail Southerners winter at Winterfell could be considered cold. And Jon does have a ginger sister. A sister he keeps staring at as though he’ll wither away and die unless she gives him a sweet smile and something sweeter still. That’s not how brothers usually look at their sisters--not even South of the Wall--but they’re not brother and sister, are they? Cousins, that’s what they consider themselves now. And if Sansa’s anything like other womenfolk, she’d fuck Jon in a heartbeat if he only he batted his eyelashes at her, pretty boy that he is.

Well, that should cheer him up! Poor lad’s too dumb for his own good sometimes--the pretty ones always are--but Tormund will help him figure it out.

“You’re a bunch of cousin-fuckers, aren’t you, you Southerners?”

Jon finally looks up from his tankard. “We’re what?”

“Free Folk steal wives from other villages. It strengthens the clan. Did you know that?”

“Aye. Ygritte told me all about that.”

“But you don’t. You marry your cousins.”

“Some do that, that’s true.”

Tormund nods, giving Jon a pointed look.

“What?”

Tormund nods more emphatically, arching one eyebrow.

“Why are you…?” Frowning, Jon mimics Tormund with angry little jerks of his pretty head.

Tormund leans closer to Jon, elbows on the table. “I’ve known you for a while. I’ve seen you in love, the way you look at a girl, no heat at all, just tortured pining and heavy sighs. Like you’re in one of those bloody songs Mance used to sing about Southerners dying of broken hearts. And when you’re around your sister, the one kissed by fire, well...”

“What?” Jon scrunches up his face a bit too much to be convincing. “You’re off your head.”

“I’m not. I’m right. I’m always right.” Tormund narrows his right eye, the eye that still is as sharp as an eagle’s, tapping at the corner of it. “I see. The Kingslayer’s in love with Brienne. Podrick’s in love with Arya. And so is Gendry.”

Jon grins. “Aye. I’ve noticed.”

“And the Hound? Well, he’s in love with Sansa.”

“What?” Jon slams down the tankard on the table, ale sloshing over the rim. “He’s what?”

A sly grin spreads across Tormund’s face and he tips his head to the angry little man in front of him, tips his tankard too. “I’m always right.”

Jon pulls a face, eyes averted. “That means nothing. Sansa’s been through a lot, that’s all.”

“Ah, protective older brother.”

“Aye.” Jon swallows a burp and gestures with his tankard as he speaks, eyes wandering around the room without ever meeting Tormund’s. “Arya can take care of herself, but Sansa... I’m protective of Sansa. It’s my duty. Father would’ve wanted me to be. And Robb. And Uncle Benjen.”

And then that wistful look returns to Jon’s eyes and he goes back to blabbering about Ned not being his father and Robb not being his brother and a bunch of other hogwash.

A lesser man would’ve given up by now, but if Tormund gave up easily, he’d be trudging about the tundra, all frozen and blue-eyed and dead, instead of drinking ale with a prince or whatever else title the lad’s acquired the last hour or so. And Tormund knows how to deal with someone bullheaded. Half his village consisted of bullheaded idiots. The trick is you always have to be even more bullheaded. Jon’s a Southerner, though, and Southerners are sneaky cunts. Tormund scratches his beard. He can be a sneaky cunt. A sneaky bullheaded cunt.

“So that Jorah,” he says, as casual as you like, “the Old Bear’s son, eh?”

Jon nods a yes.

“Do you like him?”

“He’s all right.”

“A bit long in the tooth, but he didn’t slow us down when we hunted for that wight. That’s something.”

“Aye, that’s something.”

“Who’s a better fighter, then, me or him?”

“You.”

“What about me and the gold-handed perfumed twat?”

Jon laughs through his nose. “You.”

“And what about me and the big woman?”

Jon’s mouth twists in a crooked grin. “Brienne. Without a doubt.”

“She’s a beauty.” Tormund hums, nodding to himself. “And what about Brienne or the Hound?”

“Think she beat him once, didn’t she?”

“Aye. What about… Cersei or Daenerys?”

“What, in a fight?”

Tormund moves his tight fists into a fighting position. “Hand-to-hand.”

Jon exhales through loose lips. “Cersei?”

“And who would you rather fuck, Cersei or Sansa?”

“Sansa,” Jon says and then his eyes widen.

Two red spots burn on his cheeks and he looks as if he finally did shit properly, only now he’s shat himself in public and doesn’t know how to sneak out of the inn without it becoming obvious.

Tormund grins smugly.

“That’s not fair,” Jon says, all hoarse. “You know what Cersei’s done to my family.”

“I do. I also know that most men would rather fuck a beautiful woman they hate than fuck their own sister. Most men would rather fuck an ugly woman they hate than fuck their own sister.”

Jon clears his throat, shifting uncomfortably. “Cersei murdered half my family. Or had a hand in it at least.”

“Then answer me this, you old crow: who would you rather dip that tiny pecker in: Cersei… or Arya?”

At the mention of Arya, Jon pulls such a disgusted face Tormund bellows out a laugh and slaps his friend on the back.

“All right”--Jon drags a hand over his beard--”you’ve made your point.”

“You admit it, then? You’re in love with your sister.”

“Doesn’t matter. To her, I’ll always be a brother.” Jon stares into his ale. “She said so herself. After Bran told us. Didn’t look like she lied.”

“She’s a good liar, though, isn’t she?”

A glint of hope brightens Jon’s eyes. “You think she lied?”

“I don’t know.”

“Didn’t you say you always know?”

“No. I said I’m always right. She’s hard to figure out. Very, uh…” Humming to himself, Tormund tries to find a more diplomatic word than frigid.

“Reserved?”

“Sure.” Tormund leans closer. “You should steal her.”

Jon looks up from his drink, blinking slowly. “I should what now?”

“Steal her. If she fights you off, you’ll know she doesn’t want you.”

“She’s not a goat. I can’t just steal her. That’s not how we get wives here.”

“Just throw her over your shoulder and see how she reacts. A proper wife would fight you all the way, but a Southern lady?” Tormund shakes his head. “If Sansa kicks you in the balls, then it’s not meant to be. But if she giggles, well…”

Jon’s forehead furrows, his eyes narrow, and he sits there for a long moment, thinking over Tormund’s words in complete silence. Tormund drains another tankard while he waits.

“No,” Jon drawls, finally. “No, I don’t think so.”

Despite a few more tankards of ale, and a lot more encouragement, Tormund doesn’t convince Jon that night. He’s not too bright when it comes to womenfolk, that Jon Snow. Nor is he brave. He’ll throw himself headfirst into danger without a second thought, wielding that sword of his, but when it comes to wielding the little dirk between his legs? No, like a woman needs to be slick like a baby seal before anything happens, so does Jon need a lot of warming up before he acts.

Luckily, Tormund’s not only stubborn and occasionally sneaky but patient too.

A week passes. He doesn’t do much, only points out every now and then how pretty Sansa’s hair looks in the sunlight, or that the Hound’s eyeing her again, or that he overheard some lord talking about what a good wife she’d make for his son. Jon looks and sighs and pines and does absolutely nothing about it.

Another week goes by. Tormund does a little more--just a touch. It’s not easy, what with Jon spending all his time strategizing, but one day Jon and Sansa find themselves alone in her study. And if Tormund happens to walk by and somehow lock the door from the outside and wait for the magic to happen, ear pressed to the door, well, that just can’t be helped, can it? Alas, the bleeding idiot whose name is Jon (or Aegon or whatever it is), opens a window and calls for help, and Tormund makes himself scarce. A day later, he finds Sansa alone in the godswood and points out--only to see whether she gets jealous, mind--how Jon and Daenerys do make a fine pairing. Despite being a little too related. Sansa only stares at him and leaves without a word, and he never does find out whether she’s jealous or merely disapproving in general.

Then war’s upon their door and, for a fortnight, they fight with all they’ve got. Tormund’s not entirely sure how they did it (when he’s fighting, blood thunders in his ears and he sees only what’s before him), but one day everything stills and they return to Winterfell victorious. Broken and battered and bloodied but victorious--and that calls for a feast.

It takes them a few days to sleep and heal, but soon the Great Hall is decorated and filled with celebrators and troubadours and lush wenches carrying trays of ale, wine, mead, and even sour goat’s milk donated by the Free Folk. The Night King’s dead. The Dragon Queen and her folk have left to deal with the Lannister threat. And so every eye sparkles and every mouth smiles--except those belonging to the tiny prince sitting on a bench and casting sad looks after his sister as she whirls around the floor with yet another lord.

During the war, they never spoke about Sansa, but it’s clear Tormund needs to bring up the subject again, because if he leaves this up to Jon, the poor idiot will sulk in the shadows for the rest of his life while Sansa lives hers, popping out one babe after the other for whatever fancy lord she’ll end up marrying. Tormund nods determinedly to himself and plonks down next to Jon. Silence is always a good start, as is plenty of drink, so Tormund keeps his mouth shut for now and makes sure Jon’s cup is always filled while they watch Sansa dance.

Once lord number three--a lanky one with barely a hint of facial hair--leads her around the dancefloor, Tormund moves closer to Jon. “You should spin her around for a bit.”

“I’m not a good dancer.”

“Neither is that blundering idiot, but that doesn’t stop him. And he’s just a boy. She needs a man.”

Jon shrugs and takes another mouthful of ale.

“Just move your feet a bit. And your hips. Show her you know how to move them, unlike that spring chicken. And smile.”  Tormund shows off his pearly-whites in a wide grin. “Women like that. Especially when you have all your teeth.”

Jon shrugs again, staring at his feet as though they’re the craven little shits refusing to move.

Another lord asks Sansa to dance--a pretty one this time, with blond locks and amber eyes and big, strong arms--and Jon sighs so deeply his whole body moves. He’s pouting as well. And by now he’s too drunk to remember it’s smart to tear your eyes off your sister every now and then before people notice that you daydream about making babies with her. Hopefully, though, that means he’s just drunk enough to think stealing’s a mighty fine idea after all.

“That’s a handsome lad.” Tormund points at the lord with his tankard. “He’d make a good husband for her.”

If looks were daggers, Tormund would’ve sagged to the floor, bleeding out from multiple stab wounds, but looks are harmless and he goads on, “You should arrange a betrothal. That’s what you do down here, isn’t it? Good woman like her shouldn’t waste away her best years like this.”

“It’s her choice,” Jon mumbles. “It should be her choice. She’s not to be given away. And”--Jon swings his head to Tormund, blinking until his eyes focus--”she’s not to be stolen either.”

“Well, if you’re not stealing her, someone else will.” Tormund leans in close and whispers in Jon’s ear, “Perhaps I should. What babies we’d make. Tall as giants with red hair and beautiful blue eyes--”

A hand closes around the collar of his tunic and Tormund finds himself tugged down, his nose bumping into the forehead of a snarling Jon. “If you touch her--”

Booming out a laugh, Tormund brushes away the little gnat. “Stop sulking and go ask her what she wants.” A serving wench passes, and Tormund nicks a cup of sour goat’s milk from her tray and thrusts it into Jon’s hand. “Ask her who she wants.”

Then he swans off to let his words sink into that thick skull--and to let the sour goat’s milk do its job.

-----

While Daenerys stayed at Winterfell, Sansa gave up her chambers--they’re the best rooms in the castle--but now the Dragon Queen has left and the chambermaids have scrubbed the rooms clean of any evidence that she was there in the first place. They smell like pine soap and lavender instead of sandalwood and vanilla, and Sansa closes her eyes, breathing in deeply. Life can finally go back to normal.

She kicks off her shoes, shimmies out of her tight gown, and loosens the braids coiled at the back of her head. Midnight’s come and gone, her feet ache from hours of dancing, and her head’s buzzing from wine and too many men chatting her ears off about marriage (to them or their sons or even their grandsons).

With a satisfied hum, she slips into bed, pulls the furs over her naked body, and enjoys the silence. And soon she sleeps.

A rattling noise wakes her.

Someone’s fumbling with the door handle. Heart racing, she grabs the dagger always kept in her nightstand, shrugs on a bedrobe, and sneaks closer to the door to hide behind it once whoever’s trying to break in swings it open. They must be good. Well, they must be good at killing because she hasn’t heard the guards make a fuss. Clearly, they’re not good at picking locks, considering the fumbling and the clinking of metal against stone when they drop their tools.

Then there’s a scuffle. Laughter. Angry muttering. A thud against the wall. Another laugh that transforms into a cough, as though to cover up the laugh, and she knows that cough. She’s heard it many times this winter, which makes little sense because it’s Devin, one of her guards, who’s thankfully not been murdered by the blustering assassin outside her door.

The fact that he doesn’t stop the assassin, either, is a bit disconcerting, though.

Then comes a booming knock, followed by rapid, retreating (and rather heavy) footsteps. Someone swears loudly--someone very familiar--and she laughs breathily from relief.

“Jon?” she calls. “Just a moment.”

Last time she saw him, he was so in his cups he was staring into nothing, lost in grumpy thoughts while the festivities rumbled on around him. Hadn’t his hand occasionally lifted a cup to his lips, no one could be blamed for thinking him a statue. Misses his lover, she supposes. A lover who became an aunt who cared more about the Iron Throne than she did about him. He agreed to forget about his birthright if she agreed to leave the North alone and their love affair got cut short. That must be why he’s so sad, because Arya and Bran and Sansa all assured Jon that the news changed nothing. That he’d always be their brother.

She’s still rather proud of herself for that lie. She didn’t blush or stammer or avert her eyes or any of it. Even Arya bought it! And while Jon gets over Daenerys, Sansa will get over him without anyone ever knowing about her brief infatuation.

She lays the dagger back in its hiding place and opens the door. Outside stands Jon, arms folded behind his back, eyes trained somewhere above her head.

“What are you doing?”

“Nothing,” Jon says and Devin stifles another laugh.

“I didn’t know doing nothing was such loud work.”

“Someone tried to break in. But I scared them off.”

“Oh, is that so?”

Jon straightens his back, even lifts his chin in an effort to make himself taller. “Aye,” he says confidently, but he can’t hide the drunken swaying of his body.

His eyes shift to the right. Then he turns his head slightly, glancing down the hallway at what must be the person with whom he scuffled. Jon pulls a face and mouths something, shakes his head, glares. Sansa sticks out her own head for a look, but now the hallway’s empty and Jon’s back to staring at the ceiling with the most innocent expression on his face.

“Can I, uh, can I come in?”

“Into my bed chambers. In the middle of the night.”

Jon lifts his chin even higher. “Aye.”

A glance at the guards tells her they’re kindly looking elsewhere (even though Devin struggles to keep a straight face), and so she lets Jon inside and closes the door to give them privacy to sort out whatever needs sorting. A small hopeful voice whispers that perhaps he wanted to warm her bed but needed a helpful push from a friend to knock on her door, while another much louder and sober voice tells her he’s heartbroken and seeking comfort wherever he can find it.

Jon wouldn’t do that, though, would he? Not to her--and certainly not with her.

No, but he could, in his drunken foolishness, still think Daenerys stayed in these chambers and try to sneak inside to spend one last night with her. She only left this morning, after all. Sansa wraps her arms around her body with a sigh.

Stumbling past her, Jon heads to the window and peers down at the ground. “Seven hells, that’s high.” He spins around, grabs the window sill to steady himself, and squints at the door. “The door it is!”

Jon takes two steps toward her. Stops. Swallows. His gaze drops to his feet and he shifts his weight before looking up at her with wide eyes. “Uh, come with me?”

“Where are we going?”

“Uh…” Jon’s brows twitch as he thinks. “My chambers?”

“What, you need me to show the way? Gods, Jon. How much did you drink?”

“Just a bit.”

She shakes her head at him. “All right, I’ll come. But only to get you into bed.”

“Bed?” Jon nods repeatedly, drags a hand over his mouth. “Yeah, I… That’s… Yes.”

“Just give me a moment to change, please.”

But he doesn’t seem to hear her, because now he’s busy squinting at her body, scrutinizing it, crinkles forming across the bridge of his nose.

Sansa squeezes her arms more firmly around herself. “What?”

“Have you always been that tall?” he asks, stepping closer to her, still staring at her body.

“Not always. Once upon a time you were the taller one. Remember?”

He sighs wistfully. “Aye. That would’ve made it easier.”

“Made what easier?”

“This,” he says and throws her over his shoulder.

A delighted squeal slips out of her, followed by the sort of giggling she’s not emitted since she was a little girl and someone tickled her relentlessly. It’s silly and embarrassing and she’s certain the guards can hear them and yet she can’t stop herself. It’s the wine. The wine’s making her silly, that’s all. But then Jon falters. Her stomach swoops. The giggles die in her throat.

“Jon, let me down! You’re going to drop me.”

They move forward. Sansa sucks in a breath, feels her body shift, fall… and then she lands on the bed, bouncing against the mattress. Jon stands in front of her, scratching the back of his neck with a rather sheepish expression. But then his eyes drop to her chest and that expression turns wolfish. Her bedrobe’s slipped open to reveal a sliver of naked thigh and the curve of her cleavage, and now the fabric’s sliding down her shoulder, and she should stop it--she really should--but Jon’s licking his lips and rubbing his jaw and staring at her as if he wants to devour her. One breast is bare now, the nipple taut from the sudden draft. Jon sucks in a breath, staring at her, slack-jawed and unblinking.

Holding her breath, she waits for him to pounce or scramble out of his clothes or something, but he just blanches and closes his mouth as though the sight of her naked breast left him nauseated.

With flaming cheeks, she exhales sharply and sits up, clutching the robe closed over her chest. “Jon, why did you come to see me?”

He burps behind closed lips, swallows, and sinks down on the bed, head hanging. “I'm really drunk. And this is going all wrong.”

She scoots to the edge of the bed so that she sits next to him. “What is?”

“You’re not a goat.” He looks at her with sad, sad eyes and pats her hair. “You are not a goat.”

Sansa opens her mouth to reply but ends up sitting there, gaping in the most unladylike fashion, because she can’t figure out whether she should apologize for not being a one, or whether she should thank him or even praise him for deducing that she indeed isn’t a goat.

“I’m sorry I tried to steal you.” Jon draws a shaky breath. “I just wanted you to be my wife, that’s all. I’m going about this all wrong. Can you ever forgive me?”

“What?” she whispers.

“Can you forgive me?”

Sansa grabs Jon’s arm. “What did you say?”

“Forgive me?”

“Not that. The other--”

Jon’s cheeks puff up, eyes like wells, round, dark and shiny, and then he darts to her washbasin and hurls and hurls and hurls.

Once he’s done, she pours him a glass of water and helps him drink it, and when he crashes into her bed as though he belongs there, she pulls off his boots and tucks the furs around him and brushes back a wisp of hair sticking to his damp forehead.

“Are you all right?” she whispers.

“Come. Sleep.”

He fumbles for her, finds the tie at her waist, and tugs her closer by it. Rubbing her palm to sooth herself, she takes in his unfocused eyes and slow blinking. Does he even know who she is? He’s so drunk--drunker than she’s ever seen him--and in this dim light she could be anyone. And, for weeks, Daenerys stayed in this room, lay in this bed. Perhaps they even-- Squeezing her eyes shut, Sansa kills that train of thought before it becomes too vivid and sends her to the washbasin as well.

He tugs at her again, murmurs at her to join him. There’s more than enough room for her to lie down and snuggle close, there is, but how will he feel when he wakes and finds her in his arms? With that much ale and whatever else in his body, he knows neither what he’s saying nor what he’s doing. His words, his actions, mean nothing.

She takes his hand and, kneeling by the bed, catches his tired gaze. “Jon, do you know whose chambers you’re in?”

“Yours.”

“And do you know who am I?”

“Aye,” he says, beaming, eyes drifting closed.

“I’m not sure you do.” She gives his hand a squeeze before releasing it. “If you still want to steal me once you’ve sobered up--me, Sansa--then steal me tomorrow. All right?”

“I will,” he mumbles. “Will you kick me in the balls?”

She blinks. “Do you- do you want me to?”

Jon rolls over on his side and mumbles something indiscernible into the pillow and then he’s asleep. Asleep in her bed, resting his head on her pillow, clutching her furs. Sansa sighs deeply, strokes his cheek, and murmurs good night. Then she slips into a nightgown, re-ties the robe tightly around her body, and heads outside where she informs the guards that her cousin will sleep it off in her room while she stays with her sister for the night, and asks them to find a maid to clean up the vomit.

There’ll be talk tomorrow, but at least Jon’s still dressed and they weren’t alone in her room for very long. At least nothing happened that they’ll regret the next day.

Not much, anyway.

Sansa groans and hides her face in her hands.

Hopefully, he’ll forget that she sort of showed him her tits.

 

-----

 

“And then,” the maid says, eyes wide and face flushed with excitement as the small crowd gathered around her leans closer, “he turned his head and threw up in her bed as well, can you believe it! Finally, I got Devin to carry His Grace back to his own chambers so I could clean up the mess. Poor Lady Stark. In her bed. Took ages to get the stink out, it did. What was he doing there in the middle of the night, though?”

“Well, you know what they say about those Targaryens,” another maid says, earning herself a round of hushed laughter. “Let’s just say, when I heard he was one, everything made sense, if you know what I mean.”

“Aye, the way he looks at her. He’s a handsome lad, though, isn’t he? Wouldn’t kick him out of bed. Not even if he was my brother!"

“I would. I’m not fucking someone in a puddle of sick, I’m not. No matter how handsome.”

“I saw them kiss once!” a third maid shouts.

Finally, some interesting news. Tormund steps a tad closer, pricking his ears.

“You did not!”

“Well, t’was on the forehead, but if you’d seen it, you’d…”

Tormund shakes his head and leaves the kitchens.

 

How in the steaming arse of a mammoth did Jon fuck this up? Tormund took care of everything! He even hauled the idiot to Sansa’s chambers and lingered in the shadows for long enough to hear a giggle, just to be certain it worked. Fair enough, it could’ve been Jon giggling--Tormund’s no stranger to the occasional giggle himself when he’s had enough to drink--but he’ll bet his good eye on that giggle coming from Sansa.

And yet… All that work, only to tumble out of his tent at noon and learn that the idiot not only failed to steal himself a wife, but also threw up all over her chambers and passed out in her bed, while Sansa fled to her sister’s chambers. All that work, only to learn that Jon’s locked himself into his chambers and refuses to come out. Well, the official reason is that he’s nursing a hangover, but everyone knows the only thing he’s nursing is a big pile of shame.

Muttering to himself, Tormund crosses the courtyard. His stomach’s growling and his head’s pounding and he'd kill for a cup of milk, but it’ll have to wait. He has a far more pressing headache to deal with.

He finds half of that headache by her desk, a bit wan and hollow-eyed, scribbling away in a ledger. When he drags a chair across the room and places it opposite her, she barely looks up at him, the quill rasping against paper without pause.

“We’re having a talk, you and me,” he says, sitting down.

“Please make it quick.” Sansa flips a page, dips the quill in ink. “I have quite a lot of work to do today.”

“Have you talked to him yet? Jon.”

“No.” Her jaw tightens. “He refuses to see me. Refuses to see anyone, it seems.”

“You kicked him in the balls, then?”

Sansa’s pretty lips part but no words come out. She lays down the quill, flexes her fingers before steepling her hands, and clears her throat. “What do you want, Tormund?”

“Hm.” Leaning closer, Tormund bores his eyes into her. “Was it you who giggled?”

“What?”

“Last night. Was it you who giggled? After you let Jon in.”

“I suppose I might’ve laughed,” she says, cheeks redder than her hair, and Tormund knows. “I fail to see why that’s any of your concern.”

He nods and slaps a hand against her desk. “I’ll take care of this. Don’t you worry, little lady. Uh, Lady Sansa. M’lady.” He bows his head awkwardly and gets to his feet, motions at her to sit still. “Don’t go anywhere. I'll be right back.”

 

It takes three forceful knocks and a threat to break down the door before Jon opens it. He looks worse than the insides of a bear. Smells worse too. His bed’s a mess, furs and linen tangled together, and a tray of food stands on the nightstand. Tormund’s stomach rumbles like thunder.

“Clean yourself up.”

Jon frowns. “What?”

Tormund grabs his arm and drags him to the washbasin.

“All right, all right.” Jon yanks his arm from Tormund’s grip. “No need to rip my arm off.”

“How did you fuck everything up this time, then?”

Jon grumbles under his breath, splashing water over himself.

“Speak, Snow. I‘m hungry and hungover and not in the mood for this Southern mewling you're so fond of.”

“I don’t remember. I remember--” Jon pauses to clean his mouth, then sighs and leans over the basin, hands gripping the rim. “I only remember bits. I think I threw her over my shoulder? But then I fell into her bed. I think I asked her to stay. I think I said”--he cringes--”I think I said I wanted her to be my wife.”

Tormund tugs the corners of his mouth down, nodding his approval. "Good!"

“Good? No. I woke up and she wasn’t there. A maid was, though. She told me a bit. Then Devin said… Doesn’t matter. Listen, I know enough to know Sansa rejected me, all right?”

“You know less than an acorn.” Tormund finds a tunic and a pair of breeches and throws them at him. “Get dressed.”

Before Jon can even think of complaining, Tormund levels him with a glare and the lad complies, fumbling his arms and legs into the clothes.

"Are you still feeling sick?"

"No," Jon says, lacing his breeches. "Why?"

“Good,” Tormund says and throws him over his shoulder.

Jon's breath leaves him with an oof.

“Tormund. What are you doing?”

“Stealing you," he says, and steals a half-eaten leg of lamb from the tray too.

“You’re a fine looking man”--Jon pats his back--“but I’m not interested.”

“And you're thicker than a giant’s dick.”

With Jon in a firm grip, Tormund plows through the keep, all the way to Sansa’s study. There he pushes the door open, stomps inside, and drops his prize in the chair. With a delicate gasp, Sansa drops the quill and stares up at them in alarm, while Jon looks as if he'd like to melt and leak into the cracks in the floor, face red and eyes locked on the desk.

“Here. I stole him for you.” Tormund backs up a little, gnawing on the leg of lamb while watching them intently. "Go on. Confess your feelings."

“Uhm…” Jon gives him a pointed look. “Could we have some privacy?”

“No. Because if I walk out that door, you two idiots”--Tormund gestures at them with his food--“will find a way to fuck it up. I’m not leaving until this is sorted.”

Jon tries protesting again, but Tormund barks at him to shut up before turning to Sansa. “He’s been pining after you for months, the miserable twat. Yesterday, I finally got him to steal you. Or try, at least. Seems it didn't go as planned.”

“She can’t be stolen,” Jon grinds out through clenched teeth. “She’s not a goat.”

A smile quirks Sansa’s mouth. “Oh, that’s why I’m not a goat. I was wondering about that.”

Fluttering her lashes, she bites her lip and looks softly at Jon, who's gazing back at her with hope shining in his eyes. She draws a breath to speak and Tormund forgets to eat, leaning in closer to hear every word of her confession of love. But before she's gotten a word out, Sansa pauses and shoots him a glance. Nodding, he gestures with the leg of lamb at her to get on with it. Her cheeks deepen in color and her throat bobs, but she turns her eyes back to Jon.

“Jon,” she murmurs, “you can’t steal me.”

“I know. I’m sorry. I don’t--”

“Shut up,” she says, gently, and reaches over the desk, taking his hand. “You can’t steal me, because..." She lets out a shaky breath. "Because you wouldn't have to. I’d come quite willingly.”

“You would?”

Her smile is sweeter than honey, and Jon’s beaming like the sun, and it’s happening--it’s finally happening. Tormund sniffles and wipes his eyes. He can already see their children toddling about, all kissed by fire, learning how to fight from their uncle Tormund.

But instead of throwing themselves at one another and fucking on that perfectly good desk, Jon and Sansa just sit there, all gooey-eyed and ridiculous, sighing and smiling and blinking.

Hadn’t he been so hungry, he would’ve lobbed the leg of lamb at Jon’s head, but now he only steps forward and gives him a whack with his hand.

“Ow!” Jon glares at him. “What was that for?”

“This is the part where you kiss her!”

“Tormund,” Jon says without looking away from Sansa, “would you please shut up and leave?”

Tormund waggles his eyebrows at them and heads out, because if they manage to fuck it up now, they don’t deserve to be together.

And if he stays outside and presses his ear to the door and waits for the magic to happen, well, that just can’t be helped, can it?

-----

Gendry’s strolling through the castle, humming to himself, when he notices Tormund farther ahead, eavesdropping at the door to Sansa's study. His mouth hangs open in a wide grin, eyes sparkling with delight, and he nods eagerly to himself.

“What are you doing, then?” Gendry asks.

“Oh, nothing.” Tormund straightens and gives Gendry a look that can’t mean anything good at all. “Say… Have I ever told you how us Free Folk get our wives?”

“No?”

Tormund grunts out a smirk and slings his arm around Gendry’s shoulders, ushering him down the hallway. “Why don't you join me for an ale at the Smoking Log, and I'll tell you all about it.”