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The last two Starks

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She’s not sure what to do with her baby brother when they return him to her. An heir for the Queen in the North, old Manderly had blustered, trying to cover the awkward silence when the boy shied away from the stranger in the blue gown, held back, clinging to Osha’s legs. When she finally detached him with a rueful grin and a gentle jest, his face was hard, his expression dark, and he’d cried out some unintelligible phrase, running off through the newly-repaired glass houses, Shaggydog hot on his heels, snapping his muzzle at anyone who dared to stand in their path.

Sansa had sighed, extended her thanks to Osha and Lord Wyman as best as she could, and asked Manderly to convey her gratitude to Ser Davos, if they ever came his way again. She regretted that she hadn’t had the chance to thank him before he’d departed for Cape Wrath, bound for the wife and children that still remained to him. Sansa couldn’t fault him for that.

She was thankful that Osha had chosen to remain at Winterfell. At first she told herself that it was for the connection that the woman forged between the gentle past that she barely remembered, the events transpiring between her girlhood and flight into darkness (and out again), but deep down she feared that it was because she was the only one that her brother would tolerate. Rickon was wild, there was no denying it. And now that she ruled, at least in the capacity of serving as a figurehead to what had been lost, she had little time to worry herself with his caprices.

She is wracked with guilt, but even more so, she is wracked with exhaustion. There is much to do, and most of it on her shoulders.

After months, she is finally ready to visit the crypts again. Sansa had never been one to linger, finding the atmosphere more tragic than menacing, but she feels that it is time. As she walks slowly down the line of Starks, their blank faces staring past her into the shadows, she feels as though she is not alone, and while she chalks this up to some vestige of a religious whim, she does not dismiss it. Sansa pauses when she reaches the end.

Father, his likeness very apt, but lacking the warmth that would drift into his features when she’d come to him with some problem, or when Septa Mordane had praised her accomplishments. Mother, the stone too roughly-hewn to do justice to the beauty and kindness that had inhabited her. The tomb was empty; her body had never been recovered. And Robb, a young king frozen in the bloom of youth. This one too, empty.

As she bends to lie the garlands of flowers that she has so carefully culled and woven, she finally sees the source of her unease. Rickon, curled in front of the tombs, his face partially buried in Shaggydog’s thick black coat.

“You’ll catch your death.” Sansa inwardly winces, fearing that she’s been so long crowned that she has forgotten how to speak to children. It truly wasn’t so long ago that another little boy, this one sickly and unhappy, had tugged at her skirts. But this is her brother, and surely, she can spare just as much warmth if not more.

She kneels to his eye level, taking his icy little hand in hers.

“I used to come here, when I was little.” Rickon’s voice is raspy from unuse, and she is ashamed that she can barely remember his voice from time before. “Shaggydog and me. We would hide.”

Sansa nods. “I remember. You used to scare us, the girls. Or you would try to.” She smiles then, remembering how the boys had teased them once upon a time, how she had feigned fright and played along, but had secretly seen through their ruse. Arya had pounced on them all, defending her honor. She wonders where her sister is, if she still lives, if she lies in some unmarked, lonely grave.

“We hid here when the castle burned too,” he said, and Sansa holds her breath.

“I know,” she replies, squeezing his hand. “You and Bran were very brave.”

Bran, of course, has not returned. She knows better than to ask her little brother what end he met.

She changes the subject. “Do you remember Father?” She gestures toward Ned’s statue. “And Mother? How Father would tell us about the Starks of old, and he’d even bring us down here…and how Mother would braid daisy crowns with us and sing to us?”

He shook his head. “They’re just made of stone.”

“Maybe one day you’ll remember.” Sansa does not weep, for she has done far too much of that. She sits in the dark with her little brother, the last two Starks. All they have is each other, and that is really all that they need.