Author's Note: The first post-epilogue postscript to Cut it Out and then Restart. A huge thank you to Kim for beta'ing for me!
By the time they arrive at Eastwatch by the Sea, Sansa knows that she is with child.
She had suspected it earlier, shortly after the beginning the voyage, and believes that their child must have been created during one of their last nights in Essos, as they held each other tightly within the tent they shared, whispering endearments and pouring their love into fierce kisses and caresses.
They had known that at the end of journey there would be another separation, another period of danger before they could be reunited. It has been so long since she has had to be parted from him that Sansa almost cannot stand the thought. She wishes that he might stay with them safely in White Harbour, to where they journey next, but his honour would forbid it. He plays an important role within Daenerys Stormborn's army, and he will not let the queen or the host of men that he is in charge of down. Sansa knows that Sandor would not be able to stand to be safe and well in White Harbour while her brothers fight for the realms of men on the frontiers of the North. In the end it is not what she would truly want for him either.
So she suppresses her tears and her doubts, locks her fear deep inside her and prepares to bid him farewell – for only a short time, she tells herself.
She has already helped him to fasten his armour and now they stand together, reluctant to leave their cabin as yet.
He reaches out to caress her cheek, pulls her to him and places one warm, large hand over the slight swell of her belly where the child begins to show.
"I'll do my best to be back before the babe is born." he tells her, though she knows that he will have no control over how long it will be until they next see one another.
"We shall both be waiting for your return." Sansa replies, a brave smile on her lips as she turns in his arms to face him. She lifts her hands to tug his face down to hers and captures his mouth, demanding and hungry with her kisses.
"I'll not be able to leave you at this rate," he rasps, breaking from her to look down upon her face, the first traces of grief beginning to appear in his eyes. She knows that he has never liked to leave her, that he is only truly comfortable when she is by his side.
"Remember that you are mine, and the Others have no right to take you from me." she tells him sternly, suppressing the tears she wishes she could shed.
"I'd kill the Stranger himself if I had to in order to return to you, little bird. Believe that." he promises her before kissing her once more, lingering and bittersweet.
They make their way to the deck where Arya and Gendry wait. Queen Daenerys has already gone ashore together with her knights, and Sansa and Arya had farewelled her earlier. Gendry shall accompany Sandor into battle, keen for the chance to have his share of heroic deeds. Sansa hopes that that is what it will come to, that they will not… no, she will not allow herself to think it. Their forces will prevail and it will become a story to be told for generations to come.
Arya had argued for the opportunity to fight alongside them, and Sansa is glad that Sandor has managed to persuade her otherwise. Her little sister was convinced only by the argument that she must remain in White Harbour to protect her remaining family members, should the worst occur. It is a relief to Sansa that Arya will not be exposed to such dangers, and yet the very idea of the worst occurring chills her to her bones.
As soon as they have appeared on deck, Arya moves to farewell Sandor, hugging him tightly as he brings a hand up to ruffle her hair.
"Keep your sister safe, and yourself too." he tells her gruffly and she nods sincerely.
Sandor moves to kiss Sansa one last time then, tangling his fingers in her hair, leaning to touch his forehead to hers.
"You've always come back to me," she whispers to him.
"And I always will." he assures her, gives her one more quick kiss and moves to let her go.
They turn in time to see Arya launch herself at Gendry, throwing her arms around him and giving him a quick, hard kiss upon the mouth. He barely has time to respond before she lets him go, telling him, "And don't you dare get yourself killed, you idiot." before hurrying away from him to stand with her sister.
Sandor gives a sudden bark of laughter at this, "Don't worry, brat, I'll keep him alive for you. Wouldn't want to deprive your lady mother of the chance to kill him herself when she finds out about this."
They leave then, as Sansa stays upon the deck holding onto her sister, one hand placed upon her stomach as she watches until he is out of sight, seeing him turn around every so often to look for her. She does not even realize that she's crying until Arya reaches up with one hand to gently wipe her cheeks.
"Don't worry, Sansa, they'll come back." Arya tells her sister sincerely, "There's the dragons after all, and they'll be with Robb and Jon and Ghost and Ser Jorah and Ser Barristan. There's no way that they can lose."
"They will come back." Sansa agrees resolutely, as the Captain calls for the ship to cast off and she and Arya both turn for one last look at the shore.
And when they do, may it be the last parting that Sansa has to endure.
It is difficult to wait in White Harbour, wondering what the outcome will be, waiting for the occasional ravens that the Maester at Castle Black sends with news.
Old fat Lord Manderly is kind to them and sees that they want for nothing, and Sansa and Arya move into a shared chamber together, overlooking the ocean. The lord's granddaughters are soon counted as good friends, and many days are spent together at one task or another.
The reunion with Rickon and Talisa is a tender one. Their little brother has grown so much since they last saw him, he is now bigger than Bran was when they had first left Winterfell. He shows a strong tendency towards both wildness and stubbornness but the wildling woman who had looked after him, Osha, is able to keep him in check. Despite his time away, he remembers his elder sisters and enjoys sitting with them, demanding stories of their time away – of battles and dragons and far off exotic lands – and declares them better than any fairy stories. When his youthful spirit is too much to contain then Arya takes him down to the courtyard to practice at swordwork or tilting at a quintain and the ring of happy laughter can be heard from below.
Sansa and Arya both coo over their new nephew, Eddard, now almost two years old and growing every day. He is a laughing, happy child, eager to explore and needing to be constantly watched lest he get himself into trouble. Sansa enjoys sitting with her goodsister, spoiling her nephew and discussing the ways of babies as she prepares sets of tiny clothes for her own child.
The reunion with their mother is yet to come, Lady Catelyn remains at Winterfell to care for its inhabitants as its Lord sets out for war. In truth, she had refused to leave but insisted that her gooddaughter and grandson go to safety, denying the possibility that they might remain with her.
And so the days pass and Sansa waits as the child ever grows within her, finding ways to fill her days. The worry for Sandor is ever present within her, but she distracts herself by spending time with those she loves – seeing to Rickon's education, teasing Arya over Gendry and listening to her admit her feelings with much embarrassment, discussions with Talisa about what has occurred in their absence, and with Osha about her time on Skaagos with Rickon.
There are dark moments, when a raven has not arrived for days, and Sansa begins to fear the worst. Will she never look upon his face again, will her child never know its father? There is so much to fear, the enemy is the most formidable that the realm has ever faced, unable to be killed by normal means. Despite the presence of Daenerys's dragons and the knowledge that dragonglass can be used to kill the Others, it will be a formidable task. How should she live without him, should he not return? It is an impossibility, something that Sansa does not even want to consider, and yet for the sake of her child she knows that she must.
On the worst nights, Sansa takes to Arya's bed, climbing in beside her and hugging her tightly while they both speak their fears. Arya remains optimistic, and Sansa wonders if it is mainly for her own sake, that her sister does not wish to compound Sansa's worry with her own. There are days when Sansa cannot bring herself to even leave her bed, her fear sits so heavily upon her. She spends her time in the sept and godswood when she may, kneeling on stone or before the hearttree, beseeching whatever mercy and grace that she may.
The months go slowly and soon Sansa is heavy with child, her time almost upon her, when finally they receive the message that she has longed for since she was first parted from him.
The war is at an end at last, Queen Daenerys's dragons proving to be the key to their battles, along with the dragonglass swords and arrowheads that each warrior weilded. They have lost many men, but Sandor has written that all those whom Sansa and Arya hold dear are well, and that they shall be together soon once again. The relief had been so great at Sansa had broken down in sobs, clinging to her
goodsister who also shed some tears, as Arya danced around them with Rickon, laughing in her joy.
With the war an end, Sansa feels that even the air is somewhat warmer, as if signaling the return of a long awaited spring.
Robb and the majority of his forces will march directly to Winterfell along Queen Daenerys and her army. Jon remains on the wall for the time being, seeing to repairs and to the welfare of the men of the Night's Watch, though he hopes to join his family for a time someday soon.
Sandor writes that he and Gendry shall take a ship from Eastwatch by the Sea directly to White Harbour along with the returning Manderly forces and Sansa finds herself waiting impatiently, her eyes most often turned towards the horizon, waiting for the first sight of the ship that will bear them. Talisa bids them farewell and leaves with Eddard, Rickon and Osha, accompanied by an honour guard. She is determined to reach Winterfell as soon as may be, longing for the reunion with her own lord husband.
On the day that the ship arrives, Sansa is unable to go to the docks to greet him, confined to her chambers for the past week now that her time is so near. Arya offers to stay with her, but Sansa will not hear of denying her sister her own reunion, one which she knows Arya has been desperately awaiting. So Sansa remains in her chambers, seated by the window so that she may see the moment that the ship lands; watching the happy crowds that have thronged the docks, cheering its arrival. She finds herself impatient, wishing to deny the maester's advice and make her way there anyway, her concern for her child the only thing that stops her.
Sansa has had to learn far too much of patience for one lifetime, and it is sorely tested at this moment as she gazes longingly down, wishing that she could make out Sandor's figures in the crowds.
She does not need to wait as long as she had feared, for within a half hour of the ship's docking, she hears a commotion in the passage outside, a loud question muffled by the stone walls that immediately makes her heart sing. Her door is flung open with such force that it almost flies off its hinges and there, finally, after long months apart, stands her husband.
"Sandor," is all that she manages to say, before he shuts the door and crosses the room, gathering her up and crushing her to him. She
clings to him, crying all the while and babbling continuously – of how she'd missed him, how she'd feared for him, how she'd worried that he wouldn't come in time.
"When you weren't at the docks," he finally says, pulling back to look down at her, his hands cupping her face, "I was afraid, I hadn't thought to mark how much time had passed. Luckily that sister of yours told me exactly where you were." He kisses her forehead before he claims her
lips eagerly, his arms winding around her as hers go to her back and neck.
It feels as if no time at all has passed since she last saw him, since he last kissed her in this way. But Sansa is crying, and when she raises her hand to touch his face she can feel the wetness upon his own cheeks.
He picks her up as if she were as light as a feather despite her increased weight, and carries her to the bed, settling her gently upon it. Pulling off his boots, he climbs in beside her and wraps his arms around her, one hand placed protectively upon her belly, and buries his face into the crook of her neck.
"I've missed you, little bird." he murmurs into her skin, placing a lingering kiss upon her neck. "It won't be an easy thing to make me leave you again."
"It's alright now," Sansa whispers, tangling her fingers in his fine hair where it falls upon his neck. "We're together again now, a family, and everything will be alright."
He raises himself, leans forward to place a tender kiss upon her belly, and then resumes his place at her side.
Sansa knows that they are both finally home.
She is brought to the birthing bed not two days later, and nothing will make him leave her side. He glares at the attendants the first time they suggest that he should absent himself, and after that nobody has the courage to raise the issue again.
It is a long labour, and several times Sansa fears that she does not have the strength to see it through, but Sandor clenches her hand tightly and encourages her, even as Arya holds her other hand, having banished Gendry to the hallway outside where he sits with the Manderly sisters. Together they keep her spirits up as she pushes and pants, exhausted but refusing to give up.
When their child enters the world, red faced and squalling and impossibly tiny, Sansa knows that this will always be one of the happiest moments of her life as she first gazes upon the baby's face.
"Congratulations, Lord and Lady Clegane," the midwife tells them, "You have a beautiful daughter."
Sansa would have liked to laugh for the sheer joy of it when they place the baby in her arms, but she is so tired that all she can do is smile up at her husband as he stands with one hand on her shoulder, gazing down at them with an expression of wonder, his throat working as he struggles to swallow some strong emotion. They are alone in the room now, Arya having ushered the others out to give them some privacy.
"Your daughter, Sandor." Sansa whispers, the baby held securely in her arms. "Our daughter."
He reaches out to touch the baby's face, the fine dark hairs upon her head, and is undone.
It will be some time before they depart for Winterfell, in order to give Sansa time to recover and for their baby to grow and become stronger. Sansa longs to reunite with her family once more, to introduce her daughter to them, though Arya has developed a sudden reluctance to return, seeking to delay their departure as much as possible.
Sansa cannot help but laugh at this, her normally fearless sister afraid to face their mother and tell her who she wishes to marry. She and Sandor promise Arya and Gendry that they will stand by them, and speak on their behalf. Sansa imagines that once Queen Daenerys legitimizes Gendry and grants him lands and lordship for his parts in the battle, that her mother's approval will be a lot easier to come by.
For now they enjoy their time together at White Harbour, at the simple pleasures of being together once more with nothing to fear. The weather is indeed becoming warmer and they often sit together on one of the balconies, basking in the afternoon sun.
Their daughter is a week old when they finally discuss names, never having had a chance to choose one before they were parted.
"Would you like to name her after your mother or sister?" Sansa asks Sandor gently, but he shakes his head resolutely.
"I would not like to give our daughter a name attached to such sad history. No, let us choose another name, little bird. What would you like to call her?"
Sansa has thought about it ever since their babe's birth, of what name might be fitting for their child. At the back of her mind there has always been one name, a name that she had grown up hearing spoken in whispers and with grief.
"Perhaps we might call her Lyanna?" Sansa suggests shyly, and Sandor looks up in surprise from their daughter's face, his expression a question as to the reason.
"I know that my aunt's end was a tragic one, and that her choices affected all seven kingdoms of Westeros, yet my father loved her greatly, loved her so much that he brought her bones from Dorne to Winterfell and built a statue in her image, though that honour had previously been reserved for the high lords. While her story ended unhappily, she chose her own path, much as I have done. If she had not done so, then perhaps none of this might have come to pass, perhaps I might never have met you, never have been born at all. She was fierce and brave and beloved, and I would not want her to be forgotten by our family."
Sandor nods once, his expression serious, and takes the baby from her arms to hold within his own.
"Lyanna it is." he agrees, and leans down to kiss their daughter's cheek.
Much like Lyanna, Sansa has made her own choices, has defied her family for love. It is a different matter that Robb had agreed to their match in the end, else there may not have been much difference between her and her aunt.
She has fought for her own destiny, fought for the happy ending that she deserved and today she has that life. In time, Sansa knows that they will face other trials, perhaps other separations, but there is time for that yet.
For now she has her husband and daughter by her side, her sister nearby, and her future clear in front of her.
Sansa watches Sandor hold their daughter, walking her up and down in the afternoon sunlight and speaking soft words to her, and knows that whatever choices she has made, that they have been the right ones.