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I of the Storm

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“Tell me of the King in the North,” Daenerys orders when she calls for him without any other greeting; not that Tyrion is expecting one.

 

Tyrion takes a moment to get all of his knowledge straight on the man who now sits in the North before he speaks and tells his Queen what she wants to know; remembers the somewhat broody boy he met from all that time ago.

 

“Jon Stark was the bastard son of Brandon Stark, legitimized by his father before Brandon and Lord Rickard Stark were…” Tyrion trails off and chooses not to finish hat. His Queen is well aware of how Brandon and Rickard Stark died and does not need – nor would appreciate – the reminder. “He was raised by his Uncle and Aunt – the Lord Ned and Lady Catelyn Stark – alongside his cousins. I met him before he set off, to join the Night’s Watch.”

 

Daenerys raises an eyebrow at that. “He was the rightful heir and chose to join the Night’s Watch instead?”

 

Tyrion goes to pour himself a cup of wine. “From what I could gather of the boy, he felt his cousin was better suited for that role.” Daenerys seems curious about that, but she doesn’t stop her Hand from continuing. “I am not sure of everything that has happened to him, but I know that he and his cousin, Sansa, raised a campaign to take Winterfell back from House Bolton and won in the battle. The Northerners have since declared him their King and he and his cousin have married, making her his Queen.”

 

“And she is your former wife, yes?”

 

Tyrion had paused to take a swig of wine and he swallows now. “She was. For only a short time and it was unconsummated. It was annulled upon her marriage to Ramsay Bolton.”

 

“Hmmmm.” Daenerys is quiet as she thinks through all of this information. “Do the King and Queen in the North love one another?” She then asks, this time, the question directed to Varys.

 

The man steps forward to answer. “I do not know, Your Grace. I doubt they do. They married for purely political reasons and to keep the Stark hold in the North as strong as possible.”

 

“So, the King would not necessarily be loyal to her?”

 

Varys and Tyrion exchange a quick glance before Varys’s eyes return to the woman.

 

“I did not say that, Your Grace.” Daenerys lifts an eyebrow, but Varys continues. “Northerners are extremely loyal people and the Starks have the blood of the North in their veins more than anyone. Even if there is no romantic love between the King and Queen, there would be a familial love and loyalty.”

 

“I certainly am not asking a husband or wife to betray the other, Varys,” Daenerys responds to that though both her advisors know the woman well enough to know her tone. “Why wouldn’t I be able to have the support of both? Send word to King Jon in the North. Tell him I would like to meet and speak with him. Tell him of what we are going to do to help Westeros in getting rid of their illegitimate Queen and bringing the rightful one to the throne.”

 

“You do not wish to invite both of them?” Varys asks.

 

“There is only one and only going to be one Queen in Westeros,” Daenerys says to that. “I think it would be best if I brought our cause to the husband before I inform the wife. Perhaps if the King can see things my way, it would be best if he be the one to inform his wife.”

 

“The North sees themselves as independent from the lower Kingdoms, Your Grace,” Varys reminds her.

 

“And I will speak with this King in the North and get him to see that we’re much stronger as one rather than in seven broken pieces.” Her words are firm and final and there is a smile on her face, but those in her circle know that it is not a smile meant to be interpreted as a friendly one.

 

Tyrion clears his throat. “Your Grace, both King Jon and Queen Sansa have bled for the North. The Queen’s brother, the King’s cousin, Robb Stark, was named King by their people before his death. The North will never accept another Queen from the South and certainly not…” he pauses, trying to choose his words carefully.

 

“A Targaryen Queen,” Daenerys finishes for him with a flash in her eyes.

 

“King Jon might be especially hard to convince of your right to the throne after what your father did to his,” Varys speaks once more.

 

“I would hope that this King in the North, as well as anyone in Westeros, would not hold a daughter responsible for the actions of her father,” Daenerys says. “I would hope that this King would be willing to listen to me and come to accept me once he learns who I am as my own person.”

 

“Of course, Your Grace,” Varys agrees and bows his head to her.

 

“Perhaps, Your Grace,” Tyrion takes his turn again. “It would be best if I went to go speak to the King and Queen in the North personally instead of just sending them a summons.”

 

Again, Daenerys lifts her eyebrow as she studies him. “You would leave me?” It is an innocent-sounding question that is anything but.

 

“Of course not,” Tyrion is quick to assure her. “But you need allies and I still like to think I know Sansa. She will not take well to being ordered by anyone and Jon will ignore anything that a Targaryen tells him; especially an order.”

 

“It is not an order. It’s simply an invitation that he comes and meets his Queen,” she reminds him.

 

“And I do not think either of them will look at it as such.”

 

The Queen is quiet, thinking that over for a few moments, looking out the window as she does. Tyrion and Varys remain silent, exchanging a look between them as they so often do while awaiting Daenerys to speak, never quite sure what their Queen will say or decide next.

 

“Very well,” Daenerys speaks suddenly, spinning back towards both of her advisors, her eyes landing to Tyrion. “You will go to the North. To Winterfell. And you will speak with the King and your former wife. You will bring this King Jon back here with you where I may speak with him and show him that bending the knee to me and promising me his loyalty and support as well as those of the North to me is the best for everyone.”

 

Before Tyrion can even bow to show his obedience to the order, she continues.

 

“Your former wife. Sansa. Will she listen to you?”

 

Tyrion pauses, thinking of the last time they saw one another; at Joffrey’s wedding with Joffrey lying on the ground, choking and dying. There had been such chaos and Sansa fled and Tyrion was accused of murder. But much time had passed since then. She had been married again since then and Ramsay Bolton’s reputation far proceeded him.

 

He likes to think he still knows Sansa, but the truth is, there is quite a possibility that he won’t know her at all. He also thinks odds are that Jon Stark is far from the boy he was before going to the Wall as he was when Tyrion first met him.

 

Going to Winterfell to personally speak with Jon and Sansa, Tyrion knows, is the best course of action to take. Already though, he is wondering how he is going to get them to agree to a Targaryen Queen. The Starks have suffered and lost too much to both House Targaryen and House Lannister already. Jon and Sansa might hear Tyrion out only to tell him to go sod off and let everyone else fight for the throne for this is not a Northern fight.

 

Tyrion certainly won’t tell his Queen that though. He will go to Winterfell and he will get Jon Stark to come back with him no matter what.

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Every day, there is so much to do. Winter is here and Sansa spends her days, keeping track of their food supplies, welcoming those who have come to Winterfell from further North, seeking shelter, sewing and knitting and seeing to everyone’s comforts as best as she can. Jon spends his days in the training yards. Only the elderly, sick and children under ten are not being trained and some of the women exempt as well. All day long, the clash of wooden swords echoes in the air.

 

For the evening meal, everyone is tired and talking is quiet, minimal, but Jon sometimes tells stories of his time at the Wall and beyond and Sam joins in, to tell his own stories of the dead, and soon, others start telling their own battle stories. Sansa has no stories of her own – none she want to share and relive – but she sits in her chair, smiling and listening to the others. No matter how tired they all are, they keep pushing forward for winter is here and the dead are coming and the time for rest will come, but it’s not now.

 

Even when it’s a quiet meal though, and everyone is nearly falling asleep in their food, the Hall at Winterfell still feels as warm and comfortable to Sansa as it did years earlier. It makes her smile to herself sometimes as she eats. And sometimes, if Jon looks to her and sees that smile across her lips, he seems to always know why she’s smiling because he’ll reach his hand over and cover hers, giving it the gentlest of squeezes.

 

Almost always after the meals, as Sansa oversees the cleaning and the clearing away the tables so everyone now in Winterfell has space on the floor to sleep and they all have blankets, Jon kisses her cheek – the most affection that is appropriate between a King and Queen while in public view.

 

“I will see you later,” he promises her as he always does and then he returns to the training yards where he works on his own training for at least two more hours by torchlight.

 

In her chamber, Sansa’s maid, Cora, helps her change from her dress into her nightgown and then brushes her hair out for her. Ghost has already jumped onto the bed, waiting for her, and as Sansa climbs, slipping between the furs, she gives the Direwolf one more kiss and a hug for the night before she lays down for bed, her exhaustion hitting her immediately and as soon as her head hits the pillow, she feels herself being carried off into sleep.

 

Years earlier, her father and mother had thought to make a wedding match between Sansa and Jon. Jon had already made the decision that while he was Brandon Stark’s son, he was not meant to be the Heir of Winterfell and he would pass that title onto his cousin, Robb, but Jon would still be a Lord and it would be a good match between Brandon Stark’s only son and Ned and Catelyn Stark’s daughter. They would have a Keep somewhere – far enough away for them to be able to start their own life together, but close enough where visits would be possible.

 

Neither Jon and Sansa had much reaction when Ned and Catelyn told them of their engagement. Jon and Sansa were too young to have deep feelings one way or another about it. They loved one another, but as cousins who know they are related love one another; almost obligatory. Ned and Catelyn only hoped that as they grew older, both would view the match more favorably.

 

But then, King Robert, with his wife and their children, visited Winterfell.

 

Ned had been hesitant when his old friend suggested a marriage between his oldest, Joffrey, and Ned’s oldest daughter and yet, Ned had taken a moment to consider it since Sansa and Jon’s own match didn’t seem to be a cause of excitement for either. If Sansa was betrothed to Joffrey in Kings Landing, Ned knew that he and Catelyn would easily be able to find another match for Jon.

 

And when Ned told this to Sansa, “You will be Queen one day”, Sansa’s eyes had immediately gleamed and dreams of her future danced in her mind for what young girl wouldn’t want to be a Queen?

 

Sansa still hates herself for how stupid of a girl she had been – always wanting what she didn’t have and never taking a moment to be happy about what she did have.

 

Because after Joffrey and Cersei and her marriage to Tyrion, she had finally fled King’s Landing and thought she would be safe, but then there had been Littlefinger. And then Ramsay.

 

Ramsay.

 

Sansa feels herself shiver in her sleep from those nightmares that even after being married to Jon for almost three months now, she can’t shake. She doesn’t know if she will ever be able to move past it. Is anyone ever able to move on from such abuse rained down upon them?

 

Finding Jon at Castle Black at the Wall was the best thing to happen to her in her life at that point.

 

But then, marrying him has since become the best thing to happen to her.

 

Jon understands; at least, he understands as much as he possibly can without Sansa telling him every detail. Still, he has seen her scars (when he comes into their chamber while she's bathing) and has held her as she wakes up, screaming or crying or both. Perhaps, he doesn’t need to know every detail. Perhaps, his own imagination is more than able to conclude what happened to his cousin before they met again.

 

Jon, her husband, understands and that is why he still has not pushed her towards consummating their union yet. They need to, Sansa knows that. It is their duty as both husband and wife, but also as King and Queen in the North. They need to consummate their marriage so it can never be challenged by anyone; if there is anyone who would dare challenge it.

 

But they also need to consummate their marriage so the Stark line may continue. They are the only two left and there needs to always been a Stark in Winterfell. Jon hasn’t pushed her. She knows her husband and he never will. He will wait the rest of their lives together for Sansa to make the first move.

 

And sometimes, when they aren’t completely exhausted from their endless work and have actual energy left over, they will be kissing and Jon’s hands will be lightly caressing her body over her nightgown, Sansa thinks she’s ready to make the move that will take them a step or two further. But something always stops her. Her heart seizes and her body tenses and Jon pulls himself away from her, whispering to her that it’s alright.

 

But it’s not alright. Sansa knows it’s not no matter what Jon says. She is his wife and his Queen and it is her job to lay with him and have babies with him. Jon is Jon and he’s the best man she knows, but Jon needs to have a child. He is King and he needs an heir and if Sansa doesn’t give him one, he will find another woman who will.

 

It doesn’t matter to her how much Jon cares for her or how often he tells her that they have time.

 

Jon is a man and eventually, he will get tired of waiting. There are some things Sansa doesn’t understand in this world and some things she does and one of the things she does understand is the way of men.

 

Arms reach around her in her sleep and Sansa’s body jumps from fear, her brain freezing.

 

“Shhhhh, it’s me,” Jon whispers in her ear then as if he’s calming a startled horse. “It’s only me. You’re safe.”

 

Still more asleep than awake, Sansa relaxes within an instant, her body melting back into the bed, her back feeling itself molded to Jon’s chest and his arms tighten their hold around her.

 

Surrounded by Jon’s warmth as he holds her and feeling his breath steadily exhaling to the back of her neck as he falls asleep, Sansa drifts back into her own, feeling safe; always safe as long as she’s with Jon.

 

There is so much work to do; preparing as much as they can for the long winter and readying themselves and all of their people for the approaching dead.

 

But perhaps…

 

Perhaps, she and Jon will be able to find time alone together; just the two of them.

 

Chapter Text

 

As Jon does every other morning before going to the Hall to break his fast, he goes down into the Stark Family crypt to relight the candle in front of his father. He doesn’t speak out loud; the conversations he has with his father are always silent, kept in his head so he is the only one to hear. Winterfell is his home and he is safe here, but what he discusses with his father is his business alone.

 

He had hated the man with every fiber in his being, but something Littlefinger had said before Jon executed him – for crimes against his wife, the Queen, and the Stark family as a whole, finishing what Jon’s father had started so many years earlier – still remains in Jon’s head.

 

There are little birds everywhere and you must be careful who you give your trust to. These people in Winterfell, in the North, are his people, Jon knows, but the men in the Watch had been his people as well and they had stabbed him through the heart.

 

No, his conversations with his father are only for him and his father.

 

And as it is every other morning as he stands in front of Brandon Stark’s statue, looking at it, Jon misses him. He had never had the chance to know him – the mad Targaryen King murdering him and his grandfather before Jon got the chance – but his Uncle Ned and Aunt Catelyn would tell him stories so Jon, in a sense, could know his father. He was brave with a hot-blooded temper and no one could match him on the battlefield.

 

And according to his aunt, Brandon Stark was very handsome as well.

 

Jon has always liked to think that he inherited nearly everything from his father.

 

More than once, while at the Wall together, Uncle Benjen would look at him and with a slight shake of his head, as if he could hardly believe it, he would say, “You are so much like your father.”

 

Jon needs his father and everything he has inherited from him for this next battle. This next battle is the only one that matters. Training his people consumes every waking moment of his days; and possible outcomes consume his dreams at night. In some of those dreams – nightmares, really – Sansa falls right in front of him only for her eyes to snap open again moments later, blue staring back at him. In others, they all fall and rise again as part of the Night King’s army and soon, all of Westeros is taken.

 

Jon wakes up, those nightmares still on the precipice of his mind, his heart pounding, threatening to break through his chest, and he tries not to think of how close either of those are to becoming possibilities.

 

There’s not much he can do though, he knows. All he can do is train his people, go over plans as often as he can with Davos and his other commanders and wait.

 

The waiting is the worst, but the Night King and his army is coming. Every day is spent, awaiting a raven from Edd and the Night’s Watch. Jon will then march his own army North to help his former brothers-in-black protect the Wall and to fight and defeat the Night King once and for all. He would do everything he could possibly do before he allowed another Hardhome and with the Wall and his people and the Night’s Watch, all trained and ready to go, they might have a fighting chance this time.

 

Still, Jon closes his eyes and asks his father to help him and be with him for this fight. Losing this fight is not an option for in losing it, Jon will lose everything.

 

And if he still wins, but loses Sansa – to anything – he still loses.

 

He can’t let anything happen to her. He would do anything – literally anything – to make sure nothing ever happened to her again. She has already been through too much and Jon knows there are still those who would wish her harm; if Jon wasn’t in the way and Jon will always be in the way. He asks his father to help him with that as well.  

 

It’s a useless exercise, Jon knows, and yet, it doesn’t stop him from sometimes trying to imagine how things could have been so different; if he hadn’t passed on the title to his cousin, Robb. If he and Sansa had gotten married. If King Robert hadn’t come and arranged a later marriage between his son and Sansa. If Jon hadn’t gone to join Uncle Benjen in the Night’s Watch. If Uncle Ned hadn’t gone South.

 

He could go even further back and think what if his Aunt Lyanna hadn’t been kidnapped and his father hadn’t ridden to King’s Landing in a rage only to be murdered by that Targaryen tyrant posing as a King?

 

None of it matters though; the what ifs. Because all of those things happened and he and Sansa are here again, in Winterfell, together and that’s what Jon focuses on. He is King and Sansa is his Queen and there are much more important things right now to occupy his mind than what ifs that hadn’t happened and never will.

 

With one more look to his father’s statue, Jon turns and leaves the Stark crypt, taking the stairs outside. Sansa is standing at the top, waiting for him, Ghost at her side and Jon smiles as soon as he sees his wife.

 

“You could have joined me,” he tells her what she already knows. “It’s your family as well.”

 

Sansa just gives him a soft smile and shakes her head. “These mornings are for you and your father,” she replies. “Will you stand with me while I visit with my mother?” She wonders.

 

Jon chuckles and leans in, giving her a chaste kiss on her cheek. “Fair enough,” he smiles and Sansa smiles, too. But it’s only on her face for a moment before it begins to fade and it doesn’t go unnoticed by Jon. “What is it?” He asks in a lower voice, taking a step closer to his wife.

 

“You’ve received a raven this morning,” Sansa tells him, her eyes steady on his as she does.

 

Jon feels his body instantly tense. “From Edd?”

 

Is this it? Is the Night King and his army getting closer to the Wall? Is it time for Jon to march himself and his people North? He thinks of the men, women and children he has been spending so many hours a day, training. Are they truly ready for what is waiting for them?

 

Is he ready?

 

Sansa shakes her head though, stopping his thoughts in his tracks.

 

“Who is it from?” He asks.

 

He has no idea who could send him a raven that would have Sansa looking at him as if… as if she’s worried and scared and perhaps a little angry herself.

 

Reaching into her cloak, Sansa pulls out a folded piece of parchment and holds it out for him to take. Jon reaches out, about to do just that, but he stops when his eye catches the wax seal. He knows that seal. He’s never seen it in person, but he’s very familiar with that seal.

 

A dragon in red wax.

 

The Targaryen crest.

 

Red hot anger rushes up his chest within seconds, consuming him, and he nearly rips the parchment from her hand, Sansa leaping in surprise – and fright. Crumpling the parchment in one fist, Jon lifts his other hand to cup her cheek gently, managing a complete contrast to the rest of him and bringing his forehead to rest to hers.

 

“I’m sorry,” he whispers. 

 

Sansa swallows and nods. “I understand.”

 

And Jon knows she does. He presses his lips to her forehead for a moment before bringing his head back and looking down to the piece of parchment once again. The Targaryen’s are dead. Robert Baratheon made sure of that. Who would dare send him, Brandon’s Stark very son, a letter with the Targaryen seal?

 

Chapter Text

 

There is only Sansa waiting for him in the courtyard at Winterfell when Tyrion arrives; not that he’s expecting the entire Household to be outside, waiting to greet him, as it had been when he and his family had first visited Winterfell those years earlier.

 

With Sansa, there stands a very tall woman with short light hair; almost white. She is dressed like a man and the large sword at her side is hard to miss. Her eyes are sharp as she stares at Tyrion and he knows she won’t miss anything if he even attempts something; which he isn’t planning to. There is also a young man that Tyrion recognizes to be his former squire, Podrick Payne. Seeing him now, Tyrion smiles. Then the tall woman must be Brienne of Tarth. Tyrion hasn’t met her, but he has heard of her.

 

Seeing such protection on either side of his former wife, Tyrion does his best to not be nervous. He has faced dragons and their mother. He is not going to be intimidated by Brienne of Tarth and Pod.

 

“My Lady,” Tyrion tilts his head down to her once he stands in front of her.

 

He wonders how she feels about him not calling her “Your Grace”, the proper term for a Queen. And though it is good to see her again, and she looks as beautiful as she always has, Sansa is not his Queen and he thinks Sansa would prefer if he didn’t lie to her face and call her something he doesn’t believe. Westeros is only going to have one Queen. He will wait to tell Sansa that though.

 

“My Lord,” Sansa tilts her own head towards him.

 

“Your husband did not want to meet me?”

 

Her face is frozen in politeness and Tyrion feels a chill down his spine. He wonders if it’s the Northern winds blowing or Sansa’s eyes on him.

 

“He is in the training yards,” Sansa answers. “My husband also does not answer summons from Targaryen’s.”

 

Tyrion nearly winces at that. He had told Daenerys that she should not close the letter with her House seal, but she hadn’t listened. She already knew what her family had done to the Starks, particularly Jon’s father, but sometimes, his Queen can be a stubborn woman.

 

“I am of House Targaryen and I will not hide that,” she had informed Tyrion simply as if explaining it to a child.

 

“I apologize if he was offended,” Tyrion tells Sansa.

 

She does not respond to that; simply stares at him and Tyrion feels that chill again. Perhaps he will share with her that she and his Queen have something in common; they can stop people in their tracks with just a look.

 

“Come,” Sansa speaks. “You must be tired and in need of refreshment.”

 

With that, she turns and heads to the doors, Brienne following. Pod stays back so he may walk – escort – Tyrion.

 

“It is good to see you, My Lord,” Pod smiles at his former Lord with that smile that always comes so easy to him.

 

Tyrion is able to smile in truth to his former squire. “And you,” he agrees. “I’m glad to see that you have seemed to land on your feet.”

 

Pod smiles a bit wider at that. “It is an honor to serve Lady Brienne. And the King and Queen of Winterfell have been nothing, but kind to me.”

 

Tyrion wonders if Pod says it was an honor to serve him if he is asked by someone.

 

“Your letter caused quite a reaction after the King read it,” Pod then tells him.

 

“I did not mean for it to.”

 

Pod glances at him for that, but does not comment. It is clear his old squire may not necessarily believe him for that. Tyrion is tempted to ask how Jon reacted when he read the letter, but Tyrion supposes he could just imagine. Brandon Stark’s son receiving a letter from the daughter of the man who had his father killed? When he and Daenerys wrote the letter, Tyrion knew it would be a risk, but Daenerys had insisted.

 

“I need allies. You have said so yourself,” the woman reminded him.

 

“Of course, Your Grace, but I’m not sure demanding his loyalty is perhaps the way to go,” Tyrion had said while making sure his tone to her did not even hint at an argument.

 

Daenerys sighed. “Which is why I am sending you. So that you may speak of me to this King in the North and tell him that I mean him no harm.”

 

Tyrion hadn’t argued with the plan, but honestly, now that he’s here, he admits that he’s not sure how to go about this. He thought he used to know Sansa, but within a mere minute standing outside, Tyrion can easily tell that this woman in front of him is not his child bride from King’s Landing. She has changed and he knows he needs to take times to acquaint himself with these changes. He also needs to see Jon.

 

The letter had angered him; so much so that he hadn’t even come to meet Tyrion on his arrival. How can he convince the King in the North that there is a woman who is the rightful Queen of Westeros and yes, her father had done horrible things, but Jon should not hold anyone guilty for their father’s crimes?

 

The Great Hall of Winterfell is just as Tyrion remembers it to be and Sansa is helped from her cloak by a maid and she then sits at the head table, gesturing for Tyrion to sit across from her. Brienne stands behind Sansa – not crowding her, but close enough for her presence to be noted. As soon as Tyrion sits in the offered chair, there is a cup of wine placed in front of him. He smiles.

 

“You remember that about me,” he comments, picking up the cup and then taking a greedy gulp.

 

The journey was too long and he thinks he might need this to help him think of his next move while here.

 

“It would be impossible to forget, My Lord,” Sansa’s reply is simple and short.

 

“My Lord? Not even using my name? I would think former spouses could still use one another’s names.”

 

“I also would think former spouses who think themselves to be the cleverest in all of Westeros wouldn’t be stupid enough to write such a letter.”

 

“I did not write it.” Tyrion pauses to take another gulp. “I offered some suggestions.”

 

“To a woman who claims something she has no right to?” Sansa raises an eyebrow at that.

 

“She is a Targaryen and House Targaryen ruled Westeros-”

 

“Before Robert Baratheon led a successful rebellion and won his right to the throne. As much as I loathe to say it, Robert’s wife is sitting on the throne now as they have no more children and for most, they see it as her right.”

 

Tyrion studies her for a moment. “You would rather support Cersei than the rightful Queen?”

 

Sansa looks at him, holding his stare, but then breaks away with a sigh. “We are talking in circles already. She is not a rightful Queen, My Lord. She is nothing except a woman who is making demands when she is no one to be demanding anything from anyone.”

 

“And your husband agrees with you?”

 

“I will not repeat what my husband said in reference to your Queen.”

 

“How was that? Marrying your cousin who you haven’t seen in years?”

 

Sansa’s face reveals nothing and Tyrion is watching her closely just in case it does.

 

He knows what Daenerys hopes. If this marriage is purely a political one, Jon Stark must be experiencing some kind of frustration; and desire when he sees the Queen for the first time. Daenerys has every intention of using that to her advantage; to get the North as an ally and what easier way to do that then by getting their King on her side?

 

Tyrion agrees with her. He and Varys have even told her that they can’t see the two cousins having any love for one another past familial love. How can they? Sansa wanted to be Queen and Jon had joined the Night’s Watch. Both had gone down very different paths and now, they are married simply for convivence and for their House name.

 

The marriage does make sense to Tyrion, but a marriage between the North and the Queen on the Throne in King’s Landing makes even more sense.

 

The doors behind him answers and finally, Sansa’s face changes; not by too much. A slip, really, but it’s a second’s slip that is long enough for Tyrion to catch it. She looks happy. It had been such a rare sight in King’s Landing while she had been held there, Tyrion almost doesn’t recognize it. The faintest smile sweeps across her lips before she wipes it away again and her eyes spark.

 

Tyrion sits up in his chair to look at who has entered and a man in training garb with his hair pulled back from his face, enters the Hall, sweat and dirt on his skin. The boy has grown into a man now, has filled out, has lost all traces of boyhood and is now lean and hardened. He thinks his Queen will like this man very much.

 

He had only seen the man years and years ago and always from a distance, but if he had far more than just one cup of wine, Tyrion would think that Brandon Stark was striding into the room right now.

 

Tyrion looks to Jon Stark as the man crosses the room towards the head table and he then looks back to Sansa, the woman looking at her husband and seeing nothing else.

 

With a frown, Tyrion picks up his cup for another gulp of wine.

 

If Sansa loves Jon, his job has just gotten that much harder. He will have to see if Jon loves his wife in return.

 

Chapter Text

My Post (6)

 

Jon knows Tyrion is there. He was informed the moment the man had arrived, but Jon doesn’t even look to him. Right now, the only thing his eyes focus on are Sansa.

 

She rises from her chair as he strides across the Hall towards her and without a word, he takes hold of her hand, pulling her away from the table and Tyrion. Through the door that leads into the kitchens, Jon waits until the door is closed behind them before he lifts both hands to her cheeks and kisses her swiftly – hard – on the lips. It is a quick kiss and done without thought. With Tyrion Lannister in their home, Jon had just felt the need to kiss her right then. It isn’t the kiss he wishes he could give her, but it would do.

 

For now.

 

“Are you alright?” Jon asks, his voice low – almost a growl – and his heart is beating in his ears.

 

Ever since that letter with the Targaryen seal arrived, Jon feels as if his heart hasn’t slowed down.

 

He didn’t want Sansa to have to meet Tyrion on her own and yet, he admits, he didn’t know if he would be able to meet him himself. Just thinking of the man now, and who he is representing, Jon very much envisions colliding his fist into the man’s face over and over again. But he can’t leave his wife alone.

 

A Targaryen. There’s one left and now she wants Jon to join her side; as if she has any right in this world to write to him in the first place. For someone who claims she is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne, she doesn’t seem to know her history of the very land she wants to govern over. Only someone completely unaware of history would think he, Brandon Stark’s legitimate son and heir, would welcome her anywhere other than the end of his sword.

 

And now, this Targaryen – even just thinking the name leaves bitterness on his tongue – has sent his wife’s former husband to Winterfell so that he might speak on her behalf. Jon doesn’t care what Tyrion has to say. Nothing the man has to say will ever have Jon side with this so-called Queen.

 

“Has he said anything? Do I need to skewer him?” Jon wonders.

 

Sansa’s lips begin to twitch in a smile at that, but he knows his wife is too polite to smile at that. Jon’s not though and he smiles for the both of them.

 

“Tyrion has been perfectly polite,” Sansa tells him.

 

“Damn. I really wanted to skewer him.”

 

Sansa lifts a hand to her mouth, almost letting a slip of laughter escape, and Jon leans in, kissing her forehead, allowing his lips to linger on her skin for a moment longer. Sansa lifts her eyes to look at him and gently, she lifts a hand to his cheek, brushing away flecks of dirt from the training yards.

 

“He is trying to convince me that his Queen has any sort of place in Westeros,” Sansa then tells him.

 

The temporary moment of lightness between them vanishes at her words and Jon is stiff once again.

 

“And what did you say to him about that?”

 

“Certainly not what he was expecting. I basically told him I would prefer Cersei.”

 

Sansa tilts her chin up a bit at that and Jon can tell that she’s proud of herself for that. Jon’s proud of her, too. There’s no more Ramsay or Littlefinger. Cersei is the only enemy left of his wife’s who truly frightens her; the only enemy left who wishes  all of the harm in this world on Sansa. But she’s right and Jon agrees. The North has declared their independence – Robb died for it – but if the other six Kingdoms needs a Queen, Jon would much rather have a lion than a dragon. He knows how to slay a lion. 

 

“Tyrion has always thought himself to be smart,” Sansa continues. “And yet, he comes here, to our family home and talks to us of actually working with a Targaryen – after all that her father and brother did to us. To you.”

 

Her hand is still on his cheek and he lifts his hand to cover it; grasp it. He closes his eyes at her touch.

 

He loves his wife’s touch. He craves it. And he wishes there is more time for it, but every moment of their days are occupied with preparations to both get their people through the long winter and get them through the approaching army of the dead. There is little time for anything else; anything more.

 

So often Jon wants to ask Sansa if she wants something more between them, but he never does. He doesn’t want to scare her by letting her know how much he wants her. Sansa has already been scared by enough men. Jon would rather the Night King get him before he could be added to that list.

 

“I will come sit with you,” Jon then says.

 

Sansa’s surprise is evident. “You don’t have to. I know how angry you are and I would like Tyrion to not be privy to your emotions yet.”

 

“He’s far from the smartest man in the room if he isn’t aware of my emotions.”

 

“Please, Jon.” Sansa rests a light hand on his chest and even through his leather training jerkin, he is very aware of her touch. “Be on your best behavior. I need to know his thoughts.” She looks into his eyes and Jon wonders if she has any idea the kind of power she has over him; how he would do absolutely anything if she was the one to ask.

 

Probably not. And if he was to ever tell her, she wouldn’t believe him.

 

Jon gives her a kiss on her forehead before opening the door to the Hall again. Pod has taken his place at the entrance to prevent others from entering while they are inside and he steps aside when he looks to see that it’s them coming out. Jon gives him a nod of thanks and Pod nods in return.

 

Tyrion is sitting in his chair, drinking his now-second cup of wine, but when they step out, he slides to his feet and gives Jon a nod of his head.

 

“Your Grace,” he greets and Jon can feel Sansa stiffen ever so slightly at his side, but when Jon looks at her to see what it is, her face exposes nothing.

 

“My Lord,” Jon says, his voice curt.

 

“It is good to see you again,” Tyrion says this with a smile.

 

“I would say the same thing if your visit was under different circumstances,” Jon replies.

 

From the corner of his eye, he can see Sansa give him the quickest look, but he couldn’t help himself and she can’t blame him for it.

 

He holds out her chair and after Sansa sits down once again, Jon sits down in his chair at her side. Once they are seated, Tyrion takes his seat again and a serving girl hurries over to refill his cup with more wine. She turns towards Jon with the pitcher, but he shakes his head.

 

“Just water for me, Aggie,” Jon gives the girl a small smile and she smiles happily in return before looking to Sansa, who just shakes her head with a smile to the girl, and Aggie turns, hurrying to the kitchens to get her King a cup of water.

 

“I’m sorry for the letter,” Tyrion begins.

 

“Are you?” Jon cannot be expected to believe him.

 

“Not for the contents, but for the seal. I’m sure it was quite a shock to see that seal.”

 

“That’s one word for it.” Jon can’t help, but frown at the man.

 

There’s so many reasons to dislike this man. He’s a Lannister and hasn’t his family brought the Starks enough pain and misery? He’s now serving a Targaryen and if it wasn’t for manners, Jon would have killed him before he could even get off his horse in the courtyard. And lastly, he was married to Sansa. A child forced to marry this man and this man is still glancing over to Sansa now more times than Jon likes.

 

“I apologize on behalf of the Queen,” Tyrion says and Jon notes that the man does sound apologetic, but only a fool would actually believe him to be.

 

The Queen? I only know one Queen, Lannister, and that’s my wife,” Jon informs him, his tone clipped.

 

Tyrion looks to Sansa, but she is silent, simply staring at him and not saying anything. Tyrion isn’t sure who makes him more nervous. Brandon Stark’s son, sitting across from him, growling, or Sansa Stark, sitting across from him and not saying a word.

 

“Forgive me, Your Grace, but the North is still a part of Westeros, is it not?” Tyrion dares to ask.

 

Like a wolf, Tyrion can so easily imagine the man across from him growling and gnashing his teeth.

 

“My cousin died for Northern Independence. Every time he won a battle, your nephew would have my wife beat for it. The North is independent,” Jon says, his words low, but no less sharp.

 

“Of course,” Tyrion nods. The time for that particular conversation will come later. He already knows Daenerys won’t like the North breaking away. He looks to Sansa. “I am so sorry for what you have been through, Sansa.”

 

The use of her name is too casual, too intimate, in front of her husband – who already looks as if he’s barely controlling himself from reaching across the table and throttling him – but Daenerys has sent him here to keep things as smooth and peaceful as possible.

 

They need allies and the North, led by Jon Stark, will be one of the greatest they could get.

 

Tyrion must be careful though. Jon’s father’s death by his Queen’s father will hang in the air above their heads until Tyrion has found a way for Jon to move past that.

 

“We have all been through things, My Lord,” is all Sansa says to that.

 

“Quite true,” Tyrion agrees, seeing a slight opening. He looks back to Jon. “Queen Daenerys has been through things as well, Your Grace. She has suffered greatly. She wishes this suffering to stop for everyone. She wishes to usher in a reign of peace and I believe in her that she can do just that.”

 

“How?” Jon’s question is simple, but there’s nothing simple to the answer.

 

“Allies. She will need help,” Tyrion does his best to answer as simply as he can.

 

Jon stares at him and says nothing. He then looks to Sansa and she looks to him, both staying silent.

 

Jon then looks back to Tyrion. “You sit in my home, speaking to me of being an ally to the woman of the father who murdered mine? You think I will ever side with anyone with Targaryen blood?”

 

“She has dragons, Your Grace,” Tyrion tells him in a quick announcement.

 

There is a silence that falls over the Hall then. Jon and Sansa both stare at him. Aggie has returned with the cup of water and the girl has stopped in her tracks at those words, her eyes wide.

 

“There are no more dragons,” Sansa is the one to speak, her voice soft and disbelieving.

 

“There are. My Queen has three of them. She has brought them into this world and she is their mother.”

 

Jon looks to Aggie and he gives the girl a small smile. It propels her forward to bring him his water. “Thank you, Aggie,” he tells her and Aggie manages a clumsy curtsy before scurrying from the room once more, obviously shaken. She will probably tell everyone she sees of what she has just heard.

 

Jon and Sansa are both kind to their people, Tyrion notes. And their people seem to love them in return. Tyrion isn’t sure how, but that could very well be important. He will be sure to remember that and tell his Queen once he leaves Winterfell and returns to her.

 

Chapter Text

 

Sansa enters the bedchamber and isn’t at all surprised with what she finds.

 

The wolf has come out and her husband is stalking the room in circles, breathing heavily, nearly growling. He lifts his head when he hears her come in and he stops himself in his tracks, watching as Sansa closes and bolts the door behind her.

 

He is furious. She can feel it radiating off of him in waves, but she’s not afraid. Even with his anger, Sansa’s never afraid of Jon because she knows, without a doubt, and trusts that he will never take that anger out on her. Even now, with his jaw and fists clenched and his nostrils flared, Sansa gives him a small smile as she moves to sit down in one of the two chairs placed in front of the roaring fire; a smile given in an attempt to pull him back from his black mood.

 

“Lord Tyrion is snoring away in one of the guest chambers,” she informs him.

 

“And do I now have my Queen’s permission to smother him with a pillow?” Jon asks as he drops himself heavily into the other chair next to hers.

 

Sansa picks up her sewing from the basket on the floor. “Not yet,” she says with a hint of a smile. “I want to learn more of the game he’s playing.”

 

Jon is quiet for a passing beat, watching the steady up and down movement her hand takes as it guides the threaded needle, stitching in and out of the dress she’s creating. Sansa knows he finds it soothing. After endless hours in the training yards and even more hours after that, pouring over maps and discussing battle plans, sometimes, there’s nothing more he would rather do than watch her sew. It’s comforting to him – the near repetition of her hands.

 

“And what is his game?” Jon asks, his voice quiet as his eyes watch her hand.

 

“He wishes for his Queen and you to develop a relationship,” Sansa says as simply as she can, doing her best to ignore the sharp stabbing beneath her ribs from just speaking those words out loud.

 

She doesn’t doubt it though. It’s a lesson she has learned over too many years spent away from home; and then here, during her marriage to Ramsay. Listen for the words that aren’t said by someone. And in the Hall, Tyrion had slipped; or had he done it on purpose? Sansa still can’t decide. Perhaps he still thinks she’s the girl from King’s Landing. Had he forgotten that nearly everything she knows, she learned from his sister? Cersei Lannister is a terrible woman, but she’s a masterful teacher.

 

When he had met with Sansa, he hadn’t called her by the title one calls a Queen. She was simply “My Lady” to him. But Jon…

 

Jon is “Your Grace”, the title befit a King. Tyrion’s words had made it loud and clear to all who was listening and able to pick up on it.

 

Daenerys Targaryen is Tyrion’s Queen and Jon is a King.

 

If Daenerys Targaryen is convinced she is the rightful Queen to Westeros, Tyrion is right. She will need allies to support her claim. And the King in the North is a strong ally to have and if that King was her husband, surely no one could protest her rule. The other Kingdoms would – eventually – fall in line and if not (Sansa imagines Dorne would give issue with a Targaryen on the throne), who wouldn’t want a strong soldier for a husband who could lead her military campaigns to conquering victory?

 

It makes absolute perfect sense to Sansa therefore, she knows that that’s what Tyrion is thinking, too. Never mind that Jon is already married. Marriages are easily abolished.

 

Especially unconsummated ones.

 

From the corner of her eye, she can see Jon’s face harden at that and the muscles twitch in his face from the force in which he’s clenching his jaw.

 

“You don’t mean that,” Jon says and his voice is so low, it nearly makes Sansa shiver despite the heat in his words, but still, she knows he’s not angry at her. “You can’t believe that.”

 

“It makes perfect political sense, Jon,” Sansa tells him in a gentle voice she sometimes uses with him; not because she thinks he’s stupid when it comes to politics, but because even after everything they have all been through, he still has such a hard time grasping how this world can truly be.

 

It’s one of the things she loves most about him. He thinks people are terrible and he has fought his fair share of them, but he still can’t quite believe that people are that terrible. He will be the first to admit that he doesn’t have the mind for politics and politics is where someone’s mind must be terrible.

 

“I am already married, if you remember.”

 

Sansa uses her teeth to bite off the end of the strand she’s sewing. “They won’t care. The way Tyrion talks about his Queen, Westeros already belongs to her. The rest of us just don’t know it yet.”

 

“Your former husband’s mind must have drowned in his many cups of wine if he thinks his plan is something I will agree to,” Jon says, leaning forward in his chair, resting his arms on his knees.

 

Sansa doesn’t say anything to that.

 

Littlefinger had whispered in her ear before Jon executed him; of rumors of the Dragon Queen coming to Westeros and how beautiful a woman she was.

 

She knows it won’t matter to Jon. Anyone with Targaryen blood is someone her husband would hate without any other reason than their name. In Jon’s opinion, no other reason would be needed. Her father, his uncle, and her mother, his aunt, did not raise him to hate. They did not raise any of them to hate. But they did learn history – both of their family and of the North and of Westeros.

 

No one could blame Jon for hating the family who took his father away from him.

 

Still, Littlefinger’s words whisper in her ear as a venomous breeze.

 

“They say she’s one of the most beautiful women in the world.”

 

Sansa mustn’t think of that. She trusts Jon. She loves Jon. And he cares for her. He would never…

 

It doesn’t matter how beautiful the woman is. She’s still a Targaryen and Jon would never…

 

Sansa turns her head and looks at him, finding that Jon is already watching her. The fire flames dance across his face and his lips twitch in the smallest smile. Sansa matches it with one of her own.

 

“May I see?” He then asks and she knows that though his mind is racing, he doesn’t want to talk about this anymore; not until tomorrow anyway.

 

It takes her longer than it should to realize he’s talking about her dress.

 

She finds herself blushing for some reason and she stands up, carefully holding the dress out in front of her so he may see the full of it. Jon slowly stands up, looking at it.

 

“The Lords will begin arriving within the next few days. I wanted to finish it before then.”

 

She knows it’s rather simple. She may be Queen, but they have a war coming up and their fabrics have far better uses than making her a pretty dress. The fabric is dark gray and heavy, but she has stitched the red leaves like those of a weirwood tree along the bodice, each looking as it is falling and blowing in the breeze. With her red hair, Sansa thinks will be perfect in its simplicity.

 

Jon reaches out and rubs one of the sleeve cuffs between his index finger and thumb. “It’s beautiful.”

 

Sansa doesn’t know why, but she finds herself relieved at his opinion.

 

She knows she is a good Queen. She sees to all of hers and Jon’s people and they love her as she loves them. That’s all she had wanted. For her people to love her.

 

But she wants to be a good wife to Jon and she doesn’t know if she is. She cares for him deeply; loves him completely, but does he know that? Does he look to her as his wife or just his cousin who he’s married to? They sleep beside one another in the same bed every night and yet, he makes no moves to touch her past gentle touches of holding her hand or brushing hair from her face or innocently holding her during sleep.

 

She sometimes wonders if he does that for her – because of Ramsay – or if he does that for himself, feeling no urge to do something more with her.

 

Sansa so wants Jon to love her; love her past being his cousin and be in love with her as she is with him.

 

What happens if Tyrion finds out? What if the Dragon Queen finds out? Though she is a Targaryen, stealing Jon away from Sansa might be easier than any of them expect.

 

Jon had kissed her that afternoon, but it had been such a swift kiss to her lips, Sansa had hardly had time to register it in her mind and she wonders if Jon even realized that he had done it at all.

 

She wonders what a kiss – a real kiss – would feel like; a kiss she wants and initiates.

 

Gathering all of the courage inside of her, she clutches the finished dress in her hands and leaning in, she presses her lips to Jon’s; his plump and warm lips. She feels him go completely still – obviously having never expected her to do such a thing – but he’s not pulling his head away. Sansa presses her lips against his just a bit harder and so gently, and for just a second, Jon pushes his lips back to hers.

 

But then his hands are on her arms and ever so gently, he pulls her back so their lips separate and they look at one another. Sansa’s heart is racing and she wonders if Jon is feeling the same in his own chest.

 

“Did you really want that?” He asks her and his voice is so gentle, it nearly makes Sansa want to close her eyes before she cries.

 

She feels too warm and she’s not sure if it’s from their kiss or the fire roaring just a few steps away. Her heart is still racing and it’s almost aching; showing no signs of slowing down.

 

The answer to Jon’s question is such an obvious one and yet, the yes clumps in her throat, refusing to rise and give it a voice. And soon, her inability to answer stretches on and on and the time to speak has passed. She closes her eyes and swallows the word down, a knot of regret pooling in her stomach.

 

Not regret for kissing Jon, but regret that she isn’t able to tell him that she doesn’t regret it.

 

Was all of the damage Ramsay – and Joffrey and Littlefinger and Cersei – did to her so irreversible?

 

She imagines that the Dragon Queen knows exactly what she wants at all times and has no difficulty saying it. Does Jon wish Sansa was more bold? She has no issues with speaking with the Lords during council meetings and speaking her thoughts, but she can’t even speak to her own husband about things a husband and wife need to speak with one another about.

 

Jon lifts his hands then and rests them so gently on her cheeks; so gently, she feels like weeping. His lips rest against her forehead and he leaves them there when he speaks. “Not until you’re ready, Sansa,” he whispers and she wants to think he’s making her a promise.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

To be safe, Arya wears a different face as she nears the Keep. She has heard the stories, but she can’t be too careful and even when she sees the Stark banners flying, she still hesitates.

 

It’s been so long since she’s been home. Ever since she left, she’s been trying to get back here to Winterfell and to her family; especially her cousin, Jon. She’s missed him more than anyone. No one ever understood her like Jon did.  She missed her family – she misses her family – but Jon has always been different. Sometimes, when she was so much younger, Arya had felt like she didn’t belong. She wasn’t a Lady like Sansa and she never would be, but she wasn’t able to train and be like the boys. Most times, it felt like Jon was the only one in this whole world she had on her side.

 

But now that she’s here, right outside the gates, she finds herself hesitating. She’s been through too much; done too much. Will Jon even recognize her anymore? Will he even want to know her?

 

When she reaches the guards on duty, she is wearing her own face again, but they still look at her, not knowing who she is. She doesn’t who they are either.

 

“If you go to the Hall, you’ll find the Queen. She likes to meet everyone who arrives. She’ll get you some soup and a blanket,” one of the guards tells her.

 

Arya feels the breath pause in her chest. “Who is the Queen?” She manages to ask, her heart beginning to beat again; wildly.

 

The guards glance at one another, probably thinking this is some delirious girl for not already knowing.

 

“Queen Sansa,” one of the guards tells her, still looking at her as if she doesn’t quite have her whole mind.

 

“And is there a King?” Again, she holds her breath.

 

Is Jon the King? She knows that the stories are that Jon Stark won the Battle of the Bastards, but is he still here or did he go somewhere else? Is it just Sansa here – Queen with no husband? If she is, that is more than fine, in Arya’s opinion. A Queen doesn’t need a husband no matter what others think on that matter, but Arya hopes. She can’t stop herself from hoping.

 

Please let Jon be here, too.

 

She has thought – when she allows herself to think on it – of how everything would have been different if father had told King Robert that no, Sansa couldn’t marry Joffrey because she was already going to be marrying Jon; if her father had been brave enough to defy his King. Arya likes to think that she and Sansa would have stayed in Winterfell and maybe father would have stayed, too, and everything that had happened to their family wouldn’t had happened at all.

 

“You don’t love Joffrey,” Arya would frown at her bratty sister in King’s Landing.

 

“Yes, I do,” Sansa answered her sullen sister primly.

 

“What about Jon?” Mother and father had arranged a marriage between Sansa and Jon when they were all much younger than they were now.

 

“I love Jon, but we don’t love each other. And besides, he’s joined the Night’s Watch, Arya,” Sansa reminded her and Arya hated her when she reminded her of that.

 

“And there’s a difference between love and love?” Arya didn’t stop herself from asking even though she hated when she had to ask Sansa questions like that; questions that she didn’t know and Sansa did and her older sister would answer them with all of the authority in the world.

 

“Of course there is, Arya,” Sansa had sighed with no patience for such an inquiry.

 

Now, the guards are studying her far more closely than before, blocking her way from entering the courtyard of Winterfell. She will have to remember their faces so she can tell her sister, and hopefully her cousin, too, that these guards are good at their posts. They have every right to be suspicious of this strange girl, asking strange questions, and they won’t let her inside.

 

“Aye, there’s a King,” one of the guards answers her slowly.

 

“Jon?” Arya breathes.

 

Please, please, please let it be Jon. Please let Sansa be married to no one other than Jon.

 

“Who are you?” The other guard demands.

 

Arya stands straight and her eyes are steady on them. “Tell the King and Queen that Arya Stark has returned home.”

 

Home. She’s home. Finally. Though she might not believe that until she actually sees Jon and Sansa with her own eyes. And even then, she still might not allow herself to believe it.

 

 

Jon nearly tears from the training yards with his sword in his hand before Davos calls out to him and even then, Jon barely stops to pass it off to one of the nearby men before he’s racing for the courtyard.

 

Each of his steps on the ground seem to say Arya. Arya. Arya.

 

He doesn’t believe it. He won’t believe it until he sees her. She’s alive. All of this time, he thought she was dead. So did Sansa. She hasn’t seen her since King’s Landing and Sansa had no reason to think her younger sister wasn’t dead. And Jon had agreed with her. Arya was just a child in King’s Landing. They were all children and how did his cousin who he’s always looked to as a sister get out of there and survive?

 

Jon doesn’t care how she did it. All he does care about is that she did and she’s here now.

 

Is she really here?

 

He nearly skids to a stop in the courtyard and his eyes immediately land on her. She’s older. She’s different. Gone is the girl who left Winterfell to go South. This is a woman in front of him and yet, there is steel in her spine he only sees in the most hardened of people.

 

She looks at him – obviously taking in the ways in which he has changed from the last time they saw one another – and then, both seem to come to a silent agreement. Even now, both are so aware of one another’s thoughts.

 

Simultaneously, they rush towards the other, the space disappearing between them and it doesn’t matter that Arya is no longer a girl. She jumps and throws her arms around his shoulders and Jon’s arms tighten around her waist like iron as he holds her off the ground, hugging her, and even with her in his arms, he can’t actually believe that she’s here.

 

Arya clenches her eyes shut, pressing her face into his shoulder. This is really happening. She’s really here and she’s really in Jon’s arms. She has dreamed of this so many times – too many times – and does she trust that this is real? Is this true?

 

“Arya!”

 

Jon sets her down on her feet again and both turn to see Sansa hurrying as fast as she can without actually running – which would be un-Queen like – and it makes Arya smile because she knows it.

 

“Arya!” Sansa calls out her sister’s name and Arya breaks away from Jon to go rushing to Sansa.

 

The two sisters throw their arms around one another and both burst into tears. Arya hadn’t been expecting to have such a reaction – especially when she sees Sansa – but she’s crying and it’s as if she has not cried in so long and now all of those tears she’s held in over these past few years are being released all at once. The last time she saw her sister, Arya had watched from the crowd as their father had lost his head and Sansa fainted. 

 

And then she feels Jon’s arms around them both, the three hugging one another, crying, and no one dares interrupts them.

 

“Oh, you need a bath,” Sansa says once they all take a moment to catch their breaths.

 

“Telling me I stink, Your Grace?” Arya tests Sansa’s new title on her tongue. Arya isn’t exactly surprised to find that it sounds right. Sansa has always been a Lady and has always carried herself as a Queen.

 

Arya doesn’t know if she fully believes in them anymore – its near impossible for her to believe in the Gods after everything they’ve put her and their family through – but they must still have influence over things if they did not have Sansa be Joffrey’s Queen and instead, be Jon’s.

 

“Yes,” Sansa laughs as she wipes at her tear-streaked cheeks.

 

Arya gives her sister a grin and then looks to Jon. Her cousin has always had hard eyes. She knows it was because of what happened to his father, Uncle Brandon, and though he was raised by his uncle and aunt, Jon was always a bit hard due to circumstances. Now, he looks even harder and Arya knows he has been through as much as they all have been. He has new scars and she’ll ask him about them; but only when she’s ready to tell him about hers because it will only be fair.

 

“You two are married,” Arya then states.

 

“We are,” Jon smiles and he then looks to Sansa, who is smiling at him as well.

 

They both then look to Arya, clearly wanting to know her reaction to that bit of news. It’s weird. Arya won’t lie. It’s always been weird to her – ever since mother and father since told everyone of Jon and Sansa’s engagement. But Arya knows that’s only because Jon has always been so much more than a cousin to her. Jon is another brother.

 

It has never been anything like that for Sansa though and Jon certainly never looked to Sansa like a sister.

 

They were always supposed to be married and now, even after everything, they are. Finally.

 

“And King and Queen,” Arya says. “How does Cersei feel about that?” She directs this question to Sansa. She may not know everything, but word of King’s Landing travels – even to Braavos – and she knows that Sansa has been under Cersei’s command for far longer than anyone should be.

 

“We have bigger problems than Cersei Lannister, Arya,” Jon is the one to answer.

 

Arya looks to him and her fingers are already tingling to wrap around Needle’s hilt. “Who?”

 

It’s not a question of what. Who is always the problem.

 

She is about to tell them of her list. If she can tell anyone about it, it’s her sister and Jon. But certainly not in the courtyard with dozens of people. She also has to ask why there are so many people here, in Winterfell, and what had the guards meant about getting her soup and a blanket and the Queen wanting to meet everyone who comes in?

 

“Do you remember Tyrion Lannister?” Sansa asks her.

 

Arya’s instincts were correct. Without answering, her fingers take a hold of Needle hanging at her side. Jon notices and he steps in close to her; as if to block her actions from prying eyes. That also immediately puts Arya at attention and she wonders who is here that Jon and Sansa are nervous about. What has Tyrion Lannister done now? What have the fucking Lannisters done to her family this time?

 

“He’s here,” Jon tells her in a lower voice.

 

“In Winterfell?” Arya already feels anger rising from her stomach.

 

This will be the man’s last night in Winterfell if she has anything to say about it. No Lannister should live for long in this world as far as she is concerned. Why have Jon and Sansa allowed him to stay?

 

“He comes with news,” Sansa says. “But we’ll talk about it in private. There are too many people around.”

 

“Tell me,” Arya demands of them as Jon and Sansa try to usher her inside, her feet planted on the ground, not moving another inch forward.

 

Jon and Sansa look to one another and Arya tries to keep from being jealous that they seem to be able to silently communicate with one another. That used to be only something she and Jon shared together.

 

Jon is then the one to answer, only doing so after he takes a deep sigh.

 

“There is another Targaryen in the world.”

 

Chapter Text

 

Arya is scrubbed until her skin is pink. The water is still warm and she hugs her knees to her chest as the maid washes her hair thoroughly, clucking her tongue quietly to herself. Arya swallows the retort on her tongue towards the woman. She can’t remember the last time she actually bathed so she can’t exactly say anything in her defense.

 

The door opens and Sansa steps in, seeing Arya still in the wash tub in front of the fire. She smiles.

 

“Thank you, Sarra,” Sansa smiles to the maid behind Arya. “I will finish up here. Make sure you get to the kitchen and get yourself something to eat.”

 

Sarra shakes off her hands and stands up, giving Sansa a curtesy. “Thank you, Your Grace.”

 

Sansa waits until Saara leaves the chamber, the door closing behind her, before Sansa approaches the tub. She kneels behind Arya once again and takes over washing her hair with the soap. Arya stays quiet, hugging her knees to her chest, her chin on her knee and her eyes on the door; as if waiting for someone unwanted to burst in at any moment.

 

“Tilt back,” Sansa quietly commands and Arya does so, closing her eyes as Sansa dumps the water over her head, washing the soap from her hair.

 

Then, kneeling once more, Sansa takes a comb and begins working it through the tangles left behind. She begins to hum quietly and Arya has to close her eyes; has to try and keep her breathing steady, but right now, thoughts of her mother flood her mind.

 

“I miss her, too,” Sansa says in a soft voice as if she’s able to read her sister’s mind.

 

Arya sniffles and shakes her head despite the comb working through her hair. “I haven’t thought of her in so long. Not really thought of her. It’s… after the Freys…”

 

Sansa’s hands still. “What about the Freys?”

  

Arya hesitates, not sure if she should tell Sansa what she did. But Sansa has a right to know. They were her family, too, and what Arya did was for family.

 

“Arya,” Sansa prompts.

 

“I killed them all,” she answers in a quiet voice, yet still cold.

 

Sansa’s hands still and Arya finds herself holding her breath, wondering how Sansa is going to react.

 

A moment passes and then Sansa resumes moving the comb gently through Arya’s hair. “Good.”

 

That’s all she says and it takes another moment for Arya to realize that that’s all she’s going to say. Slowly, she allows herself to relax and concentrate on the gentle ministrations of the comb.

 

“Short hair suits you much better,” Sansa comments.

 

Arya allows herself a small smile. “I had it cut when I fled from King’s Landing. It was safer to travel as a boy.” Her voice is quiet by the end and Sansa’s hands slow, nearly stopping, before she continues combing.

 

“That was very smart.”

 

“I’m sorry I couldn’t get to you,” Arya then blurts out.

 

“You couldn’t have,” Sansa shakes her head. “No one could have.”

 

Sansa is quiet then so Arya chooses to be quiet, too. Sansa begins to hum again and she moves the comb away. Arya wants to ask her all sorts of things – of King’s Landing, Joffrey and Cersei; of Ramsay Bolton.

 

But the question that forms instead isn’t actually a question at all. “You and Jon are married now.”

 

Sansa laughs at that. “We are. Don’t worry though. Now that you’re home again, I’m sure he still likes you more.” Her voice is light, but Arya hears much more past that.

 

“You are his wife. Surely, he likes you if he married you.” It sounds naïve to Arya’s own ears, but even now, after everything, she knows there are still things she is naïve in regards to.

 

“We only married because that was what the Lords wanted. And mother and father wanted it as well, before King Robert, if you remember. Jon only married me because of duty.”

 

Arya turns her head to look over her shoulder. “There’s more,” she states, staring at – studying – her older sister. “Do you love him?”

 

So long ago now, Jon and Sansa were meant to be married; betrothed to spend the rest of their life together as husband and wife; Lord and Lady of their own Keep over their own land. Arya had been jealous once she was old enough to know what a betrothal was; not because she wanted Jon as her husband – disgusting – but because Sansa would be leaving with Jon and she would have him all to herself and Arya wouldn’t be able to see him every day.

 

Sansa looks at her, but can’t seem to do so for long. She stands up, turning away, going to collect the cloth so that Arya might finally rise from the tub. “It doesn’t matter,” Sansa finally speaks. “There are far more important things to think about. Tyrion Lannister is in our home and there’s a Targaryen…” her voice trails off and Arya knows she’s the only person who could probably detect the slight tremble in her tone.

 

Sansa holds out the cloth and turns her head so that Arya can rise. Arya does so, taking the cloth and wrapping it around her body, watching her sister closely.

 

“Would you like me to braid your hair tonight or would you like it to dry by the fire?” Sansa asks.

 

“You love him,” Arya states.

 

Sansa’s eyes snap back towards her. “Of course I love him. He’s Jon.”

 

“No. You love him.” Arya still doesn’t know the difference – exactly – but she knows there is one.

 

She expects Sansa to immediately deny that; to be so adamant in her refusal of loving Jon.

 

But instead, Sansa stays silent and Arya actually doesn’t know if she prefers that over Sansa making quick denials or not.

 

Arya watches her closely as Sansa goes to the wardrobe and pulls out a long white sleep gown.

 

“I don’t know what you prefer to sleep in-”

 

Arya lets out a laugh, cutting into Sansa’s words, and Sansa looks at her, confused.

 

“Sorry,” Arya says, trying to get her to stop laughing. “I just… I still don’t believe I’m here.”

 

Sansa smiles then, too. “I’m so glad you are. We’re a little short on materials at the moment, but I will find you some fresh breeches and tunics to wear tomorrow until your own clothes are washed.” She sets the sleep gown on the bed and heads towards the door. “I’ll also have the tub removed tomorrow. Don’t worry about making it down to the Hall for breakfast. You sleep. I’ll have food sent up for you. You need rest.”

 

“You’re good at this,” Arya comments before Sansa can leave.

 

“What?”

 

“This whole…” Arya gestures around the room, meaning the whole of Winterfell, and Sansa understands for she smiles.

 

“That might be the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me,” Sansa says, still smiling. “Good night.”

 

And then, before Arya can even think of something to say in response to that, Sansa leaves, closing the door behind her.

 

 

Jon lifts his head when he hears the door to the chamber open and at the sight of his wife, he stands up.

 

“I think she’ll be sleeping for quite a bit,” Sansa says before he can even open his mouth to ask. “She seems exhausted.”

 

“She will sleep for as long as she needs to and no one will disturb her,” Jon vows.

 

Sansa smiles and then she goes behind the changing screen in the corner.

 

Jon swallows. “Do you need help?”

 

He has never been in here before when she has been changed for bed. He is still either in the training yards or going over plans and maps with Davos and the others. Sansa has a maid, Cora, but it is late and Jon knows that Sansa wouldn’t disturb her maid – whether that’s Cora’s job or not.

 

Sansa is quiet on the other side of the screen and Jon can imagine she trying to unlace her dress without answering his offer. He knows she doesn’t wish for him to touch her.

 

He has a dark thought then. Is there another man’s touch Sansa wishes for?

 

No, his is quick to remind himself. Not after Ramsay. What that man did to her – to his wife – Sansa still deals with the pain of it every day, Jon knows, no matter how badly she tries to hide it from him. No. Sansa doesn’t want any man’s touch; not even her husband’s.

 

“Cora knotted it a bit tightly this morning and I can’t…” Sansa sounds frustrated. “If you wouldn’t mind…”

 

“Of course not.”

 

Jon does his best to keep breathing and to not swallow his tongue as he takes slow steps to join her behind the screen. She stands with her back to him and he nearly gasps at the sight of her; the candlelight dancing off her body, her braid pulled over her shoulder.

 

She looks back to him and Jon manages to give her the smallest smile. He is sure to approach her slowly – so not to startle her – and he lifts his hands just as slowly, not knowing what he’ll do if she flinches from him. But she doesn’t flinch or shy herself away.

 

Jon looks at the laces of his wife’s dress, his heart pounding in his chest. He sleeps close to her every night. He wonders if his body is just drawn to hers; if it’s always been drawn to hers and he was just too young to realize it. But somehow, being this close to her in the candlelight, it is so very different.

 

“You’re right,” he says after a moment of doing his best to unknot the laces. “I must have Cora train some of our people in tying knots.” He smiles when that gets the softest laugh from her. “May I…” he begins to ask and Sansa looks back over her shoulder to him to see what he is suggesting. “If I use my teeth…”

 

“Oh!” Sansa’s eyes widen a bit at that and he sees a blush darken her cheeks. “I… if you think it will help…”

 

“I don’t want to bring my blade near you,” Jon tells her.

 

Sansa stares at him and he can feel her body stiffen at just the idea of that. “Thank you,” she whispers.

 

She then faces forward again and Jon thinks that might be her giving him permission. Jon steps in just a little closer and bending his head down, he closes his eyes as he catches the whiff of her scent. His wife’s scent is roses and snow and Jon wishes to inhale it until it clouds his brain and it’s all he can smell.

 

With the aid of his teeth, he is able to loosen the knot and then he is able to unlace the rest of it with his fingers, slowly exposing more and more of her pale back. He sees the scars, too, leftover from both Joffrey and Ramsay, but honestly, his eyes skim right over them because his wife’s back is pale and beautiful.

 

Sansa is completely still and he doesn’t even think she’s breathing. She’s probably trying to figure out what he’s thinking. Her scars are probably the only thing she thinks he sees.

 

Jon can’t help himself. He can’t tell her what he’s thinking. He can’t be sure of the words that will tell her exactly how beautiful he thinks she is; how strong for getting all of these scars and still surviving it all he knows her to be.

 

Instead, he leans forward again, catching her scent, and before he can stop himself, Jon presses his lips to the first one of her scars he can reach.

 

Chapter Text

 

For a few passing minutes after Jon Stark finishes speaking, Tyrion is quiet, needing those minutes to collect his thoughts and think of what to possibly say to all of that.

 

“You speak the truth?” Tyrion finally is able to ask.

 

Jon’s snort is his answer and he doesn’t stop at sparring with the young man across from him as he speaks. “No, Lannister. I’m training all of these men, women and children to keep me from my own boredom since there’s clearly not enough to do around here. I needed to make up a Night King to keep things interesting for myself.”

 

Tyrion falls quiet again. He’s heard the stories, of course, but from thousands of years ago, that’s all they are now. Stories. The dead can’t possibly be walking North of the Wall again. And well, if they are… how can he tell his Queen about it without her scoffing in complete disbelief? It is a fantastical story and even he, who is from Westeros, has difficulty believing in it right at this moment.

 

But Jon is correct. If it’s just a story to tell to distract Tyrion from his true reason for his visit, why would the King in the North be spending his time in the training yards each day with all of these common people instead of helping his wife with further preparing for winter? Surely, the King has far more important things to worry about than things that don’t exist.

 

“Could you prove it?” Tyrion wonders.

 

Jon stops sparring to turn towards him, his eyes flashing in a fierce glare.

 

He has become such an angry young man. Tyrion doesn’t remember him being so angry when he was younger, when Tyrion first met him those years ago at Winterfell. Or perhaps he was and Tyrion just hadn’t noticed it. That doesn’t seem possible though. It isn’t like him to miss something that big about another person. 

 

“I don’t need to prove anything to you, Lannister,” Jon tells him, his voice as cold as the Northern wind. “You’re in my home. You best not forget that. If it wasn’t for Westeros decorum, I would have killed you the instant you rode onto my lands. It’d do you well to remember that as well.”

 

“Forgive me, Your Grace,” Tyrion is quick to say. “I meant no disrespect. I was only thinking… if there is a dead army marching this way, perhaps the Queen Daenerys can aid you.” If there is a dead army marching their way, it would be a good opportunity for Daenerys to show to Jon that she is on his side.

 

“No.”

 

Jon’s refusal is swift and final.

 

His eyes glance upwards then and Tyrion follows his path to see what he’s looking to.

 

Sansa is on the balcony that overlooks the training yards, wearing a heavy gray cloak with thick black fur around the collar. Her hair is worn down, two braids pulled back from her face. As always, Podrick is with her – Brienne in the training yard that morning – and Yohn Royce is at her side, papers in his hands, a board to write on, nodding in agreement to whatever Sansa is saying. Tyrion knows of Yohn Royce, but he doesn’t know the man personally. He only knows that he is loyal to House Stark – especially to Lady Sansa. He seems to have her council more than anyone else from what Tyrion has seen.

 

Perhaps it’s time he speak with Yohn Royce and get to know the man.

 

When Tyrion looks away – back to Jon – Jon is already staring at him, his jaw visibly clenched, obviously having noted Tyrion looking at her. Tyrion smiles, doing his best to be at ease around the man.

 

“I had almost forgotten how beautiful the Lady Sansa is,” Tyrion tries to speak as friendly as he can; just two men discussing the beauty of a woman.

 

Jon’s hard eyes remain though. “I am aware of my wife’s looks.”

 

“Of course,” Tyrion gives him a smile. He thinks of the question he posed to Sansa when he first arrived and how she had not given an answer. Perhaps, Jon will. “Was it strange to marry your cousin after going years without seeing one another and when your betrothal was no longer between you?”

 

Jon looks at the man – his eyes hard and unwavering. If Tyrion thought him capable, he would think Jon Stark was looking inside of him right now. Tyrion wonders what is inside of Jon right now.

 

Starks are a loyal sort. He did not come here to Winterfell without already knowing that. Even if there is absolutely no affection between Jon and Sansa, breaking up their marriage will still prove to be difficult. They truly do see themselves as their sigil – wolves – and wolf packs stick together.

 

But perhaps, if Jon shows even the slightest bit of discomfort in his marriage, that is discomfort Tyrion can use. Does he ever expect the son of Brandon Stark to actually marry a Targaryen? No, he’ll be honest with himself in regards to that no matter how his Queen might be in looks and power. But perhaps, being her lover will be enough. Perhaps Jon can stay married to Sansa and just warm Daenerys’s bed from time to time. A relationship of that nature would still keep the North and South tied together.

 

A marriage would be ideal, of course, but being around Jon Stark more and more and seeing the anger Jon still has, bubbling inside of him over a father he never met – a father who died at the hand of a Targaryen – Tyrion knows that an actual marriage between Jon and Daenerys might just not be possible.

 

This very well might be a situation of taking what they can get.

 

“I was always meant to marry Sansa,” Jon answers.

 

Hmmmm, Tyrion thinks to himself. Not exactly a vow of undying love for his wife, he notes.

 

 

After going over the grain stores one more time – always one more time – with Yohn Royce, Sansa returns to her solar to go over some more paperwork in her own company. Podrick stations himself outside the door, which Sansa decides to leave open so the people know that she will accept audiences if need be. She always wants to make sure that she is available to hers and Jon’s people – especially with the dead and winter both approaching.

 

As she scribbles away, she sees movement at the door and when she lifts her head to see, she instantly bursts into a smile. “There you are!” She declares as Ghost trots into the room, coming right for her. She sees the tints of pink in the white of his fur around his mouth. “And returning home successful, I see. We might need you to lead a hunting party so men might return with more meat for our stores.”

 

Ghost responds to that by resting his head in Sansa’s lap and she smiles, kissing the direwolf on top of his head while murmuring to him that he’s a good boy. Ghost’s tail sweeps back and forth to that.

 

Sansa does her best to return to her work – there is always so much work no matter how much she tries to finish from one day to the next – but she admits that her mind just isn’t here with her this early afternoon.

 

Her mind has been distracted all day – no matter what task she has been seeing to. Thankfully, it seems her body nor her mouth need her mind to actually be present, taking care of all business without aid as Sansa’s mind is still in the night before; her back still feeling the ghost of Jon’s lips across her skin.

 

At first, she hadn’t been even sure that he had been doing what he had actually been doing and then, as soon as she allowed herself to realize that yes, Jon was most certainly kissing her scars, she had almost choked on her quick inhale of breath.

 

“I’m sorry,” Jon murmured as he straightened behind her, feeling her body stiffen so tightly, it rivaled that of a wooden board.

 

Sansa had shaken her head rapidly, turning towards him, tears clinging in her eyes. “No, it’s not… they’re so hideous,” she finished in a whisper.

 

“No, love. They’re not. They’re not,” Jon had said, stepping back towards her and then with his hands framing her face, he had kissed her forehead.

 

Sansa can still feel his lips and hear his words; most of all, love. He had called her ‘love’. She wonders if he even remembers doing so and if he does remember, does he cringe at the slip of calling her such a word? Does he regret it? It was just a slip. Sansa knows that. Jon’s never called her that before and he surely wouldn’t once seeing her scars. They’re so ugly and how could he possibly love her once seeing them?

 

Her mind then wonders how many scars the Targaryen Queen has, but Sansa is quick is physically shake her head, knocking that thought from her mind.

 

It doesn’t matter. Whether she’s Jon’s love or not, the Targaryen Queen doesn’t matter because the facts remain. Jon is Jon; Brandon Stark’s son and he would never fall to his knees in front of a Targaryen Queen – sworn to a scarred cousin-wife or not.

 

Sansa must always remember that; must always believe that.

 

A knock on the open door has her lifting her head and she smiles when she sees that it’s her sister, awake and dressed despite the sun being almost directly over their heads now. It doesn’t matter. As promised, Jon and Sansa ensured that their cousin and sister slept, undisturbed, until she was ready to rise.  

 

“Settling in well?” Sansa asks as Arya comes into the room, plopping herself down in one of the chairs situated around Sansa’s desk for when she has meetings.

 

“It’s strange to sleep in such a comfortable bed again,” Arya comments and Sansa wants to ask her so much; about what’s happened to her and where she’s slept, but there are too many questions and Sansa already knows that Arya won’t answer them. “I’ve already spoken with Jon,” she then continues. “He told me about the battle we have coming.”

 

Sansa knows it’s pointless, but each morning, she wakes and promises herself she won’t think of the Night King and his army for at least a few hours. She never makes it that long though. Everything she and Jon are doing every day is preparing themselves and their people for what is to come.

 

“He told me that you have council meetings every afternoon, discussing possible plans of attack.”

 

“We do and you will join us this afternoon. I’m not much help during them, but I like to be present. I don’t know how to win a battle-”

 

“You won the Battle against Ramsay Bolton, from what I hear,” Arya interrupts.

 

Sansa sits back in her chair. Ghost’s head is still in her lap and she resumes scratching through his fur.

 

“Only because I was able to get Littlefinger and the number of men in our favor,” Sansa replied.

 

“Jon told me that he executed the man,” Arya watches Sansa closely.

 

Sansa has to wonder how long ago Arya actually woke up. It seems like she and Jon have discussed so much already.

 

“Yes,” Sansa nods. “For crimes against our family.”

 

“And you. Jon said that Littlefinger expected you to marry him after he brought the Knights of the Vale to the aid of you and Jon.”

 

Sansa nearly shudders at that; at Littlefinger all, but demanding her hand; demanding she accept his; at the memory of the blackness of Jon’s eyes as absolute fury took over him once she had told him.

 

“If it had been you Littlefinger wanted to marry, Jon would have executed him as well,” Sansa says.

 

That’s the truth. Jon is fiercely loyal to all of their family – and he had hated Littlefinger. It was only a matter of time once Jon found out all the other man had done against their family before Jon swung his sword through the man’s neck. He wanting to marry Sansa was just another reason in a long list of them.

 

“You don’t seem to have that much faith in Jon,” Arya then comments as casually as can be.

 

Sansa snaps her head up from looking down to Ghost with wide eyes. For a moment, she has no idea what to say to that, because she never thought Arya would even think such a thing. But then, she reminds herself that Arya hasn’t been here to see everything she and Jon have already been through together. Perhaps, to Arya, Sansa is still that spoiled girl in King’s Landing who wanted to marry a sniveling Prince.

 

“I have faith in no one more than Jon,” Sansa swears.

 

“But you don’t believe that he would do anything for you?” Arya questions.

 

“I’m his cousin and I’m his family. I know what he would do. He’s already showed me.” Sansa’s throat feels thick and she wishes the pitcher of water wasn’t so far away. She had forgotten to bring a cup of it to her desk when she had first come in, but now, she doesn’t even trust herself to stand to go collect some.

 

Arya is looking at her, not saying anything to that, and Sansa suddenly fears that her sister can look straight into her head and read all of her feelings and thoughts in regards to her love for her husband. And knowing so little of what her sister has been through and what she has become, perhaps Arya can read Sansa’s thoughts.

 

“I wish you were still asleep in bed,” Sansa speaks before she can get herself to stop.

 

Arya just cracks into a grin and continues to not say anything more.

 

Chapter Text

 

The meeting has just begun when the door opens once more and Sansa steps inside, Ghost at her side and Brienne following behind. As soon as she enters, Jon stands to his feet and the others are quick to follow. Sansa gives them all a warm smile, her eyes landing on Jon.

 

“Apologies for my tardiness,” Sansa says to them all.

 

“We have only just begun,” Jon assures her.

 

He wants to ask her if she’s alright; if there’s a reason for her being late to the meeting – Sansa is rarely late to anything – but he knows that those aren’t questions to ask in front of everyone; especially Lannister, who is sitting in this meeting as well.

 

He thinks of what Sansa has told him about Tyrion possibly wanting Jon for his Dragon Queen despite him being already married to Sansa (and despite him wanting to vomit at just the idea of even touching a Targaryen with a single finger of his). He is grateful his wife is so smart in the ways of the people in politics and how they think. He isn’t the best at it. Jon will be the first to admit it, and if he does find himself getting even marginally better at it, it’s because he is married to Sansa and he follows her lead.

 

He doesn’t doubt her when she told him what she thinks Tyrion’s plan might be. It’s a disgusting and infuriating plan and yet, at the same time, it makes sense, doesn’t it? If some woman comes, claiming to be Queen, she will need allies; strong allies. Jon hasn’t even met the woman – nor does he care to – but he already finds her incredibly stupid if she thinks she can get him to be anything to her. She also seems to be surrounding herself with incredibly stupid advisors.

 

Stupid advisors with eyes currently following his wife as she comes around the table to take her seat in the empty chair next to Jon.

 

Once Sansa sits down, everyone does as well, Jon the last to do so; slowly and feeling his fingers curl into a fist as Lannister keeps looking at Sansa, trying to hide the fact that he is, but Jon able to see it all the same. The man then moves his eyes, locking with Jon’s from across the table, and lifting his wine glass, he gives Jon the barest of smiles and Jon’s fist is entirely formed now.

 

Jon then feels a warm hand over his fist and he turns his head to look to Sansa. She is looking at him and without a word, she leaves her hand resting over his; not needing to say anything. And slowly, from her touch and her touch alone, Jon’s fist begins to unfurl until his hand is relaxed beneath hers.

 

“Please, Lady Mormont,” Jon nods to the young girl. “Continue.”

 

He expects Sansa to pull her hand away from his, but she doesn’t. All through the meeting, as everyone around the table studies the map of the North unfolded before them, with all of the pieces in the same places as they always are, discussing the plan over and over again that hasn’t changed in a week’s time, studying it from every possible angle with every possible scenario being worked out, Sansa’s hand stays over his and Jon doesn’t dare move – even to shift in his chair. He’s almost afraid of breathing too loud in case it causes Sansa to realize that she’s still touching him.

 

“Perhaps,” Tyrion speaks up and the room falls silent, everyone looking to him. Jon feels his body begin to tense and Sansa’s fingers gently close around his hand. “The Queen Daenerys may offer some assistance-”

 

“I already told you no,” Jon cuts in, his voice stern.

 

“And a Targaryen is not a Queen,” Lyanna Mormont frowns at Tyrion with that fierce stare of hers.

 

“Not in Westeros,” Lord Manderly adds with his own frown.

 

Tyrion is surrounded with frowns and cold eyes, but he doesn’t seem to notice; or perhaps even care if he does notice. He just smiles and takes another sip of wine.

 

“I know. Lady Sansa is your Queen. But does my sister recognize the North’s independence?” He wonders.

 

Jon doesn’t mean to, but he grasps Sansa’s hand, feeling his anger growing hotter and hotter in his chest. From the way he grasps her hand, Sansa is only able to move her thumb and she does so, brushing it back and forth along the patch of skin on his hand that she can touch. In the back of his mind, Jon can feel it and he forces himself to keep his head clear.

 

“And you’re saying that your Queen will recognize it?” Jon asks.

 

“Perhaps,” Tyrion pauses to look to Sansa and then to Jon. “If you come and meet the Queen, explain to her the threat that is North of the Wall and coming, she will offer her help in exchange for your help.”

 

“And what help does she need?” Arya is the one to ask. She is not sitting, but rather, she’s standing behind Jon’s chair, off to the side. She had been silent for the entire meeting, listening to the plan of marching north to the Wall once the Lord Commander, Edd, sends the raven, but she can’t stay silent any longer.

 

A Lannister in her home, trying to push any Targaryen on them, Tyrion has no idea how lucky he is that he’s able to get through any of this meeting without Arya’s blade finding his throat.

 

“To take the throne from Cersei,” Tyrion answers.

 

“Listen to me, Lannister,” Yohn Royce suddenly speaks and as he does, he stands up from his chair, towering over the man, frowning down at him. “The last time a Targaryen was on the throne, do you remember how that ended? Especially for the family of the home you are sitting in right now?”

 

Jon’s grip tightens even further on Sansa’s hand and he knows it’s probably too tight, but he can’t bring himself to loosen it. It’s either grip Sansa’s hand or punch Tyrion Lannister in the face.

 

“I am very sorry for that, Your Grace,” he says to Jon before looking back up to Royce. “But Queen Daenerys should not be held responsible for that. When she takes the throne, she will do the things for Westeros as its ruler that always should have been. There will be peace.”

 

“And we should believe you, a Lannister, vouching for a Targaryen?” Lord Glover nearly snarls as Royce sits once more, giving Sansa a small smile of apology for allowing himself to show lack of a propriety during a meeting and being rude in her home. Sansa merely smiles softly at the man, not thinking anything of it. 

 

Tyrion merely smiles and his eyes return to Jon. “Her dragons might be of use at the Wall when the dead come. Is there any way we can prove to her what’s coming?”

 

“I already told you,” Jon speaks and his voice is nothing, but a snarl. Sansa continues rubbing her thumb on the bit of skin on his hand that she can reach. “I don’t need to prove anything to you or your Queen,” he says the last word with so much disdain, he can feel the tension rolling off of everyone else, all feeling – and sharing – his same hostility towards the clear outsider. “I don’t need her help and I especially don’t need help from a woman who would offer it only so that I would be in her debt.”

 

“If she thinks she’s the rightful Queen of Westeros, why wouldn’t she help us seeing as how if the North falls to the dead, all of Westeros would shortly follow?” Royce questions.

 

Lannister smiles. Even with the tension, he still looks as relaxed as a man possibly can; as if he doesn’t find the anger from everyone to be true; or perhaps justified.

 

“I was only thinking out loud,” Tyrion tells them all, his eyes looking only to Jon though. “I know you were Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch and I’m sure there are still those who are loyal to you. Perhaps, if you and some of those from the Night’s Watch were to go out beyond the wall, there would be a way for you to capture one of these dead and bring them before both Queen Daenerys and Cersei. If Cersei sees, maybe she would even join your cause.”

 

Our cause,” Lyanna snaps, not able to keep it in, not like Royce and worried about propriety in these meetings.

 

“You want me to risk lives so I can bring back a dead wight with me and what? Haul it all over Westeros, showing it off and proving its existence, hoping it will convince others to help?” Jon nearly smiles. “My wife told me that she once thought you were the cleverest man she ever knew. I hardly think my wife is the sort to make mistakes, but I have to wonder about her opinion of you.”

 

Sansa suddenly stands up, having been silent for the entire meeting and now, she speaks. “That is all today. I must speak with my husband,” her voice is firm in her command and no one dares to argue.

 

Jon stands up as well, looking at her. “Is everything alright?” He asks her in a lowered voice. He can see the ramrod straightness of her back and the way she clasps her hands in front of her.

 

Everyone stands, bowing to them both before leaving the room. Sansa looks to Tyrion and sees as he comes to walk out with Yohn Royce. If possible, her back grows even straighter at that.

 

“Sansa,” Jon says her name gently, his hand coming to rest on the small of her back.

 

He nearly expects her to flinch, her mind elsewhere and his touch would be of a surprise to her. But she doesn’t flinch. Instead, when Brienne is the last to leave, closing the door behind her, Sansa spins to Jon.

 

She licks her dry lips and takes a shaky breath. “Tyrion Lannister is trying to kill you.”

 

 

“I have heard much about you, Lord Royce,” Tyrion says once they leave the meeting room and head towards the Hall side-by-side.

 

“Have you now?” Royce replies. “I’ve certainly heard a bit about you, too, My Lord.”

 

“All of it true, I’m sure,” Tyrion gives a grin at that. “May I ask a question that might seem a bit forward?”

 

Royce’s steps slow and then, the large man turns fully to look down to Tyrion, who has stopped walking as well. He does not show nervousness. He is a guest in Winterfell and as Jon said, there is decorum and manners when a guest is invited into one of the Houses. No harm shall come to him as long as he remains a guest of the King Jon and Lady Sansa.

 

Besides, he doesn’t think Yohn Royce is the sort to just kill a man in a hallway in cold blood.

 

“You seem the sort to ask whether the other person wishes to hear it or not, so ask,” Royce says, now frowning, his lips heavily weighed downwards.

 

Tyrion makes sure he keeps smiling to show the man that he certainly means no harm. “I know everyone here is most loyal to Your Grace, Jon, as you should well be. He seems to be a fine King who cares deeply for his people and their safety. I also follow a Queen with the same traits.”

 

“A woman who declares herself a Queen in Essos does not make her one in Westeros,” Royce swiftly says.

 

“But as a Targaryen, whose father last sat on the throne, it is Queen Daenerys’ right to sit there next.”

 

Royce stares at him for a hard moment and then, a flash of a hint of a smile brushes across his lips. “It seems to me that you have been away from Westeros far too long and have forgotten our history, Lord Lannister. Before you begin a campaign for a Queen, it’s important to remember who fought on which side when a certain rebellion knocked her family from the throne.”

 

With that, he turns to resume walking, but he stops once more, turning back to Tyrion.

 

“You never asked your question, but I can assume what it is. I only know and recognize one Queen and it would do you well to keep from openly staring at her while her husband is in the same room.”

 

Chapter Text

 

They don’t speak until they reach their chambers and by then, Sansa is breathing so heavily, Jon fears she’s about to lose her breath completely and pass out. He closes and bolts the door behind them both.

 

“Sansa,” Jon begins to say, his own heart racing because he can feel to distress rolling off of her.

 

Tyrion Lannister is trying to kill you.

 

He was sitting in the same meeting. What had she heard that he hadn’t?

 

Sansa spins back towards him and he freezes when she lifts her hands to his cheeks, holding his face so his eyes lock with hers. It takes him a moment for his stunned mind to realize that Sansa is actually touching him. Yes, she has touched him before, but it’s not often and whenever she does, Jon wants to see if it can always last as long as humanely possible.

 

Slowly – he always moves so slowly with his wife – Jon lifts his hands and rests them on the curves of her waist. He can feel the heat of her body through her dress and he has to fight the urge to grip the fabric in his fingers and tug their bodies together as close as they can be.

 

“What he suggested in the meeting, you going North to capture a Wight to bring back for proof, you will not do that, Jon,” Sansa says and her voice is strong, but Jon can hear past that; can hear her fear.

 

Jon shuffles forward a step. “Of course I’m not going to do that. How would I capture one without the White Walkers becoming aware and not sending the whole of their army after me? And even if I did manage it, the Wight wouldn’t last away from the Wall without the King.”

 

“Tyrion knows it would be a suicide mission. That’s why he suggested it.”

 

Jon looks at her, letting his mind think that over for a moment; wanting to get it himself. But he can’t. Sansa is the brains in this marriage. He knows she is and it won’t help in the least if he doesn’t admit that.

 

“I thought he wanted a relationship between myself and his Dragon Queen,” Jon says and he can hardly get the words out without tasting the bile on his tongue.

 

“I think…” Sansa pauses and Jon watches the tip of her tongue dart out to wet her lips.

 

He would very much do that for her if she would allow him to.

 

“I think they had a plan before Tyrion arrived, but now that he’s here and he’s able to look at things… I think he has a few possible plans tossed into the air to see which one lands successful,” Sansa tells him.

 

Jon is listening. He is. But he is also staring at her lips. With their faces so close, he can see the pale pink of them; the slight fullness to her bottom lip and how it would be so easy for him to lean in and meet her lips with his; how easy it would be to suck on that bottom lip and taste the sweetness of his wife.

 

He can still remember every single second of that kiss she had initiated in this very chamber a few nights earlier. He had felt like he hadn’t been breathing and though it had hardly lasted a handful of moments, to Jon, time had completely stopped with Sansa’s lips on his.

 

He knows she’s not ready. What Ramsay did to her – and Littlefinger and Joffrey before that – she hasn’t confided every detail to him, but her silences – and what she has told him – provides Jon with more than enough information to guess as to what his wife has gone through since leaving Winterfell as a girl.

 

He has no intention of rushing her – whether that be to kiss him or to consummate their marriage in full. He will wait forever for Sansa. He only hopes she knows that.

 

That doesn’t mean that silently to himself, he doesn’t dream on a nightly basis of how it would be kissing her. He holds her at night as they sleep. They do share a bed together though he knows that probably all of the North knows that their marriage has not been consummated yet. Still, they share a room and a bed for appearance’s sake. And when they are both asleep, Jon holds her and Sansa is able to sleep in his arms.

 

The nights are his favorite time.

 

“Jon?”

 

Jon shakes his head. “I’m sorry,” he then says when he realizes that he has allowed his mind to drift off.

 

“Are you alright?” She asks, her brow furrowing with worry as she looks to his face closely.

 

“Yes,” he nods. “As alright as I can be.”

 

Sansa pauses a moment and then the barest smile passes over her lips. “I don’t like having him in our home either, but I don’t want to be so rude as to ask when he’s returning to his Queen.”

 

“I can be rude, if you’d permit me,” Jon tells her with his own smile; it only growing when Sansa laughs.

 

Her hands slip from his face and Jon wishes she wouldn’t stop touching him, but her smile is still lighting her face so Jon supposes that’s just as well. His wife is so beautiful and kind and everyone – himself included – loves her. Not that she has to smile to be beautiful. He just wishes that she would do so more.

 

“I don’t think I have the energy to eat in the Hall this evening and watch him drink our wine and act as if him being here isn’t a great insult to us,” Sansa confesses.

 

“Then we won’t eat our supper in the Hall,” Jon readily agrees and then a thought occurs to him. “You don’t mean that I still have to eat in the Hall with him, do you?”

 

Sansa laughs again and Jon’s hands tighten on her waist. Gods, is there a better sound that Sansa’s laughter? Perhaps her moans- He swiftly ends that thought in its tracks.

 

“I think it would be rather bad of us to leave him to the mercies of the Lords and Lady Mormont, but I just can’t find it in myself to care that much.”

 

Jon grins and he leans in, pressing his lips to her forehead.

 

Sansa looks at him for a moment and Jon can see her swallow. “Can you help me with my laces?” She asks him quietly then, already turning around to give him her back, pulling her braid over her shoulder.

 

It’s far too early in the evening to be changing for bed, but Jon won’t dare say something as stupid as pointing that out to her. Besides, if there’s anyone who deserves going to be early for once, it’s Sansa. She works too hard. They all do, but Jon can see the faintest circles under her eyes in the morning and she’s always thinking and worrying and even if the sun isn’t completely dipped down and gone from the sky, if his wife wants to ready herself for bed, that is exactly what is going to happen if Jon has anything to do with it; and apparently, he does.

 

Slowly, he moves his fingers towards the laces on the back of her dress. After a moment, he smirks.

 

“Cora again?” Sansa wonders, looking over her shoulder, back to him.

 

Jon smiles and shakes his head. “She truly has a talent for knots.”

 

Sansa smiles as well and glances down before lifting her eyes to him again. “Perhaps… would it help if you used your teeth as you did before?”

 

Jon’s heart subsequently stops beating at the question. Sansa has asked it in a perfectly innocent tone and yet, looking at her, Jon has to wonder if there’s absolutely anything actually innocent about what she’s asking and if she’s even aware of how it might not sound innocent at all.

 

Jon knows she probably doesn’t. Even for everything she has been through, his wife is still so innocent when it comes to certain things; genuine love and affection. Seduction.

 

“It might,” Jon finally answers and his voice sounds a bit rough to his ears. He clears his throat before leaning into her back, smelling her, almost closing his eyes at the scent of her. Sansa bites down on her lower lip and she keeps her head turned so she can watch him.

 

He has a thought and he wonders if it would be possible to casually ask Cora to lace his wife’s dress so tightly each morning, that the only way it can be undone each night is with his teeth.

 

As it had worked the first time, it works this time as well; his teeth able to loosen the knot enough for his fingers to finish the rest of the work. As the laces loosen, her dress opening up, more and more of the pale expanse of her back is exposed; along with her scars. Jon’s hand seems to be moving before he can stop it and with the lightest fingers, he touches a spot on her back. Nowhere in particular; just any spot of skin his fingers touch first. It’s all perfect to him because it’s all part of his wife’s back.

 

Sansa shivers, but Jon can’t bring himself to lift his hand away.

 

“I have scars, too,” Jon tells her quietly.

 

“You have fought for many years. Only men who stay back and let others fight for them don’t have scars,” Sansa says and Jon finds himself smiling.

 

He knows who she’s speaking of. His wife has known the most cowardice of men. What a change that must have been for her; to be a Stark and see the ways of the men in their House and then seeing the way others act. Not for the first time, he wishes they had never left Winterfell and Uncle Ned had – as kindly and obediently as he could – tell Robert Baratheon to sod off because his daughter was already betrothed.

 

Far from the first time, Jon wishes that he is the only man his wife has ever known.

 

“Would it help if I showed them to you?” Jon wonders out loud. “It would help you to see how beautiful yours are compared to mine.”

 

Sansa is silent at the offer and Jon remains still, waiting, not rushing her for an answer.

 

Slowly, she turns back around to face him. She doesn’t speak, but she nods, her eyes locked with his. Jon gives her the smallest of smiles before he takes a step back and begins working on his own shirt. When he pulls it off over his head, he stands before her with his chest bare and his scars on display. Sansa gasps sharply as her eyes land upon them; especially the deep one over his heart.

 

“Jon,” she whispers his name and tears begin to brim in her eyes.

 

“No,” he shakes his head. “No tears. I’m alive. We both are.” He is the one to lift his hands to either side of her head, framing her face. She looks at him and she looks so sad in that moment, it makes his heart ache.

 

He wishes he could kiss her.

 

It is Jon’s turn to shiver when Sansa lifts one of her hands and with the touch of a feather, her fingertips rest on the deep scar over his chest; leftover from the wound that had finished him off before being brought back. At the time, he hadn’t known why he had gotten that chance when countless others lost their lives and stayed lost. Uncle Ned, Aunt Catelyn, Robb, Rickon... His own father...

 

But then, Sansa had come to Castle Black and suddenly, seeing her again, his purpose in this world had never been more clear to him.

 

It is now as it was before they all scattered in different directions in the wind.

 

Sansa is his purpose for everything.

 

“We’re both alive,” Sansa whispers, the tears still brimming, but none falling.

 

Jon stands as close to her as he can, her hand still on his bare chest, his hands still on her head as their eyes burn into the other. It is as their wedding at the Weirwood tree in the Godswood, staring at one another and only one another as they promised themselves to the other.

 

Jon feels as hot now as he had then as he finally married Sansa.

 

“We’re both alive and here, together, and no dragon or lion is going to tear us apart,” he vows to her.

 

Sansa closes her eyes at his word and leans forward, Jon leaning in as well so their foreheads rest together and he closes his eyes, too, his breathing matching hers; his heartbeat matching hers.

 

Chapter Text

 

Varys lingers in the doorway, awaiting for permission to enter as Missandei braids the Queen’s hair as she does each morning. Grey Worm stands nearby, keeping guard, stoic as always. Daenerys finally looks to Varys and bids him forward.

 

“Well?” The Queen asks, already holding out her hand.

 

“It just arrived, Your Grace,” Varys assures as her as he steps forward to hand her the scroll.

 

Daenerys breaks the seal and unfurls the paper, her eyes scanning over the words. Varys watches her and can just imagine what it says as his Queen’s frown grows deeper and her eyes flash a time or two. Without a word, she then hands Varys back the scroll so he can read it for himself.

 

Tyrion’s words are of no surprise to him.

 

Proving more difficult than I initially anticipated and I take full responsibility.

 

Of course he does. Even with their Queen knowing enough of Jon Stark’s history to know why he might not wish for any Targaryen ruler, it’s best if she isn’t reminded of it. Varys had thought ever getting Brandon Stark’s son to agree to anything that involved a Targaryen would be near to an impossibility, but Varys had kept quiet because he knew that his opinion would have been overruled. Tyrion had assured their Queen that he could get the North on their side and the Queen had believed him.

 

“You are quiet.”

 

Varys lifts his eyes from the scroll to see Daenerys studying him closely.

 

“You did not think he would succeed,” she then states.

 

Varys pauses, wondering if he should be truthful. He sighs. “I am not surprised by his report,” he admits.

 

Daenerys lifts her chin slightly, keeping her eyes steady on him. “How would you rectify this? Tyrion seems to have some other ideas, but I would like to hear your thoughts.”

 

Varys does not answer her right away. He takes a few moments to think over everything and decide which would be the best for his Queen to hear. There are certain things Daenerys does not like to hear and it’s truly never in anyone’s best interests to anger her. There had been a time when Varys had thought that the Dragon Queen would be the right ruler for Westeros; someone who truly would help, as she so often says she wishes to do.

 

But he has begun to have his doubts. The people of Westeros deserve a good leader – someone true, good and kind – and each day, Varys is left with more and more wonder if that leader is this woman before him.

 

He is not going to do anything though – not yet. He might be wrong and this Queen might surprise him and be truthfully everything he had thought her to be initially. It is an uphill fight to get her on that throne and he understands her being frustrated and angry. Maybe, once they dethrone Cersei and Daenerys is sitting where she belongs, things will be better.

 

“I had my doubts that Jon Stark would be willing to align himself and the North with us,” Varys admits.

 

He keeps his eyes steady on his Queen as he speaks those words and Daenerys does not make a comment to that. She simply looks at him – studying him – and waits for him to continue.

 

“The North is made up of extremely loyal people.”

 

“That is an admirable quality,” Daenerys speaks.

 

“It is. But it also is something that perhaps might be difficult to break through. Their loyalty is unwavering towards the Starks, who have ruled the North for thousands of years.”

 

Daenerys stands then, Missandei in the middle of braiding and her hands fall away. Varys braces himself, but the anger he expects does not come. Instead, Daenerys seems thoughtful, holding her hands in front of her as she turns towards the window. She looks out, quiet, and everyone is quiet in return, waiting.

 

“Tyrion is always so confident in his abilities. I have always admired that and it is why I awarded him the honor of being my Hand. I truly believe in him.” Daenerys turns back to Varys. “But I think perhaps you are correct. Perhaps he has aimed too high this time. Jon Stark sounds like a stubborn man who will not allow himself to turn away from what happened in the past and look towards the future of what Westeros can be once I am on the throne.”

 

Varys keeps quiet at that. His opinion on such a statement is not needed.

 

“Do you have any of your little birds in the North, Varys?” Daenerys asks.

 

“A few, Your Grace.”

 

“Send one to Winterfell. Have them report back with their observations of Sansa Stark. She might be able to see the picture her husband is missing.”

 

“Of course, Your Grace,” Varys bows to her. “Shall I tell Tyrion to end his efforts with King Jon?”

 

Daenerys pauses at the question and then shakes her head. “No, I would like Tyrion to stay. I still am wanting the King to come here and speak with me. And perhaps, the more we learn of his wife, we will have more to use to get the King on our side.”

 

Varys bows again and once Daenerys waves her hand towards the door, dismissing him, he turns and leaves as she returns to her chair to continue getting her hair braided.

 

 

Sansa stands on the balcony overlooking the training yard with Yohn Royce at her side as they watch below as Jon, Arya, Brienne, Pod and the dozens of the others spar and train. Sansa watches her sister and Brienne fighting one another and Sansa feels pride warm in her chest as her sister masterfully spins around the taller woman, holding her own, both equally matched despite their sizes and ages.

 

Her sister is a wonder and Sansa thinks of how proud both mother and father would feel in this moment, if they were here as well, watching Arya at what she clearly does best. It honestly takes Sansa’s breath away.

 

Her eyes then wander to her husband and where he spars with Pod. Their own fight does not seem to be as intense as the one between Arya and Brienne; Jon sometimes pausing to give Pod instruction or correction and the young man nods, heeding Jon’s advice before they begin again.

 

She looks at Jon from her spot above and can see the dirt on his body and clothes; the sweat mixed in. She suddenly very much wishes to call some of the maids to prepare a bath for their King before the evening meal so that Jon may bathe and have the chance to relax his body. Perhaps, he would allow Sansa to rub some oils into the muscles in his shoulders to help with the aches of his constant training.

 

She wonders if Jon would like if she was to do that.

 

The thought causes a flush to rush up her neck and she is grateful she wears her cloak and the fur collar may hide it from Lord Royce and anyone else who might notice.

 

Her husband is most talented with a sword. Everyone has always known him to be. Father had trained his sons and nephew since the time they were old enough to stand and take steps without falling on their bottom. At first, Jon was being trained to be the next Lord of Winterfell, as was his rightful place after his father being the oldest Stark son. But by his tenth year, Jon had decided that he did not want it and it should go to Robb. He would sign or make any decree that had to be made so it would be so. Jon did not have the head for it, he admitted, even with his Uncle Ned and Aunt Catelyn disagreeing.

 

Being a Lord was too much time behind a desk, working on endless papers, and Jon did not have a taste for it. He wished to spend all of his time in the training yards. “I will protect Winterfell as Robb runs it.”

 

And though Ned and Catelyn had tried to make Jon see that one day, he would have his own Keep and lands – his right as a Lord – and would need to know how to run them, Jon was spectacularly stubborn.

 

“He gets that thick head of his from his father,” Ned would grumble.

 

And then his time at the Wall and beyond, training even more and fighting in wars and battles, it has only honed Jon’s skill to near perfection. As Sansa watches the training, no one is his equal – though she thinks Arya and Brienne might come close. But even Jon gives them corrections occasionally and they listen.

 

“He is still a boy, but he will grow to be brave and gentle and strong. He will be everything I want in a husband for you,” Sansa can still hear her father’s vow to her when her parents told her of her betrothal to Jon when they were still such young children.

 

“Of course, father,” Sansa had responded dutifully because that was what she was to do. She was the dutiful daughter of Ned and Catelyn Stark and she knew she would marry whoever her parents saw fit.

 

She wishes her parents were here to see both her and their nephew and the people they have become; and for Sansa to apologize to them for being such an idiot. If she had shown more of a happy reaction to someday becoming Jon’s wife, would her father been more inclined to turn down King Robert when he suggested a betrothal between Sansa and Joffrey?

 

She had had such fanciful daydreams of being Queen of Westeros as soon as her father told her about Joffrey. She had been such an idiot that now that she is a Queen, she just wants to be happy. And she thinks she is. She is. She is home, in the North, and in Winterfell. Arya is home and she is married to Jon and he is everything Ned had known he would be. Brave, gentle, strong… and Sansa loves him so much, sometimes, she isn’t sure how to feel all of it without actually combusting over it.

 

“Your Grace,” Lord Royce speaks and Sansa instantly turns her head towards the man. He gives her a smile and Sansa smiles, too. “I do not know if we’ll need dragons.”

 

“No, I don’t think we will,” Sansa agrees. “Jon has said that the dead were defeated thousands of years ago without dragons and we’ll do it again.” She pauses, watching the training – Jon in particular – for another moment before looking back to Lord Royce. “Do you think the dragons are real?”

 

Royce is quiet for a moment, taking his time to think of his answer. “I do not know Tyrion Lannister well enough, but I don’t know if that would be something he would lie about. After all, it would be a very easy lie to disprove if he was just talking out of his…” he trails off then, his cheeks reddening, and clears his throat. “Excuse me, Your Grace.”

 

Sansa just purses her lips together, smiling at the man’s almost-slip.

 

She watches the training for a few more minutes, knowing that there are other things she must see to, and yet, this is important, too. The war coming to the wall is the most important battle that will ever happen and Jon is determined that all of their people be prepared. Sansa will be staying in Winterfell with those who can’t fight and everyone who will be fighting will be marching North once Edd sends Jon the raven that the Night King approaches.

 

As their Queen, Sansa likes to stand and watch their progress and to show solidarity with her husband. She knows it’s such a hard tale to believe – an army of the dead – and yet, Jon has seen them; has fought them already. And if Jon believes in them, Sansa has no reason to not believe in them, too. Her unwavering belief in Jon helps the others believe.

 

“I do not trust him, Your Grace,” Lord Royce then says and Sansa turns her head to look to the older man who has always been loyal to her family and who she considers now to be one of hers and her husband’s closest advisors; especially hers.

 

“Nor do I, Lord Royce,” Sansa agrees. “But he has plans and I would rather have him be close so I may be privy to them. He does not know how I am able to read him and what he hopes to achieve.”

 

“Murdering the King and having you take him as your husband?” Royce guesses and Sansa can’t help, but look to the man with complete surprise. He chuckles. “Lord Lannister does not seem to be nearly as smart in the North as he liked to present himself in the South. Perhaps it’s the cold air.”

 

Sansa looks to the man with open admiration. “We should perhaps keep that between us.”

 

“Agreed, Your Grace,” the man says with the slightest head bow and smile.

 

“Lord Royce, would you like to join me in my solar for some tea?”

 

“It would be my honor, Your Grace.”

 

Sansa smiles. “Let me just stop and let a maid know to prepare a bath for the King in our chambers.”

 

Chapter Text

 

“Your Grace.”

 

Jon stops in his tracks, and closing his eyes – almost wincing – he swallows down his groan. Stupid Westeros and their etiquette on guest’s rights. He can’t think of someone he’d like to run his sword through more than their current guest, Tyrion Lannister. Perhaps that Targaryen Queen of his.

 

Once he is sure the mixture of frustration and anger with a dash of disgust is clear from his face, Jon turns to look at the man. “Lord Tyrion,” he says with the barest of head nods.

 

“I was hoping I would be able to meet with you after supper this evening and talk. Just the two of us,” Tyrion seems to add that last part rather quickly.

 

It makes Jon pause and study the man in front of him. Since his arrival, Jon realizes that they haven’t actually spoken completely alone. Sansa has always been at Jon’s side and if she’s not, they’re in the training yard with dozens of others around them. Tyrion wanting to talk to him – alone without anyone else near, including Sansa – makes the back of his neck prick.

 

He is glad his wife is so smart and has made Jon privy to Tyrion’s possible plans. Either be with the Targaryen and disavow his wife or send him on a mission that would surely end in his death and leave Sansa alone in this world. He agrees with Sansa. It seems like Tyrion has several different plans churning in his mind and he’s trying to see which one will be the best to try and implement.

 

There are so many things Jon would like to tell this man, but he refrains. For the moment. He knows Sansa isn’t finished with him yet and there are still things she both wants and needs to find out from him. Jon won’t be able to tell him to fuck off until Sansa gives him permission.

 

Jon looks to the man and gives a single nod. Perhaps, if he and Tyrion speak and Tyrion says what he wants, it will actually get the man out of Winterfell and the North that much sooner.

 

“We will talk in my chancery after supper. Just us.”

 

“Thank you, Your Grace,” Tyrion bows to him.

 

Jon ignores that – and him – and turns, continuing down the hall towards his and Sansa’s chamber. He needs to wash up before supper. Having skipped eating in the Hall the night before, he knows that Sansa will insist they eat there this evening and Jon knows the pigs smell better than he does right now. And although knowing others won’t care about that, he doesn’t want Sansa to have to sit next to him with him reeking like this.

 

He pushes the door open to step inside, but stops right at the threshold as if an invisible barrier is preventing him from entering further.

 

There is the wooden tub placed in front of the fire, filled with water, and Sansa is on her knees, one of the sleeves of her dress pushed up past her elbow so her hand can be in the water, testing the temperature. She lifts her head when she hears him enter and she smiles as soon as she sees him.

 

Jon blinks at the tub and then at his wife. As always, Sansa looks so beautiful that even if she hadn’t clearly surprised him with a bath after training, he would still be staring at her.

 

She pulls her hand from the water and stands up, wiping it on a nearby cloth. “I was thinking the warm water would help with your muscles. You’ve been pushing yourself too hard.”

 

Jon finally snaps out of it enough to step into the room and close the door behind him. He bolts it just to be safe though he knows no one will enter without knocking first. He then turns back to her.

 

“I will gladly take all of the sore muscles in this world in exchange for your safety,” he tells her.

 

Her cheeks darken at that and Jon knows she doesn’t know what to say in response. He admits that he very much likes it when he is able to make his wife speechless for a moment. It doesn’t happen often so when it does, Jon can feel like he truly accomplished something.

 

This time, he gives her a smile and Sansa is able to return it after a moment more.

 

She steps to him and Jon stands still as she begins unbuckling his leather training jerkin.

 

“Thank you for arranging this for me,” Jon says, his eyes steady on her face as Sansa pulls the jerkin away.

 

Her face is so close to his, it would be so easy for Jon to lean in and kiss right now, but now isn’t the time. Of course, if it’s not the time, when is the time? He keeps telling himself to wait until Sansa kisses him, but what if she’s actually waiting for him the way he is waiting for her? They’ll be turning in circles around one another for the rest of their life together without their lips ever meeting.

 

“I wanted to do something special for you,” Sansa tells him.

 

Jon wants to ask her why – surely there’s a why – but he is able to keep himself from giving voice to it. Sansa has her reasons, he knows. Sansa always has a reason for everything she does – whether he realizes it right away or not. She’s the smartest person he’s ever met and even when it comes to drawing a bath for her husband, Jon knows there’s a very good reason for it.

 

Maybe – he dares to hope – she wants to be alone with him.

 

Sansa turns away so he may undress the rest of the way and his body tightens and feels warm when he realizes that she isn’t leaving. Maybe he wasn’t so far off in thinking that Sansa wanted some time to be alone with him and now, he is about to be completely naked in the same room as his wife. He doesn’t want to make it too obvious he’s practically tearing at his clothes even though that’s exactly what he’s doing. He can’t help it. It’s exciting – to be alone with her, in their chamber, with a tub and though she won’t be joining him, she will be staying, apparently, and Jon will take any time with Sansa that he can get; especially naked time.

 

Gods, he’s a randy bastard. He’s no better than any of the other men who have panted after her for all of these years and she’s married to him now and he’s supposed to be keeping her safe and helping her feel protected after years of abuse from such men.

 

He forces himself to take a deep breath and slow himself down. When he steps into the tub and feels the warm water against his skin, he can’t help, but let out a groan at how good it instantly feels. Sansa peeks over her shoulder just as he sinks down, sitting in the tub, the water drawing up to his chest. She turns back towards him and comes to kneel down behind him.

 

“Fresh soap and a cloth,” she says as she hands him the items from over his shoulder. “I also have some oils that might help soothe your soreness. Is it alright if I rub it in your shoulders?”

 

Jon nods his head so quickly, he swears he hears his neck crack. “That would be wonderful,” he says and from behind him, he hears Sansa’s smile.

 

As he washes his front with the soap and cloth, Sansa drops a small dollop of oil into her palms – Jon thinks it smells like some kind of flower, but he doesn’t know enough flowers to be able to place it – and then, her hands are on his shoulders. Almost immediately, he groans, his head falling forward.

 

“Does that feel good?” Sansa asks with a smile still in her tone.

 

Jon can only groan again and this time, Sansa giggles. It makes Jon smile. Sansa definitely needs to giggle more. What else can he do to get her to do such a thing? He’s never been a particularly light and funny man – to put it in the easiest terms – but he’s more than willing to be for Sansa and Sansa’s giggle.

 

Uncle Ned and Aunt Catelyn – mostly Uncle Ned – would tell him stories of his father and how so many women were in love with him; how they flocked to him as if they were ocean waves and Brandon Stark was the moon, their comings and goings relying entirely on his presence. Jon would think he would have inherited such a talent with women, but the truth is, Sansa had been the only one he had ever noticed in his youth – whether that was because of their betrothal or not, Jon isn’t sure. And then there was Ygritte who was so different from any woman he had ever met before, his attraction and love for her sprung from that. But then, it was Sansa, again, who entered his life once more and all other women disappeared after that.

 

For the countless time in Jon’s life, he wishes for his father. He could give him some advice and though Brandon had never been married, himself, he surely could give some advice to his helpless son.

 

“You’re heavy with thoughts,” Sansa notices. “What are you thinking about?”

 

“My father,” Jon answers without even considering perhaps telling her something else.

 

Sansa is quiet at that, but her fingers squeeze his shoulders a little tighter. “I’m always so sorry that none of us were ever able to meet him, but I remember what father used to say. You are your father so I suppose, in a way, we all know him.”

 

Jon sighs and tilts his head back, resting it against the rim of the tub. Sansa moves her hands, no longer able to move them on his shoulders, but she doesn’t move them entirely away from his body. Instead, after hesitating, Sansa guides them around and she rests them on his bare chest, her fingertips touching one of his scars. Jon very much likes her hands there as well.

 

“I’m sorry,” Sansa then says softly, her cheek resting to his temple and having her there with him, touching him and comforting him, Jon closes his eyes, unable to bring himself to do much of anything else.

 

“I miss him,” Jon admits. “I never even met the man and I miss him and lately… it’s been so much, it’s actually made my stomach ache if I dwell on it for too long.”

 

“Of course you miss him, Jon. You are his son and he was your father. Whether you remember him is irrelevant. He held you in his arms and knew, without a doubt, that you were his son. Remember what father used to say?”

 

Jon nods, but doesn’t speak, so Sansa speaks for him.

 

“The way Uncle Brandon’s face lit up when he held you for the first time with so much love for you and father said he would never forget how his older brother looked in that moment. Uncle Brandon looked at you with complete amazement, as if he couldn’t believe that he had created something so perfect.”

 

Jon keeps his eyes closed; feeling the sting of tears behind the lids and not wanting to cry right now.

 

“Things would have been so different if he hadn’t…” Jon trails off, still hardly able to even speak of it. He is able to open his eyes again and keep them open at least.

 

“Yes,” Sansa agrees.

 

“Fucking Targaryen’s,” he then growls, unable to help himself.  It always comes back to that.

 

The Targaryen’s are the reason that everything happened as it did.

 

Yes, Jon was able to grow up in their family home with his uncle and aunt and his cousins and he was able to grow up, knowing of his father, but he never knew his father and suddenly, he has the urge to tell Westeros guest’s rights to fuck right off so he can strangle Tyrion Lannister to death with his bare hands. And then he will find that Targaryen woman who claims to be a Queen and kill her as well.

 

“Jon,” Sansa whispers his name, but she doesn’t say anything further.

 

Jon turns his head, still resting it back on the tub’s rim, and once again, he realizes how close Sansa’s face is to his. Their noses are almost touching. Sansa stares into his eyes and Jon wonders if she’s aware of the close proximity; if she’s feeling his breath on her face the way Jon is feeling hers?

 

He doesn’t move. There’s something about the way Sansa is staring at him; as if she’s studying him and contemplating what she’s seeing. Jon would love to know what she’s seeing, but he doesn’t move and he certainly doesn’t break the silence between them. Speaking or moving might frighten her away.

 

And then, slowly – as if time has slowed and things are moving to match the pace – Sansa leans in and Jon knows what she’s going to do. His heart sputters and his eyes flutter shut just as his wife presses her lips lightly to his.

 

Chapter Text

 

Tyrion notes almost immediately that the King in the North seems quite happy this evening.

 

He laughs and chatters and smiles with the people around him and with him being in such a good mood, the entire Hall that evening for supper feels it; revels in it. One of the other Starks is home now as well – Arya, Tyrion believes her name to be (they haven't spoken to one another and Tyrion would almost believe that she is purposely ignoring his existence) – and she has a constant dour face, but Jon even manages to get her to crack a few smiles during the meal.

 

The small smiles exchanged between the King and his Lady wife are also noticed; shy, but nonetheless happy. Sometimes, Jon will lean in and say something, close to her ear, meant for only her to hear, and Tyrion wonders what his words are for the smile Sansa gives her husband and the look in her eyes makes it seem as if perhaps, the man has just said the stars hanging in the sky that night were put there by him, specifically for her.

 

It makes Tyrion shift a bit uncomfortably.

 

He knew that perhaps, getting his Queen and Brandon Stark’s son together would be no easy feat; might even be impossible. But Tyrion doesn’t like to think that anything is impossible with a little bit of work and maneuvering the pieces in just the right way. It would be easier if he could get the two in the same room. Jon Stark might look at Daenerys and see that they aren’t that different. Both are leaders who want what’s best for the people and surely, there would be a mutual respect between them because of it.  

 

But Jon looking at his wife and Sansa looking at her husband, Tyrion is beginning to think that they are in love with each other and not like how cousins love one another; but how a husband and wife do. That’s a slight bump in the road. Perhaps – hopefully – it’s just the good mood Jon appears to be in tonight and it’s simply rubbing off on everyone.

 

The good mood is most welcome though. Perhaps it will make Jon a bit more willing to listen to Tyrion. It might help that he agreed to meet with him completely on his own. He can’t figure Sansa out. She has hardly spoken a word to him – and what she has said, Tyrion hasn’t necessarily liked it or agreed with it – but for the most part, she seems to just sit there and look at him; perhaps as if she’s studying him. Tyrion admits that he can’t figure his former wife out. Her face, it is guarded; always an expression of coolness and detachment.

 

He admits. Sansa makes him nervous in a way he wouldn’t expect from the young girl he knew in King’s Landing. She makes him nervous because she is unreadable to him and to those he can’t read, Tyrion knows he’s unable to figure out a way in with them; figuring out what they desire and how to get it for them.

 

As the kitchen maids begin clearing dishes once the meal is finished, Jon and Tyrion meet eyes and Jon gives him a single head nod. Tyrion nods as well as leaving his chair, he goes towards the entrance of the Hall to wait for the man. And as it is every night, the men begin pushing the tables against the walls so the floor is open for sleeping and others gather blankets.

 

Tyrion watches as Sansa oversees the activity as she does every other night and at her side, her sister stands and behind them both Brienne and Pod. Either one or both are never far behind from Sansa, Tyrion noted by his second day in Winterfell. Jon keeps his wife always well-guarded. Tyrion doesn’t doubt that it’s because of Cersei.

 

Jon comes to Sansa and with a hand cupping her elbow, he leans in and whispers something in her ear. She nods to whatever he says and Jon kisses her on the cheek, his lips lingering and when he pulls back, Sansa is blushing. They share a smile; a smile that when Jon turns back to Tyrion is gone from his face.

 

“This way,” Jon says as he walks past Tyrion without pausing and Tyrion follows him.

 

As promised, they go into Jon’s chancery, dozens of scrolls of paper on shelfs against the wall and a fire roaring in the hearth, and they are alone. Tyrion knows that the man, Davos, is his hand, but he does not join them. The King has honored Tyrion's request of being alone. Tyrion spots a jug of wine on a table by the fire and he goes to help himself as Jon closes the door behind them both and then sits down at the large table where meetings are held when Jon calls for it.

 

Tyrion joins him a moment later, settling himself in a chair.

 

“I hope that the sooner you speak, the sooner you will leave here,” Jon cuts right to it.

 

Tyrion can’t help, but smile at the man’s bluntness. Another thing he has in common with Daenerys. They certainly have no issue with saying what is on their minds. But his smile fades as he looks to the man.

 

“I never had the pleasure of knowing your father,” Tyrion speaks. “I heard of him. It seemed like everyone in the Seven Kingdoms heard of and knew your father. No one was his equal at tournaments, I was told. I saw him once, jousting. It seemed like no one ever wanted to compete against him.”

 

Jon’s body is visibly stiff. “If this is how you choose to begin, go another way, Lannister.” His voice is low, almost in a growl like the wolf he is, and Tyrion bows his head politely.

 

“Forgive me, Your Grace. I was just thinking of what an honor it is to have the opportunity in speaking with you,” he says and Jon stays silent at that, staring at him with a clenched jaw. “I know how you feel about House Targaryen and you have every right in the world to feel that.”

 

“Thank you, My Lord, for giving me permission to hold disdain towards the people who murdered my father and grandfather.”

 

Tyrion shakes his head to show he didn’t mean it that way. “Is there anything I can say that will convince you that my Queen is not like her father or her brother? She has lived away from Westeros her entire life. She did not grow up with their influences. My Queen is entirely her own person.”

 

“She has lived away from Westeros her entire life and yet, she wishes to rule Westeros,” Jon comments and Tyrion suddenly feels as if, despite being completely alone, Sansa is speaking.

 

“Robert Baratheon was not a bad King, but he was not a rightful one and now, Cersei sits on the throne and she has absolutely no right to do so. My Queen wishes to come back to take her rightful place and rule the way she knows how to. Fair and just.”

 

Jon is silent; simply staring at him.

 

“Meet with her, Your Grace. That is all I ask. Meet her and see for yourself how different she is.”

 

“I do not have time to go to Dragonstone,” Jon immediately shakes his head. “The dead are coming and my only priority is fighting them, defeating them and keeping my people safe. If I don’t do any of that, it won’t matter who the fuck sits on that throne in King’s Landing.”

 

“And after? Once you defeat them, would you be able to go to Dragonstone then?”

 

“I noticed that you’ve stopped offering your Queen’s aid. If we fail here, there won’t be a Westeros for her to rule over.”

 

“You have made your feelings quite clear on Queen Daenerys helping you. You don’t want her or her dragons,” Tyrion reminds him.

 

“I don’t. The dead were defeated once thousands of years ago without dragons. I’ll do it again without.”

 

“I wish you would meet my Queen, Your Grace. You have far more in common than you would ever think.”

 

“Insulting me by holding me to a Targaryen is not the way to go here, Lannister.”

 

“Your Grace… perhaps your wife would like to meet her in your place. She will be in Dragonstone, safe and far from danger if anything goes wrong at the Wall, and my Queen would offer her protection. And I know you value Sansa’s opinion greatly and perhaps she is not as clouded by a Targaryen as you are.”

 

Jon stares at him with hard eyes and doesn’t say anything to that suggestion straight away.

 

Tyrion knows what it was. She will be in Dragonstone, safe and far from danger. It’s obvious to him that the King loves his wife and maybe Tyrion can work with that.

 

“I will speak with my wife,” he says to that.

 

Tyrion feels as if he can breathe. It’s not exactly what he wants, but if Jon and Sansa agree, it’s something.

 

 

Aggie smooths her hands down the front of her dress and then looks to the girl her age standing with her.

 

“The Queen likes to meet everyone who comes to Winterfell to stay,” Aggie reminds the girl. “There’s no reason to look so scared. She’s the nicest woman in the world!”

 

The girl next to her swallows and nods just as Aggie lifts her fist to knock on the chamber door. Brienne is standing guard tonight and Aggie gives her a wide smile; Brienne giving her a small, amused one in return. Brienne doesn’t wish the children of Winterfell to be afraid of her. She just sometimes wonders why they’re not. According to what she has heard from others – grown men – she is quite formidable.

 

“Come in!” Sansa answers from the other side.

 

Aggie pushes open the door and curtsies at the sight of Sansa, sitting in a chair and Cora, her maid, unbraiding and brushing her hair.

 

“Aggie!” Sansa exclaims, surprised. “Why on earth aren’t you sleeping yet? It’s far too late for you to still be up still.”

 

“Beg your pardon, Your Grace. This is Meg. She’s just arrived.” Aggie looks to the girl and beckons her to come forward with a wave of her hand.

 

Meg is a girl Aggie’s age – around seven or so – with terribly dirty and greasy black hair, tangled as if she’s been sleeping in a bush. She is skinny and dirty, her dress torn; no more useful than a rag. But at the sight of her, Sansa smiles.

 

“Hello, Meg,” she greets the girl warmly.

 

Aggie elbows her and Meg fumbles, doing her best to give a curtsey though clearly having never done one before, she almost falls forward. Sansa just keeps smiling.

 

“It’s nice to meet you, Your Grace,” Meg says quietly, keeping her eyes to the floor.

 

“It’s very nice to meet you, too, Meg,” Sansa smiles. “Where were you before arriving here?”

 

Meg stays quiet for a moment. “Wherever I could find a spot to lay my head, Your Grace.”

 

“Well,” Sansa leans forward in her chair. “I’m very glad you’ve found your way to us.”

 

Meg lifts her eyes at that and gives Sansa the most hesitant smile, small and still unsure. Sansa smiles and then looks over her shoulder to Cora, the woman pulling the brush back so Sansa may stand.

 

“With the help of Aggie, we will find you something to wear and we’ll get you some bread as well before we get you a warm spot to sleep. How does that sound?” Sansa asks.

 

Meg doesn’t say anything and looks down to the scrap of dress she’s wearing.

 

“It’s a very pretty dress, but I don’t think it will keep you very warm with winter here,” Sansa tells her.

 

Meg shakes her head. “It’s a rag, Your Grace. It’s giving me fleas.”

 

Sansa does her best to not wince at that. Though she and Jon do everything they possibly can for their people in the North, there is still poorness no matter what they try to do to combat it. Sansa is far from naïve, but she has no idea what it means to live in such a way. Even as a prisoner in one place or another, she always had dresses to wear and a belly full of food.

 

“Well, then we will burn it and you’ll never get fleas again,” Sansa promises her. “And we’ll talk to one of the women in the kitchen about getting you washed.”

 

Meg stares at her as if she’s never heard such words. Sansa’s heart aches even as she keeps smiling. It’s actually very probable that Meg hasn’t seen an actual bath in years. Having fleas isn’t hard to believe. Sansa just has to make sure they scrub her hard and thorough so everyone in Winterfell doesn’t get them as well. That’s just a problem none of them need right now.

 

Still with her ever-present smile, Sansa holds a hand out to the girl in offering. “Shall we?” She asks.

 

Meg stares at the hand and then up at the woman who owns the hand. Slowly, Meg reaches out and takes the hand, Sansa giving it a gentle squeeze. They leave the room, Aggie walking ahead to lead the way and Cora and Brienne walking behind them. Meg tries to remember everything she sees and everyone they pass, but right now, all she can focus on is the Queen’s soft hand and the way she smells like a flower.

 

She wonders if Varys will want to hear how she’s the prettiest, nicest woman Meg has ever met.

 

Chapter Text

 

Arya waits in the dark shadows of the hall outside of Jon’s chancery. She had followed Jon and Tyrion there after supper – silently behind and without either of them having any idea she was there – and now, she waits. She knows Jon is capable of handling himself, but Tyrion is also a Lannister who now apparently has aligned himself with a Targaryen. Who knows what he will try to do? Arya is going to stand out here and wait until she sees Jon again.

 

Ghost comes a few minutes later and stops when he sees her. Arya gives him a slight shake of her head. No one else has seen her – she and the dark shadows are one – and she doesn’t want the direwolf to draw attention to her position. Ghost understands and goes to sit in front of the door, not looking in her direction again.

 

They both wait, neither moving, but both pairs of ears perked to any sound and both sets of eyes sharp. The Keep around them is settling in for the night, steadily getting quieter and quieter as more fall asleep. Still, Jon and Tyrion remain behind the closed door of the chancery. Arya wonders if she would even know it until it was too late if Tyrion did do something to Jon. But Ghost would feel it and the direwolf remains at attention, but isn’t alarmed.

 

Finally, the door opens and Tyrion is the first to step out. He seems pleased and that makes Arya stiffen. That man looking pleased over anything is far from being a good thing. Arya narrows her eyes at him, but the man is completely unaware that she is there, watching him. His smile fades a bit when he sees Ghost, now standing on all four paws, staring at the man with his red eyes. Tyrion hurries away and Arya nearly smiles. She doesn’t though because Jon steps out of the room next and he’s not smiling.

 

In fact, he looks like he’s about to kill someone.

 

Arya steps forward, still silent, from the shadows, letting him know that she’s there.

 

Jon gives her the barest twitch of his lips into a smile that doesn’t even last a second before it’s gone again. He watches Tyrion walk down the hallway, towards his chamber that Sansa arranged for him upon his arrival, and Arya comes to stand at his side, watching Tyrion as well.

 

“Do you want me to kill him?” Arya asks, still watching after the man until he turns a corner and is gone.

 

She hasn’t told Jon everything, but she’s told him enough to know that she’s serious and that she absolutely will do it whether he tells her to or tries to stop her.

 

Jon is still staring down the hall as if Tyrion is still there. “Yes.” His answer is simple yet strong. He then looks to Arya and she looks at him. “But not yet.”

 

Arya pauses to take a moment to look at him. Something has happened and Jon is waiting for something else to happen. She doesn’t know what, but this is Jon. She trusts him in a way she’s never trusted anyone and if Jon is saying not yet, he has a reason and Arya knows that she won’t argue with him on that.

 

“Not yet,” she agrees.

 

As long as she will be able to kill Tyrion, she’ll wait until Jon gives her the word.

 

 

Jon’s exhausted. Both from the strain of having to control himself from not reaching over no less than a dozen times and punch Tyrion until his face was unrecognizable, but also from listening to Tyrion and pretend that he was actually considering the words said to him.

 

His body is sore and he wants to do nothing more than lay down in his bed – finally – next to his wife.

 

He’s not surprised that, upon entering their chamber, he sees that Sansa is already in bed, asleep. If she wasn’t, he would have told her firmly to go to sleep. It’s too late and she works too hard and she needs sleep as much as any of them.

 

Ghost has followed Jon inside and as Jon bolts the door and begins to undress, Ghost jumps up onto the bed, settling himself down at the foot of it as is his spot every other night. Sansa doesn’t stir as Jon climbs into the bed once he’s in his nightshirt, and he can’t help, but let out a quiet groan as he finally lays down. It had just been earlier this evening where Sansa had surprised him with a bath, oil rubbed into his shoulders and a kiss. It already feels like it happened the week before.

 

He rolls onto his side towards her, finding himself smiling the faintest amount as he looks to her. His wife; her eyelashes fluttering as she sleeps and dreams – only good dreams, Jon hopes – and her red hair glows amber in the fire burning in their hearth. He doesn’t want to disturb her, but Jon can’t stop himself from reaching out to touch her; touch some part of her.

 

His hand finds a resting spot on the dip of her waist. It reaches her in her dreams and she murmurs something Jon can’t understand – he doesn’t think it’s even a known word – and she shifts ever so slightly closer to him, knowing that he’s there with her.

 

He had let Tyrion talk. And talk. And talk some more. Gods, the man loves listening to the sound of his own voice. And Jon had listened as Tyrion spoke of why Sansa going to Dragonstone would benefit so much and how so much good could possibly come from it. Jon had listened so carefully and closely, Sansa would have been proud.

 

Sansa had once said that Tyrion Lannister was a clever man; the cleverest she knew, but just now, between the two of them, Jon doesn’t see it. He doesn’t think Sansa is wrong. Sansa’s rarely wrong, but when it comes to Tyrion Lannister, it’s obvious that that Dragon Queen of his has done something to him; has made him stupider somehow.

 

For him – for anyone – to think that Jon would send his wife away from him. Send her South where so many bad things happened to her and not just South, but trust anyone with Targaryen as their name to keep her safe. It’s one of the dumbest thoughts a person can have.

 

Sansa would be a prisoner. Jon knows it. Tyrion clearly doesn’t think that Jon knows it. Does Tyrion know that or has he become so stupid that he truly believes his Queen would keep Jon’s wife safe with no ulterior motive? That woman wants to rule Westeros. What better way to get the North on her side then hold the King’s Queen hostage and force him to surrender to her in order to get his Queen back?

 

Sansa is much smarter than him and better at playing this game than him – Jon can’t stand this fucking game and hates that everything is a part of it – but he thinks he’s getting better at playing it as well whether he wants to or not.

 

Jon is tired and his eyes are becoming heavy and yet, he still watches Sansa as she sleeps, not wanting to close his eyes just yet.

 

He knows that Tyrion underestimates the feelings Jon has for Sansa. He has absolutely no idea how deep Jon’s affection for Sansa goes; how in love with his wife he is. He doesn’t even think that Sansa knows. No, he knows Sansa doesn’t know.

 

He’s never told her – Jon thinking that, perhaps, Sansa doesn’t want to hear it. She has had so many men, lusting and panting after her. Jon doesn’t want to add himself to that list. Sansa as a girl had had such fanciful dreams of love and being loved. Jon knows that Sansa loves him – but he knows it is as a cousin loves another; not as a wife loves a husband.

 

Not as a woman loves a man.

 

Jon keeps his hand on her waist and he moves himself closer to her, his head nearly sharing her pillow.

 

“I love you,” he whispers to her now, only because he knows Sansa is asleep and can’t hear him.

 

 

Jon’s brain wakes up before he thinks he’s actually ready to. It takes him another few seconds to realize why he had woken up.

 

Sansa is kissing him.

 

He lays there, wondering if it’s actually happening, but he decides that yes. His wife is definitely kissing him. Her lips are soft – hesitant – as she lightly presses them to his. He can tell that she’s experimenting; trying to figure it out. And Jon is sure he lays there as still as possible so he doesn’t startle her off. And he swears, he will kill anyone who dares to knock on their chamber door right now.

 

It’s morning. He can tell. He can see the lightness of their chamber from behind his lids and he can hear the song of the morning birds outside. He knows someone will come soon – whether it be a maid with breakfast or Cora or Davos. Someone will intrude and Jon means it. He will kill them. Well, fine. Not kill, but they will get such a fierce glare and growl from him, they will know how badly they made a mistake.

 

Sansa lifts her head and sighs softly then as if she is impatient with something.

 

Then, she rests a light hand on Jon’s chest and leans down, kissing him again.

 

This time, Jon can’t help it. With the barest amount of pressure, he pushes his lips back against hers. Sansa gasps and tears her head back.

 

“If I’m dreaming, don’t wake me up,” Jon murmurs as his eyes flutter open, instantly look to her.

 

Her cheeks are blushed with embarrassment, but she doesn’t scurry away. Instead, a small smile slowly appears as she looks at him. “Do you dream of this?” She then wonders.

 

Jon doesn’t answer right away. “Yes,” he answers simply; truthfully.

 

Sansa is visibly surprised at that. “Really?”

 

“I very much like being awake for it, too,” he then tell hers and he smiles as Sansa’s smile grows. “Can you kiss me again?” He then asks her, staring – bravely – into her eyes; not wanting to push her, but Gods, he wants her lips on his again.

 

Sansa hesitates. “You would like me to?”

 

“More than anything.”

 

“I… I don’t have much experience with it.”

 

“Practice makes perfect.”

 

When Sansa laughs lightly at that, Jon’s face splits into a grin.

 

She tucks a strand of hair behind her ear and Jon lifts a hand to her cheek, his fingers brushing lightly across her skin. And he lays still as Sansa begins moving in, her body over his. And then, her lips touch his and Jon nearly sighs with relief at the contact; as if this is all he’s been waiting for in his life.

 

In some way, he supposes it is. When he was younger, Sansa’s was the only kiss he ever wanted and yes, so much has happened to both of them, but being back here – married and together with Sansa kissing him – this is how it was always supposed to be; how Jon always wanted it to be.

 

Sansa moves hesitantly, still getting used to it, but with Jon’s silent encouragement, pressing his lips back to hers, Sansa begins to slowly grow more comfortable.

 

“A natural,” he whispers once their lips part so they may breathe and Sansa promptly blushes at that. He feels the warmth of her skin under his fingers, still on her cheek. “Do you remember our first kiss?” He asks then – not speaking of the kiss from last night in the tub or the kiss in their chamber a few nights before that or even their brief peck in the Godswood after being married.

 

He wonders if Sansa knows what he is speaking of.

 

“Of course,” she answers with a faint smile. “In the stables. You wanted to show me the horse Father had just gifted you with for your name day and you kissed me and when we came out again, Theon was teasing us and you had pushed him and snapped that you hadn’t even liked it.”

 

Jon winces a bit. “I was hoping you didn’t remember that.”

 

Sansa just smiles though. “It’s very hard, Your Grace, for a woman to forget the words that hurt her.”

 

Jon puts both of his hands on her cheeks now, gently holding her face over his. “At night, on the Wall, I would fall asleep, dreaming about that kiss.”

 

She looks at him, into his eyes, and he knows she doesn’t know what to say to that. Jon doesn’t know what he wants her to say. He was an idiot in his youth, but he supposes he can say the same thing about Sansa, finding herself with stars in her eyes when she saw the Prince Joffrey for the first time, thinking her life would be so much better in the South than with him as her husband in the North. He will never tell her that though. He doesn’t blame her. They were all young and they were all idiots.

 

“Jon,” Sansa whispers and then she places her lips to his again.

 

Jon keeps his hands on her cheeks for a moment before he slides them further back, his fingers weaving in through her hair. Sansa seems to like that and kisses him a bit harder in response to show him she does.

 

When their lips part once more, Sansa sounds breathless and Jon finds that he is as well. He closes his eyes and keeps her close. Sansa adjusts herself and rests her head on his chest and Jon bounds both of his arms around her, holding her.

 

“I have to tell you something,” he tells her; not wanting to break this perfect morning between them, but he isn’t going to let her leave this room and let her be completely blindsided. “Tyrion and I spoke last night after supper.”

 

Sansa nods, knowing that. She lifts her head to look to his face once more. “What did you speak of?”

 

“You.”

 

Chapter Text

 

Ned Stark spoke with his brother often. He didn’t doubt that Brandon checked in from time to time, but still, Ned spoke with him silently in his head and kept him updated on Jon. It would always be amazing to Ned how much Jon could be like the father he never met – his love of horses, his skill in the training yard, his often brash temper. It was also amazing – almost startling – how with each passing day, Jon grew to look more and more like his father.

 

He still missed his brother, but he thought it was more bearable since he had Jon.

 

“Jon,” Ned said after a minute or so of watching Jon train with his sword against the wooden dummy.

 

The ten-year-old spun around at the sound of his uncle’s voice and Ned gave him a smile.

 

“I need to speak with you,” Ned said and Jon nodded without argument, jogging to return his wooden training sword with the pile of others before jogging back to him.

 

Like it sometimes did when he looked to his nephew, Ned felt his heart squeeze in his chest. He knew how much his brother loved his son from the very instant he held a babe Jon in his arms for the first time and Ned knew, without a doubt, how proud Brandon would be of the boy he was today; growing into a man.

 

“Will you walk with me?” Ned asked.

 

“Yes, Uncle,” Jon nodded again and together, side-by-side, they left the training yards. Ned had no specific direction for them to walk to, but he found them heading in the direction of the Godswood. “Is Aunt Catelyn alright?” Jon asked.

 

Ned nodded with a slight smile. “She is.” They had just told the children the night before that Catelyn was expecting again and already, this pregnancy seemed to have his wife sick every morning so far. He looked to Jon. “Your training is coming along very well,” he then said.

 

An understatement if there ever was one. All of those who helped train the Stark sons would come to Ned and tell that Jon’s skill was prodigious; none having no doubt that he would grow to be a greater swordsman and fighter than his father had even dreamed to be.

 

Ned knew that even at his age, Jon was already expressing his disinterest in claiming his rightful place as the son of Brandon Stark, the oldest Stark, gave him – Ned and Catelyn though kept continuing his lessons in hopes that he would someday change his mind. If he didn’t though… Ned wasn't sure what he could do for him, but of course, Ned would do anything Jon wanted. 

 

Jon smiled at his uncle’s compliment and that made Ned smile as well.

 

“Sit with me,” Ned said once they reached the Weirwood and Ned settled himself down on one of the protruding roots, Jon sitting next to him. “Jon, you’re getting to be older now. Ten-years old. Almost a man.” He noticed Jon sit a little straighter at that. “And your Aunt and I have thought of what your father would do if he was still here.”

 

“What do you mean?” He asked with a furrowed brow.

 

“There are certain responsibilities that come with being born into your station with your name.”

 

That made Jon sigh; almost deflate in a way. “And Robb would be much better at that-”

 

“I speak of marriage,” Ned cut in.

 

“Oh.” Jon’s brow remained furrowed. “I’m too young to get married, aren’t I?”

 

“Just a little,” Ned couldn’t keep from smiling at that. “But never too young for a betrothal.”

 

Jon sighed again at that, but said nothing. He knew that this was one duty he couldn’t get out of. With their House and family name, all of the Stark children knew how important marriages and alliances could be.

 

“Your Aunt Catelyn and I have thought that a marriage between you and Sansa would be best,” Ned told him and then watched Jon’s face for any kind of reaction to that.

 

Jon just blinked at him though. “Sansa?” He then said; as if to just be sure. Ned nodded. “She’s six.”

 

“She won’t be six forever and neither will you be ten.”

 

Jon was quiet, thinking this all through.

 

“Do you know what your role would be as her husband?” Ned asked.

 

Jon nodded. “I would have to love her and keep her safe.”

 

Ned nodded. “And do you think you can grow to do that?” He asked the question, but he already knew the answer. Jon was a Stark and he was his brother’s son. There was no other man he and Catelyn would ever trust more with their daughter than this boy sitting next to him right now.

 

Jon sat straighter again and his answer had all of the confidence which his father used to speak. “Of course.”

 

Ned smiled and clapped a hand on the boy’s shoulder before squeezing it. “I don’t doubt it.”

 

 

“Enter!” The voice booms out and Meg struggles for a moment, trying to balance the tray while pushing open the heavy door, but then another hand appears from behind her, making her jump with fright.

 

“Here we are,” the young man smiles down at her and Meg is learning everyone’s names in Winterfell and she knows that this is Pod, one of the Queen’s guards.

 

“Thank you,” Meg remembers herself, managing a small smile of her own before entering the chancery.

 

Her eyes are quick to take in everyone present in the room.

 

There is the Queen and King, of course. Meg has yet to actually be present in the room with him yet but she has seen him from a distance, always in the training yards with the men, women and some of the older children who will go off to the Wall to fight the dead. Meg has noted how handsome he is though. Not that she thinks Varys will care about that, but it’s a detail that’s true nonetheless.

 

There is the tall woman – Brienne, another of the Queen’s guards – and the Queen’s sister and King’s cousin, Arya. She doesn’t speak much and moves as silently as a ghost. She frightens Meg a little though Meg knows that the young woman hasn’t actually done anything to warrant that fear. There is also the man with the white beard – Davos – and the man with the gut and frown – Lord Yohn Royce, who seems to have the Queen’s confidence since they have tea in the Queen’s solar every afternoon. She recognizes some of the other Lords in the North and Lady Lyanna Mormont. She probably frightens Meg more than Arya only because the girl has one facial expression – displeasure. Meg avoids her eyes at all costs.

 

And then, to round out the group this afternoon, is Lord Tyrion Lannister. Meg doesn’t know if the man knows she’s there because of Varys or not. She doesn’t think so. Even though she has been helping Aggie with her chores, bringing water or wine when asked for, or sweeping, the man doesn’t even look at her.

 

Meg is used to that from people who see themselves far above her. They look as if she’s not there at all.

 

 The Queen though, is sitting at the head of the table, the King standing from his chair next to her, and she smiles as soon as she sees Meg. Meg directs her feet towards her, holding the tray tightly in her hands.

 

“I have brought wine, Your Grace,” Meg tells her quietly.

 

“Thank you so much, Meg,” the Queen smiles warmly at her. The Queen always smiles warmly at almost everyone. Meg has noticed that the Queen’s smile does lose some of that warmth towards Lord Lannister.

 

The Queen sits forward in her seat and she helps Meg slide the heavy tray onto the table. Meg then begins pouring cups, walking around the table and offering to those in the chairs before returning to pour the next one. She also keeps her ears open and her eyes glance towards the large map on the table.

 

“No, Jon,” the Queen speaks up. “You need to take Ghost with you. He’ll be more of a help to you.”

 

The King shakes his head, looking down to her. “He’s staying here with you. You need to be kept safe, too. Now, Sansa will be here, in Winterfell, with those too old and too young to fight.” He points to Winterfell on the map of the North. “Brienne or Pod will need to stay here as well.”

 

“This is ridiculous,” the Queen frowns. “Jon, you can’t keep everyone here with me to keep me safe! You will need every single person capable of fighting and Brienne and Pod are two of the best!”

 

“I can-” Arya begins.

 

“Don’t you dare,” the Queen is swift to cut her off.

 

“I will stay, Your Grace,” Yohn Royce speaks up just as the King opens his mouth to reply. “If the Queen doesn’t mind being guarded by someone past his prime.”

 

The Queen frowns at that. “Don’t say such a thing. I would be honored if you chose to stay with me. As long as you don’t think that I think you would be of no use at the Wall.”

 

Royce smiles at that. “That never crossed my mind until you just said it, Your Grace.”

 

“Thank you, Lord Royce,” the King nods to the other man and his words sound relieved and genuine.

 

Meg brings Lord Lannister a cup of wine and the man doesn’t even look at her as he swipes it from her hand, pointing towards the map with it and some of the wine spilling over the edges. A few drops land on the sleeve of Meg’s dress and she looks down to it with a frown. Her dress is simple – wool and gray – but it’s clean and warm and it’s the nicest thing she has ever worn on her body. And now, there is a stain.

 

“Let me send the Queen a raven,” Lannister implores.

 

“Our Queen is sitting right here, Lannister,” Lady Mormont sneers at the man.

 

Lannister glances to the Queen, but her face remains completely blank as she looks to the man.

 

“I don’t need her, Lannister,” Jon says. “I’m not sure how many times I need to tell you that.”

 

“Why is he even here, Your Grace?” Lord Glover frowns.

 

“I am here because Your King and Lady Sansa asked me to be,” Tyrion answers.

 

Arya suddenly stands from her chair, leans across the table towards Tyrion and stabs her blade in the wood right in front of him – her movements so quick, they all jump. Brienne steps forward, her hand on the hilt of her sword at her side and the King holds his arm out across the Queen as if it will keep her safe.

 

“Show such disrespect to my sister again, I’ll find a new home for this blade in your belly,” Arya warns.

 

Tyrion has gone silent and still, his eyes wide.

 

For a long moment, no one dares moves or speaks. No one even seems to be breathing.

 

“Yes,” the King clears his throat. “That’s all for this morning, I think. Thank you.”

 

As the others stands up to leave, Tyrion gulps his wine down in just a few swallows and then, still without even glancing in Meg’s direction, but knowing that she is still there, he thrusts the cup out for her to take, not even waiting or looking to see if she has it before he is hurrying – nearly scurrying – from the room. Meg fumbles to catch the cup in time.

 

“Stay,” the King says to Arya as everyone else files out until it’s only the King and Queen, Arya, and Brienne and the door is shut once more. Meg is still there as well, but she is silent as she walks around the table, gathering the cups left behind, to take back to the kitchen and no one seems to be paying attention to her. “I told you to wait,” the King then says and Meg looks up to glance to him and then to Arya, to whom he is speaking to.

 

Arya shrugs, pulling her dagger from the wood of the table. “I didn’t do anything. I agreed to wait and I will, but why are you letting him disrespect Sansa like he does?”

 

The King sinks down into his chair next to the Queen and begins to rub his forehead. Meg notes the way the Queen looks at him and the way she reaches her hand out, bringing it over his and pulling it from his forehead, she twines their fingers together. The King then squeezes her hand.

 

They look at one another and the Queen gives him the smallest smile before he turns to look to Arya. “If anything happens to him while he’s under our roof, we’re going to have a pissed off Targaryen with three dragons coming here to avenge him. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to give that bitch any excuse to cross into our lands.”

 

“Glover was right thought. Why is he here and allowed to sit in on these meetings?” Arya wonders.

 

“We’re testing him,” the Queen speaks now. “If he’s privy to our plans, let’s see what he does with them. Either he does nothing and shows to us that he can be trusted. Or he runs back to tell his Queen that I will be left alone here, in Winterfell, with just a few guards while everyone is off at the Wall.”

 

“Your Grace,” Brienne gasps.

 

If this woman is so determined to be the Queen of the lower six kingdoms, let’s see what she does,” the King says, his eyes moving from Brienne back to Arya.

 

“You’re crazy,” Arya speaks and Meg is in absolute agreement.

 

Meg has never seen the Dragon Queen, but she knows of House Targaryen. Everyone in Westeros does. And though Meg serves Varys and Varys obviously is on the Dragon Queen’s side, Meg doesn’t know if she would ever be able to serve a Queen with dragons. Just thinking it is absolutely terrifying to her.

 

“Jon,” Arya frowns heavily at him. “This woman is a Targaryen. I do NOT have to remind you what those with that name have done to our family.”

 

The King frowns. “No, I do not need a reminder. But letting Tyrion think that Sansa as well as the old men and women and young children will be alone in Winterfell is just what we have told him. It’s up to him what he does with that information.”

 

“Meg,” the Queen suddenly speaks and Meg jumps in surprise. She smiles. “Come here.”

 

Meg knows there’s no reason to be scared – no one knows of her connection to Varys and his connection to the Dragon Queen – but she still feels her stomach twist as she slowly approaches the woman.

 

“So if Sansa will not be here, where is she going to be?” Arya asks. “And what are we going to do if that Targaryen comes to Winterfell while you’re gone, expecting to find only her? Declare war on her? She has dragons, apparently. Fighting and winning against the dead army is one thing, but winning against dragons? We won’t be able to do it, Jon.”

 

“We’ll figure that out if it comes to it,” the King responds. “What’s to say that Tyrion will tell her of our supposed plan? What’s to say that he’s not a man who can be trusted?”

 

Arya snorts at that and says nothing.  

 

Meg stands at the Queen’s side and watches as she gently takes Meg’s arm so she can look at her sleeve.

 

“There is this wonderful trick we will try. Boiling water, salt and a dash of vinegar. We’ll have this dress looking as good as new,” the Queen smiles then at her and Meg finds herself smiling in return.

 

“Thank you, Your Grace,” Meg says quietly and the Queen rubs her hand affectionately on Meg’s arm.

 

Meg looks to the Queen and then the King, who is watching with a small smile. She then looks to Arya with her dagger and the large woman, Brienne, with her sword. She looks back to the Queen. She’s only been here, in Winterfell, for a few short days and already, Meg knows that this is where she wants to be.

 

Will they kill her though once they find out what has brought her here?

 

Chapter Text

 

Varys reads the small piece of parchment that has arrived for him.

 

When he picks a child to be a little bird, first, he sees how good they are at hearing and not being seen; how well they can see things around them and remember it all. Then, he teaches them their letters. It’s important they know how to read and write so they can communicate without ever being seen together.

 

Meg is a fast learner and he admits to no one except himself that Meg is one of his favorites. Sending her to Winterfell had been simple enough since she had already been in the Vale, watching things for and reporting back to him of how it was going once news of Littlefinger being tried and executed by the King in the North reached him.

 

The Vale remains loyal to House Stark and the North.

 

Meg’s handwriting is shaky – the handwriting of a child who still isn’t completely comfortable with it – but Varys understands what she means to tell him. He reads it by the candle on his desk and keeps his face impassive; as if someone else is in the room with him, waiting for his reaction even though he is alone at this late hour and even if he wasn’t, no one knows about Meg being in Winterfell for him.

 

The King and Queen are very kind. The Queen made sure I had a bath, a new dress and she personally combed my hair. The King seems to only smile when he’s around the Queen.

 

Varys reads the short report again. It’s not much – at first, but Varys can see far more in Meg’s simple words and it is helpful. To him, at least.

 

The King and Queen are kind. Meg has only been there for a week and she has already seen the King and Queen enough to note that. And a King and Queen who is visibly kind to those around them – even the servants – that is important for Varys to know. And this part – she personally combed my hair – that is something Varys has never heard a Queen doing before. Not the one he previously served and certainly not this one. No, his Queen now likes her own hair being combed. He can’t imagine her doing it to anyone else; especially a servant.

 

But his Queen frees slaves. No other Queen does that. Varys reminds himself of that.

 

(He doesn’t stop to think why he must remind himself of that.)

 

This part however – The King seems to only smile when he’s around the Queen – is the part Varys reads more than just a few times. That’s not what he has been expecting. He had simply thought Jon Stark and Sansa Stark were cousins who were made to wed by others in the North. He hadn’t thought there would be anything more to them, but now, it seems as if he has been mistaken. Not his favorite thing to be, but he can admit to himself when he is. And it seems as if he was wrong about the pair who rule the North.

 

Daenerys won’t like to hear that the King quite possibly loves his wife. And Tyrion’s own report had arrived earlier that day, which Varys had read first unbeknownst to the Queen before giving it to her. After reading it, the Queen most certainly wasn’t be in a good mood. Tyrion has written to her that he requests to leave Winterfell. King Jon is unwilling to listen to anything until the army of the dead is defeated and all hopes of talking alliances are on hold.

 

He knows, so far, her campaign for Westeros is not going the way she had hoped, but Varys has tried to tell her that this all takes time and one must be patient.

 

“I have been patient enough,” Daenerys had snapped in response. “I am tired of waiting and I’m tired that you and Tyrion seem to only ever be able to tell me to be patient.”

 

Varys bowed his head to her. “It is a tumultuous time, Your Grace. The Long Night is nearly upon us.”

 

Daenerys had sighed so heavily through her nose, her nostrils flaring, she had reminded Varys of one of her dragons before they breathed fire. “And yet, the King in the North does not ask for my assistance.”

 

Varys had nearly reminded her that he and Tyrion had said that perhaps getting Brandon Stark’s son on their side might be difficult, but their Queen had insisted. She didn’t need to be reminded of it and she certainly wouldn’t appreciate it. She didn’t like to be reminded of things already told to her.

 

“Perhaps, Your Grace…” Varys began only to pause. Daenerys stood, staring at him and waiting. “Perhaps if you didn’t wait for him. Perhaps if you were to go to him and show him who you are and what you could do… well, how could he not be intrigued by you, Your Grace?”

 

Daenerys didn’t say anything, but he saw her lips begin to curl slowly upwards into a smile.

 

Varys now sits, reading Meg’s message and thinking of what to do next. Maybe going North is the way to go about this. If the North won’t come to them, why shouldn’t they go to the North? He has doubts that will help her cause in any way though just because of the way the people in the North are, but at least for now, the Queen seems placated. For now.

 

Taking a fresh piece of parchment, he begins to write a reply to Meg. First, he makes sure to compliment her. He always is sure to commend his little birds for a job well done. Nothing encourages continued good work than positive reinforcement.

 

If you are able, Varys writes, I would like you to get closer to the King. I would like to know more about him. Only do so if you are able. I will not have you put yourself in danger.

 

 

Sansa exhales a heavy sigh from behind the changing screen, her hands falling to her sides. If she didn’t know any better, she swears that Cora is doing this on purpose.

 

“Jon?”

 

She sticks her head out around the screen and all other words die right there on her tongue. Her husband is standing there with his curls down and wearing just a pair of breeches with no shirt. Oh my… Gods. Her husband… her husband is so handsome, he makes her belly swirl as if she’s just gulped some warm wine. Her lips tingle as she looks at him and he turns his head at the sound of her calling his name.

 

“Cora?” He asks.

 

Sansa remembers why she called for him. “Yes,” she sighs with a smile. “I love Cora, but she clearly is wanting to bind me into my dresses for whatever reason so I can never get out of them.”

 

“Well, we can’t have that.”

 

Sansa blushes at his words and Jon smiles as he joins her behind the screen.

 

“Perhaps I can get Meg a stool and teach her to lace my dress,” Sansa thinks out loud.

 

“You have been keeping that one close to you.”

 

“Yes… Lord Royce and I had a thought… I will tell you about it once I have found out more,” she promises.

 

She stands still as Jon doesn’t even attempt the knot with his fingers first. He leans down and she feels his warm breath on the skin of her back and the brush of his nose through her dress as he begins working at it with his teeth. She feels herself holding her breath and nearly closing their eyes. They have shared more than a few kisses now, but this is intimacy that leaves her nearly trembling.

 

Sansa gasps then, unable to help herself, when she feels Jon’s lips on her back that her loosened dress has opened him to. His kiss is soft; delicate.

 

“Is this alright?” He asks her in a hush.

 

Sansa can’t nod her head fast enough.

 

Her heart hammers in her chest as Jon places another kiss to a spot a little higher. He steps in closer and with one hand now able to easily undo the rest of the laces, his other hand slides around her waist and comes to a rest on her stomach.

 

“Is this alright?” He asks again and again, Sansa nods, gulping, unable to remember a single word.

 

Jon’s lips move to the side of her neck and Sansa tilts her head to the side to encourage this. She shivers as his lips brush along behind her ear and she finds herself leaning against his chest, grateful he’s standing behind her with his hand on her front, practically holding her up.

 

“Jon,” she whispers.

 

Jon kisses the corner of her jaw now and she shivers, Jon feeling it and his hand slides from her stomach so his arm can wrap around her front. “Yes?” He whispers.

 

“Would you…” Sansa pauses to swallow, trying to get some type of moisture in her overly dry throat. “I know it’s what’s expected of us, but if it wasn’t, would you…” Again, she has to pause.

 

Jon lifts his lips from her neck. “Would I…?” He tries to prompt her.

 

Sansa knows she must be brave. She must always be nothing, but brave.

 

She begins to turn and Jon loosens his arm so that she is able to, turning until she faces him. Her dress is loose and begins to slip from her shoulders. At first, she can’t look him in the face and looks to his chest instead – to the muscles and the scars. She lifts her hand to touch one now; it’s Jon’s turn to shiver.

 

Sansa lifts her eyes to look to his. “Would you like to have a baby with me?” She manages to get the question out in a rush of breath.

 

“Of course,” Jon’s answer is immediate; so immediate and Sansa has to wonder why she thought it wouldn’t be or that he would possibly answer in a different way. “Would you like one right now?”

 

He’s trying to make light of the heaviness that he knows is pressing down on her and Sansa is grateful. She is able to smile to show him that.

 

“I made sure… I drank teas with Ramsay so it wouldn’t happen with him,” Sansa tells him.

 

Jon doesn’t say anything to that; just watches her. Whenever she mentions her time with Ramsay, she notes that his jaw clenches tightly and the muscles in his face twitch, but other than that, he only listens. And Sansa has found that that’s exactly what she needs him to do.

 

So much with Ramsay, her brain hadn’t even fully processed it, burying it so deep inside of her to be ignored; but it can’t be ignored. And by being silent and just listening, letting her talk, Jon gives Sansa the chance to finally begin to try and work through everything that had been done to her; and by talking about it and processing it, she can start to move past it.

 

“I love when you wear your hair down when it’s just the two of us,” Sansa confesses then and Jon smiles a little at that.

 

“Do you?” He asks, she never having mentioned that before.

 

Sansa nods and smiles a little herself. “When it’s just us, you wear your hair down and it’s not King and Queen. Only Jon and Sansa. But I think… when we… it will help me if you wear your hair pulled back. Just for our first few times,” she is quick to add. “I need to see that you’re not him.” She whispers the last part, as if she is ashamed to say such a thing to her husband.

 

Jon doesn’t say anything to that at first. He puts his hands on her cheeks and kisses her forehead. “Anything you need… I love you,” he then says and Sansa feels the breath catch in her chest, her heart stopping for a beat.

 

“Jon,” she whispers, her eyes flying to his.

 

He’s never said those words to her. As cousins, yes, but never as husband and wife. It’s been so long since anyone has said those words to her and hearing them now – and hearing them from Jon – tears begin to form and flood her eyes.

 

“Jon,” she whispers again and he drops his lips to kiss her cheek and then he kisses her on the mouth before she can say anything further.

 

Sansa wraps her arms around his shoulders, holding him close, as his circle her waist and they kiss one another again and again. She is feeling too warm and she wants to step from her dress because her skin is on fire, but before she can do anything more than kiss Jon, a heavy pounding on their chamber door interrupts them. Sansa jumps with the suddenness of it and Jon lets out a harsh curse through his quickened breathing.

 

He gives Sansa an apologetic look before he steps out from the changing screen to go and answer it and Sansa quickly pulls her dress down her body, stepping from it and draping it over the top of the screen to be put away later. Her heart is still pounding. She steps out in just her white shift just as Jon is closing the door again, breaking the seal of a rolled parchment in his hands.

 

His body is tense; so much so that Sansa can see it from across the room and it makes her own body tense.

 

“What is it?” She asks, but can barely do so above a whisper, and she takes a step forward.

 

Jon reads silently for another moment before lifting his head. “It’s from Edd.” Sansa immediately feels the floor beneath her bare feet shift. She reaches out to hold onto the back of one of the chairs in front of the fire. “They’re almost to the wall.”

 

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Chapter Text

 

Normally, as Queen, Sansa would help him with his armor, but it’s a long ride to the Wall and Jon’s not going to wear it for the next two weeks. Instead, she helps buckle his leather jerkin on, her fingers noticeably shaking.

 

“When are you leaving?” He asks.

 

Sansa swallows and sighs when she finally gets it buckled. She then looks to Jon; into his eyes. “When you leave, we are staying in Winterfell for one more day before leaving as well.”

 

“And where are you going?”

 

“Southeast,” Sansa recites the plan they have worked on together. “It should take us a week to get there.”

 

Jon nods, his hands sliding over his wife’s hips. He imagines them wider with pregnancy and he already can’t wait to see her in such a state. “And what will you do once you get there?”

 

Sansa swallows and her fingers begin to pick at the leather over his chest. “We will stay in Ramsgate. Either you send or one of our people send a raven that you have won or a raven will be sent that you…” She can’t finish that particular thought and Jon gently pulls her in until their body’s fronts graze.

 

“And if we are defeated, what do you do?” Jon presses.

 

He has no doubt that Sansa knows the plan, but he supposes he needs to hear it for himself; to assure himself that it is a good plan and Sansa will stay alive because of this plan.

 

“Lord Manderly has assured us his ships are prepared,” Sansa whispers now. “If we are defeated and you fall… I’m to take our people to Essos.”

 

Jon leans in and presses his lips to her forehead in a kiss, closing his eyes, wanting to remember the feel of her skin under his lips and the scent of her body; though he can’t imagine ever forgetting either of those. He hears her shuddering breaths and he knows she is about to cry, but is doing so hard to keep it controlled. Jon’s arms tighten around her and he pulls his head back so that he can look into her face.

 

“I love you,” he says and it’s the second time he has said those words to her and they are the easiest words he has ever said to anyone.

 

He had said them before – to Ygritte – and Jon supposes a part of him will always love Ygritte, but that had been the boy, Jon, in love with another girl. This is the man, Jon, in love with his wife.

 

“I love you, too,” Sansa tells him then and Jon exhales a breath as if he’s been holding it, only to be released when he heard her say such a thing. And then, at his reaction, Sansa begins to smile and Jon swoops in, kissing her hard on the mouth.

 

“When we see one another again-” He is certain he says when. “-I will put a babe in you.”

 

Sansa’s cheeks flush at that and she smiles just as Jon swoops in for another kiss.

 

The image of having Sansa beneath him as they finally consummate their marriage will keep him warm at night, he doesn’t doubt it.

 

Outside in the courtyard, there are hundreds of men, women and children, all rushing in all directions, either preparing themselves to leave – to march North – or to say goodbye to their loved ones who are either leaving or staying behind.

 

But when Jon and Sansa step out, it seems to be known and it takes a minute, but a hush passes over everyone, all heads turned towards the King and Queen in the North. Jon clutches Sansa’s hand and she stands next to him, hiding her own emotions. The King and Queen must be stronger than everyone.

 

“We all know the plan!” Jon speaks loudly, his voice shouting out into the night so that all might be able to hear him. “We have all been training for the plan! By the time you arrive at the Wall, I will already be beyond it and hopefully, our war will be done before it can begin! We defeated them thousands of years ago and we will victoriously defeat them again!”

 

Cheers and battle cries rise up and Jon looks to Sansa. Her eyes are wet, shining in the torches lit, but no tears fall. His Queen and wife is too strong to cry in front of anyone else. He squeezes her hand and Sansa gives him the smallest smile back, squeezing his hand as well.

 

Jon looks back to their people; everyone from all of the Houses of the North who have joined this fight.

 

“I know you’re all scared! I am scared as well! But I will fight to my death to keep you all safe!”

 

“We’ll die for you, too, Your Grace!” Someone shouts in reply to that and cries in agreement rise up.

 

Jon exhales a shaky breath, overcome with the love and loyalty from all of those gathered around him. Sansa reads his mind and squeezes his hand again.

 

“May the Gods keep us safe!” Jon finishes and cheers and battle cries reply to him.

 

He sees Lord Royce and he beckons the man to come to him. He steps forward, his hand falling from Sansa’s and he can see that she is saying goodbye to Brienne and Pod. Both have knelt in front of her and she orders them to rise, kissing their cheeks and hugging them both tightly.

 

“Your Grace,” Royce bows his head to him.

 

“I am trusting you with the most important thing in the North and the most precious person in the world to me,” Jon tells him what he doesn’t need to for the man already knows.

 

“I will lay my life down for hers if need be, Your Grace,” Royce readily promises.

 

“I know,” Jon nods and the two men firmly shake hands. “I will send a raven once I reach Castle Black.”

 

Royce takes a step in towards him. “With Lannister having left this morning, as far as anyone knows, we are staying right here in Winterfell.”

 

Jon nods, pleased with that. The secret is too important and there are far too many people, increasing the risk of letting the true plan slip. Only those in the tightest circle around the King and Queen know what those left behind will truly be doing.

 

Ghost approaches and Jon drops to his haunches in front of the great Direwolf. “Look after her for me,” he tells his faithful companion and like Lord Royce, Ghost already knows this. “Keep her safe.”

 

Ghost licks the side of his face and Jon chuckles, scratching him behind his ears.

 

Standing up and turning back to Sansa, she is now hugging Arya, the two sisters clinging to each other. Both sniffle as they break away from the other.

 

“I know I don’t have to worry about you, but please look after Jon for me,” Sansa says as Jon approaches.

 

“Yes, I’ve heard the idiot’s already died once,” Arya tosses Jon a grin.

 

Jon does his best to frown at them both.

 

Arya leaves them alone to make sure their horses are ready and Jon knows that everyone is watching – and pretending not to – and they expect the King and Queen to show affection – for once, in this particular situation – in front of them.

 

But even if they weren’t being watched and even if it wasn’t what was expected of them, Jon would still do what he does now.

 

He wraps his arms back around his wife and pulls her into a kiss – fierce and hard, wanting both of them to remember this kiss when it’s far in the past. When he pulls his head back so both can breathe again, Sansa blinks at him – clearly surprised, but certainly not complaining.

 

“Come back to me,” she then whispers to him so only he can hear. “You’ve promised me a babe and I don’t wish to have one with anyone else.”

 

Jon kisses her fiercely again. “I will be back,” he promises her.

 

He knows promises like that can’t be made when riding into battle and he knows his odds of surviving this battle with the Night King are minute, but he can’t help himself. It’s not only what Sansa needs to hear, but it’s what he needs to hear, too. He needs to come back to her because now that she’s his wife, Jon won’t leave this world after just a few months of being able to call Sansa his.

 

“I haven’t the time to go see my father…” he begins to say.

 

“I’ll go down and make sure his candle is lit,” Sansa promises to him now.

 

Arya brings the horses and with one more kiss to Sansa’s lips, Jon goes to mount his. He doesn’t look back to her. If he looks back, Jon knows he’ll slide right down from his horse and not leave her.

 

 

The plan is almost too simple. Jon worries about that. All of these men having fought in battles and what they have come up with is so straightforward, it worries Jon that there isn’t more twists and surprises to it. Surely, the more complicated, the better. But this is what Jon and the others have come up with and have spent the past few weeks going over every single possibility of how it could all go wrong.

 

It takes about eighteen days from Winterfell to the Wall. That was how long it took Jon and Uncle Benjen when they first made the journey together. Jon, Arya and Davos are riding ahead. Brienne, Pod, Lady Mormont and all of the other Lords will be leading the rest of the men, women and children fighting at the Wall behind them. The three sleep little and change for fresh horses along the way as soon as their current animals are near collapsing.

 

They reach the wall in fifteen days and in that time, if Jon isn’t thinking of what he must do, he is thinking of Sansa. She had sent a raven that had found Jon on the Kingsroad and had told him when they had left Winterfell for Ramsgate in White Harbor. He takes comfort in knowing that if anything happens to him and the Dead win, coming for the rest of Westeros, Sansa will be on a ship for Essos. That thought keeps him warm as it gets colder and colder with seemingly each passing hour.

 

As Castle Black is finally in their reach, and Jon can hear the call from the Brothers on watch to open the gate, Jon feels like he breathes for the first time in fifteen days. And when he sees Edd, standing and waiting for him in the black Lord Commander cloak, Jon finds himself actually smiling. He stops his horse and is the first to dismount, instantly sweeping Edd into a tight hug. Edd pounds his back and they squeeze one another for a brief second. And just as they step apart and Jon opens his mouth to speak, from the corner of his eye, he sees a great form coming his way – that knocks him flat over.

 

Jon groans as he hits the ground – hard – and the weight of the body is heavy on top of him.

 

“Little crow!”

 

“Gods, Tormund,” Jon groans, shoving the man off of him. “You’re killing me.”

 

“Bah. If a knife to the heart won’t get you, you’re not getting taken out by me.”

 

Jon smiles as Tormund helps him to his feet and is then tugged into a hug from the wilding that Jon swears breaks one or two of his bones. Jon then makes the introductions of Arya to everyone and Tormund sweeps “Little crow’s little sister” into a hug. Arya doesn’t look amused, but she allows it.

 

“I must send Sansa a raven,” Jon tells Edd and Edd nods, the two men walking away as Davos and Arya are shown where they can rest and get something to eat and drink.

 

“How is she?” Edd asks and Jon smiles a little.

 

Jon knows from having just met Sansa and having her been around Castle Black for a bit of time before she and Jon left, he knows that Edd became somewhat enamored with her. Not in a “love” kind of way, but a man looking upon a Queen for the first time because even then, Sansa already carried herself as one.

 

“Scared,” Jon answers.

 

“Aren’t we all?”

 

They climb the stairs to the Lord Commander’s chancery and Jon sees the Wall looming past them. “Thank you for not knocking it down. That would have made this upcoming battle a bit more difficult if it wasn’t standing anymore.”

 

“I told you I would do my best. The Brothers and I have been making as many arrows and swords as we can per your orders. We’ve also gotten the fire pits in position up on the Wall.”

 

Jon nods. “Good. Thank you.” He then claps a hand on his friend’s shoulder. “I’ve missed you. I’ve nearly sent for you a few times.”

 

“Bah,” Edd brushes that off. “Why would I ever want to leave all of this?”

 

Jon cracks into a grin. Edd pushes the door to the chancery open and steps inside, glancing over his shoulder at Jon, nearly smiling. And when Jon steps in, he stops still in his tracks.

 

“Sam!” He exclaims at the sight of his friend he hasn’t seen in so long and Sam grins that Sam-grin of his as the two embrace one another. “What are you doing here? Where’s Gilly?”

 

“Gilly’s safe. I sent her to Winterfell. And I’m here to help, of course.” He puffs his chest out. “I’ve killed a Wight, you know.”

 

“He’s been reminding me of that since he’s gotten here,” Edd grumbles, but Jon just keeps smiling and slaps his hand on Sam’s chest.

 

“I’m glad you’re here. How did you know to come here?”

 

“Edd sent me a raven, asking if I happened to have any valyrian steel and he told me why he needed it.”

 

Jon feels the breath stop in his chest. “Do you have any valyrian steel?” He asks.

 

Sam just grins and goes to the table, picking up a long sword. “Heartsbane of House Tarly,” he states proudly. Jon comes to take the sword himself, holding it in one hand, testing the weight, before tossing it to the other.

 

“Your father gave you this?”

 

“Well, not exactly,” Sam begins to answer, looking embarrassed. “Fine, I stole it. But I’m the oldest son. It should be passed down to me anyway and besides, it’s not like he’s using it.”

 

Edd snorts and Jon smiles, clapping a hand on Sam’s shoulder once more.

 

Sam just smiles. “So, who else is going beyond the Wall with us and when are we going?”

 

Jon sets Heartsbane down, keeping his eyes on Sam. “You want to come with us?”

 

Sam straightens his back and tilts his chin up in defiance. “Of course I’m coming. I’ve killed-”

 

“A Wight, you know,” Jon and Edd finish for him.

 

“Well, I have,” Sam frowns at them both. “And other than that, I have stolen my family sword to come and help you. You’re mad if you think you’re going off without me.”

 

“Jon,” Edd speaks. “There’s someone else here who’s been waiting for you.”

 

“Who?” Jon’s brow furrows at that. “I still have to send a raven to Sansa.”

 

“I think you’ll want to hold off on that until you see who else is here. She’ll want to know, too.”

 

He then hears something outside. It almost sounds a shriek – a womanly shriek – and though it isn’t exactly a common sound, Jon recognizes it all the same. The door is still open and Jon rushes outside to see what has made Arya make such a sound. He then stops as suddenly as he had when he saw Sam. Down below, in a wheeled chair, is a young man and Arya has thrown herself against him. The young man doesn’t hug her back, but Jon can see him close his eyes and smile, tilting his head down to her shoulder.

 

“Bran,” Jon breathes.

 

Chapter Text

 

As planned, the journey from Winterfell to the Keep in Ramsgate took about a week with Lady Manderly there to greet them. And now, being there for another week, Sansa has spent most of her days, looking out the window, waiting for the raven that would tell her that Jon arrived at Castle Black, safe. Upon arrival, Lady Manderly had told her Queen that the finest rooms faced the water, but Sansa had asked for a chamber that faced North.

 

“If it’s not too inconvenient,” Sansa had been quick to add.

 

“Of course it wouldn’t be, Your Grace,” Lady Manderly had said, understanding Sansa’s request immediately. “I should have already thought of it.”

 

Even after everything, Sansa still allows herself some fanciful ideas.

 

She wants to face North because Jon and Arya and so many others of their people are North and perhaps, the raven – once sent – will be able to find her easier if her chamber faces North.

 

But besides those reasons, Sansa can’t help, but imagine that maybe, Jon will look to the Southeast and Sansa will be looking North at the same exact time and even with thousands of leagues between them, they’ll be looking at one another.

 

Her heart aches and she can’t find anything to keep herself from thinking on it. There are sewing circles and helping Lady Manderly running the Keep with the influx of hundreds of added people. She has invited Gilly and her son to her room for tea so she could get to know the woman. Sansa has yet to meet him, but Jon has spoken of both Gilly and her husband, Sam, often and any friend of Jon’s is a friend of hers. She also meets with Lord Royce daily as they are still seeing that they have seen to all preparations for Winter – both in silent agreement that they will continue to prepare unless there is a reason not to.

 

But Sansa knows she’s poor company and she can’t concentrate on anything other than Jon and waiting for his promised raven. He had told her that it takes about eighteen days’ ride from Winterfell to the Wall and Sansa knows enough days hasn’t passed yet, but that doesn’t stop her mind from waiting; doing nothing, but waiting and looking out the window and praying and crying to herself at night before sleep.

 

How cruel of the Old Gods and New. After all of the pain and torment and abuse, Sansa has finally married a man who she loves completely; and who loves her; who is kind and gentle and brave. And what if he’s taken away from her?

 

Sansa already knows and she doesn’t care what the Lords would say about it. She will never marry again; spending the rest of her days as Jon’s widow and reliving the moment in her life when someone loved her.

 

No, Jon won’t die. Not Jon. He’s already come back once and it was to do this very thing; fight the Night King and defeat him once and for all. It’s dangerous and if it was anyone else, they probably wouldn’t be able to survive, but Jon – her husband – isn’t just anyone.

 

Tap! Tap! Tap!

 

Sansa lifts her head from the embroidery she is attempting to work on and gasps when she looks to the window. Within seconds, she has flown from her chair at the fire to the doors, pulling them both open. The raven flaps back from the door and hops onto the ledge of the balcony.

 

Sansa breathes at the sight of the bird and the small parchment tied to his leg. She almost cries at the sight. Finally. She approaches the bird slowly – so not to frighten it – but the bird just stays where it is, watching her with his black eyes. She unties the parchment and immediately unrolls it, her eyes scanning over the words in Jon’s handwriting.

 

Arya, Davos and I have arrived at Castle Black, safe. Sam is here as well and I hope that by the time this reaches you, Gilly and Little Sam have been able to get to Winterfell before you leave.

 

We will be going beyond the Wall in two days’ time. It will give us time to rest and to prepare ourselves. Arya and I had the best surprise when we arrived here.

 

Bran is alive and is here with us.

 

Sansa gasps, her hand flying to her mouth as tears instantly flood her eyes from those words. Bran. Bran! Theon had told her that the two boys who had been killed and burned weren’t Bran and Rickon and while Jon and Sansa saw Rickon murdered right in front of them, there had been no word on Bran. They had just thought… well, it doesn’t matter what they thought because Bran is alive!

 

And Jon and Arya are at Castle Black, alive.

 

Sansa knows it’s the most dangerous place to be, but she wishes she was there right now, with them all. Once again, she finds herself separated from her family with no idea what is going to happen to her; to any of them.

 

I think of you with each passing minute and at night, I dream of nothing, but you. My arms ache to hold you. My lips long to taste you. And my cock can’t wait to find its home in you. I love you, Sansa, and I can only hope that you love and miss me as much. With love, Jon

 

His words make the tears gathered in her eyes slip down her cheeks and she closes them, bringing the letter to her heart as she feels the slight tremble through her body from his last sentiment. If this was any other man saying such a thing to her, she would be trembling with fear, but this is Jon and his words are her thoughts as well.

 

She wants to experience all love with her husband. She is actually excited at experiencing that kind of love with no one, but Jon. Nervous, yes, but also excited and it’s amazing to her that she would be. Her mind has a passing thought of Ramsay, but she allows herself to dwell on it. It will be absolutely nothing like that with Jon.  

 

She wishes she could write him back. She had written to Castle Black as soon as they arrived at Ramsgate so Jon would have news of her safety, but if she writes him now, the letter won’t reach him in time and he will be beyond the Wall.

 

Opening her eyes again, sniffling and wiping at one of her wet cheeks, Sansa stills when she sees that the raven is still there, perched on the ledge, watching her. She looks at the bird, curiously. Normally, once the birds have made their delivery, they have flown off again. Sansa has never seen one, just sitting there, as if waiting for something more.

 

Sansa knows it’s absolutely ridiculous and yet, she does it anyway. “Thank you for bringing me the letter,” she says to the bird.

 

The raven flaps its wings at her and hops on the ledge, closer to her.

 

“You’re an interesting one, aren’t you?” Sansa smiles as the bird cocks its head to her. “I’m afraid you showed up before tea and I have nothing to give you.”

 

Caw! The raven calls out.

 

Sansa hesitates. This truly is mad, she knows, but with the slowest of movements, she reaches her hand out. With her fingertips, she strokes them down the back of the raven’s neck. It almost seems, to her, that the raven seems to shiver at her touch, craning his neck as if asking for more, and Sansa smiles a bit. She’s never seen a raven behave in such a way before. It is almost as if this wild bird has been tamed.

 

“Safe travels,” Sansa then bids to the bird.

 

Caw! The raven calls out one more time, flapping his wings, before he turns on the ledge and flies off. Sansa tilts her head up, watching the bird in the sky, fly further and further until it’s nothing more than a black spot against the clear blue before it disappears entirely.

 

Sansa reads through Jon’s letter one more time – especially the last part – as she moves back inside, closing the doors to the balcony. When she hears a knock on the door, Sansa already knows who it is and she finds herself smiling as she sets Jon’s letter down before going to answer it, wiping her wet cheeks.

 

The smile is still across her face when she opens the door to Lord Royce and Meg. Meg is carrying the tea tray and it’s obvious Lord Royce has tried to take it and carry it for her, but Meg is a stubborn little girl and holds onto it tightly in case the man tries to swoop it right from her hands.

 

“It’s arrived,” Sansa tells Royce as she steps back, allowing both into the chamber. These daily afternoon tea sessions with Lord Royce has become something she looks forward to. “Just now.”

 

“And the three have arrived safely?”

 

“Yes,” Sansa nods. “Jon says they are waiting and resting for two days before they go beyond the Wall.”

 

Lord Royce looks at her before glancing to Meg before back to Sansa. Meg has carried the tray to the small table between the two chairs at the fireplace and Sansa gives a single nod.

 

“Thank you, Meg,” Sansa smiles to the girl as she goes to her.

 

Meg smiles. “And look, Your Grace!” The girl is so excited, she hardly waits to finish her sentence before she is lifting the linen napkin that has been placed over the plate. “Fresh from the kitchen!”

 

Sansa can’t help, but gasp a little. On the plate are two perfect lemon cakes.

 

“Lady Manderly said they were a surprise!” Meg exclaims. “And she says she knows Your Grace loves lemon cakes and aren’t they the most perfect things you’ve ever seen?”

 

Sansa nearly laughs at how excited the girl is. “Oh, they are so beautiful.” Sansa sits down in one of the chairs. “You must share mine with me.”

 

Meg’s eyes widen at the offer, but then she shakes her head quickly. “I can’t, Your Grace. These lemon cakes are for you and Lord Royce.”

 

“And I would like to share mine with you,” Sansa says, picking up the knife next to the plate.

 

Royce lowers himself into the second chair to begin pouring their tea.

 

“You can’t,” Meg’s fingers twist in the skirt of her dress. “You are Queen and I am nobody. Nobodies don’t get to have lemon cakes, Your Grace.”

 

Sansa frowns at that and setting the knife down again, she takes both of Meg’s hands in hers. “Who told you that you’re nobody?”

 

“I am, Your Grace,” Meg whispers.

 

“You are not nobody. You are Meg and you’re a good, kind and loyal girl. Just because I was born to a certain set of parents and you were born to another, that doesn’t make us that very different.”

 

Meg looks like she’s about to cry now and Sansa gently squeezes her hands.

 

“You think I’m loyal?” Meg whispers, not able to look at Sansa; her eyes instead down to their joined hands.

 

“Aren’t you?” Royce speaks up, leaning back in his seat with his cup of tea.

 

Meg is able to look at him, but still unable to look at Sansa. “I try to be.”

 

“It must be hard,” Sansa offers. “To be so young and feel like you don’t have a home. Always going from one place to another.”

 

“You were in the Vale before coming to Winterfell, weren’t you?” Royce asks, keeping his eyes on her before taking a sip of his tea. “Some of those there who have now come to Winterfell told me that you looked familiar to them.”

 

Meg nearly gasps at that, staring at Lord Royce, before she seems to remember where Lord Royce is from.

 

She swallows and nods. “I was, My Lord,” she whispers.

 

“It’s alright, Meg,” Sansa assures her, rubbing her thumbs over her hands. “I know what it’s like to do what we think will please others.”

 

Meg sniffles. “Varys has been kind to me,” she tells them both, whispering still. “He’s taught me my letters and if I do a really good job, he’s promised that he’ll get me a right and proper job when I get older.” She finally lifts her eyes to look to Sansa and they’re wet and looking at the little girl’s face, crumbling, Sansa feels like she can cry herself.

 

“We don’t want you to be torn, Meg,” Royce assures her. “You can stay loyal to Varys. We just ask that you do us a favor and not tell him what you might hear myself and Your Grace say between us.”

 

“I won’t,” Meg shakes her head. “I promise I won’t. I…” she looks to Sansa. “I would never betray you, Your Grace. And I’m sorry for what I’ve already told him.”

 

“What have you told him?” Sansa asks. “I only ask because I know he serves the Targaryen and myself and the King and those in the North aren’t too fond of any Targaryen. I would like to know so that I may be prepared if something happens.”

 

“I haven’t told him anything helpful, I promise, Your Grace,” Meg insists. “I swear it. I’ve only told him how kind you both are to me and how the King only seems to smile when he’s around you, Your Grace.”

 

That makes Sansa smile faintly though that actually might be a problem if Tyrion’s plan is true of having Jon and the Targaryen Queen come together.

 

“And he told me…” Meg swallows and stops herself.

 

“Go on. It’s alright,” Royce says.

 

“He told me that he would like me to stay close to the King. To learn more about him.”

 

Sansa gives Meg’s hands one more squeeze and then pulls her hand back, cutting one of the lemon cakes into two pieces, holding out one of the pieces for the girl to take. Meg looks at the dessert, nearly licking her lips, but she looks to Sansa before taking it.

 

“I won’t tell anyone anything, Your Grace,” Meg then promises.

 

Sansa keeps holding the lemon cake out and Meg finally takes it. “You can tell him anything you want. All I ask is that you tell Varys that the King has gone North, but don’t tell him where, and that the rest have stayed behind in Winterfell and that when the King returns, you will begin.”

 

Because Jon is returning, Sansa adds silently to herself.

 

Meg nods. “I will write it as soon as I leave you, Your Grace.”

 

Sansa smiles and picks up the other half of the lemon cake. “Ready?” She then asks.

 

Meg smiles, too, almost giggles and at the same time, Sansa and Meg take bites of their lemon cakes.

 

Chapter Text

 

“I can stay with you,” Meera Reed offers and not for the first time.

 

Bran just gives her that small smile that seems to be now his. “My sister and cousin need you more than I do and I’ll have others here to keep watch over me.”

 

Meera opens her mouth, prepared to clearly argue, but she stops herself. With a resigned sigh, she nods.  

 

“Are you sure you can handle this?” Jon asks Bran and again, Bran just gives that small smile.

 

Jon and Arya had witnessed it for the first time two days earlier; Bran’s eyes rolling back and going completely white and a raven suddenly appearing, hopping right onto Arya’s shoulder and giving her ear a peck that made her squirm and laugh at the same time. They couldn’t believe it even as they witnessed it and even witnessing it, it had taken some convincing that this raven actually was Bran.

 

“You need me, Jon,” Bran informs him.

 

“I’m not arguing that. I just… I want to make sure that you’ll be alright doing… this for so long.”

 

Bran just smiles. “I’ll be fine. It’s a raven. It won’t take that much out of me. If you asked me to do it with a dragon…” he trails off then and Jon swallows.

 

“So the dragons are real?”

 

This is the absolute last thing he should be thinking about. He doesn’t have time for dragons or some Targaryen bitch, demanding things that aren’t hers to demand. He has an army of the dead coming to the Wall. He is hours away from facing down the Night King again and this time, one of them won’t be coming away from it. That is the only thing Jon can think about right now. He can’t even – won’t even – allow himself to think of Sansa. He needs his mind focused on one thing and one thing only.

 

“We’ll talk about it after,” Bran promises Jon; perhaps able to read Jon’s thoughts right now and considering how different Bran is now, Jon wouldn’t doubt if his cousin could very much do just that.

 

Jon nods at that. “After,” he echoes.

 

Bran exhales a deep breath and shifts in his chair, as if getting himself comfortable. “Go on.”

 

Meera leans down and hugs him, Arya then doing the same. Jon leans in and kisses him on the head and with a moment later, Bran’s eyes have gone white. Jon, Arya and Meera leave Bran in the warming shed on top of the Wall and step into the cage, waiting a second before it begins to lower.

 

Caw!

 

They all look and breathe a sigh of relief, Meera smiling as the raven comes and lands right on her shoulder. Jon is able to smile at his cousin-turned-raven, but then takes a deep breath, his stomach in a painful knot and his heart is beating so quickly, it is giving him chest pains.

 

He’s scared and he closes his eyes to try and keep his breathing steady.

 

That is the only time a man can be brave, his Uncle Ned’s words speak in his mind.

 

Opening his eyes, he looks to Arya and Meera Reed. Neither talk and both look equally nervous.

 

Jon does his best to give them a smile. “After this, we’ll come back to Castle Black and have the tallest mugs of ale we can manage.”

 

Arya snorts at that. Her valyrian steel weapon is a dagger from her mother; used to almost kill Bran when he had been unconscious and bedridden and stopped by Catelyn. Bran has kept it this whole time and has given it to Arya for beyond the Wall. She flips and turns it between her fingers now.

 

“Sansa told me all about the ale at Castle Black,” Arya comments. “Like goat’s piss.”

 

Jon smiles a bit easier now. “Sansa would never describe something as goat’s piss.” His wife is a proper little thing and it’s one of the things he loves most about her.

 

He wishes he had been at her side when Bran had delivered his letter and she had read what Jon had written so that he may have seen her face. Jon has imagined it and he can see the pink of his wife’s cheeks even with thousands of leagues between them. Even in the cage, going down, Jon turns his head towards the southeast – as if he can see Sansa this very moment.

 

He had been nervous writing that letter to her, but in the end, he had plunged in and told her what was truly on his mind and what he wished to do with her once they were reunited again. He could very well die within the next few hours and Sansa now knows that he loves her, but she needed to know the rest. He wanted his wife to know how very much he desires her.

 

“She didn’t say it,” Arya agrees. “But I know that’s what she meant.”

 

“If we get back after this, I’ll drink anything if it will get me good and pissed,” Meera speaks up, stroking the beak of the Bran-raven.

 

Arya grins at her for that and Jon lets out a chuckle. The cage reaches the ground and Jon lets them step out first, stepping off after them. Tormund, Edd, Sam and Davos are waiting. All of them are bundled in thick furs and all are brandishing their own valyrian steel weapons.

 

“Are we ready?” Jon asks them all.

 

“Ready!” Tormund answers with a grin.

 

“Brienne’s raven arrived. Our army is about a day from here,” Davos tells him.

 

Jon nods. “Let’s hope that by the time they get here, there will be nothing for them to do.”

 

The party of seven, plus one raven, walk through the twisting tunnels towards the thick oaken door and heavy grates that will open for them and they’ll walk out on the other side. The others walk in front of him as Jon brings up the rear. There is chatter amongst them – nervous and to fill in the silence – but Jon isn’t listening to what they are saying. He is silent, speaking with his father, pleading with Brandon Stark to be with him now as he always is.

 

He turns when he feels someone come beside him and it is Edd.

 

“I want you to know that when we get through this, I’m going to end your watch and ask you to come back to Winterfell with me,” Jon tells him – straightforward as Edd would appreciate that.

 

“You don’t need me down there,” Edd shakes his head. “I don’t know anything about helping a King.”

 

“And that’s exactly why I need you with me. I’m not a King to you. I’m Jon.”

 

Edd just looks at him like that as if perhaps he’s lost a part of his mind.

 

Jon gives him a small smile. “Sansa’s brilliant and she’s much better at the politics than I am. And I have Davos and the other Northern Lords, but sometimes, all they do is argue and do my head in and I can imagine that eventually, Davos will want to return to his own home.”

 

Edd snorts. “Really making it sound like paradise. Let me rush myself right into that.”

 

Jon’s small smile breaks into a grin. “That’s why I need you. You’ll never kiss my ass and you’ll always tell me what you’re thinking. That’s exactly what I need.”

 

“We all might die today,” Edd points out in true Edd fashion.

 

“Well, then, you won’t have to worry about it,” Jon says with a clap on his friend’s shoulder.

 

They open the heavy door and then wait for the heavy gates to rise. When they do, no one steps forward. Instead, Jon turns to Meera and the raven on her shoulder.

 

“We’ll wait for you here,” Jon tells his cousin.

 

Caw!

 

Bran takes off then, the group of seven standing at the opening, watching the raven fly off. Jon exhales a breath and leans back against the wall. In all of the weeks they had been drawing up their plan – and then going over it again and again and thinking of anything that could possibly go wrong – Jon had never anticipated that he would see his cousin again, who can now just so happen to warg into animals. It’s helpful, to say the least, and it fits in with their plan, but what if…

 

Bran says that the Night King is after him. What if the Night King can sense Bran as a raven and strike him down? What if the Night King already knows exactly what they are up to?

 

Jon allows Sansa to take over his mind instead. These are the last minutes he will have to do so before he must focus completely on the task at hand. He closes his eyes and she stands right in front of him; as she was their last night together – in her white shift and her hair down and glowing in the fire. All he wants to do is wrap her in his arms, kiss her and feel her body beneath his.

 

He loves her completely and all he wants in this world is to be able to tell her that to her face. He wants to tell her as many times as a man can possibly tell a woman that in a single day so Sansa may never doubt and never wonder his feelings for her.

 

But most of all, no matter what happens to him, he wants her safe. Gods, please keep her safe.

 

Father, please keep Sansa safe.

 

Caw!

 

Bran has returned and Jon’s eyes snap open and he pushes himself from the wall. This time, he comes to land and perch himself right on top of Tormund’s head.

 

“You shite on me, little raven, we’re going to have a problem,” Tormund grumbles up to him.

 

Jon ignores him and they all gather around to look to Bran. He holds up his leathered glove hand.

 

“Did you find them?” Jon asks.

 

As agreed, Bran leans down and pecks Jon’s hand. Once – for yes.

 

“The Wight army?”


One peck.

 

“Is the Night King and his generals with them?”

 

Two pecks – no.

 

“Did you see the Night King as well?”

 

One peck.

 

“Is he behind them?”

 

One peck.

 

Jon exhales a breath and nods, stroking a finger down the raven’s neck. He looks to the others.

 

“It’s what I thought he would do,” Jon tells them. “He is sending the Wights in first.” He looks back to Bran. “To the Wall?”

 

This time, Bran pecks Tormund once on the head.

 

“Hey!” Tormund waves his hand at the raven to jostle him off, but Bran is unmoving and blinks at Jon.

 

Jon is quiet for a moment. He then looks to Davos and then to Edd and Sam before to Meera and Arya.

 

“The plan is still the same. He’s doing what I thought so the plan stays the same. The Wights will be heading to the Wall where our army is waiting for them. We have instructed the Brothers and those in charge what to do.” He crouches down and with his finger, he begins drawing in the snow on the ground. Everyone gathers in a circle around him to look. He draws a line for the Wall and then shorter liners to represent the trees of the forest. “We’ll make a wide circle through the trees, avoiding the Wights. Bran will lead us. We meet the Night King and his Generals and…” Jon exhales a breath and stands up, looking at them all. “We will fight and we will finish it today. One way or another.”

 

That’s his simple plan and all he can do now is execute it and hope that its simplicity won’t get him and those with him now killed.

 

“If we kill the Night King before the Wights can reach the Wall, will they all fall?” Arya asks.

 

Jon looks to Sam.

 

“Yes, I believe that that’s what will happen,” Sam nods. “The Night King has made them all. I feel like if he falls, the creations cannot survive without their creator.”

 

“Well, then,” Meera takes a deep breath. “What are we waiting for?”

 

“Yes, let’s stop standing around,” Arya adds.

 

Jon almost wants to smile at these two forces-of-nature women. Instead though, he takes a deep breath, trying to keep from getting sick all over everyone. His fear is returning to him in a rush of a sudden wave.

 

“I’m tired of always being the one to wait for him,” Edd speaks up. “It’s our turn to take this fucker by surprise.”

 

“Well, then, if you’re all so eager, let’s go,” Jon smiles at them all.

 

“Get your brother off my head or I’ll force him off,” Tormund says, shaking his head back and forth as he does.

 

Caw! The raven cries out and then seems to dig his talons even deeper into Tormund’s hair.

 

“Ah!” Tormund shouts and then shoots forward, running from the opening into the open as fast as he can, as if trying to knock Bran off with the wind.

 

“That idiot’s going to get us killed before we can even come close to the Night King,” Edd frowns.

 

“I’ll never forgive him for that,” Jon says.

 

“We should go. It looks like Bran is using Tormund to lead us,” Sam notes.

 

“Time to finish this, Your Grace,” Davos says.

 

Jon feels surprised for a split second by the title. It honestly has completely slipped his mind that he’s King in the North because even if he wasn’t, he would still be here – doing exactly what he’s about to do. No matter what title he has, the North is his home. The people here are his people and he took an oath once to protect the entire realm against those who wish it harm.

 

King or no King, it’s what anyone would do.

 

King or no King, they all die with or without a title before their name.

 

But if he is to die today, Jon is going to make sure he gives the Night King one hell of a fight before he falls. And he only hopes that if he does die, someone with him survives to send a raven to Sansa so that she knows to get to Essos.


If he dies today only to learn from the after that Sansa wasn’t safe, he’s going to be extremely pissed.

 

Chapter Text

 

“FIRE!!” Lord Glover shouts as loud as he can, dropping his arm with the signal.

 

The Brothers manning the catapults on the Wall release on his word and great balls of fire fly through the air towards the army of the Dead coming towards them. They make impacts in the further ranks, Wights flying in the air from the impact, their already dead bodies on fire and once they are down, they stay that way. The fires keeps the attention of the army – which is exactly what Jon and the others had planned.

 

The three in-service tunnels have been closed off and blockaded so the dead cannot get through and with the Wall being as long as it is, Jon had wanted the Wights to attack in one concentrated area so their forces could meet them rather than being too stretched out.

 

Brienne stands on top of the battlements and watches as the Wights not taken out by the fire balls keeps coming. Thousands are coming. Her sword is already drawn and held in her grip and she is unblinking; not wanting to miss anything from their enemy. The Wall is protected with ancient magic against Wights so they can’t cross it, but Brienne wants to see that for herself. She wonders what they are going to do. The Wall is so tall; are they just going to stack themselves up until they reach the top of it?

 

All around her are men, women and the older children, all clutching their weapons that the blacksmiths at Winterfell had been working around the clock to see that everyone is armed. They are all terrified – Brienne can see it clear on their faces – and she’s scared, too, but she mustn’t show them that she is. These people are all looking to her and the others in charge to lead the way. Fear will not get them anywhere or help them in any way.

 

“FIRE!!” Brienne commands this time and more fireballs fly through the sky.

 

It’s getting colder and the sky is getting darker. Brienne thinks that must mean the Night King is close. Brienne can only hope that that means King Jon and their people are getting close to him as well. She is fully prepared to fight – and die if need be for the North and for the Starks – just like she knows everyone here is prepared to do; no matter how petrified they all are.

 

But Brienne, like everyone else here with her, hopes it won’t come to that.

 


“I fucking can’t see anything!” Tormund shouts over the howling wind and blowing snow.

 

“None of us can!” Arya snaps back at him.

 

Jon doesn’t say anything and keeps pushing them forward. He knows they’re getting closer. The weather is getting worse; the Night King bringing the storm with him and Jon knows it will only get worse the nearer they get. Bran has left Tormund’s head to come rest on Jon’s, gently guiding him. Bran can see things none of them can – especially in snow so thick, Jon can feel himself sink down with each step he takes.

 

He doesn’t stop though. He keeps pushing himself forward and just assumes the others are following him. Even if they aren’t, Jon won’t stop going. He’s not going to stop until this is done.

 

He halts suddenly when Bran’s talons grip his hair.

 

“What is it?” He asks his cousin/raven, expecting to get a response other than the Caw! that Bran gives. Jon reaches back and pulls Longclaw from the sheath on his back. “Is he near?”

 

One peck on Jon’s head.

 

It hardly hurts and Jon vaguely wonders if Bran had purposely given Tormund harder pecks on his head or if Tormund had just been overdramatic about the whole thing.

 

“Where? Ahead?”

 

One peck.

 

Jon exhales a deep breath and his thickly-gloved hands curl around the sword’s handle. This is it and the knots of fear have returned to his stomach. He must keep going. He must end this one way or another, but he’s so scared. What if he doesn’t make it? What if he’s just a short time from dying? Again?

 

If he is to fall, he will be seeing his father, yes, and for having no memory of the man, Jon has always missed him and has taken comfort in the fact that one day, Jon would be seeing Brandon Stark again. But that can’t be today. Jon’s not ready. He needs to see Sansa again. He needs to. He can’t leave her yet.

 

“Get me there, Bran,” Jon tells his cousin in a voice that’s too soft for the howling wind, but Bran hears him and his talons tighten just enough to let Jon know that he has. He looks over his shoulder to those following him. “They’re ahead! We’re close!” He shouts to them over the wind.

 

Caw! Bran suddenly screeches and this time, his talons dig too deep and Jon winces.

 

But he barely focuses on the pain and instead, his eyes desperately search ahead, trying to see something in all of the white. He holds Longclaw tighter and wishes they had some of that fire that the Wall has.

 

“Jon!” Meera suddenly shouts. “I see them!”

 

All of the breath leaves Jon’s lungs in a great whoosh and he hurries through the snow as fast as he can to get to Meera’s side – who has gotten a little ahead of Jon. She’s standing on a mound of snow and Jon climbs up to join her. He looks where her eyes are directed and he is unable to inhale more breath to fill his lungs. They’re coming. It takes a moment for his eyes to adjust, but the Night King and his Generals… they’re walking – striding – through the snow as if it isn’t past their ankles and it’s no difficulty to them.

 

The Night King looks straight ahead then and his eyes lock with Jon’s. The snow picks up in response and Jon can’t move; as if the Night King has frozen him to this very spot. Maybe he has.

 

But Jon can still move his fingers and he tightens them around the sword’s handle.

 

One of the Generals steps forward, a long spear in his hand, and Meera is the one to move; the others still behind them, catching up as quickly as they can.

 

“Meera,” Jon says her name as they watch the General expertly spin his spear between his hands.

 

The young woman looks back to him. Jon suddenly doesn’t know what to say. Telling her to “be careful” sounds stupid even in his mind, but then Meera gives him the barest smile – as if she knows exactly the stupid thought he’s thinking.

 

She has her own sword and just as she goes to meet the General halfway, Edd is at Jon’s side.

 

“See you on the other side, Snow,” Edd says.

 

“Don’t say that,” Jon frowns, but Edd is already gone, following after Meera and then the others are rushing past him. The North King has stopped the wind and snow just as Meera’s sword and the General’s spear clash together, the sound of metal against metal echoing for miles around them.

 

The others join in the fight against the other Generals, but Jon is hardly looking at them, he admits. He and the Night King stare at one another and nothing else. Bran takes off from Jon’s head to fly low around the fighting. The Night King looks away from Jon for only a moment to look at the raven and Jon holds his breath, wondering if he knows that this is Bran. But then he looks to Jon again and it almost seems as if he’s smiling as he pulls out his own spear.

 

Jon thinks the Night King has been waiting for this fight as long as he has.

 

He clenches his jaw and brings his sword up.

 

The time is here. Either he will be seeing his father or Sansa after tonight.

 

 

Sansa stands on the balcony of her room, the fur thick and heavy around her and yet, she still shivers.

 

The sky to the North is such a dark grey, it’s almost black. The Wall is thousands of leagues away from Ramsgate and yet, she can see the sky and the clouds from here. Her stomach is knotted so tightly, she feels sick and she’s so scared, tears are stinging her eyes.

 

She’s Queen and she can’t be scared. She must be strong for all of her people and yet… she’s a wife whose husband is fighting under those clouds; a sister whose brother and sister are under those clouds; Brienne and Pod and her friends are under those clouds, all fighting the dead to keep the rest of them safe; willing to die to keep the rest of Westeros safe.

 

And Sansa hates the thought she has next, but she can’t help it. Most of the people in Westeros don’t even deserve the brave men and women of the North fighting for them. None of them have any idea how close they all are to death and even if they do know, would any of them care?

 

It’s a horrible thought, Sansa knows, but she can’t shake it from her mind. She saw the common people of King’s Landing first hand. They’re not that much different from the common people of the North; just people working through each day, doing what they can do to take care of themselves and their families. They deserve saving, too. They have no say in who sits on that Iron Throne or who kills who over it. They are just mere pawns, always caught in the crossfire. They are innocents.

 

Sansa knows all of this. Sansa reminds herself of this because clearly, she has forgotten it.

 

Yet… she can’t help, but think… even if the people South of the Neck know of the dead and the North fighting against them… how many of them would still think that it isn’t their problem? The North will take care of it. It’s no worry of ours.

 

Just thinking of it now and looking at those dark clouds, bringing a snowstorm with it, Sansa clenches her jaw to keep it from trembling. It should be everyone’s worry. All of Westeros can be lost if the North falls and then what will anyone do? Will that Dragon Queen fly in to save Westeros if it is being marched over by the dead? What is the point of an Iron Throne to the Kingdoms if everyone in those Kingdoms are dead?

 

If everyone survives, they will all return to Winterfell, safe, and they will all stay there…

 

And have Cersei and a Targaryen to deal with.

 

No. The time to think of that will come later and with Jon, they will think of what to do together. Sansa has promised him that if he falls, she will go to Essos and she means to fulfill that promise. She never thought she would ever leave the North again, but if her husband – her husband who she loves – is to die, she already knows she won’t be able to bear to live here any longer. Let Cersei and the Targaryen rip each other apart for the throne. If Jon dies, Sansa won’t care about anything anymore.

 

She hears a knock on the chamber door behind her, back in the room, and she knows it’s Lord Royce and either Meg or Aggie with the tea. Perhaps it’s both girls today. Meg had clearly let Aggie know about the shared lemon cake and now, the girls seem to take turns to serve the tea and see what sweet it is that day.

 

Sansa certainly doesn’t mind. She has told Lady Manderly to stop using the sugar just to make her sweets to have with her tea, but Lady Manderly likes to remind her that “You’re the Queen, Your Grace” – as if that’s the only explanation needed. Sansa is more than happy to share sweets with both girls.

 

But, honestly, she is not ready for tea or company. She wants to remain on this balcony, shivering, and watching the black clouds thicken so far in the distance to the North.

 

What if Jon can sense her, even with all of the distance between them, watching? She won’t leave him.

 

She closes her eyes. “Jon,” she whispers and lets the wind carry her voice away.

 

 

He’s losing. They’re all losing. All around him, he can hear them still fighting, but they’re losing. The Night King and his Generals are just too strong and whereas Jon as his group can’t, the Night King and his can fight forever without getting tired. Jon knows he is strong and is a good swordsman, but he’s losing. He’s going to die.

 

Caw!

 

Bran’s still circling them; sometimes getting so close to the Night King, it looks like he will claw him out, but he always pulls back before the Night King can reach a hand out and touch him. Bran is circling, circling and waiting for something, but Jon can’t get distracted enough to wonder what.

 

It would be so easy, Jon knows. His arms are on fire, holding Longclaw, and since he and the Night King began, he’s been on the defensive. He can’t get himself on the offensive and fight back. All he can do is ward off every blow of the spear. It would be so easy to fall to his knees right now, give up and die.

 

… “Jon” …

 

The wind dances around him and with it, Jon swears he hears a voice. His wife’s voice. Sansa… and she’s saying his name. Just his name.

 

Caw!

 

“Jon!” Arya screams suddenly and Jon looks to his cousin in time to see her shoving her valyrian steel into her General, the dead man dissolving into nothing in front of her; Arya the first to kill hers as everyone is still fighting theirs off as best as they can.

 

And then Arya is pulling the dagger out and tossing it into the air towards him; all within seconds.

 

She’s too far away though and Jon knows there’s no way he can catch it.

 

Caw!

 

But then Bran dives in, catching the heavy dagger in his beak in mid-air. He flaps his wings madly, getting used to the weight of the dagger and desperately gaining air, and the Night King has already figured out what is happening. He begins attacking Jon with fury, his spear coming down to Jon at all angles, pushing him back and back and all Jon can do is fight off each attack with Longclaw, knowing he can’t get the upper hand.

 

“Jon!” Arya shouts again and then she’s running and sliding through the snow, her body stopping on the ground between Jon and the Night King.

 

It’s a second-long distraction to get the Night King to look at her rather than Jon, but a second is all Jon needs. He shoves Longclaw as hard as he can against the spear and then holds up his hand. Bran flies in and drops the dagger right into his open palm.

 

“Arya! Now!” Jon shouts and Arya spins around on her butt, kicking her leg against the Night King’s stomach, startling him. And when he begins to fall backwards, Jon rushes over him.

 

Bringing the dagger down, he sinks it right into the Night King’s shoulder before thrusting Longclaw forward, shoving it clean right through the Night King’s stomach.

 

The Night King begins to fall back and Jon is still holding onto his sword’s handle, falling forward with him. And when the Night King hits the ground, he breaks apart – like glass – and dissolves into nothing so when Jon lands, he lands right into the snow.