If he were a bard he'd write poems about the slope of her cheekbone, the curve of her chin.
If he were a bard he'd dedicate anthems to the swell of her lip, the curl of her lash.
But he's no bard.
He's a man of the Night's Watch. He's no use for pen, no tools of tongue.
But he keeps these thoughts – these soft, buzzing thoughts – in his head like a beacon on his journey to hell: to King's Landing.
He has no idea if he can make it – despite the days of journey he’s already passed – or why he's going, years of you're no Stark circulating beats of escape under his horse's hooves.
But he reminds himself she's there.
She's there: sweet Sansa; and barred in with the Lannisters; her life a rope wound tight round Joffrey's thin wrist.
Thin enough to snap the bones like brittle earth, he thinks with some grim satisfaction - anticipation - and these rows of thoughts bring him over another few miles.
The soft sounds of Ghost’s paws sinking and bounding from the earth next to his mare’s gallop are enough to distract Jon from his treasonous contemplations, and he doesn’t even realize the passing of towns and the changes of scenery, until his cloak is too heavy round his shoulders, the fur pressing heat to his throat.
He removes the offending material and drapes it over the saddle behind him, offers his horse a silent apology for the burden.
He can feel it, the heat and the treachery and anger that is King’s Landing. It seeps through the bits in the air and coalesces into his veins. His lungs hurt for their breathing, there’s sweat beading above his lip.
He thinks again of Sansa, of her fire-born hair dripping in tendrils about narrow shoulders. Of her bowed mouth that dips low and wide when she laughs over something she should not have, the sound sweeping and rolling off her pink tongue.
The heat swims down his torso, wraps itself around his thighs, his toes. He tightens his legs around his steed, urges her faster.
By the time he’s entering King’s Landing – really and truly – he’s already forgetting his ire at the promise of seeing his Sansa. (And he does think of her as his, though he’s no reason to, no tangible proof that she would be.)
He’s off his horse and barely sparing the guards protecting the entrance to the palace a half-second’s notice, heels of his boots beating resolutely against the stones of the hall. If the noise is too cumbersome, let them clamor; let them bemoan the breach of their false peace. He’s no time for a half-second’s notice.
He spots her only by the presence of Sandor: tall, grave and puckered. He can see from the pulling of the scarred flesh over the bones of his face that Sandor didn’t expect Jon’s arrival. (He is a man of the Night’s Watch; the practice of telling signs from scars has long since been mastered.)
He does wonder, briefly, at the surprise in Sandor’s stance, the tight roll of his shoulders; he detects their meaning: Sandor did not hear him coming. Jon thinks back to the pressure of his thick-soled boots and the cusp of the echoes his purchase had made, and wonders again. But then his eyes catch sight of the back of Sansa’s orange head - bowed slightly in the sun – where the light of the day licks star’s births into the strands, and he wonders at Sandor’s being caught unawares no longer.
For how can anyone think of anything but the angle of her backbone, the blue of her eyes when Sansa is near?
It is not a puzzle, it never has been; not for Jon.
He speaks without warning, her name in his mouth is a beacon on the air: full of sound and an unapologetic yearning so old and unexplained; so familiar and felt.
She turns then, fully, and his step falters.
Her face – once so soft and new – is smeared with the wick of closing wounds. Her cheek is black with the ghost of malicious intent, her lip split against her teeth. And even then – even then – Jon can’t help but notice the red of her blood; the color clinging to her chin wetly and deeply in its hues.
His lungs fall to his knees, and he has to root himself to his fortunes to keep himself from doing the same.
Her eyes are spoken for; anger and hatred staking their claim where youth and beauty used to reign.
His throat feels sickly, his arms feel limp. She opens her mouth – so bloodied and thick – and says:
“You didn’t come for me.” Just that, just once. But the note is so full of nothingness, that Jon can’t help but protest to its victim. He can see it spread widely on her narrow, broken face. (For, he is a man of the Night’s Watch; the practice of telling signs from scars has long since been mastered.)
“Sansa, please. Tell me. Tell me, who?” He worries his knuckles with his thumb, wets his unsplit lips. “Sansa, my Sansa,” he tries again, stomach grasping greenly to his tongue. “I’m here now.”
He takes a step for her boldly and she opens her mouth again, takes a timid step back.
Her lips part and blood - thick and curdling and black - pours from her sweet mouth; spilling a ruinous curve down the length of her neck. Her bodice is wet with the ruin of it. And her eyes – her eyes are full of an unnatural blue; there’s frost on her charred lips.
Jon feels for all the world to beg for death; for him, for her, he is unsure. So he closes his eyes and prays.
Jon twists in his sheets, his eyes breaking free of the constraints of his sleep. Not sleep, no. Not that: a nightmare.
He collects his surroundings. He’s pouring sweat into the furs of his bedclothes; his arms are trembling for their burden of holding him upright against the night.
But he exhales a shaking breath into the crisp, deadened air of the wall’s tower.
He is home, and he is cold. There is no humidity of King’s Landing wrenching at his throat. There is no wretched Sansa pulling into fragments his heart. There cannot be; not when Sansa is safe in the palace; not when he has not seen her face to know of its splintering. She is pure and whole and entirely too far away; and she is safe, he feels.
For she must be. He cannot do anything here, tucked away in the end of civility. So she must be safe, and he must believe, lest he throw himself off the edge of the world.
“You didn’t come for me.” He hears in the dim of the night. His knuckles pull tightly at his sheets.
Not yet, he vows to the clean, whole face of blue eyes that bursts behind his eyelids.
“Not yet.” He says aloud.
But I shall goes unspoken, clawing tightly at the promise living hollowly in his chest.