The War of the Five Kings is finally over, and Petyr Balish is dead, and for the first time in her short existance, Sansa Stark feels free.
Robb has won. Not the entire war, of course - Daenerys Targaryen now sits on the Iron Throne, dragons and all. She is every bit as majestic as they say, and nowhere near as evil. When she saw Sansa, wrapped in the arms of Jaime Lannister, sweet Ser Jaime who had given everything up simply to bring her home, she hadn't had her killed on the spot, or taken her head, or fed her to her dragons. Instead she embraced the wolf girl as her sister and sent her on her way, back to the place for which she had longed for so many years.
She returns to Winterfell, and she returns without her lion.
There was nothing she could have done to save Jaime. He was dead the moment he rescued her from Petyr, his mission complete, his honor regained. For so long the knight's only purpose had been to rescue her, and she had completely forgotten her job - to rescue him. So on the final day of the final battle he marches off to war, leaving Lady Brienne to stay by her side, and he does not return. He had nothing to return for, nothing to come back to.
He had you, a part of her mind thinks, the larger, bitter part that still resents his leaving. He had you and he knew it, and he still left you.
But there is no time for grief. Robb has taken his seat as King in the North, and her home awaits her just in the distance.
When she arrives at the castle, court is in session. Her hood is drawn over her face - she wishes her arrival to be a surprise, not one ruined by an all-too-excited guard or an old friend whom might announce her arrival. Instead Lady Brienne introduces her as her squire, and the woman is whisked inside without any questions asked. They all know of the she-knight's victories on the battlefield, and Sansa is once more grateful for the woman's company. She is not, all-together, a bad travelling companion, and the once-girl, now a woman grown, likes to think her quite lovely. Her eyes are lovely, that much is certain, but she thinks it is more her heart that makes her comely. It is a thought she would have never dreamed up back when she was a child, still dreaming of true knights and princes in her chamber before Prince Joffery, but now that she is older, she thinks it might be the truest thought she has ever had.
The castle of Winterfell is a castle no more. It is a ruin, ransacked and destroyed by years of war and winter combined. Sansa is not disappointed, though - she had expected this. Even in the Eyrie, news travelled like wildfire. She had shed her fair share of tears for her childhood home in the times she was Sansa instead of Alayne, but even that Sansa had still been a child. She was no child, not any longer. She was a woman grown, stronger than her lord father and harder than her lady mother. The cold winds of winter had frozen her soul, and she would not be affected by such childish things any longer. War had come and gone, and she had grown. It was the way of life.
There main hall of Winterfell remains, to her great pleasure, nearly untouched. It is here where Sansa and Brienne slip into the back of the proceedings unnoticed - or, as unnoticed as a giant woman and a shrouded girl can be. She can see Robb sitting on his throne, the iron crown looking heavy on his head as he carries on with the troubles of the North, Grey Wind faithfully by his side, as always. Seeing the direwolf causes an unfamiliar pang in her chest, one she has not felt for years, and for a moment Sansa finds herself wishing for Lady. A childhood pet, she has to remind herself sternly, clenching her nails into her balled-up fist as if to reprimand her thoughts, and you are no longer a child. Joffery Baratheon made sure of that, when he cut off your father's head.
But she had laughed last in the end. Joffery was dead, Cersei was dead, and Sansa was still alive. In the end the wolves had triumphed over the lions, and for that she knows she is victorious.
Sansa has sat through enough courts at King's Landing to be completely repulsed by them, and it feels as if it is hours before every desperate petitioner has made their plea. Robb is rather good at pleasing the people, it seems, a trait which she has not seen in any ruler besides the Dragon Queen. She is proud of him, her flesh and blood. Proud of him for surviving a war that no one else in their family could survive. Jon was the only other Stark, but even then he had learned he was a Targaryen, and although his loyalty was still true to House Stark, it seemed that the chasm between him and his family, the family that had raised him, housed him, loved him, was only growing larger.
We are the only two Starks left, she thought sadly, an ache in her heart that could not be filled, not even by her sweet, sweet brother. We are the last two wolves, Robb. We are the pack, and together we must survive.
At last Lady Brienne is stepping forward to speak, and with a sigh of relief Sansa follows behind her, face still shrouded, kneeling before her King, the King in the North.
"Your Grace," the woman's voice was with thick with emotion, and Sansa knows she realizes the importance of this moment as well as herself. This is what they have been living for, what they have fought for day by day. This is what Jaime, her Jaime died for, and this is the moment that shall change everything. The Starks were to be reborn once more, and together they would rule them all. "May I present to you Lady Sansa Stark of Winterfell, saved by Ser Jaime Lannister from the clutches of the false lord Petyr Balish, returned home to you once more."
Still Sansa does not reveal herself. Her hands hesitate, and with a slight shock she realizes she is frozen. So much has built up to this moment, so much hoping and fighting and killing, and it is happening too soon, far too soon. And Robb is angry, she can tell, yelling that it can't be, that his sister is dead, that they're all dead, that they saw her body, that she is gone, it is done, he is alone.
Finally feeling is brought back to her numb hands, and her frozen heart, and she finds it in herself to pull back her hood.
The hall goes silent, and for a moment she swears she can hear Robb's heart beat.
The woman almost expects him not to recognize her. She is eight-and-ten now, six years older than when she saw him last, and a woman in all places where she was once a child. Sansa has become the mirror image of her mother, although arguably fairer, with rounded hips, amble breasts, and the bright blue Tully eyes, the same ones that are staring back at her with a mixture of shock, joy, and complete and utter disbelief.
She has played out this exact moment countless times in her head, so she expects one of many things. The first, and most likely, is that he hug her, sweep her into those strong, loving arms without a care as to where he was, or who was watching him. In that moment they would be able to feel like children once more, and she hopes beyond hope that this may be what he does. The next is that he might be furious with her, angry for her not coming to him sooner, but more angry with himself for not saving her before Joffery, before Cersei, before Petyr. She hopes that this is not the case, because after so long without him, Sansa does not think she can stand to see him angry. She has seen so much anger, so much pain, and right then the only thing she wanted, needed to see was joy.
The last thing she expects him to do is cry, so of course that is exactly what he does.
Robb Stark, King in the North, the Young Wolf. He is a champion in battle, a hero to young boys and and the kind of man young maidens, much like the girl she once was, dream about taking to bed. And yet in this moment, arms wrapped around her body so tightly she thinks she might break, weeping into her neck, he is no more than a boy. And when she feels the hot sting of tears behind her eyes, the warm trickle down her cheeks, she realizes that she might not be so much of a woman as she thought.
Her welcoming feast is a lengthy affair, and although she is grateful for it, Sansa wishes it might be a bit shorter. Her feet are aching and her eyes are tired, and a full night's rest would be a blessed relief after years of nightmares. She does not think the night terrors will go away, not quite yet. Jaime told her they never would, that they would be there for as long as she lived, and yet even so Sansa thinks that a sleep at home might help, just maybe.
The only consolation is that she is seated next to Robb, her Robb, and for that she is thankful. Her brother does not ask her questions of the Vale, or her time with Petyr or Cersei or anyone else, and for a night she thinks she might be able to relax. Instead he asks her how her chambers are suiting her, whether she might like to visit Jon on the Wall in the next few moon's turns, and whether she plans on taking a husband. Tyrion is dead, she knows it, and this means she must marry, soon. However, she tells Robb she has not thought of it, and for whatever reason this seems to please him. She frowns, confused, but says no more on the matter.
Really, she just thanks the gods, both old and new, that she is home. The entire feast a part of him is touch her, be it his hand on her knee, his foot brushing against hers, or even his forehead resting against her own, as if he has to verify that she is there, really there, and it isn't just a beautiful dream. Every touch Sansa revels in, because it is one more reminder that he is alive, she is alive, and together they honor their family.
Together they are the pack, and together they survive.
It is not long after the meal is done that the dancing begins, the most jovial dancing that Sansa has seen in years. She smiles and claps along with the music, but Robb is pulling her to her feet quickly, and before she knows it they are dancing, spinning more gracefully than any other pair on the floor, and she thinks they might be the most beautiful thing in all of Winterfell.
Because that is what he is. Beautiful. Sansa knows she is fair - she sees it in the faces of men who pass by her, see it in their leers which they do not try hard to disguise. She saw the desire written plain on Harry's face, the longing on Tyrion's, she felt the lust from Petyr and the animal want from Sandor. She knew of Jaime's touch, sweet and loving and tender, saw the reverence behind his eyes, as if she was the maiden sent down to him. Jaime who had called her holy, called her the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.
And if she was the most beautiful, then surely Robb was the most handsome. He was her mirror image in every way, an older, male version of her own self. As they danced she admired him, his blue eyes, his coppery hair, his undeniable strength. He was so brave, so strong, and she could not help but love him more for it.
Perplexed by her stare, her brother pulled back slightly and slowed their movements, giving her a curious look. "Is there something the matter, sister?" he asks, and the thought is so absurd that Sansa can't help but laugh.
"No, my brother." She reaches up and touches his face, as gentle as a feather, and he leans into her fingers. "Everything is as it should."
Jaime Lannister haunts her dreams that night.
She sees him in his golden armor, looking every bit the perfect knight. He is as he was the day he first came to her, fresh from battle and filled with a kind of hope she had not seen from anyone, especially not him. And he is handsome, oh so handsome even in his current, blood-covered state. He shines like a star in the darkness, the brightest she has ever seen. The lion stands on a mountain of bodies, the bodies of her mother, her father, her sister and brothers, of Joffery and Cersei and Sandor and so many people who she can't place a name to, but they are dead, she is sure of it. The bodies frighten her, but her gaze is on Jaime, always on Jaime.
As he approaches Sansa she thinks he might kiss her, and oh, she has forgotten how her body aches for his touch, how empty she has been without him. But instead of doing what she so wishes he steps further away, draws his sword, and with his perfect smile on his face, he forces it into his stomach.
Sansa awakes to a horrible scream, and it takes her a moment to realize that it is her own.
It does not take long for Robb to come crashing into her room in only his breeches, and where once she might reprimand him for the inappropriateness of the situation, propriety seems to have no bearing on what she needs. She needs strong arms to hold her, comfort her, remind her that all shall be alright, that she is home, that she is safe. She has not had strong arms in so, so long, and now that he stands in front of her, she knows that he will do the job perfectly.
So she extends her arms to him, tears streaming down her face, and he does not hesitate to hold her. He holds her as if she is the most precious thing in the world, as if she is anchoring him to the earth. Sansa has not been held like this, not since Jaime, and she revels in the feeling of being needed. For as much as she needs Robb, she realizes that he needs her just as much, and that knowledge alone is enough to slow the trickle of tears, and make her feel as if she has finally come home.
She is reminded something that Jaime told her once, about how he felt when he was with Cersei. "It was like we were two becoming one," he had said. "As if two parts of a whole were coming together to create something bigger than this world itself. And though they told us it was wrong, we thought it could never be, because how could something that felt so perfect, so complete ever be wrong?" She had thought him mad before, but in that moment, with Robb's arms around her, she thinks that she has never heart truer words in her life.
Perhaps it is a bout of madness. Perhaps she drank too much wine. But the reason does not matter - what matters is that she kisses him, and it doesn't take long for him to kiss her back.
All thoughts are banished from her mind in that moment, with his lips covering hers, his hands on her body. She thinks not of Sandor, or Petyr, or Harry, or Jaime, her Jaime. She doesn't think that it is wrong, and that they shall be killed if they are caught by anyone. Instead she thinks only of Robb, of his touch, of his soft sighs and gentle caresses. All she can think is that she has finally returned home, and when she feels him smile against her lips, she knows he feels the same, too.
It doesn't take long for her hands to travel to his breeches, and he freezes in surprise. She knows he wants it; Sansa is not a maiden, and she knows. But she also knows his pain, his misgivings, and she reaches a hand up to touch his face, a harder than while they danced, but no less gentle.
"Robb," she whispers, pressing a kiss to both of his cheeks. "I need this. We need this. We are the last two Starks, the last of our kind. We need each other." But he still looks worried, the tension still clear in her shoulders, so she grabs his hand and pulls it to her chest, makes it so he is touching right where her heart beats strongest. "I am no maiden, Robb."
And with this, all caution is abandoned.
They lie together through the night, no barriers such as clothes or blankets between them. It is her cold flesh on his warm, her breath on his shoulder. He plays with her hair constantly, and on anyone else she might think it annoying, but on him it is sweet. He makes me whole, she thinks, and for once she understand what Jaime was trying to tell her all along.
Jaime, her sweet Jaime, who taught her of love. The man who taught her to trust once more, who showed her that true knights still existed. He had brought her so much, and he had left her. She understands why he left her - Sansa knows he had to, for she is not blind. He loved her, but she would never be his everything. Cersei had been his everything, his second half, the part that made him whole, and even though he had chose to live without her, it still caused him more pain than she could have known.
But she knows this, now. She know this as she curls into Robb's side, feeling the sweet warmth of his body covering hers. She imagines the pain of losing him, and it is too much for her to bear.
She leans her body up slightly, placing a gentle kiss on his cheek, featherlight so not to wake his sleeping form. "We are the last two Starks, Robb," she whispers sweetly, and she sends a silent prayer of thanks to Jaime for returning her to him once more. "We are the pack, and together we survive."