She watched them playing together, fighting with sticks in place of swords, her lips tightened into a frown. At her feet sat her daughter, preoccupied with her little doll, a gift from Benjen, sent from the Wall – a small, wooden thing with a few simple cloth dresses; a crude toy, but little Sansa adored it, taking it everywhere she went.
As she watched, he knocked her son down, holding his makeshift sword to Robb's chest and demanding that he yield. Catelyn half rose to her feet in alarm, only stopping as a third figure joined the boys in the yard. Ned laughed as Robb cried out in his high little voice that he would yield, and helped their son to his feet, ruffling the hair of the other boy with his hand, patting Robb's shoulder, and telling them to keep at it. He continued forward as the boys picked up their 'swords' again, and came through the archway to meet her.
Sansa stopped playing when she saw her father, reaching up until he lifted her high above his head until she cried out with laughter. Ned held her with one arm, turning and smiling at his wife. "How are you?" he asked her, taking a seat next to her on the bench. "Has the sickness passed?"
She nodded. "Ned..." she started.
He took his other hand, the hand that wasn't holding the girl on his lap, and rested it on her huge belly. As if feeling his father near, the babe within kicked out, causing a smile to break out over Ned's face. How she had grown to love his smile. "Son or daughter, that one will be a little warrior," he told her, smile not fading as he spoke.
"Ned," she said again. "I was speaking again with Marella, about the boy. She says her lord husband would be more than happy to..."
Her words died in her throat as the smile disappeared from her husband's face. "No, Catelyn," he said, his voice calm but final. "I have told you already..."
"But Ned, our new son..."
"Will not be harmed by having two brothers rather than one. Enough." He lowered their daughter to the floor, where she continued to play with her doll, unconcerned by the sudden chill between her parents.
"He will be better off surrounded by his true-born siblings," Catelyn said firmly. She was determined. "Your bastard..."
"Jon has been a fine enough playmate for Robb," Eddard interrupted, gesturing towards where the two boys were playing. "My heir."
"Yes, and you know my feelings on that! You yourself were fostered, Ned! The boy would be cared for, treated honourably. It would be like...like a proper family, would it not? He's named for your foster-father! It is not such a punishment!"
"I said enough, Catelyn!" Sansa looked up from her doll then, startled by the raised voice from her usually calm father. Ned was on his feet now. "Jon will be staying with us. I have told you over and over. I made a promise-"
"A promise to who, though?" Catelyn demanded. She felt herself getting upset, but she would stand her ground. "Who is his mother, Ned? You will not even give me that!"
"His mother...no, I have said time and again that the subject is closed. The boy is my..." Ned stopped and swallowed, looking pained and hesitant as he always did when this topic came up, every time during the last six years. He turned to the arch, watching the boys play. "Jon is my blood, just as Robb and Sansa are, and the babe not born."
"Nobody is denying he is your blood, Ned; he is your image. But..."
"He is my blood, Catelyn. I made a promise, and he is for me to care for, and I am all he has. I will not deprive him of a family, nor will I take away Robb's brother. That is all I have to say."
"No more." Ned turned back and lifted their daughter, who was looking bothered by the atmosphere now and sniffling besides. Without another word, he walked back out, towards his sons, leaving Catelyn alone.