The frost between Ned and Cersei thawed enough for her to welcome him back into her bed; once the boys were moved into their own nursery to sleep. “They’re growing boys, love,” Ned said. “They need to learn to sleep by themselves.”
“You just want me for yourself,” Cersei replied, putting away her needlework. She looked at Ned, spread out on her bed and watching her with a fondness in his eyes that eventually gave way to a simmering heat as she approached the bed.
He reached for her, pushing himself up onto an elbow and pulling Cersei to him gently. “Is that so bad? That I wish to have my lady wife for my own in her bed?” He tucked her hair behind an ear and rolled her beneath him, peppering soft, bristly kisses over her cheek and neck and collarbone. “I would surely be a man of ice if the sight of you didn’t make my blood warm,” he rumbled, caressing her hips and thighs with war-roughened hands.
Cersei sighed quietly, tilting her head aside to allow his kisses to travel easily along her skin. She allowed her own hands to stroke along his shoulders, to card through his dark hair and to dig into the muscles in his back. Ned Stark liked pain with his pleasure; another trait they seemed to share. “For a man so noble and good, you certainly have ways with words, Lord Stark.” She spread her legs beneath him and tugged her shift over her hips as Ned pressed down into her, feeling her breath catch as she felt the length of his erection grinding into her.
He rumbled into her neck, letting his teeth sink just hard enough into her soft skin for Cersei to arch again him. “Perhaps you have rubbed off on me, my lady.” His hands reached to part her thighs to him, his fingers pressing between her legs to find the growing wetness there.”You certainly feel like you enjoy it.”
Cersei shuddered into a moan as his fingers pressed inside her, sighing as he kissed it from her lips. She sank her teeth into his lip with the burn of his fingers stretching her, baring her teeth against her growling husband as he began to thrust his fingers slowly inside her. The slick sound of it filled her belly with heat, and Cersei felt it up into the edges of her hairline.
She spread her legs and flexed her hips.
“Harder,” she panted. “Don’t tease me.”
“Not yet,” he rumbled, pulling his fingers from her. Ned smirked at her disapproving whine, his eyes dark and hungry as he brought his fingers to his mouth to taste her. “I want you bare for me.” He yanked his own tunic off, and Cersei unravelled her own shift carelessly.
And then they were skin to skin, and Cersei sighed again at the bristle of his coarse chest hair against her. She caressed her husband idly; stroked and petted his hair and head and back, cupping the back of his neck as he kissed and mouthed his way down her body. She liked having her husband in her bed. It was one of the few places Ned Stark dared to touch her with anything more than a gentle caress - the only place he would pull his teeth back and snarl into her skin like the wolf he was.
In the bedroom, they were equals. The lion and the wolf caught between teeth and nails and bodies pressed together beneath the furs, and Cersei bared her own teeth in a hiss when his mouth took claim of her breast. She dug her nails into his scalp and tugged until she heard him growl; felt the stirring and pooling of heat between her hips as he licked and sucked and cupped his hands over her breasts worshipfully. Cersei’s body writhed and arched beneath him as his teeth raked a path along her belly, biting down just enough to leave a mark on the curve of her hipbone.
When he looked up at her, his eyes were nearly black - a hungry wolf rumbling between her legs.
He lowered his lips to her, and Cersei let her head drop back onto the pillows with a stifled cry.
They did no more talking that night.
Robb and Jon’s first nameday came and went. Robb Stark had his father’s colour and his mother’s eyes, with a hidden gleam of something softer than black in his hair when the sun was bright in the sky. Jon Stark was all North; pale and serious with hair like coal that curled like Robb’s. Robb was quick to a tantrum where Jon was pensive, with a temper that brewed slow and great. When the boys learned to walk, Ned brought them to the stables and presented them with two leggy colts, shagged from the cold and solidly built.
Cersei eyed the steeds dubiously, hugging Jon close to her. “They’re yearlings yet. The boys won’t ride until they have their third nameday,” he soothed her, holding Robb back from stumbling headfirst into bay colt’s feet.
Her lord husband gave their sons a pair of handsome palfreys; one a rich blood bay, and the other a dark blue roan the shade of frozen steel. “They’ll need names,” he said, smiling at her as Jon reached out one chubby hand to press against the roan’s head. “I trust your tastes, my lady.”
“Brightfyre,” she said, stepping forward to rest her palm against the bay’s velvet muzzle. “For Robb.” She turned to the roan, scratching its cheek as it threw its head back and regarded her with gleaming slate eyes. “Black Ice.” The colt snuffled at her face, nuzzling into Jon’s curls. “For Jon.”
“Soon they’ll be riding alongside you,” Ned said fondly. As part of her bride price, he had given her a mare the day of their wedding; a gleaming beauty amidst the grey, white like snow but with a mane and tail of shimmering gold and cream in the sunlight. Riding was not a pastime Cersei partook in often, but she did enjoy her time with Jewel in the stables and on the quiet rides she took with Ned. The roads in the North left much to be desired, and Cersei knew there was much to discuss with her husband in time.
“Perhaps when they can walk without falling on their heads,” she told him.
The boys’ nannies emerged from somewhere, and Robb and Jon were passed along to them.
Cersei bent to kiss each of them warmly on the head. “Rest well, sweetlings.” She turned to Ned and slid her arm into his, and as they pathed their way back to the Keep, Maester Luwin scurried out to meet them.
In his weathered hands, he held letters. “From King’s Landing, my lord.” He passed them to Ned, bowing slightly. When Luwin looked at Cersei, there was a curious, wary look in his eyes. “One from Casterly Rock for you, my lady.”
Cersei reached out immediately. “I will read it in my rooms.” She folded her hands back into her sleeves, casting a look at Ned. “We might adjourn to your solar, my lord. I have thoughts to address with you.”
Ned’s brows furrowed curiously, dismissing Luwin with a wave of his hand. “What did you wish to discuss, my lady?” he asked.
“Your solar, Lord Stark,” Cersei repeated mildly, glancing sharply around them.
Ned poured his wife a goblet of wine, turning to Cersei as she perched herself on his chair. “What were the thoughts you wanted to address, my lady?” He placed the goblet before her, watching in amusement at the way she twirled his quill between delicate fingers and perused his letters without shame. It wasn’t like he kept them from her, for that matter. Cersei was nothing if not persistent, and there was no stopping her when she wanted something.
Cersei looked at the goblet, but made no move to drink. “The North,” Cersei said, looking at her husband. “You command the largest region of Westeros, and yet your castles are crumbling and your roads are more hazardous than the forests that grow around it.”
Ned frowned mildly, sipping from his own wine. “The North is vast, as you say, my lady,” he said, leaning against his desk. "We cannot tame the North the same as the South, my lady. The Kingsroad is clear, it's safe. All who travel North --"
"What of your castles, Lord Stark?” she asked then, gesturing to the room around them. “The ancient homes of your Northmen, crumbled and abandoned for any to seize. Should an army march North, you'll burn in your homes."
The Lord of Winterfell pressed his lips together tightly, eyes dark and guarded as he regarded his wife. "...you think us weak, my lady?"
Cersei’s brow arched, and she took her time in answering her husband. "I think you too soft on your vassals. The Rebellion may have ended, Lord Stark, but there are those who still seek blood. If not from the South, then those wretched wildlings hiding in your Wolfswood." Her lip curled at the thought of ever letting Jon and Robb out that deep into the countryside.
"I suspect you're thinking too far ahead of yourself, Lady Stark." It sounded a lot like a warning to her, and Cersei felt a flare of defiance bloom inside her.
"I'm thinking of our sons ,” she replied sharply. “When they're old enough to ride, to run, to play. If one of them climbs the Broken Tower, or if the stones come loose in your First Keep -- then what? I won't have my children crippled or killed because their father was too ignorant to consider these things."
Ned shook his head stubbornly. "They are not the first children that will grow within the walls of Winterfell, and they will not be the last. Robb and Jon will learn to play as all other children of the North do.”
Cersei sighed, looking away into the blackened hearth. She swirled the quill idly in her hand, wondering how much would she need to fight her husband on the matter. Surely he could understand her concerns? Winterfell was vast, larger than Casterly Rock by far, but severely lacking in its grandeur. She supposed that men of the North didn’t need grandeur like the Southron Lords did, but it wasn’t as if she wanted to drape silks upon its walls and embed diamonds into its windows.
She placed the quill back onto the table carefully. “It’s not as if we don’t have the gold to fix that blasted tower,” she said petulantly, leaning back in his seat.
He eyed her thoughtfully, reaching for the jug and pouring himself more wine. “I understand that Winterfell cannot compare to the comforts of Casterly Rock, my lady, but I didn’t expect you to take offence at a crumbling castle tower.” He moved to fill Cersei’s goblet, but she covered it with her hand.
“I take offence at your indifference towards it,” she replied mildly, and caught the strange look he was giving her. “What?” She glanced at her wine, untouched and still filled nearly to the brim. Slowly she lowered her hand, shrugging. “I’m not in the mood for wine.”
She gave him a pointed look, something sparkling and bright in her eyes as she brought her hand down to her stomach.
Cersei smiled at him, and in his wild rush of sweeping his wife into his arms, he did not see the uncertainty marring her pretty face. She let him hold her and kiss her, nearly laughing as she wriggled out of his ardent embrace. “I spoke with the maester this morning,” she told him, when Ned let her step back far enough to look upon him. He had his arms around her waist still, and Cersei allowed herself to rest her hands on his hands where they were circled around her.
“Truly?” he asked, almost in awe as he peered down at her belly. “Another one?”
She squeezed his hand. “Yes,” she said. “Perhaps two again, even.”
With a startling amount of tenderness, Ned pressed a kiss into her hair, holding her in a gentle embrace. “Perhaps a girl this time,” he murmured warmly, twirling her golden hair between his fingers, eyes crinkling and soft as he looked at her. “Yes. Fair like you, and sweet.”
Perhaps not fair, she thought anxiously. Not so fair at all.