Word count: 2656
Summary: "If she had found you before you came upon me in the Vale, if it had been Arya and not me you saw first, who would be sitting beside you on the throne? Tell me true, Jon."
Author's note: Another response for the asoiafkinkmeme.
There's still a smile on Jon's face when he enters his solar, sweaty from sparring in the training yard with his sister, one of the few people that thinks nothing of making the king bleed, and he loves her for it. When one wears a crown there are precious few that will speak the truth to you or knock you flat should you deserve it. Arya will happily do both: telling him he's stupid and then making a jab at him in the same breath.
He grabs the back of his tunic and pulls it over his head. It sticks to his back, the sweat causing the fabric to cling until it gives way with a tug, and as he tosses it aside, he finally sees his wife, lurking in the corner, nearly hidden by a shadow. For a moment she reminds him of Alayne, the bastard girl who had learned how to disappear, how to go unnoticed. It's not a pleasant thought, and he does his best to shrug it off, as he scrubs his face with his hand.
"I didn't see you there."
"I saw you." She nods towards the window, which overlooks the training yard. "I've been watching you most the afternoon," Sansa says, stepping out of the shadow and into the light that shines through the window, her red hair looking almost gold as the sunlight catches it.
"Then you saw that I've had the worst of it," he says, as he strides forward and wraps his arms around her waist.
He doesn't know why she didn't announce herself when he came into the room, but the thought of her watching him makes him want to divest her of the blue silk gown she wears.
"Arya shouldn't go after you as if she really wants you dead," she says with a frown.
He laughs lightly, squeezing her about the waist. "I hardly think that's the case."
She lifts a hand to his forehead and withdraws it to show him his drying blood on her fingertips—red as Dornish wine against the lily white of her skin. "She cut you."
"Don't be cross. I'm fine," he says, bending to kiss her brow, but she ducks away, slipping free of his embrace with a jerk, and turns her back on him.
He can feel her displeasure. It fills the room like a low hanging cloud, but he's at a loss to determine what has made her so unhappy. Surely a little cut on his brow hasn't ruined her day. She has seen him through worse injuries with less fuss.
She folds her arms over her chest, as she says, "You don't even care, do you?"
"I care very much. What's wrong, Sansa?"
"No, you don't care if she hurts you. You let her cut you."
Jon laughs. "Arya is quicker with a blade than you know, my sweet."
"You let her get away with any number of liberties."
Her tone is crisp and accusatory, and he's thrown completely by this sudden discord between Sansa and her sister. While as children they were not close sisters, when Arya appeared at court six moons ago, Sansa was as happy as Jon to receive her. No, relieved, so relieved that Arya lived, despite how she had changed, how what had been her childish spirit of rebellion had undeniably become something much darker. Dark enough that Jon knows better than to ask what all she has done, just as he suspects Sansa has not broached the subject with her sister either. It is enough to have her alive and here with them, though she glowers through every banquet.
His confusion keeps him silent, but Sansa is often more talkative than him, and she fills the void.
"You're very close, you two."
His response is automatic: "She's my sister."
The look Sansa casts over her shoulder at him makes it clear that he has said the wrong thing. Her blue eyes are as hard as ice chips and the set of her jaw tense. She is jealous, he realizes—jealous of his relationship with Arya.
"If Arya is your sister, Jon, then so am I."
"Sansa," he murmurs, reaching out to brush her thick hair to the side, so that he might see the white curve of her neck, where he buries his face when he's inside of her. "Would you rather I thought of you as such?"
It took them long enough to overcome their reservations on that point, so that their marriage was not simply a convenient way to protect Sansa from further abuse at the hands of those that would use her, so that it was something real for them both. And Jon doesn't care to go back. He knows he could not.
She ignores his question, insisting with continued vehemence, "You always have been close, haven't you? As thick as a pair of thieves."
Jon attempts to place his hand on her shoulder, but she shrugs him off.
Her words come fast, and he can tell from the knit of her brow and the waver in her voice that she is fighting back tears. "If she had found you before you came upon me in the Vale, if it had been Arya and not me you saw first, who would be sitting beside you on the throne? Tell me true, Jon."
He doesn't allow her to throw him off this time, grasping her by the shoulders and turning her around to face him a little roughly, because he can't allow her to think such things. He can't have such doubts poisoning the sweetness of what he shares with his wife.
"I love Arya, but it's different, the way I feel about you both. Different. Do you understand?" he asks through clenched teeth.
She bites her lip, causing all color to drain from her normally rosy lips. He softens what he fears is a fierce glare, for it is not his intention to frighten her, only convince her of his earnestness, and at that she finally speaks, lifting her chin and regaining some control over her trembling voice. "I can see that it's different. You don't often smile, and yet you come away from your afternoon of playing at swords with Arya wearing a bright enough one." Jon opens his mouth to protest, but she presses on, "You enjoy each other's company. It's easy between you two."
"So it is. Is it not easy between you and me?"
Indeed, he can't recall a disagreement between himself and his wife before this moment, certainly nothing of consequence. Even when she counsels him to act contrary to his initial impulse, she does so in such a way that it does not sow conflict between them and he finds himself coming around to her way of thinking with very little if any resignation. If that means he is managed by his wife and queen, he is happy enough to be managed by someone as gentle and wise as Sansa.
"Apathy can be easy enough, I suppose."
"Apathy?" he huffs, because this seems ridiculous to him and he would like to say so, but he can see that it is quite real to her.
"Are you happy, Jon?" she asks, her blue eyes pleading for something, and though he isn't quite sure what she needs from him, he wants very much to give it to her, whatever it is.
"With you?" he asks, his hands coming to frame her face. "Always."
Not everything in their lives is happiness and light. Sometimes he barely makes it through the day, for the burden of kingship sits heavy upon his shoulders, but he perseveres knowing that his wife awaits him to listen, to offer advice, or to distract him entirely. He had no such comfort as Lord Commander, nor did he ever expect to, and that is why he will never take her for granted.
At least she leans slightly into his touch, inclining her head into the palm of his hand, when she says, "You have more of a natural connection with her, I fear. More in common. I'm not sure what I offer you."
Perhaps he does not say it enough. He can be quiet, he knows, and perhaps quieter with Sansa than with others, as he takes refuge in the peace she affords him. He more often despairs of deserving her than not, and it has never occurred to him to ponder whether she suffers from similar concerns that require assuaging.
"There are a great many things," he begins, but she interrupts, her face flushing.
"The only advantage I have that I can see is that I warm your bed."
The fleeting thought he had to pick her up and carry her to the bed, so that he might show her how exactly he feels, would probably not dispel these bleak thoughts then. He takes her hand and draws her over to the bed anyway, where he can sit beside her and at least speak to her, and she doesn't protest.
"When I arrived in the Vale with my troops and you came to me with darkened hair, I felt more myself than I had since I knew death and rebirth. I felt more a man and less a monster with you at my side. I need your light, your wit. Arya would counsel me to kill all my enemies, but you see around corners, you find solutions, where I believe there are none. I'm a better king with you as my queen."
"I want to be useful to you," she confesses softly. "Arya thinks me stupid. I wouldn't have you feel the same."
"You're indispensible to me, as a king and as a man."
Her free hand fidgets in her lap, as she mumbles, "A woman only has so many weapons."
"Don't speak of weapons. There's no war at hand."
Sansa draws a shuddering breath, wetting her lips with her tongue. His eyes are drawn to the pink of her lips, which glisten slightly. It's potentially barbaric to find her jealousy arousing, but he has been as uncertain of her need for him in the past as she is apparently unsure of his. She has no cause to be jealous, but that he inspires such passion in her is not wholly undesirable. Now he has only to reassure her that her apprehension is unwarranted.
"And is it such a bad thing that I want you?"
When Sansa dips her head, her eyes lowered, so that her fair lashes fan across her cheeks, she doesn't seem the self-possessed queen that graces the throne room and walks the halls of the keep, her skirts billowing behind her. In that moment she looks more her tender age, and he is struck by the urge to shield her the way she shields him. He initially thought wedding her would protect her, but he sees now that he has something else much more meaningful to offer his wife, a true shield against the trials of this world.
"I love you," he says, as he leans into her, pushing her back into the bed linens, stretching their linked hands up over her head until he is balanced over her. He stares into her eyes, as he reaffirms in a low voice, "I love you."
She doesn't fight him, doesn't struggle against his grip or avert her gaze; instead, she wraps her free arm around his neck and pulls him the rest of the way down until their lips meet. Her mouth opens to him and he groans as his tongue brushes hers. She shifts against him, arching up into him, as he bites her lip. She's yielding and willing, but he wishes it was her flesh against his. He can only just feel the swell of her breasts beneath his hand, and he knows from experience how soft they are.
Her hand moves over the planes of his back, tracing his muscles until her fingers make goose bumps rise on his skin, when her hand finds the sensitive skin at his side and dips lower. Her fingers play at the laces on his breeches, her hand trapped between them, and he moves to kiss her ear, her neck, her collarbone.
"I chose you and I love you," he speaks against her skin, lathing her with his tongue, tasting the salt of her skin between his words. "I want you. I need you."
At his words she works more quickly until she frees him from his breeches. Her hand encircles him, moving with practice, stroking him just as he likes, and it elicits another groan from him, but lower this time, more urgent.
"You don't regret it, your choice?" she pants in his ear, as he pulls at her skirts, rucking them up about her waist.
He has only just managed to say no, when he finally gets at her flesh and realizes that she is without her smallclothes. He pulls back slightly, his eyes wide, and she smiles at what must be his evident shock. Shock and a stab of want that has him desperate to be inside of her.
"I like to watch you in the training yard," she murmurs, as if that explains her startling lack of undergarments.
He caresses her thigh, his hand grazing her, so that he can feel how wet she is for him. That never ceases to be a wonder.
It takes force of will to pause, to not spread her legs with his knee and forget their discussion, so as to ask, "Do you regret it? Your choice?"
For she had a choice. She always had a choice. He always put her rights, her wants above his. Winterfell was his sister's. The North could have been hers as well. She could have married or remained a widow as she chose. His offer was made without any certainty of acceptance.
Her head tosses against the bed linens, a response in the negative as much as one of pleasure, as he slips first one and then two fingers inside of her. She's slick and tight and the desperate little noises she makes as he curls his fingers forward only enflame him further. His breeches are trapped in his boots, but he lets go of her to push them down over his hips far enough to make do and rolls her onto her stomach. Standing at the edge of the bed with a tight hold on her hips, he pushes into her. She gasps, clutching the bed linens in her fists with her head turned sideways, so that he can see the play of emotion and satisfaction on her fair face.
He says it again, as he reaches his length and wraps a hand around her to rub in time with his thrusts, "I love you."
It seems with every confession, as he swears it again and again, that she is that much closer, although she is usually not so quick to peak. His hips snap faster, losing his rhythm as she begins to shake and push her face into the mattress tick, so her cries are not heard by the servants who might be just outside the door. It's more than enough to push him over. As he spills inside her, he collapses over her back, his sweat no doubt spotting the silk of her dress, but he feels boneless and suddenly feels every hit he took from his little sister. He can barely prop himself up enough so that he doesn't crush her.
The curls at her neck are damp and he kisses them, whispering the words once more, sinking them into her skin so that they might take hold. This time, she says it in return, and he knows all is well. Arya might very well think them both stupid, but at least they are not stupid enough to waste what the gods have given them—each other.