Summary: Sansa and Jon are star-crossed lovers in the reconstituted kingdom of Westeros forged by the marriage of Sansa and Aegon.
Notes: Loosely inspired by Chrétien de Troyes' The Knight of the Cart, which features the first instance of Lancelot and Guinevere's adultery, and Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur. Written for the star-crossed lovers prompt for Ghost Ships on gameofshipschallenges on tumblr.
After countless moons of fighting side by side, the three dragons were weary and bonded by blood, ice, and fire, which helped ease what might have otherwise been the prelude to another war over who would claim the Iron Throne. Jon Snow never wanted to sit a throne, and was happy enough to leave the ruling to his brother and aunt, who agreed amicably to reign as coregents. Jon's wish was to return to the North, to return home even though there was no Wall and Winterfell was but a shell, but it was not to be. Duty kept him in King's Landing at the behest of King Aegon, the sixth of his name, and though he was not a follower of the Seven and had never been a knight, he was made Lord Commander of the Kingsguard. Those who thought little of the choice called him the Knight of the Wall and meant it as no compliment, but Jon Snow had been called worse and did his best to honorably serve his king and queen. Peace had been achieved and that was the only thing that mattered.
The first quest he is entrusted with in his new role is the rescuing of Lady Sansa, who was hidden in plain sight in the Vale during the course of the war, living as Petyr Baelish's bastard daughter. To know she is alive and to be given the chance to save her is both everything Jon wanted while he was at the Wall and also deeply terrifying. She is the only sister left to him, and yet, since he knows the truth of his parentage, she is not a sister at all. He worries at how she might receive him, when they were never close to begin with and the truth of his parentage divides them even further, but when he enters the keep covered in blood and dirt and melting snow, she runs to him, hair the wrong color streaming unbound behind her, and thinks nothing for her gown, as she encloses him in her arms.
Her voice is a whisper against his sweaty neck, "I have dreamt of you, Jon Snow."
He dreams of her too once they have traveled together back to King's Landing and he has learned her as she is now—a lovely, intelligent, strong yet slightly fractured woman. The North, his home, his family is all lost to him, but these things seem closer with Sansa near at hand. He feels partly healed in her presence. He feels accepted and loved in a way he would not have expected from the girl he once knew.
His dreams are not what they should be, not only because she was once his sister, but also because she is a woman intended for a king. Jon was sent to fetch her back by means of arms precisely because Aegon wanted her for his consort. The North is restive, and their marriage is meant to heal the rends in the fabric of Westeros.
You say your sister is pretty.
She was, yes.
Then it won't be much of a hardship.
No one could think marrying Sansa a hardship, but he is unsure of what she thinks of this plan. For though she accepts the offer of marriage, when Aegon makes it with all due chivalry, legitimately charmed by Sansa's beauty and elegance and ease of manner, she seems to float through life, moving amongst people like a living ghost. It is no different when she is with her betrothed. Even her prettiest smiles seem practiced to Jon. They are not the smiles of the sister he knew.
It is only when they are alone, two remnants of an age lost that she seems to shake off the veil and come to life, so that he likes to imagine that as much as her presence has helped him, he does something of the same for her. And they are alone more and more once Aegon assigns Jon to keep special watch over his future wife, trusting his half brother with the most important of posts.
"Are you happy to marry Aegon?"
He doesn't know where the words came from but she seems not to be startled by them, as her lips curve upward.
"Oh, Jon. Happiness has nothing to do with it."
"I had no notion you were such a romantic." He makes a helpless gesture, a tight shrug of his shoulders, feeling stupid and childish, and she reaches out to smooth her hand over his bunched muscles. "Happiness and choice, I learnt long ago, have nothing to do with marriage."
"I want you to be able to choose."
If war has brought peace, should it not also bring an end to Sansa being a pawn in their games? Is this what he has rescued her for?
"He is not unkind. I think he is the sort of husband I would have loved once."
Not now though. She doesn't love his brother, and her empty assurances do nothing to ease the throbbing ache that Jon feels in his chest at their wedding feast, as he stands behind Aegon and Aegon's new wife, the Stark girl turned woman that will heal the kingdom's scars and unite them all together. It is well enough that he does not sit beside them to eat, the way Queen Daenerys must, because he is certain everything would taste of ashes, for while Sansa smiles and says her lines very well, he can see disillusionment and fear lurking in the blue of her eyes. She hates it here as much as he does, that's something they share as much as Stark parentage. She may not hate the king, but she hates King's Landing, and now she is trapped. Jon has trapped her by bringing her here. His first act was to rescue her, but it was not the kindness he imagined it to be, when he was playing hero with a sword that splits the darkness.
Jon doesn't take part in the bedding, can't bear to think of seeing her stripped bare, can't live with the knowledge of what her ivory skin might feel like under his hands, and he doesn't look her full in the face after the wedding night for five days. Until she corners him outside her chambers, where he stands guard, bound by duty to stay close to her, though he wishes himself far away across the Narrow Sea.
"I won't last a week more if you go on despising me, Jon."
His eyes fix on her, and he knows his voice will break before he ever speaks. "Despise you?"
She pulls him inside, her hand a gentle force on his wrist, drawing him relentlessly where she would have him, and the sound of the heavy door closing behind them seals them inside what might as well be a tomb.
"The only way I will ever manage here in this place is with you."
"You are better at this game than I am."
"But I hate it. You know I do. You can't pull away from me, please."
Her please is enough to break him.
It is dishonorable to lay hands on the queen. Dishonorable to lie abed and contemplate laying hands on her, his former sister, his brother's wife, his queen. He is sworn to protect her, duty bound to keep her safe and not just as the Lord Commander. Long ago the man he will always think of as his lord father made him and Robb swear to always protect their sister, which means he has failed her. He is failing her, and Ned Stark and Aegon and those who died for this peace, as he cups her face in his hands.
"It isn't hate I feel."
"Then you think I've dishonored myself somehow, marrying where I don't love? But that's the way of it, Jon. That's how it is always done." She sounds almost desperate, her voice going high, the patter of her words quick, and while she's right, of course she must be, it seems so very wrong. "Even my mother and father didn't love each other. Not at first. Would that make my lady mother less than pure, because she accepted him?"
And perhaps that is why he shouldn't tell her, because she might not love Aegon now, but it isn't impossible that she will come to. His words can only upset whatever future happiness she might have claim to, and what is his happiness compared to hers?
He drops his hands, shaking his head. "A hundred men could not dishonor you."
Anyone that touched Sansa and thought her dishonored because of it need only look at their own filthy hands.
"I brought you here and I gave you to him, when you didn't have a choice."
"You blame yourself."
"Who else is there to blame?"
"You did what you must, and I'm happier now, Jon, I swear it."
But what he's done since, what he contemplates doing, isn't honorable or dutiful. It's selfish and sick and discourteous.
"I love you."
His confession is all the things Sansa Stark should hate, but he can't stop himself from saying it, because there is a chance he is why she is happier and that selfish hope sparks something inside of him he has worked to tamp down since he was a boy and realized certain things were not to be his. Duty and honor were all he had when he was a bastard boy, trying to overcome the deficit of his birth. He wore them with pride. But now, he casts them aside, reaching for something more precious.
Her throat bobs, as she lifts two fingers to his lips and murmurs, "I love you too."
He knows at her words that he is supposed to go and he does, though it feels like severing a vein. He goes back to standing guard outside her door, his lips aflame with her touch, not allowing himself to consider what she meant by her pledge of love. It might be the oath of a lover or a sister or a gentle queen, but he has no right to ask which of those it might be.
The second time he saves her, it's from an assassin's blade. The North might be happy that the daughter of Lord Eddard Stark sits beside the king of Westeros, but their marriage is an echo of another coupling that was grave insult to the Martell family, a coupling that Dorne is forced to remember thanks to this new marriage and Jon Snow's presence in the capital.
Jon is closest—he is always closest to Sansa—when the man falls upon her with a glinting dagger raised above his head. Jon hardly recalls what he did between the moment he saw the flash and he looked down at Sansa covered in scarlet blood. It's not hers, it belongs to the man whose body Jon pulls his sword from, but it makes no difference. The panic Jon feels at the sight of blood staining her grey gown, the panic that courses through him at the thought of losing her, not to Aegon, not to the realm, but truly lost to him forever nearly overwhelms him. So too does her response. Her eyes are wide, her breath quick, as she shoves at the man's body, which is slumped against her, and it is Jon's name she gasps again and again and again, though her husband's hands reach for her to pull her to safety.
The man is dead in a pool of his own blood at her feet, but Jon wants to kill him again, wants his head severed from his body, his body burnt by dragons. Nothing less can assure him enough that the threat is extinguished and she is safe. This is why the men of the Night's Watch and the knights of the Kingsguard take no wives and bear no children. His duty comes first, but in that moment Jon knows without a doubt that it does not. Sansa is first in his heart and he would turn kingdoms to rubble for her.
It was his sworn duty as Lord Commander to protect her and save her from an assassin's blade, but he is rewarded for his actions nonetheless, honored in a ceremony with the kind of pomp that makes him uncomfortable, for if the king and the queen had not be present when the attempt on Sansa's life took place, Jon would not have been able to stop himself. Not with her hands reaching out to him and his name on her lips. His act of knightly heroism would have been wiped out in an act of folly that could have cost them both their lives. It was only Daenerys and Aegon's violet eyes trained on Sansa that kept him from acting. In his dreams, he shows no such restraint, the king and queen melting away until it is only Jon and Sansa and nothing but flesh and kisses and warmth.
Sansa shows no such restraint, when she comes to him in the dark of his room, waking him from a restless sleep with cold hands pressed to his bare chest. He clutches her wrists and only just keeps from snapping the delicate bones beneath her pale skin, when he realizes it is her.
"Sansa." It's the shock that makes him call her by her name, when he has guarded his tongue against such familiarities ever since she wed his brother. Coming to him in the night is a boldness he would have never expected of Sansa Stark. It is her, he can see that, and yet, it makes no sense to him. "It's the middle of the night."
"I came as soon as I could," she says, as if it is something they'd arranged and agreed upon, a plot shared between them two.
He's dreamt it, wished it, but never voiced his desires. Unless she can read the wanting on his face or feel it through his armor, when she lays hands on his arm to be led from a room, her ermine edged skirts dragging behind her.
"Someone could have seen you coming here."
"Someone did, but they saw what I intended for them to see," she says, her nails dragging through the hair on his chest. As he blinks, his eyes adjusting to the room unlit by even a candle, he can see that she is draped in a hooded cloak and her gown is simple, the gown of a serving wench, not a queen. No, it is cut too low for a serving wench, exposing the curve of her breasts and the line between them. She plays another part tonight, and while she is accustomed to hiding in plain sight, to come to him in the Red Keep with members of the Kingsguard crawling the corridors is the height of madness. "I told one of your knights that I was your reward. Sent by the king."
She speaks with a reckless, high spirited clip and her eyes glitter like ice crystals in the pale moon glow. He's as afraid of her as he is aroused by the pressure of her body over his lap, as she straddles him uninvited. He wants to ask her what she's doing, but it's clear what she's about. Her actions might kill them both, but his body doesn't seem to care.
"I need no reward," he manages, as she dips her head to kiss his chest, where her fingers trail. It would be discourteous to take one. Traitorous.
"I know, but I have need of you, Jon. It was almost too late for us. Please."
Perhaps that's what he is—a traitor—because he takes her that night in his bed with his brothers in arms nearby inside his brother's keep with the woman he once called sister. He is a bastard, and it would surprise few that he is a lusty, dishonorable traitor. Except Sansa; Sansa thinks him something worth having.
Her voice is a whisper against his sweaty neck, "I feel safe with you."
They are not safe. They will never be safe, but for several moons he is happy. Or as happy as he can be with the threat of discovery hanging over their heads like an executioner's blade. As happy as he can be when Aegon, his brother—not Robb, Bran, or Rickon, but a good brother—still visits Sansa's chambers and he must stand guard outside, trying to deafen himself to the noises inside, because Aegon is also his king and a goodking, one worthy of the title. As difficult as that is, she comes to Jon too, contriving places for them to meet alone, and she speaks words of love and he knows her and he is happy. He was born to a life of service, compromise, and sacrifice, not the love of a woman, not the comfort of lady wife, not the life of a lord or king. What he has is more than he ever expected even if it is painful in its limitations.
The third time he rescues her, it is from a stake. They are discovered by the queen, who does not think it necessary to knock before entering any room in which she wishes to tread, and her violet eyes narrow and her jaw clenches at the sight of Aegon's wife wrapped in the arms of his bastard brother, the Targaryen who looks so much like the treacherous Starks from which he also sprung. Daenerys knows the both of them are Starks in that moment. Traitors to the crown.
"I trusted you," his brother screams with enough fury to be counted among the mad, spit flying from his mouth. "You leave me no choice. I trusted you to care for her and now both of you must burn."
I do care for her, Jon thinks, and more than you do, for I was willing to take what she had left to give, and you only will keep her if she belongs solely to you.
Consigned to dragon fire for their betrayal, the days of their deaths are set with Sansa to burn on the morn before him, so that he might suffer the sight of it, living until the end with the knowledge that he doomed her to her fate. Locked inside a cell, there is little Jon can do to save his lover and after screaming through the bars until he lacks a voice to croak with, he resigns himself to his helplessness.
But treason breeds treason, and more than one of the Kingsguards proves to be more loyal to their Lord Commander than their king. Jon is released under cover of night and his disappearance is kept secret from the king, so that no preparations are made to secure the execution the way it ought to be with the prince who was promised freed and plotting on behalf of his lady love.
As the fingers of dawn creep over the horizon, with Lightbringer raised on high, he rides into the crowd of smallfolk and eager southron nobles that surround the flame haired woman they think dishonored, ready to watch her be eaten by fire. They're wrong in all of their assumptions. Sansa Stark could never be dishonored. Not even by him, a bastard. And she will not burn today.
The North rises. Half of the Kingsguard deserts. Armies are raised. The peace they fought for is unraveled as battle lines are drawn and Jon dons his black armor in place of white, but Sansa has been allowed to choose. His honor, his duty, the shattering of the peace of Westeros seems a small price even as he rides into battle.
Her voice is a whisper against his sweaty neck, "Victory will be yours."
Perhaps not. Perhaps he fights only to die, but he will die with the knowledge of her love and with a plan in place to shepherd her away should all go wrong, the knowledge of her freedom, and for him that is enough.