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Hearts in Vain

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Sansa Stark heaved a sigh, leaned her head sideways on the seat of the crumpled tin box of a bus they were riding in, and reveled in the rare vision in front of her. Her daughter, with her heartbreakingly brilliant smile plastered to her face, was almost hanging out of the window of the almost-falling-apart-at-the-seams bus and she was actually making ‘whee-ee-ee’ sounds and making waves with her arm in the air and it was so unlike her rather sober as well as precocious 8 year old that Sansa felt close to tears with relief.

 

She had been so uncertain about this move, about uprooting her daughter from the life she had known since her birth and plunging both of them in a foreign life, foreign country and even more foreign culture. From Eyrie to Lys. From Westeros to the one of the tiniest islands in the Free Cities of Essos. She had almost had a nervous breakdown on the long flight from Wickenden to Myr after she had coaxed her daughter to a peaceful sleep. The decision to start afresh halfway across the world had been difficult to begin with, but she had also been sort of forced to make the decision in a hurry. She didn’t know where she would be right at this moment if she hadn’t accepted this job offer. But even the offer had come via an unexpected source. That, coupled with the fact that only a few weeks ago this time she had been the lady of The Eyrie and now she didn’t even know what else the Gods had in store for her and her daughter, was giving Sansa frequent panic attacks that she was keeping below the surface with superhuman efforts. It didn’t hurt that she had years of practice keeping her emotions in check. All for her daughter. From the day she first felt the quiver of life in her womb, it had been all about her. And this move too was all for her. Sansa gulped in another deep breath and she drank in the beautiful sight of her daughter’s bright smile as she let this view calm her unstable emotions.

 

Alyssa Baelish. She hadn’t even been able to name the most important person in her life. Her husband had named Alyssa after the legendary Alyssa Arryn of The Eyrie who also lent her name to the famous waterfall of Alyssa’s Tears. But Sansa hadn’t minded, rather she was reassured in the knowledge that Petyr was taking an interest in the babe contrary to what she had suspected while she was pregnant. Her relief was short-lived though. The older Alyssa got, the more criticizing Petyr got of her. Sometimes he was so contemptuous that it bordered on being verbally abusive. Sansa refrained from interfering with difficulty as she knew her shielding the child would only bring down the full force of Petyr’s wrath on her. He punished the child plenty for his own insecurities, jealousies, and fears as it was.

 

Sansa reached out a hand and smoothed Alyssa’s dark, heavy, windswept tresses back from her face. Alyssa was the total opposite of her mother in coloring. With dark hair, dark eyes, dramatically sculpted eyebrows, a straight nose and stubborn chin, she looked almost nothing like Sansa. Even their body types were different; whereas Sansa was the tall, willowy type, Alyssa was the petite, athletic type. The more Alyssa grew up to be her own person, the more Sansa witnessed Petyr’s resentment grow of her. Maybe it was the constant censure that had made Alyssa as independent as she was. She was a child intelligent, understanding and mature beyond her age. At times, to Sansa’s astonishment and amusement, she almost seemed to brood while thinking to herself. It was also that brooding that reminded Sansa of the real reason of Petyr’s bitterness against the girl. After all, it was when she brooded like that did Alyssa most resemble her father.

 

Of course, Petyr had known Alyssa wasn’t his. She couldn’t have been. But Petyr had been eager to help Sansa out of the sticky situation she had found herself in at the tender age of 17, pregnant and missing a baby-daddy. He had always been eager to help Sansa anyway. Even when she had been 11 and all of her family had been killed in a blast in a political rally, a consequence of her father’s political career which had been on the rise then. There had been no immediate relatives who were willing to take in the minor, even her mother’s younger sister who also became a widow as a result of the same blast, and there came Petyr. He had been so chivalrous to take in the minor as his ward and it wasn’t until Sansa began to flower did she ever suspect that there might have been an ulterior motive to Petyr's charity. Sansa, however, had been able to avoid Petyr’s increasingly lingering kisses and fondling hugs for a long time, until she found herself pregnant, helpless and totally at Petyr’s mercy. And that was the one crime she would never forgive the man she had once loved with everything she had: Jon Snow.

 

She had been 16 when she had laid eyes upon Jon Snow again. He was her elder brother’s best friend, lived with his parents in the estate next to Sansa’s parents. He had been orphaned at a young age and since then, though his Uncle Aemon became his legal guardian, he had been a near constant fixture at Winterfell. It had been a shocking surprise when she had seen Jon standing outside her college where she had enrolled for a short course in Child Care and Development. He looked so unsure standing there in his black leather jacket and his uncertainty was confirmed in the way he stuttered her name in a question. Sansa had felt like hugging him, a throwback to her childhood he had been, but her recently formed aversions to male touches had restrained her. He had informed her how he had enrolled in the most elite military forces in all of Westeros, the Night’s Watch, and how a special platoon was sent in the Vale to train with the famous Knights of the Vale. But to Sansa, he was neither a man of the Night’s Watch nor a blast from the past; to Sansa he had been a gust of the winds from North, he had been a sliver of home.

 

Sansa didn’t remember how long Jon’s platoon was supposed to stay in the Vale; she only remembered that for those 4 months with Jon, her feet didn’t touch the ground as she was flying, flying high. They were like wildfire, self-combusting from almost the first moment they touched each other. Their fire burnt so quick and so high! Sansa, who had been terrified of male attention of late, blossomed under his touches. It was, indeed, Jon who refrained from going all the way each time they started to get too carried way. It was actually a miracle that someone as shrewd as Petyr noticed so late what was happening right under his nose.

 

To this day Petyr’s reaction to her love affair with Jon was the most bizarre reaction he had ever shown Sansa. He said nothing to her, absolutely nothing. Lysa Arryn had a lot to say though. She had had her eyes on Petyr for years, had hoped to marry him when her husband died. Instead Petyr had taken on her own niece Sansa as a ward and Lysa only as a mistress. She spent more than half her time at the Eyrie and her only mission seemed to be criticizing Sansa herself or egging Petyr to do that. Lysa called her a slut and whatnot and implored Petyr to let Sansa go away with Jon. Petyr had quelled Lysa with a look.

 

Yet, despite his calm reaction to the news, Petyr started to insert himself into Sansa’s love life directly post his knowledge about it. Whenever Sansa would be about to go out with Jon, Petyr would need Sansa to stay back at home to tend to some back pain he had, or play hostess to some friends he had coming, or take care of young Robin while he and Lysa spent some ‘alone time’. If Sansa mentioned Jon, Lysa would be quick to point out how when everyone had washed their hands off of Sansa, it had been Petyr who took her in so magnanimously. It was on the tip of Sansa’s tongue several times that everyone only included her mother’s only sister Lysa who had washed her hands off an orphaned child, but she restrained herself as she knew that would worsen her life at home.

 

Jon never held it against her when she cancelled, but it was a source of frustration for them both. In the end though, it was Petyr himself who drove them over that unspoken line they had drawn for themselves. He got too drunk on his birthday party and demanded Sansa kissed him properly as a birthday gift. When Sansa tried to placate him with a chaste one, he grabbed her, kissed her forcefully and then shoved his hand under her skirts. Sansa had been horrified, pushed him off of her and ran from the house straight into Jon’s arms. Jon’s platoon had been housed in a hotel near the base camp of the Knights of the Vale. He had pulled her inside, listened to her sobs and her description of what happened and he had been beyond himself with rage. Then he had wanted to go punch Petyr’s teeth in and it had been Sansa who pacified him. One thing led to another, and somehow they found themselves wrapped around each other in Jon’s bed. This time none of them had the emotional strength to withdraw or make the other stop.

 

Sansa didn’t think she conceived Alyssa the first time they did it. Despite Jon’s tenderness, it had hurt and although it got better later, Jon couldn’t last longer as he kept his eyes trained on her. After he had finished, he kissed down her body to bring her to her peek with his mouth and that’s when Sansa had noted that most of his seed had been spilled on her belly and the crumpled white sheets. No, she was sure it happened the second time.

 

They had both drifted off to sleep and were still half asleep as Jon had reached for her hips and pulled her back to his erection. He had entered her from behind and his hand had worked at her nub. This time he had brought her to her peak even before he stared thrusting fast. When he had started thrusting hard and fast, she had felt another orgasm building in her and as he had lost control, they had come together. They had lain there together, not speaking, just touching each other, Jon still snuggly pressed inside Sansa and Sansa keeping his soft member inside by keeping her legs tightly closed. Just as she had felt Jon preparing himself to say something to her, Sansa had felt overwhelmed by all the events of the night and had burst into tear and Jon’s bedside phone had rung. With a furrowed brow, he had reached across Sansa and picked the receiver up. His posture had stiffened immediately, he had only been able to say ‘Sir” a bunch of times and then he had been off the bed in a flash. When he had slammed the phone in the cradle, Jon had started dressing, telling her his platoon leader had summoned him at once, he would be back soon and with a kiss to her lips, he had been gone.

 

Sansa had waited 18 whole hours for him in that tiny hotel room, the scent of their mingled pleasure turning into stench, her pleasure bubble turning into insecurity and terror. In the evening, when she knew men of the Night’s Watch would be returning from their training of the day, she knew she couldn’t wait any longer and had to leave. When she had reached home, she couldn’t look at Lysa’s disgusted gaze and Petyr’s blank one. Petyr had later come to her alone and apologized for his behavior the night before and said he had been terribly worried for Sansa. He informed Sansa he had called his contact in the Knights of the Vale and from there he had reached the platoon leader of the visiting platoon of the Night’s Watch. The platoon leader was the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch himself and Jeor Mormont had informed him that Jon Snow had left for the Wall that day itself on official duty. She hadn’t taken only Petyr’s word for truth though. She had rung Jon’s hotel when his cellphone had been unreachable and she had been informed that ranger Snow’s room had been let go by the platoon after his things had been cleared out by his mates. She had asked to speak to one of his mates and had been informed by Pyp or Grenn, she couldn’t remember who it was now, that Snow was back at the Wall on duty.

 

She had tried to make excuses for him, that maybe he was called away on important official duty, even though she knew he wasn’t that special of a ranger yet that only he would be asked to join on a special mission from his whole platoon. She told herself it might have been a matter of life and death and yet she knew he would have had to wait for a flight back to the Wall for hours and he could have easily had come back to his room for his things and for her. Most of all, she knew if he had wanted to keep their relationship, he could have called her, texted her, e-mailed her, or freaking written to her. He did none. His radio silence convinced her he regretted what had happened between them more than his desertion did. He had seen her crying, he must have known she had been overwhelmed with feelings. She was just 16, for crying out loud! He had claimed he understood her, so he should have known how vulnerable she must have felt after their time together. And yet he just up and left, in the name of duty apparently, and then forgot that she existed. Sometimes just to make excuses for him, Sansa imagined he had died in the line of duty. But she knew that was not the case. That was not what his mates told her and besides somehow she felt she would know if that was the case. No, Jon Snow had got what he wanted and then his luck had enabled him to swiftly abandon her.

 

Over two months, Sansa agonized and berated herself, until one day she fainted at the garden of the Eyrie. When she learned she was pregnant, her first reaction was joy. She had a person of her own in this world now. And then came the fear, uncertainty, anger, bitterness and vulnerability.

 

Petyr was again, very calm. He stoically informed they must marry. To Sansa’s horrified rejection, he had very quietly pointed out, other than the fact that the baby would be considered a bastard, even if Sansa didn’t marry Petyr, whatever she told to the contrary people would just assume Petyr was the father of the babe. If Sansa told her story of Jon, people would just assume Petyr used her and was now shirking his responsibilities. He asked her how could she portray him to people like that after all he had done for her. He coaxed her by imploring her to think of her unborn child; of the future Petyr could provide for the child. He apologized for his lecherous behavior of the past and then he pressured her to make her decisions before she started to show.

 

Sansa neither had the emotional strength nor the mental capacity to think a way out of the walls that were rapidly closing in on her. She succumbed. Petyr and she were wed in a surprisingly quick time. Petyr forgot his promises even quicker than that.

 

He had a fantasy about every state Sansa was in, it seemed. He was a pervert at heart. Sansa resisted his advances at every step. Throwing an emotional tantrum when he forced his hands under her dress on their wedding night, and then pleading hormonal imbalance due to the pregnancy later. But Petyr had leverage after Alyssa was born. The first time Sansa let Petyr fuck her was the time when he had wrenched Alyssa from her breasts and threatened to throw her at the wall of the nursery. At first he would even demand her participation in the depraved acts, threatening Alyssa in the event of non-compliance. Later, when Alyssa was older, four or so, the little soul learned to stay out of Petyr’s path by herself and Sansa stopped participating in Petyr’s games altogether. She still opened her legs for him occasionally when he would tend to become too censorious to Alyssa, but she made sure Petyr knew what lying with a block of ice felt like. Petyr soon understood her game; he turned to Lysa’s bed again and started picking on Alyssa like a dog with a bone. And after all of his tortures they endured, the bastard left not a penny for Sansa and Alyssa after he died.

 

Sansa had been on the streets with Alyssa after Petyr’s will had been read. He had written everything he had over to his mistress Lysa Arryn. Sansa was on some level glad that she didn’t owe that pervert anything in death, but still the face of her daughter had plagued her with worries. She had inherited her father’s estate after her family was killed, but title disputes and possible contest had prompted her father to put the estate in a trust in case of his untimely death. The trust could only be accessible to her once she reached 30. As it was, Sansa was penniless.

 

Then had come the unexpected e-mail. Mr Varys, whom she knew as her father’s aide and later his estate executor, had sent her a link to a job application of all things. He said he knew of her situation and he was sorry her estate couldn’t be handed over to her at this time and as he knew she had taken courses on childcare, he thought she would like to consider the job. Lastly, his cryptic mail had stated, Sansa might the find the change in scenery a most welcome thing at this point in her life and he urged her to take the plunge. Sansa had read the ad; a Mrs. Ygritte Wilde was looking for a nanny for her two infant sons. The job paid very, very handsomely, would provide separate accommodations, widows were preferred and they wouldn’t even mind one or two children. The only catch was it was half a world away as far as Sansa was concerned, all the way in Lys in the Free Cities. And in the end, it was Alyssa and her enthusiasm for the Free Cities that had tipped the scales for Sansa.

 

Now there they were, travelling from Myr Airport over the Disputed Lands to the coastline where they would take a ferry to Lys. Sansa heaved another sigh and with a feigned smile she attracted Alyssa’s attention, “Looking forward to the ferry, Lyssa?” Alyssa turned to her with an amused grin, “I know, you aren’t!” Sansa ignored her teasing and gathered her bag, “Get ready with your things. We are stopping and that must be the ferry now!”

 

Sansa gathered their bags and motioned Alyssa to go ahead of her with her own trolley bags. By the time she came out of the bus, adjusted her eyes to the late afternoon sun and looked for her daughter, she saw Alyssa was already in conversation with a rather bulky man standing by a powerful looking four-wheeler jeep. Another man, possibly the driver, was already stowing Lyssa’s bags in the back and the way his back muscles played at the movements told Sansa he must be one of those kind of men who loved to spend all of their times in the gym. Sansa furrowed her brows disapprovingly and marched to Alyssa. Her daughter had this annoying habit of always talking to strangers. But as she drew near, the bulky man smiled at her and spoke, “Mrs, Baelish? I am Sam.. Samwell.. Samwell Tarly! You can call me Sam though, everyone does! I hope you had a nice journey? Alyssa here was telling us you are not looking forward to the ferry ride? Too bad you know.. since we gotta ride it to get to Lys. This is Jon though. And he will talk to the captain of the ferry and we’ll make sure the journey goes as tranquil as possible! Oh sorry! I am not letting you speak. We came to pick Sansa Baelish and Alyssa Baelish up and Alyssa here confirmed that’s you-”

 

Sansa interrupted his babblings because she knew that was the only way she’d get a word in, but she just had to ask for her peace of mind, “Jon?” As she was looking at Sam for an answer, the other man turned and as she gasped really loudly, he answered as if she had called, “Yes, Mrs Baelish?”

 

Sansa looked at the face she had seen most nights in her dreams for the last 9 years and then at the innocent face she had lived for for the last 9 years, and the resemblance was so striking, that it nearly knocked Sansa off her feet. A sudden bile of anger, betrayal, hurt and sadness rose in her throat. Her head spun and she wanted to hurl every silent accusation of the past 9 years at his face. But there was such a naked rage, almost accusatory anger in Jon’s eyes that in that instant Sansa vowed that Jon must not ever see what she was seeing, the resemblance between Alyssa and himself. After all these years of purgatory in hell, Sansa was finally free and she would not drag herself or Alyssa into the muds of the past just so she could demand answers and justifications from Jon Snow. He could go to the hell he resided in for the past 9 years for all she cared. Dragging Alyssa behind her in a swift pull, she turned her head sharply towards Sam and said in clipped tones, “Please inform.. Mrs.. Mrs.. Yes! Wilde! Mrs Wilde that I will be unable to fulfill this position after all. Goodbye!”

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Chapter Text

The afternoon sun was too hot and glaring on the coast of the Disputed Lands and as Sansa turned too quickly after she had rendered her verbal resignation from a job she hadn’t even started yet, she felt her head spin a little. As she swayed, two small yet strong hands hugged her waist and she looked down at her daughter’s worried gaze looking up to her.

 

“Mummy, are you all right? You look all blotchy and red!” Her voice had an edge of panic to it. Great, Sansa thought, blotchy and red. So much for an empowering and satisfying cold-shoulder to a jerk after 9 years of oblivion. Shoving the thought aside, Sansa cupped Alyssa’s cheek reassuringly, “I am fine, love. It’s the sun only. Can you gather your bags for me, or do you want my help with them?” Alyssa looked at her with confused and worried eyes, “We are not staying then? Not going to the island? Will we go back to the Vale? But- Mum!”

 

Sansa felt guilt rushing through her as she fully understood the reason for her daughter’s worry. They had resided at a cheap motel, after they had been evicted by Lysa, which Alyssa had hated and with good reason. That seedy motel was no place for a kid and certainly not a kid as active and sporty as Alyssa was. Sansa had already tried and failed in securing any kind of jobs there. Turns out, Petyr Baelish had offended a lot of people in town, and while they did sympathize with her when they heard about Petyr’s will, they didn’t feel bad enough to actively help out Petyr Baelish’s wife and child. Apparently, Petyr Baelish wasn’t always above using other people’s wives and children for his own benefit. The only other alternative in the Vale was going back to Lysa and begging for a place to cram themselves in and waiting for someone to take pity on them for Alyssa’s school fees and other expenses, which Sansa was loathed to do. This job offer, the money and the chance to relocate had seemed like a dream Sansa hadn’t even dared to dream. But she should have known by now, dreams rarely came true and when they did they extracted their price in pounds of flesh.

 

But she had to tell Alyssa something. It had always been like that between them. They were a team. It was them against the world. Besides, sometimes Alyssa was more understanding and intelligent about situations than even Sansa. She had just opened her mouth to try to explain at least some superficial things to Alyssa without disappointing her too much when Jon’s low, gravelly voice came through and Sansa was startled to realize that he had come closer and was now standing very close to her and her daughter… and to Sansa’s horror he was speaking to said daughter, looking at eyes that really were mirror images of his own. “Alyssa, is it? It’s alright. Your – mum - and I used to know each other a long time ago. When I visited the Eyrie. I think- Mrs. Baelish- and I need to talk first before she made any hasty decisions.” The last sentence was said with his steely eyes on Sansa, and with that he walked away to a bit of a clearing along the coast where there were fewer ferry passengers milling about.

 

Sansa flashed another reassuring smile to her daughter and then instructing her to stand next to Sam, who was looking more and more embarrassed by the second and still managed to seem trustworthy, she marched over to where Jon was standing looking over at the people getting off of the bus that had just come about. Sansa spoke almost in a whisper, “This has been a mistake. There’s no point in stretching it. You can go back to the island and my daughter and I can catch the next bus back to Myr. Convey my apologies to Mrs. Wilde--” She was cut off when Jon abruptly turned, “A mistake? You are Mrs. Sansa Baelish? And you did accept a job offer on Lys for a nanny position? Do enlighten me wherein lies the mistake? Did you mistake the job for a vacation and are just now realizing that for once in your life you might be expected to work for your livelihood or did you mistake all of his to be just a gag performed for your sole amusement?”

 

Sansa cringed at the censure in his voice and she knew there must be two bright spots in her cheeks now from the fury and humiliation she felt at his unjust accusation and she whispered furiously so as not to attract the attentions of the passing travelers, “I never expected to just come here and count money sitting around on my ass all day long. I am fully prepared to work in an honest vocation to provide sustenance for my daughter. And I wouldn’t have come all this way out just to be pranked. But-” Jon’s clipped voice again cut her off, “Fine. Please handover 6000 dollars to Sam and bugger off. Thanks for wasting everyone’s time and resources.” This time Sansa’s horrified gasp made him look up at her and Sansa really had to focus to continue talking while ignoring the potent way his eyes got fixed on her parted lips, “6000 dollars?” If she had that kind of money, she could have tided herself and Alyssa over comfortably at the Vale until she acquired a job or something.

 

Jon slowly nodded and the gleam in his eyes that turned his almost black eyes to the deepest shade of brown said he knew he had her in a corner. “Aye! Only the cost that has been spared until now behind your daughter and your conveyance. If you worked on your job, that amount would be included under fringe benefit in addition to your remuneration, among other things. But as you are rejecting the job, it’s only ethical that you return the amount, don’t you think?”

 

His words had the sobering effect of a bucketful of ice on Sansa. Barely few minutes till she had laid eyes on Jon Snow and she was behaving exactly like the impulsive teenager that she could no longer afford to act like. Of course she didn’t have the means to reimburse him. If she had the means, why would she have had to travel halfway across the world for a fresh start anyway? It had been Jon Snow himself who had taught her the first lesson in eating the humble pie the hard way and, by now, Sansa was a pro at how to do it with grace. But in the same instant that Sansa realized she would have to at least carry out the probationary period of her job before she could turn in her resignation without worrying about reimbursement, she vowed that she’d treat Jon Snow in exactly the same way as the last man who had forced the humble pie, among other things, down her throat. The only difference was, Petyr Baelish had only been subjected to her cold indifference, Jon Snow would know what indifference with a vengeance felt like.

 

Squaring her shoulders, Sansa kept her cool gaze on Jon’s suspiciously blank face as she raised her voice and said in such a cold voice that even her lips felt frozen, “Lyssa! Get in the car, love. You’ll get to enjoy the ferry ride you talked about the whole way here.”

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So silent treatment was the name of the game, Jon thought as he looked at Sansa- Mrs. Sansa Baelish- stand with her back stiff and straight with her hands gripping the railings of the deck of the ferry and look down at the water. Alyssa Baelish and Sam were chatting near him as if they had known each other since forever. She seemed like a bright, inquisitive child. She looked nothing like her mother though. In turn, her mother looked nothing like the girl Jon had known all those years ago. No, she didn’t. If she had been a caterpillar then, now she was a full grown beautiful butterfly. Marriage to Petyr Baelish must have suited her.

 

Jon was trying to keep a lid on his temper when he heard a small voice call his name. “Mr. Snow? Mr. Tarly says you can swim under the water?!” Jon couldn’t ignore the pull of the innocent admiration in the voice, and taking deep breaths to calm himself down, he turned and simply nodded his head. Alyssa’s eyes rounded as if they were huge saucers. “Whoa!! Can you teach me?! I have always wanted to learn that!”

 

Jon wasn’t sure who was more startled, Sam or himself, when a guffawed laugh escaped his throat inadvertently, “Always?” As he saw a flaming red head turn in their direction out of the corner of his eyes, Alyssa blushed and giggled, “Well, not always. I only learned to swim a few years back actually. But since I heard Mr. Tarly say you can do it and also teach people around the island how to do it... Will you please consider teaching me that?”

 

Jon had thought it would be difficult. He liked children a fair amount, but he hadn’t been sure what his own reaction would be to the child of Petyr Baelish and the woman he had once thought he- Jon put a brake on his thoughts and found with a sense of profound relief that looking at Alyssa didn’t remind him of her father and, consequently, he found the girl quite endearing. He smiled down at the kid, “I’d love to, but if only your mother has no objections to it. But if I had to hazard a guess, I’d say she’d probably wanna get you guys a bit settled in before she’d approve of you starting on any kind of underwater activities.” Alyssa chuckled very much like an adult at that and said in a precocious manner, “You got that right. She’s a bit of a worrier. But we’re a team. If she sees how excited I am about it, she’ll come around.” As Jon smiled at the vaguely familiar face of the kid, he decided Alyssa Baelish might be the only person with the surname Baelish in the world, dead or alive, that he would ever get to like a certain amount.

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Sansa felt like crying in earnest. This was exactly what she hadn’t wanted to happen! Not only Jon Snow and her daughter were conversing in a conspiratorial whisper like they were old chums, but Mr. Tarly was also looking back and forth between them with fairly amazed eyes! Now was Mr. Tarly’s amazement from the fact that Jon got on with the child so well so quickly, or the resemblance between them, Sansa didn’t know and frankly she didn’t want to guess at. Determined to break the scene escalating before her eyes at any cost, she marched towards them.

 

“Lyssa, if you don’t mind hon, I’d like to get to know a bit about my employer. Why don’t you go and have a drink from your water bottle? You left at it at the back of the jeep.” The surprise in Alyssa’s eyes as she looked at her mother hurt. Sansa had never been one of those constant-direction type mothers like Lysa had been to Robin, but desperate times and all that. In the end, Alyssa just shrugged and skipped off to the open-backed jeep. Sansa was aware of Jon’s expectant eyes on her profile and she saw Sam starting to go towards the jeep to see if Alyssa needed any help and she spoke quickly, “Mr. Tarly! I actually wanted to talk to you.”

 

Mr. Tarly’s astonishment and Jon’s resentment at her deliberate trickery were like palpable things in air. It was Mr. Tarly who recovered first, “Sam, please. Everyone calls me that. Mr. Tarly is my father.” Sansa smiled warmly at him, the first real smile she had managed to procure since getting off the bus and felt Jon’s eyes almost like a heavy touch on her face. “Only if you call me Sansa. I was wondering about... about Lys, if you must. I mean, it seems pretty small on the map, doesn’t it? I was wondering about the population and their occupation and such things. Google wasn’t a big help on that since it’s a privately owned island and all. Trust me, my daughter tried!” Sam smiled and sent an affectionate look at Alyssa, “I take that as a complement, since you can kinda call me the brain behind our operation. It’s my job to make sure no untoward information turn up for the idle surfer on the net.” At Sansa’s raised eyebrows, he hurried on to explain, “You’ve heard of Daenerys of course?” Sansa nodded quickly, because who hadn’t? Sam continued, “Well, she and her late husband started this initiative of anti-slavery movements, which of course gave way to the now legendary Chain Breakers Initiative and-” Sam hesitated as he cast a quick glance at Jon and as Jon nodded he continued, “After Drogo’s tragic demise, Daeny- Well, she felt she needed new motivations. She came to this island which had been Drogo’s gift to her and CBI is now, as you must know, famously run by Secretary General Tyrion Lannister. But Daeny is hardly the type to sit around. You’ll see when you meet her. When Jon and she reconnected- Well they sort of meshed their goals. Her of human welfare in the Free Cities and his of military and artillery improvement. Together they developed the biggest private military training and management enterprise in the world. Turns out Jon is better at military management and staging battle maneuvers even more than being a soldier himself. We contract out.”

 

Sansa furrowed her brows at this. “Biggest private military training and management enterprise? I don’t think I have ever heard of such things before.” Sam smiled with pure glee, “You wouldn’t! Means we are doing our job well. Covert is the name of the op! You heard of the Second Sons? The Unsullied?” Sansa nodded in confusion. Who hadn’t heard of the two most elite and efficient military forces in the Free Cities? The Second Sons were deployed by the CBI in peace missions all over the Free Cities and now they have also started to deploy them in Westeros also. The Unsullied were singlehandedly credited for keeping the terror activities of the no. 1 terror group in all of the world Sons of the Harpy at bay. But what did they have to do with Jon Snow? As if sensing her unspoken question, Sam simply explained, “They were the brain child of this man over here. Daeny backed his ideas and he planned, recruited, trained and almost stage-directed both of those forces until they were ready enough to be operational. Now the groups are financed by the governments of Bravos and Meereen. We have a small group of the core think tank back at the island. But now we mostly do none of the heavy work. Only the tiny management processes. I fell in love with life in Lys from the beginning, you see! Jon used to go away with the troops for months at the beginning. He still does sometimes. But he always comes back.”

 

Sansa digested all this as a disturbing memory pricked at the back of her mind. Jon, playing with her hands as she sat on his lap, saying in a dreamy voice that he loved the military life... would spend his whole life in it if he could. Then he had looked into her eyes and said in a whisper that he could see her waiting for him to come back from ranger duties at their home and then he had pulled her head down and kissed her in that voracious way he had. Sansa shook her head to dispel the memory. It seemed as if to advance in life Jon Snow had not only left her behind, but also his own dreams.

 

She kept her voice normal with an effort. “So, does Mr. Wilde work with you too?” She was unprepared for the way both men jerked their heads her way. It was Jon himself who spoke this time. “Mr. Wilde?! He’d deceased, didn’t you know?” Sansa was so shocked that she forgot not to direct her question at Sam, “Dead?! No, I didn’t! How would I?” Sam hastily cut in, “He was an old mate of Jon’s, from the Night’s Watch. Both he and his wife worked with Jon in training the Unsullied. He was killed 5 months ago by members of the SoTH while leading some troops in Astapor.” Now Sansa felt horrible for asking about it, still she cruised on as she wanted to know the scopes and demands of the job she was taking in, “I am so sorry to hear about him. Really. But then, Mrs. Wilde is my sole employer? And she now lives on the island? She doesn’t work anymore? I am sorry if I seem snoopy. I am only asking to get a clear picture of my duties, you see. I didn’t know Mrs. Wilde would be a single mother! Obviously she’s struggling with such young kids. Also my responsibilities will vary vastly depending on whether she’ll be a working mom or a stay-at-home mom. I still haven’t enrolled Alyssa in--”

 

She saw Jon’s lips purse disapprovingly as his words cut through the air like knife, “Don’t worry. We won’t overwork you! Ygritte is staying home with the kids for now.” Sansa noted his familiar use of her employer’s name with some distaste. And only then did she remember his use of the word ‘we’. “Excuse me, Mr. Snow? We? It will be Mrs. Wilde’s prerogative to overwork me, or not, won’t it? I have been employed by her, right?” At this, Jon turned fully toward her and gave her a smug little smile as he said slowly, “Wrong! Her husband was a very good friend of mine and he died doing his duty in the name of our enterprise. The last thing I could do was take care of some things for her. So, you see, Mrs. Baelish, you’ve been employed by me. Ygritte’s not your employer, I am.”

 

Sansa hadn’t spoken a word to him after that. Clearly Jon must realize that he had brought her out here under at least semi deception, if not full. If his name had been anywhere near the advertisement, Sansa wouldn’t have considered even looking at it. Plus he had yet to show any surprise at her presence before of him, only contempt. So he obviously knew who was coming in to fulfill the nanny position for his ‘Ygritte’! And if Sansa felt like lowering herself to talk to him, she would definitely ask him why he was making this big show of indignant contempt to her when it should be the other way around. And most of all, Sansa couldn’t stop herself from morosely wondering about the various other ways he might be ‘taking care of’ his dead friend’s wife.

 

From the state of her chaotic mind, one thing Sansa knew for sure. Like he had done before in the past, Jon Snow had again started playing havoc with her mind. But she also knew that she was not the same naïve teenager today. Both Petyr Baelish and Jon Sow had saw to it. Sansa Baelish today was a mother before all, and for whatever reasons Jon had brought her to this island using a subterfuge, if he thought he could hurt her or her daughter in any way, it was him who was gonna end up hurting like a mother.

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Chapter Text

When it was time to get on the jeep to board off the ferry, Sansa had been quick to go and start climbing on the back. But nice, gentlemanly Sam had been adamant that the lady should sit in the front, his voice brooking no argument as he had cast a quick, respectful glance at the skirts of her peach-n-lime knee length floral dress. Jon had looked at her balefully when she had hesitated to climb on the passenger seat. That’s when Sansa had noticed the really long scar coming down the side of his right eye. It’s really not that glaring, almost seemed to be a part of his face and was only blatantly notable because he had pulled his hair back in a tight bun.

 

Sansa settled into the seat next to him, incredibly annoyed with herself for really wanting to know how he had gotten that scar. If one’s own heart and mind refused to cooperate with what was good for one’s well-being, than a girl really had no business being in this world. But despite chastising herself for being overly curious, she wanted to know whether that scar had happened before or after he had deserted the Night’s Watch for better prospects, and she really meant money when she thought prospects. But wherever he might have gathered that scar, he looked to be in one piece. He looked better than in one piece actually. He looked weathered, rough around the edges; but he still had that self-assured air of someone who knew his own place in the world. Obviously he hadn’t been dying in a warzone or bleeding away in a ditch somewhere as Sansa had feared for so many nights during Alyssa was still in her womb. And he most certainly hadn’t found himself alone, desolate, penniless, helpless and in a physically, mentally, and emotionally abusive marriage if Sam’s accounts of his life in the island with his family and friends were anything to go by. Well, Sansa amended her thoughts, she hadn’t really heard Sam mention anything about his marital status, physically, mentally, and emotionally abusive or otherwise, but discounting for that, she still thought Jon Snow had fared better than the fate he had plunged her into 9 years ago.

 

Although in all honesty, Sansa couldn’t bring herself to blame him for the fortune he had earned for himself. She admired that in a person, earning his own fortune. That was one of the things she remembered of her father, always telling Robb to be his own man, be self-made. She could also remember the long-faced, dark-haired teen that would more often than not occupy the seat next to Robb on those evenings. Sansa had always wanted to work and become her own woman, her father’s voice urging her in her mind. But Petyr had always been against it. That short course she had been taking when she had met Jon had been the first and last act of defiance Sansa had shown against Petyr. After Alyssa was a bit older, seeing how fiercely independent her daughter was, Sansa had seriously started looking in the newspaper for a job. But that had been shortly before Petyr started calling Alyssa a bastard and telling her that her mother was a slut who didn’t even know who her father was. His shrewd eyes had picked up far more of Jon Snow in Alyssa than Sansa or her Tully looks.

 

That had been when Sansa had actively tried to leave the marriage, able to suffer the abuses herself, but not willing to let her daughter suffer them. But as it turned out, you didn’t leave Petyr Baelish until he was willing to let you go. He had explained to her in that raspy, snake-y voice of his that despite what they both knew, to the world Alyssa was a Baelish and he was her father. If Sansa tried to leave him, without a doubt the family court would grant Alyssa’s custody to Petyr, the financially solvent parent. Petyr had assured her that he knew what he was talking about as he had many lawmaker friends as compared to Sansa who really had no friends. He had known that would be enough to put Sansa back in the palm of his hand. There was only one thing in the world that mattered anything to Sansa at all, and it was her precious daughter. Petyr had turned Alyssa into Sansa’s leash.

 

Sansa had done everything to shield the child from most of Petyr and Lysa’s abuses by taking her out to swimming and to the park after school. She had enrolled her in every little class Alyssa had wanted to take in (nothing remotely girly of course- fencing, judo, jujitsu), knowing Petyr would pay for them rather than let the town think he was a miser or a mean person not paying for his child’s expenses. Once back home, she would hurriedly ready Alyssa for the bed after completing her homework. The Eyrie being a humongous mansion had helped them both to become lost in it when they had wanted to. But still, gradually, Sansa had watched her daughter slowly leave the shells of a child and adapting herself to become quick to understand mood swings of people, read the environment and basically act like a grown up.

 

Sansa shook her head to cast away the memories and looked sideways out the window and took in Lys. It was picturesque. That was the only word for it. Beautiful blue water beckoned the eyes on the far horizon and the cobbled stone roads looked smooth and fairly newly built. She tuned in to the conversation happening mostly at the back of the jeep, but she was aware that Jon was also contributing to it from time to time. Sam was telling Alyssa about his hobbies apparently, “I try to garden. Daeny has built greenhouses to try to grow our own veggies and fruits here. But we’re not Dorne, you know? Things just don’t—grow the same way!” Frustration laced his voice as Jon suddenly chuckled and shot a teasing glance back at his friend, “No shit! That lettuce you grew, that you were so proud to show off.. Man! It was lame. Pathetic little thing looked like someone had beaten it in a fist fight!” Alyssa burst out laughing while Sam gave Jon a stink eye and Sansa watched with rounded eyes as Jon adjusted his rear-view mirror and winked at a gleeful Alyssa.

 

Sansa put aside her silent treatment for the moment to insert herself somehow in the situation, “Excuse me! You don’t think swearing’s inappropriate, and some might say even unacceptable, in the presence of a child?” Jon looked at her with confused eyes at the same time that Alyssa protested in a yell, “Not a child, Mum!” He asked with his brows furrowed, “Swearing?” Then it came to him, “Oh shit! Shit? ” And he swiftly glanced at Alyssa in the rear-view mirror again, “Don’t repeat that!” Alyssa blew her lips in a very crude way, “As if! Mum knows Brady in my class used to say far worse swearwords than that. Ask Mum if I have ever repeated them except for the times I first told her about them!” Then she leaned closer to Jon’s ear by craning her neck around his seat, her arms framing the back of the head-rest, and said in a loud whisper, “He wouldn’t even say shit! He used to call the pasta in the lunchroom bullcrap!” “Alyssa!” Both Sansa and Sam shouted, her voice horrified and his distorted with laughter. As she was glaring at Alyssa, she saw Jon purse his lips to stop his laughter from spilling out and then clearing his throat, he asked in a mock calm voice, “You definitely don’t swear then? Wouldn’t repeat what I said?” Alyssa shook her readily, vigorously. Jon half-looked at Sansa and said under his breath, “All settled then.”

 

Sansa could just shake her head disbelievingly at that and Sam tried to attract Alyssa’s attention away from swear words. “Oh, beware of the southern-east part of the coastline. Some Dothraki settlements have their seafood and butcher shops there. They also sell dried fish and meats. The stink could kill a man on the best of days.” Sansa knew her daughter enough to know what her reaction would be. “Stink? Cool! ” Alyssa crooned, “I can’t wait to visit the place! It must be packed with stray cats!” Sansa jumped at the sheer force of the laugh Jon huffed out at this and this time he kept on laughing, even wiping a couple times on the corner of his lips with his thumb to control himself, but unable to do so he kept on laughing. Sam muttered under his breath behind Sansa, “Who are you and what have you done with my mate Jon Snow?”

 

Sansa gave out a really long sigh, tuned out the people in the jeep and leaning her head on the seat, kept her eyes trained on the shoreline morosely.

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Sansa was really enthralled by the town of Lys as the jeep treaded more and more inwards the island. The entire city was turned towards the sun and the sea, blazing with rich colors of the blossoming gardens and hot roofs. Sam was explaining to Alyssa in the back how Lys was accompanied by a proud escort of the eternally green islands and small isles. Sansa had already read on Google that the coast itself was more than 150 miles in length and she had never been to such a tropical paradise before. Life seemed to come in waves from the rocks lining the coast itself, which were covered in green mosses and various red and orange floras, enchanting Sansa by the beauty of the view and the intensity of its fragrance. As they made their way towards their destination, the hot summer day, the concentrated scents of the sea mixed with the etheric fragrances of the fir trees, Cypresses, Laurel trees, Juniper trees, Myrtles, and other various aromatic herbs and flowers, made Sansa feel almost dizzy with their intensity.

 

Seeing the beauty and tranquility of Lys, Sansa really wished Jon had been miles away from here and then she could have fully enjoyed starting a fresh, new life here for herself and Alyssa. As it was, he was as old and as rotten a baggage of her past as they came. Sansa heard snatches of what Sam was saying to Alyssa as a familiar name caught her attention, “Lyanna really is the most romantic place in the town, what with the old harbor setting and those quaint little cafes. Even Gilly thinks it’s the best place in town and she’s not pleased easily!” Sansa furrowed her brows as she remembered Lyanna was Jon’s mother’s name. Foolishly enough, given the chance, she had wanted to name Alyssa that. Now she only shook her head at her own naiveté and just to reassure herself that she was not prone to stupidity anymore, she vowed to stay as away from “Lyanna” during her stay in Lys as possible.

 

As the jeep slowed to a stop, Sansa assumed they had arrived at their destination. But as she sat up and looked around, she saw they had only stopped in front of a huge wrought iron gate with intricately woven three-headed dragons all over it. Even a tank might not be enough to topple that sturdy looking structure, Sansa thought. Sam got down from the jeep, walked over to a window on the side wall, greeted a uniformed guard and reached out a hand while holding a barcoded keycard under an electronic security panel and the heavy gates slid open smoothly without even a creak.

 

Jon noted both Sansa and Alyssa’s taken aback faces and explained in a voice carefully stripped of expressions, “Daeny... My Aunt… she has need of the protection. She—“ Sansa saw Jon purse his lips as if debating how much information to divulge and luckily for him, Sam had gotten back to the car and said in an overly casual tone, “She breeds prized horses. You should see Drogon, Alyssa! He’s so magnificent, he still takes my breath away sometimes! But it’s mostly just a gated community of sorts. Daeny has her—umm, people, you could say. And she likes them close around her and protected. But it’s really fun inside too. It’s got its own lagoons hidden away from the rest of the island. Daeny’s got one of her own, mind you. But the others we all frequent! It’s got a tennis court inside, which poor Jon can’t enjoy unfortunately due to his inability to hold a racket properly. And also a newly built playground and I am positive little Sam would love the company!”

 

As the jeep treaded inside, they passed the various amenities Sam had already listed, first the tennis court, then the playground, a huge looking one-story settlement that Sam simply explained as Jon’s training yard. Up ahead Sansa could see a neat pile of spacious looking duplexes sitting in a row on the right hand side of the main road. But instead of heading to those, Jon turned the Jeep left, where they first passed a two-story open-spaced building that Sam labeled as the clubhouse, beside which he pointed out the stable. The ground around was fenced in with paneled wood so however much Alyssa craned her neck to see the famous Drogon, she couln’t peek in. As Jon kept driving by those fences, Sansa began to wonder why he hadn’t taken them towards those row of houses as those seemed to be the only residential buildings in this community.

 

Sansa was proven wrong when suddenly she saw an opening that was hidden by some high and heavy hedges that shielded whatever was inside from the rows of those duplexes on the other side of the wide main road and also from any of the other community buildings. Jon stopped the car just inside the opening which Sansa could see was kind of a spacious courtyard to a rather modest two-story house. It was nothing like those modern duplexes just on the other side of the hedges and the road. Jon and Sam started getting off the jeep, so Sansa and Alyssa had no choice but to follow suit. It was again Sam who kindly offered an explanation to the confusion Sansa could swear was written across both her and her daughter’s faces. “That’s where Daeny, Jon and Daeny’s assistant Missandei lived. Daeny isn’t really fond of living in palatial places. She also prefers this rustic place to our modernized duplexes over on the other side. And you will be living in the outhouse just behind the house, on the right side. It’s rather humble too, but Jon suggested you might prefer the smaller abode as it would be easy to maintain. And it’s really rather nice, right there on the community’s private coastline. The sea is still very far, don’t worry. But your house has got the best view in the island, believe me! You’ve got no problems with it?”

 

Before Sansa could respond to Sam’s query though, Jon had started walking towards the main road and shot over his head at Sansa, “Come, I’ll introduce you to Ygritte and show you her house and the kids.” He was walking so fast that Sansa couldn’t even get in a word before he was vanishing through the opening in the hedge. Sansa looked quickly to Alyssa and her daughter shook her head, “Please Mum? Can I please first go and check out where we are staying and the lagoon?” Sansa was about to reject her appeal when Sam spoke to her kindly, “It’s OK, Sansa. I’ll show her the house. And don’t worry, Daeny and Missandei are around here somewhere. You’re going just to the opposite side of the road and will hear if you daughter called you loudly.” Sansa chewed her bottom lip as she slowly nodded, clearly Sam was a parent and understood the fears of one thereof. Nodding her head at Sam and giving Alyssa a mock warning with an eye-brow lift, she headed off after Jon.

 

She saw Jon already climbing the porch of the third house from the right on the other side of the road and half ran, half walked towards him. She saw him ring the doorbell as she climbed the porch steps and said a low, vibrating voice, “Is it the servant’s quarters? Because, if it is, then it would be totally justified. But if it’s not, then wouldn’t it have been more convenient for all if mine and Alyssa’s living quarters were somewhere closer to this house or at least on this side of the road?” Jon didn’t even turn to face her as he answered in an equally low, yet calm voice, “Have you got a problem with living in close vicinity to where I live? Because you can’t have a problem with a house you haven’t seen yet, and you haven’t even met Daeny or Missandei to have any problems with them.” Sansa narrowed her eyes and spluttered into speech, “It’s only a matter of convenience—” Jon cut her off with a firm voice, “You are not a servant here. An employee, yes. Not a servant. And it’s only the other side of the road. The walk will do you good. Will help cool off that bad temper if it’s possible.”

 

Before Sansa could respond, however, the door of the house was flung open and a petite, wiry redhead with a screaming toddler in her arms threw herself in Jon’s arms and clung to him desperately as she rambled on a sob, “Thank the Gods you’re here, Jon! Jonno ate a marble! I think he did! Or he fed it to Olyver! Olly won’t stop crying!!”

 

Sansa noted with an increasingly heavy feeling in her heart she didn’t even want to acknowledge as Jon’s arms went around the woman who must be Ygritte and he brushed her dark red hair back soothingly and asked in a gentle voice, “What do you mean Jonno--?” Just then a boy of barely four years old came and wrapped himself around one of Jon’s knees. “Uncle Jon! You’re back!” Jon let go of the woman and scooped the boy up in his arms. Then he also took the screaming baby in his other arm and gently rocked him up and down and as the baby’s cries started to pipe down, he asked the older one, Jonno, in a calm voice, “Jonno boy, did you eat a marble from your set?” The boy swiftly looked accusingly at his mother and then again at Jon and scrambling down from Jon’s hold, he said in a barely audibly whisper, “I was playing with it, and bouncing it around in my mouth. It suddenly slipped down my throat.” Ygritte shouted instantly, “He wouldn’t tell me, Jon! He wouldn’t even let me catch him! Oh my— Now what do we do?” Jon ignored her as he again asked the boy, “Did you feed one to your little brother also?” Jonno quickly shook his head, “No!” And with that, he took off in a run and went in the direction of the houses on their right side like he was in a race.

 

Sansa looked back as Ygritte cried desperately, “If he didn’t feed Olly one, why is he crying so much, Jon?” Jon heaved sigh and said patiently, “Probably because he is very wet and he was scared when you screamed after Jonno.” Ygritte’s cheeks warmed at this and that’s when she noticed Sansa, “Who is—this is not Mrs. Baelish, is it, Jon? You said she was a widow and--” Then she directed her question directly to Sansa, “What is someone looking like you doing in an out-of-the-way place like this playing nanny?” For a moment, Sansa felt like a deer in the headlights, then she licked her lips and held her hands out to the toddler, who easily relinquished his hold on Jon’s nose and came to her. Then she said in a voice she hoped was pleasantly cool, “It’s nice to meet you, Mrs. Wilde. My husband did die recently and I needed the job. You’ve have got a couple of very handsome looking fellas here.” And they were beautiful kids, both with light blue eyes and sandy blond hair. Then she added in a quiet voice because she was sure Ygritte would worry about it later, “Don’t worry about the marble Jonno swallowed. It’ll turn up in a day or two. We’ll just have to keep an eye out for it.”

 

Ygritte flushed red at this and Sansa regretted making the other woman feel embarrassed at not asking about the marble sooner, but she had just wanted to reassure another mother. Ygritte eyed her chic looking dress grimly and said in a gloomy voice, “Olly has ruined your dress now. It’s wet.” Sansa looked down at the wet patch in her dress and almost felt bad for the kid who must be really miserable at this point. “It’s alright, Mrs. Wilde. It’ll wash off, I’m sure. Do you want me to—uh—I can go in and change him now?”

 

But the toddler was abruptly lifted from her arms and given back to his mother as Jon said in a sudden brusque manner, “She starts work from tomorrow, Ygritte. She needs today to settle in. Come on, Mrs. Baelish, I’ll show you your accommodations.” Sansa automatically started to reject, “Oh, you don’t need to--” But Jon’s smooth voice cut her off as he strode off down the road, leaving her to almost run behind him, “Oh, I do need to. I am your employer after all. Plus I do think it’s high time you and I talked about the elephant in the room, don’t you?”

Chapter Text

Sansa was at a dilemma. She followed Jon back to the other side of the road, but barely noticed anything anymore as her mind whirred at a dizzying speed. Seeing Jon with the Wilde kids had been a shocker. Her first reaction had been a sadness. It seemed he would be a good dad; patient, caring and loving. Just like Alyssa had deserved and never got.

 

Her next reaction was horror as another realization hit.

 

The truth of the matter was, nine years ago Jon had abandoned her. Not Alyssa. He hadn’t even known about her. Ever.

 

Sansa had enough anger left in her to assert to herself that it was Jon’s own fault. To her credit, she had tried to get his contact info from his mates still at the Vale after her 17th home-pregnancy test had come positive and had been informed the info couldn’t be disclosed. So she really should get points for trying.

 

The real question was, did she bless him with the good news now, or forever held her peace?

 

There were arguments for and against both. He had left her without even a word, so she didn’t feel she owed him anything.

 

On the other hand, there was Alyssa. Now that she had the chance, could she live with it if she never told her daughter the truth? Did Jon’s heartlessness justify Alyssa never knowing her father?

 

What would Lyssa even do with an insensitive jerk like that for a father? Petyr wasn’t enough? - A spiteful voice chimed inside her head. But that voice was quashed by a quick flashback of Jon talking to Jonno patiently while lovingly rocking Olyver on his other arm.

 

Sansa was dragged out of her reverie as she tripped over some stairs. She looked around with shock, not knowing how she came all this way. Looked like she was at the cottage assigned to her and Alyssa. It was right next to the two-story. Actually it looked like it might have been built as an outhouse of sorts to the main house. The white cottage with cobalt-blue window panes and door looked freshly painted. Jon was already walking over the threshold of the open door when he stopped. He turned his head and looked at her enquiringly and that was when Sansa realized she was actually standing still on the lower step of the porch and wringing her hands in earnest.

 

As Sansa met his challenging eyes, she was struck breathless by how much that look mirrored Alyssa’s when she was being stubborn about something.

 

Sansa made up her mind as things neatly fell into perspective.

 

It was not about her. It was not about Jon. Nine years ago, they had both fudged things up. He had left after his proclamations of love. She had married Petyr in the hopes of a better future for her child instead of trying to weather it out alone, come hell or high water. Bottom line was, they had had their chances with each other and they had royally blew it.

 

Today, it was all about Alyssa. Just because Jon seemed like he could be a decent enough father, didn’t mean he would be. So Sansa was going to wait it out. See his lifestyle and the people he surrounded himself with. Take the time to vet him out as a potential father like she should have done with Petyr. She had learnt her lesson well.

 

Getting to be called Alyssa Baelish’s father was a privilege and even her biological father would have to earn it.

 

Lastly, Sansa vowed to herself, if Jon looked like the person who deserved to have Alyssa in his life, if he was even half the role models he had had growing up, her father and his uncle Aemon, then Sansa wouldn’t let her bitterness about their past hold herself from telling her daughter or Jon the truth.
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Jon watched as Sansa hesitantly crossed the threshold of the small cottage and looked around. Despite her tentativeness, there seemed to be a resolute air about her. Like she had just made up her mind about something.

 

As Sansa looked anywhere but at him, Jon looked in his fill. It was only looking at the woman in front of him that made him truly comprehend what a long time nine years really was. Was she really the girl bar whom he had thought of little else in the past nine years?

 

But that girl had been so delicate, her skin porcelain. The woman before him, who stood with her spine stiff as if expecting a blow from somewhere, reminded him of steel. It was hard to imagine that this woman would giggle at his lame jokes as that lovely girl used to do so often. Her eyes seemed bigger, her hair more vibrant, her cheeks were more highly slanted and while she had been such a warm, pretty teenager the last time Jon had held her in his arms, now she seemed this aloof, stunningly beautiful woman. And to be honest with himself, Jon admitted she looked like those high-maintenance women who he had never had the time of day for and who had always seemed to be totally out of his league.

 

Her lips were the same though. They were bare now, the lipstick she might have applied had vanished somewhere along her journey. Jon could clearly see the cleft on her lower lip. That was the one thing, one feeling, he had remembered the most in these nine years… running his tongue over that cleft and her pleasured shiver in response. That memory had kept him uncomfortably hard through many a nights, and unfortunately half-hard though some days in the training yard too.

 

Petyr Baelish must have loved it too, his sane mind tried to control the damage as Jon felt his body predictably reacting to that memory rather than the flesh and blood woman standing in front of him herself.

 

“So… Long time. You’ve changed.” Jon cringed at the accusing note in his voice that he hadn’t been able to hide quite well.

 

“Yeah? You too. Proud owner of a few battle scars, I see.” Her tone sounded clipped, as if she was keeping any inflection out of it with much effort. She looked to her left at the kitchen space and then to her right at the living area. Then she pointedly looked over his shoulder to the two bedroom doors and one bathroom door on the corridor behind him and the door that would open into the low back deck and directly lead her to the beach. “Well, you showed me the house. All seems fine. Thank you so much for your generosity. Now-”

 

“Why?”

 

“Why what?” Her shoulders had stiffened so much she seemed like a statue.

 

“Why did you marry Petyr Baelish?” He was done beating around the bush. His feelings mixed as he watched her chew on her lower lip.

 

“Why do people marry each other?” She sounded highly defensive.

 

Jon marched two paces towards her before he could stop himself. “Usually three reasons, Sansa. Love and lust being the first two. And don’t try to tell me you loved him or even wanted him. I was there, remember? You were shaking with revulsion in my arms when you first came to me that night!

 

He watched her lick her lips as she said quietly, “People’s feelings change all the time.”

 

“Ah!” Jon mentally congratulated himself on sounding almost cheerful. “But of course they do! Especially when there’s monetary gains involved. Which brings us to our third reason for marriage: greed. In the end, money did speak, didn’t it Sansa? It made Petyr Baelish’s touch and sharing his bed that much sweeter, didn’t it?”

 

The flash in her eyes should have been his warning, but before her palm made crackling contact with his cheek Jon had no inkling of it because her enraged face was just that riveting.

 

A gasp made Jon turn his face to the open door of the cottage. Daenerys stood there with Sansa’s luggage in her hands. He saw Sansa turn her head at the same time she flinched away from him, her face flushed red.

 

Daeny looked straight at Sansa. “Hello! I’m Daenerys. I take it my nephew deserved it, otherwise I’d have to be very cross with you and I don’t want to be cross with you. I am in love with your daughter. She… seems… very familiar.”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Sansa had been too busy chastising herself over her lack of control to hear half of what the silver-haired woman was saying and then she heard the tail end of her speech. She looked up at clear, sharp amethyst eyes and gasped. It was there in the other woman’s eyes. She knew. She knew who Alyssa was.

 

Before Sansa had a chance to react, Daeny said in a casual yet low voice, “I’d school my features if I were you two. I can hear Alyssa and Missandei coming with the rest of the luggage. It’s such a fun play keeping these adult dramas hidden from the children, isn’t it?”

 

Sansa heard Jon groan with frustration, at her or his aunt she didn’t know. And she didn’t have the courage to look up and find out. She just wanted this day to end right now.

 

Sansa barely looked up when her daughter came in happily chatting away with a reserved and exotic looking woman. When Alyssa herself conducted the introductions between Sansa and the other ladies, Daenerys just looked from Alyssa to Sansa, her eyes huge and her small smile amused while Missandei smiled sweetly and instructed Sansa to lean on her for anything and everything.

 

Sansa thanked Daenerys and especially Missandei earnestly and then quietly went and stood behind the kitchen counter. She knew she should apologize to Jon, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it in front of Alyssa. She had always taught her daughter to use her words and she didn’t want to appear as a hypocrite today of all days.

 

She watched Jon slowly follow the ladies out, without looking at her at all. Just outside the screen door, as Alyssa was closing it, he half-turned and lightly patted his fingers over the little girl’s head. It was a cross between a ruffle and a pat. Alyssa never allowed anyone, even Sansa, to treat her that blatantly like a child. Today she just looked up, smiled with all her teeth bared, thanked Jon and after closing the door, ran up and down the cottage just exploring with gleeful little cheers.

 

Five minutes ago, Sansa had wanted this day to be over. Now she wanted it to stretch on for hours. It’s been ages since she had seen her little girl act like one.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Jon watched with trepidation as his aunt danced with the open bottle of Arbor Gold hugged to her chest. His experience indicated Daenerys in that good a mood is never good for him. The last time she had danced with a wine bottle had been her retirement party from the CBI and by the end of the night, Missandei and he had had to restrain Daeny from putting on a strip show on top of Tyrion’s new ironwood table.

 

Missandei on the other hand looked delighted with Daeny’s joy and asked in a pleased voice, “What are you celebrating?”

 

Daeny looked mysterious as she poured Missandei a glass of the very fine wine along with herself. “Wouldn’t you like to know?” Then she looked at Jon with a proud smile and announced in a regal way, “I must admit I was a bit on the fence after everything I have heard about her over the years. But after seeing her plant one on your cheek, I grant you my blessing!”

 

“Wait! She-? Mrs. Baelish? She kissed Jon?!” Missandei’s eyes were huge with shock.

 

Better.” Daeny looked like she was experiencing Nirvana as she cradled her glass to her chest and gave an all toothy smile. “She slapped him silly!”

 

Missandei looked really taken aback. “Wait! What? She slapped Jon? Why?” Her last question was directed at Jon who only morosely looked at Daeny, his eyes narrowed censoriously. Missandei kept talking to him though. “She should be thanking you. You virtually moved mountains to bring them here, not to mention spent a quarter of a fortune.”

 

Jon looked at Missandei calmly. “Ask her what’s wrong with her. She seems to be having too much fun to tell me.” He jerked his head at a quietly humming Daeny.

 

“What’s wrong with you? Our boy gets slapped and you’re all cheerful?! Bad aunt!” Missandei’s mellow voice barely rose a fraction as she faux-chastised her boss.

 

Daeny however was looking at Jon with the same pleasant expression and sounded only slightly more serious when she spoke next. “Completely unrelated to why I am celebrating… why don’t you tell Missandei why Sansa slapped you, nephew dearest? Umm… was it because, given the choice between her and your career, you chose the latter and abandoned her?”

 

“I didn’t abandon her!” Jon had difficulty believing his own ears. “Daeny, you were the only one I ever told! You were supposed to hold- How could you-”

 

Daenerys waved her hands, motioning for him to finish and enlighten Missandei. Jon narrowed his eyes and without taking his eyes off of Daeny, he spoke to Missandei, “I was caught sleeping with a minor in our base camp. It was Sansa. If lord commander Mormont hadn’t been there, they would’ve stripped me of the Black instantly. So when he gave me a choice, I took it! I had to leave the Vale right away or face criminal charges and getting the boot.”

 

Missandei gasped loudly. “But- I heard- you deserted the Night’s Watch years ago! Even before you and Daeny were reconnected! And you said you were with the Wildlings Troupes for years before you came to meet Daeny, with Sam, Ygritte and her husband. How old were you when this happened? How long before you finally left the Night’s Watch?”

 

Jon briefly looked at Daeny who was looking into her glass and looked Missandei in the eye. “I couldn’t stay away. I had to go back to her. I knew that would essentially mean the end of my career with the Night’s Watch. So I deserted. Went back to the Vale… a little more than 3 months later. She was not only married to Petyr Baelish… they were expecting a family.” Jon looked back at Daeny. “I wanted to kill her.”

 

Daeny shrugged nonchalantly. “Bullshit!

 

Jon sighed, defeated, turning away from Daeny. He grabbed a glass himself and held it out toward Missandei to be filled. Daeny came over and filled the glass herself.

 

“Why did you breakup with Ygritte when she became too serious? Why did you encourage her to marry Orwynd when she wouldn’t let go of her hope to be with you? Why do you always insist on casual dating? Why have you kept Sam on Sansa-watch on-and-off for the last nine years? Better yet, why is she here? What is she doing here in my island?” When Jon readily opened his lips, Daeny held her palm out in front of his face. “And don’t say ‘playing nanny’, because my good mood is evaporating faster than water on a dragon’s scale!”

 

Jon shook his head. “It’s like she’s not even the girl I used to know. That sweet, smiling, almost childlike girl. She’s now this freakin’ beautiful goddess that I don’t even know what to say to! She seems colder than the north we both came from!”

 

Daeny shrugged dispassionately. “If you still love her, the troubles of the past nine years, including the troubles of the past nine days to bring her here, and the troubles yet to certainly come in the future would all be worth it. If you don’t, just don’t bother. So which is it?”

 

Jon averted Daeny’s piercing gaze. Sometimes she saw too much for his liking. Daeny, however, captured his jaw between her fingers and made him look at her.

 

“Only she meant something.” At Daeny’s confused blink, he droned on. “I didn’t know about you. Uncle Aemon was dead. Her family was gone. I was in the Night’s Watch, vowing to die for Westeros, yet it was all empty. Then I saw her again, standing in the courtyard of her school.” Jon squeezed his eyes shut because if he kept them open he could still see a thin, young red-haired girl looking at him like she was on the verge of sobbing. “It all meant something again, Daeny. We both clung to each other. We had no one else. She became my world. She was all the world I needed. All I wanted to be was all she needed me to be. And then it was all lost. And I never again felt that.

 

When his eyes met Daeny, there was a curious lack of emotions in both violet and grey ones. “You used to call me an adrenalin junkie, remember? You forbade me to go on suicide missions anymore? I didn’t listen until-” He subconsciously brushed a hand over his ribcage though the T-shirt. “I hate that she married the old swine. But all these years, while I kept tabs on her… I was just waiting to be home, Daeny. I had been to the North during these nine years, and it didn’t feel like home… not like it used to feel. I don’t even want that silly dream we had conjured up all those years ago. Me battling with the world, she waiting for me back home. I have battled with the world, now I just want to be with her. Because, I swear, Daeny, I know we had something that is not very common, and I know she felt it too. So, I might be miffed with her for not waiting for me, not seeing me when I came knocking, but love her, I still do.”

 

“Yep. That’ll do.” Daeny brought her wedding ring worn as a pendant around her neck up to her lips. Then she took a big gulp of her wine and Missandei mirrored her. “I wouldn’t harp on about the hate or her husband so much though.”

 

“Yeah!” Missandei chimed in. “All that… without the hate and the creepy old husband stuff…” She gave two thumbs up to convey her feeling about ‘all that’.

 

Jon sighed and slowly coaxed the wine bottle out of Missandei’s fingers. “Lay off. You’re both cut off! Daeny, back off!!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
As Daeny rinsed her wine glass off and hung it down to dry, she debated for the hundredth time about whether to say something to Jon or not. To her, it seemed rather in poor taste to cast aspersions about a child’s paternity. It seemed a grave insult to both the child and the mother. Even though, anyone with an ounce of brain cell could see the truth for themselves in Alyssa’s little face.

 

Daeny shrugged the indecision off. She was sure Sansa Baelish would come through with the truth. She didn’t seem the cunning liar type. Daeny just didn’t want to add to the heaps of issues already between Jon and Sansa by interfering between them. As long as Sansa and Alyssa were staying in Lys, there was nothing to worry about, she told herself. Sansa might take some time, but she’ll come around and tell Jon just how much life had inadvertently blessed him in the form of a child like Alyssa.

 

As Daeny recalled the little girl once again though, pride filled her as she congratulated the Targaryen genes for producing really strong and brave girls. Turned out, the Targaryen men of late seemed unwarrantably moody, but the genes were just killing it with the badass girls.

 

Yes. Daenerys was looking forward to the summer with an excitement she hadn’t felt in years.

Chapter Text

Sansa felt the warm breeze on her face and pressed her face to her pillow. It felt strange, the warmth as well as this sense of contentment. Then she blinked her eyes open and remembered where she was.

 

Lys. The nanny job. Jon Snow.

 

Sansa also understood the source of her happiness as she recalled the way she and Alyssa had spent last night.

 

Although Sansa had been upset about her loss of control in slapping Jon like that, it had been a lovely evening. That is, once she had given in to Alyssa’s eagerness.

 

Neither Alyssa nor Sansa had had this kind of an experience before. Their own home, where no one was watching them every step every step of the way with the intention of criticizing them. They had started with unpacking their luggage and made a mess of most of it just because they finally could.

 

Then they had embarked on their greatest adventure as a mother and daughter yet. Cooking.

 

Back at the Eyrie, the kitchen had been the cook’s domain. Petyr had never liked Sansa behaving like anything less than a proper lady. For him that had meant him picking out all of her clothes and forbidding her from participating in little chores around the house. As a result, Sansa had ended up with a wardrobe full of expensive dressy, sophisticated garbs she no longer had anywhere to wear to or even pawn off and absolutely zero cooking skills.

 

While staying at the motel back in the Vale, they had lived on take-aways and food that came in a carton or a can. Therefore, yesterday, both Sansa and her daughter had been beyond excited to finally have a kitchen full of necessary appliances at their expense. The fridge had also been fully stocked as Missandei had promised it would be before she left.

 

They had had a blast.

 

Alyssa had hacked onto the main house’s wi-fi, the password to which she swore Daenerys had provided her with voluntarily, and looked up the recipes of all of her favorite food. Ultimately, they had ended up with messily broken eggs with shells all over, a thoroughly burnt omelet by Alyssa as well as a horrendous looking mac-n-cheese and a foul smelling oven by Sansa.

 

Although they had both been covered with splashes of raw eggs and had smelled horrible, Sansa couldn’t remember the last time she and her daughter had been this jubilant. In the end, they had both been perfectly happy to sup on corn-flakes when Missandei had come over with a crab salad. Jon had apparently conveyed his doubts about Sansa having much experience in the kitchen. Although his firm belief in her incompetence had stung, Sansa had refrained from expressing her indignation to Missandei as one look at the messy kitchen behind was enough to refute any dissents she might have raised.

 

Eventually, they had ended up eating Missandei’s salad and cleaning up the kitchen till late in the evening. After they had both showered and gotten ready for the bed, Alyssa had wanted to take a short walk on the beach with her mother. After having such a nice time with her trashing and then cleaning up the kitchen, Sansa hadn’t had the heart to say no, so she had given in. They had walked around the small slice of beach in front of the cottage, going as far as the shoreline and then running back. After they had come back to the cottage, they had been exhausted. For the first time in a really long time, Alyssa had asked Sansa if she could sleep with her. Sansa had delightedly agreed.

 

Now Sansa rolled on to her other side in the bed and looked at her daughter’s sleeping face. A typically fussy sleeper, Alyssa had kicked off the light covers. But somehow the top corner had lodged under her back and the cover was tightly wrapped around her little torso. Sansa reached over and gently, slowly so as not to wake her, she untangled the quilt from beneath Alyssa. Then she lovingly wiped away the sweat from the little girl’s throat.

 

Sansa smiled as she thought how her daughter had always had a low tolerance for heat and sweated profusely during her many athletic activity. Sansa barely broke a sweat herself unless it was really scorching. Alyssa must have gotten that from Jon-

 

Sansa caught herself from going further. For nine years she had refrained herself from comparing and admitting about the various little traits her daughter had inherited from Jon. Seeing Jon and Alyssa side by side for the first time ever yesterday, however, was like a dam being broken, and when she looked at Alyssa now, all she could see was Jon.

 

Sansa heaved a sigh as she kissed Alyssa lightly on the head and left the bed. It was still early, barely six o clock, but she didn’t want to be late on her first day as nanny and she didn’t really know what time Mrs. Wilde expected her to go in.

 

Sansa contemplated her wardrobe after she had taken a quick shower. It was evident from all three she women she had met yesterday that the dress code around here was fairly casual. Missandei and Mrs. Wilde had been in shorts and T-shirts while Daenerys had been in a flowy, light maxi dress. Even as Sansa scanned her wardrobe, she knew she possessed nothing of the sort and it was not by her own choice. She would have loved to have dressed that comfortably, but Petyr had a certain notion about how Mrs. Baelish should appear to the world. The few tops and jeans Sansa did have had been her own purchases while buying clothes for Alyssa. In the end, she wore a lavender tank top with a knee-length white flared skirt that was part of a very pretty set Petyr had considered chic enough for her to wear around the Eyrie.

 

Sansa scanned the contents of the fridge as she put her hair up in a high ponytail and then cut up some mangoes and peaches in a bowl for Alyssa. Then she put the carton of Coco Pops in the middle of the kitchen island and then stuck a note on it that she lifted from Alyssa’s backpack warning her not to go near the stove top alone and eat the fruits and corn flakes for breakfast.

 

Then with one last look in at a peacefully sleeping Alyssa, Sansa was off to her first day at work. While she was passing the main house, she could see Missandei in the kitchen through the studio windows who waved her hand at Sansa. Sansa didn’t stay long to chat but requested Missandei to keep an eye on Alyssa if possible and Missandei happily promised and wished her best of luck.

 

Sansa wasn’t so sure of her luck though when after ringing the Wilde’s doorbell for the third time, she still got no answer. She went to look around the side of the house to see if maybe Mrs. Wilde was already up and about the house and that’s when she saw him.

 

Jon was jogging down the road from the direction of the training yard and tennis court. He was still quite far and yet there was no mistaking the effect he had on her. Sansa groaned in frustration as she wished her body would just quit it. Chemistry or whatever, she just didn’t understand these things. Nine years of Petyr, and yet she couldn’t honestly say there had been one time during they were intimate that she was fully properly aroused. And there were others too. Single dads around Alyssa’s school and various classes, both before and after Petyr’s death, had always shown keen interest in her, some more than the others. Just out of curiosity and sometimes out of spite to Petyr, Sansa had looked at a couple of them who she had thought were great fathers and… nothing! Finally, she had started to suspect, by being frozen towards Petyr intentionally for years she had finally succeeded in actually freezing the southern regions of her body.

 

Boy, had she been mistaken. Jon was still far enough and yet her eyes were already tracing the sweat-matted thin black T-shirt all over his muscled chest. It was really stupid that he seemed to have grown taller than nine years ago when in fact the truth was it was she who might have grown more than a couple of inches from then. He had a certain hardness to his features that hadn’t been there then and while she had loved his soft features when he would have laughed while teasing her, this new toughness about him made her want to melt like an ice cream left too long in the sun.

 

Sansa realized too late that Jon had noticed her staring at him and he was now jogging straight towards her, and his expression wasn’t pleasant. As Jon slowed down his speed, and after climbing the porch steps in one step, stood before her panting with his hands on his hips, she felt the full effect of him up close take her breath away and she found herself wondering, had she really lain naked in the arms of this man while he had shaken uncontrollably due to how much he had wanted her? Was this the man who had whispered ‘I love you’ against her bare skin so many times that in the end it had felt like the words had made her shatter rather than anything else?

 

Sansa looked away from his dark gaze, because she suspected the memories alone would make her burst into tear any moment soon.

 

“What are you doing standing here outside?” Jon’s voice was grim, but other than that no emotion was betrayed.

 

Sansa looked at the firmly closed front door, frustrated. “I rang the doorbell several times… no answer.”

 

“Ygritte’s a late riser. She has trouble sleeping at nights. But the kids might be up by now.” Jon got his phone out from the back pocket of his black jogging shorts.

 

Of course he’d know Ygritte’s a late riser and fussy sleeper! Sansa refrained from rolling her eyes as she silenced her internal bitchy voice.

 

“We need to talk.” His voice was low, yet authoritative.

 

Sansa closed her eyes with panic. She wasn’t ready to introduce Alyssa to her father yet. “I don’t know what you thought you’d accomplish by bringing me to the island, but an autopsy of the past is not what I am looking for.”

 

“No?” Jon clicked his phone and put his hand down. “Not an autopsy then… just make me understand.”

 

When Sansa looked at him confusedly, he elaborated, “This is what has been bugging me for nine years. Did you lie the first time or the second time?”

 

Sansa narrowed her eyes but stayed silent because he was clearly on a roll.

 

“Did you lie to when you told me you loved me, or did you lie to him when you professed you love to him when you married him? How Sansa?! How did your feelings changed so much that you went from loving me to loving Petyr fucking Baelish? How did they change so dramatically that you bore him a child within the year? Please make me understand! Tell me how it was. Tell me how you loved his hands on your body! Tell me so that I can fucking move on and banish the image of that innocent girl I fell in love with… that image I am still yearning after. Set me free Sansa. Because if your marrying someone the moment I turned my back wasn’t enough to do that, perhaps your accounts of your blissful marriage will.”

 

It wasn’t blissful! It ranged from passive aggression to marital rape depending on the day of the week. - Sansa wanted to cry out. But how in the world did you cry about your abusive marriage to the lover who had abandoned you? He had in effect rejected her and that rejection had stung in her heart. At least Petyr had never been able to hurt her there.

 

Sansa became aware of how close Jon had stepped in when he whispered in her right ear, “Was it because-? Was it true? What you told Petyr? That I- That you-” His hands gripped her arms like bands of steel. “That I hurt you when… during the first time? And you felt I took advantage of you? You felt sick and disgusted… that’s why you refused to see me? At least tell me that cos I have been going out of my mind for nine years cursing myself for what-”

 

Sansa shoved him away and went out of the reach of his hands when he tried to hold her arms again. Her mouth was slack and her mind was wheeling with all of these things he was talking about. She was horrified.

 

“When did you-? When did I-? What do you mean I refused to see you? When did I say you hurt me? What are you talking about?!” Her words came out as jumbled as her mind felt.

 

Jon’s head reared back as if she had shoved him again. His voice vibrated with barely controlled disgust when he spoke. “You said I took advantage of you when you were emotionally vulnerable. I hurt you when I made love to you. And my depraved acts made you realize you loved Petyr all along after all… you-”

 

Sansa kept shaking her head disbelievingly. “Stop! Stop making things up! Why are you doing this?! When did I say those things? When did I see you? You disappeared like smoke from my life. Did you have a crack-induced dream?!”

 

This time Jon’s voice was a few notches higher and he seemed to be losing control of his temper rapidly. “I am making things up?! You’re gonna lie to my face now?! How would you see me when you refused to even come down the stairs every time I went knocking your husband’s doors? You didn’t even come down when he called the authorities on me! He told me all you had said right before they dragged me away from that god forsaken place! In front of all of the men come to arrest me! I know I made a mistake that I left the first time… but you dubbed that whole experience a mistake! And that is the one experience that I have been longing for to have and to hold in my life. How pathetic does that make me?!”

 

Sansa could only look at him with her mouth gaping like a floundering fish. In the she only managed to sputter her words out, not speak them in any coherent manner. “You came back?! When?!... I was never told- I never knew- WHEN?!”

 

The sharpness in her voice made him look up. “About three or four months after I left the first time.”

 

“And Petyr told you I was too disgusted to see you? Because of- of that time? And you believed him?!” Sansa was just outraged at this point.

 

Jon, on the other hand, looked grimly sad. “Why wouldn’t I? You were crying when I left you… facing away from me. I had already been feeling like a heel even before I left the room.”

 

Sansa almost cried now with all the emotions she was experiencing, but mostly she was annoyed with Jon. “I was crying because- Wasn’t I supposed to cry? It was my first time… in a boy’s encampment… and the evening that I have had… and it was-”

 

Her trembling recount was cut short when just at that moment the front door was thrown open and a sleepy Ygritte stood there.

 

“Jon!” Her sleepy smile to Jon was pure seduction and Sansa just didn’t have the mental capacity to deal with it right now.

 

She looked down at her feet and talked in a shaky voice, “Good morning, Mrs. Wilde. Um… sorry to have woken you. I didn’t know when you wanted me to come-”

 

Ygritte silenced her with a wave of her hand. “The sooner the better. The little one’s probably been up for long as he’s already crying and his crying would no doubt rouse Jonno too. Could you please handle Olly for me? I’ll come in help you in a bit. Thanks. Holler if you can’t figure out where things are.”

 

Promptly dismissed, Sansa felt awkward standing there for even a second longer, so she hurriedly went inside past Ygritte. She could feel Jon’s eyes on her back as she heard Ygritte’s sleep-husky voice, “Mmm… Jon, you’re so sweaty. Have breakfast with me? I might have some free time today finally to have some adult company.”

 

Sansa figured out the kids’ nursery by following the crying sound and before she turned the corner and went inside the room, she turned her head and saw Ygritte rubbing her cheek on Jon’s chest while his hands rested on her arms. His eyes, however, met hers over Ygritte’s head and his silent gaze promised their conversation wasn’t over yet.

Chapter Text

The moment Sansa entered the Wilde boys’ nursery, her head spun and it was not from the effects of the dizzying unfinished conversation she had just had with Jon, but it was because of the extreme state of disarray that the room was in.

 

Jonno, the older one, was already up and was going about the room flinging his tiny clothes about. Olyver, the toddler, was standing clutching the railing of his crib and almost crying the house down. Sansa was hesitant on which one to deal with first, and decided on the tot because any longer and she feared he might start to choke with his own sobs.

 

As soon as she picked Olyver up, she knew he was crying because of his now heavy diaper. She took a deep breath and scanned the room, taking everything in. Then she swiftly moved to the changing table and putting aside the clothes also strewn across the changing table, she put the crying child down.

 

When Sansa was getting rid of the soiled diaper in the waste bin, she felt Jonno come up to her. “That was nasty! That was why he was screaming my ears off!”

 

Sansa looked down at the boy as she unfolded a new diaper. “Good morning to you too, Jonno. Would you mind telling me why you are throwing your clothes all around the room?”

 

The boy had the grace to look sheepish. “Good morning, Mrs. Bay… Bay… Bliss… Bibles?”

 

Sansa surprised herself when an involuntary smile curved her lips. “It’s Baelish, but you can call me Sansa… only if we can be friends, can we?”

 

Jonno jerked a shoulder up. “You can. I have friends… Uncle Jon and Uncle Sam and little Sam. I am a good friend.”

So no one of his own age. Sansa smiled down at him. “I am sure you are. Now, do you mind telling me what all the mess is about?”

 

Jonno chewed on his lower lip, looking unsure of himself. “I am hungry. If I dress quickly and reach there on time, Auntie Gilly will give me breakfast. I have breakfast there most days.” Sansa turned her head abruptly and looked down at the boy at this.

 

She bit down on her own lips and thought for a moment about what to say or do next. Then picking up the freshly changed and now quietly whimpering baby, Sansa said in a light voice, “Tell you what, Jonno, let’s have breakfast at home today, yeah? Let me just go wash my hands. Will you do something for me in the meantime?”

 

Jonno creased his brows as if he was suspicious about the whole breakfast-at-home idea, then he looked up at Sansa’s hopeful smile and hung his head sideways in a defeated manner. “Ok.” He didn’t sound too excited. “What do you want?” He sounded almost miserable.

 

Sansa pushed the restlessness she had been feeling since her encounter with Jon to the back of her mind. She could see she would need all of her faculties alert to deal with the job at hand. Keeping her voice steadily cheerful, she gave Jonno a big smile. “Do you have crackers in the kitchen?”

 

When the boy nodded uncertainly, Sansa said in an assertive voice, “Great! Why don’t you go and bring out some of them. I’ll be there in a minute.”

*****

Jon was listening to Ygritte enquire about the situation in Meereen absently. He knew he should go home and start preparing for his day, but he felt loathe to leave the knowing Sansa was in it after their conversation had been so abruptly interrupted.

 

His mind seemed to run into different directions. But mostly he couldn’t keep her horrified voice out of his head.

 

“And you believed him?... What was I supposed to do?”

 

How many times in the past nine years Jon had wanted to believe Sansa hadn’t said the things Petyr had conveyed to him? And how many times had he chastised himself for his own idiocy in still wanting to hold onto the image of the girl from back home he had hopelessly fallen for? But the hurt in her voice and the shocked look in her eyes couldn’t have been an act. It just couldn’t.

 

But then why did she marry Baelish? Was she saying the truth yesterday then? That her feelings just changed? That quick? She fell out of love with him and in love with Baelish?

 

Jon came out of his thoughts as something crashed inside the house. He immediately thought of Sansa and brushing past Ygritte he marched into the house. He followed the sound and saw Jonno standing in the kitchen with a box of crackers clutched to his chest. A big salad bowl was toppled over on the floor from the table where some dirty dishes were gathered in a pile. Before Jon could say anything, Ygritte came up behind him.

 

“Jonno, baby, you aren’t hurt, are you? What did you want? Where is Mrs. Baelish? She’s supposed to look after Olly and you! And what are you doing with the crackers? You never eat them!” Ygritte didn’t seem like she was going to stop questioning the boy anytime soon.

Jon sighed. This was where the problem lied. Ygritte wasn’t a bad mother. She loved her boys. But she was a soldier at heart. She was out of the military, but the military wasn’t out of her. More often than not she went about things in life how she’d do things back in the Wildlings Troupe. That was the bane of her problem with Jonno. She still hadn’t figured out that questioning the boy till she was blue in the mouth wasn’t the best parenting technique.

 

Jon refrained from saying anything though. As it is, Ygritte leaned heavily on him regarding the boys. He didn’t mind helping out and felt more than a little responsible for them, since Orwind Wilde was his responsibility out in that war zone and he felt accountable for the loss of a very good soldier who was also a great husband and father. However, he was aware that, lately, Ygritte had started to fall back on her old habit from before her marriage when she had this notion that if she inserted herself enough in Jon’s life and vice versa, then eventually they would end up together. Therefore, he had started to restrain himself from entangling himself into matters that could be handled without him.

 

Both Jon and his namesake was saved from having to say anything though as Sansa entered the kitchen with Olly in her arms. She took a look at the scene and silently put Olly in the highchair by the kitchen island. Then she took the box of crackers from Jonno with a thank you and said to Ygritte, “If it’s alright with you, I thought I’d give Olyver a cracker to chew onto while I give Jonno his breakfast and then prepare his bottle?”

 

Ygritte readily shrugged her shoulder in assent. Then she turned to Jon and said in a whisper. “Please, let’s go to the clubhouse and have breakfast just by ourselves. Mrs. Baelish seems perfectly capable of looking after the boys.” Before Jon could say anything she turned, gave Jonno a kiss on the head and went towards her bedroom to dress for the day.

 

Jon felt irritated. Breakfast was the last thing on his mind. All he wanted was to finish his conversation with Sansa. He looked at the object of his obsession. Obviously she was trying her best to ignore his existence, looking everywhere but at him as she worked.

 

He watched closely as Sansa talked in a quiet voice with Jonno, and as the boy eagerly pointed to a box of fruit loops in the cupboard where the box of crackers had been, Sansa laughed. And Jon’s heart clenched.

 

It felt like his vision swayed. As Sansa threw her head back and laughed, it was as if for the first time since he had lain eyes on her again, the Sansa he had known was reconciled with Sansa in front him. That girl he had loved with all his might had been quick to laugh when he would lovingly tease her. And the laugh hadn’t changed, even if the person it belonged to might have.

 

The bright sunlight coming in through the large studio windows of the kitchen made her hair look more reddish gold than the vibrant red it usually looked. The tank top exposed the peachy skin of her arms and chest and the rays of the sun made it seem like there were goose bumps on her bare skin. Jon closed his hands in fists as he had the sudden urge to just grab her and either shake all of the truth out from her or kiss her to oblivion.

 

She was talking animatedly to Jonno now. “… good because I can’t make a lot of things. I can make a mean toast and I can butter that up pretty sleek! Maybe tomorrow I’ll give you that since you have your heart set on fruit loops today. Let’ see in the fridge… Let me pour the milk in for you… Ok, orange juice or pomegranate?”

 

As Sansa settled Jonno with his breakfast, she gathered the dirty dishes from the table and the island and carried them to the sink. As she started to fill the sink with water Jon understood what she was about to do.

 

“You don’t have to wash up. That doesn’t fall under your duties!” Jon regretted the indignation in his voice as soon as he heard it.

 

Sansa didn’t even look back at him and said in a curiously placid voice, “I need to use the sink and some of these pots to boil some water to douse Olyver’s feeding bottles in. Plus I need hot water for washing some of his napkins and bibs. And I need to disinfect his binky…”

 

“You don’t have to wash those things!” Jon was sure she was saying all these just to rile him up and damn it, she was succeeding!

 

“Actually I do. These kids are my responsibility and I need to feed them and bathe them and take care of them. For that I need clean pots and bowls, clean clothes and napkins and squeaky clean binkies.” Her pleasant tone grated on his nerve because he was sure she was just being cheerful now to show him his presence wasn’t affecting her. He got the message.

 

“Seven hells, Sansa! If I say you don’t need to, you don’t-” he broke off as his eyes fell on Jonno. The little guy was observing the exchange with rounded eyes.

 

Jon sighed with frustration. He would soon have to find a proper time and place to talk with Sansa, because at this point these situations are getting too maddening for him.

 

Ygritte came out at that moment dressed to go out and Jon’s resolve broke.

 

“Sorry, Ygritte. I still haven’t been back home from my morning run and Daeny and I have an important video conference in a couple of hours. I should get back and prepare for it with her. We’ll all go for breakfast someday later, yeah? Bye. I know I’ll see you later, Jonno. Be a good guy for me till then?”

 

With one last look at Sansa’s firmly turned back and Ygritte’s crestfallen face, Jon stormed out of the house and headed straight to the sea for a cooling swim instead of home.

*****

Sansa had a pretty good first day at work. Contrary to what her first impression of Mrs. Wilde was, whom she was now on first name basis with, by the end of the day Sansa had to agree that the other woman was a good mother. She was a different kind of mother than Sansa or some of the other mothers Sansa knew from back n Alyssa’s school, but she was a good one nonetheless.

 

Granted, Ygritte did sulk for a while after Jon had abruptly left. But by the time Sansa had had the nursery all organized and clean and was marching Jonno down for his bath, Ygritte was there to help her with the boys. She had even agreed to watch over the boys when Sansa had wanted to run over to the cottage to check on Alyssa.

 

Sansa, obviously, hadn’t found her daughter back in the cottage, but at the main house in close conversation with Daenerys. They had seemed like they were already best of friends, with Alyssa having a case of serious hero worshipping when it came to Daenerys. Missandei had reassured Sansa that it was alright for Alyssa to hang with them and have lunch as Daenerys had already offered to take Alyssa to see her horses after lunch. Alyssa had barely acknowledged her mother and Jon had been nowhere to be seen. Sansa had come back to the Wildes’ rather wounded.

 

But duty had been waiting and she had gotten through bath time, lunchtime and naptime like a champion.

 

Sansa had, however, been more than a little surprised when Ygritte had sought her out when the boys were taking an afternoon nap for a bit of a chat. After thanking her for all of her help with the boys, Ygritte had promptly launched into a confessional session with Sansa. This had Sansa worried for two reasons: one Ygritte didn’t seem like the woman to indulge in casual confessions. Second and most importantly, whatever she had spotted in either Sansa or Jon’s demeanor, the moment Jon had left in the morning, Ygritte had sharply asked Sansa if she had known Jon in the past. Sansa still didn’t know why she had lied then, but the focused aggressiveness in Ygritte’s face had unsettled her and the ‘no’ had just slipped past her lips. Hence, a heart-to-heart with Ygritte was something Sansa had wanted to avoid at all cost.

 

At first the conversation had started on a safe footing with Ygritte regretting her tendency to panic when both boys seemed to need her at the same time. Then she had recalled how good her husband had been with Jonno when he was little and Ygritte had had little to do the kid. Then all of a sudden she finds herself with double the amount of kids and zero husband. More than the shock of it, the guilt and fear that she was failing her husband was what was eating Ygritte up. At that point, Sansa had genuinely felt sympathetic towards the woman. That was when Ygritte had launched into the main issue of her monologue.

 

“Thank the Gods for Jon though, you know? He has always been there for me… for my boys.” He lips cracked in such an adoring smile that it felt a too private moment and Sansa had to avert her eyes. Ygritte continued, unconcerned. “I know he really appreciates my naming Jonno after him. Of course he had saved Orwind’s life during the tour they had had while I was pregnant with Jonno, so Orwind was more than happy to oblige. And Jon has really come through since. We have a long history you know? And I think, maybe, he had suffered from a case of cold feet before, but I get the feeling he’s really coming around now. He’s so good with the boys. I can see it in his eyes… he wants his own family now! Jonno and Olly would be so lucky to have such a caring man in their life! And I know he respects the history that we have had. There’s just his slew of casual girls over the year… I sometimes feared one day he’d just end up marrying one of those out of sheer boredom, especially-” Her face clouded over as she stopped abruptly.

 

Sansa’s interest was acutely piqued, but she tamped it down and hurriedly stood up on her feet. “Mrs. Wi- Um, sorry! Ygritte, since the boys are both napping, would you mind if I quickly ran over to the cottage? I haven’t seen my daughter much today and it is a new place…”

 

Ygritte’s face immediately cleared and she got up too as she waved her hands dismissively. “It’s totally safe around here! Lys has minimal criminal activity, petty theft and stuff, and even that is remote possibility in here. Daenerys has this place surrounded in a shroud of security. Trust me, I know.”

 

Ygritte seemed to consider something for a moment and her mind made up, she looked up, “Actually take the rest of the day off to settle in. I can handle the boys for the rest of the afternoon. They can be a bit handful to handle on your own, but as they are resting properly today I think I’ll manage.”

 

“Are you sure?” Sansa wasn’t certain she should leave early on her first day.

 

“Absolutely.” Ygritte sounded positive. “Thank you lending me an ear though. It’s been so long since I have had anyone in my corner around here! Daenerys and Missandei are like in their own little clique, not including anyone it and looking down on everyone outside it. And even Gilly looks down on me, because she thinks I am an incompetent mother as Jonno spends so much time in her home. I only have Jon and even he keeps busy with work. Daenerys has stopped going out of Lys altogether in the last couple of years and Jon has to do most of the traveling for her. I had been so alone. Thank the Gods you’re here now.”

 

Sansa didn’t say anything. Daenerys and Missandei had been incredibly welcoming to her, especially Missandei. And Daenerys was already fast friend with her daughter. Hence Sansa didn’t want to hear Ygritte talk negatively about them anymore than she had too. She nodded her head in a goodbye and left for the day.

*****

When Sansa finally put Alyssa down for the day in her own bed that night, she felt bone tired.

 

She had found that if you followed any online recipe with a certain amount of patience, it turned out pretty alright. It was her daughter who lacked patience, not her, and hence dinner that night hadn’t been burned but it had taken a fair amount of effort and patience. Then they had unpacked some more boxes while talking about Alyssa’s day with Daenerys. That was all her daughter had talked of really. Apparently Daenerys was a rock star and Alyssa’s idol.

 

By the time Sansa had a shower and changed into her long nightshirt and shorts, she felt too weary to sleep. Her early morning encounter with Jon had been on the back of her mind the whole day, no matter whom she was with or what she was doing. And as Sansa opened her bedroom window and looked out at the dark beach, she finally admitted to herself that despite what she wanted to believe, she did believe Jon. She did believe that he had come back to the Vale when he said he had. Sansa remembered that time.

 

Petyr had insisted she stayed in the hospital for three weeks following their wedding because the stress of it all had caused some minor complications and the OB-GYN had advised her to be on complete bed rest. For that whole time, Petyr hadn’t been in the hospital to visit her and when he had come to take her home, he had seemed worried and distant. Sansa could now easily figure the reason behind his worry. And she could also easily imagine Petyr spewing loads of lies Jon just to keep him away from her.

 

But it wasn’t about Petyr anymore. Petyr hadn’t asked Jon to abandon Sansa the first time. And he hadn’t asked Jon to stay away without contacting Sansa at all. He had come back three months later and there hadn’t been any legal actions taken against him, neither by the Night’s Watch or Petyr. So Jon could have stayed back or come back earlier if he had wanted to. He just hadn’t. In all manners and purposes, he had abandoned Sansa after he had promised to love her and cherish her. And that still stung.

 

Sansa wasn’t even sure how to handle telling him about Alyssa anymore after all Ygritte had told her today. If Jon was set on marrying Ygritte, what would that mean for Alyssa? Would he even want to know about an 8 year old daughter? Not only Jon’s introduction to Alyssa, but also how much prominence he gave to his relationship with his daughter as compared with all the other relationships in his life mattered a lot to Sansa.

 

On the contrary, if he was not set on marrying and just had a slew of casual girlfriends, what message would that send to Alyssa about her father? Sansa had already picked one wrong father for Alyssa, she didn’t want to disappoint her daughter again. Alyssa had seen Petyr lusting after Sansa and heard his licentious taunts. Sansa had always wished she could have introduced Alyssa to her grandfather, Ned Stark, and show her that men could be honorable too. What she didn’t want was Alyssa now witnessing Jon’s philandering ways if there was any truth to Ygritte’s words.

 

Sansa felt her head beginning to hurt with all the thoughts and on an impulse, she ran lightly to the main door of the cottage that opened on the beach. Once she was out on the night beach, Sansa kept running until she reached the edge of the water with gently crashing waves. She raised her hand up to her head and entangling her hands in her bright red tresses, she gently massaged her scalp to relieve the pressure on her brain.

 

She took deep breaths and closed her eyes to better calm herself down. The fresh sea breeze was working and she felt the looming headache rapidly subsiding as her hair was blown back from her face by the strong wind. Sansa sighed, relaxed, and opened her eyes.

 

And then she saw Jon rising up from the waves, water dripping down his naked torso, his hair for the first time free from his manbun and plastered to his head and his hotly focused gaze lazily appraising her breasts, put on display by her raised hands, before he raised them to her eyes.

 

Sansa felt her breath lodge in the middle of her throat and she forgot how to breathe through it. Her head lolled down of its own accord and she weakly registered the snugly fit black boxers low on his hips and felt her face flame. The heat budding within her melted her frozen limbs and she abruptly turned and walked a few quick steps away.

 

“Wait, Sansa! I have been swimming for more than half an hour hoping you’d come out. We have a lot to talk about that can’t wait.” His voice was low, yet imposing.

 

Sansa shook her head in a panic. “You’re- not dressed. This is no time for a discussion. It’s not appropria-”

 

“Being a married woman for almost a decade, I’d have thought the male body was no novelty to you. Are you embarrassed?!” There was less surprise and more taunt in his voice. “Or do you just prefer the more elderly body type?

 

Sansa took in a stuttering breath and started to walk away when his hand shot out and caught her wrist.

 

“Jon, please, this is not the time-”

 

“This is the perfect time!” His tone had a bite in it, an edge which sounded ominous. “When else are we alone, not surrounded by other adults or children?” He leaned into her face and looked straight into her eyes in the semi-darkness, “No, this is the time and we finish our conversation now!

Chapter Text

The letter lay, carefully folded inside a stack of others of the same, in his desk drawer back at the house. The one Uncle Aemon had sent him in response to the one in which Jon had recounted all about his brief affair with Sansa and its culmination. Afterward, Jon had read the letter so many times in the ensuing years, he could almost hear the words in Uncle Aemon’s raspy voice.

Love is the bane of honor, the death of duty, Jon.
What is honor compared to a woman's love?
What is duty against the feel of a newborn son in your arms... or the memory of a brother’s smile?
Wind and words. Wind and words.
We are only human, and the gods have fashioned us for love, Jon. That is our great glory, and our great tragedy.

 

By the time the letters had been exchanged, it had been more than a month since Jon had last seen Sansa and after reading Aemon’s words, Jon had been more than ready to desert the Night’s Watch to leave for the Vale.

 

But with the letter had come the message. The time was here. It could be any day as Aemon had fallen bedridden a couple of weeks ago. Aemon hadn’t informed Jon and had instructed his doctor, neighbor and friend to do the same. But the kind elderly man had written to Jon for which Jon had always been thankful to him.

 

Of course, Jon had gone back home. Back North.

 

After losing his parents and his foster family, the Starks, Jon had never thought any woman would be worth enough to make him set himself up for that kind of loss again. Until Sansa. She had been all he had lost and then all he ever wanted.

 

As he had sat with Aemon in those final weeks, he had told his uncle of Sansa, of what a remarkable lady that fiery little pigtailed girl had become. He had called on the phone her every evening, only to be blocked by the housekeeper of the Eyrie. And he had longed for Sansa… so very much.

 

Then Uncle Aemon had left him. But it hadn’t been his uncle who had left Jon alone in the world.

 

No. That had been all Sansa.

***

 

Jon looked at the back of Sansa’s head, shoving down all the resentment that welled up in him, wanting to get through whatever was to come with a modicum of rationality. He watched as Sansa slowly turned, her eyes defiant, and she braced her shoulders as if preparing for impact.

 

That vulnerable little gesture made a quick flash of pain stab his heart.

 

“Let’s just be adults about it. Alyssa loves it here and I like the job. So I am willing to overlook your manipulation in bringing us here under false pretenses.” Then she finally looked up at him from her toes. “Let’s just let the past lie and try to move forward. We have more important things to discuss than the pas. I- You-”

 

Jon was in no mood for her evasions or stammering.

 

“You used to sit on my lap, press your lips to my neck and whisper about how you hated it when he touched your longer than it was necessary. You married him, Sansa!” Jon couldn’t contain his feelings as he stepped in her space and held her in place by clutching her elbows, only just remembering to not hold too tightly. “Nine years I have been going out of my mind with jealousy! A month?… A week? How long did it take you to replace me? Did you cry afterwards with him too? Did you make him feel like the heel you made me feel? You said you loved me! How much money could he have thrown at you to make you forget all of that?!”

 

Jon wasn’t prepared for the hard push, and he would have been shoved away from her if it hadn’t been for his hands clutching her elbows. She was furious, her fist raining on his chest with no small amount of force. Her voice was a low roar when she spoke.

 

“That’s twice in as many days that you have called me a whore and the next time, I’ll make sure there won’t be a next time!” She tried to wrench her elbows from his grasp, Jon persisted.

 

His refusal to let her go only sparked her anger higher. “I married Petyr, yeah! And you don’t get to question me why! You left! You left me literally naked on the bed in a hotel filled with brothers of the Nights’ Watch and I waited almost a whole day for you there… in that room… with all of the evidence of our debauchery for me to relive through! Yes, I married Petyr. But you don’t get to question me why or call me a whore for it!

 

Jon pulled her even closer to his body as her rage fanned his emotions too. “Why him, Sansa? That disgusting-”

 

“Why not him?!” Sansa threw her hands in a sweep so strong that Jon was finally forced to let go of her. “All it mattered to me that it wasn’t you!”

 

Jon quickly masked his anguish from showing on his face. Her words were gutting him. She was on a roll though, continuing heedless.

 

“I had had enough of getting abandoned, Jon! Everyone was always leaving me for Petyr, weren’t they? My parents, my aunt… You. He was bound to get what he wanted by default eventually. Why delay the inevitable?!” And suddenly she gasped and looked up at him incredulously, as if realizing something herself.

 

“You know what, Jon?” There was a faint note of shock in her voice, “Anyone would have done! So long as they were not the man who had yet again made me feel like the most broken and ugly piece of junk in a cheap-ass garage sale! Sansa Stark… The shit always left for Petyr to gather!

 

Jon staggered another pace away from Sansa, her words hurting almost like mortal blows. “I didn’t abandon- I told you, they were gonna oust me from the Night’s Watch. I don’t know how they found out about you, but they were gonna write me up for statutory-”

 

“They would’ve called me to testify against you! I’d have never done that!” Then she shrugged dismissively. “How did it all change in just three months then? You said you came back right?” She was just scornful now.

 

“I didn’t care about any of that anymore when I came back.”

 

“But you did care about all of that when it was time for you to choose. Did you even think, for even a second, about the trivial things? Like, how would a 16-year old get herself out of that encampment without mortifying herself to death? What would happen if she had been discovered how you had left her?” She seemed determined to have her pound of flesh.

 

“I was barely twenty too, Sansa! I messed up! The only redeeming point I can offer is that I came back. For you! And then I was told by your husband how sick and disgusted you were with me!” His voice was hoarse with pain.

 

“Guess what? Petyr lied… quite frequently in fact.” She sounded self-derogatory.

 

“You never once came down… there was no way you didn’t know I was there. I screamed for you!”

 

“I was never there! I was in the hospital! I was carrying Lyssie!” Sansa cried before she could stop herself.

 

Jon staggered back another pace, as if dealt another blow. “So soon?” Then his eyes hardened again. “You didn’t waste a second, did you?”

 

“Oh yeah, he didn’t!” Sansa’s eyes had a devilish gleam in them now, her voice deadly grim. “Would you like to hear about our wedding night when he forced me to go down on him or the time he first took me after threatening to throw Lyssa against the wall? Or would you like to hear about the choking phase he went through and how I forced myself to fight for air with the thoughts of my little baby?”

 

Sansa stopped herself when she noticed how visibly Jon was shaking following a violent flinch.

 

“If I could, I would raise him up from his grave only to pummel him into it again.” But instead of tough, his voice just sounded broken, integrated beyond recognition.

 

“What is dead may never die.”

 

Jon looked with shocked astonishment at the desolately acquiescent creature standing before him. He wanted to cry for her, die for her, kill for her.

 

“I have longed for you every moment that I was away from you.” His voice was barely above a whisper.

 

“Funny! I wasn’t enough for you when I was waiting for you in your room back at that hotel. And then again it took you three months to convince yourself to even come looking for me. Doesn’t sound much like longing, does it?” She sounded impassive.

 

“I had to stay back at home! Uncle Aemon needed me.” Jon cringed at the note of desperation in his voice. But he wanted to understand and also to make her understand. “You know he brought me up when no one else was there… I couldn’t leave him alone to die! I left for the Vale on the evening of his funeral.”

 

Jon saw the way her eyes softened at the mention of Aemon’s name and in the moon light, he saw her eyes shimmer. Jon’s felt his chest tighten. She was beautiful, undoubtedly, with her buttermilk skin and bright red tresses and sapphire blue eyes, but her beauty was not what had kept him searching for her and her only in the women he had let close to him over the years. There was something warm, something of the North they both came from, something inherent in her that promised eternal happiness and fulfillment if she was finally his and he hers.

 

Jon took a step towards her, desperate to reach the warmth he had once known within her, “Sansa-”

 

She effectively silenced him with the raised palm of her hand. “Don’t! Reiterating all this… Nine years later… What will you get from it? Nothing.”

 

Then she took a big calming breath, as if restoring herself. “If anyone truly matters among the three of us, it’s her.” At Jon’s confounded frown, she elucidated. “Alyssa.”

 

Jon slowly blinked, not following where anything was going.

 

“There was another reason why I married Petyr so quickly. It was one of his stronger arguments for our wedding to happen as soon as it was possible.” She swallowed hard. “I didn’t want Alyssa to be known as a bastard. I didn’t want that kind of an emotional burden for her. Little did I know-”

 

“That snake and you conceived Alyssa before you were married?! Just when-?”

 

“Not Petyr and I… You and I. We conceived Alyssa. Petyr never even took me before Alyssa was born.” She stopped abruptly, waiting for Jon to say something, anything.

 

When he remained silence, she tried again. “Alyssa is your daughter, Jon.”

 

Jon just stood staring at her. He knew, theoretically, what her lips were saying. But the words weren’t registering. Something was wrong.

 

Sansa waited a bit longer and then she suddenly turned towards the cottage. “Don’t think for a moment I am telling you this because I expect something from you. I need nothing and neither does my daughter. But I owe it to my daughter to tell her the truth when she has in fact met you. And I do think every little girl deserves a doting Dad… I had one and I would give anything to just hug Dad one more time and tell him how much I love him. And I’d like for my daughter to know something like that, someone watching over her, watching out for her, in her life. But I totally understand if you are in a different space in your life or if you want different things from life. So take your time. I don’t want to introduce Alyssa to a shocked or reluctant father. And-”

 

Before Sansa turned and left for the cottage, she fixed Jon with an icy stare and said in a voice that brooked no argument, “I love my daughter. She’s the most precious thing in the world for me. And I am fully fine with taking care of her, of us, alone for the rest of my life and I do it gladly. I don’t need help with that. So if you do decide to be in her life, assert yourself in her life, I don’t ask anything from you except that never disappoint her. Never let her down. She has had a lifetime’s worth of letdowns from father figures and could do with no more.”

 

As she turned and ran back towards the cottage, Jon just stood, watching her run towards and then inside the cottage. All of the fight that had kept him charged for the confrontation he had thought he would have with Sansa gone, leaving him inert.

***

 

The next morning when Missandei came down for her first cup of coffee in the kitchen, she was startled into a scream with the sight of Jon, all tousled hair and puffy eyed, sitting on a kitchen stool with his head cradled in his palms. Missandei hurried over to him, checked his forehead for temperature and then when Jon didn’t respond to her calls, she ran up the stairs and promptly got Daenerys to come down.

 

Jon watched through hooded eyes as Daeny lazily glided into the kitchen, shushing Missandei into calming down. As she neared Jon, she too flopped down on a stool opposite him and then regarded Jon with thoughtful eyes.

 

“Are you sulking about Sansa or Alyssa?” When she spoke, she sounded mildly curious, nothing more.

 

Missandei whipped her head around to look surprisingly at Daenerys at the same time that Jon raised accusing eyes at her and they both spoke simultaneously.

 

“Why would Jon sulk about Alyssa?”

 

You knew!

 

Daenerys gave in to a really long yawn. “I guessed.” She corrected. “You see I have eyes in my sockets as opposed to you blind lots.”

 

Missandei took turns to blink confusedly at both them. “What are you both on about?”

 

Daenerys just shrugged and waved her hands at Jon to indicate it was his thing to tell or not. Jon shook his head at himself. Daeny already seemed to know and he needed advice. What choice did he have really? He briefly recounted his encounter with Sansa the night before, barring intimate details.

 

When he finished, instead of both the girls trying to talk over each other as they usually did, they remained utterly silent.

 

Daenerys was the first to speak though. “So what do you wanna do? I know you like kids and you kinda act like a surrogate father for Orwind’s boys. But this is different. This is not about liking, or preferences, or even duty. You’ve gotta be sure that you want to be there… want to be a father… and there is no going back once you involve the child.”

 

“Jon?” Missandei’s unspoken question was clear.

 

“Have you seen her? Alyssa, I mean?” And Jon paused for a moment as he considered the name on his lips. It suited the fierce little independent girl. “You haven’t met my Mom, Daeny… but if you had, you’d know… Alyssa is so much like her! I have been thinking to myself how I didn’t realize it before?! Of course I want to be a part of her life! And I want to kill Petyr Baelish… And Sansa- I don’t even know at this point what I want to do with her!”

 

Daenerys leaned towards him and held his cheek firmly, her hold too firm to be called gentle. “You’ve gotta forgive and forget, Jon Snow. Both of you! That’s the only way you are gonna move forward and serve the interests of the little child you both created best.”

 

Jon nodded slowly. When Daeny acted like this, she was kind of scary, but usually she got the point across.

 

It was Missandei, however, who noticed Jon’s still pensive expression and asked sympathetically, “Alright there, bud?”

 

Jon sighed as he looked at both the ladies in turn. “I just… I can’t get over the fact that I missed it all! She’s only gonna grow up… and I will never know her as a baby, as a toddler… I didn’t hear her first words, didn’t see her first steps… I didn’t even hold her when she was a babe… she must have been so tiny! I missed all that and now I just show up? What if she-?”

 

Missandei came over and hugged Jon’s shoulders from behind. “You’ll be fine! Just be how you’re with Jonno and little Sam.”

 

Daenerys too came over and she wedged herself between Jon’s folded arms almost forcefully. “Come on… Hug it out, boo… hug it out. Group hug, yeah!” She hugged Jon tightly and Missandei enveloped them both.

 

Jon shook his head and let them get it out of their system. He had been the victim of ‘group hugs’ before and knew there was no point in fighting it. Surrender was the only defense.

***

 

Sansa had been folding onesies in the nursery while Olly played on the play-mat she had spread on the floor beside her, when she heard a knock on the front door. Ygritte was in the shower and Jonno was out playing with little Sam. But Jonno never knocked, choosing to just throw the door open. Sansa frowned and picked Olly up as she made her way towards the front door.

 

It was Alyssa. Sansa’s pulse quickened.

 

“Lyssie! Is everything alright? Are you ok? You’re not hurt, are you? I thought you said you were gonna hang out with Missandei and Daenerys? What-?”

 

“Mum! Relax! I am fine. No one’s hurt. I was hanging out with them… but actually…” Alyssa stopped abruptly and looked sheepishly over her shoulder.

 

Sansa followed her daughter’s gaze and instantly gasped.

 

Jon was standing out on the road in front of the house, his hands resting on his hips, his expression unreadable.

 

“Jon said-“ at Sansa’s raised brows, the little girl stopped short and then hurriedly explained, “He said its fine to call him by his name, Mum, until I decide on something better! And he also said he would teach me to swim under water… well, not swim… only how to stay afloat under water… He called it snorking!”

 

“Snorkeling?” Sansa automatically corrected.

 

“Yeah!” Alyssa’s grey eyes, so like the ones watching Sansa from down the road, lit up. “Exactly!! But he said he’d only teach me if I got your permission first… Can I, Mum? Please, can I? Please please please please please…”

 

“Lyssa!” Alyssa stopped at once, never one to be insolent. And Sansa looked back at Jon.

 

She recognized this overture for what it was and knew that she would have to take a leap of faith here too. She had spent a sleepless night, processing through all that she had learnt. And also processing through all the emotions it had awaken- anger, sadness, desolation – and the emotions she couldn’t even identify. It seemed as if Petyr had played both her and Jon like a harp. But they were themselves not blameless too. Jon’s flighty reaction and her impatient decision were equally to blame. But now it seemed both of their hearts were set in the right path. Sansa only wanted what was best for Alyssa and even Jon seemed to be setting aside their whole history and focusing on Alyssa.

 

Good. That was all that she wanted.

 

Liar. A voice inside her chimed. All?

 

Sansa steadfastly ignored that voice, and gave Alyssa a big smile, “You can go… on one condition. If you promise to abide by every rule Mr. Snow sets and if you promise not to go too far or too deep and if you promise to not do it for too long- your muscles will ache- and”

 

“Mum, that’s not one condition! That’s more like four going on to infinity!” At Sansa’s narrowed eyes, however, she relented. “Ok. I promise.”

 

Sansa bent to kiss her head and with another slew of emphatically spoken instructions on safety, Sansa let the little girl bound off towards Jon. The sight made her heart quiver- with hope and with fear.

 

The hope was easier to acknowledge and decipher. The fear was a wormhole.

 

Truth was, not only was she afraid of Alyssa’s reaction to the truth, she was also afraid of Jon’s intention in the end.

 

After all, she knew her daughter and she knew how easy it was to fall in love with that little girl. What would Sansa do if after spending time with Alyssa, Jon realized what he had missed out on and wanted to make up for lost time? What if he wanted Alyssa all to himself? Had he really just brought them to the island because he sought answers from Sansa?

 

Sansa suddenly became aware of Jon’s penetrating gaze on her, and she prayed her thoughts hadn’t been on display on her face. Her painstaking training under Petyr to seem calm and detached at all times for once bore fruit, allowing her to level him with one last emotionless look and then walk back gracefully on shaking feet before closing the front door, her bearing straight and her shoulders proud.

Chapter Text

Would you like to hear about our wedding night when he forced me to go down on him?
Would you like to hear about the choking phase he went through and how I forced myself to fight for air with the thoughts of my little baby?
The time he first took me after threatening to throw Lyssa against the wall??

 

Jon woke up with a start, breathing heard, his chest covered with sweat. It’s this same nightmare over and over again… since that night on the beach. Except his nightmares were a thousand times worse than her words, because his nightmares turned her words into horrific visions.

 

Jon looked over at his wristwatch on the bedside table. It was still not even dawn, yet he knew from experience trying to get back to sleep would be futile after he had had one of those nightmares involving Sansa. He got up from the bed to go for a swim before it was time to get ready to take Alyssa and little Sam to school.

 

Sam had been frustratingly cool when Jon had informed him about Alyssa, saying he had figured out Alyssa’s parentage from her appearance and from what he knew about Jon and Sansa’s history.

 

Jon was really stumped about that. Daeny and Sam had figured it out just by looking at Alyssa and even Missandei said all she saw was Jon when she looked at Alyssa now. But Jon didn’t see himself in that striking girl. There was no way his average features matched those of that delicately beautiful girl. Missandei said it was because he didn’t see himself that much during the course of the day, but people who constantly saw Jon every day, like herself, Daeny or Sam, couldn’t help but see that Alyssa was a exact miniature version of Jon.

 

At Jon’s request, Sam had handled enrolling Alyssa in little Sam’s school and had arranged for Jon to take Alyssa and Sam to school every morning. As far as Sansa and Alyssa were concerned, they had all acted as if it was what Jon had always done, just a favor to his friend, but Jon did suspect Sansa knew the truth as Ygritte must have voiced her displeasure at this sudden development which had not been there before.

 

It had been barely four weeks since Jon’s world had been turned upside down and it was… unbelievable. He had a daughter… And she was freaking amazing. She was so smart! She picked up everything so fast! She was barely nine and she already picked up snorkeling like a pro. It had taken Jon way longer to get perfect like that. And she was so good at studies too.

 

When Sansa was at Ygritte’s, Alyssa spend the day with Daeny, Jon and Missandei. Jon watched with wonder when she did her homework and he found himself thinking when had he ever been that good at homework when he was that little. She was even learning old Valyrian from Missandei this past few days, and she had picked up more words in these two days than Jon had from living in the same house with Missandei for years now.

 

Of course Daenerys and Missandei made fun of his amazement over his little girl, but Jon felt sure it was not just stupid parental pride. Alyssa was truly something special.

 

However, Jon did acknowledge that gaining Alyssa’s trust wasn’t gonna be as easy as teaching her to breathe under water. Jon lapped through the ocean in easy breaststrokes as he recalled how shocked Alyssa sometimes seemed at really trivial acts of kindness and thoughtfulness from him or Sam. Jon’s gut both twisted with wretchedness and boundless fury at the memory of those incidences. He stopped his strokes and taking a big gulp of breath, went under the water in a swift dip. He needed the focus required to keep his breathing steady under the water to distract himself from the mindless rage that bubbled up inside him at the thought of how Petyr Baelish’s cruelty had done a number on not only Sansa, but Alyssa too.

 

Jon came back up gasping for breath after several minutes, and to distract himself he thought of how Daenerys had teased him on becoming a budding peeping Tom last night. But Jon couldn’t help it. He cherished every glimpse he could have of Sansa with Alyssa. She was such a good mother… almost like a best friend to Alyssa.

 

Jon felt this inexorable pull towards her, his eyes drawn to her almost like a compass needle to the North Pole. She looked so exquisite and young in her walks with the Wilde boys up and down the road during the afternoon. That night when Jon had spied both her and Alyssa sitting out on the small porch in front of their cottage, braiding each other’s’ hairs, his heart had turned in his chest with longing. Jon's smiled to himself as he remembered how Sansa had forcefully compelled Alyssa to let her hair be braided and then Alyssa had taken her revenge by putting weird, tangled braids in Sansa’s gorgeous red mane. They had laughed so hard later and Jon would have given anything he had to go down from his vantage point on the balcony off his bedroom and be a part of that, for all of them to be a family.

 

Only that Jon didn’t know how… He didn’t know how to make amends. He didn’t know how to say to Sansa how sorry he was for what she went through during the years they had been apart. He didn’t know how to make her see… make her feel that he still felt the same about her. He didn’t know how to convince her to give him another chance… the last one.

***

Sansa thought about the last four weeks as she cut the onions for the pie she was making for dinner.

 

For the first time since Alyssa was born, Sansa felt like someone had got her back. And that was the most foreign feeling for Sansa. Like she had a co-parent or something. Someone who took Alyssa to school, someone who kept an eye on Alyssa while she worked, and most of all someone with whom she could leave Alyssa without worrying about anything happening to the girl.

 

To be honest, she had always known she had nothing to worry about, especially regarding Alyssa’s safety, if she left Alyssa alone with Jon. He might be a flight risk, but he wasn’t irresponsible. So she knew, Alyssa would be safe and sound if left with Jon for long periods.

 

What Sansa hadn’t expected was the keen interest Jon had shown in Alyssa or the enthusiasm with which he had endeavored to fill the time he had been granted with Alyssa due to Sansa’s job. The other day Sansa’s heart had nearly fluttered out of her chest when she had gone to pick Alyssa up on her way to the cottage from the Wildes’ place and had stopped short outside the backdoor of the main house that led straight into the kitchen. One quick peek through the studio windows had shown all of them, Alyssa, Jon, Daenerys and Missandei, were gathered in the kitchen and Jon was profusely, passionately, and pretty eloquently praising Alyssa on her ability to pick up foreign languages. Daenerys and Missandei were quietly smirking at Jon while Alyssa was practically glowing, basking under the warmth of Jon’s ovation which was a novelty for her.

 

The shy pleasure on her daughter’s face that day had meant everything to Sansa and she would do everything in her power to preserve this newfound happiness for Alyssa.

 

Sansa was so lost in her thoughts, she hadn’t even noticed the knock on the door or Alyssa running over to open it. She came out of her reverie when she heard Jon’s low gruff voice.

 

Sansa was so shocked that she almost reached up to smooth her messy ponytail and stopped herself at the last moment. Of course she didn’t care about how she looked like in front of Jon Snow.

 

Sansa also refrained herself from turning fully towards the front door and forced herself to focus on assembling the pie. She could hear them talk clearly though.

 

“There you go, Ally Belly! Glitters, super glue and color papers. Now, you store them up and we can start working on your solar system project from tomorrow… though I am still not in agreement with Daeny that we need glitter on our project.”

 

Ally Belly? Our project? Sansa only just caught herself from rolling her eyes and did so mentally.

 

But of course it was Jon’s overfamiliarity with Alyssa in such a short time that was bugging her, and not jealousy on her part - she asserted to herself.

 

“Mmm… Smells good, Al. What’s for dinner?” From the way Jon’s voice wafted towards her, she could tell he was looking at her. Sansa knew she should look at him and acknowledge him in a formal, neighborly way. Plus he was her boss too. But after that night, she had avoided any personal, especially alone, encounters with him. Now she felt her nerves getting the better of her again, and she bent her head and focused on the pie in front of her with a vengeance.

 

Her daughter chirped, unaware of the thick undercurrents in the room. “Mums making kidney pie. Like she used to have as a kid… with the-”

 

“Peas and onions?” Sansa’s head whipped at his direction at this, both with surprise at his remembrance of something so minor and shock at the hopeful joy in his voice.

 

As her eyes met his over their little girl’s head, Sansa’s throat felt constricted. In his eyes was the look that she had encountered several times during the past month… a kind of hopeful wish.

 

While Sansa struggled with her breathing, Alyssa piped up. “You have had kidney pies with peas and onions then?! I haven’t! The cook didn’t really make it like that back in the Eyrie. But the cook at Mum’s home used to make it like that when she was a kid. I even know her name. It’s-”

 

“Old Nan.” Jon sounded just wistful now.

 

“You know that too? How?!”

 

“I- I…” Jon hesitated as he looked at Sansa, clearly looking for help.

 

Sansa took a steadying breath and when she spoke, the tremor in her voice wasn’t completely veiled. “Mr. Snow- Jon… He used to live in my neighborhood when we were children. He was friends with your uncle Robb… You know, the uncle who was older than me-?”

 

“The one who used to pull your pig-tails and then give you piggyback rides when you got annoyed?” Alyssa was intrigued.

 

“The one and the same.”

 

“Jon and Uncle Robb were friends? He used to come to Winterfell?! You knew him?”

 

Sansa nodded staggeringly to all of the questions.

 

Jon finally spoke up. “He was my best friend, your uncle Robb. And Winterfell was like my own home. And… Your Grandpa? He was like a father to me. He always opened up his home to me… and his heart. I have had many a kidney pie with the family at Winterfell.” Then he added in a quiet voice as he looked at Sansa, “Haven’t had one in ages though… And up until the moment I heard the name I haven’t even realized I have missed it so much.”

 

“So have it with us tonight! Stay for dinner.”

 

Both the adults snapped their heads towards the little girl and then back at each other. Their gazes caught up at the same time, cloudy grey on clear blue.

 

Sansa swallowed hard and chose self-preservation over common decency.

 

“Actually, Lyssie, I am sure Jon has other plans. Plus I don’t think I have had that much of a successful go at recreating Old Nan’s recipe and I’d really rather not embarrass myself by sharing it with anyone else other than you at first. So…”

 

Her implication was clear and her intention clearer. Still, she couldn’t suppress the feeling of guilt as she saw Jon’s eyes darken and his expression flash with a suffering that he quickly shuttered away as he left with a little parting nod towards Alyssa.

***

 

Sansa was just checking on the state of the pie in the oven when Alyssa asked quietly, “Mum? Do you dislike Jon?”

 

Sansa momentarily froze like a deer in the headlights, then she forced herself to answer. “Of course not, darling.”

 

“Because if you do, and if you want me to, then I will not hang out with him anymore. I will not be friends with him anymore.” Sansa quickly recognized the note of panicked tears in her daughter’s voice.

 

She hurried over to the little girl and sat beside her on the kitchen table. “Listen to me baby… And listen good. You never, ever, have to break off a friendship with someone just because I didn’t like them! You don’t even have to decide who you like or not based on my feelings. It doesn’t work that way, sweetie. Yes, we are a team. Yes, we fight the world together. But we don’t always have to like the same people or things. That being said…”

 

Sansa paused as she thought hard about what to say next. Jon was Alyssa’s father and they were gonna break the news to Alyssa at an appropriate time and it wouldn’t do any one any good if Alyssa went forward with the notion that Sansa disliked Jon. That was bound to cloud her choices in the future and Sansa didn’t want to manipulate her own daughter that way. She wasn’t Petyr Baelish.

 

“I don’t dislike Jon, Lyssie. It’s just… I thought he was just being nice and I didn’t want him to feel obligated to have dinner with us just because you so nicely invited him. I wanted to give him an out.”

 

The little girl nodded understandingly, but still looked sad. Sansa sighed, deciding what to do despite herself.

 

“Tell you what? I saw him going towards the shore, not the main house. Why don’t you run along to him and invite him again to come and have a crappy kidney pie with us? I am sure he will listen to you.”

 

Alyssa looked at her mother questioningly, as if asking if she was sure. When Sansa nodded her head reassuringly, Alyssa gave her a big smile and a quick hug. Then she was on her way towards the beach.

***

By the time Alyssa came back with Jon, Sansa had the table set and was putting the salad bowl down. Even the pie was cooked and out of the oven.

 

“Lyssie, what took you so long? I was starting to get worried!”

 

“Jon insisted he couldn’t attend a dinner invite without something nice, so he went home and brought back a bottle of wine for you!” As she spoke, Sansa noted, Alyssa’s eyes were huge with excitement. Well, at least someone was looking forward to the dinner.

 

“Actually I borrowed it from Daeny. Now, she has an impressive cellar!” If his voice was any indication, Jon was apprehensive about the dinner too.

 

In deference to his obvious apprehension, Sansa didn’t say anything about the Dornish Red and just thanked Jon politely as she got two wine glasses out.

 

They sat down to dinner and after serving the food and drinks, wine for the adults and lemonade for Alyssa, Sansa tried to eat the pie, average in her estimations, quietly. But it was hard to disengage herself from the conversation happening between her daughter and Jon entirely when the topic of conversation was Winterfell and the past residents of it. Alyssa’s interests knew no bounds.

 

“And that was Aunt Arya?” Sansa’s heart leaped at the name and she held her fork more forcefully.

 

She saw Jon glace at her clenched hands for a moment before he spoke in a gentle manner, “Yeah… You remind me so much of her, you know? She was so brave, so intelligent!” Then Jon’s eyes turned really soft as he said lovingly, “She was one of the best things in my childhood, she was. The sister I always wanted.”

 

The sister I lost - the feeling of shared loss was too much. Sansa’s hand itched to reach out and cover his. Just to not give into that traitorous itch, Sansa stuffed a messy spoonful of pie in her mouth. When she couldn’t swallow it and struggled, it was Jon who pushed her wine glass in her hand.

 

This is agony - Sansa thought to herself and maybe sensing her discomfiture about talks of her dead family, Jon switched the conversation to his own dead family. She heard him explaining and satisfying Alyssa’s interests about his mother, father, exactly who Daeny was to him and finally why he didn’t know Daeny as a child.

 

“Well, Daeny’s father- my grandfather- he didn’t approve of my mother, you see? You remember, Daeny talking to you about racism the other day, about when she met Missandei?? It was kinda like that, but not entirely. My grandfather considered my mother to be beneath his station, and so when Dad married Mom, he was disowned. And it was ok… We were alright… We were happy… until they passed in an accident.”

 

“You don’t have to.” Sansa blurted out before she could stop herself. She knew, from recollections of their childhood and from when they reconnected, how painful it all and the next part was for Jon. Then she surprised herself further and leaned towards Jon and whispered, “If you want, you can tell all this to Lyssie when she’s older maybe. But you don’t have to now… not if it’s too painful…”

 

The twinkle in Jon’s eyes made her realize how intimate and concerned her gesture must have seemed and too late she snatched herself back and for good measure, looked away from him. She could feel Jon’s eyes on her for a long pause before he started speaking again.

 

“Well, the courts deemed that I should go to my next of kin, my grandfather, but as expected, he refused to have anything to do with me. So my great-uncle, uncle Aemon came to the North to take care of me. And then there was your grandpa Stark, and your uncle Robb, and my best girl Arya, and little Bran and-”

 

“But why didn’t your grandpa want you? Then you could have lived with Daeny all this time!” Alyssa seemed really distressed on behalf of Jon that he missed out on living with Daeny for all those time.

 

Jon shrugged nonchalantly, “I guess he was just ashamed of me… of what I represented… who I could become…”

 

Sansa had had enough talk of Aerys Targaryen for a night. “I think, he was ashamed of himself, because I knew the boy you were, Jon Snow, and any grandfather, who was a decent man, would have been proud to have you in his life.”

 

Sansa immediately mentally kicked herself for her lapse because Jon’s eyes didn’t only twinkle this time, they looked at her as if they caressed every bit of skin they touched. She gave up any effort to eat anymore and started gathering her plate and glass. As if on que, Alyssa let out a big yawn.

 

“Ok, party’s over, my lady.” Sansa said in a lightly teasing voice, the regal bit a running gag between them. “I see you’re done with dinner. Go brush your teeth and get in your jammies. I’ll come tuck you in in a bit.”

 

“But Mum… Jon and I are-”

 

“Listen to your Mum, Ally Belly. Your eyes look rather droopy, you know? If you don’t get enough sleep, you’re gonna be late and little Sam is gonna beat you to the shotgun seat tomorrow! And then he’ll pick the DVD for the ride to the school and you and I both will suffer.”

 

It seemed Jon’s arguments were more convincing than Sansa’s command and Alyssa reluctantly got up to get ready for bed. She said goodbye to Jon, who affectionately ruffled her hair and then went away towards her room.

 

Sansa, as she finished carrying the plates to the sink, was aware of Jon still being there and wondered why he didn’t just leave. Then gathering her courage, she turned to him and said in a rush, “Thank you again for the wine and sorry for the kidney pie. I am not an accomplished cook by any stretch of the imagination. I’ll get Alyssa ready on time tomorrow for school. Good night now. I’ll see you around.”

 

Without giving Jon a chance to utter even a word, she turned and left for Alyssa’s room. There she found her daughter trying to get into her jammies wearily, having already brushed her teeth, and Sansa helped the sleepy child with it. When Sansa finally tucked Alyssa in, the girl was already half-asleep and still she struggled to keep her eyes open, “Thank you for letting Jon come over for dinner, Mum. He tells stories of Winterfell that you forgot. I like his stories.” Then she held out her small arms to Sansa and that gesture was so rare from her always-acting-so-mature daughter that Sansa went into her arms eagerly.

 

By the time Sansa put on the night light and came out of the room on tiptoes, Alyssa was already breathing heavily.

 

All her feelings of peace and quiet left her though, when Sansa came face to face with Jon himself, standing by the sink and drying some plates he must have washed. He looked completely at home.

 

“What are you still doing here? You didn’t have to do that!” She sounded rude and she didn’t care.

 

“If you cook, I clean. Those are the rules, right?”

 

Sansa drew in a calming breath at his casual tone. “Alright, everything looks clean now, so you can leave. Good night.”

 

“Not so fast, San.” He put the last plate down on the pile over the counter and walked towards her. Sansa promptly walked backwards. “Since I have got the chance today to speak to you finally, I think I will say my piece. I have noticed all your avoidance techniques, by the way. Nicely done.”

 

Sansa ignored his barb. “What can you possibly have left to speak to me about? We said all that we had to.”

 

“You said all that you had to. I didn’t even get started.” He was dangerously close now and anymore back steps would put Sansa into the hallway where their voices could wake Alyssa. “What do you think I want to talk to you about? Isn’t it obvious? I want us to give each other another chance, Sansa.”

 

Sansa was left momentarily speechless by his guileless demand. Then she was charged into speech by panic. “I told you that is not even a possibility. We have to think of Lyssa. She’s finally happy… finally having a portion of the childhood she always deserved. I won’t let you or anyone else ruin this for her for their selfish gains.”

 

Jon paced so close to her that their bodies almost touched. “Selfish? Do you think for a moment since I have known about her, I have thought of anyone else?”

 

“Then how can you even suggest that we take up – We already know we don’t work! What happens this time when we fall apart? Last time, I picked up the slack. This time, do you expect Lyssa to-”

 

When he curled his hand around her nape and pulled her abruptly against his chest, Sansa felt the breath leave her body in a shocked gasp. She couldn’t fight him as his lips claimed hers - not because he was holding her too strongly, but because he made the kiss so good, so gentle, his passion unquenchable.

 

And it had been so long… so long… since Sansa had been kissed by someone she didn’t absolutely loathe, someone she once loved… and the kiss itself was so persuasive, that Sansa gave a tiny sigh and kissed him back. Her arms came up and circled his shoulders as she carded her hands through his hair. Those curly hair that she didn’t even know she fancied until her fingers tangled in them and she realized she never wanted to let go.

 

Jon angled her head and deepened the kiss. It was so sweet Sansa was almost sobbing. Then she realized with a shock, those weren’t sobs but whimpers. Needy, greedy whimpers. She pressed herself against his body, trying to get as much into his warmth as she could, and that was when she felt it. That unmistakable male reaction against her stomach. His arms hardened around her as he silently forced her to acknowledge what was happening to them both.

 

Jon kissed the corner of her mouth and his hands came up to cup her jaw snuggly so she couldn’t turn her head even if she wanted. He kissed the left apple of her cheek, then her hairline and moving to the shell of her ear where he whispered hotly, “You see, you’re wrong, sweet girl. We do work. We won’t fall apart. And even if we do, I’ll be here this time. I’ll be here to gather you up… I’ll be here to pick up the slacks. And it’s not selfish for us to-”

 

Sansa’s hard shove against his chest was so sudden, that he was immediately thrown a couple of paces away. She breathed hard as his words registered. So he was proving his point and she was practically offering herself up to him in a platter. And he did admit they might mess up everything again, his consolation was he’d be here this time to clean up the mess.

 

Well, that was not good enough for her. Alyssa deserved calm, tranquility and stability. Even thinking about something that might destroy that calm was selfish and Sansa couldn’t be like that.

 

“I’ll thank you again for the wine and for everything you’re doing for Alyssa. But she has to come first. She does come first. And now I’ll really appreciate it if you left. Right now. Good night.”

 

Jon looked incredulously at her for several seconds, then he looked back over her shoulder toward Alyssa’s room and a shutter came over his face, concealing his thoughts from Sansa. Without another word, he turned and left, closing the front door quietly behind him.

 

Sansa collapsed limply to the floor, the nerves finally getting to her, knowing sleep tonight was an inaccessible possibility.

Chapter Text

Sansa had long ago stopped believing in fairytales. But one day, while she felt the Lyseni sun warm her face, she started to realize that maybe fairytales did exist… only in slightly different forms than she had expected.

The royal castle- well, the castle just might have been a cottage by the sea in real life.

And happily ever after- well, maybe that was just happy right now.

Because Sansa felt so happy and content with the life she and her daughter were leading in Lys, in their cottage by the sea, that she felt like she was living her own fairytale with her own happily ever after.

And happiness was dangerous. It made people unsuspecting. And when people were unsuspecting, things snuck up on them. Things like trust… and faith… and hope.

Faith was a funny thing. It turned up when it was least expected. Sansa knew that once in a blue moon, people were capable of surprising each other. What she had never expected was how people’s kindness and devotion could take one’s breath away.

Or in particular, one person’s kindness and devotion. Jon Snow.

He had kept his distance from her so cautiously after that night he had had dinner at the cottage. And yet, when she needed someone, or something, he never seemed far enough.

He was there when Alyssa had tried to make a lemon cake for her and burned it so bad that the whole cottage had been filled with black smoke and a horrible burnt smell. He came in like a wind before Sansa could do anything but just put the burnt cake, molding tin and all included, under the water in the sink, which just seemed to emit a lot more smoke than was already present. He had silently opened all the windows in the kitchen, took off his jacket and waved it around in big circles to chase out the smoke, then he had turned the oven off, checked the stove to be sure it was turned off and had left after an affectionate head pat and a mock-narrowing of his eyes which seemed to say ‘no more of this till I am back again’ at Alyssa.

He had been there when Sansa had been stuck helpless on the rocky moors beyond the valley off the last house on the main road. She had been out on a walk with Jonno and Olly. Jonno had, sure enough, ran off to a daunting little bump at the end of the terrain and while trying to go after him, one of the wheels of Olly’s stroller had gotten stuck on a gap between two edgy rocks and try as she might have had, Sansa couldn’t get the wheel unstuck. The more she struggled, the more the wheel seemed to stick to the wedge. When she had literally been almost sobbing with helplessness and worry, thinking off picking the baby up and debating whether or not to go after Jonno with the baby in her arms, Jon had materialized seemingly out of thin air. He had wordlessly hauled the whole stroller off the ground, very simply dislodging it from deep within the wedge between the rocks. Then he had put the stroller down, turning it towards the way back to the houses, and when Sansa had whimpered Jonno’s name out, he had quietly informed her that he knew where Jonno usually ran off to and would bring him home shortly. Sansa had left without another word, weak with relief and forgetting to even thank Jon for everything.

He was there to take Alyssa to classes. Classes which Sansa suspected hadn’t been there in Lys before her daughter had expressed an interest in taking them. She had met Alyssa’s new fencing teacher only once on her rare day-off when she had been able to take her daughter to her classes, but she had noted the Bravosi fence master saying in between Alyssa’s praises that it had been worth coming to Lys to teach the little girl.

Everyday Sansa got home from the Wildes’, she found some new evidence of Jon having been there. Either he had been there sticking radium stars on the roof of Alyssa’s room, or he had fixed the broken window by the living room, and on Sundays, when Alyssa was home from school, he had even started to leave suppers inside the oven, so that all Sansa had to do was just reheat them. And Sansa was loathed to admit it, but he was a far better cook than she could ever hope to be.

Then there had been that day… Sansa had done a lot of laundry that day. She hadn’t been able to dry them all off in the kitchen or on the small elevated deck that served as her porch. So she had gone and asked for Missandei help. She had hoped that Jon wouldn’t be home and he wasn’t. But while she and Missandei had been carrying ropes and a couple of pathetic looking sticks found in the main houses store room to the front of the cottage, he had appeared suddenly. He had asked Missandei what they were doing while taking the big knot of rope off of Sansa’s hands. Then he had asked both of them to return to their abodes and said he would take care of it. When Sansa had come back from the main house after having iced tea with Missandei, a young lad who worked in stables taking care of Daenerys’s horses, Satin, was there helping Jon and they had put up three rows of long running parallel ropes with crisscrossed bamboo X poles on both sides of them.

Sansa had of course thanked both of them politely and then proceeded to hang her bed sheets and towels and bigger clothing items on the rope. All the house cleaning and laundry on her off day had tired her off, but still she hadn’t wanted to go in and take a nap as she didn’t want any of the clothes falling off the rope onto the sand due to the strong beach wind despite the clips she had put on them. She hadn’t even realized when she had fallen asleep on the deck chair, her head resting on the small table before her, the book she had been reading falling on the deck.

When she had woken up, she had felt like she was in an earthquake. Then she had become aware of strong arms holding her close to a warm chest. Before she could stiffen herself up to let him know she was coming to, she had heard him ‘shhh’ someone and then she had heard a giddy, cut-off short, giggle. A rare giggle from Alyssa. While she had been reveling in that little delightful sound, she had felt herself being gently lowered to the single couch in the living room. And while she listened to her daughter laughing with Jon shushing her ever so often, she had discovered she was shwarma wrapped in one of the bed sheets she had hanged to dry off.

Sansa had been so astonished by the sound of that giggle. Petyr’s insensitive behavior had made Alyssa especially distrustful of men’s intentions toward her mother. Sansa had noticed that when some of the single fathers in Alyssa’s school had tried to talk to her after Petyr’s death. Her daughter had almost lashed out at one of the fathers. That Alyssa was now giggling conspiratorially while said mother was being carried by a man, showed the level of trust that Jon had been able to instill in his daughter.

While playing asleep, Sansa had actually fallen asleep that day. And when she had woken up, she had found her laundry neatly folded into piles in Alyssa’s room.

Sansa would never, not even to herself, admit the fact that, that day, in those few moments that she had been awake in Jon’s arms, she had low-key nuzzled her cheek against his chest. Just to feel the warmth of that kind of a human touch, that kind of a warm intimacy.

However, Sansa could well appreciate the fact that being too greedy could lead to despondency. She was learning to trust Jon as Alyssa’s father, but when it came to her and Jon… She was gun shy. And she didn’t want her own uncertainties to cast a cloud over Alyssa’s very recent cheerfulness. Hence, the more Jon represented his caring side to her, the more she hardened her heart to his charms.

Or at least, she tried to.

***

In a rare moment of viciousness, Jon swore colorfully and flicked the pencil he had been holding onto the opposite wall of Sam’s study where he had been cooped up for most of the day.

“Oye, mate! Little Sam’s asleep! And if Gilly heard you swearing like that when little Sam’s near…” Sam’s unspoken warning was clear.

“Then just tell me, if I am right or wrong? I know Tyrion’s right, there’s no way they should be able to do this. But I am talking about could, not should, Sam!” The frustration was making him sound raw now.

Sam went back to his cluster of computers to do some more digging, while Jon considered the foulness of his mood. He was very on the edge since his last video call with Tyrion. Daeny’s safety was his utmost duty, yes. And the imminent threat to it, the threat that was the sole reason for the ridiculous level of security measures they had always adopted even in this tranquil island, rattled Jon more than he cared to admit.

However, the possible security breach wasn’t the only reason for his particularly nasty mood. He hadn’t had his fix of late. He hadn’t seen Sansa.

Alyssa had come looking for him shortly before dinner. But Sansa he hadn’t seen since this morning when she had passed the main house on her way to Ygritte’s.

These past couple of months, living in close vicinity to her, seeing her every day, being able to be there for her… had been absolutely precious to Jon.

He had almost taken her into his arms when he had found her, distressed and on the verge of tears, standing on the high moors with the stroller stuck on the barnacled terrain. She had looked so alone there with the baby and no one else. Jon had spent restless nights after that having dreams of that visual, except in his dreams the baby was a girl and she had dark hair and grey eyes, it was the one they had created.

That day his heart had almost jumped out of his chest when he had seen her, almost about to go looking for Jonno with Olly in her arms, her feet clad in strappy sandals which had zero grip underneath them and could have easily slipped on the barnacled terrain. After that incident he had found himself seeking her out subconsciously even more frequently than before. Just reassuring himself that she was where she should be, she was ok.

Alyssa, he didn’t have to worry about like that. More often than not now, the little girl spent most of her waking hours with him.

It was Sansa who seemed determined to see as little of him as possible. He was constantly having to invent newer ideas to just get a glimpse of her. Now it was 3 am in the morning and if Jon didn’t finish his work with Sam soon and headed home, then he would even miss the glimpse of her as she left for her job. And he had come to cherish that glimpse of her first thing in the morning more than anything in the past months.

The long sigh Jon had emitted in remembrance of Sansa, however, got stuck in his throat when the eerie silence of the night was broken by the shrill and loud warning alarm.

Jon and Sam both looked at each other at the same time. Both knew where that alarm was coming from and what that meant.

“Well, there’s your confirmation, mate. You were right. Tyrion was wrong.” Sam sounded weakly sheepish.

Jon lunged for his cell phone on the desk while Sam got up to his feet as quickly as he could.

It took Jon five minutes to call forth the alpha team and direct the other two teams to go for a perimeter check. Then he helped Sam with Gilly and little Sam. By the time he was running to the square in the main road, seven minutes had passed since the first alarm and most of the residents of the houses had come out.

Jon’s eyes immediately located Daeny’s shiny platinum hair even from a distance and he again instructed the alpha team on the radio to come and secure ‘Khaleesi’. That was the only code name Daeny had agreed to although it was not really a code and was known by everyone.

Next his eyes searched for his girls and he spotted the little one right away.

Alyssa was in a loose night shirt that reached her knees and her feet were clad in her slippers. The girl was shivering, either from the cold night air or fear, and Jon increased his speed as he raced towards her.

His heart hammered in his chest as he couldn’t locate Sansa though. Everyone was there. Daeny, Missandei, his daughter, Ygritte and her boys. Barristan Selmy had come out of his seclusion from the last house on the road and was flanking Daeny like a mother hen. He could even see the alpha team - Pyp, Grenn and Edd – running towards Daeny, their arms drawn.

But where the hell was the mother of his daughter?

“Where is she? Where is she?” He reached Alyssa and firmly planting a hand on her head, he directed his questions to Daeny and Missandei.

Before any of them could answer though, Ygritte came forward and hugged his side. “I am here, Jon. And don’t worry about me! I haven’t forgotten my training. See, I got my shotgun-”

“Um- I don’t think Jon meant you!” Daeny sounded inappropriately gleeful for the hour and the situation, especially considering the situation was most dire for her as any security breach made her the prime target.

Jon was about to act completely uncharacteristically and yell at both the women when he spotted the one he was desperately looking for.

Sansa came out of Ygritte’s house running, with a baby blanket and a raggedy old stuffed elephant in her hand. Jonno ran towards her and clutched the elephant to his chest, thanking Sansa in a muffled voice. Sansa proceeded towards Olly in Ygritte’s arms and cloaked the baby with the blanket she had brought over.

“Can’t you hear the alarm? Why are you running around alone like that?” Jon heard the panic in his voice that he hadn’t been able to tamp down and cringed inwardly.

Before Sansa could reply, Olly held his arms out to her and almost launched into her arms from his mother’s. Sansa took him wordlessly and threw Jon a baleful look over the little blonde head.

“I sent her to fetch some things for Jonno and Olly. Olly was fidgeting so much. Come to think of it, his binky would be nice-”

“Ygritte! She’s not on the clock now. You want the binky, go and get it! At least, you have a gun and you know how to use it, so you’ll be able to fend for yourself if need be.” Jon’s voice had an uncharacteristic bite to it.

Ygritte seemed too speechless to say anything and just stared at Jon with incredulously hurt expression.

The radio in Jon’s hand came alive and before he held it up to his mouth, his hand subtly curved around Alyssa’s shoulder protectively and he drew her closer to his side. The girl went more than willingly and clung to his leg.

***

Sansa watched her daughter press her cheek to Jon’s side and her heart twisted with so many emotions that she couldn’t even isolate and identify any one. She snuggled Olly in her arms to get a hold on herself.

“Boss- south perimeter’s secure—boundary hasn’t been breached—going to check out the beach by house zero and the moors. I suggest you keep Khaleesi away till it’s all been checked out.” Sansa recognized the voice belonging to one of the stable boys who kept Daenerys’s horses, Rakharo. Alyssa frequently talked of him. Was anyone really who they said they were in this island?

“Copy that. Cross check with Team Bravo.”

Jon put the radio down from his mouth. He pocketed the radio and at the same time bent at the knees. Then, very easily and very normally, he wrapped one arm around Alyssa and picked her up in his arms.

Sansa would have loved to say that she was the one most surprised by this, but apparently she was not. The waves of unspoken outrage coming off of Ygritte was hard to ignore. Then Jon gently held Alyssa’s right foot in his hand and, to Sansa’s absolute shock, Alyssa turned and surrounded her arms around his shoulders as she rested her cheek on his chest.

Sansa tried to swallow past the uncomfortable knot of emotions in her throat and failed.

“Alright, everyone. Let’s move to the clubhouse. Just as we have practiced.” As he finished speaking his eyes landed on Sansa and he motioned her to precede him with a nod of his head.

When they reached the clubhouse, Sansa enquired about the kids and Missandei told Sansa that she could use the manager’s office as a makeshift nursery. Sansa lingered back for Alyssa, but the little girl’s eyes seemed droopy and Jon was engaged in a whispered conversation with Daenerys.

When Sansa reached the manager’s office, she was just putting Olly down on the couch when Ygritte stormed in.

“You! You had intentionally kept your daughter away from me, didn’t you? You knew I’d discover your dirty secret once I saw her!” Ygritte’s face was twisted with anger.

Sansa heaved a sigh. She was so not equipped for a fight in the middle of the night.

“I don’t have a dirty little secret, Ygritte. And if you mean my daughter, I’ll demand an apology and would like to inform you that she is none of your business.”

For the second time that night, Ygritte seemed stunned into speechlessness.

“Now if you’ll look over Olly and Jonno, I have my daughter to look after.” With that she left the room, a couple of semi-sleeping boys and a dumbfounded woman behind her back.

When she went to the dining hall of the clubhouse, she found Missandei, Daenerys, Sam and the elderly gentleman who lived on the last house of the main road talking. Missandei pointed to a far door on the left when she saw Sansa and Sansa saw Jon disappearing through that door with Alyssa in his arms.

Sansa followed them hurriedly and saw Jon enter through a door leading off the spacious lobby. She followed him in.

Jon turned as he sensed her behind him. “Once this room is fully decorated, it is supposed to serve as Missandei’s Foreign Language Centre. Satin or Rakharo sometimes crashes here when they’re too tired to go home.”

He went and laid Alyssa on the small bunk bed on one corner of the small room. Then in a familiarly tender gesture he took off his black leather jacket and tucked it securely around the sleeping girl.

Sansa leaned back against the wall as she watched Jon affectionately push the hair back from Alyssa’s face. She was so engrossed in watching it that for a moment she hadn’t realized he had whispered.

“Do you like your job?”

The fact that he was actually, really, talking to her was astonishing. He had seemed disinterested in speaking to her since that night. On top of that, his question was pretty out of the field too.

“Olly and Jonno are adorable kids. Ygritte doesn’t interfere much in how I take care of them. It’s a good arrangement. Pay is good too. But really, I need the job to take care of Lyssie.” She also whispered, mindful of the sleeping child.

Jon turned back and sat on the edge of the bed as his eyes found hers. “You don’t have to do it if- You have to set a limit to the tasks you do and the hours you keep, Sansa. You do not clean the house for her and you do not work for her at nearly 4am in the morning! If it’s not possible to maintain those rules, leave the job. As far as money is concerned, Ally is my responsibility too. I’ll take care of you guys-”

Jon stopped short when he noticed how stiff Sansa’s shoulder’s had gotten.

“And while you take care of me and my girl, financially, will you also expect me to take care of you, non-financially?” Try as she might, she couldn’t keep the bitterness out of her voice.

Jon’s hands moved to his face and he wearily wiped it as his shoulders slumped in a defeated manner. “That’s not how I meant it, Sansa.”

“So you’d take care of Alyssa and I and you don’t want to sleep with me?” Sansa deliberately goaded, angered by his suggestion to leave the first job she had held in her life.

Jon lowered his head in his hand. “That’s unfair, Sansa. Saying yes would make it seem like I’m guilty of suggesting what you’re implying I suggested. But saying no would be a lie. And I have tried. For the past nine years. Even now, I am constantly trying to not want you… all through these past months… But that had nothing to do with my offer. I was being a bastard because I was just so angry at you when you first arrived. But you don’t even have to worry about all that bullshit about the conveyance money and all!” He sounded beaten.

His dejected composure drew a feeling of compassion from within Sansa that she wasn’t willing to show. Because he was right, he had been a bastard when she had arrived in Lys. So she walked stiffly and sat down, far from him, on the edge of the bed. She had to keep her head lowered not to bump it on the upper bunk.

“So what’s with the alarm? What’s going on? Is it safe to be here? I mean, Lyssie-” She stopped when Jon’s head swiveled toward her like a homing device.

“I won’t let anything happen to our little girl! I will protect her and you-”

“No one can protect anyone. That’s not how this world is built. My late husband did have some excellent teaching topics.”

Sansa was startled when he suddenly stood up and turned towards her. He opened his palms and came near her like he was going to touch her. Then he stopped and hesitated, his eyes telling her he was remembering the last time he had touched her. Sansa swallowed as she remembered that night too.

As if suddenly making up his mind, Jon knelt in front of her and gripped her hands that were lying on her knees. “I am so so sorry for all that you went through in the hands of that man, Sansa. And I am so sorry that I wasn’t there for you. That no one was. But I am here now. And I want to take responsibility for my daughter. And I want to protect you both. Now you may be right, maybe no one can protect anyone, but I swear to you, I’d cast myself between you two and anyone trying to hurt you over and over again, until I am 10 feet into the ground.”

Sansa’s fingers shook in his grip and Jon’s fingers tightened around hers, steadying them. “When Daeny freed the slaves of Astapor, Yunkai and Mereen, quite naturally the Masters weren’t happy about it. They had ordered several assassination attempts on her since then. That’s how her husband Drogo was killed. That’s why she had relocated to Lys and that’s why this community is secured and armed like a small cantonment.”

When Sansa squirmed at the things she heard and tried to snatch her hands from his hold, he clasped onto them. “I had been feeling like… I don’t know… this feeling of being under surveillance for a week and so I had asked Tyrion to gather intel. He got back saying there had been no activities regarding the Masters for a while now, but I still had Daeny’s security team on high alert. And they sounded the alarm tonight. It may be nothing. But we had to be cautious. Daeny’s life depends on it.”

When Sansa didn’t say anything, he continued, “The Masters don’t have a naval or air force. They never had. Actually until Daeny came, the Free Cities were, technologically and socially, living a 100 years behind. So only way they can attack Daeny is by using assassins and they would have to use the ferry or land directly on the island using choppers, both of which we are monitoring. Tonight is probably me being paranoid and then passing it onto the boys. But whatever it is, I always have an eye out for you two, that’s why I put you guys in the cottage in the first place.”

When Sansa still didn’t speak, he asked in a small voice, “You’re not thinking of leaving, are you?”

Sansa heard the fear and desperation in his voice, and she knew it was because he didn’t want to be parted from his daughter. Truth was, she had never even thought of leaving. Where would she go anyway? Alyssa and she were fine where they were.

“No. I am not leaving.” She kept all emotion out of her voice cautiously.

Jon let out the breath he had been holding. “You scared me.”

“I don’t think-” Sansa’s voice quivered to a stop when Jon abruptly bent his head and ran his lips in feathered caresses over her knuckles.

Then, just as quickly, he stood up and after promising to come get them once the sweep was completed, he left a flabbergasted Sansa to her jumbled thoughts and closed the door softly behind him.

Chapter Text

Sansa saw Jon sitting on a boulder on the edge of the sea. The intense longing that filled her at just the sight of that lonely looking man was so acute that her heart twisted with a pang. She ran towards him. She kept running for what seemed like hours and still couldn’t reach him. When she was on the edge of tears, he looked up. And the moment he looked up, she was near him. He looked at her like he always did. With love and warmth and kindness making his grey orbs sparkle. The kindness was her undoing though. She threw her arms around his neck and pressed her face in his chest as she sobbed with all her might. She was so miffed with him for leaving her, yet she was so relieved to have him back in her life. She felt heartbroken by her own sobs. She was crying so hard; she was almost having difficulty breathing. She needed to breathe and not whimper... She felt suffocated. She was whimpering so much...

 

Two hands gripped her shoulders strongly and shook her. Sansa woke up with a start.

 

Her daughter’s concerned eyes dragged her out of her frenzied dream. “Mum! Stop crying, Mum! Are you OK? Mum?”

 

The panic in Alyssa’s voice propelled Sansa to immediately try to sit up and reassure her, but as she sat up, her whole body screamed in pain and her head spun as a violent urge to be sick consumed her. She barely had time to shove Alyssa aside gently as she raced to the en suite and started retching her guts out.

 

Alyssa was behind her in a flash, holding her hair back, running a soothing hand behind her back. When Sansa was done, she weakly leaned against the edge of the bathtub. She felt too weak to even open her eyes. But even more than weak, she felt shocked.

 

Sansa was never sick. The last time she had been sick was when she was carrying Alyssa. After Alyssa had been born, she hadn’t succumbed to any illness even for a day. As if her body had known it wasn’t allowed to take sick days. Naturally, Sansa felt stunned with her body’s betrayal after all these years.

 

Suddenly Sansa became aware that there was absolute silence around her when minutes before she was surrounded by her daughter’s panicked rants. She pried her eyes open almost forcefully and looked around through the haze of tears in her eyes.

 

It was morning, sunlight was streaming in through the ventilator in the bathroom and Alyssa was nowhere to be seen. And from the total silence that Sansa could feel around her, she could tell her daughter had left the cottage altogether.

 

Sansa tried to get up on her feet and fell sideways on the tile. The fall hurt her elbows, but she tried again. She had to get Alyssa ready for school and make her breakfast and pack her lunch.

 

Sansa rinsed her mouth and as soon as she tried to look up at her reflection on the mirror above the bathroom sink, she felt her head swim again. She started to fall backwards and just when she was sure she was going to hit the back of her head real hard on tiled floor, something broke her fall.

 

It took Sansa a moment to come back to earth and when she next forced her eyes open, she was again greeted with gentle grey eyes; except this time, they belonged to her daughter’s father. As soon as her eyes adjusted on Jon’s frowning face, Sansa had the insane urge to turn and hide herself away. All she had ever wanted was to present a strong front to Jon, never letting him see her weaknesses and vulnerabilities. It really wasn’t fair that now she was rendered helpless in front of him as a sick wimp.

 

When she really tried to turn her back to Jon though, he gently held her down in place and checked her forehead and neck for temperature. Sansa squirmed under his touch, because even her burning skin didn’t seem immune to his perfunctory touch. Then Jon overwhelmed her even more as he gently pushed her clammy hair back from her forehead and neck and stroked her sweaty right cheek lovingly.

 

Suddenly his care and gentle hands were too much and Sansa sagged against the bed. She let out a long sigh and felt herself drifting away.

***

Sansa woke with a start at the sound of the shout.

 

“Ally, I said I will take care of her. Finish off your breakfast! Sam is waiting to take you and Little Sam to school.” Jon was standing on the doorway to her bedroom with his back to her. But he turned to her just as Sansa fully opened her eyes.

 

“You’re up, sweet girl.” he murmured. Then he came towards her as Sansa noted the big tray he was carrying and sat down beside her on the edge of the bed. “That’s good, because you need to eat something before I can give you the antibiotics.”

 

Sansa’s nose automatically wrinkled at the thought of food as she turned her face away and heard Jon make a sympathetic noise in response. Then he turned her face back towards him with a light hand on her cheek. “You know you gotta eat, sweetling. Come on.”

 

He helped Sansa up and then propped the pillows behind her. For those few excruciating seconds, when Jon primped up the pillows behind her, Sansa became enclosed in the circle of his arms, and it was all Sansa could do to not rest her head on his shoulder and let the acute wariness take over. Thankfully before she could succumb to her clearly feverish thoughts, Jon pulled away and pushed her back to rest. Sansa’s eyes fell on the tray he had brought her and a retching sound came out of her inadvertently. Jon chuckled indulgently.

 

“Come on. Pick something. Toast?” Sansa shook her head violently. “Alright... Scrambled eggs?” Sansa pressed her shaking fingers to her lips to stop herself from actually gagging. Jon pursed his lips and Sansa had the distinct impression he was trying to hold his chuckles back at her disgusted expression. “Okay... okay. How about your specialty?? Corn flakes? Come on, sweet girl. Try? Tell you what? Try the orange juice first and that will make the sick feeling go away. I promise. Come on...”

 

Sansa tried to eat as much as she could make herself stomach forcefully, but unfortunately that wasn’t more than two spoonfuls. After that Jon had to take it upon himself to coax her to eat some more. And Sansa had to admit, when he wanted to, Jon Snow could become very persuasive.

 

“Come on, sweet girl. It’s the last bite. Take it.” His tone was melting like butter.

 

Sansa, in turn, scowled at him. “That’s what you said two bites ago! It’s like how I used to feed Lyssie when she would act stubborn!”

 

Jon gently nudged the spoon past her lips. “So that’s proven. She gets her stubbornness from you.”

 

Sansa was so indignant at his unexpected taunt that she hurriedly gulped the cereal down before she ranted as quickly as her heavy tongue would let her. “And who does she get her daredevilry and bloody somberness from?”

 

She could see Jon was not at all offended at her outburst, but before she could provoke him further, Alyssa burst into the room in a frantic run. “Jon, I don’t think I should go to school today. Look at Mum! I should be here to take care of her. It’s what we do. We take care of each other. Right, Mum? Tell him...”

 

Sansa felt her fever returning in full force and let her head fall backwards on the pillow Jon had propped up for her. “Lyssie, baby, you can’t miss school. You have your History of Westeros test today. Plus, if this is a flu, I don’t want you getting too exposed to this virus... more exposed than you already are, that is. Go on, baby- Oh, no, what about your lunch?”

 

Alyssa looked torn between wanting to stay back at home and obeying her mother. At that moment she looked so much her age that Sansa just wanted to drag her daughter over in her lap and cuddle her till the little girl begged to be released. Finally, her better judgments won out and with a sigh Alyssa conceded. “Jon made me PBJs. He used the cherry jelly and cut the sides of the loaves... just like you do for me.”

 

Sansa’s heart jumped. When had she been able to rely on anyone to take care of her baby like she herself would... when had she last had the luxury of spending a sick day in bed? To cover up her melancholic feelings, she smiled at her daughter, “Did you thank Jon?”

 

Alyssa’s face turned adorably sheepish. “Thank you, Jon.”

 

Jon shook his head as he went over to the little girl and quickly picked the girl up in his arms, surprising both Sansa and Alyssa. “You are always welcome, my little wolf. Now let’s get you going. Didn’t you say Mrs. Mordane hates it when someone from her class is late in the morning?” Alyssa nodded fervently and only gave Sansa a brief wave goodbye before Jon carried her outside to where Sam was waiting for them.

 

Sansa must have dozed off waiting for Jon to come back and she woke to his hand lightly stroking her cheek. Her head ached terribly and she let out a complaining moan. Jon braced a hand on her nape and forced her head up as he nudged a few pills inside her mouth and then held a small cup full of water to her lips. Sansa drank a little and swallowed the medicines with much difficulty and then had to drink some more as Jon kept nudging the cup against her lips.

 

Sansa vaguely felt strong arms embracing her as she rested her head on Jon’s shoulder while he readjusted the pillows for her and then he laid her down with such utter care that Sansa felt like a baby being put in her crib.

 

After that she had no idea about the time and kept drifting between a semi-aware to delirious state. Once she became aware of a cool cloth wiping away her sweat and pressing over her forehead and a deep, raspy voice whispering in her ear. Only the words ‘sweetling’, ‘love’, ‘better’ and ‘baby’ registered in her fever-addled mind.

 

The next time she became conscious was when she felt him pick her up in his arms and then put her back down on the bed again. From the cracks in her eyes she could see the room and dimly realized she was laid across her bad with her head almost hanging off the edge on the side of the bed closer to the en suite. She could hear voices and vaguely recognized Missandei and Daenerys talking to Jon and sounds of sloshing water. There was something plastic beneath her head and then someone gently ran a hand through the hair on top of her head. Suddenly she felt ice cold water being poured on her head and the way heat rose off of her face, she deduced she must have a pretty high temperature. As more and more water was poured on her head Sansa became more and more conscious of her surroundings.

 

Jon was the one pouring water on her head. When he saw her eyes open, he gave her a sympathetic smile. Then without warning he trickled some water into her open eyes and her feverish eyes seemed to give off steam at the cold water. Sansa didn’t say anything and just let the water take the temperature off her. Sometime later Jon handed the job of pouring water to Missandei as he went and brought in more ice water.

 

The three of them took turns in pouring the water and more than almost an hour later Sansa felt Jon wrap a towel around her head and gently wipe the moisture off her hair. He made her sit up and as Sansa rested her wrapped head on his shoulder he told Missandei to give her a sponge bath while he disposed of the water in the bucket and made lunch. Then he held Sansa’s arms and made her look up at him, “Once you have had the sponge bath and a change of clothes... and some food and medicines, you’ll feel so much better, sweet girl. I promise.” Then he pressed a light kiss to her temple and went away with the big bucket full of water.

 

By the time Sansa’s sponge bath was done and Jon had made lunch, Alyssa came back from school. Missandei coaxed Sansa to eat her soup and Jon took care of Alyssa.

 

Missandei and Daenerys left shortly after Sansa had had her lunch and medicine. Sansa waited for Jon to come check on her for a long time before she started to feel drowsy.

 

She came to with a start when she felt a cool hand checking her forehead for temperature. She opened her eyes to see Jon’s tired ones. She smiled weakly at him. “Is Lyssie alright?”

 

Jon smiled ruefully. “She’s alright. I don’t think I am. She misses you. I think that made her behave like a child for the first time since I met her. She refused to eat anything I put in front of her, started coloring in her drawing book instead of doing her homework, refused to acknowledge my presence and then fell asleep over her drawing book. Hey, is it ok if I let her nap for a little bit now? It won’t affect her sleep at night, will it? Seven hells, I am totally botching this opportunity to be there for her when you both need me to, ain’t I?

 

Sansa smiled despite the raging headache she was developing and weakly patted the spot next to her on the bed. Jon looked at her face to be sure of her intention and hesitated only briefly before he flopped down beside her.

 

“Gods, I can’t tell you how many times I felt like a total failure as a Mum. She’s only eight, but she’s so mature... so intelligent. Suddenly one day it was ‘Mum don’t hug me when you drop me off at school’. That was so hard for me to adjust to. I took about three months to come to terms with it and then... Bam! One day it was ‘OK, you can quickly kiss my head if you want to when you drop me off’. Truth is, they change constantly... Right when you think you have them all figured out, they change again. And I have been doing this for almost nine years now, and you haven’t even had nine months with her. You are doing just fine, trust me.”

 

Jon let out a long sigh. “I wish I knew-” And though he broke off, Sansa knew what he had been about to say. He wished he had those years that she had had with their daughter. The pain of all the ‘I wish’es between them compounded her headache and she rubbed her face in the pillow to lessen the sense of that ache. Then she felt gentle hands on her temple, coaxing her to right her head and lay on her back. Jon gently massaged her temples and whispered a ‘Try to sleep’ right into her left ear. Gradually, his soothing fingertips and coaxing voice lulled her into the world of sleep.

***

When Jon next woke her up to give her her meds, Sansa had a high fever and remembered little about what was happening.

 

The next time. it was almost 10 o’clock in the night. When she asked about Alyssa, Jon told her their daughter had reverted to her usual self after her nap and even peeked into the room to wish a sleeping Sansa ‘good night’ when it was time for her bed. Sansa was sad at the thought of not having spent any quality time with her daughter in the past two days. She saw Jon note her sad face and shook her head to drive away her thoughts.

 

Jon coaxed her to eat the delicious chicken soup he had made for her, talking in a soothing voice about what all Alyssa did that day. Then he gave her her antibiotics, and took the dinner tray away. When he came back he had a big art paper in his hands.

 

He came over to the bed and laid down on his back beside her. Then he held out the art paper over her so that she could see it properly. It was a beautiful abstract art of the bluest blue night sky over a beach with a yellow moon and sparkly stars. The name signed on the bottom was of her daughter’s.

 

“She’s so talented, isn’t she?” Jon’s voice was brimming with pride.

 

Sansa couldn’t bring herself to say anything and just nodded her assent. Jon flung a sideways grin at her that almost twisted her heart out from her chest. “She’s so... inherently good, you know? You did such a good job with her! She doesn’t have to be told the bare essentials of being a good human being! I never had to tell her to be respectful to the stable boys or to be nice to Barristan or to look out for Little Sam while she’s out playing with him. These things just come so naturally to her. She’s so... noble! Can I say that about my own daughter? Sometimes I can’t believe I made something that amazing!

 

It was overwhelming to hear him praise her parenting skill and most of all praise Alyssa so much. The dim light and the privacy of her bedroom, the renewed intimacy between them over the past couple days and maybe even the high fever of past two days had melted her resistances down, but Sansa found herself punching Jon on his bicep weakly and teasing him with a quiet laugh, “Way to hog all the credit for yourself, Snow! We made something that amazing!”

 

Jon turned towards her and hugged her fisted hand to his chest before she could pull it back. “Yes, we did, didn’t we?” His tone was soft and it sounded like whispered promises. Sansa just licked her cracked lips and said nothing. Jon reached out and pushed the hair sticking to her temple back. “Do you still have a headache?”

 

Sansa nodded slowly, then added, “But its dull.” Jon said nothing and started gently running his fingers through her hair. Minutes later she became aware of how fascinatedly he was playing with the ends of her tresses. She eventually fell asleep when her headache subsided a bit, his hand still playing with her hair.

***

The growing intimacy between them had lulled them to such a place of tranquil that Sansa had almost forgotten her past... their past. Almost. It made its presence known the next day when in the afternoon Sansa complained of feeling clammy after a particularly high bout of fever left her with a profuse drenching of sweat and Jon hesitantly offered her a sponge bath.

 

They both seemed to be apprehensive about the task and they were both cracking awkward jokes as Jon carried the bucket and towels into her bedroom.

 

Jon crouched before her on the floor and started undoing the lower buttons of her shirt. “Last chance to tell me to back off.”

 

Sansa chuckled at the teasing note in his voice. They both knew she wasn’t wearing underwear underneath the thin shirt. She could tell, although he was teasing her, he didn’t really want her to tell him to stop. She smiled down at him.

 

“How could I tell you to back off when you have gone through this elaborate ruse to get me to undress? I am pretty sure the virus I contracted was somehow your import!” Her voice came in a forgone sigh, as if she had given herself up to wherever her fate took her.

 

Jon huffed out a laugh at her drama queen routine. “How dare you propose this was a ruse of mine? Would I want to play a nurse?! No, my lady, I would not! Let me inform you that I, in fact, had thought of quite a few ruses to get you to bare your heavenly bounty to me, and none of them included playing nurse! Doctor? Yes! A Knight? Sure! I am not terribly picky when it-”

 

It was not the way his voice stopped as if it had banged against a brick wall, but the immediate look of horror on his face that made Sansa drag in a horrified breath... because she suddenly remembered what he was seeing. Missandei had had quite the similar reaction yesterday.

 

Sansa knew the hairline cuts crisscrossing across her ribs weren’t always readily discernible. They weren’t bumpy and thick, mainly because when Petyr had gone through his cutting phase he had only wanted to cut her superficially and not make real gashes on her stomach that would risk her guts spilling out.

 

Sansa waited for Jon to say something, do something. He didn’t. He sat there, quiet, for literally several minutes and then he went kind of machinelike. He finished undressing her with not an expression on his face, gave her an efficient and quick sponge bath, helped her dress hurriedly and then carried the bucket and towels out of the room wordlessly.

 

As soon as he left, an acute sense of rejection flooded her. When Jon didn’t come back for a long time, Sansa couldn’t hold off her breakdown any longer. She had never felt so ugly and ruined before. Not even when Jon had left her the first time. This time she felt like an undesirable, damaged good.

 

Her body was racked with broken sobs as she pressed her face against the pillow. But merely seconds had gone by when strong hands grabbed her shoulders and turned her on her back.

 

Jon’s grey eyes were like the storm clouds that shrouded the sea before a tempest. His voice was hoarse, low. “Don’t cry anymore because of that bastard, sweet girl. Not anymore...”

 

Sansa tried to breathe through her sobs. “I am not crying because... I thought you left?”

 

Understanding instantly dawned in his eyes. “I didn’t leave!” Then he abruptly flopped down beside her and cupped her cheek firmly. “I didn’t want to stay here so you might feel you need to rehash what all he- And I felt so angry at him. I just want to kill- And, Sansa, I don’t even want to say these things to you, because I don’t want your grief, your horror, all you went through to be about my rage, my anger.”

 

They both stared at each other wordlessly for a few seconds, then Jon wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her into him. To both of their surprises, Sansa went willingly and pressed her face into his chest. “You were so brave, angel! I have never had as much courage as you must have shown... getting out of that life alive, sane... getting our daughter out here! You’re so unbelievably amazing, sweetling.”

 

Sansa didn’t say anything as his words just made her cry harder and he held her all the way through it.

***

The next morning when Sansa opened her eyes, she knew her bout of sickness was over. She felt better, but weak. Then she chuckled at the sound of snores coming from under her.

 

Sansa had had a low fever last night and Jon had stayed over with her again. But last night, there had been no hesitation, he had slept beside her on the bed readily and in the middle of the night when Sansa’s fever had broken and she had woken up suddenly, she had found herself lying in the circle of his arms. She had tried to pull away once, but Jon’s arm had only tightened around her. Sansa had ceased resisting, telling herself she didn’t want to disturb Jon’s sleep as he had seemed so tired before they had both fallen asleep. She hadn’t been able to make an excuse for why she had nuzzled her cheek against his chest though.

 

“What’s so funny?” Jon’s voice was all the raspier due to sleep, and his voice as well as the way his chest rumbled as he spoke made a shiver run down Sansa’s spine.

 

“Your snores.” Sansa kept her voice deliberately flippant. “Now I know where Lyssie gets that habit from! Come to think of it, I think she inherited most of her bad habits from you! Snores, foolhardiness-”

 

Sansa broke off in a squeal as she was suddenly flipped onto her back as Jon pinned her down to the mattress with his own body and her flailing hands by the sides of her head gently. “You... take that back.” His words were supposed to be threatening, but the way he was looking at her ruined the effect.

 

“Make me.” The way he was looking at her, it made Sansa feel like she was the queen of the seven freaking realms and could dictate anyone to do anything.

 

Jon groaned deep in his throat and suddenly his head swooped down to her neck. He sucked a bloom where her neck met her shoulder and as Sansa let out a high pitched moan, he kissed his way up to just below her ear. Sansa could hear him chant her name under his breath, between his rain of kisses. At first she responded to her name thinking he was calling her, but then she realized from his fervent diction that he was making himself believe that it was really her in his arms.

 

He stopped his little butterfly of kisses just above her already parted lips. “Tell me to stop, Sansa.”

 

Sansa finally let her hands travel up his back and felt him shiver under her fingertips. She cupped his neck with one hand and tangled the other in his glorious curls. Then she lifted her head and kissed his lips hesitantly.

 

Jon had no such hesitation though. The moment he felt her lips on his, it was like something broke free in him. He angled his head as he chased her tongue with his and lifted her left knee to his waist with his hand under it. Sansa felt his hot hardness pressing against her melting core and gasped against his mouth. Jon chuckled as she gripped his shoulders harder and that’s when Sansa heard the door to the bedroom open.

 

Jon must have heard it too, because he immediately started to roll off of her and Sansa raised her head to look at the door. Just as Jon reluctantly dragged his arms from under her, Alyssa stepped inside the room.

 

She stood there for a few seconds. Then her face suddenly reddened and turning around, she ran away.

 

Sansa instantly sat up in bed, calling out her daughter’s name. In the next instant, she flopped back down and pressed her face in her pillow and gave out a muffled groan.

 

Then she felt Jon’s hand soothingly running over her hair. “Hey, hey, hey! It’s ok. I’ll talk to her. I promise you it’s going to be ok. Sansa? Sweetling, everything’ll be fine.”

 

Sansa again groaned into the pillow. “Just don’t tell her you were on top of me because you were her father! She has had enough mixed messages regarding that already. I don’t want her to think I let you on top of me because you were her father, or that she has to acknowledge you as her Dad right away because I wanted you on top of me. I want her to know those are separate things. She’s terribly protective of me. I want her to feel like she doesn’t have to be... not when it comes to you. FUCK!”

 

“Oof!! Language, sweet girl! You kiss our daughter with that mouth?” There was a mild teasing note in his voice and then it was gone. “I’ll talk to her.”

 

Then with a kiss on her hair, he was gone.

 

***

Chapter Text

Sansa sighed with contentment as the cool water cascaded down her weak and fever-weary body. It felt great to have a proper shower instead of a sponge bath.

 

It had amazed her how much she had come to trust Jon with Alyssa when she had not even felt the need to go after Jon to listen in to how he was explaining the rather scandalous state Alyssa had witnessed them in. He just trusted that Jon would know how to handle the girl without confusing her or hurting her. And that was a definite first in her life.

 

Seems Jon Snow was determined to be the first in many categories of her life.

 

When Sansa came out of the shower and went looking for her daughter, she had no idea what to expect. Her daughter was surprisingly perceptive about some things, but neither of them had had an experience like they had that morning.

 

She found Alyssa working on her sand-castle on the beach in front of their house. It was actually a joint venture between Jon and Alyssa. They had both been adding wings, fixtures and towers to their sand-castle for the last month or so.

 

Sansa slowly sat down with a smile as Alyssa looked up at her. “Do you like Jon, Mum?”

 

Sansa was taken aback for a moment. Yes, she was prepared to explain to her daughter what she had accidentally witnessed that morning; she was prepared to go as far as to divulge her parentage to her, because it seemed like high time now. What she hadn’t prepared for was the blunt question that actually knocked the breath out of her.

 

Did she like Jon? Did she like Jon in the way her daughter meant? Alyssa was clearly asking whether she liked Jon enough to issue an invitation to him to be with her as they were that morning. As Sansa had never before lied to her daughter and held her daughter’s opinions higher than even her own judgments, Sansa fumbled before the automatic reply could leave her lips.

 

Did she like Jon? A flash of a feeling of his lips against her temple as he soothingly massaged her scalp last night assaulted Sansa. Then she recalled the feeling of contentment in his arms when he had just held her when she had cried. The silent way he had been there for her and Alyssa all the time since they had been on the island.

 

For the briefest of moments, Sansa also recalled the seventeen year old pregnant girl, busy trying to hide her awkwardly burgeoning body from her husband and his mistress’s scathing eyes. That seventeen year old girl, who felt each kick of her unborn baby and begged all the Gods she could think of for that baby’s father to come back looking for both of them. That girl who had one night lain under her rutting husband, focusing hard on the rotation of the ceiling fan above them, and had vowed she’d hate Jon Snow till the end of her time.

 

To even think about her own constantly growing feelings toward Jon seemed like a betrayal to that seventeen year old creature. That girl had never had anyone looking out for her; and now it seemed, even her own future self had forsaken her.

 

Sansa took a deep breath as she started getting a clear thought about how she had to go about all of this. The most important person in all of this was obviously the one with the expectant face before her and so she decided to assuage the uncertainty and confusion from that innocent face.

 

“I do… I like him very much, poppet. I think he has been very helpful with us, hasn’t he?” She hoped her daughter wouldn’t notice the faintest of tremors in her voice. It was not like she was lying, she did more than liked Jon. But the sudden onslaught of memories of her helpless past was overwhelming to say the least.

 

Alyssa thought for a moment with her head lowered. “He’s ok, I guess. He’s better than Kelly’s and Leah’s dad back at the school in Vale, isn’t he, Mum? I didn’t like how they always used to nag you to talk alone with them… away from me. And he’d loads better than fathe-”

 

Sansa’s heart twisted at the way Alyssa paled before she could even finish the word ‘father’. At times like these, she felt like she was at the end of her rope and she didn’t know how to cope anymore. She quickly buried her wayward thought and soldiered on though.

 

“It’s in very poor taste to speak ill of the dead, Lyssie. There is no excuse for how he behaved with you sometimes, but you have all the power now, lovey. You can forgive everything that happened in the Vale and nothing gives you more power than forgiveness. And you’re so kind, so brave. I know you’ll be able to do that with the minimal of efforts. Just try, honey, ok? The sooner you forgive him, the sooner you’ll forget.”

 

Alyssa was silent for a moment and then she surprised Sansa by slowly closing the distance between them and climbing onto Sansa’s lap. She rested her head over Sansa’s breasts and Sansa held the slight body with all her might. It had been ages since Alyssa had last crawled in her lap like this and Sansa savored this moment like the treasure it was. Then she heard her daughter’s small voice muffled against her breast.

 

“Mum, out of father… and Kelly’s dad… and Leah’s dad… I like Jon the best.”

 

Sansa gathered the girl closely in her body. If it was possible, she’d cradle her baby girl in her lap for the rest of their days and never let go. Even if that wasn’t possible, it was possible for Sansa to protect her baby at any cost from any further suffering caused by the past. Sansa vowed to do just that to herself.

 

At the same time, Sansa acknowledged the hard truth about her feelings for her daughter’s biological father. She loved that man as hopelessly as ever, she could admit that now. But she also conceded her inability to move past their history without any sort of definitive closure.

 

Sansa sighed and kissed the top of Alyssa’s head. “I know you like him best, baby. Me too.”

***

When Jon came over to make dinner in the evening he also brought grocery with him and both Sansa and Alyssa welcomed him with polite little smiles. Jon was stumped.

 

He had expected more aggression from Alyssa once she had had time to absorb the occurrences of the morning. When he had told her that he liked her mother, very very much, she had only looked at him with wide vigilant eyes, as if trying to gauge the sincerity behind his words. He had assumed she’d be warier of him as the implications of him liking her mother would sink in and he would lose some of the ground he had made with her so far. But Alyssa just acted a little shy for the first hour or so; and that was the only different thing about her attitude toward him.

 

Sansa, on the other hand, kept looking at him with such soft and sparkling eyes that it was only due to deference to their daughter that Jon didn’t haul her over his shoulder and carry her off to her bedroom in a run. But he also caught an underlying sadness in her eyes when she bent to kiss Alyssa’s head after ordering her to eat the Brussels sprouts. He caught that sadness again when she stole a slow kiss before she went to put Alyssa down and he started doing the dishes.

 

He was wiping the dishes dry when she reemerged and went over to the vase now containing the pink and orange he had brought for her that evening. He heard her sigh. “I think it’s the first time someone’s brought flowers for me.”

 

Jon frowned at that. “Are you telling me, I never brought you flowers when we dated?”

 

Sansa’s lips twitched as she looked at her with twinkles in her eyes, “Did we have time for all that?”

 

An involuntary groan left his throat as Jon stalked over to her and hoisted her up by wrapping his arms around her waist. As he looked up at her he registered at the back of his mind that she must have lot more than a little weight due to her bout of sickness as she felt so frail in the circle of his arms. But his thoughts were cut short when Sansa held the sides of his head in an unmovable grip and brought her lips down to his in a devouring kiss.

 

Jon’s whole being warmed up as her arms wrapped around her neck and she kissed him like she couldn’t get enough of kissing him. Jon hoisted up her further and smoothed his hands down over her lush behind to her thighs and then brought her legs around his waist. Her body was supple and compliant under his touch. He stumblingly walked over to the couch in the living room, knocking his sheens against the coffee table and the couch before he could sit down with Sansa on his lap. He wrenched his lips from her hers and kissed down her throat; he wanted to kiss her everywhere at once. Even just her fingers tangling in his hair was making him tremble.

 

“I love you, Jon!”

 

There was a breathy sort of whine in her voice and that made Jon look up at her. “I love you, sweet girl. So very much.

 

Sansa pushed his hair back from his face and caressed his cheek before looking up at him… and Jon froze. There was so much grief in her wet eyes, the veins clearly popping out on the skin underneath them. “Then what, Jon?” Even her voice seemed tight with unshed tears.

 

Jon shook his head confusingly and was about to express his confusion, but Sansa gripped the side of his head tighter and leaned in as she whispered through her almost-sobs, “We couldn’t handle these three words between just the two of us nine years ago. We made a royal mess of things. How would we handle it between the three of us? Do you realize it, Jon, we have already selfishly chosen ourselves over our daughter today?”

 

Jon was beyond confused now. “When-?”

 

“We could have told Lyssie by now who you are to her, Jon… we subconsciously not to! Why?” Jon opened his mouth to deny her claim, but the words refused to come out.

 

He had, in fact, battled with himself this morning on how to handle the girl. And now he was ashamed to realize that he had in fact shied away from telling Alyssa the truth just to give Sansa and himself time to readjust to them being together again without the added pressure of how Alyssa might react to her parentage.

 

He closed his eyes to hide his discomfiture, but he was too late as Sansa had seen all she needed to see.

 

“I don’t want to be this nagging creature… or play this traumatized victim,” her voice was shaking with the effort she was exerting to keep herself together, “but Jon… Jon... oh Jon, you don’t know what all… Jon!” his name was falling like pleas, like prayers, from her lips, “Some of it I will never forget. Some of it still scrapes my heart. To survive, I sometimes had to disassociate myself from that whole reality. It was like that 17 year old pregnant teenager was someone I only knew, but she was not me! And that naïve teenage girl inside me keeps asking me why? Why did she have to go through all that she did, when you promised her also that you loved her… just like you did to me now. She demands that I not be so trusting, Jon!” Tears were now freefalling from her eyes.

 

“What are you saying, Sansa?” He knew what she was saying, but he wouldn’t acknowledge that. He refused to acknowledge that.

 

Sansa took his left hand and placed it over her heart. “Tell me now, Jon, that you don’t still hate me sometimes for not waiting for you… for giving birth to your daughter as Petyr Baelish’s daughter, for bringing your daughter up in his manor, in that life.”

 

Jon lowered his lashes again to keep from showing Sansa the resentment that bubbled up inside him at the picture she painted with her words. But he asserted to himself that as long as they were together, they could deal with these occasional resentments they might feel against each other. “Sansa, all that doesn’t matter anymore-”

 

Sansa stopped his words by pressing herself more into his lap, her hands caressing his cheek again as she spoke like she was talking to a particularly dim-witted child. “But it does matter, Jon! It will always matter! I used to get up from the bed at least 7 to 8 times a night to check up on Lyssie. Over the years, it has become a habit. Why do you think a mother feels the need to be that guarded about her very young daughter? What is worst thing do you think she expects to happen? I grew up as a child in that house too… what do you think I was afraid of Jon? And how do I let go of all of those feeling so abruptly?”

 

“Enough, Sansa!” Jon knew she was trying to hammer it home to him how their past will overshadow their future and he knew it was true, but he wasn’t prepared to let her distance herself again from him due to their past. “It’s all over. He’s dead. It doesn’t matter now. You did what you could-”

 

“Then why aren’t you looking at me? And why are you gripping my wrists as if you’d like to snap them?” Her voice came in a barely audible whisper, devoid of any inflection, any emotion.

 

Jon gave up. He pushed her off of his lap and stood up on his feet. He wanted to scream out his desperation, but he remembered their sleeping daughter just in time. “Damn it, Sansa. What do you want me to say?”

 

“We need something… anything to close out that chapter of our lives, Jon! Otherwise, I’ll always bring up you leaving me nine years ago in every little fight we’re gonna have in the future! You’re gonna hate me for marrying Petyr so quickly and announcing Lyssie as his daughter to the world every time we’d have a row about something.”

 

Jon marched over to her and just couldn’t contain himself any longer. He shook her by the shoulders in his frustration. He was trembling himself. He didn’t trust himself to speak, so he bent his head and gave her a hard, brief kiss.

 

“Gods, Sansa. I had wanted to do it properly. Maybe even romantically, but… What the heck! We must get married straightaway. We must prepare ourselves for telling Ally and not get tangled up in our past, sweetling! Just get some rest. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

 

***

Sansa had been sitting on the shore, letting the waves lap at her feet for hours, when Daenerys Targaryen came from behind and startled her. She was one of the persons Sansa had the least interaction with on the island and she was the last person Sansa had expected to encounter at this time of the dawn on the beach. Daenerys was a notoriously late sleeper.

 

“Oh hello! Is this sand taken?” She indicated the spot beside Sansa with her bare feet. Sansa tilted her head as an invitation for the other woman to sit down. Daenerys complied with a huff.

 

Sansa kept staring out at the waves, but she was acutely aware of the enigmatic woman humming quite happily beside her. She almost jumped when Daenerys talked cheerfully loudly. “So, do you wanna tell me what has got your panties in such a tight bunch that you spent the whole night sitting out here on the beach?”

 

Sansa looked at the mysterious amethyst eyes and immediately felt inadequate. “Um… It’s nothing, Ms Targ- Um, Daenerys. What are you doing up so early? I heard Missandei say you were a late sleeper?”

 

Daenerys shrugged. “I haven’t been to the bed yet. Will sleep once I have talked to you. So spill! Come on! It’s far easier spilling your guts out to a comparative stranger than to a friend.” Her voice was coaxing like her words.

 

When Sansa looked hesitant and remained silent, Daenerys sighed and talked under her breath. “I can’t believe I came down from my balcony, and ceased sexting with Daario, for this.” Then she again tried in her cheerful voice, “Ok, I will go first, yeah? My marriage to my late husband was a political one and it wasn’t really a consensual relationship at first. Now, you go!”

 

Sansa blinked slowly to absorb what she heard. “Is that why you founded that charity for women who were domestic abuse victims?”

 

“I was not a domestic abuse victim!” Sansa could see the steel people always talked about clearly evident in Daenerys Targaryen in this moment as she vehemently shook her head. “My husband and I had a unique courtship. As for my foundation, I felt it was needed in Westeros for how I saw women were treated. Now, on to you! Chop chop! It’s almost my bed time!”

 

“What do you want to know?” Sansa protested in a panic. “I am sure living in a house with Jon, you know everything anyway. You know about my late husband and what happened between Jon and I-”

 

“And I have figured out about my grandniece the moment I set eyes on her!” She ignored Sansa’s shocked gasp. “What I want to know is what has got you down to burying yourself in the beach while my nephew looked like he would like to murder someone last night?”

 

Sansa sighed and then gave up the fight. Daenerys was right. It would be easy to confide in her. Sansa didn’t know her and didn’t care what Daenerys thought of her as there had never been much interaction between them. And as far as she had observed the woman during her time in the island, she liked to keep the aura of mystery around her and besides her housemates and Sansa’s daughter didn’t much interact with anyone. And even then she was almost enigmatically cryptic in her interactions with those she did mingle with.

 

Sansa hesitantly started telling Daenerys about her fear that their resentment about their past will always overshadow her and Jon’s future. And soon enough she found her words leaving her lips like a floodgate had been opened. She only stopped talking when she was almost sobbing with her emotions. Daenerys just looked at her for several long seconds and then she said as indifferently as ever, “Seems to me it is pretty clear what you have to do.”

 

When Sansa looked back at her blankly, she elaborated in an impatient tone, “For once, take control of your own decisions, Sansa! Gather the intel for yourself! Don’t you see, the biggest mistake on your part was that you relied on Petyr Baelish to supply you with accurate information? Not just about Jon’s whereabouts, but also about his own intentions? Now you’re again uncertain about which way to go, and you’re again floundering about for direction! Well, to me it’s clear! You have to go back to square one! To where it all started! You have to rectify your mistake and gather all you need to know to make a life altering decision! Don’t waste another day of your life believing in hearsay, Sansa!”

 

Daenerys’s words were like slaps to Sansa, because suddenly she began to feel like the foolish little girl who had let the wolf pull the wool over eyes. She did believe now what Jon told her about the day he had left her all those years ago, but it still didn’t paint the whole picture for her. And that pricked like a thorn in her side. She had to pull that thorn out. Daenerys was right. She had to get the clear picture of what all had happened to her, with her nine year ago… before she could burn it all and flush it down the toilet and never revisit it again.

 

Her mind made up, she nodded and turned to Daenerys. “I need to go the Vale for some days. The round trip will take me a week at the most. Alyssa and I-”

 

“Oh, leave her here! No point dragging her across the world when you’ll not even stay for very long!”

 

“What? I can’t- We’ve never lived apart from each other!” Then Sansa bit her lower lip. Her daughter did hate it in the Vale and she loved her life in the island. “But if I did leave her here, who’d look after her?”

 

“Why, Jon of course! It’ll give them a chance to bond further! And Missandei will help! And I promise you, I will monitor them to make sure they were doing a swell job!” Sansa knew from Daenerys's tone she was trying to make light of the situation.

 

“But, leave her…? I don’t know! Plus, the ferry won’t even come in today! It’s Wednesday. And I know I’ll lose my nerve tomorrow.”

 

“Don’t worry about the ferry. Have I ever taken the ferry? No! I’d be horribly seasick! Take the chopper. I’ll make the arrangements with one phone call. You’ll be over on the other side in 20 minutes.”

 

Sansa was feeling dizzy with how quick Daenerys was squashing away all of her excuses. She only had one left now. “Umm… Jon pays me very generously for taking care of the Wilde boys… But I still haven’t got enough saved up for the fare of the plane ticket to Vale. It’s quite pricey and-”

 

“I’ll take care of it.” As Sansa opened her mouth indignantly, Daenerys hastily cut her off. “Consider it a loan! I know you’ll come into quite a lot of money someday. Varys and I are quite pally and he tells me things. So I know you’re good for a loan. And trust me, I won’t miss the amount anytime soon.”

 

Sansa was still unconvinced, mostly because every particle in her being revolted against the idea of leaving Alyssa, even for a week at the most. Daenerys stood up to her feet beside her and suddenly Sansa was treated to the famous Daenerys Targaryen death stare as the diminutive lady spoke quite authoritatively, “I am giving you a chance to take control of your decision making ability. I am giving you a chance to gather information about your life by yourself. Take what I am offering, Sansa Stark, because I don’t go about offering that kind of boon to everyone every day!”

 

Sansa drew herself up to her feet shakily, her mind made up. “My daughter-?”

 

“Is my family! I promise you, she will be safe and well taken care of.”

 

Sansa finally nodded her assent to go off to the Vale by herself, acknowledging to herself that she wasn’t leaving her daughter alone for the first time in her life because she trusted Daenerys Targaryen’s words, but because she trusted her daughter’s father completely.

 

Daenerys was right, before she started a new life for the three of them, she did need some information about her past to close that chapter forever. And she knew just where to look for them and from whom.

Chapter Text

Sansa pushed a wayward lock of dark hair away from the fierce little face that was relaxed in sleep and watched her fill. Her little girl was so much like the father she didn’t even know about that sometimes Sansa felt a little jealous and cheated to have so little of herself reflected in the little person her who was her whole world. A sudden, fierce wave of love overcame her as it frequently did when it came to her little girl and Sansa leaned forward to press a light kiss on the cute little straight, button nose and when she pulled back, intense gray eyes were blinking open excitedly. Eyes she inherited from the father she knew not of.

 

 

“Can’t sleep?” It was more of a statement than a question from Alyssa as they had both developed this habit over the years of crawling into each other’s beds when sleep eluded them. Mostly it would be Sansa slumbering beside first Alyssa’s crib and then her tiny bed, until she had moved back into her old bedroom to Petyr’s supreme indignation and then Alyssa had also been able to crawl in with her mother when she wanted to. Sansa smiled a little as she reached for the teensy body and pulled Alyssa into her and squeezed her tight.

 

 

“Muummm! You know the rule! You can cuddle, but you can’t smother!” Alyssa’s shrieks came out garbled against Sansa’s chest. Sansa bent and pressed kisses to the girl’s ear before whispering into it, “I am not smothering, missy. It’s called mothering. I know because I checked! Now listen, don’t panic… everything’s alright, poppet, but I need to go back to the Vale for a few days to sort some things out.” Sansa had kept her tone light and soothing, but just at the mention of the city, she felt Alyssa stiffen. “Hey, hey, everything’s fine, baby! It’s just-”

 

Sansa froze as words tumbled from Alyssa’s lips as the little girl sat up hastily, “We’re leaving, aren’t we? It’s because Jon and you fought, isn’t it? Because he left us… you and me… right?” Her daughter looked accusing and indignant; Sansa’s heart lurched. She scrambled up to a sitting position herself and was about to assert violently that whatever Alyssa thought she knew was wrong when she caught herself; lying to her daughter had always been something Sansa had been loathed to do. She took a long, bracing, shuddering breath.

 

 

“Did someone say something to you, Lyssie?” Sansa was careful to keep all traces of emotions out of her voice, anger or disappointment or whatsoever. Alyssa’s chin jutted out defiantly, “Is that why we’re leaving, Mum?” Sansa got the message loud and clear. To get some answers, she had to provide some first. She almost felt some grudging respect for her daughter… almost.

 

 

“Okay, first of all, as I was saying before, I just need to go back for a few days to sort some things out. Just as long as it takes to get some information. I told you everything’s fine and you don’t need to worry about anything changing or something like that. Second of all, who has been talking to you? And about what? I want details, Lyssie!” Sansa made sure she didn’t raise her voice, but that her point got through. Alyssa bowed her head and when she talked, it was clear she was unwilling to. “No one told anything to me, Mum. At least not directly! Gods, it’s just there… I didn’t need a diagram or a PowerPoint presentation or something. It’s so clear! Father-” She broke off uncertainly at the title and when she looked up, the world of hurt in her eyes gutted Sansa. “Well, he always did call me a bastard… And on my last birthday… I still remember how you really ripped at him afterwards… he did say clearly that he did a favor on both of us by taking us in when ‘that bastard’ deserted us.” Sansa stared back, too stricken to talk. “Yes, mum! Even if you pushed me out of the dining hall I could clearly hear him through the door. And Aunt Lysa wasn’t always subtle also. And Mrs. Myrna talked too. She and Mrs. Poole would constantly discuss how you ruined your life by giving into father just cause you were having me. They never quite noticed me hiding away in the pantry or under the kitchen table. I swear though I was never trying to eavesdrop, Mum!”

 

 

Sansa nodded absently. She knew her daughter was curious, but not an outright eavesdropper.  But when there was that much talk about a topic, you can only shut out the noise for so long. She hardly noted Alyssa was speaking again. “And then I saw you guys kissing that night Jon first had dinner with us.” Sansa head snapped up and she instinctively went on the defensive, “Lyssie, I’m sorry you had to-” But Alyssa was too fast for her, “No mum! I’m not angry about that! It’s just that I’ve never even seen you kiss father ever! And when I saw you two together… And you said you knew him from before… And then there was the way he was with me… he looks at me how Mr. Tarly looks at little Sam, you know? And then how he took care of both of us when you fell sick. And honestly, Mum, once you see how similar we look, you can’t unsee it, it’s that ridiculous! I think I kinda sorta have known for a while now?” Alyssa looked up at her sheepishly and Sansa didn’t know what to say.

 

 

When she did find her voice, Sansa wasn’t surprised to hear guilt in it. “Lyssie? Are you angry at me… for not telling you?” Sansa held her breath till Alyssa answered in a little voice, “I figured you didn’t wanna tell anyone. This island was supposed to be a fresh start for us, wasn’t it? Isn’t that what we talked about all the way till here? And I can feel it… You’re kinda angry at him about something?” Sansa heaved a sigh. Why did she ever think anything was going to go unnoticed by her overly-precocious daughter? Before she could answer though, Alyssa mumbled in a low voice, “Anyways, I am kinda angry at him too. Like on the down-low, but I am pissed for sure!”

 

 

Sansa bent her head to peer closely at her daughter’s bent head, “You’re pissed off at him? Why? Because you feel I’m angry at him? Lyssie, I told you… You don’t have to be loyal in that way!” The little girl’s head snapped up in an almost indignant sort of way, “It’s not loyalty to you or something, Mum!” She broke off and looked away again. Alyssa almost seemed embarrassed and that baffled Sansa, until her daughter spoke again. “He didn’t even know who I was Mum! I know Daeny knew… she keeps dropping comments like how I have taken so much after her which she thinks are totally subtle when they are totally not! And I know Mr. Tarly knew because of how he made a comment to Jon about how he might find out about the perils of having kids sooner rather than later… I mean he was staring right at me when he said it, Mum! And it was one of the first things that clued me in and Jon just stood there on the Tarlys’ porch, staring at you walking Jonno and Olly down the road, not even noticing Mr. Tarly smiling and nodding at me!”

 

 

Sansa sighed and reaching out, she pulled the slight body up over her lap. Alyssa came willingly enough and buried her head in her mother’s chest. When Sansa spoke next, she was so cautious she felt she was walking a tightrope. “He didn’t even know to expect it, Alyssa. I guess that’s why he didn’t see it? But he saw eventually… He knows… and he had said nothing because we were both biding our time for the best opportunity to tell you. As far as you’re concerned, I believe he does care a great deal, poppet.” Alyssa was eerily silent for several moments and then she spoke against her breasts, “From the time I started believing Father and Aunt Lysa were telling the truth and not just being mean, I prayed to the Gods that my father wouldn’t be like Father. That he would be like one of those doting, ever-present ones… like Sally and Georgia had, you know? And Jon didn’t even know who I was even when he carried me on his shoulders whenever we went snorkeling.”

 

 

Sansa rained kisses on top of the little dark head as she spoke hurriedly, “Because he didn’t even know he had a daughter. And that’s maybe as much his fault as it was mine. He didn’t stick around to find out and I didn’t try enough to find and tell him. Probably… I don’t know, baby, and there’s a lot that I don’t know… that’s hazy about that period of my life. And now I want to clear that fog up. I want some answers. I want-”

 

 

“You want to look back because… the further backward you can look, the further forward you will see… right?” As Alyssa finally looked up at her mother, Sansa slowly blinked her eyes, dumbfounded. Alyssa correctly interpreted the look and just shrugged, “Just read that in a book Mr. Tarly let me borrow. A compilation of quotes by the past maesters of the Night’s Watch.” If possible, Sansa’s mouth fell even more open at this. And then she suddenly cuddled Alyssa closer to her chest and showered the little girl with incessant kisses, “Can’t you just read a normal tale about a princess and a knight, you showy little smarty-pants?”

 

 

Alyssa let out shrieks of laughter and complained it tickled her and Sansa locked the sounds of her daughter’s giggles inside a safe corner of her heart, they were that precious to her. Once her cackles had subsided a little, Sansa told her to get up and pack a few of her things up so that she could come to the Vale too. She was not leaving Alyssa on the island now that she knew both Jon and Alyssa knew the truth and Jon didn’t yet know that they both knew. Instead of looking eager or alert though, Alyssa sheepishly looked up at her and informed her she didn’t want to go anywhere near the Vale. Sansa was taken aback by this. Sure, the Vale had little fond memories for the both of them, but regardless, she never thought her daughter would want to stay apart from her given a choice to the contrary. The hurt must have shown on her face that Alyssa willingly chose to stay on the island without her, and the little girl quickly wrapped her arms around Sansa’s torso again. “Mum, I don’t want to go back to the Eyrie again. There is no one in the Vale you can leave me with like you can here and I don’t wanna go back there... back to that fort. And if I am here, I know you’ll hurry back. I don’t wanna go back to any of it Mum! Please…”

 

 

They both argued their cases for a bit, but in the end Alyssa started sounding downright panicked. So Sansa calmed her down and Alyssa still won’t budge from her stance on not going back to the Vale. She had a million excuses at the ready- a maths test and an art project to submit, classes with her sword maester and a hundred other reasons for not leaving the island. In the end, Sansa defeatedly gave in and after smothering Alyssa with numerous hugs and countless kisses, she climbed onto the jeep Daeny was waiting for her in and as she waved back to her girl standing beside Missandei, unchecked tears fell from her eyes as she left her daughter alone for the first time in both of their lives.

 

 

Daeny looked at her for a few minutes and took in her tear-streaked cheeks in a contemplative silence. Then she said in a curiously small voice, “Look, I know I don’t come across as the maternal type and it’s an image I’ve carefully cultivated and am very proud of… But I was about to become a mother once, you know? It was so long ago it seems like it was in another lifetime. But… Look what I am trying to say is, I am awfully fond of your daughter and while I don’t presume I’d be able to step in your shoes or anything, I can promise you that she’ll be safe and comfortable. Let me know as soon as you’re settled down there, and I’ll put Alyssa on a call through to you. And the minute you’re ready to come back, the plane will be ready for you.”

 

 

Sansa roughly wiped at her cheeks and looked at Daenerys through her tears. There was no mistaking the world of pain behind Daenerys’s casual utterance of the words ‘about to become a mother’ and Sansa knew there was a story behind the words, but she also knew it wasn’t her place to pry. So instead she asked the other question that had been plaguing her mind since Daenerys had offered to help her, “Why are doing all this? Why are you going out of your way for me like this?”

 

 

Daenerys heaved a loud sigh, clearly she didn’t want to talk any more than she had to and Sansa was beginning to suspect that the other women knew much more about Sansa’s predicaments and current mission than she was letting on. Daenerys twisted her lips and talked as if she was forcing herself to, “Jon is the only family left to me… really it was more process of elimination than any wish on either of our parts. But he was it. And after I knew about him… I simply couldn’t find him. He was a fugitive and no one knew where he was and my quest led me to Sam and-”

 

 

“Back up! Fugitive?!” Sansa finally regained uses of her voice after the shock she had gotten while listening to Daenerys. Daenerys looked like she didn’t wish to say anymore, but then the stormy look in Sansa’s eyes seemed to convince her otherwise, “When I found Jon… Well, let’s just say I don’t think he was the Jon any of us ever knew or would ever know again! He was just-” Daenerys suddenly broke off and flashed a brief glance at Sansa before continuing, “He was ever-drunk, destitute, refused any kind of help or assistance, whether it was Sam or I that offered. Nothing or none seemed to matter.”

 

 

Daenerys flashed another perplexed look at Sansa, “Now that I know him… that I have lived with him for years, I know he must have been wrongfully accused, but he never refuted the accusation! Sometimes I think he was perversely glad of them… that someday some dark punishment might be doled out to him. Tyrion helped me took care of them… the charges… but it took years and a boatload of coins! Anyways, Sam respected his friend’s wishes too much to do any digging for me in that matter. I think that’s one of the things you should ask about in the Vale when you’re there. The circumstances behind Jon’s conviction. Anyways… that was way before Jon started working again. He was in such a bad shape at first. That’s when I first heard about you- from both Sam and Jon. Gods, that was about 7 or 8 years ago.”

 

 

Daenerys sighed heavily and briefly shot Sansa a loaded look, “He was in the process of putting the bottle to his head. Gods only knew how we convinced him in the end… I think it must have been my plea for help with the war-torn free cities. People’s plight always seemed to have a greater effect of Jon Snow than their love did. Sam, Missandei, Orwind and I… even Ygritte… we worked round the clock to clean up all the mess around him and the mess that was Jon himself! During some of the very bad days… he spoke of you.” Daenerys saw the wobble on Sansa’s chin and quickly changed topics, “Anyways, in the past couple of years- pardon my language- the slew of tramps he paraded in and out of the island had me almost convinced that you were nowhere in his mind. Almost- that is until your husband died and he had you transported here under false pretexts even before you could spell ‘deceased’. See, he’s like a dog with a bone when it comes to you!”

 

 

“Why, thank you!” Sansa couldn’t keep the bitterness out of her voice and Daenerys had the grace to look sheepish. Then she continued nonchalantly, “So you see, it’s clear to me that to have my whole family together again I need to help you get past your reservations so Jon can get what he has longed for all these years and I can get Alyssa!” At Sansa narrowed glare, she quickly amended herself, “Get her as a family member, I meant!”

 

 

Sansa didn’t say anything and quietly dismounted from the jeep when they got to the airstrip. When she was about to disappear beyond the doors of the small plane, Daenerys’s voice made her turn around, “I am very curious about the accusations against Jon when I found him as they make no sense for the person I know Jon to be. I don’t know where you are meaning to start your questioning, but may I suggest you start with Jeor Mormont?” Sansa frowned as it took her a moment to recollect the name as it had been years since she had heard it, “Jeor Mormont? Who was Jon’s Platoon Leader when- you know? And then he started some charity organization, I think? Oh yeah! Petyr took me to cut some ribbon for him once!” Daenerys shrugged mysteriously as she waved her goodbye, “Yeah and he was also the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch for a good while and was acquainted with your late husband quite well I believe.”

 

 

With that the doors to the airplane locked over Sansa’s curious features.

 

~~~

 

Jon had seen the airplane flying off over his head on the other side of the island and had briefly wondered who it was and whether everything was alright since no one was scheduled to go off the island that particular day. One short phone call to Daenerys had reassured him that the plane was going over to the city to bring back some emergency supplies for her. So when he went home in the afternoon and heard from Missandei who really was on that damn plane, he was almost ready to shake his aunt, whom he was rather fond of under any other circumstances, until she apologized for these games she apparently liked to play. The only thing that stopped him was the little girl who came back from school that exact moment and knocked Jon’s breath out of his lungs.

 

 

He just couldn’t believe it. Sansa couldn’t have been so angry at him that she left Alyssa behind, could she? No, she would never-

 

 

Jon looked at the girl helplessly and tried to keep the panic out of his voice as he addressed her, “Ally, did your Mum talk to you before she left? Do you know where she is? If so just tell me and I’ll bring her back to you! Or I can take you to her? Do you have any-” He stopped short when the little girl stepped closer to him and said in a defiant tone, “Why do you wanna take me to her? She took care of me when you left me to her. Can’t you take care of me when she has done the same?”

 

 

Jon ears started ringing as if he had been boxed in his solar plexus by a giant. She knew. His daughter knew who she was. His daughter knew who he was and seemed to be angry at him about it. Jon’s brain seemed to go a chanting spree of every goddamn curse he knew. He wasn’t ready for things to go this bad this rapidly.

 

 

Before he could bring himself out of the acute state of paralysis that seemed to have attacked him all of a sudden, Alyssa seemed to lose interest in waiting anymore for him to reply and asked the women present in the room if they could provide her with lunch.

 

 

Jon watched as if in slow motion as Missandei set a plate of grilled cheese sandwich in front of the little girl and she smiled sweetly in thanks. That smile thawed him out. The words seemed to be just ripped out from inside him, “I never left you. I would never… if I knew.” He saw the little frame freeze for a second before her shoulders rose sharply, “If you’re trying to blame my Mum-”

 

 

“I am not!” Jon rushed emphatically, “I don’t…” And then he averted the piercing dark gray eyes that were so familiar it hurt, “Not anymore.” When no one said anything for several moments, he looked up to see those eyes watching him with curiosity, “I don’t, Ally. It’s all still a mystery to me… That whole period of my life… But this much I am sure of, your Mum always did what she thought was best for you and I will fight everyone in this world who’d dare blame her for any of it.”

 

 

Alyssa’s eyes danced over his face as if she was amazed by what she saw there. She even looked a bit spooked if Jon was being honest. So he slowly took a few steps back and lowered his head. The very last thing he ever wanted was to intimidate his own daughter. His head snapped up when he heard the hushed whisper, “Youneverrecognizedme!”

 

 

Jon didn’t comprehend what she had said and his brows furrowed as he asked, “Wha-?” “Everyone knew! You didn’t!” And Jon understood.

 

 

Jon’s heart begged to take the little girl up in his arms, hold her tight to his heart and never ever let go. Instead he took a couple of steps towards her and said in a gentle whisper, “Wait for me ok? I’ll be back in a minute.”

 

 

When Jon came down from his room barely a few minutes later, he stumbled to see Daenerys and Alyssa’s head huddled together and Missandei shaking her head at them disapprovingly. He didn’t know why he had the feeling of intruding upon them, but he cleared his throat nonetheless. His daughter and his aunt snatched their heads away so quickly and with such force, Jon was genuinely worried about probable harms to their heads’ attachment to their respective shoulders for a moment. But that thought quickly left his thought to make room for the more pressing issue at hand.

 

 

He slowly made his way to where Alyssa sat on a stool at the breakfast bar and placed the yellowed, dog-eared photograph in front of her. He could feel not only Alyssa, but also Daeny and Missandei peering over his shoulder at the photograph with barely contained interest. He licked his lips nervously and spoke slowly, carefully as it was so imperative his daughter understood this. “Everyone now tells me they knew the moment they saw you because you looked exactly like me. And while I amaze at that because to me you’re far too exquisite to look anything like me, but yes, I can appreciate the similarities in our features.” Behind him Daeny snorted while uttering something that sounded suspiciously like ‘Similarities? Dimwit!’ and Jon had to close his eyes for a second to strive for restraint and not barking at Daeny like he’d been itching to do since he’d heard of Sansa being on that damned plane.

 

 

Instead Jon decided to focus on the most important person in the room, “Ally, I never noted like everyone else that you looked like me, because… Well, I guess I am not that familiar with my own features as I don’t see them as often as the others do. And even after I knew, it’s not myself I see in you… it’s someone I had seen so long ago and I only had this ratty old photograph with me, so I had forgotten how she looked for a bit… really it’s nothing compared to how beautiful she really looked. For one thing, it doesn’t convey the light, the sparkle of silver in her eyes. And I hadn’t seen that for so long… until I saw you laughing. You always seemed to remind me of someone I knew. But I lost her when I was so young, you see? It took me awhile to realize that you look just like her. These guys don’t realize as they’d never seen her. They mistake these for my features on your face while never even realizing that even I had inherited them from someone else.”

 

 

Jon heard Daeny gasp really loud behind him as she practically fell on his shoulder to get a better look at the photograph in front of Alyssa, “Jon, is that-?” “You mother?!” Missandei finished in the same incredulous voice. Jon, however, only answered the question in Alyssa’s now very curious eyes, “You look so much like her. You are so much like what everyone told me she was like. Gods, little girl, I have loved you even before I knew you were my little girl because you reminded me so much of the best part of my childhood. And anyone who doesn’t love you moments within knowing you, regardless of who your parents are, is a damned big fool, and I surely wasn’t one of them.”

 

 

Jon’s gasped with shock the moment he saw the beautiful innocent face crumbling with sobs and then Alyssa climbed off the stool, rounded around him and went and hid her face in Missandei’s chest. Jon tried not to let his heartbreak show on his face. He knew, given Alyssa’s history with father figures, she’d be drawn to a motherly presence when in of comfort and it was in no way an indication of how she felt towards him in particular, but he still felt like sobbing himself. Daeny’s hand squeezed his shoulder reassuringly and he clutched onto it for some much-needed support.

 

 

Alyssa being Alyssa though, within a few moments she was rubbing her face trying to gain her composure and act all tough again. Oh, how Jon’s heart swelled with love and pride and sorrow. He vowed in that moment to shower so much love and adoration on his girl that she would always feel comfortable enough to completely breakdown in front of him if she ever felt the need to do so. One day… soon. He promised himself.

 

 

He slowly crouched down in front of the girl and laid his palms out in front of her like he was begging for something. Jon held his breath, his only hope being the times Alyssa had let him hoist her up in his arms in the past. Only after a slight contemplation, Alyssa placed her much smaller hands in his own. Jon marveled at how soft they were and her fingers were all so smaller than even his pinky fingers. He turned them over and then slowly so as not to spook her, pressed small kisses inside her damp palms.

 

 

He heard rustle of skirts behind him, as if Daeny was moving fast or furiously. He pressed his forehead into Alyssa’s tiny, warm, damp palms; too relieved to be bothered by anything Daeny did at that moment. He only looked up when Alyssa tentatively piped up, “Would you do something terribly urgent for me?” Jon’s worry returned instantly, “What is it?” Alyssa seemed to look beyond his shoulder and then said in a hurry, “Would you get me something?” This time Jon’s answer was instantaneous and without hesitation, “Anything!”

 

 

Alyssa nodded as if that was the answer she had needed and then continued in a nervous babble, “You see, Mum wanted me to accompany her to the Vale and I refused.” She looked beyond Jon again and took what seemed like a calming breath, “Well, you see, I think she wanted to leave the island forever. So I refused as I liked it here. And I think Mum was sad because I said no. And she left!” Alyssa gulped noisily and again looked behind him with big, round eyes. Then she again launched into speech, “Will you bring her back to me? Well, I don’t-” Again a look beyond Jon and she seemed to know what to say next, “Well, if I go to the Vale, I fear, there’d be nothing to bring her back to the island. And I want her to come back. I don’t want to live in the Vale. But she was so terribly upset when she left! I really feel someone should go and bring her back… tell her how sorry I am for how I yelled at her. Will you? You promised!

 

 

Jon was robbed of speech for a moment for his mind seemed to be pulled in a thousand directions. He was deeply disturbed to hear that if Alyssa was not here there would be nothing to persuade Sansa to come back to the island. Nothing?! And then he was also upset to know that Sansa had left upset. The thought of her being upset troubled him to no end. Then there was something in Alyssa’s demeanor… he couldn’t quite pinpoint it, but something was decidedly off. Finally there was the way her eyes beseeched at him and how much it actually reminded him of his mother. Alyssa looked so very much like her in that moment that Jon felt like he’d travel the world for eternity if she only asked him to at that moment.

 

 

So there was really only one way he could answer the girl. Even after all the conflicting thoughts in his head, Alyssa's eyes, so like his mother’s, were the only thing clear in the chaos. Jon heaved a sigh and placed a reassuring hand over her small dark head, “I will. I will bring your mother back to you.”

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Sansa Stark had lost her whole family when she was barely eight. Eight was too young to coherently remember much, but Sansa remembered something all the same. During the ensuing years, throughout all the hardship that befell her, Sansa remembered, or rather she couldn’t forget, she was Sansa Stark of Winterfell, and someone someday had loved her fiercely. So fiercely that she always felt the warmth and glow of that love burning around her like a halo even in the darkest and coldest moments of her life.

 

 

This is why Sansa had always believed she knew love, was capable of it, even though she had mostly known perverse representations of it throughout her conscious life. This is why Sansa had always believed she knew a parent’s love and would be able to provide more than enough of it for her daughter. When Petyr had scoffed at her for refusing the help of a wet nurse, taunting her asking ‘what could you possibly know about becoming a mother- do you even remember having one?’, she had only answered calmly, ‘My daughter is 1 month old and so is her mother then. As she will age and learn new things, her mother will become an aged mother and learn to be a better mother to her too.’ Petyr hadn’t been impressed and that had been the day he’d threatened to throw Alyssa against the wall if Sansa didn’t allow him his marital privileges.

 

 

But despite the obstacles, Sansa did learn and she knew this herself that she had become a better mother to her daughter as the days had gone by. She had pulled on that fierce protection of love she had always felt coursing through herself, and she had poured it all onto her daughter. However, over the years, Sansa had also got to learn one of the most important things behind becoming a good mother:  letting go.

 

 

She had had to learn to let go of Alyssa and let her be her own independent self from very early on, but that didn’t mean the thought of letting go didn’t splinter Sansa’s heart into pieces anymore, especially when there was a permanency attached to the words.

 

 

Sansa had been in the vale, in that cheap motel Alyssa and she had stayed in before leaving for Lys for the last one and a half days. Daenerys had offered to lend her some money for her expenses so she could afford a better accommodation, but Sansa hadn’t wanted to spend her hard-earned money on motels she’d be staying in alone. Everything she earned would be put to a better use by Alyssa someday and so anything she absolutely didn’t need got saved.

 

 

Sansa had called Alyssa seven times o Missandei’s cell within the 39 hours that she had been away and her daughter had deigned to come to the phone a mere 4 of those calls. Even when she had come to the phone she had seemed vague, uninterested in talking and even complained she was being on the phone for too long! As if she feared someone would see her talking to her own mother and snatch the phone away from her- which was ridiculous since Sansa didn’t think even Jon would be heartless enough to prevent Alyssa from talking to her. Even if he must be mad at Sansa for leaving Lys like she did.

 

 

No, Sansa feared worse. She feared her daughter was truly happy… too happy… without her. Sansa feared that Alyssa perhaps didn’t need her anymore. Well, truth be told, Alyssa had never needed her to exist, independent little being that she had always been. But even then, Alyssa always had a certain connection, a certain unspoken invisible chain-link to her that Sansa couldn’t feel anymore since she had come back to the Vale and her daughter had started ghosting her calls.  And that had brought forth her own feelings and her merit as a mother under question for Sansa.

 

 

Sansa had felt such an acute sense of jealousy at first when the thought of Alyssa and Jon living it up as father and daughter had hit her. And then she had been filled with longing. This had been something she had wanted to see since the day she went into labor. And now she was not a part of it. And that’s when the really troubling question had arrived. Was it necessary for her to be a part of it if Alyssa was well and truly happy? She couldn’t even remember her mother’s face, but if she tried and closed her eyes, she could still feel that moment of intense love when her mother hugged her before bed one time. If that is how her mother had loved her, to sustain her even beyond death and through so much, couldn’t she love her daughter like that and let her be happy with Jon if that was what was best for her?

 

 

That is the thought that had made Sansa sob since the moment she had woken up in the morning. Until Mr. Varys had called her to say that he had persuaded Jeor Mormont to give her an appointment for that day itself and Sansa knew if she didn’t get a hold of herself soon, she’d be late for the meeting she came all the way here for. So she got up and put herself through the motions.

 

 

When Sansa got to the actual venue of her meeting- the offices of the Jorah Mormont Memorial Foundation for Greyscale Research- she was hit by a train of memories as soon as she got to the reception of the two-story building. Because in the reception, right above the pretty decorative plants, a big framed picture graced the wall behind the receptionist. In the picture, in front of a loose crowd of people were Jeor Mormont, her late loathed husband and in the prison of his left arm, Sansa herself, cutting the ribbons to what seemed to be the inauguration event of the foundation. Sansa remembered the occasion neither the people as she had attended so many things strictly held in the bondage of Petyr’s arm and now that she tried to remember them all she could recall was the extreme feeling of anxiety and panic she felt not trying to attract any sort of male attention toward herself or any attention whatsoever so as to avoid Petyr’s jealousy induced assaults when they would be alone back at the Eyrie.

 

 

As Sansa looked at her photographed self, she had a sudden out-of-body moment for the first time in her life. As if she was an outsider looking in on the life of the girl in the photograph. She saw how others might see and perceive her looking from the outside. A rich old, man’s much much younger wife- she had to be gold-digger? Sansa smirked as she thought back to who was conning whom during those years. Some might even look at her with pity- especially those who knew Petyr. They would be wrong to a certain amount too- ‘cause Petyr’s wife was weak to a certain amount, Alyssa’s mum was not. They hadn’t known how Sansa would patch herself up, clean herself off and drag her battered self from Petyr’s room to her daughter’s room each and every night to stand guard over her daughter. When Sansa compared the young, pale woman in the photograph to the woman she had gotten reacquainted with on the island, she took a deep breath of relief as she closed her eyes.

 

 

This answered one of the dreaded questions she had been asking herself ever since she had decided to accept the job in the island. Would it really bring about a difference? Was she at all capable of leaving her past behind? Could she escape the lingering trauma and ever stop feeling like a victim and blaming her past? And the answer to all of those questions was a big whopping yes! She was afraid of Petyr leaving his footprint all over her life and psyche, but in truth- he was nowhere! Sansa had gone for days on the island without giving him or their past a single thought. She had worried about Alyssa’s studies, played with her and the Wilde boys on the beach, fretted over Jon figuring out about Alyssa. She had actually spent a whole day worrying whether Jon had caught her ogling him on his dawn swimming session in the sea when he’d stared back at the blinds of her bedroom windows for a bit too long once- but Petyr had been nowhere.

 

 

Sansa had feared living the rest of her life being overshadowed by the trauma of Petyr’s deeds, but as she was fast discovering, life and the world was constantly changing around her and Petyr Baelish was gone from her life and her world without a trace. Even the marks on her body didn’t speak of him to her, she washed her body thinking of what chores she had to do after she got out or when Alyssa would be back from school and those bumped scars were as normal and mundane as the birthmark over her right breast - just there, nothing more, nothing less.

 

 

When Sansa was finally ushered into Jeor Mormont’s huge office, she was smiling brightly to herself yet she still had no idea what Daeny and Mr. Varys both had been meaning by sending her here. So she just said her greetings and sat in the chair Mr. Mormont directed her to looking vaguely expectant. After she politely declined the elderly man’s offer of refreshment, and an awkward silence fell into the room, Sansa heaved a disappointed sigh. What a wasted trip!

 

 

“I am so sorry Mr. Mormont. I was led to believe by Daen- by Ms. Targaryen that you might have some important information for me regarding Mr. Jon Snow’s conducts some 9 years ago. But you’ve clearly moved on from your Night’s Watch days. I doubt you even remember him-”

 

 

“Of course I remember Jon, Mrs. Baelish.” The old man nodded his head in a slow way that suddenly made him seem much older than a few moments ago and his voice cracked on Jon’s name too. “Jon Snow… Let’s just say it was an honor to have served with him- however short that period was- and I would have liked for him to succeed me in the Watch. That would have been a legacy worth being proud of.”

 

 

The man looked positively dejected now with his hunched shoulders and Sansa felt kind of bad for him, so she leaned forward and started in a sympathetic way, “There now, Mr. Mormont, it's alri-”

 

 

“He did force himself on you?” The half-statement, half-question sounded desperate and Sansa scowled as she was annoyed immediately.

 

 

“Gods, that is wildly inappropriate… but since I am here looking for answers myself… Well, that seems to be the popular opinion, though why I can’t say!” Sansa fumed more to herself than as a way of providing an answer, but Mr. Mormont latched onto her words, “But your husband-!”

 

 

Sansa actually bubbled with frustrated rage, “Ugh, my husband! My thankfully dead husband- although I don’t think I have yet thanked the Gods enough for that little miracle!”

 

 

“Excuse me, Mrs. Baelish,” Sansa looked up when she saw a withered, trembling hand reach towards her over the dark mahogany tabletop in an urgent, desperate manner. The eyes that looked back at her looked frantic, “Mrs. Baelish, please, Mr. Baelish himself told me how Jon lured you into the hotel we were camping in and how he forced himself on you! He did- He said-”

 

 

Sansa pursed her lips and said in an unimpressed drone, “Yeah, well, Mr. Baelish had quite the knack for manipulating people and situations how he wanted them. Don’t beat yourself up about it… everyone fell for it.”

 

 

But the withered hand before her fluttered restlessly on the table before her and Mr. Mormont looked as if he was getting annoyed by her nonchalance, “Mrs. Baelish, please do not be dismissive of my queries. These were the only consolations I have had these past years for destroying the career of a dedicated soldier, for selling out a young man I saw so much of myself in… Please Mrs. Baelish, Mr. Baelish told me you were a minor and Jon got you to come to the hotel under coercion and-”

 

 

“Seven hells! Coercion? That’s what Petyr fed people? Ha! It wasn’t coercion on Jon’s part that drove me to Jon every time, it was the old family friend who was supposed to be my guardian and tried to force himself on me that sent me running all the time! Jon was the only sanctuary I had-” This time Mr. Mormont almost seemed to be begging her to corroborate whatever stories Petyr had fed him, “But please Mrs. Baelish, you were a minor! Mr. Baelish brought proof of that!”

 

 

“I was a consenting minor nonetheless! I didn’t really start having nonconsensual relations until after I got married, honestly!” Sansa stopped herself short when she saw the older man pale visibly and looked like he was breaking out in sweats, “Nonconsensual? Oh Gods… Oh Gods.” Then he promptly seemed to remember something and again looked at Sansa desperately, “But surely you wouldn’t have wanted Jon meddling after you were pregnant? Surely you just would have wanted to have a healthy baby and all… After Jon came back and started harassing Mr. Baelish and you at home… He told me how ill you were keeping and how the stress Jon was causing you was responsible for the complications in your pregnancy-”

 

 

“It was Jon’s absence that caused me stress while I was carrying my daughter!” Sansa half-shouted her response while realization started to dawn on her. She could smell Petyr’s fuckery all over it, but couldn’t quite pinpoint the exact thread at which to pull to unspool the whole confusing knot. “Mr. Mormont, can you please just tell me what Petyr Baelish told you about me and Jon?”

 

 

The older man looked completely flustered now as well as frantic as he brokenly stumbled into speech, “Why- Why, he came that first day with your aunt crying- he did! And they told me how one of my boys had lured you, under coercion no less, to the hotel my whole platoon was staying in. How you had called him crying that Jon wouldn’t let you leave. You were a minor! The accusations were serious- had it been anybody but me, Jon would have been stripped of his duties at once and worse! And I just called him back and ordered him suspended temporarily from duty pending investigation. And then his friends all took his side, but it was all of their words against Mr. Baelish’s! If you had pressed formal charges, Jon would have gone to prison then and there. But then Mr. Baelish said you just wanted to forget everything and move on.”

 

Mr. Mormont paused for a breath and cast a quick glance at Sansa’s face. She tried to keep her features neutral while still interested, but all she wanted was to scream ‘uggghhhhh’ at the top of her voice. Of course Mr. Baelish would say Sansa didn’t want to press charges, as in that case all the parties involved would have actually had to come face-to-face with each other and the web of his deceptions Petyr had weaved would have been torn apart.

 

 

Sansa looked up again as Mr. Mormont spoke, now in an urgent, dumbfounded tone, “And then he came back again after a couple of months, didn’t he? Mr. Baelish, that is!... Said Jon had come back to town to harass you again… that Jon was stalking you and making scenes at your house. That you were so upset with Jon’s behavior that you had to be hospitalized. Mr. Baelish said Jon was endangering both his wife and his child’s life! I swear to you, that time I urged Mr. Baelish to take formal actions against Jon… I was so beyond myself with anger. I was so fond of that boy and he was behaving so reprehensively! Harassing such a young girl after all he did! If not for Mr. Baelish, Jon would have ruined your reputation completely!”

 

 

“Would he now?” Sansa’s tone was dry, emotionless and she saw the horror of self-doubt and being manipulated into a blunder slowly enter into the older man’s eyes. “Mr. Mormont, I actually do remember Jon talking a great deal about you, you know? How you inspired him, mentored him, guided him, protected him. The Jeor Mormont I heard about from Jon was a salt-of-the-earth person, a true Northerner through and through. So now, I am going to tell you something that I have never really voluntarily said to anyone before.” Sansa took a big gulp of bracing breath, “The father of my only daughter is Jon Snow and my late husband was aware of it from the very beginning. I was hospitalized due to severe anemia caused by the extreme depression I fell under as I thought Jon had abandoned me and also in no small part due to the duress I was under as Petyr kept pushing me to marry him and then to consummate said marriage. In the end he won out when he used my bedridden status to point out to me that the state I was in, I could even die in childbirth and if I married him at least my child won’t be an orphan, destined for the cold, wet streets of the Vale for the rest of her life. In hindsight, I should have known from personal experience even the streets would have been a better place rather than the Eyrie. But hormones, vulnerability, and insecurity are never a good cocktail for making life altering decisions… I bet the tales Petyr fed you weren’t these ones?”

 

 

Jeor Mormont looked ashen now, “Oh Gods! Gods, what have I- Mrs. Baelish, please you have to understand… I was trying to do the right thing for you and your daughter… and my Son.”

 

 

Your son?” Sansa was sure she had lost the plot totally. Thankfully Mr. Mormont continued as if she hadn’t spoken at all. “Jorah, my son… He was ousted to the free cities for trading in slaves. The sentence was passed by your father, Mrs. Baelish, Judge Stark. And I stood by it as I didn’t condone his behavior. But then around the time I suspended Jon the first time I received a letter from Jorah… He had contracted greyscale. My boy was dying!”

Taking her silence as agreement, Mr. Mormont continued, “Of course, Jon came back several weeks after, and before I could even talk to him, Mr. Baelish was back too. Complaining about Jon barging into your home and life, causing you distress, threatening you and your baby’s life, I was ready to call the troops on him… But then Mr. Baelish pointed out that even if we made Jon leave again, he’d just keep coming back, that he was obsessed with you and that for the sake of your unborn child we had to adopt desperate measures!”

 

 

“Desperate-?” Sansa whispered brokenly as she was not even sure she wanted to hear the rest. Jeor Mormont stood up, distressed beyond words, and held a hand out towards her as if in a plea, “Mr. Baelish said he’d take care of the incident… I only had to make sure the conviction was guaranteed. Jon didn’t really help matters for himself when he got into the fight with Alliser Throne in the club- they had always hated each other- and when Alliser ended up beaten to death in the alley behind the club, there were plenty of witnesses against him. He did surrender- Jon did- and when he was brought before me, I reprimanded him for all of his conducts with you- forcing a minor, hurting you- he was silent the whole time. The only thing he defended himself against was the murder charge.” Mr. Mormont sat down again and rested his forehead in his palms in a defeated manner.

 

 

Sansa’s mind was whirling. Now she knew why Jon had been so dogged about whether or not he had truly hurt her that night, whether she had been disgusted with him afterwards- no wonder he believed all that when everyone had kept hurling those accusations at him! With all of this information and thinking back to how she had broken down in sobs afterwards, even Sansa would believe all of these lies- only if she didn’t know her own mind and heart and her thoughts that night better.

 

 

Jeor Mormont’s weak voice made her look up, “Then I told him about Jorah… How my boy was dying and I all I wanted was to bring him home, offer him the treatment he deserved, and if all else failed, his father’s lap to forever rest in peace. I told him how if I could get him to confess, arrangements would be made to absolve Jorah of his former charges and he would be able to come back home. I told him this wasn’t home for him… You didn’t want him. He had disgraced the Night’s Watch enough. So it was time for him to let go… And so he did. He let go… And even after his aunt came some four or five years later and got all the charges against him thrown out, he still didn’t come back… neither did he respond to any of my attempts at reaching out.”

 

 

Sansa breathed with her mouth gaping open, she was shocked to hear the extent of Petyr’s vile actions. She didn’t even know where to start first and what to say to the broken-with-guilt man before her. “You- I came to inaugurate this thing you’ve got running… That was before Daenerys had gotten Jon absolved- you could’ve told me something if you were so wracked with guilt!”

 

 

“But this whole thing was so that I wouldn’t say anything!” his prompt answer stunned Sansa. “Jorah died soon after I got him home. Mr. Baelish knew the guilt was heavy on my conscience and with Jorah gone, our original deal was completed. He knew I was itching to tell someone- he told me this himself and then he offered to fund this organization for me. In Jorah’s name! He showed me the vision- Jorah’s legacy would be saving lives rather than trading in them- and I couldn’t refuse! My boy had been so disgraced in life, I wanted him redeemed in death. And then there were you- he only had one condition- you would be cutting the inauguration ribbon! And at the fundraiser he showed me how reserved and subdued you looked- told me that was how Jon had affected you- and said I couldn’t let dead things come alive and ruin the little mental peace you had just because I had a prickly conscience!”

 

 

Sansa stood up, shaking, but also trying to be firm by drawing herself up to her full height, “Mr. Mormont, as a mother who as recently as today’s morning faced difficult choices about how to ensure her child’s happiness, I can understand you wanting to help and be there for your ailing son. I do! But what you’re so conveniently overlooking is how unnecessarily selfish you’ve been in the process! You are a smart man! You’ve known my husband enough- for the love of the gods, by the sound of it, he blackmailed and manipulated you quite enough for you to get a grasp of what a snake he was! But you still had no qualms taking his words as mine! My daughter never knew her own father and only knew an abusive one and you played a direct part in that! I was somebody’s daughter too, and yet your actions indirectly forced me into my abuser’s confinement. Are you sure you weren’t just exacting revenge from my dad for sentencing your son?”

 

 

Jeor Mormont stood up abruptly and looked about to protest but Sansa had had enough. “I don’t begrudge you wanting to be with your son. But do you realize how selfish you’ve been? The first time you helped Petyr in sending Jon away because you wanted your son to come to the vale. Why couldn’t you leave everything, your position as the Lord Commander to go and be with your son instead of playing with our lives? And next, you ruined Jon’s career, derailed his whole life for what- money and this organization? Just because you’re doing it in the name of helping the humanity doesn’t make it any more honorable than a possibly absentee father trying to assuage his guilt after his son’s death. Do you honestly want me to believe you have any kind of real remorse or affections towards Jon? You keep telling yourself that you’re doing good work in your son’s name, Mr. Mormont, but if I were in your shoes, I wouldn’t let my son’s legacy to be associated with how I helped ruin other people’s lives.”

 

 

Sansa was seriously amazed at how very calm she sounded given the fact that all she wanted was to burst into tears and then before the old man could say anything else, Sansa shook her head and marched towards the door of the chamber.

 

~~~

 

Jon wanted to crawl out of his skin- that’s how disgusted he was by his present company and location.

 

 

Lysa Arryn cradled her late teen son’s head on her shoulders and eyed Jon with contempt as she scoffed, “What baffles me is, someone can even think I’d let that whore get inside Eyrie even if she had the gall to come by here!”

 

 

Jon gritted his teeth and hardened his jaw. He had never been abusive towards women, neither verbally nor physically, and he wasn’t about to start now… even if his jaw broke from clenching it. “Pardon me if I am less inclined to believe you, but I think you and your dead lover both have lied to me about her whereabouts before.”

 

 

“I didn’t want to! I wanted to drag that whore out by her hair and throw her slutty, pregnant, fat ass to you! But Petyr wouldn’t- not especially after you got your bastard on her! That just upped her value that much more to Petyr, didn’t it?” The woman practically fumed at Jon and Jon didn’t think her outrage wasn’t on behalf of Sansa, as it should be, for leaving her vulnerable. But he was more interested in the last part of her tirade.

 

 

“What do you mean upped her value? Why would he want Sansa more because of Alyssa?” Bile rose up in his throat as he didn’t even want to think about the obvious reasons and tried not to think back on Sansa’s words about standing guard in Ally’s room at night.

 

 

“Well, that’s obvious, isn’t it?” As Jon just stared at her with a dead expression and contemptuous eyes, she huffed exasperatedly and launched into urgent speech as if the sooner this conversation ended, the happier she’d be. Well, Jon wasn’t going to argue with that so he just listened to the screeching voice, “I knew of course Petyr wanted her as soon as he took her in after I refused to. She looked so much like Cat! If I had noticed it sooner, I’d have taken her in just to lock her away from Petyr’s eyes… He was gonna marry me. He was! I inherited a lot when Jon passed.” The teenager resting on her shoulder actually smirked suddenly and Jon’s blood chilled. He wanted to get out of there as soon as he could, so he listened without interruption. “And I knew Petyr just wanted a piece of that skinny ass and then he’d be done with that and we could proceed as it always should have been. But then you came around and got her with that bastard!”

 

 

Jon swore silently to himself that if the woman called his daughter bastard or Sansa whore like that one more time, he was going to break all of the ugly but ultra-expensive looking trinkets and family heirlooms scattered across the room before he listened to reason again.

 

 

“Ugh! That’s the problem with everyone! All of you forgot the injustice that had been done to my Petyr! You never got him! Ned Stark mistook that he was marrying the finest Tully girl and thought every worthy man around was in love with his glorified betrothed, didn’t he? Drew Petyr out for a combat, said he’d tried to smooch Cat- all lies!- and in the combat Ned Stark injured my poor Petyr just so that the maester later said that Petyr would never be able to father children! That was the reason that father never agreed to let me be with Petyr I think and Petyr went away soon after!” Lysa Tully looked utterly miserable and dabbed at her angry tears. “So when you- Jon Snow- left Ned and Catelyn Stark’s pregnant daughter behind, Petyr, like any sane man, saw the opportunity to exact his revenge. He got that stupid girl to marry him and then the entire world thought he had made that bitch pregnant. So what Ned Stark stole from my love, his daughter restored it all! Poetic, ain’t it?”

 

 

Jon’s head swam… he did that? He had made Sansa the ultimate target for that asshole? He had constructed Sansa as the ultimate revenge for this bunch of perverts? Jon slowly got up as Lysa carried on on her own as she covered her son’s ears, “If her pregnancy didn’t give Petyr the perfect opportunity to prove his obvious virility to the world, he’d have just played with her cunt for a while and then toss her aside to whore herself out to the world. Even after Petyr did that huge favor by marrying her, she still continued to pester him till his last breath! My love was always either too aggressive or too depraved for her… Bitch! And then what had she assumed? That Petyr would leave anything to her or her little bitch as he had promised at the time of the wedding? Huh! She wouldn’t open her legs properly, why should Petyr have opened his treasury for her? Poor Petyr, sometimes he would get so worked up after his visits with her, said she’d either lay like a wooden block or fight him aggressively- Ah! Gods! What are you- Aaaah! Gua- guards!!!”

 

 

Jon had already swept the extensive collection of exquisite looking crystal mockingbirds with rubies, sapphires and diamonds encrusted on them to the floor. The loud crashing noise was very satisfactory. Then he moved on to a huge sword hanging on the wall, unsheathed it with one swift pull and brought it down on every unanimated object before him. Crashing noises, loud clangs, and blade-going-into-plush-cushions sounds filled the room with Lysa and her son’s shrill screams.

 

 

When Jon could see other colors besides red again, he threw the sword aside with a loud bang and paced out of the big mansion, never looking back. He only had one other place where he could go in the Vale after Mr. Varys had refused him a meeting citing he was too busy. After that, he’d have to call his daughter and tell her he had failed her… again… and that he couldn’t find her mother for her.

 

 

~~~

 

Sansa was looking ahead but she could see nothing as her eyes swam with tears. Jon. Her daughter. Home. The island. Those were the people she wanted to see and that’s the place she needed to be. Right now!

 

She barely registered the commotion as she walked past the reception desk of Jorah Mormont Memorial Foundation until someone turned and crashed right into her. Sansa let out a yelp of pain and blinked the tears from her eyes to see clearly once more…

 

 

And Jon’s shocked gray eyes looked back at her.

 

 

Sansa didn’t know how many seconds she just gaped at him before he started shouting at her. “Sansa! Gods! Sansa!! How could you-? I can’t even begin-” Sansa just looked at his part-angry, part-anxious face and saw him like she had never seen him before. It was like she had put new glasses on her eyes because every little thing about Jon looked different to her and the most different thing was the person himself. She looked at the long scar over his eye and wondered again how he got that, except this time she wondered in which of the two possible scenarios he could’ve gotten it; was it a battle scar or was it a scar directly or indirectly inflicted by Petyr. For now, she knew Jon was also a victim of the iniquitous force that was Petyr Baelish like her.

 

 

“How’s Lyssie?” She asked interrupting him in the middle of his irate lecture. But that question and her curious but calm expression seemed to just add fuel to the fire.

 

“How’s-? Gods! How do you think she is? Probably hates me to death now for driving her mother away, that’s how! How could you leave Ally even if I was a total jerk and you were angry at me? And what kind of a punishment is that?! Just because you didn’t agree with what I said, just because you were angry at how I behaved- yeah, I know I was an a-hole for pressurizing you like that- but to just up and leave?! Do you have any idea what I have been through looking for you... thinking I have lost you again?” Sansa looked at him fuming and oh, she remembered the bright, ambitious, eager-to-serve-his-country and dutiful Jon Snow she had fallen in love with. And that man had had his coveted career snatched away, his duty denied, his honor besmirched, his innocence belied and his independence constrained. He had been barred from his own country, estranged from his friends and the life that he knew- all because he had met Sansa and wouldn’t let go of her. She remembered Daenerys’ words about how she had found him- desolate, dejected, in the process of ‘putting the bottle to his head’. All of the lines of age and scar on his features and beneath his clothes now spoke a different story to Sansa than she had previously assumed.

 

 

She stifled a whimper and lifted her left hand to his cheek and ever-so-gently traced her fingers over that long scar. She didn’t let go when she felt Jon’s whole frame shiver and saw his eyes close. “What are you-? Stop looking at me like you- like that!” And despite his furious whisper, his right hand came up and gently circled her wrist. Then his eyes flew open and for just a second he seemed stunned by what he saw in hers and then she were inside in his arms as his lips touched hers.

 

 

Jon’s arms convulsed around her as he repeatedly tried to gather her closer and closer until he was just rocking her. His lips kissed hers over and over, hard and full of passion, and Sansa tried to match his intensity as much as she could as she clung to his shoulders. She tasted salty water but couldn’t even tell whose tears they were.

 

 

“Mhh.. Hmmmh!” The sound of an obviously crafted, enraged cough made Sansa hastily pull back from his embrace, but she only got an arm’s length away before Jon pulled her back like a spring. He held her fiercely as if someone might rush in demanding that he let her go and eyed their interrupter challengingly. “As I was telling you Mr. Snow, Mr. Mormont was in a meeting, but that’s over prematurely, so now you can go in for a few short minutes before his next scheduled meeting if you want… But I’ll have to ask you to stop this indecent display as you can clearly see you’re making our other, very respectable guests very uncomfortable!”

 

 

Jon threw the woman a withering glare and looked just for a fraction of a second towards the doors that would lead him towards Jeor Mormont’s office. Then he decidedly shook his head and grasping Sansa’s right hand in a secure hold, he stormed out of the premises.

 

 

He walked right up to a black SUV double parked in front of the building and opened the passenger door out for Sansa as he asked in a clipped voice, “Where are you staying?” Sansa automatically shook her head, “No, let’s go to where you’re staying. I am staying at this really nasty motel- it’s not a good place. I don’t want you going there.” “And you’ve been staying there for 2 nights?” Jon sounded a curious mix of aghast, angry and miserable. He almost looked like on the verge of tears actually and Sansa couldn’t resist the urge to reach over and caress his cheek again. She did love him so very much indeed.

 

 

“Again with that look! Gods!” He swore something rude under his breath as his right hand cupped her nape. Grabbing her, he pulled her to him, planted his mouth across hers and gave her a kiss that Sansa swore singed the ends of her hair. Then he abruptly wrenched his lips away and looked at Sansa’s eyes as if testing to see whatever he’d seen in them before was still there. And the next moment he was berating her again, “Would you quit with it? That woman was right- this is not the place for you to start looking at me like that! We’re parents to an almost teenager, ok? Not teenagers ourselves!

 

 

Sansa was, quite understandably, stunned into silence and Jon took advantage of it to shuffle her onto the passenger seat and just before he shut the door for her, he gulped and said in a warning voice, “Now you behave yourself… and look out the window. Till we get to my hotel.”

 

~~~

Chapter Text


Sansa watched as Jon rounded the car and got behind the wheel, but he didn’t start the car immediately. He sat with his hands on the wheel and his head hanging forward as if he was collecting himself. Then he spoke as if he couldn’t stop himself, “I just can’t believe that you’d just leave Ally behind like that… no matter who you were angry with! What was that about?”

 

Sansa leaned over towards him to peer at his face. “Leave Lyssie behind?! What a preposterous idea! I begged her to come and she refused strongly!”

 

“She said that’s why you left without her… angry at her! She asked me to tell you how sorry she was and begged you to come back to her and to the- that’s why she sent me-”

 

What the seven hells?! Why would she-? We talked it all over before I left! I wouldn’t have set a foot off the island if either one of us were angry with the other! She knows I was gonna be back within days… Why would she send-?!” Sansa shook her disbelievingly and Jon looked at her finally with the same bewilderment in his eyes. There was utter silence in the car for a few moments until both of their eyes snapped up at the same moment.

 

“Wait a minute, was Daenerys-?”

“I don’t believe this… Daeny!”

 

Jon was the first one to break the stunned silence in the car, “You know what, actually I can believe it. That’s exactly like Daeny… going around meddling in people’s lives thinking she was some Goddess or something! Gods!... You know what, from now on she only gets supervised visits with Ally!”

 

Sansa gave out a strained laugh at Jon’s outrage and she couldn’t keep her eyes off of him. She just had to keep looking at him, at his features, wondering how different he might have been if he hadn’t gone through what he had before Daenerys found him. Maybe he would have been less of this broody man and more of that thoughtful, contemplative boy Sansa had known? Sansa remembered the angry, bitter man she had encountered when she had first arrived at the island and wondered if he had hated her for all that happened to him.

 

“Seven bloody buggering hells!” Sansa looked up to find his hot eyes on her, “Keep looking at me like that and I don’t think I’d be in a state to drive this car to anywhere- near or far! What have you done with Sansa who loves glaring daggers at me?” Sansa looked down for a moment, feeling contrite as she never thought she’d be the one between the two of them to seem to be coming on too strong.

 

Jon’s hand immediately came over her’s on her lap and he squeezed briefly, “Hey, I didn’t mean it like-” “Why didn’t you tell anyone that you didn’t murder that man outside the club? Why did you keep quiet about that?!” Sansa couldn’t keep the note of desperation out of her voice.

 

She saw Jon gulp visibly and take a before he spoke, “So that’s why you were here- How did you find out about that? Never mind! Daeny.” He shook his head resignedly and then started the engine slowly, “Put on your seatbelt.”

 

Sansa put on her seatbelt as the car started moving and then turned towards him in her seat and rested her head sideways on the headrest as she continued looking him. The burnt scar on his right hand made her wonder was it before or after he had been forced to flee his home, career, and country behind because of Petyr’s plotting… because of her. She saw Jon’s eyes flicker towards her and the car picking up sharply in speed as his foot floored the gas pedal… just for a second, before he held the steering wheel hard in his grip and slowly brought the speed down to normal. Then he spoke in a low strained voice and it was clear he’d rather jump from the running car rather than say what he was going to, “It didn’t matter… that’s why. The Night’s Watch gave me a purpose only after that man believed in me. He told me he saw himself in me. He saw greatness in me… And then he thought I had forced myself on a minor… kept her against her will… he actually asked me to take the fall… I don’t know why but it seemed to matter a great deal to him… as opposed to me, to whom duty didn’t matter all that much by that point. And you were… gone.” Jon heaved a long sigh, “I had lost all that was worth losing by that point… The accusation and the subsequent repercussion really didn’t matter anymore. But at least Lord Commander Mormont got what he wanted out it. That was good enough.”

 

Sansa saw the taut lines of his body and how he wouldn’t look her way and she wanted to make him stop the car and just look at his eyes. She reached out tentatively and put a hand on his forearm, “He was manipulated into believing the worst of you, Jon. He was just as much a puppet of the man who played with our fates so carelessly. He was tempted into biting the bait with something he found impossible to refuse.” After Jon threw her a confused look, she slowly relayed the contents of her meeting that morning with Mr. Mormont to him in as much detail as she could. He had to know how completely Petyr Baelish had set out to destroy them and whatever they held dear. They hadn’t stood a chance really.

 

There was a stunned silence in the car after Sansa finished and the car almost slowed down to a crawling speed as if Jon’s foot had gone lax over the pedal. Sansa took her hand of his forearm and squeezed his thigh instead, needing to bring him out of his apparent state of shock.

 

Clearly he had been willing to accept the accusations if they had meant his mentor doling out punishment to him, but to know after all these years that that was also a kick to his gut from the man who had snatched everything he treasured from him was like a final blow of humiliation and Jon was reeling. Until Sansa put her hand on his thigh and squeezed that is. Jon looked down at her long fingers, white over his dark clothes.

 

Sansa. That’s what he needed to focus on.

 

He licked his lips and tried to forget the fact that her warm hand was still clutching his thigh as he started in a croaking voice, “I went to the Eyrie looking for you.” “What?! Oh Gods, was Aunt Lysa-?” “Yep, threw me quite the welcome party, she did! She’s so… I mean it’s hard to believe you two are related at all!” Sansa gave a wry chuckle and took her hand away to push a lock of hair out of her eyes and Jon immediately missed the warmth of her hand and wanted to snatch it back, but he gave himself a mental restraining order. Maybe there will be opportunities for that later if she were willing to still be in his vicinity after she heard what he had to say next.

 

“She seemed to know Baelish quite well.” Sansa just responded with a disgusted grunt; Jon nodded agreeably. “She… um… she told me some things about your parents and Baelish when they were young. Did you-?” Sansa dragged her knees up to her breast as far as the seatbelt would allow and hugging them, she huffed in a small voice, “That he fancied mum?” She shrugged with a repulsed twist of her lips, “I figured as much… sometimes he’d call me Cat… during.”

 

Jon shuddered, revolted, but he knew he still had to go on. “I am so sorry, Sansa. I am sorry you had to go through it all because-” “Because that man was depraved and deserved to get his bollocks chopped off long before he started looking at little girls wrong!” Jon cast a surprised glance at her at the sudden fire in her eyes, but he guessed anger was better than any of the other emotions she might be having. Now he only had to tell her something that will turn all of that anger towards him. “Yeah, true… all of that. But… Well, that woman told me your father had once challenged him to a duel… possibly because Baelish was being the creep that he was towards your mother and in the duel… Well, let’s just say your father might have tried to do what you just said should have been done to the creep” Sansa gasped, but Jon carried on, “And according to Lysa, that had left Baelish shooting blanks for the rest of his life.”

 

All Sansa could manage was a squeaky little ‘Huh?’ and when it became apparent that was all she was capable of saying at the moment, Jon continued in a sad voice, “That woman said that’s why he was adamant on marrying you… you were pregnant and when you got married hastily everyone thought Ally was- And that was like his perverse little revenge on your dad or something.” Sansa still didn’t say anything and one quick little glance at her told him she was still processing all that he had said, but once he had started Jon found he couldn’t stop till he confessed his guilt, “Sansa… I ripped on you for days on the island for marrying him so quickly after- but it was all my fault! If I hadn’t left you pregnant- just what he needed to complete his revenge!”

 

Hey, wait a minute!” Sansa finally found her voice as she heard the overwhelming guilt in his, “Jon, for the seven’s sake, don’t you remember what I used to gripe about for most of the time we spent together? It was his inappropriate advances towards me-”

 

“Yeah, but he only got to fulfill his vile fantasies because I came along and then left-”

 

“Seriously, you actually believe he’d have let me get away before he had been through with me just as he would have liked? Gods, Jon, you didn’t know him like I did! Look at what all he had done… the lengths he had gone to! Don’t think for even a second if you hadn’t come along he would have let me be! You might have made him amend his plans, but I promise you, plans he had! Oh my- the men he’d make me entertain in those horrible dinner parties! Harry Harding once told me point blank that Petyr had given him his ‘blessing’, so I didn’t need to be all frigid and shit all over their brilliant plans… Even Petyr once chiding me as I cried out when he cut into me… ‘Oh, don’t be a baby. I should have just sold you off to Ramsey Bolton and then you’d be back to me begging for this!’” Sansa shuddered and Jon immediately put his hand on her thigh with a reassuring squeeze.

 

Sansa put her own hand over his and said in a shocked voice, “No, Jon. There was no way you contributed to his plan. You just replaced Harry or Ramsey or that Baratheon prick’s part in it. But now that I know of Dad… Oh, gods, I can see things in a new light! You know, I always thought… he was so jealous of me even talking to other men after… you… but then why was he so keen on some of these bastards spending time with me? Now I know why! They’d always come after another one of Petyr’s rants about having a boy. And look at his picks for me- a serial womanizer, a sadistic rapist, and a psychopath! All arguably worst candidates than himself. I bet he’d fancied I’d worship him if he could convince me to be with any one of those pricks… I’d possibly be with a child- who he’d be able to claim as his own with no difficulties. Only you didn’t agree to his plans like the rest of them probably had… made a deal with him like them… You kept coming back for me and so he snatched your whole life away from you.”

 

Jon squeezed her thigh harder, his own head reeling with shock and disgust. Was that man for real? Who did he think he was?! He shook his head as he looked through the windshield. They probably would have been at his hotel by now if he hadn’t been driving the car at a snail’s pace. There was little traffic on the road due to the rains and the midafternoon time, but still more than a few cars have passed him by with drivers giving him the bird. But Jon didn’t care. He dared not drive any faster for fear that the next revelation out of Sansa’s mouth might make him crash the car into the next lamppost.

 

“It was at one of Petyr’s birthday party… when Lyssie was about three and a half… Petyr had been heavily pushing Harry and me together at that time. Harry had cornered me on the upstairs corridor as I was coming back from checking in on Lyssie… and he grabbed me-” “Sansa, you don’t have to tell me… you don’t owe me any of that.” Sansa nodded but continued, “Mrs. Poole came along. The chief maid… she used to keep an eye on Lyssie for me, bless her soul. Harry tried to project it as if we were about to have something mutually desirable even though my dress was torn and I had scratch marks all over my neck… Petyr just laughed it off that night. I took the paperknife from his desk and promised the next time he thought of using me as a cheaply bought entertainment for his party guests, I’d slit my throat. When I drew blood, he went pale. I guess he wasn’t done playing with me yet. Afterwards, even if he’d tried to provoke me and others together, he was always resentfully subtle and not too pushy about it… Of course, he didn’t know I’d never take my own life leaving Lyssie to his mercy, but then again to understand that he’d have to understand selfless love, and selfless was a word not even in his dictionary, I think. But from then on, I didn’t only have two of his guards following me when I went out; a few of the maids would always shadow me around the mansion too. Unless I was with Lyssie. I guess I was on suicide watch.”

 

Jon didn’t know what to say to all of that, he could sob- he wanted to- but he didn’t see how that would make matters better. What he could offer her instead was what she had offered him- her soul bared- and something he had yet to do for her. If he had done that when he had first gotten her alone on the island and insisted on acting like a leech, maybe they’d found their way back to each other and a way to love their daughter together before she would need to come all the way to the Vale in search of the truth.

 

“After Daeny got the charges dropped off against me…” Jon’s voice was so low that any lower and it might as well have been an inner monologue and Sansa leaned closer and peered closely into his closed off face to listen properly, “I will be forever grateful to all of them for trying to- get me back to the world of the living, I guess. But even after they got me sober and mostly sane… I guess, I was missing a purpose or something? Daeny would ask me every morning, ‘Now that you’re back from the dead, what do you wanna do?’ and I’d reply the same every day, ‘Get warm!’ and I’d go and lie around the beach in Meereen like a dead whale. I think she’d have drowned me out of sheer frustration if Sam and Missy hadn’t restrained her. But then she came up with another idea. I didn’t have to work, fine, but I had to talk to Tyrion every day until he said I didn’t have to anymore. It was either that or she’d have dragged me to a real therapist… Tyrion at least used more swear words during our conversations than I did… so I agreed.”

 

“I’d love to meet him someday. He sounds… interesting?” Jon barked out a brief laugh as he took in Sansa’s curiously sad expression. “He is! You’d love him!... Or maybe not!” Jon looked oddly anxious for a moment before taking a deep breath to continue, “He tried to explain my connection to you… as shared grief? Like, we both craved for what we had lost… the people from our childhood… he said we shared something that bound people for life- pain and sorrow - and that’s why I found it difficult to move on from you. But he insisted I had to try. He advised me to focus on a job… But all I wanted to do at the end of a day was lay down with you, otherwise I hated my day. He advised me to start dating again,” Sansa hugged her knees and Jon hesitated briefly before continuing, “That was foolish. Trying to replace you and what I felt for you. Tyrion used to joke you had skewered me through like a wiener in a barbecue, and now everyone just went through me without ever touching my heart or soul. He actually composed a very crude song about that. I think you’d find it very offensive.”

 

Sansa just arched a fine auburn brow but said nothing. Jon gulped as he tried to finish, “When I told him I was bringing you to the island… well, I insisted I needed closure. You had disappeared from my life like everything I’ve ever loved and I just needed- He actually said something very…  something I can now appreciate although I didn’t then. He said for all the time he had known me, the only constant thing about me has been you. I insisted he was wrong about my intentions of course… and now I owe him my best Dornish steed as pay off.”

 

“Did you take the airplane to come here?” Sansa asked after several minutes of silence. Jon shook his head. “I sent it to fetch Daario and Grey to the island… couldn’t leave Ally and Daeny and the others unprotected like that. If I waited for the plane, I wouldn’t be here till tomorrow. I couldn’t wait that long. Sam found a flight for me thankfully, seeing as they are so infrequent from the Free Cities to the Vale. Why do you ask?” Sansa just shrugged, “Just want to go back to Lyssie as soon as I can… then how can we get back soon? Book a commercial flight? Did you book a return ticket? Is there one leaving the Vale today?” Jon didn’t know the answer to any of her questions, so he just told her he’d get Sam on it as soon as he could.

 

It was again Sansa who broke the silence next and she managed to shock them both with what came out of her mouth. “Will you make love to me once we get to your hotel?”

 

Sansa gasped as soon as she finished. She couldn’t believe her ears. Why would she ask such a thing? She felt her face flame. She knew subconsciously she was wondering about what else they had left to say to one another and what they’d be doing the rest of the time… but to come out and say that! Sansa now knew why curiosity killed the cat.

 

The only consolation was Jon didn’t seem to be doing any better with the question than she was. His ears were red and when he spoke, he stuttered.

 

“Do you want me to? I mean, no! I am not thinking about that now!” He sounded breathless, his voice high as if strangled.

 

Sansa frowned as a different kind of worry grappled her, “Because you don’t want to? Because of all you learned?”

 

“What-? No!” Jon turned around for a brief second even as his hands turned the steering wheel to drive the car into the hotel’s parking lot. “I want to. I want to! I really do… I mean I want just the appropriate amount… given all that we learned just now. I assume you need time to process all that?”

 

Sansa just cleared her throat and averted her face as she got out of the SUV even before Jon turned off the ignition. From her body language, Jon was sure she would have stormed off if she had known which direction of the confusing parking lot to go. Jon gulped unsurely and getting out of the car, he led her towards the lifts that would lead to the floor his room was on.

 

Her face was still red and embarrassed when they got on the elevator car as he spied on the mirrors at the back wall. He was mentally kicking his ass off when she suddenly rounded on him, “Ok, before you assume anything further, let me just remind you that you did suggest that we marry immediately before I left the island. And if it wasn’t all just for Lyssie’s sake-”

 

It wasn’t! I am her father and will always be there for her no matter what you decide for us… no matters what happens to us!”

 

Sansa’s eyes grew big with surprise, but then she shook her head and continued her speech as if he hadn’t just interrupted her, “…then I wouldn’t be too remiss to assume that you have some interest in doing that. Plus all those times in the island… so don’t go thinking I was proposing something, or I was itching for it or something… I was merely addressing the elephant in the room and-”

 

Huh!” This time Jon turned around and he looked comically incredulous. “Itching for it? You? After everything you learned today, I expected you to run to the other direction from me, not proposing something! Why you didn’t is beyond me! And all those times at the island, save one, you didn’t actually give me the impression you were ’itching for it’ as you put it. Itching to slap me, yes. Anything else, no!”

 

Well, she fooled one of them at least- Sansa congratulated herself mentally. “Well, I was angry! At you! At the whole world perhaps-”

 

“Well, so was I! That didn’t stop me from wanting to jump your bones from the moment you stepped off that rickety old bus!”

 

Sansa had opened her mouth to shout something, but his heated words seemed to stop her in her tracks. She turned away from him and leaned sideways on the wall of the elevator car, “Sometimes I used to fear… and I do still wonder… whether he has ruined it for life for me.” Because she had responded to Jon’s kisses, but kissing wasn’t something she let Petyr do much anyways. She was terrified of how she might react to the things he did do to her.

 

She heard Jon sigh, “Has he?” His voice had lost all the heat and was incredibly soft and gentle, like he was speaking to a fearful child.

 

Sansa looked at him at the far end of the big elevator car and studied him for a moment through narrowed eyes, then she straightened up and came to stand in the middle of the car, “I don’t know. But let’s do find out where our daughter won’t be able to hear me screaming for you to get off of me.”

 

Jon just looked back at her as he was before as if she hadn’t just said what she did.

 

“In case you didn’t get it, that was me ‘proposing something’!”

 

Suddenly Jon was moving, his fingers dug into her upper arms, lifting her on her toes and drawing her close enough that her heart pounded against his.

 

Jon knew he had been too hasty with her in the past and he had vowed to himself to do better in the future. That was why he was trying to give her ample time to back off, change her mind… to pace himself. Trying and failing that is. The moment he felt her breasts push into his chest though, his good intentions fell away like ashes. He parted her lips with his tongue and at the first taste of her, at the first feel of her kissing him back his blood raged and his heart staggered.


 

Chapter Text


 

It was like he was a scientist... waiting for Halley's comet to come around for him in his lifetime again. 

 

And at last, it did.

 

That's how Jon felt when he kissed Sansa and she kissed back like a young sweetheart he knew 10 years ago.

 

Better than Jon remembered. Always better than the last time, he thought deliriously. Kissing Sansa was enough to sustain a man for the rest of his life, Jon decided. Groaning, he shifted his hold on her and swept her up into the cradle of his arms.

 

The lift dinged open and cursing loudly Jon blindly led her towards the direction of his room. He had difficulty finding his key card and cursed himself some more. He felt Sansa run her hand down his back in a relaxing gesture as if he was a distressed Jonno or Olly and he had to remind himself not to let his nerves disappoint them both.

 

As soon as the door of the suite closed behind her, she was in Jon’s arms and Sansa giggled at his eagerness. Jon shook his head, clearly knowing the reason of her chuckles and kissed down her jaw to her neck as Sansa looked around the suite. They were in some kind of a living cum dining room with a double door obviously leading to the bedroom. “Nice suite! Better than the last one you left me in.”

 

Jon gave one last loud smooch to her neck and straightened up, grimacing in reaction to her jibe, “I’ll give you the tour later.”

 

“Why not now? Are you doing something important?” Sansa teased him again and they both knew awkward babbling when they heard it.

 

Jon concentrated on the buttons of her coat and mumbled as he took it off, “Oh, I am very busy right now!”

 

He pulled her in for a kiss again and this one was all open mouths and tongues and lips smacking against one another. Sansa dimly registered helping with his coat and then he was putting her down on a surface… which felt like a desk? Breaking off, Sansa looked down to see she was sitting on the edge of the dining table. “Are you subletting the bedroom to someone else?” Gods, why did she sound so breathless?

 

The good news was Jon was panting as if he had just run a marathon himself. He took hold of the edges of Sansa’s sweater and the shirt underneath it and said in a ragged whisper, “We’ll get there later. Up!” And after a good long moment of hesitation, Sansa held her arms up.

 

Sansa saw Jon just standing there looking at her modest white bra and clenching his hands a few times. She knew her hesitation hadn’t been a good idea but that reaction had been involuntary. So to make up, Sansa voluntarily reached back and undid the hooks of her bra and as her hands came forward, she let the straps slide down her arms.

 

Suddenly Jon came forward and took her mouth in a brief but thorough kiss. All too sudden, he broke off and when he spoke his voice was breathy but deadly serious, “I’m gonna leave your lips alone for now, so if you want me to stop, or slow down, or just change whatever I am doing, you just say, Ok? It’s just you and me… We can do this.” Sansa nodded along as he talked. Yes, Jon and I. Jon and I. Jon and Sansa. No Pet - No one else. No one else. Sansa chanted to herself.

 

Jon reached out with his right hand to cup one of her breasts. Sansa hastily reached out and pulled him by the pullover he was still wearing so that he stood between her legs. She rested her forehead on his shoulder as Jon took her nipple between his thumb and forefinger, tweaking, tugging, pulling gently at the sensitive flesh until she was squirming. She straightened up when Jon pulled back as he dipped his head to taste her nipple. The moment he took her into his mouth, she cried out, "Jon, yes," she said, gulping hard after choking the words out. "Oh, do that some more."

 

Jon had planned to anyhow, but Sansa’s words just reaffirmed those plans. He moved onto her other breast and she cried out again.

 

Sansa thought this was insane… the amount of things she was feeling. Because the only way she had gotten through her marriage was leaving the room the moment her clothes came off. Disassociating with the whole process. Staring at the ceiling or pressing her whole face in the mattress. Even when her participation was demanded, she had long since trained her mind to part with her body, just chanting to herself ‘relax, it’ll be over soon’ like a mantra. So now when she didn’t give her mind the leave of absence, the things she felt were becoming too much for her. It even reminded her too much… of that time she had first been with Jon and the time they had created Alyssa.

 

Sansa tightened her fingers in Jon’s curls as he gave one last swirl of his tongue around her now oversensitive nipple and let it go with a loud obscene pop. He kissed his way down her stomach as his hands slowly drew her flowy silk skirt up. The sensation of the smooth silk and then his rough hands on her legs felt maddening to Sansa when she felt him kissing the inside of her thighs.

 

Jon stilled as he felt Sansa’s hands pushing at his shoulders, “No. No. No. Not that!” At the mildly hurt and confused expression on his face, she hastened to explain, “It’s not you… It’s… I’ve never liked it. It was… when Petyr wanted me to show he cared about my pleasure or that we could both find pleasure from it if I just gave in to him.” Sansa licked her very dry lips, which also felt swollen to her, “He would just go at it like a hack job… relentlessly sucking at the… you know. The more I begged him to stop, the more he’d insist I was enjoying it. I hate it!

 

Jon’s eyes flashed for an all too brief moment, but before Sansa could read them his head dropped and he kissed her knee and then the inside of her left thigh. Then he looked up at her, looking calmer than he was seconds ago and spoke as he rubbed his bearded cheek against the inside of Sansa’s thigh in an all-too-distracting manner, “It’s good to know what you don’t like. I have thought of tasting you an embarrassing amount of time, but I am glad you stopped me before I went in thoughtlessly. Keep talking to me.” He turned his face and pressed a kiss on her thigh very near to her panties. “Can I take these off?”

 

Sansa could only nod as she was feeling dangerously dizzy from all the heavy breathing she was doing… which was strange. Why was she behaving like this was her first time or something equally special? Gods, it wasn’t even her first time with Jon! But it sure felt like it, Sansa decided, as she tried to squirm back on the table to escape from his teasing kisses. The next kiss he pressed was right on her edge of her panties and it was at that moment that Sansa knew she wanted him to continue… she wanted him to go off the script and take her by surprise and maybe then, they’ll finally get somewhere.

 

“Jon? Don’t stop!” Her words had the opposite effect as he immediately pulled back and looked straight at her eyes. Sansa looked back as she licked her lips, “Don’t stop now… Keep going there… Make love to me as you want to. And if I want you to stop, I’ll say- ssshhh” Sansa hissed because it got too much when Jon’s lips pressed her panties to her skin, which made Sansa realize how very soaked they were. She nodded again when he looked at her, his eyes focused and big, and she felt him pulling the now-useless garment down swiftly.

 

Unfortunately for Sansa, he paid heed to her words and stayed agonizingly away from her core. He kissed around her hipbone. Tiny, nibbling kisses. His breath fanning over her damp core, driving her nuts within a minute. He kissed maddeningly close to her soaked lips too… but deliberately drawing away before he made contact. The fourth time he did that, Sansa actually whimpered. She had never been as focused on her nether regions as she was at that moment. Even her daughter had been an emergency C-section, she thought. And at that moment she seemed to breathe through her… lady parts as she always called them.

 

She drew on Jon’s curls so tightly she knew it would hurt and she had meant it to, and finally chuckling against her skin, Jon gave her slickness an open mouthed kiss- tongue and all. Sansa bucked her hips violently as she gave an involuntary cry of ‘Yes!’. Jon looked up at her with a smirk, “Good?” All he got in reply was a smack at the back of his head and a bark of ‘Stop talking!’.  He got back to her heated center with a huffed out a laugh.

 

Jon built her climax up slowly, wonderfully, teasing her with his nearness and then backing away again, continually urging her on. She labored for it. Worked for it, moving her body with his lips, chasing them and finding a rhythm and keeping it. She was almost there for minutes but something was missing and she needed it. Finally she cried, “Jon! Please-!” Jon looked up at her and urgently shook his head, “You never have to say please to me, sweet girl. You just have to want something and I’ll give it to you.”

 

And did he give it to her. Sansa was shocked at how with just the slightest brush of his tongue over her clit, she almost came. Almost. But for years, she had trained herself to hold her reins with firm resolve, to check herself had she ever felt her core betraying during acts she hadn’t desired. And now that she finally wanted to let go, she couldn’t… didn’t remember how with anyone else besides herself.

 

Jon spoke against her nub, “Let go, sweet girl. I am right here. Let it all go. Come to me! Please come back to me.” He slipped a finger inside Sansa, as he almost sobbed his last words and she came… painfully. It was too much all of a sudden and she collapsed backward on the table and felt him cupping her throbbing lips to let her ride through it.

 

Sansa’s head was ringing, literally and her breaths came in wet, broken sobs as she felt Jon pick her up and carry her through the double doors. He laid her head down on a fluffy pillow and disappeared from her vision as she continued to struggle for breaths. She felt him gently glide her skirt away. Sansa felt the contact of skin on skin before he came into her vision next and felt him gathering her in his arms. “You alright, sweetling?” She nodded urgently and said in a breathless tone, “Ok, I can see that clearly needs skills that most do not possess and I assume you didn’t too when we were together before. But you have obviously learned since then! You have not only 'dated' as you put it! Daenerys was not kidding about your slew of tramps! Someday- not today!- we’re going to have a huge fight about that!” Jon rolled his eyes and let out an exasperated breath, “Thanks again, Daeny! Sweetling, I promise I was just being an asshole in general and as such they couldn’t have meant anything to me!” Sansa just narrowed her eyes with an ‘Mmhmm” as she parted her legs and felt him slide between them. But he didn’t seem to share her urgency, “Why don’t we rest for a while? I know beyond certainty that I’d have the best sleep of my life if I had you like this in my arms.”

 

Sansa furrowed her brows confusedly. Sleep was the farthest thing from her mind and he wanted them to take a naked nap? Now? He didn’t even seem miffed about their talk about his past, just genuinely caring. And then another aspect of her marriage bed gave her a pause; of course when it had happened to Petyr, and it happened quite frequently, she had been gleeful about it, but now she was beyond disappointed. But she tried to be tactful for the sake of Jon’s feelings, “Jon, did you-? Have you-? It’s alright if you’ve- That happens plenty to men, right?” Jon’s brows furrowed as he looked baffled at her stuttering implications, “What are you-? Sansa, you can’t mean-” He lifted his pelvis up from Sansa’s and looked down between them while Sansa followed his gaze and exclaimed with relief, “Oh there, I knew I was feeling… but then you- Why do you want to nap? Your… cock… doesn’t!”

 

The way she lost all of her breath around the word ‘cock’ was enough to tell Jon that that was maybe one of the few times she had said that word out loud to another person and she looked so innocently confused yet unbelievably arousing at the same time that Jon had to take a moment from looking at her. He let his head fall into her shoulder as he gave into the laughter bubbling into his chest and said against her skin, “Gods, sweet girl, you run me hot and cold and every temperature in between in seconds. I love you. I have always loved you. Gods, I never thought I’d ever be able to say that out loud to you again!”

 

Sansa pressed tiny kisses to his shoulder as she bit back tears. “I love you. I might not always have… But thank you for being there to pull me in when my faith in us strayed. Thank you for fighting for us… sometimes even against me. I love you so much more for all of it, Jon!”

 

They laid there embracing each other, pressing light kisses to each other’s shoulders, hair, forehead until Jon felt Sansa grinding her core against his and their kisses became urgent again. Jon brought his head back to look into her eyes and she nodded encouragingly, and he brushed the tip of his cock against her clit.

 

But for the first time in his life, Jon was nervous to go ahead. Hells, he had been nervous since the moment he’d taken Sansa’s clothes off and seen the scars scattered across her body. He knew each one must have their own story, and what Jon didn’t want for the life of him was to do something to remind her of any of those stories. Since then, in his mind, he was constantly reminding himself to do things differently than that creep. And not knowing what he was trying to be different from was even harder. He wanted Sansa more than his next breath, but never at the cost of traumatizing her. And he laid his head on her chest again and muffled against it, “I don’t want to hurt you… like I did the first time… or like he did…”

 

Sansa grabbed his head and made him look up and she had this sudden fierce look in her eyes, “I am tired of people explaining that night to me as they each saw fit. I made love to you that night just as much as you did to me. No hurting was involved. I was a virgin was all. Trust me, Jon, I know hurting when it comes to sex, and what we did wasn’t it! And you won’t hurt me now, simply because you don’t want to. Gods, you’re going to give yourself an erectile dysfunction like this!”

 

Jon couldn’t help but laugh out loud at her last words. And before she could lecture him again, he reached for the foil he had earlier placed on the nightstand. He had been prepared since the night Sansa had told him she loved him on the island; the next time they had kids he wanted a bit of planning to go into it first. Sheathing himself hastily, he carefully pushed himself home.

 

He felt Sansa’s a soft sigh of fulfillment as her legs and arms came around him, enveloping him in her warmth. He held her tightly, watching her eyes. He saw his past, present and future in her bright blue eyes as she rocked against him and chased away the dark shadows inside him. Jon felt as though he was drowning in her heat. Here, in her arms, was his world. A world he'd never thought he’d find again and now that he had, he never wanted to lose it.

 

Jon moved faster as he hitched Sansa’s legs higher on his back and Sansa felt the difference between the feeling of being in this moment to the ones of detachment in the past. She felt Jon’s hand snake between their writhing bodies towards her nub and as the first tremors began to course through her, she felt him surrender to the inevitable himself. She cried out his name at the surprising onslaught and Jon clung to the sound of her voice as the world around him fell away.

 

Sansa gave out a surprised laugh as she came down and Jon joined her as he disjointed their bodies and after a sloppy kiss to her lips, he got up to get rid of the condom as he threw back over his shoulder, “Sneaky little bastards, aren’t they?” “Yes, hate them!” She threw back as she quickly stood up and went inside the bathroom.

 

When Sansa came back, Jon looked up from his phone, “Ok, the airplane can be here day after tomorrow night at the earliest. In that case, we will get to the island by mid-morning Monday. Or-” he gathered Sansa closer to his body as she slipped inside the duvet he had pulled back, “We can drive up to Wickenden, take the long flight to Myr, travel to the disputed islands by the bus and take the ferry to Lys from there. We’d be dog-tired, but you’ll have our daughter in your arms by Sunday morning.”

 

Sansa pushed her hand through his curls, “Are you kidding me? 24 hours more with my baby? Of course I choose the latter!” Jon bent his head and gave her left nipple a light nip before saying hesitantly, “Actually, I thought we could wait for the plane and I could sort out the paperwork for Ally’s adoption?”

 

Sansa immediately snatched out of his embrace, “Lyssie’s adoption?! Who’s adopting my girl?... Oh, gods, don’t you dare say Daenerys!” Jon leaned up on his elbow and looked shocked at her, “Daeny?! Why would Daeny-? Gods, I would adopt her of course!” Instead of calming down at his explanation though, Sansa only sat up fully and that distracted him completely as her breasts demanded his full attention all rosy buds and creamy perfection dancing in front of his eyes. He pulled his focus together though when Sansa’s voice rose an octave, “That’s the stupidest thing I have heard in my life! How would that be possible? How can you adopt her when you are already her father!”

 

Jon got up and huffed exasperatedly, “I am not on paper though, am I? That lousy bastard is!”

 

“No, he is not!”

 

“And as such, I am not legally- wait, what?- he’s not?” Jon was sure his brain was still mush from his climax earlier as he was clearly hearing things.

 

“Seven help  me, how in the hells do you think he gets away with not leaving a penny to Lyssie’s name if there is even one legal document that would say he was her father?” Jon just gaped at her like a fish and Sansa explained with a long sigh, “I was admitted to the hospital for most of my last term and had to have an emergency C-section. Anyways, Petyr was in King’s Landing during the birth and I put your name on the father’s place… Petyr had already shown me how he was going to be by always fighting to take his ‘marital privileges’… I think that stress sent me to the hospitals so frequently. And a birth certificate can’t be changed with just an eraser or something… There would have to be affidavits and advertisements and such things… I know cause Petyr shouted and counted them all out to me. Even then proof of paternity would be needed, which Petyr obviously couldn’t have. And all of that would have meant publicity. In the end, he just threw money at it and sealed the records. I mean of course I can pick it up with Lyssie and my ids, but no one else can.”

 

“But Sam hacked into her school records; they listed Baelish as her father.” Jon shouted as he wanted what she was saying to be true so bad. Sansa pulled a grimace, “Did you read the school’s name? Mockingbird Academy! They didn’t even require a birth certificate for the chairman of the board’s daughter to start there. Petyr had those documents filled up by the principal herself. I wasn’t even there at the time. But, I dare you to have Sam hack into those actual records! He won’t be able to! I saw the check Petyr wrote myself. That amount would go a long way! But they are there. I can pull one copy for you if you want? I had one pulled just in case when we left for Lys but I can’t remember where- hhmmmph”

 

Sansa couldn’t breathe by the force of Jon’s smothering kisses and the way he had tackled her down to the bed; and she didn’t mind in the least. Jon bit lightly on her bottom lip and drawled against them, “In 10 minutes, we’re going for round two. And tonight, we’re starting for Lys.”

 

Sansa gave him a bright smile and cupped his cheek, “In 10? Never gonna happen!” Well it hadn’t happened in Sansa’s past experience in her marriage bed.

 

Jon smirked as he rolled with her in his arms and pulled her over him, “Watch me!”

 

Suddenly Sansa squirmed out of his hold and snaked down his body, “Well, what a divine idea. Let’s watch you...”

 

Jon laughed as he tried to grab her arms and pull her back up, “Not watch me, watch me... like watch me- Fuck! Make that 5 minutes!”

 

Sansa lightly wrapped her fingers around his semi-hard cock, “Hmm.. It is interesting how much form you have in so little time... Let me see…”

 

Jon’s eyes bulged and he earnestly grabbed her shoulder to stop her from moving, “Sansa don’t! I don’t want you to-”

 

Sansa shrugged his hands off and lowered her head, “I want to!” And Sansa was sure she wanted to. Each of the things she did with Jon only erased the memory of the forcefulness she had experienced in the past. She welcomed that and wanted to discard as many of them as she could. Licking her lips wet, Sansa took his cockhead in her mouth and swirled her tongue around it.

 

 Jon grunted involuntarily, “Gods… Sweet girl, make that..3…2…1!”

 


 

Chapter Text


 

Jon got inside the heavy oak doors of Winterfell and immediately called out, “I’m back, sweet girl!”

 

He shouldered the heavy doors shut behind him and dropped his keys on the crystal bowl over the formidable antique dresser with direwolves carved onto it. On his way to the spacious kitchen, he peeked into the big family room, but all he found were more direwolves crafted furniture and no wife.

 

Jon hurriedly entered the similarly empty kitchen and let the heavy bags of groceries down on the island while he called again, guiding his shouts in the direction of the staircase leading upto the second floor of their home, “San? Babe? Where you at?”

 

More silence met him and suddenly a fear plaguing Jon more and more frequently in the last 6 months gripped him again and dropping the lemons he had been about to put in the fruit basket, Jon started running towards the staircase as he shouted loudly, “Sansaaa! Sweet-”

 

“Don’t come in! Don’t come in! Don’t come in!” Sansa sounded panicked, but otherwise unharmed and Jon’s pace immediately slowed to a much-relaxed stroll as his face broke into a full-on grin that ended in a chuckle.

 

“Why? Is one of your lovers still here- sprawled naked on our bed?” Jon’s voice was injected with seriousness.

 

Oh, no! No, no! The postman had come as soon as you left and he delivered the bills and two hefty doses of orgasms, bless his sexy ass. No, no, he left. It’s my fat ass that is hanging in the air like two giant pumpkins that have me barring your entrance to our bedroom right now, because one look at it and you’d never look at me the same!” Jon smirked at the flippancy in her voice. Sansa was so much better at this banter thingy than he was! Of course, out of the two of them, he was the one who was slightly more prone to jealousy and that affected his flippancy sometimes.

 

Jon leaned on their closed bedroom door and whispered, “San? Come on, let me in? Let me see what’s wrong?” There was a brief silence and then rustle of clothing and then the door opened to show him the silk robe-clad figure of his almost 9 months’ pregnant gorgeous wife. Her face was pinched and her hair looked impossibly tangled and messy, but she still took his breath way with the way she glowed and the plumpness of her lips and her breasts and the ass she was badmouthing moments ago.

Jon followed her into the room slowly, taking his time to admire the sashay of said voluminous behind in the silk robe. As Sansa turned sideways to examine herself from the side in the full body mirror in one corner of their bedroom, Jon quickly scanned the area and assessed the situation. Scattered maternity clothes all around the room could only mean one thing; Sansa had finally gone through the last of her maternity attire as even they wouldn’t fit anymore and now was freaking out over it.

 

Jon knew it was not Sansa’s vanity either. The last time she was pregnant, she had been barely 17 and according to her, she had hardly shown even during the later periods of her pregnancy. She had been a slight girl to begin with and her pregnancy with Alyssa hadn’t exactly been a booming one. But with their second one, she was bigger than ever with none less than twins in her belly and seemed to be growing by the minute… and also her balance was shot. She had half-slipped a few weeks ago in the shower and had been put on bed rest since then and Jon knew, Sansa was having difficulty dealing with such deviation from her expectations.

 

“I’m sure something’s wrong, Jon, I’m telling you! I still have a few weeks to go and I’m as big as this house, I have a permanent bedhead, I have the body-balance of a drunk hippopotamus and my spine is killing me. I’m telling you it’s not supposed to be like this and don’t you listen to Dr. Luwin! I was sick when I was with Lyssie too, yet that was such a magical time! And this- Ugh!”

 

While she had been going on, Jon silently picked up the strewn garments off their bed and off the floor and put them on the plush armchair by the window to put away later. Then he gently took Sansa’s hand and put more effort than he’d like to disclose to tug her towards the edge of their bed.  Once there, Sansa sat down by herself and Jon knew her ankles must be aching too. He grabbed his laptop from the bedside table.

 

“Would you like to watch our wedding video again, Sweetling, while I give you a backrub? That always makes you feel better, right? Should I play it?” Sansa looked up at him with a sour face and stony eyes, but then after a few moments of kicking him with her eyes, she whimpered an ‘Ok’ and slumped her shoulders.

 

Jon quickly played the video, kept the laptop propped in front of her and sitting behind her started his massage on her lower back where he knew she ached the most. By the time the video got to their vows, her head was resting back against his shoulder. Jon heard himself nervously stuttering through his vows on the beach in front of Daenerys’s house in Lys where he had first kissed Sansa after a separation of almost 10 years.

 

“…this day for me is just to celebrate with my friends and family and our daughter what had always been in my heart. Sansa Stark, I love you and I always will. You have my heart… now more so than ever before. You are my home. And you’ve already given me the most precious gift of my life, our daughter, and so now it’s my turn to give…”

 

Suddenly he felt Sansa’s lips running along the underside of his jaw and then she whispered, “You deserve to be adored, Jon Snow. You know that? Do I do that?” Jon didn’t answer and just lowered his lips to capture hers in a languorous, searching kiss. When he let her lips go to kiss her cheek, Sansa looked back at the video and gave out a laugh, “Thanks for wearing your bun that day and letting me shine! If you’ve had your gorgeous curls whipping about in the wind from the sea… no one would even care whether there was a wedding or not, let alone about the bride! People would just eat the cake and stare at you!!”

 

Jon was now pressing warm kisses to the side of her neck and hummed against it, “Mmmm, I beg to differ. I would’ve cared very much whether the wedding happened or not. And, not everyone finds my curls as fascinating as you do, sweetling.” Sansa just laughed and tilted her head to give him better access to her neck.

 

That had been a perfect day on the island 5 years ago, Sansa thought back as her back pains reduced to a tolerable level. Jon and she had taken things with themselves slow so as not to freak or confuse Alyssa about what it all meant for her. They shouldn’t have worried, as Alyssa sometimes seemed to have more sense than both of her parents. Even then Sansa had been glad they had taken the time when she had seen Alyssa gradually fall into the role of a doted-on-daughter with Jon.

 

Sansa smiled as she remembered how excited Alyssa had been about their wedding, insisting there had to be a party. She had never been to a wedding party in her life up until she went to her parents’. That was the last time Sansa had been able to make her daughter wear a frock made out of tulle! Everything had been perfect that day. Sansa smiled as she heard Jon humming along against her cheek with the song coming from the laptop… the song he had sung for her with his guitar when the party had started to mellow out and the sun had begun setting.

You've been on my mind… I grow fonder every day
Lose myself in time… Just thinking of your face
God only knows why it's taken me… So long to let my doubts go
You're the only one that I want

 

I don't know why I'm scared… I've been here before
Every feeling, every word… I've imagined it all
You'll never know if you never try… To forget your past and simply be mine

 

Suddenly Jon pressed at a particularly tender part of her lower back and Sansa moaned aloud, “Mmmm, Jon you should be a professional masseuse or something!” Jon chuckled against her tangled hair, “Yeah, well, last week it was, ‘Jon you should be a chef’, before that ‘Jon you should be a singer’ and if I remember correctly, the day the girls threw you a baby shower, it was ‘Jon you should be a gigolo’! Lady, I think you’re getting a whole lot of world class services from me free-of-charge!”

 

Sansa giggled happily in his arms and Jon’s world danced, “Well, I pay you in kind!” Grabbing his hands in her, she pressed kisses on his palms. Jon grinned, “Mmmmm, in kind it is, wife! And I can’t say I complain! Not one bit!” He chased Sansa’s wet giggles with his smirking lips.

 

Sansa would’ve liked to make out a bit more as anything else was practically impossible in her current state, but Jon suddenly glanced at his wristwatch and leaped up off the bed. “Sansa, your lunch!”

 

Sansa sighed as she let Jon pull her up to her feet so they could both descend the shallow steps to the downstairs of their home. Sansa knew she hadn’t been much help even though this wasn’t her first pregnancy. It was just that she didn’t remember that much details about her time while carrying Alyssa.  Jon had asked her all excited in the beginning what were in her diet during her Alyssa so that they could make sure to get those things for Sansa again. Her sheepish answer had been she just remembered throwing up all the time and sniffing on lemons all day. After a while, Jon had given up looking to her for directions and started going through baby books with a vengeance. One day he actually commented that they had been damn lucky and just hit the jackpot with Alyssa, but they’d have to be extra careful with the twins, otherwise Alyssa would end up being the all-time most sensible person in their family.

 

Sansa had just looked at her gorgeous husband with a mock sardonic stare and appreciated what a beautiful world that man had created for her and their daughter when he had finally been granted the chance to do so.

 

Jon and Sansa had both denied Daenerys’s persistent offers to send them to some romantic corner of the world to have a honeymoon while Alyssa was left behind. They had both been of the same opinion, their wedding hadn’t been the start of a marriage, it had been the start of a family… a proper start. And that meant none of them were leaving anyone behind anytime soon.

 

But they were newlyweds and Sansa remembered those months immediately after their wedding in the little cottage by the sea with bittersweet amusements. They had both been aware that they shared the house with their pretty perceptive daughter and it had been so important to both of them that the relationship between Jon and Alyssa got off to a great start.

 

In the end, they had been so paranoid about it, they ended up suppressing their desires when Alyssa was home. But when she was at school, it was game on for them. Each morning, Sansa would run back from helping with the Wilde boys’ breakfasts and Jon would rush back from dropping Alyssa off at school and they wouldn’t even talk to each other. Jon would start unbuttoning his shirt as he got off of his jeep and Sansa would start taking off her shoes and her shorts as she hurriedly climbed the steps to the cottage. They would tear at each other’s clothes, make a whole lot of noise just because they could and then make fast and slow and all the kinds in-between love to each other until Jon had to go pick Alyssa up from school.

 

One such day, when Sansa had been lying on her stomach, trying to catch her breath, Jon had entangled her left hand with his own over her head and whispered in her ear, “Sansa, let’s go back home?” She hadn’t asked what he meant by home, neither had she questioned what had brought in on. She knew the answers to those questions herself. She had only been a bit scared of uprooting the newfound secure foothold she had found for her family, but then she had remembered she would never have to do it all alone again. She had squeezed Jon’s hand and he had squeezed back, kissing between her shoulder blades. They had moved back to Wintertown at the end of June that year.

 

Alyssa and Daenerys had been most upset about the move, the latter refusing to speak to Jon or Sansa for weeks afterwards.

 

Alyssa however changed her mind when people started recognizing her in the superstore or in the schoolyard. Apparently, to some she looked like her grandmother Lyanna, to some she resembled her grandfather Ned and even some she reminded of her baby aunt Arya. Everyone knew her and everyone loved her, wanted to protect her. Some were either one of her grandfathers’ colleagues; some were her mom, dad or uncle Robb’s childhood friends. She had never been embraced by a whole community like that before and while she acted annoyed, Sansa knew her daughter enough to know how much she appreciated this feeling of belonging to something bigger than herself or her family.

 

And then Alyssa had made friends with Eddie. Edrick Baratheon, son of Gendry Baratheon and grandson of Robert Baratheon who had been best friends with Sansa’s dad. From then on, Sansa hadn’t needed to worry about Alyssa adjusting in Wintertown.

 

Sansa had tried hard to find all of the people that had been part of her childhood and her household back at Winterfell. She found Nan in an old rickety cottage at the outskirts of town. She had been the Stark children’s young governess. Now she wasn’t young anymore and when Jon consented Sansa asked Nan if she’d like to come live with them. When Nan had lamented she was useless and would only bother Sansa, Sansa had told Nan to tell her scariest stories to Sansa’s daughter, she had joked ‘because that girl is afraid of nothing and needs some fear of the Gods to be put into her! And I don’t know who can do it better than you, Nan?’ Nan hadn’t refused after that and she had taken her duties too seriously; Alyssa ran to her mother or father each time Old Nan, as she called the lady, told her it was story time.

 

And then Jon went and did it. He put his head together with Alyssa, with Sam and his computers, found out about the Child Psychology course at the Wintertown University, somehow pieced together enough credentials on Sansa’s behalf and surprised Sansa on their first anniversary with her acceptance letter to the program.

 

Sansa had at first laughed at the idea, then outright rejected it, until both her daughter and husband had reminded her how good she had always been with children and how she had been saying lately she wanted to help women and children who suffered from domestic abuse.

 

Sansa had known they were right of course, the last three times Jon had to fly to Meereen to smooth over some issues with the security branch of their organization, he had taken Alyssa and her with him. There Sansa had seen how much work Jon, Daenerys, Tyrion, Missandei- they all put into that combined mission, that goal of theirs. And Jon had of course seen her longing for such a goal in life. Therefore, after some persuasion by both him and their daughter, she had given in. The next four years had been hard on all of them due to the extreme stress and pressure on Sansa, but they had all managed with varying degrees of grace and love.

 

Around that time, they had received news that Daeny was moving back to Meereen and surprise of surprises, moving in with Dario. To Sansa, Jon seemed happier about the fact that it left Missandei free to move in with Grey.

 

Sansa had inherited Winterfell after she completed her first year back to school. Both she and Jon had been overjoyed when they had stepped inside the house; even the empty dusty corridors were like treasure troves of memories. Jon had proposed the idea of him remodeling and refurbishing the house, so they could make a home there, like her parents had. Sansa had cried with joy.

 

Jon had spent a fortune that Daeny later assured Sansa he could afford to on rebuilding and refurbishing Winterfell. He also took the reins up at the home front so Sansa could concentrate on her studies. He had gleefully hijacked all the responsibilities of Alyssa, refusing to share any of them with Sansa, as if he was a single parent… like Sansa had been before. And then when Sansa would cry at night sometimes due to the stress of her studies and lament not being a good wife or mother, he’d just kiss her and tell her, “Hey, you had done it all alone for 10 years. I have you! Besides, we love Ally and we’ll die for her. That’s the best anyone can do. Don’t worry about anything else!”

 

He had created this beautiful, loving world for Sansa and Alyssa in this home where Sansa was supposed to grow up, but didn’t. He had turned his own parent’s home into a studio where he taught self-defense classes to adults and children separately for a minimum fee. He took Alyssa for her fencing and jujitsu classes and then cooked for them.

 

Sansa had worried about him though. He had some old school friends in Wintertown and he made new ones at his studio, he might have felt alone at Wintertown without his extended family… until Sam had moved up here.

 

Jon had been beyond excited and looked for weeks for a suitable house for them and then had finally found one on their street that would be vacant at the end of the school year. Sam and Gilly moving in in a house on their street had been good news for Sansa too as she missed her island friends too.

 

She had been so happy… until Ygritte had moved into Wintertown too.

 

Jon’s friend Tormund had been the only one from the North that had been at their small private wedding. Who’d have known sparks had flown so bright that Tormund had clandestinely flown to Lys every few months? After a year of this, he had proposed and Ygritte had moved into Sansa’s hometown. Jon and Sansa had obviously attended Ygritte and Tormund’s courthouse wedding, with Sansa somehow ending up with babysitter duties for the night and then for their entire honeymoon.

 

That huge fight Sansa had promised Jon about his ‘slew of tramps’ had taken place the day Ygritte had arrived at Wintertown and hugged Jon as if she’d never let him go. Jon had tried his best to stay silent while Sansa had raged and then try to make her understand, but in the end, he had ended up on the living room couch. That had been the first and last night though. The next morning, a bloodshot-eyed Sansa had thrown his pillow at his face while sobbingly swearing if Jon ever slept on the couch again instead of his place in their bed without resolving their fights first, Sansa would never let him touch her again. Before she had gotten further than that, Jon had taken her in his arms and had turned her sobs into moans.

 

Last year when Sansa had graduated, Jon had jumped up and down on his feet with pride along with Alyssa and he had whistled loudly while clapping. He had told her numerous times since how proud he was of Sansa helping kids from broken and abusive families with her therapies and Sansa had replied each time that she couldn’t have done it if she didn’t have Jon’s loving arms to make her forget the horrors of the day from the stories she heard from patients.

 

He even turned the west-most room in the house, which was her father’s study, an office room for her and Sansa started delivering her counseling and therapy services from that room only. Four months into the practice, her inflow of patients increased due to good word of mouth, and she found out she was carrying twins.

 

Yes, they had made a good life here, Sansa thought, as Jon put their lunches on the table in front of her and then proceeded to tempt Sansa to eat by holding a spoonful to her lips. That’s when they heard the front door close and the unmistakable sound of a schoolbag being dropped on the floor.

~~~

Eddie always loved coming to Winterfell. He loved this house and the people who lived in it, some a bit more than others.

 

He had been 11 when Alyssa Snow had come and started going to his school at his class. Class bully Mikey had found out she was a year younger than all of them and at lunch hour went to snatch her succulent looking Turkey sub. Eddie had never been brave, but that day he had stood in front Mikey and told him to leave the girl be.

 

Mikey had punched Eddie’s nose so hard it had bled and Alyssa had punched Mikey to the floor and then glared at him till he burst into tears.

 

Eddie and Alyssa had been best friends ever since.

 

Eddie also liked Mr. and Mrs. Snow. As far as he knew, they were the coolest parents ever. That first day, Eddie had gotten off the bus with Alyssa so that he could tell her parents the note from the principal was his fault. Alyssa hadn’t seemed all that bothered and later Eddie had realized why. Her mother had sternly asked her to choose her own punishment as she believed Alyssa fully knew where and why she was wrong. Her father had asked her to show him how she had clenched her fist while punching and when she had, he had nodded his head in approval.

 

Frankly, Eddie had decided right then and there he had to, had to befriend Alyssa. Later he had found out how truly lovely Alyssa also was.

 

Now Eddie watched Alyssa joke around with her dad as he fixed lunch for both Alyssa and Eddie. Ever since Eddie had known her, she had been a Daddy’s girl, but not in a girly way. They did all the things that fathers and sons do together. Eddie knew for a fact that many a Dads in Wintertown would trade their sons for Alyssa in a heartbeat.

 

And Alyssa and her father doted on Mrs. Snow. They were both very protective of her, Eddie had found out. Once Mr. and Mrs. Snow had been kissing amongst the audiences at a recital and one of the guys, a few years their senior, had made a very rude comment about Mrs. Snow’s appearance and why he believed not only Mr. Snow but every dad there only had eyes for Mrs. Snow. Alyssa had sprinkled itching powder on his backpack next day at school and then spilled her whole lunch tray on his lap during lunch hour while claiming defiantly she had slipped.

 

Although Mr. and Mrs. Snow did do that an awful lot if Eddie was being honest. Kissing that is. If Mrs. Snow wasn’t busy with her studies, she’d always be snuggled next to Mr. Snow and he’d be kissing some or the other part of her. Eddie had seen his parents, and uncles and aunties and neighbors. The Snows were a bit too much about it all really. Especially considering they had a child of Alyssa’s age. With a daughter that age, they had no business behaving like newlyweds, much less become pregnant with twins, that’s what Eddie’s mum said. 

 

Eddie looked at them now. Mrs. Snow didn’t like tomatoes anymore because the babies seemed to hate them, but she insisted salads tasted bland to her without tomato juices mingled in. So Mr. Snow had made the salad with tomatoes and now he was patiently picking and eating every single bit from Mrs. Snow’s plate while they were all having their lunches. And then just when he was about to get up for something, Mrs. Snow transferred the ice cubes from her lemonade to his glass and he immediately sat down, kissing her for longer than was appropriate in present company, and then noticed Eddie gawking and embarrassedly stuttered something to him about ‘she always knows just what I need’. Alyssa didn’t even bat an eyelash all through this and continued looking through her dad’s iPad.

 

Eddie shook his head and vowed he would never act like a ‘crazy fool for a woman’ as his mum said Mr. Snow behaved. Suddenly he noticed Alyssa pushing her barely-eaten plate away and he knew she hadn’t enjoyed her lunch much. She was mighty picky with her food sometimes. As Alyssa eagerly reached for the scrumptious looking plate of salted caramel pudding Eddie had been salivating about since Mr. Snow had placed their respective slices before each of them, he surreptitiously pushed his own slice of pudding towards her and whispered persuasively, “Have mine too please. Hate pudding during the day.”

 

~~~

Jon had been working with Alyssa and Eddie in his crafts studio on the twins’ cribs when Sansa screamed for them to inform that her water had broken. Alyssa and Jon had run to her while Eddie had run down the street to grab Sam to drive the car to the hospital. All the way to the hospital, Jon felt as if he was going to die.

 

Sansa only had her first contraction in the car. Even as she tried to fight it as Alyssa was in the car too, her excruciating expression made both Alyssa and Jon cling to her when the contraction subsided. Sansa just kept kissing Alyssa with a scared expression on her face and kept whimpering to Jon, “It’s too early, Jon… I still had ten days to go. Too early…”

 

Jon thought the babies would never come out; the labor was three hours long. To him it seemed like Sansa had been in agony for an eternity. He rubbed her back, practiced breathing with her, fed her ice chips and marveled in his mind how on earth had she done it alone the last time. Each time the thought came to his mind, he just kissed her sweat-covered cheeks or temple or head, until Sansa shoved him away hard.

 

When finally the doctors put his squirming, red son in his arms Jon felt like he would faint. The nurse gave him a scissor to cut the umbilical cord which instantly fell away from his nerveless fingers. He pressed his arm tighter to his body, in serious terror the teensy bundle would just slip out of his arm. Sansa beckoned him to her and he walked towards her in a daze. He saw Sansa beaming at the bloody mess in his arms that added wailing to his squirming and Sansa started buckling in pain again. Jon held her hand in his free hand hurriedly as she brought their second daughter in the world. The doctor put the second bloody mess in his arms and cut the cord himself this time, clearly deciding Jon was useless.

 

Jon looked down at the feebly crying squiggly beings in his arms and tears started flowing out of his eyes. Granted, he was already a dad; but he had never been dad to one of these tiny little creatures. He had always been father to a walking, talking, fiercely independent, no-nonsense human being. These vulnerable, teensiest, delicate little persons generated such a violent urge to protect in him that Jon’s head reeled. His world tilted around him. He felt as huge as a giant and as tiny as an ant all at the same time.

 

Sansa saw Jon crying with the babes in his arms and that was the most precious thing she had ever seen in her life. She beckoned a nurse towards her who was not assisting the doctor in stitching her up and whispered feebly through the unbelievable pain, “Grab one of the phones from the chair there. Will you get a picture of the three of them for me? Now! Before you take them for clean up.”

 

Sansa felt each tug and poke of the stitching and felt herself losing consciousness, but she kept her eyes on Jon and her babies. She had wanted to see this so much all those years ago. Today she’ll look her fill… She just wished Lyssie was in the frame too.

 

Jon watched Sansa’s eyes close as he saw her lips weakly mumble, “Lyssie… I want Lyssie.” A couple of nurses came to take the babies away from him and Jon hurried to Sansa’s side to press kisses to her forehead and cheeks.

 

~~~

 

Sansa woke up suddenly and she could tell just by looking around it was the middle of the night. It had been hours since the twins came to the world. She had already fed them each thrice already and each time she had noticed something new about her babies that had brought tears to her eyes.

 

Her boy had fine wisp of dark curls all over his head and muddy blue eyes that she suspected would turn darker and bluish-gray with time. He was a calm little thing, spooked by the littlest of noises and a plump pout to match his dad’s. Her girl had a fine patch of reddish-gold hair just on top her head, light-almost-white eyes, chubby pink cheeks and long fingers, which she had already used to scratch her mother’s chest while fussing during her feed. She was a fussy little thing too, frequently relinquishing her suckling of Sansa’s nipples and then instantly crying to complain about her hunger.

 

Jon had been most perplexed trying to think of how to help his daughter while also attempting to put his son to sleep in his arms. Once when they had started crying at once, the nurse had suggested Sansa feed them together. Jon had helped her and held their son onto Sansa’s free nipple and after a while when they had all gotten the hang of it, Sansa and Jon had looked up at each other. Sansa’s eyes had watered promptly as that moment had been all she had wanted from life all along and Jon had leaned in to kiss her forehead and then keep his lips there till their youngest daughter had let out a cranky wail at the invasion of her private space.

 

Sansa had fallen in and out of sleep between the feeds. In the meantime, Jon had changed diapers a few times after the nurses let him at his insistence and had introduced Alyssa to the twins outside the nursery.

 

Now as Sansa woke up, she slowly looked around the room to see Jon tucking an afghan securely around Alyssa who was sleeping on the only sofa in the cabin. Sansa’s voice croaked as she spoke, “Put the chair by the sofa. Otherwise you know her… she’ll roll right off onto the floor.”

 

Jon’s head sharply turned towards her before he nodded and did as he was told. Then he came towards her and gently brushed a hand over her hair, “Sorry I woke you up. Go back to sleep. There’s still plenty of time till the next feed.” Sansa held her lower body firmly fixed as she scooted a bit on the bed and tilted her head, “Lie with me?” Jon hesitated a bit and then shook his head as his hand caressed her cheek. Sansa insisted, “Jon! You need the rest too. Come on, I am not bleeding and the ache is totally dull now. I will be fine. Just be careful about your legs.” She tugged Jon by the hand for leverage and he reluctantly gave in.

 

Jon carefully lowered himself on the small bed and Sansa wrapped her right arm around his shoulder and guided his head to her own shoulder. Jon gingerly let her and after several silent moments, she felt him relax and press a warm kiss to her neck, “They’re are so beautiful, San! So beautiful! I can’t believe- Thank you, sweet girl.”

 

“I suppose I am wayyyy down your ‘sweet girl’ list now that I have more contenders for your affections!” Sansa teased him as she lightly began pulling at his curls in the clutches of her right hand. That always relaxed Jon and put him to sleep right away. She felt him chuckle and gently rub his lips on her shoulder before saying against it, “It all started with you, sweet girl and I love them more than dear life, but I start at you and I end at you.”

 

Sansa remained quiet and let Jon’s words bask her in their glow for a few moments before she asked him with a smile, “So, what is her name?” They had decided at some point after finding out that they were having a boy and a girl that Jon would be naming their girl and Sansa their boy. But they had decided to disclose the names to each other after the birth as both had agreed they could only lock on a name after actually seeing the persons they were naming. Now seemed like the perfect time to name them, because Sansa had decided on what to call her fussy, bossy, scratchy, precious daughter.

 

Jon remained silent for several moments although his hand gently feathered over Sansa’s forearm and then he pulled himself up and balanced himself with his elbow beside Sansa’s head and looked closely at her face to look for her reaction as he told her the name. “Cedric. It’s Northern and it means kind and loved.” “Like you!” Sansa pressed a hurried kiss to his lips and when she pulled back Jon was smiling. “We could call him Ced… Like people used to call your dad Ned? And I was thinking Eddard for his middle name.”

 

Sansa’s face crumpled instantly and she cried her first few tears since the whole birthing process had been over. Jon kissed her red, burning nose. “Come on now, no crying. What is our little girl’s name?” Sansa gulped down her tears with difficulty and said in a choked voice, “Kiyara. Kiyara Lyanna Snow.” She felt Jon’s lips freeze over her nose before he brought them down to her lips in a gentle, profound kiss.

 

After the kiss broke, Jon wiped his damp eyes on Sansa’s hospital gown, pressed a kissed to the top of her breast and laid his head down on her shoulder again as Sansa resumed her gentle hair pulling. Several minutes later, Jon mumbled as Sansa felt him slip away into the world of dreams, “Get some rest, sweet girl. Daeny, Missy and most of the troupe will land here tomorrow. As Daeny had frequently warned us, she might try to kidnap one or both of the twins. We’d both need our strengths.”

 

Sansa just hummed in reply as Jon fell off to sleep. She felt her husband’s body breathing close to hers. Looked over at Alyssa sleeping peacefully on the sofa. Thought of her babies in the nursery. And Sansa wondered for the umpteenth time how did she manage to finally end up here.

 

She almost sobbed as she thought about sixteen years old Sansa Stark for a second. That girl had walked through fire to be the woman Sansa Snow was today. All of them had really. Her Jon… Her Alyssa. They had all come so far… but the roads had been so difficult sometimes.

 

But Sansa knew the secret to sustaining the infernos and the broken roads now. It’s what she always advised her patients about. Five years ago, she had almost taken another wrong turn when she had let the bitterness of the past convince her to close her heart up in vain. Restrain her heart from loving Jon and from letting him love her again.

 

And therein lied the secret.

 

Sansa now constantly, firmly reminded her patients to keep their hearts open for love no matter how great their tragedies had been. Because she knew, if she hadn’t had her daughter to always remind her what it felt like to love or be loved, she’d never have come out of those 10 years of hell as a sane person. If she had believed for a moment she was unable to love or unworthy of love, Sansa knew she’d have plunged into a darkness no one could’ve saved her from.

 

So now Sansa always reminded people to keep their heart open, to love and to be loved, no matter what they are going through. As long as people were capable of that, Sansa knew they could always find the light at the end of the tunnel. Like she did. Today there was so much light in her world, Sansa felt blinded by it.

 

And no one illuminated her world more brightly than the man sleeping in her arms. Jon Snow. Her first love. Her young love. The boy a young girl had given her whole heart to so long ago. In a delirious moment before sleep claimed her, a small smile lifted the corners of Sansa’s mouth as she congratulated those two lovesick kids in her past of their present achievements, “Way to go, kids. Well done!”