Petyr Baelish swirled his hippocras with a sigh. It was a shame, he reflected, that he couldn’t have claimed Sansa himself first. No. Harry was young, but not entirely stupid. He would have known the difference. Good old Hoster had been unable to countenance Petyr's hands on a single Tully; it would have been sweet justice to deflower three of them behind the old man's back.
He sucked his teeth. The hippocras was sweeter than usual. He had impressed upon the kitchen staff how important it was to have his wine spiced exactly to his taste, and made a mental note to have the new boy reprimanded.
Far beyond the wall and its spyhole, Petyr heard a rummaging at the bedroom door. Alayne entered, laughing. Silently, Petyr straightened, knocking back the last of his suboptimal wine.
Old feelings twisted his stomach: revulsion, jealousy, sorrow - but he tamped them all down. This is a good development. Everything was going to plan. The girl would be his in due course, after all. Petyr could tell she was already almost at the point of surrender: once Harry got her maidenhead out of the way, Petyr could do as he wished with her. Yes, he’d been looking forward to that for some time. First, though, he had to bear witness. He had to see the job done for himself.
Except the man who toppled over the threshold was not Harrold Hardyng. Petyr’s hands fisted at his sides.
That he wore a brown-and-dun robe did not take away from his enormous size. With a flare of rage, Petyr wondered how Bronze Yohn had made it to the feast unannounced - and then the man removed his hood. Petyr’s chest felt dreadfully tight: there were only a handful of men that large in all the Seven Kingdoms, but only one wretch so horribly disfigured.
“There’s no lock,” rasped the Hound, tracing the doorframe.
“It makes no matter,” Sansa smiled.
Petyr’s throat constricted, compounding his breathlessness. Her face was beautiful beyond comparison; even Cat’s, washed with the tenderness of a boyhood infatuation, seemed common next to Sansa’s loveliness. Alayne never looked at you that way, whispered the snide and truthful voice in his head.
The intruder frowned at her. “I'm a wanted man, little bird,” he scraped, hands on his hips. "It matters to me."
There was no sword beneath that robe, Petyr noticed: if he summoned his guards now…
“It shouldn’t,” Sansa purred. “We won’t be interrupted.”
Panic thrilled through Petyr Baelish, for he realised that it wasn’t fury alone that made him breathless. He couldn’t move. He could neither lean away from the spyhole nor shout for help, let alone slip away to fetch Brune.
No. He was being ridiculous. It was only the shock that had overwhelmed him, left him paralysed and helpless like a green boy in his first melee. Come now, you’re long past this cowardice and self-loathing. Find Brune and we’ll get this all set to rights.
Petyr’s heart just hammered harder. Gods, it wasn’t a matter of will after all. He truly couldn’t move. Every limb was fixed in place; even his face was a rictus of fear. His breath came quiet and steady as it had when he was alone, but it wasn’t keeping up with the demands of his pounding heart.
“-is taken care of. I poisoned his wine.”
Clegane went quiet. “I didn’t think you a poisoner.”
“Then you’re the last man in the realm to think so. Tonight is my first time,” Sansa added in a teasing tone.
Tainted, rotten, ungrateful whore. You blush at my touch, but debase yourself for the likes of him?
In the Hound’s bulk he saw the broad shoulders and strong jaw of Brandon Stark, snatching his lady-love all over again.
“He buys the best Arbor reds and then ruins them with sugar and spice,” said Sansa. Her voice was quavering. “I switched the sugar for sweetsleep and mint for pennyroyal, with plenty of cinnamon and pepper to hide the taste. It’s been steeping for almost a day. The sweetsleep will still take some hours to work, but the pennyroyal means he won’t be able to move in the meantime.”
Sansa’s lip was trembling. “What was it you told me once? About killing?”
The brute barked a harsh laugh. “I told you it was the sweetest thing there is. You took that to heart, from the sounds of it.”
Petyr’s mind was racing. He racked his brain, remembering maesters’ words overheard through keyholes, about the side-effects of tansy and pennyroyal. Was the girl right? Had she killed him? How could he have underestimated her so completely?
The Hound’s finger was under Sansa’s chin. It still wobbled, though Petyr could read the gleam of defiance from where he stood.
“Might be that I was wrong, little bird,” Clegane rasped quietly. “Might be that it’s not the killing that feels good, but justice.”
“Is that what they taught you on the Quiet Isle, brother?” quavered Sansa.
“They tried to teach me a lot of things. Most of all, I had time to think. I thought about what was important to me.”
Sansa’s smile returned - at least, a wan copy of it. “And that’s how you wound up here.”
His whole body went cold, as though he’d been plunged into a snowdrift. Glancing to his still-balled hands he saw his fingertips had turned purplish. A cramping pain was beginning to build. Looking back to his protege, he saw her head tilt to close the distance between herself and Clegane. They were kissing, and with a gentleness he’d never suspected in the Hound.
A memory sparked. He'd passed an auburn-locked whore in the hallway when meeting with one of his madams; "That one wants a raise now that the Hound beds her twice a week," she'd said. Petyr stared at the man, repulsed. How dare he touch her?
Touch her he did. A massive paw came to rest at the dip of the girl’s waist a moment before they broke apart. Sansa gazed up at the ugly man-at-arms like he’d hung the moon. Yes, Petyr had seen this scene before. Just as Sansa's beauty outshone Cat's, Clegane's brutishness made Brandon Stark look like a callow dandy. The Stark heir's claim had embellished an otherwise plain face - a poor match for a jewel like Cat Tully; but Clegane's grotesque ugliness made him like a monster from a bedtime story, besmirching the fairest maid in the realm.
"I've thought often of the night you fled," Sansa whispered. "Of the song I should like to sing you next time we met."
"You gave more than I deserved last time. Forgiveness is all I want from you."
Every beat of Petyr's fluttering heart brought him a moment closer to endless sleep. Treacherously, it hammered all the same.
"Ah-ah," the girl admonished. "You made all the demands last time. It's my turn to call the tune."
Petyr's vision swam and time began to flow roughly: in slow motion, the woman for whom he'd waited a lifetime was leading her warrior to bed. Darkness clouded his view, and he was glad of it; an eyeblink later, he heard her gasp at the breach of her maidenhead, and wondered belatedly where Harry the Heir had wound up tonight.
Frozen in place, he was forced to listen to the groans of lovers and bedframe alike until Cat-Alayne-Lysa-Sansa cried out, "Sandor!" as if unaware that their coupling was an abomination to sense and justice alike.
Petyr's feet slid beneath him to topple him into the wall, and his nose crunched painfully as it broke his landing. He heard the clammy slap of bodies and the urgent thump of the headboard against the wall as Clegane-Brandon-Ned-Harry-Jon-Hoster-Rhaegar every man who'd ever made him feel inadequate-