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Ever After AU

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Sansa had always believed, as a child, she was quite likely the luckiest child on earth to have a father as wonderful as her own. Ned Stark was a very minor merchant lord, and though he had lost his wife Catelyn long before, he still doted upon his young daughter. Sansa thought the sun revolved around her lord father. He read to her and brought her books from each place he traveled to, no matter what. In the meantime, whenever he was gone on work trips, Sansa was surrounded by their wonderful staff and they all treated her as though she was theirs. She deeply believed no child in the rest of Westeros was as loved as she.

“Little Lady! Your father has arrived and he is not alone; get dressed and come to greet him!” Nan bellowed down the hall to Sansa. Sansa was all of about seven or eight and still as rough and tumble as she could be. A recurring theme in her current life had been her need of a mother. Sansa didn’t see it, but apparently, the way she had been acting lately was not reminiscent of a young noble lady.

Upon her coming down the stairs in one of her best blue dresses, Nan looked as though she might fall out in hysteria.

“Your father is coming home expecting a daughter, not a pig out of the mud.” the nurse looked frightened and astonished, but soft corners of her eyes betrayed her affection for her charge. ”Let’s get your face cleaned off for him at the least.”

Sansa smiled and followed her with a happy skip to her step.

-----/////-----

Outside, the whole household assembled to greet Lord Stark, his new wife, and her three children. The carriage barely had enough time to get to a full stop before Ned had thrown open the door to the vehicle and jumped out.

“Where is my little girl? The young lady who holds my heart in her tiny little hands?” Ned looked around dramatically as though he couldn’t see her.

“Here, Father! I’m over here!” Sansa popped out of the line and only managed to stay still for a moment before giving in and rushing into the older man’s arms. Lord Eddard Stark was a good man and a kind lord to those who worked under his leadership, He was down to earth and loved his daughter and his land, in that order. Now, he was a lord covered in dirt and he did not care. He had Sansa in his arms and that was all that mattered.

Ned kissed her forehead, her cheeks, and the tip of her nose before setting her down. “Allow me to introduce your new step-mother, the Baroness Cersei Lannister.” He gave Cersei his hand as she stepped out of the carriage with a fan in her hand and an unimpressed glare on her face.

The Baroness was a beautiful woman. She was dressed somewhat ostentatiously in a bejeweled dress with a head ornament that reminded Sansa of the peacocks which once wandered the manor property. Long blonde hair fell down in waves across the back of her dress and her eyes burned with something Sansa couldn’t identify. Cersei curtsied gracefully.

“Your step-siblings, Joffrey the eldest, Myrcella the middle, and Tommen the youngest.” Ned introduced them and three more blondes of various sizes emerged, just as beautiful as their mother. Sansa thought their hair looked like spun gold and was a bit envious. Her own hair was a brilliant red, inherited from her late mother. Some considered the shade a curse.

“Welcome to Winterfell Manor, I am Lady Sansa Stark. I am very glad you are here.” she said the words just as she had practiced them with Nan and the maester who tutored her. Politeness had never been her strong suit. When she wasn’t reading, she wanted to be outside in the orchards or gardens.

They greeted one another and introduced the newcomers to the members of their staff. Sansa tagged along on the tour as well and attempted to get to know her new siblings. They seemed much too fancy for the way Sansa had grown up and Nan had told her they might need her help to adjust. She did her best to impart what she knew, but they all seemed a bit irritated by her. Maybe it was because of the age differences or just because they wanted to figure everything out themselves. She wasn’t sure. Sansa could understand both, even at her young age.

By the time the tour was over the manor had begun to wind down for the night. Sansa had brushed out her long red hair and changed into a nightgown. She was tired out from the day’s excitement and her play with the town’s boys earlier in the day. However, Sansa was determined to stay awake until Ned came in to tell her goodnight and tuck her in as he always did when he was home. By the time he got in to see her, she was beginning to think he had forgotten about her.

“Hello, Father,” Sansa said sleepily from beneath her covers. “I was about to decide you weren’t coming.” her tone chastising and one eyebrow was cocked at Lord Ned. The look reminded him of Catelyn until she broke the moment with a yawn

“My apologies, Sansa. Maybe this will make it up to you.” he smiles affectionately at her and pulls out a book. Sansa grins widely and eagerly sits up to look at the gift, her finger tracing the title on the cover. “It’s called “Utopia”. I have begun it and it seems rather good.”

Ned put the tome in Sansa’s hands and she grasped the gift eagerly.

“Now, I must get to bed, my little love. I have a new wife and another business trip in the morning.” knowing she was going to be horribly disappointed. “You will have a new step-mother and step-siblings, though. I hope to leave you not terribly lonely from now on.”

“I hate when you come home only to leave again. You never even stay a whole day anymore. I hate when you leave at all. I want you to be here all of the time… with me. I don’t care about new people. I want you here.” Sansa looked sad and petulant even as he kissed her forehead, tucking her into bed for the night.

“I know, Sansa. I hope one day I won’t have to leave anymore, but for now, this is the way it needs to be. I am sorry, my little love.” Ned seemed saddened. “Good night. I love you, Sansa.”

“I love you too, Father.” Sansa said and turned to curl into her bed around her book.

-----/////-----

It took a while after the morning bell tolled to get Cersei and her children assembled outdoors to bid Lord Eddard Stark farewell. They did not seem the slightest bit inclined to get out of their beds that morning, whether Ned was leaving or not.

“Well, goodbye family, I ought to be back soon. I hate to be gone for too long. I love you all.” Ned swung himself up onto his horse, blew a kiss each to Sansa and Cersei before riding away once more.

“Well, now that is done, children come back inside for your breakfast.” Cersei rolled her eyes and turned to go back in.

“No! He’s going to turn back and wave at the gate! You have to stay. It’s tradition!” Sansa grabbed Cersei’s skirt and tugged slightly; insistently. The Baroness shrugged her off with a huff but did as she was asked, just in case this was important to Ned.

Just as he was turning to wave as was tradition, he suddenly reached up to grab his arm, then chest, and slowly slid from his horse. He landed flat in the dirt, his legs bent in awkward and unnatural positions. Sansa immediately took off, ignoring the shouts from behind as she ran to her father’s side. “Father!” she cried as she knelt beside of him and shook him, trying to get him to wake up.

“I am here, dearest.” Cersei said as she knelt down beside her husband. Ned turned to meet her eyes, pain coloring his face, before returning his attention to his daughter.

“I love you… Sansa.” were the only words he managed to choke out before his face fell slack and he died. Cersei let out a high pitched keening mourning cry as she collapsed across his body. Sansa stared down at him with tears streaming down her cheeks as one servant or another pulled her away from her father’s corpse.