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Sansa shifted the heavy box in her arms, sighing in quiet irritation as she followed her new Head of Department down the hall towards her office. She probably should have paid attention to whatever it was he was saying, but her concentration focused on not making an ass of herself by spilling the box in the hallway.

“And what with the summer construction unfortunately delayed past the first of term,” he said blandly, “I trust you’ll understand the necessity of sharing an office until renovations are completed.”

“What?” Sansa’s steps faltered. She nearly dropped her box at this bit of information but managed to continue following him down the seemingly endless expanse. She shifted the box again, trying in vain to find a more comfortable position in which to hold it. “Professor Sumners—”

“Charles, please.”

She sighed through her nose. “Charles—”

“Ah, here we are.”

She nearly collided with him as he abruptly stopped near an office door, rapping twice smartly before unlocking it and gesturing Sansa inside.

She hurried in, setting the box down with a relieved humph, dusting her hands as she straightened. The look of the office surprised her. Sparse, save for a few bookshelves to the left of the door and a small, interesting collection of what seemed to be medieval weapons adorning each side of the long, twin windows that faced the school’s lush green lawn. Brown, university-standard carpeting covered the floor. A huge desk, almost too big for the small room, grabbed her attention as she ran her eyes over the decor.

The desk was deep mahogany with a vibrancy to the stain that set it apart from any run-of-the-mill, university-issue. A whimsical pattern of whorls interspersed with more geometric shapes was etched into the wood, climbing from clawed feet up to each corner. A massive chair sat behind it, black leather and swivel, and the entire effect was intimidating. She flicked her eyes to the other side of the room where a much smaller, entirely less impressive desk sat waiting. Hers, apparently.

She swallowed, wondering who on earth she was sharing this office with. And if they knew about the arrangement.

“So then!” Professor Sumners’ chirp startled her out of her reverie. “I’ll leave you to your unpacking, shall I?” He thrust out a hand and Sansa took it dumbly. “Lovely to have you with us, Professor Stark. Here’s your key. Enjoy sharing. I promise it will only be for a few more weeks at most!”

With that, he swanned out, shutting the door behind him and leaving a dumbstruck Sansa behind clutching a key and wondering why the hell she hadn’t pressed the office issue. It was a direct violation of her employment contract and she refused to stand for it.

She charged to the door, intending to barrel after the irksome Professor Sumners and give him a very firm piece of her mind, but stopped short the moment she opened the door. A very broad chest met her at eye level and she gasped, taking a startled step backward. Her gaze traveled upward to rest on the scowling, scarred visage of an absurdly tall man. Long hair hung half in his face, over the scarred side, the mangled flesh pulled and painful looking. A short beard crossed both sides of his face, yet was thinner among the scars. His grey eyes narrowed down at her.

“Oh,” she managed, gulping and taking a few more steps back. Her eyes never left his face.

The tall man’s scowl deepened, his short beard twitching around the downward turn of his lips. He ducked slightly to enter the room, coming to his full height once he was inside. He flicked his gaze over Sansa’s form dismissively, giving an unimpressed grunt before moving towards the big desk and sitting.

Sansa stood mute in the center of the room, staring at the massive man as he folded himself into his chair with a disturbing amount of grace for one so large. He pulled a laptop from a bag she didn’t notice he held, opening it and tapping on the keys.

“What do you want, girl?”

The voice out of him was gruff, cold, irritated. Sansa blinked, realizing how hard she was staring. She shook her head.

“Oh, I-I’m sorry. How rude of me.” She moved forward, extending a hand. “I’m Sansa.”

He looked at her outstretched hand and raised his unscarred eyebrow.

“Office hours will be on the syllabus.” He smirked nastily. “Or did you think to get a head start on your grade by charm alone?”

Sansa’s face heated. He thought she was a student? And worse, a student come to-to what, flirt for a potentially better grade? How offensive.

“Excuse me, sir, but I’m not a student. I'm Sansa Stark.” He stared at her, his expression disinterested. “The new history professor? Did no one tell you about me?”

He chuckled, moving his gaze back to his laptop.

“Oh, are you important enough to warrant a warning I should listen to, then?” He tapped a few more times on the keys, frowning at something he saw. Sansa folded her arms across her chest, her long red hair sliding over one shoulder as she tilted her head at him.

“I would think important enough to let you know that for the next several weeks, we’re to share this office while mine is finished.” His gaze shot back to hers, burning with disbelief and annoyance, and she smiled wryly. “I see no one bothered to tell you either.”

“You’re fucking with me, girl.” He pushed his chair back and stood, placing his hands flat on his desk and pinning her with a hard stare. “This space is mine and I don’t share. Sumners knows that, and very well, too.”

She refused to let him intimidate her with his size, the great bully. She took a few steps forward, her movements guided by anger, and leaned in a breath away from his face.

“Sorry to hear that, professor , but for the foreseeable future, you do share and it’s with me.”

His eyes roamed her face, his nostrils flaring. An odd charge filled the scant amount of air between them and a corner of his mouth curled ever so slightly upwards.

“You’re a brave little bird, aren’t you, girl?”

She narrowed her eyes at him.

“Call me girl one more time,” she hissed, “and you’ll see exactly how brave I can be.”

He tsked, pursing his lips slightly and giving her a smug look. He shut his laptop with a snap before pulling back and moving out from behind his desk.

“I’m having a word with Sumners,” he said, moving to the door and opening it. “Don’t get comfortable. You won’t be staying long.”

He slammed the door behind him, leaving Sansa to fume in the silence.


Sansa ignored the hell out of his ridiculous dictate as she unpacked. She still hadn’t gotten his name, but no matter. She supposed she could always check the nameplate outside his— their — door but she couldn’t be bothered. It was his duty to introduce himself as she had done, so, in short, fuck him.

 

She was struggling on a rickety stepladder she’d found tucked into the office’s minute closet, trying to get a rather heavy tome on one of the middle shelves above her desk when she heard a key in the lock. The door swung open slowly and the ridiculous man slunk in, his expression darker than before. She stayed silent as he grumbled his way inside. To see such a large man pouting like a child struck her as absurdly funny and she giggled quietly.

“What’s so funny?”

“Nothing,” she said quickly, turning back to her struggle. She heard heavy footfalls stop behind her.

“What are you doing?” His low murmur was at her shoulder. An involuntary shiver chased down her spine and she closed her eyes.

“I-I’m putting my books away,” she said, irritated at herself. “What does it look like?”

He snorted. “It looks like you’re fighting them. And losing.”

Annoyance got the better of her and she whipped around, intending to dress him down, but overbalanced. She gasped and felt herself falling as the stepladder gave way underneath her. Her eyes slammed shut as she braced for impact with the ground.

She collided with something solid, altogether warmer and just a bit more pliable than the floor. Bands of steel scooped her up, cradling her against a broad, hard expanse and she clutched at it with a shriek, hiding her face.

A few moments passed, the fog of fear clearing and realization taking its place. Sansa pulled back a bit, his arms still holding her securely, and met his startled grey gaze.

“Thank you,” she whispered. He shook his head, his eyes darting to her mouth. She swallowed, ducking her head.

“You, um, you can put me down now.”

“Oh.” He blinked, as if coming back to himself. “Right.”

He set her down gently, backing away from her. She busied herself with adjusting her shirt and jeans, trying to ignore the sudden, awkward awareness between them.

“I could, uh, help you with those.”

She looked up at him, raising her eyebrows to see him pointing at the shelves.

“What happened to ‘not getting comfortable’?” She turned, picking up the stepladder and sighing. Cracked and useless now. Damn .

“Ah, well.” He cleared his throat. “That miserable cunt Sumners didn’t—”

He cut off when she looked at him, shocked at his use of the word. He scowled, the bridge of his unscarred cheek pinkening. Sansa elected to ignore the crude term, fishing a smaller book out of the box.

“I suppose that means he told you the same thing he told me, then? ‘Just a few weeks’?” She slid the book onto the lowest shelf, resolving to reorganize the lot later, and reached down to hoist up the tome that had nearly caused her demise. He reached it first, plucking it up from the floor and sliding it neatly into the waiting space on the middle shelf.

“Next time, ask, girl. No need to risk a bloody concussion over a book.”

She sighed.

“My name is Sansa, sir,” she said with great patience, sliding another book on the shelf with more force than necessary. “Please use it and stop calling me girl.”

He grunted again, shelving another heavy book.

“Sandor.”

She turned to look at him, her brow furrowed in question and he lifted one shoulder in a shrug.

“My name. It’s Sandor. Sandor Clegane. No need for this ‘sir’ shite.”

“Oh.” The minor victory of getting his name made her smile, warm and genuine, and she stuck out her hand. “It’s lovely to meet you, Sandor.”

He slid his large hand gently around her smaller one, pressing briefly and shaking once. His skin was warm, calloused, but the rasp of it against her soft palm was pleasant. Almost comforting.

How odd.

“Likewise, little bird.” He smiled softly.

She lowered her eyes, suddenly shy.

“Bit soon for a nickname, isn’t it?” She teased, releasing his hand and turning back to unpacking. She lifted a small statue out of the box, giving it pride of place on the raggedy desk under the shelves.

He grunted but made no comment, instead pointing to the statue on her desk.

“Follower of the Old Gods, then?” He moved around to the other side, still pointing. “May I?”

Sansa nodded, watching him pick up the small Weirwood tree with care. He ran his thumb reverently across the small, tear-streaked face.

“I’m not so much a follower as an…admirer,” she mused aloud. She held out a hand and he placed the statue in her palm. “My parents raised my siblings and I to follow whatever path worked best, religion or otherwise, and when I came across this belief system in my studies, I was fascinated.” She put the statue back on her desk, looking up at him with a private smile. “Weirwood trees remind me of my family, so I like to have one near me wherever I land.”

He cleared his throat suddenly, taking a rather large step away from her and scanning the books behind her.

“So, uh,” he stammered, “what…what do you teach?” He moved back to his desk quickly, sitting and opening his laptop once more.

She was surprised at his odd retreat but elected to ignore it.

“Well,” she began, placing a few more items on her desk along with her own laptop, “my doctoral thesis was on medieval knighthood and the inherent cultural fallacies associated with the overall group.” She set a pencil holder shaped like a Direwolf next to a small writing pad to the right of her Macbook, smiling at the whimsical figurine. A silly gift from her second-eldest brother, Jon. “And I was hired to teach that, along with a first-year intro course on medieval Europe.”

He smirked, and not kindly.

“Fan of knights, then, are you? Chivalry and romanticism and all that?”

She scoffed. “When I was a little girl, maybe. Learning about them tends to dispel one’s romantic notions surrounding them. I find them fascinating as an academic study but have zero desire for them in actuality, I can assure you.” She rolled her eyes. “Chivalry, as we’ve come to view it, is inherently misogynistic and was never actually formalized as a code, anyway.”

She slid into her desk chair, wriggling a bit at the discomfort of it before settling and poking through the drawers of her desk.

“What about you,” she asked, raising an eyebrow upon finding what seemed to be an ancient stapler and hole punch in one drawer, “what do you teach?”

“The history of war,” he replied succinctly, pointing to the small collection of weapons that dotted the wall near the windows.

“The entire history?”

He nodded.

“Wow. Is it like a broad overview, or do you have a series of classes?”

“A series that makes up part of a minor,” he shrugged, “and keeps me busy enough.”

“I bet.”

They lapsed into a rather comfortable silence after that, Sandor tapping away on his laptop while Sansa busied herself running to and fro with boxes and unpacking.

After the fourth box, her back started to ache and she regretted packing them so full. She stretched, trying to relieve some of the tension in her lower back, and let out a small moan of pain when her vertebrae cracked.

A beleaguered sigh from across the room met her ears.

“Are you going to make me watch you break your back or will you ask for help?”

She turned her head, surprised at Sandor’s statement, her hair slipping off her shoulder and swinging curtain-like across her back. His eyes were drawn to the motion and she saw him swallow before blinking and scowling at her one more. Funny, though, how she was quickly growing used to that curmudgeonly expression. She nearly smiled at it.

“Actually, yeah. Help would be great. I’ll be sore enough as it is tomorrow and I’ve still got, like, four massive boxes to unload.”

He grunted—as per usual—and stood, his massive form filling the space.

“Lead the way, Professor Stark.”


Sandor managed two boxes at a time with apparent ease, reducing the trip significantly, and Sansa was delighted to have her chore finished so adroitly. She hated moving boxes but loved unpacking and setting up a  new space just as she liked it. She flitted around her half of the office, humming contentedly as she moved things about.

She could feel his eyes on her occasionally as she moved but ignored the tingle of awareness his gaze caused. She focused the extra bit of energy on getting her books arranged perfectly, organized for ease of locating and use.

When that was finished, she stepped back, admiring her handiwork with a satisfied sigh.

“All done, hummingbird?”

She turned, a quizzical smile on her face.

“Hummingbird?”

He kept his eyes on his screen but smirked wryly. At some point, he had donned a pair of wire-rimmed, rectangular glasses and Sansa was surprised at how attractive they were on him. She swallowed, her cheeks heating.

“You’re zooming about and humming like a maniac. What else should I call you?”

She snorted, rolling her eyes and turning back to her bookshelves.

“How about my name, Sandor?”

“Where’s the fun in that, Sansa?”

Her name said in that rumbling, rasping voice of his with its sudden teasing lilt did odd things to her. She pushed the feeling away. They were colleagues and professionalism was key. Friendship might be natural but she would tolerate no inappropriate behavior from herself. She didn’t want a repeat of her last job.

Shaking the melancholy from her thoughts, she turned, pasting a bright smile on her face.

“Well, I’m starving.”

He grunted, his attention back on the screen. She waited a few moments and sure enough, he raised his eyes to hers over his glasses. She gave him an expectant look.

“The cafes on campus won’t be open for another week yet,” he said, confusion on his face. “And you have a car so-”

“So, let’s have lunch!” Her smile turned genuine.

His mouth dropped open and he stared at her for a moment before snapping his mouth shut.

“No.”

She pouted. “Come on.”

“I’m busy.”

“Please? I don’t know any of the good places around here.”

“So drive ‘til you find something that looks like it won’t kill you.”

She narrowed her eyes, moving forward and placing her hands on his desk. He ignored her.

“Professor Clegane,” she said slowly, lowering her voice to a near whisper. That got his attention and his eyes flicked back up to hers in surprise. She smirked.

“I am new in town. I don’t know my way around yet. You were very rude to me this morning, so the least you can do is come to lunch with me and keep me company. My treat.”

He leaned back in his chair, stroking a hand over his beard absently for a moment.

And you can have first-veto over where we go.”

He let out a quiet breath.

“Fine,” he said, and pointed a large finger at her, “but you’re driving.”

She grinned, triumphant.

“You’ll regret that once you try to get into my car.”


“There is no way I’m fucking fitting in that.”

Sansa snorted, moving to the driver’s side of her silver mini cooper.

“I told you. You’ll be alright, though, just a bit cramped.”

He shook his head.

“Not a chance in the seven hells. Come on,” he gestured curtly, “I changed my mind. If we have to do this, we’re taking my car. At least I’ll be comfortable in that .”

She let out a startled laugh as he stomped off in the direction of a rather large jeep, the black surface shining and pristine. She hurried after him.

“You walk too fast.”

He scoffed.

“And you’re too short. Why don’t you just fly, little bird?”

Sansa rolled her eyes as they reached the jeep and he unlocked it with his key fob. She opened the passenger door and hoisted herself up with a grunt. Plopping down on the passenger seat, she quickly buckled in and sent him a smirk when he grunted at her. Again.

“Tiny but mighty,” she said by way of explanation, earning her a genuine laugh from him as he put the car in drive and pulled out of the parking lot.

“Alright, then, Professor Stark. What do you like to eat?”

Chapter Text

One week later…

Sandor jerked his head up as the door to his—to their office was flung open with enough force to send it bouncing off the wall. Sansa stormed into the room, grabbing the door and slamming it shut behind her.

“What the fucking—”

He cut off as Sansa whipped around, a growl forming in her throat. The red curtain of her hair swung around her shoulders and her blue eyes flashed fire.

Even he was smart enough to recoil from that.

“Christ, Sansa. What the hell happened?”

She didn’t respond and instead marched to her desk, sitting down in her chair like it had offended her mother. She ripped her laptop out of her bag and slammed it down hard enough on the desk, flinging up the top.

She'd only been muttering angrily through her clenched teeth for a few moments before it began to get on his nerves. He sighed, pulling off his glasses and pinching the bridge of his nose.

“Fuck’s sake, Sansa,” he said, dropping his glasses on his desk. He leveled an annoyed stare at her. “Are you going to sit there stewing or will you just let it the fuck out before you bloody explode?”

Her eyes met his and he watched her bank the fire in them, replacing it with ice. She dropped her gaze and took a deep, slow breath.

Shit. He knew that look. Nothing good could come from a look like that on a woman.

“I’m fine, Sandor,” she said cooly, folding her hands primly and giving him a regal nod. “Thank you for your concern.”

He snorted. “Bullshit.”

She raised an eyebrow and met his narrowed gaze levelly.

“Excuse me?”

“You heard me.” He folded his arms and leaned back in his chair, the leather creaking as he moved. “Spill your guts, little bird.”

Her nostrils flared.

“You are by far one of the most vulgar people I have ever met.”

Each word was tipped with shards of ice. He grinned. Poking at the prim Professor Stark had become one of his favorite pastimes in the short week they’d known each other. He shrugged.

“Fucked if I care. Now, are you going to tell me what happened or are you just going to sit there, grinding your teeth and swearing under your breath for the rest of the day?”

She took another deep breath.

“I don’t swear.”

He raised an eyebrow, curious.

“Oh, don’t you?” She shook her head. “Well, you should. Might take the edge off.”

“No, thank you. There are other ways to express my emotions.”

He barked a laugh.

“Come on. Give us a curse. A good, loud ‘fuck’ will make you feel loads better.”

Too late, he realized what he’d said. Sansa’s eyes grew wide and her cheeks turned pink. He felt his own heating and his smile dropped, along with his gaze.

“Know what, n-nevermind,” he mumbled, grasping at some papers on his desk and reaching for his bag. “I’m going to head out for the day, s’too quiet ‘round here and—”

“Fuck.”

The nearly-whispered utterance stopped him in his tracks.

“What?”

Sansa sighed heavily and sagged in her chair.

Fuck ,” she repeated, the word almost a whine. A corner of his mouth turned upward and he settled back down.

“Didn’t quite catch it that time, either, little bird.” Sandor folded his arms over his laptop and leaned forward. “Try again?”

She stared him right in the eye for a moment before screwing her face up and letting out a primal yell.

FUCK!

She clapped a hand over her mouth, muffling her laughter as Sandor broke into applause, a full smile blooming on his face.

“Well done, Professor Stark!” He stopped clapping, leaning forward again on one elbow. “Feel better?”

She nodded. “A little, I suppose.”

“Told you so.”

Sansa rolled her eyes. “Don’t get used to it. I don’t need foul language to solve my problems.” She tapped a few keys on her laptop. He was surprised the thing had survived her earlier ill-treatment of it.

“You’re missing out. Fuck’s the point of foul language if not to use it as much as possible?” He went back to sliding papers into his bag, followed by his laptop, and stood. She looked up at him with a small smile, pausing her typing.

“Going home?”

He hitched the strap of his bag onto one shoulder, moving towards the door.

“Yeah. Gonna hit a pub, have a beer or two first.” He sighed, stopping with a hand around the doorknob. “Then it’s off to the fuckin’ races with grading the first-years' assignment.” He gestured widely with his free hand. “‘What the fuck do you lot know about war?’ Three to five pages of reasoning due by Friday’s class. Read your fuckin’ textbooks for clues.”

Sansa tsked. “It’s mean to give an assignment in the first week of class, due the first week of class.”

“They’ll live.”

She shook her head. “No, not mean for them. For you , Sandor. You’re the one who’s stuck grading them.” She plucked a pencil from the ridiculous Direwolf pencil holder and scribbled something on that ever-present notepad of hers. He peered at her while she wrote. She had a strained look about the eyes, causing a niggle of concern at the back of his mind. She never did say what was bothering her. Part of him wondered why he cared, but the rest…

“You wouldn’t, uh, want to come with. Would you?” He released the doorknob, shifting the bag on his shoulder as he turned back to her. “‘My treat’, as they say.”

She looked up, her expression surprised before a little smile curved her pretty mouth.

Wait—

“I could actually really use a drink tonight, yeah.” Her smile spread. “Sandor, that’s so kind of you.”

He shifted, embarrassed and slashed a hand through the air.

“Alright, don’t go getting all prissy on me about it,” he grumbled. “I still owe you for lunch last week, anyway, and I don’t like to keep debts.”

Her smile stayed fixed, but he saw a tiny, impish spark enter her eyes.

“Of course. Well, let me just pack up real quick and then we can be off.”

He grunted, watching as she stood gracefully and began putting things away, her movements smooth and her hair sliding silkily over one shoulder as she bent to retrieve her bag.

Why the hell did he feel like he would live to regret this?


Sandor’s favorite pub in the little college town was a well-kept establishment that hosted a live jazz band one night each week. When he revealed this fact to Sansa while driving them both to said pub, she grinned in the passenger seat next to him.

 

“I knew you had to have some awful secret lurking in the shadows,” she said. “Who knew it would be that?” Her tone was warm and teasing but he stiffened regardless. He focused on the road, reminding himself that it was just a joke.

“Yeah, well,” he cleared his throat, “fuck it. I like jazz music.”

She turned to look at him, her smile gentling.

“Yeah? Do you have a favorite artist?”

He shrugged as they reached the place, turning the jeep into the parking lot.

“The usual suspects, I suppose.” He gestured in the air with one hand. “Coltrane, Ellington, the whole lot.” He pulled smoothly into a spot and parked, unbuckling his seatbelt and reaching for the door’s handle.

“Do you like Billie Holiday?”

He nodded, opening the door and sliding out. “You’d be fuckin’ dumb not to.”

He shut the driver’s side door and moved around to her side, opening it and watching her hop out and land next to him. It was easy to forget sometimes just how tiny she was from those bits of temper he’d seen. Her head barely reached his chest but her feisty nature belied her small frame. He started walking towards the front door of the pub, trying to shake off a few unwanted thoughts that followed his internal musing on her size.

“How about anyone more current?” She asked, catching up to him. He slowed his steps to match hers, slanting her a look at the question. She held her hands up in surrender.

“Sorry!” She laughed. “Your taste is fine, I was just curious.”

They reached the door and he opened it, letting her precede him.

“Esperanza Spalding.”

Sansa cooed. The sound sent an odd shiver down his spine.

“Oh, I love her. I’d kill to see her in concert someday.”

“Yeah?” The idea warmed him. “She’s good in concert.”

Her eyes screwed shut above a smile he knew was envious. He grinned, charmed despite himself.

“I’m so jealous you’ve seen her!” She opened her eyes, the bright blue luminous in the dim lighting of the pub as she looked up at him. “Did she play 'Black Gold'? Or 'Little Fly'?”

He nodded, struck dumb as he gazed down at her. When did she get so pretty?

The arrival of the host—if the cranky, middle-aged owner of the pub counted as such—saved him from doing something embarrassing. They were sat at a table far enough from the band’s set up to enjoy the music while still being able to hold a conversation. Sandor nodded his thanks to the host and once Sansa was settled, gestured to the bar.

“What’ll you have?”

She hummed, turning in her chair and squinting at the menu above the bar. “Um…I’ll have whatever you’re having, to start.”

He snorted a laugh.

“Sure about that?”

She narrowed her eyes at him playfully. He swallowed.

“Bring the damn beers, Clegane.”


He plunked a massive, foaming mug of amber lager down in front of Sansa, snickering as he watched her eyes widen.

“I could drown in this.”

“Probably.”

He settled with his own huge mug, filled to the brim with an India pale ale. He took a large swig, setting the mug down to watch Sansa grasp hers with both hands and take a tentative sip.

She hummed in pleasure, licking her lips. He watched the motion of her tongue for a split second before snatching up his mug and taking another healthy swallow.

“This is good . What is it? It’s not the same beer as yours.”

“Sure as hell isn’t.” He gestured to her mug. “That’s an amber lager. A bit less alcohol content and milder flavor.” He pointed to his own. “Pale ale. Much higher alcohol content, much more hoppy.”

“Can I try it?”

He shrugged, nudging the mug towards her. She took a small sip, wrinkling her nose in distaste.

“Not a fan?” He grinned, taking the mug back.

“Not at all.” She shivered. “It’s too… beery .”

He nearly choked on his drink laughing.

Beery? Sansa, it’s a fuckin’ beer. What else is it supposed to taste like?”

She rolled her eyes but pushed her mug at him.

“Mine’s better. Try it.”

He recoiled, pushing the mug away.

“Fuck no. That’s a woman’s beer.”

She stilled for a moment, pinning him with a sudden, cold stare, then sat back, looking around the room. Her lips were pursed in clear displeasure.

Shit. His stupid fucking mouth. She probably thought he was some closet misogynistic asshole or something now. He sighed.

“Sansa—”

“Joffrey Baratheon is an entitled little fucking shit.” She turned her gaze back to him, her eyes still cool but with none of the vibrating anger she’d had before.

It was his turn to pause, her interruption surprising him. That was the longest string of cursing he’d heard her say yet. It rivaled his own colorful strings and he was impressed for a moment before the actual subject of her ire sank into his brain.

“What the fuck did that whelpling do this time?”

She raised an eyebrow, still sat back in her chair.

“So you know him?”

He scoffed.

“Yeah. Who doesn’t? His daddy Robert bought the young Master Joffrey’s way into Smith. The kid fucked around all his posh private school years, yet gets to go to a top school?” He rubbed the fingers and thumb of one hand together at her. “Money to burn. Some deserving kid lost out on their chance because of that little fuck.” He took another draw from his beer, setting the mug down with more force than necessary. “I’ve had him in class. We’re not what I’d call simpatico .”

Sansa hummed thoughtfully, wrapping her hands around her mug and playing absently with the condensation on the sides.

“Well, the young Master Baratheon decided the second day of my class was a good time to corner me and simultaneously try to flirt and threaten his way into a high grade.” She closed her eyes on a shiver, her mouth a moue of distaste. “He’s a pickup artist-in-training, that one.” She took a swig.

Her admission made Sandor see red. He took several deep breaths to calm himself, turning his mug slowly while he forced himself to relax.

“If,” he started, his voice a low growl, “that little shit ever tries anything beyond that, I will hand him his ass.” He clenched his hand not holding the mug into a fist, pressing it into the table. “Having a rich daddy doesn’t give him leave to harass women.”

“Sandor, no.” Sansa reached out and placed a hand over his closed fist where it lay on the table. “He won’t do anything. He’s a small person who’s just used to money getting him everything he wants.” She squeezed his hand. “I appreciate your offer, though. Truly.”

Sandor stared at their hands for a moment before raising his surprised gaze to hers and catching the smile she sent him. Aside from her fall from the ancient stepladder, it was the first time she had willingly touched him and she seemed…pleased to do it.

“And besides,” she continued while he was still lost to the sensation of her hand on his, “I’ve dealt with worse than an entitled little ass like Joffrey Baratheon.” She chuckled, letting go of his fist.

Releasing his hand brought him back to his senses and he blinked a few times, her second almost-confession sinking in. He shook his head, puzzled.

“Worse? What do you mean, ‘worse’?”

Sansa went pale, her mug poised at her lips in preparation for a sip. She set it down quickly, wiping the condensation from her hands onto her jeans.

“I, uh, I’m going to head to the ladies. I-I’ll be right back. Sorry.”

She stood with alacrity, catching a passing waitress who pointed her towards the bathrooms and then she disappeared in that direction. He sat, confused as fuck and mulling over her cryptic statement. What had she meant? What could be worse than dealing with Joffrey-fucking-Baratheon and his particular brand of smarmy, cornering her like some kind of perverted—

Realization dawned and he blanched.

Son of a bitch.

“Hey.”

He started, pulled out of his dark reverie by her soft greeting, unaware that enough time had passed for her to come back while he was still murderously musing. He looked up to see her biting her lip, a nervous look on her face.

“Hey.”

She sat, her gaze on the table as she drew a finger through a condensation ring. He waited, unsure of what to say and not wanting to demand the name of the person who did whatever it was that hurt her.

“Little bird—”

“My old boss,” she blurted, interrupting him once more. “He’s the reason I had to change schools. He—” She cut off, letting out a harsh sigh and taking a large gulp of her drink.

“Sansa.” He waited until she looked up at him. “You don’t have to tell me.”

She shook her head.

“No. It’s ok, just…”

“What?”

“Please don’t think less of me, alright?”

He pulled back, his mouth falling open to ask how the fuck he ever could, but shut it when he saw her worried look. He nodded.

“I won’t.”

She nodded in turn.

“He…cornered me. A few times, similar to what Joffrey did but worse. And since he was my boss it was more…difficult of a situation.”

Sandor wrapped his hands around his mug, squeezing it in lieu of putting his fists through something else.

“I managed to get someone high up enough in the chain to believe me but since Petyr was an Associate Dean, well,” she shrugged, “you know who won that fight.” She managed a dry smile. “And so now I’m here.”

Sandor drummed the fingers of his free hand on the table.

“What’s his last name?”

Her eyes widened and she let out a startled laugh.

“Why, so you can go murder him and dump his body in a lake or something?”

He lifted a shoulder.

“The history of war has taught me a few useful things.”

She snorted. “No. I’m not giving that asshole the honor of a clean death at your hands,” she joked.

“Who said anything about clean?” Sandor tossed back. He took a swig, grinning as he swallowed while Sansa shook her head at him.

“If you ever get arrested,” she warned, “I am neither your one phone call nor your alibi.”

He raised his mug in a salute.

“Duly noted, little bird.”

They clinked glasses, each taking a sip.


Sansa gamely finished her massive beer, impressing Sandor yet again, but the consequence of that was having a tipsy little bird in his jeep, chirping happily at him while he drove.

 

“Sandor, we didn’t get to see the band play.” She sent him a pout and the adorableness of it nearly made him drive off the road.

“It’s fine, they’ll be there next week.” He gripped the steering wheel hard, mentally slapping himself.

Focus, dipshit!

She hummed, settling deeper into the seat and closing her eyes. She opened them again quickly and turned to him.

“Hey. Sandor. Can I ask you something really personal?”

He slanted her a look out of the corner of his eye.

“Depends.”

“Oh.” She slumped back. “Yeah, that was rude. I’m sorry.”

He sighed, shaking his head.

“Just ask, little bird. If I don’t want to answer, I’ll tell you.”

“Ok.” She went quiet for long enough that he thought she’d fallen asleep but then, “How did you get your scars?”

He nodded once, tsking. She had to have asked sooner or later, he reasoned.

“Ah, well,” he began. “Let’s just say I had a shite brother growing up who was a bigger fucker than I am and…didn’t like to share his toys. And we had a fireplace. You do the math.”

“Your brother did that to you?” The sympathy in her voice chafed at him. “How awful.”

“Yeah, well. He got his own back tenfold. Got hit by a freight truck while learning to drive in my dad’s car.”

“Did he die?”

Sandor shook his head, the usual bleak satisfaction filling him at the thought of his brother.

“No, the fucker wasn’t lucky enough for that. He’s a ward of the state now. In a permanent medical facility. Basically braindead.” He grinned darkly.

“Oh, Sandor,” her voice caught, “that’s so…so sad!” She sniffled and he changed his earlier assessment from ‘probably just tipsy’ to ‘quite drunk’.

“Don’t feel bad for him, little bird.” He turned back into the faculty parking lot, pulling to a stop by her tiny car and unbuckling himself. “He’s not worth your tears.”

“No, you idiot ,” she sobbed and he turned his startled gaze on her. “I’m sad for you .” She unbuckled her seatbelt and threw herself at him, her movements awkward in the confined space, but she managed to get her arms around his neck in a proper squeeze.

He froze, unsure of how to react, but his arms slid around her without his conscious directive. He held her slight body close while she sobbed against him, her nearness confusing him and making him more than a little turned on.

“You were just a little boy! Where were your parents? Didn’t they love you? Didn’t they punish him?”

She sobbed harder and he shushed her, running a hand down the silken length of her hair.

“Hey now, little bird. It’s alright. I’m alright,” he said quietly, moving his hand from her hair down in what he hoped was a soothing pattern on her back. “My mum and dad did their best. I turned out fine. Got a Ph.D. and everything and now I get to scare little fuckers into being good students.” He patted her back gently. “See? Everything’s alright.”

She sobbed a few more times before tapering off into sniffles, still holding him tight. He breathed her in, the scent of some kind of fruity shampoo filling his nose, with an undercurrent of what could only be Sansa. She calmed fully, sliding her arms from around his neck, her hands coming to rest on his chest. The pleasure of having her touch was almost too much for him to bear.

He made the mistake of pulling back to look at her face, checking to see if she was alright. She very much was, her drunken sorrow having swiftly transformed into something that looked dangerously like lust. He swallowed and her eyes flicked down to his throat, watching the motion of his Adam’s apple. She raised her gaze back to his, then down again to land on his mouth before closing her eyes. He knew what she was going to do before she did it and managed to pull back in time enough to avoid the press of her lips.

Sansa opened her eyes, confusion and hurt replacing the lust and despite his body screaming at him to take what she offered, some higher function of his brain still intact, despite the rush of blood south, knew it was wrong. He smiled reassuringly at her.

“It wouldn't be fair, Sansa. Not while you’re drunk.”

She scowled adorably and shook her head, her red hair tossing about with the motion.

“I’m not,” she hiccupped, “not drunk.”

He let out a pained chuckled, closing his eyes.

“Yes, you are. Very much so. I knew I should have gotten you a pint glass.”

She smiled. “Mmm, but I liked my beer very much.” She leaned in with pursed lips, trying to kiss him again and he turned his head in the nick of time, her lips pressing innocently enough against his scarred cheek.

She pulled back, an odd reverence in her eyes as her drunken brain registered what happened.

“Oh.”

He shifted, all-too-aware of the straining pressure at his groin and wishing like hell for a cold shower at that moment.

“Let’s get you home.”

He deposited her back into the passenger seat and buckled them both in.

“Sandor, I c-can’t drink. I mean drive. I can’t drive.”

He started the jeep once more, pulling smoothly out of the parking spot and traversing the lot to the exit.

“I know. I’m taking you home.”

“Oh. Goody .”

He rolled his eyes. “To sleep, Sansa. Nothing else.”

She harrumphed. “Damn it.”

He ignored the flutter in his belly at her cranky lament.

“What’s your address, little bird?”

She gave it to him and he tapped it into the jeep’s navigation system, following the route to where it led.

Sansa was half-asleep when he arrived at her apartment building and he nearly had to carry her up the short flight of stairs to her flat. She’d reached the exhausted-yet-giggly stage of drunkenness and was little help with getting them into her place. He managed it somehow, though he had to duck as they traversed the short hallway to her bedroom. Her ceilings were stupidly low.

He deposited her on her bed, then rummaged around her bathroom until he found a couple of pain pills. He brought them and a glass of water back to her room.

She’d passed out in the short time it had taken him to find what she needed and he smiled ruefully, setting the pills and the water down on her little bedside table. A small notepad and pen were there as well and he rolled his eyes. Of course. He jotted down a short note for her to see when she woke up.

Sansa stirred in her bed and his attention shifted back to her. He swiftly removed her shoes, setting them neatly at the side of her bed, and tugged a soft-looking blue blanket from the end over her. He sat on the edge of her bed, smoothing the blanket up to her shoulders and tucking it around her to keep out any chill.

She shifted once more, snuggling deeper into her little nest and something in his heart clutched. He reached out a hand and gently ran the backs of his fingers across her cheek. She hummed in her sleep and he gave in to a sudden urge, leaning over her and pressing a light kiss to her forehead before getting back up and leaving the room.

He pre-locked her front door before setting her keys on her coffee table, then quietly left, pulling the door shut behind him and sighing into the cramped little hallway.

He was in serious trouble.

Chapter Text

Sansa awoke the next morning feeling like death itself and wondering grumpily why the hell she was still dressed in yesterday’s clothes. She groaned, rolling over and fumbling for her phone to stop the incessant alarm, one bleary eye cracked open to find the damn thing.

A glimmer of sunlight glanced off a glass sat on her bedside table. She frowned, dragging herself up and pressing a hand to her head in a vain attempt to stem the hangover headache. She peered at the glass, light passing through the water it contained and sending a small rainbow across the two white pills next to it. She wondered for a moment before realization dawned.

Sandor.

The night before came back to her in a blurred rush and she collapsed back onto her bed with another pained groan. What a lightweight she was. And an idiot. The beer had been good and the company better but what had she done? Climbing into Sandor’s lap and kissing his scars? All the while he’d gently and patiently tried to disengage her drunken grasp on him. Any other guy would have taken the sure thing for what it was and then ditched her when it was done, but he’d brought her home, gotten her to bed, and left her water and meds. What a gentleman.

She covered her eyes with a snort. If he knew what she was thinking, he’d probably snarl at her and say something crude to shock her out of that idea.

She heaved a sigh, throwing back the covers and sitting up. Nobody’s fault but hers that she was hungover. Time to start the day. She grabbed the pills and water, sending a silent thanks to him for his consideration, and downed them both. She grimaced as the water hit her sour stomach, sending up a burst of nausea before it settled.

She staggered to the bathroom, starting the shower and breathing in the steam, letting it clear her lungs and head. She grimaced as she caught her haggard reflection, the makeup smears under her eyes making her look ghoulish. She brushed her teeth quickly, the minty paste making her feel human again, before stripping and leaving her clothes in a pile to deal with later. She stepped into the tub, twitching the curtain shut after her and stood under the water, moaning at the soothing warmth as it cascaded over her skin. She enjoyed the sensation and heat for a few moments before she began washing, her thoughts crowding in as she was distracted with her routine.

Would he say anything about her behavior the previous night? Would he be angry or would he merely tease her? She blushed, remembering how eager she’d been when she climbed into his lap, heedless of the awkwardness of being in the jeep. A strange mix of alcohol-fueled sympathy and genuine desire had seized and gotten the better of her. But in the sober light of day, the sympathy for his childhood plight was still there and neither had the eagerness dimmed.

She didn’t regret a thing she said while sober. She had no problem that Sandor knew the worst thing about her past. He was massive, burly, incredibly masculine, more than a small woman like her could possibly handle but her gut said he was honorable. Her instincts had yet to steer her wrong, so, she would trust Sandor.

What she didn’t trust was herself around him. She wasn’t smooth. Or sophisticated. Certainly not the kind of voluptuous femme fatale that men seemed to gravitate towards. She’d had the odd boyfriend in college and wasn’t entirely inexperienced when it came to sex itself but Sandor was so… virile . She’d never truly gotten that term until she met him. She’d bet money his burn scars didn’t dissuade women in the least.

So what did a coltish woman like her stand against the no-doubt Venusian women who likely draped themselves eagerly across his massive chest, their lush curves filling his big, strong hands?

The faceless, zaftig woman in her mind’s eye changed into one with long legs and red hair, her curves slimmer but still womanly. Sandor’s big hands slid up the woman’s thighs to grip her ass and yank her towards his waiting mouth. The woman threw back her head with a lusty moan, her face suddenly identical to Sansa’s.

A hot throb of desire pulsed between her legs, the shock of it bringing her back to the present. She ground her teeth, sending her bits a nasty look.

“Shut up,” she growled. She rinsed her hair and body and turned the shower off with a flick of her wrist. Jerking the curtain back, she snatched up her towels and dried herself off with more force than necessary.

Cracking the window to let out the steam, she stepped to the mirror, wiping the condensation away with a hand. She peered at herself critically. Aside from being a bit hangover-pale, she looked alright. Pretty, even. A niggle of feminine guilt hit her and she rolled her eyes. Whatever. It was fine to call herself pretty. She owned her face, after all.

For a moment, she let herself entertain the notion that someone like Sandor would be attracted to someone like her. She didn’t really know what he liked, did she? He’d never told her and she never asked. Though, for all she knew, he might be gay, or asexual. Or only interested in a professional friendship with no romantic entanglements.

She frowned at her reflection.

“Get a grip, Stark,” she reached up to the towel on her head, unwinding it and squeezing out the excess moisture, “and get dressed.”

But…maybe she’d take extra care with her appearance today. Just to negate the effects of the hangover, of course. What other reason did she have?


Sandor had greeted her as usual when she arrived. She’d been surprised to see him in the office that early before his classes and remarked on it but he’d merely shrugged and said he had a couple of students coming to discuss their first week papers. He’d looked none the worse for their evening so she’d sent him a shy smile and a soft thanks for taking care of her.

He waved her off with a grunt like she’d expected but she could have sworn she saw a hint of color on his unscarred cheek. And had he ducked his gaze a bit too quickly or had she imagined that, too?

The week passed smoothly enough despite her worry she would mess up and make things awkward in her new awareness of him. To her mingled relief and disappointment, he treated her much the same as he had since they met. A time or two she thought there had been a certain tenderness in his gaze as she was going on about some class-related thing or another. Then there was the moment he’d given her a real, full smile as he described a student who had bravely engaged with him on a challenging portion of his lecture, the pride in his voice nearly paternal as he described it to her.

She’d dismissed each of these out of hand as her fancy running away with her. The week’s work soon captured her full attention and before she knew it, Friday rolled around and with it, her one truly free afternoon of the work week.


Her classes had been uneventful for the most part. The second week of the semester had seen some students in her upper-level class drop but that was to be expected. Students in both classes were listening and asking questions already, which pleased her. Even Joffrey Baratheon seemed more inclined towards civil behavior and she was thankful for it.

 

She was toying with the idea of treating herself to lunch when she glanced at the clock and realized that Sandor’s intro class was due to let out in ten minutes. An illicit thrill shot through her. If she hurried, she could catch him in the last minutes of his lecture. She’d been dying to see him in action for the better part of the week so she hastily packed her bag and darted out the door, nearly forgetting to lock it in her haste.

Their classes were taught in the same building where their offices were held, just a few floors down, so it took her all of five minutes to reach his classroom. She took a moment to calm her excited breathing, adjusting her clothes to get rid of any errant wrinkles and smoothing her hair. She took a deep breath and let it out with a smile before stepping to the door and slowly opening it, slipping inside silently.

The door she entered was at the back of a large, theatre-style lecture room and none of the students noticed her. But Sandor did. He was mid-sentence when he saw her but didn’t miss a beat in his lecture. His eyes flicked up to her briefly before moving back to the class. Sansa let her eyes run over him for a moment, his presence filling the room as much as his deep, rasping baritone. The students hung on his every word, his dry comments on the subject eliciting quiet chuckles from many of them.

Her mouth salivated a bit as she watched him gesture, his large hands punctuating as he spoke. In a grey patterned shirt rolled up at the sleeves and dark jeans, he was the picture of a modern professor. A modern, massive, hot professor.

Sansa pressed her thighs together and told herself to get a grip.

“Alright, then, you lot,” he moved behind the desk that sat at the front of the space, pulling a thick sheaf of papers out of his bag. “These were pretty good for a first try, though a couple of you turned in shite, which I’m sure you’re fuckin’ well aware of.” The class snickered into their hands and a few students sank lower into their seats. Sansa suppressed a giggle, sliding into a seat in the back of the lecture hall to finish waiting.

Sandor passed the papers back to the class, offering bits of muffled commentary here and there, and students started gathering their things the moment they had their papers back. A few exclaimed in excited relief, two boys high-fiving each other while a girl behind them rolled her eyes and said something that made Sandor laugh and the two boys duck their heads.

One student stayed behind after the rest had left, clutching his paper in both hands nervously. Sandor looked up from packing his own things and sent the boy a quizzical look.

“Sam?”

The student stepped forward. He was stout, with a round, kind face and a soft voice. Likely tall enough in his own right but was utterly dwarfed by Sandor.

“Professor,” he started nervously, “I-I don’t think this grade is deserved, sir.”

Sansa grimaced, waiting for an eruption but none came. Sandor merely smiled kindly at the student and beckoned him closer.

“Sam, it’s Sandor. No ‘sirs’ here, remember? And what’s fuckin’ wrong with your grade? It’s an ‘A’, lad.”

Sansa smiled wistfully, watching the exchange.

“Well, yes, but,” Sam sighed, clearly frustrated. “I-I’m a pacifist.”

Sandor shrugged. “So? I am, too.”

“But…you teach the history of war. You’ve been in a war.”

“Fuckin’ right. Doesn’t mean I liked it for itself.” He clapped a hand on Sam’s shoulder. “Look, lad. I gave you an ‘A’ because you approached the topic from a thoughtful, perceptive place. You clearly read the material and viewed it through the lens of your own pacifism while respecting the topic. That’s ‘A’ material.”

“Oh.” Sam shifted on his feet, his face coloring. “Thanks, prof—Sandor.”

Sandor grinned. “See you on Monday.”

Sam nodded, repeating the sentiment and grabbed his things. Once he’d left, Sansa stood and clapped.

“Well done, Professor Clegane.”

Sandor stopped packing and instead watched her descend the steps. She was suddenly very glad she’d chosen a pencil skirt for the day. An odd gleam entered his eyes as he watched her come towards him and she wondered at it. She smiled when she reached him.

“You’re basically a dad, did you know that?”

He rolled his eyes, grabbing a grey herringbone jacket from the chair behind the desk and shrugging it on. His long hair fell in his face, and he tossed back as he adjusted the jacket collar. The jacket fit him like it was professionally tailored, the fabric hugging his broad shoulders lovingly.

Sansa gulped. Damn.

“Think you’re fuckin’ funny, do you.”

She blinked, coming back to their banter quickly.

“Very.”

He grunted, grabbing and shouldering his bag.

“Come to spy on me, then, or did you have a reason for showing up?” He smirked, robbing his words of any real heat. He took a few steps towards her and she looked up as he drew near, her heartbeat suddenly doubling in speed and her eyes widening. He gestured past her towards the other exit, just past the desk, and she realized with a jolt that he was merely trying to move around her. She huffed a laugh, feeling stupid as she moved to the side and followed him towards the door.

“Actually, yeah,” she said, trying for a relaxed tone and failing, to her ears. “I was going to treat myself to lunch and wondered if you wanted to come?”

He looked at her over his shoulder, raising an eyebrow.

“Keeping tabs on your own debts, little bird?”

She frowned, scoffing.

“No. It’s Friday. I’m done and so are you, so,” she shrugged, “I thought we could start the weekend early. You’re not obligated to spend time with me.”

He chuckled and pulled the door open, nodding at her to precede him.

“Settle your feathers, Sansa. I was teasing.”

“Oh,” she said stupidly, moving through the door and into the hall. She waited for him to shut it and join her, and they continued on. She watched his unencumbered arm swing slowly by his side.

“Where to?”

Sansa jolted out of the pleasant little fantasy of slipping her hand into his as they walked, and blushed as her eyes met his. He raised an eyebrow.

“Well,” she stuttered, “ d-do you like sushi?”

He hummed.

“As a matter of fact, I do.”

“Great!” She smiled. “I found this little place downtown I want to try.”

“I know the one,” he said, shrugging when Sansa shot him an exasperated look. “I’ve been here for a while, little bird.”

She rolled her eyes.

“Well, is it good?”

He nodded. “It’s great. I know the owner. He’s contracted me for some work in my free time.”

“Contracted you? What, like a hit job?” She giggled at her joke, her laughter increasing when Sandor sent her a look. “Oh, come on. What else am I supposed to think when you use the word ‘contracted’?”

“Exactly what it means, brat.”

Sansa snorted.

“Shut up. I have enough brothers who call me that. I don’t need another one.”

He huffed, then blew a sigh out of his mouth.

“You can sure bet your ass I don’t want to be your brother , Sansa,” he growled.

His statement settled over them, the atmosphere turning a bit awkward. Sansa forced a small, nervous laugh, his words eliciting a series of very non -brotherly images in her head.

She cleared her throat, trying to get back the easy banter of before.

“Shall I drive?”

He barked a laugh, the sound dispelling the remaining tension.

“Sure. Why not. Let’s see how well I can cram myself into that rollerskate you call a car.”


He tried for all of five minutes before he gave it up. Sansa was disappointed; it seemed like wherever they went together, he was always the one driving. It wasn’t very fair. Sandor pulled himself out from the cramped fetal position he’d taken in order to even have hope of fitting in her Mini, grumbling all the while.

“That’s it,” he said, pointing to his jeep just a few spots away from hers, “get in. I’m driving.”

“Thank you for trying, at least.”

He scoffed, scowling and grabbing his bag from where he set it on the ground before walking off.

“It’s a good thing you’re so fuckin’ small,” he tossed behind him, his tone snappish. “If you ever get into an accident in that fuckin’ thing, at least you’ll be able to slither out through a fuckin’ crack.”

“You make me sound like a snake,” she said, hurrying to catch up with him. “That’s rude.”

“So’s your car’s fuckin’ size.” He opened the door and set his bag in the back before taking ground-eating strides to the passenger side, wrenching open the door and gesturing to the seat.

“Up.”

She pursed her lips, crossing her arms and slanting him a look. He scowled down at her and she wondered how many legions of people found it intimidating when he did that. Getting to know him a little better had the odd effect of rendering his thunderous looks almost adorable to her. As it was, he seemed sort of embarrassed. She wondered why.

“Are we eating or not?” His face darkened further as she stood there, silently analyzing him.

“Sandor,” she said with patience, “you aren’t by chance embarrassed that you couldn’t fit into my car, are you?”

His nostrils flared and she almost laughed. He was embarrassed! She decided to take pity on him and change the subject.

“You know, I think I owe you gas money.” She reached into her bag, fishing out her wallet. “No wonder you’re mad. I would be, too, if someone was mooching rides everywhere off me.” She pulled a few bills out and handed them to him but he didn’t take them. He stared at her for a moment, his dark look fading into something like guilt. He reached out, folding a large hand around hers as she held the money. She gasped at the feel of his warm palm against her. Her traitorous body thrilled at the touch and she willed it to settle the hell down .

“I don’t want your money, little bird.” He gave her a light squeeze, so brief she wondered if she’d imagined it, before releasing her. “I don’t mind driving you around.”

“Oh,” she said breathlessly, “but, my car—”

“Is too fuckin’ wee, yes,” he chortled, “but it fits you. I’m just a big grump.” He smiled crookedly at her and she felt her lips curve upwards in response.

His gaze traveled around her face for a moment before he took a sudden, deep breath and stepped back, releasing her hand. He cleared his throat.

“Well, you can’t exactly climb into the jeep in that getup, can you?” He pointed at her skirt.

Sansa’s head spun at the abrupt change of topic and her eyes fell to her clothes.

“What’s wrong with my outfit?”

He snorted.

“You’re not fit to climb Mount fuckin’ Everest over here,” he jerked a thumb at the jeep. “You’ll break your neck, especially in heels like that.”

She sputtered in indignation and he chuckled, crossing his arms and giving her an amused look. She shoved her bag at him, forcing him to open his arms or risk dropping everything, then turned to the open door and eyed the seat. Her tight skirt kept her legs close together, sure, but she could still get into a goddamned car , for heaven’s sake. She’d gotten to work without help, hadn’t she? Nevermind that her car was every bit as ‘fuckin’ wee’ as Sandor said.

She gamely reached for the handle but couldn’t get a leg high enough for support without risking a rip in her skirt or breaking a heel. Releasing the handle with a huff, she turned around and attempted to hoist herself up into the seat, but that, too, failed.

Sandor sighed, setting down her bag.

“Here,” he said, sweeping her up and off the ground.

“Sandor!” she shrieked, her arms flailing before locking around his neck.

“I’ve got you, little bird,” he said with a soft laugh near her ear. His scent surrounded her for a moment, spiced and warm with something that was inherently Sandor. She breathed in deeply, her breasts pressing against him, and felt his faint growl as it rumbled deep in his chest.

She looked up at him, the grey of his eyes turning to steel as he gazed back. His nostrils flared as he breathed. She wanted to kiss him, desperately.

Before she could screw up her courage, he deposited her gently on the passenger seat, then ducked down to retrieve her bag from the ground, sliding it in near her feet. He shut the door without preamble, moving to the driver’s side while she buckled in dazedly.

Hoisting himself into the jeep, he buckled in and started the engine. He pulled smoothly out from the lot and into midday traffic.

Sansa bit her lip and looked out the window, conscious of a charge in the atmosphere between them like the air before a storm. She risked a glance at him from the corner of her eye and saw him gripping the steering wheel harder than necessary with one hand, the other stroking over his beard thoughtfully. The muscles of his forearm bunched from his tight grip on the wheel. She swallowed, the heat of arousal blooming between her thighs again, and she surreptitiously tried to press her thighs together.

They reached the restaurant quickly and he hoisted her out much the same way he’d put her in the jeep. The strength of her reaction to him shocked her and she wondered if he felt the same as his grip around her tightened before he set her down gently. Her musings from earlier in the day came back to her in an unwelcome rush, dimming some of her excitement.

Of course he’d react to holding a woman. He was a man, it was natural, but that didn’t change the fact that she was still likely not his type.

She thanked him quietly and he nodded. She took a deep breath as he shut the door and locked the jeep. So what if he wasn’t interested. They could still be friends and she enjoyed spending time with him. It was probably safer that way, anyway. She came to do a job, not find a boyfriend for herself. And it would be awkward if they started something and it went sideways, especially since they were sharing an office for the immediate future.

No, it was better to just be friends with him. Just regular friends with the gruff, intelligent man who lifted her like she weighed nothing and spoke to her in that voice like rough-napped velvet and was kind to worried students —

Her heart sank. She was fucked.

Chapter Text

Sansa Stark would probably be the death of him.

He sat there, watching her wrap her lips around fat pieces of sushi and nigiri, covering her pretty pink lips with her small hand when she spoke with a mouthful. He shoved pieces of his own meal into his mouth, grunting in response to her comments and trying like hell to will his cock to fucking deflate.

It was one thing to feel her body against him when saving the clumsy little thing from a nasty fall off  a rickety ladder. Arousal from that couldn’t be helped. But to willingly pick her up— twice —and hold her, warm thighs and a slender back across his arms, her breasts pressed against his chest with her mouth right there ?

He was a fucking idiot, with a cockstand to prove it.

There had been a strange awkwardness between them after he’d lifted her into the jeep. Truth be told, he probably didn’t need to hoist her, but some demon pushed the button and he found himself scooping her up, enjoying her little shriek and the arms around his neck. Her scent in his nose, feminine and flowery, had sealed his fate, blood rushing to his groin fast enough to make him dizzy.

He’d been agitated since she showed up at the end of his class, looking like a whipped cream-topped dessert in that tight black skirt and white blouse, her copper hair pulled up in a ponytail that gave him filthy ideas. He’d caught the heated way she’d looked at him when he shrugged on his jacket. And the way her eyes widened when he got close to her, her cheeks flushing the same pink as her lovely mouth.

“Sandor?”

He blinked and looked up at her. She sent him a quizzical look, licking a stray droplet of soy sauce from her lips.

He gulped. Fuck .

“I’m blathering on too much, aren’t I?” She smiled and ducked her head.

That pretty blush was back and he nearly groaned aloud, grabbing his bottle of rice lager and taking a deep swig. Sansa had looked surprised when he asked the waiter for it but Sandor had merely shrugged and muttered weekend. To his surprise, she’d followed his lead, ordering herself a small bottle of sake and a glass of water to go with it.

She huffed a laugh through her nose, drawing him back to the present.

“I knew it.” She sighed, taking a sip from the little ceramic cup that had come with her drink. “Look, I owe you an apology. I’v been unprofessional and probably violated some ethics.” She raised a hand. “I promise it won’t happen again.”

He frowned, at sea.

“What are you on about?”

She looked at him through her lashes before dropping her gaze. He was completely lost.

“Well… my behavior, of course.”

He shook his head, irritated.

“Spit it out, Sansa.” He grabbed his chopsticks, wrangling a piece of his roll and bringing it to his mouth. “Quit talking in riddles.”

She opened her mouth again but another voice cut her off.

“Sandor!”

He tore his gaze from Sansa at the sound of his name and spotted the owner hurrying towards their table, a wide smile on the man’s face. Chewing and swallowing both the food and his irritation, he set the chopsticks down and extended a hand when the man reached them.

“Eiji,” he said, smiling in return as the man took his proffered hand and pumped it a few times. “How’s things, my friend?”

“Oh, fine, fine,” Eiji said cheerfully, releasing Sandor and waving off the question. His gaze fell to Sansa.

“Ah, this is Sansa Stark. She’s my…colleague.” He gestured to Eiji. “Sansa, this is Eiji Nakamura, the owner.”

“Oh!” Her smile was bright and sweet. “How lovely. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Nakamura.” She extended a hand, Eiji taking it and pressing it between both of his warmly.

“The pleasure is mine.” He smiled down at her, releasing her hand. “And how is your lunch?”

“It’s wonderful ,” she gushed. “I think I’ve found my new happy place.”

Eiji grinned, pleased. “I’m glad you’re enjoying everything.” He pressed a hand to his chest, giving Sansa a shallow bow of his head. “I’ll pass on your compliments to the chef.” He turned his attention back to Sandor.

“I have a proposition for you, if you’re open to another commission. Shall I call you later?”

Sandor nodded.

“Sounds good. I’m around all weekend, call when you like.”

“Excellent.” He smiled to them each in turn once more. “I’ll leave you to the rest of your lunch. Enjoy and let me know if you need anything else.”

“Wonderful to have met you!” Sansa called as he walked off. She turned back to Sandor with a smile. “He seems very nice.”

“Aye.” Sandor nodded, picking up another piece and popping it into his mouth. “Known him since he opened the place, did a few odds and ends for them to help out.” He swallowed, grinning. “Got paid my weight in fresh fish but it worked for me.”

Sansa leaned forward eagerly, the strange awkwardness of earlier somehow dispelled by the charming owner.

“What kind of commission do you think he wants?”

Sandor shrugged, taking a sip of his beer.

“Probably woodworking. It’s what I usually do for them.”

“Woodworking?” Sansa’s eyebrows raised. “Like carpentry?”

He shook his head, setting the beer back down and leaning on his crossed arms casually.

“More like furniture, decor, shit like that.”

Sansa sent him a curious look before turning around in her chair. She scanned the restaurant for a moment before gasping.

“No way.” She stood, her chair scraping across the floor, then made her way towards a large, carved wood mural hanging above the raw bar. The chefs smiled at her as she approached then went back to their roll-making. She gazed at the mural, walking slowly from one side to the other as she followed the sloping pattern of fish diving in and out of carved wooden waves, a few having been caught by elaborately carved wooden fishermen. He was particularly sentimental about the piece, but he’d die before admitting that to anyone. It had taken months and a whole slew of difficult techniques but the end result was pretty fucking special.

He watched her stare at the mural for a moment before his gaze slid to her ass and the tight black skirt that clung to it attractively. A heart-shaped ass, the perfect size for her frame and for squeezing in his big hands. His cock stirred again.

She pirouetted on those high heels gracefully and leveled a shocked smile at him. He ripped his gaze back up to her face, trying to look innocent, but she didn’t seem to notice the lurid turn of his thoughts as she practically skipped back to the table and sat.

“Sandor,” she said, her voice a bit breathless around her smile and he clenched his teeth hard to prevent a groan from escaping. She likely wasn’t even trying to be sexy, goddamnit. “That’s…you made that mural, didn’t you?”

He shrugged, suddenly uncomfortable for a whole different reason. He pulled his beer bottle towards him and set to picking at the label, avoiding her excited gaze.

“You did. I can tell.”

He snorted. “Oh, can you now?”

“Mmhmm,” she hummed and he risked a glance at her. A mischievous spark had entered her eyes. “There’s a similar pattern of contrasting whirls and angles on the corners of your desk at work.” She sat back in her chair, a triumphant smile on her face, like she’d figured out a great mystery of the world.

“You, my tall friend, are an artist.”

He sat back in his own chair, pushing the beer away and bouncing a leg. He crossed his arms over his chest.

“I’m not an artiste , little bird,” he said with disdain. “I just like working with my hands.”

She stilled, flicking him a look and he wanted to kick himself. Why did this double entendre shit only come out of his mouth around her? He met her eyes but saw no embarrassment, just an impish curiosity and he braced himself for an inquisition.

“Well, you do gorgeous work.”

He stopped bouncing his leg, surprised.

“That’s it?”

“What do you mean?”

He waved a hand in the air.

“No barrage of questions to chirp at me and make me want to—to do something to shut you up, and quick?”

She cocked her head to the side, considering him with a gently assessing gaze that made him feel like he was naked in front of his teacher, awaiting either praise or punishment. An idea he didn’t exactly hate where she was concerned.

“I’d gladly pay for the privilege of owning a piece of your work.”

He paused, then shook his head.

“I don’t want your money.”

She smirked. “Even if I offer you a ridiculous sum for a commission of my own?”

“Fuck that,” he said, his voice gone gruff from the heated image in his mind of her with a ruler and glasses perched on her nose. “Have you over my shoulder poking your nose into everything?” He scoffed. “No thanks.”

Her mouth fell open in mock outrage before her lips curved in a sly smile.

“I wouldn’t do that. Name your price.”

“No.”

“Oh, come on. You won’t sell me anything?

He leveled a dark look at her.

“It’s just a hobby, Sansa. I don’t charge my…friends.”

Her cheeks pinkened and her sly smile turned sweet, and a bit shy.

“Oh. Well, I really mean it. I’d love to own a piece of yours. I don’t mean anything as elaborate as your mural,” she gestured behind her, “that’s too glorious for my flat.” She sipped at her sake, dropping her eyes. “But if you, um, change your mind, let me know.”

He considered her as she held the little cup, the porcelain matching her skin. She set it down and picked up her lacquered chopsticks, poking at a piece of her roll. Everything about her was just like that, dainty and gentle and polite. What the fuck was she doing hanging around a lumbering asshole like him?

He ran a hand over his beard, mulling over her odd mumblings before Eiji had interrupted. He was suddenly very curious to know what was going on in that head of hers. He wasn’t great with the social niceties like that, but maybe the moment to bring it up had passed. She certainly seemed a bit more comfortable since starting in on his hobby and begging him for a piece. Asking about earlier might disrupt whatever equilibrium they’d found.

Fuck it , he thought, and voiced the question on his mind.

“What was that weird fuckin’ riddle you were on about earlier?”

She paused, setting down her chopsticks and chewing slowly, her gaze on the middle of the table. She swallowed and took a drink from her water glass. Licking her lips, she sat back with a sigh.

She finally looked at him, her posture suddenly prim and her gaze cool. A small niggle of warning poked his gut.

“You said we’re colleagues, and then you said friends,” she began, twining her fingers together in her lap.

He frowned lightly. Where was she going with this?

“I suppose I did. Why?”

“Well,” she took a breath, “then I owe you an apology twice over.”

He narrowed his eyes, mirroring her posture and leaning back.

“The fuck do you have to be sorry for?” He shook his head, genuinely confused. “Did you steal my favorite pen or something?” He couldn’t imagine such a proper little thing like her doing anything worse that warranted an apology.

“No, of course not,” she said in affront and he grinned. Adorable .

“So it’s murder, then, is it?” He leaned forward, nodding his head and humming. “It’s always the polite ones, isn’t it? I hope the fucker had it coming. Was it Joffrey Baratheon?”

She rolled her eyes, letting out an exasperated sigh.

“Sandor, stop teasing me. I’m serious.”

He snorted, holding up his hands in surrender.

“Fine, then. Confess your sin, little bird.” He lowered his hands to the table, twirling his beer bottle idly. “Fair warning, though. I’m no fuckin’ priest so I can’t absolve you.” He took a quick sip. “But go on, vent your spleen.”

Her nostrils flared and he could tell he’d annoyed her. Good. Much better than whatever that tiptoeing shit was she’d done before. He couldn’t stand that, not from her.

“You are exasperating.” She shot him a look. “I’m trying to apologize for being…uncouth in my behavior towards you. For being indecent and throwing myself at you like some student desperate for a better grade.”

Sandor stilled. She was throwing herself at him? How the fuck had he missed that?

He huffed a strained laugh.

“Sansa—”

“I’m not finished,” she interrupted, holding up a small hand. “We’re friends and colleagues, as you said, and my actions have put that at risk.”

“Sansa, what the actual fuck—”

“And besides,” she blathered, on some kind of tangent that he couldn’t seem to halt so he let her dig her hole, “I’m not the type of woman who does those things. I’m not really a type at all, certainly not yours , so it’s best to just move forward and chalk it up to bad judgement and hormones—”

“Sansa.” He reached out and grabbed the hand she’d held up and had started waving in her diatribe. “Stop. Back up.” He released her hand and she looked at it, swallowing visibly before dropping it back to her lap.

He folded his hands around the edge of the table, trying to make sense of the slew of words she’d thrown at him. Some shit about hormones and not being some kind of type and not his? The hell did that—

Oh .

Sansa thought she’d been inappropriate because she was attracted to him .

“Say that again,” he growled, looking at her, “but slower this time.”

She blushed scarlet but cleared her throat and held her head high.

“I-I seem to have developed some sort of fascination and am doing my level best to rid myself of it and not ruin our friendship.” She folded her hands again, her prim armor going back up. “It’s unprofessional and clearly unwanted.”

He barked a laugh. “ Clearly? ” He ran a hand over his face. “Fucking hell. Clearly. ” He pulled out his wallet, tossing a few bills on the table before pushing back and beckoning to her. “Let’s go.”

He changed his mind. Sansa would absolutely be the death of him.

Chapter Text

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?”

He chuckled.

“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.”

“It—excuse 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…?”

“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.

“Sandor, what—”

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.

“Dinner?”

He nodded. 

“Dinner.”