Chapter Rating: M for sexual content
Chapter Word Count: 3734
Chapter Summary: The room is already thick with tension before the Martells ever enter, as reports reach the Keep of movements in Daenerys' camp.
Author's Note: I was feeling particularly inspired, so it's a timely update in thanks for all your support. I've also been writing some drabbles lately on tumblr (username justadram) and you can read them there.

Chapter Twenty-Four

The Martell contingent is ushered into the smaller gathering hall that Jon prefers to use until the coronation, for he thinks the Great Hall too big and Sansa suspects he thinks the Iron Throne as ugly as Daenerys did. The room is already thick with tension before they ever enter, as reports reach the Keep of movements in Daenerys' camp. Sansa knows it should be the movement of those of her men who are well enough to leave, making their initial preparations towards that end, but even she finds it hard to believe that the Dragon Queen departs from Westeros and this war is over. She can't blame Jon's subjects for their disquiet.

The oak doors, banded in black iron swing open and the new source of intrigue pushes inside, their olive skin tones standing out amongst the host of pasty faced northerners that line the light red stone walls of the Red Keep. Sansa is not as familiar with House Martell as she is with the other great houses of Westeros, but at first glance, they seem every bit as fearsome and bold as Petyr painted them to be in his lessons. They are late to come to Jon's aid, but none of them look the least bit bashful, as they move towards where Jon and Sansa sit together, Sansa's hand buried in Ghost's warm ruff.

What strikes Sansa immediately is the number of women in this group the Martells have sent to aid in the fight against the now departing Dragon Queen. Her eyes dart over them as their names are announced in turn, and she can see that these women are no doubt as capable as they appear confident. Obara Sand holds herself like a warrior. She is big boned and tall, and though someone will have stripped them of their weapons for their audience with the king, she looks as if she would be more comfortable with one in her grip. Sarella Sand reminds Sansa of Oberyn Martell with piercing dark eyes, a sharp nose, and short, glossy, black hair. She is not as big as her sister, but she has an intense look of curiosity and daring about her, which Sansa imagines serves her just as well as strength does her older sister.

These then are the infamous Sand Sakes, the bastard daughters of Oberyn, and as such they would be fitting defenders of a bastard king, should their stated intentions be true. Although two of them—Elia and Obella—do not look old enough to be sent to fight a war. Nevertheless, the young girls manage to appear more impressive than the two men House Martell has delivered: Trystane, the youngest son of the now deceased Doran Martell, who still has an undeniably boyish look about him, and Ser Gascoyne, who Sansa has never heard of before this moment.

It is when the host of dark haired newcomers parts, however, that Sansa's breath catches in her throat. She is no longer a child and she is regrettably disfigured by a scar that mars her fair beauty, but Sansa knows her without question to be the former princess. Myrcella is Cersei Lannister risen from her mouldering grave and bedecked in Sunspear orange.

She is dead, Sansa promises herself. She is dead and gone to whatever rest or torment the gods might deem fit. The reminder helps steady her. Sansa manages to hold her countenance, but there are some in the hall who do not. There is more than one gasp at the announcement of the former princess' name.

Trystane takes the young lady's arm, leading her forwards, presenting her to the seated king and his queen, and Sansa releases her grip on Ghost.

"Lady Myrcella," Sansa says with a practiced smile, as Tyrstane bows and Myrcella makes a low, regal curtsey. "I have not seen Lady Myrcella since we were both children," Sansa says, turning to Jon, whose face is blank, though she can feel his wariness echo in her chest like a distant roll of thunder.

She can help him with this. She knows Myrcella, whereas the former princess must be just a dim memory to him, just a little girl, who could not keep her eyes off their brother.

Myrcella may be all blond hair and green eyes, beautifully attired in a gown not entirely befitting the cold that hangs over King's Landing, a seeming non-threat compared to the four Sand Snakes that stand feet astride behind her, but they have kept their former princess a secret for a reason. One which might have consequences for Jon's reign.

"We had understood that the lady was the unfortunate victim of an assassination," Jon says.

Supposedly carried out by Aegon's men before his forces ever reached King's Landing, laid siege to it, and captured the little king.

"Yes, there was a Lannister death, but it wasn't mine," Myrcella responds with her head held high. Facing Jon's questioning, Sansa can see and hear Jaime's courage in her, as much as she also remembers the sweetness of the girl that left for Dorne. It was a sweetness that seemed so out of place in any child of the Lannister twins, and Tommen and Myrcella shared it both. Surely she has changed, as Sansa has as well, but she hopes there is some sweetness left in Myrcella, for though he had nothing to do with it, if his daughter has done more than survived, if she has thrived and grown good and upright, it might be Jaime's only legacy.

"It seemed best not to correct the misunderstanding," Trystane speaks.

"The lady's safety has always been paramount," the eldest Sand Snake puts in, and Jon nods his assent.

If it was not Myrcella who died, it must have been the other girl sent abroad with her—Rosamund. Her safety was not paramount. It was a ruse no doubt arranged by House Martell to protect their interests and Myrcella's handmaiden paid the heaviest price. It would be wise of Jon to watch these Martells carefully. Some if not all of them must be fair hands at playing this game.

"We're pleased to see that we were mistaken then," Sansa says, as she stands and steps towards Myrcella to embrace her.

After a moment's hesitation, Myrcella's arms go round Sansa's back and the young girl squeezes her.

Sansa meant it as a performance, playing to the room of anxious onlookers, for the Martells have arrived here with the supposed daughter of King Robert at the most inopportune time, when Jon means to be crowned king of Westeros in three days. It must be made very clear that Jon and Sansa welcome their presence here as subjects, for they can't afford to fight yet another war, when the Others encroach from the north.

But when Myrcella clings to her, Sansa wonders whether their experiences have not been so different, and the artifice of her embrace melts into something more sincere. Myrcella's face shows one brutality to which she was exposed. It would be unsurprising if she has at times known fear, during the years she has been separated from her home and made a pawn in this game, even if her intended looks a gentle young man.

"Welcome," Sansa adds, as she pulls back to look Myrcella in the eyes. "Welcome home."

"Dorne is Lady Myrcella's home," Trystane says, holding his hand out to the girl.

Sansa does not give her time to take it, linking arms instead with the girl and pulling her in to her side like a long lost friend. "It is still good to be back, no?"

Myrcella does not look to Trystane before giving Sansa a small smile that tugs on the scar only partly hidden by her long, loose hair. It isn't Jaime's empty grin—the one that didn't reach his eyes, which he showed in company—but it is a smile that reminds Sansa of him nonetheless.

"Excuse me, Your Grace," Sansa says, looking to Jon. "Lady Myrcella has had a long journey, and you will not want us chirping like birds, while you make plans for war." It helps to play the giggling fool. Jon's men will not buy such nonsense, knowing her as they do by now, but the Martells might be fooled. She only needs a little time alone with Myrcella, so that she can judge whether the Martells mean to fight for Jon or fight against him. She bends her head, though Myrcella is nearly as tall as she, to whisper conspiratorially, "Your chamber won't yet be ready, but we shall go to mine."

She can feel the eyes of the Martells on her as she walks Myrcella from the hall. As they leave the small crowd behind, Sansa says something only meant for Myrcella's ears—the only good news she has for the girl after so long an absence from King's Landing.

"If I had known you were onboard the ships, I would have prevented your uncle from leaving for Casterly Rock not more than an hour ago." Myrcella stiffens and slows her steps, and Sansa places her other hand over the girl's. "I mean to say your uncle Tyrion." It is possible that word of Jaime's death has not spread widely yet, which would mean Cersei's death is presumed but not confirmed as well. "He is your only remaining family and he would be so glad to see you."

It is the kindest way she knows how to potentially break the news of her loss to the girl, for it saves Myrcella from having to acknowledge whether this is a fresh sorrow or one for which she is prepared. Whether or not the Martells have allowed Myrcella to hear word of the widely spread accusations of incest, Jaime was kin and Cersei was her mother. Sansa knows what it is to lose everything with frightening speed, but just as Jon was restored to her, perhaps Tyrion can be some comfort to Myrcella.

Sansa is doubly glad that Jon let her decide Tyrion's fate. Tyrion will help his niece if she is in need of it and these Martells do not have her best interests at heart, the way he once tried to help her, for he has a weakness for those in need that one would not expect of the little crooked man.

"I shall fetch him back for you. He would only come back here for you, I suspect."

Myrcella draws breath. "My lord husband is very good to me, you should understand." Sansa must not be wearing her mask the way she should, for Myrcella to guess at Sansa's concerns, or the girl is as intelligent as her uncle. "And his family has come here with the intention of fighting not for the throne, but for the king. I have told them I don't want the throne. I want nothing to do with it. It's caused nothing but sorrow for my family."

Sansa nods, as Myrcella's eyes brim with tears, and she hopes with a pang that the need to master this situation for Jon and the kingdom's good does not cause Myrcella any more pain. They have all known a great deal too much pain.

Jon rubs his face roughly, as he kicks the heavy door shut behind him and winces at the thud it makes. Sansa has been abed for several hours and it wouldn't do to wake her.

He has been in meetings with his council and the leaders of the various factions that make up his alliance of knights and warriors, taking supper over maps and long winded opinions. The Martells, though they were late enough in their arrival to miss the fighting, argued for some time over the decision to allow the Dragon Queen to depart from the Seven Kingdoms unharmed, demanding vengeance for Quentyn's death, and Jon's anger at their untimely demands reflected in Ghost's restless pacing and noiseless growls.

Asha was less quiet about her displeasure, for although she does not scorn battle or fear a test of her mettle, she is eager to settle this business in the south, head north and face the enemy there, so she might eventually reclaim the Iron Islands for herself. Not everyone's goals align so perfectly with his own, but he only needs them to follow him north with swords in hand. Should he or any of them survive, he will deal with their other wants at the conclusion of the war.

They will depart two days after the coronation, barring only a betrayal of Daenerys' vows to leave—an avowal in which he suspects no one save himself takes any real stock. And despite hours of debate, there is still an endless stream of things to be done. There are supplies to be gathered, orders to be sent out on black wings for those not assembled here to begin marching north, and plans to be sketched for how and where they will face their frozen enemy. He is a young man, a young king, and yet, it is an exhausting business that has left him feeling twice his age.

Planning for this icy war has already taken him away from Sansa, as surely as the war will, and all he wants is to be alone with her even if it is while she sleeps. Her back is to him with her linen shift hanging off one shoulder, her red hair spread over the pillow, and he can just make out the swoop of her waist and rise of her hip, as he works at his doublet, pulling at it restlessly until it is unfastened and he can shrug it off, letting it drop to the floor. He fights with his boots and tugs on his breeches and yanks his tunic over his head all with the impatience of a green boy, until he is divested of his clothes. It is only then that he finally takes some care, when he eases into the bed, not wanting to disrupt her dreams.

Despite his best efforts, she rolls over to face him, dragging the furs with her until she looks up at him with a grin tugging at her lips. "Husband."

His heart stutters in his chest at the endearment, for that's what it sounds to him in her gentle tone. "I woke you."

She shakes her head. "No, I've been waiting for you."

And he has been waiting for her.

He bends to kiss her brow, lingering against her soft skin. This is what he misses when they are separated—the quiet moments, the understanding between them—he thinks, as he smoothes her hair back from her face. "You should be asleep."

"I can't stop thinking. I can't convince myself the war is over."

Jon sighs, sinking further into the mattress tick until his head rests against his pillow. "The war isn't over."

The muscles around her mouth and eyes tightens, the playfulness of a moment earlier disappearing with distressing speed. "Is the war that's coming worse then? Is that what you mean to say?"

"Yes. I'm afraid so." He scrubs his face again, staring up at the stone ceiling. "We could have used her bloody dragons."

Her hand wraps around his bicep, holding fast. "Jon, don't wish her back here. Her or her dreadful beasts. I pray she flies away on them and never comes back."

He can't be truly sorry to see Daenerys go and he had no love for her scaled dragons, so while he feels certain they would have been useful, he understands Sansa's sentiment, and as she digs her nails into his flesh, he wants nothing more than to kiss her until the look of fear his words have put there is erased from her lovely face.

The two of them are still so fresh, such a new thing, that thoughts of her churn to the surface throughout the day and make him forget for a space what is going on around him. All night he has tugged on his hair, trying to keep thoughts of her thighs and the wetness between them out of his head. It is his duty to remain vigilant and focus on his subjects' survival, but his body has other plans.

"Come here," he murmurs, reaching around to sink his hand into the thick hair at the base of her neck and drag her up towards his lips.

He meets her halfway, when she is close enough that he can feel her warm breath against his lips, lifting his head off the pillow and capturing her lips with his own. She braces herself against his chest, her fingers curling into the scattering of hair there, as he tilts her head and dips his tongue between her lips. There's a sensation of freefall in his gut, when he hears her moan and feels her hitch her leg over his thigh.

He can feel her: hot and wet.

If he wasn't king, he would lose himself in his beautiful new wife for days, weeks. He might never leave this bedchamber, not even to take sustenance. It would be unbefitting, indulgent, and delicious.

His mouth hangs open, his eyes still closed, as she pulls back just enough to press her forehead against his. "Thank you," she whispers.

He opens his eyes and cocks one brow at her. "For the kiss?" he teases, his voice low, as he skims his hand down her neck, over her back to the rise of her rounded arse.

"For letting me choose." She runs her thumb over his arched brow, easing away his levity. She means to be serious, so he composes himself, flattening his hand into the small of her back so it will not be tempted to roam. "I know you hate the Lannisters, and you could have sent him away. You could have banished him, but you let me choose."

"You're the one that lived with them Sansa. Of course it was your decision. He was yours to dispose of as you chose. Or elevate to a lordship, as the case might be."

Her eyes spark with something. "I don't deserve you, Jon Snow," she whispers, as she dances her fingers through his hair, petting him like she does his direwolf.

"I rather thought it was the other way around."

If the feel of her body lounging partly atop his wasn't enough, the soft, lingering kisses she places on either side of his mouth, on his chin and just below have hardened him to the point of painful distraction. He's ready to be done with his self-imposed restriction on wandering hands, when she tightens her fingers in his hair and bites her lower lip, looking torn between triumph and contrition.

"What is it?"

"You told Tyrion to make himself scarce, but I've sent for him." Jon frowns, ready to ask her why the Lord Lannister could not be missed for one day, but she hurries on, "He is Lady Myrcella's only kin. I promised her she might see him."

Lady Myrcella's arrival has changed any number of things.

He rolls them over, pinning her beneath him—all softness and warmth barely concealed by a shift she should be free of. He nudges her head to the side, to speak softly against the shell of her ear. "There's nothing I can say to that, is there?"

"I'm sorry, Jon," she whispers, her words accompanied by the feathery graze of her nails up his bare sides.

"Are you?" he asks, taking the lobe of her ear between his teeth.

Her nails bite into his flesh. "Yes, if you're displeased with me." But he's not. She's done the kind thing in reunited niece and uncle, and it isn't only her strength and mastery of the game that he loves. She punctuates her apology with a hook of her leg over his hip. "If I've added to your worries with the Martells turning up with a princess."

Never, he thinks, touching their temples together, so she hears his declaration. Never. She could never add to his worries. "Well, now we know why they delayed, don't we?" he sighs, his head falling to the crook of her neck, where she smells so perfectly like home, and moves his body against hers, the way he would like to without this shift between them. The way he wants to move inside of her. "Do they mean to press Myrcella's claim?"

They swore their fealty to the king before his council, reaffirming the promise to aid in his fight, which they had sent upon his bloodless entry into King's Landing, and yet he harbors doubts. No one can afford a fight for this throne. The kingdoms can't afford it. They must turn north. They must do so together.

He gathers her closer to him, sliding an arm underneath her body to knit them together.

She strokes his back, her long fingers painting ceaseless patterns over his weary, flexing muscles, as he keeps up the slow rub of their bodies. "She says not, and Tyrion will understand it would be suicide for them to attempt it. He might help prevent any such notions from taking root." She's still too coherent, so he kisses her neck, pulling at her pulse, making her head toss back until her words come breathily. "We will make good use of his assets, Jon. Not just his Lannister gold."

"But why bring a lady such as her into a war?" he asks, as he scrabbles with her shift, trying to free her of it without letting her go.

The shift bunches under her arms, baring her sloping breasts to him, and as his mouth closes around one rosy nipple, his hum of relief and hers of pleasure melt together.

It's a much more satisfying way to discuss troubling potentialities with his hips cradled in Sansa's than around a table of red faced men, but he's done with words and her answer is almost lost on him, as his fingers quest between her legs: "Not a war. Home, Jon."

He needs her. Needs her assurances. Her skills at this game. Her knowledge of these southron subjects with whom he is so uncertain. He needs her love and he needs her body. He won't have any of these things soon, carrying with him only her memory and her love, so he must take them now. Sleep can wait.