Davos held his ground at Jon's back. Tormund stood beside him and Brienne beside Tormund. Lady Stark released Jon's hand. She placed it over her chest, tracing the direwolf embroidered there. Beside her, Arya stood tall with her hand on her little sword, ready for any challenge to come. Bran had been deposited into a chair that Tormund had fashioned with wheels. Since then, Arya had taken to pushing him all over Winterfell, despite Jon's protests.
Each of them looked to the sky as the dragons descended upon them. Two of them peeled off, soaring into the air and out of sight as the third, the one carrying the Mother of Dragons, dove to the ground, landing with a thud.
Instinct kept Davos breathing; awe made him forget everything else. Never had he seen anything more impressive or terrifying than the great beast before him. And, quite frankly, Davos had seen some shit.
They watched as Tyrion Lannister, known only to Davos by his height, climbed down from the dragon. Davos hadn't even realized he'd been seated behind the Mother of Dragons until he'd jumped down from the dragon's wing. Davos watched as Tyrion stretched his back and dusted himself off. From the back of the dragon, Daenerys Targaryen stood and jumped gracefully from the side of her dragon. She landed in a crouch and then rose to her feet beside Tyrion.
Something about the two of them standing side by side felt significant to Davos. Daenerys looked at Tyrion as though he were her equal rather than her attendant. And he looked at her as though he'd die for her. It was quite the sight to behold.
It's trust, he thought to himself. And respect.
Jon and Lady Stark stepped forward to meet their guests, stopping only a couple yards away. Arya and Bran followed quickly behind them, only momentarily distracted by the dragon. Tyrion set his eyes upon Sansa, his expression bright and affectionate.
"Lady Stark, you look stunning."
"You flatter me, Tyrion."
"Hardly," he replied with a chuckle. "I simply find myself relieved. And maybe a bit mesmerized. You've grown into quite a fierce woman, Sansa Stark."
Tyrion turned his attention to Jon and while he looked him up and down, Davos couldn't help but notice how Daenerys stood back to allow Tyrion to greet his former… Well, friends didn't seem the right word.
"Young Lord Snow, all grown up," Tyrion said before extending his arm to Jon. Jon stared at him for a moment and then took it, the two men grasping forearms.
"Never thought I'd see the day I'd be happy hosting a Lannister in my home."
Tyrion laughed and released Jon. He turned then toward the young Starks, nodding his head in respect.
"You look well, Lord Stark, Lady Stark. All of Westeros thought you might be dead, so I'm glad to see you look very much alive."
He took a step back, turning toward Daenerys. As though on cue, the wind rushed in, lifting her hair from her shoulders. She stepped forward, stopping in front of Jon and Lady Stark.
"Lord Snow, Lady Stark. Thank you for receiving us. I imagine prospect of my arrival upon dragonback may have been a little worrisome."
Jon inclined his head dutifully, not exactly bowing, but paying respect all the same. Davos watched as Lady Stark dipped, offering a perfectly royal curtsy. Suddenly, Davos realized they were dealing with a different Lady Stark than he was used to; this was the calculating Warden of the North who trusted no one.
"You're always welcome in Winterfell, Your Grace."
Daenerys smiled and then turned, looking to the dragon at her back. As though silently prompted, the onyx and scarlet monster rose in the air and was gone. When she turned back, she had a playful smile she directed at Tyrion.
"Best not to test that hospitality, I think."
"We've arranged a feast and tapped into our wine stores," Jon said. "Shall we?"
He held his arm out for Lady Stark and she placed her hand on his arm before turning to lead their guests into the castle. As they passed, Davos, Tormund, and Brienne bowed before bringing up the rear.
As soon as they entered the castle, Jon paused, introducing everyone to one another. Davos was taken aback when Jon called him his Chief Advisor. Once seated in the feast room, Tormund dove into the food, receiving a disbelieving look from Brienne. Davos couldn't help but chuckle as he leaned back in his seat.
"Tormund! Guests first, you fool." Brienne hissed in his ear, her voice was not quite a whisper, which earned a laugh from the Mother of Dragons.
"Its fine, I assure you. It's actually rather encouraging to see a man so comfortable in the presence of those he's allied with."
Tormund winked at Daenerys, earning a grin from her, but a groan from Brienne. Tyrion took the opportunity to seize a wine glass from the table, swallowing the contents before refilling it automatically. Davos watched with intrigue as he then served Daenerys a glass.
"You've come a long way, Your Grace," Jon said beside Davos. "Let us celebrate your arrival. Politics can wait."
Daenerys inclined her head as food was set before her by a serving girl. Davos was served last and was the first to take a bite, signaling the official start of the feast, in true accordance with Northern hospitality. For several moments, they ate in silence. It was Tyrion who finally spoke.
"I couldn't help but notice my brother did not join us."
"Aye," Jon said. "He's not a member of my council. He was held as a prisoner after arriving in Winterfell, though he has been treated as a guest more or less. Sansa has even called upon him for advice from time to time."
"He's well then?"
"He is," Sansa said, taking over for Jon who still wasn't particularly happy with the Kingslayer's presence in Winterfell. "I'd be happy to take you to his quarters after we feast. Or, perhaps Brienne can show you the way."
Davos watched as Brienne sat up a little straighter. Tormund paused mid-bite and all faces turned toward her.
"Ah, Lady Tarth. My brother has spoken fondly of you. I do believe you have my Podrick in your service."
A ghost of a smile passed over Brienne's lips as a flush took her cheeks. It had become abundantly clear to the council that something intimate had developed between Brienne and Jamie. Whereas Brienne wouldn't even look at him most of the time, Jamie spent a great deal of time staring at her.
"Yes, My Lord. Podrick has been invaluable to me."
"And my brother?"
Brienne's flush grew and Davos actually felt badly for her. She worked so hard to ensure she was seen as a competent and skilled fighter rather than "a silly woman with a sword." Somehow, whatever had passed between her and the Kingslayer caused her to lose her composure almost instantly.
"I'm quite fond of him, as well, My Lord."
Tyrion grinned and sat back in his seat, seemingly satisfied with her answer. It was Bran who drew Davos's attention. Suddenly, as though a cloth was dropped over the young master's eyes, Bran was gone. His head dropped forward and even though Davos had seen him warg once before, he was still taken aback by Bran's sudden departure from his own body.
"Is he alright?"
Daenerys leaned forward across the table, reaching for Bran. Arya put her arm around Bran's shoulder, pulling his body against hers. She tucked his head into her shoulder and raised an eyebrow at the Mother of Dragons.
Daenerys nodded and sat back, glancing at Jon.
"Bran has a gift," Jon said. "One he sometimes forgets the appropriateness of using in public."
Davos ate quietly while Jon told of Bran's ability and the things he'd seen so far. He left out a few stories, Davos noted, but told more than he held back. Daenerys and Tyrion said little, only asking for clarification once, and listened with rapt attention. When Jon paused and Sansa nodded in his direction, Davos knew the feast had come to an end.
"You've heard, I'm sure, about your brother's flight with Lyanna Stark."
"I have," Daenerys replied. "It's why I've been hunted my entire life."
Jon nodded and took a swallow of his ale before standing. He walked to the fireplace just behind the feast table and stared into the flames for a moment before turning to face them once more.
"Did you know they had a son together?"
"A son? No, I… No. How do you know that?"
"Bran saw it. In one of his visions. Lyanna died after giving birth. Rhaegar was not there; I don't even know if he knew of his son's existence before he was killed. But before Lyanna died, she entrusted her son to her brother. To be raised in secret and kept safe from King Robert."
"A child," Tyrion said, "raised in secret. His mother unknown even to him."
Jon nodded at Tyrion and it was clear Tyrion had figured it out. He lifted his wine glass, staring into it as Jon continued.
"Ned Stark brought me from the South where Lyanna birthed me. He raised me under the guise of his bastard son, born to a nameless Southern whore. He didn't even tell his wife the truth. He let her believe he had dishonored her so he could protect me."
Daenerys rose, walking to where Jon stood at the fireplace.
"Are you saying –"
"He's your nephew," Bran said suddenly. Davos hadn't even realized he'd returned to himself. Daenerys looked at Bran, studying him before looking at Tyrion. They seemed to communicate silently for a moment and then Tyrion spoke.
"I've heard of it. Never seen it myself, but I've heard of people who can do what he can. There's no way to prove it, I suppose, and that's the real problem. For a blood claim like this, there must be some proof; something more substantial than the word of a child who may or may not have a gift."
"Howland Reed was there. He'd be able to tell us if there was a babe brought to Winterfell that day. I haven't gone to see him yet because I wanted you to see his reaction yourself."
Daenerys stared at Jon, apparently letting his words sink in.
"This would make you a Targaryen. Rhaegar's true heir. You could –"
"I don't want it, Your Grace. I assure you, I've no interest in the Iron Throne."
"Then what do you want?"
Jon glanced at Sansa, who rose from the table and moved to stand beside him. Jon slipped his arm around Sansa's back, his hand resting on her hip, as she moved against him. She placed her hand on his chest, staring up at him with affection. Tyrion choked on his wine, sputtering it back into his cup. He stared at the two of them and then wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.
"Oh, this is good. This is fantastic. Very wise indeed. The power you two would wield…"
"We don't care about power," Sansa said gently. "Jon seeks to keep me safe and I seek to protect the North. That's all we want."
"We want to form an alliance," Jon said, looking to Daenerys. "The North belongs to House Stark. It always has. Sansa is Warden of the North and the other Houses have pledged their loyalty to her. But winter is here and with it comes a war none of us can win alone. We need you. We need your dragons and your armies."
"And why shouldn't I take the North from you right now? Why should I allow you to keep your territories when you've made it clear you're a threat to me?"
Davos had had enough. He stood, slamming his mug to the table.
"He's not a bloody threat. He's the best damn weapon you have aside from those beasts of yours. You don't know him, I get that. But if you did, you'd know he's got no interest in ruling or playing at your little game of thrones. All he wants is to protect his woman, his family, his home, and these lands. He's got thousands who believe in him; thousands who have seen him fight and die for them. You… All you are is an invader with Dragons. You've got no loyalty from the people here. You can come in and command it; you can make promises and seek to rule with fairness and bring peace to the people, but if you don't have the support of Jon Snow and Sansa Stark when you do it, it won't mean anything to the North."
"Dav," Jon said, putting a hand on his shoulder. Davos nodded and then picked up his mug one last time. He took a deep swallow and then set it back down. He bowed stiffly and swept from the room, leaving several pairs of eyes staring after him.
"There is a way," Daenerys said suddenly. "My dragons could sense the Targaryen bloodline in your veins if it's there. They tolerate Tyrion only because I command it. If you were to go unbidden and unprotected by me…"
"And if for some reason they didn't sense it? You'd have him sacrifice himself just for your need for confirmation?"
Jon watched as Sansa scoffed, turning away from the fire. She sat at the table beside Arya, running her finger along the edge of her wine glass.
"It's not just my need, Lady Stark. If Jon is to declare himself a Targaryen, which I assume he'll do once it's revealed you plan to wed, the whole world will want to know without a doubt he's got the blood of the dragon. I can legitimize him once I know for sure, but taking the word of a… of an injured child…"
"Fine," Jon said. He glanced at Bran who had paled significantly. Still, he trusted Bran's visions and maybe part of him knew there was no going back now. He couldn't be with Sansa if he really was Ned Stark's son. At least, he'd likely start a war doing so. "What do I do?"
"Seems only fitting you would call for Rhaegal. He's the green one. If he comes when you beckon and allows you to become his rider, we'll know."
"And if he doesn't?" Sansa asked, looking at Jon.
Jon stared at Sansa for a moment, his mind flashing with images of them together. Many of them were memories of months past and some were his hope for the future. One way or another, he thought, your eyes will be the last thing I see in this life. He offered Sansa a confident smile and turned, striding from the hall.
"Stay here, all of you. You can watch from the window, but don't come outside. If I'm to do this, it has to be now and it has to be without the presence of the Mother of Dragons."
"Jon!" Sansa's voice carried out of the room, following him into the hall. He heard a shuffle and Tormund's voice mixing with Bran's murmurs. Still he pressed forward.
Jon's feet carried him down the corridor until he came to the castle's courtyard. He paused, breathing in the cold air, allowing it to calm his nerves. He continued walking until he was outside the castle gates and into the nearest clearing. He looked into the sky overhead. It was freer of clouds than he'd seen it in weeks. Only certain dark patches hung menacingly nearby.
He took a deep breath, closing his eyes as he breathed in all the familiar scents of home. He smelled pine and ice primarily.
"Alright," he said. "Keep me alive, Rhaegar. This is your namesake I'm about to beckon, after all."
Jon lifted his hand to his mouth, taking one more steadying breath before pushing a whistle through his fingers. He couldn't say why he'd chosen to do so, but the whistle took on a melody he'd never heard before. It started at a high pitch, dropped a bit, and then soared once more.
"Rhaegal!" he called, following it with another whistle.
After only a moment or two, Jon heard the powerful flap of wings cutting through the air. A blur of green and bronze swooped, circling him once before ascending into the sky once more.
"I mean you no harm, Rhaegal!"
Jon's voice sounded far more confident to his own ears than he would have expected it to. He didn't even know if the dragon could understand him, but hoped he'd at least recognize his name.
The ground shook beneath Jon's feet as Rhaegal landed in front of him, his tail slamming into the earth as though in warning. Rhaegal's head swung around as a roar tore from his throat. He huffed at Jon as he stared at him, his nostrils flaring angrily. Jon held his arms up in caution, hoping there was nothing perceived as threatening in his posture.
"Easy, boy. I mean you no harm."
Jon took a step forward, his arms still held aloft. Rhaegal snorted and Jon felt the air of his breath on his face. Standing in front of the beast's face, Jon could only see Rhaegal's teeth. His closed his eyes, conjuring an image of Sansa in his mind. He focused on her beautiful eyes, seeking the peace he always found within.
Rhaegal roared in Jon's face, the force of it nearly knocking him off his feet. Still, he stood before the dragon, eyes closed as he focused on the shades of green in Sansa's eyes. It wasn't until Rhaegal's snout nudged his chest that Jon opened his eyes and found himself staring into the storm of the dragon's eyes. They held one another's gaze. Rhaegal huffed once and then seemed to sniff Jon once more.
Jon felt the air in his lungs leave him in a rush as Rhaegal bowed his head before Jon, his nose touching the ground. Something subconscious guided Jon forward until he was standing on Rhaegal's wing, gripping his spine. He pulled himself onto the dragon's back, straddling him as comfortably as he could.
"Fly," Jon said, leaning forward over the dragon as they kicked off into the air. The cold air blasted Jon, feeling like knives on his cheeks due to the speed of Rhaegal's acceleration. He gripped the beast's spine, his fingers digging into his scales and watched as the castle disappeared below them. Rhaegal pushed through the clouds, flying closer to the sun than Jon had ever been, despite the height of the wall.
Adrenaline, fear, and exhilaration flowed in Jon's veins. This, he realized, is what it meant to be a Targaryen. To be one with the dragon carrying him, at his mercy, yet somehow still in control. He'd always thought nothing felt more natural to him in this world than wielding a sword. Now he realized this was what he'd truly been born to do.
By the time they landed, the sun was already setting. Jon had learned how to communicate with Rhaegal, both with verbal commands and body movements. Somehow, in such a short time, they'd managed to bond – dragon and rider.
Jon jumped from Rhaegal's back, landing beside him the same way he'd seen Daenerys land after jumping from Drogon. He rose to his feet and put a hand on Rhaegal's side, running his palm along his scales until he stood eye-to-eye with him.
"Thank you," Jon said, earning a seemingly obliging huff from Rhaegal. He put his hand on Rhaegal's forehead and watched as the beast closed his eyes and lowered his head until his snout was touching the ground. "Thank you," Jon said once more before Rhaegal lifted off into the sky.
"For the longest time, the only blood relative I had in my life was Viserys; he wasn't particularly kind or honorable, but he was all I had. I did everything I could to prove my worth to him; to show him I was loyal to him; to prove my love. In the end, he was so blinded by his quest for the crown, he forgot that the blood of the dragon flows in my veins too. He didn't think he might awaken the dragon within me; that was his downfall."
Jon looked at Daenerys as she stood before him, the others several paces behind her, shock written on their faces.
"It shall be refreshing to have blood family who isn't insane."
Jon felt a grin spread across his lips in response to the smile in her eyes. She stepped forward and put her hand on his arm.
"Welcome to House Targaryen, nephew."
Jon inclined his head in thanks and then looked over her shoulder, his eyes finding Sansa's.
"I propose an alliance, Your Grace, between our House and House Stark through the marriage of Jon Targaryen and Sansa Stark."
"I thought you might," Daenerys replied with a smirk. "You shall rule together as King and Queen in the North, but you shall do so under the proclamations and rules I set forth. I don't expect this to be a problem for you, unless you're quite accustomed to raping, pillaging and enslaving your citizens."
"Hardly," Jon said with a chuckle.
"Good," Daenerys said, removing her hand from Jon's arm. "Then I suppose there's a wedding to plan."
"We should talk about Ser Jamie, Jon."
Tormund glanced at Lady Stark before continuing his meal. He sat across from Jon in the feast room. The three of them had stayed back long after the others had retired to bed. It seemed the two of them were still too worked up from the events of the day and Tormund never missed an opportunity to eat.
"What is there to talk about? I don't want him here."
Silence followed, prompting Tormund to look up once more. Sansa's expression was stormy, hardly the light and carefree girl she'd been just moments ago.
"Well he can't go to King's Landing. Tyrion has been welcomed with open arms because he helped unseat Cersei and he murdered his father. He's never been hated like the rest of his family, even if he's been treated unfairly due to his stature. But I doubt the people would be as welcoming of Ser Jamie. He –"
"Why do you call him that? Why do you pay him respect and honor him when he and his family have caused you so much pain?"
Sansa sighed, pulling herself from Jon's side where she'd been leaning. The arm Jon had around her waist dropped and he turned to face her.
"My suffering was at the hands of Joffrey and Cersei, not Jamie. He wasn't even there for most of the time I was. And he helped Brienne so she could help me. Maybe he's not pure and innocent of everything, but everyone deserves a chance to set things right. And he's been trying to do that. You just won't let him."
"I don't want him here," Jon said again, slowly and with more emphasis. It was the first time Tormund had heard him speak so firmly or coldly to Lady Stark, who recoiled almost instantly.
"And I do. So now what?"
This was the moment, Tormund realized, they'd all been waiting for. It was time to find out who the real Warden of the North was.
"I gave in to you once already and let him live. Even allowed him comfortable chambers. You've treated him as a guest rather than a prisoner; you even gave him his sword back while I was gone. At every single turn, you've gotten your way, Sansa; but having a Lannister in Winterfell is something I cannot allow. I want him gone at first light."
Fire flashed in Sansa's eyes and she folded her arms over her chest.
"He's got nowhere else to go," she said, drawing each syllable out in a way that felt very much like she would not stand down. Tormund rose very slowly, trying not to draw too much attention to himself. With a chicken leg still held between his teeth, he picked up his mug of ale and turned, strolling from the feast room.
"Bloody lovers quarrel, that is."
He walked through the castle, his mind replying the way the couple had squared off against one another for the sake of a man who, in all honesty, probably didn't deserve that much consideration. Still, Tormund couldn't ignore the fact that he was still alive because of the Golden Cunt with his golden hand and golden armor.
"Must have a golden prick, too," Tormund mumbled, taking a swallow of his ale. Why else would a woman as honorable, brave, and downright fierce as Brienne have fallen for him?
Tormund groaned, sucking the last bit of flesh from the chicken leg before tossing the bones over his shoulder. He turned, walking down the corridor leading to his chambers, but found himself standing in front of a different door. He rapped his knuckles against it, sloshing some of his ale onto the floor as he did.
After a moment or two, the door swung open and the Golden Cunt himself stood face to face with Tormund.
"Bit late for an arm wrestling match, isn't it?"
"Not like you'd win anyway. Perhaps a thumb wrestling match; you could win that with your golden—"
Tormund nodded to Jamie's golden hand, only to see it wasn't there. Instead, a mangled nub of a wrist rested against his pants.
"You were saying?"
"Let me talk to Brienne," Tormund said, changing topics. Jamie pushed the door open and stepped back allowing Tormund to enter. Behind him, Brienne stood wrapped in a blanket. Her hair fell over her forehead and into her eyes, the sides framing her face a bit. Tormund would have enjoyed the sight if not for knowing it was like that because she'd just been bedded by the prick in front of him.
"What is it, Tormund? Am I needed by Lady Stark?"
"No, nothing like that. Can I talk to you?"
Brienne glanced at Jamie and then back at Tormund, nodding once. She pulled the blanket tighter around her body and stepped forward, but Tormund held up a hand, turning to leave the room.
"Dress. I'll wait."
Tormund closed the door behind him and leaned against the wall. He ran his tongue over his teeth and stuck his finger in his mouth, digging a piece of chicken out from between his back teeth. He froze, hand in mouth and all, when the foreign Queen exited her room. She set her eyes upon him and instantly raised an eyebrow curiously. Tormund shrugged a little and then continued his efforts until successful. He flicked the piece of meat to the ground and nodded at her with a grin.
"Got it," he said.
"Bravo," she replied, her voice laced with laughter. "Tormund Giantsbane, right?"
Tormund nodded and stepped forward, pushing away from the wall. They met halfway and Tormund realized just how much he towered over the girl.
"And you're Daenerys Targaryen. Or Stormborn; I've heard it both ways."
"Dany, please. Just Dany. Your people, you have a camp nearby?"
"Aye. Not too far. The Free Folk aren't welcomed many places, but Jon has given us his protection so we'll stay here until the battle with winter is over."
"Dunno, Dany. Maybe back home. Maybe a new home."
Dany nodded and the door behind him opened with a creak. Tormund turned to see Brienne step into the corridor, fully clothed with her sword strapped to her hip. Tormund turned back to Daenerys and she offered him another smile before gesturing toward Brienne.
"I'll let you…"
"Aye," Tormund said. He watched her walk away, heading toward the front of the castle. When she was gone, he turned to Brienne. "We need to talk."
"What's going on?"
"They're arguing right now – Jon and Lady Stark. He wanted to send your boyfriend away and she's fighting to keep him here. I'm not sure what will happen, but if he has his way, Jamie will be gone tomorrow."
Brienne looked horror stricken. She glanced back at the door and then turned to face Tormund once more. She shook her head slowly.
"Banishment? And then what? He's already told me he won't return to King's Landing even if he could. Too many ghosts there. He's got nowhere to go; no one to help him."
"I just thought you should know. In case…"
"Why? You don't even like him."
"Aye," Tormund said with a nod. He ran his hand through his beard, combing out a loose tangle. "I don't like him. But you do. And I like you. So I just… I thought you should know. Besides, there's nothing saying you can't go with him. It's not like you're Lady Stark's only bodyguard. She's got plenty of us."
Brienne shook her head and Tormund noticed her stand up a bit straighter.
"I can't. I pledged my sword and my life to her. There'll be a war. Who knows who of you survive that. I can't leave her unprotected."
Brienne sighed. And then held her arm out toward him.
"Thank you, Tormund. You've done me a kindness. I won't forget it."
Tormund clasped her arm and, despite his natural inclination to make light of the situation, he chose instead to just enjoy the way her fingers wrapped around his arm. She stood at his height, eye-to-eye and chest-to-chest. He couldn't help but admire her. Finally, he released her arm and stepped back, leaving her to return to her love. As he walked away, Tormund couldn't help but wonder which outcome he secretly hoped for: banishment or forgiveness. Either way, he supposed Brienne had made her decision and he didn't want to be a second choice.
He glanced over his shoulder and saw Brienne still watching him. She nodded at him and then turned, going back into the room.
"Damn warm weather's making me soft hearted."
Sansa looked up at Jon, her eyes traveling up his body from their joined hands, over his chest, pausing only briefly at his lips, before finding his eyes. He stared down at her with a combination of love and lust. Sansa felt her cheeks flush under the intensity of his gaze. Words hovered all around Sansa, acknowledged yet hardly heard. She went through the motions, repeating the words she was prompted to and holding her hand steady beneath Jon's while their hands were bound together with cloth embroidered with a dragon on one end and a direwolf at the other.
Jon's thumb stroked Sansa's palm. Hidden from view and known only to her, the gesture calmed her. Standing under the godswood, Sansa tore her eyes away from Jon and glanced over her shoulder at the small audience standing behind them.
Bran and Arya sat side by side and beside Bran sat Tyrion. He met her gaze and raised his small flask of wine in cheers. She couldn't help but smile. She looked next at Daenerys, who sat beside Tyrion. They had just flown back to Winterfell that morning so they could be in attendance. Her eyes were set upon Jon. Sansa thought perhaps a part of her might have been jealous of the bond she and Jon had formed so quickly, if not for the fact that she was happy for it. Jon needed someone on that side of his bloodline to trust in. Behind only she and Davos, Daenerys had become invaluable to Jon.
Lyanna Mormont sat beside Daenerys, accompanied by Howland Reed and Wyman Manderly. After Howland Reed had given his account of the events that took place at the Tower of Joy, there hadn't been much discussion about the validity of Jon's claim. Sansa was thankful for it.
Behind the group in front, Jamie and Brienne sat behind Bran and Arya. Sansa felt a surge of love and admiration for Jon every time she saw Jamie. They had bickered and argued for a solid two days before Jon finally gave in to Sansa. In the end, he'd told her he was proud of her for standing her ground. Davos met Sansa's gaze as her eyes moved from Brienne to him. He nodded once, a kind smile lighting his eyes. She returned it and then her attention was pulled away by Tormund, who sat beside Davos.
Tormund leaned forward and whispered something into Daenerys's ear. She responded with a curt nod and Sansa raised an eyebrow as she saw the Mother of Dragons bite her lip, her cheeks filling with a telling blush. Tormund grinned and sat back again, lifting his leg over his knee. He crossed his arms over his chest and beamed with satisfaction. Sansa was certain she'd never been more curious about anything in her life.
Her eyes had only just settled on Sam, who sat beside Tormund with little Sam in his arms, when Jon cleared his throat loudly, pulling Sansa's attention back to him.
"Your words," he whispered.
"Oh!" Sansa cleared her throat and took a deep, steadying breath. "Today, I, Sansa of House Stark, stand before you, seeking the blessing of the gods as I give myself to you - heart, soul, and flesh. I pledge my House to yours in alliance. I promise to stand tall and proud beside you and in your stead at all times. I promise to act with the grace and dignity befitting your wife. Above all this, I will love you fiercely from this day until my last day, forsaking all others."
Jon grinned and Sansa felt her nerves drain away. She'd gotten through it without tripping on her words or forgetting what she'd written.
"Today, I, Jon of House Targaryen, stand before you, seeking the blessing of the gods as I give myself to you – heart, soul, and flesh. I pledge my House to yours in alliance. I promise to protect you, cherish you, and honor you at all times. I promise to provide for you, care for you, and hold you in the highest esteem. Above all this, I will love you fiercely from this day until my last day, forsaking all others."
Sansa's heart leapt into her throat and she struggled, blinking back tears, to maintain her composure. This was her third wedding ceremony, but it was the first time the words had meant anything to her. It was the first time she'd had any say in the promises she made and the vows she took. It was the first time she'd felt joy rather than fear.
The rest of the ceremony happened in a blur with Sansa focusing only on Jon's face. She studied him, picking out flecks of gold in his dark eyes, counting the curls that framed his face, memorizing the way his beard emphasized the cut of his jawline. She even admired his scars, for they spoke of all he'd survived to be standing before her today. It was his lips she was focused on when he suddenly stepped forward, drawing her into his arms. His full lips, which she had just been desiring, collided with hers, eliciting cheers and whistles from their guests. Sansa's fingers tangled in Jon's hair and his hands gripped her so firmly she knew they'd leave an impression.
When they finally pulled away, they were proclaimed wedded and presented. Standing under the godswood, snow falling on their shoulders, Sansa felt her life begin.
They led the way from the godswood to the castle, walking hand in hand. Sansa had to fight the urge to draw Jon even closer, knowing no amount of contact would be enough at this point. Not while their clothing acted as a barrier between them. Sansa glanced up at Jon. He looked even more desirable than usual. Part of it, she knew, was the way his snow dusted cloak rested on his shoulders. The fur of the collar brushed against his neck, emphasizing the part of him that was a wolf. Sansa had surprised Jon by embroidering the sigil of House Targaryen on the opposite side of the direwolf.
The entered the feast room and Sansa was pleased to see it was filled with the families of Winterfell. Men, women, and children stood smiling as they passed. The room had been decorated, the efforts led primarily by Arya, and was lit with candles and oil lamps, giving it a brightness Sansa had never seen before. The fire roared behind the head table and two of the usual chairs at the table had been replaced with what could only be described as thrones.
Jon and Sansa reached their seats and turned, waiting for the rest of the ceremony attendees to find their places at the head table. Daenerys sat immediately beside Jon and Bran and Arya sat beside Sansa. It was nice, Sansa thought, that Jon had blood family on his side. Brienne and Jamie sat on Sansa's side as Brienne was pledged to her. Davos and Tormund sat on Jon's side, Davos seated beside Tyrion.
Lyanna Mormont and the other Northern Lords had their own table not far away. Once everyone was seated, Jon and Sansa stood side by side as Jon addressed the room.
"Each of you honors us with your presence. Your support of our union, of our love, is both powerful and overwhelming. We ask tonight that you count yourselves our equal, as we are one family bound together in Northern pride. Please, enjoy the evening."
They sat down and Sansa took Jon's hand immediately, as she was so accustomed to doing. He kissed the side of her head and turned, responding to something Daenerys said to him. Sansa thanked the young girl who placed her food in front of her, watching as the entire room began to buzz with friendly conversation.
"Are you happy?"
Sansa turned to look at Bran. Her little brother stared at her with so much hope and love, it made Sansa's chest constrict.
"He's lucky, you know. Jon, I mean. You're not the only lucky one. He's lucky you chose him."
Sansa smiled and put her arm around Bran.
"I suppose we all are. We have a chance now; for survival."
"More than just a chance," Bran said. "We will win this war, Sansa. Peace isn't so far off now."
Dany watched her nephew dance with his new wife. Jon didn't look like a Targaryen, she decided. Not in any way at all. She tried to imagine him with the same blond locks Rhaegar had, but the image was muddied. Jon was just too dark for it; nearly everything he wore was black or dark brown and his onyx hair matched the darkness in his eyes. It led her to imagine Lyanna. She must have had dark hair and eyes. Dany imagined she was fair in complexion as most Northerners were. Somehow, Dany saw a softness to her that Rhaegar would have been drawn to.
Of course, Jon wasn't soft in anyway. He was kind and warm hearted, but hardly soft. He was strong willed and strong bodied. Her desire to usher in a reign of peace seemed to match Jon's desire to protect. He wanted to protect everyone, too; not just the North or his family. He wanted to ensure the survival of mankind.
It was the thing Dany found she responded to most. And as much as she relied upon Tyrion for his council and friendship, he wasn't family. Jon had become the family she'd always wanted and Sansa treated her as a sister might, had she been given one.
She raised her wine glass to her lips, her eyes still set on the newlyweds. Her gift had been a selfish one, she admitted only to herself. She'd brought Rhaegal to Jon. While a gift of significance, she was also happy it would allow Jon to travel to King's Landing often and with haste. She smiled, her lips grazing the edge of her glass, thinking of their flight together the day prior. She'd never been able to race another dragon rider before.
"A woman as beautiful as you should not be watching others dance. She should be the one being watched."
Dany jumped a little, pulled from her thoughts by Tormund's voice. She glanced to the side, looking up at him for a moment before taking a swallow of her wine.
"A woman, no matter how beautiful, waits for a man to ask for her hand."
Tormund grunted and reached out, taking the glass of wine from her hand. He drained the rest of the glass and then tossed it to a nearby serving girl. Turning to Dany with a grin, he held out his hand.
"A man is asking for your hand now."
Dany stared up at him. There was something about this man; he was unrefined, brazen, and unkempt. Yet he made her burn in a way she hadn't expected. Still, she hesitated. He wasn't the right man to be binding herself to right now and she wasn't the type of woman to give her hand to men she didn't plan to keep around for a while. As though sensing her hesitation, Tormund's eyes softened and he ran a hand over his face.
"It's a dance, woman, not a binding ceremony."
Dany laughed and nodded, placing her hand in Tormund's. He pulled her out to the semi-circle in the middle of the feast room. Catching a look from Jon as they passed, Tormund winked and pulled Dany against him. Unsure of herself, Dany ran her hands over his arms. He was as broad as any Dothraki, if not more so, and towered over her by more than a head. Slowly, and deliberately, Dany placed her hands on his chest. He was nothing but hard muscle and red hair.
She moved with him, realizing rather quickly that the man couldn't dance to save his life, and found herself focusing instead on the way his hands traveled over and gripped her hips, her sides, her arm.
"When do you leave?"
"A few days, yet."
"Visit the Free Folk's camp before you go. Most of them haven't met you yet, but they're curious."
"Introducing me to your family already, Tormund?" Dany stared up at him with a playful smirk he readily returned.
"Aye, and what of it?"
Dany laughed and drew her arms up, resting on Tormund's shoulders. He held her sides and she couldn't help but notice he hadn't allowed the customary space between their bodies. She was pressed firmly against him, her breasts nearly spilling from her dress as they pressed against his body. She knew it would seem indecent to the more civilized Northern Houses, but where she came from, and apparently where Tormund came from, there were no societal imposed boundaries.
Tormund stroked her side, the warmth of him reaching her skin even through her dress. Brazen, she thought once more. Though, it didn't bother her for some reason. Any other man taking liberties like this, touching her so unabashedly, would find themselves with one or two hands fewer.
All around them, couples danced and laughed. Right beside her, Sam and Gilly went spinning past. Gilly's head was thrown back in laughter and Sam looked delighted with himself. Beyond them, Davos guided Arya right into Bran's arms. Bran caught her easily, his chair not inhibiting him too much. Even Tyrion, who was decidedly anti-social when it came to large events, was sitting on the edge of the dance floor in deep conversation with Lady Mormont and the other Northern Lords.
Amongst them, dozens of Winterfell's families danced and laughed. Being invited to the wedding of the King and Queen of the North was no small thing for most of them. Dany rather liked it. She couldn't help but notice that Jamie Lannister and Lady Brienne had not joined them on the dance floor. She glanced around the room until she found them sitting in a corner. Jamie was leaning forward toward Brienne, her hand held in his. They walked quietly, but Dany could tell he was working hard to make her laugh. And she seemed to be working hard not to give in.
"Why aren't they dancing with the rest of us?" Dany asked Tormund, gesturing toward them.
"Ah. They didn't think the Northern families would enjoy bumping elbows with a Lannister. It's a curtesy, she says. I offered to dance with her, but she denied me."
"I see," Dany said, looking up at him. "Then I was merely the backup plan?"
"Aye," he said, nodding stoically. After a moment, he broke into a grin and shook his head. "I wanted her, I admit. For a long time; but that was before you came flying in on your dragon, breathing fire over me."
"No, but you did. You've got fire in your eyes, Dany. One look and you burnt me alive."
"Is it your corpse I dance with now?"
Tormund frowned, glancing away from Dany. She watched as his eyes moved over the people around them. At some point, they had stopped dancing and were merely held in an embrace.
"I suppose most corpses I've encountered were single-minded; driven by instinct, impulse and need. So perhaps I am merely a corpse now."
"And what is it instinct, impulse, and need are driving you toward?"
As soon as she'd asked it, Dany knew she'd gone too far. Mild, harmless flirting with the wild man was fine, but now she'd gone and asked him to put it to words and open a door that wouldn't be easily closed. The look on Tormund's face only confirmed her theory; his eyes darkened and he licked his lips as his eyes moved to her mouth. Dany felt her lips part in response and Tormund seemed to notice as well. His grip on her side tightened to an almost painful point and Dany found herself wrapping her arms around his neck to steady herself.
Tormund leaned forward, his breath hot and heavy on her ear. Dany felt her eyes flutter closed as she dug her fingers into his furs.
"Hot, juicy, delicious…. food. I can't get enough, really."
Tormund licked Dany's ear and pulled back quickly, his face alive in amusement and anticipation. He stared at her, waiting for a reaction. Finally, laughter bubbled up in her chest, spilling forth loudly. Her hand moved to wipe his saliva off her ear. Tormund's laughter joined hers and she realized he'd done her a favor; he'd diverted the conversation.
When she was done laughing, she looked up at him, wiping tears from her cheeks. He beamed at her, apparently proud of himself.
"Then let's feed you, big man."
Dany took Tormund's hand and led him from the crowded dance floor. They spent the rest of the night and well into the morning in their own corner eating more than their fill of meat, potatoes and sweet breads.
Dany hadn't talked or laughed so much in years.
Jon used Sansa's body to push open the door to their room. His lips were buried in her neck, his hands already working at the knots on her dress. She had pushed his cloak to the floor in one of the corridors leading from the feast room. It likely still lay discarded where it had fallen, as they'd been too involved to stop for it.
Sansa was as much pulling him to the bed as he was guiding her there. They only made it halfway before they tripped over half-removed clothing. Jon twisted them as they fell so he landed first, pulling Sansa down on top of him. Their lips collided and Jon groaned as Sansa raked her nails up the side of his thigh and over his hip.
She tasted of wine and lemon cakes. Jon grew increasingly intoxicated by her the more his hands traced her bare back. Somewhere in the back of his mind, Jon was still trying to reconcile the fact that she was his.
He sat up, lifting Sansa easily, and guided her where he wanted her. She sank down on him and Jon lost himself in her warmth. They rocked together on the floor, bodies pressed together, arms wrapped around each other, mouths melded together.
Sansa's moans grew increasingly strangled as Jon drove into her, his full length hitting a depth he'd not thought possible before. He laid her back on the floor and pulled her legs over his shoulders, lifting her hips off the floor.
This time, Sansa did scream. Jon stilled inside her, holding himself at just the right spot as she came undone. He watched her, admiring the way her chest rose and fell in hitches, her hardened nipples jutting into the air. Her hair fanned out beneath her body and her hand found his chest. She left her hand there, right over his heart, securing that extra contact they both needed so desperately.
When her breaths began to regulate once more, Jon turned her, laying her on her stomach. He leaned over her, kissing her shoulder and neck, as his hands lifted her hips just enough that she was angled up toward him. His kissed her shoulder blade and then entered her once more, causing her throw her head back with a moan, arching her back against him. Jon swooped one arm under her body, holding her against him as he took her once more.
"Harder," Sansa whimpered, so faintly Jon barely heard it. He bit her shoulder gently and slammed into her, rocking her off the ground with a grunt. "Again," Sansa said, louder this time. Jon repeated his movements, pulling out only to slam back into her once more. Each time he did, Sansa cried out, her fist slamming into the floor.
"Sansa," Jon moaned into her ear, still holding her body up against his as he moved within her. When he could take no more, he rose up, rolling her onto her back. He slid back into her easily and her hands immediately found his hair, pulling his lips to hers. He kissed her breathlessly, moaning into her mouth which each thrust. Sansa met his movements with her own, the sensation pushing him nearer the edge as each second passed.
"Fill me," Sansa whispered against his lips. "Make me your wife, Jon."
Jon's head fell forward, his forehead pressed against hers, and he let himself go. He drove into her repeatedly, slamming his hips against hers until she tightened around him. Jon felt her find release and he followed her, pouring himself into her as wave after wave hit him. When he was finally empty and she had taken all he had to offer, he drew back slowly.
Jon fell to the side, catching his breath as Sansa turned into his side, draping her leg over his waist. He was used to it now, the way she buried her head in his side, his arm around her. When their moans and gasps for breath finally died away, Jon looked down at his wife. She was already drifting to sleep. Her breasts were pressed against him, rising and falling steadily. She had her hands drawn up to her neck, tucked under her chin. Jon rested his hand on the back of her thigh, holding it on his body as he laid his head back allowing his thoughts to run.
He thought over the events of the day, replaying the way Sansa had looked in the godswood as the snow fell on her red hair and her cheeks flushed from the cold. He thought of the way she had gotten lost in thought and missed her cue for her words. It made him smile to think of it; that was how he knew she was his Sansa in that moment and not the Warden of the North. She had felt comfortable and safe enough to allow herself to relax. She hadn't been playing a part; she'd simply been Sansa.
His thoughts turned next to his friends and family. Somehow, the child who'd felt an outsider was now the patriarch of a family with more friends than he'd ever known. He thought of each of them: Bran, Arya, Davos, Tormund, Sam… He'd even begun to think of Brienne as a friend, though he knew her loyalty lay with Sansa first and foremost. Eventually, his thoughts turned to Dany. She'd taken to telling him about their family; all that she knew anyway. He'd learned a lot but wanted to know so much more. All he could do was look at her and imagine that she got her strength and spirit somewhere; perhaps it was a gift from the Mad King before he'd gone mad.
Finally, he thought of Ned. He still thought of him as father, though he realized he called both Ned and Rhaegar "father" when he spoke to them. Maybe Rhaegar hadn't been given the chance to be his father, but Jon liked to think Lyanna loved him for a reason and whatever it was would have made him a good father also. Ned, on the other hand, wasn't his father, yet he sacrificed so much to be a good one to Jon. Ned Stark was the reason Jon had the love of so many people now; he'd been raised by the most honorable and beloved man Jon knew.
When Sansa's skin grew cold to touch, Jon shifted, pulling her into his arms as he rose to his feet. He deposited her in bed and then lay beside her, pulling the furs over them both.
"I love you," Sansa whispered sleepily, clasping Jon's hand in her own. She held it against her chest, tucking it under her chin. With a smile, Jon leaned forward and kissed the tip of her nose.
"And I, you."
"Take care of that husband of yours, Sansa," Tyrion said, standing beside Drogon. He winked at Jon, earning a laugh from him. Sansa nodded and swooped, hugging Tyrion suddenly. Even Jon could see Tyrion's obvious surprise. He regained his senses and wrapped his arms around Sansa, patting her back awkwardly.
"Sansa," he said, pulling back from her. She smiled at him before rising and stepping away. Jon watched as she stopped in front of Dany. The women stared at each other for a moment before breaking into a grin.
"Today?" Dany asked and Sansa nodded. "Good," Dany said simply before embracing Sansa. "Then I expect to see you soon. And despite what my Hand says, I expect my nephew to take care of you, not the other way around." Dany threw a playful look at Jon and he raised a hand, silently asking if she expected anything else from him.
When they were done, Arya stepped forward, pushing Bran in his rolling chair. They said their farewells and then retreated once more. Next, Jamie and Brienne stepped forward. Part of Jon still wanted to see Jamie leaving rather than his brother, but he'd promised Sansa he wouldn't bring it up again and he didn't plan to go back on his word.
"Perhaps when tensions die down, several, several years from now, you can come visit," Tyrion said to Jamie, earning a laugh from the Kingslayer.
"Perhaps, little brother. But until then, I hope you'll make the trip often."
"You'll see us, frequently, I'm sure. Where I go, my Hand goes. And I plan to make Winterfell my second home."
Jamie nodded at Dany, offering one of his most charming smiles.
"Safe travels, Your Grace."
"Thank you, Jamie. Brienne."
Brienne, a woman of little sentiment in farewells, Jon had realized, bowed respectfully.
Davos said his goodbyes, actually receiving an unexpected embrace from Dany before he retreated, standing beside Arya and Bran.
Leaving only Tormund. Dany turned toward him expectantly and Jon watched as the two stared at one another. Jon felt Sansa take his hand, drawing his attention to her face for a moment. She raised an eyebrow and gestured toward Dany and Tormund. Jon frowned and turned once more, watching as the most mismatched pair of the whole lot looked at each other with what Jon could only describe as longing.
Finally, Tormund stepped forward. Jon felt his jaw drop as he saw Tormund do something he'd never seen him do before: he lowered himself to his knee in front of Dany. He looked up at her just as she reached out, placing her hand on his cheek. Tormund rose suddenly, capturing Dany's lips with his own.
Shocked gasps filled the air around them, though the two paid no mind. Tormund lifted Dany off the ground, holding her against his body. She clung to him, one hand still on his cheek as the other wrapped around his neck. When Tormund set her back on the ground, Dany looked up at him… And then slowly around to their audience. When her eyes landed on Jon, he blinked at her, words escaping him.
She shrugged, a smile lighting up her features as she took a step back from Tormund. She took one more look at Tormund, who was grinning like a fool, and then pulled herself easily and swiftly onto Drogon. Tyrion followed her up and settled in behind her.
A moment later, they were gone.
"Well," Sam said suddenly, "I guess I won't expect the same fond farewell from you, Tormund."
Tormund grunted and scanned the sky once more before stomping away into the castle. Jon laughed and reached out, pulling Sam into a hug. He clapped Sam on the back, breaking their hug as he pulled away. Turning to Gilly next, he kissed her on the cheek before pulling little Sam into his arms. Sansa wrapped Gilly in a hug the second her arms were empty.
"We'll visit, I promise," Sansa said into Gilly's shoulder.
"You'll have to. Sammy needs his aunt and uncle in his life. It can't just be us all alone."
Jon nodded at Gilly, bouncing the baby in his arms gently. Jon still wondered if he was doing the right thing, sending Sam and Gilly to King's Landing unprotected. Gilly hadn't been willing to take the baby into the sky on dragonback, so they'd finally agreed to go by wagon. The trip would be long and hard, but as Sam had pointed out, they'd done worse.
"I'll send a raven, Jon. As soon as we've made the first sliver of dragonglass, you'll hear from me."
"I know, Sam. You'll do great."
Jon deposited little Sam back into Gilly's arms and then stepped back, standing beside Sansa. They watched as Sam and Gilly climbed into the wagon, settling in for the long trip. A part of Jon ached to be sending Sam away again. He'd spent more time sending Sam away than he had protecting him. He hoped someday that would change.
Gilly turned in her seat and waved, raising the baby's arm to wave along with her. Sansa laughed softly and Jon waved back.
"I'll kind of miss it," Jon said. "Watching little Sam keep them so busy."
"Mm," Sansa replied and Jon felt her look up at him. "It's probably for the best. He kept us busy too, after all."
"Aye, he did."
"And we'll be too busy now keeping up with our own child."
"Aye, we'll be too – wait…"
Jon turned, looking down at Sansa who stared up at him with absolute joy. He cocked his head to the side and glanced down. Sansa's hand was resting over her stomach.
"Mhm. It's early still, but I'm sure now. Dany and I… we figured it out this morning."
Jon laughed, lifting Sansa into his arms. They'd come full circle now; he was no longer a motherless bastard, rather a King, and he'd sired a child who would know both its mother and father, plus aunts and uncles.
"Siblings," Jon said suddenly. "He'll need siblings."
Sansa laughed, kissing Jon gently.
"How about we birth this once first and then we can get started on siblings?"
"If you insist," Jon replied, pulling his wife to his lips once more.
A/N: Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed this story as much as I enjoyed writing it. Reviews much appreciated! Thank you to everyone who has been following this story since chapter 1 and all who have written with their feedback and suggestions.