It was getting late and Sansa was starting to feel as if she had been waiting for hours. She fidgeted nervously, fingers idly pulling at the lace of her nightgown - soft silk, more revealing than what she usually wore. Several times already she had almost jumped up from the bed and gone to change into something more sensible, afraid of what the king would say once he finally joined her. Any other man would probably get drunk on his nameday, but Stannis had not even allowed Lord Davos to organise a feast. Sansa was sure that the king was working as late as on any other night. In the first weeks of their marriage she couldn't believe that any man could live a life so deprived of joy and pleasure, but by now she would have been more surprised if he had celebrated his nameday at all. She had barely seen him all day; he had locked himself up with his Small Council and avoided the court as much as possible.
King Stannis was every bit as prickly as she had heard, but he had been good to her, kinder than she had ever expected him to be. He was bad with words, but his hands were always gentle and he had tried his best to accommodate her in what had been a political marriage between two strangers. She did not know if it was the recent realisation that she was with child, but she was starting to feel some affection for this man she had never expected to love. When she had heard that he would not even allow a feast in his honour, she had decided to give him something special for his nameday, something he would never indulge in otherwise. She told herself it was her duty to make her husband happy, but if she was quite honest with herself, it had become about more than just duty for her.
The surprise on his face when he entered the room and saw her already made it worth the wait. His eyes, usually so focused on her face, barely ever allowing himself to look at her body when they were in bed together, widened, for the first time he actually stared at her. In an instant she saw that barely perceptible darkening of his eyes, a sign of desire that she had come to long for in the last months.
"Your Grace." She smiled, ran her hand through her hair in what was more nervousness than seduction. "Stannis."
He swallowed hard and tore his gaze away from her, half turning his back as he stripped off his doublet. The king had two squires, but he did not let them help him dress or undress. Over time Sansa had started to enjoy watching him strip in the evening. His face was far from handsome, but he was well-built and the sight of his body always reminded her of the pleasure she found in his embrace. The pleasure they shared, as much as the king seemed to be ashamed of it.
"You worked even on your nameday," she stated while he was undressing. One of the first things she had learnt about her husband was that he despised polite questions - whether he had had a pleasant day and the likes. "And you didn't even allow me to give you a present."
Having stripped down to his undergarments, Stannis walked over to the bed and sat down. He looked exhausted; he didn't sleep enough. Didn't do anything enough really, other than work. She moved closer to him, slowly, leaning forward a little and smiling when he glanced down at her breasts, only for a split second before he looked up again. She caressed his cheek before he could even start grinding his teeth.
"Presents are for children, my queen," he replied finally after clearing his throat. "They're the same as flattery, only with some useless trinket to go with all that asinine courtly chatter."
Her other hand moved to his chest, fingers slipping underneath the fabric of his shirt. Once she would have been shocked by his blunt words, but after all the lies and deceits of the last years his honesty was refreshing. How good for both of them that it was a neither trinkets nor chatter Sansa wanted to give him.
"What if I had a different present for you?" she asked, kissed him before he could reply. His stubble had bothered her in the beginning, but now it felt as familiar and welcome as the warm press of his lips against hers. "A present you might actually enjoy."
Stannis looked sceptical as her hand trailed downwards, moving under the shirt again to caress his stomach. Firm muscle there as well, and much as she enjoyed the feeling of muscles tensing against her fingertips, she did not linger. She took a firm breath to gather her courage, thinking a quick prayer that he would not be mad at her for being so forward, before she gently cupped him through his breeches. She was not surprised to find him hard already, even less surprised by the strangled moan that escaped his lips. Always so tense, so tightly wound, a warrior who apparently hadn't realised that he had left the battlefield.
"My lady, I do not expect you to -" She had seen his protest coming, silenced him with another kiss. Sansa had been terrified of her husband in the first days of their marriage, and her fear had made him gentle around her, almost to the point of shyness, as if he was still afraid of hurting her. As unyielding as Stannis was, he had no cruelty in him.
"I know you don't expect me to." Stannis had smiled at her - truly smiled - when she had told him she was with child, but even though her belly was still flat, he had stopped visiting her bedchambers. Had told her that her duty was to provide him with an heir, not to see to his pleasure. She had not known how to tell him that she came to him for her own pleasure as much as for his.
"But you deserve some joy in your life, Your Grace." She kept her voice quiet, hoped that it sounded seductive and not insecure. "Is it not a wife's duty to ease her husband's concerns, to be there for him when no one else is?"
He was tensing up under her hands, one on his groin, the other still on his cheek, but she did not fail to notice that he did not push her away.
"And it is your nameday, Your Grace."
Stannis tried for a dismissive scoff, but it came out as a moan. His voice was already less steady.
"A foolish tradition."
"Then let us have a new tradition, our own tradition for your nameday." She could see that he was trying to come up with more objections, trying to stay stern, as if there was something shameful in enjoying his wife's company rather than merely enduring it. Yet he complied when her hand trailed from his cheek to his shoulder and gently urged him to lie down - she did not even try to push him, but she did not need to. He looked tense even lying on his back, head raised, those dark blue eyes still on her face. Sansa bit her bottom lip, felt a tingle of excitement run through her own body when he hardened more in her hand. She loved seeing him like this, loved it when his control started to falter. The knowledge that despite having been married before he had only discovered these pleasures with her, learning as she learnt, only made her want him more.
Stannis closed his eyes as she unlaced his breeches, jaw clenched when her fingers wrapped around him, skin finally meeting skin. Suddenly Sansa felt shy again; now that she had convinced him to let her touch him, her confidence seemed to dissipate and she remembered that she actually did not know what she was doing. Knowing how sensitive she was herself, how easily pleasure could change into discomfort, she was suddenly afraid to hurt him, even more since she had no idea how he would like to be touched. She remembered the first time she had felt his hand between her legs, how careful his fingers had been, how odd his touch had felt until he found out what she enjoyed. She did not want to do any less for him than he always did for her.
His body was still underneath her, she could see the tension rippling through his muscles, in his neck, his stomach where she had pushed up his shirt. It made her realise that she was teasing him without even meaning to and she brought her initial plan back to mind. Kissing was easier than touching, her hands always seemed awkward and clumsy when she was with him, but her lips had mapped his face, his neck, his chest over and over again.
It was hard to get somehow comfortable between his legs, but she tried to ignore that as she leant down and breathed a soft kiss on the tip of his manhood. His hips jerked upwards, his eyes opened and he stared down at her in disbelief.
"My lady -" His voice was breathless and rough, the way it usually got when he was already inside her.
"Let me," she said quietly, more nervous than she cared to admit, but her lips moved against him and whatever objections he had - that this was frivolous, unnecessary, that he was no lecher who would make his wife demean herself for his pleasure - remained unspoken. Sansa let the tip of her tongue slide over his manhood, giving a few tentative licks that made him shiver underneath her. Another nervous glance up at him, but criticising her efforts seemed to be the furthest thing from his mind. Brushing a wayward strand of hair out of her face she took him into her mouth, as far as she could - not very far, and she would have worried if it would be enough if he didn't push up a little against her, moaning quietly every time her tongue slid against him. Her fingers stayed wrapped around his manhood, caressing him where her tongue and lips couldn't reach, tightening a little as he moved up against her. She wasn't sure if it was just the novelty of the experience, but it seemed to her that it did not take long until he shuddered in release and then went still, his hands unclenching and releasing the sheets he had been clinging to. The liquid in her mouth surprised her - although she should have known it would be there - the taste unusual and a bit salty, but not particularly unpleasant. She still let go of him in surprise, tried to swallow, but some of it escaped her lips and ran over her chin.
Before she could wipe it off, Stannis' hands were on her shoulders. Although his touch seemed less strong than usual he still pulled her effortlessly up and into his arms, eyes glazed as they met hers. Sansa felt herself blush, wondered suddenly what she looked like - flushed, her hair dishevelled, her lips ... she quickly ran the back of her hand over her chin, hoping desperately that she hadn't missed any of it. She was afraid that he would scold her, call her frivolous and wanton, but instead his fingers combed carefully through her hair. He was as flushed as she felt, his face reddened in shame as much as in pleasure. He seemed to look for something to say, opened his mouth twice without speaking, then settled for, "That was not necessary, Sansa."
Relief almost made her laugh. She had heard that so often, heard it when she kissed him afterwards, when she asked to sleep in his bed rather than return to her own chambers, when she nuzzled against his chest befor falling asleep. She knew that apologetic tone in which he said her name, as if he thought that she was only indulging him, never quite ready to believe that she simply liked being with him.
"No, but you enjoyed it," Sansa said. Kissed him without thinking of what she had done moments before, but he returned the kiss before she could worry about it. The taste did not seem to bother him, he even deepened the kiss, then he pulled back with a sigh. They both knew that was answer enough. She turned in his arms, came to rest with her back against his chest, his face nuzzling her hair. He loved her hair, she knew, and even Stannis, with all his self-doubts when it came to his marriage, knew that she liked when he touched it. One of his hands came to rest on her belly, and she curled up a little in his arms.
"An improvement on your last nameday, I trust?" she asked quietly when both their breathing had slowed down. Her smile widened when he laughed - it sounded almost the same as his scoff, lasted a bit longer maybe. Mostly she felt it vibrate in his chest. They both knew where Stannis had spent his last nameday - at the Wall, knee-deep in snow, elbow-deep in blood, fighting a war that nobody expected to win.
Calloused fingers brushed her hair aside, the kiss on her neck was so fleeting that she felt his stubble more than his lips.
"You improve most of my days, my queen." It was a whisper almost, a tired, unfiltered thought while his mind was well on its way to sleep. Had Sansa not been almost giddy with excitement, she would have wondered if she had dozed off and dreamt his words. Stannis couldn't pay her a proper compliment if the well-being of the realm depended on it, but once or twice since their wedding he had said something like this, as blunt as he always was, without even realising how much it meant to her.
She decided that this new tradition should not be reserved for her husband's nameday alone.