Pairing: Jon x Sansa
Summary: Jon Snow crosses the Atlantic Ocean as duty demands that he fetch his brother, Robb Stark's widow, Sansa, from the port city of Montego Bay.
Notes: Written for historical era day on Golden Ships, this is set in 18th c. Jamaica in response to an anon prompt sent to me a few weeks ago requesting, Golden Age of Sail. There is reference to slavery. The relationships in this are slightly altered. Jon and Robb are half brothers, but Sansa is Robb's wife, not his sister.
Duty and Love
Jon mops at his brow with his handkerchief. His fresh shirt is soaked through, his collar limp, and his curls sticking to his brow, though he has only just left the tailor freshly kitted. If he was the least bit fashionable and wore a short wig, instead of his own dark hair brushed back and tied, he is rather convinced he would find himself on his back, prostrate with the heat. This island is a bloody nightmare. It's no wonder the climate killed his brother, Robb.
Robb had an adventuring spirit, which led him to Jamaica, young wife in tow, in the hopes that he would be a conquering hero of a new world, making a kingdom for the Stark family upon which their future riches might be built, but Jon wonders whether Robb truly knew how foreign a place could be before he stepped foot on this island. Jon didn't, though he came to the conclusion right quick enough. As Jon makes his way through the streets of Montego Bay, he knows for certain that he would rather be at home in the north of England, no matter how much triumph there is to be had here.
Duty demands, however, that he come for his brother's widow, Sansa, who was left unprotected upon her husband's death. Knowing her preferences well, he saw to it that he was properly attired before coming to meet her, though a part of him wanted to go directly to her after two months onboard, thinking of naught but seeing her face again. Regardless, she would not have liked to see him with a full beard, soiled clothes, and reeking of stale sweat and sick, as he did, when he debarked from the Gloriana. He would not have liked it either, hoping to make a better impression upon her than last he had, when he was just Robb's bastard half brother, ever present proof of the lone dishonorable deed ever committed by Sir Stark.
Jon is better off now, more highly thought of, having come into some money when Sir Stark died, which allowed him to set himself up in a respectable manner. Winterfell is Bran's, but he has a serviceable house in town, a manservant and a woman to cook. People do not look meanly on him. Nevertheless, he booked passage as cheaply as he could, and his person bore evidence of it by the time they reached port. It was a necessary sacrifice, for he needed to save the bulk of his coin to secure private quarters for their return trip back. Sansa is a proper lady, the wife chosen by Sir and Lady Stark for their eldest son since they were but children. It would not do for her to have to mix with the riff raff onboard ship, nor would it do for him to appear on her doorstep looking the part of a beggar. Particularly not when he has a question to put to her.
He is more nervous than he can remember being in some time, his hand flexing reflexively at his side, when he approaches the white shuttered house, where he thinks to find Mrs. Stark in the company of her childhood servant, Nan, and Jeyne Poole, who having no prospects at home, traveled with the young married couple, when they departed from Bristol. But when he is close enough to the house that fits the description from Robb's letters and the tailor's, who assured him he knew the Starks, he immediately sees that the windows are boarded up.
The air is hot and muggy, but an alarming coldness creeps up his spine and seizes his chest, painfully tightening it. Sansa. Has he come too late? Did he delay too long, thinking his primary duty was to help Bran with Winterfell, when Sansa was left unprotected in this foreign place?
It takes more than a few attempts to locate someone on the street who knows what has become of Mrs. Stark, and when he finds out she's no longer in Montego Bay but in St. Thomas in the Vale, he's not soothed by the information that she is staying with a male friend of the Tullys. By the time he reaches Petyr Baelish's plantation, he's spent more of his money on a horse and his dour new suit is not only wilted, but hardly presentable.
It doesn't matter, although the African slave who leads him into the parlor eyes him, as if it clearly does matter. Surely no one comes to wait on Mrs. Stark looking so ragged and road worn. Pushing the hair that has come free of the black ribbon that holds his hair tight at the nape of his neck back out of his eyes, he steps into the room, his eyes skimming over the luxurious accommodations to settle on Sansa. It has been four years since he last saw her, three since they received the letter from Sansa, informing them of Robb's death. It is something of a shock to be in her company again. She is altered.
She has always been lovely with Tully red hair with golden strands that catch the light, impossibly blue eyes, and skin as pale as milk. She's even lovelier now. Her hair is styled in a somewhat simple, old fashioned manner, curled about the face and twisted and pinned up at the back. She goes without powder, which is surprising, but given that powdering is a practice which reduces many men and women's hair in Jamaica to a gummy paste thanks to the humidity, he prefers the natural red of her hair unadorned. Indeed, it is not just her person that is unaltered by the artifices she once thought grand, her dress is also quite subdued. Her gown is a simple printed calico, a fabric most suited for these climes, cut low to expose her white petticoat, unremarkable except for the fact that she is in it, and he can't avoid noticing her fine neck and the swell of her bosom and the nip of her waist. She was still a girl, when Robb married her, only just sixteen, but she's a woman now. He can see that plain.
Jon finds himself standing before her, the very sort of lady that he was never meant to have, and he can't speak or move towards her. Her eyes lift to him and he expects to see the little wrinkle form on the bridge of her nose that appears whenever she is displeased, but instead, she rises to her feet, her dress swinging like a bell, and hurries to him, arms outstretched.
"Mrs. Stark, I am…" he says, attempting to warn her how dusty he is from the road, but her arms are already about his shoulders, pulling him into her.
She is tall as well. Taller than when she stood at Robb's side in the village church before the altar, where Robb's parents once were married and countless other Starks before them.
"I'm sorry," she says, as she draws back and clasps her hands before herself, regaining her composure. But her cheeks are rosy and he realizes that in his shock, he had stood with his arms hanging limply at his side, as if he was not glad of her. "It is just so good to see family."
She never would have called him family before. Not even when her marriage to Robb united them in practice.
"You didn't write. I didn't know to expect you."
He did write. But perhaps with her removal across the island, the letter went astray. "You must not have received it. I wrote before leaving Bristol."
"I'm sorry I could not be here sooner. It is…it is very good to see you, Mrs. Stark."
It is good and it is terrifying and he doesn't know what to make of the changes in her. Of course, he must be greatly altered to her as well, but she has the good grace not to gape.
"Don't. Call me Sansa, as we did when we were children. Come, sit down," she says, speaking quickly, as she holds out a delicate hand to him.
Her hand is warm and soft, and he feels as if he has been misplaced, dropped down in some fairy land, as she draws him towards the center of the room lit by the afternoon sun.
"Have you come to conduct business?"
He stares down at the blue silk of the settee, hovering before it, hesitating. "I don't care about that," she assures him with a little wave of her hand. "Furniture is for sitting upon, and you must be tired. Please."
"Have you come to the islands to conduct business?" she repeats, as he gingerly sits on the edge of the seat.
"No." He clears his throat, his hands gripping his knees as he prepares to say what it is he has come to say. "I have come for you."
Her composure slips. Her eyes blink, her pink lips part, and her hand presses to her embroidered stomacher. For a moment he is worried she might swoon, but when she looks back at him, he sees that it is not faintness that has made her pale.
"I did not think anyone would care to rescue me."
"Of course I have come. You are Robb's wife."
"Ah, yes," she says, her voice softly lilting, as she stares down at her hands resting palms up in her skirts. "Robb's wife. Yes, it stands to reason that is why you'd come."
Following her gaze, he notices a bracelet around her wrist. It is thin and delicate. The gold is set with red rubies spaced by pearls, but the rubies are most prominent and twinkle as they catch the light, set off by the contrast with her skin. It is the only accoutrement she wears and it is very fine. Much finer than anything Robb Stark could have afforded to make a gift of to his lovely bride.
"I wore black for six months, but when those months were passed, Mr. Baelish insisted I come with him. He thought it unfit for me to be only in the company of an elderly female servant and a young friend. He insisted on a great deal of alterations in my circumstances. He said the black of my mourning attire faded my complexion. I'm sure he was right."
Jon does not like the tone Sansa's voice has taken on. It is both dreamy and frightened.
"Where is Nan?"
"Dead." She turns the bracelet about her wrist. "Of a tropical fever. Five months now."
"And Miss Poole?"
"Mr. Baelish found a husband for Jeyne. He's quite handy at securing husbands. So, I am all alone, you see."
"Then Mr. Baelish is not at home?"
"No, thank God," she whispers, reaching over to peel one of his hands from his knee. "He is on business in Kingston. Your timing could not be better. I am watched, but not as closely when he is gone. He is always watching me."
"Sansa, you're shaking." And he would suspect she was talking nonsense, but that bracelet suddenly reminds him of an iron shackle.
She shushes him. "For the love you bore Robb, please, take me from this place."
He inclines his head closer to hers and lowers his voice. "That is, yes, that is why I've come."
"Good, good," she says, lifting his hand to her lips and kissing his knuckles. "You were always the kind one, weren't you? Good and kind."
His throat feels very dry, as he digs inside his coat within his sleeveless black waistcoat with his left hand. His awkwardly fumbling fingers close on the metal, warmed by the heat of his body, and he draws it forth. It would be better for Sansa to be able to marry Bran, since he inherited the estate and is a proper Stark, not a bastard, but he is still a boy. Jon must be the one to do it.
"What are you doing?" she asks, her voice going very thin.
"It was my grandmother's." His mother had no ring and no marriage to make her honest. This ring is the only link he has to his past and those who came before him. "I thought it might do, unless…unless you'd prefer to use the one Robb gave you," he says, nodding at the gold ring she wears on her left hand.
He hopes not. When they were children, Jon sometimes had an unkind thought, wishing that Robb was never born, so that he might be made Sir Stark's heir, that Winterfell might be his, and he might marry and have a family and all the things Robb would one day enjoy. If he is to have Robb's widow, he doesn't care to always be reminded that she was Robb's first. It might cause him to have other unkind thoughts if he is always to look down at Robb's gold band upon her tapered finger.
His grandmother's ring is silver and the engraving without and within worn thin in places, though he can make out what is inscribed inside, In perpetuum et unum diem. His Latin is not as good as it should be, but one need not be a scholar to understand the import. He is ready to promise it, but from the way Sansa has pulled in on herself, he is not certain she shares his resolve.
"We'll need a minister before we book our passage if you know one that might marry us quickly."
"Jon, please don't. Put it away."
"Because you will not have me?"
"Put it away, I beg you."
She is completely white, and though Jon would have been willing to accept that she thought him unfit because of his bastard birth, he has a sinking sensation that something else might be afoot.
"Sansa, why are you so eager to leave this place? Has Mr. Baelish coerced you in some way? Are you engaged to him?"
She touches her bracelet, the very one which Jon has reason to think is too great a gift for a family friend to give a young widow without some steep price attached.
"If I say yes, will you not take me with you?"
And leave her behind to an unhappy fate?
"Sansa, I have crossed an ocean to come for you. If you want to go, we shall go immediately and I won't trouble you about what has happened since Robb's death. I swear it."
She owes him nothing, after all. It is he that owes a debt on behalf of his brother.
They book passage out of Black River, as Sansa is too frightened to travel to Kingston, where she fears they will encounter Petyr Baelish. Their ship is loaded with sugar headed for England, and it is a large enough vessel that with three of the rubies from Sansa's bracelet they are able to secure private quarters—small but serviceable, the captain assures Jon, while inking their names in his passenger list.
No ship's quarters could be roomy enough to remove Jon's discomfort, since they are not married. They are listed in the log as Mr. and Mrs. Jon Snow, to save her from any mark of dishonor. When they land in England, should someone find that they traveled in such close quarters for two months or more without being married, however, it will not bode well for Sansa's reputation. Particularly not when he himself is a bastard, and therefore, of somewhat dubious repute.
They could wait until she becomes more accustomed to him and possibly warms to the idea of being his wife, but there is little time to spare. The ships will no longer sail with winter coming, making the trip too dangerous. So, though it has only been a few weeks, he tries once more with her, as they wait for their ship to be ready to make sail. Her look is as pinched as it was the first time, when he holds the ring out to her in the palm of his hand.
"You have reservations, of course. I understand, but I did not get the chance to fully explain myself before."
"No, you did not. Perhaps that was uncharitable of me. Go ahead, Jon," she says, though her shoulders are stiff and her lips white.
"Sir Stark left me a small inheritance. Small, but generous. I have a house. It is not exactly to what you are accustomed, but I should not be ashamed to bring you there. I know my birth is an impediment, but you are known in the village and I do not think anyone will think less of you for having agreed to marry me."
"If they did, they wouldn't be worth my time," Sansa says, looking off over his shoulder.
"Yes, and…I would not be cruel."
"I know very well you wouldn't be. I have no fear of that." Without meeting his eye, she places her hand over his, over the ring he holds out to her. "But why? Why should we be married?"
"It is my duty as Robb's brother to see to the care of his widow, and it should be now, Sansa, before we are aboard ship together. You know that."
"It was Robb's duty to marry me too. Don't think I didn't know his heart would have led him elsewhere. You men are exceptionally dutiful and terribly transparent." Sansa withdraws her hand enough to curl Jon's fingers over the rings. "Keep your ring. I don't wish for another marriage of that sort."
Jon's cheeks heat with embarrassment for Robb's indiscretion. Miss Westerling was not an appropriate choice for the young Stark heir. Robb knew where his duty lay, he was raised to do the right thing, and still Jon was surprised when his brother did not run away with the Westerling girl, as enamored as he was with her.
"There is no…my situation is not like what you describe."
"No? No pretty young village girl, who pines after you, Jon Snow?"
There was. One of the stable hand's daughters, who was as wild as an unbroken filly, with hair as red as Sansa's and freckles on her nose. He fancied her, loved her even, but she was carried off by a putrid fever two winters past. There has been no one since. He almost thought he would stay a bachelor.
"It was his duty and now it is yours and if you should die en route to England, shall I be made to marry little Bran Stark in the nursery of Winterfell?"
He is not romantic. He has no way with words. If perhaps he knew how to choose them more carefully, string them together in the pretty way poets have, she would not feel so unwanted. For, he does want her, and not only because he sometimes coveted what Robb had. Duty brought him here and duty still demands that he care for his brother's wife, but she is so beautiful, so perfectly made that he can't help wanting her. He finds himself staring at the blue of the veins in her neck and wrists, evident just beneath her pearlescent skin, wanting to suck on her pulse and wrap his arm about her waist until she sighs against him and knows how much he wants her. As they have traveled from one parish to another in companionable silence, he has stolen sideways looks at her, imagining what it would be like to wake to her every morning, sit at table with her, listen to her sing to herself in the evenings, as she brushes out her hair, and for her to bear his children and fill the whole house with fiery haired boys and girls, who call him papa.
He never meant to insinuate that she had no choice, that she was a thing to be passed from one man's hands to another's. If her choice is to reject him, he must accept and respect her wishes even if they make him uncomfortable. Even if they are disappointing.
The quarters are about as small and incommodious as Jon feared they would be, and he apologizes enough for them that Sansa forbids him from saying another word about it. She will not hear of him sleeping on the floor either, though it seems the only suitable solution to Jon, since they are not wed.
"You'll end up rolling about and knocking your head if you try to make bed on the floor."
"Then I shall sleep when you do not."
"And miss when rations are handed out while you dose during daylight hours? We are brother and sister, and I a woman once wed. Everyone on ship thinks we are man and wife. No harm shall come from it."
Except the wooden berth is small and sleeping back to back with their legs pulled up when hers are nearly as long as his does not make for easy sleeping. He tries very hard the first three nights to keep still, not letting on that he can find no rest, but on the forth, when he is certain his eyes are sunk in dark bruises, she takes his shoulder and eases him over, draping his arm about her middle, so that they fit together like a pair of pewter spoons. She is generous enough not to mention how his body betrays him in the mornings or how his hand sometimes wanders in his sleep, though it causes him enough shame during his waking hours.
Three weeks into the voyage, a storm churns the waters and Jon's stomach. With his head in a bucket, he swears he will never step foot on another ship after they make landfall in England.
"If we make landfall. The ship might break up and we'll become food for sea monsters," she says cheerfully. He raises one brow at her, and she smirks back, wringing out the linen rag she uses to cool his clammy skin, as she kneels beside him. "You've seen them, have you not? The great beasts swimming alongside the ship?"
"Whales," he says, as he rests his head back in the berth and lets his eyes slip closed, as she dabs at his brow.
"Perhaps, but Nan felt quite certain they were monsters."
She recounts some of Nan's tales in a soft, singsong voice until he sleeps and he dreams of her.
Three days in, and while the rain has slacked and the swells lessened, Jon can find no relief. He rarely sleeps, empties his stomach of bile with great regularity, and refuses all food.
"You must eat," she insists, offering him some hardtack.
He knows he is revolting. He smells of sick, his hair sticks to his scalp, and his shirt—untucked from his breeches with the wrist bands and collar unbuttoned—is stained with sweat. And yet, Sansa has stayed at his side, emptying his bucket, wiping his brow, and talking soothingly to him of when they were children. She reminds him of how she used to lecture him on the treatment of ladies, as if she was the only one tasked with seeing to Jon Snow's proper management. How they used to play Come-Into-My-Castle, she and Jon and Robb, though the boys would always spoil it by wanting to fight dragons rather than rescue ladies. How she taught him how to dance in the plum orchard. At least she did her best to teach him, for he considers himself to be a rather second-rate dancer.
She is no nursemaid, she is not his wife, she is under no real obligation to him, and still she stays with him. She isn't just lovely, she is loving gentleness itself.
"Try a nibble."
There is an edge to her voice that convinces him to take the hard biscuit from her fingers and force himself up on his elbows. She is afraid for him.
"I'll be all right," he says, as he breaks off a corner and manfully tries to swallow it.
"I shouldn't have joked…about dying."
He places his hand over hers. "No one is dying."
No one does. On the fifth day after the storm has passed, he can stomach his full rations and comes out on deck for air with Sansa's arm through his, though he requires more support than she does. Most of the sailors and passengers look bedraggled, but when he appears outside of their quarters all of his clothes are freshly washed in sea water, an indulgence Sansa secured for him, when she saw that the captain's clothes were being laundered.
"I had my shift done as well," she says, when his thanks proves to be too profuse.
Her confession only sets his cheeks aflame.
It is only in the light of day that he notices the circles beneath her eyes. In the time he has been sick, he has not been the only one not to sleep. While he thrashed in the berth, she sat beside him, sometimes resting her head beside his sweaty one.
It is the guilt of her sleeplessness that allows him to concede to her request.
"We'll sleep better. It's so dreadfully hot," she says, her voice unaccountably as chirpy as it was when they were younger.
Jon turns his back, as her fingers begin to work at her stomacher, unpinning it from her corset. It takes a few minutes for his fingers to follow suit, shakily unbuttoning his breeches, pulling off his stockings, and loosening his shirt. Even longer to join her in the berth, where her hair spreads out unbound and still damp at the scalp from the water that they used from the day's rations to scrub their faces and body, a weekly ritual they indulge in every Sunday morning, which he needed this time more than usual.
He's never seen a woman in her shift—Ygritte only pulled her skirts up—and though he trains his eyes to the low ceiling as he slides in behind her, he still sees a stretch of creamy leg below where the cotton of her shift reaches that makes him twitch. He's tempted to put his back to her, but he's agreed to removing their heavy clothing and to refuse to sleep—front to back—as they did before he was sunk by seasickness would be to admit he's not as honorable as he pretends, as if her nakedness prevents him from controlling himself.
He hovers close enough that he can feel the heat of her, not knowing what to do with his arm, when she twists, turning about to face him, her legs entwining with his and her hand splaying over his chest, as she tucks her head in close to his.
She must be able to feel how his heart thunders, when she says, "I am so relieved that you are well, Jon. I can't tell you how relieved."
"Thanks to you."
She shakes her head, her eyes dipping to where her hand slides over his chest, slipping between the slit of the fabric to touch his skin beneath. There should be a ring there on her forth finger, but there's not. Robb's golden wedding band is gone.
"Pretend with me, won't you, Jon?" His hand closes over hers, pressing it to his chest, and she tilts her face up, her lips close enough to brush his. "That I am your first choice and you mine."
Their first kiss is chaste enough except for the tangle of their limbs and the state of their undress. But with each press of his lips to hers, he wants more, needs more. She tastes like the rum they passed around at dinner, something burning and sweet, when his tongue works open her mouth and she sighs into his kiss. The rum buzzes in his head too. After days of not eating, even watered down, the rum feels strong, and though there's a voice in the back of his head, whispering for him to stop, he is drunk on rum and her and he doesn't know whether he has the ability to deny Sansa anything.
She only moves a hairsbreadth, insinuating herself closer to his chest, but it is enough for her to feel him hard against her belly. It would be perfectly right of her to knock him from this berth, to bar him from their quarters, but instead, she reaches down a hand and cups him through his shirt.
His throat spasms. He can barely speak the words, "I don't have to pretend."
She isn't a responsibility, a burden to be taken up upon his brother's death. Sansa is everything to which he never thought to aspire.
"Take off your shirt."
Going to his knees, one on either side of her prone body, he pulls his shirt over his head and casts it to the side. She turns her chin into her shoulder, as if suddenly shy, one hand outstretched to draw him back over her, but he stops, his hands at the hem of her shift. He never saw Ygritte. He would like to see Sansa. If she will not take him for her husband and it is only this once she allows him her body, he would like to see and touch every bit of her.
She is no longer a girl, but her marriage to Robb bore no fruit, and she is still slim, where other young wives, five years married are rounded. Her breasts are small and without her stays they do not point skyward, but softly slope to the side. Her pale nipples pucker, despite the warmth of their quarters, begging to be kissed. Her waist is narrow and her hips too. Narrow enough that Lady Stark's one concern upon Robb's marriage was whether the tall young girl was properly built for bringing children into the world. And at the juncture of her rounded thighs is a thatch of red curls.
She is exquisite.
"Your making me nervous," she says, though her eyes roam him as freely as his do her.
"I only want to look at how beautiful you are."
He settles in the cradle of her hips, ignoring the insistent pressure of his cock against her belly, though the touch of heated flesh on flesh is enough to make it weep, so as to kiss a path down her neck, between each breast, and to each nipple. His one hand, not busy keeping him from crushing her with his weight, follows a similar course, but travels lower still, tracing the dip of her belly button, and parting her curls. She is wet for him. Dipping his fingers where he wants to be draws a moan from her that quickens his heart.
"Like this," she says, placing her fingers along his and drawing their hands up to the apex of her slick flesh.
The slipperiness reminds him of her mouth, which he strains to kiss. "I should like to kiss you here too," he says with a tap of his fingers against the spot she worries in circles with their joined hands.
She chokes on a laugh, her neck arching in pleasure. "You are wicked, Jon Snow."
If there was but room in this berth, he would show her how wicked he can be, but he satisfies himself with watching her come unraveled in his hands, until with his fingers buried inside of her, she comes around him and he has to swallow her cries with a kiss.
He is no virgin. He dallied in the stables and behind outbuildings and in the fields with Ygritte half a hundred times before he could not stop himself from worrying what Sir Stark would think of his failings and how he would feel if he brought a bastard into this world. Those dalliances were years ago, however. Long enough that he feels completely untested, as Sansa, still shaking with her release, takes him in hand, and begins to stroke him. He shifts in the berth, his hips eager to fit himself to her, as her thumb rubs over the head of him with each slow pass, spreading the seed that has already leaked from him.
"Yes, now," she says, guiding him towards her.
He jerks at the touch of his head to the wetness he drew out with his fingers, his jaw tightening in anticipation of what is to come. He has purposefully not thought on how bloody good it feels, joining with a woman. The smell of them, the soft rub of their legs against your hips, the noises they make, as your cock brushes them. Biting his lower lip hard enough to bruise, he gains control of his body and eases inside of her, his hand holding tight to her hip. She is tight and warm and wet, and it takes everything in him not to snap his hips until he is deep inside of her. Instead, he holds steady, allowing her to rock her body beneath him, working him inside of her.
"Can you withdraw, spill on my belly?" she whispers, when he has no further to go.
Yes, of course, he mustn't spill inside of her, for she is not his. If he pretends that she is and forgets himself, she will not forgive him. He will not forgive himself.
It's not an easy line to walk, as he lets his body find its pleasure in hers, while holding something back. Particularly with her murmuring his name and biting at his neck and digging her nails into the muscle of his ass, tilting her body to meet his with every thrust. He has to be mindful of the tightening in his balls and the throb of his cock, as signs he cannot indulge himself much longer. He does not judge it quite right. When he pulls back, leaning back on his knees, he does not immediately find relief, but she sits up and with her hands upon him, her lip caught between her teeth, and her blue eyes looking up at him, he comes against her body, his hand holding fast to her narrow shoulder and a field of stars beneath his closed lids.
Better too early than too late.
Coming back to this world, he moves to reach for something with which to clean them up, but she pushes on his chest, urging him to lie back.
"Let me lie here and catch my breath," she says, as she curls atop him, resting her head in the hollow of his chest. "I want to listen to your heart."
He would like to listen to hers too, but with her head pillowed on his chest, he can stroke her hair. He's always wanted to touch it. Even when they were children, he wondered at her hair, which so reminded him of the angels in the paintings at church. He lets the thick, riotous mass of it slip through his hands and curls a strand at a time around his fingers. It looks fine spun, but it is strong, like Sansa herself.
"I loved Robb."
Her words make him freeze and his heart clench, but he forces himself to breathe out. She did not say she wanted him. She only wanted to pretend. Besides, it is right that she loved her husband. It would have shocked him were it otherwise.
"He loved me too even if I was not his choice." She lifts her head, propping her chin on her hand, looking up at him with clouded eyes. "But I don't think he would have crossed an ocean to rescue me."
Jon wills himself to assure her that Robb would have done the same, but he has no success in making his tongue speak charitably of his brother, while Sansa lies across his chest, the stickiness of his seed smeared over her belly.
"You have had enough of ships, but would you come for me again?"
"Out of duty?"
Jon raises his hand, rubbing at the stubble on his chin that already sprouts after taking the straight razor to himself this morning.
"Can it not be both? Duty and love."
"It's both then now? Not just a guilty conscience?" she asks, her fingers skimming down his side and circling his hip bone.
Her touch awakens him too soon, making him desirous of finding comfort in her flesh again.
"I want you to be my wife."
He grasps her shoulder, holding her back enough that he might look at her properly. "Yes? You shall?"
She nods, a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. "As soon as we disembark if you like."
He wraps his arm around her, holding her to him as he's wanted to for weeks, and presses a kiss to her sweaty brow.
"Have I made you happy?"
Unbearably so. His heart feels full to bursting and it is a feeling he does not quite trust.
"I love you, Sansa."
He wishes he could not feel how stiff she goes at his words.
"I'm sorry, I can't…"
"Don't," he says, tipping her chin up to taste her lips once more and put a stop to her admission. He knows she doesn't, but perchance one day she will. That is what he shall build his hopes upon. He sees it all again behind his closed lids—her face in the morning and at night, her soft voice, and their children, calling him papa. "Let me pretend."