A/N: My story picks up in 6x10 as Jon is declared King in the North. In my slightly altered storyline, there was no meeting between Sansa and Baelish at the godswood. Thanks for reading! Reviews appreciated.
Update: Thank you to ArtimuosJackson for pointing out a discrepancy in Littlefinger's travel time. I've amended the areas affected. I'm going to assume the trip to the vale would take a little less time than the trip King Robert originally took in season one to Winterfell (from King's Landing). Which was approximately 1 month. Given that included a carriage to slow the group down, I'm going to speculate the trip to the Vale from Winterfell would take about three weeks. Thanks for all the love so far! Part II coming soon!
"But House Mormont remembers. The North remembers. And we know no King but the King in the North whose name is Stark. I don't care if he's a bastard. Ned Stark's blood runs through his veins. He's my King. From this day to his last day."
Jon felt his throat tighten and his stomach clench as he processed Lyanna Mormont's claim. The sensation only intensified as he was proclaimed the White Wolf and the Northern Houses began to proclaim allegiance to him.
His breath hitched and he rose as the most honorable Houses in the North stood united in their support of him. He glanced down at Sansa, who sat at his side where she had been from the start. She met his gaze and a trace of a smile lit her lips. Somewhere inside him, the bastard child of Ned Stark who had watched through the windows as the Stark children laughed and played, felt the validation he'd always sought. He had been proclaimed a Stark by his sister and was now being publicly recognized as such by the noblest Houses in the North. How have I risen so high? He mused. First as Lord Commander and now King in the North. He hadn't wanted to be Lord Commander. He'd only wanted to be a ranger like his Uncle Benjen. And he didn't want to be King now. He just wanted to keep his family safe.
Jon's eyes surveyed the scene before him. Men on their feet, swords drawn and held in the air as he was proclaimed King. At the edge of his field of vision, he saw Petyr Baelish. His expression grim and eyes set upon Sansa. At the back of his mind, Jon knew he'd have to deal with Baelish. He didn't trust him and his betrayal of Sansa… Jon would see her vindicated. Still, it was because of Littlefinger that they'd survived the battle and retaken Winterfell. He couldn't deny that.
Jon cleared his throat, raising a gloved hand. Slowly, the chants died out and the room silenced. Those who had taken a knee rose, eyes on him.
"You honor me, my Lords. In a way I never dreamed. But this is not my honor to have. I'm a leader, aye, but it's in battle not politics. The North deserves a Warden who will not fall in battle; who has survived by will and will alone. With an army at her side, my sister will not fail you as I would have, had she not intervened."
Jon looked down at Sansa, who stared up at him slack jawed. He smiled and reached for her hand, pulling her to her feet.
"Sansa is a trueborn Stark. The North is hers, not mine. I fight for her, as I fight for all of you." He turned to his sister and stepped back, unsheathing his sword. He knelt before her, leaning on his sword as he held it to his chest. "You have my sword, my Lady. From this day until my last day."
The room was silent as Jon knelt before her. It was Ser Davos's voice who broke the silence, allowing Jon to breathe a sigh of relief.
"It's not much, my Lady, for I have no House and no army to pledge to you. But you have my sword. Now and always."
Jon glanced over his shoulder and saw Ser Davos take a knee before Sansa.
"The Queen in the North!"
Jon wasn't sure whose voice it was, but he was thankful for the cheer, for it brought with it several others until the room was filled with chants of support for Sansa Stark.
He felt her hands on his arm, pulling him to his feet. She gazed at him with affection and a sadness Jon couldn't comprehend. She took his hands in her own and squeezed gently before facing the hall. She lifted her cup from the table and raised it in the air.
"To the North," she said, simply. "May it stand united and strong in the battle to come and all the days to follow."
"To the North!"
When the chants and cheers had faded away and the Lords had begun toasting one another and returned to their own conversations, Sansa pulled Jon down to his seat. She turned to him, her hand on his arm.
"We need to speak. Now."
Jon nodded and glanced at Ser Davos and then they rose, exiting quickly and quietly. When they were out in the snow, Jon blew into his cupped hands and turned to face his sister.
"Not here," she said, and took off for the castle. Jon felt his stomach twist, a sense of doom settling over him. Something was wrong. Foreboding seemed to hover in the winter air and Jon wanted nothing more than to avoid whatever conversation was about to take place.
When they reached the castle, Sansa kept going, guiding Jon to his chambers. Upon entering the room, she went straight for the window and stuck her head out, looking toward the direction they had come. When she turned back to face him, she sighed.
"Sansa, what's going on?"
"You're going to get angry, but hear me out, Jon, please." Jon nodded despite his inclination to make no promises. Sansa took a deep breath and then raised her head, locking her eyes with his. "I can't be Warden of the North, Jon. You have to do it. I didn't tell you about the raven I sent to Petyr Baelish for a reason. I should have, I know. Maybe you would have loss fewer men had I been honest with you. But I also knew that had I told you, you wouldn't have let me make the deal I made. If I hadn't done it, the Knights of the Vale wouldn't have come. You would have died. He would have won."
"What deal?" Jon stepped forward, his heart racing.
"I'm to wed Petyr Baelish."
"No, you're bloody well not!" Jon exclaimed, striding forward. He took her by the shoulders, his eyes darkening in their intensity.
"I am, Jon. I must. I gave my word."
"Then you'll ungive it!"
Sansa sighed and stared up at her brother. He looked so like their father in that moment. His hair fell in full, dark curls, framing his face and cascading over the furs on his shoulders. His leathers matched their father's, completing the image and making him look more Stark than ever. The various cuts on his exposed skin had begun to heal, though Sansa doubted the one over his left eye ever would.
"You know I can't," she said. "A Stark's word is her bond and I am a Stark above all."
"You'd be a Baelish, no longer a Stark."
"I was made a Bolton, Jon, but I remained a Stark. I always will."
"You shouldn't have done this," Jon said, moving away from her in his anger. "He betrayed you, Sansa! He sold you to that monster in the interest of his own schemes. You suffered because of him. The things that were done to you…"
"Cannot be undone. But what would you have had me do? Let you die? Let Ramsay win? You needed the army, Jon. I tried to tell you –"
"You offered no solutions, Sansa! You only told me how it wouldn't work. You didn't tell me how to make it work. You didn't tell me you would bring me an army."
"If I had," she began but Jon cut her off once more.
"I never would have allowed this deal. How can I sacrifice my sister for my gains?"
Sansa stepped forward and placed her hands on either side of Jon's face, forcing his eyes upon her.
"We took back our home, Jon. I'll never leave here again. I'm safe, finally, and you're alive. It wasn't for your gains that I pledged myself to him; it was for me. I couldn't see you die. I couldn't face being alone again. You're the only family I have left and reclaiming our home together is worth so much more to me than whom I lie with at night."
Jon groaned loudly and closed his eyes at the thought of her sharing a bed with Petyr Baelish. The thought actually made him sick. He pulled Sansa into a hug so tight, it hurt his already wounded ribs. As he held her, his mind recalled the moment they'd been reunited at Castle Black.
An alarm rang and an alert was called out. Riders approached the gate. Jon shared a look with Edd before they both turned and set out for the gates. He rested his hand on the pommel of his sword, prepared to fight, should it come to it. His steps slowed as he reached the balcony overlooking the keep. Her red hair, though dingy and lackluster, stilled him. She turned slowly, taking in her surroundings before her eyes fell upon him. His mind whispered her name, yet he comprehended it not. He took a step back from the railing as they stared at one another. It was only when his feet began to move of their own accord that Jon felt the full effect of his sister's sudden arrival at Castle Black.
He approached her, his eyes holding her. She looked so much older than she had when they'd parted ways. She was still so young, his rational mind knew, yet she looked aged well beyond her years. Shadow etched her face in hard lines, yet there was still a subtle softness underlying the grime.
They stood, only a few feet separating them, and Jon saw her breath hitch before she stepped forward, throwing herself into his arms. He caught her, lifting her off the ground as he held her against him. She had survived. Somehow she had survived and come here to find him. Holding her against him, filling his arms and senses with family and relief, made the pain of the recent betrayals recede until he felt only peace.
Sansa gripped him so tightly, her head resting against his, that he could scarcely breathe. Still, he held her tighter for fear she would disappear, leaving him clutching a ghost. He felt her tears moisten the side of his face and his own breath caught in his chest, clutching his heart. When he released her, setting her on the ground gently, his hands found hers.
"Sansa," he whispered.
"Jon," she replied and he put his hand on the side of her face.
"I never thought I'd see you again," he said.
She smiled and leaned into his hand. For the first time in years, Jon felt hope.
Jon opened his eyes and released his sister. He felt at a loss; completely helpless to fix this.
"When?" he asked.
"He'll travel to the Eyrie to request Robin's blessing and restore his army. After that, he'll return here and we'll…"
Sansa trailed off and Jon took a deep breath. He had a little time at least, to find a way to stop it.
"You have to be King, Jon. If I'm Queen, it would make him… I can't let that happen. Father would want you to be Warden anyway. This is how it has to be."
"I've just declared you Queen in front of all the Northern Houses. How do I go back on that?"
Sansa sighed and shrugged her shoulders.
"We find a way," she said.
Sansa met Petyr Baelish at the godswood the next morning to bid him farewell. The journey to the Eyrie would not take too long and even with his return trip, Sansa expected to see him within six weeks' time. She planned to use that time to the best of her ability. She wanted to restore her home to its former glory. She wanted to stitch a few more Stark banners and perhaps even a spare set of cloaks for both her and Jon. And Jon… She wanted to spend time with her brother. She wanted to get to know him as she never had when they were children. And he was a man now, undoubtedly changed. Once Petyr was back and they were wed, her opportunities to be herself, to let her guard down, would diminish. She would always be simply playing a part.
She sat upon the bench, her eyes closed as she tilted her face up to the sun. Winter was upon them, but from time to time, the sun made an appearance, warming her countenance when she needed it most.
His footsteps made her stomach drop and Sansa steeled herself before opening her eyes to look at her betrothed. She rose, standing tall before him.
Petyr's eyes lit up as she smiled. Briefly, Sansa recalled a time when she had felt the warmth of attraction bloom within her body when she looked at him. For a time, he had been the only reliable and trustworthy person in her life. He'd saved her, she thought, and would keep her safe. Now, when she thought of her naïveté, it made her ill. Would she ever grow up and stop being the foolish child she had been? The child who trusted others and believed in love? At least now she knew once she was wed to Lord Baelish, love wouldn't matter. She wouldn't have to wonder if it would ever find her. She'd be safe in Winterfell; protected by Jon. That was all that mattered.
"Petyr," she said softly.
"My love," he replied and placed his hand on the side of her face, stroking her cheek gently. Sansa felt no desire to lean into his touch as she had when Jon had touched her that way.
They stared at one another for a moment before Petyr leaned forward, kissing her lips tenderly. Sansa had been kissed several times before, not all of them as tender as this. She had met each kiss, whether tender or abrasive, with the appropriate return. Not for the first time, she remembered the last time Petyr had kissed her. It had made her feel powerful and brave. Now it just made her feel bored and impatient.
Petyr deepened the kiss, tightening his arms around her body as he held her. His tongue moved forward, pressing against hers and Sansa heard a whimper escape her lips. She wanted to weep and pound his chest for kissing her like that. She wanted to leave the mark of her hand across his cheeks and spit on his feet for touching her so.
He kissed her deeply, aggressively, though not near the level of brutality Ramsay had done so. Still, the parallels were too great and Sansa felt panic rise in her chest. Just when she thought she could take no more, Petyr drew away. He looked at her hungrily and she felt her chest rise and fall with the force of her anxious breaths. She knew he was mistaking her panic for passion when a satisfied smile greeted his lips.
"I will return soon, my love."
Sansa nodded, though her eyes flickered to movement at the line of trees behind him. She saw Jon lean against a tree, his hand upon his sword. His expression was so stormy it gave Sansa chills. She pulled her eyes back to Petyr's face and smiled dutifully.
"Be safe, my Lord."
Petyr nodded and pulled her forward once more, holding her against him. Sansa felt her arm rise, holding onto his cloak as her eyes met Jon's. She stared at him and he stared back, crossing his arms over his chest as he watched them.
"I'll send a raven after speaking with Robin, my little wolf."
Sansa cringed at the sound of his nickname for her, but said nothing, only nodding against him. When he pulled back again, she cleared her expression and smiled softly, placing her hand on the side of his face. She felt every bit the dutiful wife.
"I'll await your word."
Petyr kissed her again suddenly, his hands gripping her waist as though she were the only thing keeping him from flying from the Earth. Sansa opened her eyes as he kissed her, finding Jon. Even from the great distance, she could see his lips moving, though she couldn't make out what he said. After a moment, which seemed to bleed into several moments, Jon ran a hand through his hair roughly and turned, charging away from the trees back to the castle. Sansa felt her heart clench, feeling as though she were betraying him. All she'd wanted was to keep him alive and reclaim their home. How had she managed to disappoint him in the process?
Just as Jon disappeared from her field of vision, Ghost appeared. He padded his way toward her and just as Petyr drew away from Sansa, Ghost laid himself at her feet putting distance between the two. Petyr laughed, a mirthless sound that echoed around them. He glanced around them, undoubtedly looking for Jon, but saw no one.
"Well, I suppose that's my cue. Farewell, my love."
Sansa nodded and watched as he strode away from her toward the gates of Winterfell. Sansa waited until he was gone before swooping, pulling Ghost into her arms.
"Good boy, Ghost."
Jon sat with Tormund and Ser Davos. For once, they weren't discussing battle plans or anything serious. Rather, Jon and Ser Davos were casting bets on how many weapons Tormund had hidden within his furs and leathers. Ser Davos sat back, leaning away so he could take in Tormund's full form. Jon had seen Tormund in the nude. He knew there was no limit to where the man could hide his weapons.
Jon looked up as Sansa and Brienne entered quietly. Both stopped by the door, watching as Tormund stood suddenly and began pulling weapons from his clothing. Despite the show happening feet from him, Jon's eyes stayed on Sansa. She laughed, raising a hand to her mouth to stifle the sound. Her cheeks flushed pale pink when Tormund pushed his pants to his ankles and began unstrapping the knives attached to his thighs.
"For God's sake," Brienne muttered, drawing Tormund's attention. He grinned and stood to his full height, hands on his hips. Laughter tore from Jon's throat as Tormund twisted his hips from side to side gently, the sound of his member slapping his thighs filling the air.
Sansa giggled and turned away, facing the door through which they had just entered. Brienne, on the other hand, apparently did not want to give Tormund the satisfaction.
"I thought the Free Folk were accustomed to the cold?"
Tormund stopped suddenly, Brienne's words nearly sending Ser Davos to the floor from the force of his laughter. Jon choked on the ale he was drinking and glanced at Tormund expectantly. Tormund looked between Jon and Brienne and then down at his crotch. He frowned and gripped himself, making Ser Davos laugh even louder.
"It's a good size, isn't it?" He looked at Jon, eyebrow raised and Jon coughed before swallowing more ale.
Once his pants were secured around his waist once more, Tormund refilled his cup.
"Cold hearted woman," he muttered.
Sansa came forward finally, settling herself onto the bench beside Jon. She looked at him for a moment and then took his mug from his hand, swallowing a small mouthful. She winced, but didn't cough this time. She passed the mug back to Jon, smirking triumphantly. He grinned back and nudged her shoulder gently.
They sat together, the five of them, drinking and sharing stories until well after sundown. Sansa giggled while Ser Davos and Lady Brienne struggled to pull Tormund up from the floor after passing out. Together, the two of them shouldered Tormund out of the room and off to his quarters. Jon was still laughing when Sansa reached past him to refill the mug they'd been sharing.
"I don't remember the last time I laughed," she said. "Not really. I think I've smiled and laughed more in the past few weeks than I have since we left home six years ago."
"Aye," Jon said, leaning back on the bench so he was facing her. "It's a weightless feeling, being home."
"Home," Sansa repeated, staring into the mug. Her expression cleared, the laughter leaving her face and Jon instantly wished for it back. "It wasn't home for me before. Burnt and hollow, flying Bolton colors. No laughter or joy. It was a strange thing: walking these halls and feeling the ghosts of mother and father and finding no relief in it. I used to sit," she continued, looking up at Jon, "in the few moments of peace Ramsay neglected to fill with horror. I'd sit and think of Old Nan. Of Arya and the boys. Of Robb. Of you."
Jon allowed a hint of a smile pull at his lips, watching her.
"You don't know what it was like, finding out you were Lord Commander. I imagined you, all clad in black with your serious expression and dark eyes. I thought of you standing on the wall looking out into the night with your men surrounding you. After all that time, finding out one of you was alive, safe, and in command, no less… It was one of the few times I was thankful for talking with Ramsay."
"You look like your mother," Jon said suddenly, taking Sansa by surprise. She blushed and looked down at her hands gripping the mug of ale. She took a swallow and handed it back to Jon.
"You hated my mother," she said.
"No," Jon said quickly, shaking his head. "I never hated her. She hated me, but I can't say I blamed her. Not really. It was terribly unfair, all of it, of course. I wallowed in that quite often, didn't I?"
Sansa laughed and Jon smirked at her.
"But I never hated her, Sansa. In a lot of ways, I respected her. She loved the five of you so fiercely. I'd never seen anything like it before. Haven't since. Until now, that is."
Sansa looked up at him questioningly and Jon looked down at his hands.
"Your mother would have done the same thing you're doing for me. She would have done that for father. She would have done anything to save him. Given up her happiness, her freedom, her life, if necessary. I don't deserve it."
Sansa's hands brushed over his, taking the mug from his hand. She set it on the table and turned so they were facing each other on the bench. She searched his face and he found himself studying hers. They had never been close enough as children for him to really look at her. Now that he had the chance, he took the time to learn her features. She was probably the last family he'd ever have. There'd been no trace of Arya or Bran and Rickon was dead. He'd never felt more alone in the world, yet he'd also never felt what he felt when he looked at Sansa. He had to protect her. Keeping her safe was all that mattered now. The world would live on or die out whether or not he existed; he knew that. He was just one man in the battle to come. But who if not him would keep her safe? That was his real responsibility now.
They stared at each other until the silence between them felt heavy and charged with something Jon couldn't make sense of. They looked away from one another at the same time, Jon grabbing the ale and Sansa pulling her hair over her shoulder, putting it in a messy braid.
Ghost whined from under the table and Sansa ducked her head down, looking at him. She straightened again and stared at Jon, her eyes shining with amusement.
"You sent him earlier, didn't you?"
Jon cleared his throat and shook his head, avoiding her gaze. "What?"
"This afternoon at the godswood. You sent him to me, didn't you?"
Jon hesitated and then put the cup of ale on the table, slamming it harder than he intended.
"Well what would you have me do? Just let him touch you like that?"
Sansa chuckled and then sighed, shaking her head.
"Are you going to send Ghost to me every time he gets close? What about at night when he lies with me? Jon…"
"Maybe I will," he said and looked at her defiantly. She laughed loudly, throwing her head back. Her laughter brought a grin to Jon's lips and he reached out, flipping her braid. He rolled his eyes at her and she settled again, giggling to herself. Jon could hear the effect of the alcohol on her words, yet she didn't seem as drunk as he would have expected.
"Jon," she said, turning to him suddenly.
"Hmm?" Jon said lazily, his blood warm and comfortable.
"Have you had a girl before?"
Jon sputtered on the ale in his mouth, swallowing hard. He looked up at her, feeling his cheeks flush red hot.
"That's a yes," Sansa whispered, leaning closer to him. "Tell me."
He cleared his throat and handed her the ale. The thought of Ygritte still pained him and he hadn't talked about her much, but somehow, he found himself saying her name.
"Ygritte," he said. "Her name was Ygritte. She was a wildling."
"What did she look like?"
"She was beautiful. Strong, but delicate. Her skin was pale like most of the free folk and her hair was red like yours. Her eyes held so much; spoke when her lips did not. Which, to be honest, wasn't often. The girl was always saying something."
Sansa stilled, watching him as he spoke.
"She opened me up. Taught me who I could be and showed me the things I didn't know. She's the one who showed me I was fighting for honor that didn't matter when I should have been fighting for more."
Jon stood up suddenly, startling Ghost as he did.
"She died in my arms. Murdered by my own people," he said.
Sansa rose and stood behind him, his back facing her and his head hanging. She placed a hand on his shoulder and he winced at her touch. She turned him, forcing his eyes upon hers, searching. An unbidden thought entered Jon's mind before he could drive it away. She looked like Sansa. Fair, ginger-haired, and beautiful. How had I not seen that before?
Sansa rose up on her toes, steadying herself by gripping his arms. She pressed her lips to his cheek and Jon felt her eyelashes against his skin as her eyes fluttered closed. He moved slowly, wrapping his arms around her.
They held each other for several moments, enjoying the comfort and warmth of one another. Jon stroked Sansa's hair and she rested her hand on the back of his neck, allowing her eyes to close while she enjoyed his tender touch.
It was only when Brienne and Davos re-entered the room that they drew apart, each flushing warm with embarrassment. Jon wasn't sure if the embarrassment he felt was for holding his sister so close for so long, or for being caught doing so.
Sansa bid him goodnight and left with Lady Brienne, returning to her quarters for the night. Jon turned to face Ser Davos, who looked at him curiously but said nothing.
Sansa spent the next three weeks fixing up the castle. She mended draperies and replaced banners. She spent an hour each day stitching new robes for her and Jon. She sat with Jon anytime someone requested audience with the Lord of Winterfell, though she actually said very little. She didn't have to; it was Jon they wanted to see. Still, they sat side by side, a united front.
She spent her nights with Jon. It had become some sort of tradition. They'd meet in the feast room, though never formally planned, and they'd walk the castle grounds, her arm draped through his. They walked until the cold shook Sansa to her very core and then Jon would insist on returning to the castle. Jon would then escort her to her chambers and she'd insist he stay with her a little longer.
A little longer would turn into hours spent sitting on the floor by the fire, telling stories – both good and bad – and reminiscing about their very different childhoods. Eventually, Sansa would drift to sleep, stirring only when Jon carried her to bed and pulled the furs over her.
On this night, Sansa's eyes fluttered open as Jon covered her and kissed her forehead. She stared up at him as he hovered above her. It made her heart ache, seeing him like that. He reminded her of father so very much. Something stirred within Sansa, something warm and tender. The last time she'd felt it, she'd been in the Eyrie in Petyr's arms, his lips claiming hers. Reconciling that feeling to the feeling she was now having for Jon made her anxious and uneasy. She decided it was her appreciation for him, for the safety and relief he'd given her, that was making her stir in such a way.
She smiled and Jon returned the gesture automatically.
"You're taking care of me," she whispered.
"Aye. It's past time someone did," he replied. His eyes shone with affection and Sansa felt gratitude and relief overwhelm her. For the first time in six years, she was not holding her body rigid, aware of her every movement, every expression, every word. She was safe and free.
She pulled him down suddenly, wrapping her arms around him as she held him. Jon sat on the edge of the bed, pulling her into a sitting position as he hugged her back. She felt her body shake from the sobs that wanted to break free and, for once, she let them. And still he held her.
"Shh," he whispered, stroking her back as she sobbed. She gripped him tighter, her fingers digging into his leathers. Tears poured down her cheeks. Tears for the pain of the past six years, tears for her dead family, tears for the stupid girl she'd been, and tears of relief and joy for having Jon, her family, at her side.
When she was done, Jon pulled away slowly and Sansa wiped her face. She took a deep, steadying breath and then sighed, looking up at him.
"I'm sorry," she said.
"Don't be," Jon said, automatically.
"Can you stay with me?" she asked. "Just for tonight."
Jon stared at her, his eyes darkening as he considered her request.
"I don't think that would be appropriate, Sansa. You're a young woman. Betrothed and promised to another."
"And you're my brother," she replied. "Please, Jon. I don't like being alone. You'd think I would after everything, but I feel safer with you here."
Jon kissed her forehead once more and then rose from the bed. He went to the door and opened it.
"Come on, boy," he said and Ghost entered the room. Sansa watched as Ghost jumped onto her bed and curled up at the foot, the heavy weight of him pressing against her legs.
"You're safe, Sansa, I promise. I'll leave you Ghost so you're not alone, but I can't sleep in here. Even if I want to."
Sansa nodded once and watched as Jon left the room, pulling the door closed behind him. She laid back and let her eyes stare at the nothingness above her. It was for the best, she knew. Even if they were siblings, it was unbecoming of a woman to have a man in her room. She told herself this over and over, ignoring the words that lingered at the edge of her mind:
"Even if I want to."
When Jon awoke the next morning, his back ached and his ribs, still mending from the battle, screamed. He groaned and stood up slowly, rising from his spot outside Sansa's door. He stretched, looking up to see Lady Brienne staring at him from the end of the hallway, her arms crossed over her chest. They stared at one another, Jon feeling guilty for some reason, and Brienne's expression as stormy as ever. Finally, she strolled forward, stopping in front of him.
"A raven came this morning," she whispered and handed the parchment to Jon. He took it and stared at the wax seal, seeing Robin Arryn's seal. He frowned and nodded his thanks before tapping on Sansa's door. He opened it and slipped inside, leaving Brienne waiting in the hallway.
Sansa still lay sleeping, her red hair fanned out on her pillow. Jon gazed at her, enjoying the peace etched across her features. His hand stretched out, gliding along the curve of her neck, his touch barely a whisper. Still, her eyes fluttered open and she stared up at him, her eyes taking him in. She smiled sleepily and took his hand, drawing it to her chest as she curled into it. Jon would have laughed from the profound sweetness of the moment had he not been holding his breath. He stood that way, bent over her with his arm trapped in her grip, for several minutes before finally deciding to wake her once more.
"Sansa," he whispered and squeezed her hand. He felt the distinct swell of her breasts against the back of his hand as she pulled him closer still. A rogue part of him, somewhere in the darkest corner of his mind, wanted to press his hand more firmly against her curves. Instead, he cleared his throat and said her name again, louder this time.
Her eyes opened and she looked up at him. Her gaze moved down his arm until she found his hand pressed against her body and captured within her own. She released his hand quickly and drew herself into a sitting position in the bed.
"Good morning," she said, suffocating a yawn behind her hand.
"Good morning," he replied and held up the roll of parchment. "A raven came this morning. Sent from the Eyrie." He handed it to her and sat back on the bed watching as she broke the seal and unraveled it.
"It's from Robin," she whispered and glanced at him before reading it. Her face paled almost immediately and Jon's heart began to pound. "What is it?" he asked.
She handed it to him when she was done and climbed from the bed, pacing her room as he read. When Jon looked up at her, he wasn't sure whether to hug her or put his fist through the door.
"He had Petyr thrown through the moon door," Sansa said. "Because he had promised me to Robin and was going back on his word."
Jon let his eyes move over the small, unsightly script once more. His eyes lingering on certain lines.
"My dear cousin, Sansa… Your marriage to Uncle Petyr… I made him fly, Sansa. You should have seen it… Now we can wed just as Uncle Petyr once promised… I'll set out for Winterfell in a week's time… Wed under your godswood… King and Queen… Prepare for my arrival and our wedding night… Yours in love, Lord Robin Arryn."
"I'm going to be ill," Sansa said. "He promised me to Robin?"
Jon crumpled the parchment in his hand and rose from the bed, striding to Sansa. He took her by the shoulders and forced her to look at him.
"I won't let it happen," he said.
"At least with Petyr I knew what to expect. He loved me and would have cherished me along with the power. Robin… He's a child, Jon. He can't even carry a sword. Who knows what twisted games he'll want to play."
She shuddered and Jon pulled her against his chest, resting his chin on her head.
"I won't let it happen, Sansa. I promise. You will not wed him and you will not leave Winterfell."
"I can't do it again, Jon. I can't marry another man I don't know. Another man to do with me as he pleases." Sansa's voice began to raise, panic and hysteria threatening to take her. Jon stroked her hair, whispering his promises into her ear. Her body stilled suddenly and she pulled away from him, tears glistening on her cheeks. Her eyes were dark, her expression focused. She studied his face for a moment and then turned, pacing the room in front of him.
Jon watched her pace, hand held to her mouth as she whispered into it, glancing at him from time to time. Just when he could no longer stand it, Sansa stopped, turning to him.
"You can keep this from happening, Jon. There is a way for you to stop it and also legitimize yourself."
It did not take long for Sansa's meaning to sink in. He stared at her, eyes wide and unbelieving.
"You mean for me to wed you myself?"
"Think about it, Jon," she said, striding forward to take his hand. "You'll save me from Robin or anyone else who seeks my hand. You'll be a true Stark then and you'll be the true King in the North. No one would be able to contest your claim to Winterfell."
"You think I care about that?" He exclaimed, pulling his hand from hers. "You're my sister!"
"Family, Jon. You're my family. We were family before and we'd be family after. The Targaryen's used to –"
"I know what the damn Targaryen's used to do! But I'm not a Targaryen and I can't wed my own sister!"
Sansa began pacing again, her hand returning to her mouth as she moved about. Jon watched her, hands fisted at his side while his mind raced. Could he do that? Marry his sister? Take her to bed? After everything she'd been through, she deserved to be loved and cherished, not sold to yet another unfit husband. He groaned and turned away from her, walking to the window. He stared down at the snow-covered grounds below. He would come up with another plan. He would find a way; he had to.
Jon stiffened as he felt Sansa's arms snake around his middle, holding him from behind. He couldn't deny the comfort he felt when they were close like this. There had been many times over the past weeks when they'd found themselves in each other's arms. It was like they gravitated toward one another seeking safety and the love only they could share.
"Okay, Jon. I trust you. You'll find a way."
Jon rested his hand atop Sansa's and felt the breath he'd been holding go out of him in a rush. He nodded, holding her hands so tightly her arms gripped him tighter. He would find a way. He had to.
"He likely sent that raven yesterday. He said he would set out in a week. That means he would arrive here in about a month. We need to come up with a plan."
Jon turned in Sansa's arms, allowing his own to snake around her body and pull her against him.
"Push this from your mind, Sansa. Don't dwell on it; let me shoulder this burden for you."
Sansa nodded against his chest and when she spoke, her words were barely a whisper, though he heard her loud and clear.
"It wouldn't have been the worst thing, you know. You're the only one I trust; the only one I love. We could have ruled the North together, the Starks united."
"Aye, but I'm not a Stark," Jon whispered against her hair.
"You are to me."
Sansa pulled her head from his chest and looked up at him, her bright eyes searching his. Jon felt his gut twist when her eyes flickered to his lips for a split second before once again finding his eyes.
"Sansa." Her name was an odd, strangled sound upon his lips and he saw her eyes darken slightly before her face angled up toward him. Whether it was he who lowered his mouth to hers or she who raised up to meet him, Jon couldn't be sure. What he did know was they stood wrapped around one another, their lips molded together in the morning light. Tentative at first, neither of them moved, merely breathing each other in and testing the moment. In the back of Jon's mind, he was more than aware that this was his sister he held and shame mixed with pleasure and satisfaction.
Her arms lifted, hands tangling in his hair as he pressed forward. She pulled him closer and he lifted her, pulling her against his body before turning to press her against the wall. Sansa moaned into mouth and Jon was disarmed, giving himself to her. He held her against the wall and her legs wrapped haphazardly around his waist, her robes interfering some. Jon was aware of her hand as it reached down and pulled her dress up, freeing her legs to grip him tighter.
She gasped into his mouth when she felt him pressing against her, against her core. Jon felt her go rigid in his arms, her fingers releasing his hair almost immediately. He opened his eyes and stared down at her, taking in the scene. He released and backed away, leaving her back pressed against the wall, her arms still raised. Her eyes were vacant, Jon realized. Her expression void and lifeless. She had gone away, retreated inside herself and Jon, the fool that he was, realized why.
He took her by the face, settling his eyes before hers, his thumbs stroking her cheeks.
"It's me, Sansa. It's Jon. You're safe. You're home and you're safe. Come back to me. Come back to me, Sansa. Please. I'm sorry."
Sansa blinked once, the light slowly returning to her eyes. She met his gaze and tears brimmed in her eyes. A sob choked her, the sound acting as a dagger to Jon's heart.
"I'm sorry," she whispered, her arms slowly falling to her sides. She looked anywhere but at Jon and he released her face, allowing her space.
"No," he said. "It's my fault. I never should have… I'm sorry. So sorry."
Sansa sobbed and slid down the wall until she landed on her behind. Jon backed up until his feet hit her bed and he dropped down onto the end of it. His body was alive with the feel of her, his blood racing, nerves firing, his heart pounding in his ears. He hated himself for it.
"I can still feel him," Sansa said quietly. Her sobs had subsided and she looked up at Jon. Her lips were swollen and her hair frayed around her face. "When you… When I felt you there… I remembered."
Jon lowered his head into his hands, guilt and misery wracking him. He never should have touched her that way, but – perhaps even worse – when he did, he made her relive a horror he couldn't protect her from in the first place. His mind was cycling. Regret and shame screaming at him.
He jumped when her hands covered his and she knelt in front of him. Her eyes were red and her cheeks imprinted from the trail of her tears. She sniffled and then burrowed herself into his body, pushing her way into his arms from the floor. Hesitantly, almost fearfully, Jon put his arms around her. He felt her breaths begin to slow as he held her.
When they parted, some minutes later, Jon helped Sansa to her feet and wiped the remaining tears from her cheeks. Sansa stared up at him, her hand on his arm.
"It wasn't all bad," she said as she combed her fingers through her hair. She offered him a weak smile and Jon saw the blood begin to return to her cheeks. "I've never been kissed like that before. I… I liked it. Until I didn't."
Jon turned away from her. He had liked it too, even as the guilt had raged within him. But he'd never touch her like that again. He swore to himself and to their father. He would keep her safe by any means and that included from himself.