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The Warmth Of Close Observation

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The first sign of her husband's arrival, after a five day absence, was that the dog raised his head from where he'd been asleep by the window. Sansa herself was ensconced by the fire, but that was generally too warm for the big sledding dog, his thick coat more suited for the outside climate. Mist was of a size with a large direwolf, heavier than most, and would have looked much like one if not for his more cheerful demeanor, far less serious than the wolves. It never failed to make her smile when the dog rolled onto his back, paws waving in the air as he gave her upside down looks with his tongue lolling, hoping to get his belly scratched. He and Ghost had a somewhat uneasy alliance that mostly seemed to be based on politely pretending the other didn't exist.

Mist climbed to his feet with a soft, rumbly little 'woo' and went to the door, opening it easily by the doorlatch. Sansa curled deeper into her fur cloak at the sudden draught of cold air. The dog trotted off into the corridor.

A few moments later she heard his typical sing-song greeting-a-friend sounds.

"Hey big lad, did you take care of our Lady Sansa?" she heard her husband's voice, low and affectionate. And then "No, no I'm going to—don't do that…"

She could picture it perfectly. The enormous dog, pleased to see Dickon, was likely leaning his weight against her husband's legs, slowly letting himself slide to the ground in the hope of belly petting. It was very endearing, and also rather literally a roadblock when one had somewhere to go. He hadn't done it to Sansa lately, apparently sensing that she might not be able to stay on her feet.

"Fine then, you overgrown pup," she heard her husband say, a little bit of a grunt in that last word, and then she heard his footfalls come closer until he appeared in the doorway. He was still in his armour, obviously come just off his horse, and she felt a warm rush at knowing that the first thing he'd wanted to do was to greet her.

In his arms he was carrying Mist, the enormous dog sprawled out with his belly up as if he were a baby, a goofy grin on his face. Sansa hid her smile behind her hand at the sight of them, large man and large dog, both looking so very pleased to see her.

 

When the match had first been suggested to Sansa, Jon had said, after the reasons he considered in favour, 'Of course, he is a bit… artless.'

And Sansa had thought that if the worst her brother had to say about a man was that he was without artifice, the prospect of another marriage did not seem so offputting as it had been.

Dickon was artless, a man both intelligent and observant, but open , with no desire to keep his motives hidden. Certainly not from her. He was an open book she enjoyed reading.

Sansa smiled at the memory of her husband of barely a fortnight coming to her with a large fluffy pup cradled in his arms.

"I know a dog is not the same," he'd said, "But I thought he might…"

He'd trailed off at the look on her face. She remembered the painful kick of her heart at both the memory of Lady and the realisation that despite not telling her brand new husband about Lady, he'd read the absence of her own wolf in the way she was drawn to Ghost. Had apparently sought for a way to heal that hurt, inasmuch as it could be healed.

"You don't have to— I'm sure he could find a place in the stables if you don't—" he'd hastened, when she'd failed to say anything, and that had shaken her out of her thoughts, compelled her forward to wrap her arms around both man and pup. It had been impulsive in a way that had been beaten out of her by years of needing to filter her reactions, and it had earned her a lick to her cheek from the pup and a kiss to the top of her head from her husband.

It had been the start, perhaps, of believing that Dickon Tarly was who he seemed to be: a kind, uncomplicated man who really was motivated by wanting to see her happy. Until that moment she hadn't even realised she'd been bracing for the moment his schemes would be revealed.

Mist had quickly grown too big for her to pick up, and now, a year later, weighed as much or more as she did. When Dickon was away, he slept on the bed, keeping her warm. When her husband was home, the dog liked to divide his time between following him around outside, enjoying the frigid air and sometimes napping in snowdrifts, and staying closely by Sansa's side. Sleeping just inside the door of their bedchambers, he did wonders for keeping out the draught.

 

Her husband's face lit up with affection on seeing her.

"No, don't get up," he said when she began to heave herself upright. He put the dog down to come and kneel in front of her in all his armour, knee plate clanking to the tiles, and reached for her hands.

"And how are my loves?" he said, and oh, that did things to her heart, the way he looked at her, the sight of him like this.

"One of us more lively than the other," she said with a smile, bringing his hand to her rounded belly. Dickon made a sound of surprise when his large hand, spanning more than half of her belly, was almost immediately met with a kick from within.

"Through the night, again?" he asked, giving her a sweetly sympathetic look, and she knew he could see how tired she was. She hummed and used his free hand to pull herself toward him, feeling unbalanced and ungainly. He obligingly leaned in for a long, slow kiss, his hand still warmly on her belly.

"Mm, you need a bath, husband," she smiled at him. He disengaged a little as if only now remembering he was still in armour, dirty from the road.  

"I believe I will supervise," she said, before he could apologise for coming to her without pausing to change and wash. It was an endearing habit she certainly had no wish to discourage. "Proper cleanliness must be observed."

Dickon huffed a chuckle at that, no longer scandalised as he had been by the knowledge that she enjoyed looking at his body. Enjoyed plenty of other things with it, too, but her energy might not stretch to that right now.

"I do always seem to get cleaner under my Lady's supervision," he agreed easily. He shifted to slide his arm around her back, the other under her legs, and she no longer tensed now, when he lifted her without effort and climbed to his feet. The ease with which he could pick her up no longer made her feel vulnerable, only gave her a warm, enjoyable thrill. He paused to collect the book she'd been reading and then carried her away toward their chambers, where a bath would already be prepared for him.

Mist got to his feet to follow, likely to lay in front of the bathing chamber door as was his wont.

"Who knows," Dickon said softly as he walked down the hallway. "The warmth of close observation might soothe the babe."

Sansa had in fact considered a bath when sleep would not come and her back ached, but felt ungainly enough that she hadn't want to risk the trouble of getting in and out of the tub. With her husband's strong arms ready to help her in and out, it sounded a lot more appealing. And the tub was big enough for both.

"Who knows," she smiled, pressing a kiss to his throat.