The first time he makes the sound, she thinks he’s angry. Their marriage is still young, though they’ve been wed for years and have one child already and another just beginning to grow within her. There’s so much Catelyn doesn’t know about this Eddard Stark, and so much he keeps hidden. She’d thought at first it was only she who knew little about him, that he shared himself with others but not with her; she was not meant for him, and she thinks he had that too much in mind for too long, always treating her as if she was something on loan to be eventually returned. She’d not realized his reserve was as much part of him as his grey eyes and his honor.
His attentions are much like everything else about him – deliberate, careful, measured. His visits to her chambers are not quite as frequent as Cat might like – a surprise, as she’d not expected to enjoy laying with him, or even with any man, something her Septa had made quite sure of – but he is attentive and kind, his touches are gentle and his eyes appreciative. Most nights he rolls aside afterward; to spare her his weight, she thinks, and she’s yet to be brave enough to tell him he is not too heavy for her. Her shift is always between them, a thin barrier between the propriety she knows she should keep and the untidy need that beats within her like a caged bird at his touch, one that grows wilder and more urgent each time he comes to her bed. She thinks she should be ashamed of her desire to touch him. She’d been raised to know that a wife’s joy was in submitting to her husband’s attentions. No one had ever told her she’d want to give attentions of her own, and it leaves her uncertain.
Her hands are what betray her. No matter how she tells herself to keep them still, she can’t stop them sliding into his hair as he moves within her, can’t keep herself from flexing the pads of her fingers against his scalp. That’s when he makes the sound, a deep, harsh rumble that she feels where their bodies are pressed together so intimately. She startles, pulls her hands away and cries out as he drives into her more roughly than he ever has before and spends within her with a jerk. It leaves her feeling restless and hot, searching for something just out of reach.
“Forgive me, my lady,” he says when he rolls away to the other side of the bed, leaving her with his seed spilling sticky down her thighs and an ache burning between them. He stares up at the ceiling, the working of his lungs making the furs rise and fall with his chest. “I was rough with you.” Catelyn says nothing. She doesn’t trust her voice. Doesn’t trust herself not to ask for such roughness again, to beg him to ease her aching. If her touch was improper, then there’s little doubt that such a request would be doubly so.
When he comes to her a handful of days later, she tells herself she will act the dutiful wife. But again her need betrays her; the ache is so insistent, the pleasure it promises seems so close. Unbidden, her hands sink into his hair once more, and once more he makes that rumbling sound, a low growl that’s frightening and thrilling all at once. This time he doesn’t wait to spend, but begins to move away immediately, so that a dismay shoots through her and she clutches those fingers in his hair, reckless in her panic.
“No, please,” she begs him, “please,” and his rumbling grows into a moan, a heady growl that licks over her skin like a caress. Her fingers speared through her hair beg him even as her words do, and he shudders, sinks into her again, rocking his hips, pushing her up into a dizzying spiral, closer and closer to that feeling that’s stayed just out of reach.
“Ned,” she cries out, scratching her nails over his scalp, “Ned, please.” He answers with a groan that cracks in the middle, pushes into her hard and fast and it’s there, it’s right there before her, she could reach out and touch it, and then suddenly it’s consuming her, her whole body tightening in unspeakable pleasure that feels too blissful for her to even consider being ashamed.
He comes to her again the next night. He’s never come two nights in a row before. She’d spent the whole of the day thinking of him, of his body on hers and how he made her feel. And now he’s here in her chambers, the light of the sun still not gone from the sky. He is awkward at first, endearingly so, but the air between them crackles like the sky before a storm. When she leans into the hand he strokes over her cheek he grows bolder, kissing her and gently stroking her teats, thumbs strumming the sensitive peaks. She has to fight the urge to cover herself when he strips her shift off over her head. It’s the first time he’s ever seen her bare form, and the heat in his eyes makes her forget her self-consciousness and open her arms to him, an invitation he accepts immediately.
This night, the pleasure finds her again, wringing her out like a length of linen and leaving her quivering and limp. This night, he doesn’t roll aside when he spends, but collapses on her breast, his breath teasing over the peak of her breast and making her shiver. It is no longer a betrayal when her hands stray to his hair, running furrows through the strands and testing his scalp with gentle fingertips. He rumbles at the feel of it, that same rumble she’d taken as anger the first time, and tilts his head to her touch. She pets and strokes him, enjoying the feel of his hair beneath her fingers, of his body heavy over hers, hard and roughened and warm. He leans into her fingers like a pampered cat, twisting his head to follow when she experimentally draws them away, making a sound much like a purr when she sinks them deep and rubs over his scalp once more. He spent not even an hour ago, but she feels him stirring again, nudging at her thighs and making her own body stir much the same. Ned’s voice is rough when he speaks, raspy and low, dipping even lower when she runs her thumbs behind his ears.
“I did not wish to treat you so ungently, Catelyn. I seem to have no control where you are concerned.” There is ruefulness in the words, and in his face when he raises it to look upon her own. “I meant to stay away tonight but I could not.”
“I would have you come to me each night,” she says softly, feeling a delicious thrill at her own boldness. “I would have you stay.” His eyes darken at her words, and she feels his heartbeat quicken against her ribs, a beat as insistent as the one gathering between her thighs at the way he looks upon her.
“Catelyn,” he says to her, a world of meaning in the word. “Cat.” It is a name only her family calls her, but it sounds right on his lips. And she knows it means he’ll stay.