Title: Somewhere Only We Know
Written for tumblr user lyrabelacqua, whose prompt was "In honor of Valentine's, I'm requesting a holiday prompt. Can be any holiday, although I'm partial to Halloween and Christmas (or the Westeros equivalent)."
Many thanks to Emily (ofhouseadama) for all her help with this fic seeing as I have yet to get pass a certain part in ASoS (I'm in denial) and to everyone else who cheered me on even though they didn't quite know what I was doing XD
I walked across an empty land
I knew the pathway like the back of my hand
I felt the earth beneath my feet
Sat by the river and it made me complete
Oh simple thing where have you gone?
I'm getting old and I need something to rely on
So tell me when you're gonna let me in
I'm getting tired and I need somewhere to begin
It had been a long, arduous, uphill battle for the North to arrive at where it currently was: celebrating the arrival of Spring with their Queen in the North, Sansa Stark, first in her name and one of the only remaining true blood Starks alive. Sansa leaned back in her chair to get more comfortable while she watched her people feast. Though having been queen for almost four years, the crown still felt new on her head, a foreign weight on her brow. She was a woman of two and twenty years, yet she still felt inexperienced to rule over an entire kingdom. She ruled peacefully over the northern half of Westeros, while her fellow queen, Daenerys Targaryen, ruled in the South from the Red Keep after taking back the Iron Throne and helping Sansa defeat the Others.
Time was that she had dreamed of being a queen, but those were the distant dreams of her summer childhood, back when her family was still together, still alive, and she a child of eleven could afford to dream such things. With a faint sigh, Sansa banished these thoughts from her mind, a warm smile appearing on her face as one of her ladies approached her table. After the woman had left, Sansa rested her chin on her hand while she returned to watching the roaring feast with a fond smile on her lips. They had finally rebuilt her childhood home from the ashes it had been found in after Sansa had been crowned the North's queen. The remaining long years of Winter had been harsh, but under Sansa's rule, the North survived and now as Spring arrived, they would prosper again.
The door to the great hall of Winterfell opened with a flourish, causing Sansa to pause mid sip of her wine and look up to see who had arrived late. Dark brown hair so similar to that of her father's was cut boyishly short around ears that always stuck out slightly evidently even in maturity and cool grey eyes that noticed every detail peered around the hall above a nose that had been broken at least once since Sansa last saw it.
Arya Stark had returned home.
Sansa stood gracefully and smoothed the non-existent wrinkles in her skirts, the courtesies and graces that her mother and septa had taught her automatically coming to the surface even though all she wanted to do was run to her little sister, pull her into her arms, and never let go. She rounded the table and Sansa could feel her sworn shield and sword, Sandor Clegane, silently join her out of the shadows where he usually lurked just as Arya reached the dais and knelt at her sister's feet, looking up at the waiting queen, "I, Arya Stark, daughter of Lord Eddard Stark and Lady Catelyn Tully Stark, to hereby pledge allegiance to Sansa Stark, Queen in the North, First of her name and Protector of the North, from now until I die, by the Old Gods and New."
Sansa couldn't keep the smile off her face as she leaned down to gently kiss her long lost sister on the forehead, "Rise, sister." Sansa's smile widened when Arya did as she was told, such a difference from all those years ago. With a gentle hand, Sansa tipped her sister's chin up to get a better look at her, brushing a bit of dried mud off of Arya's cheek with her thumb, "You never could keep yourself completely clean."
"Such snark from a lady," Arya teased back lightly, her familiar smirk blossoming on her face.
Throwing aside her courtesies, Sansa pulled her sister fully up onto the dais and into her arms at last. Arya stiffened at first, but she felt her younger sister relax and wrap her arms around Sansa's back tightly. "I missed you, Arya," Sansa whispered.
"Me too," Arya whispered back as the Northern court picked up their celebration again with a growing chant of "Stark! Stark! Stark!" rising around the reunited sisters. "I am so sorry for leaving you there in that snake pit, Sansa."
"Don't..." Sansa stopped her sister with a slight shake of her head and a small smile. "We were young and things happened. It's in the past, all is forgiven, dear sister."
"But it's unforgivable that you were left there alone with those people to be mistreated and abused!"
"Arya, I survived, just as you did," Sansa gently rubbed Arya's upper arms, trying to calm down her sister. "Besides, I had a protector just as you did." Sansa's smile grew when she heard the disbelieving grunt come from Sandor behind her.
Arya's shadowed eyes shifted over to the man, "Hound," she grudgingly acknowledged him.
"She-Wolf," he grunted in return, shifting slightly under the chiding stare of his queen.
When Sansa turned back to Arya, Arya caught the former Lannister agent roll his eyes upwards out of her sister's gaze, "Manners, Ser Clegane," Sansa told him without looking at him and the Hound huffed and glared at the back of Sansa's head in response.
Arya's eyebrows rose slightly at the teasing banter between her sister and the Hound, but figured all would be explained later. For now, she joined Sansa at the head table for the remainder of the feast.
The Starks were home at last.
Her sister was worn out, sprawled across Sansa's bed, lithe chest rising and falling softly in sleep, occasionally snuffing out a small snore. Sansa watched Arya with a smile from her chair, still not quite believing her sister had returned, while she dragged a brush through her thick waves of hair that shone in the firelight like spun copper. It was a nightly ritual, combing her long locks, sometimes she imagined her mother doing it as she had during Sansa's childhood when her days were particularly rough, especially during the rebuilding of Winterfell years ago.
It had been hard to see her childhood home in ruins and partially buried by the frozen mud, but Sansa was as strong as her lady mother and with her people's help, Winterfell had risen from the ashes. She thanked the Old Gods and New for those who supported her and supported her family, but most of all she thanked the gods for Sandor's constant presence since they had found each other and she escaped the clutches of Petyr Baelish. He had been by her side through the journey to the North and the reclaiming of Winterfell. She knew there were several who doubted their queen's decision to have a man who used to be so close to the Lannisters, but Sansa knew him, trusted him, and valued his companionship.
A knock on her chamber doors startled Sansa out of her thoughts and she put aside her brush to answer it quickly, lest her late night visitor wake Arya. The old hinges creaked slightly as she opened the wooden door to see the person who filled her thoughts lately. Sandor shifted his weight from foot to foot awkwardly under the stare of Sansa's piercing blue eyes, "My queen," he rumbled and he inclined his head respectfully. Sansa noticed he carried a wrapped bundle in his hands.
"Sandor," she stepped back, opening the door, indicating for him to enter. It was not the first time he visited her chambers late at night, she trusted only him to keep her safe when her age old demons returned in the dark, leaving the young queen covered in sweat, shaking and more often than not screaming. Sandor was always there to calm her down and quiet her back to sleep or silently listen as she told him stories of her childhood in Winterfell until dawn spread its fingers through her window and splayed them across the furs adorning her bed. He shuffled into her bedroom, even as she mildly glared at the noise. "You'll wake Arya."
"Judging by her snores, she could wake the dead, much less be disturbed by any noise I make," he retorted and Sansa fought to hide her amusement at his frank response.
"What is it you wanted, Sandor?" she asked, settling into her chair next to the fire once more.
He shifted again, looking down at his feet before looking back up at her, "You left before the exchange, Little Bird."
She and Arya had left the feast early to catch up and take the time to be sisters once more after years of separation. Sansa, in all the excitement, had forgotten that it was the yearly Time of Giving and hadn't expected a gift from her constant companion (his was tucked away in the chest at the foot of her bed). "Forgive me, I was excited about Arya."
Sandor shook his head, the firelight throwing shadows over his scars that had once scared her, "Nothing to forgive." He approached her slowly, stopping far enough away to hand her the bundle.
She took it from him and gently unwrapped it. When her slender fingers hit the familiar texture of rough spun wool, Sansa tore the wrapping away and her eyes widened at the sight of the coarse white fabric in her lap. Gently shaking it out, she examined the white wool cloak that was an almost exact replica of Sandor's Kingsguard cloak, the one he had left with her the night of Blackwater, the one she had to leave behind when escaping King's Landing. Sansa smiled and looked up at Sandor, "You remembered."
A faint flush appeared on his cheeks and he cleared his throat, "You mentioned that your cloak was getting worn... I had this one outfitted for the Northern weather."
She traced the grey fur trim, the intricate white embroidery, and the silver direwolf sigil cloak pin, "It's perfect, Sandor, a very thoughtful gift." He simply shrugged in response and she smiled again before standing. Closing the distance between them, Sansa's hand rose to gently cup the scarred side of Sandor's face, forcing the man to look at her. Rising on her toes, she leaned forward and lightly brushed his lips with hers. "Thank you," she whispered when she drew back.
"Little Bird..." Sandor sighed as Sansa kissed him lightly again before wrapping her arms around his back and laying her head on his shoulder. He slowly returned her embrace, her long silky waves of fire tangling around his calloused hands as she burrowed further into his arms.
"I have your gift if you want it," she stated quietly after a few moments.
"It can wait," she felt his response more than hearing it and she smiled.
Neither of them noticed that the snoring had stopped, nor did they notice the approving gaze of Arya as they remained wrapped up in each other.
AN: Not quite Christmasy (I tried!) and first ever SanSan fic, so I hope you liked it!