dedication: to V, for Christmas.
notes: the only time I ever get anything done is when I'm in Oolong bc I don't have internet access and I have an unending supply of tea
chapter title: girls who run with wolves
summary: These are the things nightmares are made of. — Joffrey/Sansa/Jon, Arya.
Arya Stark hated King's Landing.
It was made marginally better by her older brother's presence and her dance teacher's; it was made much, much worse by the prince. It was made impossibly boring, regardless: Nymeria didn't want to be here anymore than Arya did, but both direwolf and girl yawned and dealt with her.
Her sister seemed pleased with the proceedings, though.
That, of course, didn't surprise Arya at all. Her sister's head was full of fluff, most of the time—
"Hold my hand," Sansa whispered.
"Why?" Arya whispered back. "Don't you have a prince for that, now?"
"Please," Sansa murmured, something desperate in her voice.
Sansa didn't say please often, and almost never to Arya. There was something in that, something to latch onto, because while their father stood in front of them and Jon stood behind, right then, all they had were each other.
Arya reached for her sister's hand.
They shared a room, Sansa and Arya, and very little else.
"I don't like Joffrey," Arya told her sister, one night while they getting ready to blow out the candles. Lady and Nymeria were curled close together by the door, ears pricked forwards as their mistresses argued about the boy-prince.
"I know you don't," Sansa said, busied with slipping her sleeping gown over her head. She'd hung her dress in the wooden armoire, carved all over with dragons and lions and princess. Arya'd left her dress on the floor, rumpled in a pile of fabric on the floor.
"I know what you think about him," Sansa said. She pulled the covers back from the bed—it wasn't as cold as Winterfell, not by far, but the castle's thick stone kept the worst of the heat and the humidity out—and sat down, toes curling as she pulled her knees up to her chest.
"You don't, though, you never listen—"
"You think he's evil, don't you?" Sansa asked, but it wasn't really a question.
Arya looked at her for a long time, sharp grey eyes against summer blue, and then she nodded tightly. "He's horrible. He would have—he'd have killed Micah. He'd have killed Lady."
The direwolf in question let out a soft gentle whine, thin and reedy in the cool air.
"You know it, Sansa, you saw what he'd have done!" Arya continued, reckless and thick in the throat. "I didn't want—I didn't mean—"
Sansa's shoulders slumped. "Why d'you think I wanted to hold your hand, today?"
"I don't know," Arya said honestly. "Normally, you…"
"Normally, I pretend we're not related," Sansa finished the sentence for her. The truth was ugly between them, but at least it was the truth. "But we don't—there's no one else, anymore. Just us."
"And Jon," Arya said.
"And Jon," Sansa agreed. "Only because Mother wanted him to come."
"She's the Queen, we can't just—"
Arya's face was fierce in the candlelight. "We can, too! They're evil, they're all evil, and you know it, and I know it, and I dunno why you're pretending that they're not!"
Nymeria and Lady had wormed their way away from the door, and the pair of them jumped up onto the bed at the same time, puppy paws already getting large; they both had claws, and they were both deadly enough as it was. Lady whined again, pressed her cold nose to the hollow of Sansa's throat. Nymeria simply flopped down on top of Arya, and licked her chin to brow.
The two girls burst into bright, high-pitched laughter, the kind they hadn't shared since they'd been too small to realize that they were very different people.
"Why do you always have bruises?" Sansa asked, suddenly. "Dance lessons aren't that… painful, are they?"
"I'm learning how to use a sword," Arya answered. "Father said it would placate Mother."
"A sword? Arya, that's not very… ladylike…"
"Yeah, well, I'm not a lady, am I?" Arya asked rhetorically. "I'm—it'd be better if I was a boy, because I'm terrible at everything Old Nan says ladies have got to know how to do."
"I'm glad you're a girl, though," Sansa said quietly.
"Because I'd be all alone if you weren't," she said, smiled a little sadly at her younger sister. Arya reached for her hand again, this time without prompting, and the two direwolves slid back so that the two sisters could sleep pressed back to back. The candle flickered out beneath Sansa's breath, and the room plunged into darkness.
"Don't let him hurt you," Arya whispered.
"I won't," Sansa whispered back.
For now, it was only them against the world, and perhaps that was what they needed:
A common goal.
The days passed in a sticky wet flurry.
Arya's dance lessons went better: she came back to their room in the evenings exhilarated and laughing, and bruised less and less often.
Sansa's smile slipped, though, sometimes, when she was sewing with the Queen and her Ladies, and she pricked her fingers. Her blood ran red, but only in miniature, and the little suffering made the rest of the world somehow a little more bearable. Joffrey's lips brushed her fingers in the evenings, her darling prince, but sometimes she thought she saw knives in his mouth instead of teeth.
Still, every night the Stark sisters slept next to each other, protected on each side by their direwolves. And they whispered things softly to each other after the candle had been put out.
"I want to go home," Arya said.
Sansa didn't say anything at all.
Her sister must have been asleep, Arya decided—King's Landing had made them close in a way Winterfell never had, two girls made of ice in a den of lions with little else to cling on to. They're brother stayed with their father, and they didn't see their father much, these days. He was busy at the king's side, though he was grave-faced and lean where Robert was jolly and drunk.
Jon was like a shadow, and he did not belong in this place more than any of the rest of them did.
But life went on.
The coloured seemed to drain out of Sansa as the days went by, though Arya only noticed in increments. First it was the colour in her hands, then the colour in her cheeks, then at last the colour in her eyes. She wore white, mostly, these days, and walked around the castle like a ghost—a ghost with flame hair, quiet in the night. Her Tully hair was the only colour that didn't leave her, and it made the rest of her look more washed out.
The nights got longer.
"What's wrong with you?" Arya stomped up to her sister, frowning hard, hands on meagre hips, "Why are you—what's happening to you? What's that evil little—" she paused, uttered a name so foul Sansa stared at her, shocked "—done to you? What's he done, Sansa?!"
"Nothing," she said. Sansa drew her white nightdress tight around her frame. "He hasn't done anything, he's the perfect gentleman—"
"Why are you lying to me?!" Arya shouted, incensed. She breathed out harsh through her nose, nostrils flaring with her rage. If there was desperation to Sansa, there was hopelessness to Arya. She didn't understand, couldn't understand, why her sister was so set on Joffrey when he was so—so—horrible!
Sansa stared at her, lips pressed tightly together. "I'm not."
"You are, though!" Arya stomped her foot again, all the fiery furious rage a little girl can harness in the jerky movements of her arms. "You are lying! And why're you—take that off."
"Pardon?!" Sansa managed, pulled the nightdress even tighter around herself.
"Take that off!" Arya gestured frantically at the
"No!" Sansa cried, desperate all of a sudden, backing away sharply enough that she nearly toppled over backwards onto the bed.
The two girls wrestled for a moment, tugging and biting, jagged on the inside. Sansa was the bigger of the two, but Arya was the crafty one, the one who didn't play nice, who'd never played nice, and it was only a few minutes before the thin lacy fabric Sansa wore tore in two.
Arya, sitting on top of her older sister, gasped.
Sansa was bruised over, the marks all finger-shaped up her arms and gouged deep across her waist. Some were old—turning a sickly yellow-green with age, but most were newer, and still purple-black-blue marred across her like battle wounds.
"You have to tell father," Arya breathed. She didn't bother asking what had happened—she knew very well what had happened here: that little lump of evil had put his hands on her sister, and no one had stopped him. Not even Sansa herself.
This could not stand.
"I can't," Sansa whispered lowly. "He'll make us leave, and I love it here, Arya, I really do."
"How can you?" Arya demanded. "How? After—after this?! Look at you, Sansa, look at what he's done! If you won't tell father, I will!"
"You can't, please, Arya, please don't tell him. He'll—he'll do something drastic, you know father, you know how he'll react, and then—then maybe we'll never go home," Sansa pressed tired eyes into her little sister's shoulder as she spoke.
"I thought you wanted to stay," Arya said quietly.
"I do," Sansa insisted. "But I miss…"
"I miss the cold," Arya confessed. "And Bran and Rickon and Robb and mum, I miss mum. I didn't think I would, but I do, and…"
"I know," Sansa murmured. "Me, too."
"I won't let him hurt you again, Sansa," Arya said fiercely, sharp in the teeth. "I'll rip out his throat with my bare hands."
"What about your dance lessons?"
Arya frowned. "Well, if it can't be me… Jon, then?"
Sansa paled. "We can't tell Jon, he'll tell father!"
"We have to tell someone," Arya said. "We can't just—look at you, Sansa! Have you even looked in a mirror recently?!"
Lady and Nymeria whined pathetically at the side of the bed, and the two girls stopped arguing long enough to let their direwolves up on the bed. Lady pressed her soft head to Sansa's side, tonguing at the bruises. Nymeria flopped down next to Arya, and made grumpy grumbly sounds in her throat.
"See," Arya said, "Lady knows it's wrong. You shouldn't have to… you shouldn't…"
"It doesn't matter," Sansa said quietly. "I'm sure—it won't always be like this. I'll be fine."
"You'll be dead is what you'll be," Arya said, breathing harshly through her nose. "You'll be dead, and then everyone—I hate you, how can you do this to us? How can you do this to yourself!"
"I'll be fine," Sansa murmured again. "I promise."
"You'll only be fine if you kill him," Arya said. "And you know it."
Sansa pushed her younger sister off and drew the covers of the bed up around her shoulders, lips trembling. Her hair fell in a long red swoop, waved soft and perfect in a way Arya's would never be.
"You can't tell anyone, Arya," she whispered. "You can't."
"I'm telling Jon."
Arya jumped off the bed, began to pace in frustration. Her elder sister looks small and fragile where she sat, the thick covers of the bed making her look even smaller and more pathetic than she usually was. "I'll make him promise not to tell!"
"I'm make him promise," Arya said. "And then he'll stick around to make sure—" she paused to gesture at Sansa's everything "—doesn't happen again."
"Father needs him," though," Sansa said, quite reasonably. And it was true; their father did rely heavily on their half-brother to help keep the new King's Hand from tearing out his hair. "They're both too honourable."
Arya stared with level gray eyes at her sister. "Then we'll switch."
"Never mind," Arya said.
"Arya, what are you planning?"
"Nothing," Sansa's younger sister said, eyes still unreadable. "We should just… forget about it."
"Thank you" Sansa breathed out, shivering in the cold. "I'll need another nightdress…"
Arya crawled underneath the covers as Sansa slipped away from them, still in the shreds of her nightdress. She clung to them like the last vestiges of her dignity, head up with her hair long down her back.
Pity, Arya thought, her eyelids drooping, that Joffrey's so horrible. Sansa would—
But she was asleep before she could finish the thought.
The next morning before the sun rose, while her sister slept still and silent and sweet, Arya slipped from their shared bed, feet soundless against the stone floor. The cold of the stone seeped up into her bones, but Arya was a Stark, and she did not feel the cold the way these Southern weaklings did.
Jon's bedroom was on the same floor, but on the other side of the castle. Arya had her suspicions about that—she could still remember Theon murmuring divide and conquer in her ear when she'd tagged along with her older brothers as they played their war games—but she had spent her life sneaking about Winterfell, and now was no different.
Fear cuts deeper than swords, she thought, Syrio's voice was low and gentle at the back of her skull, slicking along her skin like the Water-dance Style she loved so much. Arya stuck to the shadows, ducking down small and dark whenever she thought she heard footsteps.
But there was no one, no one at all, except the smell of baking bread wafting up from the kitchens. Arya reached her older brother's room, and knocked. Jon, bleary-eyed, opened the door a moment later.
Arya looked her older brother straight in the eye. "Joffrey's hurting Sansa."
Jon rubbed a hand over his face. "What do you mean?"
"She has bruises."
"Get in here," he said.
And Arya went.