November 20th, 1949
It was beginning to snow.
Sansa stood in the backyard, her heart as free and gleeful as a child’s as the first flakes floated down to her. Quietly, gracefully they fell.
Home. She placed her hand on the trunk of a nearby Evergreen. The sturdy tree had shaded the home in Winterfell all her life, and continued to watch over the rebuilt house, for hopefully decades to come. She could feel the frozen sap beneath her palm, the rough bark scratch her skin.
She heard the crunch of footsteps behind her. She turned. She grinned and reached her hand out to her husband.
Sandor’s eyes glinted against the steel gray sky. “Good morning. You’re out of bed early for once. Figured you’d be sleeping off the party from yesterday.”
The night before was Sansa’s birthday. Faithful employees of the re-opened Stark Lumber Mills (run by Jon) had filled the new house, along with Arya, Gendry, Rickon, Jon, and his wife Ygritte. They were all a raucous bunch, who drank locally brewed beer and serenaded Sansa with bawdy birthday tunes.
Also present, of course, was Bran: the youngest working architect in the country. He was responsible for the newly designed Stark home. He stayed close to the original design, but the walls were sturdier now, with more bricks to fend off any potential fires.
Sansa looked over her husband. He’d been a good sport about the party, probably because the rustic get-together was more his speed anyway than some of the swankier do's back in New York.
He also looked very much the part. He wore a red flannel shirt with hiking boots, and his beard was fuller now.
My rugged mountain man, she thought with a spark of lust.
“You know I always get up early when we stay at Winterfell,” she told him. “I just can’t get enough of this place, now that Bran’s done such wonders with it.” He watched transfixed as she took in the light snow and forbidding trees around them. “Now that it’s snowing…I can almost go back to the way things were.”
She said this nostalgically, but without the haunting grief of times past. He was glad. He’d been nervous when he suggested Winterfell as their honeymoon location two years ago. That trip was her first time back. She’d been quiet and pale during the flight to Washington. She never let go his hand.
Yet once they arrived at the homestead and she saw Bran there, supervising from his wheelchair as the construction crew worked on fixing the place brick by brick, his heart soared as she threw her arms first around Bran and then her new husband.
There was true happiness in her tears. She was home at last.
They came back every chance they could get. Someday they would retire here. They would share the home with Sansa's siblings and cousin, as the house was left to all five of them.
Two years they’d been married. Two of the happiest years in Sandor’s life.
He’d never been happy before. He was therefore dazed at first, struggling to take in the flood of emotion that came with the happiness of domestic life. They found a comfortable house in Hudson Square. Now that Shae had married Tyrion, they hired new staff to run the house so Sansa could be free to work on the magazine’s issues and Sandor could continue working his odd hours on the force.
They always found plenty of time for each other. Each night he fell asleep with Sansa in his arms. He felt like a fraud at first. For all the miserable things he’d done in his life, here was an angel -- his good angel – resting peacefully in his arms. Where was the justice in that?
Eventually, the feeling became so much like home that instead of an imposter, he felt like for the first time in his life, he truly belonged somewhere. With someone.
Of course, they’d had to battle the media firestorm from Petyr’s death, and the minor scandal their relationship caused.
Yet Sansa had weathered it all brilliantly – she stood with head raised high in press conferences, eyes unflinching as she spoke in clipped, succinct tones.
She was gloriously brave and strong.
It was only alone that she would collapse in his arms and cry.
Their wedding was a quiet ceremony, with only her closest friends present. Ray was Sandor’s best man, Arya Sansa’s maid of honor.
Sansa wore a lovely, simple dress she designed and made herself.
The ecstasy from that day hadn’t faded for either of them.
Sandor rubbed her back in the present. “Would you like to stay an extra day, little bird?” Today was Sunday, and they’d arrived Friday.
She shook her head. “No. The winter program is coming, and I need to make sure Randa has everything she needs.” Randa and Harrold had tied the knot themselves, enjoying an open marriage that Sandor couldn’t begin to understand. He’d come to terms with the fact he’d never like Harry, but admitted that now he no longer had his mitts on Sansa, he was a generally harmless dullard.
“Besides,” Sansa continued, her eyes still on the snow all around her. “There’s another big project coming up.” She hid her smile but her upturned eyes - still on the snow - were vast with tender joy. “A more personal project.”
Sandor frowned. “Don’t talk in riddles, girl. What do you mean?”
He sucked in a breath as she suddenly turned to face him. It didn’t matter how long they'd been together, his heart always stopped a little when confronted by her magnificent beauty.
Right now this beauty was touched by a grand love, a happiness so deep it looked almost painful. She was radiant.
“Sandor,” she said in almost a whisper. “When I think back to two years ago, I can’t believe how far the two of us have come. I never thought I’d recover from learning the truth about Petyr, but here I am. Here we are. Life often gives you a little joy through all the heartache. In all that horror, I found you again. And in all that death….”
He saw now that her hand was on her stomach.
“….We’ve created a life.”
The world stopped spinning for Sandor. Realization dawned with the slow clarity of the pure snow falling in lazy patterns all around them.
He stared and stared at the slender hand on that sweatered stomach.
Fear seized him. “You mean…?”
The hand on her stomach was now on his hand. “Congratulations, pa.”
She saw his fear, his shock. But she also saw, through the tears brimming in his dark eyes, a tremulous hope.
His eyes locked with her sure ones and a sudden burst of joy wracked him.
“Little bird,” he rasped.
They kissed as the snow fell with increasing steadiness all around them. In the distance, wolves howled in the mountains.