When they bring Sansa to him she’s half delirious from the journey to the Wall. He hardly recognizes her underneath the dirt and grime. Her face is thinner and the once brilliant red of her hair is muddy and dark, hanging unevenly against her neck. She reminds him so strongly of Arya that he half wishes it was her here instead of Sansa before he is seized by a mix of guilt and shame.
He should be thankful for what family he can lay eyes upon, for what he can now protect. “Sansa,” he says softly when he touches the side of her face. Her eyes flutter open, a brilliant blue like the whitewalkers. Her brow wrinkles in confusion for a moment before she is in his arms, body trembling against his and tears wet against the skin of his neck.
“Robb,” she sobs, “Robb, Robb,” and Jon feels something twist painfully inside him as she hugs him fiercely, her relief a lie.
When Jon sees Sansa next she is awake and lucid, pale skin luminous in the dim light of his chambers. It’s hard to miss the bruises and cuts on her face and neck. Jon thinks she looks impossibly small and fragile swaddled by the heavy fur blankets and part of him is suddenly fearful for her. The Wall is no place for a woman.
He can not guarantee her safety here, outside of his chambers. Earlier it seemed only natural that she would stay with him. Now though, uncertainty prickles him and he’s at a loss of what to say or do with her.
He wants to ask how she’s feeling, if she’s comfortable but it all seems strangely formal in light of their circumstances. Instead he surprises himself by reaching out to touch the frayed ends of her once beautiful hair. He sees the way her cheeks color and feels heat rise on his own face as he pulls his hand back.
“I had to cut it,” she says and he can hear a heaviness in her voice that he doesn’t remember from before. “It was easier to travel as a boy,” she says simply and he watches the way her hands ball into fists at her sides. He wonders then what it had taken her to get here, what she must have endured at the hands of Littlefinger to brave the hard journey North.
It surprises him a little, the steel in her eyes now. She had always been weak and frivolous to him. He’d hated her a little for that once but now he would give anything to see her that way again, unburdened by all that has passed.
“You are safe here Sansa,” he tells her and she smiles tiredly at him, the skin of her hands warm against his. He squeezes them gently between his own and takes comfort in the steady throb of the pulse he can feel at her wrist.
“Will you stay?” she asks him after a moment. “I know you must have duties,” she adds quickly, eyes flickering to the door just beyond his shoulder, embarrassed. “Just until I fall asleep.”
“Until you fall asleep,” he agrees and helps her settle under the heavy furs. His hand lingers on her shoulder for a moment and he feels the tension leave her body as she sinks into the bed. With her eyes closed and her hair swept away from her face she looks immortally young and delicate. Helpless. He thinks about Bran and Rickton then, long dead, like their father and Sansa’s lady mother that she looks so much like now.
It is difficult to admit that Sansa might be all that is left to him now. Arya is lost, dead if the rumors are to be trusted, but Jon is not ready to let go of the hope he keeps hidden inside for her return. Until then, he has Sansa and she is his to protect, to keep safe until he can return her to Winterfell.
“Jon,” Sansa says with a soft sigh, stirring beside him as her hand searches his out.
“I’m here,” he promises, lips warm against the skin of her forehead when he takes her hand in his. “I’m here Sansa.”