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Begin and End (Always Together)

Chapter Text

The fire was hot, sparks leaping off of it to burn his fingers. The coarse, dark hair along the backs of his hands and fingers singed and curled with the heat. The muscles of his shoulders trembled with the effort to keep his bent over position while fighting against her struggling. His hands were starting to ache with the tight grip he kept around her throat.

“Please, Sandor.” She choked out, small hands clawing at his wrists. Blue eyes wide with fear and panic stared back up into his.  

“Do it, brother.” Gregor’s graveled, vile voice whispered from just over his shoulder. Sandor didn’t bother turning to look at him. Tears were blurring his eyes so badly that he wouldn’t have been able to see him anyway. Only her.

“Choke the life right out of her!” Joffrey’s high pitched, overly excited voice came from his other shoulder. “Kill the traitor bitch!”

“Burn her.” Gregor growled. “Burn her like I burnt you. You’re a monster, pup. Just like me.”

Sandor tried to fight the movement of his hands, the forward motion as he stepped her closer to the flames until the red of her hair merged with the fire. She didn’t scream, or cry out. She held his wrists, eyes boring straight into his soul.

“It’s okay, Sandor.” She whispered. “I trust you.”

That hurt worse than anything. Sandor cried out. He screamed and raged, but still he pushed her into the fire until it started to consume her skin. He felt the pain, felt the boiling of his skin as it ate away, but it was her pain. He was hurting her, burning her, killing her. His throat ached and burned from yelling, his eyes gritty and swelling from his tears.

It was her pain, but it was his punishment. Hurting someone, the only person, that he loved. Everything he loved, burned.

“Sandor.” Sansa’s voice washed over him, but her face was blackened by the flames. “Sandor, darling. Please.”

Her voice was distant, muffled. Sandor jerked his hands away from her neck, his body bolting upright into confusing darkness. His chest ached, his lungs stinging from the rapid, shallow breaths he was taking. His eyes searched frantically in the darkness, trying, trying to figure out where he was, where she was. Had he done it, had he killed her?

“Sandor.” Her voice was there, just beside him. He turned, still panting heavily, unable to get a good breath in. “Sandor, love.” Small hands cupped his cheeks, smooth thumbs brushing away his tears.

“Look at me, just breathe.” He caught the warm glint of her smile, the worried look in her eyes. “I’m right here. It was just a dream.”

“A nightmare.” He rasped, his voice rasping and throat sore from crying.

“Not real.” She pressed soft, sweet kisses to his forehead and temple. “It wasn’t real.”

It wasn’t. He knew that. The nightmare wasn’t new. It was one he’d had several times. He always woke up like this, panicked and disoriented, his stomach roiling with the urge to vomit. He swallowed the bile back and Sansa let him lower her to the bed. She let him run his hands along her hair and face, fingers trailing along unblemished, perfectly unharmed skin.

“You won’t hurt me.” She whispered once he was sure of her safety, face buried in her neck. “You aren’t a monster.”

As long as she believed that, and kept reminding him, mayhaps one day he would believe it as well. 

Chapter Text

“I can’t believe you talked me into this.” Sansa nearly groaned as she followed Margaery. It was a Saturday afternoon and she should be out with Jayne working the donation table at the carnival for the children’s home. Instead, she had let Margaery pay for them an art class at the local tech school. At first it had sounded fun. Sansa loved art, but then on the ride here Margaery had explained what their subject would be.

A man, but not just any man. A naked man.

“It’s perfectly fine, darling.” Margaery waved her off, leading her down the hall to the art workshop. Her newest boyfriend had done modeling for the class before, but today it was a friend of his. Bronn had talked Margaery into bringing as many friends as she could to the class because his friend was a little self-conscious.

The room was pretty large and very well-lit with natural light streaming through the windows that wrapped around the top part of the walls. Easels had already been set up in a semi-circle around a stool. As they were the last two to show up, everyone else was already waiting. Including the largest man Sansa had ever seen. He was standing next to the stool, a robe on that barely reached his knees. He was fidgeting with the tie at his waist, eyes on his bare feet. Sansa stood at her station, dumbstruck, not even hearing as the instructor gave out instructions. The man hesitated, but then lifted his chin in a show of pride and undid the robe, pushing it off his shoulders without fanfare before sitting on the stool. He sat with his side facing Sansa, one long leg stretched out before him and the other foot hooked on the rung of the stool. His lifted knee blocked her view of anything too intimate, but it also put his incredible body on full display. All his muscles and hard lines, all his tan skin covered in black hair and dusted here and there with scars.

With shaky hands, Sansa picked up her charcoal pencil and began his outline. He did a good job of holding perfectly still, eyes looking somewhere off towards the ceiling. His hair was black and long. It was pushed behind the ear on Sansa’s side, but left to hang over his face on the side Sansa couldn’t see.

It felt almost like an insult to try and draw him because he was built so…so beautifully. He was a work of art all on his own and drawing him felt something like trying to copy the Sistine Chapel. Futile.

When the instructor informed them that class was over two hours later, Sansa was only mildly happy with her work. It just looked so bland compared to the real thing. While everyone packed up their things, Sansa watched the man as he bent forward from his seated position to grab his robe. He stood to put it on and when he did, he turned to fully face in her direction.

The scars on that side of his face and neck, blooming out onto his shoulder, were gruesome and surprising. But as Sansa took in this new detail of him, she found herself wanting to try her hand at drawing him even more. His imperfections did nothing to detract from his striking appearance.

Grey eyes met hers. Sansa felt herself flush. She smiled at the man. He looked around like she might have been smiling at someone else. When he looked back at her, a grin tugged on the unburnt corner of his lips.

“Margaery.” Sansa turned to her friend, her smile almost painful it was so wide. “I’m going to need your boyfriend to introduce me to his friend.”

Chapter Text

Sansa was used to people, men in particular, looking at her. It came with having a prominent, semi famous family and being considered conventionally beautiful. Most looks were easy enough to ignore. It was something she had grown accustomed to, the leers and gawking. They didn’t so much bother her anymore. She hardly even noticed most of the time. 

Until he came around.

When Sandor Clegane looked at her, she could feel the weight of his gaze. Without looking at him, she always knew when his eyes were on her. It made her feel nervous at first, but then she liked it. She liked that he watched her, liked that she would occasionally catch his gaze before he’d turn away. The heat in them, the naked desire and want always made her blood sing. But it also made her feel protected, cared for. Sandor was always watching her, which meant he was always on guard for her.

Tonight, they were at a fundraiser for the people that had lost their homes during a recent blizzard. It was full of the powerful and rich, most of which didn’t care about the cause, only the attention it brought. Sandor was sat beside her, and while Sansa sipped on her glass of champagne, she could feel his eyes on her. She lowered the glass, licked her lips. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Sandor shift in his seat and when she glanced over at him, his eyes easily drifted around the room like he hadn’t been looking at her in the first place.

“You know.” She drew his attention to her, but she looked down at her glass while she ran her finger along the rim. “I see the way you look at me when you think I’m not looking.”

Sandor huffed. “It’s my job to watch you, girl. Don’t read anything more into it than that.”

“I wouldn’t.” she lifted her eyes to his. “If it weren’t for the fact that you’re always looking at me. Even when you’re off duty.”

“Is it a compliment you want?” he sneered. “You want me to inflate your ego by telling you how gorgeous you are or how I can’t take my eyes off you?”

“If those are things you think, I would very much like to hear them.” She shifted to face him. “Because if you admitted to those things, then I could admit that I only know that you’re watching me because I’m watching you as well.”

Sandor swallowed, grey eyes shifting nervously around them before looking back at her. “Is that true? Don’t play with me, girl.”

“I’m not.” She promised with a smile. “I wouldn’t. I can also tell you that I like when you look at me. I like how your eyes feel on me.”

He wet his bottom lip with a swipe of his tongue, then pulled the corner between his teeth. Sansa watched the motion, her own lips parting to allow for her breaths.

“You’ve been here long enough, yeah?” he asked suddenly and Sansa blinked, then smiled.

“I’m sure I have.” She leaned towards him a little. “Besides, I feel a headache coming on. I’m sure Robb won’t mind if I bow out early.”

Sandor made an odd noise in the back of his throat, but quickly stood up, stretching out his hand towards her. Feeling giddy and excited, warm and happy, Sansa took it.

Chapter Text

Rations were never fun. Sansa hated imposing them, but it was part of being Lady of Winterfell, and with all the soldiers, refugees, and with the Long Night upon them, it was necessary. 

With the castle past capacity, people were finding anywhere to lay their heads whenever the found a chance. That meant the Great Hall was now used as a bunk room as well as a mess hall and for meetings. Sansa always tried to make her rounds through the room, speaking with the soldiers and doing what she could to make their stay more comfortable. Handing out blankets, mending clothing, stoking fires, and sometimes just sitting in silence with another.

At the moment, no one was sleeping. Day times had ceased by this point, but they still tried to keep a regular routine. The food rations had just been brought out, women and men helping to pass out everything. Sansa herself was helping, and when she saw a familiar figure sitting off to the far back of the room on his own, she filled a bowl with fresh hot slop and grabbed a hard roll from the platter.

“Here.” She sat the bowl and roll down in front of him. “Is there anything else you might be in need of?” she asked, eyeing his cloak and gloves to see if they needed any repairs.

“No.” he forwent the spoon and lifted the bowl to his mouth.

When he didn’t seem inclined to speak any further, Sansa left him, making sure the rest of the people gathered had their food before filling her own bowl and taking a roll for herself. Jon was currently on his watch duty at the gates, and Arya normally stowed away with the smith boy in the armory, so Sansa carried her things and sat in front of Sandor. He eyed her while pulling apart his roll, using the bread to mop up what was left of the broth in his bowl. Sansa gave him a smile and went about eating her slop, horrid though it was. She could never manage to eat the hard rolls, though. They stuck to the roof of her mouth and the inside of her cheeks and she never seemed to be able to wash away the yeast taste from her mouth. She always took her allotted roll, though, and always gave it away to one of the soldiers. They needed it more than she anyway.

The words were on the tip of her tongue to tell Sandor he could have her roll when he reached out and snatched it. He pulled it in half, a smirk on his face as he waited for her reaction.

“Hey.” She feigned affront. “I was going to eat that.”

“No, you weren’t.” he smirked again, a broad shoulder lifting. “I see you give them away every day.”

“That may be.” She agreed. “But mayhaps I was going to eat it today. Or give it to someone kinder.”

He leaned forward, elbows on the table, the ripped in half roll in the palm of his hand that he extended across the table. “Then take it, if you’ll eat it. The Stranger knows you do too much and ignore your own needs.”

Sansa ducked her chin to her chest for a moment, embarrassed at being called out. Then she lifted her eyes to his. “No, thank you. A man of your size needs all the sustenance he can get.”

Sandor curled his fingers around the roll, slowly retracting it as he sat upright again.

“Besides,” Sansa looked down at her bowl. “Surely it takes a lot of energy to stay so angry and bitter all the time.”

At that, Sandor laughed. It was a low, rumbling sound that came from his chest. Sansa peeked up to watch a warm smile spread across his face and she couldn’t help but smile as well.

Maybe he wasn’t so angry and bitter all the time. 

Chapter Text

When Sansa Stark; beautiful, sweet, achingly off-limits records clerk at the station he worked at, asked him to attend a wedding with her, Sandor damn near laughed in her face. But, it turned out, she was serious. Her ex, also Sandor’s ex in a way, was getting married and had invited her. She didn’t want to go alone, and also wanted to show up with a boyfriend. Seeing as she didn’t have one, she wondered if he would stand in and pretend to be her boyfriend for the evening. 

Of fucking course, he said yes.

A man his size couldn’t just rent a tux, so he had spent money that a police officer didn’t really make to buy a suit. A fitted suit. It was alright. He didn’t need gas in his apartment this month anyway. When he picked Sansa up and she came out of her condo wearing a knee length, form fitting dark purple dress that sat off her shoulders, Sandor knew he was in trouble. Her business attire at the station had left a lot to the imagination, but not this dress. Now he could see every dip and curve of her figure, the milky white expanse of skin along her chest and shoulders, the way her collarbones dipped and curved so invitingly. If her desire was to make Joffrey regret what he’d lost, then she was doing a damn fine job of it.

The ceremony was long and boring and if Cersei Lannister sent another cold glare as Sansa he might just have to pay Officer Tarth to punch her in the face later. But Sansa sat in the chair next to him, her legs crossed and angled away from him while her upper body leaned into his side. It was more comfortable to put his arm around her shoulders, so he did and was surprised a moment later when she lifted her hand to hold his at her shoulder.

The reception was better, in that there was an open bar. If Sansa had wanted to bring him to throw it in Joffrey’s face, she wasn’t doing a very good job. She didn’t drag him out on the dancefloor for everyone to see as they ground against each other. She didn’t tug him along as she greeted Joffrey. In fact, she didn’t ever greet Joffrey. Instead she stayed at their assigned table with him, which was stuck off towards the back of the room like they had forgotten they needed to add another, but it was near the bar and away from the crowd so Sandor didn’t mind.

He also didn’t mind how Sansa stayed sitting so close to him, or how she always seemed to be touching him. A hand on his knee, a playful shove of his shoulder, her fingers touching his on the tabletop. She kept leaning towards him as they spoke, smiling unreservedly with him as her sole point of focus.

“Thank you.” She said after about an hour of being there, her hand coming up to toy with the open lapel of his suit jacket. “For coming with me.” She leaned even closer to him, bright blue eyes looking to his. “I couldn’t imagine coming here with anyone else but you.” And then she brought her hand up to his face, fingernails delicately raking up the stubble of his chin before running along the scars of his ruined cheek.

“Careful, girl.” He grabbed her wrist, want twisting with bitterness in his stomach. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were trying to seduce me.”

Sansa smiled at that, her head tilting to the side. She let him pull her hand away from his cheek, but instead threaded her fingers through his. “What makes you think you know better?”

Sandor swallowed hard. “Don’t tease me.” He meant to snap it, but it came out more like a plea.

“I won’t.” she promised softly. “And I am.”

“You are, what?”

“Trying to seduce you.” She tilted her chin up, coming even closer so that he felt her words against his lips. “Is it working?”

“Like a fucking charm.” He growled before cupping the back of her head and brining her in those few inches to finally taste what happiness was like.

Chapter Text

Since the spring had finally come to thaw out the cold, dark winter, things had settled into a new normal. People were growing used to the new way of the realm, and were rebuilding the things they’d lost.

Winterfell had been hit hard. So many people lost, not to mention all the supplies lost and damage done to the castle itself. Still, it was stubborn, much like the northern people. It was slowly regaining it’s footing and coming together once again. Most of that had to do with Lady Stark. Rickon may be the Lord of Winterfell, but he was still a boy and very much wild. Sansa attended things herself, guiding her long-lost brother with a gentle hand and a sweet voice.

Tonight, there was a feast. The first since the war against the Night had ended. Jon Snow would be leaving to head South to help dismantle Kings Landing fully. The capitol would no longer exist. Queen Daenerys would return to her ancestral home of Dragonstone, but the seven kingdoms were all to be self-governed from now on. The Northerners wanted to send their hailing hero off properly. That meant music and food and wine.

Sandor Clegane hadn’t drunk wine in years. Not since he’d purged himself of so many demons back on the Quiet Isle. It wasn’t surprising then that it only took two mugs of watered down ale to get him…well, not quite drunk, but also not sober.

Sansa looked gorgeous in the warm glow of the sconces and fire. Her hair was left down in waves that looked soft and shiny, reaching down almost to her arse. She was wearing a pretty gown of purple shot through with threads of silver. She made certain to make her way around the Great Hall, speaking to any and everyone, from small folk and farmers to the Lords and Ladies from the surrounding Houses. And yet, to Sandor’s drink induced surprise, she ended up sitting next to him. He nearly choked on his tongue when she started talking to him, those beautiful blue eyes staring right up at him. In her, Sandor had found his final link to absolution, and she’d given it so sweetly and willingly.

He wasn’t at all sure what she was talking about. It was too loud in the room with all the voices, and he was all too happy to just hear her voice. While he listened, he reached for the platter at the center of the table, grabbing the last thing left on it and popping it into his mouth. Sansa’s eyes went wide, her mouth falling open. She looked so upset and Sandor’s lazy, sluggish mind couldn’t figure out why.

“What?” he asked, finishing chewing the sweet lemon flavored food.

“That…that was the last lemon cake.” She sniffed. “I love lemon cakes.”

Sandor swallowed, trying not to laugh. Apparently, he wasn’t all too good at it. He was smiling, probably like an idiot.

“It’s not funny.” She declared, her bottom lip coming. She was just too adorable for her own good. It wasn’t fair, really.

“No.” he agreed, leaning an elbow on the table and propping his chin up on it while he looked at her. His head felt pleasantly swimmy, his chest warm, his inhibitions and self-doubts dulled. “You’re so cute when you pout like that.”

Instead of being insulted at him pointing out she was pouting, Sansa looked utterly surprised. The surprise quickly gave way to delight, her eyes shinning and smile wide.

“Did Sandor Clegane just use the word ‘cute’?” she giggled. “I never would have guessed.”

Sandor blushed, which was really the worst thing. He was a seasoned warrior, a fearsome killer. He shouldn’t be blushing. He grabbed what was left of his ale and drained it.

“It’s just a word.” He defended. “I’m allowed to say words.”

“Of course.” She agreed, still smiling happily. “I like the word cute. Like your blush,” she reached out and touched a fingertip to his burning unscarred cheek. “It’s cute.”

With a huff, Sandor sat the empty mug down. Still, he could admit that he was flattered. Who wouldn’t be when someone like Sansa Stark called them cute?    

Chapter Text

Rumor spread quickly around the castle, as it always did. Normally Sandor didn’t pay it much mind, other than keeping on ear out for anything that might pertain to the safety of the inhabitants of Winterfell. This, though…this was directly linked to him. 

Lady Sansa Stark, with the input of the young (and still far too wild) Lord Rickon, was making changes in her House staff. Now that the war was over and the spring had fully thawed out the Long Night, it was time to send stragglers back to their own homes, and to officially establish House positions. Since Sandor had doing a bit of both training soldiers and keeping the House guard, he assumed his position was guaranteed.

He’d been wrong.

A former Nights Watch was to be commander of the garrison. Sandor actually approved of Tollett. He’d do a good job.

As for head of the House guard, it was to be Davos Seaworth. Now, Sandor had nothing against Seaworth, but fucking hells. It left Sandor without a place here. Which meant, he’d be one of the people told to politely asked to go back home. Only, he didn’t have a home. The westerlands would never be his home and as far as he was aware, Clegane Keep was decimated and dilapidated by now.

Pushing his anger and feeling of betrayal down, Sandor went about his business and avoided Sansa at every turn. Until she cornered him just outside the Great Hall.

“Clegane.” She greeted him with a smile so wide it must hurt her cheeks. She almost seemed to be bouncing on her heels.

“My Lady.” He greeted, forcing himself not to hiss her name. He chose to look just over her shoulder instead of at her.

“There is something I wish to ask you.” She clasped her hands before her chest and he could almost feel the excitement rolling off her.

“You need to do this now?” he looked at her, hurt even more at the thought she would just dismiss him like this.

“No.” she deflated some. “I suppose not. Can you come to my solar tomorrow morning before we break our fast?”

“If you want me to.”

She smiled again, weaker this time. “Yes, please.”

The next morning Sandor rose, though he hadn’t slept at all, and got dressed. He drug his feet, but eventually made it to Sansa’s solar. A single knock and he was bade entrance.

“You needed to see me.” He prompted as soon as the door was closed. Sansa rose from behind her desk, coming around to face him. She looked nervous, but still managed to smile.

Damn. He was going to miss that smile.

“I have a question for you.”

Yes. He knew. How would you feel about going back home? Or, Would you like to join Jon’s Kingsguard back in Kings Landing? It would be something polite, worded so as not to hurt him. Sansa would turn it into some bloody favor instead of a dismissal.

“Get on with it then, girl.” He snapped. “I haven’t got all day. I need to get my things packed and a horse ready soon.”

Sansa jerked like she’d been hit, and took a step back. Her mouth worked like she was trying to say something but the words wouldn’t come. Sandor looked away from her, his own eyes burning.

“I see.” She composed herself. “Well, I wouldn’t want to keep you then. Please, excuse me.”

She brushed past him, chin held high and that damned haughty look on her face. It snapped something inside of him.

“Hold on just a bloody moment.” He growled, grabbing her arm to stop her, but letting go when her eyes flashed to his hand on her. “Are you really going to leave without asking me the question you’ve been dying to ask me?” He sneered the question, all righteous anger.

Then Sansa’s chin wobbled. Her eyes filled with tears, but none fell. She sniffed and blinked a few times.

“If I must.” She cleared her throat, holding her body as if expecting a blow. Sandor furrowed his brow in confusion. “Now that the war is over, life must move on. It has always been my greatest dream to get married and find love and start a family. I have the time to do those things now. What I wanted from you, what I had intended to ask you, was for your hand in marriage.”

Sandor stood in dumb shock. He rubbed at his forehead, head shaking a little.

“I see now that you are of a mind to leave, and I wouldn’t want to stop you.” She smiled a little sadly. “Please, do not feel obligated. I only thought…I had always assumed I would be married before I fell in love. Like my Mother and Father. I hadn’t expected to find love first.” She shook her head. “It’s no matter. You should be off. I’ll let the stable keeper know that you are to have the finest stead in our stock.” She stepped forward, a small, warm hand coming out to hold his wrist gently. “I wish you all the best in your life, Sandor Clegane.”

The door to the solar closed before Sandor’s mind unfroze and his blood surged in his veins. A rush of adrenaline propelled him out the door and he sprinted down the hall, catching Sansa just before she started to descend the stairs.

“Wait!” he called, stopping just inches from her. “Yes.”

“Yes?”

“Buggering hells, yes, girl.” He grasped her face between his hands. “I’ll do and be anything you want me to.”

A hesitant smile tugged at her lips. “I want you to want it. I don’t want you to feel as if it’s an ultimatum. If you don’t want me, then I can find you a place somewhere here, or anywhere you’d prefer.”

“It’s you.” He growled lowly. “It’s beside you that I prefer. I want you.”

A true smile now. A hand grasping his wrist and her head tilting into his touch. “Then we have a wedding to plan.”

Chapter Text

It wasn’t that Sandor outright hated singers. He had nothing against them, or songs in general, other than that most of them were stupid. Still, he didn’t mind listening to music, it was just that most of his life hadn’t been very conducive to the frivolity of music. 

The war was far from over. The Long Night still reigned, but the living was still thriving, still pushing back. Battles were now being won in their favor. More wights and cold dead fuckers were falling than living humans now. Sandor had done his part in those battles, and likely more than just his part. He was bigger than most, better skilled with a sword than farmers and common folk. The last battle fought Jon Snow, precious bastard son of the North, was being pinned down and was just moments away from joining the ranks of the undead. It wasn’t out of any particular fondness for the boy that Sandor had saved him. They needed able bodied fighters to win this war, and Snow was far more skilled than most. It was also to his benefit to save several others that fight. He couldn’t justify risking his life when a small group of wights had broken through the walls and were hell-bent on taking out the children and women inside the castle, other than that Sansa Stark was in there as well, and if they were to win this war, it was people like her that would rebuild the world into something worth living in.

What he hadn’t counted on were the songs. By the next evening some of the more musically inclined had come up with songs about him and his heroic exploits. With the previous wins, there had actually been some downtime and Sandor tried to hide himself in the back of the Great Hall to avoid all the praise as the people listened to the songs hailing him a hero. Sansa found him. She always seemed to find him.

“Why are you hiding back here?” she asked once she’d sat herself next to him. “Don’t you like hearing them praising you? You deserve it, you know.” She sniffed and Sandor looked at her, noting how she seemed so absorbed in the music, how her blue eyes stared almost longingly at the bards at the front of the hall. Like a child looking at some highly desired toy that wasn’t theirs.

“Are you…” he grinned, shifting so he could look at her better. “Are you jealous, My Lady? That they sing songs about a horrid killer like myself rather than a lovely Lady like yourself?”

“No.” her head snapped around to look at him. “I’m not jealous.”

“I think you are.” He taunted. “You’ve always loved the songs and wanted a love worthy of one.”

“That is true.” She agreed with no embarrassment. “And I pray that someday I will be granted that love. I can only hope that the one I find love with is as worthy of the songs as you are.”

Sandor’s amusement faded, a warmth flared in his chest, threatening to spill up to his face. There weren’t many things that Sandor wanted in life beyond surviving this war, but when he looked at her, he found himself hoping that he could make himself as worthy of those songs as Sansa seemed to think he was.

Chapter Text

Moving to a new school his senior year of high school wasn’t exactly on the top of Sandor’s wish list. It was, however, at the top of that list to get as far away from his brother as he possibly could now that their parents were dead and Sandor had turned 18, which meant he could be on his own. Do to how his birthday fell, he was still in school even though he was technically an adult now.

Heading North was his second choice, but since Dorne was more expensive, it was the choice he could afford. So, he moved to the North, got a job working nights and weekends stocking shelves at a winter sports supply store. It was there that he first saw Sansa Stark. She was the oldest daughter of Sandor’s boss. He hadn’t talked to her, just saw her from a distance. She was pretty, probably just a freshman, and from what he’d seen she was also polite and well mannered, just as sweet as can be. Ned always told him as much, anyway.

The first day at school, a week after he’d moved there, was shitty. The teachers all automatically assumed he was a problem kid because he was poor and living on his own. His fellow students all gave him a wide breadth and didn’t try to welcome him. It didn’t matter. Sandor just wanted to get finished with this year so he could get a diploma and move on with his life.

Lunch time came, and after getting his tray, he looked around the cafeteria. All the tables were full, kids all huddled together and eating and laughing and chatting. He was just about to take his food and eat in the stairwell when he saw her. She was sitting at a table with a few other people, but none of them seemed to be talking to her and she was on the opposite side of the table as the others, a few empty chairs on either side of her. Her nose was buried in a text book, her hand jotting down notes while she occasionally took a bite of her food.

It wasn’t like they knew each other, but Sandor at least recognized her. And she was so damned polite he knew she wouldn’t turn him away. Probably. Pulling his shoulders back, he weaved his way over to the table, standing behind the empty chair beside her. When she didn’t look up, he cleared his throat. Her head snapped up and big blue eyes met his before a small smile pulled at her lips.

“Can I sit here?” he asked, motioning to the chair. “All the other tables are full.”

“Oh.” She hurriedly pushed out the chair next to her for him. “Of course. Please.”

Sandor snorted at her rushed politeness, but took the seat. He hadn’t actually planned on talking to her, but apparently, she had other plans.

“I’m Sansa, by the way.” She held out her hand to him and Sandor took it briefly. “Sansa Stark. You work for my father, don’t you?”

“I do.” He nodded. “It’s Sandor.”

“It’s nice to finally meet you, Sandor.” She chirped. “How are you liking Winterfell High? It’s only my first year here, I’m a freshman, but the teachers all seem very educated and the facilities are very nice.”

“Yeah, it’s…not shit, I guess.” He shrugged.

“Oh.” She blushed at his language and Sandor decided then and there he was going to try and make her blush whenever he got the chance. “Well, welcome.”

“Yeah, kid.” He grinned at her. “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.” She smiled, before turning back to her books and notes. “I’m sorry I won’t be very social this lunch. I’m pants at math and we have a test coming up.”

“I don’t like overly social people.” He shrugged, glancing at her text book to see what sort of math she was working on. “I’m pretty good with numbers. If you want I can help you during lunches.”

Sansa looked up at him with a surprised smile. “That would be lovely, Sandor. Thank you.”

Sandor scratched the back of his neck, uncomfortable with her gratitude. “Yeah, well. I need a place to sit.”

Sansa giggled lightly. “Then you’ll always have a place at my table.”

Chapter Text

Sansa had trouble remembering a time when she hadn’t known Sandor Clegane. They’d first met when she was a young girl, and he was a very angry and damaged young man. She hadn’t always liked him. To be honest, she spent the first few years of their acquaintance being quite afraid of him. It took her a few years of being separated from him, years to mature and really understand how things were, to realize he had been a protector of sorts over her. He had been struggling with his own demons and living in a volatile and unstable workplace with toxic, manipulative people.

They’d both broken away from those people and that time of their lives. They’d met again, years later, when Sansa had fully come into herself and was a woman grown and Sandor was a calmer, more healed person. A tentative friendship had grown between them, and eventually it wasn’t tentative at all.

Sansa’s cousin, Jon, owned a very successful bar. While Sansa was going to university, he had given her a job there working as a waitress. Sansa had in turn gotten Sandor a job there as a bouncer, where he eventually worked himself up to head of the security department. They worked well together, her and him. She liked how he always had her back, how he always kept an eye on her. She looked forward to the end of every shift when he walked her to her car. Their easy conversation and his blunt advice were things she’d come to cherish.

Only, lately, there was something off. Sandor seemed to be avoiding her. He still walked her to her car and kept an eye on her during work, but he didn’t seek her out just to chat anymore and she couldn’t remember the last text he’d actually responded to with more than just one word. It hurt her badly, but she was also worried that something was wrong and he was pulling into himself instead of seeking help like he had in the past. Even though she was worried about the response she might get, Sansa had decided it was time to ask him about it.

After the bar closed, Sansa waited by the back doors where Sandor eventually met her when his duties were finished. He didn’t say anything, but held the door open for her to go out first. They were halfway across the parking lot when Sansa found the courage to speak.

“Is there something bothering you?” she asked.

“No.” he said quickly. “It was an easy shift.”

Sansa nodded, half of her wanting to let it go. The other half was far too worried about him to let it slide. “You’ve seemed…distant lately.” She swallowed. “I’ve been worried.”

“No need to worry.” He stopped at the driver’s side of her car and Sansa looked up at him, but he was looking down at the ground. “I’m fine.”

“But you aren’t.” she argued gently. “Either that, or I’ve done something and you don’t want to…”

“Stop.” He interrupted her, grey eyes flashing down to hers finally. “You have done nothing. It isn’t you’re fault.”

“Then what is it?” she pleaded with him. “Please, Sandor. Talk to me.”

“It’s so fucking stupid.” He sighed, running a hand over his face. “I should know better.”

“What is it?” she tried again.

“Fine.” He snapped, head jerking up to pin her with his stare. “I fell in love with my best friend.”

Sansa felt her jaw drop open, and her heart did this weird swoop as her stomach fell. She hadn’t been expecting that. She hadn’t known that about Sandor, but she could definitely see why falling in love with Bronn would be a problem. Bronn was as hetero as they came, and head over heals for Margaery. She felt stupid herself, thinking that he could possibly have feelings for her. And now she felt guilty of her own feelings, knowing that he was gay.

“Oh.” She couldn’t figure out what else to say at first. “I’m sorry. It must be difficult, especially since he brings Margaery everywhere with him. And their so…open with their affections. That has to hurt.”

For a long moment, Sandor just stared at her, his eyes wide. Then he shook his head. “What? You think…I’m not gay, Little Bird.”

“You don’t have to put a label on it. Feelings are feelings no matter what, and love doesn’t care about gender or sexual preference.”

“That’s not, no.” he shook his head again. “I’m not gay or bi or confused about my sexuality. I’m straight. I like women. Always have. And Bronn?” he huffed an offended noise. “Even if I was, Bronn? Come on. Give me some credit.”

“But you said…” Sansa trailed off, feeling awfully confused.

“My best friend.” He repeated. “Bronn is not my best friend. You are, you daft bird.”

“Oh.” Sansa smiled. She hadn’t thought he considered her his best friend, but she did him and to know that he felt the same was…oh. Wait. “You mean it’s me you fell in love with?”

“Yeah.” He shrugged, but she could see just how serious this was to him. “I’m sorry I’ve been such a shit lately. I’m just trying to deal with it.”

“And what?” she nearly whispered. “Get over it?”

“No.” he sighed heavily. “There isn’t a getting over it. But I can get a handle on it so we can still be friends and I don’t fuck that up.”

“You couldn’t.” Sansa assured him, reaching out to place her hand on his upper arm. “You could never mess it up. You’re my best friend too, Sandor, and I love you so much.”

“I know.” He nodded.

“No, I don’t think you do.” She stepped closer, raising her other hand to cup the unburnt side of his face. “I am in love with you too, Sandor.”

“You…how?” he gave her a confused look. “Why?”

“Well.” She smiled, stepping into his body and tilting her chin up to look at him. “Because you’re kind and gentle, at least with me. And you’re strong and fierce and loyal. Besides, friends to lovers is the best trope for a reason.”

Sandor snorted and rolled his eyes, but he did smile, hands coming up to hold her waist gently. “You’re a silly little bird, you know that?”

“Yes.” She lifted on tiptoes to press a quick, chaste kiss to his lips. “But I’m your silly little bird.”

Chapter Text

“You can’t keep doing this.” Sansa scolded him in a shaking voice. She hated that he kept putting himself on the front line, right in the midst of the worst of the fighting without hardly taking a break. It had gotten him hurt too many times.

“’S war, girl.” Sandor slurred, slumping to the side as she and Sam worked to pull his armor off of him. It was still cold to the touch, but the blood flowing from his neck and shoulder was hot. And there was a lot of it.

“No talking.” Sam hushed him, and Sansa would have been proud of him in how far he’d come in his own confidence if she wasn’t so worried. “These wounds are deep.” He said, almost to himself and Sansa jerked her head away from the bleeding to look at Sam. His face was pinched, concern in his weary features. Her stomach rolled.

“What do we do?” Sansa pushed, hoping to snap Sam out of it.

“Bring me boiling water.” He started pushing his sleeves up his arms. “Our sharpest needles and thread.” He glanced up at Sansa. “Lots of thread.”

The procedure was horrific, but then again, most were these days. Sansa was now only mildly nauseated by the sight of blood. Sandor had howled in pain, cursed every god, then begged for mercy before passing out. Sam had been able to finish cleaning and sewing the wounds. He’d given a dose of milk of the poppy to keep Sandor asleep for a while longer and told Sansa that if he could manage not to get infection, he’d likely survive.

Likely.

Leaving him to rest on the cot in the makeshift medical wing was hard, but Sansa still had duties to attend. She did them as fast and best as she could, then hurried back to his side when she was done. He was still sleeping thanks to the poppy, but he was breathing and when she placed her hand over the left side of his bare chest, she could feel his heart beating. She wanted so much for him to open his eyes, to scoff at her fretting and tell her she was being silly. She wanted to feel his large, rough fingers wrap around hers when she placed her hand in his. She wanted to thank him again, and perhaps bring herself to ask for another kiss. One that she would give freely, and have the time to enjoy without green flames flickering out the window.

“Please.” She whispered, leaning down so her lips were nearer his ear. “Please, Sandor. You can’t die. Please,” she stuttered, sucking in a breath. “Please, don’t die.”  

Chapter Text

Sansa hadn’t meant to make a scene. Usually, she preferred not to. It was unladylike and impolite, especially in a work environment. Still, she had her limits and Joffrey and the rest of the Lannister’s had been given far more of her patience than they deserved. 

It wasn’t actually that dramatic. Sansa was just tired; tired of working here, tired of the way she was treated, tired of Joffrey thinking he could walk all over her just because he was her boss and she was his ex. The money wasn’t worth it, the potential blow to her reputation and the fact that she may never be able to find a job in this profession again, didn’t matter. Not anymore. Being groped in the lady’s bathroom by her boss/ex and propositioned so crudely was just too much. So, she’d marched straight out of that bathroom to confront him where he’d gone, which just so happened to be a conference room full of people. She had made certain to let him know that she did not appreciate unsolicited touches and that she was not, and would never be, interested in taking him up on his disgusting offer. Then she’d turned on her heel, casting a glance around the table full of clients and coworkers, smiled her best smile, and marched right back out.

Knowing she now no longer had a job, Sansa hurried to her cubical and gathered the meager personal processions she had there. Those things amounted to a coffee mug, a framed picture of her family, one of her dog Lady, and a small glass figure of a red bird that someone had left at her desk on her birthday last month. She had a feeling she knew who that was.

Things stowed in her purse, she managed to leave the floor without having meet any of the Lannister’s. Foregoing the lift, she used the stairs and when she came out in the lobby, she was smiling so widely it was starting to hurt. Goodness, she should have done this so long ago. It felt wonderful! Practically skipping, she headed for the doors only to stop when she saw who was standing just beside them.

“Did they send you down to make sure I left?” she asked flippantly, though it hurt to think he would do that. She hoped, perhaps stupidly, that maybe he’d come down just to say goodbye.

“No.” Sandor shifted, cleared his throat. “They didn’t.”

“Oh.” She noticed the old copy paper box in his hands. “What’s with the box?”

Sandor looked down at the box, lowering it a little so she was able to see inside. There were some books and files, a few mugs, a handful of pens, a stapler, and a single photo frame with a picture of a black dog inside of it.

“I quit.” He said while she was looking inside, and she quickly looked up at him in surprise. “Joffrey is a little…” he stopped and glanced around. “I can’t work for them any longer. Bugger them all, especially if you aren’t going to be here anymore.”

Sansa smiled, then bit her lip to keep it from splitting her face open. “So, you quit. Because of me?”

“Fuck, girl.” He scoffed and shook his head. “Most things I do are for you.”  

Sansa laughed, the adrenaline from early merging with a surge of happiness that she just couldn’t contain it. She bounced a little on her toes, and reached out with both hands to grab onto his wrists.

“That makes me so happy.” She declared. “I could just kiss you right now!”

Sandor’s eyes went wide, then flicked down to her lips. “Yeah?”

“Yeah.” She nodded. “Come on.” She pushed the door open for them. “I’ll buy you some lunch and then maybe we can figure out our next move.”

“And that involves kissing?” he asked, stepping out onto the walk way with her. Sansa laughed again, hooking her arm around his bent elbow.

“Yes.” She gave a decisive nod. “Lots and lots of kissing.”

Chapter Text

Going to Essos for a year abroad had seemed like such a wonderful idea. Sansa had always wanted to see the world outside the North so when her design professor had mentioned it to her, she jumped on it right away. Her parents hadn’t been too thrilled with the idea at first, but Sansa soon assuaged their fears. There was a whole group of people from her university that were going. She wouldn’t be alone. 

When she had arrived two months ago, things had seemed to be going so well. Her host family was sweet and unobtrusive. The girls in the design class were all rather nice, and the class itself was so, so amazing. She would have never learned the things she was learning here back home. When she had met the studio photographer, Sansa had been surprised when she found out that he was originally from Westeros. The westerlands, to be exact, though he had the look of a Northerner. He was a bit rude, a lot brash, but highly skilled. When she saw her pieces on the models in his pictures, it took her breath away. He also seemed keen to help her when she needed it, and had even helped fend off some unwanted advances from some locals at a bar one evening.

Sansa quickly developed a crush on the older, incredibly huge man.

Today she didn’t feel well, and hadn’t most of yesterday either. Her stomach hurt horridly and she felt both hot and cold. The air was on in the studio, but she was still sweating. She had thrown up before coming in, and just a few minutes ago had to run to the bathroom to do so again. Now she was sitting at her stool, bent over and holding her belly. She felt like crying, but was so tired she couldn’t even muster the energy.

“Sansa, doll.” Margaery, another of the girls here with the university, called from somewhere to her side. “Are you alright?”

“Yes.” Sansa glanced up and forced a smile. “I think I just ate something bad.”

“Poor dear.” Margaery handed her a bottle of water. “Let me know if you need anything else.”

Sansa nodded and took the water. She really didn’t think it was something she ate, because she hadn’t been able to eat for two days now. And the pain was getting worse. She’d only come in because her newest gown was to be photographed and she needed to make some final touches. She cracked open the bottle and took a sip. A soon as the cool water hit her stomach, she knew she needed to throw up again.

“Sansa.” A familiar rough voice called her name, but Sansa ignored it. She stood quickly from the stool with every intention of hurrying to the bathroom, when the whole room spun. She gasped, heard someone curse, and then things went black.

There were brief flashes of motion around her. Someone was picking her up and carrying her while others were speaking in panicked voices. She was buckled into a car, or truck, and when she could force her eyes open, she saw that they were speeding down the road. Glancing over at the driver seat, she saw Sandor, blurred in her fever hazed vision.

“Hang on, Little Bird.” He sounded panicked and Sansa wanted to assure him she was fine, even though she wasn’t. As it was, she could barely do more than clutch at her hurting stomach and curl in on herself. “We’re almost to the hospital.”

At the hospital she was taken back to a room and given an iv and some wonderful medicine that lessened her pain. She was wheeled in for some scans and after the results came back, the doctor told her she had an appendicitis and that she would need surgery. After he left to get things prepared for that, Sansa looked over to find Sandor’s huge form standing in the corner.

“You’re here still.” She said in a shaky voice. She was suddenly very cold. She’d never had surgery before and was terrified.

“Yeah.” He stepped forward to sit in the lone chair next to her gurney. “You, uh, you scared the shit out of me.”

“Sorry.” She forced a smile. “Thank you for bringing me.” At that he just nodded but his eyes flicked up to the clock on the wall. Sansa swallowed around a lump in her throat.

“It’s okay.” She assured him. “You don’t have to stay.”

“What?” his eyes snapped back to her. “I’m not leaving you here alone, girl. You’re having surgery and your family is too far away to be here for you. Of course, I’m staying. I was just wondering what in the hells was taking so long.”

“Oh.” She smiled easily now. “Thank you, because I’m so very scared.”

“That’s alright, little bird.” He reached out and took her hand in his much larger one. “They’re going to make you better.”  

Sansa nodded, letting her eyes close. She was still scared, but with his hand in hers and his willing comfort, it wasn’t so bad anymore.

Chapter Text

Becoming a sworn shield had never been something Sandor had wanted. He’d been Joffrey’s shield, yes, but he’d never sworn anything. It gave him the false sense of superiority that he could leave at any given moment and not have to break an oath. It wasn’t just a sworn shield that he’d never wanted, it was a sworn anything. He never felt the desire or urge to swear himself to any one person or cause.

Until he met Sansa Stark. 

Over the years, he had done what he could to protect her, and usually failed. After his atonement and finding her quieted away in the Eyrie, Sandor had pledged, at least to himself, that he would do a better job of it this time. And he had. He helped her with Littlefinger and finding her way back home. He’d stood beside her during the Long Night, and after, when Sansa had offered, he’d quickly sworn the oath to use his sword and his life to protect her. It was a fairly easy job now that spring had come. Mostly he worked with the House guard and the garrison, escorting Sansa only when she left the castle. It kept him close to her, the only person that he’d ever let in until she became a part of him, a warmth sitting just beneath his breast.

Sandor always knew the day would come when their tentative peace and happiness would be disrupted. It came in the form of a missive from her cousin, now reigning King. Sansa needed to marry, to strengthen the bonds between the broken Houses of the North. Jon was taking proposals and sending those he deemed worthy to her. He would allow her to chose of those that he sent, but essentially, Sansa had no choice. It was her duty as a Lady.

Most suitors she sent away quickly. They came, dined, and then left the next morning. Sansa hardly ever spent any real time with any of them, which suited Sandor just fine. It was easier to keep her safe, or so he told himself. Until one came from the Riverlands. Sandor hadn’t bothered to learn his name, figuring he’d be gone as quick as the others. Only, he wasn’t. Sansa dined with him, and then accepted a walk around the grounds with him. Sandor followed behind them, confused and fighting against bitterness and anger. After three days of the man being there, he bade Sansa goodbye with a knightly kiss on the hand and a promise to contact her soon.

It was to be expected. Sansa would have to marry; more so, Sansa wanted to marry. She wanted companionship and love and a family. Better to be given those things with a worthy man than some cruel boy, and this Riverlander seemed good. Better than most.

When the raven came not quite a moons turn later, Sandor knew what it was. A formal proposal of marriage. One that Sansa replied to hastily.

It had dawned on Sandor that when Sansa married, he would no longer be needed. A husband would care for his own wife, not some battered old dog. It was something that Sansa would probably feel obligated to argue with him, and Sandor would stay if she wanted him to. If…if.

Sansa was sat at her desk, going over what looked like crop rotation. Sandor knocked on the open door, waiting for her to acknowledge him.

“Sandor.” She smiled, looking relieved for the break. “Come in. Can I help you with something?”

He’d had it planned, what he would say. Practiced it, even. Now, looking at the face that had come to mean so very much to him, everything fled. He swallowed, stepped inside, and forced himself to look her in the eye so he could see the truth of her words.

“Do you want me to leave?”

Sansa tilted her head, a brow lifting slightly. “I just asked you to come in.”

“No.” he shook his head and sighed. “After, when you start to live with your husband.” He hadn’t considered where they might live. Here in Winterfell with Sansa’s still adjusting brother, or in the Riverlands.

“My husband?”

“Once you’re married.” He clarified. “He’ll likely not want you to have a shield. Most husbands don’t, unless their wives live in hostile places. Winterfell isn’t hostile. You’re loved throughout the North. I know the Riverlands are at peace as well, and with your mother’s family there, I see no reason why he should think you need one if you are to move there.”

“Sandor.” She stood, giving a small shake of her head. “I’m not moving to the Riverlands. I’m not moving at all. Nor am I engaged. Currently.”

“But the Lord from the Riverlands…has he not proposed yet?”

“Heavens no.” she laughed. “He wasn’t a suitor at all. I asked Jon to send him. He is from a House in the Riverlands that was once home to another family. He was given it by my grandfather before his death. I was curious as to how the process worked. He came to help me understand.”

“Why…” Sandor shook his head. “Why would you need to understand that?”

“Because, with Jon’s permission already granted, I wanted to give you Dreadfort. You are welcome to change the name, of course, and the sigil. Make it whatever you please. You’ll have to take on the title of Lord, but again, Jon has already agreed.”

“Stop.” Sandor rubbed at his aching temple. “So, you do want me to leave? To go to the Dreadfort.”

“Eventually, yes.” She suddenly looked nervous. “If you will accept. And, if it is your wish, I’d like to come with you. Once Rickon is able to take over here.”

“Come with me?”

“As your wife.” She blushed brightly. “If you’ll have me.”

“If I’ll…” Sandor scoffed. “You’re not as smart as you make yourself out to be if you think I’d refuse you, Little Bird.”

Sansa smiled, small and happy and breathtaking. “It’s a rather good thing that I am very smart, then.”

Chapter Text

Sandor had opened his gym almost ten years ago. At first, like most businesses, it struggled, but after a few of the guys started passing around how good of a trainer Sandor was, despite his rather brash way, it became quite successful. It was a simple gym, nothing high end or fancy. He had two boxing rings that dominated the center of the huge single room. Towards the back was cardio and weight lifting equipment by the row of lockers and the bags were nearer the front. The walls were plain brick, the floors cement where he hadn’t put down mats. He didn’t offer yoga or spin classes or whatever that new dance workout thing was called. It was basic. You come, you work the bags, lift some weights, hit the treadmill, or jump in the ring. Simple. 

For the most of the ten years Sandor had been open, the majority of his clients were men. There was the occasional female, but no one consistent until Brienne Tarth waltzed in and decided she liked the rude owner and the smell of sweaty dudes on high carb diets. Likely it was because she felt more at home next to people more her size. Sandor didn’t care either way; she always paid her dues on time.

But Brienne Tarth came with her own ideas. She had mentioned several times that he should start doing self defense classes. She said there were several of the girls she went to university with that would be interested and it would help keep them safe. It would also bring in more money. So, Sandor agreed after a month of talking with her about it. His first night holding the class he knew he was in trouble.  

Sansa Stark showed up that first time with a black eye and a bruise on her pale cheekbone. Sandor didn’t ask. It was none of his business, even if it did immediately enrage him to think that someone would dare hurt this girl who looked like the Maiden come to life. Eventually, after listening to her chirp at him every night when he walked her to her car after lessons, he found out it was an ex-boyfriend. She wanted his help so she didn’t fall victim again. She wanted to be able to protect herself, and she trusted Sandor to be the one to teach her how. That was the beginning of how his infatuation began. Problem was, he had no idea how to flirt or come onto women. Most of the time when he tried with Sansa he came off as sounding like a creep or that he was insulting her.

Something Bronn, his business partner, never let him live down.

Tonight was likely the worst. It wasn’t even a scheduled self defense class. Sansa had come in for some one on one work. Sandor tried not to notice how her sports top squeezed her tits together so her cleavage damn near reached her throat, or how those damn Lycra leggings hugged her perfect ass. Instead he focused on teaching her how to pick out weak points and throw elbows into the right places. After, when Sansa was drinking some water, Sandor thought maybe he should just ask her out. Just get it out of the way. He figured she’d reject him, but it was better than this limbo of want.

“So, uh.” Sandor cleared his throat, then winced when she jumped because he’d startled her and some water dribbled down her chin and chest.

“Sorry.” She giggled a little, grabbing a towel and drying herself off. Sandor almost rolled his eyes, because she was apologizing for something that wasn’t even her fault. “You startled me.”

“Sorry.” He repeated and then shoved his shoulders back and gave himself a mental kick in the arse. “I just, you looked good today.”

A brow lifted and amusement flashed in her eyes.

“I mean during the lesson. You did good. You’re getting faster and you’re getting more confident.” 

“Thank you.” She smiled, reaching down to pick up her duffle and shove her water bottle back inside it. “I appreciate it.”

“I appreciate you.” He winced after that came out. “That you come here and uh, train.”

Sansa, bless her sweet heart, only laughed instead of making fun of him. “I like it here and you’re a very good teacher.”

“I’m good at other things, too.” There. That didn’t sound so bad. A little sleazy, sure, but maybe she’d take it as him being playful. Not that the word had ever been applied to him before.

“Oh.” She looked surprised. “That’s…good. I should go, though. Early class tomorrow.”

“Sure.” Sandor sighed, feeling like a complete ass. “I’ll walk you out.”

“No, thank you.” She reached out to squeeze his forearm with a smile. “Brienne is waiting at the doors for me.”

“Right.” Sandor nodded. “See you next time.”

With another smile and a sweet goodbye, Sansa left him standing there wanting to slam his face into the nearest wall.

“It must be hard,” Bronn’s sarcastic voice came from behind him, but Sandor didn’t bother turning around. “with your sense of direction, never being able to find your way to a decent pickup line.”

“Fuck off.” Sandor muttered, shoving him out of the way so he could go to his office and hit his head on the desk a few times. When he got there, his phone pinged with a message and he grabbed it and almost dropped it as soon as he picked it up.

Sansa: I’d like to know what else you’re good at. Maybe dinner first? 

Well, shit. Maybe he wasn’t The Actual Worst after all.

Chapter Text

Sex wasn’t something Sansa had a wealth of knowledge on, but she thought what she and Sandor had was pretty good. Great, amazing, mind blowing, and spectacular, actually, but she didn’t want to gush. 

Sandor had this ability to make her stomach coil with want just with a single look, not to mention the havoc he caused on her higher thinking when his hands and mouth were on her. She’d seen him fight before during training and his single-minded focus during that translated over to sex as well. She became his sole point of focus, and everything he did, every move he made and every sound that came from his mouth was meant to bring her even higher. Sansa loved it, but she had always been a giver in life. Always thrived off other people being happy because she’d done something good. She wanted to do that for Sandor as well, to be good for him in this.

Tonight, after a ridiculously long movie that made little sense, they’d gone to local food fair to make up for it. Now, full and happy and content, they were sprawled out on her bed, Sandor already working on getting her damp panties off when she’d barely even touched him outside of tugging his shirt off.

“Wait.” She sat up, pushing Sandor’s hands away from her hips. He rose up on his knees, brow furrowed and a concerned look in his eyes, but his bottom lip puckered out just a tiny bit, making him look like a little boy whose mother told him he couldn’t have a cookie. Sansa couldn’t help but giggle.

“You’re so cute when you pout like that.” She teased, reaching up with her thumb to tug his bottom lip further out. Sandor retaliated with a growl and a nip to her thumb.

“I don’t pout.” He glanced down at her panties that were still in their proper place. “I just really wanted to eat you out.”

A blush roared up her cheeks. They’d been intimate together for almost a month now, but she still wasn’t used to how bluntly he spoke of these things.

“And you can.” She assured him, using gentle pressure against his shoulders to get him to lay back on the bed. With all the seduction she could muster, she slung a leg over his hips and let her hands slide up his stomach and chest, nails catching lightly at the hair there. Sandor grunted a little, hips lifting under her. She could feel the hard length of him and couldn’t wait to get inside his jeans and boxers. But, this was to be a slow teasing. Like he did her. She wanted to make him cry out with want, wanted to bring him every ounce of pleasure she could so that he would know, without question, that she enjoyed his body as much as he did hers.

“Just relax.” She whispered, rolling her own hips into his before leaning down and pressing a kiss to his parted lips. “I want to make you feel so good.”

“Fuck.” He groaned, hands squeezing at her thighs. “Yeah. Yeah, do that.”

Sansa smiled, and started to trail kisses down his throat. When she licked across one of his nipples and he gasped, she thought maybe this whole thing was going to be a lot easier than she’d thought.

Chapter Text

At times, it was difficult to remember just how young Lady Sansa Stark was. She’d always been so well behaved and ladylike that it made her seem older. Not to mention the fact that she had developed a womanly body at a young age. It was also easy to forget just how much of her youth had been taken away from her. That was something Sandor understood all too well. 

Right now, with his eyes wide in surprise and astonishment clouding his thoughts, he could clearly see just how young she was. In this moment, it was clear to see the fun, carefree and youthful child she could have been. 

Sansa Stark, Lady of Winterfell and acting Warden of the North, was giggling madly. Her hair, usually so carefully done in plaits to look professional and ladylike, was hanging down in clumps and flying around and she ran. Her pretty skirts were soaked nearly to the knee, the hemline all muddy. Her laughter rang out through the godswood, bouncing off the trees and echoing a happy song. Arya was with her, laughing as well, though the mud on her breeches and melting snow dripping from her hair weren’t unusual. Her easy, joyful laughter, on the other hand. Well, Sandor was having a heard time adjusting and taking in the scene before him.

Sansa and Arya Stark were chasing each other through the trees, laughing like children while they threw handfuls of melting snow at each other. They were free, in this moment, of thoughts of all the death and loss that had come from the Long Night. There was no heavy cloak of mourning and pain that shrouded them. Right now, as he watched, they were simply two young sisters having fun.

Sansa slipped in some slush, going to her knees with a howled laugh. Arya doubled over with more peals of laughter as she stumbled over to her sisters knelt form. Sandor wanted to laugh with them, to share in their carefree joy, but something kept him from intruding. And it wasn’t the visiting Lord from the South that Daenerys had sent to meet with Rickon. It was the moment of bonding between sisters.

Neither Sandor nor the Lord standing silently behind him made a noise, but as Arya pulled a still giggling Sansa to her feet, the elder sister looked over at them. Her smile seemed to widen a fraction when she saw Sandor, but it quickly faded when she saw the other person. She sobered completely and pulled away from Arya, who now was aware of them as well. In an instant, Sansa became Lady of Winterfell again and Arya became the ever-weary woman she’d become.

“I don’t mean to intrude, My Ladies.” The Lord said with no small amount of disdain in his tone. “I was told I would be allowed a meeting with the Warden of the North. Your guard here tells me I won’t be granted one until Lady Stark is with him.”

“Apologies, My Lord.” Sansa said easily. “If you would like to make your way back to the castle, I will change and join you shortly, along with my brother.”

The Lord gave a curt bow before turning on his heel and heading back towards the castle. Arya cast both her sister and Sandor a look, then trudged after the Lord, hand resting on the hilt of her needle.

“Was he very displeased when I wasn’t there to greet him?” she asked as the two of them started back towards the castle.

“Chewed my damn good ear off with complaints of waiting on a woman.” Sandor growled and Sansa grasped his arm to stop him, eyes looking up at him earnestly.

“You shouldn’t have had to deal with him.” She sighed, then brushed damp hair from her cheek. “I swear it won’t happen again.”

“I can handle the likes of him.” Sandor assured her. “He’s not the first pompous, overly self-important lord I’ve had to deal with. Likely won’t be the last.”

Looking down at her, now that they were closer, he could see how red her cheeks and nose were from the still cold spring air. She had a leaf stuck to the melted snow on her forehead, just above her right eye. He lifted a hand and caught the leaf between his thumb and index finger to pull it away. Surely, he only imagined the way she leaned into the touch.

“Besides,” he smiled down at her when the redness of her cheeks seeped down the line of her throat. “It’s good to see you having fun and being happy. The both of you. Gods know you’ve both been denied it for far too long.”

“As have you.” She said gently, a smile on her face. “Mayhaps, after this pompous lord leaves, you would like to join us in our snow fight? Gendry has expressed a wish to join. We could do teams. The two of us against the two of them.” She leaned close, like she was conspiring with him, a mischievous look in her eyes and smile. “I think we could best them, don’t you?”

Sandor chuckled at that. “Yes.” He agreed. “I do believe we could.”

Chapter Text

If there was one thing Sandor hated feeling above all else, it was impotence. Not being able to do something was a horrible feeling and one he didn’t handle well. Before, back in Kings Landing, when he was forced to sit back and watch as a sweet, innocent girl was beaten and humiliated, he’d turned to wine and anger to help deal with it. 

It had been a long while since he’d tasted wine and anger now took longer to overwhelm him. When he’d heard of Litterfinger taking over in the Vale and his wife’s mysterious death and the sudden appearance of a beloved bastard daughter that no one had ever heard of before, something rang suspicious to him. Given what the Elder Brother had told him of the big blond lady knight and hearing of the so-called bastards age, something in his gut told him it was something worth checking out.

Sansa Stark was easy enough to recognize even with her brown hair and fake name. He was as equally recognizable to her as she was to him. Together they planned to over throw Baelish with his own lies and deceit. After, with Baelish’s head no longer attached to his shoulders, they started North with the support of the Knights of the Vale. It was on the road that it happened. Sansa wasn’t the best of riders, and with the ice and snow, her horse lost it’s footing. She’d gone down, the horse falling to its side and crushing her leg. Camp had been hastily set up and Sandor carried a still crying Sansa into the maester’s tent.  After laying her on the cot, he stepped back to let the maester do his work, which would involve forcing her out of place hip back into place.

“Ser, will you hold her hands and keep her still?” the maester asked and Sandor didn’t even spare the breath to tell him he was no Ser. He just crouched down next to Sansa and gathered up her hands in his, leaning his upper body over hers so that she couldn’t see what the maester was doing and also to help keep her steady. The sight of her pretty face drawn in pain, of tears streaking down her cheeks while she writhed under him made him feel more helpless and impotent than he’d ever felt.

“What can I do, little bird?” he asked loudly, not looking back as the maester lifted her skirts so that he could reach her leg.

“Talk to me.” She panted, blue eyes opened wide and her hands gripping his tightly. “Please, just…” she stopped to cry out when the maester moved her leg in a painful way. “Talk to me. Take my mind off it.”

Sandor froze for a moment, not knowing what to talk about at all. But if this was something he could do to help her, no matter how small, he would damn well try.

“Winterfell.” He said the first thing that came to mind. “We’re going to take back Winterfell.”

At that Sansa nodded, sweat forming on her brow despite the cold. “Home.”

“Yes, girl. I’m going to take you home and kill every man who tries to stand in our way. I’ll empty out every Bolton bastard and Ironborn cunt that doesn’t belong there.”

A laugh bubbled up from her throat, but it was quickly cut off by a shout of pain as the maester started jerking more incessantly on her leg.

“And we’ll find your wolf of a sister and together the two of you will run the North and do a damn fine job of it.”

“Arya.” Sansa whispered the name, eyes closing as she breathed deeply through her nose. “What else?”

“You’ll be the perfect lady you were always meant to be and you can sit in overstuffed chairs and sleep in warm feather beds and you will be your own woman. No one will ever hold sway over you again.”

“This is going to be the worst part.” The maester warned and Sandor glanced back to see that he had Sansa’s ankle lifted onto his shoulder with her knee bent. He knew what was coming. He was going to use his own body weight to shove her leg forward and then slam it to the side so the ball of her hip snapped back into the pocket it was supposed to be in.

Sansa’s eyes flew open wide and she clutched at his hands so tightly he could no longer feel the tips of his fingers. She was starting to hyperventilate, but Sandor shifted more onto her chest so that he filled her vision.

“Listen, listen to me. We’re going to get you home and I’ll keep you safe for the rest of your life. You’ll never have to ride a horse or leave your home or fight off unwanted advances again. I’ll make sure you have lemon cakes every day and…”

The maester dropped forward and Sansa sucked in a deep breath, then screamed out in pain as he slammed her leg to the side. Even above that noise, Sandor heard the pop of her hip going back into socket.

“There.” He grasped her chin and brought her face back round to look at him. “It’s over, little bird. It’s over now.”

Sansa, still panting and with tears streaming down her temples, nodded. “What else?”

“Nothing.” He assured her. “It’s done. Something for the pain, perhaps, and it’ll be sore but we’re done.”

“No.” she shook her head, eyes blinking heavily. “What else will happen when we get to Winterfell? Will you stay and share those lemon cakes with me?”

Sandor chuckled a little. Poor girl was a bit delirious with pain.

“I don’t like lemon cakes.” He told her. “But I will stay, for as long as you need me to.”

The maester interrupted before Sansa spoke and came around with a glass of milky water. “Here, My Lady.” He passed her the glass and Sandor was forced to put a more respectable distance between them. Sansa took the glass and drained it with a wince at the taste. Sandor took the glass from her and the maester instructed her to keep as still as she could for a while and then left them.

“Sandor.” She whispered his name with a bit of a slur, a hand flopping out to the side. Sandor stepped closer and went to his good knee beside her.

“I’m here.”

“I want you to stay.” She blinked glazed eyes at him before they shut and she didn’t open them again. “Forever.” She breathed the last word and Sandor didn’t think she really knew what she was saying. But he would stay, until she asked him to go. And he would continue doing whatever he could to make things easier on her.

Chapter Text

The wedding was preformed just a brief week after Winterfell was back under her control, and if anyone questioned the quickness of it, no one asked. Sansa wouldn’t have minded waiting a while longer, preparing a larger gathering or simply waiting until her siblings could be found and were home to attend it as well. In the end, there wasn’t time. Sansa already knew she was with child, and Sandor didn’t want her to lose any more of her reputation than she had already by marrying someone of his status. None of it really mattered in the long run. All Sansa wanted was Sandor by her side forever and to give him all the children she could bear and live a happy life. The wedding was just formality. 

The baby was born in the hour of the wolf just two days after the Nights King was slain. A boy, large and healthy with chubby cheeks and curling black hair that when the light hit just right shone with an auburn tint. He was perfect and beautiful and Sansa called him Robb after her brother. 

After she was cleaned up and was sat to rights on her bed with clean linens, she asked for Sandor to be allowed entrance since he’d been out pacing the halls and bellowing at whoever entered and exited since her waters had went. He quickly dismissed Sam and the handmaid so that they were left alone.

“Come, husband.” She patted the space beside her on the bed, her other arm cradling a sleeping Robb close to her chest. “Meet your son.”

Sandor approached silently and sat carefully, leaning closer to her so he could see him better.

“What’s his name?”

“Robb.” She said happily. “Robb Stark, if that’s alright with you.”

“Aye.” He nodded. “His name should have little to nothing to do with me or my family. He looks enough like a Clegane without adding more insult.”

Sansa elected to ignore that. “Would you like to hold him?” she offered, starting to shift the baby so she could pass him off.

“No.” Sandor quickly declined. “He looks healthy. How are you?”

“Tired and sore, but so very happy.”

A small smile pulled at the corner of his mouth as he looked at her. “Motherhood suits you.” He glanced back down at Robb and the smile faded as his brow pinched.

“What is it?” Sansa asked softly. “Does he not please you?”

“I know nothing of babies, or of being a father.” He admitted with a sigh and a look that said he was disappointed in himself.

“You can learn.” She tipped her head to catch his eye and when he looked at her she smiled. “A good place to start would be holding your son.”

Sandor swallowed. “Teach me?”

“Of course.” She promised, then instructed him how to hold his arms. “Just be mindful of his head. He can’t hold it on his own just yet.”

Sandor carefully took the swaddled babe, shifting and adjusting until he was cradled comfortably in his father’s large arms.

“There.” Sansa smiled happily at the sight. “Perfect.”

“He is.” Sandor agreed. “You did good.”

“You helped.” She reminded him, causing him to snort.

“Not by much. You put in the hard work.” He glanced up at her with a wry look on his face. “You’ll want another, won’t you?”

“I want at least two more, mayhaps three or four.” She smiled happily. “And they’ll all be healthy and perfect and so very, very loved by their parents.”

“Aye.” Sandor looked back at Robb, who was starting to wiggle and make littles noises. Sansa watched as Sandor smiled, a real, true smile that caused his scars to twist horridly but still made her so happy to see. “I suppose they will be.” 

Chapter Text

It was very early in the relationship that Sansa saw Joffrey for who he really was, but by that time it was too late. Her parents were dead, Robb was dead, Arya had run off, Jon was away with the military, and Bran and Rickon were gone. Joffrey had done a fine job of making it stick in her head that she was all alone in the world aside from him and she had no friends to turn to with no money to go anywhere.

It was a year into the relationship, if it could still be called that, when the Joffrey took over his late father’s gentleman’s club. Sansa was unsure how The Royal Stag could claim anything about gentleman’s given their cliental. The men, and few women, that came around were all rich and powerful with enough money to get whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. The girls were all young, fit, and outrageously gorgeous and if the right men paid the right amount, they would give them the time of their lives. Sansa felt sorry for most of the girls. Joffrey and his crew kept them on drugs and liquor so they were more controllable. But when Joffrey came up with the grand idea of Sansa dancing at the club, it wasn’t drugs or drink that convinced her. It was self-preservation and the desire not to be at the end of his anger any more than she had to.

It wasn’t so bad, she convinced herself. Dancing was fun and if she were completely honest, it was a bit of a rush to get on stage and completely control a room of powerful men with just the sway of her hips. Cersei had managed to somehow convince Joff that she shouldn’t do any ‘private room’ deals, so it was only on the main stage that she had to perform.

It did make her a little ill at times, when the old men would get a little too bold and grab at her or whistle and yell nasty things. The number of times she was crowded just off the stage and propositioned with all manner of indecent things made her skin crawl. Those things didn’t happen often, though, and the men never lasted long in the club afterwards. Sandor Clegane made certain of that.

Technically it was his job to keep the clients and guests under manageable control, but since Sansa had reluctantly started working there, he kept close to her stage, always with his eyes on the crowd and never on her naked body. He was quick to toss out anyone that got too boisterous or handsy. And he always stayed passed the end of his shift so he could be there to drive her back to Joffrey’s since Joff couldn’t be bothered to stay sober enough to do it himself.

Three months had gone by like that, with Sandor acting more like her personal body guard than an actual bouncer, when she realized she was in love with him. It took all of two seconds after that revelation for her to realize it couldn’t ever be. She was a shiny possession for Joffrey to show off and Sandor was treated as nothing more than a dog. Both of them would be in a world of pain if they had any sort of relationship.

Tonight, Joffrey had pulled Sandor off the floor just after Sansa had finished her routine. Something about a guest from Dorne not wanting to pay for services that he claimed where given at the girls own desire. Like every night when her dances were finished, she would dress in some scant clothing that Joffrey picked out for her and serve drinks. Since her ever present shadow was missing this time, one man decided he didn’t need to keep his hands to himself. When Sansa pushed him away a few times and tried to politely inform him that all she was available for was a drink, he got mad. Mad enough to knock the tray of drinks out of her hand before yanking her down onto his lap where he clutched the back of her hair hard enough to make her head jerk back. He was demanding some rather crude things when the flashing multicolored lights from the stage were suddenly blacked out. The man looked up behind her and she watched at the blood drained from his drunk flushed face.

“Let the girl go and I won’t break both your hands.” Sandor’s graveled voice demanded lowly and the guy quickly released Sansa. She nearly tumbled off his lap, but Sandor grabbed her arm to steady her.

“Go to the bar, Little Bird, and stay there.” He reached down and jerked the man up but the shoulder of his suit jacket. “I’ll be right back.”

Sansa watched as he pulled the man off and hurried back over to the bar to wait like instructed. A few minutes later, Sandor returned and she noted that he was wiping his right fist off with a handkerchief that he then stuffed into the back pocket of his black jeans.

“You alright, girl?”

“Yes.” Sansa assured him. “Thank you, for saving me.”

Sandor scoffed, then shook his head. “It’ll happen again.” He looked at her and his grey eyes seemed to be in pain. “I can’t be there all the time. It’ll happen again, and maybe next time I won’t be there in enough time to stop a lot worse from happening.”

“Don’t say things like that.” She nearly begged, her stomach roiling with the thought.

“That, or your cunt of a boyfriend will start demanding you do more here, more than you’re going to be willing to do, but you’ll do it anyway and I won’t be able to stop it.”

That made Sansa mad. It felt like an accusation, like he was blaming her.

“I would leave if I could.” She matched his stance, facing him head on. “But I have nowhere to go and no money to get me there. Joffrey has done a fine job of keeping me his prisoner.”

Sandor flinched, the burnt corner of his mouth twitching before he scrubbed a hand over it.

“Keep out of trouble.” He finally said. “And I’ll see you after closing.”

Fighting against tears, Sansa spun away from him and grabbed the next set of drinks to be delivered.

The rest of the night went by without incident, mostly because Sandor was back to looming over her wherever she was. After closing, she changed into a pair of yoga pants and a hoody before meeting Sandor at the back door like normal. Only, he didn’t seem normal. He seemed antsy and tense and he actually grabbed her elbow to hustle her out the door and through the parking lot when he normally walked a step behind her.

“What is it?” she asked once they reached his SUV.

“I’m taking you home.”

“I know.” She said slowly. “You do every morning.”

“No.” he shook his head, stepping closer to her and keeping his voice low enough that if anyone else where in the parking lot, they wouldn’t hear. “I’m taking you home. Away from here and all this shit. You’ve a brother on the Wall, don’t you? I’ll take you to him.”

“The Wall is a restricted zone for military personal only.” She reminded him. “I can’t go there. Besides, I don’t know if Jon would want me there anyway.” She and her half brother had never had the closest relationship growing up, which was probably mostly her fault.

“Your uncle, then, in the Riverlands?”

“Uncle Brynden died last month.” She sniffed, wiping a hand under her eye. “My uncle Edmure was put into prison a little afterwards by Joffrey’s uncle. I truly have no one, Sandor.”  

“You have me.” He nearly growled, reaching out with both hands to hold her upper arms tightly. “I’m standing here asking you to let me take you away. I don’t give a bloody hell where we go, I just need to get you away from this…this hell.”

Sansa stared up at him in shock. She blinked a few times, her body starting to tremble under his hands from the intensity of him. It was comforting though, if not a little overwhelming.

“Then take me away.” She lifted a shaking hand up to touch his burned cheek. “It doesn’t matter where, as long as it’s far, far away. And…and if you’ll stay with me.”

For a brief moment, Sandor looked shocked and confused, then he blinked and everything in his face seemed to soften. He stepped forward, his forehead dropping down to press against the top of her head.

“I’m yours, little bird.” He rasped, hands sliding around her back so he was hugging her instead of holding her.

“And I’m yours.” She tipped her head up so that her lips were just inches from his. Sandor hesitated, and then closed those last few inches until his cruel lips were pressed so sweetly against hers. No matter how much either of them wanted to, they both knew they couldn’t linger. Not here in the parking lot of Joffrey’s business. Sandor pulled away, still looking a little stunned, then ushered her into the vehicle before getting in himself. They went to Joffrey’s, but he wasn’t there, like they both knew he wouldn’t be. He wouldn’t come in for another few hours, reeking of booze and drugs and other women. Sandor waited with the SUV running out front while she ran in and stuffed everything she owned into a duffle bag. Then she stopped off in Joffrey’s office. The idiot used his own birthday as the code to his safe. Inside was enough cash to get them wherever they wanted to go. Stuffing it inside the duffle as well, she jogged out and jumped into the passenger seat.

“Ready?” Sandor asked, putting the car into gear.

“More than ready.”