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And You Thought the Lions Were Bad

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'The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword.' Sansa's father tells her, repeating it like a mantra, almost making it the unofficial motto of House Stark. But he also tells her stories of the Brave Robert Baratheon, the Battle of the Trident, and how there were no stronger bonds then those formed of blood. And she believes that Robert believes these things too; he is the king, but he is also a man of honour, of respect, of blood.

(Ned Stark was the most honourable man Sansa's ever met, but he always told the prettiest lies.)

When Arya is six and picks up Robb's bow for the first time Sansa stays up all night practicing her needlework. Septa Mordane praises her stitches and even as Arya scowls at her, Sansa knows that her sister is safe for one more day.

She does not know what she expected of Robert Baratheon, for she does not expect time to have stood still for him, preserving the king exactly as he was the day he spilled Rhaegar's rubies in the Trident. Perhaps she expected a man like her father, Sansa can no longer be sure, she just did not expect this. She hates the king for that, for not living up to all the stories her father tells of him, and she thinks maybe her siblings do too.

Winter is coming, Ned warns his children, but Catelyn talks about family and duty and honour and Sansa knows she cannot be both. Maester Luwin once told her that dogs came from wolves, bred to docility and domesticity by men, and that is what Sansa does; she curls up in the laps and is petted and groomed so that Arya can be the she-wolf she was always meant to be.

 And when Arya throws Sansa's painfully practiced hours of perfection - the tears shed, the aching limbs, the pinpricks littered across her fingertips - back in Sansa's face, Sansa smiles, because Arya will never understand what Sansa gives up, and isn't that why she gives up anyway? 

 That is why Sansa loves the queen, loves her because for all of Cersei's faults, she takes and takes and will not give what she does not owe. A Lannister always pays his debts, they say, Hear me roar. And maybe this is why Sansa wants so desperately to be a Lannister, because they are loud and arrogant and boastful and they are takers while Starks are all loyalty and duty and solemnity and bleeding for their lands and people and Sansa does not want to owe for what she has not taken. 

But at heart Sansa is a giver, and so she gives and gives and bows but does not break. She does not break, will never break, and she knows this enrages Joffrey and makes his attempts to break her all the more vicious, yet Joffrey does not know that screams of pain does not mean that she is broken.

Sometimes Snasa cannot help but hate her mother and Septa Mordane, for filling her head will tales of love and beauty and honour and happy endings and stories of how the would should be, leaving her utterly unprepared for how the world is

They play at knights and princesses when they are younger, when it's just Sansa and Robb and Jon. Sansa was always the princess (Queen, she'd insisted, for that's what she would be, the Queen of Winter, like Maege Stark, Rodrik's queen) and Jon and Robb took turns being the gallant lord sent to save her (For it was the North and they have no need of knights in the North). 

'You saved me,' She would say, and laugh as Robb swept her down from wherever Jon had deeded to hide her.

'I'll always save you.' He'd said, eyes full of all the solemnity that a nine-year-old can muster and she believes him.

(Sansa knows, standing on the steps of the Great Sept, staring into Joffrey's triumphant eyes, the blood her father soaking the stones and all the Lannisters' beautiful promises ringing in her ears, that Starks have always been the best liars.)