When a letter from Margaery arrives inviting Sansa and her husband, referring to them as the King and Queen of Winter, to her upcoming wedding, she has to remind herself that she is the queen that her friend refers to. The words sound queer in her own head, a title that she associates with Cersei Lannister or Daenerys the Dragon Queen, not herself.
I am the queen of an empty wood, she thinks, staring Winterfell’s wirewoods and hot pools.
In the godswood with her hair in a simple braid and the cool spring air on her face, it is hard for Sansa to feel like anything other than little Sansa Stark, Lord Eddard’s daughter. In truth, she is a married woman with a King for a husband and a wild kingdom that she hasn’t seen since her childhood, with the new role of a wife to occupy her time. Sansa folds up the letter and tucks it in a pocket in the fur lining of her sleeves, still thinking on Margaery’s invitation as Maester Samwell approaches.
“My lady,” Sam greets. The raven on his shoulder spreads its inky wings and flutters to the branches of the heart tree.
“Have you received any word from Jon?” Sansa asks, twirling a fallen wirewood leaf between her fingers. Her new husband has been gone for three turns of the moon, settling matters with his bannermen.
“He should be home in a matter of days. Other than that I can not say,” Sam answers.
She rises from the boulder that has been her resting place. “Then we must make the necessary arrangements for his return. I had hoped to hear from Arya as well.”
“Dorne is many leagues from Winterfell, my lady. Perhaps a letter from your sister is on its way even now,” Sam suggests.
Sansa doubts it. Arya had surprised them all by showing interest in Edric Dayne once she’d returned from the free cities, and she’d surprised them even more by showing true happiness in her marriage, though Sansa wishes her only sister were closer.
“Perhaps so,” she says.
Sam’s raven flaps over to them as they leave the godswood for the castle, fixing its beady eyes skyward, croaking “Snow, snow.”
Sansa can only hope the bird speaks truly.
The fire in her solar is warm, making Sansa’s eyes droop sleepily as she works at the torn hem of one of her gowns. Ser Jaime Lannister is at his post by her door, the head of her personal guard and one of the few things she insisted on before she would consent to marry Jon. Jaime has protected her since her time in the Vale, and despite his family and his reputation she always feels safer knowing he’s there to protect her.
“Is your Jon Stark so cold that his return does not cheer you?” Jaime asks, caviler in his inquiries.
The loyalty of knowing Jon her entire life gnaws at her. Sansa wants to dismiss his words, but Jaime Lannister has a way of bluntly phrasing things she’d rather not mention, and denying her feelings would only further encourage him.
“I am…nervous about his return,” she admits, knowing it’s the truth. “Jon and I were not the closest of siblings, and when we wed I vowed to be a better wife to him than a sister.” Sansa completes the last few stitches on her gown, tying off the loose end. “You have to understand, Ser, that my union with your brother was not a true marriage. I gained no knowledge of men from Tyrion.”
“You fear that you will fail to inspire happiness in your husband,” Jaime says shrewdly.
She flushes a bright pink, keeping her eyes trained on her needlework. “We were only together for a few weeks after the wedding.”
“Which means you have plenty of time left to get to know one another,” he says. “I have little advice to offer beyond that. I have never been married, if you’ll recall.”
“You are married to your sword,” Sansa quips, setting down her work. “Thank you for the counsel, Ser Jaime, but I fear I must retire.”
He allows her a small nod before she enters her chambers for the evening, wishing goodnight to her most loyal guardsman. As Sansa prepares for bed her thoughts return to Jon, wondering if he will be there to share her chambers this time tomorrow or if she will go to sleep alone once more. The quiet of Winterfell’s stone walls envelops her, muffling all evidence of life. She falls asleep with her stomach in knots.
Sansa draws back a notched arrow, feeling the strain in her arm as she grips the wirewood bow with white knuckles. She releases and watches the tail of gray goose feathers as it strikes the outer edge of her target; closer than usual, but not close enough to be considered a good shot. After months of practice she’s improved vastly, but her aim tends to stray and she hasn’t attempted to strike down anything moving. Sansa has good eyes though, and the muscles in her arms have gradually strengthened from the daily training.
There are two more arrows in her quiver, but her hands are aching from the practice and she will have to prepare for dinner soon. She tucks the loose strands from her braid behind her ears and gathers her archers’ things. Jon’s arrival in Winterfell is still recent and she’s yet to spend much time with him alone, apart from the few evenings he shares with her in her chambers.
Sansa likes to think she pleases him, but her husband rarely brings up the subject and she is far too shy to address it herself, too shy to even seek him out on her own. On the evenings when they lay together he is always the one to enter her bed. She leans into his touches and parts her lips when he kisses her, but Sansa has known her husband since childhood. He does his duty and tries to make it sweet for her, but she feels the hesitation in his touch, knows that Jon does not love her as a man loves a woman.
After being a captive in King’s Landing and later the Eyrie, she had lost her taste for trusting in others: for love, for protection, for honesty. She’d traded the high harp for her wirewood bow and abandoned the songs and tales of her youth for hard truths. Jaime had protected her from those who sought her claim to the North, and Jon had delivered her home to Winterfell, but Sansa never lost sight of where she truly stood with either man.
With Jaime she can accept being bound by honor and sworn oaths, but a husband should also be bound by love. Withholding herself will not win her Jon, no more than it could protect her from Joffrey or Petyr Baelish, and she has grown lonely in her years without a family.
I loved Jon the boy, she thinks, but Jon Stark, the King of Winter, is not the brother she knew in childhood. He wasn’t even my brother after all, Sansa reminds herself, hoping the distinction will make it easier. It doesn’t. She has grown unaccustomed to vulnerability even among those who know her best; showing her plain, unguarded want has never been harder.
Ser Jaime crosses her path as she’s nearing her chambers. His golden hair is beaded with sweat and he’s breathing more heavily than usual—a sure sign of an afternoon in the practice yard. Sansa had been surprised when Jon and Jaime had taken to sparring, but even she could admit that they make a close match for each other. She offers him a small smile, knowing that however skeptical Jon had been of her Lannister guardsmen he had never denied his abilities with a blade.
She has one of her handmaidens run a comb through her hair as she prepares for the evening with Jon, dabbing the smallest hint of Lyseni perfume on her neck. The bottle had been one of her many wedding presents but she rarely uses it, preferring to save it for special occasions.
Sansa has decided that tonight will be one of such occasions. Her heart flutters in her throat as she enters Jon’s solar, knowing that she is early and hoping that most of his servants will be away. Dinner is already laid out for the two of them, along with a dark red Dornish wine. A fire has been started and Sansa observes that all the tasks required of the servants have been performed, meaning they’re unlikely to be disturbed.
She ignores the table and summons her courage, entering Jon’s personal chambers with her pulse ringing in her ears. Her Lord Father’s chambers. That thought is shoved away as she closes the heavy oaken door behind her, drawing her husband’s attention.
He is in the process of changing, wearing his breeches and little else. Jon’s tunic is draped at the foot of the bed, stained with sweat and dirt from an afternoon of sword fighting. Sansa reminds herself to thank Jaime Lannister for his handiwork.
“Sansa,” Jon says, reaching for the change of clothes that have been laid out. Before she can curb the impulse, she takes a few steps forward and removes the fabric from his hand.
“Not now,” she says, her gaze trained on his face. His sharp gray eyes are usually so unreadable to her, but for a moment she glimpses something in them that she’d label desire in any other man. It makes her bold, drowns out the singing pressure of her blood under her skin. Sansa draws him closer to her and places his hands on her hips, feeling the temperature of the room increase by several degrees.
“Please, Jon,” Sansa says. “I just, I want you to…”
She’s afraid that she’ll have to ask him to kiss her, but he leans forward and presses his mouth to hers before she can even tilt her head, before she can snare her fingers in his hair. Jon’s tongue sweeps over her own as he tugs at the laces and buttons of her gown. As Sansa steps out of her dress she draws in a breath of air that doesn’t seem to reach her head, letting him angle her to the bed in her shift and smallclothes.
Jon rolls her underneath him and begins to kiss her neck, his voice a rough whisper as he cups her breast over the thin fabric.
“I didn’t think you would want this.”
She reaches for the laces of his breeches, pushing them past his narrow hips. “Then you’re blind, or a fool. I’m not sure which.”
The rest of their clothes are quickly removed, making her shudder at the sensation of her naked chest against his. The fire is lit in its grate along with candles in their sconces. She can see the lean form of him next to her, the ribbons of sinewy muscle that cover his chest and arms. Jon sucks on her nipples, sending a jolt of arousal straight between her legs and drawing a long sigh out of her. She pulls him up to kiss her, shyly feeling for him against her hip and wrapping her hand around his length.
Jon bites her shoulder as she traces him with light fingers; he makes a sound so low it could be her name or a growl. Sansa lets him place his hand over her own, watching as he shows her how to touch him. His eyes close and his hand digs into her hip, his breathing heavy as she strokes him and nuzzles her face against his neck, entranced by the way his body responds to her.
“Come here,” he croaks, reaching between her thighs. Sansa widens her legs and shivers as he touches her, stilling her movements and unconsciously rocking her hips against his fingers. Her hands move to clutch at his shoulders, his hair, dragging her nails over his back as Jon circles her nub and dip his fingers inside of her. She is wet for him and the feeling of his skin against her nipples makes her sigh.
Jon rolls her onto her stomach and parts her legs from behind, guiding himself inside her with one hand and bruising her hip with the other. He fills her, the sensation making her cry out and rock back against him.
“Oh, that’s perfect,” he moans, kissing her neck. He reaches around her waist and touches the small bundle of nerves between her legs, making her eyes squeeze shut from the sensation. Jon rocks into her over and over, circling her little nub as the pressure builds low in her belly. She comes quickly, her muscles tightening around him while he whispers against the shell of her ear.
A heady feeling sweeps over her, making her limbs warm and boneless against the furs, heat curling up her spine. He pulls out and she rolls onto her back, bringing her arms around him as he enters her again. His movements are less controlled this time, spurred on by his desire for release. Sansa tugs at his hair and kisses his neck, enjoying the rough feeling of him as he nears his finish, tracing her hands over his back and shoulders when he tenses and spills inside her.
She combs her fingers through Jon’s hair, clutching him as he pulls out of her and settles by her side. In the light of the fire she can see his dark eyes and the shadow of a beard on his jaw. A feeling blooms in Sansa’s chest, as bright as the flames in the grate or the morning sun; she presses her lips against his and closes her eyes to everything else.
Sam’s study holds more books than Sansa has ever seen in one place, and while she’d hoped to find the young Maester this morning, his absence is not abnormal or unexpected. Jon seeks his friend’s counsel more often than not and her questions are not immediate. Finding ink, parchment, and a quill, she settles into Sam’s desk to compose a letter.
My dearest sister, she begins, listing what’s happened at Winterfell since their last correspondence. Sansa brushes the feathery end of the quill against her cheek as she thinks on her words, mentioning that she is glad of Arya’s news of a pregnancy and that she hopes, or rather suspects, that she will soon be with child.
Seeing the words on paper makes her smile and shift her tender thighs against her skirts. Jon had kissed her between her legs this morning and left her skin feeling sensitive from his short beard, but he’d made her cry out all the same, thinking she’d woken half the castle in the early morning. The memory makes her blush, though she has lost count of how many times the servants have probably heard them together.
Biting her lower lip, Sansa adds a few lines to the end of her letter. Jon’s pleased to hear that you’re carrying on with your needle-work, she writes, though I haven’t found much time for it recently.
She means to write a reply to Margaery’s letter as well, but she can’t be sure of what she’ll say until asking Sam a few specific questions. It’s probably too early to know if she’s with child, but Sansa has a feeling that it’s the case, and a trip to the southern kingdom would be dangerous and tiring under the circumstances. Staying with Jon in the north, at Winterfell, is the easiest decision she’s made in years.