Sansa Stark stared out across the Great Hall. She’d practically grown up in this Hall as a child. She was Lady of Winterfell. And she acted, very much in all the ways her mother and father had. She made treaties across the North, in the North, the Vale, and Riverlands.
It’s empty, now. Jons gone South for talks with Daenerys Targaryen. Bran is home. The acting King in the North.
It’s a very hollowing experience.
She prefers it, over the prison she was in. The bruises, the cuts, the bite marks, the tearing has healed. She still has a few scars. She’s killed him, though. Watched him die. Drank moon tea that night.
Ramsay Snow was gone.
She’s burnt his house to the ground. Withdrawn all written text of his family.
She’s taken it all away. There would always be the myths, but those too would fade. The Starks were home.
Broken. Misplaced. Lost.
She stares across the room.
Petyr wants her hand. Petyr wants the Iron Throne.
Jon knows this, now. He’d pried it from her. Ripped and pulled it from her. Through tears and harsh words. He seemed to be the only one to be able to pull her apart now.
“He’ll kill you Jon. He’ll do whatever it takes to get there.” She sobbed. “He’ll take you, he’ll take you and Bran,” she said through tears. Her chest ached and he held her as she struggled to breath.
Things were more complicated now. Even if she married him, he’d never stop for the Iron Throne. She could marry him to secure his loyalty, but she wasn’t stupid enough. If he ever was caught her entire family would burn.
The Dragon Queen had that reputation.
Her job was to secure their legacy. Bran was the three-eyed Raven. He had the Northern Throne in name, but unless Arya appeared, she was the heir. She’d birth the Stark heirs. And she had to protect their legacy.
It always came down to her.
Jon sent her letters, he trusted Tyrion and the Spider, but not Theon or Yara. Theon hadn’t been like a brother to Jon, not in the way that Robb had. But if he hadn’t turned his back on Robb, Robb could arguably still be alive. And Theon may have saved her, but she didn’t think she’d ever decide how she felt of him.
She loved him like a brother. And she hated him like a traitor.
Lord Glover stands beside her at all times. He’s currently stationed with her while she sits with her brother. She believes it’s a twist of guilt and honor that drives him now.
Brienne is always there as well, and Meera Reed, she is always close by. She watches Bran with a haunting mix of grief and belief.
“The Dragon Queen, Daenerys Targaryen, has accepted and agreed to the terms of our allied commitment both to the Southern War, and the War beyond the Wall.” Bran’s voice echoes out across the bannermen. Immediately, there’s dissension, but with a soft clearing of her throat, it shudders to a halt.
“Our King, and my brother, has agreed to take the Westerlands and hold the border.” She says, staring the men down. Bran nods once the men settle.
“The Targaryens and Martells will take the Lannisters in the South. The Tyrells will hold their border and they and those Greyjoys loyal to the Targaryen crown will work with the Tyrells to take the Iron Islands. From there, no more raping and raiding will ever take place upon our borders again without severe consequence.” Bran tells them. The men begin bickering again, yelling of injustices and anger and frustration. She turns to Lord Glover, who steps forward, and Lord Manderly, Lady Mormont and he both hush them.
“Listen to your King, there is reason to these words.” Lady Mormont chastises.
There is finally a settled pause and Bran turns to look at her. He nods to her, like she told him. And she tips her head in agreement. She told him never to falter. Always to look with confidence. They didn’t need to know this was her doing.
“The Tyrells and Yara Grejoy’s fleet will take down the remaining Greyjoys. I understand your bitterness, your pain, and your anger. But right now, we need to settle the Kingdoms. We have a greater threat than the Ironborn. In order to do that, we need to work together.” Her voice is sure, soothing, and the men look begrudging, but accepting.
“We will take the Westerlands. We will crush what is left of the Frey who have escaped there. And we will hold it for Lord Tyrion Lannister, until he or his men come to take it back. We will give it to them. From that point, the South has agreed to trade agreements. Dragonstones first shipment of dragonglass is on it’s way. They’re sending two hundred and fifty men to man the wall.” She explains to them smoothly. She didn’t tell them that they were sellswords, a thanks from the agreement to take and then give back the Westerlands. She knew Northern men would be bitter for it, but these warriors were the Unsullied: Jon told her they were unflinchingly loyal, fierce fighters, and would follow Ed’s direction. However, very few of them were fluent in the common tongue. But that, she thought, could be worked on in both sides.
“That is quite generous of the Dragon Queen.” Petyr says, eyes trained hard on her. Bran smiles, just as she told him too.
“Yes, our agreements are currently quite agreeable. Unfortunately, we have little time to discuss much else. By the end of two weeks, I want our men to be ready to march out. Orders will be sent out later tonight and the border patrol will be strengthened. The Tyrells have goods and seeds they’ll be sending as well. While this is all going on, the restoration of Winterfell will be taking place and we will be sending more builders up North. We need to begin reparations on the Wall and open up as many castles as possible. They’ll need to be habitable if we plan on having our combined armies in the North.”
The men look at their King with admiration but also resignation. Bran and Sansa weren’t who they wanted. It was Robb. Then Jon, maybe. But not a cripple and a woman who’d been both a Lannister and a Bolton. One that didn’t have a true claim.
But Sansa would secure their legacy. Sansa would protect the Stark name. And she would do that by doing what was best for their people. By making sure they survived.
Jon arrives on a Dragon. A cream colored one he tells her is called Viserys. They held the Westerlands for nearly two months. Winterfell had been completed by that time, and all available builders had been sent North. In that time, she’d also ordered more men North.
The Free Folk were…well, a complicated bunch. Sansa had worked with them, of course. They were free to keep to their laws within their homes. And they had agreed to that bitterly once they realized that not just the Northern army would soon occupy the North and the Gift, but the Southern.
But Jon arrived on a Dragon with cream scales and she recoils internally.
He promised he was still her brother.
But when she looks at him this time, she sees a man that has changed in a way that is different from her and Bran. It’s strange. The next day, he acknowledges his Southern and Northern blood.
It hurts her more than she thought it would.
It seems that she and Bran are the only Starks after all.
“It isn’t what you think,” he practically begs her. She raises her jaw and turns to him. Her eyes are cool, and she school’s herself. She’s angry, she knows, because she feels like he’s abandoned her. And again, she’s left to protect the legacy she never wanted.
“We are here to fight a war, Jon. Can we get back to that?” She asks him.
“You’re angry.” He says, eyes soft and hurt.
She turns and faces him with a deep, shuddering breath. “I have a Kingdom that is not mine moving through the North. A War with the Others to the North. My men beg me to kill Theon on the spot. I have to coach Bran through every meeting there is while also playing the keen Lady Stark. I am not angry, I am overwhelmed.” His eyes soften, but hers do not. “You are making it difficult for me to do my job, Jon.”
His face is like fathers and Robbs and Arya’s. It makes her ache.
But he’s a Targaryen now.
By the time Brienne’s told her of what has happened, the fights already ended. She storms across her family home and shoves herself inside of Jon’s solar. His cheek is red, lip split, but he’s fine. Her eyes are a fury as she stares at him, freezing all those in her path. But Jon is different, she knows. He meets her this time.
“Why didn’t you tell me that you were getting marriage proposals?” She laughs at him, and it throws him off.
“Jon, I am the only female heir to Winterfell and the Northern Crown. Bran is a cripple. He may never be able to have children. Why do you think I’m getting marriage proposals?” Her voice is bitter and angry and accusing. “You cannot assault every one of my suitors!”
“You want them?” He asks, fury and frustration ripping into him.
“Of course not, but it is rude to openly refuse them. Jon-you-I-” she stops and takes a deep breath, but she feels herself too close to the surface. “It is very possible that my sons will be the future of the Stark legacy. A legacy that I have to protect. If you hadn’t become a Targaryen, it would have been your sons.” She says, voice shaking as much as she struggles through it. She takes deep breaths and he took a deep breath and turns away from her.
“Close the door.” His request strikes her as strange, but after a moment she does. He sits in front of the fire, leaning forward with his hand on his thigh.
He doesn’t speak for a moment, and Sansa moves closer to him.
“I’m not a Targaryen. I’m still a Bastard.” He says quietly.
“A royal one,” she corrects him, it’s strange, how quickly she corrects him. It’s effortless too.
“Just a bastard.” He says to her, smiling. There’s amusement in his eyes and it makes Sansa feel young, a strange feeling. She hasn’t felt young since she arrived in King’s Landing. “Just a bastard with no claim.”
“Just a royal bastard with a Dragon, Jon.” She corrects again. His smile grows, as does the fond amusement in his eyes. Her lips purse with annoyance.
“Dany can’t control all of the Dragons. Viserys prefers me.”
“A royal bastard with a Dragon.” She repeats. His smile falters a bit, but he turns away and shakes his head.
“No. I’m loyal to the North. To you, to Bran. To Robb and Rickon, and Arya’s memory.” She tries not to flinch, but he isn’t looking at her, he’s looking down at his hands. “I announced my legacy for a reason, Sansa. To protect you. And Bran.”
She shakes her head. How? How does him being a Targaryen protect them? “What are you talking about?”
He takes a deep breath, but he doesn’t look at her. “No man will ever hurt you again. And no man will take your claim as Lady Stark.”
She rolls her eyes, ready to argue. If she ever planned on having children, they would have to be bastards and then legitimized, if they were to be Bran’s heirs. No man would because she never would marry. “I don’t plan on marrying, Jon. I will have bastard children. Bran will legitimize them as his sons and daughters.”
“You’ll hate that,” he says quietly. “You’ve always wanted to be a wife. More than being a mother.” He looks at her then, his eyes guarded but expecting.
“Jon, I will do my duty to protect the Stark name.” She repeats the mantra she’s told herself over and over again to him.
“But you don’t have to sacrifice being a wife to do that.” She laughs again, shaking her head.
“Yes, Jon, I do.”
He stands then, approaching her. He’s only a bit taller than her and he takes her hands gently.
“Our grandparents were cousins, Sansa. We are cousins. And I am a bastard. If we married,” he pauses when she stiffens, hands going still and cold in his hands. “Your name would be the name inherited. And you would be safe. No more marriage proposals. No more pain. You chose how many children to be born. And every decision within our marriage would be yours.” She stares at him both with shock and confusion and terror as she stared at him. Her mind is a mess of a thing she can’t describe or read. This is a move she hadn’t thought of, stupidly, on her part, because it did have good merits.
But he was her brother, wasn’t he? Technically, no. Even as a child, they weren’t close. She cared for him, sure, but she was stupid and naive. Only when they met again did she find herself close to him, and even then it was at odds with the internal and struggle of Petyr and the North.
And then he had taken his Targaryen father over theirs.
But was this why? Or was this something he thought of after?
“I-I,” she lets out a hysterical noise. “I need to think.” He nods, withdraws from her respectfully.
“I just want you to be safe, Sansa.”
It’s in the Godswood she finds peace. She always does, now. The soft creaking of the wind that slips through the leaves and the semblance of safety she feels in the Godswood is mostly due to Bran and his explanation of his gifts. Of what he’d seen. Of the Old Gods powers.
Meera slips into the Godswood and freezes when she sees Sansa. But Sansa waves her closer. She does, coming to sit beside her but not too close. Meera was still scarred by her travels and her tribulations. But Sansa saw a bit of what Arya would have been, had she been around. Although Meera was better tempered than Arya.
“May…I confide in you, Meera?” Her voice is softer than she uses, more vulnerable and quiet.
Meera looks back at her, dark brown eyes meeting Tully blue. She nods. “Course, m’lady.” Sansa smiles, but it fades quickly when she sighs, and looks forward.
“I…have led a complicated life as of yet. I was a prisoner in King’s Landing. Then in the Vale, for fear of knowledge of my finding. And again with the Boltons.” Her voice is quiet, so quiet that Meera actually moves closer to hear. “I was raped. Beaten… Ramsay was unkind. Cruel, a murderer. He used to tell me of all the women that came before. Those he liked got quick deaths. Those that didn’t were eaten alive by his hounds once he was done raping them.” She rushes out the last, and avoids the horrified look on her face.
“When I escaped North and found Jon I thought I was free.” She says quietly. “But…with Bran being so young, with his disability or his gift, I do not know if he will be able to have children. Or stay with us.” She turns to Meera, and in her eyes she saw flickers of understanding, a mutual sadness, but also a bit of confusion. “I do not want to marry someone that would force me to give up my name. I want to marry someone that would allow my name and future childrens to be Stark.” Her jaw rose and she nodded.
“Marriage to someone low born…or legitimization.” Her voice is soft and careful.
“Legitimization would mean that I would constantly be hunted for marriage, regardless of how many children I have.” Sansa says quietly. “And should I marry any Lord, he would have hold over my lands, legacy, and by extension, Bran, should anything happen.”
“So marriage,” she says quietly. “To someone of lower standing. Bran wouldn’t have a problem with it.”
Sansa doesn’t speak for a moment, and she wraps her arms around herself. She knows that Meera would not betray Bran, and perhaps she is doing this because she’s too much of a coward to go to Bran. “Jon has openly acknowledged himself as a royal bastard, with no inheritance, and offered to marry me as his cousin.”
Meera is silent, but Sansa isn’t quite sure what to say either. In fact, since she’d talked to Jon five days ago, this is the first time she’d uttered it out loud.
She wonders if she thinks she’s disgusting. If she’s some sort of…deviant for actually considering it.
Everytime she thinks of it, first she thinks he’s her brother. And then she thinks he’s not. She doesn’t understand this confliction she has. She doesn’t understand this…struggle she has.
“He’d never hurt you.” She’s a bit surprised that it’s her first reaction, or at least, open one. She swallows and turns back to her. “Jon, he’d never hurt you.”
Meera isn’t her sister. She knows part of the reason she feels so comfortable around her, other than her protection of Bran, is that Meera is something Sansa hopes that Arya turned out to be. She prays that she’s alive, prays that she found a friend to be with, instead of alone and isolated. Arya deserved better.
“No, he wouldn’t.” She agrees.
Bran approaches her. He doesn’t say anything, at first. He just sits with her and eats his soup quietly as she mulls over the taxes, correcting her every so often. Her counting has improved, but she was much better with a piece of paper to write down the numbers on. Her mother had always told her she should learn to do it without it. Maybe one day she would.
“They’d understand, Sansa.”
She stops, thinking that he’d say more. But he doesn’t. He just keeps eating. It almost makes her smile.
She waits in his solar, in the chair he had sat in more than a week ago. Ghost by her side, head in her lap. She thinks he understands her pain, but she knows better to think that he has the bond with her that he has with Jon. He’d lost his mother too, and all of his siblings.
But he still had Jon too.
Jon finds her a bit later than she had imagined. But he had been training with the young boys and men who would be in charge of protecting Winterfell.
His hair is up, as it usually is now. He’s wearing his training leathers, dirt speckled across his face and cheeks flushed with red.
“Sansa, I didn’t know you were waiting,” his voice is rough and tired.
“I’ll come back tomorrow,” she says, shooing Ghosts head from her lap. Jon shakes his head.
“No, just give me a moment. I need to wash my face and take off my armor. I’ll only take a bit.” He slips into the door off of the solar and into his room. She listens to him move around the room and Ghost places his head back in her lap, looking up into her eyes.
She wonders if he knows.
When he comes back, he’s wearing a plane doublet. One she’d embroidered for him, two howling direwolves on his collar.
He sits next to her, on a small ottoman. And he doesn’t really push her to talk. It makes it a bit hard for her, to know he has no expectations. Expectations mean things she can follow. Sansa doesn’t really know what she wants.
“Why did you do it?” She asks him finally. “What made you think of it?” He looks up at her, and the way he does makes her feel so young. So vulnerable. In a way that doesn’t make her scared of him, like Ramsay or Joff. Kind of like like with Willas.
“Tyrion asked me who’d you be made to marry.” He says quiety, digging the heel of his boot into the stone floor. “I asked him what he meant, and he looked sad. And then I understood. Dany was the one to suggest you have bastards, and I just thought how…horrified your mother would be.” He gives a rueful smile, and she almost wants to smile. Even now, he remembers how her mother had been. “I told Tyrion and Dany that I would keep you safe, no matter what. And they pitied me, I think. That’s…that’s when I first thought of it.”
She turns away from him and lets out a quiet breath. “It’s not going to be easy, Jon. I still…have a hard time as seeing you as anyone other than my brother. Even though I know you’re more than that.”
He shakes his head. “Sansa, you’re only fifteen. We can marry and build our relationship. Not dive headfirst in.” He tells her, and he reaches over for her hand. She lets him take it and lets out a quiet breath. A part of her wants to believe him, but she knows she can’t.
“You’re going off to war Jon.” She whispers. “And you could never return.” He doesn’t argue with her, because she can see in his eyes he knows it’s true.
“That’s what I wanted for you.” He says quietly. “A chance to.” She smiles, pulling his hand to her. She kisses the back of his hand.
Sansa’s third wedding is one she is content with. She wears a grey gown to this one. It’s a smaller affair as well.
She’s still confused. She still feels strange sometimes. She knows her mother would be horrified. She knows Robb and Arya would probably be disgusted if they went back in time and they saw just this moment.
But she thinks they’d understand now. After everything that they had all gone through, she thinks they would understand now. She knows that eventually, she will.
Jon leaves four moon turns later with the first fleet of the Northern Army. The Southern Army is on it’s way, and Tyrion Lannister and Daenerys Targaryen will be stationed in Winterfell while the war begins, and are due any time. It’s strange to her, to not have Jon around.
Her belly has already begun to grow.
She was a bit surprised, considering there had only been a few times that they had shared a bed. She could actually count those times on one hand. But she felt nervous, afraid, but there was also a bit of peace that had settled into her. She had an heir. A Stark untouched by all this darkness, all this pain. And for now, that was enough to bring her some peace.
Tyrion is darker than before, but he is still kind. He also seems to be more aware of her reach and power. He doesn’t mistake her for the stupid girl she had been.
Daenerys…is ethereal looking. Her hair is long and white. Eyes violet, strikingly so. She’s gentle and fierce, cold and hot. She is kind to her, but very ignorant of Northern Culture.
“I’ve found that little in this life is what I thought it was when I was a child.” She confides in Sansa. It makes Sansa laugh, hand rested upon her belly.
“I was twelve when I thought the world was a song. That same year I realized that songs are only written of the best of the world.” Sansa tells her. Daenerys smiles, and rests her hand against her belly.
“I was with child once. Rhaego…I sacrificed him to save the man I loved. But in the end, the Gods take what they want, don’t they?”
Sansa agreed, and she held her belly closer to her.
She hoped she never had to make that decision.
She gives birth to a black haired babe three months into the war. He’s a heavy, healthy baby boy with a set of lungs that surprises her. He’s splotchy and so full of life that she stares at him with this sort of terrified understanding that this human being relies on her for everything.
Bran stares at the babe with a mixture of relief and excitement. “What will you name him?”
She stares at him for a long time as she decides. She brushes her fingers through the soft, wispy dark curled hair. She wonders how her mother named her Robb. Why she did it. Did she do it to gain favor with father? Or did she decide that she liked it herself? Jon wouldn’t care what she named the boy, just that he was healthy. Just that they were both healthy.
“I don’t know…” she says quietly. “Robb, or Eddard, or Rickon.” She says to him. She brushes her hands down the softness of his skin, the fat on his little arms and legs.
Bran, who pulls himself up and drags himself across the bed, to sit next to her. He leans against her and she shifts her arms so that he can see him better.
“He’s too loud to be an Eddard.” Bran muses, and as if offended the boy makes a loud whine in protest. He turns his head against the flesh of her chest.
“Robb,” she says quietly. She turns back to him and he smiles, reaching down and touching his hand.
“Little Robb.” He agrees.
Sansa sends a lock of his hair with her letter to Jon. She calls him little Robb in the letter and she tells him that the birth took nearly a full day. He’s loud, healthy, and does not like being let down. He also has to be rocked to bed, and Sansa and Meera take turns walking him around Winterfell after feedings. She tells him that looks like him and Arya.
But that aches too. There’s still no word on her.
Jon is the one to find her. She’s at the wall, and it aches that she might not see her again. But she throws herself into little Robb and Bran, and ruling.
Little Robb is a big baby, she realies quite quickly. He easily doubles the size of all other babes that she sees his age. He’s got the Wolf’s blood, she already knows. It makes her nervous for him, but Brienne tells her that she’s too worried of what ifs.
She’s with him the night she gets a letter that Petyr has been killed. He had been plotting against Daenerys.
The Spider found him.
And she’s glad.
The War is a long one. It ends while Winter still rages. Drogon loses a leg, Viserys is left blind in one eye. Rhaegal is dead. Davos is dead. Jorah Mormont is dead.
When Jon returns home, he has a scar across his face, darting down and into his armour. His hair is long, and there’s gray slipped into the darkness of his hair. Arya is still little beside him, cheek scarred, hair long and twisted into a long braid.
Bran sits beside her in his wheelchair.
Before her, little Robb stands at five years old, chin jutting up, dark eyes staring at the men who’ve returned. His little hands are fisted, and she can see under all his false bravado that he is so very, very nervous to meet his father and aunt.
Jon stares at him with a look of wonder and solemness. She brushes his hair back, but little Robb does not push her away as he usually does. In fact, he presses against her further, until he rests against the strength of her legs. Arya slips off the horse faster, while Jon does so slowly, and with a limp.
Bran pulls little Robb between them as Sansa brushes her fingers one more time against his hair before she moves to meet her sister.
It has been eight years since she’s seen her sister. And it feels like a lifetime.
Arya’s arms are strong around hers, strong and familiar.
“I’m sorry for being an ass,” she whispers to Arya. She laughs against her neck.
“I was too. Sometimes.” Sansa kisses her hair over and over again before she pulls away from her.
Arya moves to Bran then, grinning and pulling him into a tight hug.
Jon’s limp isn’t very pronounced, but she knows he’s working through more pain than she’d like. He pulls her into his arms, the second she’s in reach. She wasn’t sure when Jon had turned from brother to husband in her thoughts, but she was so, so glad that he was here.
Little Robb stared at his father unsure, as Jon pulled them both over to him. Jon drops to his level, and gives him a small smile.
“Little Robb,” he says quietly. The boy nods, jerkily and obediently. Jon reaches his hand up, carefully and gently as if he was afraid to harm him. His hands were almost shaking, but the little boy reached up first. He touches Jon’s face, stepping forward. The boys hair frames his face in loose curls. While Jon is restrained, the boy is free like his namesake.
“You look like me.” His voice is high, but sure and confident. Little Robb grins at his father, excited to know and confirm with his own eyes that he does look like his father like Sansa, Bran, Meera, Brienne, and Podrick have told him over and over.
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