Sandor stood in the middle of the baking aisle at King’s Landing Market staring at the various flours, sugars, and other baking necessities in confusion. He knew that every year, the Starks would crowd around the kitchen island at Winterfell and bake dozens upon dozens of Christmas cookies until every surface in the kitchen was covered with the various delicacies, and the house smelled perpetually of sugar and baked vanilla.
This year, however, things were different. Robb was spending the holiday with his wife Talisa and their new baby girl. Arya had convinced Gendry to go camping up north of the Wall. And Ned and Cat had somehow convinced Bran and an unwilling Rickon to go visit Cat’s sister, Lysa, in the Vale. Cat had unsuccessfully tried to convince Sansa to join them, but Sansa had declined on the grounds of needing to catch up on grading papers. Later confiding to Sandor that she didn’t want to visit her cousin and that Lysa’s new husband made her too uncomfortable.
Sansa had mentioned in passing how she would miss making those dozen upon dozens of Christmas cookies, but would just have to wait until next year.
It was this sentiment that had Sandor questioning the merits of Red Mill versus Gold Medal flour along with his own sanity. Deciding to go with the Gold Medal after having a vague recollection of seeing a bag in their pantry at some point in the past. Sandor made his way home, texting Sansa on his way out.
SC: “How goes the Christmas shopping Little Bird?”
SS: “It’s crazy! I bought GTA for Bran and Rickon and had to almost fight some crazy woman for the knives you told me Arya wanted!”
SS: “Next year, you’re coming with me!”
As he pulled up to their house Sandor couldn’t help but laugh at his Little Bird’s claws.
SC: “Good Luck with that! Miss you, when will you be home?”
SS: “Not until late afternoon, still have to find something for Mom and Dad! Love you!”
Texting back that he loved her too, Sandor carried the groceries into the house and placed them on the less impressive island and pulled out Sansa’s steel grey Kitchenaid mixer that she claimed matched his eyes. Rooting through all the cabinets at least twice, he finally accumulated all the spices and sugars needed to execute his secret cookie plan.
Grabbing the new bag of flour from the counter, he went to go refill the container that Sansa used for all her baking needs. Pulling gently at the top of the bag, wary of the little flecks of flour on the outside, Sandor tried to open it up with no luck. Pulling harder, the bag suddenly shot a cloud of white into his face and on the counter.
Coughing and wiping his streaming eyes, he surveyed the damage to their normally pristine kitchen. Thankfully, only the island seemed to be only slightly dusted, and assuming the mess would only get bigger once he actually started baking, he left it be. Sandor set about measuring and mixing the ingredients into a dough.
Having been subjected to many hours of The Great British Bake Off by Sansa, he knew to use the “incomparable Mary Berry’s” recipe for sugar cookies. Sandor would never admit it out loud, but he had a grudging respect for Paul Hollywood and his cut and dry humor and recipes.
Reading to roll out the dough on a floured surface, Sandor was suddenly thankful for the mild explosion earlier. Clumsily scooping the dough onto the counter, he tried rolling it out with a rolling pin, getting more and more frustrated as the dough became increasingly stuck to the pin and his fingers.
“Bugger this and bugger cookies!” he groused pulling the dough yet again off the pin and throwing it gruffly at the counter watching as it mildly bounced and rolled away. Breathing deeply through his nose, Sandor looked at the clock over the warming oven hoping he still had enough time to surprise his Little Bird.
Finally getting the dough to flour ratio right enough to roll out the dough properly, Sandor set about gently using Sansa’s favorite bird cookie cutter he’d bought her one year for Christmas. Sliding the raw cookies onto the baking trays, and into the oven, he set about hiding the evidence of his baking endeavor.
Finally sliding the offensive flour back into its designated spot in the pantry, he heard Sansa’s car pull in the driveway followed soon by her sweet voice.
“Sandor, I’m ho- what in the name of the Gods Old and New happened to you?!”
He paused in reaching to embrace her. He knew he wasn’t much to look at and that his scars made his face normally unbearable to look at under normal circumstances. He had assumed Sansa was past her aversion to it from when they were young, but now he was just confused and hurt.
“Sansa,” he warned, starting to regret his decision to surprise her.
With laughter dancing in her eyes, Sansa grabbed his hand dragging him to the closest bathroom. “Look! You’re covered in, is that flour?!”
Raising his eyes from the cold tiled floor, Sandor slowly took in his appearance. His normally black favorite shirt was dusted to a light grey, while his hair had taken on an ashen look instead of his normal ebony. The worst part was his scars, by some sick twist of luck, flour had settled in the cracks and ridges of his scars giving him a ghostly appearance like the white walkers of lore.
“Seven take me,” he breathed out. “I didn’t realize it was that bad.”
Sansa reached around him to wet the washcloth she’d grabbed off the rack. “So what on Earth were you trying to do that you became the ghost of Christmas past?” she asked as she tenderly cleaned both sides of his face of flour.
“It was supposed to be a surprise,” he mumbled scuffing his toe into the tile.
At that moment the oven timer made its presence known with a loud buzz, making them both jump.
Sansa eyed him with widening eyes,
“Sandor, did you bake?”
“Maybe? You mentioned how you would miss your tradition of baking with your family and since you’re my family, I thought it could be our tradition too.” The story came pouring out of his mouth, unable to contain his secret any longer.
“Oh, Sandor, nothing would make me happier!” Sansa beamed at him with tear filled eyes and kissed him lightly on his scarred cheek.
Moving back towards the kitchen, Sansa pulled the cooling rack out of the cabinet as Sandor gabbed the cookies from the oven.
“Why don’t you go change and I’ll whip up some frosting and we can decorate them together? If you hurry, I might let you lick the beaters!” She said tossing a wink over her shoulder as she pulled the ingredients out of the fridge.
Sandor never showered so fast in his life.
Cleaned up and back in the kitchen, he watched as Sansa expertly frosted the birds with red frosting, occasionally licking the extra that fell on her fingers unconsciously causing a warmth deep in Sandor’s belly. Wrapping his arm around her, he looked over the cookies and her frosting work.
“These look decadent Little Bird.”
Gracing his cheek with another kiss she smiled. “You did all the hard work, I just frosted them!”
“Aye, and are you going to share with me Little Bird?”
Casting a coy smile at him she licked more frosting off her fingers.
Growling, Sandor threw a giggling Sansa over his shoulder and made his way towards their bedroom.
Oh yes, baking cookies was definitely a tradition he wanted to continue for years to come.