She had died in fire. By her own hand, she had lit the candles. The flames were instantaneous. A sickly green that had blinded her for an instant before obliterating her eyes.
She had tried to stop Arya from leaving. Ordered her sister to stand at her side as the Others approached. Her sister had refused. Those eyes, grey Stark eyes, seemed fathomless in her solemn little face.
“Stay,” Sansa had demanded hotly, clutching Rickon’s unconscious form. The milk of the poppy had worked quickly. He would never feel a thing.
Arya didn’t respond. Her gaze was distant. The memory of their father bowing before his own blade struck Sansa with a dull thud.
“Arya,” Sansa said again. She swallowed hard when her sister did not respond. “We are wolves. When winter comes, the lone wolf dies. The pack survives.” But her words tasted bitter and burnt, like ash on her tongue.
Like Lady’s bones in the lichyard.
Like her father’s head on a spike.
Like her brother’s blood on his crown.
Like her mother’s body in the Trident.
Like Jon’s eyes, sharp and blue as death.
“Aye,” said Arya quietly. “But we won’t survive this, will we?”
A tendril of hair had escaped Sansa’s braid, and stuck to her damp cheek. Unbidden, Arya reached out and tucked it behind her ear.
“I’m not strong enough to stay,” murmured Arya. “I would die on the battlefield with a weapon in my hand.” She looked at Sansa fiercely.
Sansa regarded her sister. “You are the strongest person I know.” I love you.
Arya paused in the doorway, Needle half-drawn. She nodded, and disappeared.
Sansa sank to the ground, trembling. She shifted Rickon, his sweet face tucked into her shoulder. His steady breathing strengthened her resolve.
She had painted every inch of Winterfell with wildfyre. Every stone she had trod as a child. Every tapestry she had traced. Every inch of the seat of the North dripped with the ghastly green.
She would wait until the wights clawed at the gate. Until the roar of the ice dragon deafened the air. Until the Night King’s eyes pierced through the dark.
What would have happened if they had run? Her, Jon, Arya, Bran, and Rickon fleeing the long night. But her bones were built of duty, and they bore the weight of Winter’s crown.
And Jon had left. Bent the knee for naught. For the beautiful Dragon Queen, who had fallen with her children somewhere beyond the Wall. Jon with them.
Already she could hear the screams from outside. The wailing of dying men butchered the silence, mixing with the inhuman screech of the dead as they tore them down.
Can you still be brave if you are afraid?
She lit a match.
That is the only time you can be brave.
And the world ended.