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Homecoming

Chapter Text

Lady Sansa Stark sat looking out the 2nd story window of the Winterfell library. A raven had come several days past from Jon. It read:”The army of the dead has been defeated.The Night King is dead. Many have died in battle. Queen Daenerys is missing. Rhaegal and I are searching. Prepare Winterfell for wounded, many wounded.”

So far, however, no one had arrived. She wondered who was among the dead. Knowing Jon had survived was a relief. What about Lady Mormont? she was so young to have such a big voice? Sansa smiled a little at the memory of the young Mormont girl speaking out boldly in support of Winterfell.

She could ask Bran, yet she did not. She didn't know who was among the dead. Brienne might still be alive. She could hope. If she asked Bran then it would be final, and she was not yet ready for the emotions if the answer was negative. So she sat looking out the window waiting for the first sight of returning soldiers. Hoping to see the white blonde hair of her sworn protector.

As she sat her mind ground on the decisions she’d made. She knew there had been no other way. Balish had been too crafty. He’d have found a way to use Brienne in his evil schemes. Sending her away was the right decision, and it was natural that she’d fought the dead army for Sansa. Sansa’s orders had been for Brienne to represent her interests. What better way could she do that as her sworn protector than fight for her against the dead army?

Sansa was thinking too much. She looked away from the window. The library was large and remained untouched by either the Greyjoys or the Boltons. Sansa thought that must be because people who think they know everything don't need books. After all if you are going to rule people by keeping a knife at their throat what good are books to you.

She was glad it had been kept intact. The library was kept warmer than most of Winterfell, so she had spent all the time she could there as a child. The rule had been if you were in the library you had to be there to use the books so Sansa read books, lots of books. She remembered Maester Luwin fondly. He kept the library and insisted on keeping it warm in winter for the sake of the books. He had been proud of Sansa for taking an interest in reading and often helped her find books that were easier to read or at least told interesting tales.

So many people she had known were gone now. So many. Was Brienne one of them now? Her thoughts kept going back to Brienne. Sansa had been so disappointed in the knights she’d met. They were all cruel, dishonorable men. Brienne was a true knight tho she did not have the title. Brienne was the kind of knight that all the old tales told about: brave, kind, self-sacrificing. A tear ran down Sansa's cheek and she felt like a fountain was about to burst from her eyes. She shook it off.

“She’s not dead,” she said out loud.

Men found Brienne ugly. Sansa found men ugly. Most of them anyway. Brienne was no worse looking than most men. She was far better looking than the Hound. He was no better than the knights she despised. He was horrible and cruel, but at least he was honest. She found comfort in that. She felt he’d actually cared for her in his own way or at least felt pity for her.

Brienne tho, she was good, honest, kind, loyal, brave. She’d beaten the Hound. To hear Arya recount the fight, the reports of the Hound still living must be from a miracle. Maybe the Hound deserved to die, but so many more deserved death much more than he did. She wondered how he had fared in the battle against the army of the dead. Had he fought beside Brienne? Two enemies now comrades in arms fighting for the living. It was the stuff of legends. Who would write the tale? If someone was left to tell the tale, Sansa would write it.

She gazed out the window at the stark white winter landscape. No one walked south on the North road. She wondered if she should be looking east. Would they send the wounded on ships? Were there any ships left? The report of an undead dragon was too much for the imagination. She knew it had brought down the ice wall. She’d seen the ice wall, 700 feet tall, when she was at Castle Black. How could anyone have survived? Where was Brienne?

Meanwhile, as the wounded slowly made their way down the North road to Winterfell:

Brienne: “Quit whining, you great oaf.”

Sandor Clegane: “Easy for you to say when you don't have broken ribs you tall blonde cunt.” He ended his sentence with a painful coughing fit that made Brienne wince.

Brienne: “Oh, so that's what I am ya big dumb bastard? Well, it's better than being you whining like a little child while laying flat on your back in a wagon being carried to Winterfell while I walk the whole way.”

The train of wounded men stretched out behind them for miles.

That day passed with no sign of the wounded. The next day Sansa again took up her vigil in the library. She was beyond worried. Her thoughts kept returning to memories of the tall blonde woman. How Sansa had lacked faith in her at first. How comforted she felt sitting in the saddle in front of her after her escape from Ramsay. Brienne was steady and a constant. Sansa regretted ever sending her away tho she knew it was the right thing to do.

Brienne was so strong but soft too. Her hands caused a tingling when she’d touched Sansa. Sansa recalled it so clearly. Every touch had been like magic somehow. She’d never mentioned it to anyone, but she found it extraordinary. Brienne was extraordinary.

The library door creaked open, and the new maester stepped into the library. Sansa greeted him, “Maester”

“My Lady, a raven has arrived.” He handed the sealed message to her.

It read: “My Lady Sansa, thousands wounded. The worst have been left behind for care. Please send wagons, furs, bandages, and food north. We are freezing and starving. Your servant, Brienne.”

Sansa sprang from her chair gleeful. “Brienne is alive,” she said with excitement. “They need help.” She pressed the message at the maester and left the room on a mission.

Sansa went straight to the guards on watch. “Give the signal. Assemble everyone in the courtyard.”

While the guards clanged out the signal to assemble Sansa took the steps to the 2nd level balcony 2 at a time. People began filling the courtyard. Sansa found it hard to wait to give her news. Arya joined her. Sansa squeezed her hand and said, “Brienne lives.”

Arya rolled her eyes at Sansa. “If you hadn't been such a coward you'd know that already. Bran gave me the whole blow by blow of the battle while it happened. I honestly can't believe you, sister.”

Sansa smiled at Arya and turned to address the crowd. “A raven has arrived. The wounded need supplies. We are going to send wagons to meet them. Make preparations. I want the first wagons to leave in an hour.”

She turned to Arya, “I don't trust Cersi to not attack us while we are weak. I want you to stay and handle anything that comes up. I'm going to ride out to meet the wounded.”

Two hours later Sansa was riding north with a small train of hastily packed wagons following. The maester rode beside her. “I've packed all the milk of the poppy that I have. I sent two men to get more. They will be a long time in getting back. I fear we will run out.”

“Perhaps not many need it maester. Brienne's note says the severely injured were left behind for care. We need to get to them. None of them will need milk of the poppy if they freeze to death or starve on the way.”

“We’ll do the best we can.”

When it began to get dark Sansa called a stop and spoke to the group. “My heart wants to travel through the night. We got a late start and have a long way to go to meet Brienne’s group. I think it's better we camp for the night and get rested. We might reach them in 3 days, but I think it's unlikely the wounded could have traveled south so quickly.”

While tents were pitched in the snow and a hot meal cooked, several members of the group sought Sansa out.

“My Lady, if we could have a word with you?”

“Certainly”

“We also would like to travel through the night. We could take 3 wagons. We have the team of horses from the wagon that broke down earlier to change out, give the other horses some relief. I think we can push and reach them in 2 days.”

Sansa was thrilled at the idea of sending a party in advance of the main group. There was another group set to depart from Winterfell the next day with more supplies. They could reach the wounded quicker with a small fast group while the larger slower groups caught up.

“Pick the fastest wagons and teams. Let's take mainly food. I'm going with you.”

The small group of women set out accompanied by the maester. They drove three wagons of supplies through the night. They took breaks for the sake of the horses but kept moving. That night they camped and slept, but got moving quickly in the morning. It snowed all day, and Sansa became increasingly glad they had pushed ahead as the snow grew deeper.

Sansa had a lot of time to think as they traveled. She wondered if Brienne was wounded or had she offered to escort the wounded to Winterfell so that she could resume her service to Sansa. Surely if she was well she’d have gone with Jon and his army to find Daenerys and attack King's Landing. Would she have come back to Sansa and asked permission to go? Doubtful.She must be wounded.

Sansa hated to think of Brienne injured. Some wounds were superficial. Some were a slow painful death. Horrific things happened to people in battles. She’d seen it in person after the Battle of The Bastards. Still, if Brienne could write a note and send a raven for help how bad could it be? Clearly, she was well enough to have taken charge or was she?

On the third day, Sansa’s group was very tired. The horses were worn out from trudging through hock deep snow. The extra team had been a great idea. They had harnessed them to the heaviest wagon, so they had four great horses pulling instead of two. Sansa and the maester occasionally walked to give their horses a break, but it was more difficult today now that the snow was deeper. The further north they traveled the deeper the snow became.

“My Lady, I don't think the wounded traveled very far under these conditions. This is day 5 for them marching south, and we are on day three heading north. We should have come upon them already.”

“According to the mile markers, we've traveled four days distance already. I expect to see them today Maester. I feel certain even wounded men could make 2 days distance in 5 days.”

“I don't think they'll get far with this snow, M’Lady.”

“No, we aren't doing too well ourselves. I expect Brienne is encouraging them to keep moving. Walking keeps you warm. “

“She is quite a woman, your Brienne. I've missed her around the castle.”

“I have too. I’m anxious to see that's she's well.”

“I don't think you have long to wait. Is that smoke?”

“YES!” Sansa spurred her tired horse into a gallop.

They'd been climbing a hill and when Sansa crested the top there stretched out into the distance were the wounded men. They had lit cooking fires and were huddled in groups. Sansa gazed about wildly looking for Brienne. There were all manner of sigils displayed. Sansa drove her horse forward and came first upon Dothraki and then unsullied warriors. They looked so cold huddled close to their fires. None of them spoke her language. “Brienne, Where is Brienne?” The men gave her a blank stare.

Sansa gave up and rode on through a sea of half-frozen Dothraki and Unsullied. She saw a Winterfell sigil in the distance and rode toward it.

As she got closer she saw movement in the group and a man came to great her. He bowed. “M’lady.”

“I have supply wagons on the way. Where is Lady Brienne?”

“She’s over yonder in the sick wagons. Taken a fever. We had to pick her up and load her into the wagon. Collapsed on the road. Weighs a ton that one.”

“Show me.” Sansa had shaken off the worry before, but now her heart was in her throat. Brienne was not ok.

The man took her horses reigns and led them around his group to a wagon. Sansa gasped. There in the wagon next to a nearly unrecognizable Brienne lay a very recognizable Sandor Clegane. The irony was incredible. War made for strange bedfellows.
Sansa dismounted onto the side of the wagon and fell in beside Brienne waking her.

Brienne looked at her through bruised, swollen eyes and said, “I'm seeing things. You’re so pretty. I wish you really were here.”

Sandor Clegane’s gruff voice said, “She is here. Seems that giant mashed more than your face when it threw you.”

“You’re saying you see her too?”

“Sansa Stark, right there.”

Brienne reached out her hand and touched Sansa’s face. Tears started to fall.

Sansa looked for a place to kiss Brienne that looked like it wouldn't hurt. Her face was so swollen and bruised, if not for her blue eyes and white blonde hair Sansa could not have recognized her. “I had hoped to find you in better condition than this,” Sansa said and then she kissed her forehead because it was the least bruised place on her face.

Sandor Clegane made a face of disgust.

Sansa looked him over. “You look like a giant mashed you as well.”

“I've had worse done to me and by this one here.” He motioned at Brienne with his chin.

“Will you leave off. You could have just as easily done the same to me,” Brienne retorted.

Sansa quieted them both down, “Well, I’m glad to see you’re both still alive. Though from the looks of you both, I'm not sure how.”

A cry went up, “wagons, wagons, wagons.”

“I have 3 supply trains on the way. This first one is small. We rode as hard as we dared, but a larger group is coming, and a third behind them.”

The Maester rode up to the wagon. “My lady, I see you've found your Lady Brienne alive. There are so many here that need aide. Let me start with these two. I've asked that those in the most need be brought to me first.“

Chapter Text

The maester began with the Hound. Sansa excused herself temporarily to ensure the provisions on the wagons were being distributed fairly. Mainly they held food and one had furs tho not many. She made sure the provisions would go to those with the greatest need.

Once she was satisfied that everything was being distributed in an orderly and fair way, Sansa made her way back to Brienne’s wagon. The maester had finished with the Hound and had turned his attention to the tall woman.

“I don't need a maester. Thank You.”

“My Lady, Lady Sansa has spent weeks worrying over you. She won't be satisfied until I've checked you over. Now please, let's get this armor off and have a look.”

Sansa had come up behind them. “Yes, let the Maester look you over. I’ll help.” Sansa climbed into the wagon and began unfastening Brienne’s armor. She missed someone. “Where is Podrick Payne?”

“He’s following Jon. He was in good health when we parted. He wanted to come with me, but I sent him back to Tyrion Lannister. He was Tyrion's squire. They fought together at the battle of the black water. He’ll be of more use there than playing nursemaid here.”

Sansa and the Maester sat Brienne up as she talked and removed her chest plate and shoulder plates. There was a large blood stain on her side. “Off with your shirt, Lady Brienne. It appears you've been bleeding. That will explain your fever most likely.”

“It’s a scratch. I’ll take my death from the cold if I undress.”

Her protests went unheeded. Sansa was already pulling at her clothing.

“Gasp!” Sansa was horrified by the sight of Brienne’s bruised body. She glanced at the armor she’d removed and realized it had been pounded back into shape. Brienne’s skin was mottled with swollen patches of black, purple, yellow and red. She was bruise upon bruise.

The scratch was much more than a scratch and was infected.

The maester didn't seem surprised. “If you’d have seen him when I dressed his wounds,” he motioned to Sandor Clegane, “you’d have been expecting a sight like this. Would either of you care to tell how this happened? Were you thrown from a great height?

“We were thrown by a great height,” Sandor Clegane spat out.

Brienne rolled her eyes, “There was a giant, a great dead giant.”

“It threw you?”

“Into the air. We might as well have been toy soldiers.”

“Pod thought I was dead. He took up my sword, and he returned the giant to the grave. I wish I could have seen it fall.”

“Lucky for us, he didn't die and came back to check us. We’d have suffocated. Our armor crushed round our bodies. God, my ribs hurt.”

“Perhaps a little milk of the poppy for your ribs? Let’s get this wound cleaned up before you freeze, My Lady.”

After the Maester had left to attend to others, Sansa managed to get 3 hot bowls of gruel for them. She sat in the wagon silently drinking the hot, thin cereal.

Brienne began conversing, “My Lady, we cannot allow the men to stay camped here. Every morning we find some have died in the night. Most from the cold. The snow is too deep so we camped here last night and this morning I gave orders for them to eat the last of the food so we'd have the strength to keep walking. Tomorrow we must move on.”

“The wagons are empty now. We can send them ahead making a path for easier walking. More supply wagons are a day or two down the road. ” Sansa finished her gruel and soon fell asleep leaned back against the wagon. Her red hair framed her pale face. Brienne watched her sleeping.

“I see how she looks at you,” Sandor Clegane spoke.

“I don't know what you mean.”

“She looks at you how I wish she’d look at me.”

“And how is that?” Brienne turned her swollen face to look at Clegane.

“She rode ahead alone and came directly to you through half a thousand Dothraki and Unsullied. Rode day and night through knee-deep snow.”

“Sansa takes her duty seriously. I sent the raven naturally she’d come find me.”

“That girl has feelings for you. You great blonde monster. She kissed your head. I watched her do it.”

“A harmless gesture.”

“Wait till we get to Winterfell. She’ll keep close to you the whole way, and then suggest you share her bed to make more room for those in need, and you needing a soft bed because of your bruising.”

“You are ridiculous. I never took you for the dramatic type making up romance stories in your head where there are none.”

The Hound stopped talking, irritated, and soon was asleep. Brienne managed to stay awake a bit longer watching Sansa as she slept. The sun came out, and Brienne swore Sansa’s red hair glowed ringing her face in fire. She was so strong and yet fragile.

It was dark when Sansa woke. Brienne and the Hound were asleep. She climbed out of the wagon and relieved herself in the snow behind it. All the men were asleep or so it seemed. She helped herself to a bowl of something from the cauldron over the fire. She hoped they weren't boiling bandages. It was a thick stew with vegetables and meat in it. The flavor was missing, but it was hot. She climbed back into the wagon finishing off the hot stew quickly. Taking the fur that had been thrown over her, she snuggled in beside Brienne for warmth she told herself. She tried not to actually touch the bruised woman, but she got as close as she dared and went back to sleep.

Chapter Text

The next morning the Hound teased Brienne. “I see she ain't waiting for Winterfell to bed you.”

Brienne made a disgusted scoffing noise at him and climbed down out of the wagon leaving Sansa warm and sound asleep under the furs.

Later the wagon lurched forward waking Sansa. She looked around. They were underway. The supply wagons track could still be seen and the wagons packed the snow down even more making it much easier for the wounded to walk. Brienne was sitting with the driver on the buckboard. The hound clung to his ribs in a great bear hug. He was too weak to walk but the rough wagon ride did him no favors.

Sansa raised herself up between the driver and Brienne. “Good Morning. I saved you some bread for breakfast.” Brienne handed Sansa a large hunk of dark bread.

“Thank you. How are you feeling?”

“Much better. My fever seems to have passed. I hope we find the supply wagons tonight. We don't have much food left.”

“If not tonight then tomorrow.”

Sansa looked behind them. The walking wounded stretched out behind for miles it seemed. How would Winterfell care for all these people? Because of the foolhardiness of the wars, fields had been burnt and harvests had laid rotting on the ground with no one to collect them.

Sansa turned back around. “Do we have any ravens?”

“Yes, several.”

“I’d like to send a raven home to Winterfell.”

“We'll have to find paper and a pen. You there. Go tell the raven keeper Lady Sansa wants to send a raven. Tell him she needs paper and a pen.”

“Yes, ma’am. The young man she’d spoken too trotted off to find the ravens. His head was bandaged.”

Sansa looked behind again. She’d never seen other races of men. Tales told of them but seeing Dothraki horse lords and the unsullied warriors with her own eyes took her back to her childhood, to her time spent reading in the library. Would they get back to a time of peace? War was so ugly, born from the selfishness of a few men and women. She’d been so unprepared for the ugliness she’d suffered.

What a bright light Brienne had been! She could have gone anywhere or done anything she wanted, but she was there when Sansa needed her. If Sansa had asked, Brienne would have stormed into Winterfell alone and tried to cut her way through to rescue her. As it was, she was there waiting when the moment came, whisking Sansa to Jon and safety. Brienne could have done many things, but she swore an oath to serve Sansa.

Sansa turned around again. Brienne’s bruised head was just there. She needed a haircut and a bath. Her wavy blonde hair had blood crusted in it. Sansa gently reached up and touched her head running her fingers through the white blonde hair. Her hand came to rest at the spot where the plate armor met her neck. Brienne turned her head and looked at Sansa. Her expression was hard to read. Sansa started to remove her hand, but Brienne's much larger and very warm hand stopped her.

Sansa let her hand remain on Brienne’s neck tingling under the warmth of the large hand pressed against it. Brienne’s thumb caressed her wrist. She was being much too familiar with Brienne, but this felt good and right so she let it happen. Soon Sansa’s thumb was rubbing the soft earlobe peeking out from beneath blonde waves. Eventually Sansa’s tender fingers ended up in Brienne’s hair massaging and stroking.

Later, they stopped to rest. The raven keeper found Sansa. The note she wrote was simple: “2000 wounded. Send ravens to all for supplies. Move Brienne’s items to my room. Make the most of space. 5 days more travel.”

The Hound, who’d had a bird's eye view of everything going on between the women heaved himself out of the wagon to relieve himself. Brienne tried to help him get back in. “I told ya so,” he said as he stiffly mounted the side.

“I find it hard to believe. You don't think she's just being friendly?”

“Best not think too deeply. These kinds of things make no sense. There’s scant to be happy for these days. Let her have some joy. She’s had so little of it. I wish it were me. I couldn’t make her happy.” He looked down and shook his head. Then he looked at Brienne and shook his finger at her. “You make an effort. Show her that there is some good still in the world. There has to be. You find it for her. Make it if you have too.”

“Surly, she’ll marry a lord when things settle a bit.” Brienne looked pained.

“Naw, not that one. Had her fill of men. You've never been a traditional woman.”

“No, I haven't.”

“I know you care for her. You wouldn't be the first Ladies to take up together. I hear Yara Greyjoy has a girl in every port.”

“Yara Greyjoy.” Brienne smiled. “I met Yara once. Long ago. She beds women?”

“She isn't the only one.” He pointed with his chin, and Brienne looked up to see Sansa glance away as their eyes met.

“I’m going to sleep. Go talk to her.”

She left Sandor as he snuggled beneath the furs. She found Sansa checking the tack on her horse. “I was thinking I'd ride. Would you join me?”

Brienne was taken by surprise. “I don't have a horse, My Lady.”

“He’s big and strong. We can ride together. It will be like old times on our way to Castle Black. I think of it often.” Sansa admitted the last quietly.

They were about to start moving again. Brienne mounted and then pulled Sansa up in front of her. “Have you been warm enough, My Lady?”

“Perhaps if you pull me closer, I'll stay warmer.”

Brienne had a great cloak. She drew it around them both and then slipped an arm around Sansa's waist beneath the cloak. Sansa took Brienne’s hand in hers and hidden by the cloak began to caress it affectionately. Delicate fingers ran up and down her large hand and up under her sleeve.

Brienne found all this attention from Sansa stimulating. Her cheeks were flushed, and after a while, she realized she was wet, too wet. She hoped they found the supply wagons soon, and then again she was content to ride anywhere as long as Sansa Stark was tucked into the saddle in front of her.

Brienne wondered what would happen when they arrived at Winterfell. Sansa had her duty and it would take up a lot of her time. She decided to make the most of the journey and so she committed to memory how wonderful those soft fingers felt, how good Sansa felt in her arms. The good way it felt to be so close to her.

Chapter Text

“Sansa, My Lady, time to wake up. Sansa?”

Sansa woke slowly. Brienne’s arms felt so good. She was warm. Her eyes opened. The group had stopped walking to rest. One part of the North Road looked the same as another so looking around told her nothing.

“Let's give the poor horse a rest. I’ll help you down, My Lady.”

Sansa expected Brienne to take her around to check on the men, but Brienne climbed into the wagon with Sandor Clegane. “Make some room. If I don't lie down, I'll fall down.”

Soon she was settling in covered by the cloak. Brienne saw Sansa peer over the edge of the wagon at her. “My Lady, would you care for a nap?”

Sansa declined. She was worried. If Brienne was this tired and so easy to tire out after a horse ride, then what condition were the rest of the wounded soldiers in? Sansa was quickly back on her horse and riding to find out.

What Sansa found was not as dire as she'd thought, but the soldiers were tired and struggling. They all felt strongly about pushing ahead to get to Winterfell. Sansa tried encouraging them by saying there were more supply wagons on the way and that they should reach Winterfell in 4 more days.

They moved on after their rest. Brienne and the hound were fast asleep in the wagon. Several who had become to weak to walk had been placed in the wagon with them. That night it began to snow. It wasn't a heavy snow because the temperature dropped drastically and the cold became bitter. Sansa knew there would be more dead in the morning. The supply wagons had to be near. They had furs and wool blankets, along with all the clothing and boots Winterfell could spare.

After speaking briefly with the wagon driver, Sansa mounted her horse and galloped away into the night in search of the supply wagons. Several Dothraki saw her go and raced after her. They all trotted their horses together in silence. After about a half hours ride, the fires of the supply wagons could be seen in the distance. When Sansa arrived at the camp with her wild looking foreign escorte, it caused quite a stir and everyone came to see the strange looking men.

Sansa wasted no time in giving orders. “We trotted here. It didn't take that long. Get the horses hitched. The wounded need the blankets and furs. They’ve eaten every scrap of food. Put a sack of meal on the back of each of our horses. I'll try to get something hot into their bellies before you arrive. We've had men freezing to death every night, and this night is colder. Push the animals to go swiftly.”

Everyone hustled to get the teams hitched. Sansa and her Dothraki escorte were long gone with the meal sacks by the time the fires were doused and the supply wagons were on the move. The draft animals were slow moving. It would take time to pull the heavy wagons over the few remaining miles to the wounded camp.

Sansa’s return to the camp went unnoticed by the tired men. No one had missed her. They barely had fires lit and were so worn out many slept rolled up in a blanket in the snow.

There was a sort of kitchen wagon. Sansa headed there first. She woke the men near by and instructed them to make thick gruel with the meal sacks. Next she had the wagons pulled off the road so the supply wagons could pull up into the midst of the camp.

The loose company of men was divided into sections with leaders. Sansa had them all called to a meeting.

She addressed the crowd, “I have good news. The supply wagons will be here soon, tonight. I brought back some meal. It's being cooked into a thick gruel right now. Rouse all the men who are able to carry firewood and send them to fetch some. This night is very cold, and I'm done having good men freeze to death. Have those that are able carry the gruel to the weak. Go now. See it done.”

The men were exhausted and cold. They did as she asked but slowly as if they were moving in slow motion. By the time the supply wagons arrived, everyone had a belly full of hot cereal, and the camp fires were blazing. Some had tents, but many did not, and she feared for those the most. There were tents on the supply wagons but not enough to go around. The snow still fell. It was dry but even light, dry snow piled up and would make traveling harder.

Cooking continued through the night. The wounded were served several times and much to Sansa’s happiness no one froze to death. She tucked herself in next to Brienne and got some sleep once it was daylight. With the tents, furs, blankets, and clothing distributed it freed up several wagons for the weak to ride in. They stayed camped that day. Food was served round the clock, and most of the men slept the day away. The next morning they broke camp and continued on their way.

Brienne had slept more than anyone it seemed besides Sandor Clegane. Sansa asked the maester to check on her. “Her body needs to heal. Sleep is the best thing for her. The fever has not returned. The wound looks much better. They all need rest to recover. Stopping yesterday and feeding them was smart I think. They all needed rest.”

Chapter Text

The rest of the walk to Winterfell was uneventful. The third wave of supply wagons met them, and although it stayed cold the snow stopped falling. With wagons going in front of the walking wounded, the North road became much easier for the men to walk on. Sansa rode ahead followed by the Dothraki riders. The Dothraki caused quite a stir when they reached Winterfell well ahead of the rest of the wounded.

Arya reported that all was well. Many had sent in supplies in response to the Ravens that Winterfell had sent out. The Dothraki and Unsullied preferred to keep their camps outside of Winterfell. Sansa filled any space she could find, including the library, with injured North men. She had Brienne and the Hound moved into her bed chamber intending to share Arya's room.

“Now why do you suppose she moved us both into her bed?” the Hound was perplexed.

“She must find some value in you,” Brienne replied. “It's an honor she does us.”

“Aye, it is an honor. I've never been honorable though. I don't intend to start.” The Hound picked up his few belongings and limped slowly out of the room. From the doorway he gave Brienne parting advice. “Show her some good.”

Brienne turned red and shook her head in embarrassment.

The Hound grimaced. “Promise it.”

Brienne looked up at him. “I promise it.”

It was late in the evening when Sansa found time to check on Brienne. It was a surprise to see the tall blonde woman alone in the bed with no sign of the Hound. The fire was dying, so she loaded more wood on it and stirred the ashes.The noise woke Brienne.

“M'lady.”

“Brienne. I didn't mean to wake you. What happened to the Hound?”

“He felt unworthy of the honor you did him by placing him in your own bed. He's gone to find other less honorable accommodations. He means no disrespect, My Lady.”

Sansa stood and stared, alone in her bed chamber with Brienne in her bed. She felt awkward.

“You do me a great honor by giving me your bed, but I too could find other accommodations, if it pleased you M'lady.”

Sansa walked forward now with intent. “It pleases me a great a deal to have you in my bed, Lady Brienne.” Sansa sat on the side of the bed nearest Brienne. “How are you feeling?”

“I feel I've improved a great deal already, M'lady. Having a warm bath and a good rest in your soft bed has done me wonders. I could take up my position as your bodyguard tomorrow.”

“Could you?” Sansa was skeptical. “The bruising on your face is getting better. I can recognize you now, but let's see that awful wound on your stomach.”

Sansa reached for Brienne's shirt. It was a long night gown and wasn't easily pulled up. Sansa ran her hand over the blonde woman's stomach. Brienne flinched and Drew in a sharp breath. “Hmmmm, I'm not convinced you're healed. Let's see it.”

Sansa drew back the bed cover and invited Brienne to stand. It was a small but noticeable struggle for her to climb out of bed and stand. Sansa put her hand over the site of the injury. Brienne didn't flinch. Sansa pressed. Brienne doubled over and groaned.

“When was the last time the maester checked your wound?”

“Earlier today. He checks it daily, M'lady.”

“What does he say?”

“He says it's healing, M'lady”

“Is that all he says?”

Brienne grimaced but knew she had to tell. “No, M'lady. He says I need another week of bed rest at least.”

“You will do as the maester says. When and only when he releases you from his care will you return to your duty as my sworn protector. Now lift the gown I want to see it with my own eyes.”

Brienne reluctantly drew the gown up.

“Take it all the way off.”

Brienne took the gown off over her head and tossed it on the bed. She stood at attention, red in the face. She wore what passed for panties in the Seven Kingdoms, but nothing else. Sansa's eyes roved over her fit body. There were scars, bruises, bulges of muscle and the ugly, healing wound. It was a deep gash that had cut through her abdominal wall. Somehow it had missed her intestines, but it was far from healed. The stitches holding it closed were large and crude. It was crusted with ointment and scabs. Otherwise Brienne's pale skin was clean and remarkably healthy looking though mottled with bruises of various colors. Sansa was disappointed that some very dark bruises remained

“That wound is hideous. You are still covered from head to toe in bruises.”

Sansa regarded her. Underneath the bruises were muscles. Pale white breasts with light colored nipples erect in the chill of the air were bigger than Sansa had imagined. She reached out her hand and rested it on Brienne's naked side. Once again Brienne flinched and took in air. Sansa came closer, almost touching. “Look at me.”

Brienne looked down. Her breath caught when her eyes met Sansa's. “Kiss me.”

Brienne hesitated, “M’lady, I don't know how.” Her blue eyes were a silent plea for aide.

Sansa ran her hands up Brienne's bareback making the tall woman shiver. She stepped back. The fire was roaring now and casting it's pulsing light all around the room. Sansa unbuttoned her dress and eased the belt loose. They dropped to the floor. Her hair was free and glowed red lit by the fire behind her. Her body was a contrast of white to the red. Brienne was shocked by what she saw. She had guessed Sansa had scars and not just the ones on her soul, but she never could have guessed it was this extensive. The Hounds words came back to her, “Show her there is some good in the world.”

Brienne stepped forward now curling an arm around Sansa's back she drew her against her, skin on skin. Slowly she leaned down, cringing at the pain from her wound, and kissed Sansa's lips. She had no idea what she was doing, but Sansa returned the kiss, and it all seemed so natural. Kissing the small, red haired woman was easy and exciting. Brienne could feel a pulsing in her center. It became hard to breathe.

The fire was hot on her bare back. Dropping her dress had been a gamble. Sansa doubted Brienne had any sexual experience, but she also had no doubt that the strong warrior had an attraction to her. The gamble was paying off. Brienne's lips and hands made her body tingle. She reached up and caressed a firm breast. It was more exciting than she had anticipated. The kisses became more passionate. Brienne's arm held her too tightly now. Sansa pulled away a little breaking the kiss. Brienne's crushing embrace eased off. A gentle hand entwined with the large woman's hand. With a tug she was being led to the bed.

It was a struggle for the wounded woman to get into the bed. Her cut abdominal muscles complained bitterly. She clenched her teeth against the pain. Sansa Stark lay on the bed, naked, waiting patiently for her to recover. She got her breath back and then it was on. Passion overflowed in both women and before she could even think about making a plan her long, strong fingers had been guided inside Sansa and the small woman clung to her whispering, “Yes, like that. Faster.”

Her fingers were surrounded by soft, hot, wet, wonderful. The wound in her side burned with the effort. Before long Sansa stopped her, and after some passionate open mouth kisses, she pushed her long legs apart and dipped her tongue into the large woman's center. Brienne recoiled at the unexpected shock of sensation and bucked her hips. The sudden, sharp pain in her side made her cry out in agony. When she had recovered her breath Sansa dipped her head again, slower, and softer than before.

“M'lady, with respect, I don't think it's fitting for you to do, do, whatever it is you're doing.”

Sansa stopped. She pulled away and made her way up Brienne's chest to stare her in the face. “You will call me Sansa when we are in my private bed chamber.”

“Yes, M'lady.”

Sansa stared.

“I want to hear you say my name.”

“Sansa”

“Much better. I will decide what is fitting. Was it enjoyable?”

“It was M'la, ah, Sansa.”

“I would like to continue, if it pleases you.”

“It did please me. It's rather embarrassing to have your face there. It's unexpected.”

“Did you expect any of this.”

“No, Mmm, Sansa”

“I like hearing my name come out of your mouth. Would you use your mouth on me the way I did you?”

“If you wish.”

“Then why shouldn't I use my mouth the same to please you.” She leaned very close to Brienne's ear. “I've been thinking about doing nothing else since I sent you away.” The provocative whisper sent shivers through the large woman and she jerked her ear away. Sansa giggled, smiling mirthfully, and pressed a long deep kiss onto Brienne's lips. Brienne relaxed and wrapped her arms around Sansa. She'd never heard Sansa giggle or even seen what looked like a genuine smile on her face.

“I'm doing as I promised,” she thought to herself. The giggle was proof. “Sansa,” she said, “I would enjoy it if you decided to continue, uh, with you know. It would be fine.”