Short, but hopefully sweet. This was my first stab at writing a story (like, ever), and I hope that I made some people smile. This story brought me both happiness and misery, and I hope that it brought everyone who read it something. I have had a lot of support through writing this, and it has meant everything. More than anything, I want to thank the readers who kept me going- especially JuliaAurelia. The story is finished, the first one that I have really and truly concluded. (One-shots non-withstanding). To those who loved it, thank you, and to all who have hated it, thank you too. Just to have it read by anyone has been a priviledge. It has changed the paradigm for me as a human and an artist (am I allowed to call myself that?)/ story thief (sorry G.R.R.M.).



The sun rose over stony soil, the earth as quiet and still as a fairy realm. Orange whisps of light broke through the snowy tops of trees, casting pink beams through the leaves. Fresh snowfall made the trees seem like the Silent Sisters, wrapped up before entering a sept. In the distance a jay cried, and a branch snapped under the weight of snow.

The days passed steadily, the worst part of the winter still ahead- but not as fearsome. A good fire, heat, warmth- he'd always said he'd wanted to be away from the fires, but now he edged closer to the flame, his past a dent on his armor, no longer the break that would kill him. Brandon and Eddard slept soundly, their breath just a small note doting the air.

Rickon sat quietly, lacing a strap of leather through a boot, getting ready for the snows. He and Shaggydog had become unstoppable, spending their days in the woods, hunting down anything that moved. Sandor thought that the boy must be half Wilding, but kept the joke to himself. Sansa didn't much appreciate it. Sandor watched the boy, staying close yet encouraging him to learn everything, anything for himself. The four were out in the large room, three boys and one man. Truth be told he sometimes preferred the company of the children- he felt like he could make up for that which he did not have. Even as a small child Joffrey had shown some kindness, though that extinguished far too early.

Rickon finally finished putting on his boot and was soon heading out the door- sheepishly giving Sandor a half-hug, the kind of affection that boys showed to their elders. He accepted a ruffling of his hair, and was soon bounding out the door, his direwolf in tow. As soon as he was far enough away from the house he began to whoop like a mad child, howling and crying out. He'd inherited the soul of the North.

As far as politics goes, Sandor couldn't begin to guess what would happen. The future was hazy, an uncertain object hanging in the distance. He could only say that he'd found his home and would protect it and his family to the highest extent possible. Family, a word that still seemed odd when he uttered it- like a stone under the tongue. Even stranger to say was love, but he'd become less afraid of it. Because it was love, to whatever degree a man could love anything. He'd reached that apex, and yet was still astounded when he noticed that it grew rather than diminished.

He watched a flame leap and listened to the fire pop in the hearth. Sansa came out from the bedroom and kissed him quietly on his cheek. He'd quit noticing whether she kissed him on the ruined side or not.

He only felt her lips on him, like the sweetness of spring.