It starts with comfort. She hears the name ‘Little Bird’ for Sansa whispered, and it seems apt and yet wrong – she is a little wolf, quiet and tamed by fear and propriety, but with a wolf’s blood running in her veins. And yet, when Margaery invites her to be her bedmate and take the place of one of her ladies she expects her to blush red and decline quietly, but she agrees with a tone that is a mixture of tolerance and happiness. It is clear that she is intimidated even now by the Tyrells and that with Margaery’s betrothal she fears for her safety in King’s Landing, but Margaery intends to make her sure that they will keep her safe, protect her and help her, and she starts by winning her trust.
In her bed, she lies stiff and curled up, as if her intent is to hide herself away from both Margaery and the world, and Margaery honestly does not intend to do anything except calm her down. She pulls herself over and above Sansa and kisses her chastely and softly on the cheek. It is a kiss between ladies who are only just closer than friends, no more indicative than taking her arm or whispering in her ear, and yet Sansa’s eyes shoot open and she looks at her in confusion.
‘It’s okay,’ Margaery whispers, ‘I’m not going to hurt you. I just want you to be comfortable.’
They don’t share beds that often, no more than is proper and probably less than that, but when they do Margaery makes sure to kiss her every time, and one day when Sansa is finally comfortable, lying as relaxed as she could possibly be in such a city, when Margaery leans over Sansa moves her head and the kiss ends up on her lips. It’s a surprise, but not unwelcome, and a few more pass between them before Sansa turns her head to the side, muttering something about impropriety.
It starts with comfort but it changes into desire, and Margaery finds herself watching Sansa not just to see how she reacts to certain statements, not just to measure the way she interacts with the rest of the bubbled world they live in, but simply for the pleasure of watching. Sansa has the blessing of being one of those girls who is naturally beautiful, her Northern father and Riverlands mother combining in her to make a girl with burnt hair and iced eyes, a little bird now and a little wolf then. She dresses in a strange combination of worlds, her clothes plainer than Cersei’s and chaster than Margaery’s, hair twisted up in the braids of the south and complexion still the smooth paleness of the north. She moves with a grace both natural and taught, and when she is distracted her eyes always drift to the nearest window, as if she is dreaming of freedom. When the three of them are alone together, discussing this or that without the guise of decorum, Cersei can be coarse (and honest) and the way her language sometimes brings the softest of blushes to Sansa’s cheeks endears her yet more to Margaery. Over time, she realises that her sole focus becomes Sansa – her safety, her happiness, the way her eyelashes cast shadows on her skin when she looks down, the soft ripple of laughter Margaery tries so hard to bring, the way her face hardens when she looks down at the court.
She was born not to be a king’s wife but a queen in her own right, and little bird is her nickname only in the way that King’s Landing trammels her in, shuts her behind walls and Margaery makes it her aim to make her happy, in the time they have between each day and Sansa’s departure. And yet, she is still beautiful and yet, Margaery still wants her, more than she has ever wanted a man, in the way, she supposes that Renly was supposed to want her.
She wants to kiss her, more and again, and she wants to take her to bed and take off her clothes and bring a blush to her cheeks and a sigh from her throat. She wants to remain with her, to comfort her and be comforted and she cannot help but think of a distant future, where the two are together in the day and at night.
They rarely have privacy these days, and they are sitting near a wall, looking over at the docks and playing some game Sansa made up about ships and stories, when the conversation lulls and Sansa’s eyes roam over the wide sea, as if seeking freedom somewhere across the waves.
‘What do you think is out there?’ she asks, suddenly. ‘I’ve never thought about it really, but sometimes I can’t help but imagine the Free Cities and the rest of the world.’
‘I don’t know,’ Margaery replies. ‘I’ve heard of the cities and of traveller’s tales, but what truly exists across the sea? I couldn’t say. It is not our due to explore those lands – they belong to themselves now. It is our due to rule what we have, and keep it safe.’
‘But don’t you ever wonder? I mean, doesn’t it seem odd – there’s a whole other land out there, where our trials and workings don’t mean anything at all. I wonder if they know that King Robert died, about the War or about who’s winning and losing.’
‘I doubt they care, if I may be so frank. Just as we know little about their politics, their machinations, their little wars, I doubt they know about ours. It is the fate of countries to be absorbed primarily in themselves, it seems.’
Sansa nods and drops the topic, but her eyes remain at sea and Margaery wonders if she’d rather be there, exploring some new land and finding solace far from the troubles of Westeros.
‘You cannot go,’ she says, without thinking. ‘You must stay and be our Queen in the North, and keep me company in years to come.’
Sansa looks at her in confusion, and then looks away, at the ground, muttering almost under her breath, ‘but you will have Joffrey and children and a kingdom to help run. You will not have time for the likes of me.’
Margaery reaches out and puts a hand on hers. ‘I will always have time for you.’
There is silence, but Sansa looks steadily in her eyes, waiting for something.
‘I heard a story once, about a sailor who was torn between the sea and his wife. The sea ruled him sometimes, and when he was on land he felt a constant need for the waves beneath his feet, for the feeling of the open sea before him and new lands on the skyline waiting to be found. And yet, every day he spent away from home he missed his wife more and more, until he could no longer stand it. They told stories of how he would be a day away from discovering a new land and opening up a new trade channel, finding new riches for his lord and a new world for his country – and he turned around. In the end, after he caught sight of a rich shore he could never find again, he chose his wife over the sea. You were meant to contemplate whether he should have come home or kept exploring, and think about the value of family and house loyalty.
Imagine, Sansa, I am the sailor, you are the sea and the kingdom is my husband. Every day and every night I spent with the kingdom and the king, I will think of you. I will imagine your lips on mine, your skin under my hand, your warmth beside me. And yet every time I am with you I will know that I have a duty to fulfil, that I have a husband and children and a home I must return to. In the end, I will choose the kingdom – you know this – and you will choose your husband and your lands. But before then, if you will let me, I would have you for my own, to enjoy and explore and remember even when I can no longer see you or be with you.’
Sansa is silent, but she nods, almost imperceptibly and that night when Margaery kisses her she reaches right back for her and does not let her go.
Afterwards, when they are catching their breath and Sansa is raising goosebumps on Margaery’s skin with her fingertips, she whispers her reply.
‘I heard the story too, when I was a child. I always chose to stay with the wife. I think now I choose the sea too.’