(Scenario: “I deserve to choose who I will marry” is what Sansa states should be her reward for her role in the victory over the Boltons. But will Jon Snow see it that way after she nearly got him killed? This short story is a continuation from the Caught In A Paradox.)
Sansa could not spot Jon at breakfast and so left the Great Hall to find him. She guessed he was in bed, sleeping. Jon had fought hard during the Battle of the Bastards the previous day, and had drunk himself into stupor during the celebrations.
He had earned his rest for sure. Still, Sansa needed to talk to him about Lord Peter Baelish’s offer, to make sure that they were on the same page. If she did not reach Jon first, Lord Peter would. The gods only knew what lies that man would say to get his way.
Sansa lifted her skirt and made her way to Jon’s solar. She smiled to herself, amused that he had taken up residence in his old chamber again, rather than sleeping in one befitting the commander of the Stark forces. Then again, Jon was a bastard. If he had been legitimate, he would have occupied their father’s chamber: the preserve of the Lord of Winterfell.
The door was a jar and Sansa pushed it gently. It creaked open to reveal Jon sitting on an uncomfortable-looking, wooden armchair before a hearth. He sat in silence, absent almost. He looked pale, and he had dark sacks under his eyes, exhausted from both the fighting and the wine.
Tormund and Ser Davos sat either side of him, neither saying a word. Like Jon, they stared into the fire, letting the dancing flames reflect in their eyes. Whatever they were thinking about, it must have been deep and absorbing as they none of them noticed Sansa enter. “Jon,” she said. “Can I speak with you?”
Jon nodded. “Give us the room,” he said.
Ser Davos and Tormund got up and left, wordlessly. Sansa sat on the chair that Ser Davos had been sitting in and looked at Jon. He looked unhappy, despite the victory and the recapture of Winterfell, and he was brooding more than usual. “How does it feel to be home again?” she asked, to start conversation.
Still facing the fire, Jon puffed out a lungful of air. He looked empty and devoid of energy. “It feels strange,” he said. “I keep thinking of my sword duels with Robb in the yard; and memories of Bran, Rickon, Arya and Father, as well.”
And Mother. But she did not say it. Lady Catelyn Stark had not been his mother, and Lady Catelyn had never hidden her disdain for the one time that the honourable Lord Eddard Stark had slept with another woman and fathered another son out of wedlock.
“I keep thinking about all that we’ve lost,” Jon continued. “Winterfell does not feel much like home without them.”
Sansa looked away, as much from him as from her memories of the past. She missed their father, brothers and sister, and she missed her mother on top of that as well. But they had just retaken Winterfell. She wanted her conversation to be a little more cheerful than a grieving session. “I am happy to be home again,” Sansa said. “In time, one of us will recreate what we had. But that is not why I have come to speak with you.”
“Why Didn’t You Tell Me?”
Jon turned to face her. A shadow passed over his face, where the fire could not reach, and his look was cold; murderously cold, like the one he had given Ramsey the day before the battle. “Have you come to explain why you did not tell me that the Knights of the Vale were on their way?”
Sansa hesitated. That was not why she had come. But she should have guessed that Jon would bring it up.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” he said. “I could have waited before we attacked the Bolton forces. I could have saved hundreds, perhaps as much as a thousand men if you had told me.”
Sansa sucked in her lips as she thought about what to say. She could not tell him that Lord Peter had planted mistrust in her mind, when he had met her in secret at Mole’s Town. It sounded pathetic, even in her own mind, to say it. Jon was as honourable as their lord father had been. Sansa should have trusted him over that jumped-up lord who gave her the creeps. “I was not sure that the Knights of the Vale were coming,” Sansa said. “Lord Baelish is not a man who can be trusted.”
The Real Enemy
“You trusted him more than you trusted me. I could have sent scouts to find out if the Arryn men were on their way.”
I am sorry. Sansa wanted to say it, but the words would not pass her lips. She had never apologised to anyone before. Her first time would not be to a bastard, even if Jon were of the same blood as her. Her mother had taught her that highborn girls did not apologise to bastards, and Sansa intended to uphold what little she remembered of her mother’s sayings.
“Again,” Jon continued. “I could have saved lives; lives that I need in order to fight the real enemy from beyond the wall.”
A cold wind breathed down Sansa’s spine. It was as if the mere hint of the Night King and the Army of the Dead were enough to make the winter of the Long Night come again. Sansa went over to the fire for warmth and reassurance, to force herself to believe that some hearths would have enough light and heat to ensure that the Long Night would not be as cold and dark as the legends had it. “The threat from beyond the Wall is why I came to speak with you,” Sansa said. “Lord Baelish told me last night that he would be willing to let the Vale’s soldiers stay here-”
“In exchange for your hand in marriage?” Jon finished.
I Deserve To Choose Who I Will Marry
Sansa snapped Jon a glare. “Has he already spoken to you about it?” she asked, speaking faster than she would have liked. She hoped it did not make her come across afraid; afraid that Jon had already agreed to Lord Peter’s deal without consulting her. “What did he say?”
Jon snorted. “No, he has not said a word to me about it. Not yet at least. I could just sense what he wants from the way he looks at you.”
Sansa smiled, uneasily. “You’ve noticed?”
“It’s hard not to. But, seriously, we need the Knights of the Vale against the Army of the Dead-”
“I will not marry him.”
“Sansa, you cannot simply dismiss this offer-”
“Yes, I can and I will,” Sansa interjected. “I played my part in the victory over the Boltons.” If it weren’t for me, you would have been killed; our men, slaughtered. You did not listen to me and fell right into Ramsey’s trap. “I deserve to choose who I will marry as a reward. That will be the case whether the noblemen choose you or me to rule Winterfell.”
What About For The North?
Jon frowned. He brooded over whatever was going through his mind, before he clenched his fist and thumped the small table next to him. The mug of ale jumped, before spilling onto the floor. “I don’t blame you for not wanting to marry, Lord Baelish,” Jon said. “His presence makes me feel uncomfortable and I don’t like the way he looks at you. But if you were to have seen what I have seen beyond the Wall, you would not care for who you marry.”
“That’s easy for you to say. You have not been betrothed to a monster and married to another.”
“Aye, you’re right! And if I could have done something to prevent either of those marriages, I would have. Alas, I couldn’t. But it won’t matter who you’re married to if the dead win. We’ll all just be corpses, and I cannot let that happen.” Jon gulped, as if he were sorry to have lost his temper and feeling guilty for what he was about to say. “Lord Baelish showed good faith, coming to our aid for no reason other than to uphold a vow he made to your mother. I ask you, please, to accept his proposal for the North, for your people. They fought for you. They expect you to do your bit to protect them.”
Sansa’s blood simmered. Jon was a fool, just like their lord father. Lord Peter had not ridden to fight against the Boltons because of a vow he made to her mother. He had done it after calculating that it was his best chance to marry Lady Sansa Stark of Winterfell.
Lord Petyr’s Crimes
Sansa glowered at her bastard half-brother. She had not wanted to bring up a couple of issues about Lord Peter because she had thought Jon would have agreed to reject the proposal. Now, she had no choice but to raise the issues. “Jon,” she said. “Lord Baelish has acted improperly with me on a number of occasions.”
“Improperly?” Jon frowned. “How so?”
“Furthermore,” Sansa continued, firmly. “I saw him murder his wife, my aunt Lysa, pushing her out of the Moon Door in the Eyrie.”
Jon’s eyes widened, as if he could not believe that a man as scrawny and seemingly unthreatening as Lord Peter had the capacity to kill someone. “Why didn’t you say this before?” Jon rubbed his eyes and shook his head. “Do you have proof?”
Sansa shook her head. “If I had, I would have brought it to you already.”
Jon took in a deep breath. “This complicates matters,” he said. Then, he groaned. “I wish I weren’t so tired, that my head weren’t thumping me.”
Sansa rolled her eyes. Couldn’t Jon just agree with her? Couldn’t he just tell her that he would dismiss Lord Peter’s revolting proposal?
As her eyes rolled back to look at him. She caught sight of the last of the ale, dripping onto the floor. Each drop stretched from the table to the floor like an elastic band, like a line on a family tree. Suddenly, a memory of aunt Lysa and her young son, Robin Arryn, sprung into Sansa’s mind; one generation to the next. It also reminded her that Robin was the real Lord of the Vale, not Lord Peter. Why hadn’t she realised this before?
An idea flowered in Sansa’s mind and the corners of her mouth curled upwards. Her cousin, Robin, was near a decade younger than her, and sickly. Sansa had heard him cough many a time in the Eyrie. People with his ailment did not survive winter. “I think I have found a solution to our problem,” she said.
Jon looked up, his fatigue and hangover vanishing in an instant. “Go on,” he said. “I’m listening.”
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