Title: A Winter's Tale
Pairing: Jon/Sansa, Jaime/Sansa
Chapter Rating: T
Chapter Word Count: 2258
Summary: The War of Three Dragons is brought to the Vale, bringing Jon Snow and Sansa Stark together once more.
Author's Note: Part of this chapter was originally a fill for the comment fic meme at got_exchange.
The War of Three Dragons is brought to the Vale, and she will not brook opposition to her presence just beyond the fray, although Jaime Lannister makes his displeasure known. I'd take you, not your bones, back to Winterfell, Lady Sansa, he said through gritted teeth, but he knows as well as anyone that she will not be turned aside. She wants to be the first to see the man who was once her brother—half-brother, bastard brother, she always insisted. It is said he is the Prince that is Promised, the Warrior of Light, the Son of Fire, who wields Lightbringer to scatter the darkness that stalks the land, and she will see him for herself, see what remains of Jon Snow, her brother, if anything. She means to see if she is truly alone in this world or if there is yet another.
The anticipation churns her stomach as the battle wanes and Jon's forces are triumphant over those representing Aegon. They are always victorious or so she has heard. She is almost desperate to see him, and she strains to scan the field, covered in blood and bodies and gore, looking for some sign of him. She has not seen another Stark since her lord father's head graced a spike in King's Landing, and when she thinks back to her childhood, she can just make out Jon's face, so like her father's even if the name Stark was not his own and never will be.
"Tell him I'm here," she commands one of the men of the Vale, who Jaime demanded stand by in case some danger came her way.
Jaime believes in her abilities, but facing a swarm of enemy knights unprotected in her grey woolen gown he does not count amongst those talents, and it costs her nothing to let the man stand by her. He has even proved useful as a messenger, as he dashes away to find the victorious commander.
Although she desires above all things to see Jon, she will not seek him out, throwing herself in his path. Her place is not on the battlefield, and it has occurred to her that he might not be entirely pleased to see her. He might question her wisdom in placing herself in danger here so close to the bloodshed, as Jaime has done, or he might bear a grudge—she was never the sister she should have been. He might wish in his heart that it was Arya who waits for him, not Sansa. So she resolves to let him choose whether he will see her.
He chooses her.
They say he is Targaryen, but the world goes silent around her as she stands here on the edge of the field, and she knows him for what he is. Solemn, lean, strong, dark haired, and grey eyed, Jon is unquestionably a Stark, more so than herself with her Tully red hair and blue eyes. The crowd parts for him as if he is a sword slicing through water, as he strides towards her, and she no longer feels the bite of winter, throwing back her hood so that she might see him better. He is bloody. Bloody but seemingly unharmed, she thinks, as he comes closer, for there is no catch in his step, no slump to his shoulders.
It takes everything within her not to dash forward. To throw herself into his arms, which she imagines might feel familiar in a way nothing has in so very long. She would like nothing more than to shed the reserve she has cultivated in her years as Alayne Stone, but she only allows herself four measured steps to close the distance between them.
Her heart beat pounds in her ears as she realizes she does not know what to call him, when he goes to one knee and looks up at her through his almost black hair, tangled with blood, and she realizes she is saying his name aloud, as she presses the palms of her gloved hands to his cheeks, and either he's speaking her name too or it just sounds inside her head as if he is. Does she imagine his voice, older, deeper, speaking her name?
"Oh, Jon." She grasps his shoulders. "What are you doing? You shouldn't kneel for me. Stand." She laughs to herself, a hiccup of barely contained hysteria, realizing she has just given a command to a man who would claim to be king.
Her big brother.
But he complies, and only looks to where one of her hands lies on his shoulder.
"Sansa, I'll bloody you."
She bites her lip, holding back a flood of long checked tears.
"I don't care." But of course he would think she would, the Sansa he knew would have. She shakes off the thought, and attempts to sound cheerful, when she says, "I don't know whether to apologize or welcome you first."
"What can you possibly have to be sorry for?" he asks, as frown lines form between his brows.
"For never saying goodbye." He left for the Wall, and she gave no second thought to the departure of her bastard brother.
"Goodbyes, dear Sansa, are overrated."
I don't ever want to say goodbye, she thinks, as tears threaten to spill over her cheeks, and suddenly his arms are enfolding around her and her earlier vision of their first meeting comes to life.
Lady Sansa feeds Jon's men in a banquet that almost recalls the bounty of the land prior to the arrival of winter. She sits at his side, and he finds himself not eating the venison before him, as he tries to think of the courtesies she must expect from him, but which escape him in his exhaustion.
"Jon," she says, and he looks down to see her delicate hand on his arm. "You must be weary."
His eyes lock on her at his name on her lips. She is distractingly beautiful, and he is embarrassed how often his eyes are drawn to her. To her long red hair, unbound over her shoulders. He remembers a pretty little girl, who liked songs and practiced her embroidery with great care, but he had not imagined this great lady. This red headed beauty reminds him of her mother, which turns something in his gut, but she reminds him of someone else as well.
Kissed by fire.
"The men are tired," he says, refusing to speak of his own complaints when others have given so much. "It is good to rest tonight."
"I would have you rest here more than the night. We have plenty of provisions put aside, more than enough."
"We couldn't presume," Jon begins, but she interrupts, withdrawing her hand and smoothing out her skirts with a shake of her head.
"Of course you can. Now, how long will you stay with us?"
The intention is to move on, further south, where Aegon's forces hold sway, but it is a tempting offer. He has had nothing but thoughts of feeding his men, fighting alongside them, and surviving another day for so long that he had forgotten such beauty could exist in the world. Or that a woman can be so very distracting. She seems so calmly certain that they must stay that Jon finds himself almost persuaded that war can keep another fortnight. Despite her serene countenance and soft eyes, it might be an offer made only out of the duty she feels towards him as family, and one that might keep her from her own travels.
"I understood that you were planning on leaving the Vale."
Winterfell, it is whispered. He can only hope that he has been misinformed. Winterfell, the whole of the North, is a nightmare from which he has barely awoken himself, and he would sleep less than he already does, should he think Sansa headed there.
"Yes, but I would delay my leaving to be at my brother's side."
He feels his cheeks flush like a youth, and he looks down at the knife in his hand that still has not cut one piece of meat. Her brother, and as such, he feels even more compelled to advise her, as her lord father might have wanted him to do, although she is a woman grown and clearly master of herself.
"But, in time, yes," she continues, "Ser Jaime means to lead me home."
The man's name makes Jon's skin crawl. He was none too happy to find him amongst Sansa's men. Of course, she was once a Lannister by marriage, but he did not imagine she wanted any remembrance of that attachment.
"I don't see how you can trust the Kingslayer," he says.
His grip on his knife tightens, as he takes note that the Kingslayer seems as distracted from his supper as he is; his green eyes look out through a hank of blond, ever drawn to Sansa.
"Jaime?" she says, sounding almost amused by his concern. "He pledged himself to my lady mother and he has pledged himself to me as well. He has his own kind of honor, and I trust him to keep his word."
Surely she cannot have forgotten what he and the rest of the Lannisters did to their family, that none of them should be trusted. From what he has seen, however, his sister is not foolish, so there must be something that has tied her to this man.
Only one possibility has occurred to Jon: "He killed Petyr Baelish then?"
He sees the muscles in her jaw tighten, and it is the first time he has sensed something amiss.
"No. Petyr was dead when Jaime found me." She looks down the length of the table at the golden handed man, who reminds Jon of Robb's battles as King of the North and how he was not at Robb's side. "Please don't fight with him," she pleads, while still holding the Kingslayer's gaze.
Jon sighs, as he fails to read what it is these two say wordlessly to each other from across the hall.
"I won't quarrel with him," he promises her, although there would be something satisfying in focusing his anger on one of the people he considers responsible for the destruction of his family. "I need no new fights, but Winterfell is in ruins, Sansa, and the North is not yet safe."
At his words, he sees for the briefest of moments that he is not the only one who is tired: lovely though she is, there is a weariness about her eyes. She seems much too old for the number of name days she has counted. There is much he does not know about her, and he would change that. He would share her burden. He would ask her what she has been through at the hands of Petyr, at the hands of the Lannisters, but he fears her answer, and if she gives it, he might not be able to keep his hands off the Kingslayer. He would rather not begin on a foundation of broken promises.
Her voice is steady when she asks, "You would have me wait?"
He suspects Winterfell has been a dream of hers that gave her hope, when all her other girlish dreams were shattered. He can almost hear her in his head, saying, home.
He would say more, reason with her, but he inexplicably believes that as much as he can hear her faintly in his mind, she must be able to hear him as well if he only focuses his efforts. What he needs her to know is that he has found her and he would not lose her again.
She sips from her cup, and if she is disappointed by his counsel, she does not display it openly. Perhaps she has heard him. There are other thoughts, less brotherly thoughts, that he would rather shield her from, however, he thinks, as her hair brushes across her back as she leans forward.
"Very well," she says with no hint of resignation, her shoulders squared, as she places the cup on the wide planked table before her. "I would stay by your side then. Would that be an imposition?"
Certainly not an imposition, but that option is not much safer than a removal north. "I'm in the middle of a war," he says with a frown.
Her brows arch, and she reminds him of the proud little girl he left in Winterfell, when she looks down her sloping nose at him and asserts, "I am stronger than I look, Jon."
"I've no doubt of that," he says, scratching at his beard. Life has made her strong or maybe that is her inheritance as a Stark, as much as her lovely red hair is what her mother's family gave to her.
When she embraced him on the field, her hair smelled of lilacs and it was soft under his scarred, callused hands. The memory of it makes him think it would be better if she stayed here in the Vale, where she is safe from more than stray arrows and dragon's fire.
"And perhaps I can make myself useful?"
He indulges for a moment the notion of having her with him. He feels more himself, more human sitting at her side than he has in months, and that alone is a boon. She has reminded him why he fights at all. She has reminded him there are things worth saving. It is selfish, he fears, but he hears himself saying yes.