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The Mockingbird Found Her Teeth

Chapter Text

A gentle hand shook Sansa awake. “Milady,” said Anne, her hand maiden. “A raven came from King’s Landing.”

Sansa shook off sleep. It was late; she’d been asleep for a while. News from King’s Landing was worth the wake. “Did you bring it with you?” She sat up in her bed, pulling the blankets up with her. While Winterfell wasn’t cold, and she took her Mother’s chambers, she loved the feeling of the heavy furs.

“Yes, I thought you would want it.” She handed it to her.

Sansa took it and pushed the blankets back. She stood, her nightgown moving down to her calves. She knelt at her fireplace and put a log on the dwindling flames.

“Milady, I can do that.” Anne knelt down next to her.

“I built my fires for several years in the Eyrie. This isn’t a big deal, Anne.”

“As you say.”

Sansa smiled at her. When the light was enough to read the paper she cracked the seal of the Vale and opened it.


Sansa, my love. King’s Landing has fallen. I am now King of the Seven Kingdoms, making you my Queen. I will clean up the city, and the Red Keep, and then I will send for you. Take care. Harrold Hardyng


“Is it good news, milady?”

Sansa smiled and nodded.“It is.” She stood and sat back on her bed. “You may go, Anne. Thank you for waking me.”

Anne nodded and left, shutting the door behind her.

Sansa rested for several seconds, letting the heat of the fire warm her toes. She then stood and pulled a robe off the chair. She pulled it over her shoulders and tied it around her waist. She stuck the scroll in her shift and opened her door.

She listened for movement and heard none. She shut the door behind her and rushed down the stairs of the tower, stopping outside Jon’s old room. She knocked on the door.

“Enter."

Sansa opened the door and closed it behind her.

“Sansa.” Petyr stood from his chair, eyes bright for the late hour. “What do I owe this visit?” His fire was roaring in its hearth, yet his robe was still one of the heaviest in Winterfell.

Sansa started to flush from the heat, but didn’t comment on it. “I had to come; I bring news.”

“What news have you brought?” Petyr walked to his cabinet and pulled out two glasses. “Wine?”

“Yes.” Sansa sat in one of his plush chairs.

Petyr was silent as he poured the wine. He handed her a glass and sat down across from her. “What news from the siege?”

“It is no more,” she said, studying his face while she sips her wine.

He revealed nothing, which was unsurprising. “Is that so?”

“We’ve done it. We’ve won the war.”

Littlefinger clicked his tongue thrice. “I’ve taught you better than that, sweetling. The war is never over, the game is always to be played.”

Sansa fought the urge to roll her eyes. She knew that, she’s known it since he whisked her away from King’s Landing all those years ago. The Game he was so fond of has taken her from the deepest hell back home, to Winterfell, where she wanted to stay, the Seven Kingdoms be damned.

Instead, she took another sip of her wine. “Sweetling?”

Petyr’s eyes almost seemed to soften at his word. “You’ve grown so much since then.”

Sansa almost nodded at his words, but decided against it. She knew that and knew that he knew, she didn’t need to acknowledge it publicly. Littlefinger wouldn’t, and so neither would Sansa, not when she is still within his reach. She stood and set her wine on the table. “He will call for me soon.” She didn’t speak his name around Petyr. It never felt right.

“You must go.”

Sansa stood and moved to stand next to him. “I mustn’t.”

He craned his neck to look at her. “Why do you say that?”

“There must always be a Stark in Winterfell,” she said, echoing the words of her parents, and her Stark ancestors. “I will not leave it.”

“I would be willing to remain-“

“I will not leave Winterfell in your capable hands, Lord Baelish.” Sansa’s eyes flashed, anger swelling within her.

“As you wish.”

“I will stay until I hear word of my brothers. He will accept that.”

“My little birds have no whispers of Bran or Rickon. Haven’t since Greyjoy took the stronghold.”

“I am aware.”

Littlefinger swirled his wine around for a moment. “What of the bastard?”

Sansa refused to flinch at the term. She knew she was treated far better than Jon ever was, she had no reason to have such a loathing for the term. “Jon? What of him?”

“Surely he could spare a few men to come watch your keep.”

Sansa’s eyes steeled. “His men would not do. Unless Jon came himself, I would not leave.”

Littlefinger nodded. “I have heard whispers...”

Sansa took a deep breath, fighting the urge to roll her eyes. He always had whispers to share. “What do these whispers say?”

“They say that Arya is making her way to Winterfell.”

Sansa narrowed her eyes. “Arya? Here? With what proof? She hasn’t been heard of since she fled King’s Landing.”

“She’s been over the Narrow Sea, in Braavos. Now she makes her way North.” Littlefinger smiled. “She should be in Winterfell within a fortnight.”

Sansa’s heart raced at the thought of seeing her sister once more. It had been far too long. She moved to sit on Littlefinger’s lap, as Alayne used to. “Thank you for sharing this with me, Petyr. I shall start to prepare for her visit.”

“Anything for you, sweetling.”

Sansa kissed him, knowing that it was true. She was his weakness, just as he had the ever increasing tendency to be hers.

He kissed her back for a short moment, before breaking it. “We mustn’t,” he breathed. “It isn’t safe.”

“I do not care.” Sansa kissed him again.

“He has been away for too long, Sweetling.”

It had been four months since she had last seen Harry, in the Eryie, before she had left to return to Winterfell. “It’s safe.”

“You have not been with your husband in a little under a year.”

“I have, when we were in Eryie, just after I left you.” Sansa kissed him again. “And now I want you again. To celebrate the good news.”

“Sansa.”

She pulled away, a pout on her face. “You would not think I would lose the propriety of this in my joy do you? I have too much to lose to throw it away by being stupid.”

“You were never stupid, sweetling.”

“Then prove it, Petyr.” She kissed him softly. “Fuck me.”

He let out a groan and clutched at her hips.

It was a quick fuck, under clothes in a rushed hurry of the night. She had to get back to her room before Anne came back to draw the hot water. When Anne entered, Sansa was fast asleep, her night adventures having exhausted her.

Chapter Text

                A week later another raven came.

                Sansa, my sweet. Come and be with me. I long to see you once more. It has been far too long. I await you with banners raised. Harry Harding

                That evening, Sansa dined with Petyr.

                “He begs for me.” But never as well as you do.

                “I’ve heard news of our Heir in the last week.”

                “What news is this?” Sansa wasn’t sure she wanted to hear.

                “My birds tell me he was gravely injured. He won’t last another month.” He stroked his face, his cool eyes calculating.

                Sansa was grieved to hear it, but refused to let it show. Harry had never been anything but kind to her. He had become a friend. She knew, even as Alayne, that he wouldn’t make it; the nice ones never did. “This is grave news,” she said. “His people will be sad.”

                “Who might they be?”

                “The Vale. The North never warmed to him, we know this, as did he. They welcomed him because he was married to me. That was the extent of their warmth.”

                Petyr’s eyes twinkled at the truth in her words. “Will you go to him?”

                Sansa was silent for a moment. “What news of Arya? I will not leave Winterfell without a Stark.”

                “I can remain.”

                Sansa fought the urge to sigh in frustration. “I will not leave my home to you.”

                Petyr nodded.

                “I would have you come with me to the Capital.” I need you, was left unsaid.

                “I am yours to command, my Queen.” I will follow you, was what followed.

                “You didn’t answer my question, Lord Baelish,” always cautious of those listening in, “What news of my sister?”

                “I haven’t heard anything of Arya.”

                Liar. “I will not leave until I welcome her back to the walls of her home. Our home.”

                “Very well.”

                “I will write to him tonight. To inform him of this.” She swirled her wine around in her goblet. “He will understand.” She said it almost to tell herself it was true.

                “What of Snow?”

                “What of Jon?”

                “Will you write him? Informing him of his step-sister’s arrival?”

                “I haven’t decided yet.” It would break Arya’s heart for him to be close and not know of her arrival.

                “And you wouldn’t leave your castle to the Watch until Arya gets here?”

                “No. I will await my sister with banners.” Sansa drummed her finger on the table. “And a feast. Arya always liked feasts.”

                “You haven’t seen your sister in eighteen years, my lady.”

                “Everyone likes a feast,” Sansa said, irritation seeping into her patient tone. She didn’t need reminded how long it had been. She had counted every day since her Father died she had been separated from her siblings. She hadn’t even seen Jon since they left for Winterfell.

                “She might be,” he paused, swirling his goblet, “different than she was before.”

                “And so am I. It’s been eighteen years, Lord Baelish. I am not a stupid little girl anymore.”

                “You never were. Just a girl who saw too much in the songs.”

                Sansa refrained from rolling her eyes. We are just alike, you and I was what was going to come out of his mouth next.

                “She had charm, but you have power.”

                Or he would throw that at her instead. She nodded in response. “I need to see to preparations for my sister’s homecoming. If you’ll excuse me, my lord.”

                “Of course.” He nodded, his eyes sparkling.

                She walked towards the Maester’s rooms, but turned around. The letter she wanted written would have to be done from her hand. She tucked that thought in the back of her mind and went to the kitchens to inform them of the upcoming feast.

                That evening she wrote the letter, sealed it with the Stark seal, and took it to the Maester herself.

                “I need the swiftest raven to carry this.”

                The maester nodded. “He just returned this morning. I’ll send him with this one.”

                “Thank you.”  Sansa turned to leave.

                “And Lady Stark?”

                “Yes?” She turned and looked at him.

                “I’m glad to hear your sister is returning.”

                “Thank you.” She smiled and walked back to her rooms.

                A letter waited for her on her desk, seal broken. Of course he would read it first. The seal was that of the Vale.

                Lady Stark, congratulations on your lord husband’s victory at King’s Landing. Know that the Vale suffered few losses, and you will continue to have the Vale’s support. Myranda Royce

                Words from the Vale that didn’t come from Petyr were odd. He spent so much time there, it’s only been since Harry left for the Capital that he had been in Winterfell. The spring was still too cold for him. Southern boy that he was. Sansa almost laughed at the thought; it made her feel like a Stark again.

                She changed into her night clothes and crawled into bed. She blew out the candle on her nightstand and closed her eyes, willing Arya to come soon.

Chapter Text

Four days later, Anne knocked on the door to Sansa’s study.

“Enter,” she said, sounding like Petyr. She grimaced, knowing she needs to find her own voice again.

“Lady Stark,” said Anne. “A horse approaches with a single rider.”

Sansa’s face lit up despite her instincts telling her to school her face. “Welcome them, please. I will meet them in the Great Hall.”

Anne smiled and nodded. “I’ll make sure they get the appropriate greeting.”

“Thank you.”

Sansa dressed into one of the first gowns she had made when she got married to Harrold. It had the greys and blues of house Stark. She didn’t wear it often; it was heavy, made in the dark of winter. These days it was too warm. However, today it seemed cold enough to wear.

She rushed down the hallways, eager to see her sister for the first time in near 20 years. She could hear Petyr’s steady steps echo behind her, but she couldn’t be bothered to slow. She wouldn’t be his Mockingbird right now. She was Sansa Stark, and Arya was coming home to her.

She turned the final corner and saw a figure standing in the centre of the Hall dressed in fine travelling clothes.

“Arya?” she asked, recognizing the shade of hair, but that was it.

She turned, showing the braid over her shoulder. “Sansa. Hardyng is it now?” Arya’s grey eyes sparkled with recognition.

Sansa shook her head, smile large on her face. “I’m a Stark.”

“I’m sorry.”

“No need. Harrold is still alive.” He’d better be. I hired the best Maester to care for him. Sansa embraced her sister. “It’s been too long.”

Arya hugged her back fiercely. “I’ve missed you.”            

“You’re home now.”

Arya pulled away and studied Sansa’s face. “Have you heard from Bran or Rickon?”

“I fear not. Theon Greyjoy took care of them in his siege of Winterfell.” The cold words surprised Sansa, but she refused to let her shock and sorrow show. Petyr taught her too well for that.

Tears welled in Arya’s eyes.

“It is nice to see two Starks in this hall.”

Arya’s eyes cleared and she looked over Sansa’s shoulder. “Lord Baelish.”

He inclined his head. “Lady Arya.”

She took a small step back. “The warm welcome is surprising.” Arya met Littlefinger’s eyes. “I wasn’t expecting one. I was not aware my family held the North again.”

“I have many birds in many places.” Littlefinger smiled.

Sansa shot a glare at him over her shoulder. “Please, let us talk more at dinner.” She grasped Arya’s arm and smiled. “I bet you’re exhausted. I’ve had your rooms prepared. I’ll have Anne draw you a bath if you’d like?”

“That would be nice.” Arya picked up and slung a knapsack at her feet over her shoulder.

“I’ll take you up then.” Sansa turned and looked at Littlefinger, a smile on her lips. “I’ll see you later, Lord Baelish.”

Petyr nodded and walked away.

Sansa led the way down the corridor, and up the stairs to Arya’s old room. “I’ve had your old room prepared, if that’s okay. If you wish to stay elsewhere, I’d be glad to prepare a different room for you.”

“My room is fine.”

“The good news is that it was one of the few rooms untouched from the Bolton’s time in the castle.”

“Good.”

Sansa nodded. “If you’d like, we might go for a walk later?” Sansa fought the urge to wring her dress or hair through her fingers. “Perhaps with Nymeria?”

Arya’s head snapped to Sansa’s face. “You found her?”

“On our way up from the Vale, we saw her. At least, I can only assume it’s her. She likes the name, but she snapped at me. Just like you.” Sansa’s smile was sad. “You’ll have to come confirm it, of course. The handlers have been cross with me about her.”

“Of course. I can’t believe you found her.” Arya’s grey eyes lit up, and she looked like the Arya she remembered. However, it didn’t last long; her face sobered quickly. “The Vale?”

“I’ve spent many years at the Eyrie. It’s my second home of late.”

“You resided with Lady Arryn then?”

“For a short time.”

“Who has the Vale currently then?”

“At the moment? Harrold.”

 Arya nodded. “Your Lord husband?”

“Aye.” Sansa wondered when Arya began to care about proper titles. She wondered, not for the first time, where Arya had spent the last twenty years. “Not for much longer though.”

“Is he in ill health?”

Yes. “No. He’s just taken King’s Landing.”

“Making you the queen.”

If I wish it to be. “I suppose so. It has an odd ring to it. Queen Sansa.” She’d heard it echo in her head, through Petyr’s lips for years. It hadn’t been odd for many years.

“What of Lysa’s son? Wouldn’t he take the Vale?”

“If he hadn’t passed during one of his fits, I’d be Lady Arryn.”

Arya laughed. “Our cousin? Really?”

“It would have united the North and the Vale.” Or Petyr’s hold on the Vale. Both work. “Come now. Bathe and change. We will talk more later.”

“Thank you, milady.”

 Sansa nodded and left, rushed up to her study. She pulled papers out of her desk and a well of ink. She sat down and scratched a letter.

Commander Snow, I hope my raven reaches you in good terms. I want you to know that our sister has returned home. I’m to hold a feast for her return in two days’ time. I would like to have you come and welcome her home. Lady Sansa Stark

She sealed it with the Stark seal and left to deliver it.

 

The next day was another unseasonably cold for spring. It reminded Sansa of early winter, with a cold wind coming from the North. She pulled her winter cloak from the wardrobe and left to find her sister. It was time to talk.

She found Arya in the kitchen, looking for food.

“You are welcome to ask for what you wish,” said Sansa, a smile on her face. “You will be denied nothing.

Arya turned around with a grin on her face. “It’s more fun to look for it.”

“I thought we could go for a walk today. See the grounds again?”

“I’d like to eat first.”

It was always food with Arya. “We’re to have a feast tomorrow night. In your honour. You’ll get plenty of food then.”

“We don’t need a feast.” Arya looked down. “I just want to break my fast at the moment.

Sansa grabbed Arya’s arm and walked away to the Great Hall, like the thirteen year old girl might have. “I had bacon and eggs prepared for breakfast this morning.”

“I wasn’t made aware.”

“I would only prepare the best for you, dear sister.” Sansa smiled.

“It’s more than I thought I’d receive.”

“So you say, but let us talk more of that after we break our fast. I may have hold here again, but birds are everywhere.” Sansa wasn’t so naive anymore to think that Littlefinger wouldn’t find a way to listen to their conversation, but she’d try her hardest to make it as hard for him as possible.

Chapter Text

Their first stop was at the kennel.

“I thought we were going for a walk?” asked Arya, looking inside.

“We are. With Nymeria. Like I said.”

Arya’s Stark eyes lit up, melting the cool grey. “She’s in here?”

“Last one on the left.”

Sansa watched as Arya rushed into the kennel building. She noted how it still needed repairs; it was taking years to rebuild the damage that Ramsay Snow did to Winterfell, but it was slowly returning to the glory she remembered as a child.

“You were right,” said Arya, her direwolf beside her.

Sansa was the only one who didn’t flinch at Nymeria’s size. She came up to Arya’s torso, her head almost to her shoulders. Her heart ached for Lady for the first time in many years. She hadn’t allowed herself to become close to another animal or person since then. “I thought it looked like her. I couldn’t quite remember.”

“Thank you for bringing her with you.” Arya’s hands ruffled her wolf’s fur. Nymeria seemed to purr with a rumbling growl that sent anyone near scurrying back several steps.

“I was hoping that one day you’d return to me.” Sansa linked arms with Arya and pulled her toward the front gate. “Let’s give her a chance to go out and hunt, yes?”

Arya studied Sansa’s face for a moment before nodding. “Yes, I’d like that.”

The people of Winterfell all shied away from them, but smiled at Sansa as they passed.

“Your people like you.”

“I’ve worked hard for that. They were cowering in fear when we came in from the South.”

“From who?”                                             

“First the Bolton’s. I think they did the most damage. Then Stannis Baratheon came in and wiped them out.” Sansa fought the urge to laugh, but a giggle bubbled out. “He thought he had the North then. The true king had a hold, you see,” she said as they walked out of the holding into the woods, “or so he thought.”

“What happened to him?”

“We came from the Vale. We had spread whispers that Sansa Stark was going to reclaim her homeland. And those whispers came true, and the North rallied.” It came as a surprise to Sansa, if she were to be honest with herself. She hadn’t considered herself from the North since she left for King’s Landing. For the people to support her, it was overwhelming. Even if Petyr had faith in her; it wasn’t enough.

“It turned out well. They adore you.” Arya watched Nymeria bound away, catching the scent of something. “How long were you in the Vale?”

“Fourteen years,” said Sansa after a moment of thought. Fourteen long, cold years, made warm only by the short moments she was in Petyr’s bed. “We marched North in the last year of winter.”

“As only a true Stark would do.” There was a sad tone to Arya’s voice.

“Harrold hated it.” Sansa laughed, memories of Harry the Heir complaining of the deep snows that gave them needed cover, of never having enough firewood, of not being able to have a fire, of cold, icy boots to march in. “He complained of the cold the entire way. I didn’t think it so cold; it was the first time I felt like a Stark in a long time.” Sansa fiddled with the fur lining of her cloak, afraid of what Arya would think.

“You’re always a Stark.” Arya’s fierce tone took Sansa by surprise.

“I suppose. But it’s hard as a Lannister. Or a Stone.”

Arya stopped walking and stared at Sansa in disbelief. “You were wed to that monster?” Then her expression changed. “Stone? You’re not a bastard. If you were, you’d be Snow.”   

Like Jon. “I never wed Joffrey. It was Tyrion. He was nothing but… kind to me.”

Arya nodded slowly, processing the words. “How long were you one of them?” She spat the word, sounding like the Arya she knew growing up.

“Less than a year. Joffrey died and I was smuggled out.”

“By Littlefinger.”

Sansa nodded.

“You had a part to play in his death, or Littlefinger wouldn’t have bothered with you.”

Sansa was surprised how fast Arya was piecing it together. “Perhaps.” Sansa wanted to tell Arya everything, her heart wanted to unleash everything inside, to finally have someone to say everything to without fear of it being used against her. However, even the trees had ears, and Littlefinger would find things out Sansa didn’t want him to know. She kept her heart closed for the time being. “I became Alayne Stone, bastard daughter of Petyr Baelish and some whore.”

“Alayne.” It was as if Arya wanted to see if it fit. She shook her head. “You hated Jon so much. How did you swallow it?”

“We dyed my hair brown. It helped that when I got a glimpse of myself, I wasn’t myself. Petyr treated me better than Mother ever did Jon.” Much better. “When I was wed to Harrold, the dye came out. I was wed with a Stark cloak.” Just like he promised. Sansa scanned the woods for Nymeria. "With Bran and Rickon dead, you missing if not also dead, we needed that name in the North again.”

Arya nodded. “It was a good plan.”

“It was necessary. We needed some order, and it was the only way to get it.”

“What is your relationship with Baelish now?”

The question surprised Sansa. “He’s useful.” She smiled to herself; she hoped he was listening to this. “He helped us claim King’s Landing.” She then sobered. “He’s been the only one at my side for over fourteen years. He’s played a significant part to where,” and who, “I am now.”

“What will you do with him now that you have the capitol?”

Give him the Vale to get him away from my side. Give him the position of Hand to keep him at my side. “I haven’t discussed it with Harrold yet.”

Nymeria returned to her master, jaws soaked in red.

“There’s my girl.” Arya kissed the top of her head. “First time you’ve had a decent meal since you’ve been here, hasn’t it?”

“Probably.”                                                                            

“That’ll change.” Arya looked back at Sansa. “What will you do with Winterfell now?”

Sansa took a deep breath and looked up at her home that she’s fought so hard for. With an exhale, she tried to let it go. “It is yours, if you wish it.”

Chapter Text

“Mine?” Arya breathed. Surprise flooded her face; the first honest emotion Sansa had seen since Arya arrived.

“If you wish it, yes. I ride south to be with Harrold.” Sansa studied her sister’s face, hoping for any sign of an acceptance.

“It needs someone who’s been here.”

“I had not been here for years. The people will accept you, as they did me.”

Arya shook her head. “Someone who has been here. I haven’t been around in years.”

“Where were you then?”

“I was here and then I was there.”

Sansa rolled her eyes. “Fine then.” She looked into the woods once more. She was not sure what she was looking for, but knew it was something.

“For several years I was here, in Westeros. Arry. Weasel. Girl. I met a man. He took me to Braavos. He trained me, and I’ve been here and there since then.”

“So you didn’t know I held Winterfell?”

“Not until I hit Westerosi soil this last time, no.”

This last time. “Then why didn’t you expect a welcome?” Sansa’s face fell, her heart broken. She wanted to cry for the first time in years. “I know we didn’t get along, but I never hated you like I said I did. They were just words. I was a stupid little girl.”

“I know.” Arya pulled Sansa into a tight hug. “I didn’t hate you either, though I thought I did. We were so different then.”

Sansa smiled, lips tight. We are different now. “But we are together now.” Sansa pulled back, curiosity getting the best of her. “Why didn’t you expect the welcome?”

“I didn’t use my name.” Something passed behind Arya’s eyes, but it was too quick for Sansa to identify.

“That wouldn’t fool Littlefinger’s best birds.”

Arya nodded. “I know that now.” She looked like she wanted to say something else, but then shut her mouth.

Sansa had her own secrets; she wouldn’t push Arya. Yet. “We are to have a feast tonight.”

“There’s no need for a feast.” Arya laughed. “Do you even have the stores for a feast?”

“It is spring, they are filling again. If we didn’t have the stores, I’d figure something else out.” Sansa smiled. “Another Stark has returned home. It is a cause to celebrate. It strengthens our hold here.”

Arya’s brow rose. “Lord Baelish has given you quite the mind.”

It’s the only way to survive, dear sister. “It’s nothing I hadn’t learned in King’s Landing.” Liar.

Arya nodded, looking like she didn’t quite believe Sansa. “That place was never kind to either of us, was it?”

Sansa laughed, and winter could be felt in the coldness of it. “No. It wasn’t.” She looked over her shoulder. “We should return. I have preparations yet for the feast.”

“As you wish.”

Sansa grabbed Arya’s arm. “One of these days, I’m going to get you to tell me some of your stories abroad.”

“One of these days, I’ll tell you.” Arya’s laugh filled the woods, Nymeria’s bark joining it.

 

“Lady Sansa,” said Petyr the moment they entered the stronghold. “A raven from King’s Landing has come for you.”

“And?”

Petyr’s eyes flashed to Arya, but Sansa didn’t miss it.

“And?” she pressed.

“It was addressed to you. I haven’t broken the seal.”

Liar. The way he was holding it said otherwise; no one but her would recognize it. “Have you heard anything back from my other letter?”

“Not yet.”

Sansa frowned. She had hoped Jon would write her promptly. “Very well.”

Arya cleared her throat.

Sansa looked at her, noting the attentive face that was well hidden among a mask of boredom.

“When is the feast to start?” asked Arya. “I would like to visit the Godswood if I have time.”

“Of course. Come to the Hall and sunset. We’ll start shortly after.”

“Thank you.” Arya nodded at Petyr and walked towards the Godswood, Nymeria at her side, nearly the size of the small woman.

“It’s remarkable how similar the beast is to the woman,” said Petyr.

“It is indeed.” Sansa walked toward the Keep, eager to open the letter.

“I take it you had a good talk then?” asked Petyr, falling into step beside her.

“Yes.” She looked over at him. “I expect you heard most of it?”

He gave a slight shrug of his shoulders. “I may have. I heard enough to know you put too much trust in her.”

“She is my sister.” She glared at him before looking ahead once more. “I expect I put too much trust in you as well.”

“I expect you do.” A smile hinted on Littlefinger’s face. “She wasn’t herself when she came across the Narrow Sea.”

“She used someone else’s identity, I know.” She stopped walking for a moment, and waited for him to face her before she continued. “I will not let you turn me against my family.”

Littlefinger grasped her arms. “I would not ask you to.” His eyes sparkled. “I want you aware of who she is now. She is not the little girl you remember from King’s Landing.”

Nor am I. “We will return to this conversation at a later time. I have preparations to finish.” She brushed his hands off and walked toward her chambers.

Who is he to think he can tell me who my family is? Why does he think he still has that over me? Sansa pondered over that the entire way to her chambers, but she could only come up with one answer. He still does, and will until I leave him behind.

She locked the door behind her, not wanting Petyr to disturb her. She sat at her desk and unrolled the letter Petyr had given her earlier.

My Sweet Queen, let me know of your sister’s arrival. I await your presence here. Thank you for the Maester. He has helped some. I wait for your words. Harrold Hardyng.

Sansa pulled parchment out of her desk and readied her quill, ready to write back to him. She tapped the empty nib against the paper, trying to put the words together before scratching them down.

Harrold, Arya has returned home to me. She has been home for two days. I am to have a feast for her return tonight. I have offered her Winterfell, so that I may come to you. I give her two days’ time before I ride south. Sansa Stark.

 

Dinner passed without any large problems. Arya brought Nymeria with her, which made most of the hall uncomfortable. Sansa was at ease with the large wolf just to her right. She longed for her Lady again. She would make do with her Mockingbird; he’d brought her more comfort in years than anything or anyone ever came close to.

Arya told stories of Westeros to anyone who asked, never mentioning her time abroad.  Often, they were of Harrenhal. Sansa made a mental note to ask her how long she had called that cursed city home. If it ever was home.

By midnight, most of the hall had cleared out, each having eaten their fill and seen enough of the Stark women to sleep at ease that night. While she was glad her people were well fed, she still frowned. Jon hadn’t showed. She was glad she hadn’t mentioned his arrival to Arya, or she’d be heartbroken. Better she think Jon was dead, like the little ones.

“Are you expecting some one, my queen?” asked Littlefinger, his voice no more than a whisper in her left ear.

He knew damn well that she was. “No,” she said, managing to keep the irritation out of her tone. She was so sure he would come, for Arya. “Just want everyone to have their fill.” It scared her how easily the lies rolled off her tongue anymore.

“I think I’ll retire now,” said Arya. “It was a taxing journey.”

“I’m sure,” said Littlefinger, a dangerous glint in his eyes.

Sansa fought the urge to glare at him. “Will you allow me to escort you to your room?”

With a quick glance to Lord Baelish, Arya nodded. “I would like that, thank you.” She stood. “To me, Nym.”

The direwolf went without hesitation.

“Goodnight, Lord Baelish,” said Sansa, standing.

“Sweet dreams, my queen,” he said with a nod of his head.

Nymeria followed the Stark women up the tower. “She can stay, can’t she?” asked Arya.

“Of course.” Sansa was beginning to think she would not be able to deny her sister anything.

“Have you found anything to replace Lady with?”

Sansa shook her head. “No. We haven’t seen a single direwolf since Robb found these ones.”

“I’m sorry. For what they did to her.”

“It’s nothing. Long forgotten.” I’m more of a Mockingbird anymore. “Maybe we will stumble across some when I leave for King’s Landing.”

“Perhaps.”

“I’m in Mother’s old chambers, if you need me.” Sansa glanced up the stairwell. “I trust you remember?”

Arya nodded. “Thank you. I will see you come morning.”

“’Til then, my lady.” Sansa nodded and went to her own chambers, exhausted.

Chapter Text

Sansa woke that night to her door being eased open. Her hand slipped under her pillow, fingers curling around the dagger kept there.

“Sansa?”

She relaxed. “Arya.” She turned over and sat up, blankets falling to her hips. “Why didn’t you knock?”

“I didn’t wish to wake you.”

“I’m a light sleeper. Sweetrobin would come in at night.”

“Oh.”

“Please. Come in. Close the door behind you. You’re letting the warm air out.”

Arya shut the door behind her, letting it close with a quiet click. “How long ago did Lord Arryn pass?” Arya crawled into bed.

“Too long ago. He should have lived longer.” Sansa’s tone was sorrowful, he should have lived to be a man, but she didn’t miss him.

“He died in during fit?”

“Yes.” No, we poisoned the terror. “It was terrible to watch. I’d never seen him that bad.”

“You were there?” Arya’s eyes were bright in the dark room as she sat facing her, blankets covering her bent knees.

I did it. “He was on my lap when it began.”

“Was he your first then?”

Sansa’s face clouded with confusion. “My first?”

“Your first death.”

Clarity flooded her face then. “No.” I helped kill Joffrey, though I didn’t know at the time. “I had watched Father die. And King Joffrey after him.”

“Oh.” Arya frowned. “I’m sorry. I had forgotten.”

“I haven’t thought about it in years.” I wonder if he’d be proud of how I’ve come to survive this world. She thought not. Sansa reached across the bed and ran her fingers through Arya’s hair. “It’s gotten so long.”

It truly was. Out of its braid, it brushed below her waist. “It has taken a long time.”

Sansa smiled. Keeping her fingers in Arya’s hair, she asked, “Why Braavos?”

“What are you asking?”

“Why didn’t you run home? Or to the Wall?”

“I tried.” Arya sprawled down on the bed next to her. “We had found Robb and Mother, but we were too late.” Arya shrugged. “So I ran away. Joffrey thought I was dead anyway.”

Sansa spread out next to her, folding her hands over her stomach. She wondered who the we was, but didn’t ask. “Cersei never did.”

Arya turned her head to look at Sansa. “That surprises me.”

Sansa laughed. “It shouldn’t. She was the worst one of them all.”

Arya lapsed into silence, moving closer to her sister.

Sansa wrapped her arms around Arya, content to hold her for a while.

After a while Sansa asked, “What brought you in here?”

Arya shrugged, face impassive.

“It’s fine. I don’t mind.”

“Why did you threaten me when I did?”

“I didn’t.”

Sansa felt the bed shake with Arya’s silent laughter. “I know what a blade under a pillow feels like.”

“I imagine you would.” Sansa didn’t even want to think of the horrors Arya had stumbled upon in her time.

“Why do you need it?” Arya looked up at her sister. “Who are you scared of?”

“No one.” Liar. “It’s an old habit.” Littlefinger won’t hurt me, not while I’m still needed.

“You act too fast for it to be terrible old.”

“You’ve become observant.”

“I had to be.” Arya shrugged.

“It changed us both, didn’t it?”

“Do you want it?”

Sansa looked down and met Arya’s eyes. “What is it I want?”

“The Throne.”

Sansa blinked. No, I want nothing to do with it. Of course I do, what a silly question. “It wasn’t a question of what I wanted,” she said instead. “I ride South day after tomorrow.”

“To lay claim?”

“Harrold has already done such.”

“It was planned.”

Sansa sighed. Yes, LIttlefinger would settle for nothing else. “He rode south to claim the North for us. Tommen must have been exhausted to have given up so easily.” She felt bad for the young king, he was only ever kind to her. She hoped his death had been swift.

“What happened to Queen Margary?”

“I haven’t heard yet. Why?” Sansa sat up and looked down at her sister. “What do you know?”

“I know nothing.” Something hid behind Arya’s steady gaze, something Sansa didn’t like.

She couldn’t do anything about it.  “Okay,” she said, laying back down.

Arya sat up and pushed the covers away.

“Where are you going?”

“Back to my room.”

Sansa grasped Arya’s wrist, with a feeling she’d been used for information in her gut. “Stay. Please?”

Arya nodded and relaxed into the bed. “Alright.”

“Thank you.” Sansa wrapped her arm around Arya and held her close to her chest.

Arya’s breathing evened out quicker than Sansa thought it would.  

Sansa envied that particular gift. She could give the illusion, but never could fall asleep that fast.

Her mind was racing. Arya had such pointed questions, as if she were searching for information and trying to be cautious about it. It was similar to her beginning as Petyr’s apprentice. She had grace, but not art. He had managed to craft his own little girl within her. Alayne would always have a home inside Sansa’s heart, regardless of how dead she was to everyone around her. She had not been Alayne Stone in over ten years, but Alayne had half of Sansa in her grasp. Sansa fell asleep with the troubling thoughts of if she had ever become Sansa Stark again, or if she was still Alayne Stone with Sansa’s name.

Chapter Text

Sansa woke once more to the sound of her door closing and the lock slipping into place. Her fingers curled around the dagger, ready to drive it into the side of the person who approached her.

“Sansa,” came Petyr’s low voice.

She rolled over in a, thankfully, now empty bed. “Petyr.” She released her hold on the blade.

“You didn’t come last night. I feared you fell ill after the feast.”

That, of course, warrents locking the damned door behind you. “I had company last night.” She sat up and pulled the blankets with her. She wasn’t sure why, he had seen her in far less than the nightgown she was currently wearing.

Petyr sat at the foot of her bed, placing a hand on her feet. “When do you leave for the capital?”

“Tomorrow or the next.” She ran her fingers through her loose hair. “If I ride hard, I will be there within a fortnight.”

“Will you take a guard with you?”

Sansa shook her head. “Only you, if you’ll come.” Petyr had taught her how to fight with a blade if needed, she wasn’t worried for her life. “The guard belong here with Arya.”

“What if she doesn’t take it?”

Had you thought of that? remained unsaid between the two of them. “She will.” She has to.

“Very well.”

That wasn’t the entire story, and Sansa knew it. “What is it you came for, Petyr?”

“Sweetling,” said Petyr, not moving from his perch. “I need you to be strong.”

“I will be.” I always am. I am made of steel.

He moved closer and placed his hands on her shoulders. “These next few months will be hard on you. Nothing but chaos.”

How convenient for you. “I am aware of what will come.”

“Good.” He paused for a moment, his eyes searching her face, but looking for what Sansa couldn’t say. “You are aware he might not make it to see this new world I’ve made for you?”

Sansa nodded. “I’m in the process of making plans for the Vale, should he not make it.”

“They won’t like a ruler without a husband. There are few suitable to take that title anymore.”

“I am aware of that also.” I need you to choose me, was all she heard, and she was okay with that. Few she would trust to take her bed anymore.

“Good.” He kissed her forehead. “You should break your fast. Someone is waiting for you.”

“Arya’s waiting on me?” Why didn’t she wake me when she left?

“No. She is in the Godswood with her beast.”

Sansa pushed the blankets off. Jon! “I must dress.”

“Do you wish me to call Anne?”

Sansa opened her wardrobe and rolled her eyes. “I am capable of dressing myself.”

“I know it.”

Sansa pulled another one of her warm gowns on and fumbled with the lacing in the back.

“Allow me,” said Petyr, lips against the column of her neck.

Sansa froze at the sudden warmth, but relaxed, letting his hands replace her own at the base of her spine.

He continued to mouth at her neck as he laced and tightened her dress.

It felt like ages had passed before he was finished, placing his hands on her hips. She spun in his hands and kissed him, running her hands up his tunic and resting them at the base of his neck, fingers reaching up to card through his short hair. His hands only tightened their hold on her.

Sansa pulled away slightly. “I need to do my hair,” she breathed.

Petyr tangled his fingers in her auburn locks. “It looks fine.”

You’re helping that so much. “Not for a guest,” she said, kissing him again.

“Put it in a braid.” His hands traced up her torso now. “He won’t care.”

“You should go,” she said against his lips.

“I should.” He made no move to leave, however, only pulling her closer to him. He kissed her again, making thoughts of Jon leave her head for a short moment.

He would have scolded her for it.

She pushed Petyr away. “I need to get ready.” She wound her fingers through her hair, if only to keep from reaching for him once more. “I will see you tonight. Bar any more late night visits.”

Petyr nodded and stepped back, his face composed quicker than she would have liked. “What did she want?”

Information almost escaped her, always wishing to please him. “To talk without birds,” she said instead. She turned and faced her mirror, fixing her hair. She took her time brushing out the tangles both sleep and Petyr had put there, and then braiding it back. “It was nice.”

“There are always birds.”

Her eyes met his in the glass. “I’ve not forgotten.” With a final glance at her appearance, she turned to face her mentor. “I have business to attend to. If you’ll excuse me.” Her chest swelled with pride at her business like tone. It had taken too long to perfect.

“Think on what I’ve said, sweetling.” His eyes sparkled, but Sansa didn’t know how to interpret it.

It unsettled her.

“I will.” She unlatched the door and left it open behind her. She had nothing to hide from him, let him scour her chambers, he’ll only find the discarded shifts she’d been meaning to wash because of the scent of him on them.

She pushed Petyr from her mind and rushed down to the Great Hall. She was reminded of her trip down a week back to Arya, but this one was different. Jon wasn’t here to see her, he wanted Arya. It still didn’t slow her. She wanted to see him and talk to him before the anxiety of seeing him took over.

The doors of the Hall opened and Sansa smiled, a true smile, at the figure in black before her. His back was turned to her, but she’d recognize his hair anywhere, so similar to Arya’s.

“Commander Snow,” she said. “I do apologize for the wait.”

Jon turned to face her, and beside him, Ghost appeared.

It seemed she was the only one without her wolf, and it saddened her for not the first time.

His eyes met hers, so similar to Arya’s. “Lady Stark. It is good to see you again.” His tone was warm, but formal.

“You as well. I trust your journey was agreeable?”

“It was, milady. I do apologize for not making your feast. Spring snows appeared just south of the Wall, delaying me a day.”

“It’s of no importance. We have plenty left over to have tonight. You will dine with us tonight?”

“If it pleases milady,” he said, inclining his head.

“It would.” Sansa nodded. “Come. I know I am not the one you came to speak to.”

Surprise filled his winter eyes. “I wish to speak to you as well.”

“Aye.” Sansa motioned behind him. “If you have anything on your horse, or wish to leave behind, Frederik can take them to your chamber.”

Jon turned to face the man. “There is a bag on my horse, if you wouldn’t mind.”

Frederik nodded and left without a word.

“Come, let us find our sister,” said Sansa, eager to leave the hall before Petyr joined them there.

“Aye. Lead on, milady.”

Chapter Text

The doors closed behind them and Sansa gave a small sigh of relief. She had managed to get Jon out before Petyr came in. She wasn’t sure what he would say, but she didn’t want to see Jon react to the man she worshiped most nights. She steeled herself for the oncoming conversation, and looked over at Jon.

“Last I heard,” she said with a smile, “she was in the Godswood with Nym.”

“She still has her wolf then?” Jon’s fingers wound into Ghost’s fur, making the wolf close its eyes.

“She followed us all the way here. They’re smart creatures.”

Jon nodded. “Ghost has saved my life time over time.”

“One day I’d like to hear these stories.”

“They aren’t happy.” His voice was bitter, making Sansa want to take back her wish.

“Commander Snow,” said Sansa, pulling him under the alcove of the door to Winterfell’s burial grounds. “Jon, I’d like to apologize.”

Confusion filled Jon’s face. “For what? You haven’t done anything.”

“I did though.” Sansa frowned. “It was so long ago, I’m sure you’ve forgotten. I would have had a… situation not arisen. For what I said to you when we were children, I’m sorry. You’re a better man than I gave you credit for. You’re last name doesn’t say anything about you. I am sorry.”

Surprise replaced the confusion. Then a gentle sort of kindness that Sansa hadn’t seen since her time with Margaery. “Consider it forgiven. I had forgotten.” Jon placed a hand on her shoulder. “And you are not the girl whose head is filled with songs of bravery. I’m sorry to see you grown up, but I am glad you’ve seen the world as it is.”

Sansa let out a dark chuckle. “I am glad I’ve seen it as well. Though I do wish the circumstances were different.” She took a deep breath, letting the cold spring air chill her lungs. “Come, let’s find our sister.” She stepped off the step, letting the cool breeze tousle the loose hairs around her face.

“I would be interested to hear your story some time, Lady Sansa.” Jon fell in step next to Sansa, Ghost only half a step behind him.

“Perhaps we can once this storm blows over.”

“Perhaps.”

They walked in silence for a small moment before she looked at Jon once more. “You also wished to talk to me?”

“Aye.” Jon looked up at the walls of Winterfell, longing in his eyes. “Winter is coming, though spring is near.”

“Riddles, Jon.” Riddles had never been her favourite thing. Littlefinger speaks in nothing but them, making riddles one of her least favourite things.

“Surely word of the Wall has come this far south?”

“Yes. Tales of Others. Nightmares for children some say.” She waved her hand dismissively.

“What do you say?”

She let a smile grace her face for half a second. “I’ve seen enough that it wouldn’t surprise me. There are tales of a lost queen and dragons to the east. More tales of Others to the north. If you told me the Others were returning, I’d believe you.”

“They are getting stronger, Sansa. I don’t know what will happen to the South. I’ve got as many Free Folk working with me as I can, but it isn’t enough.”

“Free folk? The men and women you let south of the wall?”

“Aye.” Jon looked at her, a challenge in his eyes, as if he dared her to say something about it.

“Are they afraid to fight?”

“No. They fought for years. We have so many that are too young still. I won’t demand ten year old children fight for their safety.”

“You’re honourable, Jon.”

“I try to be.” Jon ran his fingers through his hair. “Would Winterfell be willing to spare a few men to come to the Wall?”

Sansa was silent for a moment. Her gut said yes, but she wanted to talk to Petyr and Harry first. “I will look for those who would want to fight with you. You can take any in my dungeons, they are yours.”

“Thank you.”

“If you give me a few weeks,” she said, letting the thoughts escape as they came to her mind, “if you give me a few weeks, I will be able to get you more men. We can try to make the Night’s Watch what it once was.”

“Thank you.” Jon had stumbled, in both his step and his words. “It means a lot to us.” She could tell by his eyes that he was grateful.

“This battle might be rested,” never done, said Petyr’s voice in her head, “but there is one more front to work on.”

“I did get a raven from King’s Landing. Your husband won the siege?”

“Aye. I am to join him within a fortnight.”

“There is no one else I would rather see there.” Jon inclined his head to her. “I cannot take part in realm politics, but I will do what I can to aid you.”

Sansa cracked a smile. “You’re starting to sound like a Tully. Family, Duty, Honour.”

Jon laughed, and it was a lovely sound. “Lady Stark would hate me for it.”

“The remaining Lady Starks do not mind it at all.” Sansa stopped just outside the entrance to the Godswood. “Go. See Arya. We will talk more tonight.”

“You aren’t coming?”

Sansa shook her head. “This is something the two of you need. I’ll see you both tonight at dinner.”

“Until then.” Jon turned and walked into the Godswood.

Sansa watched him for a short moment before turning away and returning to the castle.

She was met half way there by Petyr.

“What is it?” It wasn’t uncommon for him to seek her out during the day, but the timing was off. He was listening.

“You promised him men?”

He was angry. “I did.”

“Why didn’t you talk to me about it first? Winterfell doesn’t have many men to offer him.”

“I know this. I will give an order across the North, and those that wish to serve in the Watch are more than welcome to make their ways there.”

“What will he think of this?” Petyr never called Harrold by name any more; not since she married him.

“He has never cared what I say or don’t say.” Sansa sighed. “It is a marriage of convenience, Petyr. You know this as well as I do.”

“So does every one else. There are whispers Sansa.” He stopped himself. “This is not the place to talk of this.”

“I agree.” She knew Petyr’s birds were everywhere, but she had yet to hear of Varys’s spiders, and what became of any of them. “Will you send word to the kitchen that we will have a dinner tonight? It will be small. Mostly those of the hold, and our guest.”

“Of course.”

“Thank you.” She tried not to request he run her errands for her, but she had to write a letter to Harrold.

She rushed up to her chambers and shut the door behind her. It looked like it did when she left that morning. Doesn’t mean he didn’t rifle through any of her belongings.

She sat at her desk and started in on her letter.

Harrold,

By the time you receive this raven, I’m hoping to have left for King’s Landing. I am to get an answer from Arya tonight on her decision about Winterfell. I have promised Commander Snow of the Night’s Watch men for the Wall. Things are coming, and we need to have a defence for it. I am giving him men from the North, as well as men from the remaining of the kingdoms. Petyr is uncomfortable with the idea, but I feel as if you’d agree with me. If you don’t, I’m sorry, but I will stand by what I said. Stay strong, Harry. I’ll be there soon.

Sansa Stark.

She rolled it up and sealed it with a grey direwolf. She tucked it within her skirts and stood to leave for the raven house.

A knock sounded on her door, stopping her halfway to the door.

“Lady Stark?” came Anne’s voice from the other side.

“Come in, Anne.”

The door opened and Anne’s small figure came through the door, shutting it behind her. Her face was pale and her hands trembling.

Sansa rushed to the door and took Anne into her arms. “What happened, my dear Anne?”

Anne just shook her head in Sansa’s shoulder. “Don’t make me go. Please. I haven’t done anything wrong, have I? I’ve been good to you. I’ve kept your secrets. I won’t say anything, please let me stay.”

“Shhh,” murmured Sansa, her mind racing. “I haven’t dismissed you. You will stay at my side until you wish to leave. What happened?” Sansa ran her fingers through Anne’s brown hair, so similar to Alayne’s hair.

Anne took several deep breaths trying to calm herself.

“Come,” said Sansa, pulling her to the bed. “Sit down, tell me what has you so distressed.”

Anne looked at her hands for a moment, swallowing twice before she looked up to meet Sansa’s eyes. “Lord Baelish said you were leaving tomorrow or the next.”

Sansa nodded. “I leave for King’s Landing, yes.”

“I would stay and be the handmaiden for Miss Arya then.” Panic flared in Anne’s eyes again. “I want to stay with you. Arya isn’t like you.”

“Arya is different, yes.”

“You don’t understand, milady.” Anne shook her head. “It doesn’t matter. If you wish me to stay, I will.”

“You have served me since I got here. I would not trust another with my secrets or my belongings. You will come with me to the capital.”

Relief flooded Anne’s body, relaxing her posture. “Thank you, milady. Thank you.”

“I will inform them to pack your belongings as well.”

Anne hugged Sansa so tight, Sansa feared she might not be able to breathe.

Sansa hugged her back just as tightly. There were so few that she would consider friends, and Anne was in that list.

Anne pulled away. “I interrupted something. I’m sorry.”

“I was on my way to send a raven to Lord Hardyng. It was nothing that couldn’t be delayed.”

“Okay.”

“Come, let us go find someone to pack your things.”

Anne’s smile lit up the room, and Sansa was happy that she was the cause of it.

Chapter Text

“I’ve come to a decision,” said Arya toward the end of dinner.

The hall had cleared out, the only ones left were Arya, Sansa, Jon, Petyr, and Anne. Sansa was glad she chose to address this at the end. While it wouldn’t be a surprise, she wanted it to go without any argument.

Sansa and Petyr looked at her with expectant looks, though Sansa’s nerves were eating her alive. Jon looked with curiosity.

“I will hold Winterfell for you.” Arya’s winter eyes turned to ice. “I am the only Stark left. I will keep Winterfell until I am no longer able.”

Relief flooded through Sansa, faster than it did when Dontos told her he could get her out of the capital. However, she only smiled, Petyr’s grin mirroring her own. “I will make you Wardeness of the North when I reach King’s Landing.”

“You will do well here, Arya,” said Jon. Pride filled his eyes.

“Thank you.” Arya grinned at Jon, just like when they were children.

“If you need anything, do let us know, Miss Stark,” said Petyr, fingering the stem of his glass.

Arya’s eyes shifted over to Petyr. “I will, thank you. When do you leave?”

“Tomorrow,” he said before Sansa could respond.

Sansa frowned, though it lasted only a moment.

Arya’s frown lasted longer. “I thought maybe you’d stay longer.”

Sansa shook her head. “I’ve got to leave. I wish I could stay, but I’ve lingered too long.” She met Petyr’s eyes across the table.

She couldn’t tell what they were trying to say, which wasn’t uncommon, but she thought she’d gotten rather good at it lately.

“How many men will you be taking?” asked Arya.

Jon looked at Sansa with interest.

“None.” Everyone but Petyr shifted in their seat. “They are your men once I leave, Arya. I will be travelling with my handmaiden and Lord Baelish.”

“Will you be safe?” said Jon, leaning forward onto the table.

“You can take some with you, Winterfell will be fine without them,” said Arya.

Sansa smiled. “I appreciate your concern, but I will be less noticed if I’m in a small party, and we will be able to travel faster.”

Petyr’s mouth twitched into a grin, but Sansa didn’t know why.

“Your handmaiden will stand out,” said Jon.

From the side of the table, Anne’s face fell.

“She might.” She pulled her braid over her shoulder and met Petyr’s eyes long enough to catch his subtle nod into his drink. “It’s a risk I’ll have to take.”

Arya’s frown deepened. “There is nothing I can say that will convince you, is there?”

“I’m afraid not.” Sansa smiled. “We will be fine, dear Arya.”

There was a bit of silence that settled over the table after that.

“If you will excuse me,” said Petyr as he stood. “There is business I need to finish before tomorrow.”

“Of course,” said Arya. “I will see you off tomorrow then.”

Sansa met Petyr’s eyes, and they begged her to come with him. “I’ll see you later, Petyr.”

The disappointment flickered for half a second. “There are papers I need you to sign,” he said. “If you could stop by before you retire, that would be most helpful.”

Sansa nodded. “Of course.” She watched his lithe form retreat and turned her attention back to her siblings.

“There is something odd about him, isn’t there?” asked Jon.

Sansa laughed. “What do you mean?”

“His eyes. I don’t trust them.”

You’re a wise man, Jon. “I don’t understand.”

“They don’t change. With anything,” said Arya. “Surely you’ve noticed.”

Sansa remained silent.

“Be careful with him, Sansa,” said Jon. “He may have been by you so far, but that could change. I’ve seen it happen.” His hand went to his chest before it went back down to the table.

Arya seemed to notice it too. “What happened?”

“It’s a long story,” he said, taking a drink. “One for a different day.”

“I’ll keep my wits about me,” said Sansa. I always do.

“I’m glad you’re taking him with you. I’d send him home,” said Arya.

Jon laughed. “Like a boy without supper?”

Sansa laughed, and it felt really good to just laugh. She’ll miss it when she leaves.

“I wish you would stay, just a little longer,” said Arya, eyes sad.

“I wish I could too.” Sansa studied the grain of the table, rubbing it with her fingertips. “Harry needs me down South.”

“Have you got anything for me? To help me run the hold?” asked Arya.

“If you’re talking politics now,” said Jon, standing, “I’ll take my leave.”

Sansa caught his arm. “Please, sit. I don’t know the next time we’ll be together.”

“I don’t mind,” said Arya. “It would be smart,” she said, slowly, still thinking as she said it. “It would be smart if we were aware of each other’s movements and things, being neighbours. The Wall would have a powerful ally in the North. It would change the tides a bit.”

Jon sat back down and looked at Arya, surprise in his face. “I thought you’d said you’ve been East for the last several years.”

Sansa stayed quiet, knowing Jon would ask her questions.

“I have. Once I hit the port, I searched the town for news and gossip. It didn’t take long to find someone who would spill everything in the last twenty years.” Arya shrugged. “Anyone will talk if given the right motivation.”

“Aye.” Jon looked thoughtful. “What does the south say of the war in the north?”

“Not much. Horror stories from childhood. Others and Wildlings south of the wall. They aren’t happy about it.” Arya laughed. “They wouldn’t be happy about the rumours in the east. Tales of dragons.”

Jon seemed to shiver at the thought. “The Walkers are frightening. But dragons?” Jon shook his head. “I could live a good life without seeing one of those.”

Sansa nodded. “I’ve seen enough horrors to not see one.”

Arya’s grin was feral. “They are a beauty to behold.”

“You’ve seen one?”

“From a distance. I was just north of Braavos. There he was, high in the sky, just on the horizon. He was huge. Straight out of Old Nan’s tales, I swear. Except he was there. I swore I was seeing things until the guy in my party said the same thing. It was just one, but the damage one dragon could cause? Westeros isn’t ready for that.”

Sansa sat a bit straighter in her chair. “Are they coming across?”

“The dragons? I don’t know. The rumors go a woman keeps them. I haven’t heard much beyond that. Keen to stay in Slaver’s Bay, though.”

“Why did you see this dragon there then?” asked Jon.

Arya shrugged. “It was so big, it might not have been much of a distance for him to fly. I don’t know.”

Sansa sat back in her chair again. This was new news to her. She wondered if Petyr knew of the dragon in the East. If it was piece in his game. Surely it was big enough to constitute a player? Sansa would think it would be. Unless it was a pawn to the woman who owned them. She might be considered the player. That sounded better.

“What are you plans when you reach the capital?” asked Arya.

“Hmmm?” Sansa was brought out of her mind by the question. “I’m going to see that Harry is all right.” Please, gods, let him be. The Vale is not ready for their new leader yet. “And from there we will see. On the top of that list, is giving the North men.”

Arya looked confused. “The North?”

“I will have to keep some for myself. But I will send some back to their homes. And those that wish to join the Wall. I will assure they have safe travels north.”

“Thank you.” Jon flexed his hand and then asked, “Will they be your prisoners or men who volunteered?”

“Both. If that works for you.”

“Aye.”

“I will try to get more volunteers. The Wall needs good men on it.”

“It does. We have fixed up a third hold, so we are going to need the men to hold it.”

Sansa nodded. “If it’s all the same to you, I think I will head to bed.”

“I’ll see you in the morning then, Sansa,” said Jon, standing with her.

“Sleep well,” said Arya. She stood and hugged Sansa.

“Have a good evening,” said Sansa as she turned and walked away. She needed to visit Petyr. And get Anne to burn her shifts tonight. And then get to sleep.