The Pack Survives
About 1800 words. This shipfic takes place between S06E09 and S06E10. I may write more but consider this a one-shot to be safe. Beware spoilers.
Jon Snow lay in his bunk, staring into the wall. A fire still crackled and popped behind him, casting shadows around the bare room. He’d learned long ago not to watch the flames when trying to sleep, instead to focus on the darkest patch of brickwork he could find. Even so, he was restless in spite of the slate-gray mortared bricks filling his vision.
Jon was exhausted. Fighting and killing Bolton men days before had worn him down to where he could barely stand, much less ride a horse or direct the reclaiming and rebuilding of Winterfell. Sansa had taken up those responsibilities while he recovered, for which he had been grateful. It was just as well; the rightful Lady of Winterfell should be the one to lead those efforts, not Ned Stark’s bastard.
So here he lay, the small room quiet except for the hearth’s deliberations. Jon wished he could sleep and frowned, stone-faced, at the difficulty such pursuit warranted. They had joked at the Wall that men would sleep when they were dead. In Jon’s experience, that was a lie.
A demure knocking interrupted the quiet. Jon started beneath the furs piled on top of him and reflexively reached for the dragonglass dagger Sam had left him; Longclaw was out of reach, so he kept the crude blade at his bedside. It was a better weapon for the tight confines of his quarters than the hand-and-a-half sword.
In better days, Jon would not keep any killing tools by his bedside. But the faces of dead men were still too clear in his thoughts, and he’d been caught with his guard down before.
He lurched from bed and stumbled, but settled his weight and stalked to the door. He unfastened the lock and drew it open, careful to stay clear of the gap.
Jon swallowed and asked the darkness, “Who’s there?”
“It’s me,” a woman’s voice answered, haltingly. “Sansa.”
Jon’s brow furrowed and he opened the door a little wider. “You haven’t got a lantern?”
“I don’t need it. Not here. Could I come in?”
Confused, he stood aside and gingerly placed the dagger on a shelf. Sansa did not notice it as she strode inside, or at least pretended not to. Jon shut the door, set the lock, and turned.
There was no mistaking her in the light. Sansa stood taller than him, auburn hair braided loosely and thrown over a shoulder. She had no lantern, but carried a clay pitcher with both hands. Jon waited patiently for her to speak as she turned her eyes to him.
“I can’t sleep,” she said slowly, “not here. Not yet.”
Jon nodded cautiously. He’d thought Sansa would need time to get comfortable in Winterfell again, after all she had endured here. But he had good sense not to ask her about it, figuring she would mention the problem when she was ready.
“Neither can I,” Jon admitted. He crossed the room, careful to step aside Sansa’s skirts, and stoked the fire. “Want it built back up?”
Sansa’s eyes were dull and her mouth set in a thin line, so Jon busied himself with reviving the hearth. “Set that pitcher on the desk, if you like. What’s in it?” He added a dried log to the fireplace but, unsatisfied with its progress, broke up a peat brick and tossed it into the coals.
Sansa stepped next to where he crouched by the fire and offered a cup. “Mulled wine. The kitchens are short on spices, but it’s passable.”
Jon politely tilted his cup back and savored it. “Best I’ve had in years.” Jon stood and surveyed the earthenware cup in contemplation. “The Old Bear loved it, but never shared with me. Guess he thought it was a perk of command.”
“The Old Bear?”
Suddenly aware that Sansa was still standing, Jon hurriedly moved the room’s lone stool from its place at his desk for her to sit by the fire. He talked as he worked.
“Lord Commander Mormont. Lady Mormont’s grandfather. He was Lord Commander before me, I was his steward.”
“His steward?” Sansa asked inquisitively, and for the first time Jon looked hard at her. She wore the wolf-hide cloak that was twin to the one she’d gifted him over her nightgowns. As always her face drew his attention and he tried not to stare, but for the moment her mask had slipped. A thin dark eyebrow rose in surprise and her mouth quirked with the beginnings of a smile that threatened to reach her eyes. “You served the Lord Commander his meals?”
Jon smiled wanly in remembrance. Hers was contagious. “Aye, and fetched hot water for his bath.” He gestured at the warming hearth. “And kept a fire burning in his chambers, changed his sheets and blankets, and everything else the Lord Commander asked of me.” Jon sunk to the floor near Sansa’s seat and stretched his legs out before the fire.
She drank and leaned forward, resting her free hand on her knee and cupping her chin. Sansa’s blue eyes pierced into Jon over the rim of her cup. “That all seems beneath you.”
“I was a man of the Watch,” Jon explained, “I did my duty. Then I died. Now I’m here.”
Sansa’s eyes flashed. “Is that how you got that?” She traced the scar that crossed Jon’s eye with a finger drawn across her own brow.
“No, that was an eagle.”
“I wish I were. Damned thing hurt.”
Sansa sipped her wine, not deigning to respond. Minutes passed in silence before she spoke again. “I hope your Old Bear had better wine than ale.”
Jon grinned at the memory of Sansa choking down the filth at Castle Black. “I’m sure he did.”
“Was he kind to you?”
Jon thought before answering. “He was patient. I was too proud, then. But he saved my life and I his, once. Then I avenged him. And he was kind, in his way,” Jon turned and gestured at his sword, which stood in its scabbard in a corner, ruby wolf-eyes glinting in the dark. Sansa followed his gaze as he talked, “he gave me Longclaw. House Mormont’s Valyrian steel.”
“Do you think Lyanna wants it back?”
A pained expression crossed Jon’s face. “I haven’t asked,” he sheepishly admitted.
Sansa gently shoved his shoulder. “You’re terrible.”
“You’ve always said that,” Jon laughed, looking away and smiling. “Remember when Arya and I threw snowballs at you?”
“When Father rode off to White Harbor and Karhold with Robb, to show him the seas.”
Sansa nodded in recognition, teeth flashing in a brief grin. “Jeyne and I had spent all morning practicing Southron braids, and you two just ruined our work.” Her face stilled and darkened. “Father thought the next Warden of the North should know the limits of his domain.”
“He did,” Jon said quietly.
Sansa still hadn’t moved her hand from his shoulder, and he found himself leaning into it.
Her voice was firm. “He would be proud of us.” She squeezed his shoulder in punctuation.
Jon’s voice was guarded. “Have you been down to the crypts yet?”
“I had fresh torches sent down this morning. The Boltons let them burn out.”
“That’s good of you.”
Sansa straightened and held her cup with both hands, leaning again towards the fire. They endured the awkward silence until it became comfortable again.
“You really should make an offer to Lyanna,” Sansa appealed.
Jon sighed. “It’s on my list.”
“It’s a terrible dishonor, for a family to lose its Valyrian steel. The Lannisters took ours and melted it down.”
That got Jon’s attention. “They destroyed Ice?”
“Tywin Lannister had it reforged,” Sansa said, “it was enough steel for two swords. He gave one to Joffrey and its twin to the Kingslayer. Lady Brienne has one of them, now.”
“Maybe we should ask for it back.”
Sansa rolled her eyes. “So I can wield it?”
“Maybe,” Jon replied quickly. Sansa did not answer that so he turned to look at her again, catching her in a rare state of surprise. He shrugged beneath her stare and explained, “Winter is here, and the enemy is marching. We’ll need every bit of Valyrian steel we’ve got.”
Sansa sniffed. “The sword would be in better use in Brienne’s hands,” she paused to draw breath, then added evenly, “but if you think I should learn some skill at arms, you will teach me.”
It was Jon’s turn to be surprised. “Me?”
“Yes,” Sansa answered confidently, “we have no master-at-arms, and you were always Ser Rodrick’s best student. He said so.”
“When did he tell you that?”
“He visited mother’s sewing circle often. She wanted to know how you boys’ education progressed.
“But as Lady of Winterfell,” Sansa sped on smoothly, not letting Jon respond, “you are a guest in my home. You’ve taken my bread and salt, Jon, and I expect you’ll honor me.”
“Always.” Jon drew his legs up and leaned on his knees, but did not meet her gaze.
Sansa took their empty cups and set them aside, then hung her cloak on an iron hook in the wall next to Jon’s.
She moved the stool and sat next to him on the floor, crossing her long legs. He carefully turned to meet her eyes.
“Hey,” she said quietly, “we’re home.” She took his hand in her own.
Sansa was convincing someone, but Jon knew it wasn’t him. His fingers felt warm against hers, and initially he kept his locked tight together. But she gently – insistently – threaded hers through his, and they sat there a while together, watching the sparks dance in the hearth.
Jon’s throat was drier than he’d felt in a lifetime, but he soldiered through it. He stubbornly looked away from her. “You can rest here tonight. The bed is yours.”
Sansa’s grip tightened gratefully. “I’d like that.”
“I’ll stay here by the fire, just give me one of the furs.” His speech was hurried.
“You’ll be comfortable?”
Jon nodded, his mind in a cave beneath the Wall. “I’ve stayed in worse.”
Sansa exhaled and stood, loosening her hold on him. He didn’t move as she stepped to the bed and returned with a thick blanket, setting it around his shoulders. She retired to the bed and reclined beneath its layered furs. The sensations of it felt more like home than in her own quarters: the warmth where Jon had lain earlier, the soft, combed furs, and the faint scent of juniper berries. This was their home. There were Starks again in Winterfell.
She watched him sprawl before the fire beneath the blanket, a wolf’s shape in the dark. “Thank you, Jon. Good night.”
“Good night, Sansa. I’ll be here.”