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Stannis, Tall and Plain

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Stannis wiped the sweat off his brow, looking at the field yet to be plowed. There is so much to do, and there are only him and his little Shireen. Shireen has already taken on so much of the chores her late mother has done that she cannot continue with her schooling. This is not the life he wanted for his daughter.

The last straw was a month ago when he realized that he couldn't recall the last time that Shireen laughed and noticed that all of her favorite books were coated with dust. When he asked about the dust on the books, Shireen quickly apologized saying that housekeeping took lower priority to putting food on the table - grinding and milling the wheat, making bread, plucking chickens, butchering, etc. That was when he almost broke down in front of her.

That night he tossed and turned. He needed a full time partner to help him carry the load. Family farms require labor all year round, and he did not have enough funds to hire a full time worker. He could only pay with housing and food but he couldn't locate any full time workers willing to work for only room and board. His mind was troubled as he thought of asking for a bank loan or selling some land or subleasing. But every idea, he found a thousand reasons why it could never work. What was he to do?

Then he remembered his late wife and how they managed to eke out seasons after seasons of bountiful crops. Although they did not find love, they were both diligent hard workers. Perhaps he should try again. He knew that he was not as handsome as his younger brother nor as strong as his eldest brother, but he did treat his wife decently and fairly.

When he wrote out his advertisement for a wife in the newspaper, his neighbors laughed at him, saying that no one in their right mind would answer his advertisement which stated that he is a man tall and plain, that he is just and fair, that he needs an equal partner to raise his young daughter and his crops, and that the work would be undeniably hard but that is what makes the fruits of their labor so gratifying.

They were wrong.

And now his new bride will be coming home, she who wrote flowery letters on pink lemon scented paper. He is still so surprised that he wrote back and that they corresponded so regularly even though he knew that Sansa was a sheltered young city girl with little to no farming skills ("Does floral arrangement count?" she wittily asked in one of her letters) and absolutely no cooking skills.

Yet those things somehow mattered naught to him as he took out the small hair clipping she last sent him. It did not matter that his neighbors will laugh when they see her, his sweet new wife married to a dour man. He knew from reading and rereading her letters, and gazing at her photographs, that she was sunshine embodied in a lovely human form. Groaning, he sniffed her hair, her scent being one part lemon and two parts sunshine.

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"I wish I could do more," she whispered as he held her, her back against his chest and his lips kissing her nape as her hair was piled up high in a neat and large bun.

Stannis stopped kissing, stricken that Sansa did not know how much she had already done, how she had brightened his and Shireen's lives, and how truly blest they were that she, on a whim, decided to answer his advertisement. At this moment, he wished he had his brothers' way with words, to tell her how much she meant to him.

He still recalled with a grimace his first attempt to compliment her on her beautiful blue eyes, likening them to the eyes of their sweet natured donkey, Sally, and her crystalline laughter at the way he blushed so profusely at his own admittedly poorly chosen words. While Sally was a pretty donkey with lovely eyes framed with long lashes, he knew as soon as he uttered those words that no lady would ever want to be compared with a donkey. He did not need Davos, his best friend and neighbor who was shaking his head with a bemused grin, to tell him that. But Sansa merely cupped his face with her tiny hands and gave him a peck on his cheek as one of Alys' boys hooted. Those boys seemed to be always underfoot.

At his pause, she turned around with such love in her eyes and stood on her tippy toes to reach up to kiss his lips. He heard a loud moan and realized that it was him - he was making those sounds.

Stannis dumbfoundedly watched her walk to their room, her hips gently swaying side by side as she undid her bun, letting her auburn locks drape her back. And at the threshold of their room, she turned, smiled shyly and reached for him. He ran to her, almost stumbling into her open arms. Working in the fields, mainly steering Bertie the ox that simply adored her, she was surprisingly strong, pulling him into their large bed, the one he built for her as his groom's gift. She lightly kicked the door shut.

After a long hard day in the fields, he sometimes fell in deep slumber as soon as his body hit the bed. One particularly hard day, the first day of harvest, he even fell asleep as he washed up. But more often than not, he made love to his wife, making sure that she found her pleasure first.

Since Sansa entered their lives, Stannis did not find much to complain about with the exception of his deep regret that he was not a younger man with greater stamina as his young beautiful wife was insatiable. Knowing how exhausted he was, she often rode him with his large hands firmly holding her hips, her head leaning back, her long hair streaming down her back and lightly grazing his thighs, her breasts lightly bouncing and her cheeks flushed. But tonight, he would be on top, lightly flipping her on her back. She looked at him in happy surprise as he held her long legs up and proceeded to kiss, suckle, ready her as she sighed and quivered with pleasure.

"Please... my love... please," she begged.

Stannis quickly acquiesced, with her legs over his shoulders, finding a solid rhythm, hard and deep, that made them both grunt with every thrust. As she touched herself, her knuckles lightly brushed against him, intensifying his pleasure and hers. Stannis knew that she was close, her mouth gasping, and he held on until she shuddered and sighed his name. Shortly afterwards, he shouted her name, knowing that they probably woke up Shireen who was sleeping in the sleeping loft alcove above their room. He immediately rolled over (as one time he forgot and almost suffocated her) and fell asleep, with Sansa cuddling and nuzzling him.

The next morning with the sky still dark, he found her side empty when he reached out for her warm, soft body. Their day usually started early with them feeding their livestock and her cooking a hearty breakfast for them all. Wiping the sleep from his eyes, he knew that he almost forgot something, something truly important. With a start, he remembered with clarity her words last night and how he wanted to tell her how much she meant to him. But her eyes again unmanned him, making him forget almost everything, even one time his own name which was unfortunately witnessed by his braying brothers and others during his wedding ceremony when he said that he, Sansa Stark, vowed to take her to be his wedded wife, to hold, cherish and protect all the days of his life.

As he got ready, he could hear his two girls merrily singing as they made the bread for the week.

"Lead me, guide me along the way,
For if you lead me I cannot stray.
Lord let me walk each day with Thee.
Lead me, oh Lord lead me."

When he walked in the kitchen, he saw his giggling daughter with a bit of flour on her face. Wiping off the flour with his thumb, he patted her on her head as Sansa got his plate of crisp bacon, fried eggs and grits ready. She and Shireen had delicate blueberry lemon pancakes, drizzled with honey the Thenns harvested, with a side of bacon.

Saying grace, his heart swelled at seeing his girls warmly holding hands with their heads (and matching long braids) bowed together. He was not a religious man before he married Sansa but she was devout follower of the Seven. And now he wanted to thank the gods, old and new, for bringing her to them and for her being such a wonderful wife and mother (but not such a great cook as he ate his decidedly crunchy egg, that were flecked with broken egg shells - Sansa only did breakfast duty while Shireen did lunch and Shireen and Stannis split dinner duty or they ate the dinners that Alys or Marya made for them).

Today was the third day of the week of harvest. He and his neighbors were working together to pick their crops. It was their second year as a collective farm. Each of their farms was too small to compete with the other much larger farms but when they were combined, they thrived with the disease resistant and hearty seeds that his wife bought as part of her dowry, and the new irrigation system and their advanced farming techniques they learned from her books, also part of her dowry. The fields had much larger yields than before and their produce commanded better prices due to the high quality and quantity of their produce.

Both the Thenns and the Seaworths were blessed with many strong sons (Davos had seven while Sigorn had even more - the Finn wryly told him that he did not know how many children he had) although their farm plots were tiny, just barely enough to feed their large and seemingly growing families. They mainly supplied the labor while he mainly supplied the rest. It was a great partnership as they were decent and hardworking people even though many in the town looked down on them, both being immigrant families from Finland (the Thenns) and from Ukraine (the Seaworths whose surname Sydorenko was changed when they came to this country).

It was Sansa who brought them together in this joint business venture. She befriended both Alys and Marya. As they did their washings together, they talked about their struggles and the competition from the larger farms that resulted in such low prices for their produce. The men at first were too proud to admit that they needed any help, that they needed to work with each other, but luckily their wives were even more persuasive, with Alys laughingly telling her friends that ya, she withheld sexual relations until Sigorn agreed (which Stannis thought might be the best for they had way too many children while Sansa just blushed a bright red as her hair). Davos did not tell him what Marya threatened him with but whatever it was, it was effective by the scared look in his eyes (there were many rumors that Marya's father was a big crime boss back in the old country, that many of his enemies had missing toes, fingers and even appendages). Luckily for Stannis, Sansa did not resort to such measures as he would do practically anything for his lady wife. One doleful look, a slight fluttering of her long lashes, and he agreed without hesitation.

To supplement their income, the ladies also formed a lucrative side business of making custom or what Sansa called haute couture dresses for the wealthy wives of the large landowners. Their designs were sought out as they were the latest fashions from Paris, from the magazines her mother sent her, and their dresses were also so well made and tailored. Their patrons supplied them with the rich fabrics or provided funds to purchase them. While Marya and Alys were capable seamstresses, Sansa was the one who did the intricate beadings and embroidery and did the final fittings.

Although Shireen could now go back to school, she wanted to stay home and be homeschooled with her friends, the Seaworth and Thenn boys. The boys usually worked only half day shifts (except for harvest time when they worked full day shifts with a lot of breaks) while the men worked full day shifts. During two or three hours most afternoons, Sansa taught the boys, who were so far behind their peers, with most unable to read or write. Knowing that they already faced discrimination, she was trying to help the boys catch up so they would not face even more ridicule. At first, Stannis was upset that Shireen was not going to school until he saw his girls both teaching the neighbors' boys Latin root words. He saw the unbridled joy in his young daughter's eyes and the pride in his wife's eyes for her fellow instructor and their eager students. He begrudgingly agreed for this year only, and was rewarded with sweet kisses from his girls.

Out in the fields with his friends and their sons, Stannis toiled hard. It felt good, seeing the "fruits" of their labor as well as feeling the strain in his muscles as he carried the heavy bushels laden with corn. They rested fifteen minutes every two hours, making sure to get hydrated and getting in the shade when the sun was beating too hot on them.

As he stared at their combined field, realizing the amount of yield they would get by the end of this week, he was amazed at the cornucopia they were gifted. Davos elbowed him a few times before he realized that he was drifting off again.

"Dreaming again of your lady wife?" smirked Sigorn as his eldest Jussi snorted.

Seven hells! If it weren't for Sansa being upset with him, he would wipe the grin off of both Sigorn's and Jussi's beaming faces.

"Shut it!" Davos growled. He pointed to a small section in the field that Sigorn's youngest boys did not complete, and Sigorn and Jussi left to help them out.

Stannis took off his hat and looked down at it. Without looking up, he quietly said, "I want to give Sansa something special as special as she is to me... to let her know how much I love her, that she means the world to me."

Davos nodded, "Aye, your Sansa is a special lady. Mind you, just as special as my little woman, Marya."

"I don't know what to give her..." He looked sad as he knew that he could not provide for her, give her even half the things her parents could. After they wed, he found out from his eldest brother Robert that Sansa was the eldest daughter of an old army friend, General Ned Stark. Both of her parents are from great wealthy families of the North and the South - the northern Starks and the southern Tullys.

"You have given her your heart - that is the most precious thing," said Sigorn who came back while his boys were out roughhousing with Davos' boys - poor Steffon was put in a headlock by Jussi.

Stannis looked up at Sigorn in surprise and saw Davos nodding sagely, in agreement. He shouted something in Ukranian to Steffon who immediately elbowed Jussi in the stomach as Sigorn winced in pain.

"Do you sing? When we had nothing, not even a single coin to rub against another, I would sing to my fierce Alys and it melted her heart, and you know, one thing led to another, and we got Vallu or maybe be of the younger ones," said Sigorn as both Davos and Stannis rolled their eyes and sighed. Davos knew quite well how poorly Stannis sang when they both got drunk the night he found out by letter that she agreed to marry him.

"Marya and I also do not have much but we have a lot of love and well, our boys. On her name's day, the boys and I treat her like a queen. She does not lift a tiny finger - me or the boys would do it for her. We make her favorite foods such as derunys, potato pancakes. Maybe you and Shireen could surprise Sansa with her own special day."

Stannis slowly smiled. Instead of a single special day, his lady wife deserved a special week. He would talk with her friends and swear them to secrecy, especially that chatty Alys. Maybe he would also correspond with her mother and her friend Jeyne from back home for ideas of making her special week even more special. Shireen probably had brilliant ideas for her special week - his girls were inseparable. He already had an idea, but would need help in executing it. First, he needed to start a list, detailing each action item with their corresponding deadline.

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Sansa did not know exactly when she fell in love with him. Was it his fifth letter or sixth? Or was it when they first met in person? All she knew was that seemingly each day she found herself discovering something else about him that made her fall further in love with him.

Sansa kept all of his letters and photos in her scrap book. They were cataloged in the order they were received and kept intact and protected by transparent sleeves. He still left her sweet tiny notes which made her smile - the last one was a complaint about how jealous he was that all of their farm animals adored her more than him, with Bertie the Ox being the worst offender, stubbornly refusing to move unless she was there.

That fifth letter was almost ruined, rendered almost transparent in some places by her rubbing it, imagining that it was his lips she was touching. She asked him about his dreams and wishes for the future in her fifth letter that she originally regretted sending, worried that he, a mature and serious gentleman, would think her a silly foolish girl who still believed in songs and the knight/princess fairy tales of old. But she was wrong - his response took her breath away.

His words were not flowery prose - they were plain words from his heart. He told her of his desire of finding a kind mother for his daughter, someone who would encourage her interests, make her laugh (Shireen was the sweetest and most cheerful baby), and give her the love she deserved. He rued that he did not have time for his daughter, worried that he did her wrong if he did not remarry as she bore the brunt of her late mother's duties. He wanted Shireen to be a child again, instead of being overworked and unhappy. For himself, he wanted to find a friend, a confidant, someone who was an equal. He also wrote about his farm, how farming gave him such satisfaction, knowing that from his hard labor, he provided food for his family and for the community. He also wished to also grow sweet fruits (as his Shireen loved the rare tropical fruits she tasted at his brother's parties and he thought she would love sour sweet pomelos) although the temperature zone and soil type of his land made that nearly impossible. And at the end of his letter, at the very edge and in the smallest letters, he confessed that his first marriage was a dutiful and loveless marriage but wished that his second marriage to be a marriage of love, that he wanted a true family, more children, red haired blue eyed siblings for Shireen. He enclosed a small black and white photograph of him with Shireen beaming up at his darkened silhouette, seemingly cut out from a larger family portrait. Sansa held the photograph often, imagining that she was standing on the other side of Stannis, looking proudly at their daughter.

It was his sixth letter in which he described the hard life he and his daughter led, the long hours, the grueling and seemingly never ending work. It was a life that could break the strongest man. He told her that everyone, including his best friend Davos, thought that he was a killjoy although he would argue that he is a realist. He understood if she declined his marriage proposal for he had not much, if anything, to give her - she deserved more, so much more that he could ever give her.

At first, the letter angered her to the point that she wanted to rip it apart. She thought that he found her weak and useless, like how many others saw her. He gave up on them before they truly begun, gave up on their shared dreams of having a loving marriage and being a true family. But after she screamed into her pillow until she was hoarse, she realized that he still gave her a choice - to accept or decline his proposal. In this letter, he was obliquely (and quite poorly) proposing to her. That last sentence initially made her rage, wanting to scream and yell those curses, that her little sister was allowed to do without seemingly any censure but that she was not, but later she somehow knew that it was his way of saying that he loved her, that he wanted to give her the world but felt that he could not. What he did not understand was that if he gave her his heart, it would be more than enough - that it would mean the world to her.

Sansa would fight for them. She looked at the list attached to the letter of tasks his late wife did and that were currently split between Shireen and himself, with the majority done by Shireen. Placing a check near the ones she had experience in or thought she could do and placing an X for the rest, she was at first disheartened by the number of Xes. But she pulled herself up from her funk by reminding herself that she could learn and that she was always an excellent student. What she could not master, she would find other ways to contribute. There must be a way. She just needed some time.

Her reply to that letter had only two complete sentences - it was lucky for them that she was not the strongest man; and yes, she accepted his proposal and would come in six month's time.

Those six months were both the longest and shortest period of time. She was so anxious to meet him - this good man she felt she already knew from his letters, but she was also so anxious to prepare herself for the farming life. And during those six months, her poor family had to endure her attempts at cooking - the boys could not even entice their dogs to eat it. When she bursted into tears after her last attempt, she was surprised to find her father who followed her to her room and who quietly told her that any man would be blest to have her a wife, that her fiancé, Stannis was not marrying her for her cooking skills (he muttered under his breath thankfully) but instead because of her kind heart.

So when those six busy months ended, during which she regularly corresponded with both father and daughter, she was so filled with anticipation and anxiety as she stepped off of the train and walked towards her new family to be - Stannis with his mouth slightly agape and little Shireen who was waving with excitement and beaming with happiness. As she hugged Shireen, who ran towards her, Stannis reverently touched her rosy cheek and hoarsely whispered, "Welcome home, my sunshine." His gentle touch broke the dam of all the emotions she tried to hold at bay. The poor man looked confused as he gently wiped her tears, which she whispered were tears of jubilance, and kissed her forehead, the top of head, her cheeks, as a man besides them made a coughing sound as he and his boys helped Stannis with her luggages (her boxes of books, seeds, and bolts of cloth arrived earlier). She knew at the moment that she made the right decision, that she found the man her father promised existed - a man who was gentle, strong and brave, especially brave to welcome her into his life, a novice in many of the skills his wife and daughter excelled in.

The first year was difficult but there were so peaks and highs. Many of them involved unraveling the enigma that was her husband. After their simple but sweet wedding (and with Shireen staying at Davos' house nearby), they mostly (with Sansa feeling some initial discomfort) enjoyed the slow exploration of their bodies, learning what made Sansa's tiny toes curl and what made Stannis moan loudly. She tremulously told him that she loved him their wedding night; and he confessed that he never knew, never felt such a connection before.

At night, he communicated with his entire strong hard body, his calloused hands holding her, touching her, his soft lips kissing her, and him loving her thoroughly. In the daylight, she found that he mostly communicated with his eyes and his jaw muscles - the eye rolls of exasperation and teeth grinding whenever he sighted his eldest brother (who like every older brother liked to tease terribly his younger siblings) and his frankly dreadful sister-in-law, Cersei, nearby; the look of warmth and the relaxed jaw whenever his eyes glimpsed their sweet and loving princess flitting about with her; his look of intense concentration when he and Davos discussed the condition of the farm field and crops; and his amused eyes at the antics of Sigorn who told the silliest stories (it cannot be true that he did not know how many children he fathered!).

Stannis was unlike the boys she met before - she realized they were all boys when Stannis was a man, twenty years her senior. He was an exacting man, used to having things done a certain way. And while she was seemingly soft in contrast to him, she was as much a perfectionist as he. She sometimes saw in his eyes a sense of frustration and bitterness at having his younger brother placed ahead of him in terms of not only having more acreage but more fertile land, but yet she also saw a sense of pride in the crop yields he extracted from his rocky fields from his own efforts. At first blush, he seemed almost humorless and dour, rarely smiling and often grimacing, and it took awhile to uncover his wry ironic sense of humor.

Not all days were filled with sunshine - there were a few days that she felt overwhelmed and useless. Sansa was convinced that the kitchen gods were against her as she raged open warfare against them, almost burning down their house but for Alys putting out the grease fire. Alys and Marya taught her many choice curse words in their language that were effective in getting out her aggression (and would make sailors in their countries blush and that she was careful to use when others, especially Shireen, were not around)! After a few failed meals that Stannis finished without any complaint, Shireen gently convinced her to wave the white flag of defeat on making lunch and dinner; and to focus on breakfast and making bread, the latter being her specialty as she pummeled the dough mercilessly, getting out our frustrations as she was not used to failing at anything.

One day she thought she would explode - there seemed to be a dark cloud above her no matter where she went. She could not do anything right, was such a burden to everyone, and such a disappointment. Knowing that she was no good for anyone in her state, she hid herself in the cellar where she gave a good chiding to the potatoes, turnips and the canned fruits and vegetables. Her husband came down to see her berate the potatoes for burning to a blackened crisp that morning, fingers wagging and red faced and cursing profanities in multiple languages. And without blinking, he turned to the offending root vegetable and with a serious face told it that if it did not behave and do what his sweet wife wanted, there would be dire consequences. She looked at him incredulously and then bursted out laughing as he kissed her and made her forget why she was angry in the first place. The next day she received a note saying that the potatoes said sorry.

At first, she thought she would be so homesick, missing her large family and her friends. And while she did miss them, especially her talks with mother at night, she discovered that she had a new even larger family - her Stannis and Shireen, of course, but also Davos and Marya and their brood; as well as Sigorn and Alys with their numerous boys. The boys were generally good kids and were especially sweet and gentle to Shireen, their "heart" sister, never getting too rough when she was about as once Devan accidentally pushed her into the mud and made her cry.

And Marya and Alys were both godsends - Marya was like a kind and wise older sister while Alys reminded Sansa of her younger sister Arya, always saying something that absolutely shocked her. She ruefully admitted that without their often blunt guidance, she would have been overwhelmed with all that needed to be done. Marya gently tutted her with saying like 'first things first' and 'sometimes good enough is what is more than good enough and what is truly needed' while Alys laughingly asked 'why do things today when they could be done tomorrow.' Both offered to unload a handful of their younger sons to help Sansa and Shireen, which made her feel like she was back at home with her four brothers. She did a learn a lot from her friends (and really appreciated Alys' advice for her first night of preparing herself and trying to relaxing and that his sounds, or his special type of song, will guide her) as they did from her - they especially loved her rubber gloves for washing dishes and clothes!

Although she knew from their letters that she found a kindred spirit in Shireen with their love for books and Stannis (not necessarily in that order), Sansa was frankly surprised how deep and immediate their connection was from the moment they met at the station. Sansa worried that it could be uncomfortable for Shireen with a new woman in her and father's lives. Sansa could not and would not replace Seleyse but she could love Shireen as her own. And Shireen was so easy to love - so sweet and affectionate. Normally shy and reserved, Shireen seemed to blossom from the attention and support she received from Sansa as they spent time together, with Shireen teaching and helping her with the chores. Seeing his girls laughing and chatting, Stannis would always tease that Sansa married him for Shireen. It was partly true in that she married him because she loved him and one of the reasons she loved him was because of his love for his (and now their) girl. When Sansa saw her husband with their daughter, it made her love him even more.

Sansa knew that her younger self may have overlooked the quiet and plain Shireen and instead hovered to her more vivacious and pretty cousins, Myrcella, Janei, and others. But she knew from experience that appearances are not always what they seem. In the large lavish parties that Stannis' eldest party Robert threw, she saw how Shireen would almost shrink and try to hide, uncomfortable by the rude stares and cruel jokes about the pockmarks on the left side of her face (from her contracting measles as a young child) from her cousins and even her aunts (Cersei and Margaery) and uncles (Robert and Renley). Her father would often try to separate her from everyone else as they would sit far from the others. Instead, Sansa would gather both of her loves, both wearing the beautiful and stylish clothes she made for them, closer to the main party and drew others to them with her merry laughter and charming stories, engaging them both until they mostly forgot about the others and enjoyed themselves. She would dance with them together, each holding each other's hand like a daisy chain, waltzing and twirling and smiling. In those moments, she thought her heart would burst, overflowing with love, her cup runneth over when she saw Shireen giggle and Stannis looking at her and Shireen with such warmth and amusement in his eyes.

Her favorite moments were the quiet "everyday" moments at night when the boys whom Stannis grumble were always underfoot were finally at their homes and she was alone with her two loves. She loved reading aloud with Shireen an excerpt of one of their favorite books - a book from the Anne of Green Gables series - with Shireen supplying Anne's voice and Sansa doing the narration and the other characters. Shireen loved it and almost fell out of her bed when Sansa impersonated Stannis when doing an older Gilbert's voice, complete with awkward pauses, scowls and grinding teeth (although Stannis was not as amused although they both enjoyed her punishment later that night). Once Shireen was tucked in by Stannis with an awkward pat on her head, he and Sansa would sit on the swinging chair on the porch. He would listen to her, and he would hold her as she sang to him. Right before they went in, she would stand and look upon their moonlit fields or out to the dark void, and Stannis would stand behind her, her back nestled against his chest, kissing the top of her head and then lovingly the nape of her long pale neck as he twist some soft strands of hair with his fingers.

In such short time, they have made their house her home - she felt such a part of the family. Stannis and Shireen gave her so much, and she wished she could do more for them so that her husband would not be so bone tired and achy at night and that he could spend more time with both of them. Although the night before they made it a sweet game where she kissed each area that did not ache with her getting the last giggle as there was one part of his body that was truly aching... for her touches, for little licks... Luckily, it was a game where breaking rules were strongly encouraged and much appreciated.

Perhaps she was being selfish, hearing the accusatory words her sister often flung at her, her wanting more when her life was so much richer and more complete than she ever imagined. Her younger self would have turned her nose at the prospect of living in a small farm - the hard housework, the spartan house devoid of almost any personal items (but for their books), the piquant smells of the farm animals, a sweaty and quiet husband and a shy child who is not hers biologically. But now Sansa would not give up any of it. It was not that she wanted the life of his brothers, both rich landowners with vast fields of fertile, ash enriched soil - the large mansions, the servants, fancy dresses and lovely tea parties complete with delicate sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and berries, and light lemoncakes. Nay, she was happy with her family and their cozy home (perhaps the only change she would make is for Shireen had her own room, instead of the sleeping loft in their room). She just wanted more time with her husband.

When Sansa talked about missing her husband to Marya and Alys, they both nodded sympathetically and knowingly. Sansa did not see them nodding as she looked down, thinking that she was being silly and stupid in making that confession as he was not truly gone.

Smiling gently, Marya said, "Before, I thought Davos had a lover, Mother Nature, who is so greedy for his time that he had none for our boys and even less for me."

"Hah, that bitch snared my Siggy too," said Alys bitterly.

Sansa looked up in surprise as she saw how openly loving Davos was with Marya and the boys and how lovestruck Sigorn was with Alys and affectionate with their sons.

"Davos wants so badly to provide for us - that is why he works so hard. Sometimes he needs to remember his family - and I had to remind him."

Alys nodded in agreement as both families tried to squeeze double crops in a single growing season with mixed results . She then held Sansa's tiny hand and smiled.

"But your husband does not need such reminder. My husband says Stannis constantly moons for you, his sunshine," laughs Alys.

"Davos tells me that he finds any excuse to get you on the field, including blaming poor Bertie," teased Marya.

The ladies laughed as everyone have heard of the antics of the poor ox - like their father who made up songs for his Alys, the Thenn boys even devised a silly song of love-struck Bertie pining for his red haired mistress which made everyone laugh and even made Stannis grin. The joke was that Stannis was jealous of Bertie, but the song's punchline was the opposite was true.

"Ai, it is the way of farming - hard work, many man hours needed to work the field. But with all of our families working together thanks to you, we get more time with our husbands and boys," said glowing Alys as she patted her stomach which was beginning to show the early signs of her pregnancy. Her friends hugged her and congratulated her.

Later that night, Sansa looked at her gently snoring husband - his rugged face so relaxed and so beautiful to her. She wanted so badly to touch him and kiss him again but he needed his rest. As if he knew her thoughts, Stannis drew her close against his body, enveloping her body with his; and she fell asleep, thinking of what more could be done. Right before she fell asleep, she remembered Alys's words - more man hours!

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Three more sandwiches for Sigorn, her irascible husband who ate like two men, and big men at that! But Alys mused that it could've been worse - her Siggy was not Tormund, his distant cousin with such voracious appetites in almost everything and who was not in the least ashamed of his reputation or his exploits. In fact, he seemed proud of the fact that many men (lovers, husbands, fathers, sons and brothers) want to fight him. Alys chortled thinking of Tormund's taunting of Mance - "I can outdrink, outfight, and outsing him, and my member's thrice the size o' his."

She heard heavy footsteps and knew that it was not Otto coming to get the sandwiches. Rolling her eyes, she said, "No, Siggy, no, not again. It is poor form to make your neighbors wait for their repast."

There was an awkward cough and grinding of teeth. Turning quickly around, Alys gaped at red faced Stannis. Normally quick with a quip, she was speechless, shocked that Stannis was standing in her kitchen.

"Erm, I did not mean to come unannounced... I want to surprise Sansa, a-and I need your help," Stannis blurted out.

Looking down, Alys saw that she still had two slices of bread in her hands and turned to place them down on the counter. Rinsing her hand in the nearby basin, she turned to Stannis once more whose face was no longer the color of Sansa's bright red locks.

"Is it her name's day coming up? I thought that was during winter. Would you like something to drink?"

"Nay, it is not; and I am fine, thank you. It is not for any specific occasion - after the harvest is complete, I just want her to have a special week, a week as special as she is."

As Stannis said the word special, his face reddened once more; and she realized Sigorn must have told him about the special days he threw for her, which they both delighted in and which resulted in their last three sons. Alys would have to scold her husband for such indiscretions, now realizing why her neighbor could not look her in the face. He must think that they rut any chance they get, which was not quite true. It was true that they could not get enough of each other, with her Siggy still calling her princess even after six years of marriage and nine boys (they had two sets of twins and their eldest before they were married) and the one in her stomach (the last one she hoped), but there was much more to their marriage. There were a lot of laughter, a bit of tears and anger, and a lot of singing (her Siggy loved to sing!).

But she could not stay angry at Sigorn for long as she could not help but smile widely at her normally dour neighbor who was absolutely and actually adorably smitten by his young beautiful wife, wanting to surprise her just because he adored her. She knew that the unsaid words at the end of his last sentence were 'to me' and thought it was so utterly romantic that he would want to treat his wife to a special week (!), not merely a day (she would have to demand a week from Siggy).

With bright eyes and even brighter smile, she waited for him to continue. After waiting for a few seconds, which felt like many minutes, Alys offered some suggestions, "I could help make her favorite meals... or I could make her a dress or something special to wear."

Alys watched him nod appreciatively at her suggestions and thought about her young friend and her last confession of missing her husband. When Sansa left with the dinners she made for them, both Marya and she laughed, knowing all about young love and knowing exactly what Sansa meant about missing her husband (that is, that she missed his hard body). Perhaps she should suggest something, something she knew Sansa would truly appreciate even though she knew it meant that Stannis would never be able to speak to her again. Since he had never spoken to her before this day, it was a loss she was willing to bear.

Muffling her amusement and knowing that Sansa will thank her at the end, she gently asked, "Do you want to know what would make Sansa truly happy?"

The poor man nodded and looked at her questioningly, wanting to know how to make his wife happy. It was ironic that he was the answer even though he did not realize it.

"Kisses... down there," she responded, pointing to her privates, as she watched him turn bright red and stumbled out of her house without bringing back any of the sandwiches to the men and the older boys in the fields.

She snorted and realized how wickedly she acted - Marya would be absolutely shocked and perhaps dismayed; and Sansa much scandalized but grateful at the end.

Laughing merrily, Alys quickly assembled the last sandwich and yelled, "Otto! Come bring sandwiches out to the field!"

Chapter Text

The rest of the day Stannis heard Alys' mocking laughter and her words. What was worst were the visuals - he closed his eyes, trying to forget her lewd hand gestures to her crotch. She did not think he truly pleased his wife. Maybe she was right. His wife was so much younger than him, and he knew that she wanted more, more than he could give her most nights.

When he returned to the fields red-faced and agitated, the men and boys gave him wide berth, not even asking him about lunch he strangely said he would bring back (normally a task for one of the Seaworth or Thenn boys). Normally voluble Sigorn was rendered silent when he greeted Stannis who turned his back on him as if he was affronted by Sigorn's very presence.

It was clear that Stannis could not concentrate, which could be very dangerous especially during the harvest. Davos immediately switched duties with him so that Davos used the scythe to cut down the ears of corn while he hauled the produce to the cart.

When Otto came with their mid day meal, Stannis refused to eat and only drank the water he brought. Both Davos and Sigorn looked at each other, knowing something happened and that Alys was somehow involved. It was an uncomfortable afternoon, and they were glad when it was over.

When Stannis trudged back home, with a sinking feeling in his heart, he saw Shireen chased by one of the younger Thenn boys. He did not think that it was a good idea for his daughter to be around them and knew that his wife should stay clear of bawdy Alys, and even Sigorn.

Stopping at the doorway, he saw Sansa with little Steffon on her lap, reading to him as his mother Marya sat by sewing. The glow of the sun illuminated her and the sandy haired boy who looked up at her in wonder. Steffon started reading, stumbling over his words, and she corrected them, writing the letters on his palm and making him sound out them again until he could read a complete sentence. When the little boy read a sentence without any mistake, both she and his mother cheered, and she kissed his ruddy chubby cheeks.

Sansa was so wonderful with children, with their Shireen. He could imagine Sansa with their babes. Closing his eyes, he told himself that he was already blest with her in their lives, and he knew that he was to blame. Selyse had many miscarriages before and even after Shireen. His seed must not be strong. Because he was often too tired, they had infrequent couplings.

They all looked up and saw him at the doorway, looking so agitated and distraught. Sansa gently placed the little boy on the ground and slowly stood up.

With one look at his face, Marya quickly greeted him and collected the boys to take their leave. Before she left, he quietly asked her to take Shireen, which made Sansa more nervous as she expected the worst. Was something wrong?

When they were alone, Stannis did not come to her, and she moved to him, watching him back away.

"Stannis, what is wrong?" She reached for him, and he backed away, thinking of Alys' words and thinking of her talking to Sansa. What did Sansa say to her? What did Alys tell her?

"I want you to stay away from Alys and for the Thenn boys to stay away from Shireen."

"Alys is my good friend - what happened?" Sansa asked.

"She is not a good woman, a woman your mother would not want you to be near. I do not want you or Shireen to be near her."

"My mother does not know her and... You are wrong - she is kind, caring, funny and loyal."

"No," he said with finality.

Her eyes widen. Although they had disagreements, he never commanded her to obey, never acted like... she could not even think of that arse. He was her husband, a good man, not a cruel boy who bullied, hurt her, and spread awful rumors about her. While it was painful, Sansa wrote to Stannis about that horrific episode in her life. He was so angry for her, but not angry at her nor blamed her in any way. But she still blamed herself, for allowing it to happen.

Before Sansa married him, she always bended to others' will and desires, doing what others wanted at the expense sometimes of what she wanted. But she defied her mother to marry him, instead of acquiescing to marrying Harry Hardyng, the heir of the Vale who was known for sullying the reputation of many young women. She felt that almost everyone, even her mother, viewed her as being ruined because of the lies spewed about her. And while she never wanted to upset Stannis, Sansa knew that she had to stand her ground, to defend her friend, and to be the woman that he could respect, the woman who was brave to leave everything she has ever known to marry a man she only corresponded through letters.

In those parties Robert and his wife Cersei threw, she heard all of the disparaging remarks about the "lowly" immigrants with their "backward" and "immoral" ways and their numerous children. Sansa knew that Stannis heard them too but he pointedly ignored them, saying that he valued Davos's judgement over that of both his oldest brother's and his sister-in-law's combined. She could not believe that he would even listen much less believe the lies that the high society ladies spread about Alys and Marya. It must have been something that Alys said or did. Some times Alys did say the seemingly most profane things or say something so bluntly (actually her bluntness is similar to Stannis' bluntness) but then later Sansa realized that she was right and that she was actually one of the most caring and most loyal of friends.

"What makes you think that she is not good - what did she say or do?" she asked.

Stannis blushed deep red and stammered, "S-sansa, you... you just need to trust my judgement." He could not even look at his wife, much less tell her what Alys said and did.

Alys must have said something bawdy to Stannis - that would be the only reason why he would be so agitated and so embarrassed. She remembered at first that was her reaction too, wishing that the ground would open up and swallow her or maybe swallow her friend. Yet it was Alys' practical advice of how to prepare, to relax, and to please (listen to and watch your man) that helped make her first night with Stannis so special. But the thing was that Alys would not offer such explicit advice unless asked, and she could not even imagine any scenario where her husband would ask Alys, that he would be more likely (although that was still highly improbable) to ask Davos or even Sigorn than Alys. There must be a huge misunderstanding. It seemed hilarious but for the pained look on her husband's face.

Trying to hold back her laughter, she held her husband and told his chest that she trusted him, but thought that there must be some misunderstanding. She wanted to talk to Alys.

She could not hide her amusement at the end, and Stannis looked down at her. Blinking her large blue eyes, she was unsuccessfully trying to not smile, which made him stare at her sweet trembling lips. Stannis could never be upset at his wife even when she did not take his words seriously. It was that brightness in her, her ability to find humor and joy, that attracted him. Sunshine he called her, for she warmed his heart. His wife had the audacity to lick her lips. And now she made his body burn and made him forget everything but for her.

"Sansa, you would be the death of me," he growled.

She giggled, and he muffled her laughter with hungry kisses. With each kiss, she became more and more undone, with her hand reaching for him. He grabbed her and pushed her onto the table, pushing her dress up and tearing off her underwear with his teeth.

She was so beautiful, pink and already wet for him. 'Kiss her' he heard Alys' voice say in his mind. So he did.

Chapter Text

It was late. The sun lit up the bedroom, almost blinding him until he saw the sleeping naked body of his wife. She seemed to be illuminated, the sun rays forming a halo around her bare body. She was his sun.

But then he saw the marks.

It was not a dream after all. He instinctively knew that it was not a dream as they did things he never could ever imagined. He heard tales from his brother Robert about his wild escapades, but always scoffed, believing them to being baldfaced lies and boasts as there was no way that they could have happened. And yet last night they did.

He saw the marks he made on her delicate ivory skin, the purples roses that bloomed from his hungry kisses and the large hand marks on her hips and her pert bottom when he gripped her as he pounded her so hard that their kitchen table was now wobbly. That "kiss" of his followed by her "kiss" alit a fire in them, turning them from normally mild mannered farmers into wild animals. If he were a silly and dramatic man like his younger brother, he would say that they turned into werewolves as they rutted and howled under the full moon.

Shaking his head, Stannis worried that he hurt his wife or scared her or both. She said yes, more, please but at some point, there were no words, just gasps, loud moans and long sighs. And he honestly did not believe that if she had spoken, he would have been able to comprehend her words. All he thought was tight, good, wet, good, hot, good in a seemingly endless litanies. He reverted into a cave man - he would not be surprised if he got out of bed right now that his knuckles would be grazing the floor. But the thing was that although he was ashamed of his neanderthal behavior and very worried about hurting her, he really loved fucking his wife hard. He had become his lecherous selfish older brother!

That thought was the main thing that stopped him from waking her and ravishing her again. He did want to see the hurt in her eyes.

That was when her eyes opened. As before, there was love shining through her clear blue eyes. Yet he also saw a flicker of something - was it shame or embarrassment?