Tyrion's eyes fluttered open. He was feeling so pleasantly comfortable and warm that he was tempted to close them again, but a lock of auburn hair tickled his face, driving slumber away. His arm was draped over someone's waist, and that someone was Sansa. She was pressed close to him, and the feel of her delicate skin was a sweet caress against his own.
Drunk, Tyrion thought. We must both have been well and thoroughly drunk. He didn't actually remember drinking that much at the feast, but how else could he account for what happened after it? His mind retained no undisrupted thread of memory after Sansa came to him in the godswood. Just his mouth on hers, her body underneath his, warm and soft and yielding. They must have said something to each other, too, but the only word he could recall at present was uttered by Sansa, and it was "yes".
He sensed his pillow was wet. Strange. Did he cry in his sleep? He did not remember that either.
Sansa murmured sleepily and stirred, then lifted her head off the pillow and turned towards him. Uncertain, he returned her smile. Now that the haze of sleep was dispersing, he remembered other words she said to him as the door was closed behind them and she was undressing in front of him. She said that he was good and gentle and kind and brave, that she would have no other man, that she wanted him. That last part he found hard to believe, but her body responded eagerly enough to his own, and after they were finished, she whispered shyly in his ear, "I want you to do that often." Well, he was happy to oblige, once and twice and three more times that night.
And now morning had come and they were together in bed, naked as on their name day, and in Sansa's face he saw what he had long despaired of having.
"It must be late," said Sansa, observing the bright golden beams of sunlight that danced around the room. "Do you want breakfast?" All he wanted was simply to stay there with her, to inhale the scent of roses and lavender that lingered in her hair, to press her close to him... but he was hungry. In fact, he couldn't remember being this hungry for a long while. It felt good.
His lady wife slid her long slender legs off the bed. She was conscious of his stare, he could see that, yet she made no haste in covering herself. Slowly, she slipped on her bed robe and walked over to the wardrobe to choose a dress for the day.
Breakfast was a subdued affair that morning, after the night's festivities. Only a handful of the guests were downstairs, and Arya with her young knight who looked so much like Robert Baratheon. Sansa sat amiably next to her sister and offered her a platter of fried bread.
"Are you going to marry?" she asked with uncharacteristic bluntness.
Arya looked startled. Ser Gendry began to stammer. "I," he said, "in the light of circumstances, I truly think it would be best..."
"Don't be stupid, Gendry," Arya spoke across him. "Yes, of course we are going to be married. As far as I can see, nothing is stopping us."
"Nothing indeed," sighed Sansa, peeling the shell off her egg. "Are you going to stay in Winterfell for the time being?"
"Yes," said Arya, tossing her short hair. "I'm going to stay with Rickon. He might be Lord Rickon now, but he is only nine years old. He needs someone mature and responsible around him."
"Just so," nodded Sansa, and Tyrion could see she was fighting to suppress a smirk.
"And you will stay as well, won't you?" Arya asked with a hint of anxiety.
"For a little while longer," nodded Sansa, "then we will be going to Casterly Rock."
Tyrion sat aside his spoon. "Will we?" he asked, raising an eyebrow.
"I know that is your wish," his wife turned to him. "We can return here later, stay as long as can be reasonably allowed... but I know Winterfell is no longer my permanent home. It was never meant to be. I always knew I will marry, and my place shall be with my husband. Besides," she added, "I find myself wishing to see all the places you told me about."
Back in their chambers, Sansa turned towards him with a frown. "Can't something be done about Ser Gendry?"
"What do you mean?" Tyrion didn't understand.
"Can't he be... legitimized? I think we all know whose son he is, and not one of the Baratheons left trueborn sons behind him."
Tyrion considered this. Perhaps it might be possible. Gendry was older than Edric Storm, the only acknowledged bastard son of Robert Baratheon. Gendry might well be the eldest son of Robert, and thus the rightful link through which house Baratheon might continue.
"I will see what can be done," he promised.
"Not for me," Sansa hastened to add. "Not for Arya even, you have seen what she is like, she doesn't care. But for Gendry - he is mortified that she should stoop so low for him, it is plain to see."
Not long after, they said their farewells to Torgud, who was completely healed by Maester Kaeth's ministrations, and was heading back beyond the Wall in the company of Elma, who never left his side since he had been injured. The wildling man, who has known Rickon since the boy was five, did not conceal his sadness in saying goodbye.
"Be well, my king," said Torgud, dropping to one knee so that his head would be level with the boy's, "and know that, should you ever come to the Frostfangs again, you will be received with honor by the Free Folk."
"You could stay here," said Rickon, trying to stem the flow of his tears, but Torgud shook his head.
"You must stay with your people, I know," he said, "understand that I must go to mine."
As they watched the figures of Torgud and Elma disappear in the distance, Tyrion glanced sideways at Sansa. So far, he has not broached the subject of setting a day for their departure. He knew it would have to be soon, though. He had received troubling news from Casterly Rock - the area was in disorder and much in need of a lord. He was wondering how he should begin discussing the matter with his wife... and then he heard her speak.
"I have ordered all our things to be packed," she said, "for the journey."
He was gratified by her consideration. Still, he felt obliged to say, "this can wait a while longer, if you wish."
She shook her head. "No," she said, "Winterfell has a Stark now, and all is well here. Your people need you... and so do I. I am ready."
Lost for words, Tyrion squeezed her hand in grateful tenderness. He looked around and knew that although he was going home, part of him would always remain here in the North, which he now loved as much as Sansa.
Then she was pulling on his hand, leading him away. Tyrion followed; it didn't much signify to him where they were going, as long as she remained by his side. Still, he was a little surprised to find himself in the godswood once more.
"I wanted to say goodbye," Sansa explained in a hushed whisper. For a few moments, all was still, but then Tyrion gave a startled jump - for he heard a voice faintly whispering... "safe journey... be well... until we meet again."
"What was that?" demanded Tyrion in a strangled voice. Sansa turned towards him, a dreamy smile on her lips.
"A spirit," she said, "the voice of Stark... of Winterfell... of the North."
- The End -
A/N: I would like to thank all my wonderful readers who have stopped by to leave encouraging and inspiring comments as this story was being written. I am truly overwhelmed by the amount of positive feedback I received. My special thanks go to Mrs-Imp, Zirael07, Failed to de-anon, Yuna-Sakura and Queen AryaI.
Inspiration song for Tyrion and Sansa scenes was Hengitä ihollani ("breathe on my skin" - Finn.) by Juha Metsäperä.