The first time he comes to her bed, he is not at all convinced it is the right thing to do. Indeed, the greater part of him doubts very much that it is. The essential part, however, gets the job done.

When the Lady Stark suggests it, he wonders if she's more than a little mad or if she's merely forgotten who he is, Lord Commander Snow, her bastard relation if not half-brother. The Wall is not what it was. The Night's Watch is not what it was. He might have a spearwife and no one would question it nowadays, when the Wall is more a gateway and toll station than a mode of keeping people out of the Seven Kingdoms, but he can't leave his post but for a few turns a year, not enough to be a husband to someone. To Sansa.

But it isn't a husband she longs for. It's a child.

The fire cracks and pops, filling the silence that stretches between them in her solar, once she has asked him with her hands folded primly in her lap and her face as still as ice if he would perform this favor for her.

"You want me to come to your bed and get a bastard on you?"

It is enough to set his teeth on edge. Not only because she speaks of their fucking with such calm indifference—It would only be for the purpose of conceiving—but also because it happens to be the only thing she's asked of him since she arrived from the Vale. The most she ever asks of him is not to stay away too long.

It has been a comfort to him to be able to visit Winterfell and be with Lady Stark. He looks forward to his visits with an eagerness he would have thought impossible given the damper placed on their affection for each other as children. These visits are light in his otherwise sometimes bleak existence. In Winterfell he feels at home and at peace. It is a place where petty disagreements and lust for revenge hold no sway, since Lady Stark wills it to be so and everyone follows her lead as if she is the Northern star, shining through the darkness.

No one who knows Sansa thinks to dislike her here in the North. He is no different in the sway her presence has over him, soothing his bitterness until it is naught but a longing he can't quite name. There certainly has never been cause for quarrel between them, since he first saw her installed in the partially rebuilt halls of Winterfell, but at her proposition, anger and confusion fill him to the point that he says things he would normally not think to utter in her presence, and he can see at his words that he has spoken wrong.

"Not a bastard. The babe would be a Stark, the same as you and I." He shakes his head. He is not a Stark. Never was. That is how it is for bastards, whether fathered by Targaryens or Starks, you're only still a bastard. "It would be a Stark," she says with more firmness. "No one thinks to question a Mormont woman on her right to have that be so. No one will question me."

She is probably right. The North looks to her and the South has turned its head thanks to Jon's own efforts. Nevertheless, Daenerys might think the North worth revisiting should her Targaryen relation get a child on the Stark traitor's sole heir. Sansa is admirably adept at politics, she must have thought this through and have plans woven like webs in her active mind ready to be put to the ready, but at her proposition, he can't help but question her judgment in a way he never thought to before, because while she played at being a bastard, he truly is one and he knows the cost. "You should find someone to wed if it's children you want."

She turns her gaze to the fire, seeing something in its dancing flames in a manner different from the witch's. "You know very well I won't ever marry."

"Not all men are cruel. You might find a good man to give you more than just a child."

"Jon," she says, her voice filled with so much heaviness that he regrets his words.

"I know. I'm sorry."

It is more than the rule of another house over the North or a man from another family holding sway in Winterfell that Sansa recoils from. Life taught her to be wary of men. Both the pretty ones and the fearsome ones. The ones that offer to protect and the ones that threaten. Yes, he knows very well she will never marry. Indeed, he long thought that Lady Stark would end her days a widow. Childless too, for his former sister has always been everything proper and despite the fire of her hair, he has never coupled lust with Sansa in his mind. Nor does he now, for her proposition is not a lust filled one, nothing born of that sort of thirst.

"You're the only one I trust. If you were not the Lord Commander, I would suggest a proper union between us two and be done with it, so you wouldn't need to concern yourself about honor." At her words, he can't help thinking of them two, standing in the Weirwood, she with her grey cloak draped over her shoulders and her hair curling over its edge. It's a vision of everything he was never meant to have, a wife, children, Winterfell. Sansa. It isn't a possibility he would have ever entertained even after he learned of his parentage, though there would be some political merit to the match and no doubt some comfort too. She reaches over and adjusts the sleeve of his tunic, her eyes downcast. "I'm not asking for you to want me. Only help me."

He pinches the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger. Married twice, surely she knows that his body must react to her if he is to help her in such a way? And if he should want her in any portion, what does that say about him, when they fought a war because of the bloody Lannisters, who thought nothing of imitating the more questionable practices of his own family? Would he then be no better than the Kingslayer, who could not keep his cock out of his sister, and spawned bastards to sit the Iron Throne?

Her finger traces the edge of his sleeve, brushing his skin. "I thought you might…want a child too?"

He does. Very much so. He has for some time, watching women pass through the gates at the Wall with babes bundled up and propped on their hips and men proudly presenting their sons to him, boasting of their adeptness with a wooden sword or a bow. He has wanted it and the desire does not fade but increase with the passing years. So it might be his own selfishness as much as the desire to make her happy, when she has known so much grief, that brings him to her chambers two nights hence stripped to his under tunic and breeches, his skin hot from two more pours from the flagon of ale than he is accustomed. Yes, she was his sister once if only half. No, they can never be wed. And he expects he will never feel at ease with the idea of bedding her. But he can give her this one thing—at least he suspects he can, because he tested the idea with his cock in hand alone in his chamber before he came to her, imagining the delicate grip of her elegant fingers and he achieved a cock-stand quickly enough. And he can have the one thing he had given up all hope of—a family.

The first time he comes to her bed, he's ashamed that he's hard again as soon as she slips off her shift and he has to clench his right hand so he doesn't reach up to touch himself in front of her. It's only that it's been so long and the red of her hair between her pale legs reminds him of someone else, but he wants her, wants to be inside of her, where she's warm and wet. She mustn't suspect that he is no better than an animal, for she assures him, "It's all right, Jon," as if he is too nervous to proceed, as she holds out a hand to him to draw him to the bed.

It is awkward. A woman's pleasure has always been his own, but he isn't certain whether their pleasure should have any part in this and he doesn't know how to ask, so he ends up feeling like a fumbling green boy, as he moves inside of her with his weight entirely supported by his forearms and her head turned to the side, and they're both quiet from start to finish, when he finally spills inside of her.

Before his visit comes to a close, he comes to her bed five more times. She says it's best they try as many times as possible and Sansa would know, he supposes, so he complies with her request. It doesn't escape him that he debates less with himself every time the household has gone to bed whether or not he should make the walk to her chambers. By the fifth time, he can't hold in the groan, as his cock slides inside her, can't help but skim his hand over the soft flesh of her thigh or wrap his hand around the curve of her hip. This feels like home too. Her, her body, the surrender of her flesh to his. She smells like home in the notch below her neck, where he presses a kiss. And when she clenches around him for the first time, her fingers digging into his back and her mouth latched onto his shoulder, something in his heart breaks and he is remade as hers.

It isn't something he can tell her, however. Not when he must leave for the Wall and leave her behind to see if his seed will quicken alone, but when she makes her usual request at the gates of Winterfell, "Don't stay away too long," he offers her what little he can.

His kiss lingers against the pink apple of her cheek and his thumb brushes her waist, as slim as a maid's, and he promises to return.