Summary: Jon's presence makes Sansa feel as if she is two, three, four people at once, and as if she is not fully mistress of any of the roles she plays.
Author's Note: Written for the daily prompts challenge at gameofships. Check it out! I also wrote two fics that are too sexually explicit to be posted here. Four Peaks and a Valley, which is Jaime/Sansa, and Homecoming, which is Jon/Sansa. If you'd like to read them, they're at my LJ account, which you can find a link to on my profile page.
When Jon enters her solar and comes to stand beside her before the fire, his smile is so gentle that it almost melts the ice around her heart as he bends down to kiss her cheek.
"Sansa," he says, as she lifts her hand from her embroidery to press it to his bearded cheek.
She smiles back at him. It's hollow, but he doesn't seem to notice as he straightens and pulls the other chair closer to her. This is what she has to look forward to, she supposes: quiet nights alongside her solemn, former half brother.
"What is that you're working on?" he asks, nodding towards her embroidery.
She pauses in plying her needle, looking up through her lashes at him, as if she is embarrassed to admit it. "Embroidered stockings."
He shifts nervously in the chair, propping his hand on his knee with his elbow jutting out. He flushes just like a lad. Petyr was never so careless with his emotions. Until he was—moments before he flew.
"Thank you, Jon," she says, smoothing the blue-grey stocking over her skirts. "They're for our wedding."
His lips twitch. "Birds?"
She has already embroidered three birds over the top of the instep of the stocking. Red, white, and yellow throated birds that resemble pretty little warblers.
"Should I have fearsome wolves grace my calves?" she asks with practiced innocence, as if she doesn't know that he will think little of the wolves and linger on the image of her calves.
"I'm not…I'm not familiar with women's dress," he stumbles with his dark brows knit together.
"Birds suit me." She would offer to demonstrate for him by rolling the half finished stocking up her leg, but Jon requires a softer touch than this. If she attempted to overtly seduce him, his vision of her would be shattered and she needs him to see her in a very specific way.
"You sang, when we were young. I remember you always singing."
When he speaks of their childhood together, Sansa feels off balance. She finds it more difficult to hold fast to her mask. He knew her. He is the only one left that did, and yet, even he is not her family anymore. He's just like the rest, a stranger seeking something from her.
"Yes, I was born to sing, wasn't I? I'm a caged little bird that has learned her lines very well."
As soon as the words have left her mouth, she wishes she could call them back. The softness of his eyes, the way his mouth turns down makes her heart beat fast, and when he leans forward to place his warm hand on her knee, it takes all her composure not to jump.
"Why haven't you told me you were unhappy?"
Anger shoots through her, and she stabs her stocking roughly enough to snag the delicate silk. She is angry with Jon for seeing through her, angry with herself for allowing it. She has been taught to be more schooled. This relationship is strangely becoming the most trying of her life. Relief when he came to the Vale was quickly replaced by a deep feeling of fracture. His presence makes her feel as if she is two, three, four people at once, and as if she is not fully mistress of any of the roles she plays. For several moons she has successful hidden herself in full view here in King's Landing, but when he asked her to marry him three days ago, she felt as if the cracks came to the surface. As if the porcelain of her skin itself was beginning to be lined with a web of them.
"Of course I'm happy," she responds lightly though she can feel a muscle in her cheek twitch. "You sit the throne and we are to be married."
He withdraws his hand and his voice is rough when he speaks, "You shouldn't have said yes."
He wants truths then, Sansa thinks with a sigh. Truths are so messy and rarely useful, but if he has seen through her, then she has already failed. She might as well punish him with the truth.
"What would be the sense in saying no?"
Only a fool would have said no with the weight of the king and queen's wishes behind the request. It simply wasn't an option, and only a child would wish for things that could not be. She is neither.
"Just because Queen Daenerys requested it of us…"
"It is a good plan," Sansa interrupts. "Daenerys cannot bear you an heir."
"Daenerys and I was never an option. She is my aunt, Sansa."
"And I was your sister. These things don't matter to Targaryens, I'm given to understand. We all three of us could be married and that would not be considered out of line, would it?"
Of course, Sansa suspects that Daenerys was as opposed to taking Jon for a husband as Jon claims he was, and she doesn't think that their familial ties have any bearing on that aversion. There might be some political purpose to wedding to the two remaining heirs to each other, but that was not to be. Better for the kingdom, for peace if an heir was produced.
She ties off a thread, biting it with her incisor. She can hear him breathing, heavily, as she bends forward to dig in her basket for the next skein.
"Why am I convincing you of the logic of it?" she asks, as she sits back. "You proposed it to me. It secures the North for the Targaryens and an heir for the throne. Everyone is happy."
"Not you it would seem, and that isn't what I proposed at all."
No, his proposal made on bended knee like a true hero come to life was awkward and bumbling and painfully sincere. He looked so like her lord father in that moment. Sansa cannot think of it without feeling a hollow ache in her chest.
Jon stands and moves to the fireplace, resting his arms on the ornately carved mantel. He doesn't turn to face her, speaking instead into the stone wall. "The North could be yours, Sansa, if that's what you want. You needn't be my lady wife."
"You best not let your queen hear you say such things. She did not come here with dragons and Unsullied to claim half a kingdom."
"Winterfell has always been yours. Not even Daenerys would dare take that from you."
Sansa looks through the eye of her needle, holding it up to the light as she threads a grey silken thread through it.
"She wouldn't dare? Her dragons don't fly north?"
"I have always defended your right to Winterfell." This time, his voice is tinged with frustration, when he looks over his shoulder at her.
She glances up from her embroidery, blinking at him, waiting for him to explain the heaviness of his glare, as he turns and crosses his arms over his chest.
"Stannis offered it to me," he finally says.
"It wasn't his to offer."
Her response is clipped and bitter, but he doesn't scowl at her anymore. He merely bites his lower lip. Such an uncertain expression for a man grown, for one who has led armies and commanded men.
"I said as much. I'm a bastard and Winterfell will never be mine."
"You're a king," Sansa corrects. "And it will be yours as my lord husband."
"That isn't what matters to me."
His grey eyes hold such depth of feeling that they make Sansa uncomfortable—such an open display of emotion must be a weakness, and yet, she does not think of Jon Snow as a weak man exactly. Nevertheless, she fears it will infect her, that she will be weakened by him, by exposure to him.
"I won't make a prisoner of you. I'll have the arrangements made for repairs, so you might return there." He uncrosses his arms and scrubs his face. "It will take some time. Several moons or more before it is inhabitable. It's not in good shape," he says almost apologetically.
She believes that he means what he says. She has no intention of accepting the offer, for she would only end up some other man's wife in Winterfell, but the offer goes a ways towards soothing her ire.
"Sit back down, Jon," she offers softly, and she's somewhat surprised when he complies without pause.
He seems angry or hurt even by her words, and yet, he follows her command. Petyr's voice purrs in her ear, This one is easy to manage, sweetling. She is closer to the throne than Petyr would have ever imagined, but she doesn't know if she wants any of it: the throne, or this honest man.
"I thought we understood each other," he says, gripping his knees. "I would have never asked you."
The rest of his statement goes unsaid.
She must have played her part with exceptional skill for him to think there was an understanding between them. A kinship or love or whatever it is Jon Snow dreams of.
"We barely know each other." She means to say it loudly enough, but she's strangely sorry about that particular truth and can't bear to say it any louder than a breathy whisper. "The boy I knew is no more and I'm not the girl you knew either."
"Who is it you think you are?"
His question is blunt. To the point. It's the question of a man unafraid of truths. There's bravery in that, she thinks, although she has been taught to trade in falsehood, the highest form of genius.
"It depends on who you want me to be. That's who I'll be."
Her lady mother was never kind to Jon, but Sansa sometimes wonders whether her time spent playing at being Catelyn Stark might not serve her well with Jon as well.
He sniffs, looking down into his lap. "I was afraid you might say that."
She shouldn't have told him. It spoils the carefully crafted illusion, and yet, she is good enough at pretending that she suspects she could easily make him forget that even she told him it was nothing but an act.
"Won't you be yourself? With me at least?"
Sansa's eyes shut for a moment. He has told her she was beautiful. He has praised her in several ways since he found her, always without the polish of courtesy she once held so dear. But this request—to be herself—makes her feel a girlish flutter in her heart she'd thought long since extinguished.
Only, she doesn't know if she knows Sansa Stark well enough to be her anymore.
When she opens her eyes, she sees how weary he looks, as he did when he first came to her in the Vale, and she can't recall why she wanted to punish him anymore. Surely they've both been punished enough for the crimes of their forefathers.
"I'm sorry. I was cruel," she says, laying her embroidery aside.
"No, you were honest."
When she thinks of herself as a pawn—as the Targaryen's pawn—as a womb, as a title, as the North, she roils with anger like a covered pot about to boil over. But when she thinks of Jon as a Stark, as her lord father's reflection in appearance and rough cut goodness, she is seized by a different feeling altogether. She has fought it, pushed it aside as girlish nonsense, but if she is to be his, perhaps there is no reason not to indulge herself. Isn't that what Sansa Stark would do? Indulge in the romance of songs?
Sansa slips from her chair and kneels between his legs. His hands drag back along his thighs, his fingers digging into his flesh, and he sharply exhales as she drapes her arms over his legs and pillows her head there on the hard muscle of his thigh.
"Not entirely, Jon," she repeats, as her hand strokes his thigh. He's as stiff as a board under her touch.
"Don't send me away," she murmurs.
She hates the idea of being alone in the North with men circling her, looking to make a poorly engineered play for greater power. It might have been her home, but there's no comfort that comes from the specter of that future. She only wanted to feel as if she had a choice, as if she had chosen Jon and this life as much as he seems to have chosen her. I'm more a child than I'd like to admit.
One of his hands finally releases its tight grip on his thigh and finds her hair, his fingers twining gently in her unbound tresses.
"You know I wouldn't." She leans into his touch like one of Tommen's kittens long since gone, as he continues, "We'll learn each other."
Sansa nods her acquiescence, her cheek rubbing against the rough woolen fabric of his black breeches. It is such a sweet offer. Sweeter even than his uneasy, earnest proposal, and she finds herself wanting to trust him as family. As her lord husband he would be family, would he not?
Maybe their dreams are not so dissimilar.
And if they are, she can always pretend.