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i. pre-production

Jon Snow < snowj@wmuseum.org >
Subject: RE: accuracy inquiry, lion hand studios
To: Sansa Stark < sansa.stark@gmail.com >

Ms. Stark,

Happy to answer your questions. Not sure from your email how much accuracy you want versus details to flesh out a fictionalized account. The definitive account of the Battle of the Longest Night is from a maester who claims to have been present at the battle at Winterfell Castle and interviewed survivors afterwards to write his account. Hard to know what his political motivations were for writing the piece, since we don’t know who wrote it. The language suggests a southerner who came north, but if that was voluntary (patriotism?) or involuntary (rapists and petty criminals were often sent to serve at the defensive fortresses lining the northern border of medieval Westeros and the more promising would be sent to become maesters) is hard to determine. The Museum scanned and digitized our copy of the Winterfell Manuscript last year; I’ve attached a PDF to this email. It’s a 14th century copy that supposedly was done from the original at the Citadel archives in Oldtown and it has some inconsistencies compared to the more well-known copies done in the 17th century when the Battle of the Longest Night had a surge in popularity. You’ll notice the presence of dragons, for example.

Sansa Stark < sansa.stark@gmail.com >
Subject: FW: RE: accuracy inquiry, lion hand studios
To: Tyrion Lannister < tyrion@lionhand.com >

Are you fucking kidding me, Tyrion? I’m not writing DRAGONS into my movie.

>> Ms. Stark,
>>
>>Happy to answer your questions. Not sure from your email how much accuracy you want

Tyrion Lannister < tyrion@lionhand.com >
Subject: RE: FW: RE: accuracy inquiry, lion hand studios
To: Sansa Stark < sansa.stark@gmail.com >

You wanted historical accuracy, darling. I asked around and, by all accounts, Jon Snow is the definitive expert on the Battle of the Longest Night. They don’t hire slouches to run departments at the Westerosi Museum.

It could add a certain panache, you know.

Sansa Stark < sansa.stark@gmail.com >
Subject: RE: RE: accuracy inquiry, lion hand studios
To: Jon Snow < snowj@wmuseum.org >

Dr. Snow,

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer a few of my questions. I appreciate the opportunity to look at the Museum’s copy of the Winterfell Manuscript. I have a follow-up question about the state of Dornish politics at the time: if Dorne was allied with the Targaryens and so staunchly opposed to Queen Cersei, why did they never send their forces north? Additionally, I would love to hear about any further insights you have into the identity of the maester who wrote the Winterfell Manuscript--even if they’re just speculative.

Thanks again!

Sansa Stark < sansa.stark@gmail.com >
Subject: i hate you
To: Tyrion Lannister < tyrion@lionhand.com >

There will be no dragons.

 

ii. re-shoots

Tyrion Lannister < tyrion@lionhand.com >
Subject: if you need anything
To: Sansa Stark < sansa.stark@gmail.com >

I hope you know who to ask.

Sansa Stark < sansa.stark@gmail.com >
Subject: i don’t
To: Tyrion Lannister < tyrion@lionhand.com >

Thanks for the offer but we’re all sorted before re-shoots start on Monday. Jaime and I went in circles for a while about what exactly he wanted for the last scene with Aegon and Queen Sansa but we hashed something out. How the hell did he convince Brienne to marry him? The man has zero romantic sensibilities.

Tyrion Lannister < tyrion@lionhand.com >
Subject: RE: i don’t
To: Sansa Stark < sansa.stark@gmail.com >

Desperation has historically lent Jaime a certain finesse when it comes to his wife.

Do let me know if you require assistance with any other Lannister kin. You’re basically family at this point.

Sansa Stark < sansa.stark@gmail.com >
Subject: RE: RE: i don’t
To: Tyrion Lannister < tyrion@lionhand.com >

The engagement ring I just flushed down the toilet would suggest otherwise.

 

iii. post-production

Tyrion Lannister < tyrion@lionhand.com >
Subject: longest night premiere
To: Jon Snow < snowj@wmuseum.org >

Dr. Snow,

On behalf of Lion Hand Studios, I’d like to thank you and your team at the Museum for all of your assistance with the production of The Longest Night . We’d be honoured if you’d join us at the King’s Landing premiere for the film next month on May 5th. My assistant will follow up with details.

Regards,
Tyrion Lannister
Chief Executive Officer
Lion Hand Studios

Jon Snow < snowj@wmuseum.org >
Subject: out of office [automatic reply]
To: Tyrion Lannister < tyrion@lionhand.com >

I’m out of the office for a dig in Skagos until June 12th. I won’t have a reliable internet or phone connection while there; please contact my deputy director Samwell Tarly if you need something urgently.

Jon Snow, PhD
Director of Collections and Research, Northern Westeros and Prehistory
Westerosi Museum

 

iv. opening weekend

CS: Sansa, we just went to see your movie and it’s lovely!

SS: aw, thanks mum

AS: honestly you performed some kind of fucken miracle, i only remembered that i hated joffrey after the end credits

SS: he’s a really good actor, arya

RS: yeah, especially skilled at acting like he’s not a snake with human skin

RS: but seriously, sansa, you did an amazing job

NS: Nice job, sweetheart.

SS: thanks dad!!! you too, robb

BS: i’m honestly impressed with how much of that was accurate

SS: bran, i literally WROTE MY THESIS about daenerys targaryen

BS: yeah but like jaime lannister only makes movies about people in sunglasses walking in slow-motion away from explosions

AS: yes. the most important filmmaker of our age.

BS: i can’t believe you made a legitimately good and historically accurate movie directed by jaime lannister

RS: is the studio going to submit you for the academy awards?

SS: i’ve no idea. i’ve never written something like this before. it’s not like anybody was rushing to nominate me for any of my shitty rom-coms

AS: y i k e s

CS: Sansa, you shouldn’t say that about your work. You’ve written some lovely films about people falling in love. Just because the genre isn’t valued doesn’t mean your work was poor.

AS: yeah sansa more of that and we’re going to revoke your frequent feminism card

SS: bite me

BS: besides, if we’re being honest, what makes the film so affecting is the romance between aegon targaryen and queen sansa. so it’s kind of like the rom-coms trained you to write this film

RS: he’s right, when we got out of the theatre jeyne fucking lost it. waterworks all the way home

SS: ……...thanks????

BS: i’ll be surprised if they don’t put you up for an oscar, sansa. it’s totally the kind of thing the academy loves: it’s a tragic romance, it’s kind of a biopic if you squint, there are massive and expensive war scenes, and it’s going to make a gazillion dragons in the box office

AS: plus that fucking song

BS: yeah, that’s going to get old fast

CS: The song that plays at the end? What was wrong with it? I liked it.

RS: but will you still like it in five months when it’s STILL on the radio 50x a day?

AS: do you think dad muted this thread

BS: i like how you assume dad has the basic technological competence to mute a group chat

SS: “muted the group chat” more like “put the phone down on the kitchen counter and left it there until the battery runs out”

 

v. awards season

“What are you doing here?” Sansa demands when she opens the front door of her brownstone on a cold Monday at the end of January and finds all of her siblings--even Rickon, who should be in school--standing on the front stoop in a circle around Bran, who’s in his portable chair.

“We’re here to keep you from worrying yourself to death,” Arya says as Rickon bolts forward with a semi-hysterical shriek of SANSA . “Mum made us come.”

“No,” Sansa says, both to Rickon, who is trying to squirm his way past her into her apartment, and to the universe. “I have things to do today, I can’t--Robb, seriously?”

Robb shrugs. “I took a few days off. Bran doesn’t have any Monday classes this term and Arya’s sleeping with her coach so she lets her do whatever she wants. Rickon’s got a cold.” He uses one hand to hook sarcastic quotation marks around that last one. “Let’s go out for breakfast, Dad gave me some money.”

“I could have things to do,” Sansa says. “Rickon, stop it, I’m not letting you in, you’re like the fucking Babadook--”

“You have nothing to do,” Bran says confidently, like university’s turned him into some master detective. “You’re not wearing any make-up and you’re still in your pajamas at 10AM.”

“Where’s Lady?” Rickon asks as he tries to shove Sansa’s elbow out of his way. 

“She’s at the daycare,” Sansa says, holding firm. If she lets Rickon get in then he’ll eat everything she hasn’t nailed down and Sansa had splurged at Whole Foods last weekend to get pretzels covered in fancy chocolate. Those aren’t going to disappear down Rickon’s gullet if she has anything to say about it.

“See!” Arya says triumphantly. “Nothing to do. Put on some face paint and let’s get going, I’m gonna eat Rickon if we don’t get breakfast soon.”

Sansa looks over Bran’s head at Robb, who’s dressed in what passes for casual these days for Robb Stark, Esq: nice sweater, nicer jeans, dark boots. “How’d you get them all down here without bloodshed?” she asks him, and Robb says, “Bribery, obviously. They’re all massively sugar-high.”

Had Sansa gotten any more than about twenty minutes of sleep last night--and even those scant minutes had been occupied by a horrible dream wherein she was trying to accept the WGA award for Original Screenplay wearing a t-shirt that said I’M A GIGANTIC FAKE; Sansa’s subconscious is not subtle--this entire interlude might inspire some soft feelings of familial tenderness. As it is, she says, “I’m not dealing with Rickon’s inevitable meltdown,” and Arya makes a face.

“Let’s go get breakfast,” Robb says, but it’s less of an order this time and more of a wheedle. “We haven’t seen you in ages, since you were too busy to come back for the Winter Solstice. You can tell us all about your fancy high-flying lifestyle and we’ll properly appreciate it.”

“Yeah, right,” Sansa says, but they know that's acquiescence. Rickon responds by digging his thumb into her waist above her hip and scrambling into her apartment when she flinches. “Rickon, I’m going to skin you, get back here! Don’t eat my pretzels!”

~

Sansa in fact did have things to do today--important enough things that she’d had the daycare down the street take Lady for the day--but twenty minutes finds her stuffed into a booth at a cafe around the corner from her apartment with all of her siblings arguing about whether or not they’re going to order mimosas, which they aren’t because it’s 10.30AM on a Monday.

“So much for the high-flying King’s Landing lifestyle,” Arya observes. “I’ll split a pitcher with you, Robb, even if Sansa’s no good for it.”

“I’ve got to run errands after you all go, I’m not going to get drunk at ten in the morning,” Sansa says. As much as Sansa loves her siblings--and she loves them even more when they’re all living hundreds of miles away--she always finds herself slipping back into the role of the swotty eldest sister whenever they’re around. It’s almost like fussiness is a sweater Sansa has to put on to deal with the chill of her siblings sweeping in from the north.

“You are absolutely having a drink,” Robb says. “Dad didn’t give me all of this cash to keep Rickon in pancakes. And we’re not leaving until tomorrow.”

Sansa doesn’t even bother asking where they’re going to sleep tonight. “Mum’s such a nag. I’m fine, and even if I wasn’t fine, I’d be worse off after having to take care of you lot for a day with zero notice.”

“We’re here to distract you and honestly I wouldn’t trust the job to anyone else,” Arya says. “If you mope too much, I’m going to sneak off and beat the shit out of your lousy ex, how about that?”

“Arya,” Sansa says, alarmed, “don’t you dare .”

“He’s got a good face for punching,” Arya says thoughtfully, and then, to the waitress, over Sansa’s shoulder, she says, “Yeah, a pitcher of mimosas for the table, if you don’t mind. And can I get the blueberry waffles? Side of bacon, thanks.”

Sansa tells Arya the same thing she’s been telling herself for months: “It’s fine.”

“I had to remind you to put on your shoes before we left the house,” Robb says. “It’s not fine. Mushroom omelet and a side of sausage, please.”

“It’s a busy time of year,” Sansa says defensively. “I’m just a little scatterbrained.”

“Banana pancakes, please, and an orange juice,” Bran says. “You’re not scatterbrained, Sans, you’re depressed. Or, like, sad. Maybe subclinical.”

“Do you even know what those words mean, or do you just think they make you sound smart?” Sansa asks him. Let a twenty-year-old take one psychology course and it’s game over. “No, nothing for me, thanks.”

“She’ll have two eggs over easy and a side of wheat toast,” Arya says. “What are you having, Rickon?”

“Chocolate chip pancakes,” Rickon says, an unholy gleam in his eye. Sansa shoots Robb a glare over Rickon’s head and Robb shrugs, lifting his hands up to his chest. Not my oops baby , he mouths at Sansa, which is how he always responds to the suggestion that he and Sansa, who are twenty-three and twenty-one years older than Rickon respectively, ever stoop so low as to parent him.

“So where is the ponce these days?” Arya asks casually, leaning back and resting her arm across the back of the booth behind Rickon.

“Who?” Sansa says, and then, “Oh, Joffrey? I don’t know, somewhere. Margarey’s got a family villa over in the Reach where she likes to go after wrapping projects, maybe they went together.”

“A villa ,” Arya says, disgusted.

“We’re not exactly running in the same circles these days,” Sansa tells her. “You don’t need to--whatever this is. Defend my honor? They fell in love. I threw a few plates at him, so he got what he deserved.”

“I’ve seen your overhand toss, he most definitely did not,” Arya says. “But fine, we don’t have to keep talking about it if you’re going to do your weird fake voice thing.”

“Great!” Sansa says brightly. “Is there something you wanted to do while you’re here? I might as well show you around, since obviously none of you care about my existing plans and responsibilities.”

“Yeah, about that,” Robb says.

~

The Westerosi Museum is literally on the opposite side of King’s Landing from Sansa, who does all right enough with her shitty rom-coms to afford her rent-controlled brownstone but most definitely is not in the stratosphere of old money mansions that surround the Westerosi Museum. The idea of corralling Rickon on the bus is so horrifying that Sansa calls them an Uber instead and swallows the exorbitant cost without protest.

THE LONGEST NIGHT: THE EXHIBIT has been advertised on public transit for the last three months to the point where Sansa has actually stopped noticing the signs, but they’re hard to miss hanging across the front colonnade of the Westerosi Museum. They’re bigger than Landy, the dinosaur skeleton cast in bronze in the middle of the museum’s courtyard. EXPLORE THE ANCIENT NORTH says the tall, narrow one on the left. MEET HISTORY’S GREATEST HEROES says the one in the middle, and then, on the right, smaller than the others because it’s hanging above the museum entrance: COSTUMES AND PROPS FROM THE FILM .

“Damn,” Arya says with a low whistle.

“If any of you say a single word,” Sansa says as she is reluctantly dragged towards the museum entrance in their wake, “I will kill you.” Arya turns around, holds up her phone, and takes a quick selfie of herself walking backwards with the museum in the background, her tongue sticking out. “I had to work with some of these people and I might have to again in the future.”

“Aw, come on, Sansa,” Robb says, slinging an arm across her shoulders and tugging her in for a quick hug. “We’re just proud of you, that’s all.”

“I’ve heard that one before,” Sansa says sourly.

“You’re basically famous,” Robb continues. “We don’t know anyone else famous.”

“I’m not famous,” Sansa says.

“Hey, this time tomorrow...” Robb says meaningfully, and Sansa elbows him in the kidney. “Ooph! Fuck! Sansa!”

“Are you sure you even want to see this?” Sansa asks Rickon, whom she figures to be the weakest link. “They have dinosaurs here, you know. And all these other gross dead animals.”

“How gross?” Rickon asks, suspicious of her motives but already caught by the prospect.

“The world’s biggest spider,” Sansa says, desperately trying to remember which exhibits she’s seen in the natural history department that would appeal to a seven-year-old. “A snake digesting an elk. A prehistoric turtle the size of Mum’s car.”

“Gross!” Rickon yells, delighted. “Let’s go see the spider!”

Sansa turns to Robb, lifting her eyebrows and gesturing at Rickon, who is now vibrating with excitement at the prospect of seeing the preserved corpse of his favorite animal. “Look at this,” Sansa says. “Let’s skip The Longest Night exhibit and just go to the general collection--Rickon’ll have plenty of fun--”

“I don’t know about Rickon, but I want to see Aegon Targaryen’s sword,” Arya says. “Apparently it still holds an edge. Seven hundred years old and it still holds an edge! And they have siege machine models to scale.”

“Come on,” Sansa says, turning to Bran before she thinks better of it. “Oh, who am I kidding, you live for this stuff.”

“I was going to come down and see it anyway,” Bran admits easily. “This way, Mum and Dad paid for my train ticket.”

“Sorry, Sans,” Robb says, obviously not sorry at all.

For all that it’s a relatively mild day--none of Sansa’s siblings are wearing coats, and Sansa’s just in her trench--it’s a Monday in late January and the line for admission has four other people in it. Sansa barely has time to brace herself before they’re forking over their tickets and being ushered into the exhibition space, which has atmospherically dimmed lights and a somewhat embarrassing soundtrack of chanting that Sansa recognizes from the film score.

Sansa’s whole body feels like it’s been set on fire. 

“I want to die,” she whispers and Arya, who is apparently within earshot, leans over and says, “You can’t die until after I see that sword.”

“I hate every single one of you,” she says, but literally none of her siblings hear her: they’ve all eagerly disappeared into the depths of the exhibition space.

Abandoned to her own devices, Sansa lingers in the first room, which is mostly full of costumes. The curators haven’t included any photos of the actors--thank the gods --so Sansa is free to explore without having to worry about suddenly coming across any photos of Joffrey or Margarey.

Even Sansa, who has been obsessed with historical fashion for literal decades, can’t look at half a dozen costumes for longer than thirty minutes. Eventually, reluctantly, she peels herself away from the final display-- QUEEN SANSA’S CORONATION DRESS , with a white direwolf embroidered in seed pearls on the bodice; Mordane’s team had really fucking outdone themselves--and drifts into the next room. She expects to meet her siblings here but it’s also deserted. After a cursory inspection, it’s obvious why: there are no weapons.

Sansa reads the curator’s notes on the historical context of the Battle of the Longest Night and then goes to look at the altarpiece from the sept at Winterfell Castle. It’s different than the one she remembers seeing on tours as a schoolgirl. “I didn’t realize it had been replaced,” she murmurs to herself.

“There was a flood in 1573,” someone says, and Sansa shrieks her head off. “Shit, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.” 

“How long were you there ?” she hisses, before she has time to put herself back together and remember her manners. 

“I’ve been here since the exhibit opened at 9.30,” the guy says. He’s sitting behind a folding table with some junk on it--napkins, a horn, a glass--tucked into a corner behind the altarpiece. He has a nice voice, now that Sansa’s not shocked to hear it: soft, a little gruff. “Sorry for startling you.”

“It’s fine,” Sansa says. “The museum’s a little spooky without the people in, isn’t it? Gods, I feel like a real idiot, screaming like that.”

“No worries,” the guy says. He smiles at Sansa with his eyes, which crinkle in the corners even though his mouth doesn’t seem to move. “Do you want to see some of the pieces from the Museum’s collection? You can’t touch them, but they’re easier to see out of the cases.”

“Is that what you have here?” Sansa asks. The guy certainly seems nice but, more importantly, he’s offering a distraction from this entire stupid nonsense exhibit. Sansa’s cleared this room--no photos of Joffrey or Margarey--but it seems unlikely she’ll escape without seeing their faces plastered somewhere.

“We have a drinking horn that would be quite similar to the one carried by Aegon Targaryen,” he says. “It’s from a little earlier, the 6th century, but the carving along the rim shows it to be northern. Likely he would have drunk fermented goat’s milk.”

“I’m sorry, what,” Sansa says flatly.

“It was the preferred alcoholic beverage in the lands north of Westeros at that time,” he says. “Wine and ale were drunk in Westeros, but, unlike grapes and wheat, goats were hardy enough to survive the cold.”

“I had no idea,” Sansa says faintly. She’s almost upset that she hadn’t known about the fermented goat’s milk--it would have been a great detail to include in the film. “That sounds disgusting.”

“Most likely it was,” the guy agrees. He uses a pair of giant tweezers to tilt the rim of the drinking horn--it’s a lovely nut-brown color--towards Sansa. “See, the engraving is of weirwood leaves.”

“Oh!” Sansa says, leaning closer. “That’s surprisingly gorgeous work. You don’t often see that level of skill in carvings from Westeros in the 6th century, do you?”

“No,” the guy says. “That’s a good catch. The few pieces we have from the nomadic people that lived north of Westeros in that period suggests that they were skilled carvers, especially of horn. It took Westerosi artisans another century or so to catch up. It’s possible that, following the Battle of the Longest Night, when the nomadic tribes integrated with Westerosi culture, they brought this skill with them and trained Westerosi artisans themselves.”

“That’s fascinating,” Sansa says. “What’s this piece? The, uh, napkin?”

“Oh,” the guy says. “That’s an interesting experiment we did when we were working with the film crew.”

This reminder of the movie neatly yanks Sansa out of her own head and she can feel her ears start to burn with self-consciousness. She stares at the napkin in an attempt to calm herself down. “What kind of experiment?” she asks.

“The film crew was very interested in authenticity,” the guy says. “The costume designer’s team asked us about cloth from that period, and how weaving might have differed in Essos--where Daenerys, and likely Aegon, Targaryen would have grown up--compared to the northern kingdoms of Westeros. We have many beautiful examples of Essosi weaving in the museum that were well-preserved by the dry heat there, but we have very little from the north of Westeros. That said, the archives at Winterfell Castle had schematics of a loom that is believed to have belonged to Queen Sansa...”

Sansa, who had once come across Bran and Arya making a trebuchet out of K’Nex because they’d wanted to see if they could, says, “So you built the loom?”

“We built the loom,” the guy confirms. “This is the fabric that came off of it. It makes a dense but surprisingly light fabric.” He offers the napkin to Sansa. “You can touch this one, if you’d like, we’ve got meters of it stashed in the offices.” 

Sansa flicks a look at the guy from under her lashes. He’s not smiling at her but he looks friendly. “Really?” she says.

“Yeah,” he says. “Anything Queen Sansa wove herself would likely have been wool, but we had the samples made up in cotton. The costume designer thought that wool would be too warm for the actors to wear under studio lighting.”

Sansa reaches out and touches the napkin with the tips of her fingers. The fabric is supple but sturdy, and the weave is incredibly fine. “That’s gorgeous,” she says. “This is what they used to make all of the costumes? It must have taken ages.”

“We had a bunch of textile masters students working on it for a few months,” the guy says. “They were so happy you wouldn’t have thought we were using them for free labor.”

Sansa can’t help barking out a laugh at that. “It sounds like you were really involved in all of this. What do you do at the Museum?”

“My area of interest is northern Westerosi history and prehistory,” the guy says. “I got a little more involved in working on the film than I expected to, to be honest.” He reaches up and adjusts the sit of his wire-rimmed spectacles with a flick of his index finger. “They were very insistent on being as accurate as possible.”

Although the guy does not say this in an exasperated way--he actually sounds a little pleased--Sansa can’t quite hide her wince. When she’d gone to Tyrion with her proposal and a bare bones outline of what the script would look like, he’d said, What’s going to differentiate this from any of those other swords and swashbuckling blockblusters? To which Sansa had replied: We’re going to do it right. Tyrion had, unfortunately, taken her self-righteousness to heart.

“It was refreshing,” the guy says hurriedly, as if he’d noticed her wince. “The Museum gets inquiries from film and television productions all the time, but usually they just want someone to tell them if they have any glaring anachronisms.”

“And yet,” Sansa says--this is one of her favorite topics--“you wouldn’t know they’d done any research from the look of half of them.”

The guy says, “The number of times you’ve got someone wielding a rapier in a medieval film--”

“--or they’ve put bell sleeves on a dress hundreds of years before they were popular!” Sansa says. “There are literally people with doctorates in these subjects, it takes about half a second to shoot one of them an email, they’re always happy to answer.” She looks down at the guy, who has a strange look on his face, and then says, “Like you, I suppose, if you’re working here.”

“Yeah,” the guy says. He’s still looking at Sansa, a little intensely, eyes glittering behind the frames of his glasses. Sansa hadn’t really noticed before, but he has a beautifully-shaped mouth that’s mostly hidden by a close-cut beard. “You sound like you know what you’re talking about.”

“Oh, no, not really,” Sansa says, knee-jerk. “I suppose--I did my master’s thesis on Daenerys Targaryen, but that was ages ago. And mostly about her years in Essos, since there’s so much more written about her time there. She was only in Westeros a short time before her death.”

Sounding slightly strangled, the guy says, “So you do know what you’re talking about.”

“I don’t know anything about nomadic tribes north of Westeros in the 6th century,” Sansa says. “For example: fermented goat’s milk. That’s a new one.”

“We only recently determined that,” the guy tells her. “We did some mass-spec on some pottery fragments we found in a cave on Skagos. The results came back a few months ago and the chemists on staff had no idea what they were looking at for a long time.”

“I cannot say my first thought for alcoholic beverage of choice would be a fermented dairy product,” Sansa says. “But I’m lactose intolerant, so.”

It occurs to her about now, as she’s sharing a detail of her health that a random stranger does not need to know, that she’s been forcing this man to talk to her for an ungodly amount of time. He doesn’t look like he wants her to go away--Sansa is familiar with the blank-eyed stare of someone who is being polite only because they’re being paid to do so--but perhaps it’s best to make her escape before he gets to that point.

“Oh, gods, I’ve kept you for ages, I’m so sorry,” she says, straightening up from the slouch that she’d adopted. She hands back the napkin, which she hadn’t even realized she was still holding. “Thanks so much for talking to me, this was very interesting.”

“Oh, no, you don’t--that is--oh, thanks--uh, we don’t get a lot of visitors this time of year, on the weekdays. It’s nice to talk to someone who’s actually interested. Not just here for the siege machines.”

“Oh, fuck,” says Sansa.

“Sorry?” the guy says.

“My siblings,” Sansa says, already turning towards the doorway leading to the next room of the exhibit. “I completely forgot about them--”

As if saying the words siege machines aloud has summoned them like a pair of demons, Rickon and Arya appear in the doorway. “Sansa!” Rickon bellows. “I want to see the gross spiders!”

“I realize you can look at dresses for literally a thousand years, but you’ve got to see this sword, it’s fucking ridiculous,” Arya says over Rickon’s screams. “It’s got a fucking wolf head on the pommel. It’s sick.”

“Thanks so much again,” Sansa says, turning back to the guy, who’s come to his feet. He’s shorter than Sansa, which is not news, because basically everyone is shorter than Sansa, but he’s wearing a sweater-vest and that is news because Sansa’s whole body immediately is set on fire. It feels like her tongue swells up. She’s a depraved creature and there’s nothing to be done about it.

“It was nice to meet you,” he says, offering a hand for Sansa to shake. He has beautiful wrists and hands emerging from the cuffs of a dark grey shirt. When Sansa accepts his hand, the surface of his palm is rough, callused, and although Sansa is the taller, his hand seems to engulf hers. Sansa spares about half of a millisecond to be worried that she’s visibly blushing, but only that long because he says, “I’m Jon.”

“Nice to meet you, Jon,” Sansa says faintly, and then--“oh, gods, Jon Snow ?”

“Yes,” he says. They’re still shaking hands.

Sansa thinks about saying nothing and fleeing, but her mother raised her better than that. “It’s nice to finally meet you, Dr. Snow. I’m Sansa Stark, we corresponded for a bit.”

Arya says, “Sansa, seriously? At a museum ?”

“Sansa--Stark,” says Dr. Snow. He’s looking at the top of Sansa’s head with a strange expression on his face. Sansa lifts her free hand to check that her lopsided topknot of hair hasn’t made a bid for freedom. “Of course,” he mutters.

“I cannot believe you,” Arya continues in a low, annoyed voice that is hopefully only audible to Sansa. “Off men for nine fucking months and now look at you.” 

“You should have told me you were coming by,” Dr. Snow--Jon?--says to Sansa, releasing her hand, which immediately feels cold and limp. “I’d have gotten someone to take my shift and shown you around.”

“Oh, it’s fine,” Sansa says, flustered. “You did a great job with the exhibit.”

Sansaaaa ,” Rickon wails, sounding like he’s beginning to melt. He oozes across the room in her general direction. “I want to see the spider .”

“Is he all right?” Jon asks Sansa in an undertone.

“He’s coming down off an enormous sugar high,” Sansa says with the authority of seven years of hellish experience. “He’ll crash in like an hour, have a crying fit, and be fine by dinner. I didn’t see you--that is, did you go to the premiere? I know Tyrion said he’d send over an invitation but I should have known better than to expect him to follow through on anything.”

“No, I couldn’t make it, I was on a dig in Skagos. The one where we found the fermented goat milk pottery,” he says. “You didn’t come to the opening gala for the exhibit?”

“My brother got married,” Sansa says faintly. “Not that one,” she says, tilting her head towards Rickon, whinging in the background. “Another one.”

“You have a lot of them?” Jon says, mouth quirking in the corner.

“Three, presumably due to my sins in a past life,” Sansa says. In all of her email exchanges with Jon Snow, PhD, she’d imagined him to be a little old man in a wrinkled white button-down, like Indiana Jones’ dad. The wire-rimmed glasses are right out of that mental picture, but they look distinctly less wholesome when paired with those shoulders. Sansa had grown up with distressingly mainstream sexual preferences--she’d dated a string of toothy blondes in her teens--but she’d discovered in university that rumpled academics ticked a few boxes that she hadn’t realized she’d had. Just in time, of course, for her to start dating the toothiest, blondest asshole of them all.

“Are you sure I can’t show you around?” Jon asks. After a quick initial glance towards Arya and Rickon, he hasn’t looked away from Sansa’s face. It doesn’t feel as creepy as it perhaps should. She feels warmed, like she’s standing under the sun.

Fuck , Sansa thinks. “Oh, I wouldn’t want to take you away from work--” she tries.

“Bran!” Arya bellows. “Get in here! Sansa’s turning down a tour of the museum!”

Sansa gives in to the urge to briefly close her eyes. “I’m sorry,” she says helplessly when she opens her eyes, “for what’s about to happen.”

“For what?” Jon asks politely.

“You’re doing what ?” Bran says, aghast, wheeling into the room at furious speed. Close behind is Robb, who probably doesn’t care much either way about whether or not they get a museum tour but has a nose for drama. “Sansa, they’ve got a copy of the Winterfell Manuscript here!”

“Yes,” Sansa says through her teeth. “I know.”

“Sansa said you have the world’s biggest spider,” Rickon says, eyeing Jon like he’s suspicious of Jon’s ability to produce said spider. “I’ve seen some big ones, I’ll know if it’s the biggest. And it’s wrong to lie.”

Rickon ,” Sansa hisses.

“Spiders aren’t my department,” Jon says to Rickon, “but I know the guy whose it is and we can ask him.” He has an attractively serious mein as he looks down at Sansa’s brother, who is a brat that she nonetheless loves dearly.

“You don’t--” Sansa says hurriedly and Arya immediately steps forward and drives her elbow into Sansa’s kidney. “ Fuck , Arya,” she hisses, and Arya hisses back, “Let him show us the stupid spiders, Sansa.”

“Give me a minute to find someone to take over the exhibit table,” he says. “Fifteen minutes, actually, I’ll have to chase someone down.”

Sansa looks back over her shoulder at the rest of her siblings, who are all staring at her with varying levels of outrage and hilarity--Robb in particular looks like he’s trying not to laugh--and then turns back to Jon Snow, who had patiently answered every email Sansa had sent him, even the ones about Dornish politics that hadn’t made it into the film. Her kidney still hurts where Arya had squished it with her extremely pointy elbow.

“Yes, okay,” she says. “Fifteen minutes. Should we meet you in the lobby?”

~

It only takes Dr. Tormund Giantsbane, director of Natural History and Wildlife Studies, twelve seconds to endear himself to Rickon. About three minutes after meeting him, Rickon’s gladly taken his hand and dragged off Arya and Robb to be dazzled by the Westerosi Museum’s extensive collection of pickled lizard corpses.

“If you really want to see the Winterfell Manuscript,” Jon is saying to Bran as Rickon, Robb, and Arya disappear into the bowels of the natural history department laboratories, “I can let you look at the case where we keep it, although I can’t open it for you--we had it digitized last year to reduce handling.”

“Who do you think wrote it?” Bran asks as Jon leads them back out into the hallway and down the narrow, fluorescently-lit corridor. The air smells a little stale and there are no windows but Sansa’s not really paying attention to the atmosphere. Jon Snow has a nice butt and there’s no one around to mock Sansa for appreciating it while he’s preoccupied with her brother.

“A southerner,” Jon says instantly. “There are very precise, self-conscious explanations of northern customs.”

“Yes,” Bran says seriously. “I agree. What do you think of the idea that it was Brienne of Tarth?”

“Unlikely,” Jon says. “The descriptions of battle are too flowery. The examples of her writing that we have from the Book of Brothers suggest she’s a much more practical thinker. If Brienne of Tarth had written the Winterfell Manuscript, we’d know exactly which kind of weapons everyone was wielding, what the battle plans were, and how they were deviated from. I don’t think someone with any practical battle experience wrote it. The idea that it was a woman is an interesting one, though. Take a left here.”

“You don’t think it was Aegon himself?” Sansa can’t resist asking. That had been the latest, sexiest theory when she’d been in graduate school. “Spending his lonely years of exile writing his memoirs?”

Jon turns back to look at her over his shoulder. He looks like he wants to laugh but the expression is mostly up near his eyes. “I think he was probably too drunk on fermented goat’s milk to hold a quill for most of those years,” he says, and Sansa lets out the most horrifying of sounds: a soft, squeaky giggle. She instantly wishes for death.

“Aegon doesn’t make sense, Sansa,” Bran says, pedantic but enthused. Sansa loves her baby brother but she also frequently wants to smother him with a pillow. Luckily, he’s on his last year of university; maybe he’ll get more tolerable once he’s graduated and doing something more interesting with his time than reading books at all hours. “We may not know where he grew up but it was almost certainly in seclusion in Essos. We don’t even know if he could read or write in Old Westerosi. And if it had been him, the Manuscript would contain much better descriptions of what he and Daenerys were doing during the battle.”

Jon says, “You didn’t tell him?”

“I wasn’t sure if I was allowed,” Sansa says. “Intellectual property or whatnot. And I certainly wasn’t going to write that into the script, no matter how excited Tyrion was by the idea. I’m so glad he never told Jaime, then we really would’ve gone off the rails.” Jon has stopped by a door that says ARCHIVE - NWP on printer paper taped to the wall beside it.

“Nothing but the best for us here at the Westerosi Museum,” Jon says drily. He pulls out a key to open the door and then holds it for Bran, gesturing for both him and Sansa to proceed. As she passes by Jon, who is bracing the door with his hip as he returns his keys to his pocket, he says, “You weren’t convinced?” in a quiet undertone. The raspiness of it does something to Sansa’s spine where it meets the back of her pelvis. 

“That Aegon and Daenerys rode actual dragons into battle?” Sansa retorts, hiding her embarrassing little shiver with waspishness. “No, I do not.”

The rooms labeled ARCHIVE - NWP are empty of human life, dimly-lit and packed with rows of metal folding bookshelves, the kinds that can collapse in on themselves for more efficient storage. It has the feel of the basement of a university library.

Dragons ?” Bran says.

“See for yourself,” Jon says. “We’ve left it open to the page describing them, since it’s the one everybody always wants to see.” He’s taken them around the last row of bookshelves to a corner with a locked glass case set into a metal table. “Is this an okay height for you?” he asks Bran. “I can probably lower the legs on the table.”

“It’s fine,” Bran says distractedly, already wheeling himself closer and tucking his chair under the table. His rapt gaze flicks across the surface of the pages.

Sansa takes advantage of the momentary privacy to say, “I really can’t thank you enough, for all of this.” She gestures a little vaguely towards the museum building at large. “They just showed up on my doorstep this morning and I had no idea what to do with them all day. This is--really amazing.”

“It’s nothing,” Jon says, voice a little gruff. “Everybody here loves the film, if they knew you were here you’d be swarmed.”

“Oh no,” Sansa says, and she doesn’t quite manage to sound at ease about it.

“Oh, sorry,” Jon says quickly. “Does that make you uncomfortable?”

Sansa lets out an extremely fake laugh. “Oh! No! Of course not!”

“It does, I’m sorry,” he says. Sansa risks a glance out of the corner of her eye and sees that he’s looking at her with concern. “I won’t tell anyone, if you’re not--comfortable.”

“It’s silly,” Sansa says. She can still hear the fake levity in her voice. “Not used to anyone respecting my work, you know. Just a lot to get used to.”

“That doesn’t seem right,” he says. “You really are good at it.” After a pause, he says, “Writing. Writing films, I guess.”

“I don’t know about that,” Sansa says as lightly as she can manage. “I just got very lucky.”

“Hm,” Jon says. He shifts his weight and puts his hands in his pockets. 

After a few more seconds of long, awful, crawling silence, Sansa can’t stand it. “It was basically nepotism,” she gets out in a quick rush. “I wrote this script as a vehicle for my fiancée--my former fiancée--and it’s his uncle’s production studio and his other uncle was attached almost immediately to direct it. My best friend agreed to come and play Queen Sansa, even though she had to turn down being in the third season of The Dragonknight , as a favor to me.” She tries for another fake laugh but it gets caught in her dry throat. “I could have written something much, much worse and all those amazingly talented people would have still made the film, regardless.”

They stare at the back of Bran’s head for a few more silent seconds, and then: “Your fiancée,” Jon says. “He played Aegon?”

Sansa says, “ Former . Yes.”

“He was all right, I suppose,” Jon says musingly. “Tormund thought he was too weedy to play Aegon.”

“Probably the Rock would look weedy to Dr. Giantsbane,” Sansa says, and Jon lets out a short bark of laughter. 

“I meant what I said before, you know.” Jon reaches up to adjust the sit of his glasses. “Most film crews coming to us, they don’t actually care about what happened. They care about what they think happened, or what they think people will want to see.”

Sansa opens her mouth to say something self-deprecating but she sort of deflates before it can get very far out of her throat. She closes her mouth. “Yes,” she finally says. “I know what you mean.”

“Have you always been interested in Queen Sansa?” he asks her. “Because of your--?”

“My name?” Sansa grins wryly at him. “It gets worse: I’m from Wintertown.”

“Maybe that’s why,” he says, “but the whole film it felt like--now, there’s a woman who’s a queen. A real woman. You read a name like the Red Wolf and it’s silly enough to make you think of a two-dimensional character, not a person.”

It’s not the most eloquent praise Sansa’s screenplay for The Longest Night has ever received--her parents have the review from The King’s Lander professionally framed and hung in the kitchen--but she thinks it’s the most sincere. He can’t quite meet her eyes; maybe he’s embarrassed. Sansa is certainly embarrassed. She can’t think of anything to say, not even something glib.

“Thank you,” she finally says in an awful, scraped-out whisper. Oh no, is she going to cry ? Fuck.

Thank the gods for little brothers: Into this horrifically emotionally vulnerable moment, as Sansa is in the process of falling a little bit in love with Jon Snow, a man she has just met, for saying one nice thing about her screenwriting capabilities, Bran lifts his head and asks, “Have any of the purported dinosaur skeletons excavated from Magnar National Park been dated to this period?”

Jon says, “I know just the person to ask.”

~

Dr. Giantsbane insists on taking them all out for a drink while he talks to Bran about dragon skeletons. Some time during the taxidermy tour Rickon had come out the other end of his sugar high and crashed hard enough that Arya had had him in a piggyback when they’d all managed to find each other at the elevator lobby of the Museum offices. Arya and Robb had looked instantly perked up at the thought of a drink, even though they’d demolished half of a pitcher of mimosas each at brunch that morning. “I’d murder Mum for some onion rings,” Arya had said, and that was apparently that. 

Twenty minutes later finds them all crammed around a pair of high-top tables at a pub around the corner from the Museum, drinks on damp paper napkins and Arya’s requested onion rings steaming in front of her. Sansa takes Rickon so she can drape him across a pair of chairs. She shrugs out of her trench and tucks it around him. “Do you want something to drink?” she asks him and he makes an annoyed noise and pulls the sleeve of her trench over his face. When she turns back to the tables, Bran and Tormund are deep in a conversation about carbon-dating and Arya and Robb are asking Jon about his sporting allegiances.

“Really?” Sansa says, disgusted, as she reaches for her lager. “It’s always sports with you two.”

“You can’t know the full measure of a man until you know who he pulls for,” Arya says, supercilious. “What does he value in a team? That sort of information is crucial.”

Sansa looks at Jon, widens her eyes, and then rolls them. “You don’t have to actually engage with them,” she tells him.

“I reckon the Direwolves’ll pull it out this season,” he says, to Robb and Arya’s excited hooting. “My ma’s from Wintertown, she’d kill me if I said anything else.” Robb reaches across the table and slaps him across the back, sending Jon swaying in place. Jon straightens up and takes the opportunity to wink at Sansa.

A little smile curls at the corner of her mouth before Sansa can help herself. “Did you grow up in Wintertown?” she asks.

“No,” he says. “I don’t sound like it, do I?”

“No,” Arya says, “but regional accents are dying. Just ask Bran about it, it’s one of his dozen favorite lecturing topics--whatever will we do when we’re one sad monoculture and nobody can talk about anything other than My Heart Rides North With You --”

Robb groans. 

“Don’t say the cursed words!” Sansa hisses at her.

“Not a fan of the ballad, then?” Jon asks. He’s sitting to Sansa’s left, with Robb across from him, and Sansa’s been squished into his personal space by the assembly of Rickon’s impromptu nap space. He’s very--warm. Every time he speaks facing towards Sansa she can feel his breath against her ear.

“It’s literally inescapable,” Sansa tells him, trying not to blush. She hopes it looks like she’s flushed with indignation. “It’s insipid and embarrassing and our mother loves it.”

“She bought the soundtrack on an actual, physical CD,” Arya informs Jon. “Did you know they still make those?” She stuffs an onion ring into her mouth and says around it, “She plays it in the car all the time.”

“The problem is, it’s an earworm,” Robb says. He’s almost done with his first beer and he sounds like he’s settling into a philosophical mindset. “It was almost certainly engineered to be unforgettable and catchy. It’s like Frankenstein’s monster. They were too busy asking themselves if they could to remember to ask if they should . And they shouldn’t have. Although, I like the Ariana Grande version.”

“You would,” Arya says, disgusted.

“Where did you grow up, if not Wintertown?” Sansa asks Jon.

“Sunspear,” Jon says. “Or, suburbs thereabouts. Not much to do down there during the summer except escape to the library. Rhae, my sister, claims it’s why we all ended up in academia.”

“Is she older or younger?” Sansa asks.

“Older,” Jon says. “And I’ve got a brother, Egg. He’s in a law, Rhae’s in economics.”

“Oh, Robb’s got a law practice!” Sansa says. “He’s the oldest one, he had to be responsible and go into a profession that actually makes money.”

“Yeah, yeah, because you won’t be rolling in residuals off of this stupid film until I’m in dentures,” Robb grumbles good-naturedly.

“She’s not the one wearing Braavosi leather shoes,” Arya cackles.

“Shut up, they’re a good investment,” Robb says. “How much is professional fencing bringing in these days, anyway?”

Robb and Arya seem happy enough to settle into bickering. Sansa rests her left elbow on the table and leans her weight against it, putting her chin down on her palm and looking at Jon out of the corner of her eye. “I’m glad you have siblings, too,” she tells him. “It means I can be microscopically less embarrassed by the way we commandeered your whole day, since you know what they can be like.”

“Sansa,” says Jon, and she thinks it’s the first time he’s addressed her by name, “stop apologizing.” It’s incredible that someone who looks so scruffy and rumpled can have such a clear, penetrating gaze. It’s probably something to do with his glasses. Prisms, or whatever. “I had a nice time today,” he continues when Sansa stares at him mutely. “I’m really glad you came by the Museum and we had a chance to meet.”

“Me too,” Sansa manages.

“I’d never have known it was you,” Jon says. “From your emails, I mean.”

Sansa thinks of Indiana Jones’ dad and laughs. “I know exactly what you mean,” she says. “You’re awfully young to be the head of a department, aren’t you?”

“I killed all my competition,” he says, flashing a quick grin at her. “Poison, mostly.”

“As benefitting a Dornishman,” Sansa points out.

Jon says, “Why did you leave academia? After your masters, I mean.”

Sansa shrugs and looks down into her beer. “Prosaic reasons,” she says. “Why did you stay? Why study the north at all? Enduring interest in fermented dairy beverages?”

“Yes,” he says, and she laughs. “I don’t know, it just seemed like the right path. My mums, they run this herbal shop in Sunspear that sells soaps and lotions and herbal remedies--lots of CBD, that sort of thing--and they raised us on all of these stories that went with that hippie nonsense. Ma especially, coming from Wintertown, she had all the best stories about the Red Wolf and Brandon the Builder, you know, giants and trolls.”

“Yes,” Sansa says. “Yes, I know exactly what you mean. The Night King, the Winter Dragon.”

“Yeah,” Jon says. “It felt like reaching out and touching another world. One that was strange but still familiar? Fantastical, I suppose.”

“Yes,” Sansa says. Her throat feels dry and when she goes to lift her glass of lager to her lips, her hands are trembling. She has a funny feeling in her stomach, worse than just the baseline attraction she’s been trying to ignore all afternoon. “Those stories always felt like a different way of looking at the same world.”

“Yeah,” Jon says softly. As she looks at him, he reaches out and touches a lock of her hair that’s sprung free of her topknot and made a bid for horizontal freedom. He touches it with his thumb and forefinger and gently rubs it back and forth between them. “The nomadic tribes--the ones with the drinking horns? They had this obsession with fire, they carved it on everything. We’ve found cave drawings on Skagos of people that have flames instead of hair.”

“Sounds like it would keep you warm during those northern winters,” Sansa says inanely. She’s so dizzyingly attracted to him right now that she’s not sure her elbows are working properly.

Jon says, “One of the scholars at the Museum, he thinks that the nomadic tribes joined forces with Aegon Targaryen because of Queen Sansa, because she had red hair and they considered it so lucky. The writer of the Winterfell Manuscript, he says it in this particular way--‘touched by fire.’” 

Sansa’s whole body is hot. She wants him to stop rubbing her hair and put his hand against her cheek. Or, no, she doesn’t want him to stop touching her hair; she wants him to put his hands all over her, everywhere, including her hair and her face and her earlobes and the backs of her knees. Sansa has always been a sucker for a hand against the cheek; she’s written it into most of her rom-coms. She’d gone for a full head-grab for Queen Sansa and Aegon, because they were desperate and knew they didn’t have much time; a head-grab seemed to suit the situation better.

“Jon,” she says, dazed.

“Sansa, may I have some juice?” Rickon asks and Sansa flinches, full-body, and almost falls out of her bar stool. Jon has to reach out and put his hand on her hip to steady her. He leaves it there for three, four, five long seconds before withdrawing. 

“Uh,” Sansa says, and she looks across the table to see Arya staring at her, eyes wide. HOLY FUCK , Arya mouths. “Yes, of course. They’ve probably got some orange juice. Let me--ah, let me go ask at the bar.”

When Sansa gets up, she’s not quite steady on her feet and Jon has to stabilize her, again, and this time he leaves his hand on her hip for a little longer. The tip of his index finger slides against the jut of her hipbone. She wonders if his callouses are catching on her silk shirtdress, and how she might extrapolate from that what those callouses would do against her bare skin. “All right?” Jon asks.

“Yep!” Sansa lies brightly.

Arya comes over to the bar with her and leans against the counter. “Well,” she says, thankfully in an undertone, “that got a little intense, didn’t it.”

“What the fuck just happened there,” Sansa says blankly.

Touched by fire ,” Arya says. “That’s some fucking line, eh?”

“Oh,” Sansa says. Self-consciousness is creeping back in. “It was, wasn’t it? Do you think he’s--I don’t know, just got a thing for redheads?”

“Oh yeah,” Arya says with exaggerated patience, “I think he was about two seconds away from throwing you on top of that table and doing something that would definitely get you two arrested because you’re a redhead .”

“Hi,” Sansa says to the bartender as he makes his way over to them, “can I get a glass of orange juice, please?”

Arya puts her hands together and rubs them briskly. “Okay, game plan,” she says. “I’m going to take the boys and we’re going to get on the 7.20pm train to Wintertown. You’re going to contrive some reason to get Jon Snow to take you for dinner. When we get back to Wintertown, we can truthfully tell Mum and Dad that we didn’t leave you alone, because you’re with Jon, getting your brains fucked out. And you’ll be distracted from being worried about tomorrow, because you’ll be getting your--”

“--yes, yes,” Sansa interrupts hastily, “I get the picture, thank you.” The bartender returns with a glass of orange juice and Sansa takes a quick sip to make sure it’s nonalcoholic. “Thank you,” she says. “How much do I owe you?”

“It’s all on Tormund’s tab,” the bartender says.

“Nice guy, that Giantsbane,” Arya says approvingly. “Let’s get another round, then, thanks.”

“I don’t know that jumping into bed with someone I literally met an hour ago is the best decision,” Sansa says as the bartender starts pouring another round, because she’s no longer standing half a meter away from Jon Snow and her higher brain functioning is coming back online.

“You met seven hours ago,” Arya says. “It’s quarter of six. And, frankly, not jumping into bed right away hasn’t historically saved you from shitty relationship decisions.”

“Wow, okay!” Sansa says, a little offended.

“It’s been like nine months since you and Joffrey broke up, it’s time for the kid gloves to come off,” Arya says, as if she’s ever put on kid gloves a day in her life. “What you need is a win. And trust me: The way that guy is staring at you, that is a win .”

~

Sansa does not have to contrive a reason for Jon Snow to take her for dinner. After the second round of drinks, when Rickon’s finished guzzling his juice and explaining to Sansa all of the gory details of how the Dornish red-flecked jumping spider immobilizes and consumes its prey, Arya says, “Well, guess that’s us done for. Come on, brat, we’ve got a train to catch.”

“Aren’t we staying with--” Robb says, moving to catch Rickon as he leaps off of his bar stool, and then he catches Arya’s gimlet eye and finishes, “--Mum and Dad tonight?”

“Yeah, but if we get the 7.20 train Mum might still be awake and make us supper,” Arya says. She’s an amazing liar; Sansa’s never been sure if it was something Arya discovered a natural flair for as she aged, or she has some horrible university exploits to blame for it. “Nice to meet you, Jon.”

“You too,” Jon says. Handshakes are exchanged all around, with backslapping from Robb and Arya and a solemn head-nod from Bran, who clearly views Jon as the first person worth his time he’s met in ages. Sansa rolls her eyes behind Bran’s back and catches Robb doing the same. 

“I thought I was going to stay with you,” Rickon says to Sansa as she walks them outside to the Uber that Robb’s ordered to the train station.

“What’s the point?” Sansa asks him. “You’ve already eaten all of my chocolate-covered pretzels. I haven’t got anything else in the house for you to devour.”

Rickon looks pleased. “You have the best snacks,” he says. “Mum will never buy me the pretzels with chocolate.”

“That’s because I’m an adult,” Sansa says. “When you’re off on your own, you can buy your own groceries and get whatever snacks you want. Until then, you better listen to what Mum tells you to eat. Arya never ate her vegetables and look at her.” They both look at Arya, who’s basically a meter shorter than everyone else in the family. “That could be you.”

Arya flips Sansa off.

“Tragic, isn’t it?” Sansa says to Rickon.

After they’ve waved off the Uber, Sansa turns to Jon to say something pointed about how starved she is, but before she can do more than open his mouth, he says, “Want to get something for supper?”

“That’s my cue to fuck off,” Dr. Giantsbane declares. “Thanks for the entertaining afternoon, Stark.”

“It was nice to meet you, Dr. Giantsbane,” Sansa says politely, shaking the hand that’s offered to her. It’s the size of a ham. “Thank you again for showing Rickon around.”

“He’s a good lad,” Dr. Giantsbane says. “Good spirits.”

After Dr. Giantsbane has strode off back towards the Museum, Sansa says, “That’s the nicest thing I’ve ever heard someone say about Rickon after they’ve met him. He’s only one step above a wild animal.”

“You should see Tormund’s kids,” Jon says. “They make Rickon look positively civilized. He actually asked for juice instead of throwing himself at the bartender, screaming.”

“Imagine, Rickon: civilized,” Sansa laughs. “Yeah, I’m starved. Let’s go get something to eat. Is there anything good around here?”

“If you don’t mind spicy food, there’s a good Dornish place back near the underground stop,” Jon says. “It’s kind of a hole in the wall but the food’s amazing.”

They walk quietly for a few blocks. Sansa admires the unbelievably gorgeous mansions that line the wide streets, their bay windows framing grand pianos and expensive imported plants. It’s hard to imagine this sort of neighborhood overrun with tourists, although of course it must be during the high season, with overflow from the Museum. Sansa’s parents had inherited her father’s family’s house when Sansa was a baby, on the outskirts of Wintertown close the ruins of Winterfell Castle. Tourists and hikers had constantly been stumbling into their backyard in warm months.

“What do you think it’s like to live here?” Sansa finds herself saying to Jon. She’s looking a little wistfully at an extremely beautiful pink granite mansion, with two little manicured boxwoods flanking the front steps. “If I put trees out on my front step, someone would steal them.”

“Same as anywhere,” Jon says. “Probably it makes you more conservative--the property taxes are off the charts around here.” He sounds very sure.

Sansa says, “You don’t--?”

“Oh, no,” Jon says quickly. “But, uh, my mums’ ex, his family has a house. We passed it a few blocks ago.”

“Your mum’s ex like--” Sansa begins to say, and then her whole face turns red. It’s like her mother is standing there, glaring at her. “Oh my gods, I’m being so unbelievably rude, I’m so sorry.”

“No, it’s okay, I brought it up,” Jon hastens to say. “Yeah, like my dad, I guess? He was two-timing my mums, so they took the kids and went to Dorne and, uh, fell in love. We don’t interact with him much. He gave all of us kids some money for university but that was more of a legal thing, it was in my mum’s divorce settlement.”

“Oh my gods,” Sansa says. It sounds like something out of one of her rom-coms. Sansa has a lot of professional respect for people who end up in bizarre romantic situations. “They sound incredible, both of them. How old were you?”

“Fetal,” he says. “I was born in Dorne after they’d left him. And, you know, good riddance. I had to have these monthly dinners with his family when I was here for graduate school, it was the only way he’d agree to pay, and it was awful. The food didn’t taste like anything and all they wanted to talk about was politics.” He sounds a little uncomfortable, hands stuffed into the front pockets of his slacks, but not upset. 

“Oh, no, how terrible,” Sansa says. She knows exactly the kind of dinners he means--her mother had been a debutante, and her grandfather was accordingly the kind of person who had a daughter who was a debutante--and it’s very easy for her to imagine a young Jon, looking strangled by a tie, sitting at one of those long dining tables they can see through the bay windows of the mansions they’re passing. “Those kinds of dinners are the worst. Because you don’t like them on principle but if you’re surly or don’t participate then they think you’re an idiot. And it’s worse to have them think you’re an idiot.”

It occurs to Sansa in the long few seconds it takes him to answer that maybe she’s projecting. “Or,” she adds hastily, but Jon’s already saying, “Yes. Yeah. It’s worse if they don’t think you’re worth it. You want them to understand that you’re--”

“--disdainful?” Sansa suggests, when it looks like he’s trying to finish the thought.

“Yes,” he says.

“Growing up,” Sansa tells him, “it was always Arya who couldn’t do the right thing. I always seemed to know how I was expected to behave and it was so easy to give people what they wanted. It changed, somehow. I don’t know. I went to university and my first script was optioned and maybe something happened to me--I just didn’t want to work so hard to be the perfect scion of the family any more.”

It does not occur to Sansa that this is a bizarrely personal thing to share with a stranger-- again , fuck--until she sneaks a glance at him at the end of this and he’s looking at her with his lips slightly parted, his eyes glittering behind his glasses. She can’t tell what he’s thinking, but she desperately hopes that it’s not this woman is a fucking freak .

“Oh my gods,” Sansa says, and she stops walking to touch her thumb and forefinger to the middle of her forehead. “I cannot believe I keep telling you this, fuck. I think it’s because we were emailing for ages, I feel like I’ve known you forever--”

“Sansa,” he says, and he waits until she squeezes her eyes shut, shakes her head, and then opens them again. “I know exactly what you mean. You’re not--the only one.” He quirks a little smile. “I don’t talk this much. To anybody.”

“You’re very easy to talk to,” Sansa tells him. 

“No one on Earth has ever thought that before you,” he says.

Sansa says, “We’ve been talking for like--eight hours.”

“It’s you, somehow,” he says quietly.

They stand there for a while, Sansa is not sure how long. The sun has set and the streetlights have come awake, the artificial light pooling yellow and warm on the sidewalk. For each second that Sansa looks at Jon, the tighter the tension in her ratchets. It’s like she’s an old-fashioned watch, the gears ticking over each second, pulling at a mechanism inside of her, winching her closer and closer and closer. Her bellybutton is aching.

“Come on,” Jon says finally. “Let me buy you dinner.”

~

Jon is right: the food at Obbie’s is delicious and spicy and it is a definite hole-in-the-wall. They eat lamb in chili date sauce and grilled peppers with lemons and Sansa optimistically does not eat the pearl onions served with both dishes. The tables are tiny and her knees knock against Jon’s twice--“Sorry, sorry,” laughing--before he says, “Wait, just let me,” and slots their knees together like he’s nestling books on a shelf. Through the thin silk of Sansa’s stockings she can feel the raised seam of his pants, the warmth of his skin underneath. She feels a little feverish by the end of their dinner and blames the chili date sauce.

“This was delicious, thank you,” Sansa says, after they’ve paid and she’s shrugged back into her trench and Jon is holding open the restaurant’s grimy glass door for her.

“Do you--” Jon says, as Sansa says, “Will you--” and they both stop.

“Sorry, go ahead,” Jon says, stepping out onto the street behind her. He lifts a hand in farewell to the middle-aged guy behind the counter who’d cooked for them, presumably the titular Obbie.

“Do you want to come back to mine?” Sansa asks him while he’s conveniently facing away from her. It takes an unbelievable amount of courage and panache for her to say this without immediately bursting into flames of embarrassment. Even if Arya thinks Jon’s a safe bet--and Arya, for all that she thinks social niceties are for other people, is a fairly good judge of character--and Sansa is decidedly not --extending this invitation still feels like Sansa is throwing herself off of the top of the Highgarden Industries building.

Jon’s head whips around. “Yes?” he says, slightly strangled.

“I’ve got to stop and pick up my dog,” Sansa says. 

“That’s fine,” Jon says, very quickly. “You, ah, have a dog?”

“Lady,” Sansa says. “She’s a Northern wolfhound, so she’s too active to like being home alone all day. I leave her at the daycare when I’ve got to do a lot of errands.”

Jon’s mouth quirks into a tiny smirk. “Sansa Stark,” he says. “From Wintertown, with her Northern wolfhound? And your brother’s name is Bran ?”

“My parents are very traditional,” Sansa says. She’s stupidly grateful that they’re talking about this instead of the fact that Sansa just propositioned someone she met this morning . She pulls out her phone to get them an Uber; sitting on the bus for 45 minutes feels outside of her current capabilities. “There were loads of Sansas and Brans when we were growing up. They’re popular names up north. You can’t throw a rock without hitting a Brandon.”

“Sure,” Jon says easily.

“It’s not--don’t make it weird,” Sansa says, but she’s beginning to laugh.

“It’s a little weird,” Jon says, holding up his thumb and forefinger to show her that they’re scant millimeters apart.

“We’re very normal!” Sansa insists, and then she cracks up, because of course they’re not. Her family is ridiculous.

“I met your siblings today,” Jon reminds her. “All of them.”

Sansa’s laughing too much at first to answer, stupid little high-pitched giggles getting caught in her nose. “I’m so sorry ,” she manages. “I’m so grateful Dr. Giantsbane took Rickon for a while, he’s such a monster--and Arya’s hardly better.”

“They were very nice,” Jon says. He’s smiling at her--a real, wide smile, showing off his lovely crooked little white teeth. “I’m not sure I would call them normal, but I’ve got no room to talk. My mums are hippies that only wear hemp clothing. I grew up a vegetarian.”

“The horror!” Sansa says.

“The first time I had a steak it was a religious experience,” Jon tells her. “I swear, I could see the faces of the Seven each bite--I was walking on clouds for a week--” Sansa’s cackling like a deranged witch from a children’s movie. “So I wouldn’t be too worried about the Starks, if I were you.”

Their Uber pulls up to the curb then, the driver calling, “Are you Sansa?” out the window at them, and they pile into the back seat. The radio’s on, loud enough that the base feels like it’s rattling Sansa’s teeth, so they sit in silence for a minute, and then two, and then five, and Sansa’s anxieties re: having sex with someone she’s just met start to ramp up again. Is this a casual thing? Sansa’s never done a casual thing. Sansa is, in fact, what one might call the anti-casual. Most of Sansa’s clothing is dry-clean only. She’s only had sex with one person, ever, and he’d left her after nine years for her best friend.

Every night in my dreams ,” the radio warbles, “ I will send myself to you .”

“Fuck,” Sansa says under her breath.

Jon looks at her, lifting an inquiring eyebrow. Sansa minutely shakes her head.

The love we shared will never die, though distance will keep us parted forever ,” Ariana Grande sings breathily. It always takes Sansa a second to tell which version it is; the synthetic drum beat of the Ariana Grande version doesn’t kick in until the chorus.

Oh , Jon mouths. 

My heart flies over the mountains, my heart crosses the winter plains, my heart travels the distant forests, my heart rides noooooooorth with youuuuuuu ,” Ariana Grande is belting now, the synthetic drums madly hammering in the background. 

The worst part is that this stupid song is going to be stuck in Sansa’s head for literally the rest of the night. She’s probably going to wake up singing it tomorrow morning--Adele’s original version, which she prefers, inasmuch as you can prefer one form of torture over another.

“Is this a different one?” Jon asks Sansa. “I don’t remember the drums.”

“It’s the Ariana Grande one,” Sansa says in chorus with their Uber driver, who continues, “It’s not as good as the original, but it’s better for remixes. Have you heard the Lil Nas X remix?”

“No,” Jon says.

“Yes,” Sansa says, thinking, unfortunately .

“It’s really good,” their Uber driver says. “But that’s not surprising. The key to a good remix is a good base, and it’s a great song. It really captures how much they love each other. I never heard a song that reminded me how much I loved my wife until I heard it. I was telling her, hon, let’s get married again so we can have our first dance to this.”

“That’s very sweet,” Sansa says politely.

“My wife told me where I could shove it,” their driver says. “But I know what my feelings are.”

The upside to this conversation is that Sansa doesn’t have time to freak out again before they’re being dropped off in front of the doggy daycare down the block from her brownstone. She’s too busy wishing for death.

“Oh thank the gods,” Sansa says as they get out of the car.

“That was somehow more horrible than the original,” Jon says. “Is that possible?”

“Yes,” Sansa says, pulling open the front door of the daycare and holding it open behind her for Jon as she goes through. “I’m pretty sure that if you play it backwards, you can summon the Stranger and be instantaneously granted the sweet release of death. Good evening, Beth!”

“Evening, Sansa,” Beth says, already coming around from behind the counter. “She was wonderful today, as always. She’s so good with the rambunctious ones. We had Tysha and Jenny and Bubbles today as well and everyone was on their best behavior with Lady present.” She opens the door to the play area and slips through, calling, “Lady!”

“A paragon of good behavior,” Sansa says to Jon drily. “That’s my dog.”

“I’m not surprised,” Jon says. He opens his mouth to say something else and then his jaw sags a little bit, which is how Sansa would know Lady’s come out of the play area even if she hadn’t heard the click of her claws on the tile floor.

“Hi, baby,” Sansa murmurs, leaning down and letting Lady lick her ear. “Were you good today for Beth?”

“Are Northern wolfhounds supposed to be that big?” Jon asks, bemused. “Because I hate to break it to you, but that’s a horse.”

“Lady’s actually a little small for her breed,” Sansa says. She straightens up and says, “Lady, say hello to Jon,” and points at him. Lady sits, looks up at Jon, and offers her right front paw.

“Nice to meet you,” Jon says, taking her paw and shaking it. “What a beautiful girl you are,” he continues, starting to scratch her ears. Sansa leaves them to it as she settles up the day’s bill with Beth. By the time she’s done, Lady is flat on the floor and Jon’s squatting next to her, rubbing her belly with both hands. He has long, muscled thighs that strain against his slacks. Sansa feels like one huge shiver passes from the top of her head down to her toes. He’s murmuring something to Lady, who’s eating it up with a blissful look like it’s her due to be worshipped.

“Come on,” Sansa says. Lady reluctantly rolls back onto her stomach and then comes to her feet. “You’ve already had supper and a walk, so it’s back home to bed for you,” she informs Lady, who comes over to have her lead attached. “She seems to like you,” she tells Jon. “She’s usually a little more reserved with strangers.”

“I like dogs,” Jon says.

~

“Wait,” Jon says when Sansa’s finished unlocking the front door of her brownstone and Lady has already disappeared inside, presumably eager to patrol the house and make sure none of the scents have changed in the hours since she’s been home.

“Yes?” Sansa says, turning back to him.

“I wanted--just, we’re doing this a little scattered, aren’t we?” Jon says. She can’t quite make out his expression, because she keeps forgetting to replace the burned-out bulb in the light fixture above her stoop. 

“Doing what?” Sansa says, and Jon puts a hand on her cheek. “Oh,” Sansa says at the sensation of his hand. “That.”

“Yeah,” Jon says quietly, and his runs his hand along her cheek and over her ear to the back of her head. He reels her in, slowly enough that if Sansa wanted to she could stop him, but of course she doesn’t. She feels a little hypnotized. She’s spent so much of the evening trying not to be debilitated by her attraction to Jon that she’s forgotten to actually interact with it. 

He tastes spicy, malty, and his mouth is so unbelievably soft, like he puts Vaseline on it every night. Sansa’s never kissed someone with a beard before and it’s only a little scratchy. She’s surprised by how much she likes it. Everything is tingling now, like her skin wants to melt off of her bones and puddle on the floor around her. Jon smells incredible, like pine trees. 

Sansa wriggles closer, her eyes falling closed, and Jon’s other hand presses against her back, caressing the line of her spine in long, firm strokes. No wonder Lady had melted like putty, she thinks, dazed, and then he’s got her held firmly along the front of his body and she forgets about Lady. The inside of his mouth is soft, plush against the tip of her tongue.

“Ah,” Sansa gasps when she has to catch her breath. Her mouth feels swollen. She’s close enough to see, when she manages to open her eyes, that she’s smudged the bottom of Jon’s lenses with her nose. “Sorry about your glasses,” she says; it comes out in a breathy whisper, like Sansa’s an extra in an 80s music video.

“It’s fine,” he says. “Come--back here,” and he cups the back of her skull with both hands, pulling her back into another kiss. This time he meets her mouth with his already open, crushing them together as if, even like this, they’re too far apart. Sansa’s clutching his sweater-vest at his waist, a buoy to keep herself afloat.

She doesn’t know how long they kiss for, but it doesn’t really matter. It’s not long enough.

“Come inside,” she says, stepping backwards into her brownstone, already kicking off her boots, ripping her cross-body bag over her head and fumbling for the waist tie of her trench. She’s having to gulp air to reinflate her lungs; she feels so light-headed. “You satisfied with our chemistry? Timeline moving to your satisfaction?”

Jon says nothing as he uses the bottom of his foot to shut the front door behind him.

“Don’t forget the--” Sansa says, but Jon’s already coming for her, looping an arm around her waist to tug her into another kiss, long, drugging, and she forgets that she’s taking off her coat until she’s tangled up in the sleeves and needing to be free. 

Jon says, “Upstairs?”

“Yes,” Sansa says. They get upstairs, somehow, Jon’s boots left on the steps and his sweater-vest draped over the bannister on the second floor. His hair gets mussed when he rips the sweater-vest over his head. Sansa thinks about what his hair would feel like between her fingers, and then she doesn’t have to wonder, because he’s kissing her and she’s close enough to put her hands in it. His curls coarser than she expected, springy, catching on her fingers. She accidentally tugs on a fistful when she tries to free her hands and he makes a low, harsh noise in the back of his throat.

“Jon,” she says, “oh, gods, Jon,” and he says, “I know,” as he kisses her earlobe, her neck, the top edge of her clavicle. “I know--Sansa--” sucking at the base of her throat until her knees actually do, embarrassingly, fail her and he has to catch her when she stumbles. He mumbles something about lemons.

Sansa barely manages to get them into her bedroom before they crash to the floor. There’s a plush rug that she’d centered under the bed, months ago, so her bare feet wouldn’t get cold on the wood floor in the morning and she’s somehow on it, instead of the bed that’s less than half a meter away, arching up her hips and then her shoulders so she can wriggle out of her dress. When she pulls it over her head she finds Jon kneeling, sitting back on his heels, watching her with that same look on his face she’s seen on and off all day. It’s an inscrutable expression that makes his eyes go hard, glittering. He’s still wearing everything except his shoes and the sweater-vest and Sansa feels a moment of embarrassment; she’s wearing a bra and her stockings, digging into her stomach, and unfortunately neither would qualify as her sexiest lingerie. At least the bra is a lace one, but all of Sansa’s bras are lace so that’s hardly a distinguishing feature. It would have been nice if she’d worn something special.

Sansa’s mouth feels dry, swollen, empty. Jon, still looking at her, hooks his forefingers into the waistband of her stockings and begins to pull them down along with her panties. Sansa has to lie down so he can pull them past her hips and butt and Jon stops halfway through peeling them off, leaning down to kiss the inside of her left knee. He runs his mouth up the inside of her thigh, harder and harder kisses until he gets to the seam where her thigh meets her groin and then he presses his nose against her and breathes in, harshly. “You smell so good,” he says. “Everywhere. How do you smell so good?”

“Uh,” Sansa says, her brain liquified. He sits back up to finish pulling off her stockings and it gives her a second to unscramble her neurons. “Kiehl’s, I guess?”

It only takes Jon about half a second to rip off her stockings and panties and then he’s touching her legs again, rubbing the bottoms of her feet and kissing the knob of her ankle, saying something to himself too quietly for her to hear. To be fair, Sansa can’t hear much of anything; all of the blood in her body is rushing through her veins. All she can hear is roaring. 

“Sansa, can I eat you out,” Jon says, and it does not sound like a question.

“Uh,” Sansa squeaks. “You don’t--have to?”

“Please let me,” Jon says. He’s talking into the skin on the inside of her thighs. “I’ll make it so good for you, I promise. The best.”

“That’s fine?” Sansa manages, helpless, and he’s licking her thigh now, up along the inside seam of her, straight to her cunt. Sansa makes a horrible noise and has to put her hands over her mouth, strangling it back down. He’s pressing his tongue flat against her, pressure up against her clitoris that’s impossible to escape, and he’s so warm. It feels like she’s burning, starting at her bellybutton and immolating in a line that cuts her in half. He moves his mouth, uses suction to change the pressure, and Sansa’s body convulses. It feels unreal. He uses careful flicks of his tongue to wind her up, timing random, pressure varying, and Sansa can’t keep track of where he’s going, what he’s doing, just that it feels like she’s being repeatedly electrocuted.

It’s almost too much. Sansa bites down on the base of her palm.

“Tell me how you feel,” Jon says. She hadn’t realized that he’d stopped using his mouth, that it’s his thumb now rubbing over and over and over her throbbing clitoris. He’s resting his head on her thigh; she can feel his hair, itchy against the inside skin of her hip.

Sansa makes a confused noise.

“Tell me how this feels,” Jon repeats. He scratches her clit with a callous on the side of his thumb and her whole body jolts. “Come on, sweetheart.”

“It’s nice?” Sansa whispers.

“Is that right?” Jon murmurs, and then he takes one of her labia between his teeth and gently bites it. He has to pin down Sansa’s hips with both of his hands when they jerk up, and that means he’s not using his thumb on her anymore.

“Yes,” Sansa gasps. “Very--nice. Really good. It feels really good, Jon.”

“You have to tell me, sweetheart,” he says. “I want to hear you.”

“It’s good,” Sansa says. She might be crying. She licks her upper lip and it’s heavy with salt. “Please, touch me again.”

Jon licks into her, flicks her clit with his tongue, and then leans back to say, “You have upstairs neighbors?”

“What?” Sansa says.

“Why do you keep biting your hand? Do you have neighbors upstairs?”

“No?” Sansa says.

“Then I want to hear you,” Jon says. When he puts his thumb against her clit this time she doesn’t cover her mouth with her hands and that means she can see him, his dark head between her thighs, the strange light in his eyes. He’s taken his glasses off, she realizes. She can see him more clearly now, because she’d left the drapes open this morning and King’s Landing’s abundant light pollution is pouring into the room. Jon brushes two fingers against the seam of her cunt and then he slides them into her, quickly enough that it feels like he’s speared her open. Sansa makes a choked noise and squeezes her eyes shut involuntarily. When she opens them, he has a feral, triumphant look on his face. “Come on, sweetheart,” he says. “I want you to come for me, Sansa.”

It takes his whole mouth against her, eating her, the muscles of his mouth moving against her, his fingers thrusting in and out, a teasing, dragging friction, for Sansa to come apart. She almost doesn’t realize it’s happening at first, because it’s an unfamiliar place for her orgasms to start, but she’s clenching down starting somewhere in her knees and then it rides upwards through her whole body, hard enough that she can feel his knuckles grinding together inside her cunt from the force of it. Sansa doesn’t even know what kind of noises she makes, but he must like them, because when she can focus again he’s silent and gently rubbing the hood of her clitoris, winding her down. An aftershock goes through her and her hips spasm.

They lie there on her floor for long minutes. At first Jon’s thumb is soothing, working her through the aftershocks of her orgasm, but then it slowly starts to winch her back up. She feels so wet that it seems unbelievable that his thumb isn’t just slipping inside of her. When she thinks of it, it suddenly becomes the only thing she can think of wanting, and then she hitches her hips, trying to encourage him. She makes a soft little noise.

“What’s that?” Jon says, turning up to look at her.

“Ah,” Sansa says; her throat’s too dry, she has to swallow. “Come up here so I can kiss you.”

“Oh, is it a kiss that you want?” Jon says, but he takes his thumb off of her clit and climbs up over her. His clothes stick against her sweat-dampened skin as he stops to kiss her bellybutton, then between her breasts, and then a significant detour to her left and then right breasts, sucking hard at her nipples through the lace cups of her bra until she can feel the tug all the way down to between her legs.

Jon finally kisses her, a thousand years later, hunched over as he struggles to tug off his shirt. Sansa barely helps, running her fingernails up his back and clutching at the firm muscles she feels there contracting and relaxing under her hands. It must hurt, she keeps her nails a little long, but he just grinds his hips against her, licks deeper into her mouth, makes a groaning noise. She can feel him through his pants, his cock pressing against her wet, sensitive cunt. She can’t believe how ravenous she is for him, when one good-quality orgasm is usually enough to finish her off for the night.

“Come on, please,” Sansa is saying, she realizes. “I need you, Jon. I need you.” She’s mouthing the words, breathing them out.

“I know, sweetheart,” he’s saying back. “Oh, Sansa.”

“Please,” she says, and he crushes his mouth against hers. They’re both panting as he undoes the fly of his pants and pulls down the zipper; Sansa can feel his fingers moving, pushing up against her cunt as he fumbles with his clothes. It sends wracking tremors through her and she unhelpfully winds her legs around his hips, trying to pull him closer. He’s dragging the head of his cock along the seam between her labia, tongue rubbing along Sansa’s like she wants his cock rubbing the inside of her cunt and then he rears back and says, “Fuck, I don’t--do you have something?”

“What?” Sansa says blankly.

“I don’t have a condom,” Jon says.

They stare at each other, wide-eyed, for a few seconds, and then Sansa says, “I have an IUD. I’m clean. Are you clean?”

“Yes,” Jon says, and then he works his cock into her, so quickly that Sansa’s legs fall apart, pinned by the force of it to the floor. It’s been long enough that it pinches a little and Sansa can’t help clenching down, almost trying to force him out. “ Fuck ,” he hisses. “Sansa, sweetheart--”

“I know, I’m sorry,” she says tightly. “It’s been a while.”

“You feel incredible, sweetheart,” he says. He lowers his chest, resting his weight on an elbow, to kiss her. “But you need to relax. Come on, Sansa, just--breathe for me.” He immediately makes that impossible by slanting his mouth over hers. It feels like he’s drinking from her, pulling something up that she hadn’t realized was there. 

Almost incrementally, the muscles in Sansa’s lower body loosen, and that means when he pulls out and thrusts back in, he manages to go deeper, even at this shallow angle. He says her name every time he pauses to take a breath, and then he has to stop kissing her because he’s getting distracted; he rests his forehead against the crook of her neck and braces himself with his elbows against the floor, trying to get the leverage to fuck himself deeper into her. 

Sansa kisses the side of his head and winds her fingers through his hair and pulls at it, remembering the noise he’d made, and he’s moving out of her at an angle that drags at her clit with every stroke. It feels so good Sansa’s doesn’t even want to come. She wants to feel like this forever. “Jon,” she says, kissing the side of his head, “oh, Jon.”

“Sansa,” he says. She can feel his feet bracing against hers, fighting the incremental slide of the rug under them across the floor. “You feel so good, Sansa.”

Sansa actually comes first, which amazes her. She’s so sensitive from her first orgasm that all it takes is the harsh friction of his cock along the inside of her cunt, like he’s smoothing his hands along her whole inside. She hugs him closer, bearing down, and then Jon comes, holding onto her shoulders, crushing their bodies as close as possible, closer than Sansa had thought two people could be. Every time an aftershock wracks her body, his hips twitch against hers. The feeling is so overwhelming that Sansa doesn’t want to say anything, and she tightens her grip when he tries to raise himself off of her.

“Let me,” he says, raspy in her ear. “The floor’s hard and the bed’s right there.”

Sansa’s lower back already hurts, but she says, “Just--give me a minute,” and he does. They lay there, intertwined, for longer than a minute, trying to remember how to be two separate people.

~

When Sansa wakes up to the muffled shrieks of her alarm, it’s startling for a number of reasons. The sun hasn’t risen yet--it won’t for hours--but she’s still confused by the light coming through the bare windows. There’s someone in bed with her and it’s not Lady; there’s a heavy, hairy arm grasping her waist around her stomach. And her alarm is going, but Sansa’s phone is nowhere to be seen.

“Uh?” she says, and then it comes back to her as her sleepy disorientation fades away. That’s Jon’s arm, she left the drapes open because she and Jon had been too busy having sex to close them, her phone is in the pocket of her trench, downstairs, where she’d left it on the floor. “Oh.”

When she tries to get out of bed, Jon’s arm tightens around her waist. “It’s okay,” she says. “It’s still early, I just need to turn off my alarm.”

“What time is it?” Jon mumbles into her shoulder.

“Uh, 4.30,” Sansa says.

“Seriously?” Jon groans. “You’re a runner?”

“Oh gods, no,” Sansa says with reflexive disgust. “I’ve just got to do something this morning. You can go back to sleep, it’s okay.”

“What’ve you got to do at 4.30 in the morning?” Jon asks, pressing little kisses along Sansa’s shoulder between words. His voice is still raspy with sleep but he’s starting to sound more awake.

“There’s this thing,” Sansa says, trailing off, and Jon bites the back of her neck. He does it in a gentle way but Sansa makes a helpless little ngh! noise. “I’m sorry, I really do have to--oh, Jon .”

“Do what?” Jon asks, sucking the back of her neck, soothing the spot he’d bitten with the flat of his tongue.

“It’s the academy award nominations,” she says. Even with Jon trying to seduce her, she feels the helpless rush of embarrassment she’s been feeling for months. It seems greedy and conceited, to even want to be nominated, to expect it enough to get up to watch the announcement broadcast. “They’re being announced at five.”

Jon lets go of her neck. “Okay,” he says. “Good reason to be up at 4.30. Want me to run out for some coffee?”

“No, it’s fine, go back to sleep,” Sansa says, striving for lightness in tone. “You don’t have to get up.”

“Can I watch them with you?” he asks. “Is there something to watch?”

“Yes, I’ll watch it downstairs.” Sansa says. “You don’t--have to?” All of the previous night’s anxieties--is this a casual thing? Is Sansa equipped to handle a casual thing?--begin to creep back in and Sansa can feel her shoulders tense.

“I’d like to,” Jon says quietly. “I have to go to work today but I’d like to have breakfast with you before I go. If you eat breakfast?” He pauses for a long second. “Or I can go.”

Sansa’s hands clench around his arm. She hadn’t even realized she was holding it, keeping him hooked around her. “No,” she says before her anxieties can stifle it. “Don’t go.”

Jon’s mouth is resting against her hair. “Good,” he finally says. “Because I don’t want to go, if that wasn’t already clear from how I didn’t let you out of my sight yesterday like a fucking psychopath.”

“I think that makes two of us,” Sansa says, and she lifts his hand to her mouth, carefully unfolds his fingers, and presses a kiss against his palm. He smells like the soap she keeps in the second-floor washroom, artificial lavender and lemon. “I’ve got stuff for eggs, probably. If Rickon didn’t eat all of my bread.” 

“If you want to take Lady out, I’ll manage the eggs,” Jon says. He kisses her hair and she can hear him inhale, breathing her in. He says, so quietly she can barely hear, “I’m glad you came by the Museum yesterday.”

“Me too,” Sansa says. “Gods, Jon, me too.”

~

AS: are you watching?????

RS: i’m literally right next to you

AS: not you, idiot

SS: yeah. i’m glad mordane got a nomination, she deserved it. did you know that they built a 7th century westerosi loom to make the fabric for the costumes????

CS: That’s fascinating!

AS: you just pull that detail out of your ass, did you

RS: is anybody keeping track of total # of noms

BS: seven so far

AS: can’t wait for the reaction gif next month when baratheon loses to best actor to oberyn martell for his performance as, essentially, a talking nose prosthetic

SS: no guarantee he’ll lose, unfortunately

AS: i like to be a little more optimistic than you at 5.14 in the morning

RS: do we hate margarey now, too?

AS: obviously????

SS: no. it’s not really her fault. she deserves this nomination

AS: she literally slept with your fiancee

SS: yes, but now SHE has to marry him. so ultimately her suffering will be worse and we should accordingly pity her

AS: l o l savage

AS: speaking of sleeping…

SS: speaking of NOTHING

SS: but, yes, i was suitably distracted last night and slept very well

AS: ey-yooooo

RS: not??? in??? the group chat???

AS: you’re such a delicate blossom, robbert

BS: noms at eleven now

AS: writing original screenplay is next, prayer circle!!!

AS: OTIHEOIWHOSIHSFOIHOIWEHTOIHWE

RS: FUCK YEAH

CS: !!!!!!

BS: congrats!

NS: Congratulations, Sansa. We’re so proud of you.

SS: thanks, guys

AS: ACADEMY AWARD NOMINEE SANSA MOTHERFUCKING STARK!!! HELL YEAH!!!

RS: arya just ripped off her shirt and ran out of the room screaming

SS: well rickon had to get it from somewhere

SS: by the way, thanks for coming to see me yesterday. even if you are all horrible and rickon’s a spider monkey given human form

RS: love you too, high-flier