Sansa stared at the screen of her laptop without seeing it, tapping her pencil idly against the desk. She was meant to be grading the first assignment of the semester before her office hours started but couldn’t focus. Every time she tried, her mind unhelpfully flicked back to Friday afternoon and the abrupt departure from the restaurant.
It had been a quiet drive back to the faculty parking lot; Sandor in some kind of brooding silence and Sansa too worried to say a word. He hadn’t lifted her out of the vehicle, instead merely offered her a polite hand to assist her down, his face schooled into an indifferent mask.
The rest of the weekend had been a morose, listless shuffle from one thing to the next. She’d done her usual, grocery shopping and the like, but couldn’t wait for the empty time to be over.
Monday morning found her grappling with the same restlessness. How would he act towards her when they saw each other? Would he be gruff? Or distantly polite? Or worse, would he ignore her?
She sat back with a huff, looking out the window at the sun-dappled courtyard. He wouldn’t ignore her. She wouldn’t let him. He may not see her the same as she saw him but that didn’t preclude a continuing friendship. She would put the silly emotions in a box and put that box on a shelf in the back of her mind and everything would be fine. They could continue lunches and talking and she would get a measure of control over her stupid hormones.
She hadn’t had sex in far too long. That was the problem. A dry spell as long as hers was bound to drive a woman a little nuts. One-night stands were out of the question, however. She wasn’t that desperate. Not yet, at least. And she had a very serviceable vibrator.
She pursed her lips. Maybe it was time to upgrade, seeing as she was likely to remain single for the foreseeable future. She made a mental note to call her friend Margaery that afternoon, get some advice. And maybe her sister, too, despite how her cheeks heated in embarrassment at asking her younger sister for sex toy tips. But the Gods knew Arya was never shy about things like that and would likely give Sansa a full run-down of all the newest tech.
No wonder Arya’s boyfriend Gendry always wore that stupid, slightly dazed smile.
Sansa shook herself, glancing at the clock on the screen saver that had come up while she was musing. She started. Her office hours were due to start in a few minutes. The first appointment slot was with the rather singular Joffrey Baratheon.
Sansa tried to like all of her students and was usually successful, but Joffrey was rather a thorn in her side. Pompous, cocky, loved to talk over any woman that spoke in class and had recently taken to challenging her directly and with growing frequency.
She couldn't stand the little shit , as Sandor would say. She wished Sandor was with her but stopped the line of thinking. She was a grown woman capable of handling one errant student. She didn’t need rescuing.
She straightened, steeling her spine in preparation for her meeting with Joffrey, when the door swung open without the preamble of a knock. She looked up, an excited stab hitting her gut at the idea of it being Sandor but it quickly turned to disappointment as Joffrey ambled arrogantly through the door.
“Sansa.” He stuck his hand in his pockets and sauntered towards her casually, not bothering to shut the door behind him. She stood, moving to the door and closing it as he arranged himself in the guest chair in front of her desk. She resisted an annoyed sigh as she went back to her desk and sat.
“It’s Professor Stark, Mr. Baratheon, if you please.” She sent him a glare.
He grinned. “Well, we’re roughly the same age, so why stand on ceremony?”
This time she let out the annoyed sigh before schooling her features into a neutral expression, folding her hands on her desk.
“What was the reason for you requesting this meeting, Mr. Baratheon?”
“It concerns your choices in class, Sansa.”
She raised an eyebrow.
“ My choices?” She sat up straighter. “Mr. Baratheon, perhaps it’s better that we discuss your—”.
“No,” he cut her off, “I pay your salary, so we’ll address my grievances.”
She gawped at him, too shocked to respond yet.
“Sansa,” he began, his voice patronizing, “I find your class biased toward one particular point of view and,” he sighed, “it greatly displeases me.”
“This social-justice-warrior thing you’ve got going is rather annoying. You focus too much on women. What about the men? What about their needs, their opinions?”
Sansa paused, gathering her thoughts.
“Mr. Baratheon,” she said after a moment, “the class is on proto-feminist subtext in medieval intracultural discourse. Women are the point .”
He waved her comment away, his face screwed up like he’d tasted something foul.
“Exactly. It needs to change. Switch the syllabus around, add a few texts that focus on the male viewpoint.”
She should have seen this coming, she supposed. His frequent interruptions whenever the subject veered towards similarities between medieval women and modern women should have clued her in. Stupid of her, really. She shook her head.
“I am not doing that. You signed up for the class. If you are unhappy, then you are free to withdraw.”
He scoffed, rolling his eyes.
“If I leave the class,” he said with condescending patience, “I won’t have enough credits for the semester.”
Sansa smiled thinly.
“Regrettable as that may be for you, it’s not my problem.”
“This is ridiculous.” He shook his head, clearly unused to having his will questioned in any way. It was almost amusing. “Just change the syllabus and things will go much smoother for me.”
Sansa stilled, narrowing her eyes at him. Rage bubbled in her veins and she took a deep, slow breath. There was no way in hell she was going to let another man swan in and dictate any part of her life to her. She’d had enough of that already with her previous job and it was not happening at Smith.
“This meeting is over, Mr. Baratheon.” She pushed her chair back and stood. “I shall see you in class, but for now,” she moved around her desk, reaching for the door handle and pulling open the door smoothly, “please leave.”
“What?” He sputtered, turning in his chair to face her. “You can’t just throw me out like some—”
The sentence ended in an undignified squeak. Sansa raised an eyebrow at Joffrey, then followed his panicked gaze to where it rested on the looming, massive figure of Sandor Clegane as he filled the doorway.
Sandor leaned against the frame, sending a dangerous smile towards Joffrey as he crossed his arms, biceps straining the tailored fabric of his blazer.
“‘Like some’ what, Joff? Some over-indulged little shite hanging onto daddy’s wallet?” He uncrossed his arms, ducking slightly under the doorframe and entering the room while Joffrey continued to sputter, his face turning an unflattering shade of red. Sandor paused, flicking a cool look towards the smaller man.
“Pretty sure I heard Professor Stark tell you to leave, so,” he jerked a thumb at the still-open doorway, “scram.”
Joffrey shot to standing, nearly knocking over the chair in his haste. Sansa watched him gulp as he eyed Sandor warily before he swiveled his oily gaze back to her.
“We’re not finished with this—”
“Oh, yes, you fuckin’ are,” Sandor barked. “Long past it, too.”
Joffrey clamped his mouth shut, his nostrils flaring in rage as he shot a look promising retribution first to Sansa, and then towards Sandor. He pulled himself up to his rather diminutive height with a dramatic sniff, and stomped out of the room, slamming the door behind him as a petulant parting shot.
“Dumb fucking shit,” Sandor grumbled, ambling over to his desk and setting his bag down with a thud. Sansa watched him root around for his laptop for a moment before moving back to her desk and sitting, flicking her gaze to her Macbook screen.
She really ought to thank Sandor for his help, but her pride stung. Just because he was big and burly and swore a lot didn’t make him more formidable than Sansa. She would’ve tossed Joffrey’s misogynistic ass into the hallway herself if need be. She didn’t need a savior.
An unbidden memory of her mother’s chiding voice lecturing about ladylike behavior popped up, triggering her more polite instincts. She sighed, then took another breath to thank him.
Her thanks were delayed, however, as he finished rummaging around in his bag. Instead of his laptop, he pulled out something small and wooden. The tiny carving was dwarfed all the more in his large hands and he cradled it gently as he walked over to her desk. He unfurled his palm and set the little carving down in front of her. Sansa’s eyes widened, a wistful smile curving her lips as she picked it up.
It was a bird. A female finch, to be precise. Delicate and beautifully sculpted out of several types of wood that served to mark the color variations in her carved feathers. In her little feet, she clutched a piece of branch and her head was turned as if she heard a sound, her expression alert. Sansa’s heart fluttered in her chest.
“Oh, Sandor,” she breathed, running her fingers over the smooth surface of the wood, “this is stunning.”
He gave a light snort, shoving his hands into the pockets of his jeans. He shrugged and Sansa shook her head.
“I mean it.” She turned the bird reverently, admiring it from all sides. “This is the most beautiful thing I think I’ve ever seen.” She looked up again, her smile wistful. “Whoever commissioned this got really lucky. You should charge them more.”
She chuckled, handing the carving back, but stopped when she saw the furrow between his brows. If she didn’t know better, she would swear he looked a little…hurt.
“Sansa,” he began, then halted, pulling a hand from his pocket and rubbing it over his face with a wry laugh. “Fuck me.” He shook his head, giving her a lopsided grin that made her breath catch.
“For such a brilliant woman, you can be un-fucking-believably thick sometimes.”
Her jaw dropped and she scoffed, setting down the carving before she did something awful, like throw it at him.
“You know,” she snapped, miffed at his barb, “I was all set to thank you for helping me with Joffrey, but if you’re going to stand there and insult me, then you can just…go…somewhere else, I don’t know.” She crossed her arms, knowing it looked petulant but not caring as she glared at him and his stupid, cute little smile.
“I’m not trying to insult you, Sansa,” he said. He pointed to the carving. “I made that for you.”
Her ire drained like someone had pulled a plug and swift, hot embarrassment took its place. She picked up the carving once more.
“You made this, for me?” she murmured, shaking her head. “I don’t…Sandor, I—
His smile fell and he cleared his throat.
“It’s fine if you don’t like it,” he grumbled. “‘S’just a wee thing, didn’t take much time.” He beckoned with one hand. “Give it here.”
“No!” she yelped, pulling the bird to her chest. “I love it! I’m just…surprised!”
He stilled, tilting his head to regard her, his eyes narrowing.
“Surprised,” he echoed. “Why are you surprised?”
“W-well,” she sputtered, “it’s such a gorgeous piece that clearly took a lot of painstaking work, and you gave it to me of all people.”
He straightened, blinking at her with abject confusion.
“And it just seems…special,” she muttered, deflating a bit. “A special thing for someone special and that’s…not me.” She shrugged. “But I love it all the same. Thank you, Sandor. For this, and for helping me with Joffrey.” She smiled, hoping the touch of sadness she felt was hidden enough behind the curve.
His mouth opened and closed a few times before a thunderous look overtook his expression. He crossed his arms, pinching the bridge of his nose with one hand and muttered something unflattering about dense women. He dropped his arms, leveling that horrid look at her before moving around to her side of the desk. She swiveled her chair around to face him, gasping as he loomed over her, and, truth be told, more than a little thrilled at his nearness, despite the very cranky glare he’d directed at her.
“Stand up,” he commanded. She bristled but did so, pushing back her chair to give herself a bit of space. He took the bird from her hand, gently placing it on her desk.
Her words were cut off as he slid his powerful arms around her, bending to press a devastating kiss to her open mouth. Her knees went weak and he tightened his grip, preventing her from falling. He straightened, lifting her easily, and she squeaked into his mouth. He growled back, and she melted into him, sliding her arms around his neck and applying herself fervently to the kiss.
All too soon he deposited her back to earth but kept his arms around her even as his lips left hers. Sansa breathed hard, her arms unwinding from around his neck and her hands sliding down his chest. She gripped the lapels of his jacket and tried to control the racing of her heart.
“Have dinner with me, Sansa,” he rasped somewhere above her head. She raised dazed eyes to his.