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Turning Tables

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~*~

She knows it is a foolish notion, but Sansa Stark can’t help but think that even the sky is mourning her mother’s passing.

After all, what is a world without Catelyn Stark but a grey and foreboding place; a place that is so much like the clouds that cast a shadow over their procession on this day.   

Her father should have been standing where she stands now with Robb at his side, both proud and somber and impossibly sad. They would have bowed their heads at each quiet condolence, would have thanked each man, woman, and child by name for taking the time to share in their family’s hardship

But neither her father nor Robb are present--the war made sure of that. So, instead, Arya and herself stand side by side, and though they’re able to recite plenty of names, there’s no denying that they lack the Stark men’s tenacity where this feat is concerned. It is one thing Sansa mentally vows to change.

Arya’s agitation at the formalities they must bear is almost palpable, and it does nothing to ease Sansa. She can almost hear her sister’s thoughts, their retorts at the tip of her tongue. The fact that this familiar annoyance almost relieves her only serves to remind her that too much has changed too quickly.

“He’s here!” Arya gasps, and Sansa sees him the moment she turns to follow her sister’s line of sight.

Much like father and brother, Jon Snow is not the sort of man you lose in a crowd.

He stands apart from the others, a solitary figure that knows this is not his place.

And indeed, she thinks (unkindly, she knows), it is not. There was no love lost between Jon Snow and her mother, a state of affairs that Sansa was, admittedly, all too happy to emulate.

The circumstances surrounding his birth are a mystery to this day, with accounts that range from her aunt Lyanna willingly leaving her family home with her married lover, to a kidnapping and the unspeakable violations to her aunt’s honor that followed in its wake.

Whichever account may hold the truth, one thing has always been certain to her mother: Jon Snow’s presence was a living, breathing stain on the Stark name, and her father’s devotion to the boy only served to complicate matters even more.

The irony that Winterfell will fall to him in the wake of Robb’s demise at the hands of a war he was also party to is certainly not lost on her.

And so, although Sansa bears no ill-will towards their estranged cousin, she does not share her sister’s enthusiasm in seeing him again.

The fact that he is probably the last person who would be inclined to mourn their mother’s demise is not lost on her either, and the flare of rage that accompanies the thought is perhaps more than she’s felt all day.

The last time Jon Snow came to Winterfell, her mother made her desire that he should have fallen in her son’s stead uncomfortably clear.

It should have been him, she remembers her mother hissing in a mad state of grief.  

She stays Arya with a hand on her arm when she makes a move towards Jon.

“He will come to us soon enough,” she whispers. “We need to be here for mother.”

“Mother’s gone,” Arya hisses back, aggressively pulling her arm from Sansa’s grasp in a way that has Sansa’s cheeks burning, has her hoping that no one is watching.

Her words prove true mere moments later when cousin Jon stands before them, his hand extended as an offer of his condolences for the loss of a woman that he could not have born any love.

Sansa stakes his hand nonetheless, her own a fine seemingly fragile thing with his large, rough fingers wrapped around it.

“I’m sorry for your loss,” he says, voice low and as rough as the skin of his palms.

“I thank you for your kindness, cousin,” she automatically replies, a sentence she’s parroted for what seems like an endless string of time.

“When are you coming to Winterfell—for good?” Arya interjects.

Jon’s eyes flicker back to Sansa before he supplies his response.

“Soon. Very soon.”

“Better sooner than later,” her sister grumbles, true to form.

“Sooner, then,” Jon concedes, his lips forming the ghost of a smile that knows it is misplaced.

Jon does not overstay his welcome, leaves almost immediately after he’s offered his quiet condolences. Sansa can almost respect the space he’s giving them (giving her) to mourn their mother. After all, he has never been a man to hide behind empty words and gestures—a quality she’s come to grudgingly respect for its ability to remind her of the father and brother she lost.

Even in his absence, he lingers, leaving behind a notable lightness in her sister that she can’t remember seeing for some time now.

However, even still, Sansa does not share her sister’s enthusiasm.

 

~*~

 

The day Jon Snow comes to Winterfell is a deceptively fine one.

The sun is shining, the clouds are absent, and the inhabitants of Winterfell stand before the estates entrance in their very best, giddy with the anticipation that can only come from the prospect of meeting their new lord.

Sansa is perhaps the only exception.

While she did not dread this day per say, she could not bring herself to muster her sister’s embarrassingly blatant excitement.

Arya can’t seem to stand still, poking her head about and standing on the tips of her toes as if she’s expecting Jon Snow to suddenly emerge from behind the trees unbeknownst to the lot of them. 

“Arya, stay still,” she whispers softly enough that those in their immediate vicinity would still be hard pressed to hear.

She does not miss the way her sister rolls her eyes, though she hopes that those around them are less observant.

“He’s here!” Arya points to an approaching vehicle, her eyes so focused on its progress.

The vehicle comes to a stop before them, and when Jon finally emerges from it, dark head bowed as he moves to retrieve his own luggage, Sansa can’t help but think that he looks as far from a man who’s unexpectedly come into a grand fortune as can be. Indeed, he looks as he always has: solemn and sulking, a boy (man) that has a bone to pick with a world that seeks to reject him off-hand.

For what is perhaps the first time since she received work of Winterfell’s fate, Sansa wonders if Jon even wanted any of this—if he’d have preferred the continuation of his military life to the daily grind that comes with being responsible for lands and tenants and an estate of this scale.

Arya doesn’t waste any time in running over to be engulfed in his embrace, and Sansa’s cheeks burn in shame.

A cousin he may be, but a brother (a father) he is not, and to display such familiarity before the watchful gazes of their entire household falls well outside the bounds of propriety.

When Arya finally releases him, he turns his dark eyes—so much like father’s—to her, and, while she cannot quite read his expression, his reluctance is obvious.

“Welcome to Winterfell, cousin,” she breaks the ice.

“Thank you, Sansa,” he slowly nods.

“Welcome home, Jon” Arya whispers at his side.

An though Jon turns to her in what she knows as the hopes of hearing the very same, Sansa does not repeat the sentiment.

 

~*~