?

Log in

No account? Create an account
onborrowedwings
10 April 2013 @ 08:53 pm
Title: When We Were Young 9/9
Fandom: A Song of Ice and Fire
Pairing: Sansa/Sandor
Word Count: 4918
Disclaimer: Everything belongs to GRRM
A/N: Thank you very very much to Kimberlite8 for taking time out from her incredibly hectic schedule to beta this! I'm very sorry this part took so long - I blame overtime at work, going on holiday and an inability to write unless I'm in the right type of mood.

Chapter Eight

She is shy when they wake in the morning, her gaze darting to him and away, clearly unsure how to act now, after what they’ve done. It reminds him of the girl she used to be, all politely averted eyes and modesty, a trait he never used to like.

When he looks towards her she glances away, gathering a sheet around her and beginning to pull clothes from her backpack, preparing for the day.

“Hey,” he reaches out to pull her close and holds her against him, tilts her chin up with his hand so that she has to meet his eyes. She looks at him, a little shyly, a little wonderingly, and his words stick in his throat. As uncertain as this new step is, as much as they might still die today, he’ll do his best not to fuck it up, to keep them alive and ensure she stays by his side.

“We’ll be alright.” he tells her, and leans down to kiss her briefly, lingering only a few seconds upon her lips. Then he ducks his head, places a heavy kiss upon her shoulder and raises his eyes back to hers. She is watching him, her breath seemingly held, completely still.

And then she gives him a small smile, and a nod of agreement.

“We’ll be alright,” she agrees, as if she really believes it, raising her hand to touch the unscarred side of his face, her fingers briefly caressing his cheek.

They use the bathroom by turns and when he emerges, still pulling his shirt over his head, it is to see her sitting on her bed, her pack beside her, waiting for him.

It is his turn to catch his breath, because over her clothing she is wearing an old leather jacket, worn in places and instantly recognizable.

She looks up, catches his expression and smiles once more, self consciously this time.

“You kept it.” he comments, a little dumbly, unsure what else to say. It is a different revelation entirely that so many years later, even after hearing he was dead, she had still kept it. Two escapes in that time, only a backpack worth of belongings to call her own, and she still has it.

“I always hoped you’d come back for it.”

In that moment he truly understands. It is not only he who has lived with impossible dreams and a burning regret that things had not turned out differently.

After everything she had been through, it was a far easier thing to offer him her body without giving him the truth of how she felt. He understands it now, feels the knowledge of it spark within him; that he is truly her choice, has been for years now.

Perhaps it’s past time that he was a little more open with her himself.

“Sansa,” he begins to say, and takes a step towards her. She looks towards him expectantly.

Then the intercom buzzes, and swiveling his head to look at the video feed outside, Sandor sees that the Father has arrived.

It will wait, what he wishes to say to her. It will wait until they have seen this through.

He turns to open the door, catching a change in her expression from the corner of his eye as he does so, one of barely concealed disappointment.

“We will get through this,” he tells her, turning back at the last moment. “You’d better believe that, because I’m sure as hell not ready to die, not now.”

He grins at her then, his scars twisting, his meaning implicit in the statement. A quick blush rises to Sansa’s cheek as she smiles hesitantly back at him.

It is enough, enough hope to get them through, and Sandor strides across to the door to let the Father in.

The older priest has brought them breakfast and they eat the rolls quickly before they leave, knowing that it might be some time before they can stop for food.

Sandor already has both of his guns in place in their holster, his knife strapped to his thigh. Skimming his hand along the small of Sansa’s back as they leave the safe house, he feels her own gun placed there, tucked inside the waistband of her pants and hidden by his jacket.

A clever little bird indeed.


**

The Spider’s man is already waiting for them when they arrive at the parish house. There’s nothing to tell how long he might have been there before they arrived, no trace of annoyance on his face as he sits within a beat up old jeep.

“We’d best be off.” is all the man says, gesturing for them to get in as casually as if they’re all heading off for a fucking picnic.

They both turn to the Father to say their goodbyes, Sansa murmuring hers softly while Sandor clasps the man’s hand firmly.

“Bring her back here once you have her,” the old priest tells them, “I’m guessing that you haven’t thought much past that point. You’ll need some time to lay low and make new plans.”

He’s right, they’ve never discussed what they’ll do once they have Arya with them, it’s almost as if neither one of them has wanted to jinx it by putting thoughts into words. In the end, a great deal will depend on how receptive Arya is to joining them. Sandor would bet that the girl won’t be too happy to see his face again after leaving him for dead by the roadside. They’ve been working under the assumption that Arya will want to go with them, that she’ll be happy to be reunited with Sansa. But if she’s not…

She might refuse. She might insist that she and Sansa make their own way from now on without him.

One thing is for certain, if she’s won’t leave with them willingly then everything could very quickly go to hell.

“What’s the plan?” Sandor asks their companion, looking ahead to where the man sits in the driver’s seat. He and Sansa sit behind, playing the part of tourists out for a hiking trip with a guide and driver.

“She’ll be brought to us at the rendezvous point by some members of her own faction. Seems the girl has gotten a little too good at her work for the liking of some, she’s threatening power relations and it’s easier for them if she goes of her own accord.”

“And Varys, what’s his stake in this?” Sandor rasps, “I’m warning you now, if either of them comes to any harm…”

“Then it certainly won’t be my responsibility.” the man replies, fixing Sandor with a hard stare from the rearview mirror. “I’m only here to facilitate the deal. And Varys… well, the less you know about his plans the better. The girl is a risk to one of his other pieces, and he would prefer not to need to kill her. Got a heart, the Spider has.”

Sandor snorts at that but it leaves him wondering. In finding Arya, will they be removing themselves from the equation entirely, or simply becoming more firmly ensnared in whatever Varys’ gameplan is? Sandor has never been good at these power machinations and games, this cloak and dagger bullshit. Give him a gun in his hand and a clear target and he’ll get the job done with a minimum of fuss, but this… he’s out of his depth and he knows it, he always has been.

“How many people will there be at the exchange?” he asks instead, searching for something real he can prepare for. “How heavily armed?”

“I’m expecting four, including the girl. We’ll be evenly matched. Don’t do anything stupid and only pull out a gun as a last resort.”

Sandor doesn’t need to be told that, but he bites his tongue against the sarcastic retort that threatens to come to his lips.

The drive is long and the terrain rough as they head into the hills, into the wilderness that the younger Stark girl has apparently called her home for the past 2 years.

Despite a lack of sleep, Sandor is alert and on edge, unable to relax until the job is done. He’s used to this, to days without sleep, to hardship and rough conditions, but he’s surprised by how well Sansa seems to be coping. She watches their surroundings pass by outside the jeep, eyes darting back and forth between landmarks and the dense wilderness beyond the road. Occasionally she looks towards him, briefly meeting his gaze as if to seek some reassurance. He can’t give her anything more than he’d given this morning, that they’ll be alright, that they’ll get through this. He hopes that the day doesn’t turn him into a liar.

They are silent, all three of them. There’s nothing left to say now, no reason to ask further questions when they’re as prepared as they’ll ever be.

“We’re getting close now,” their companion warns them as the day begins to fade into afternoon, “Be prepared.”

Sandor pulls his guns out and checks them, ensuring that he’s ready. Sansa allows hers to remain where it is at the small of her back and he feels a sense of pride, knowing that she’s maintaining the element of surprise, in case Varys’s man is going to betray them, in case he really has brought them out here to die.

Her hand slides across the back seat of the jeep, hesitantly reaching towards him and he grabs it with his own, squeezes it hard, and looks her straight in the eye. She’s scared, he can see it plainly in her eyes, no matter how still she keeps the rest of her face.

“You’ve survived both the Lannisters and Littlefinger,” he reminds her “You won’t die here. And these aren’t the worst odds I’ve faced by far.”

She nods tersely, gives his hand a final squeeze and releases it, once again focused on the task at hand.

The jeep pulls off the main road and heads up a side track, little more than packed dirt and only as wide as their vehicle. Ten minutes more and they pull up to a small clearing, barely large enough to accommodate their car and the other vehicle that is already there.

The Spider’s man calls out in Spanish, a query to the other party that Sandor only half understands and then there is a shouted reply. He can hear Sansa murmuring a prayer under her breath as the doors to the other car open, her shoulders tense, her eyes fixated on the other vehicle waiting for a first sight of her sister.

And then jumping down from the other car with catlike grace, a girl appears, not more than ten paces in front of them.

Sansa makes a noise that sounds like a strangled sob, and reaches out to open the jeep’s door, only to be stilled by Sandor’s hand on her arm.

“Wait,” he instructs her, looking towards their guide for a cue and waiting for the rest of Arya’s companions to make their presence known.

Three more men step out of the car in front of them and Sandor watches as Arya Stark turns towards them, asking something that he can’t hear. She appears relaxed, unbothered by what they might be doing there or whom they’ve come to meet. There is a gun in a holster around the girl’s upper thigh and she rests her hand upon it, almost casually.

“It’s time,” Varys’s man instructs them, and nodding at Sansa, Sandor pats her arm once and opens his own door.

They step out at the same time, into the dappled afternoon light, and Sandor watches carefully to see the girl’s reaction.

Arya’s gaze goes first to Sansa and then to him and back again. There is confusion written on her face, more than any other emotion that he can identify.

“Arya!” Sansa calls out to her sister, and the girl simply stares at her, as if unsure how she should react.

Sandor waits, one eye on Varys’s man where he converses with Arya’s companions in low voices.

“Arya, it’s me, Sansa.” the little bird continues, reaching out one hand to her sister as if pleading with her. “Don’t you recognize me?”

“I once knew a girl named Sansa, a girl who had red hair and loved lemon cakes.” The younger sister comments in a low voice and Sandor looks at her more closely, at the blankness of her expression, the dullness in her eyes. Arya looks back towards him then. “I once knew a burned man too, but he died by the side of the road after I left him there.”

“It is me, Arya.” Sansa says gently, taking a few more steps forward towards her sister even as Sandor’s fingers itch to reach for the gun in his holster, knowing that this is all terribly wrong. “I am your sister. I might not have red hair anymore, we might not have seen each other for years but you remember, I know you remember. I’ve come to get you, Arya, I’ve wanted to find you for the longest time.”

Arya Stark looks at her sister then, looks at her and yet her expression does not change. If Sandor had to take a guess then he’d say that the girl has retreated somewhere deep inside, somewhere beyond the present reach of any of them. He’s seen it before, seen it in wartime most often, when there’s too many things that have been seen and done that you’d rather forget.

"There is no Arya Stark anymore," Sansa’s younger sister finally declares, "There was a girl by that name once, but she’s dead now. I am no one." she turns away as if dismissing them and back towards the men she came with, addressing them in Spanish and gesturing to the car.

Sansa crosses the remaining three strides towards Arya, grabs her shoulder to wrench her around and slaps her full in the face, so hard that the sound rings across the entire clearing. Then she gathers her younger sister into her arms, hugs her tightly as tears stream down her face.

"You are Arya Stark." Sansa declares fiercely, "You're Ned and Catelyn Stark's daughter, you're Sansa, Bran, Rickon, Robb and Jon's sister. You ARE Arya Stark and I’m taking you with me now, whether you want to go or not.”

Arya shakes her head, moving to push her sister away, her face still strangely emotionless but Sandor steps forward, looming over both of them and forcing her to look up as his shadow falls upon her.

“We’re none of us the people we used to be, Arya, but blood is blood and pack is pack and whether you go by that name anymore or not, you belong with your sister.”

“Blood.” the girl who used to be Arya Stark murmurs, “Pack.” For a moment there is a spark in her eyes as she looks at her sister, some long ago memory that has been suppressed returning, and then the blankness returns and she twists to escape from Sansa’s grip.

Before she can complete the action, Sandor steps forward and quick as can be, pistol whips her on the back of her head, causing her to slump forward into Sansa’s arms.

The little bird looks up at him, her expression mixed, and he knows that she’s unsure whether she should be grateful or scold him for it.

Sandor shrugs, it’s not the first time he’s done it to the brat and the previous time he’d done so it damn well saved her life.

He gestures to Sansa to hand her sister over and with a fluid movement, leans down to pick Arya up, hoisting her over his shoulder. She’s never been tall and despite the time that has passed she is still small, her body slender and barely weighing anything at all.

“We’ll be off then,” Sandor rasps, nodding at Vary’s man and jerking his head towards the car. “Tell them they can consider it finished with, she’s not their problem anymore.”

Sandor’s already taken one step back towards the car but he watches the men anyway as it is explained to them, as one of them give a terse shake of his head and clucks his tongue, looking towards them and replying in rapid fire Spanish.

Sandor has no idea what has been said but Varys’s man is replying in soothing tones even as he reaches one hand slowly towards his gun. Seeing this, Sandor moves his free hand towards his own, ready to draw at any moment.

It is Sansa however, having understood exactly what has been said, who is the first to take action, reaching behind her back to draw her own gun quickly.

She replies in icy tones in Spanish, words that Sandor isn’t able to understand, even as she makes a gesture to him with her hand, a sign to be ready.

The other men understand her though, Sandor is certain of it, but that doesn’t stop any of them from reaching to draw their own weapons.

Sandor yells for Sansa to get behind him, drawing and aiming quickly for the men’s leader, putting a bullet through his head before he can get his shot off.

The little bird doesn’t listen, and even as he lines up his next shot he sees her take her own, hitting the second man in the shoulder, knocking him back as he aims at Sandor. Sandor fires his own weapon and hits the man square in the chest, finishing him off before he can raise his gun again.

They turn as one to find that the third man is already dead, shot by the Spider’s man. Their guide has not escaped unscathed however, slumped against a tree in an ever growing pool of his own blood.

Sandor sets Arya down on the ground near their vehicle and walks towards Varys’s man, kicking guns away from the hands of Arya’s ex-compatriots, checking them as he goes. The one whom he had shot in the chest is taking last gurgling breaths as blood runs out of his mouth and from the hole in his chest, but he’ll be dead soon enough.

He moves to crouch down in front of their guide, Sansa close beside him. Sandor checks the man over, seeing what might be done for him, but they’re far from civilization and he’s not going to last the journey.

“It wasn’t mean to go down like this,” the man tells them, still nameless even as the colour fades from his face, the grey pallor of those nearing death replacing it. “It certainly wasn’t planned this way.”

“Or maybe it was and you just never knew it.” Sandor comments, “Could be that this was Varys’s plan all along.”

“No,” the man replies, his breathing labored as he fights to say what he wishes to. “They found out who she was, what she was worth. Decided they’d take both girls and sell them to someone who would pay a higher price.”

Sandor doesn’t know who that someone was - Lannisters, Freys, Boltons; it could be any of them. What he does know is that most likely somebody is now aware that the girls are alive, and that that somebody will be coming for them soon.

“Is there anything that we can do for you?” Sansa asks the man sincerely, reaching out to touch his hand where it rests limply by his side. “Anybody that we might contact to tell them how you died?”

The man laughs, coughs violently, and laughs again. “People like me…” he begins to say, the words abruptly stopping as the light in his eyes dies.

Sansa looks at the man, wide eyed and white faced, her entire body trembling, the gun still clutched tightly in her hand.

“We need to go.” Sandor tells her gently and she starts, turning away from the body and back to him.

“They…” she starts to say, glancing down at the gun in her hand. “I understood them, I knew they wouldn’t let us go. They were going to kill you and take us. They were going to…”

“And now they’re dead.” Sandor breaks in, “They can’t do anything to you anymore. I wouldn’t have let them either. But there’ll be more and we need to get away from here as quickly as possible before they get here. So let’s put your sister in the car and get back to Bogota.”

She nods but remains where she is, mute and still looking at the body. She’s seen a lot of death in her young life, but today would have been the first time she’d ever pulled the trigger on somebody herself. That the man was killed by Sandor’s shot rather than hers is unimportant, she feels it nonetheless.

“Hey.” he rasps, getting her attention. “Come here.” Sandor reaches over and checks that the safety is back on her gun, before taking it from her hands, tucking it back into her waistband. Then he lifts her up by the elbows until she’s standing, holds her there for a moment until he’s sure that she’ll stay upright, and shifts his hands to cup either side of her face so that she has to look directly at him.

“They’re dead. They’re dead and we’re alive and we’re going to stay that way. Now we need to get back to the city and get your sister some help and after that we’ll see what needs to be done next, but right now we need to get back into that car and start driving.”

Sansa takes a moment to process it then draws in a deep breath and nods, visibly steeling herself. He’s proud of her then, proud of her ability to do that, to pick herself up and keep going no matter what. He drops one hand from her face, grips her chin with the other and leans in to kiss her, hard and fierce and wanting to remind her that they’re both still alive.

“Now let’s go.”

**
They drape Arya’s prone form upon the back seat to make it look like she’s sleeping. A quick check of a first aid kit in the back of the jeep and Sandor discovers tranquilisers, a dose ready to inject should the girl wake up and start causing trouble. He takes the gun from Arya’s holster and binds her hands, draping a blanket over her to hide it should anybody look into the car.

The bodies they leave as they are, the Spider’s man included. There’s no time to bury them and a fire would draw too much attention. Should they be discovered then it’s more than likely that it will be assumed the deaths are the result of an illicit deal gone wrong.

“She doesn’t remember,” Sansa murmurs an hour into the drive, breaking the silence that has descended between them, “I think I know, I think I understand. There were times… when I used to think that I really was Alayne, that Sansa had been a kind of dream. There were times when I wished, desperately, that Sansa really had been a dream, that those things had never happened to me.”

He glances at her from the corner of his eye before returning his attention to the road. She is looking behind her to the backseat where her sister lies, the raw grief of that memory upon her face. Sandor knows that even now, Sansa is still emerging from that dream state, reclaiming herself slowly but surely from the cocoon in which she had hidden herself away, somewhere deep inside.

“She’ll remember, as you did. Too stubborn for her own good from what I remember, I doubt it’ll take her too long now that she’s back with you.”

She reaches out then, to briefly lay her hand upon his leg, and he turns his head to find her looking at him, intent and unsure.

“We’ll get through this.” he promises her once more, never knowing whether it will really be true. He’ll try his fucking hardest to ensure it is, no matter what happens tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after that, no matter what her sister does or doesn’t remember.

He’ll see to it. Kill anybody he needs to in order to ensure it.

And one day he’ll take her home again.

**

The shadows have lengthened into night by the time they arrive back to Bogota, the evening heavy upon them when they reach the Father’s residence.

The elderly priest sighs when he hears their tale and promises to dispose of the jeep, to leave no evidence of their existence there.

And so that last task done, they make their way across town to the safe house once again.

Sandor is so bone numbingly weary that he thinks he might like to pass out there and then, but there’s things to be done and words to be said before he can do so, he knows it in his bones.

It’s just the three of them now, the priest has left to get rid of the jeep and to contact Elder Brother to inform him of what’s occurred. He’s promised to come back in the morning to help them anyway that he can.

They settle Arya onto one of the beds, handcuffing her to it even though she’s likely to sleep off the tranquilisation dose they’ve given her until morning. Sansa sits on the side of the mattress, looking down at her little sister’s face. Sandor lies on one of the other beds nearby, arms folded under his head and tries not to look over at the sight, wanting to give them a moment of privacy.

Sansa brushes some strands of hair away from Arya’s forehead and begins to speak, slowly at first and then softly rambling, more to herself than to Sandor, he realizes. She speaks about deprogramming techniques and long roads to recovery and Sandor wonders if she realises that the same advice could easily be applied to her.

"We'll get her the help she needs, little bird." he says, more to give her a reply so that she'll stop babbling than anything else. "She'll be the same little angry hell raiser again before you know it."

She looks up suddenly, startled, as if she'd forgotten there was anybody else there at all.

She's had nobody to rely on for so very long.

She is silent for a long moment as he looks at her, and he sees the change overcome her as she looks down to Arya and then back at him, as she slowly but surely allows her guard to drop.

"You won't leave me, will you?" she finally asks, her voice breaking slightly on the last word. "You won't... You won't let me down?"

There is so much vulnerability in her voice at that moment that he feels his throat tighten, choking him, feels the grief he has long tried to stifle rise up in him at last. There is still the girl in her that he remembers, long suffocated under layers of indifference.

He removes a hand from under his head, pats the mattress next to him to motion her over.

She crawls into his bed, curls up into him and tucks her head into the crook of his neck.

For a moment they simply breathe together.

"I won't let you down, little bird." he tells her, stroking her back gently. "I won't leave you, and I won't ever lie to you and I'll keep you and your sister safe."

He tells her everything she's wanted to hear, everything she needs to know but has refused to ask. He wants desperately to have her smile and sing and laugh, to bring back all the innocence she's lost as impossible as that is. "I'll stay by your side for as long I live if that's what you want, I’ll do anything you ask of me."

"But why would you?” she asks him, and he can feel a tear as it falls upon his skin, feel her trembling against him. "I'm not the same girl that I was then, the girl you wanted to save. I wish I could be, but I can’t."

“It doesn’t matter,” he rasps, kisses her forehead. “We’ve both changed, I’m hardly the man I was at that time either. Whatever you might say, you’re still Sansa Stark, and you always will be.”

“Am I?” she asks him, tears running freely down her cheeks now, a hitch in her breath when she speaks. “There are days when I don’t know if that is true or not, when that still feels like someone else’s life. There is so much inside me now, so much of anger and hate and grief and lies, I don’t know, I can’t… I wouldn’t blame you, if you didn’t want me anymore now.”

He laughs darkly at that, guilt rising within him at her words. “You needn’t fear that at least, there will never come a day when I don’t want you. That’s not the problem, that will never be the problem.”

He wraps both of his arms around her, holds her so tightly against him that they could easily melt into one. Takes a deep breath and tells her what he's been thinking all along.

“The real tragedy, little bird, the thing I most regret, is this. That you've become exactly the girl I once wanted you to be."

--------------------------------------

And there we have it, the end. I am tossing up the idea of continuing this particular universe but that was the end of the first arc. I hope you all enjoyed it and thank you for sticking with me while I tried something new!
 
 
onborrowedwings
Title: All the Things She Never Said (and those she did)
Rating: K
Summary: She rides behind him on his big, badly tempered horse and wonders whether she made the right decision or not.
A/N: Originally published as a Mystery Knight entry for the SansaxSandor community on livejournal.

Dedicated to kylathelurker, for the concept of unromantic romanticness.

**

He stops the horse and helps her to dismount, leads her into the woods and pulls out his dagger, motioning for her to sit upon a log.

She is compliant, though she wishes she could refuse.

No - she wants to tell him - Not this as well, it is too cruel that I must lose this too.

My mother loves my hair - Sansa wants to tell him - She used to dismiss my maid at night just to be able to brush it herself. When I see her again… when she sees me again…

When Lady Catelyn Stark sees her daughter again she will not even recognize her.

Sansa wants to protest, wants to tell him these things, but she doesn’t. He’s already explained that her hair needs to be cut so they draw less attention, that they’re too recognizable with his face as it is.

And so she remains silent and struggles not to cry as he slowly sheers away her hair; always careful, almost gentle. It is silly that she should mourn the loss of it when she has lost so much already, but to Sansa it seems as if another part of her is being taken away, just like all the parts before.

The Hound also remains silent, as he mostly does, and she wonders what he truly thinks as he cuts through it lock by lock, whether he yet regrets rescuing her.

It would have been a simpler journey alone, though where he might have gone she has no idea. She brings him danger through her mere presence but salvation too, yes. By returning her to her brother he might win himself a place in the Northern company, and a new master to serve.

He has always served, ever since he was young, and she thinks that perhaps he would be lost if he had to truly be his own man.

Then the cutting is done and she lifts a hand to feel the remaining hair, short as any boy’s and now easily able to be covered by a scarf to hide its colour.

She looks towards him, her lips intent on a thank you, on the proper courtesy, even as she struggles to suppress her tears. And there he stands, the shadows of the forest kind to him as they fall across the burned side of his face, his dagger in one hand, a longer lock of her hair in the other. He looks down upon it, tightens his fingers around it to enclose it and then looks up.

“It’ll grow back.” he tells her, his voice as rough as saws working over wood. It is perhaps the kindest thing that he could say in that moment.

Sansa has heard that hair continues growing even after you’re dead.

Her thank you dies forgotten on her tongue.

**

She does not know why she changed her mind and went with him, why she reached out for him as he rose to leave.

She did, and now she’s here.

She rides behind him on his big, badly tempered horse and wonders whether she made the right decision or not.

He had held a knife to her throat and demanded a song, threatened her, terrified her… and yet she had understood.

The fire had scared him and he had come to her, come for some measure of peace or salvation or bravery or reclamation of power, she knows not.

He would not have truly hurt her, she does not think so, but he held a knife to her throat nonetheless and pinned her to the bed and she had thought for a moment that he meant to kiss her.

Yet he didn’t.

He could have taken anything he wanted from her in that moment. Instead he had cried when she sang - and when she had touched his face he had risen to leave, to leave her be.

“No one would hurt you again, or I’d kill them.” he had said, and she thinks it must be true since he hates lying and liars, though she does not quite know why he offered it.

For now what she knows is that he has always needed someone to serve, ever since he was 12 and left home for Casterly Rock, and for the moment it is her.

He does not speak much, they are silent through much of the day and she does not start conversations for fear of saying something that might make him angry.

She thinks that he is angry most of the time, though whether at her, or himself, or the Lannisters, she is not sure. He is sad too, she knows that much, defeated. He has lost the only life he ever knew, has fled from battle and may now be called craven. She does not know what she might say to raise his spirits.

He no longer presses her to look at him, no longer looks at her himself unless he can’t help it, and she wonders if he is ashamed. For what, she does not know; whether for the dagger, or the song, or his cowardice, or the threat that was only ever hinted at. She thinks that she could tell him she forgives him, but he has not asked for it and would probably laugh if she offered it to him.

“It’ll grow back.” she murmurs as she holds onto him, her hands only light around his waist, distance as carefully preserved as she is able.

Ahead of her, he makes a sound. She’s not quite certain whether it’s one of mirth or misery.

**

Five days into the journey is the first time they are waylaid.

Six bandits with mismatched armour and a poor selection of steel and she wonders whether they believe that their numbers will give them strength.

“Stay on the horse,” the Hound tells her, as he moves to dismount. She does as he asks, tightly clutching the reigns, her fingers white against them.

The bandit’s leader jeers.

“Think that horse is going to protect her when we’re through with you? We’ll have her cunt to enjoy before the night is out.”

The Hound laughs then and it is a terrible thing to behold. He swings his sword to slice into the man, slice him almost in half with the force of the blow, and that is terrible too. He dispatches them quickly with a minimum of effort and Sansa thinks that perhaps when he moves like this, with such terrible grace and ferocity, he is a little beautiful.

She will not tell him so.

He climbs back onto the horse, blood spatter fresh upon his tunic and a shallow cut on his arm and she opens her mouth to say something – thank you – your arm is bleeding – you were very brave – will we make it there safely -

“There’ll be more like that before we’re done.” he rasps before she can speak, “If they get to you then they’ll rape you and cut your throat after. You stay close to me, do whatever I tell you to do. If it’s too close a thing then take the horse and ride as far and fast as you can. I mean to have you there in one piece or I won’t be getting shit from your kingly brother. Understand?”

No one would hurt you again, or I’d kill them.

Sansa thinks that she does. He will live up to his word, keep her safe as he’d promised no matter what reasons he gives.

She tightens her grip slightly upon his sides.

**

“Shall I sing for you?”

It is said quietly and almost immediately regretted.

He has been drinking, though not as heavily as is his usual want. The previous day she had poured boiled wine on the wound on his arm then bandaged it with a strip of cloth torn off from his tunic.

Today they had been challenged by three Lannister men; scouts or deserters or simply lost, she does not know.

They were better organized than the last men who had attacked and for a moment Sansa had feared that it would all be over and she would be taken back to the Queen and Joffrey.

But The Hound had cut through these men too, not as easily as with the first group but at least with no new scars to show for it and only a few bruises.

“Sing then,” he tells her brusquely, “Sing your song but make it quiet, I’ve no wish to fight any more men attracted by the noise.”

Killing is the sweetest thing there is, he’d told her once. She wonders if he’s changed his mind.

So she sings, she sings of Florian and Jonquil in a low sweet voice while he sits and drinks his wine, and at the end she waits.

“Finally gave me my song then, did you?” he rasps, looks across the fire at her.

“It’s the second I’ve given you.” she reminds him.

“But this one you offered freely.” he replies, and settles himself down for the night.

She knows it’s as much of an apology as she’s ever going to get.

**

After a time she loses count of how many skirmishes are fought with men who do not have the sense to allow them to pass unhindered. The weather is bad and they’re often cold, wet and hungry as food runs out and shelter becomes hard to find. He won’t risk taking her into towns or leaving her to go himself till they’re further from King’s Landing and so they must fend for themselves. He forages for their food or hunts for it and she is always ready with a courteous thank you and a small smile - it is all that she can offer him in return. She turns the meat on a spit as it cooks and can’t help but think of the fine food and lemoncakes of the Red Keep and feel ungrateful all the while.

Today there is no food available and no shelter to be found and the rain pours down upon them as they make their way slowly forward on Stranger’s back. Sansa is soaked and shivering and she can’t help a short laugh at a sudden thought – perhaps the Stranger really is taking her to her death. She is trembling so violently that she is sure the Hound can feel her shaking from where she sits behind him, and wonders if he feels the cold as she does.

Never halting the horse, he reaches up to his neck and suddenly his cloak is off and he’s turning around to thrust it into her hands. She is shaking so badly that she almost drops it but she wraps it around herself on top of her own and huddles beneath it, torn between wanting to press herself closer to him for warmth and preserving the small level of propriety she still has left to her.

She thinks about asking him how many more cloaks he’ll give her.

“Thank you.” she tells him instead, teeth chattering as she does so.

The sound is lost on the wind.

**

At the end of the day with still no shelter in sight, they stop beneath the largest tree they can find, its branches providing some small measure of protection.

Sansa tries to dismount from Stranger but fails, her hands are too cold and shaking too badly to allow her to. And so he reaches for her, grips her around the waist and lifts her down and she wants to cry simply because his hands are warm upon her and she had forgotten what that felt like.

“Seven hells,” he curses as she flops against him, propriety forgotten in her exhaustion, in the wish for some warmth, any warmth. He takes her hands in his large ones and chafes them, then moves his attention to her arms, pushing her sleeves up so that he might try to rub some heat into them as well.

Sansa resists the urge to laugh hysterically as he curses over and over again, trying to bring some life back into her limbs. She would probably weep instead if she had the energy for it. When he places her on the ground and removes her boots to do the same to her feet, then her ankles, then her calves, she tries to protest – it’s not proper, really it’s not, he can’t touch her there, she’ll be ruined.

They’ll make me marry you now - she wants to tell him, and she wonders if he’d mock her for her fear of it.

As he continues to rub at her legs she gives one abrupt laugh, then sobs, and promptly passes out.

**

She thinks that there is a fire later, she’s warmer at least, and she tries to open her mouth to thank him but only manages a faint gurgle.

“Don’t you die, don’t you fucking die.” she hears him say and there is a pressure against her chest, warm and hard, and his hands on her back. “Don’t you fucking die in this godsforsaken fucking forest.”

She wants to tell him that she won’t, that he’ll manage to save her again just as he somehow always does; but the words disappear into a fog and as she chases after them she is pulled down too.

**

Sansa does not know how much time has passed when she reawakens but she is somewhere else; there is a roof above her and she lies upon something that certainly doesn’t feel like the ground.

She tries to sit up and promptly falls off the low pallet, groaning as she hits the floor.

He is there quickly, strong arms lifting her up, cradling her for a moment and setting her back upon the pallet and then there is a hand behind her head to raise it and a waterskin at her lips. She drinks greedily, splutters and then drinks again.

“Thank you,” She murmurs when she has had her fill and looks around the room in which they sit. It seems to be an abandoned cottage, the roof is only half there but she lies under the intact part.

“For what? Dragging you through a rainstorm so you nearly die of a fever?” he snorts, “Should have left you in King’s Landing, safe in your cage. It was madness to take you with me.”

Her heart falls and she realizes that he regrets bringing her along. She is a burden now, nothing more.

I’m glad you didn’t leave me there - she wants to say.

“I’m sorry.” she tells him instead.

“Sorry for what?” he asks her in disbelief, “It’s me as should be sorry, but you’ve seen the worst of it through and you’ll be fine now. You chirp enough meaningless thank you’s to me as it is, don’t be adding your sorry’s to it now too.”

“How long have I been unwell?” Sansa asks him, wanting to overcome the awkwardness, not knowing how to remove the anger she sees in his eyes, nor whether it is directed at her or himself. “How did you bring me here?”

“Had to tie you to me as we rode, took a day to find this place after you fell sick. We’ve been here for nigh on a week now.”

A week, a week in which she has lane prone and unconscious and he must have tended to her. Sansa feels a blush creep up her cheeks at the thought of it.

“You didn’t leave me.” she blurts out for want of anything else to say before she can control herself.

He looks surprised, it certainly isn’t what he’d expected her to say. “Leave you?”

His eyes are heavy upon her and there is a brief flicker in them, the previous anger that she had seen now faded.

-You would be much safer without me, and make better time too. You could have left me here to die, but you cared for me and waited for me to recover - She wants to say it, wants him to know just how much his actions mean to her but somehow she knows that he will not welcome the words, that he will take them in the wrong way.

“You’re my insurance, aren’t you?” He rasps suddenly, “Got to keep you safe for that kingly brother of yours so that I can get what’s due to me.”

Once again, she remembers the words that he had spoken on a night the sky burned green.

**

Three days from Riverrun and they hear that her mother and brother have already left for her uncle Edmure’s wedding at the Twins.

“Oh please, could we go there instead?” Sansa begs him, “I have never met my Great-Uncle Brynden. I so wish to be back with my mother and brother, after all this time...”

The Hound agrees, stating that he’s certainly not going to receive any type of reward from the Blackfish, and they turn the horse towards the west instead.

They ride hard towards the Twins, and Sansa hopes that perhaps they might even make it in time for the wedding feast. She is certainly not fit to be seen; her hair is still short as any boy’s and all of the few clothes she now owns have seen better days. Yet the Freys are to be their relatives now and surely one of the daughters would lend her a fresh gown so that she might attend.

And when her mother and brother see her again, Sansa knows that they will care nothing about her hair or her clothes, but only that she is back with them, safe and sound.

As they ride, Sansa daydreams of hot baths and clean clothes, of soft bread fresh from the oven, of as much food as she could wish to eat, of warmth. She anticipates the moment when she sees her family again, imagines them wrapping their arms around her and laying her head upon her mother’s shoulder to cry.

All of those dreams fade the moment that The Twins appears, as they reach the top of a hill to look down upon the site. It is clear that something is desperately wrong even from this far away, that it is no wedding feast in progress but a slaughter. There are fires blazing through the tents set up on the banks of the river and the sound of fighting and screams reach them even at this distance.

Sansa stifles a scream of her own and clings to the Hound, her fingers brittle against the metal of his armour.

“My mother, Robb, we have to…” she starts to say, but he cuts her off before she can finish.

“It’s too late for that now, little bird.” he tells her, an unexpected fear in his voice as he says it, even as he wheels Stranger around and spurs him to a run.

She looks back the whole way, until the last glow of fire fades into the distance.

**

Sansa knows even before they hear the news, days and miles away from that night and that place, confirmed by an innkeeper whom the Hound asks for information as she remains hidden within the forest.

They’re less than half a day’s ride from Riverrun now and Sansa has been crying the entire way, weeping throughout both the days and the nights while the Hound remains grimly silent.

She already knows without needing to be told.

He returns from the inn with a sack of food and swings himself up in front of her on the horse, his expression carefully schooled and silent as the grave. They ride through the afternoon and as dusk falls and still he doesn’t speak; not as they reach a clearing and he lifts her down, not as he sets about starting a fire or organizing the campsite.

She wants to scream at him to tell her. She wants to plead with him to never admit that it’s true.

Finally they sit and he passes her bread and cheese, waits until they’ve both eaten and then pulls out a wineskin he must have bought from the innkeeper along with the food.

“They’re both dead.” he announces then, his eyes fixed upon the fire as he takes a long swig from the skin. “It’s said your brother was to marry a Frey but broke his promise and wed some girl from the Westerlands instead. Freys gave your family guest right then killed them anyway, along with most of your brother’s forces. Your Uncle Edmure is still alive, but now their prisoner. There’s others from your brother’s bannermen held hostage too, but your kin is dead.”

He looks towards her then, as if uncertain what he should do next, what comfort he might offer.

She has wept on the way here, wept until this moment, knowing yet unknowing, but now that it is finally said…

Sansa is silent, still, frozen in her grief and unable to cry. They are all gone now, every member of her family; only Jon remains and he is too far away, no more than a distant dream.

“Do we go to Riverrun then?” she asks him, her voice breaking on the last word.

He shakes his head, takes another swig of the wineskin. “The Blackfish is there, and your brother’s wife too, but they won’t last for long. With the strength of the North now gone and your uncle held hostage, I expect it’s only a matter of time before the Lannisters move against the castle. No, you won’t be safe there.”

You promised that you’d keep me safe - she wants to remind him - That if anyone tried to hurt me again you’d kill them.

“My aunt Lysa then, in the Eyrie? She… surely she would take me, protect me, her own sister’s daughter?”

“Maybe,” the Hound agrees, thinking on it. “But by the Imp’s report she’s become a crazed old hag and your lady mother didn’t leave her on the best of terms. Your aunt has sat in her Eyrie with her forces all this time without a thought of coming to the aid of her Tully kin, and I doubt she’d endanger her own monstrous little brat for the sake of you.”

Words stick in Sansa’s throat and she struggles not to choke upon them.

There is nowhere to go now; no rich kin to reward him, no safe haven that they may claim. No reason for him to help her at all when he would be far better off on his own. She has nothing to offer him to secure his loyalty, nothing except… a sudden fear strikes Sansa for she is friendless and alone in the world now, a liability and worthless for any purpose except ones she would rather not think upon. He could sell her to the Lannisters if he wished, he could dishonor her and leave her to die and nobody would ever even look for her. He had held a knife to her throat and demanded a song after all, and she fears…

A large hand reaches over to clamp onto hers and Sansa realizes belatedly that she’s shaking like a leaf, tears running down her cheeks.

“Here, girl, you’re in shock. Have some of this.” he tells her and thrusts the wineskin into her other hand while he continues to hold the first.

His skin is rough against hers, the calluses easy to discern where they press into the back of her hand.

Sansa is not sure what to fear, that he might want her or that he might not, for both of those options will have consequences. She raises the wineskin to her lips and then pauses.

“Will it make it better?” she asks him, “Will it help me to forget the pain?”

“It will numb it for awhile.” he tells her, and looking into his eyes she realises that they are astoundingly clear, at odds with the rest of his muddled face, with his grimaces and frowns. There is a deep sadness there now rather than the rage that used to frighten her so, an empathy too, and suddenly she is not so afraid anymore.

She takes a long, deep sip of the wine and waits for it to work.

**

Sansa wakes up in the middle of the night shivering, the fire having long since died out, and gathers her cloak more tightly around her, huddling under it. She had once told Bran that he was safe under his blankets and that no monster or creature of nightmare could reach him there; but that was simply a fairy story told to a younger brother to help him sleep. Bran is gone now, killed by a monster they had sheltered in their family, and this cloak she hides beneath will do nothing to protect her from any real danger.

Before she can stop herself a cry rises from her throat, a long high note of keening. She doubles over, clutches her stomach in an attempt to contain the pain.

She hears him move though she does not see it and a large hand is quickly clamped over her mouth, a strong arm wound around her waist to pull her to him.

“Hush now, little bird, or you’ll call trouble to us.” he tells her, not ungently. “Cry as you will, as much as you wish, but do so quietly lest we lose our lives.”

She wants to scream and wail and rend her clothes, but she flails instead, hits him with closed fists until the fight has gone out of her as he remains passive, holding her close and with a hand still over her mouth but never moving to stop her.

In the end with all her energy spent, she allows her head to rest upon his shoulder, weeps into the side of his neck, weeps until all her tears are exhausted and she cannot cry any longer. She whimpers, sighs heavily, and he brings his hand up to awkwardly pat her upon the side of her head, his fingers resting for a few moments in the short hair that now curls there.

It does not matter anymore whether it grows back or not, her mother will never brush it again.

Seeing that she is now quiet he rises to leave but she grabs onto his wrist. Stay - she wants to tell him.

She can’t say the word though.

Is it the right decision or the wrong one and what will he understand from it? Will it bind him to her, keep him by her side? What does he truly want from her, and how long will it be before he takes it?

She does not know the answer to any of those questions, all she knows is that he is the only protector she has left in this world, the only one that has not failed her. What she does know is that she is terrified of being left entirely alone and defenseless.

So he leaves her for a moment, goes to fetch his bedroll and places it beside hers, lies down upon it right next to her, yet not touching.

“Go to sleep,” He tells her then, as she breathes erratically, unsure what she should hope or fear. “Your tears won’t bring them back and we’ve a long way to go tomorrow.”

She notices that he doesn’t say where.

**

They discuss their options as they eat apples for breakfast, Sansa listlessly, barely tasting hers.

“The Riverlands are lost to us,” He tells her, “The Lannisters will control them any day now. It will be too difficult for us to reach the North and we know not which of your brother’s bannermen remain loyal. They could all easily sell you to gain favour, riches or power; or trade you for their own kin as is held hostage.”

She will never tell him that she had feared that he might do the same; here in the light of day she knows that he never would. While he might mock her belief in true knights, he has a strange honour of his own. He could have done anything he wanted to her by now if he wished to, he never needed to save her in the first place.

Again, she remembers his words on the night he came to take her away, words that he has not said since.

“Could we not go to Greywater Watch? Howland Reed was my father’s staunchest friend and it would be difficult for our enemies to find us there.” Sansa suggests.

“Difficult for us to find as well, since we have no idea where it is. Far too close to Freys for my liking, and Ironmen currently infesting the Neck as well.” Sandor replies, “That’ll not do.”

“My half-brother Jon in the Night’s Watch?”

“And how are we to reach there and what are we to do once we have? I’ve no wish to don a black cloak and women are not allowed at the Wall.”

“Lord Stannis, then?” Sansa continues desperately, “He is an enemy of the Lannisters and is an honourable man, surely he would protect me?”

“Lord Stannis’s forces were spent in the Battle of the Blackwater and he’s retreated to Dragonstone. No way to reach him without great risk and I wouldn’t trust him not to use you for his own purposes if we did.”

“Is there nowhere that we may be safe?” she asks him in despair, “No ally that we may go to for sanctuary?”

“I think we’d best leave Westeros, little bird.” he finally replies, and she knows by his tone that he’s been considering it ever since the night they fled the Twins, slowly making their way East that they might find a ship.

No - she wants to say - There must be another option. Any other option.

She will know nobody else but him in Essos, there will be no friends there to save her if she needs it.

There are none here either though, and the Hound for all his ferocity and all her doubt has never harmed her, never let her down.

So she nods, and allows him to place her gently upon Stranger’s back, and as they begin to ride towards the coast she clings to him and cries only a little for all that she has lost and all that she will lose again now.

**

They are waylaid three times before they reach the coast, and Sandor receives two new scars for his efforts. She dresses them as she had the last one, and finds herself humming an old song under her breath as she does so, a song of love and loss and tragedy.

When she is done she looks up to find him regarding her, and the expression in his eyes is almost tender. She has grown accustomed to reading his moods in all the time they’ve now spent together and he is calm in this moment, almost content she would say, if he knew any emotion like that.

“Why are you doing this?” she asks him, for once unable to suppress the question that rises to her lips.

“What? Getting myself cut up to protect you?” he snorts, “Thought you’d be grateful at least.”

“I am,” she assures him, “And yet there is no reason to do so. You gain nothing in protecting me and I can offer you nothing in return, not now.”

He laughs darkly then, his mood turning, and he looks away from her before turning back with a snarl.

“Didn’t I tell you that I’d keep you safe, the night that the Blackwater burned? Didn’t I say I’d kill any that tried to hurt you? Have I ever asked you for anything in return? Have I?”

He stalks away and she knows then, looking at him, what it is that he really wants from her.

Something that she is not yet ready to give.

She wonders whether she ever will be.

**

A ship to Essos, and surprisingly it is he that is seasick, long hours spent over a basin and others groaning in his bunk.

She holds back his hair and mops his face clean, tries to feed him broth while he snarls at her and waits until he is too weak to resist.

And there in that cabin, in the stuffy air and the low light, as she places cool cloths across his brow and sings him into a fitful sleep, she realizes that he has stopped being the Hound to her and has become Sandor Clegane instead.

It may be that she is now bound to him with no other choice, but the thought no longer scares her as it once did. What he truly wants from her must be given rather than taken and she thinks that perhaps one day, she may be able to offer it.

“Help me up,” he rasps on the fifth day when he’s feeling better.

She does so and he catches her looking at him, and sees that something has changed.

“You looked after me,” he rasps, as if she has somehow saved his life rather than simply helped him recover from a bout of seasickness.

“Of course,” she replies, her brow wrinkling as she looks at him, confused as to why there should be a catch in his voice, why his eyes should glint as they gaze into hers.

She understands suddenly, without him needing to say it. Nobody has looked after him, cared for him, for years. Not since he was a child, perhaps not since he was burned. And what had they given him then? Ointments, and kept him locked out of sight in his room.

It is with a terrible overburdening sadness that she thinks then of the times that her mother and father cared for her, through small illnesses and petty hurts, of how she was always assured of comfort.

She has lost that now but at least she had it, at least she has the memory of it.

She reaches out and slowly, almost tenderly, pushes the sweaty strands of hair back from his forehead, smoothing them with her fingers. She thinks that she can hear him breathe in then, sharp and quick.

“You look me straight in the face now.” he comments, and while his voice may be the snarling of dogs in a pit, while it may be the rasp of saws on wood, she can hear the depths in it now. “You’re not afraid to look anymore.”

“Why would I be?” she asks him, as if it’s the most obvious matter in the world.

She rises to leave and he grabs her wrist, his grip as hard as iron; he could hurt her so easily if he wished to. He holds her there, bent over him, her other palm flat against the hard bunk to brace herself so that she doesn’t fall.

She thinks for a moment that he intends to kiss her, but instead he abruptly lets her go, dropping her wrist and levering himself up from the bunk with his hands.

“I’ll go and see to the horse.” he mutters before he stalks out of the cabin.

Sansa wonders exactly which one of their resolves will break first.



**

Pentos, with all its exotic splendours, is like something out of Sansa’s former dreams. It is so warm that she feels it must never be touched by winter and the women all seem to dress in silks. A heavy scent of spices hangs in the air and Sansa wishes that Arya might have been here to see this with her, knowing that she would have loved it.

She sits upon Stranger as Sandor leads him through the streets, following the directions that the Captain had given them to a place where they might find lodgings.

They are soon there and Sandor settles it with the landlord, renting them rooms for a month and calling for hot water to be brought up for baths. He waits until she is settled in her room, her bath placed within, before he leaves for his own.

Once, Sansa would have turned her nose up at such simple accommodations. The bed is old, the mattress lumpy, and the linens of poor quality - the room is spare in its lack of furniture besides the bed with only a cupboard, a mirror and a single chair. Now, after months of sleeping first on the ground as they travelled and then upon a ship’s narrow hard bunk, it seems as if it’s the most luxurious room she’s ever known.

She soaks in the water until she becomes wrinkled, scrubbing at her skin, her hair and under her nails to make them clean. Her hair falls down to her chin now, growing slowly but surely. Only when the water grows cold does Sansa pull herself out of the bath, putting on her cleanest robe, lying down on the bed and willing sleep to come.

The first real bed she’s lain on for months and months and months and she cannot help but sigh at how soft it feels to her.

It is only then that she realizes they’ve never discussed what it is they’ll do once they reach Pentos.

It has always been a matter of reaching a certain point, a place of safety, and now they have finally done so.

Is this to be her life now? Exile in Essos for the rest of her days, unable to return to the land of her birth? Will she ever receive news that it is safe to come home? Will she ever know for certain that she may return to Westeros without fear?

Sansa thinks on it, and realizes for the first time that there is nothing there for her to return to now. Her home is a ruin, her family are all gone except for Jon, and he is a member of the Night’s Watch, who give up their former lives and families when they take their vows.

She has nothing left now, nothing except for Sandor Clegane.

**

It is she who knocks on his door first and he opens it, his hair still wet from his bath, his tunic clinging to his shoulders where it is damp.

She notices these things now.

He gestures her inside and then calls loudly down the stairs for some food and wine to be sent up. His room is as sparse as hers but there is a table and two chairs and she realizes, belatedly, that there is a connecting door between their rooms.

Once she would’ve fretted about that, but when she’s slept with him in the same cabin on a ship for almost a month, when they’ve travelled together for all this time, what is there left to worry about in terms of propriety?

Who is there left to care about her honour or modesty anyway? Only she herself and even that notion is slowly slipping away from her, day by day.

She is not destined for any great marriage anymore that she must keep her reputation for. She is not destined for anything at all.

“We’ll stay here for a month, give us time to find a proper place.” he says, his eyes fixed upon her as if to see her reaction. “It’ll do till then.”

“It was a good choice.” She tells him sincerely, “The bed is…”

He snorts, “No need to tell it falsely, little bird. It’s a poor excuse for a place. I took you from your golden cage in the Red Keep and gave you a freedom you probably never wanted. Bet you wish you were back there again now.”

“No.” she tells him simply, “No, I don’t.”

His eyes burn into her but he does not question the statement, does not call her a liar as she’d feared he would.

The food and wine arrive and she eats as he drinks, watching him from under lowered lids.

“What do we do now?” she asks him finally, having worked up the courage.

“Do?”hHe repeats with a harsh laugh. “The money won’t last forever. I’ll find some work, as Guard or Sellsword or Master of Arms. We’ll find some place to live.”

“But what do we do?” she asks him insistently, for once unable to quiet the voice that refuses to go away. “What do I do?”

“Whatever little birds normally do.” he tells her, drinks deeply and leans back in his chair.

Forever? - She wants to ask him - Is this our life forever?

Instead she says, “I don’t know what that is.”

In Westeros there was always somebody to tell her what she should do. First her parents and septa, then the Queen and Joffrey, and then Sandor upon the road. Her actions were always guided by strict codes of proper behavior, she knew what was expected of her. There was a clear path for her then, she was to learn a lady’s skills, make a good match, be the mistress of some high lord’s castle and bear him children.

Now with those things taken from her, she does not know who it is that she is meant to be, or what it is that she’s meant to do.

“What do you want?” he asks her exasperatedly, “I can’t give you riches or the life of some high lady. You’re free to do as you wish but I can’t win back the North for you on my fucking own, nor get you married to some lordling who’ll do those things for you. I can’t give you anything but this life for now, whatever you may think of it. Spit on it if you wish, but we’ve no allies and no friends and all I can do for you is keep you safe.”

He’s angry, having misunderstood her words as a condemnation of failure, and Sansa shakes her head vigorously as she clasps her hands together in misery.

He drinks deeply of his wine, silent and brooding and she stands suddenly, so quickly that her chair almost tips and walks around the table to stop in front of him, kneeling as if in supplication. She places her hands upon his knees, still shaking her head and he is so surprised that he almost drops his cup, placing it hastily upon the table instead.

“No.” she tells him, “No, I didn’t mean any of that, I only meant that I do not know what I should do now, or who I should be. I have… I have always been told, I was trained ever since I was young… There was my family, my house, my claim, I knew what my role was. Now all that is gone and what am I? What is left of Sansa Stark?”

It is the longest that she has ever spoken to him since they left King’s Landing that night so long ago now, the most truth that she has ever spoken to him at any time. She has laid herself bare for him, so that he might see her as she now is.

There are other things that she does not speak of; that no lord would have her now, not after the time she has spent with him alone; that while she longs for Winterfell she is so tired, so very tired, and she does not want to have to live among its ghosts where those she loved once walked. What is home, when there is no family left to fill it?

He looks at her for long time, silent and never moving. Finally, he reaches out to lift one of the ringlets that hangs by her ear, slowly threading it through his fingers until at last he reaches the end of its length, at which time he drops his hand to his leg with a heavy sigh.

“They really did train you to be one of those pretty birds from the Summer Isles, chirping to please whomever your master might be.” he comments, and stretches one hand out to lay it atop both of hers. “Those who taught you your songs are long since dead, little bird, and your cage has been open for many months. Decide for yourself what you’d like to sing, make yourself a nest and do as you wish. I’ll keep you safe, but I’ll not clip your wings nor cage you again.”

They sit like that for some time in silence and Sansa wishes that she might have the courage to lower her head and lay it upon his knee, that he might stroke his fingers through her hair to bring her comfort. There is nothing stopping her now, no duty to family, no rules of behavior, there is only her and her inability to decide what it is that she truly wants.

The moment passes and Sansa stands, murmurs a quiet good night and leaves for her own room.

**

Sandor soon finds work, a swordsman of his size and skill is hard to come by and it is not difficult to find employment. He is hired as the Captain of the Guard of a rich merchant, to guard his manse and storehouse during the day while seeing to the orders of the guards beneath him. It is a good job to secure, and Sansa thinks for a moment of Jory, who had been Captain of her father’s Guard before he was killed in King’s Landing by Jaime Lannister. There is a moment of fear then, quickly suppressed, as Sansa reminds herself that Sandor is stronger and a better swordsman by far than Jory ever was.

Sandor rents a small house for them in the crowded back streets of the city. It is a narrow old building of two stories with a small courtyard at the back, shaded by trees and with its own well.

Left alone during the day while Sandor works, Sansa sees to putting the house in order, at first confused about precisely how this should be done. It had come with the bare essentials of furniture and vessels but there is much that is needed and for the first day, Sansa despairs. She throws herself onto her new bed, cries her heart out and wonders how she will ever know what to do, wonders if it will ever feel like home, if she will be able to make it into one. There have always been servants before to see to the main tasks, but now she does not know if they shall be able to afford it.

Her fears are allayed that very night when Sandor comes home to find her in a dejected state, and announces gruffly that he has engaged a servant to clean for her.

The paint on the house’s walls is old and faded, peeling in some places, and the furnishings have seen better days, but it is a good, solid house and the courtyard at the back is a beautiful place to sit and read or simply dream and remember. Her second day, Sansa wakes up with a strong determination and conducts an inspection of the house from top to bottom, trying to remember her mother’s lessons on what a good mistress of a castle must do.

This house would never pass for a castle but it is hers to look after nonetheless, hers for what may be years to come. Sansa recalls accompanying her mother around Winterfell on various tasks – to check the larder stores, to speak with the cook, to count linens or see which furnishings might need repairs.

She makes a list that day, of all the things she needs in order to make the house as it should be and presents it hesitatingly to Sandor in the evening when he returns home.

He reads it and gives a bark of laughter, “Making yourself a nest as I said then, little bird?”

For all his mocking, he still gives her the money for the purchases and tells her to take the servant with her the next day when she makes them.

It is frightening to be out in the city by herself without him, frightening to be anywhere without him after so long together. Sansa has long since grown accustomed to his reassuring presence at her side. Yet she steels herself and steps out into the streets and towards the market, the servant by her side, explaining in broken Valyrian, struggling to remember the lessons of her youth and to adapt to the local dialect.

Sansa soon realizes that there is no reason to fear, a market is a market no matter where it is located in the world and the process of bargaining remains the same. Her one moment of fear occurs when a trader who speaks the common tongue asks her what she is doing so far from Westeros. She haltingly explains that she is the wife of a sellsword and leaves his stall quickly, her heart beating wildly in her chest.

And so begins a new pattern of days as she sews linens for the beds, curtains for the windows, begins a hanging for one of the walls. Previously she would have dismissed such work as drudgery, unbefitting of her embroidery skills, but it fills the days and she is pleased to see the expression on Sandor’s face when he comes home to find some newly finished project of hers.

She stocks the larder but has no idea how to prepare the food within it, requesting her servant to teach her some simple dishes, and the days are soon filled with new learning. She introduces herself to the women within the nearby houses, calling herself by her assumed name and getting to know them. Afternoons are now sometimes spent chatting in one courtyard or the other, becoming more confident in her pronunciation of Valyrian or gaining knowledge of the gossip and news of the city and the world beyond. It is a simple life and there is nothing grand about it, luxuries are few and far between. Yet there is no reason to fear either, here in this far off city. There are no beatings to endure, no deaths to witness, no lies to decipher. There is only her and Sandor here, and together they make a life.

Sandor is at his duties until the evening, returning only then and occasionally not until much later on the nights when he comes home late from an evening of drinking and she knows not what else after she has long since gone to bed. On most nights he returns early however, and they will eat together and then sit within one of the rooms as he drinks wine and she discusses her day or reads or sews.

She begins to tell him, a little hesitatingly at first and then more confidently, stories of her family and House, fairy tales that old Nan used to tell them as she tried to put them to sleep. Sandor nods and listens as she speaks, listens to her speak of her family with a note of sad longing in her voice, and occasionally speaks of his own. His own stories of his family are few and far between, and there is little within them of happiness. Sansa listens, and thinks that she is beginning to understand. There is much that he does not say but she has learned to read the truth in his silences also.

They laugh together over old Nan’s fairy tales when she recounts them, and for the first time she witnesses a real spark of humour in his eyes. There is an almost easy companionship between them now, and something else too – an awareness, a shyness on her part. She is apt to duck her gaze from his, and she knows that he often sits watching her as she bends over her own tasks, pretending not to notice.

He has not asked her for anything in return for all his kindnesses, never touches her unless he cannot help it. She knows he wishes to though, knows it as clearly as she knows her own name. Knows that it is for this reason that he will sometimes not return until late in the night, drunk and stumbling and his footsteps pausing for a few moments too long outside her room before he turns towards his own.

She is no longer scared by the thought as she once was. It had been the thought of having no choice that had terrified her. Now she knows that she has always had one, that he is the only person who ever even thought to give her one. It is only a matter now of making the right choice now.

He begins to bring things for her, small gifts that he never presents in person but always leaves somewhere for her to find. Fabrics for a new gown, trinkets that he feels she would enjoy, a book of fairytales written in the common tongue, flowers sometimes. She wonders if in his own inept way he is attempting to court her, though he never mentions the gifts nor seeks a reaction to them. She does her best to let him know that she is pleased – placing the flowers in a vase, sitting and sewing the materials into outfits in the evening or reading from the books, displaying the trinkets – and she thinks that he seems happy when she does so.

She does not say anything about it either, she has grown far too used to swallowing her words over the years, to keeping them only within her own heart, to know what the right thing to say now would be.

And so the months pass in this manner and they begin to fall into patterns of their own.

“Are you happy?” she asks him one evening, looking up from her book abruptly as she asks it, unsure as to why she has voiced it. There are many things that she has thought of saying to him, that she has practiced saying over and over again in her mind, and this was not one of them.

“Happy?” he asks her, seemingly confused by her question, whether as to the meaning behind it or why she has asked it, she does not know.

“Yes, happy…” she continues haltingly. “I am not the only one that left my home. You also left behind everything you knew when you brought me here.”

Sandor gives a short, harsh laugh at that, but she knows it is not directed at her. “Home? What home did I have to lose? I left my home at 12, and had none since then. I left nothing behind, little bird, nothing except perhaps a regret that I couldn’t kill my brother. Home? In the time we’ve been here this has become more of a home than I’ve ever known.”

His gaze is warm upon her and Sansa understands everything that he doesn’t say. That she has made it into a home for him, that he has never had this before and perhaps had never hoped to. She is not his woman, not in the true sense, yet she is there for him to come home to, there to care for him and to care about him.

She could say many things in reply to his statement, she could perhaps say things that she’s been wishing to say for weeks now, but Sansa persists with her original question instead.

“But are you happy?” she asks him.

Have I made you happy? - Is what she truly wishes to ask.

He pauses to consider his answer, leans back in his chair slightly to look across the room towards her. She knows that there is much that he avoids saying too.

“Aye,” he finally replies. “Maybe I am.”

Sansa searches for something to say, for a way to let him know that she’s made her choice. In the end it all comes out jumbled, and she can only hope that he understands.

“It’s alright with me if this is forever,” she blurts out earnestly, “If this is what we do, for the rest of our lives. I don’t want the North, or a lordling, or anything else…”

“Pretty little liar,” he murmurs, but there is a spark of hope in his eyes as he says it and when she stands up from her chair and takes a hesitant step towards him, he is quick enough to rise from his own and cross to her, his hands quickly on her hips to pull her towards him, his mouth suddenly upon hers, forcing it open beneath his. He kisses her hungrily and his hands are hard upon her and she thinks that maybe he’s been starving for a taste of her for longer than she’s known.

It scares her a little, the force of his affections, but he crushes her to him then, holds her tightly in his arms and croons something into her hair, now hanging to below her shoulders. He threads his fingers through it, places his hands on either side of her head and leans his own forehead down to touch hers.

“Ask anything you want of me,” he rasps to her, his voice rough with emotion. “I’ll take you home if you wish it, kill every last one of those bastards who harmed your family, or die trying.”

“No,” she replies, shaking her head slightly where his rests against it. “What I want is for you to give me your cloak. What I want is for us to live.”

He breathes her in then, and it is life.

**

He insists on marrying her properly, won’t take her to his bed until he has.

“I’ve waited this buggering long for you, a while more won’t kill me.” he tells her, balancing her upon his knee while he nuzzles her neck.

“Did you hope, then?” she asks him, one hand upon his shoulder to balance herself, the other curled at his neck. “Did you hope that I would choose you?”

“Never.” he replies and she knows that it is the absolute truth.

She loves him all the more for it.

**

Sandor will not marry her in the Red Temple according to the tradition of Pentos’s fire god, and Sansa cannot blame him for it.

“If we’re to go back someday then I won’t have anyone calling you names, nor our children bastards.” he growls, and she agrees with him.

Here in Pentos it does not matter, everyone who knows them assumes that they were already married when they arrived. Yet if they should ever go back, if one day it should be possible…

And so Sandor requests the merchant he serves to be allowed to join one of his shipments of goods heading to the north, in order to provide protection. The approval is a simple matter, he is the merchant’s best swordsman after all and has served him loyally for a year, and so they prepare to head to Braavos. There is a Sept there, where they might marry according to Westerosi tradition, though Sansa wishes that there might have been a godswood as well.

It is a risky thing, if the marriage is to be recognized by Westerosi custom then they must use their real names and word of it could easily reach their enemies across the seas. Yet Sandor insists upon it and Sansa believes that he is right.

They have learned, several months too late, that Joffrey is dead and Lord Tywin too, and Sansa cannot help but hope that the Lannisters might have forgotten her, that her existence might no longer matter to them.

And so they make the journey north towards Braavos, two long weeks spent on the ship while Sandor supervises the men and organizes the watches, blessedly not seasick this time as they sail in the calmer waters near the coast.

It is a monotonous journey but it is a thousand times better than the others that they shared. Sansa sticks to her books and sewing during the day and waits for the evenings when Sandor will come to eat with her, afterwards settling himself on the other side of the cabin to sleep, his sword close at hand to defend her if need be. He might look at her with hungry eyes but he never touches her, sticking doggedly to his resolution to wait.

It is his own way of honouring her.

Sansa can’t help but think that he is the truest knight she has ever known.

She knows him well enough to never tell him that.

**

And so they arrive in Braavos, a city of canals and bridges, braavosi and whores. Sandor wastes no time, as soon as the shipment has been delivered to the warehouse he takes her by the hand, paying a boy to show them the way, and leads her to the city’s Sept.

The Septon is quickly roused, gold placed in his palm, and he agrees to marry them that very moment with two witnesses taken from the street.

Holding Sandor’s hands, looking into his eyes, Sansa does not hesitate to say the words.

“Until the end of my days.” she pledges at the end of her vows.

She hopes that they may be long indeed.

**

“I love you.” she tells him later, as they lie in the bed of the room they have rented, the headiness of first lovemaking now fading, a slight soreness replacing it. He had tried to be gentle with her, but when a man has been starving for years, it is difficult to restrain himself when he is presented with a feast. She knows that, she had expected it, had glimpsed the possibility of it behind all his restraint. There will be time yet to learn to take things slowly once he has realized that he shall never have to go hungry again.

He puts a large hand under her chin to tilt it to make her look up at him, into his eyes, and sees the truth of it there.

“I never…” he starts to say, his voice thick with emotion. “I never expected you to say that.”

He had never expected her to love him at all.

To marry him perhaps, in order to claim his protection, but not to love him. He had not expected it even as they stood in the Sept together today, she knows that now.

She thinks that in time he will grow used to hearing it, as she hopes that he may one day become accustomed to saying it.

She does not need to hear it from his lips, it has been a year at least now since she knew the truth of it.

For him though, the words are everything. Everything that he thought he could never have.

She tells him at least twenty times more before the sun rises.

**

It is the wedding that undoes them, word slowly making its way back to the Seven Kingdoms through ships’ captains and sellswords. It is almost two years more before they know it, when winter is upon them and Sansa is heavy with child, their first.

There is a knock at the door of their little house one evening and there stands a man who misses the fingers from one hand, who has come from across the oceans to find them. Though Davos Seaworth serves Stannis Baratheon, he promises that he is there at the behest of Lord Wyman Manderly instead - come to bring them home, to give the North back its Stark in Winterfell.

Sansa wants none of it, is prepared to deny him, to insist that she is happy with this life and that she never wishes to go back to Westeros again, when the man steps aside to reveal those who accompany him.

He brings with him a tall, proud woman dressed in homespun and a howling, biting, wild boy whom Sandor does not recognize, but as Sansa looks upon that small face she instinctively knows. It is not even necessary for her to see the direwolf that they have left caged on the ship.

“Rickon!” she shrieks, falls to her knees and throws her arms around him as he squirms and pushes and hits before he recognizes her and relaxes.

“Nobody ever came back.” Rickon tells her, far too serious for one so young. “They all left and they never came back, though they promised me they would. But you’ve come back to me now.”

“I won’t leave you again,” Sansa tells him, tears streaming down her cheeks. “We’ll go home together, Rickon, and we’ll see Jon, and maybe one day even Arya and Bran will come back too.”

She looks behind her, eyes locking onto her husband’s face and does not need to say anything at all. He had pledged once to give her the North if she wished it.

Now they will take it together.

**

It is many months later when they arrive back in Westeros, landing at Eastwatch by the Sea.

They had not left Pentos until Sansa’s babe was born, Sandor stubbornly refusing to do so lest it endanger both of their lives. He loves both her and the babe with a fierce passion and Sansa never doubts that he would do anything to protect them, knows it without needing him to say it. He speaks of love now as he had once spoken of keeping her safe, haltingly and unsure, and every word is precious to her.

They name their little boy Robb, after the brother whose life was too short and Sansa can only hope that her little one has a better future than his namesake, a happier one.

She stands on the dock at Eastwatch by the Sea, little Robb swaddled warmly and held in her arms and watches as her brother Jon strides towards them, his expression mixed with hope and grief. He is older now, as she is, scarred and undeniably grown into a man.

“Sansa,” he greets her and hugs her warmly, careful of the child in her arms.

“Jon,” she recognizes him in turn and returns the embrace, weeping a little as she does so.

Jon looks behind her to where her husband stands, little Rickon’s hand in his, Osha slightly behind them, and frowns. He looks back towards her, his features resolute as if he is preparing to do what is necessary, no matter what the cost.

Sansa knows in that moment that if she wished it, her brother would do anything to overturn her marriage, to see her free of it.

“I had heard…” Jon starts to say, “Sansa, tell me now, did he give you any choice?”

And Sansa thinks back to that long ago flight, to their time in the forest, the deaths of her mother and Robb, their journey across the sea and time in Essos. She thinks of all the things she never said in that time, and all of those she did and what she might tell Jon now. In the end she knows what the truth is, has known it for years.

Did he give you any choice? Her brother asks her.

She takes Jon’s hand, looks up into his face, not so open now as it once was, and gives him her reply.

“Always.”
 
 
onborrowedwings
17 March 2013 @ 06:50 pm
Title: When We Were Young 8/9?
Fandom: A Song of Ice and Fire
Pairing: Sansa/Sandor
Word Count: 4280
Disclaimer: Everything belongs to GRRM
A/N: A massive, massive thanks to Kimberlite8 for all of her beta'ing help with this! A huge thank you to everybody who reviews as well, I'm sorry this one took a little longer! Also, a bit of an increase in rating for this part.


Chapter Seven

It is still early when they make their way to the nearest Cathedral, where Sansa lights a candle in front of a statue of Mary, kneeling with her hands clasped as she whispers her prayers. Sandor says no prayers himself, even after all his time with the Brothers he still cant bring himself to place his trust in any higher power, though he hopes the action might bring Sansa a measure of peace.

Her worship done, they check out of the hotel and head for the airport.

They havent bought tickets in advance, not wanting to tip anyone off to their movements in case they were being watched. Sandor supposes that that tactic is useless as far as the Spider is concerned but if theres anyone else on their trail then he hopes that it throws them off.

They line up at one of the airline counters outside for tickets, a backpack across each of their shoulders, and he reaches out to wrap his arm around her waist, pulling her closer to him.

It is an act, meant to help them blend into the crowd, and yet he wonders if he might have done it anyway. He has grown used to touching her over the past week, grown used to being touched. There is no way to define what there is between them, but when she rests her head against his arm and begins to hum under her breath, he feels like it is not such a lie after all.

The flight takes around five hours and Sandor can feel the nervousness in Sansa as she sits beside him, tapping her fingers against the arm rest. Her face never betrays her, always calm, but he can read her moods and she’s on edge and working hard to hide it.

“Sure you want the little brat back? Caused me plenty of trouble last time I saw her, doubt she’s improved any since then.”

Sansa stares at him for a moment, then realizing that he’s joking, she cracks a small smile.

“Arya is my sister, and that is all that matters.” Sansa tells him, “I don’t know what she’ll be like now or how we might fit together anymore but I won’t let her go again. We’re the last ones left now, except for Jon, and it’s better for him that he remains well away from us. Whatever it takes, I’ll get her back.”

She is grimly determined and Sandor does not doubt that Sansa really will do whatever it takes, whether she must lie, steal, or kill, to have her little sister back again.

They step out of the airport and make their way through the crowds, towards the taxi touts who already call out to them asking where they want to go. Sandor keeps a tight hold on Sansa’s hand as they move, wanting to keep her near in this new place where it seems as if their enemies must be much closer. Sansa stands close to him, gripping his fingers back and Sandor can see her scanning the crowd, observing the way that people act and move.

Choosing a taxi driver at random, one of the less persistent of the bunch, they climb in and Sansa explains to the driver in Spanish where they want to go. Her tone is polite and sweet and Sandor listens though he doesn’t really understand, watches the driver’s expressions and hears him respond eagerly to her questions. She is good at this, at asking the right questions and drawing people out.

They will first head to see one of Elder Brother’s friends, an old priest who has apparently seen his share of conflict and drug wars, who is street smart enough to know what they’ll need and how to get it. Sandor hopes that first of all the man will know where to get them some guns.

The Father is an old man, white of hair but still with some strength left in him, his posture proud. He greets them both in heavily accented English and invites them inside his small house, right next to the local Church. They sit down at his kitchen table, staring across it at each other as they sip on the cups of coffee he has made them.

“I’ve been expecting you,” the old priest tells them, and Sandor simply nods while Sansa thanks him sweetly for her help.

“I heard you’ve come to find a girl,” the priest continues, his eyes sharp and missing nothing as he looks across at them.

“My sister,” Sansa tells him, “lost almost four years ago.”

“When I heard you were coming, I asked around about her, about a young girl who came here two years ago to learn the trade. She’s here alright, in the hills, but you won’t get to her so easily.”

“You’ve found out about her?” Sansa exclaims, a desperate hope in her voice, and she reaches across the table to touch his hand. “Please, tell me what you know. Where is she? What has she been doing all this time?”

The old man’s expression grows serious as he begins to tell them, regret clear in his voice. “They call her the she-wolf. The girl assassin who carries a vendetta against drug lords and kingpins, she operates like a ghost in the night. They say she came down here to learn how to kill and learn she did.”

“Oh Arya…” Sansa murmurs and Sandor sees her hand tremble where she rests it on the table, knows that she is once again thinking of all the mistakes she made, long ago.

“We’ll get her back, come what may.” He rasps, reaches out to grab her hand in his and she tightens her grip to the point where it is almost uncomfortable. “We’ll need tools for that though, you know where I can find what I need, Father?”

The old man gives them a sorrowful smile, “I’ll take you to a man. I knew you’d be needing equipment as soon as I got the call - I might be a priest now but when I was younger, I too, used to be a different man.”

**

They visit a gun seller in the backstreets of a downmarket neighbourhood, a shutter rolled up to let them in and then hastily put back down. The deal is conducted quickly, the Father explaining their requirements in Spanish to the arms dealer before Sandor chooses a .357 magnum and a Glock .38 for himself and a hunting knife in a sheath that might be strapped to his thigh. He chooses a gun for Sansa then, one light enough for her to be able to use easily and hands it to her, telling her to check the weight.

She stares down at it in her hands and he thinks that perhaps she is wondering if she really will be able to use it, if she’ll be able to pull the trigger when the time comes. Then her expression hardens and gripping it properly she holds it up, aims at the wall, squinting slightly as if lining up her target.

“This will do,” she tells Sandor, handing it back to him.

He hopes she’s right.

**

They are to stay in a safe house, a property owned by a friend of the Father, which he’s used on other occasions to hide people away when it was needed.

“I hope we don’t bring you to any harm,” Sansa says worriedly, “There may be people after us, we may make more enemies when we take my sister back.”

The Father laughs at that, his eyes sparkling. “I’ve lived through left wing militias and right wing paramilitaries, through drug lords and government crackdowns. Your brief time here will not be the end of me.”

And so they thank him, unable to do anything else. Night is falling and they’re preparing to travel across town to where they’ll spend the night when there is a knock at the door, unexpected to all of them.

The Father opens the door to a young man, ordinary to look at, who would not stand out in a crowd.

“The Spider sent me.” He tells them, and Sansa goes still, staring at the young man, while Sandor merely nods.

“Come in then, and say what you have to,” Sandor rasps, but the man shakes his head and remains where he stands.

“I’ll pick you up from here tomorrow, be ready by 8am. There’s a long journey ahead and we need to make an early start.”

“Who are you?” Sansa asks him then, her face a mask once more, devoid of any emotion.

“You don’t need to know that,” the man replies. “I would’ve thought you’d understand the way things work by now. We all do our part, do what we’re told. You do as I tell you and we’ll all get out of this alive and get the girl away too.”

A meaningful nod at all of them and he is gone, quickly walking away and into the evening dusk as Sansa stares after him.

“Don’t worry, little bird. If he meant to kill us then he could do so here easily enough without needing to lure us into the hills.”

“Perhaps they only need us to die in the right place.” Sansa comments, still staring off into the gloom.

He wishes that he could reassure her, but this is wholly unfamiliar territory for him and they’ll only know for certain once they’ve seen her sister with their own eyes. What will happen after that… that all depends on how things go down.

What he does know is that tomorrow they’ll be heading off into the hills with a man the Spider has sent, very possibly towards betrayal or failure or death.

What he does know, is that he’d promised himself he’d never allow anyone to harm Sansa Stark again.

One of the only promises that he’s ever made and he doesn’t intend to break it.


**

The safe house is the top floor of an industrial building in a working class neighbourhood; reinforced doors, bulletproof windows and a state of the art alarm system installed.

The old priest drops them off and teaches them the codes to the alarms before he leaves, telling them that he’ll come to get them in the morning.

Sansa looks around her, at the six beds set out in the room for the use of larger groups than theirs, at the spare mattresses piled against the wall.

Sandor walks the perimeter of the safe house, noting exits and items that can be used as weapons, strong and weak points to the defenses before he turns back to look at her, sitting quietly on one of the beds and staring at the wall.

“Looks safe,” he rasps and she jerks out of her reverie, turns towards him. “We’ll be alright here for the night.”

“We might die tomorrow.” She replies quietly, looking over at him with an expression that he can’t decipher. He can tell that her mask is firmly in place at the moment, her emotions closed off from him once more.

“We might,” he acknowledges, “but we might not too. Best get some sleep since we’ve got an early start, need to have our wits about us.”

Sansa continues looking at him as if waiting for something, some acknowledgement, some revelation, but she never says a word. She looks at him in such a way that heat begins to rise within him and Sandor finds his patience sorely stretched, fights the urge to cross the room and kiss her hard, let her know how he really feels about the fact they might die tomorrow.

But until she makes her own wishes on the subject clear he’ll keep his distance, as well as he’s able.

“What is it?” he asks, wishing that for once she would just speak what was really on her mind, that she would trust him enough to completely drop the mask.

“Nothing,” Sansa murmurs and looks away. “We’ll get some sleep and be ready for the morning.”

Somehow Sandor is sure that that won’t be the end of it.

**

For the first time since they left New Mexico they sleep separately, with so many beds in the room and smaller than they’re used to, there is no excuse for them to share one -  no pretense of marriage that they must keep up here.

Exiting the bathroom dressed in her sleepwear and with a towel in her hand, Sansa looks at the bed that Sandor has chosen for himself, looks at it and seems about to move towards it before she changes her mind. She chooses the one next to him instead, lies down upon it and waits for him to switch out the light.

“I won’t tell you it’ll all turn out alright, little bird,” he tells her as they lie in the dark in their own beds, “Because I won’t lie to you and we both know it could easily go to hell. But I’ll do my best to make sure we all get out of there alive. You keep your gun close to hand and if it comes down to it then you run, you save yourself.”

“I’m done with running.” Sansa replies softly, her voice drifting over from across the space between them. “I wouldn’t… I wouldn’t leave you there.”

It’s a foolish notion, to think she’d stay and fight to the end with him if it came down to it, but it warms him all the same.

“Sleep,” he tells her, “And maybe we’ll see your sister tomorrow.”

The rhythmic clack of the fan overhead soon lulls him to sleep but he doubts that it has been much time at all when he awakens suddenly, aware of some movement nearby and reaches out, his hand meeting flesh.

She has crawled into his bed wearing only a thin t-shirt and her underwear and god help him but he hardens instantly. She kneels beside where he lies, her bare legs brushing against his and leans towards him, bringing her face closer.

The room is dark and he can't see her features but she reaches out to touch his, placing her hands on both sides of his face.

"We might die tomorrow. We might die and this will all have been for nothing. Why haven't you taken me?" She whispers, "I'm yours, I promised, I... Why won't you? Do you truly not want me anymore? Am I Do I disgust you so much now by what Ive become?"

He's never been a saint and asking him to resist this much temptation is asking entirely too much.

She might be broken, so damaged that he has no idea how to put her together again, but fuck him if he doesn't think they understand each other better now than they ever did before. Hes barely held on to his self-control since he found her again and its finally reached its breaking point.

Grasping her arms he flips her over so that he's on top of her. Pins her wrists and leans down to kiss her hard, finds her lips soft and yielding and eager beneath his. She kisses him as if he's air itself.

"I've never fucking well stopped wanting you," he growls, "I've never wanted you more."

This time it is she who arches up to press her mouth to his. Gasps as a hand finds a breast, presses herself against him and begins to tug his shirt off.

"I wanted..." she whispers, "I wanted..."

He kisses her words away. Briefly disengages to shrug himself out of his shirt as she pulls her own over her head, struggling briefly as it catches on her hair until he reaches out to pull it loose. He allows his hands to caress her hips for a moment before he hooks his fingers into the string of her panties, pulling them down effortlessly as she lifts her legs to help him. Only his own pants now remain and those are disposed of quickly enough.

His eyes have adjusted to the dark and naked under him, she is beautiful in the moonlight. He wonders if he is less of a beast in the dark. Wonders if he might steal some of that beauty for himself.

She is beautiful and soft in his embrace and his for the first time, perhaps for the last time, so he forces himself to be gentle no matter how badly he is aching. He caresses her, his hands moving over her breasts and down to her hips, lower, seeking to find ways that he might give her pleasure.

She is hesitant when she touches him, fingers skimming along his length then shyly grasping. Is it is it alright? She asks him. He would almost believe that she didnt know what she was doing.

He kisses her fiercely in reply, almost loses his control when she respond to him so eagerly, hangs onto it by the barest thread and turns his mouth towards the rest of her body.

Every gasp and moan from her is counted as a victory, the sweetest sounds hes ever heard.

He touches her, running his fingers slowly up her thighs and to her folds, stroking her slowly before he moves up to her clit, rubbing it. He can feel how wet she already is, the moisture trickling down her thighs and to the curve of her ass.

The bed creaks as he shifts over her and he grunts, barely able to restrain himself from taking her quickly when theyre so close now. He should do more to make her ready but shes dripping already and welcoming and if he waits much longer then hell be done before hes even begun. Rubbing himself against her to spread some of her moisture, he guides the head of his cock into place and pushes slowly into her.

Sansa stifles a short, panicked cry even as Sandor feels the resistance, and he stops, knowing instantly what it means. He had thought

He groans, his entire body taut and straining, the too tight glove of her body testing his control. He desperately wants to push himself further into her but he fights against it, not wanting to hurt her further. Sansa, fuck, why didnt you tell me?

She looks straight into his eyes, a glimmer in hers, and brings a hand up to cup his scarred cheek. "Because I wanted it to be you." She tells him, a slight hitch in her voice.

Well shit. Fuck. He moves to withdraw but she grabs onto him tightly, bucks her hips up to bring him in even deeper despite a visible flinch.

He tries to speak, but she kisses him hard, silences him with it and draws him closer so that he moves within her instead, as slowly as possible so as to spare her the pain. He feels her gasp into his mouth, feels her body tremble under his.

She pulls him against her, burying her nose against his shoulder blade, her hand on his ass, urging him to move against her. His hips pump, sweat slicking both their bodies.  It has been too long for him and he thinks it best not to prolong it this first time when it must hurt her. He pulls himself out just in time, a deep guttural cry rumbling from his throat as his body spasms, his cock pulsing. He collapses onto her, panting and gripping her tightly.

It has been years since he’s been with a woman, years since he’d wanted to since the time all he could think of was her. He’d forgotten how it could feel, had blocked it out, though he knows that he never truly knew how it could feel before, not like this.

She is soft under him and her hands are warm upon his back but he rolls off her, raises himself and turns on the light, sees her flinch away from it.

“You never said.” He tells her pointedly, sitting down on the bed beside her where she’s drawn herself up, hugging her knees as if to hide her nakedness.

It’s past time that they finally lay some truths bare before each other now that they’ve come to this point. A possibility of dying in the morning and he won’t let it end that way without speaking his piece.

“I never said what?” She asks him, her voice quiet. “That I… I…”

“That you wanted me.” He interrupts her softly stuttered words. “You offered yourself to me that first night like some fucking prize to be won, a reward. You’re not that. Never, ever fucking think that you’re that. I’m not that man either. If you would’ve told me that you wanted me even once, I’d have fucked you the same night.”

“I didn’t…” Sansa begins to say and then looks down, tears building in her eyes. “I didn’t think…”

“Didn’t think what? Didn’t think I’d stick around if there wasn’t something in it for me? Didn’t think you were worth more to me than a quick screw? For fuck’s sake, Sansa, why do you think I came back for you? The world isn’t all men like Littlefinger and the Lannisters. You’ve learned some hard lessons but you don’t need to apply them to everyone.” He stops, breathing heavily and looks at her, at the tears pooled in her eyes and wonders if he’s been too harsh. But she needs to hear this, needs to see that she can let go, leave that time behind and reclaim herself once more.

He leans forward, uncaring of his nakedness, and tilts her chin up with his fingers. “I’d fucking well die for you, little bird, and you know that. You want me, then you damn well say it or I won’t touch you again. You tell me the truth from now on and you look me in the face while you do so.”

She nods once, tears spilling down her cheeks and he kisses her, kisses her hard to leave her in no doubt whatsoever as to the way he feels and brings his hands to her cheeks to wipe the tears roughly away.

“Let’s get cleaned up.” He tells her, standing and reaching out a hand to help her up. She places her own in his, her expression a little shy, and allows him to lead her to the bathroom. He takes her into the shower and helps her to wash as she blushes, not quite sure where to look. She’s a different girl entirely in the light, all of her recent daring having left her. He’s tempted by her, wants nothing more than to press her against the tiles and fuck her again here and now, but he keeps it as chaste as possible, helps her to dry herself with a towel and then leads her back to the bed.

They sleep afterwards, in the same bed this time and with his arms wrapped around her, no clothes between them. He sleeps better than he has in years, sleeps without either dream or nightmare and wakes only when dawn’s light is already breaking through the windows, the room bathed in a low light and Sansa’s soft hand placed above his heart.

Sensing that he has awoken, she raises herself so that she might look him straight in the face.

“I do want you.” She tells him earnestly, once she knows that he is listening. “I thought of you later, after you had left, and in the years afterwards. I thought of you and I wished that you would come back to me. I wanted you then, when I had realized the truth of it.”

It is the first time that she has admitted it to his face and in the light of day, and Sandor cannot help staring at her to hear it said, knowing that they have crossed an important point, perhaps even more important than the night before.

He draws her down into a kiss, allows his hands to roam upon her, to caress the soft skin of her back, their kisses soon becoming more heated. He’s determined to do right by her, to give her whatever he can in return for the trust she’s placed in him. So he draws her down and dips his head to bring it between her thighs, ensuring that she has her pleasure first. She shudders against him, her hands in his hair, wriggling under him as if embarrassed and gasping, breathing erratically. When she comes it is with a small cry, almost as if surprised, her body shuddering, and he finally raises himself, brings them level and enters her, sliding in easily. Her legs clamp around his back, his mouth locks upon the junction of her throat and shoulder. He takes it slowly, an agonizingly sweet pressure building up as he promises himself that this time he won’t finish so soon, that he’ll show her what he’s made of, how he might worship her if it’s truly what she wants.

She moans under him as he buries himself in deeper and Sandor bites down upon her shoulder lightly, teeth grazing skin but not breaking it, marking her in some way as his. Her body sings under his and this, this is what he wanted, this is what he had waited for.

“Sansa,” he murmurs, burying his head between her slight breasts as she brings a hand up to grasp the hair at the back of his neck.

They very well might die today, he knows that, but at least they’ve had a taste of truth before they do.
 
 
onborrowedwings
16 March 2013 @ 07:32 pm

I might be a little slow with my next update :( Apparently high pressure workloads and creativity don't go too well together!

I'll be back on track again soon but doing overtime on Saturday this week somewhat slowed me down!

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.

Tags:
 
 
Current Location: India
 
 
onborrowedwings
14 March 2013 @ 10:21 pm
Title: Targaeryan, they call him.
Fandom: ASOIAF
Words: 2855
Summary: Jon, after the war.
A/N: I'm meant to be writing other things, but this popped into my head and refused to leave. Jon, for once, and what might be for him one day. It's a well accepted concept in the fandom that he's Lyanna and Rhaegar's child, and that one day he might rule the Seven Kingdoms as either the heir or Danaerys's consort. But what if that was never what Jon wanted?

**



Targaryen, they call him now.



As much as Jon had always longed for a father’s name, to shed the one that marked him as a bastard, he finds now that he would prefer to have never been granted his wish.



Targaryen, they call him now, when all he’d ever wanted to be was a Stark.



They call him other things too, Azor Ahai reborn, the savior of mankind. Jon wants none of that either.



He would give anything to hear Ygritte say just one more time, “You know nothing, Jon Snow,” rather than to have people hanging on his every word, agreeing to everything that he says. She had been right, at that time he really hadn't known anything and he wishes that he'd never learned.



Jon longs to be back on the Wall again, surrounded by his Brothers, where he at least felt as if he belonged, where he had earned his place.



But there is no Wall anymore, only a skeleton of it that is being slowly rebuilt, and no need for it either. No vows to uphold when the ancient enemy has finally been defeated. No more watch to keep. No more need to freeze in the northern wilds, huddled in his furs.



They give him only silks here in King’s Landing, and he asks for them all to be dyed black even as his aunt frowns at it, as if somehow it shows that he is ungrateful.



He is ungrateful. He never asked for this, never wanted it, doesn’t want it now.



It wasn’t King’s Landing that he dreamed of on cold nights up North, his breath frosting in the air while he listened to his trueborn brothers’ soft snores.



It was Winterfell. Always Winterfell.



He hadn’t dreamed of being the Lord, not really. Only a child’s foolish dreams, which went away quickly along with his childhood. Bastards grow up faster than other children after all. No, what he’d dreamed of was of being asked to sit at the high table when guests came to visit, of being master of a small holdfast, of being his brother’s loyal bannerman.



What he’d dreamed of was belonging, of being a member of the pack, of being a Stark.



They’ve made him into a Targaryen instead.



The war is over and his little brother Rickon sits on Winterfell’s High Seat now, no more than a child, a wildling who cannot be controlled by all accounts. Rickon’s advisors and protectors send Jon ravens with messages of despair, asking what might be done to tame the boy.


Jon counsels patience and understanding and wishes he might be there instead of them. He would understand his little brother, he who has seen so much of the wild and of despair himself.



Of his sisters there has been no news. Jon is grateful that at least the story of Arya being married to Ramsey Bolton was a lie, he likes to think that perhaps she and Sansa have both survived, and will one day make their way back.



Bran has not returned, and perhaps never will. Jon knows that he is beyond the Wall, but not precisely where. He dreams sometimes, of a three eyed crow, of a tree with Bran’s face. He dreams and knows that his brother has chosen another path, has found his own place to belong. When he ventures to the godswood in King’s Landing the leaves rustle above him and he seems to hear Bran’s voice in them.



The godswood is the only place in King’s Landing that Ghost actually likes, the only place that he feels at home. The direwolf is as much out of place in the South as Jon himself is, regarded with almost universal fear by those who reside in the castle despite his role in saving them all. Jon considers freeing Ghost, sending back up North to Winterfell where he might be with his brother, Shaggy. Yet he cannot make himself let go of this last connection, this last friend, this last proof that he is of the North; that the symbol of House Stark answers to his call.



His aunt, Daenerys, mother of dragons, does not understand his reluctance to rule. All of her life she had longed for Westeros, for home, for justice, and to reclaim the throne of her ancestors. To her, being a Targaryen is the greatest honour that anybody could wish for. She is younger to him by a year yet chides him like an elder, speaking of his importance to the realm.



Jon knows what role he is destined for, that of consort. It may be common to Targaeryans, but his Stark blood rebels at it, at the very idea of wedding his aunt. She is lovely but he… he is not the man she wishes him to be.



Jon chafes at the expectations placed on him, he chafes even in all his fine silks now that Summer has arrived in King’s Landing. He avoids official duties and the eyes upon him as often as he may, choosing to ride out with Ghost whenever he can, into the Kingswood where the direwolf may hunt.



Yet there is no true escape now for Jon, because after all he has been named a Targaryen, with all the responsibility that comes with it.



When a note mysteriously arrives in his quarters, asking him to venture out to the Godswood the next day for a meeting, he does not hesitate.

Let it bring danger or let it bring death, let it bring anything other than this existence he currently leads.



He takes Ghost and rides out at the appointed hour, wondering how he will find the sender of the note in the expanses of the forest. Yet he does not need to - Ghost, catching a scent, follows it eagerly – bounding ahead and leaving Jon helpless to do anything but follow.



He reaches a clearing where the direwolf stands - facing three strangers but completely at ease, displaying no sign of wariness. It is only when one of the party lowers their hood that Jon finally understands.



“Sansa,” he whispers, barely able to believe it, and dismounts from his horse, quickly striding towards her. She is older, her face more lined with sorrow than he remembers and her hair dyed brown, strands of red only now starting to peek through.



“Jon,” Sansa answers joyfully and then takes a step towards him before she turns back to those who wait and reaches out a hand to the smallest member of the party, beckoning them forward.



“It’s Jon, Arya. See, your big brother. Our family.” The smaller girl reaches up to pull down her own hood and Jon lets out a mangled cry of amazement because it really is his little sister, Arya, whose hair he used to muss, whose sentences he used to finish.



“Jon,” Arya murmurs, looking towards him with a strangely blank expression, only a slight spark in her eyes. “A girl used to know a boy named Jon, he used to be her brother.”



Jon stares, unsure of what his little sister means, of what has happened to her, but behind Arya and above her head, Sansa gives a reassuring nod.



“That is right, Arya.” she tells their younger sister, “You did used to know Jon, and he is still your brother even now.”



“Sansa…” Jon starts to say, lost and unsure and just wanting to embrace both of them now that they are back with him. “Sansa, what happened to the two of you? Where were you all this time?”



Sansa glances at Arya, and then behind her to the only figure who still wears a hood, a massive form that towers over all of them.

“Could you please look after Arya for a moment?” she requests softly, “I would speak with Jon.”



“As you wish, little bird.” the large hooded man rasps, stepping forward to place a hand on Arya’s shoulder and leading her away, Sansa watching them go until they are at a safe distance.



“Oh Jon,” she sighs then, “There is so much to tell you and so little time. We have all been parted for far too long and in that time I fear that Arya has seen the worst of it, so much of death and suffering that she chose to give up herself to survive it. But you, Jon, I believe that you can bring her back. Of all of us, she always loved you the most.”



“I’ll do anything I can to help Arya,” Jon pledges earnestly, reaching out for Sansa’s hand. “Come back with me to the Red Keep, whatever she needs…”



Sansa shakes her head then, vehemently. “Not the Red Keep. Never. None us will ever go back there. It is... there is too much... None of us will do well in that place and it will not help Arya to heal. Starks do not belong here in the South. Nothing good has ever come of it for any of us. You need to come North with us, Jon, we need to take her home.”



"North..." Jon breathes, almost able to feel the embrace of the cold against his face at the very idea of it. Yet he forces himself to dismiss the idea, to put it aside even as his heart breaks. "Sansa, I can't... I have responsibilities here, I can't just leave."



"Not even for your most beloved sister?" Sansa asks him, her eyes flashing. "You were her favourite brother, Jon. If anyone can bring her back then you can. The only other brother we have left now is Rickon, and he is just a child."



Jon shakes his head sadly, looking behind Sansa to where Arya stands with the large hooded man.



"But I'm not her brother, nor yours, not truly." he reminds Sansa. "Lord Eddard was never my father, he only claimed me in order to keep me safe because he promised my mother he would."



Never his son, never. All those years of hoping, of wanting to make his father proud, of honouring his memory, and they took that from him too.



"I am a Targaryen now, and I am expected to be here."



"And do you feel a Targaryen?" Sansa asks him, her eyes flashing with anger. "Is it Fire and Blood that you now claim, or when you think of your words, is it Winter that you first remember?"



"I... It is not that simple, Sansa."



"Nothing ever is." Sansa tells him matter of factly. "But I tell you now, Jon, that no matter what names we might be called by, we are all Starks, and we belong in the North."



"You don't understand, Sansa, I was a bastard my entire life and then they made me into a Targaryen..."



"And they made me into a Lannister!" Sansa bites back, anger dripping from every word. "Do you think that I accepted it, even for a moment? And when I escaped from that, they made me into a bastard instead, but even that didn't change who I was. I knew it, deep inside, always. After all the names we have had, it is important to know which is real. You are not a Targaryen, Jon, not in your heart. You are a Stark, as we are."



She stops, nods at Ghost where he sits at Jon's side. "It is a direwolf that sits at your side even now, Jon, and not a dragon. Your father might have been a Targaryen but it is your mother's blood which runs more strongly through your veins, and no matter who sired you, it was Eddard Stark who raised you, who loved you as deeply as he did any trueborn son of his."



She stops, breathing in deeply to calm herself and looks over at Arya then. "There is your sister, Jon, and after everything that was done to her, she has forgotten even her own name. Will you not help her remember? Will you not stand by us, will you not take your place as our brother?"



Jon thinks of his aunt, lovely but distant, and unable to understand his reluctance to take what she sees as his birthright. He thinks of the Red Keep and the way that Ghost paces within its walls, caged just as he is. He thinks of all his silks, dyed black in an effort to make him feel more at home.



No matter what name they have given him, he will never truly feel like a Targaryen, he does not wish to either.



It is the blood of the First Men that runs through his veins, the blood of his willful mother in whom the wolf was too strong.



Jon knows which words come to his mind most readily, and it is not Fire and Blood that he lives by.



Jon knows what he truly is, has always known, even as they tried to convince him otherwise.



"We will leave in the morning." He tells Sansa, and she smiles, her eyes filling with tears, for she knows that he has finally chosen his name.



She laughs and throws her arms around him, hugging him tightly and Jon hugs her back before crossing to Arya, laying a hand upon her shoulder.



"We're going home, little sister." He tells her, and reaches out to muss her hair.



"Home." Arya murmurs, as if she's forgotten the meaning of the word.



"About buggering time too, the sooner we're away from here the better." his sisters' large companion rasps, finally pulling down his own hood, and Jon stares.



"And how is it that you are with my sisters?" he asks Sandor Clegane, scarcely able to believe his eyes, his hand going to the hilt of his sword. It has been years since he saw the man at Winterfell, years since he heard he was dead, and Jon cannot think of a single reason why he might be with Sansa and Arya, here and now.



"We will leave that story for another day." Sansa breaks in, placing her hand on top of Jon’s where it sits on his sword hilt to stop him. "For now all you need to know is that he has been a true ally in our time of need, and that he will be going with us."



Clegane glances briefly at her as she says it, and there is something painful in his gaze before he looks away. Ygritte might have always delighted in telling Jon that he knew nothing, but he thinks he understands now, well enough.



Daenerys is another matter, she was not raised for understanding and the mother of dragons does not like to be told no. They argue over it until the small hours of the morning, as Jon strives to convince her that in Winterfell he might be her Warden of the North, at least until his brother is old enough to truly inherit the title.



She is not convinced, is unhappy, might never forgive him for it, but he will still be leaving in the morning.



Jon is both Stark and Targaryen after all, even if he only wishes to claim one of those names. He has both fire and ice running through his blood and a strength of will that is difficult to match.



And so the next morning he joins his sisters and their strange companion where he had left them the night before, Ghost padding alongside his horse, stepping forward to sniff at the girls and their large companion before he returns to Jon.



“Let’s go home.” Jon tells them, a small smile on his face as he says it.



“Home.” Arya says, and then in a whisper. “Winterfell.”



Targaryen, they might call him now, but as he travels North, he is simply Jon, a beloved brother found again after many years, reunited with his blood. With every mile that they cross he begins to feel more himself.



Sansa tells him her stories slowly as they travel North, unraveling them like threads for him to follow. Arya is silent but Jon notices the way she holds the sword he gave her, as if it is the most previous thing in the entire world. She looks at him sometimes as if she recognizes him, recites memories sometimes as if they are not actually her own but something she has merely witnessed.



They reach the Trident and make camp for the night, Arya sitting silently by the fire while Sansa and Sandor Clegane see to the horses, speaking in low voices to one another. It is then that Ghost suddenly stands up, intent upon the shadows.



“What is it, Ghost?” Jon asks him, hoping that there is no trouble, but the direwolf is still, waiting.



It is a moment later that Arya stands, takes a step forward, even as a massive shape appears on the very edge of the light.



“Nymeria.” Arya says, and there is a light in her eyes that Jon has not seen since the time they met again.



The direwolf steps forward, padding towards Arya softly even as his little sister puts her hand out, touching it hesitatingly to the large muzzle. Sansa and Sandor Clegane turn towards the sight, wonder in Sansa’s eyes, the larger man’s hand upon her shoulder.



“Nymeria,” Arya says again, then throws her arms around the direwolf’s neck and begins to sob.



Jon knows then, that it will all truly be alright. That they are all of them on the way to reclaiming their true selves.



Targaryen, they call him in King’s Landing.



Jon knows that whatever name he might be called by, he always has been and will always be a Stark.



And he is going home.

 
 
 
onborrowedwings
09 March 2013 @ 06:30 pm
Title: When We Were Young 7/9?
Fandom: A Song of Ice and Fire
Pairing: Sansa/Sandor
Word Count: 3269
Disclaimer: Everything belongs to GRRM
A/N: A huge thank you to everyone who has reviewed and let me know that they're enjoying this, it genuinely does mean a lot to me! A very special thanks to Kimberlite8 for all of her help with this!

Chapter Six

Their remaining four days in Mexico City pass in a haze.

By day they see the sights and Sandor finds himself dividing his time between watching out for danger and watching her. She affects a lightheartedness when they are out in public, smiling and exclaiming excitedly over anything new. He watches her practice her Spanish, rusty yet growing more confident with every day, watches as she wins over the locals with her smiles. Despite her act, he can feel the tension in her as she holds onto his arm and knows that the thought of where theyre going and what they hope to do is never far from her mind. And so he watches her, observes the duality that has been created in her, the masks she has made to protect herself.

She plays a role for the world to see but there are still hints there to the girl she truly is. Her pleasure in the new things that they see and do is real, even if her reactions are purposely schooled. Her reluctance to let go of him or to have him out of her sight when they are in public is all too true. She has had so long without trust or friendship that now that she has it again she fears losing it, fears losing him. He knows that she would have survived on her own even if he hadnt found her, perhaps even flourished. Yet the stakes are higher now, now that she once again has something to lose.

Their nights take on a certain pattern, every night beginning the same way, the lights switched off with each of them on their own side of the bed. Yet rather than sleeping he allows his breathing to slow and waits, waits for her to begin to speak. It is a nightly ritual now, and he has grown used to it, to the things that she cannot say to his face under the light of day. He thinks that perhaps after so long with nobody to trust, able only to whisper her secrets to the silences and the dark when she was alone, that Sansa has lost the confidence to speak the truth to anybody but herself.

She whispers her thoughts to him as he pretends to sleep and he treasures them all, stores them deep within himself to keep them safe. Most often he does not reply when she speaks about her time with the Lannisters or Littlefinger, not knowing whether she wants the illusion to be broken. But he holds her, always, mostly because he can and partly because he hopes that it might bring a measure of comfort to her, to know that she is not alone. He has grown accustomed to her curling into him as the night wears on, her hands light upon him but clenching his shirt tightly, her head tucked in underneath his chin. It may take years for her to build up her confidence again, to feel safe enough to completely let her guard down around him, but in these moments she allows herself to.

It may take years, but five days since they left their own country and already he sees the difference. There are moments now, entire hours sometimes, when Sansa allows her true self to shine through. A gentle, timid smile. A hesitant laugh. An agitation when she speaks of her sister and their reunion.

It is a strange thing that far away from what should have been their home and in a land where they are strangers, they find themselves more comfortable. Perhaps it is because in this place they know themselves to be outsiders and are comfortable with the bare truth of it, no pretense of belonging needed. Sandor has found that here there is less revulsion when people notice his face. Old women may make the sign of the cross when they see him, but the young men tend to look at him with a kind of awe. He wonders if perhaps after theyve found Arya they might stay, make a life for themselves somewhere south of the border, far away from all those who ever hurt her. He is not certain what it is that Sansa wants though, is not certain that she knows it herself.

Do you think that Arya will know me now? Sansa asks him, the day before they are due to leave for Colombia. It has been four years since we saw each other. Shes eighteen now, and I Ive aged too. With my hair like this, and what if she doesnt know me? What if I dont recognize her?

Sandor shrugs, and takes a bite of his lunch as he considers his answer. Youll have a whole lifetime to get to know each other again, little bird. Whatever else, shell recognise my ugly face at least. Youll know each other, shes kin and blood calls to blood.

Sansa nods and returns her attention to her own food but he notices that she barely eats, pushing her meal around the plate.

We left each other on bad terms, Sansa finally continues, looking up at him and briefly catching his eye before she looks away. What if she doesnt want to see me? What if she blames me for…” She looks down, down to her hands, clenching cutlery far too tightly.

Hey. He says loudly, says it again until she finally looks up at him, not quite meeting his gaze. You were seventeen when your father died, seventeen and knew far too little about the world and the bastards who inhabited it. Your father got in over his head, didnt understand the game that was being played until far too late and still thought he could win at it. None of it was your fault, not a bit of it. Youre older now, so is she. Weve all done things that were not proud of, shell have a few of her own by now in addition to your list. You cant live bound by the past, Sansa. Move on and leave it behind where it belongs.

They’ve both had their dark times, she and him, and he would bet that her younger sister has too. Sandor has learned his share of proverbs during his time with the Brothers - let he who hasn’t sinned cast the first stone. Sansa shouldn’t worry too much, in the end if the brat wants to cast stones she’ll probably be throwing them at him.

Sansa nods and he wonders whether shes accepted his advice or is only doing so to appease him. She might think that she has sins to atone for, but theyll never be anything compared to his. Of all the sins that he regrets most, its those against her that he cant let go of, even years later.

He hadnt been that young a man when hed come to her on a night when the world was on fire. Twenty seven years old and he should have known better. His whole life until that point hed been treated like a dog, kicked one too many times and hed known nothing of how to be kind. Hed take that night back if he could, hed take back at least half the things hes done if he had the power to. Looking at her across the table from him, the pain in her expression as she considers her own past actions, he feels twice as old as he actually is. Hes done his time for the Lannisters, done more than he ever should have.

Sandor had first gone to war at 17. Too young by far but with his father dead and Gregor on the way back to claim the family property there’d been no other choice. He’d walked into the nearest recruiting office and signed his name on the dotted line, signed away his life and hoped that they might actually take it. He’d thought he was a man then - he’d certainly learned to kill like one.

He’d put men, women and children in the ground and learned not to care, learned to see it as a duty and nothing more. Two tours of duty and he’d come back fucked in the head and even more scarred than when he had left. He’d come back from the second with no reason to stay and had been prepared to sign up for a third when the Lannisters had come with their offer, a favour to repay his grandfather’s years of service to them. Guard Cersei and her brats, a simple enough task, and he’d thought that maybe this was his chance, the opportunity to settle down and do something besides kill. He should’ve known better.

He’d been a different man then, forged of anger and fear and hate and only ever encouraged to hone it.

It was only years later when he first saw her, so full of hope and dreams and life, that he’d recalled the boy he’d once been, the dreams of his own he’d once had. It was the first time in years that he’d wanted more out of life. The first time in years that he’d actually wanted anything at all.

He’d known it then, known that it was more than simply wanting her, more than a matter of remembering long forgotten dreams. She had been his one last chance at salvation, the last he would ever have.

Sandor wonders if she’s ever realized, if she knows that it was her that changed him, more so than the Brothers at the Mission ever could.

He’ll tell her one day, when she’s ready to hear it.

**

It is later that evening, while they are preparing themselves for bed, that the phone in their room rings.

Both of them start at the sound, and Sansa turns to face him with wide eyes, her fear apparent. Nobody should know that theyre here except Elder Brother and he would never call unless it was an emergency. It is Sandor who picks up the phone in the end, forcing himself to remain calm, barking out a gruff hello in an attempt to intimidate whoever is on the other end of the line.

Hello yourself, Clegane. Varyss smooth voice comes back. I see you made it out of the country safely, your precious cargo along with you.

What do you want, Varys? Sandor grunts, refusing to allow the Spider to know exactly how rattled he is. Just what sort of a game are you playing anyway?

Sansas eyes widen further on hearing the name and looking at her, Sandor can tell that shes about to panic. He reaches out to clamp his hand upon her shoulder, giving her what he hopes is a reassuring nod.

Varyss high pitched giggle echoes down the phone. Is that all the thanks I get for delivering the girl to you, Clegane? Wasnt that what you always wanted? I thought I should call to check on your progress, and congratulate you on ending Littlefingers reign.

Ill say it again, Varys, what do you want? Littlefinger was no friend of yours for you to weep over. You gave me the information and Im thankful for it, but I wont be a pawn in some game of yours, do you hear me?

Oh Clegane, were all pawns in someones game or other in the end, the sooner you realize it the better. I havent called to threaten you, Im a wellwisher to your cause. Poor Sansa Stark, with everything shes been through, and her little sister too, lost for years. Arent I allowed to do something for the unfortunate girls?

Speak your piece and be done, Varys. Youve never had any concern for either of them before. Continue whatever game youre playing but if harm comes to her then Ill make you pay for it. Dont think your webs will keep you safe if I ever come for you.

The high pitched titter sounds a little nervous this time, but that could simply be an act. Now, now, Clegane. Ive already told you that Im your wellwisher. I was calling to tell you that a man of mine will meet you in Colombia, to guide you to Arya Stark and help you take her back.

I dont want any guiding, nor any man of yours. Tell me where she is now and well find her ourselves.

Oh but that wont be so simple, Varys continues, his voice sober for once. The girl is in deep with an organization and you wont be able to remove her on your own. Yet remove her you must, since if she remains she shall place one of my other pieces at risk. Try to find her on your own and youll fail. My man will come to you in Colombia, check into whatever hotel you wish and by the next day hell have found you. If you want the younger Stark girl then youll just have to trust him.

The line goes dead and Sandor places the receiver back in its cradle with a clang. Hed been kidding himself all this time that they were safe, that theyd escaped. If the Spider can find them then others can too, and theres no way to tell whether Varyss intentions really are noble or not.

Sansas hands twitch where she clasps them tightly in her lap and sighing, Sandor reaches out to rest his own hand on top of them.

Varys says one of his men will meet us when we arrive in Colombia, hell take us to your sister.

And what if its a trap? Sansa asks him, fear apparent in her eyes. What if Aryas not there, or not alive at all, and hes been lying to us the whole time?

He couldve killed us back in Arizona, or in New Mexico, or here if he wished. Sandor tells her, No, he wants us to find your sister for some purpose of his own, though I know not what. Well both be on the lookout, but well have to trust him for now.

Sansa laughs hollowly, Trust? The worst mistakes Ive made in my life were based on trust. Trust if you wish to, but I wont believe until I see my sister with my own eyes.

It is he who first taught her to think like this, to question the actions and motives of those around her. She has learned harsh lessons on the futility of trust since then from Cersei and Joffrey and Petyr Baelish. They repaid the trust shed placed in them with death and betrayal.

Ill trust. Sandor tells her, But Ill also get us some protection as soon as weve reached Bogota, itll be good to have steel in my hand again. Do you know how to shoot a gun?

Sansa nods, confirming that she can and it surprises him, her little sister had had a fascination for weapons but Sansa had never had an interest previously. Just one more thing that shes learned since he last saw her. At his raised eyebrow, she chooses to elaborate.

There was a firing range near my aunts house. I used to go sometimes when I felt…” She takes a deep breath, her gaze darting away and back to him. When I felt powerless, when I felt trapped and as if there was nowhere I could go and no one I could turn to. I went, and pictured the faces of those who had hurt my family on the targets.

He knows how hard it has been for her to admit it here, to his face and under the harsh lights of the room. He wont press her now, wont ask her for more until shes ready to tell it.

And are you any good? He asks her instead, choosing a safer topic.

She gives him a wry smile. Not as good as you, but if I aim at something Ill more than likely hit it. She shakes her head then, her smile still askew. I used to tell myself that youd be proud of me if you knew of it. That Id finally taken your advice seriously and learned to protect myself.

I would have been. He tells her sincerely, even as he mulls over the fact that she had thought of him, at that time, even when she believed him dead. I am. You should never have had to learn to protect yourself, should never have needed to, but youve done a good job of it.

Sansa laughs then, mocking, self-deprecating. A good job? What did I do, after all? I ran away and hid, then sent you to kill my enemy rather than doing it myself. All Ive learned over the years is to lie and scheme.

Dont talk that way, girl. He tells her, more harshly than hed intended. Want to know what youve done? Youve survived. Survived when most of your family didnt. Survived the Lannisters, survived Littlefinger, and most of those who sought to harm you are dead now or on their way to it. Takes strength to do that, to survive, after all youve lost. Dont doubt yourself.

After all Ive lost…” Sansa murmurs sadly. Thats a long list indeed. Having survived, what is there still left?

Theres your sister, He reminds Sansa, Well find her soon enough.

And when we find Arya? Sansa asks him, softly now. What then? Do we go back, do we…”

Elder Brother has some friends down there, gave me some contacts. Sandor tells her, Once we find her we head there, theyll keep us safe till we can make a new plan. After that after that you make up your mind where you want to go and what you want to do.

And you? Sansa asks, her attention suddenly focused upon him, alert and a hint of nervousness in her eyes. Will you stay with us?

Yes. If you want me to. He tells her simply, because it is the truth. The only way hell leave her is if she asks him to and even then he would probably trail her at a distance to make sure she was safe.

Why? Sansa asks him earnestly. Why, when you…”

When I what? He asks her, and snorts, guessing at what shes hinting at. I told you once, little bird, that a Hound would die for you but never lie to you. Believe me when I say it.

Alright. She whispers, lowers herself down to lie upon her side on the bed, her eyes never leaving his where he sits upon its edge. It is so very hard for her to trust, but he thinks that maybe she is beginning to. If he were to allow himself to take her, to have her, would she believe him then? Shes come to think that everything in life is give and take, and he knows that she cant quite believe he would protect her for nothing in return.

Shell believe it one day though, one day soon.

He turns the light off, settles himself into the bed beside her and ignoring their usual routine, immediately reaches out to pull her close.

Waits as her breathing slows and she shifts, curling back against him, her hand light upon the arm hes wrapped around her waist, before he begins to speak his own truths.

He hopes that spoken this way, in the dark, she might be able to believe in them.

Ill keep you safe, He rasps, I wont let anybody hurt you again.

Sansa tightens her grip on his arm.
 
 
onborrowedwings
02 March 2013 @ 04:25 pm
Title: When We Were Young 6/9?
Fandom: A Song of Ice and Fire
Pairing: Sansa/Sandor
Word Count: 2664
Disclaimer: Everything belongs to GRRM
A/N: Modern AU set post ADWD. A huge thanks to Kimberlite8 for her help with this! Thank you also to everyone who has been commenting on the previous parts, it's meant a great deal to me as we move through this!


Chapter Five

The bus ride is long and hes thankful for the air conditioning as she dozes upon his shoulder. He sits in the seat next to the aisle, the better to protect her if it should come to that, and ignores the stares of their fellow passengers. He knows they must make a strange pair she, a pretty young woman; he, her older scarred companion. Yet the world has seen stranger and nobody thinks to question them.

She had been awake for the border crossing, presenting her passport with a bright smile and completing the formalities. After that she had chatted to him for a couple of hours, uncomplicated small talk about the holiday that they were apparently going on, a young couple on a grand adventure. It is all a ruse for their fellow passengers and hes amazed at how deftly she does it, spinning web upon web of lies to form a cover story for them. For his own part he limits his conversation, nodding and giving short answers to her questions or exclamations.

Six hours over the border and she lays her head on his shoulder just as dusk begins to fall. He wonders if shed planned this too, in order to paint the right picture.

Time passes and lulled by the motion of the bus and the sense that for now at least they are secure, he drops off to sleep as well. He wakes hours later to find that it is still dark, the scenery passing by outside in a blur, and looks down to find that she has curled further into him, their hands now entwined. Sleeping, her features for once at peace, she reminds him of the girl she used to be far too innocent and full of hope for the world she lived in.

He wishes he knew what she wanted from him; what she truly wanted, not what she thinks she must give in order to secure his protection.

She need not doubt that hell keep her safe; its all hes wanted since the day he told her the story of his scars, the day that she had reached out and touched him against all odds. Hed thought to frighten her, thought to show her exactly how fucked up life could be and that there were no such things as heroes. Instead shed tried to comfort him, seen past his show of rage and recognised the pain within.

Hed known then, that she wasnt like the rest. Hed known that he was well and truly lost.

**

He wakes her up as they pull into a highway stop for breakfast, shakes her shoulder slightly until she opens her eyes and peers up at him, the blue of them almost blinding.

Sansa smiles sleepily for a moment, a real smile though seemingly puzzled as she tries to work out where she is.

The moment passes and she sits up, schools her expression to one that is more neutral.

Well grab some food, use the bathroom if you need to. He tells her, Ill stand guard outside while you do.

I had a dream. She replies, still unfocused, then shakes her head and moves to stand.

She doesnt tell him what it was, and he prefers not to ask.

**

It is their last stop before they reach their destination and she doesnt sleep now, instead she stares out the window at the scenery, occasionally pointing something out to him. He can tell that shes guarded once more, careful of what she might let slip.

Midmorning and theyre deposited at a bus station in Mexico City. He waits until she has her pack on and then grabs her hand, not wanting to lose her in the crowd. She seems surprised for a moment and then tightens her fingers around his, interlacing them. Her hand is soft and warm and for a moment he forgets to wonder whether this is acting too.

They take a taxi to a hotel near the Zocalo, a budget place intended for backpackers that Elder Brother had recommended because they wont stand out.

She takes his hand again as they sit in the taxi without any prompting to but stares out the window at the sights rather than looking at him, her eyes widening at something or the other, the excitement not feigned this time.

Ive never been to Mexico before, She admits, turning around to face him. Do you think I mean, could we…”

Well hang around for a few days, act the part of tourists. He tells her, his voice low so that the cab driver might not hear them. Better to shake off any attention and keep anyone whos watching guessing.


She smiles then, and he knows that she means it.  It is a small thing but he is glad that he might do it for her, give her a few days to pretend shes a girl like any other, a tourist in a foreign land.

They check in, paying in advance for five days, and carry their bags up to the room. The walls are thin, noise leaking in from both the corridor and the traffic outside. The room is simple but clean as can be expected at a hotel like this one. There is only one bed and Sansas eyes dart across to him for a moment as if shes trying to work out exactly what his intentions are. Its for the best though, the less attention they draw to themselves the better and theyre meant to be a couple here on a simple holiday, come to see the sights.

And see the sights they do, walking out after theyve left their bags in the room to see cathedrals and squares and ruins. He keeps a hand upon her at all times lest he lose her, constantly alert for any danger here in a strange place where he doesnt quite know the rules.

None presents itself though, it begins to seem as if the world truly has forgotten them and theres nobody left on their trail. So he wraps his arm around her waist and Sansa leans into him as she checks a guidebook theyve picked up at a second hand book store, reading out points about whatever place theyve come to.

She practices her Spanish, sounding out the words and laughing suddenly when she remembers a phrase correctly.

Mrs Mordane would be disappointed with how much Ive forgotten. Sansa comments as they eat their lunch, her attempts to explain herself to the waiter having been halting and needing some correction. She always said I had a talent for languages, I did love learning them, I used to think…”

She breaks off suddenly, shaking her head and gives him a rueful smile. He knows that she feels shes revealed too much but for her to have spoken even this much about her past is a start, an important step.

You used to think what, Sansa? He prods, keeping his posture purposefully relaxed, leaning back in his chair to take another sip of his beer.

She smiles then, a little self consciously, and looks down at her hands.

I used to think that perhaps I could go into diplomacy one day. It seemed like such an exciting life, travelling the world, meeting people, helping to solve problems. I had thought that perhaps one day, after university…”

She trails off, and he knows why. There was no university for her, no chance to choose a career either, only a hasty forced marriage to the Imp as soon as she turned 18 in order to secure her claim. Whatever dreams shed had when she was younger she assumes are long since over, with no chance to reclaim them.

Youd be good at it. He rasps, looking at her over the rim of the bottle, ensuring that she meets his gaze. The fact you stayed alive as long as you did in the Lions den and then later with Littlefinger shows that. Its not too late. Youre only 21, youve got a whole life ahead of you to do these things.

Sansa gives him a small smile, as if she believes his words. Maybe. She tells him, and he hopes that perhaps shes begun to consider possibilities for once this quest of theirs is over and they have her sister safely back with them again. Whether that future might include him or not is something that he wont dwell on for now, not until theyve overcome the immediate challenge.

They head out again into the city again, this time to visit a museum, and he watches as she wanders around the exhibits, reading placards and gazing wonderingly at ancient artifacts.

Its almost easy to pretend that they are simple tourists, thats theres no decision more challenging for them to make than what to see that day or where to eat their dinner. Years ago hed dreamed of this, though at the time hed never have had the courage to admit it. If shed agreed to go with him that night, if he hadnt fucked it up so badly, then they might have ended up here sooner.

Yet whats done is in the past and perhaps its best that they lost each other for a time. Hes not entirely certain that it all wouldnt have gone to hell if hed taken her with him that night. Hed never have hurt her, no, not on purpose, but he hadnt known what the fuck he was doing and he wouldve likely gotten them both killed sooner or later, or eventually driven her away.

And now here they are, three years after that night, time and fate and the Spider having brought them back together again.

They go out to dinner to a cheap touristy restaurant in the neighbourhood of their hotel, where they order too many dishes and drink far too much beer. There are locals here as well as tourists and nobody pays much attention to them when they walk in. If anything it is the little bird who draws more curiousity than he does, young men glancing over at her as if wondering if they should try their luck only to lose their courage when they see him by her side.

The restaurant is crowded and loud, music playing at a level that easily masks conversation. Sansa brings her chair in closer so that they might talk, scooting over until their thighs are touching, leaning slightly into him as they eat and drink.

What did you do after my sister left you in New Mexico? She asks him curiously, eyes bright from too much drink but still focused. Were you at the Mission all this time?

I was, Sandor affirms, The first few months after they found me I was useless for anything, could barely walk while the scar in my leg was healing. They set me to prayer, but Ive never been much good at that, so they gave me work to do instead.

What type of work? Sansa asks him, I know that you that you used to be a soldier before you joined the Lannisters.

Killing is the only work Ive known since the time I was old enough to leave home, the only one I was ever good enough for. Sandor answers her, aware that his tone reveals a bit too much bitterness but unwilling to mask it. The Brothers set me to working with my hands; tending their gardens, digging graves for the villagers when it was needed, working at carpentry or with machines; It was a quiet life, it taught me a measure of peace and patience.

And yet you left it, Sansa muses, To return to this world.

I never intended to stay there, Sandor tells her, turning his head to look at her where she sits by his side, noticing the contemplative look on her face. There was nothing left for me to return to at first and I was a wanted man, so I waited and bided my time. Then I heard from the Spider that youd been found and I took my leave and headed to Arizona the same day.

For me, Sansa murmurs, her finger tracing the beads of moisture that slide slowly down the outside of the bottle she holds. You came back to this life for me.

For the best. Can you imagine me as a Holy Brother, doling out Hail Marys and Our Fathers for the rest of my life? Sandor rasps, wanting to distract her from the melancholy he senses shes about to slip into.

Sansa shakes her head at that, smiling, and takes a deep sip from her bottle, her mood once again lighter.

Sandor holds his drink well as hes always done but Sansa is swaying in her chair before too long and he thinks it might be past time to get her back to their room before she says or does something to draw attention to them. She laughs as he leads her out, laughs with such abandon that he would not have thought it possible and leans her head on his shoulder.

Back in the room and he deposits her on the bed, still fully clothed, and begins to take off her shoes, unlacing them before he pulls them off. She sits up, pushing herself up with her hands and looks at him intently, eyes slightly unfocused.

Have you had enough that you want me now? She asks him, a slight hitch in her voice at the end.

He cant help snorting at her question, and placing his hand on her shoulder he pushes her gently back down onto the bed.

Go to sleep, little bird. Youre drunk and out of your mind. He tells her and turns out the lights, moving easily in the dark to complete his own preparations.

Ten minutes later and hes in bed with her, resolutely sticking to his own side, when he feels it - the slight tremour as she shakes with suppressed tears, her back turned to him. There is much that he does not understand why she cries now, and whether it is related to his refusal or simply a result of all shes been through in the past week. Shes had too much to drink to be able to hold it inside her tonight but he doubts that even now she would tell him honestly what is in her heart.

He moves then, turns towards her and reaches out, pulls her flush against him, one arm snaking under her neck to wind around her front and grasp her shoulder, the other thrown over her and digging into her stomach. Buries his face in the hair at the nape of her neck and inhales deeply. Given their position itll soon become apparent just how damn much he does want her, and so much the better that she understands it once and for all.

Will you tell me? He asks her, his arms tight around her, his mouth close to her ear.

She shakes her head mutely, and he can feel her draw in a long, deep breath where his chest presses against her back. He understands, he wont press when shes not ready, when shes still learning to trust again after so long without it.

One day, She whispers, One day, Ill tell you everything.

But not tonight.

He lifts a hand to brush the hair away from her neck so that he might place a kiss upon her shoulder, his lips rough against her skin. He allows it to be that way for a moment before his hand returns to her stomach, his face remaining close to the back of her head.

She shudders and then quiets, curls into him, brings one hand to rest upon his.

He holds her like that for the rest of the night, wakes up still holding her, and wonders if hell ever be able to let her go.
 
 
onborrowedwings
27 February 2013 @ 09:43 pm
I was tagged by both little-feather and westeroswolf so here is both of their sets of answers! After that comes the questions and I hereby tag.... whoever reads this post! (I'm lazy, you know I am :P)

Littlefeather's questions:

1. Mountains or beach?

Can I have both? Can I? Can I? Ehmmm beach if not?

2. Would you rather be artistic or intellectual?

Artistic? You’ve picked hard ones! (That pretty much gives away I’m not intellectual doesn’t it…)

3. Favorite movie?

The Last of the Mohicans

4. If you could change solve one of the world’s ills, what would it be?

Lack of education. Because from increased access to education comes increased occupational and income opportunities, greater gender
equality, decreased infant mortality and higher health levels. So domino effect!

5. Weekend warrior or couch potato?

I would love to be a weekend warrior but I must sadly admit that I am very much a couch potato

6.  Wildest thing you’ve ever done?

Moved countries for a job that paid me $200 a month in a country where I knew next to no one.

7. If you had a choice between saving your pet or a stranger, which would it be? (stoled from peaceful epiphany)

That is very much not fair. But since I have no pet I can ignore the hypotheticalness and say stranger guilt free!

8. How did you meet your best friend?


I don’t actually have a best friend. My funniest story of how I met a very good friend is seeing another foreigner at an NGO meet and then
realising we worked for different projects of the same charitable trust during introductions.

9. What would you say is your life motto?

Do No Harm.

10. Favorite work of art?

Klimt’s The Kiss

11. What do you consider your best feature?

My ability to consider all sides of an argument. And my eyes :P

Westeroswolf's questions:

1. Dogs or cats?

Put me in a room with a cat for too long and I’ll go red, sneeze non stop and eventually not be able to breathe. So puppies, little puppies!

2. You’re favourite Lannister?

Jaime I have to say. Originally it was Tyrion but I’ve found with GRRM that the characters who have the most redemption to go through are the
most interesting. I loved Tyrion until his ‘where do whores go’ pity party started.
3. Dream holiday destination

Italy. I would see all the art and architecture and eat all the food. ALL OF IT.

4. Your last meal?

When I originally answered this last night it was - I made mezze! No I didn’t do it just because I was planning to fill this out and wanted to look talented… No really. I grilled some fish, made a roast capsicum dip, a fig and rocket salad, some potato salad and some feta and olives. And drank a lot of rose wine. *burp*

5. Snow or sunshine?

Snow for the difference, sunshine I get aplenty! I’m yet to have a proper snow experience.

6. No TV or no computer?

Since we can watch tv shows on the computer these days, no tv ;) but I would choose computer anyway simply because of writing, skype and
fandom!

7. You’re favourite drink?

Alcoholic or non-alcoholic? Alcoholic would be Baileys, non-alcoholic ginger beer or lemon lime and bitters!

8. You’re favourite story as a child?

That’s a tough one! The Narnia stories? Every night before bed Mum used to read us a chapter from a classic, together we read Charles Dickens stories, The Hobbit, Narnia and so many more. Those are some of my best childhood memories and it sparked a lifelong love of reading and writing

9. Would you rather be homeless and travel the world or imprisoned in
your dream house?

Homeless and travel the world! I’d get bored in the house after too long…

10. Favourite advert?

We had these great Vodafone ads with a little pug dog over here, adorable!

11. Cake or biscuit?
Cake, baby, cake!

And now for my questions!

1. Most Hated food and why?



2. Who was your best friend in childhood and are you still in touch?



3. Funniest/strangest moment you’ve ever had on a date.



4. If you were to meet your favourite celebrity what would you actually do?



5. What is your favourite cheese? (If you don’t have an answer for this I will be very disappointed).



6. First fandom you actively participated in.



7. Have you met any friends who you made from a fandom in real life?



8. Are you ever going to visit India? Because you totally should.



9. What is your theme song? The song that would play when you make your big entrance in your introduction scene in a movie.



10. What is your favourite Australian animal? No you are not allowed animals from other continents. Because Australian animals are the best
ever that’s why.

Considers yourselves all tagged!

 
 
onborrowedwings
23 February 2013 @ 06:54 pm
Title: When We Were Young 5/9?
Fandom: A Song of Ice and Fire
Pairing: Sansa/Sandor
Word Count: 1800
Disclaimer: Everything belongs to GRRM
A/N: Modern AU set post ADWD. Special thanks to Kimberlite8 for her help with this!


Chapter Four

It takes him almost three days to reach the Mission, even though he stops only to sleep and eat. The night he kills Petyr Baelish he travels until dawn, until hes far enough away, far enough to collapse in some nondescript motel that doesnt even care to record the names of its guests and sleeps the day away.

He wakes up in the late afternoon and drives through the night again, eager to be back with her. She may not need him as she once did, but he believes that she needs protecting all the same. Needs someone to watch over her as she struggles to put the pieces of her broken life back together. Someone who wont take advantage of her, as it would be so very easy to do.

Even with the evidence of his deeds close to hand, he wishes he could kill Littlefinger all over again. Wishes that he could kill every last Lannister, Frey, Bolton and all the rest of them for her, though it wouldnt bring a single member of her family back.

The Lannisters seem to be doing a fine job of finishing themselves off without any help from him however. Last hed heard, Cersei was in disgrace and had lost control of the empire and Kevan had been murdered. Hes heard that even Jaime Lannister has started fucking someone who isnt his sister these days, has ignored Cerseis calls for him to come to her aid. So much the fucking better for him. Theres still Tyrion, Sansas husband legally if in no other regard, but Sandor suspects that he hates his family almost as much as the little bird does.

He arrives at the Mission, early in the morning when most of the brothers are only just beginning to rise, and immediately seeks out Elder Brother, knowing that he will be sitting on the same hillside Sandor has known him to sit on for the past two years, watching the sun rise.

So youve returned. The older man comments, as Sandor sits down beside him.

Did you doubt it? Sandor grunts.

No, but the girl was worried. Elder Brother replies, Shes barely spoken since she arrived here, has kept to herself.

Shes…” Sandor isnt quite sure what to say, when he knows so little about what she is now. Has she said anything to you?

Elder Brother shakes his head, Shes polite, but she wont speak more than whats required. Weve let her be, it seemed to be best. He claps Sandor on the shoulder, Her documents are ready, as are yours. You can leave whenever you like.

Thank you, Sandor tells the older man gruffly, And for looking after her while I…”

Elder Brother holds up his hand to stop Sandor from stating it. We will miss you here Sandor, but this was never your path. Look after her, try to help her as you were once helped.

**

She is sitting in the Missions garden when he finds her, staring into the distance as if in deep thought. There is a blankness on her face that he cannot quite like, a sign that she has grown too adept at hiding her feelings.

Her hair is dyed dark brown now, the better to fit in where theyre going. Sandor cant help but wonder if hell ever see her as she was again, those glorious locks of fire, if it will ever be safe for her to reveal her true self.

Hell keep her safe, he swears it. Hell never let anybody hurt her again.

He steps towards her without her hearing him, and it is only when he lays a heavy hand on her shoulder that she startles. There is fear in her eyes before she sees his face and then a stark relief. She moves to stand but he stops her with a press of his hand and steps in front of her instead. As she stares at him silently, wonderingly, he kneels in front of her.

Here, little bird, he tells her, holding the knife out solemnly. Petyr Baelish is dead, and good riddance to him. He died by my hand, but by your word, and he knew it before the end.

Knew that of all the people whose lives hed ruined, of all the damage hed done, it had been one defenseless girl whod finally managed to get the better of him.

She reaches out to take the knife from him with shaking hands, holding it almost wonderingly, staring at the blood on it unblinkingly, as if it is impossible for her to look away.

When she looks at him again, still kneeling in front of her, there are tears in her eyes. She reaches out to touch his scarred cheek, cupping it as she once had all those years ago.

I knew you would. She tells him, and the simple trust in her voice almost knocks him over.

They stay that way for a long moment, her hand upon his cheek while he kneels in front of her. She is calm, her earlier fear when he had left her seemingly gone, but he feels her fingers tremble against him and knows that she is holding it inside.

He had taught her that, to hide what she thought and felt, to give them only what they wanted. Now she uses it upon him, stopping him from knowing her true state.

Then Sansa looks down at the knife in her other hand, a momentary confusion passing over her and Sandor reaches out to take it from her gently.

Let it be buried here, little bird. He tells her, Let it be buried and over with and let it remain behind as we move forward.

She nods once, suddenly strong in her decision, and he goes to fetch a spade.

**

The rest of the day is spent in conference with Elder Brother, finalizing their plans.

Sandors motorcycle will remain at the Mission, to be reclaimed if they ever pass this way again. They are close to the border here and they will cross it by bus, their forged documents good enough to stand up to close scrutiny. Sandor does not fear the border police, there is nobody looking for either of them now. Hes been dead for too many years and the missing Stark heiress hasnt made the news for some time.

Their passports make them husband and wife, a cruel joke if ever hes heard one, but at least it will enable him to stay by her side, to share a room and guard her at all times, to protect her as a husband would if anybody should try to get too close.

Theyll spend one more night here before they leave in the morning, no time to waste in case the consequences of Baelishs killing should catch up to them. Sandor retires early, leaving them directly after dinner as Sansa picks at the food on her plate. Theyve been placed in separate rooms, though nearby, and he doesnt think to see her until the next morning when theyre due to leave.

He falls asleep quickly, exhausted by the journey of the last few days, only to awaken a few hours later in the pitch dark, alerted by some movement.

His eyes adjust to the moonlight creeping in from outside the shutters and he spots her, sitting perched on the edge of the bed, looking at him he suspects, despite the dark. He has no idea what shes doing there, why shes crept into his room, and only hopes that she doesnt plan to offer herself to him again, here and now.

He sighs, sits up slightly and pats the bed beside him.

Lie down. He tells her, My face might look better this way, but theres no reason to sit there all night staring at me in the dark.

He wonders if she blushes at the words, but she gives no sign of embarrassment, crawling onto the bed and making her way up to him, climbing under the sheets.

She shifts slightly, self consciously, lying on her side so that her skin touches his but without pressing herself to him.

Internally cursing whatever gods there might be to hell, he reaches out and lifts her, shifts her so that she lies half across him, her head pillowed on his chest.

Sleep now. He tells her, curving his arm under her so that it snakes around to rest upon her head, a comforting weight. He holds her with the other arm, holds her close and wonders if its what she wanted.

She brings her own hand up to curl against his chest, clutches his shirt and gives a slight sigh.

He feels himself drifting back to sleep but for some reason he waits, expecting something, and sure enough she begins to whisper.

It was never your scars that made me turn away, not truly. That wasnt why I couldnt look at you. It was the rage in you that scared me, but now now that is gone. She pauses, flattens her palm against his chest, right above his heart. I prayed for the rage in you to be quieted, for you to find peace, and now…”

Pity that was the only prayer of yours that came true, little bird. He whispers back, unable to help himself, even though he knows that he should be pretending to be asleep.

But it wasnt. She replies before she relaxes, her hand curling against him once more and her breathing becoming heavy.

It is a long time before he sleeps.

**

She is gone in the morning, crept out while he was fast asleep and he wonders about it.

Did she fear waking up to face him, to a repeat of those truths in the harsh light of day?

He bathes and dresses quickly, stuffs the rest of his meager belongings into the bag that the Brothers have provided him with. Knocks on her door and she opens it, dressed and ready and her gaze calm, with no acknowledgement of her visit to him last night.

Well have our breakfast quickly and then theyll drop us to the bus station. He informs her and she nods her agreement, following him a step or two behind as he makes his way to the dining hall. They both take their bags with them, not wanting any unnecessary delays.

Elder Brother breaks his fast with them and then asks them to wait, briefly praying over their heads, that they might be protected by his god.

Sansa murmurs her thanks quietly and makes her way outside, while Elder Brother stays Sandor with a gesture of his hand.

She needs you, He tells Sandor quietly, Dont let her down.

Never. Sandor promises, a fervent vow. The only vow hell ever make.

Outside he finds her with her face tilted up towards the sun, a deep sadness upon it that she tries to hide when she spots him.

Time to fly south for the winter, little bird. He tells her, and reaches out to take her hand.
 
 
onborrowedwings
23 February 2013 @ 03:47 pm
I was tagged a few times, so as a compromise I have written 20! I couldn't think of any more... Every single one of you who reads this, consider yourselves tagged in return!



  1. There are very few vegetables I hate but the one I can’t stand is Okra. That vegetable is disgusting and it needs to die.

  2. I have never had my own proper pet and have always longed for one. We had birds when we were younger but they were really Mum’s babies rather than ours.

  3. I enjoy learning languages. Wherever I go I try to learn at least some basic phrases and it can be incredibly fun to try them out. I speak Hindi fluently but with a very ‘Bombaiya’ rather than proper accent. I can read Farsi. I’ve forgotten all the languages I learned at school though.

  4. I love supermarkets. Maybe it’s all the food in them. I get very excited when I go to one and if I have my headphones on I tend to dance while I’m in the aisles.

  5. When I first moved to Mumbai the initial local friends I made were all from my time writing fanfic for an Indian tv show.

  6. When I see a picture of a bunny it is very hard for me not to shriek “BUNNY!”

  7. When I went on my first proper date with my husband I had arranged for a friend to call me after an hour incase it wasn’t going well.  The date lasted 9 hours. (and he’s never let me forget about the phone call)

  8. I get very emotional. I’ve been known to cry in tv commercials when they’re heart touching.

  9. My first ever job was at Baker’s Delight, selling bread when I was 15. I had to wear these ridiculous skirt/pant type things called culottes. I will never wear those things again.

  10. My first real job in my field after graduation was for an NGO in Mumbai. I earned 7000 rupees a month, the equivalent then to $200. In order to support myself I took up part time work as a Bollywood extra for Rs 1000 per shift. Here is a picture of me that a friend was kind enough to screencap in a movie I’ve never watched (the guy walking in the door is quite famous). Do not ask me who I was meant to be, they never told me. Do not ask me why I'm wearing a visor either. Beats me.

andy1


  1. I am incredibly clumsy. If there is something to walk into, I will walk into it. Something to trip on? I will trip on it. My little toes are now twice their normal size because of how many times they’ve been smashed.

  2. When I go to a party I like to position myself near the food and drink. If there’s cheese that’s where I’ll be.

  3. My first international flight by myself was at 18, to Mexico for a conference. I threw up almost all the way there. When I arrived in LA to transfer they told me the flight was overbooked and they couldn’t let me on. I stood there and cried at the counter till they gave in and moved me to the boarding gate ‘just in case’ so they could get rid of me. I stood at the boarding gate and cried until they also gave in and put me on the plane to get rid of me. Mission complete.

  4. Counting both mine and my husband’s extended families we have two types of Christians, two types of Muslims, Hindus , Sikhs and a few agnostics.

  5. I have terrible handwriting. If I ever send you anything that I have written on I’m sure you’ll laugh at it.

  6. I can’t drive. Never learned when I was in Australia because I was a poor student with access to public transport. Here the other drivers intimidate me too much to want to learn.

  7. I’m not a very good Australian. I have a low alcohol tolerance and I’m lousy at just about every sport.

  8. I once gave a ten minute monologue in Hindi at the top of my voice to an autorickshaw driver who was unfortunate enough to take me as his passenger and think he could cheat me. In the end he both apologized and swore to never do it again to anyone in order to just get rid of me out of his auto.

  9. A great deal of my travel wishlist has to do with the type of food that you get in those countries.

  10. I’m actually an introvert. I used to be quiet as a mouse until my parents sent me to drama classes, they probably regretted it later. I work very hard at not being socially awkward in public, so much so that people generally assume I’m an extrovert instead.