A fool and his cunt, he had said once, when she offered him the song of Florian, a chivalrous knight from the Age of Heroes, and his lady-love, Jonquil. A fool and his cunt.
Sansa sighed and put down her needlework, glancing across the room at her husband. He was sharpening his sword in his chair near, but no too near, the fireplace in their chambers.
Sandor looked up from his work, his eyes meeting hers.
All she wanted back then, and now, was to sing to him of Florian and Jonquil. A fool and his cunt. Sansa sighed again.
"Is something wrong, Little Bird?" Sandor asked, his voice gravely and roughened further by tiredness as the evening wore on.
"Nothing, Sandor." Sansa smiled, somewhat weakly. "Thank you for asking. I think I'm ready to turn in for the evening."
Sandor shrugged his shoulders and went back to sharpening his sword.
Sansa readied herself for bed, turning down the sheets and removing her robe, naked underneath. "Would you like to join me, husband?" Sansa tossed playfully over her shoulder as she climbed into their big bed.
Sandor quickly put his sword away, pulling and yanking on his clothing as he made his way to the bed. Sansa laughed happily at his enthusiastic response.
At least in this, he knows, she thought before he descended into her waiting arms.
* * * * *
A dog can smell a lie, he had told her.
But, it's not a lie, it's the truth. Would he believe her? Or, as she feared, would he mock her?
Sansa thoughts drifted as she did her rounds around Winterfell with Rickon. Sansa smiled proudly at Rickon when he asked some questions about the food stores. He was catching on to the daily operations of Winterfell and what was expected of him as a high lord.
It hadn't always been that way. When Rickon returned from Skagos, he had been wild. Wilder than the brother Sansa had left behind for King's Landing. Through physical training, Sandor gave Rickon an outlet for his wildness.
In turn, Sansa, as Rickon's regent until he was ready to rule on his own, taught him a lord's responsibilities and how to make people love him. She also taught him to be watchful of people who would try to use him for their own benefit.
She could smell lies now too; she had a lifetime of experience. She would teach Rickon, so that he didn't have to experience those betrayals as naively as she had.
"Can I go riding now?" Rickon's question brought Sansa out of her thoughts. She followed Rickon's gaze to some Free Folk children at the stables who seemed to be waving him over.
Sansa agreed, laughing as he whooped happily, running to meet up with them.
He still had some growing up to do, but Rickon was becoming a caring Lord under her watch and a ferocious fighter and defender of his home and family under Sandor's. She was proud of Rickon and hopeful for the future of their house and the North.
* * * * *
The little bird still can’t bear to look at me, can she? He had asked her angrily once, during another life, in King's Landing.
Look at me. Look at me, he had demanded from her years ago.
Sansa stared into Sandor's eyes as he thrust deep and strong within her, her back and buttocks were being pushed firmly over and over into the mattress. Her eyes fluttered with pleasure, but she did not look away.
Sansa clung to him, her arms on his shoulders, before sliding one hand up to cup his scarred cheek.
His movements paused, but started up with new intensity and desperation.
Sansa loved this position. While not as adventurous as others he had shown her in their time together, in this position he surrounded her and she could look on him as his pleasure overtook him. In these moments, he forgot to be guarded, forgot his scars.
Look at me, he had demanded back then.
She had a hard time looking at him then. Not because of his scars, not after he had told her the reason for them. It had been his eyes, so full of rage and hate. And something else, something behind the rage, behind the hate. Something that she hadn't been ready for, had been too young to appreciate or understand.
She hadn't been able to look then. Now, she couldn't stop.
* * * * *
I could keep you safe, he had vowed years ago. No one would hurt you again, or I'd kill them. He had kept that promise.
Sandor's chest was glistening with sweat as he swung his sword down to pummel his opponent.
Sansa loved watching Sandor train; she admired his physical strength and skill.
He withstood all others and she looked on, feeling no small amount of gratification, as if his victory was hers. She was glad that she had chosen him and that he had chosen her. She was glad for his fierceness and his protectiveness. She was glad for him.
When Cersei sent Gregor Clegane to Winterfell, to collect Sansa's head as repayment for her murdered son, Sandor had killed his brother. He had earned favor with many of the Northern lords for saving the Lady of Winterfell.
He had rode out to save Rickon and his following of Thenns when they arrived outside Winterfell with White Walkers on their heels. Sandor hadn't realize he was saving the Lord of Winterfell, he admitted to Sansa later in the privacy of their bedchamber. Nevertheless, his heroic deeds had gained him the loyalty of the remaining Northern lords.
During the White Walker invasion, Sandor's leadership and command of the Northern armies had ensured Winterfell remained standing and its occupants, more or less, sheltered and safe. The North had suffered losses, but fewer than expected.
Now, even a few years later, was a time of recovery and rebuilding.
And, repopulating, Sansa smiled absently to herself, rubbing her belly, swollen with their first child. She was glad to know that Sandor could and would keep their family safe. Although things were relatively calm for now, it wouldn't last. Winter had ended for now, but it would come again.
* * * * *
Sansa's head lay on Sandor's chest, cuddled against him, his arm protectively slung around her waist.
It had been an exhausting day. An influx of men to Winterfell had meant new men for Sandor to train. "It's like training gnats to fight," he had grumbled at her one evening after they retired to their chambers. "But they are learning." He amended moments later, not without some pride in his voice.
A dispute between some of the Free Folk and Northern smallfolk had taken up much of Sansa's morning while Rickon was attending lessons. She had slipped away in the afternoon to take over Eleanor's care from her nurse. Eleanor had been born two months past, and although similar to Sansa in looks, she could be just as demanding and cranky as her father.
Sansa rubbed her hand across Sandor's chest with fondness.
Sansa was blessed to have them both in her life. It had not been the life she had dreamed she would have as a little girl. No, it was better. It was real and true and hard fought.
It's now or never, Sansa thought. He should know, she wanted him to know, whatever his reaction.
"I love you," Sansa whispered into the dark, steeling herself for his response.
Sandor tensed, relaxed, then pulled her tighter, drawing her in for a kiss. "I love you, too, Sansa." His voice was husky with emotion.
Sansa wept with joy. He believed her. There was no mocking. There was nothing to mock. She wasn't trying to play out a song, expressing or misunderstanding feelings she didn't truly have. In this, there were no lies, no chirps of a bird from the Summer Isles. In this, there was only truth. Her truth and his.
A hound will die for you, but never lie to you.
I love you, too, he promised.