She couldn’t keep still while waiting for the men to come through the gates of Winterfell. Though she tried to keep from standing on the point of her toes and sticking her neck out, everyone noticed and smiled about it. Arya was dressed in breeches, tunic, leather boots and a warm fur cloak around her. Needle, her sword, was visible sticking out from the clothes.
She hasn’t seen him since he gave her that sword, Sansa thought, smiling at her sister. And now she’s to greet him with it.
On her other side was Bran on his wheelchair, also warm in furs. But he wasn’t as excited as either sister. Actually, he wasn’t excited at all. He just stared out the gates, expecting something at all – not his brother.
Sansa took a deep breath and smiled through her worries. It was snowing, and she embraced the cold with happiness. Ever since her return North, the winter became a part of her – something that she distasted as a child, dreaming of the warmth of the South. But now there was no place safer than Winterfell, where her family and friends were, and where the bones of the Starks slept in the crypts. She never should’ve left Winterfell. And now the damage was done, and she would never leave the North again.
Finally, their brother was coming home. With the Targaryen queen. He had sent a letter not four moons before warning them of his return and also announcing the company of Her Grace, Daenerys Stormborn and her dragons. That gave them enough time to supply the castle, even though they were rationing for winter. There was wine, meat and fire and she hoped that was enough.
Finally, they heard the horses. And them a loud, scaring sound coming from the above.
Sansa trembled. “Dragons”, she whispered to herself as a smile filled her lips. Although terrified, she was so excited to finally see the dragons in person.
“Open the gates!”, one of the guards yelled out.
The storm of hooves broke into Winterfell and the entourage reunited at the front of the castle. She could see Jon on top of a horse, alongside his men, safe and unharmed. She looked to the side to seek her sister and didn’t find her there. Looking back, she found her behind herself.
“Arya? What’s wrong?”
She just stayed still, like she hadn’t heard her.
She’s scared. She didn’t remember ever seen Arya afraid.
Sansa turned to see Jon dismount. Then, he looked at her. His smile was luminous, he was finally home. She ran to his arm and embraced him with all she had. He held her the same way, taking her feet of the ground.
“Welcome home, Jon”, she said while unlocking her arms.
“It’s good to finally be back”, he said with that same smile, though tired.
“There are some people here to see you”.
At that, a beautiful woman of long silver hair came on top of a white horse, followed by men on foot holding spears. She didn’t have to take a guess to know who that was.
“Well, I also brought someone for you to meet”, he said.
But then, his eyes went somewhere behind her. When she looked back, she could see Arya standing next to Bran, both of them looking at Jon. His smile faded and his lips trembled. He reminded her of when they were younger. Sansa smiled and released Jon’s hand.
He ran to their siblings, first taking his hands to cradle their heads. Then embracing them both. She saw Arya hiding her face in his cloak, and even Bran held his brother close.
“Gods, I can’t believe you’re both here”, he said while laughing and crying at the same time. “I thought you both dead, I...”
“You shouldn’t have lost your hope, brother”, Arya said while laughing. “You told me to stick’em with the pointy end, didn’t you?”
The he looked and Needle hanging from her hip. He laughed out loud for the whole keep to listen.
He kept embracing them and kissing their heads and saying how much he missed them. They would have a long conversation to tell al their stories. And Sansa would like to be there as well. Arya hasn’t told her everything, she noticed. Always keeping secrets and telling half-truths. In her defense, Sansa hasn’t told them everything either.
Silence fell upon Winterfell then. Sansa turned to see the Queen standing before them all. Everyone bent their knees in respect of the last Targaryen. All but the Starks, the Kings and Queens of the North.
“My Queen”, said Jon. “This is my Family. Lady Sansa Stark, Lady Arya Stark and Lord Brandon Stark, daughters and son of Lord Eddard Stark and Lady Catelyn Stark.”
Lady? Lord?, thought Sansa. Seven hells, Jon, what have you done?
“It’s a pleasure to finally meet you, my Ladies and Lord”, Daenerys said with a soft, yet firm, voice. “It is my wish to reconcile with the North once my rule has begun.”
“The pleasure is all ours, Queen Daenerys”, said Sansa smiling all the while. She didn’t know if she should trust the small queen, but her voice was honest enough.
In her times in King’s Landing and the Eyrie, Sansa had learned how to detect liars and falsehood. And she knew the tale that haunted the Targaryen line. Her father was mad and, as far as she knew, her brother was mad. She just hoped Daenerys wasn’t.
A woman standing next to Daenerys took a step foward. “Meet your Queen Daenerys Stormborn, of House Targaryen, the First of Her Name, The Unburnt, Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men, Queen of Meereen, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Protector of the Realm, Lady Regnant of the Seven Kingdoms, Breaker of Chains and Mother of Dragons.”
Yet another uncomfortable silence fell upon everyone there.
But then Sansa decided to cut it.
"Queen Daenerys, you’re welcome to stay here as our guest”, she said, remembering the words that were taught a long time ago. “I swear that you will always have a place in my home and at my table. Now, please, let’s go inside where is warm and celebrate.”
Everyone laughed – even the Queen – and the castle started moving again. Horses were being tended and crates were taken to the castle. The Queen entourage was led through the massive wood doors to the entrance of the keep, while Jon led the Targaryen queen himself to the main hall.
They seem very fond of each other.
Sansa then saw Lady Brienne approaching with a timid smile. Sansa smiled wide for the lady Knight.
“Lady Brienne, it’s so good to see you again”, Sansa said, from the bottom of the heart. “Please, you have to tell us everything of your trip.”
Arya was then beside her. “Yes, I want to know everything about that shithole called King’s Landing.”
Sansa was getting used to Arya’s coarse language by now and didn’t reprehend her.
“Of course, my queens”, Brienne bowed.
Then, looking behind the lady knight’s shoulder, Sansa recognized his scars. And then his eyes, that were staring right at her. He was as tall and strong as ever. But this time, he wasn’t wearing the white cloak from the Kingsguard, nor there was blood covering his face and clothes. And the world wasn’t burning green. This time, his gray eyes were softer, without all that rage that used to haunt her dreams – although his fury was still there. He wore a warm cloak and leather armour. Snow fell on his shoulder and hair. He looked so much like a northerner, like he belonged in Winterfell.
He’s alive, was all she could think. It’s really him, he’s alive.
Arya also saw him. But her wild sister wasn’t frozen at all.
“HOUND?”, she yelled to everyone to hear. The other men that were around him turned to see her little sister approach the infamous non-knight, former shield of King Joffrey. And then Sansa recognized them too. There was the wild Tormund Giantsbane, Lord Beric Dondarrion and the Onion Knight, Ser Davos.
She looked back to him and he was still looking right at her. A shiver ran through all of her body, leaving her unsettled.
It’s been so long.
Only when Arya was directly in front of him, did he look down upon her sister.
“Wolf bitch”, he grinned.
Sansa was holding her breath as if a single breath could break that dream. For a long time, she thought him dead. But she was wrong. He was there standing right in front of her, just a few steps away. And yet, she was afraid of getting close – just as he was afraid of getting close to the fire.
She kept staring at him and watching her sister Interact with the group. She even made Lord Beric laugh.
What the hells is going on?
“My Queen?”, Brienne called her.
Only then she noticed the knight has been calling her for a while.
“Yes?”, Sansa answered finally, a little breathless.
“Is everything alright?”
“Yes, Brienne, thank you. I’ve just recognized some of the men.”
Brienne looked back at the group and nodded.
“Her Grace Arya also seems to know them very well”, she said.
“Yes, but how?”
“How does she know those men?”, Sansa then turned to Brienne. “I understand Lord Beric, he was in King’s Landing during the Hand’s Tourney. But how is she talking so effortlessly to him? And how does she know him?”
“You mean The Hound?”
Sansa hated that nickname. He’s not an animal.
“As I understand, he was also in King’s Landing, was he not?”
“Yes, but Arya hated him. Wouldn’t stop swearing vengeance on him after he killed the butcher’s boy when we left Winterfell”, she said almost angry. "Now they look... friendly."
Brienne nodded. “I do not know, my Queen.”
Sansa then turned to enter the castle. “Come Brienne, let’s get warm.”
“What about the men?”
“I’m sure Arya will be thrilled to show them around – and also meet the Queensguard”, and then she head for the hall, holding everything she had in herself so she wouldn't look back.