Sansa was oddly proud of herself for realizing that Shae had been Tyrion’s wife by commoner’s marriage—I am your man, and you are my woman, or something along those lines—before she’d herself become Lady Sansa Lannister. She was even more proud of herself for confronting both of them in a tactful, helpful manner. Shae cared for her when few others had, while Tyrion swore and made good on his promise to protect her from the other Lannisters.
He refused to have her keep a separate bedroom, not after Joffrey’s threats, and had changed his rooms accordingly to suit her moving in. She had felt safer, curled up beside Tyrion at night. For whatever reason, the young mad king had a bone of fear in him concerning her husband. The young, mad, king feared her husband. Tyrion had taken her on a ride outside of the city a few weeks after their marriage and had murmured to her that that was what Joffrey was and they should think of him as such.
They were laid out in the middle of a freshly threshed field, their heads beside each other—her feet pointed North and his towards the South. His hand was reached backwards to twist his fingers through her hair.
She’d grown quiet when he said it and had been rewarded with an affectionate scoff. “Call me your dwarf, Sansa, just as I call you my wife. It is what we are, and what others think of us. My nephew the king is as mad as a Targaryen.” They had sat out in the field for a long time after that, listening to the wind over the stubble of the wheat.
“I don’t think of you as my dwarf, my lord,” she whispered, bringing a hand up to his cheek blindly. His skin was warm, barely roughened by afternoon stubble. Southerners had such an aversion to beards, it was always a little startling to feel a dusting of hair on a cheek. Not that Sansa touched many men’s cheeks.
“Oh?” the lilt of his voice was pleasant, teasing. Always waiting for the blow to follow his curiosity. He had lived with lions far longer than she had, and knew their cruelty.
“I call you my lord husband, I call you Tyrion.”
The wind nipped at the hem of her dress while he thought of his answer. Sansa listened to the birds—as it had grown colder in the North, fewer and fewer birds had sung in the godswood but they were still loud here—and let her eyes drift shut. Tyrion’s cheek slipped away from her hand and then a shadow fell over her face. The red of sunlight through skin turned into a swirl of iridescent blackness before she opened her eyes.
Though he was backlit she could make out the wonder on his face and it made her smile as she teased him.
“Of course, Tyrion feels more honest as my lord husband has not yet taken me to wife.” And then she held her breath, keeping her eyes on his. She blinked the sun out of her eyes as he shifted around to lean over her properly, no longer looking at her upside down. A delicate fluttering of her hair where he swept it behind her ear had her biting her lip slightly.
“Someday, my lady, but you shall be given better than a field in broad daylight I think.”
She had had to say it then, to let him know what she knew. That she wasn’t upset with him—she’d heard enough of Cersei’s talk to know that married people took lovers sometimes, and then there had been her brother Jon. She would of course offer to raise Shae’s child as her own—and love the babe as completely as her mother should have loved Jon. She would raise Tyrion’s children to love their sibling as she should have been raised to love Jon.
“If—if it would upset Shae less, I don’t need better than a field, my lord.” Though he’d been leaning in to kiss her, his blinked and moved back from her just slightly. He had been trying to keep her from knowing about Shae because he feared it would hurt her to think he loved another. It had hurt, but Sansa could think of worse things than knowing her husband could love and empathize. She was also relieved that the ‘needs’ the Queen spoke of men having were being taken care of in her husband’s case.
“She’s told me that you are perfect for us, and I can only look at you in awe for it.” He cupped her cheek with one hand, rubbing his thumb across the skin there. He leaned down to kiss her then before laying down again, one hand twined with hers as they let the warm breeze wash over them.
Sansa had thought the strange conversation settled, her husband once more avoiding giving her the one protection she had against being married off to some other person Tywin Lannister wanted to control. She didn’t want to share her body with Tyrion, but doing so would bind her to him—and she felt safe with him. Something else whispered to her that should Robb fail in his rebellion, she would be able to return North and live out her days in Winterfell giving the Lannisters sons to take up the Northern titles left bare by the war.
She did not wish for her brother’s death, but his success would only mean she was once again bartered for power against her will. Queen Cersei and Margaery Tyrell had taught her something else recently: women could barter themselves for power too. A marriage to whichever Northern lord had a son who wished to marry the Princess of the North and be of the same blood as the King in the North tasted sour in Sansa’s mouth. Tyrion did not touch her out of respect to her, but because he was also aware that she might be someday rescued. It spoke that he’d at least once had some hope of her rescue—hope she had herself given up long ago. She was married to a good man it seemed, despite all odds against it.
“If you are willing, Sansa, we can have one another tonight.”
This shook her out of her thoughts and she swallowed quickly, suddenly hyperaware of every inch of her skin. She could wait and remain in some amount of uncertain peril, or she could let him take her to bed and know for certain the peril she was in. Sansa found she much preferred knowing her situation, and though she didn’t say anything she did clutch her husband’s hand a little tighter.
They would discuss it later, of course, but it was enough for now to know he believed her decision.
Podrick and Shae had supper waiting for them when they returned from their afternoon riding, joined by Bronn who teased Podrick’s clumsiness by saying he was intimidated by Lord Tyrion’s lovely wife. It was true she had been dining at strange hours during the day, and Tyrion had lately been required in the evenings to dine and talk strategies with his father, so the squire saw little of Sansa—and of course Podrick blushed redder than Lannister sigils when he glanced at Sansa or Shae.
The meal passed in pleasant conversation after Podrick was allowed to retire to his own supper, though eventually Bronn seemed to grow bored with the peaceful evening and showed himself out. Sansa thought she heard him whistling the Lannister song as he walked down the hall but she couldn’t be sure. Her husband had his face scrunched up in thought while Shae cleared the table. They tried to minimize Sansa being alone by having food delivered in the middle of the day that would hold them over until the next morning—whatever Shae saved would make breakfast tomorrow.
Sansa quietly went to get her needlework and started on the delicate embroidery for the inside of a cuff. She had, two mornings after her wedding, decided that this was her life and she would make the most of it. Her servants would wear good clothing, and she started first on a dress for Shae. The older woman was good to her, and deeply protective of her more to the point. She might at least look like she was the handmaiden of a highborn lady.
“Shae, I wonder if you might come sit with us,” Tyrion’s voice was his usual mix of cajoling and slightly caustic. Out of the three of them, he had endured Lannisters the longest and had been the most affected by them. At least it meant that he was good at dealing with Lannisters.
“I know you would’ve liked to keep certain things hidden, but I fear our lady Wolf has figured us out.” Sansa dearly wanted to keep her eyes on her needle, right then, but looked up at the two people responsible for so much of her safety. Shae was staring at Tyrion with a grim set to her mouth, wordlessly conversing with him in the way Sansa remembered her parents doing when she was in Winterfell.
“Then I must leave?” Shae’s voice was surprisingly even given the circumstance.
“No!” Sansa blurted out before even Tyrion could form a response to the question. Looking around at the walls, painted with happy fluttering birds, Sansa could think of nowhere Shae was more suited to be. She would get her own rooms once again before she forced Shae to leave. Her two companions remained silent after her outburst and she set her sewing on the table rather than accidentally prick herself with the needle.
“I’ve known I would have to choose a side eventually, and,” she paused to calm her voice to say what she needed to, “if Lord Tyrion beds me as his wife I will at least know the full extent of my position and protections. I—I know that he was yours long before me, Shae, and I won’t keep you from him. But the safest I see myself being is tied to him—I do not want to be bartered from man to man, and if I am his then it cannot happen. At—at least not so easily.”
The silence following her words was deafening and she swallowed back the fear that she’d overstepped some boundary. Just because she was the lady in the room didn’t mean that Shae would respect that. Shae did what she liked, a fact that Sansa knew well and had relied on in the past.
“Would that I could make them scream who’ve made you learn to speak such sad words, my lady,” Shae whispered, flopping farther back into the chair she’d settled herself in. Sansa didn’t twitch a smile at that, knowing that King Robert was at the root of her horrible stay in King’s Landing and that he was as dead as Lannister gold could make him.
Thinking they were done, Sansa picked her sewing up once more. The design was one of her own, an idea of a secret sigil having been planted in her mind after the Battle of the Blackwater. Sewn on the inside of loose cuffs, revealed when the cloth was flipped back, would be an embroidered symbol. She hoped to use it to indicate safety in confidence—initially she’d only planned to give one to Shae, but now reconsidered to perhaps giving one to Podrick.
After several weeks, she’d settled on a godtree face. Her mother had anointed and raised her in the light of the seven, but the godtree represented a religion much older than that—and closer to an understanding of the realities of life, she’d always thought when her father spoke of it.
“Shae, I am going to read out on the balcony. Let me know when Lady Sansa is prepared for bed—do not leave her side until I tell you to.” He pushed himself out of his chair and snatched a book and lantern up from the desk he passed by. In the gentle night breezes, the curtains in the archway billowed and gave tiny glimpses of her husband as he settled down into his chair. His lantern he hung on a peg in the wall next to him, his face turned attentively towards his book.
“Come my lady,” Shae said with a little trepidation. No matter who Sansa married, she knew Shae would have prepared her for bed on the night she took her husband’s seed under her own cloak of protection. She knew that it was on this brave and outspoken woman that she would have relied when that seed quickened and grew—who helped her through all aspects of her pregnancy. Shae would have found the wet-nurse for the babe and much more.
Looking at her companion and only confidant, Sansa suddenly wished she’d married any other man than Tyrion Lannister. Why must her safety always come at the expense of others’ happiness? To be sure, her marriage was none of Tyrion’s will, but he slept in the same room as her every night, while Shae was with her every moment of every day. They’d been irrevocably parted by this.
“Shae,” Tyrion called out from the balcony, a last lingering instruction in his tone, “we are going to teach her. We are the only people in the world she can trust, let us affirm that in her mind.”
Every dress and underskirt was removed carefully, Shae having learned over the last few weeks how such clothing was constructed and fastened. Sansa smiled softly as she watched her handmaiden tut over the emerald overdress and a bit of loose embroidery. The other woman would never mend such defects, but would of course show them to Sansa so that she might mend them. It worked well enough for both young women.
“You used to be,” she murmured softly as Shae unlaced the last chemise and tugged it over her head, “well, but now you’re—“
“I might have been his for a night, but now I am his forever. Just as you are, my lady,” Shae replied with a quick smile. It didn’t reach her eyes, but it did not unsettle Sansa as Lord Baelish’s smiles did. Whereas she did not know Baelish’s mind, she did know Shae’s and forgave her.
The bed was slightly cold on Sansa’s bare skin, but her handmaiden quickly climbed in after her and sat behind her. Shae’s arms wrapped gently around her lady’s waist, her cheek pressed to Sansa’s shoulder. From this position, Shae spoke in a whisper of what Tyrion liked and how Sansa might get him to please her in turn. Feather light touches beneath the covers educated her on what would light with pleasure and what would hurt, and Sansa tried to control her breathing so as not to hum or cry out. All that the Queen had said, all that her mother had spoken of her first nights with Father, all that Joffrey had ever spoken about the act had led her to believe no pleasure could so early be derived from the marriage bed.
She didn’t know her eyes had slipped closed until Tyrion spoke, a laugh in his voice.
“Are you to take her maidenhead or am I?”
“You are my lion, I was merely helping my lady relax for you,” Shae said, her own voice surprisingly even given what her hands were doing to Sansa, one cupping a breast and the other gently fingering a tiny pearl of nerves between her legs. Her eyes opened to see Tyrion standing on the steps that let him access such a tall bed, surveying the tiny movements beneath the sheets. Her belly quivered as she met his gaze, her cheeks probably spilling red.
Her husband’s movements were deliberate and slow as he crawled over to them, keeping the bed linens between them as he settled down to kneel between Sansa’s thighs. The pull of fabric over her skin had Sansa letting out a tiny whine—it was about to be too much, but not enough. But then her husband was leaning over her, as he had earlier in the day but this time pressing his weight down on her body as he did so. With Shae behind her and Tyrion ahead, Sansa knew that this was the safest path, so though his face was no less scarred than it had been hours ago Sansa was glad to take his kiss.
He was in his nightshirt, she realized as she figured out that her husband’s weight on her—solid between her legs—made her blood burn and drew a soft gasp from her as Shae’s fingers pressed more firmly because of it. His lips were soft, full and warm and as teasingly coaxing as the man they belonged to. Sansa peeped out a tiny sound of surprise and pleasure when one of his hands came up to cover her other breast, kneading the tender flesh as Shae mouthed along the shell of her ear.
“My Lady, may I—?” His free hand toyed with the sheets which covered her body. Sansa opened her eyes, staring at Tyrion briefly before she nodded and helped him tug the fabric down to expose her chest. And then all she saw were his golden curls as he bent to kiss and nip where his hand had so lately been.
“Remember what I told you,” Shae’s voice was as teasing as Tyrion’s was, the sliding Lorathi accent warming Sansa’s ear, “about our lion’s mane. I cannot learn these things for you, my lady, as I already know them. And,” a huff of a laugh had chills going up Sansa’s arms as Tyrion’s mouth closed over as much of her breast as he could fit, his tongue swirling over a nipple, “I am busy.” Sansa yelped then as her handmaiden’s fingers, until now delicately circling and rubbing the pearl of nerves that were making Sansa feel so so good, slipped further down and curled into Sansa’s entrance just barely. She arched into Tyrion’s mouth as well as tried to pull Shae’s fingers closer, harder—her head fell back on Shae’s naked shoulder, lips parted as she gasped in air.
To her utter frustration, Shae’s fingers stopped and Sansa moaned until she realized: his hair. Tyrion’s hair—he liked it to be tugged softly, and everyone else’s hands were busy. If she saw her fingers shaking before they sank into her husband’s curly mop, Sansa ignored it. Her belly felt tightly coiled, ready to fly apart—but at what trigger she didn’t yet know, trying to keep her legs from seizing around Tyrion. Every muscle was quivering, and only wound tighter when Shae’s two fingers slipped deeper into Sansa’s body—a steady rhythm, made intense by Tyrion’s hand coming down to knead the flesh just above Sansa’s thatch of coppery curls.
A murmured, “yes, you learn fast my lady,” and something like a blessing from Tyrion went to her head and she realized she was going to die or fly apart or see forever. She didn’t care—what—it—was—and then Shae twisted her nipple, Tyrion bit the side of her breast, and the fingers in her cunt scissored open and closed nearly at once. Sansa’s muscles spasmed as she came, whimpering as her body crested a wave of pleasure.
She sniffled when Tyrion withdrew his weight on her, only then realizing that tears had leaked from her eyes. Shae’s hands remained anchored where they were, one clutching her breast tightly and the other gently pressed as deep as the handmaiden’s fingers could reach but otherwise still.
“My lady are you well?” There was no jape or jest in Tyrion’s tone now, kneeling next to her and reaching to wipe away her tears. Sansa nodded, not trusting her voice not to waver. Her husband had a tender smile on his face as he took off the last of his clothes and threw the sheets away from her body at last. She shivered in the sudden chill, quivering when Shae removed her fingers and trailed them up Sansa’s torso to slip around over the breast Tyrion had mouthed against.
“I’ll be okay if it hurts, I—I know that it hurts,” she started babbling as her husband moved to kneel once again between her knees, stopping when he braced his hands on her hips and bent forward to kiss her stomach. His eyes, cold Lannister blue, were heated as he looked up at her through his fringe.
“I cannot promise it will not hurt, Sansa, but I will stop at any time. Say…” he trailed off, kissing up her stomach to just beneath her breasts as he thought, “say…” it wasn’t coming to him and Shae giggled in Sansa’s ear.
“Lioness, my lion, she will say lioness if she needs you to give way.” Tyrion’s face lit up and twisted his scars into macabre patterns that Sansa couldn’t find it in herself to flinch from. “Don’t worry,” Shae now said to Sansa, “he will stop if you utter the word, or he will never again take a woman to bed as he does now. I will see to it.”
“Ah, the inevitable betrayal,” there was a laugh in her husband’s tone as he reached down to touch her as Shae had just recently done. “Rather sudden, but not unexpected. Sansa you are just soaked, I hope this will go easy on you because of it.”
“My lord?” Was she in trouble? She might have started to panic and shut down, but Tyrion was leaning back just a little and she saw him rub his slick fingers along his manhood. As it was she felt her face heat with embarrassed nervousness. Was this some perversion that her husband had so far managed to keep from common knowledge?
“Only a cruel man dares take a woman with a dry cock, my lady,” he said as he leaned forward over her as he’d done at first. Sansa awkwardly widened her hips to accommodate him and gasped when she felt him nudging against her. He was hot, and it felt all wrong—Shae’s fingers and Tyrion’s fingers had slipped easily inside her, the entrance seemingly made perfect for their size. He would not fit, there was no way, he couldn’t fit—but he would, she suddenly understood with a shuddering intake of air.
“My lady, please don’t rush me now—if I rush, you will be in more pain than you need to be,” he murmured, reaching down to align himself better with her entrance and then pressing slowly into her. Tears sprang to Sansa’s eyes, and her nose felt hot as she tried to hold them back as well as her whimper of pain. It stung, and ached, and she wanted more than anything for him to stop. If he would just—
“Lione—lioness, please, it hurts, please,” she begged and true to his word Tyrion stilled immediately. When he made a move to remove himself though, she sobbed out another soft no, please. There was a curious wetness running from where they were joined, it felt almost like her moonblood but not so thick. Shae murmured quiet comforts in her ear, Tyrion rubbing circles on her belly and ribs. His eyes were rapt on her face, never wavering.
Gradually the aching lessened, became less intense and more like an old bruise and Sansa was well used to those. The sting remained, but mostly just at her entrance. It was bearable.
“You—you can start again, I’m better, I’m better,” she managed to say, her body still grappling with the intrusion. Tyrion’s mouth ticked up in the most minute smile before he withdrew a little before pushing deeper into her. Shae moved slightly beneath her, urging Sansa to learn the rhythm her husband was setting for her with his hips. Through the flickering pain—an angry mix of stinging and aching—Sansa could feel a bit of pleasure rising once again.
Shae slid her hand down and rubbed the pearl of nerves in time with their bodies, twisting Sansa’s nipple with the fingertips of her other hand. It occurred, without preamble or reason, to Sansa that this woman was the one who would help her raise her children. She would be a mother soon now that Tyrion would take her to bed, and she would be able to lose herself from all this meanness. Tyrion would keep the King and his cronies at bay, and Shae would keep gossips and spiteful tongues at arm’s length—and she would raise Tyrion’s golden babies, or babies born Tully red.
Her husband—truly, lawfully, fully—was getting erratic in his pacing, faster but without the previous grace, and he grunted with the effort he put behind every stroke into her body. Sansa bit her lip but then couldn’t keep her soft cries in, and those cries she hoped carried to the Mother’s ear and ensured that Tyrion’s seed took to her womb and grew there. She didn’t love him, but if she could love the baby in her belly she might sooner see his virtues.
It was a curious feeling when he finally spilled his seed inside her, warm, almost hot, and she could feel him softening inside her even as the coils in her muscles seemed only halfway primed to spring. She wanted to feel that intense cresting once again, but for now her companions seemed inclined to lay still. Shae stroked gentle patterns over her breast, fingers toying with the nipple and nails scraping over soft skin. Tyrion lay, sprawled over her, his manhood still buried deep inside her.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had a girl who prayed to the gods during sex, though perhaps they’ll find the smell of fucking pleasing and bless us with a child?”
Sansa wanted to tear herself from their arms and hide then, but she was stuck.
“He means he’s flattered, but he’s shy about it so he chooses to tease,” Shae said, and Sansa could hear the warm smile in her handmaiden’s voice. Tyrion’s smile was sleepy but warm, his eyes lazily flicking between Shae and Sansa as he basked like a cat in the sun. She might be happy here, she realized, threading her fingers through her husband’s hair and scratching his scalp lightly. These people, against everything that King’s Landing taught every man, woman, and child, were good people who wanted her safe and happy. Even if her father might not have recognized them as good people, Sansa knew it in her heart that they would be good to her.
When months later she and Shae realized she’d missed two of her moon bloods, Sansa had chosen to wait for Tyrion in his solar. He greeted her with his usual dose of affection, goosing her as he passed by to sit on his chaise. When he patted the space next to him, Sansa crossed but remained standing. She reached for his hand and laid it across her belly.
“My lord husband, you are soon to become someone’s lord father.”