"This is what we must do," Jon whispered into the dark of the Godswood as they huddled as one against the heart tree.
"This is who we must kill," Arya whispered in the flickering candles of the crypt, as they knelt before the kings of old.
"This is where we must go," Sansa whispered in the soft glow of a new dawn, as they stared out at the fields around their home, Jon's eyes caught North towards the Wall, Arya glaring South towards King's Landing.
The three and no others they could find had come back. They could remember the smell of burning flesh, the green and red of fires. Jon and Arya walked as though there was the weight of a sword at their hip, Sansa walked like a queen through her castle.
The story they told was that Sansa had wandered off picking flowers, not noticing until too late that there was a clash of fighting stags nearby. That Jon and Arya were out riding, that they had saved her.
The story was that Jon had reminded Arya of stitches for sewing up wounds. That Sansa had told her that if she improved her pattern making, she could make her own trousers.
The story was that Sansa had realized Jon was good, and caring, and innocent of the crimes that her mother and Septa had placed upon him. That she had come to know that Arya was different, but that different wasn't bad.
The other changes in the three could be explained by each other--Jon's harsher life was comfortable for a bastard, but so much worse than Sansa's. Arya's suspicious nature could rub off on anyone after a time. And Sansa had a stubbornness to her sweetness, and enough skill to make dresses even her sister would wear, and clothing that made her bastard brother indistinguishable from her other brothers.
It was Sansa who asked Catelyn to have Jon legitimized, who spoke of the advantageous marriages to widows or old maids, or anyone else that they'd never match with Bran or Rickon. She'd slowly gotten her more used to the idea that Jon was not a threat and now it had paid off.
When the King road North, Jon was at the end of the line of Stark children, greeted awkwardly but truly by Robert as the three of them did their best not to laugh in the faces of these royal fools, completely unaware of Ned Stark's betrayal.
Bran did not fall because Bran did not climb, Jon praying at the heart tree for hours, promising his some-greats bastard uncle they'd take Bran North when the South was stable, that there was no need for the coma. But he did not go South, either. They had worked hard to pull him away from dreams of knighthood, filled his head instead with stories of warriors of the North, who would never have been knighted at all.
Instead it was the three of them, the three who KNEW, who rode South with their father, sharing secret looks as their game finally began.