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It was Monday morning and dread settled in Sansa’s tummy as she walked up the steps to Kings Landing High School.  She knew what was coming. It had been the same each morning for weeks now. Inhaling deeply to fortify herself, she pushed open the heavy wooden doors and stepped into the school foyer.  Immediately the hubbub of the gathered students died down to a silence.

 

Re-adjusting the weight of her rucksack, Sansa took a few tentative steps out into the foyer, her hands gripping the shoulder straps so tightly her knuckles turned white.  When nothing happened she felt some of the tension leave her shoulders and she quickly hurried on, wanting to get this over with as quickly as possible and reach the sanctuary of the classroom.  Determined not to make eye contact with anyone, she kept her gaze focussed intently on the floor and hid behind her auburn hair which hung loose around her face like a curtain of fire.

 

Sansa had only taken a few steps when the sniggers began.  Quietly at first but getting louder and gaining strength, spreading like a ripple on a pond.  They were quickly followed by mock-whispered insults from behind the hands of her fellow students.  People whom Sansa had deemed to be her friends only a few weeks ago, furrowed their brows at her and passed not so silent judgement.  As she exited the foyer and headed down the corridor Sansa could feel their stares digging into her back like knives.

 

Sansa had barely turned the corner when the first shout came.

 

“Slut!”

 

Sansa flinched and felt the heat of shame burst across her cheeks.  Trying her best to ignore it she bit her wobbling bottom lip and blinked back the sting of tears welling in her eyes.  Keeping her gaze firmly locked on the grey tiles she hurried on, determined not to give anyone the satisfaction of seeing her fall apart.

 

“Whore!”... “Slag!”... “Tramp!”...

 

The solo cry was soon joined by a chorus of insults and cruel sniggers. Every day it was the same; ever since news of her pregnancy had spread, she had been treated like a pariah.  

 

She and Joffrey had been the golden couple and everyone wanted to be ‘in’ with them.  Joff had openly doted on her, buying her gifts and taking her out on fancy dates and she in turn had been the perfect girlfriend, idolizing him.  So when Joffrey had very publicly dumped her, accusing her of cheating on him and getting knocked up by some other guy, of course everyone had believed him and began treating her like the no-good slag that he made her out to be.

 

“Hey Sansa!  Did it hurt when you fell out the whore tree and banged every guy on the way down?” called Meryn Trant to a round of sniggers, whoops and high fives from his cronies.  

 

Sansa wrapped her arms around herself, as if to shield herself and her growing midriff from the insults that pelted her like rain.  Only a few more steps and she would reach the refuge of her classroom.

 

Finally she burst through the door, sighing in relief to find that Miss. Tarth was already sat behind the desk doing some marking.  Sansa felt the tension leave her, knowing that for the time being there would be a short reprieve. No one would dare to say anything to her in front of Miss. Tarth, not after the hefty detentions she had given out to the last lot of tormentors she had caught bullying Sansa.  

 

Upon hearing the door slam Miss. Tarth lifted her head and gave her a warm smile, her blue eyes keenly taking in Sansa’s flushed state.

 

‘Everything OK Sansa?’ she asked gently.

 

‘Yes, quite well, thank you,’ Sansa replied, composing herself and starting to get her books out.  She didn’t want to make this into an even bigger issue than it already was by blabbering about it to a teacher.  She just wanted to mind her own business and be left alone, to not attract any more attention or drama than necessary.

 

‘I’m here if you do want to talk Sansa… anytime,’ Miss. Tarth said, her blue eyes holding Sansa’s gaze earnestly.  Sansa nodded and after a moment of contemplative silence Miss. Tarth nodded too and went back to her marking. Miss. Tarth wasn’t daft.  Sansa knew that she hadn’t believed her, but she respected Sansa enough to trust that she would open up when she was ready.

 

A derisive snort came from the corner of the classroom making Sansa jump and drop her pencil case in surprise.  She had been so preoccupied when she entered that she hadn’t noticed there was someone else in the room. Turning to see who it was, Sansa was met by the scowl of Sandor Clegane.

 

“Sure you’re ‘fine’,” he goaded sarcastically, making air quotes with his fingers.  “I bet you love being called the ‘Whore of Winterfell’ and walking a gauntlet of abuse each day.”

 

“I… It’s nothing really,” replied Sansa, not wanting to admit just how hurt and alone she felt, especially to someone with Clegane’s reputation for cruel and crude honesty.  

 

Sansa found many things intimidating about Sandor Clegane.  He was enormous; at least six and a half feet tall and heavily muscled, he easily dwarfed her.  He was incredibly strong; many opponents had succumbed to his superior strength and surprising speed in school boxing tournaments. He was a horror to look upon; twisted ropes of red burn scars covering one half of his face.  But it wasn’t his size, strength or even his looks that intimidated her the most. It was his eyes; they seemed to burn with an anger and hatred so intense Sansa was afraid to look into them.

 

Sandor held her in that gaze now.    

 

“Bull. Shit.” he said emphasising each part of the word pointedly, his grey eyes penetrating her as if reading her mind, daring her to contradict him.  She couldn’t.

 

Sansa knew that she just had to suck it up and weather the storm, people would move onto a new ‘scandal’ soon enough.  Last year it had been Lollys. Before that it had been Loras and Renly. Several times there had been rumours about attractive female pupils and Mr. Baelish the business studies teacher.  Gossip, and nasty gossip at that, was part and parcel of high school. There was always someone at the centre of ‘hot gossip’ and currently she was it.

 

“They’ll get sick of it eventually.  Especially if they don’t get the reaction they’re looking for,” she said hopefully, “I’ll be old news soon,” she added with a nervous giggle.

 

“Still a dreamer Little Bird?  Thought you’d have learned better than that by now, after your ‘one true love’ got you to spread your legs then ditched you right after for the next piece of skirt he could find,” he said nastily.

 

Sansa felt her irritation flair.  What’s it to do with him ?  Why’s he so angry? It’s me getting the hard time, not him .  

 

“Why are you always so hateful?” she fired at him, having had just about enough of everyone else's judgement.

 

Sandor’s eyes momentarily widened in surprise then quickly narrowed as a shadow passed across his gaze.  Before he had chance to say anything further the shrill ringing of the bell announced the start of registration and people began filing in.

 

****

 

Sansa had hidden herself in a discreet cubby of the library and was trying to complete her maths homework.  She had created a barricade with several tall piles of books to shield her from view and thus any unwelcome interruptions.  

 

Resting her forehead on her arms folded on the table, she released a deep sigh and felt her shoulders relax.  The peace and solitude was a welcome respite from the constant state of tension she seemed to be in these days, always waiting for the next round of taunts and jeers, or to see the next piece of graffiti on her locker or the girls toilet stalls.  But for all the peace and quiet it was no good. As hard as Sansa tried to focus on the quadrilateral equations that she needed to complete by tomorrow, the more her mind kept drifting back to the comment that Sandor had made earlier; ‘ Still a dreamer Little Bird?  Thought you’d have learned better than that by now, after your ‘one true love’ got you to spread your legs then ditched you right after for the next piece of skirt he could find.’

 

For some reason this insult had got under her skin and had niggled at her all day.  Above all the other insults that she’d had levelled at her, it was this one that really smarted.  Maybe it was because there was a lot of truth in what he said, unlike the name-calling that others resorted to.  

 

‘It might be true, but he didn’t have to be so cruel about it,’ Sansa consoled herself.  

 

She had only ever slept with Joffrey the once.  She had loved him and had thought that he had loved her too.  That’s what he’d said when she’d asked him anyway. Now she knew that it had all been the stupid dreams of a stupid girl.

 

All attempts at equations forgotten, Sansa lost herself in recalling the events that led up to her current predicament.  

 

Joffrey had been pestering her to sleep with him for weeks, but something had been holding her back from that final step.  Sansa had imagined losing her virginity plenty of times and whilst the person in those fantasies had always been rather hazy and vague, the romance of flowers and candles and grand declarations of love were crystal clear in her mind.  Sure there had been flowers and romantic dinners and expensive jewellery, but something had always been missing between her and Joffrey. Mostly that Joffrey hadn’t said those words .

 

They had been making out on Joffrey’s bed when he’d once again asked her to go all the way.  When Sansa had hesitated Joff had huffed and rolled his eyes, pinching his fingers to the bridge of his nose in frustration.   “You’re as frigid as the bloody weather,” he’d grumbled, a scowl darkening his features.  Then he started saying “maybe we’re just too different” and “perhaps I’d be more compatible with someone else… like that Tyrell girl”.  

 

Panic had coursed through Sansa. ‘ No! I can’t lose Joffrey.  He’s my one true love. We’re destined to be together and have golden, curly-haired babies.’   Stupidly she had believed that and it had made her question what she was holding out for.  After all, she knew she was going to marry him one day and would sleep with him then anyway, so what did it matter if things weren’t quite how she’d imagined. She had concluded that so long as they loved each other that was all that mattered.  And they did love each other - ‘at least I think he does.’  Still she really did want to hear those words from him, so she decided to ask Joffrey outright.   ‘Perhaps he’s just shy to express his feelings.  Men can be like that can’t they?’.

 

Sansa slammed her book shut in frustration and cursed herself for a stupid fool.  For blindly ignoring the warning signs and making excuses when her gut was telling her the truth.  For deluding herself.

 

“Sure I love you, that’s why I want to have sex with you.  You’d want to have sex with me too if you loved me. Do you Sansa, really love me?”  

 

Desperate to prove her love, to please him, to keep him, she had relented and said yes.  Without hesitation Joffrey had flipped her onto her back and pushed inside. It had hurt more than she had thought and the rush of emotion she had been expecting to overwhelm her, like in her romance novels, was not forthcoming.   “I love you Joffrey, really truly love you,” she’d said, trying to breathe through the pain, hoping that by saying the words it might encourage that special closeness to take root inside.   “Yeah, same,”  was his distracted reply as he roughly shoved in and out of her.

 

Before she’d even had time to really comprehend that ‘ this was it, I’m losing my virginity ’ it had all been over.  Afterwards she had been left feeling downcast by the whole experience.  She had been sore and messy, but worst of all had been the horrible empty feeling in her chest because there had been no magical connection.

 

When she had missed her first period she didn’t think too much of it, just put it down to stress over her upcoming exams.  But then when she had missed a second period, a nagging dread settled in the pit of her stomach. She couldn’t be pregnant.  She couldn’t! It had only been that one time. And besides, Joffrey had said that if she washed herself straight away, nothing would happen.  But as those two little lines on the pregnancy test kit had evidenced, he had been wrong.

 

Sansa had told Joffrey right away, believing that he would support her and help her figure out what to do, how to tell her parents.  But once again she had been proven to be woefully naive. Joffrey had looked at her like something nasty he’d found on the bottom of his shoe and  promptly dumped her, accusing her of sleeping around and claiming the baby couldn’t possibly be his. Blind to her tears and deaf to her protestations of love and how she had been faithful and true, Joffrey had turned his back on her and not spoken to her since.  

 

Sansa had been distraught.  Her heart broken. The man that she loved had callously turned her aside.  Worse still he had spread news of her pregnancy and publicly denied that the baby was his.  He told everyone that he had never even slept with her, that she had cheated on him and that was why he had dumped her.  

 

‘And of course, everyone willingly believed his lies,’ she thought bitterly, angrily shoving books back into her bag as she got ready to leave.

 

Sansa had known that she didn’t stand a chance of turning opinion against Joffrey - he was untouchable.  Not only was he the wealthiest and most popular boy in the school, his parents donated heavily to school funds, his grandfather was the chair of governors and his uncle the headmaster.  No one would be willing to bother themselves with the actual truth of the matter, so the best thing was for Sansa to keep a low profile and wait for the scandal to die down.

 

Something she was still waiting for.

 

Sansa pushed her chair back and stood up ready to leave, but as her gaze rose over her barricade of books she saw the hulking form of Sandor Clegane heading in her direction.

 

‘Oh great! That’s all I need,’ she though in despair, quickly sinking back down, praying that he hadn’t spotted her and she would be able to make a hasty exit unmolested.

 

“Stark!”

 

‘Arrrrrgh, just my luck,’ Sansa thought in despair.  A tremble of emotion ran through her and she took a shaky breath feeling like she would burst into tears any instant.  She was too weary for this, too emotional. She needed to get home and rest before everything that had been brewing up for weeks came spewing out here and now in the middle of the library, and in front of the very person whose hurtful comments had worked her up into this state.  The pricking of tears behind her eyelids and the burning lump in her throat confirmed that was in fact a very likely scenario.

 

Sansa stood up and turned to face Sandor but before she could force any words out to fend off another attack, he quickly cut in first.

 

“About earlier.  What I said was…” Sandor began matter of factly.

 

“True,” Sansa interrupted, thinking that if she accepted any further insults head on it might get it all over with quicker.

 

“Uncalled for,” he corrected her.  “A dog will never lie to you… but I didn’t need to be so abrasive about it,” he said looking at her with what looked like genuine regret.

 

“Oh… oh!” Sansa was momentarily shocked into silence.  “That means a lot to hear you say that. Apology accepted,” she said gathering herself quickly.  “Thank you Sandor,” she added, relieved and pleasantly surprised by his apology.

 

“Always so polite, chirping courtesies like a pretty Little Bird,” he said the corner of his mouth twitching.

 

Sansa wasn’t sure what to make of that.  She knew he meant it as an insult, ‘odd man right after apologising too,’ but there was almost something fond in the way he called her a pretty little bird.  

Pretty little bird,’ she thought.

 

Still slightly taken aback by his unexpected apology, Sansa gathered her things and existed the library in a haze.  She walked the length of the corridor and down the stairs into the foyer her mind busy wondering about whether or not Sandor Clegane found her pretty.  She wasn’t sure why, but she hoped he did. Sansa felt her pulse quicken and bit the inside of her lip.

 

It was only later once she was at home lying in bed thinking over their conversation for the umpteenth time, that she realised that he had exited the library with her and had walked all the way to the school gates alongside her in a comfortable silence, before parting ways with a simple “goodnight Little Bird.”  

 

****

The next morning as Sansa entered the foyer, Sandor Clegane materialised out of nowhere and fell into step beside her.  He didn’t speak to her, or make eye contact with her, he just stalked along beside her like a giant, looming shadow.

 

Sansa hadn’t asked or expected him to meet her and she wasn’t sure what had prompted it, but she was silently grateful.  At the sight of him people hurried to shut their lockers and scurry away, and the jeers and bullying that usually accompanied Sansa to the classroom all but died a death.  The first person who had dared to call out had received such an intimidating scowl from Sandor it had them going pale and stammering an apology. After that everyone else remained schtum.  

 

Sansa wondered if this was how celebrities must feel when walking around with their bodyguards.  ‘Sandor’s tall and muscled enough to make a good bodyguard,’ she thought slyly glancing as his muscled biceps and shoulders, ‘and his demeanour is certainly conducive to deterring unwanted attention,’ she thought with a smile. For the first time in weeks she felt safe walking to class.

 

“What are you smiling at?” grumbled Sandor as he opened the classroom door for her.  The first words he had spoken to her.

 

“You make me feel safe,” she replied simply, smiling gratefully up at him.

 

Sandor’s mouth twitched as he silently held her gaze for a long moment.

 

“Aye, I’ll keep you safe Little Bird.  No one will bully you again or I’ll deck ‘em,” he growled, his eyes soft as he led her into the classroom his hand gently at the small of her back.

 

****

 

From then on Sandor would meet Sansa in the foyer each morning and accompany her to registration.  

 

At first few words were spoken between them, their conversation was limited to a terse greeting and a brief ‘thank you, goodbye,’.  But over the weeks their interaction grew to include the occasional question about school work, how they were or what they’d done at the weekend.  They were awkward, stilted conversations, consisting of one or two word answers and were more akin to an interrogation than an actual conversation, but it was still better than the awkward silence at the beginning.

 

As Sansa’s tummy steadily grew so did their friendship.  Sandor’s sarcastic (but accurate) observations about their peers elicited tentative smiles and shy giggles from Sansa.  In turn she regaled Sandor about the exploits of her siblings and shared with him the interesting and unusual discoveries of being pregnant.  Sansa told him about her awful morning sickness and how she couldn’t stomach even the thought of breakfast without heaving, the next day Sandor had turned up with a packet of ginger biscuits.  When she quizzed him about how he knew ginger helped, his cheeks had a definite pink tinge when he admitted googling cures for morning sickness. Sansa bit her lip to try and stop the smile she felt in her chest from showing on her face, less he think she was making fun of him.  He could be sensitive about that.

 

Sandor put his arm around her shoulders and gently stroked her hair when after one particularly tough encounter with Joffrey, she had confided in him how hurt she’d been by Joffrey’s abandonment and the shock of her subsequent realisation that she hadn’t ever really been in love with him but rather the ideal of being in love .  Sandor silently and reliably passed her tissues as she poured forth her bottled up emotions and by the time she had cried herself hoarse, his shirt was sodden with her tears and snot.

 

What had started out as an unexpected and awkward bodyguard routine, began to grow into something warm and genuine.

 

Sansa told him about her pregnancy woes; puffy ankles making it impossible to zip up her favourite boots, the inconsiderate lack of public toilets for a pregnant woman, her insatiable craving for marmite and cheese on toast, and the mortifying embarrassment when her blouse button had pinged off and hit Mr. Baelish square on the nose because her boobs had grown that much they were straining her blouses.  At this particular anecdote Sansa didn’t miss the way Sandor’s eyes flicked to her chest, nor the way he subconsciously licked his lips and pulled his bottom lip under his top teeth. Sansa’s nipples hardened under his gaze and she felt the heat of a blush on her cheeks as her woman’s place gave a throb of want. Bloody pregnancy hormones were driving her crazy.

 

Little by little they began to spend more and more time together.  As well as walking to registration together, they were eating lunch together, studying in the library together after school (Sandor turned out to be a maths whizz and would often help Sansa with her homework), and even meeting up after school and at weekends to catch a movie or get pizza.  They would also text each other random thoughts and funny photos. Sandor would send Sansa pregnancy hints and tips he found online and she sent him cute pictures of her dog, Lady. Each day began and ended with a text to each other.

 

By the time Sansa had a bump that could no longer be disguised by baggy jumpers and oversized leggings, Sandor had become her friend and confidante.

 

****

 

One morning about halfway through her pregnancy, Sansa took Sandor’s hand and dragged him into a quiet corner and proudly presented him with a little white card embossed with The Citadel Maternity Unit logo.

 

Sandor frowned at it for a long moment before opening it slowly and carefully, as if he feared it was letterbomb.  When he saw the contents his eyes lit up and his mouth quirked up in a half smile. Sandor rarely smiled and Sansa felt insanely proud of herself for doing something worthy of such a reaction.

 

‘He’s so handsome when he smiles,’ she thought observing him carefully as he screwed up his eyes and twisted his head from side to side, rotating the grainy image of ‘Baby Stark’ trying to comprehend exactly what he was looking at.  It was adorable. She studied his jawline, the way his hair brushed his shoulders, ‘it looks so silky and soft.’ Sansa’s fingers twitched, itching to run through his long, wavy raven locks… to stroke down his cheek and trace his jawline… to follow the stubble of his neck down into the v-neck of his shirt… unbutton his shirt and…

 

“What is it?” he asked, his voice snapping her out of her daydream.  

 

Flustered by the direction her thoughts had been running, Sansa hoped he would mistake her blush and quickened breathing for excitement and not the heady burst of arousal that had flooded her.  

 

“A baby!” laughed Sansa, “See… those white spots curving along there are the spine, the funny stumpy blobs are the legs and that blurry dark grey bit is it’s heart and that…”

 

“I know that!” he huffed but was unable to hide his smile at her excited babbling, “what I meant was, is it a boy or a girl? I can’t tell.”

 

“Oh, they couldn’t tell,” Sansa told him. “Anyway, I don’t think I want to know.  I’m… I’m not certain whether I’ll keep the baby or not yet... so I’m trying not to get too attached,” she said trying to mask the quaver in her voice as she admitted this aloud for the first time.

 

“Oh,” said Sandor sounding disappointed, before hurrying to add “I mean, of course that’s your decision to make. I had just assumed… Sorry, I shouldn’t have.  It’s your decision and I’ll support you, whatever you want Little Bird,” he added squeezing her hand gently.

 

Sansa’s heart twinged.  If Sandor was the father she would have no doubts about keeping the baby, knowing that he would do his best to support her and would play an active role in the child’s life.  But he wasn’t the father. Joffrey was and he had left her in no doubts as to his stance on playing a role in the baby’s life. Didn’t the baby deserve the love of two parents?  Parents that could give it all the opportunities in life that a single, teenage mother with no job prospects couldn’t. Sansa had been over and over this dilemma in her head and was still none the wiser.  Was she selfish for wanting to keep it? Or cowardly for giving it up because she was afraid to go it alone? Was she both? It was all one big nightmarish knot of confusion that she hadn’t been able to unpick yet.

 

Sansa wished, not for the first time, that the father of her child was the brave, gentle and strong, man walking beside her.

 

****

 

Sansa was heavily pregnant, only a few weeks away from her due date, when the confrontation happened.  Sandor and Sansa had walked into the school foyer together as usual, only this time it was to find a sizeable crowd gathered around a flash of blonde hair.  Sansa instantly had a bad feeling settle in the pit of her tummy.

 

“Well, well look who it is everybody.  Whore Stark and the Dog she’s leading around by his prick,” sneered Joffrey to a nervous smattering of laughter. “He’s obviously so desperate for pussy he’ll take sloppy seconds and some other guys bastard to boot,” he crowed.  

 

Sandor felt white hot rage sear through him and his fists curled up ready to smash that blond cunts teeth into the back of his head.  But before he could move a muscle there was a flash of red in the periphery of his vision.

 

Sansa marched right up to Joffrey.

 

“I’m no whore and you know it.  I’ve only ever had sex once and unfortunately it was with you,” she spat at Joffrey, contempt plain on her face.

 

“As if I’d lower myself to sleep with a ginger minger like you,” he cruelly taunted her in front of the crowded corridor.  

 

“Well you did.  You know you did and this baby is the proof.  When it’s born everyone will see you for the liar you are,” said Sansa, feeling brave with Sandor stood by her side.

 

“Rubbish.  You’re just another gold digger trying to get her hooks into my money with lies. But if you think it’ll work then you can think again.  You’ll not get a penny out of me.”

 

“I don’t want your money.  Or you.” Sansa fired back. “You’re hateful and a coward and this baby and me want nothing to do with you, EVER, so don’t worry about that.  All I want is for people to know the truth about you. How you manipulate girls into sleeping with you then toss them aside and slut shame them.  You’re disgusting!”

 

“Slut shame!  Well there you have it folks, straight from the whore’s mouth.  She admits she’s a slut. Who knows how many men you spread your legs for behind my back.  That baby could be anyone’s. Bet even you don’t know who the dad is… do you?” Joffrey went on.  

 

A round of sniggers and whispers spread like wildfire and it made Sandor’s blood boil.

 

“It’s mine!” boomed a loud voice.  

 

Immediately the corridor fell into stunned silence and hundreds of shocked eyes flicked between him and Sansa in disbelief.  

 

Sandor had blurted it out without thinking and a bead of sweat trickled down his neck under his collar and he prayed with all his might that his gamble would pay off.

 

“Yours?” Sansa gulped at him, confusion evident in her gaze.  Sandor squeezed her hand and smiled at her in what he hoped was a reassuring way given how he could feel his scars twisting.  Sansa smiled back, a small but true smile. Good, she was going to trust him.

 

“Sorry Little Bird looks like the truth’s out, best to acknowledge it head on,” he said to her loud enough for others to overhear.  Then he rounded on the corridor at large and directly addressed the gawking onlookers, “so all you fuckers can stop with your slut shaming, you hear me?! It was me, no others, just me. So the next person I hear bad mouthing Sansa or our babe will answer to me, got it?”

 

When Sandor turned to her again he saw the question in her eyes to which he just lifted her hand and kissed her knuckles.  

 

A look pure viciousness passed over Joffrey’s face as he eyed first Sansa and then Sandor, his face an ugly puce and his lip curled in fury.  Sandor took immense satisfaction as the dilemma played out across Joffrey’s face. Joffrey knew this baby was his but there was no way he could contradict Sandor’s claim now without losing all credibility.  Joffrey’s face twisted up as if he was sucking on a particularly sour lemon.

 

“Well Sansa, who knew you’d stoop so low?” he eventually hissed.  “Even whores have standards. I mean look at him… he has no looks, no name, no money… he’s nothing.  You really do know how to debase yourself. Bet he took you like the dog he is too and you being the slag you are, I bet you squirmed on his cock like a bitch in heat…”

 

CRUNCH!

 

Sandor had heard enough.  He ploughed his fist straight into Joffrey’s nose with a satisfying squelch, causing a river of blood to spurt down Joffrey’s white polo shirt.  Sandor’s fist was throbbing something awful and swelling like a balloon but he didn’t care, the look on everyone’s faces as Joffrey went running off to the medical office more than made up for it.  

 

But it was Sansa’s blue eyes looking at him with puzzlement and gratitude, and something else that he couldn’t place, that made his heart pound and his throat go dry.  That look alone was enough to make him want to take on a hundred Joffreys for her.

 

****

 

Our babe… our babe… our babe…

 

The phrase kept playing through Sansa’s mind bringing a warmth to her heart and she wished it was the truth of it.  

 

‘You know that was incredibly sweet of you out there,’ said Sansa gently wrapping Sandor’s swelling fist in a wet paper towel.  ‘Of course he refused to go the medical office,’ she thought affectionately.

 

Sandor snorted and looked away.

 

“T’was nothing,” he started.

 

“No!” shouted Sansa.  “Don’t you dare try to pretend like that was nothing Sandor Clegane.  Don’t you dare,” she admonished him firmly. “You coming to my defence like that, it means a lot to me.  But why? Don’t get me wrong, I’m very grateful. But why did you do it?” she asked gently.

 

“You know I can’t stand bullies and liars Little Bird,” he said, still not making eye contact.

 

“Bull. Shit” she said mimicking what he had said to her all those weeks ago.

 

“Defending me doesn’t mean you need to claim to be the father.  I don’t understand why you would say that. You know you’re not.  I mean obviously you know you’re not.  So why say you are? Saying you’re the father will have consequences for you... you know that right?” she questioned.

 

“Aye,” was all that he said very quietly.

 

He still wouldn’t look at her, his gaze resolutely fixed on his bloody knuckles and her gentle ministrations.  Sansa had finished wrapping the wet towel around his knuckles but she kept hold of his hand in hers anyway, gently brushing her thumb over his palm.  

 

“Why would you do it?” she persisted.  “Expose yourself to the hate and gossip when it’s not your mess to deal with?”

 

Sandor shifted uncomfortably and said nothing.

 

“Sandor.  Once word spreads that you’re the father people will believe it.  They will expect you to do the honourable thing; to stand by me, support me.  If you don’t they’ll judge you for it. It could mess up your entire future. You do realise that?” she went on, not sure that Sandor actually understood the magnitude of what he had gotten himself into.  It was one thing to be a supportive friend of a teenage mother, but it was another thing entirely to claim responsibility for said predicament.

 

Sansa wished that he would look at her.  He had never lied to her, he always told the truth even when it was uncomfortable.  ‘So why this lie?’. Sansa hoped… yes she hoped she knew why... but her hopes had proven dangerous to her in the past so she really needed to hear him tell her the blunt truth.  Gently taking his chin in her fingers she lifted his gaze to hers. The moment his molten grey met her Tully blue a bolt of electricity ran down her spine, stealing her breath.

 

“Sandor?” was all she was able to whisper, lost in his gaze.

 

“Aye! I know all that.  I know that insufferable blond cunt’s the father!” he shouted at her, startling her a little with his ferocity.  “But…”. He stopped himself, closed his eyes and took a deep breath as if bracing himself to receive bad news.

 

“I don’t care it isn’t mine,”  he whispered. All Sansa could hear was Sandor’s ragged breaths from the exertion of his confession.  Her ears buzzed as her blood rushed in excitement. The tension in the air between them was palpable.

 

“I care about you, dammit.  Taking care of you. And I will take care of you Little Bird, take care of you both…. if...if you’ll let me?” he finished in a whisper, his gaze once again returning to the floor as if afraid of looking at her.

 

He was the most brave, selfless and gentle man she could wish for and Sansa felt a surge of affection, quickly followed by the bitter sting of regret rush through her.  Sansa couldn’t stop the hot tears that welled up and then fell down her cheeks. As much as she wanted to say ‘yes’ she knew that she mustn’t. Sandor deserved so much more than to take on her troubles.  She felt a lump lodge in her throat that she couldn’t swallow.

“Oh Sandor.  It’s not about what I want . I care too much for you to ask that of you.  I wouldn’t want you to regret it, to end up resenting me… us.  I wouldn’t be able to bear that. Being a teenage parent is hard, as everyone has been keen on telling me, there’s so many sacrifices to make.  Too many to ask of you when it isn’t your baby,” she tried to explain through her tears.

 

At that Sandor sat up and looked at Sansa intently, determination writ across his face.

 

“Do I look like someone that gives up in the face of adversity Little Bird?” he asked.

 

Sansa shook her head knowing exactly how much suffering he had survived and how strong he is to overcome such challenges.

 

“Have I ever lied to you?” he asked vehemently.

 

Again she shook her head, the whispered promise of a smile curling at the corner of her lips.

 

“Good. So you know I speak the truth then,” he stated and Sansa nodded in agreement.

 

“Do I strike you as someone that acts rashly or on a whimsy?  Without thinking things through first?” he continued.

 

Sansa was tempted to mention punching Joffrey in the face and the likely detention waiting for him and bit her lip to stifle her giggle. But otherwise she had to admit not.

 

“No.  Definitely not a man prone to whimsy,” she said shyly taking a step closer to him.

 

As if reading her thoughts on Joffrey, Sandor added “Except punching that worthless slime-bags into the middle of next week.  That was rash, because now I’ll have to spend lunchtime with Miss. Tarth instead of kissing you?” he asked shyly, gently placing his hands on her waist.

 

“You want to kiss me?” Sansa asked without thinking, her heart doing a flip flop as her pulse started racing.  Nervously she tucked her hair behind one ear and subconsciously she licked her lips. Sandor’s eyes had turned such a dark shade of grey they were almost black and she couldn’t pull her gaze away, she didn’t want to, she was transfixed by their stormy beauty.  Sansa’s skin was getting hot and prickly and she felt as if every nerve ending on her body was over-sensitised, it was the strangest feeling but not altogether unpleasant.

 

“Very much so,” he rumbled, his hands slowly tightening their grip on her sides pulling her flush against him.  Time seemed to slow down as his head began slowly moving towards hers, their eyes locked in an intense stare, both of them breathing rapidly.  Heat radiated off Sandor through her thin blouse, causing her sensitive nipples to react and bud up into hard little peaks. She hoped Sandor didn’t notice.  How upsetting would it be for her stupid pregnancy hormones to ruin this moment.

 

Sansa felt her knees going weak and was grateful for Sandor’s strong grip keeping her standing.  His lips were a hair’s breadth away and her woman’s place was throbbing. She absently wondered if that was pregnancy related too, it felt hot and achy like a pressure needed relieving.  She discreetly pressed her thighs together and a spark of pleasure shot through her causing her to emit a tiny whimper.

 

Sandor’s eyes turned impossibly black and just as his hands nested themselves in her hair at the nape of her neck, pulling her head into his for a kiss...

 

BANG!

 

The door to the room burst open and they sprang apart as if burned.

 

“Clegane! My office NOW!” came the booming voice of Miss. Tarth.

 

“We’ll, errrrrrrr, discuss this again later Little Bird?” asked Sandor, his voice hoarser than usual.  He looked as disappointed as she felt as he slowly dropped his hands from her sides and stood up to trail Miss. Tarth out of the room.  

 

All Sansa could manage was to nod mutely at him as he looked back at her.  She was a quivering bundle of desire and words were impossible. If the heat in her cheeks was anything to go by she must be positively crimson.  

 

****

 

As he stood up Sandor hoped his erection wasn’t as blindingly obvious as it felt.

 

Bloody hells, he had been so close to kissing her.  He’d fantasised about it for weeks. Every smile, every lip bite, every mock outraged little shush as they teased and joked together, had him desperately wanting to kiss those plump little lips into oblivion.  And she’d been stood so close he could see every freckle across her cheeks, the pale red of her eyelashes, could feel the hot sweet puffs of her breath leaving her lips. He had been so aroused he’d gone lightheaded from all the blood rushing to his dick.  It was a good job he had been sitting on the table edge otherwise he might have collapsed. And just when their lips were about to meet, it was just his bloody luck that Miss. Tarth would choose that exact moment to bring him back to reality.

 

Miss. Tarth closed her office door with a snap, pulling him out of his pleasant day dream.

 

“Clegane, I understand there was an incident between yourself, Mr. Lannister and Miss Stark?”

 

For once Sandor didn’t care that he was in trouble.  Punching that weasel had felt like justice. But it wouldn’t do to admit that.  He’d have to play the game; act all contrite and pay his detention dues and then hopefully he could get back to Sansa sooner.

 

“Miss. Tarth I…” he began but she quickly interrupted him

 

“That incident has been investigated and concluded.  Now let me extend my heartfelt congratulations!”

 

What!?  He boggled at her in silence, not quite sure that he did understood why he was here after all.  Sensing his confusion Miss. Tarth decided to spell it out for him.

 

“I know you believe that… young man …” she said deliberately, looking as if she was thinking of another adjective entirely, “fully deserved everything he got.  But as you know violence is strictly prohibited and has to be investigated and dealt with accordingly. However, there appears to be no eyewitnesses to the incident in question, so it becomes a matter of word against word and in such circumstances innocence shall be presumed.  So that concludes this matter, you are free to go.”

 

No eyewitnesses?  Half the school had been in that corridor to testify to what he’d said and done.  Why hadn’t anyone, not even Joffrey’s cronies, come forward? He stood up in a stupor turning to leave.  As he did Miss. Tarth gripped his hand firmly, giving it a shake.

 

“Congratulations!” she said in a way that could indicate she approved of him walloping Joffrey in the face, but could equally be for the prevailing of justice, or the news of his ‘fatherhood’. Sandor nodded and started to walk out but just before he closed the door Miss Tarth called out to him.

 

“Oh, and Clegane... Mr. Blackwater would like you to report to him tomorrow to discuss tryouts for the inter-school boxing tournament,” she said with a wink.

 

Sandor nodded as he closed the door before sprinting off down the corridor to find Sansa and continue that very important conversation they had been about to have.

 

****

 

THE END

 

****