Title: One Stark in Winterfell
Rating: T for reference to adult concepts
Word count: 2408
Summary: He would apologize for not having been more careful, but for all his guilt, he was never the least bit careful, not as he should have been.
Author's note: I should be writing the next chapter for A Winter's Tale, but instead this is a prompt response for round 4 of the asoiafkinkmeme on LJ.
One Stark in Winterfell
Jon strides towards what was once Sansa's lady mother's bedchamber, where the hot springs run through the walls, making it warm enough to lay atop the bed's furs instead of huddled beneath them, pulling his gloves off as he approaches the room that will feel positively balmy even as winter refuses to yield. Jon knows this from experience, and it is the reason he moves with purpose towards her room—not for the warmth, though it is a relief after the biting cold of the Wall, but for the woman that waits atop the furs.
Once he would have waited several sleepless nights from the time of his arrival in Winterfell to cave in to his desires, but after six moons devoid of her company, Jon's guilt is dimmed and with building frustration he has counted the hours until the household's servants are asleep and he can discretely join the Queen of the North in her bedchamber. Not even that discretely, he thinks, as he raps on her door with bare knuckles as quietly as he can and still hope to be heard.
When the door opens a sliver with a creak, only an outline of a tumble of wavy red hair appears backlit by the flickering candlelight inside her chamber. It's when he slips through and threads his hands in her unbound hair, leaning back against the door so that it closes, that he can see her bright blue eyes and draw his thumbs over her cheeks. They're usually as pale as moonlight, but there's a blush of rose on them, which he noticed as soon as she greeted him at Winterfell's gates. He was glad to see her looking so healthy. Food had been scarce, and the feel of her sharp hips in his hands made him feel like a failure. Eddard Stark would want him to protect Sansa, care for her, not bed her frail body.
But she doesn't look frail anymore.
"Things are well?" he asks, his voice sounding rough, as he tries to restrain himself from immediately tugging at the laces of her dressing gown, so that she is bared to him.
Her finely arched brows draw together in what he can tell is amusement. "The grave Lord Commander has already asked after the conditions of Winterfell and its inhabitants, has he not? Or shall we go over the ledgers in detail?"
"I'm asking after you," he says with a sigh, for he doesn't like to be anyone but Jon here alone with her and doesn't welcome the reminder of the things that keep them apart.
He presses his forehead to hers, letting his eyes close, so that he might shut out the world and just feel her breath against his neck and her thick hair spilling through his fingers. He senses her shift as she tilts her head up, just a fraction, for she is tall for a woman, nearly as tall as he is, and her lips brush his.
It is almost sisterly, but her tone is not, when she responds softly, "Better now that you are here." All teasing is gone, as her hands seize his elbows and pulls him purposefully towards her tall, velvet curtained bed. "I find that one Stark in Winterfell is not quite enough."
He doesn't argue with her that he is not and never was a Stark. It does no good. She wears a stubborn look that creases the space between her brows whenever the topic is brought up before her. It is a look that he doesn't remember from childhood. Sansa was his complaint sister, eager to please, while Arya was the stubborn one, but Sansa is a queen now and the Queen dislikes any mention of his Targaryen parentage, as much as she dislikes the Queen to the south, whose dragons burnt villages of smallfolk in order to win her throne.
For both their sakes, Jon hopes he is a Targaryen bastard, however; otherwise their sins are manifestly greater than he has bargained for. Yet, it doesn't seem as if the gods have forsaken them: they live after all, when so many others have died, and sometimes Sansa swears she can hear Bran whispering to her in the weirwood like a god answering her prayers.
He covers her lips with his own, as the back of her knees meet the bed, in thanks for life, in thanks for this good thing he never thought to have. Tonight he doesn't intend on feeling the crush of guilt. He wants to merely live in this moment, where her lips are so soft and she fits against him as if she was meant to be his. When he pulls her bottom lip between his teeth and lips, the little murmur she makes goes right to his groin and his hands fly to the laces of her dressing gown, though a moment ago he intended to slow his ardor. It is always this way: a war between the part of him that wants to be gentle with her and the part that needs her now, immediately before she disappears like a specter and he's left clutching nothing but the cold night air.
He's already going to his knees, kneeling between her legs atop the fresh rushes, when Sansa sits atop the bed and her dressing gown falls open. His hands, which were trailing down her milky white thighs, stop, as he sees what he doesn't know how he missed all day. All day he's been in her presence, and yet he hadn't noticed the swell of her belly.
No, she doesn't look frail at all anymore.
His heart is in his throat and he can't raise his eyes to hers. They are fixed inexorably upon her belly and it is all he can possibly see, his vision narrowing while his pulse thunders in his ears.
"I've made high-waisted dresses the fashion and a corset hides the rest well enough, I suppose." He feels her fingers drag through his hair, her short nails grazing his scalp until she loops her fingers around his curls and pulls so that he must look up at her. "Jon?"
Her face is a mask, completely closed to him, but he knows without a doubt that his anguish is clear enough on his. He never learned to hide quite as well as Sansa did in the South, surrounded by enemies, who took joy in her misery.
All he's done is lay more unhappiness at her feet.
"Gods, Sansa," he croaks out, burying his face in her thigh.
He would apologize for not having been more careful, but for all his guilt, he was never the least bit careful, not as he should have been. Never once did he spill on her belly. Not once.
"I've dishonored you." They will whisper and sneer and it will be his fault.
Sansa huffs, as she moves back away from him to lean against the down pillows, fluffed by servants and awaiting her head. She pats the place beside her, and commands with a nod, "Take your boots off."
Jon complies, swallowing drily around the knot in his throat as he pulls first one boot and then another off before climbing atop the bed and sliding over next to her. Compliance is all he can manage with his churning thoughts threatening to paralyze him.
She knits her delicate hand with roughened one and squeezes, as she says with evident frustration, "No one speaks of Alysane Mormont's dishonor."
"It's because she would run them through if they did."
"Fine then, I'll do the same," she says with enough certainty that Jon almost believes her capable of it, though she would need two hands to raise a blade like Longclaw or the refashioned sword given to her by Jaime Lannister that was once her lord father's. "If she can claim that her children were fathered by a bear, I don't see why mine can't be fathered by a wolf."
At the word children, something stirs within Jon, a longing that he must tamp down, for there can be no talk of children, no thought of a cluster of little ones about Sansa's skirts, boys to teach how to wield a sword, girls as fair as their mother. He is a man of the Night's Watch, and he cannot be a father.
To distract himself from the ache in his chest he lifts their linked hands to his lips and kisses her knuckles. They are smooth and unchapped by the winter's cold. They are the hands of a highborn lady, of a queen, and he can have neither. He took what was not his to take, even if it was offered willingly.
He should keep his pain to himself, for surely she has enough of her own, but as she tucks herself closer to his side and rests her head on his shoulder, so that he can smell the scent of juniper coming from her freshly washed hair, he finds himself confessing, "I promised myself I would never do that to a child. It's hard, Sansa, hard for a child to be a bastard."
Her hand snakes up his neck, wrapping around to the nape of his neck, her long fingers rubbing slowly, deliberately. It's soothing. She always soothes him. Her touch is calming and reassuring, although it can easily inflame him as well. But he shouldn't have taken shelter in what her touch could offer him. It was selfish.
"She didn't despise you because you were a bastard," she whispers, and they both know of whom Sansa speaks.
"I know that."
Even now, as a man grown, it still hurts, though he now understands the reason for Catelyn Stark's cool disregard—oh, how she would scowl at him now that he's gotten a bastard on her lovely daughter—and rejection. He was a symbol of her husband's infidelity, and there was no way he could have been a good enough boy to overcome that hurt. If only Eddard Stark had told his wife the truth.
"You should have told me. You should have sent word." Nearly six moons since he saw her last, and she's born this burden alone.
"I couldn't trust something like this to a raven."
True. If the message had been intercepted, if their secret was discovered…
"Eventually, Sansa, you won't be able to hide your condition."
"Yes, eventually," she concedes. "Most likely very soon."
And then there will be a child, who will be forced to deal with the consequences of his dishonorable action.
"The difficulty isn't just the scorn; it's the not knowing," he murmurs into her curls. The secrets and the dishonesty.
Although he finally was informed of his parentage, he still finds it difficult to accept, to feel as if he belongs to anyone, especially his parents, whom he never knew. He belongs to no one and nothing except the Night's Watch. And Sansa. Here with Sansa he feels as if he belongs to someone.
She hums against his shoulder, as if she's thinking, and then speaks, "It won't be a secret. Not forever. When she's old enough, we'll tell her together."
"She?" Jon asks, and Sansa sits upright, kneeling atop the furs and twisting to face him as her hands cover her belly, fingers splayed.
"I'm carrying high. It might just be the lore of smallfolk, but they say those who carry high, carry a girl child." There's just the hint of a smile about her lips, but it fades, as she asks, "Would you prefer a boy?" Her blank look becomes a frown, as she adds, "I know I was never a real bastard, but I've been a girl my whole life, and that is not without its difficulties."
Jon sits up and cups her face with his hands, and vows, his voice ragged with emotion, "No one will harm her."
She nudges his nose with her own, and he can hear the weight of years and experience in her voice—too much so, for she has not yet counted twenty name days—when she says, "Of course. Everything will be perfect. Just like in the songs."
"I'm sorry." But of course, the words, no matter how solemnly spoken, are not enough. They will never be enough to assuage what he has done to her, to their child.
"Don't be," she says softly, as she removes his hands from her face and draws them down to press against her belly. "It's what I wanted. I could have drunk moon tea, but this is what I wanted."
He tries to search her eyes for a flicker of truth, but her gaze is directed downward to his hands, which he realizes tremble against her skin.
"I should ask for your forgiveness, for I know your vows and what your duty means to you. I knew you wouldn't want this, but I did."
He finally presses his hands fully against her, tracing her shape, relearning the feel of her now that she carries their child.
"You wanted this?" he asks in disbelief. Surely not.
Her words shouldn't make him desire her as much as they do, but his hands twitch to move higher, to brush against the underside of her breasts, to thumb her nipples.
"I'll be a good mother, Jon. I swear it."
He looks up and sees unshed tears glistening in her eyes.
"Of course you will, my love," he barely manages to say before she is crawling into his lap, straddling his legs and slipping her arms around his neck, their babe between them.
He holds her tight, tighter than he probably should, but she's tougher than she looks and he needs to know she's real as he lets her words sink in.
"This child will be so loved," she says and from the hitch in her voice, he thinks she is crying.
He knows it's true: Sansa will be the mother he always wanted. His heart beats fast at the thought, and he's weak and he wants to be inside of her with her name on his lips. What harm could it do now?
"And there'll be no talk of bastards," she says with resolve, as he pushes aside her hair and tucks it behind her ear.
"No?" he asks against the shell of her ear before pressing a kiss just where he can feel her pulse flutter beneath his lips.
"The child will bear its father's name: Snow."