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When The Sparrows Sing

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Somewhere in the space between the heavens and time – that space where the gods dwelled and, for most of their eternal lives, chose whether or not to intercede in the lives of mortals, at their leisure – there was a conversation taking place between the Seven as they sat around their floating table to discuss a matter that had recently come to their attention.

“This is a mistake of the gravest kind,” the Crone was saying, her weathered yet ethereal skin appearing as thin as the finest gossamer made by mortals. Her long robe draped over her slight frame, belied the strength held in a body as old as time beneath the fraying fabric.

“I agree,” chimed the father, as did several others who hovered over non existent chairs. He continued, “We judge not one another, but this must be fixed.”

His pointed stare fixed upon the Smith, who hung his head just enough that his guilt was apparent even without a verbal admission. After all, it was he who had been in charge of this family line, and his blunder meant the Maiden and Mother were unable to fully deliver their fates to the mortals in question.

“An abomination,” the Stranger growled loudly, his heavy palm crashing to the table’s surface. His countenance – ever a mystery to all beings both mortal and immortal – seemed to glow red from within his cavernous hood.

“You’ve made it so that I am unable to properly discern which mortals to take and which to leave.”

His voice lowered and the others at the table bristled, the Stranger’s temper once again finding its way into a gathering.

“I demand you make this right. He – ” he stopped abruptly, his hood swinging left and right as he looked upon the other faces at the table. When he spoke again, his voice had a softness to it the others had not heard in several hundred years.

“I am… particularly fond of this one.”

“Aye, me as well,” piped up the Warrior, who was the only god who chose to stand at the table.

Always at attention, he took his role seriously, emulating the behaviors he wished to see when a soldier prayed for courage in battle, or for a wife who prayed that her husband come home unharmed.

There were a few nods of agreement – the Crone included – which pointed to the gravity of the situation, for the gods were known to have favorites and it was obvious the Smith had wronged one of their very dearest.

“Yes, yes,” he admitted, nodding, his eyes finally dropping to his dirty hands, folded as they were on the edge of the table.

“And the woman as well,” the Maiden reminded him softly, her smile so feminine and gentle that the smith coughed and turned away, though unable to completely hide the blush that arose on his dark cheeks.

“Yes,” he agreed with a terse nod, “the woman as well.”

“She is, after all, where the true mistake was made,” she prompted.

When the Maiden reached over to place a slender hand on the Smith’s arm, the differences between their appearances were striking. Her flesh glowed with white innocence, the surface of her ethereal body having no scars, no hairs, no freckles; not a single wrinkle that spoke of her true eternal age. She was the embodiment of beauty, while the Smith; the spirit of hard work, of creation and craftsmanship, had palms dirty and grimy; callused and scarred. It spoke volumes that a magnificent woman such as she would act so freely as to allow her skin to come into contact with his.

He turned a shy smile towards her, and all at the table knew once again she had managed to break through his serious wall and convince him to amend this wrong without having to argue for several centuries about it.

“Tonight,” the Mother offered from across the table, her wise and aged face showing she was the mother of all humanity, and a voice of wisdom when it came to matters of succession and lineage.

The Smith’s eyes rose to hers as well, and he nodded.

“I have a plan, and it will work.”

But something in his face darkened, and the Maiden’s hand fell away as too did the smile on her face. A round of gasps circled the table as the collective thought was shared amongst the seven.

“But not without pain,” the Stranger said, knowing.

The Crone, too, nodded in understanding.

“Aye, pain and heartache,” she said sagely. “But it cannot be helped if this situation is to be fixed.”

The Father sighed, but his nod was wise and certain. All at the table knew his job in this matter would not be an easy one, but in this case they were all certain he knew what had to be done.

After a long moment wherein his broad chest expanded and contracted, over and over as he inhaled purpose and exhaled judgement, he spoke again to a quiet group, all of them focused on his carefully spoken words.

“So be it,” he judged, his voice deep and resonating through the bottomless space that surrounded them.

“Do what must be done, and we will all –” he sent a pointed look around the circular table, “– handle this in the best way possible. Be prepared for prayers coming in, and deal with them in such a way that this comes to the conclusion we have all agreed upon.”

Nods came from everyone, as the Father vanished in a puff of cloudy haze, signalling the end of the gathering. One by one the gods followed suit, until the Stranger sat alone at he table.

A single wave of his hand and the center of the round table turned murky, then liquid, and on its rippling surface an image appeared of a soldier. His face was scarred, his beard a jagged edge on his cheek where the path of his life had taken an altered course from what the Stranger had originally wished for him.

With the other gods gone, the Stranger felt free to release the sigh he had been holding. As he watched, the soldier swung his sword, laying waste to the untrained farmers and young boys who rose up against the battle–seasoned warrior.

“An honorable death,” the Stranger said cryptically, even to himself.

It almost confused him, this plan the Smith had hatched. But with many of the details still lost to all of them but the Smith, the Stranger knew it would all end with the right end, the one that meant their mistake would not be perpetuated through the centuries.

With heavy thoughts he reached through the watery surface with his mind. Just as a sparrow abruptly flitted through the small space between man and boy, the god imagined his hand around the soldier’s neck, just enough that the man would pause in his swing. The boy beneath the sword froze, his arms coming up to cover his face as he waited and screamed, expecting the sword to fall and impale him somewhere about the torso.

The sparrow paused, flapping his wings in a manner that kept him hovering nearby for just a heartbeat’s worth of time, before turning and flying off.

But the soldier sheathed his sword instead, frozen as he was for a moment staring first in the direction the bird had flown off to, and then down at the boy who couldn’t have been any older than twelve.

Then he turned and strode away, and the Stranger retreated back into the ethereal realm, but not before blowing a puff of breath over that boy that had him belatedly soiling himself. He had just escaped death by the notorious Hound, the most feared warrior in all of Westeros. It was not something to take lightly, and the Stranger made sure the boy’s breeches knew it.

The portal closed and he sat back in the space where his chair should be.

Satisfied, he nodded to himself as he began to disappear.

With each incarnation their creations required precise planning, definitive plans for their lives, and ends to their mortal lives that left nothing in doubt for the people and events that came after them. To leave those proverbial loose ends in the fabric of time would be to throw all of the gods’ work into chaos; be it a slow forming storm that swept surely through the mortal dimension, or an immediate failure resulting in the sudden and complete eradication of the entire human realm.

Either way, it would leave the gods to bicker amongst themselves over whose fault it was before they rubbed their hands together and wove their thoughts and wishes once again into mortal beings in a system constructed of human interaction and industry.

Though the incarnations were designed to have no interaction, one was always based off all that had come before. Any error in planning on the gods’ part would be disastrous; resulting in the catastrophic end to mankind.

And none of the gods wished to be a party to the recreation thereof. Eons had already been spent devising the humans they had all come to know deeply, and to begin the process from the beginning meant the level of entertainment and emotional accomplishment they had achieved would be erased from all but their memories.

No, Sandor Clegane would not roam the world angry and alone forever. He would not be forced to always wonder what the future held for an outcast such as himself. Yes, more was meant for this man, and with a haphazardly smile, the god dissipated before he found himself envious of the Maiden and the Mother for their hands in the love lives of mortals.

Chapter Text

It was cold. A chill permeated the air raising goosebumps on her skin, which defied what Sansa knew about the natural heated pools and surrounding area in the godswood of her family’s ancestral home. The last thing she remembered was taking a dip in them, late at night after she knew no one in the castle would be up. 

Besides, it was Sansa’s favorite time of the day – nighttime, when no one was awake, and when her horde of siblings weren’t irritating her or getting underfoot. She often waited until after midnight to find the peace and quiet she craved.

It had been no different when she wandered out, with the warm breeze rustling the russet leaves of the weirwood and swirling around her like a warm hug from the gods, creating an atmosphere much less lively than the Stark dinner table she’d endured earlier. Her verbal sparring with Theon over nothing in particular had only ended when Robb stepped in, stating that neither Sansa nor Theon were right. Had Arya not been engrossed in her own debate with Father, she would have argued with Robb – or anyone, really – just for the sake of arguing.

But Sansa supposed that was what she was doing with Theon. He had always had a knack for getting on her nerves, similar to Arya. With blood high and hackles raised, Sansa had left dinner as exasperated with her siblings as ever. 

There had never been a more perfect night to slip into the relaxing pools and to spend the evening doing nothing but lounging alone. With the stars above her and the darkness of night surrounding her, she felt at last she could take a deep breath and calm her mind. Even the chirping of the sparrows, whose pleasantly surprising night time songs seemed so at odds with their normal daytime serenading, lent to the peaceful ambiance of the weirwood clearing.

But now something was very off from when she remembered sliding toe-first into the pool. 

Confused, she recognized she was laying on the ground, for starters. 

What was going on? 

Why did her head hurt so darn much? 

And when had she ever fallen asleep in the pool before?

The thought crossed her mind that Arya may have slipped something in her drink at dinner. Not that her sister would do it with nefarious intent, but the youngest Stark girl had been known to pull pranks with the help of their foster brother, Theon. 

Beneath her side Sansa could feel dry grass, but her mind was fuzzy enough that when she tried to open her eyes to see where it was she lay, the bright light of day appeared blindingly white and she squeezed them shut again.

Had she been lying on the ground all night? If this was Arya’s doing, she was going to kill her sister. 

Fighting through the haze in her mind to reason with what was happening, she struggled to make sense of what she was feeling. 

She didn’t have any alcohol last night – hadn’t, in fact, since that last party at Arya’s boyfriend’s house months ago, when she’d woken with her first ever hangover and vowed to never drink that much again.

Instead of the hard liquor she had imbibed at Arya’s, her drink of choice last night had been carbonated lemon water. Most assuredly non-alcoholic. But could the flavor cover the taste of it being spiked with something?

Nearby she could hear the same sparrow song she remembered hearing last night, which in itself had been odd since she knew they were not nocturnal creatures. But at the time their sounds had been soothing, as though they were singing her a lullaby sent from the gods while she relaxed in the pool. 

But now, in the distance, other noises slowly filtered into her ears and intensified her confusion – a rumbling of activity, which she thought might simply be Winterfell coming to life in the morning. With a large staff and full contingent of guests, sometimes numbering close to a hundred each night during the busy season, it tended to get quite noisy. 

But this wasn’t the busy season, nor was she sure she had ever heard that type of sound coming out of the North’s biggest hostel.

No, with eyes still closed she could hear what sounded like metal against metal, but no car engines, no helicopters bringing the uppity tourists in from King’s Landing. She couldn’t hear the familiar sound of the daytime staff running lawn mowers or guided ATV tours, or customers in golf carts exploring the grounds. 

Only the low hum of men’s voices, and what sounded like a lot of them.

Had her parents scheduled a conference Sansa hadn’t been aware of? It seemed unlikely, but she couldn’t ignore the sheer amount of voices she was hearing.

Once again she tried to open her eyes, at the same time taking stock of her body and the sudden realization that she felt enormous fatigue; as though she was struggling to come out of anesthesia. 

This had to be Arya’s doing. The girl had experimented with more substances than were probably known to the medical community. The heaviness in Sansa’s limbs was intense, as though her bones no longer held marrow but were filled instead with lead.

With her eyes opened to slits Sansa looked down at herself, but found that everything was blurry and she couldn’t distinguish even her own body. Again, confusion and irritation filled her and she blinked, hoping it would clear her vision but to no avail. She groaned, and panic set in as she realized she could feel cold air.

It was touching every inch of her body. 

Yep, still naked.

Worried that one of the people in the distance might see her, she figured her clothes had to be around there somewhere. She just needed to find them, which would be difficult, seeing as how she couldn’t actually see anything, and how she felt more like a sloth running a marathon than a woman who should have felt rested after a dip in a refreshing naturally heated pool.

What was going on?!

She and Arya had had it out before over various things – Arya ‘borrowing’ clothes that came back torn or dirty; Sansa’s unwillingness to drive her sister to parties when Arya had been underage; even simple things like where they sat on the family’s multiple couches during movie nights.

But this… Arya had gone too far.

Though the sounds of metal clanging and men’s voices were still distant, Sansa feared someone accidentally coming upon her in her current state of undress.  

So with great effort and tamping down her rising fear, she managed to push herself up onto her hands and knees on the harsh, cold ground. It took a monumental effort to remain in that position feeling as though at any moment she would collapse and blackout. She most certainly did not want that, so she stopped moving, closing her eyes and taking several deep breaths before looking around.

What she could make out was not what she had expected to see.

The first thing she was able to somewhat focus on was a red haze above her, which she guessed if her eyes had been working correctly would be the red leaves of the weirwood tree she had been soaking beneath. Only it wasn’t nearly as large as the one she had been under in Winterfell. The canopy was smaller, creating less of a red cloud of foliage than what she should have been seeing. Could it have lost that many leaves overnight?

The pounding inside Sansa’s head intensified as suspicion grew. She was going to need to find some Tylenol when she got all of this sorted out. And likely some parental intervention to curb Arya’s behavior.

She lowered her gaze and, although she was unable to make out the distinct shape of the tree’s trunk, just a little ways from where she lay was the darkness that had to be the warm pool from which she had apparently crawled. And nowhere around its edges did she see the bright yellow and red of her shirt and jeggings. 

Great

With the question of the extent of Arya’s prank floating in her mind, Sansa fought back nausea, which was most likely from being so disoriented. How was it that the weirwood looked different? She didn’t see how she possibly could have entered Winterfell’s pool sober and somehow trekked through the forest surrounding the castle to find another godswood in the dark, and then wake up in said godswood with no recollection of how she got there. Ridiculous!

And what in Westeros had happened to her eyes?

She huffed a forced laugh, thinking that Brienne was going to laugh so hard when Sansa told her about this. 

There was a sound off to the side and as she turned her head towards it, a wave of dizziness washed over her. Belatedly, she realized she may not be alone. Along with that revelation came the awareness that her nude body was on full display, and with her vision still not what it should be, she lifted one hand to cover her breasts, only to find that one arm was not strong enough to hold her up. Sansa collapsed onto the dry grass, a pounding in her head taking root as she curled herself into a ball. The pain behind her eyes quickly grew so intense that she felt as though she might get sick, unable to say anything to make her presence known.

She opened her mouth to say Arya’s name but the pounding in her skull stopped her from making any sound.

It was definitely footsteps she had heard, because the slow footfalls paused at the same time the sparrow’s song did – when the feet were still some distance away. Sansa opened her mouth to speak to her sister, certain it was she who had shown up to finish the prank, but a powerful surge of pain washed through her brain and she felt like she was going to vomit from the intensity of it. 

The footsteps suddenly increased until they came to a rest just behind her back, that sound of metal scraping together just behind her now. How was it that Arya suddenly sounded like an elephant rushing through the brush? The steps were heavy and loud, unlike the catlike stealth Arya was known for.

Sansa’s mouth went suddenly dry as she realized, this wasn’t Arya. Whomever this was now had a clear view of Sansa’s naked body, and she groaned with helplessness and anger at the situation Arya had left her in. 

This person must have seen her and rushed over to help. Through the fog of shock and pain she heard slow, deep breathing, and just as fingers alighted on her shoulder, she attempted once again to speak.

“Please,” she whispered, finding out immediately that talking wasn’t going to help her growing headache. Wonderful . She had to be at this person’s mercy, naked and drugged, and she didn’t know where she was. If only she could tell them to call her mother or father; get this person to understand she lived at Winterfell and needed to see a doctor.

But with the failure of communication, she wondered sarcastically if this day could get any worse.

The rustling of the person behind her increased for a moment, and soon she was enveloped in something dry and warm; something made of fur that was incredibly warm and heavy. It swallowed her body just as strong hands slid beneath her to lift her against a broad chest. 

A man, she realized. And a strong one, at that. As she felt herself being lifted off the ground, her relief at being found and the possibility of being given medical attention was swiftly overshadowed by reality.

A man, certainly strong enough to lift her without so much as a grunt, now held her literally in his possession and she was absolutely powerless to fend off an attack.

This was definitely not a good thing and her heart sped up at the thought that she was now at the mercy of a man whose identity she didn’t know. She tried to be alarmed, needed to be alarmed at the ease with which he had hefted her tall form, but as the cacophony of pain further engulfed her brain, she couldn’t bring herself to conjure up even an ounce of self preservation. 

Absently she prayed he would take her somewhere safe, where she could use a phone to call home on her own. Maybe she would call Arya and get her sister to take responsibility for this prank gone wrong.

Because the alternative – being assaulted by a stranger while incapacitated – was unthinkable.

Her attempts at communicating with him came out as mere moans and Sansa squeezed her eyes shut, the jostling in his arms as he began walking doing nothing more than intensifying her headache tenfold. 

One arm wrapped beneath her legs and the other behind her back, as her head rolled to the side and rested against his shoulder. It was cold and hard, and somewhere deep in her mind she realized the shoulder was covered in metal. Armor? He must have been wearing something similar, because she recognized the scent of steel from the suits of historical armor on display along Winterfell’s ancient hallways.

“You’re alright now, little bird, you’re alright,” he murmured in a low, raspy voice. His tone almost sounded exasperated – as though she was interrupting his day by requiring from him an unscheduled rescue.

But his gentle, strong hold on her belied his tone, and as she drifted out of consciousness, she felt the arm behind her shoulders hold her just a bit tighter.

~ ≈ ~

“I’m not a bloody nursemaid,” Sandor growled from where he stood just inside the door of commander Jaime Lannister’s tent. Before him the rectangular table was surrounded by liege lords and a select few bannermen. It was obvious that Sandor had interrupted an important meeting.

As ever, the look on the Kingslayer’s face was bored amusement.

“True, but after our last skirmish it would seem as though you have been appointed as one, since all of our resources are being used to treat the wounded.”

Sandor refused to look down at the unconscious woman in his arms, wrapped now in his cloak. He was certain without the cloak she would have weighed next to nothing, but the furs causing her to weigh twice what she did felt heavy enough to drag down his arms. Or that might have been the realization of what the commander meant.

“She’s not my responsibility,” he insisted, his voice low with barely controlled fury. He realized he was shaking with anger as the hair hanging over the right side of his face trembled against his skin.

The Kingslayer merely sent him a small, infuriating smile; no doubt the same one that was used to let down the ladies who swooned at the man’s feet. It was meant to placate, to look friendly despite their being no respect behind it. It incensed Sandor.

“She is now. Dismissed.”

With that the blonde man turned back to the table of men and Sandor heard a knight step towards him from the side, armor sliding together in readiness to escort him out.

But Sandor took a small step forward once more, his arms burning with the weight of woman and cloak.

“She is a woman and has no place in the man’s camp – ”

“On the contrary, Clegane,” Jamie said, not even bothering to look up from the scroll he was reading. He appeared to be examining it as closely as though he weren’t even speaking to him. “There are many a handful of women who live amongst you soldiers, and she will be no different. Take her, do what you will with her, but I don’t want to set eyes on her again.” With a brief upward glance he ordered again, “ Dismissed .” 

The coldness in his final word was like a sword being swung in sentence, though Sandor knew he had pushed the limits of his commanding officer’s respect for him. There was nothing to do now but turn and stride out, ignoring the offered aid of the knight who held open the flap that closed the tent.

With nowhere else to go, long strides took him swiftly through the encampment to his tent. He had chosen the spot on the outskirts knowing it was fairly close to the forest, in case he needed to take cover from an enemy attack. But it was also far from the camp’s epicenter, which would be chaos should one of the idiot soldiers who couldn’t hold his liquor accidentally spill a brazier or trip into a campfire, effectively turning the entire camp into a massive bonfire.

Sandor could barely handle a candle being lit in his tent, let alone a whole fucking fire.

And what he didn’t want in his tent almost as much as fire was a woman.

Men saw him coming and backed out of the way, making room for his large, booted feet to fall on the path unimpeded. For the odd man who didn’t see him or had his back turned, there was usually one to pull the offender out of the way.

Sandor Clegane was not known for his patience, and it was widely understood that keeping the fuck out of his way would help soldiers live until the next battle without unexpected injuries. This suited him just fine – the less interaction with the fucking cunts, the better.

So although he saw their looks, the aghast expressions on some, and the poorly disguised amusement on others, as he carried the redheaded woman through camp he ignored them because he didn’t give a fuck what they thought. If he wanted to bring a woman into his tent, then it was none of their fucking business – regardless of the fact that it was something that had never happened before.

While sounds of the encampment still swirled around him as he approached the tent, the men in the immediate vicinity either spoke in hushed tones and behind raised hands, or ceased talking altogether. All Sandor could hear was the thudding of his pulse in his head where a headache was growing, and the songs of sparrows – the same fucking birds he’d heard in the clearing where he found the woman.

Anyone else might have found their song pleasant. To him it was a nuisance; an irritation he was already readying himself for, knowing the canvas walls of his tent would do little to silence them.

Shoving the flap out of his way, he shouldered in and across the small space between the opening and his pallet. When he put her down she didn’t wake, and he was none too gentle about it, either. She landed with a dull thud, the impact only padded by the thickness of his cloak and the meager bedding. 

A leg fell out from between the folds of fur – long, impossibly pale and smooth.

The stirring in his loins made him all the more angry at her.

She was fucking things up, he decided as he reached down to nudge the leg back onto the pallet. He covered her with the cloak, leaving nothing but her head exposed. 

Everything he lived for – the battle, the win, the wine – was going to be flipped upside down with her presence. And that was if she was noncombatant when she awoke. Sandor learned several times in his youth that a woman who woke next to him never wished to stay there.

Fucking hells, he didn’t want a whore. He didn’t give a shit if he waited two more years, in addition to the two they had already spent, quashing uprisings and settling the Baratheon and Lannister presence in the North once and for all. With the Starks all gone – parents, children, even that bastard who had somehow been interred as Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch – now it was simply exerting control of a few strategic lands and castles before they could return home.

Winterfell had been the last stronghold to fall, now with only a few remaining Northern loyalists left to weed out of the darkened hallways and hidden rooms. Then it would be returning to King’s Landing where Sandor was looking forward to some much deserved rest and a visit to the more discreet, professional whores.

But not until he figured out what to do with this red haired woman.

Naked and delirious by the godswood – Sandor didn’t know what to make of her. But she was a complication he didn’t need or want.

A throat cleared just outside, and he recognized Jamis at the same time he noted the lack of the sparrow’s songs. Odd, that; although he paid it no mind. 

It was no fucking business of his what the birds did or when they fucking did it. 

“Come in,” he growled, still standing in the middle of his tent, baffled as to what to do.

“Sir, I heard a strange rumor spreading through camp-oh my goodness.” The young blonde haired lad came to a stop just inside the tent flaps, eyes drawn to the unconscious form on Sandor’s pallet. 

Together they stood, Sandor with irritation simmering in his muscles but outward calm in his crossed arms; and Jamis staring open-mouthed at the corner of the tent.

“So it’s true, then,” he surmised flatly after a moment, before looking up at Sandor. His eyes were wide and round, not quite concealing the surprise he managed to keep from his tone. 

Then to add insult to injury, he added redundantly, “You have a woman in your tent.”

Being accustomed to the only marginally better repoire Sandor had with this young squire than he did with anyone else in camp, Sandor didn’t bother yelling or shouting that the man was stating the fucking obvious. Instead he nodded, his eyes on the burden in question.

“Aye. I have a woman in my tent.” Then he looked over at the squire and tilted his chin in the man’s direction. “And you’re going to get rid of her.”

With that sudden idea, he felt a weight lift from his shoulders and he turned to strip off his thick leather gloves. He put them on top of the lone chest that held all the belongings he took with him on campaign.

Me? ” came Jamis’ strangled response. 

He sputtered, and though Sandor wasn’t facing him, he knew Jamis well enough to know the lad was looking at him and to the woman, to him and the woman and back again. It was always easy to fluster the boy, but Sandor knew this would send his mind reeling. 

“What would I do with a woman? I don’t know the first thing about how to get rid of an unwanted – ”

“You’ll learn,” Sandor replied simply, knowing his tone nearly matched the authoritative one of Lannister. “I want her gone. Best go find her some clothes – she’s not got a stitch on under my cloak and it’s bloody fucking cold at night.” He glared pointedly at the squire for a moment as he added, “And I’m not sharing.” 

With his head then turned down he didn’t see the squire’s reaction, but he could imagine the indignant shock on the younger man’s face. Jamis was used to being ordered around, but he was right – Jamis wouldn’t know anything about what to do with this… problem. 

No more than Sandor did.

It didn’t matter, though. Sandor was the one who gave orders, and Jamis was the one who obeyed them, so he expected the man to accomplish this task.

After taking a drink from the horn of wine on the chest, Sandor stood facing the front of the tent, looking at nothing in particular, but his mind was a jumble. He had no doubt Jamis was gaping at him like a fish out of water as the squire attempted to understand the predicament Sandor had just thrust upon him.

But a mere breath later it seemed as though the squire had formulated at least the beginnings of a plan, as he excused himself and said he would be back shortly.

Sandor stood there for what seemed like quite some time, but in actuality he was no longer aware of exactly how much. His mind was both in turmoil and struggling to remain blank as he listened to the steady breathing of the woman behind him, just barely discernible over the activity outside the tent.

An unwelcome curiosity led him to turn and approach. It wasn’t often he had the opportunity to gaze upon a woman, and he found himself unable in this instance to deny himself. 

She was uncommonly beautiful, with her pale skin peeking out from beneath the edge of his cloak, and obscenely red hair fanned out over the pallet beneath her. His perusal of her would have ended there had he not noted that her skin was not weathered as was common with younger women who had worked their lives as whores or camp wives. 

Curious , he thought, and something niggled at his mind but he couldn’t put a finger on it and thus moved on with his thoughts. 

Had she been either a whore or a camp wife he was certain he would have knowledge of her presence. Word got around the camp one way or another when a beautiful woman occupied one man’s tent. Because of that they were often stolen, seen as little more than an object to be spirited away in the middle of the night when her man was drunk. Either that, or during the day after a fight in which the woman was declared the prize.

Not that Sandor would know anything about that, seeing as how he had never had a camp wife, and how he kept his whoring to King’s Landing, and even then it was a bare minimum. He wasn’t one to spend his bloodlust in a busty woman, nor to require an object to beat when angry. 

No, that’s what training was for. He could expend his bloodlust with every wood-shattering strike of his sword against the training block; could direct his anger towards the simpering cowards who faced him in the training yards.

No, the idea of him owning a camp wife felt foreign, as though he were attempting to decipher a scroll written in a language from another land. The Hound simply didn’t suffer fools and he had seen all too many times what fools could be made of men by the glance of a pretty woman or the come-hither of a popular whore.

Men would hold their woman – keep them prisoner, not give them any choices. It was common, likely done all over the world for all he knew. They would stay and tend the tents, warm the beds, and mind their place; or there would be consequences. 

Sandor’s mind veered towards what nights would be like when he suddenly stopped himself short, cutting off those thoughts as swiftly as though he had wielded his sword against it once the woman in his mind rippled into an image of one with flaming red hair and pale skin.

No, the Hound wasn’t one to take a camp wife, or to keep a whore, or any other wartime arrangement. Irritated with himself for even entertaining such a thought – if what he had just almost done could be called entertaining it – he quickly banished the notion, even as he took in the woman’s gently arching auburn brows and soft, pink lips. 

Rather than enjoying the sight, seeing such a desirable woman on his pallet only now served to make him angry, which in itself confused him.

Fucking emotions, he thought. 

How could he be angry, when he had lived his life as he had chosen to live it for the majority of his years? What was there to be angry about? 

The object of his thoughts breathed deeply in her sleep and sighed against the fur of his cloak, content in unconsciousness despite the fact that she would be anything but content as soon as she woke.

The slight stirring in his loins said he needed her gone, before his seemingly questionable hold on his iron self control broke.

And perhaps if Jamis succeeded in ridding Sandor of this new problem, he could put in a good word for the young man with the next knight who came along needing a squire.

Chapter Text

Sansa woke to warm, prodding fingers pressed against her forehead, and she turned her head, attempting to shake them off. She wasn’t a child, she thought sleepily, and didn’t need to be treated as one.

But they merely returned, as did the pounding in her head from the headache she’d had before…

Before… 

The pool. The ground. The confusion. 

Sudden memories like an icy chill spread through her mind, the scene playing out behind her eyelids of waking to daylight, naked on the bare ground, pondering Arya's culpability in the whole situation, and then being carried by someone. She attempted to open her eyes, determined to find out where it was she had been brought, but panic saturated her thoughts as she realized she could barely see anything. She blinked once, twice, then several times in a row but her vision was foggy and unclear, as though she had slept with her eyes open but without the discomfort. 

No, her eyes felt fine, but her vision was… was… 

Sansa didn’t even know what to think about it. Her vision was cloudy, and she couldn’t make out anything within her field of vision. She let her eyes drift closed, willing them to clear.

Could a concoction of Arya's have done this to her? Would Arya be so vile as to drug Sansa with a substance that remained potent eight, maybe ten hours later?

Again the fingers prodded at her temples. A nurse, perhaps? Surely whatever had caused Sansa to be so sick would warrant a trip to the hospital. She waited silently, her brain working quickly to process what her senses were telling her while waiting for the nurse to do more – the tightening of a blood pressure cuff, or a stethoscope against her chest. 

The man! The one who had found her and carried her off to Gods-knew-where. He must have brought her to a hospital of some sort. Relief washed through Sansa. Perhaps he was a good person after all, and not the evil rapist her overactive imagination had made him out to be.

Just as she settled into the comfortable knowledge that she was safe and sound in a hospital and being tended to by a nurse, the sounds around her broke through the happy haze and she stilled, listening and taking stock of what her ears heard.

Men talking, laughing. The snorting of horses. Sparrows.

Sansa’s throat seized as reality dawned like a moving rain cloud.

Were the sounds from a television? She reasoned mentally – weakly – that perhaps it had… surround sound? Because the sounds were coming at her from all directions.

But where were the beeps of the machines? Or the hum of a hospital’s ventilation system?

Where was the sterile scent that accompanied every visit to the hospital she had ever made? Even when Rickon had broken his arm on his homemade skateboard ramp, Sansa could clearly remember the frantic phone call from her mother telling Sansa to take him to the emergency room, and the smells of cleaner and disinfectant that made her wrinkle her nose. 

There was none of that here. Only an odor she couldn’t put a name to, as though she had wandered into someone else’s home so it just smelled… different. Off. 

The person in the room laid a warm hand flat over her forehead feeling for fever and Sansa caught a whiff of something that tickled her memory, as though her nose was trying to tell her something. 

As though someone had just pressed the gameshow answer button, she realized what it was – little boys. Or more specifically, dirt with the undertones of skin. 

Someone was touching her with a dirty hand. Why would a nurse have dirty hands?

Again she opened her eyes but was dismayed to find they were no more clear than a few moments ago. 

This wasn’t a nurse, she decided. As the fingers pressed against her forehead she shook them off quickly, jerking back into the space she found herself on as though something unsavory had been crawling on her.

Sansa turned her head this way and that, well enough to keep her eyes open but only able to tell she was in some type of enclosure, as there was a cover above her that looked like neither ceiling nor sky, but something else – certainly not the tiled surface and fluorescent lights she would see if she was lying in a hospital bed.

Confident that had there been light fixtures she would have been able to see at least the concentrated glow, she struggled to pay attention to what filtered into her ears even as her eyes darted about, blinking rapidly and aghast that her vision was not clearing. But it wasn’t beeping machines and pages over intercoms that she was hearing, nor the thrum of a fan or the quiet melody playing on a radio. 

Instead she heard the same sounds that had greeted her when she awoke by the pool.

Men. Metal. 

Where was she?

The blurred shape of a hand appeared in her vision once again, this time with a cool cloth that she barely felt on her forehead before she jerked away, crying out as the movement caused pain behind her eyes. She had never felt such a headache before! 

“Hush now, I’m here to help,” said a voice, smoother than the irritated one of the man who had gently carried her to wherever it was he had carried her while she laid in his arms unconscious.

But even so, it was a man she didn’t know, and he was touching her. Just her forehead, but he was touching her!

“No!” she attempted to cry out, but it came out as a strangled moan as pain pulsed inside her skull. Resisting the urge to curl up into a ball and hold her head, Sansa began to move her arms and legs, realizing with a fright that she was still as naked as when she had woken earlier.

Feeling slightly stronger than she had by the pool, she managed to get her arms out from beneath the blanket covering her. Wait – no, it was fur! She realized against her skin she felt the softened surface of some sort of animal hide, the fur at the edge tickling her skin. Who were these people, that they had covered her in fur?!

More confused than ever, she lashed out, catching the man on some part of his body that she couldn’t see.

“Hey!” he exclaimed, and then, “You made me spill the water!” He made a sound of dissatisfaction and then said more quietly, “Calm down, I said I’m going to help you.”

He rose and moved away from her, the shape of him vaguely recognizable as that of a man. But it didn’t matter, because anyone could use words and say they were helping when in fact they intended to do everything the opposite. Sansa might have had the headache of her lifetime, but she was aware enough to know she had woken naked and alone, and had already been handled by two men – not nurses! – whom she knew nothing about. Fear battled in her mind for space, alongside panic and confusion.

If she could just clear her mind… blink her eyes and make the blurriness go away. She was unaccustomed to the pains she was feeling, brought on by stress at her lack of sight and her inability to focus on anything.

“Where am I?” Sansa questioned as she briefly squeezed her eyes shut. 

Grimacing in discomfort, she pushed herself up on her arms, aware of the distance between her and the man but not knowing exactly how far it was. She struggled to remain aware of his presence, conscious that at any moment she might have to fight him off. “Where are my clothes?”

Arya. Arya had to know something about this. “Where’s Arya? What are you doing to me?”

Was he an orderly? Who was he to the man who had found her? 

“Hey, hey,” he spoke calmly, his voice almost annoyingly smooth as he once again moved closer. Her fear of him gripped her heart instantly and she twisted away, scrambling towards what immediately became apparent was a fabric wall as it gave some when she came into contact with it. The off white fabric offered little in terms of support as she went face first into it, unable to detect where she was in relation to the fabric with her lack of vision. 

Startled, she brought a hand up to push against it as she realized she had absolutely no depth perception. It was a wall of some sort, and she realized she must have been in some type of tent, and the light above her was coming through the roof of the same fabric. But what was on the other side – outside? Or another oom? She wished she could tell.

“Let me out,” she ground out through clenched teeth, her head throbbing with the headache. 

She wondered if perhaps she should be demanding her clothes, but was having enough trouble keeping her thoughts straight, with so many emotions battling to be at the forefront of her mind. She could feel her heart pounding, terrified that she didn’t know why she couldn’t see; terrified that she didn’t know where she was, or who she was with. She didn’t know what they were going to do with her – or to her! 

The thought that Arya couldn’t possibly have done something this evil entered her mind and took root immediately, growing to invade all rational thought. Her sister was a prankster but even Arya would know when too far was too far. 

So if this wasn’t a prank...

“Let me out!” she yelled, louder this time as she stumbled up to her feet, turning back towards the man. He didn’t answer her, and her frustration and desperation grew in equal measure. She was naked and helpless, and willing to do just about anything to get away from him before he attempted anything nefarious.

She could see his dark shape standing now, though she thought he was perhaps a good distance away from her. That gave her little comfort, as she was painfully aware of her vulnerability and total inability to save herself. Pushing aside her self conscious thoughts, she allowed self preservation to take over her instincts.

If she lunged for him, would there be an opening behind him? Questions bombarded her mind, questions she didn’t have answers to and that she had no way of answering with her condition. Even if she managed to knock him down and escape this tent, where was she that all she could hear were men? Men working, men moving, men talking. 

With her heart feeling as though it was about to explode she pressed a fist to her head, the throbbing behind her skull matching the fast rhythm of the organ inside her chest. Using her other hand she reached out for anything to grab onto to steady herself. Apparently there was a pole in the center of the tent because her hand just grazed it on the outside as she pitched forward.

“Whoa! Hey, you’re going to knock the whole tent down around us!” 

Hands grasped at hers as she fell but she twisted, the rough wooden pole sliding past her collarbone and tearing into her skin as she slid down. The pain burned white hot, as did her temples, and Sansa cried out with new throbbing running along her collarbone and shoulder.

“Get away from me!” She yelled at him, falling to the cool ground as she felt his hands grasp for her. She lashed out, swinging wildly to keep him away from her, tears falling from her eyes as she became frantic with desperation. 

Why wasn’t he listening? Who was he? Why was she in a tent? Where was she? Why couldn’t she see anything? Then a thought occurred to her – did they do this to her? If not Arya, was she somehow poisoned by these men?

Her alarm was mounting and she realized what was happening was a panic attack. She couldn’t handle the panic-relief-panic waves, her breath coming faster and her heart nearly beating out of her chest. Sansa’s thoughts were such a jumbled mess of questions and confusion that she couldn’t seem to form a single coherent thought before another came through and crowded out the one before. 

Again, the hand reached for her arm and she yanked it away, managing to brace herself against the ground to maintain her balance as she rose to her feet. She grasped the pole she had fallen into before, using it to lean against as she stood. 

Shit! She was still naked, and she couldn’t see to find any clothes or anything to cover with. 

There on the ground was the dark space from which she thought she had risen, but it was too far away and she knew if she attempted to bend down to pick up the furs that had covered her, she would collapse.

“You need to calm down, my lady. Clegane will be back at any moment and I’ve been instructed to – ”

“My lady?” Sansa scrunched up her face, palming her forehead with her hand despite the urge to laugh at the absurd title. “Clegane? Who is…” Gods, talking hurt! “Clegane? Ugh, my head...”

She attempted to shake it but it only made the pain worse, so she blinked a few times, opening her eyes and trying to focus on the tent’s other occupant.

“I am to dress you – ”

“No, please,” she begged, thoughts of assault and rape flooding her mind with fear. She swallowed down the bile that threatened to rise in the back of her throat at the thought of her helplessness. Surely if this had been a prank, Arya would have called it off by now. Despair roiled her stomach contents. “Don’t touch me – ”

“ – and find somewhere for you to go.”

But the blindness was an enormous presence, worry making her feel as though her heart was simply going to explode with the panic. 

“Why am I blind? Why can’t I see anything? What have you done to me?!” she cried, her voice rising a few pitches.

Surely she had been poisoned or something, somehow ambushed while in the pool and then stolen, then left for dead at that other pool. And that other man who found her? Was he one of her captors? And this man – was he also one? She almost wished Arya was evil enough to do this, but in her heart she knew her sister wouldn’t go this far. Gods , but her mind was fuzzy, her breathing feeling more and more like hyperventilating. 

Her stomach churned and Sansa felt as though she was going to throw up.

“What the bloody fuck is going on in here??”

That voice. It boomed into the tent as a burst of light signalled someone else entering. The light blinded Sansa even more, and the sound of the intimidating voice thundering in the small space sent a wave of pain through her head so great that Sansa doubled over, falling to her hands and knees beside the center pole as her stomach retched. 

She felt so weak as remnants of the previous night’s dinner left her body, and she somehow managed to think upon tasting the food, Hours. I’ve only been gone for a few hours .

“I tried wiping her face to wake her up and it worked, but then she panicked...” 

The voice was coming from the second man, the one who sounded younger than the first. His words were rapid fire as Sansa fully collapsed onto the ground, until they trailed off as she rolled to her side, taking extreme effort but wanting to avoid the puddle she had just created on the earthen floor.

She was so weak; too weak to protest when another hand, different from the young man’s, hastily pushed her hair out of her face. This one wasn’t as smooth and soft as the other man’s, and for all its hurry in examining her, it was still gentle.

“Aye? And you bloody well incapacitated her too?” 

His voice only softened slightly, and was still loud enough to make her wince. With eyes still squinting, she attempted to look up into his face as he hovered above her but could still only manage to make out the round shape of the crown of his head. Everything else was in shadow.

“No, my lord, I – ”

“I’m not a lord and you fucking well know it, Jamis.” 

He sounded angry, maybe exasperated by this turn of events. “Now get the fuck out.” Did he want his victims upright and coherent, she wondered? Because Sansa was neither of those two things. 

Still, the hand brushed her hair away from her face before retreating, though the man didn’t move from his position – crouching, she surmised; just above her head. 

“I’ll handle this myself.”

It was a resigned growl, though Sansa had never heard anything as terrifying as the tone of this man’s voice. She wanted to call out to – Jamis, his name was Jamis – to not leave her with him, despite moments ago being utterly terrified of the softer spoken man. 

And yet, the man who was with her now frightened her many times over, comparatively.

But… they both could be her captors for all that she was aware of what was going on. She was so confused!

Before she could attempt speech, the flash of light signalling the young man’s departure lit up the inside of the tent and Sansa moaned as daggers of pain ricocheted throughout her skull.

“No,” she whispered hoarsely, afraid for her life now. This man sounded like a beast – hard and angry. He would hurt her, she was sure of it. “Please, don’t,” she pleaded, but she could feel darkness seeping into the edges of her mind, as though it was filling the space of her consciousness and would eventually envelop her entirely. 

“Need… to go home,” she whispered, but even to her own ears her voice was weak, barely audible in the loudness of the sounds filtering through the thin fabric walls of the tent.

He was going to hurt her, and she wasn’t even going to be awake to endure it. She didn’t know if that was a blessing or a curse – a blessing that she wouldn’t feel the pain, or a curse because she would be completely defenseless while unconscious.

Without answering her, Sansa felt his heavy fingers probing at the fresh injury on her shoulder.

“Fucking hells,” he grumbled, his beastly rage having calmed slightly. In her state Sansa couldn’t even begin to say why. Her mind questioned if he had hoped she would be injury free to prolong her suffering.

But then his strong hands slid beneath her body and she was being lifted back onto the surface where she could feel the furs tickling her back. Then he lifted her legs, bottom, and torso in turn, digging the fur out from beneath her.

It was a bed , she realized. A hard one, and one that she didn’t think she would normally be able to sleep on except for her current condition. But Sansa was completely unable to protest. Eyes closed now, she thought she was bringing her arms up to push away her would-be rapist but she couldn’t be sure, not until hands grasped her forearms and she felt them being pushed down against her own body – only to be covered up slowly by the large, warm pelt.

What?... Why would he cover her and not… 

This didn’t make sense. Wasn’t he her captor? This awful, mean, intimidating beast of a man; wouldn’t he want to abuse her, rape her, or…?

Wasn’t he at least going to beat her?

“Clegane,” she said, her voice unable to rise above soft – so quiet that the man ceased his movements for a moment, as though waiting for her to say more. Wasn’t that the name Jamis had spoken? 

But nothing happened, and as she lost control of her body while her mind remained lucid for a moment longer, she began to feel the cool cloth being drawn over her wounded collarbone and shoulder, eliciting from her a whimper of pain that she hardly recognized as herself.

“Shh, girl,” he said, his grating voice a similar tone as to what he had used earlier when he picked her up at the pool.

He was being… gentle. Handle – handle what? What did he tell the other man, Jamis, he had to handle? It didn’t make sense at all. Nor was it going to just then, because she slipped back into unconsciousness, feeling the touch of rough fingers administering to her injury.

~ ≈ ~

When Sandor approached his tent earlier he had heard the distinct yelling of a woman’s voice, and he knew the red haired woman must be awake.

As did half the men on that side of the camp, who were slowly migrating towards his tent even as he began telling them all to go mind their own fucking business. It was her last “What have you done to me?” that spurred him to quickly enter the tent, wondering what it was he would find inside that Jamis had been doing.

Sandor had not expected to find her still naked as her nameday, standing with the support of his tent’s pole, Jamis a good distance from her with his hands held up as though she were attacking him .

Nor had he expected to see the fresh injury, already dripping a trail of blood down her chest. 

And the unexpected surge of fury was such that, had Jamis tarried inside the tent when Sandor ordered him out, the Hound likely would have been hanged for murder by the end of the day.

Fuck … seeing her disoriented, bleeding, and panicking had elicited a certain pang in his heart that he chose to ignore. Looking on her with renewed disinterest, it still surprised him when she fell and vomited into the dirt. That had him yelling at Jamis to get out of the tent, seeing as how the squire had proven just about completely useless when it came to dealing with this inconvenience. Sandor didn’t spare Jamis even a glance before sinking down to her level. 

As he gazed upon her wound to determine how severe it was, he’d been only mildly surprised to hear her pleading for him to stop, and telling him that she needed to go home. His surprise stemmed from the fact that, at the hands of nearly any other man in the camp, she would have already suffered a far harsher fate than what he himself would dole out. And if she had still been alive after suffering at the hands of another man, it was very likely she would have been passed around amongst several others by now, unconscious or not.

When she attempted weakly to push him away he had pushed her arms down, catching the thin things as they half heartedly moved to strike out at him. She calmed once they were under the furs, her brows furrowing as though she was confused.

Then with her eyes seemingly shut for the time being, she had spoken his name in a way that threatened to imbue feeling into his cold, hardened heart.

“Clegane…”

The woman’s tone was a confused question, as though the man whom she named might hold the answers to the questions she had yet to ask.

Which was why he had taken the woolen dress Jamis had managed to procure, vowing to find her something nicer the following day, and had dressed her himself, after using the cloth to wipe the dried, bloody trail that ended on the inside curve of her breast. 

Such a task was only completed with clenched teeth and Sandor’s iron will. He would have been a liar to say he hadn’t gotten hard at the sight, with such a lush, soft teat staring him in the face, light pink nipple making his mouth water with disgusting, undisguised lust. 

But he wasn’t a rapist, nor was he a man who made it a habit to assault unconscious women, even if they had indeed been conscious when they gave their consent. And that had happened plenty of times before – women who drank for fortification before bedding the monster of a soldier with the hideous face and the personality to match, and who underestimated the amount of alcohol they imbibed until it suddenly and irrevocably caught up to them. The moment they fell unconscious, to avoid any possibility that they cried rape in the morning, he would leave them.

It had happened more times than he was willing to admit.

This, accompanied with the constant awareness of her disruption of his controlled, routine life, and he was surly indeed. He aimed his frustration at her; held onto the irritation at her presence as though it were a lifeline.

So he had dressed her, skillfully avoiding letting his gaze remain on the thatch of auburn curls between her legs for longer than the moment it took for him to realize he had released a heavy, pent up sigh. 

He needed to figure out what to do with her, lest her mere presence proved a permanent problem.

After covering her back up with the cloak, he sat off to the side watching the even rise and fall of her chest beneath the fur, her red hair strewn about her head on the pallet, while drinking what remained in his flagon of wine. Jamis came around once but only stayed long enough to obey Sandor’s demand that the flagon be refilled for the morning.

Then, ignoring the usual sounds of the encampment, he quietly stripped off his armor and grumbled quietly at having to share his small sleeping pallet with the woman.

He had no choice but to lay on his side facing away from her, knowing that in the morning he would wake up with a crick in his neck. But it couldn’t be helped. Despite his assertion that he wouldn’t share his pallet, that’s exactly what he intended to do. He wasn’t about to relegate the woman to sleeping on the floor, especially not injured as she was. And he certainly wasn’t going to sleep facing her, unwilling to even guess what his body would do while his mind sat unconscious at night, with the warm body of a woman so close to him.

It was bad enough they were going to have to share the cloak.

Once he had some of it pulled over him and he was certain she was still adequately covered, he closed his eyes and willed the sleep of a soldier to overtake him – that he might get at least a few solid hours of rest before his body informed him he must be on alert for danger.

Meanwhile his skin irritatingly prickled with awareness at her proximity, and the sigh Sandor released ended with a growl of frustration.

Chapter Text

Sansa once again woke in this unfamiliar place, quickly remembering exactly where she – well, where she didn’t know much about. 

And she realized immediately that she was curled up on her side, her hands clasped in front of her chest, with her face pressed into an odd warmth. Tickling her nose was the deep, musky scent of a man, and at that same moment she felt it crawl into her body through her nose as though it was going to take up residence. 

Her foggy sleep-deprived brain also remembered that she wasn’t currently sleeping with anyone, currently didn’t even have a boyfriend, and currently had no idea who the owner of the broad back she had snuggled for warmth was.

But in a sudden moment of clarity and flashback she knew who it must be.

Clegane.

The man whose deep, raspy voice seemed to almost calm her nerves at the same time it terrified her.

She was instantly wide awake, and didn’t even think before yelping, pulling back and pushing with all her might at the sleeping form in front of her. 

Rather than moving him, he was so big and so heavy that she only managed to push herself off the back of the hard bed and into the wall of the tent. Landing heavily on the ground, she scrambled to right herself, conscious of the scratchy fabric she was now wrapped in and the fact that she still could not see a darned thing.

She had obviously awoken the man, since she could see his form rise in the low light as he pushed up to a sitting position, grumbling curses as his voice signalled he had turned towards her.

“What the fuck, woman – stop – stop!”  

Sansa was still panicking, though, having woken up to find herself in bed with a strange man, rescuer or not. The terror and desperation surrounding whatever it was that had happened to her were climbing once again to the forefront of her mind as the fog of sleep lifted, and despite that her body felt better this morning – stronger, even – the all too familiar fears returned to claw at her throat. 

Her protests were in earnest as she kicked and hit wildly all around herself, attempting to ward off the hands and arms that reached for her.

But she was embarrassingly unsuccessful, and in a moment’s time she found herself laying on her back on the bed with the man using the length of his body to hold her down, hands clasping each wrist beside her head and his feet hooked over her shins. All of this paired with the weight of his body on her and she was so imobile that she was having trouble breathing.

“Please – ” she gasped, twisting her face from side to side as she struggled to buck her hips and move his body off hers. He remained, so she had no choice but to tell his shadowed face, “I can’t breathe.”

Admittedly, it was likely also panic causing her lungs that grief, but when he lessened his weight atop her, rising slightly on his elbows, she dragged deep gulps of air into her lungs and squeezed her eyes shut. 

Rescuer, and now rapist , she thought, her fear of him crowding out whatever forms of the thought rescuer may have been sitting within her mind. Gods, how did I get into this mess?

The ups and downs of her perceptions were too much and she felt tears come to her eyes, not knowing exactly what this man wanted from her. Yesterday he had gently rescued her from the pool, but then last night – or at least she thought it was last night, since she had actually lost awareness of the time of day – she had been afraid of him when he’d come into the tent yelling like a giant bent on murdering everyone. But then he had been almost gentle again as she slipped into unconsciousness.

And now he was assaulting her, covering her body with his and literally leaving no room for her to move. Fear sprang up inside her heart and she wondered if now was the time that he was going to begin her torture – if his discovery of her at the pool was in fact orchestrated by none other than Clegane himself, and if his motives included to kill her, or sell her, or whatever else he might choose.

How had he known she was there? Had he been a guest of Winterfell? Followed her to the pool where she bathed in the darkness? How had he managed to render her unconscious and spirit her away to a weirwood pool obviously different from the one she had entered?

And right now, with the hardness pressing into her between her legs, she turned her face away and sobbed, because she was certain she knew what his motives were for stealing her. 

“Hush,” he said, his voice low. 

But Sansa didn’t want to listen to him. She didn’t want to believe that this was happening, that somehow she had been taken advantage of during her customary nighttime jaunts to the pools, and was now going to be abused in the most horrific way.

How could this happen? She hadn’t said enough to her mother, or to her father. She had never told Arya how proud of her she was, or told Brienne what a great friend she had been.

And her brothers… Just thinking of them – all of them, Jon and Theon as well – made her tears fall faster. Would she ever see them again?

“Girl, look at me,” Clegane said, his harsh voice so close she could feel his breath warm on her face. 

But Sansa furiously shook her head, biting down on her lip almost hard enough to draw blood. She braced herself for what was to come, even as her heart was shattering at her own helplessness. Sobs threatened to spill out of her mouth and she tugged at her hands, held imobile by his strong grasp. Why hadn’t she ever taken Arya up on her suggestions of self-defense classes? She regretted it more than anything else, now.

“Do it,” he ordered angrily, but again Sansa shook her head, her eyes squeezed shut as though doing so helped her avoid the abject despair she felt, and the coming pain and anguish he would surely inflict upon her.

“I’ll not harm you.”

Liar, she thought. 

His words were a demand, and she could tell by his authoritarian tone that he was a man used to being obeyed. But she kept her eyes shut and shook her head once more, still feeling the warmth of his breath against her bare neck. 

The man above her gave a low growl, his anger being tinged with frustration, as though it was she who was inconveniencing him . Feeling the heat of his breath at such a feral sound, Sansa was terrified. Gone was the woman who could stand up for herself against bullies, and who had a quick retort for whenever her brothers tossed good natured insults her way.

This man had caused her will to wither away, until she was a crumbling mess of helplessness beneath him. Still she pulled at her hands, his grip so strong that she felt as though her efforts were merely giving her bruises and not being effective at all.

“Fucking hells, girl,” he rasped after a time, his voice deep and menacing but his words plainly spoken. “What do you think I could do now that I haven’t had the chance to do ten times over tonight? I said, look at me .”

He enunciated every word clearly, slowly.

It was his reasoning that broke through the defense in her mind, the thought that what he said was actually true. He’d had plenty of opportunities. They had even slept in the same bed next to each other, and it had been Sansa who had breached the wall of ethical behavior by snuggling up to the man’s back in her sleep. 

And she knew her body; knew what it felt like to have been touched intimately, to have had sex the night before and to wake up with the familiar ache of previous activities.

This man hadn’t touched her while she was unconscious.

Sansa swallowed, her writhing arms and struggling hands calming as she slowly turned towards his face.

Strong fingers slowly loosened their hold on her wrists. After a moment of what seemed like indecision, he slipped his thumb into her palm and held her hand down firmly, as though the will to be gentle was there but the ability to be unyielding if necessary needed to still be an option. 

Sansa swallowed again and blinked, still unable to focus on his features. Before she could say anything, she watched the shadows that were his face move as he spoke.

“I said I’ll not harm you. But you won’t be kicking and hitting me, either.” 

That voice – she had the absurd thought that he should do voice-overs for commercials, it was so deep. Then again, perhaps that was her irrational mind trying to find light in a situation that still seemed entirely too dark.

She took a chance and tried to speak, feeling that if he could do it in a situation like this, so could she.

“But… you’re…”

She could tell he was staring down at her, and when he shifted above her at her pause, she realized with the brush of long hair against her chin that his face was so darkly shadowed because his hair was long, perhaps to his shoulders. 

Sansa wasn’t about to explain herself, as embarrassed and perched on the precipice of rape as she was. So she dropped her eyes in the general direction of the object in question, before raising them back to the face she couldn’t see.

More hair brushed her face and she thought he might have dipped his head as well, though he spoke from the position of downturned eyes and his voice didn’t sound at all encouraging.

“Fucking hells, girl.” 

If it was possible, she felt the bulge grow bigger and immediately realized her mistake. He had dropped his face closer to her breasts, which were barely covered if his hot breath just above her nipples was any indication. She felt again the rough, scratchy material of the sack she wore, and knew it left little to the imagination.

Fear clawed at her throat and she pulled on her hands, his thumbs digging into her palms as he held her tighter. She shouldn’t have done that - drawn attention to her body from a man who was obviously already aroused at their contact. He had already seen her naked which was bad enough, but she didn’t need to do anything that would make the prospect of making her one of his victims any more pleasing to him.

He said he wouldn’t harm her, but who in their right mind would trust someone who had likely abducted them and was holding them hostage?

However, he was at least speaking, which was a good sign… Right? Sansa wished Jon was here so she could ask him questions, as absurd as the notion sounded. Her, beneath this behemoth of a man, calmly looking over at Jon in the corner and asking him, “What do you think the chances are, based on your extensive knowledge of crime shows and serial killer novels, that he could be telling the truth and not in fact placating me to bide his time before he finally attacks?”

Sansa almost snorted at the insanity of the idea. Instead, she drew on whatever stoical genes her father had given her that hadn’t fled into hiding from this whole ordeal and drummed up the sarcasm she often used when dealing with her brothers.

“Eyes up here,” she barely managed to choke out in the same tone she would have used on Rickon when he cheated at video games. The man above her raised his head so that she was certain, if she had been in possession of her sight, she would have seen him looking directly into her eyes. She wished she could have seen his face, because when he spoke, his words made him more of an enigma she didn’t wish to puzzle out.

“That,” he grumbled, sounding far too irritated to put her at ease, iIs not going to go away.” 

Sansa was immediately awash with fresh terror, despite not being a virgin – terrified of this man’s strength and sheer size, even with his declaration that he wasn’t going to hurt her. If he wanted to he could, so it shouldn’t have surprised anyone aware of Sansa’s position that she began to pull at her hands once more, trying with all her might to keep her lower body immobile while her upper body twisted this way and that, struggling to free herself.

But the man on top of her gave a grunt, a sound of disagreement that erupted from his mouth as a low, disapproving growl.

“I know what you see when you look at me, girl. You see a hideous – ”

“I can’t,” she interrupted in a ragged whisper, aware of the absurdity of speaking conversationally with the beast while simultaneously trying to pull herself out from his strong grip. She could feel his thumbs pressing in her palms, and the strength in his fingers where they pushed into the backs of her hands.

She didn’t stop to think about weighing the consequences of telling him about her unexplained ailment until the man abruptly stopped speaking. She then had a moment to wonder if perhaps she should not have said anything.

“What do you mean, you can’t? You can’t what?” he asked, voice irritated but controlled.

“I mean,” she said haltingly, pausing in her struggle to free herself, “I c–can’t see.” Then she began rambling, trying to cover the embarrassment of holding a conversation with a man who held her down while his erection clearly pressed into her – an erection they both were apparently trying to ignore – and the slowly growing realization that what he was saying about having no wish to harm her could possibly be true.

“Well, yesterday I could. And the day before. But when I woke up by the pool and you… you picked me up, I had a headache and couldn’t really think, all I could see was colors, some shapes – not much of anything, really...” 

Her voice dropped to a whisper when she realized she was stammering, and she continued quietly, as though what she was about to tell him was grave news. 

“I can’t see you.” 

Then she waited, wishing yet again she could see the expression on his face. She didn’t know why this information would give him pause, other than to make her seem more helpless than she already was – a slip of a woman compared to his hulking form.

His hardness still pressed into her, no less awkward than it had been when she had first felt it. But its presence was now like the aurochs in the room – or in the tent, rather – and she felt a blush steal across her cheeks as he continued to press his body into hers, to stare down at her as though seeking answers that she didn’t have. It was his simple lack of movement that told her his eyes hadn’t left her face.

And on top of his apparent arousal and the way it was making itself known between them, she was incredibly self conscious that he could see her and she could not see him.

She could feel him, though. And she could smell him. Perhaps it was the close proximity, or perhaps it was the fact that without sight to rely on, her body was on high alert and ready to take input in whatever form it came at her. But whatever it was, her nose noted the distinct lack of fabric softener or cologne, and the overwhelming presence of leather with undertones of sweat and perhaps dirt. It was as though he worked with horses all day, although with Winterfell’s guided horse adventures she didn’t detect the familiar scent of manure which sometimes seemed to follow their stable hands when they came into the office to collect paychecks or to speak to her father.

As for feeling him, there was no way to ignore it. That aurochs in the room refused to go away, its presence between their bodies constant and completely unnerving.

Finally, Sansa couldn’t stand it any longer. She closed her eyes briefly and turned her head away, attempting to break the eye contact she was unable to participate in. After all, why look him in the face to see his eyes when she wouldn’t be able to read the emotion in them?

Instead, deciding that she really had no other choice but to either continue fighting against him or to take a chance that he was possibly telling the truth, she pleaded softly with him, somewhat defeated after revealing the truth of her situation.

“Just please, get off me.”

~ ≈ ~

Sandor wanted to let her go, and yet he also didn’t. His traitorous body wanted to stay right where he was, with his cock pressed against her, her soft woman’s form supple and yielding beneath him. But his mind wanted to go find a clearing in the woods where he could be free of her for the night. His body wanted to put his face into that glorious mane of copper hair, to inhale her scent, and lose himself in her body. But his mind wanted to grab her by the arm and drag her out of his tent, depositing her in the arms of the first soldier who passed them by.

She was a complication. An unwanted, unneeded complication.

Fuck. Anger directed at himself was mounting, his annoyance increasing as he scoffed at himself for being so weak when it came to the first woman who had ever been in his tent.

Realizing he was just getting harder, and cognizant that he had told her several times that he wouldn’t harm her, he didn’t bother reminding himself that he wasn’t the type of man who took advantage of helpless women. Seeing how his mother had withered away and died at an early age, Sandor was reluctant to mistreat women. He removed his legs from hers and lifted his torso off of her, maintaining the contact between his hands and hers. He wouldn’t harm her, but nor would he put himself into the position to be taken by surprise. She may have been tearful and scared, but there was also a fire in her eyes that had caught him off guard when he’d been temporarily distracted by their closeness.

He needed a clear fucking head to deal with this mess, he reminded himself, and as the hours in her company wore on it seemed as though a clear head was less and less achievable.

“You won’t lash out,” he ordered harshly, more loudly than he intended by the looks of it, when she flinched at the sound of his voice. Then he watched her purse her lips and silently vowed to watch himself around her. She looked both defeated and defiant, as though she had spitfire in her heart but was loathe to draw on it. 

“Say it,” was his demand again, and her docile eyes flared slightly. Perhaps she was irritated that he had not taken her at her word when she said she would cease struggling. Tough shit.

“You won't lash out.”

It took Sandor a few heartbeat’s time to realize she hadn't obeyed his command. Her lips were pressed into a firm line, her chest beneath him was rising and falling in a steady rhythm, and her eyes were staring at a point on his face somewhere near his nose. It must have been her attempt at staring him down, and if she'd had full possession of her sight it would have provoked him to a rage. No one challenged him. No one dared to provoke him to anger, lest they wish to bring the Hound's wrath down upon their heads.

And here was a vulnerable, half naked woman outright flouting his authority while quite obviously fighting her terror at the situation she found herself in. He would have surely choked on his reply had he managed to come up with one, because he didn't know whether to be impressed or furious.

He took several deep breaths, drawing in her scent and exhaling, realizing with a sort of perverse satisfaction that he was forcing her to breathe his air. She remained convincingly stoic, despite the way her palms were beginning to dampen beneath his thumbs. In tune with the enemy's physical reactions of fear and resistance during battle, Sandor noted this as well as the slight movements of her lower jaw, and how it appeared that her teeth were worrying against each other.

She was scared, he knew, and she was intimidated. But her show of bravado, unexpected as it was, forced him to admit the shred of admiration he felt, even if it didn’t force him to swallow back some of his anger. That was still a definite presence and he felt it simmering just below the surface.

Determined to sort out the abominable situation they found themselves in, Sandor grunted a warning before speaking again, his irritation winning out over tolerance for her insolence.

“Don't test me, girl.” 

Again her eyes flared, but Sandor went on, willing her to not make this difficult. 

“Say it,” he growled, “Or I'll drag you out of here and drop you into the hands of the first man I see.”

There. Her lips parted slightly and her eyes widened. He saw true fear and knew he had won. In the saying Better the Stranger you know than the Stranger you don’t know, Sandor was always the Stranger they knew.

She seemed to hesitate, and he guessed she was battling a nature in which she would normally fight. But this time she acquiesced, and though they were said through clenched teeth, her words ended with a sigh.

“I won’t lash out.”

Satisfied with her nearly forced vow, he released her and sat back, straddling her thighs. Between them was the bulge in the front of his breeches beneath the hem of his tunic. She didn’t seem inclined to inspect it, and he wondered how true her words of blindness were. She had trained her gaze on his face when he was on top of her, but he couldn’t remember now if there had been any true eye contact.

She sat up, attempting to drag up the neckline of the ridiculous dress Jamis had procured to cover more of her chest. Blast her, but she had fine breasts. Again, he needed to be careful around her, to hold onto the anger and irritation for more reasons than one.

Sitting with one arm braced behind her and the other holding the dress, she obstinately looked up at him. Her eyes roamed around his general location, but it quickly became obvious that she couldn’t find any one point to focus on. He couldn’t help but wonder about the ramifications of her blindness, and what it meant for her future in the camp, despite not wanting her to be his problem. She was vulnerable, a cripple in the eyes of everyone else in the camp, and a sliver of empathy wormed its way beside the negative feelings in his heart because Sandor knew what it was like to walk through life with a defect.

But she’d said it hadn’t always been that way, and she was only blinded in whatever incident had led to him finding her by the weirwood pool, so did that mean she could heal and regain her sight? Emotions battled within him at the thought.

Did that mean she was eventually going to see him?

Drawing himself up short at that self conscious thought, he reminded himself that it didn’t fucking matter one bit. It didn’t matter if she saw his scarred face, didn’t matter if she recoiled from the sight or if she refused to look at him once she was able to. She was a nuisance, an unwanted burden, and he wanted her gone.

He repeated that mantra in his head while he waited for her to become accustomed to her subordinate place.

She looked to be attempting to focus at him, but was slightly missing her mark. Her eyes were aimed at his bearded cheek, her earlier fear fading to reveal the vibrant irritation hidden beneath the surface.

“You said you would get off,” she said quietly, her pink lips pouting with disdain.

Sandor shook his head. “And you said you wouldn’t lash out.” 

He was just being cautious. He tried to tell himself he wasn’t letting his own annoyance at himself rub off on his words with her, but it stubbornly didn’t quite ring true in his mind. 

Damn it, he was irritated and fucking inconvenienced.

Her eyes flared again and they darted this way and that, looking as though she was trying to land her gaze on something she could glare at. He would have thought it comical if not for the way she squirmed then beneath him. Her attempt at twisting her thighs to loosen him from her lap did absolutely nothing.

“Yes, I promised to not lash out and I keep my promises,” she snapped, doing everything but reaching out to shove him off her. Then with brows drawn together and a petulant expression on her face she added almost so quietly that he couldn't hear, “You, sir, are a liar.”

If Sandor had hackles they would have risen at her words. He bristled, briefly reminding himself that a missing camp whore wasn’t always questioned. Liar was at the top of the list of things he was not.

Leaning forward slightly, he watched her face as realization dawned belatedly in her features that he had moved, causing her to abruptly pull back from him. Satisfied he had upset her equilibrium enough, he said just as softly in warning, “I am no liar, and nor am I simple. You promised to not lash out.” He watched her huff out a breath through her nose as he added, “You did not promise to not run.”

Sandor sat back, watching her clutch at the dress before it could fall and expose her breasts. Her cheeks were reddened from their encounter, and the color paired with the copper hair tumbling over her shoulder and the ivory color of her smooth skin had him mentally cursing at being attracted to the one person causing him all this headache. 

“I promise not to lash out,” she reasoned exasperatedly, seemingly grasping onto his words quickly enough. Then she rolled her eyes. “I promise not to run.” Warming to her argument, her nostrils flared before she haughtily added, “I promise to sit here and do absolutely nothing because in case you haven’t noticed, I’m blind!” 

When she tucked an errant hair behind her ear, it was with the hand she had been bracing herself up with. In removing it for the gesture, her legs came up for counterbalance and pushed upwards into his groin.

Sandor had to swallow back a groan. He didn’t move, but he watched that blush spread once again over her face as she realized what she did, and was thankful for the small blessing that she couldn’t see his reaction. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, feeling the movement of her body beneath him set his blood to boiling for this unwanted reason.

He sat still for a moment, mulling over her words even as he tried not to savor the feel of her long legs beneath him. But when he finally moved off her, he did so slowly and with great care, bracing himself for an attack. At times she seemed a timid little creature, fearful of everything, especially if what she said about her blindness was true. But at other times she seemed full of life and spite, delivering retorts he was not accustomed to receiving and sarcasm he didn’t often hear from anyone in the camp. 

When no attack came, he sat towards one end of the pallet while she moved back to sit at the other. He watched her quickly drag the cloak up to cover herself, realizing exactly how inadequate the dress was that Jamis had found.

He wanted to offer to get a more satisfactory garment for her, but he also didn’t want to give a shit about what she wore. But if there was one thing he wasn’t willing to do, it was to have a half dressed woman sitting in his tent until he managed to figure out what to do with her. He already took notice of her curves, had seen her naked and felt his mouth salivate over the sight of her nude body. If he could cover her in grain sacks from head to toe he’d be happier for it. But as it was, she at least needed something that didn’t threaten to slip and expose her breasts to him every time she fucking moved.

“I’ll get you a new dress today,” he said, speaking quietly but harshly, ignoring her physical reaction to what he said until she laughed harshly. 

“What do you mean, today? I would like to go home today.”

“Aye?” he questioned, looking over at her as her eyes drifted low, looking at nothing though her eyes slid downwards over his body. It unnerved him that she was looking at him but was still not seeing him. “And where is that?”

“Winterfell! I live in Winterfell, and…” He watched the column of her throat move as she swallowed, at the same time his own mouth went dry with frustration. “I demand you take me home.”

Despite the fact that she sounded entirely used to giving demands, Sandor closed his eyes briefly at that revelation. A fucking Northern supporter. Why the fuck didn’t she keep that to herself? She was in a fucking army camp, for fuck’s sake, and any person living during the last ten years would have been able to guess that, in possession of their sight or not.

He shook his head, knowing this was a detail Jaime Lannister would want to know. If she was a citizen of Winterfell she was a traitor, and he was honor bound to turn her in as such. Bile rose in his throat at the thought, but an enemy was an enemy, no matter how beautiful.

Perhaps she had just solved his problem, inadvertently though it might be. He wanted to know what to do to get her out from underfoot, and she had just afforded him the means to do so.

“You would have done well to not admit that, girl.” 

Against his thighs his hands clenched into tight fists. This wasn't how he had seen this playing out, but there was no help for it. He would be rid of her, and he could go on living his life the same way he had done so for years. Unencumbered. 

“I’ll not be finding you a dress,” he stated, rising from the pallet to ready himself for a trek. “Instead we’re going to the commander’s tent and you’ll likely be put to death as an enemy of the crown.”

As he spoke he kept his eyes on her, watching as the emotions played across her unseeing face – incredulity, confusion; and then she paused.

Her hushed laughter was the last thing he had expected to hear.

“What is this? Some kind of sick joke? What do you mean, put to death?

Chapter Text

“What is this?” she asked, her expression full of humor. “Some kind of sick joke? What do you mean, put to death?

The woman’s smile was wide and genuine, though her gaze was still vacant. She was absolutely oblivious, Sandor realized. Perhaps she hit her head at some point, which did seem like it would lend itself to his discovery of her naked by the weirwood pool. If she wasn’t right in the head then the whole odd situation would make more sense, and he supposed he could try to be a bit less irritated. 

Try, but not necessarily succeed.

“I assure you, this is no farce,” he said, his tone harsh and flat. “You are of the North, and this army has been hunting your kind to quell the uprising. Nearly all have fallen, save a few strays.” 

Her smile faded some but her smooth brow merely wrinkled at his words. 

Sandor went on, “If you are as you say you are, a citizen of Winterfell, then you are one of the last and have found yourself in the exact place you don’t wish to be.”

Lifting his heavy mail shirt, he lowered it onto himself as she digested this news, still staring off into space but having followed him with her eyes, looking in the general direction of his legs.

“So as you see, a new dress is irrelevant.”

“A new… Ser – Clegane, I don’t…” She sputtered and then paused, shaking her head once before speaking again with a clipped laugh. “I don’t understand what’s going on.” She flung her hand up in frustration, this time the one that was not holding the cloak to her chest. “I must have fallen asleep in the pool – the weirwood pool at Winterfell .” 

She suddenly stopped as though a thought had occurred to her, her mouth opening and closing as she digested what he was saying. Then haltingly she spoke, drawing herself up straight to ask her next question.

“Where are we, ser?”

Sandor’s irritation doubled. He was obviously not prone to the sentimental; nevertheless it didn’t sit well with him that this source of annoyance was pleasant to look upon as well as in possession of a completely addled mind. He needed to dispose of her soon.

“I am no ser.” He maneuvered the mail shirt into place and pressed his lips firmly shut. But seeing her about to speak again he sighed shortly, aiming to put a stop to her yammering. “I am your captor, and you will cease talking.” 

He was tired of listening to her speak, anyway. His mail shirt on, he slipped the studded tunic over the top and worked the clasps, fumbling as he did so. He could usually rely on Jamis to help, but he had no idea where the boy was now and he wasn’t about to ask his own prisoner for help in donning his armor.

“No, I need to figure out how to get back home – ”

“Your home is full of Lannister forces, woman.” Sandor rounded on her, glaring at her before remembering she couldn’t see his expression. She just dared tell him No? “It is no longer your home. And as soon as you get that through your empty little head, the sooner we’ll get this shit over with.” 

Buckles mostly done, he strapped his greaves onto his shins and began picking up the pieces of armor that would soon cover his arms and shoulders.

“Lannister?”

A glance at her face showed shock, and she blinked several times as she attempted to sort through all the things he was telling her. He didn’t know why this detail would confuse her so.

“Aye,” he said, nearly rolling his eyes at her disorientation. “King Joffrey has conquered the North and is appointing Southern lords to hold the seats. The Starks have fallen and the Boltons now sit on the seat of Winterfell, Roose Bolton as Warden of the North – ”

“Starks – ” she breathed, her face awash with bewilderment that Sandor attributed to her head injury.

“All dead,” he confirmed, watching her pale. She looked like snow when she turned her gaze up at him, in the direction of his face. 

With her soft lips parted, blue eyes unfocused and full of panic, he dragged his eyes away from the sight of her. Except, as she was – barely clothed, hair a tangled mess behind her, her knuckles white on his cloak where she held it to herself – he forced himself to banish the prick of pity that appeared in his heart as he looked down at her.

“That can’t be,” she whispered in denial, her eyes sliding away towards the wall of the tent, this time focusing on nothing as she spoke to herself. “That’s impossible.” He could hear her audible swallow as she turned to him again, her eyes still not quite reaching his face. “You must be mistaken. I was just there. Last night, I… I was just there.”

“There’s no mistake,” he said, holding himself stiffly now that he was nearly finished with his armor. Her face was awash with emotions as she processed what he’d said. 

“There must be,” she said again, her eyes wide and without any trace of her earlier obstinance. What remained was merely panic, and the confusion that now wouldn’t leave her. “The Lannisters… Mom and Dad… I don’t understand…” 

After a moment, as Sandor finished working the buckles of his vambrace over his forearm, she looked up towards his face again, landing somewhere near his forehead from what he could see of her wide and unseeing eyes. 

“This can’t be.”

Then she abruptly stood, standing where she was on the pallet, the cloak still held up to her chest. If not for the disbelieving expression, the way her brow had smoothed but her eyes were troubled, he would have allowed his gaze to wander over the angry scrape on her collarbone. He would have studied the light freckles on the tops of her shoulders and watched how the shadows played in the dip at her throat.

But no, he mustn’t. Drawing on his anger at the Commander for putting him in this situation, on the irritation with her for her presence in his tent and in his life, he turned from her to gather his sword belt. 

Not my problem, he thought, wondering at the severity of a head wound that could cause her to spout such ridiculous talk. She didn’t even sound like a noble, despite claiming to be one. Perhaps a head wound – though he hadn’t actually seen one on her – would take some of the brunt of the discomfort that was sure to come when he brought her to his superiors.

But what she said next drew him up short, and he stopped moving to turn and stare down at her, towering above her still, despite her position on his raised pallet.

“I am Sansa Stark.”

~ ≈ ~

“There is no Sansa Stark.”

He had stopped moving and she was certain he was looking at her, probably gauging her reaction to his lie.

It had to be a lie, even though he told her not long ago that he wasn’t a liar. 

She simply couldn’t believe what she was hearing. How could he know her family? What did he mean, no Sansa Stark? She was Sansa Stark!

Words buzzed through her mind and she closed her eyes, unable to handle her lack of sight and everything being nothing but a big blur, with all of the things he was telling her.

Captor? Lannister forces? King Joffrey? 

This Clegane, whoever he was, was telling her that Joffrey Baratheon, pompous millionaire socialite, was somehow considered a king? It was preposterous! 

She didn’t have time to mull that over, as the rest of what he had said was crashing back through her thoughts. 

The Boltons? They weren’t wardens of the North. For one thing, that position in the government was eliminated hundreds of years ago when the centralized government was adopted and the royal Targaryen seat was all but dismantled. The Targaryens were now nothing more than scions of their fashion empire, ruling the catwalks all over Westeros but holding no political positions whatsoever.

And the Boltons were a notorious crime family. As far as Sansa knew, they held no seat in any government, anywhere.

All dead, he’d said of the Starks. That was obviously impossible, she thought. Absurd, really. Just yesterday she was at Winterfell with most of them, the ones who still lived there and worked for the family business – Robb heading up the maintenance crew of the huge castle and its grounds, Jon in the accounting department, even Arya when she wanted to stop by like yesterday, pulling the working Starks from their posts and leaving a trail of havoc in her wake. She had been there just yesterday for the family dinner!

But… Clegane sounded so confidant...

Sansa opened her eyes and saw his big hulking frame standing off to the side, the odd sounds coming from the movements of his body ones she couldn’t identify. 

“Look,” she said, calming her voice despite the panic and anger at the nonsense Clegane was saying. It was nonsense. Utter, complete nonsense. It had to be. “I’m not sure what’s going on but… if you don't want to bring me to a hospital, could you just let me go?” She raised and dropped her hand, putting a smile on her face that she hoped said she was up to being friendly with him. “Or just let me make a phone call, my family can come pick me up, and I won’t say anything to anyone about what’s happened here.”

She wracked her brain for scenes from the crime shows she had watched with Jon, anything that might help her get out of a hostage situation. She didn’t think that offering the use of Winterfell’s helicopter or Robb’s BMW would entice this man. She could tell by the measure of his appearance she had managed to take with her impaired senses that he wasn’t some metrosexual criminal who could be swayed with Stark money. No, his long hair and lack of cologne pointed to a rougher sort, as did his bedside manner. This was going to take some talking, some negotiating. 

He didn’t respond to her offer so she tried again, keeping the false smile plastered to her face even though she wanted to rail at him, beat him with her fists until he listened to her. Frustration was mounting, and she was barely keeping the hysteria under control.

“I can get you anything you want. Do you want to disappear? My cousin can probably take care of that – wipe your identity clean. He’s a computer nut –”

“Enough,” he growled, moving once again as she listened to the metal on metal sound coming from his body. 

“Seriously,” she tried again, ignoring him. “Just name it. Whatever you want. And I promise I won’t say anything. No one will ever know this happened. Just please, let me go back to my family.”

“Your family is dead!” he said loudly, and she could tell he was losing his patience. Well, so was she.

“That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard! You can’t be serious! Unless you personally did something to them, which I seriously doubt,” she scoffed, beginning to question his mental fortitude, “Then they’re waiting for me to come home and they are going to be worried!”

Her voice was getting louder and her smile was slipping. Sansa took a deep breath, reminding herself that although he said he was her captor, besides that Jamis man – who had seemingly disappeared – Clegane was the only person available to plead for help from. And despite his assurances that he was going to bring her to the commander of… of… whatever this was, she needed to keep a cool head.

“You will stop talking and remain silent.”

Clegane’s voice had taken on a calm volume, but his tone spoke of anger. This was not going well. Sansa needed to try a different tactic, a congenial tone.

“Listen, I’m sure we can come to an understanding.” It galled her that she couldn’t see! It would be a lot easier to gauge his reactions to her words, even though she was aware that she was apparently actively angering him by speaking. Oh well. It couldn’t be helped. He wasn’t making this easy.

“Whatever your reasons for abducting me, or drugging me, or whatever it is you did, I’m sure you had a –” she swallowed, nearly choking on the words, “– good reason. I’m sure – I’m sure you thought this was going to work out well –”

“I said enough!” He suddenly rounded on her, yelling so loudly and so close to her face that Sansa cried out, flinched, and dropped backwards onto the bed surface behind her. Fear gripped her as her heart beat against her chest wall, as her hands shook where they held the cloak to her. Tears sprang to her eyes, having her theory that he might be willing to work with her be so utterly and completely destroyed.

She clamped her mouth shut as he paced within the confines of the tent, and as his form moved within her field of vision so too did his belongings. Something heavy was flung from one side of the tent to the other, landing on the ground with a loud thud and a clanging of metal. He turned and did something she couldn’t see, but the next thing she knew the sound of items hitting the front wall of the tent en masse felt so loud that she flinched again. Another movement with the accompanying sound of a creaking lid made Sansa realize he had wrenched open some sort of chest and was roughly rifling through its contents.

He had been as close to kind to her as she could expect up to this point from a person who had abducted her up, but now she couldn’t help the tear that slid down her cheek as she finally realized her captor may be more monster than man.

He had slept beside her and not touched her, had woken with his back to her and hadn’t had his way with her, and when she had struggled she admittedly had forced him to restrain her because Sansa knew she would have done her best to scratch his eyes out if she thought he would hurt her.

All that went against his current behavior, the grumbling and growling as he mumbled harshly to himself about fucking irritating women and obligations and the fucking cunt who had saddled her with him. He tore through the chest, prying something else out and tossing it behind him where it landed on something made of wood, as apparent by the loud cracking sound it made when it came into contact with the new surface.

All this anger and possibly violent behavior, but he hadn’t hurt her all last night or this morning. Instead he had been aroused by her – an arousal that he very steadfastly did not act upon. 

Willing at this point to grasp ahold of anything that might help her, her mind cried wildly, That had to mean something! Surely somewhere inside him was a man with the capability to consider a woman’s feelings!

She stood slowly and on wobbly legs, fear making her whole body shake but knowing she didn’t have the choice to be cowardly right now. She stepped forward, desperate for answers that only he could help her find. 

He stilled, his breathing heavy as she saw the shadow of his body rise to its full, imposing height. He was huge, and that fact merely made Sansa fear him more. 

She reached out slowly, as though he was not a man but one of the huge direwolves she had read about in high school – huge beasts who could have probably bitten off her entire arm with one muscular clamp of their jaws. She had feared this man, then had been somewhat mollified by his words earlier, and yet now was once again terrified. 

But as soon as her hand landed on a metal surface that was wrapped around his arm she lost her concentration, finding the texture foreign, her feet stumbling over the edge of the low bed she had forgotten she stood on. With the long furs wrapped around her legs she stumbled, her hand slipping from his arm as she fell heavily to her hands and knees. She cried out at the impact despite the thick furs cushioning her fall.

“Woman – ” he muttered amidst curses likely expounding her ineptness. Sounding irritated, before she realized what was happening he had grasped both of her upper arms and dragged her once again to her feet.

Confusion and the unknown all came crashing down on Sansa at once at his renewed irritation, and she began to feel the hysteria taking over her normally calm nature. She knew she was toggling between placating and begging but she couldn’t help it. Deep inside she felt that he couldn’t possibly have drugged her, or been the one to cause her to end up here. Everything pointed to his treatment of her up until the point she had told him where she lived, and Sansa was beginning to feel that Clegane was not only her only hope of getting home, but also her only possible ally until that came to be.

“Please, you have to help me! I need a phone. I–I–...” She didn’t know what to say. “I’m not from here!” When he said nothing, more of his words began to sink in and she shook her head, unable to process everything he had claimed. 

“Something’s wrong. I am Sansa Stark, and Winterfell must be a short distance away. Please – there must be someone from there I can talk to!” 

She wracked her brain, even as he turned away from her. Without anything to hold her up, she held onto him, finding the back of the arm hole of the vest he now wore. She felt the leather beneath her fingers, could smell the musky scent of it.

“I’ll not help you,” he said coldly, ignoring her clasping hands. 

He was doing something with his back towards her, but even if she could see, she couldn’t see, which confounded her even more. She must have hit her head, or maybe she slipped beneath the water after falling asleep against the edge of the pool? 

She couldn’t remember, and it caused an all too familiar fear to crawl up into her throat.

“Clegane, please – you have to help me. I need to get back to Winterfell – ”

“You’ll be delivered to the commander and he will decide what is to be done with you. He didn’t want you the first time – said you were my problem. But if you’re a Stark, or at least a Northerner as you say, he’ll either put you to death like the rest of the traitors, or you’ll travel as a prisoner with the army to King’s Landing and it’ll happen there.”

Sansa heard his voice, the calm, hard edge to it; but she felt a sinking dread in the pit of her stomach. This didn’t feel right. This didn’t feel like she was in the right place.

They could have taken her…

“Where are we?”

“Three leagues from Winterfell – ”

Three leagues??

“Then you can bring me back! Please, a phone call. I just need one phone call!”

He did round on her then, but to her surprise he bent quickly to gather the furs in his arms, metal plates sliding together as she realized he was covered in rather authentic–sounding armor. It was such an oddity that she didn’t realize what he was doing until she found herself between his arms as he draped the furs over her shoulders. She realized the leather straps that now hung down her front meant it was a cloak rather than merely fur blankets, which unsettled her since she hadn’t even known that with her lack of sight.

Her mind was working overtime trying to figure out what was happening to her, and she had the absurd thought now, He sleeps with his cloak instead of blankets? None of this made sense.

Like the leather vest he wore; and the armored covering on his arm beneath her fingers that she was certain was real. Even the way she could hear all of those same sounds around them – the metal clanging, men talking, horses .

“I will not take you back to Winterfell,” he ground out, his voice low and sharp as though it was meant to hurt her. He pulled the front of the cloak together and she realized she might have been completely exposed to him and wouldn’t have known, as upset as she was. 

“You’re not a Stark and I don’t know why you would lie about that – ”

“It’s not a lie! My parents are Eddard and Catelyn Stark – ”

“Aye, well, you’re parents are dead! ” 

His voice was raising, and he seemed to catch himself, even as his words – as unthinkable as they had to be – were like daggers in her heart. 

Lowering his tone, he bent closer to continue. She got the impression he had brought his face close to hers, possibly so that she could see him better. But it wouldn’t work – he was blurry no matter how close he was.

“I’m bringing you to the Lannister tent and they’ll decide what to do with you. Get you off my fucking hands, is more like it.”

As angry as his words were, he didn’t pull away, so Sansa did her best to look up into what she knew would be his face, attempting to judge where his eyes were by the dark roundness of the crown of his head against the lighter background of the daylight outside the tent.

Negotiating hadn’t worked. What always came after negotiating on those shows? When the victim had lost all hope that their captor would listen to them? Sansa swallowed as she remembered, and she inhaled, readying herself to beg for mercy.

“Please, you have to believe me! Please don’t take me out there!” 

She reached for him, patting at his chest trying to find a place to hold onto so he wouldn’t set her aside and walk away. She found it at the collar of the leather, just beneath his neck. Despite the cloak parting, she clasped him there, desperate enough to disregard the open neckline of that joke of a dress in favor of getting him to just listen to her.

“Woman, get your hands off – ” Strong hands came up to clasp her wrists but she held tightly to him. He would have to hurt her to get her off him, and she was now suddenly certain that he wouldn’t do that. 

“You said! ” she nearly cried, her panic manifesting as tears clouding her vision even more than it already was. She could no longer see him with the wetness in her eyes, and his form blended in with the background.

“Let go of me, woman – damn it.”

Sansa shook her head wildly, feeling her hair fan out over her shoulders, some of it falling in front of her eyes. 

“No – Clegane, don’t you remember?” She winced as his hands clamped like vices onto her wrists, but she held firm. “Don’t you remember what you said?” she cried out.

His breathing was getting heavier and Sansa knew his patience was dimming, but she would not relent. His hands grasping her firmly, he leaned down so his face was in hers.

“I said what?! ” 

She could tell he was done with her – that he wanted to pull her hands off of him, regardless of  how hard he had to squeeze, no matter how forceful he had to be. But his wasn’t increasing, and nor was it going to. Sansa would make sure of that.

Her self preservation instincts were kicking into high gear. She didn’t know if what he said was true – if the Lannisters were somehow more evil than what her and half of King’s Landing thought, or if she was in danger, and she was positive – she had to be – that her family was alive and well. 

But he was scaring her with his seriousness, and she had already spent one night in this place with her abductor. She didn’t want to spend another one.

Through genuine tears she said, “You promised me you wouldn't harm me, but that’s exactly what you’ll be doing if you bring me to – ” Gods , she didn’t even want to say it, it sounded so ridiculous, “ – to the Lannisters! Please , Clegane!” Her voice hitched with a sob and she pushed her fists against his imobile upper body while clinging to him for emphasis, adding, “You promised!”

~ ≈ ~

For fuck’s sake

He didn’t have to listen to her.

She claimed to be a Stark, and as impossible as that was, she was readily admitting to being a Northerner.

An enemy.

Pleading with him to not turn her in to the commander.

An enemy he had vowed not to harm.

To whom harm would most assuredly be done if he delivered her into the hands of the Lannister forces. 

No beautiful woman – and by the gods, she was beautiful – ever escaped their ranks unharmed; even the highest paid whores. In one way or another, harm was always done.

Fucking hells.

He could feel the rapid pulse beneath both of her wrists where his large fingers held onto her delicate skin, and so he could feel her panic. It said she wasn’t acting, which was important to know. All women had the propensity for deception, but in this woman – Sansa, if she was to be believed – he could not detect any. 

Thin wrists moved beneath his hands once more, thin like a bird, making him liken her in his mind to one of those damned sparrows that had come fluttering into his life, unwanted.

Her chest was all but bare, the neckline of that smock Jamis called a dress dipping so low that, if he decided to look, he would see right down to her nipples. He wanted to growl in frustration, knowing that this lust for the wench just added another reason to the list of why he should toss her through the doorway of Jaime Lannister’s tent.

Fuck! He felt trapped in the worst possible way – trapped between following orders and not giving a shit what happened to the woman; and giving in to her sound logic because he’d be damned if she made him into a liar. 

Aye, she was a bane, a blight. And to keep her was to betray his superiors, his king. It was a ridiculous notion, not turning her in as a traitor. 

But what was the alternative? Hide her identity? Keep her in his tent? She was nearly completely blind, and therefore helpless. For fuck’s sake, he would have to enlist Jamis’s help, procure a second pallet, a chamber pot, extra rations, a fucking dress.

And what the hells would she do all day? They were a month away from leaving this encampment, and almost two months after that of travel to King’s Landing with such a large portion of the king’s army. She would be confined to the tent at any time they weren’t travelling, and when they were – he hadn’t a clue what to do with her then. She was blind – a blind woman just about under lock and key, no way to be useful, and he would be responsible for her. 

It was ludicrous.

He watched her face, seeing no artifice in her blue eyes, no hidden strategy in her full, quivering lower lip. Tears left trails in the dust as they travelled down her pale cheeks.

Fuck , was he actually considering it? Considering keeping a fucking woman in his tent – the fucking Hound! He wanted to yell, wanted to beat the living shit out of something, anything. Never in his life had he felt such frustration, the sheer force of it threatening to choke him beneath his armor.

But then, “Aye, I promised,” he heard himself say, and he was glad of her blindness since she couldn’t see what would surely have been plenty of facial cues as he swallowed at his own mistakes.

He wasn’t exactly promising her now, and he told her as much. No, he needed to think about this, about the possible repercussions and what it would mean for him to hide her in plain sight. He would have to rely on her silence, to trust her – to fucking trust a prisoner, for fuck’s sake – when he made her vow not to reveal to anyone details of her Northern heritage. 

Northern heritage. Sandor wanted to beat the living shit out of himself. This was foolish.

Although her giving him willing silence didn’t seem so far fetched if the alternative was for her to die a traitor to the crown.

She hadn’t released him, but tears were still streaming down her face. She was worried, as well she should be. She had found herself in the enemy camp, and was in grave danger if they didn’t decide what to do with her soon. Though it was likely her head wound would heal, he didn’t have the patience to listen to anymore of her wailing about her family being alive, nor all the nonsensical chatter she had aimed his way. 

What the fuck was a phone?

“Stay here,” Sandor said, even though he questioned his motive with every word. “Sit, don’t move, and wait for me to return.”

But Sansa didn’t let go. Her features smoothed and he watched her process what was happening; her auburn brows furrowing and then rising in understanding, but then drawing together once again with worry. She looked perhaps a bit less panicked, but her small hands still had an iron grip on his leather armor.

“You’re… leaving? You’re going to leave me alone?”

Sandor watched her lips form the words, his own emotions ranging from confusion and doubt to anger and vexation. With her he settled on irritation and vowed to treat her with nothing less from now on.

“Aye, I’m leaving you. I’m part of this gods-forsaken army and still have tasks needing to be carried out.” 

He tugged at her wrists, letting her know that it really was time to let go. She only did so after he watched her neck muscles move when she swallowed, and her hands slid down and off his stomach, coming up to gather the edges of the cloak and cover herself once again.

He had to look away from that confounded stare, aware of the damned tugging it was doing at his cold as ice heart – the way her eyes focused on nothing and yet somehow always seemed to find a part of him to land on. 

Blind . Sandor shook his head as he finished putting on his armor. What buckles were left he’d have Jamis finish, before he sent the lad back in here to get the girl settled. Even if he found a way to leave her with the commanding officers, she needn’t do without at least a chamber pot while she was here, and a bit of food. 

But when he turned, gauntlets in hand, she was still standing in the same spot in the center of the tent’s floor, staring in his direction. If he hadn’t heard her story of living at Winterfell and being a Stark, he could easily have imagined her being a wildling. She had the same look about her as some of them did, with pale skin and the wild orange hair. But her hands were too soft, too unused to the hard work it took for wildlings to merely survive above the wall.

No, she wasn’t a wildling, but while he might believe she was a Northerner, he couldn’t believe that she was a Stark. Every Stark was dead, every last one of them either by the hands of the army or at the tip of a Lannister’s sword. Even the youngest – whose will refused to be broken, the young boy almost gladly following his older brothers in death rather than hand over the North to the Boltons.

It mattered not to Sandor. But what did matter was how he was going to do his work, train his men, knowing that an infuriating woman awaited him in his tent when the day was through. 

Tucking the gauntlets between his knees, he grabbed the woman by the shoulders, ignoring the flinch and the squeak of protest she gave, and pushed her back to lower her bottom to the pallet. Then he stood straight, watching her readjust the cloak with fast, jerky movements.

“Sit,” he instructed, pulling the gauntlets on and grabbing his hound’s helm from beside the tent flap. “Don’t touch anything, don’t make a sound, and don’t fucking go anywhere.” 

Then without waiting for her reply he left, making sure the flap was closed before he strode towards one of the large mess tents.

It wasn’t hard to find Jamis – he was flitting around like a fucking sparrow, doing favors for this knight, helping out that washerwoman, carrying generous plates of food for the understaffed kitchen tents. He was always doing something for someone because the lad didn’t have any direction. And while he was showing his true worth in being able to do a bit of everything, his loyalty was about to be wasted on Sandor.

Jamis!” he yelled, getting the boy’s attention. 

Looking up, a lack-witted expression on his face, Jamis found Sandor across the room and would have waved had his arms not been laden down with food.

As soon as the recipients were happy, the boy made his way over to Sandor and smiled brightly at the much taller soldier. Sandor bristled, always uncomfortable with that blasted smile.

“You’re my squire, now.” He didn’t wait for a reply, though the smile on Jamis’s face faded somewhat, to be replaced by a more bewildered expression. “You are to do what I tell you, when I tell you, and serve no one else from this day until the day I release you from service. Do you understand?”

“Yes, m’lord – ser – I mean, Clegane.”

Sandor sneered and rolled his eyes. The boy was a fool but at least he was a hardworking one.

“Fetch a plate and a chamber pot and bring them to my tent. Then don’t leave until I return this evening.” 

He was getting good at ignoring people today, and he did so now, not acknowledging Jamis’ stunned expression as Sandor gave his orders. 

Leaning in close as he did not want any other ears hearing what he was about to say, he spoke to Jamis alone. 

“Don’t speak to anyone about the woman. If you do, I’ll cut off one finger for every one who speaks of her.”

It was almost comical, watching Jamis swallow in much the same manner as Sansa.

“Yes, Clegane,” came the stunted reply, and Sandor nodded once in approval. But when Jamis didn’t move, Sandor felt like a giant nursemaid to not one but two individuals.

Now, Jamis!”

Chapter Text

Note: Talk of violence against women in this chapter

 

“Clegane?” 

Sansa saw movement near the opening of the tent, and after sitting by herself for nearly ten minutes, had begun to feel very nervous about what was happening. With her vision what it was, she felt she didn’t have a choice but to stay put. Venturing out of the tent when all around her she could hear what sounded like hundreds of men meandering about, just didn’t sound like a great idea. Especially if what Clegane said was true, and somehow she had found herself in some type of fanatic camp where these people thought she was an enemy. 

Clegane’s tone had said she was indeed in danger, and during the brief period he had been gone, she decided to err on the side of caution. That didn’t mean she had to give into the hysterics from earlier when he had said all of those hurtful, cruel things, though. 

“Nay, my lady, it’s me… Jamis.”

Ah, the man who had startled her when she’d woken. He sounded confident but younger, his voice lacking the raspy quality of Clegane’s and sounding wholly more like a smooth talking choir boy than whatever it was Clegane fancied himself to be.

At this point, she decided he might prove to be the only other person who could help her get some answers. Clegane hadn’t sounded happy when she cornered him into at least admitting he said he wouldn’t hurt her.

“Jamis, then. Can you tell me what’s going on? Where am I?”

“Aye, my lady, I can talk. I’ve been told to stay with you today so we have time. I thought perhaps you would like to… uh…” He cleared his throat and Sansa thought he sounded embarrassed, which was at odds with his confident tone. But she waited for him to continue. “That is to say, Clegane ordered me to procure a chamber pot, my lady, to aid in your comfort in staying here. Should you like to use it, I’ll step outside.”

A chamber pot? Why not just a five gallon bucket with a pool noodle seat? 

But the fact that he was basically telling her she could now pee made her want to melt away from embarrassment. She did have to go, and she hadn’t thought about the fact that tent living pointed to no indoor plumbing available.

“I suppose you don’t have a toilet hiding in a shack anywhere?” She smiled softly at her own joke, feeling the need to find something humorous to distract herself, and was happy to hear a soft, surprised laugh come from the man. Thank goodness she wasn’t on her period. That would have been an awful scenario.

“Uh, no my lady – no… toy-lets. But I’ll leave this here – ” he set something down on the ground beside the pallet she was still sitting on and then backed away. “I’ll step outside and you can call me when you’re finished.” He didn’t sound at all embarrassed anymore and she wondered if this was his job – taking care of people. She thanked him and listened as he exited the tent.

Sansa didn’t want to think too much about what she was about to do, seeing as how she hadn’t peed in a bucket since she was young and the entire family had gone camping just south of the wall in what had turned into a fiasco of a trip. Baby Rickon’s one and only night of screaming in the huge tent proved too much for anyone to bear and they had returned home the following day.

But for now, if the alternative was being led out into the bushes where she could squat, then she would take this chamber pot option. 

It was comforting to find that Jamis had also left a rag beside the metal bowl, and after awkwardly figuring out how to maneuver herself over the pot, she left the soiled rag and the pot on the ground and climbed back onto the pallet, covering herself once again with Clegane’s cloak. She heard Jamis enter and retrieve the chamber pot after she called out to him, and he was soon back, stating he left the pot just outside the entrance should she have need of it again.

But it was time to puzzle out what was going on. Sansa needed to see if Jamis would be more helpful than Clegane in figuring out how to get back to Winterfell and her family. Because, of course they weren’t dead as Clegane had said. That was absurd.

“I need to figure out what’s going on, Jamis. Can you help me?”

He chuckled and sat on the chair in the opposite corner of the tent. It creaked beneath his weight, so loudly that she thought it would perhaps break at some point in the near future beneath Clegane’s weight.

“That depends, my lady. Are you going to try to figure out how to escape?”

“That depends,” she said, trying not to let her irritation show even as she ignored the hidden joke his words evoked in her mind. “Can you snap your fingers and give me back my sight?”

“Would that I could,” he said easily, and to her surprise he sounded genuine. “I can help you insofar as it doesn’t get me into trouble with Clegane.”

Sansa let her eyes drift to the floor of the tent between them, her brow furrowing. Attempting to focus on him, or anything in particular, was getting needlessly tiring, so she gave up.

“Why is that? Do you work for him?”

“As of this morning, yes, I do,” he replied, sounding surprised. Sansa didn’t understand, and when she told him so, he explained, “My task is to watch over you while Clegane is gone. I am to see to your needs, and to keep you safe.”

“Hm. Don’t you mean keep me prisoner?”

Jamis chuckled again, and he began working at something on the small table beside him, something she couldn’t see. 

“Yes and no, my lady...”

“Why do you keep calling me that?” 

It was ridiculous that he was speaking to her that way. She was a woman, he was a man, and this wasn’t some once upon a time medieval novel, despite the armor.

“Well, because we don’t really know who you are. We don’t know if you’re a princess, we don’t know if you’re a woman of the night, a maiden, a widow… Truly, we don’t know anything about you. So for now, in the privacy of this tent, it is what I will call you.”

Sansa shook her head, feeling that his manner of speech was unlike anything she had ever heard. He sounded like an actor in a movie, and wondered aloud if she had wandered into a big reenactment where Jamis and Clegane were simply playing along and thought perhaps she was another actress.

Although, what sort of an actress would she be if she showed up naked?

But he also made it sound like she was the puzzle to sort out, rather than the other way around. None of what he said made sense and the extent that Sansa was clueless as to what was going on was completely unnerving.

“Well, I’m not a maiden,” she said, though she couldn’t see his reaction to that news. “But I’m also not a widow, or a princess, or… anything else. I’m just Sansa, and I would like to go home.”

He rose and she instinctively leaned back, clutching the cloak to her as she watched his smaller shadowed shape approach. Trust definitely wouldn’t come easy towards him or Clegane. But then he bent down and placed something on the pallet beside her.

“Food, my lady. Bread, cheese, some dried apple. Clegane said I was to feed you.”

He returned to his seat and Sansa relaxed some, enough to eventually reach out and feel with one hand where the flat plate was that she hadn’t even known he had brought in with him. To her surprise, everything was in small pieces, which is what he must have been doing on the table. 

His consideration for her blindness touched her, but a thought struck her and she withdrew her hand.

Jamis must have seen because he questioned her, “Is it not to your liking, my lady?”

That depends. Is poison supposed to be to my liking? Sansa kept the snarky comments in check, not wanting to arouse suspicion. But again Jamis’s perceptive nature shone through and Sansa grimaced at his next statement.

“I can assure you it is not poisoned, my lady.”

She detected a smile in his words, and although he sounded truthful and kind, doubt would likely be a constant companion of hers until her sight returned and she was returned home in one piece.

Before she had a chance to say as much, he spoke again.

“I give you my word it is safe to eat.” When she still made no move to eat he continued, “I could eat some of it to prove to you that it is not poisoned… but then, how would you see that I actually ate it?” He seemed to be thinking out loud as he went on, “I suppose you could hand me pieces to eat, but you still would not see them. What about if you fed them to me? Would you then believe me that no one has put any substance into your food that would render you unconscious or otherwise impaired?”

Perhaps it was the smile she heard in his voice, or the weariness she felt weighing down her bones at the constant state of caution she fet she needed to be in. But for some reason his words broke through the barrier and she felt at least in this he was being truthful.

“Alright, alright,” Sansa said in reply, shaking her head. “Thank you, Jamis.” 

Bringing a piece of bread to her mouth, she nibbled at it for a moment, only a tiny part of her waiting to see if she felt different after eating it. Figuring it was pointless unless she were to eat a bite and wait hours to see if a poison took effect, Sansa obeyed the rumbling in her stomach and ate a piece of bread while thinking of more questions to ask him.

“Are you an actor? Is this a reenactment army?” She wished she could read his facial expressions, so she continued quietly, “I mean, it sounds very real, and I understand if you’re not supposed to tell me, but I’m not – an actress, that is. I’m just… trying to figure out where I am.”

“Reenactment? I apologize, but I don’t know what that is. Yes, this is His Majesty's army, or at least the bulk of the force. We left some ten thousand men in King’s Landing when we rode North.”

“Ten–thousand – wait, what?” she exclaimed, shaking her head. She brought fingers up to her mouth hoping she didn’t just spray her lap with crumbs. “If this is the bulk of the army, how many people are you claiming are outside?”

“About seventy thousand, my lady, give or take a couple thousand.” 

She almost dropped her piece of bread. 

“You’ve got to be joking!” Then she nodded, smiling in his general direction, confidant that she now understood. “Ah, I see. If this were a real army then that’s how many would be here, right?” She took a bigger bite of bread and then felt around for a piece of cheese to follow it with, all the while nodding that she had figured that part out of what was going on outside.

“No, my lady,” he replied, sounding almost as confused as she was. “This is truly the bulk of the Baratheon army, along with almost all of the Lannister forces, their bannermen, and houses loyal to the crown. What you hear outside are the soldiers preparing for the journey home. We will be leaving in just less than a month…”

He kept talking about the journey but Sansa wasn’t listening. A long ago conversation between her and her brother Bran had suddenly popped into her head, and she was replaying what had been said. Or rather, remembering all the things Bran had been trying to tell her about some role playing game he and his friends had found about old Westeros and kings and queens and battles.

Bannermen . She remembered that term. And earlier, Clegane had called her the enemy. Traitor. 

The game had been on Bran’s gaming console and she had watched the introduction flash on the screen while Bran and his friends conversed, obviously having seen these frames countless times before. 

But it was the first line that stuck out in Sansa’s mind now, and when she remembered it clearly enough – complete with the fake scroll background, the burnt edges, the large, flowery Y that started out the sentence in decorative script – her hand dropped to her lap, the cheese forgotten.

“Ye have travelled far back in time…”

~ ≈ ~

“Heard you got yourself a woman, Clegane.”

Sandor ignored the man’s voice, not turning from the young recruit he was working with. He was satisfied enough with how well the boy’s training was going, but to turn his back likely meant an injury. 

There were some boys in this damned army who still pissed themselves when Sandor walked by, so this was an improvement.

“Use your body, Colin,” he barked, parrying the boy’s thrust and then watching the smooth transition from thrust to swing as the sword came down onto his. 

With the boy using the instruction, the impact was noticeably harder than it had been the last time. They continued going at it, Sandor calling out direction when needed, bashing his blunted practice sword against the boy’s not only to hone the younger man’s skill but to exercise the fighting muscles within Sandor’s own body that would weaken if he didn’t use them.

“Fancy yourself a red headed whore, Clegane?”

Trant was baiting him, and he was succeeding. Sandor felt irritation rise in him as he bellowed an order at the boy. It frightened the lad and Sandor was able to land a blow to the arm that was hard enough to cause the boy to dropped his sword.

“You’re dead,” he growled, chest heaving with exertion as he pointed at the sword on the ground with his own blade. “Next!”

The boy retrieved the sword, holding onto his bruised arm as he was replaced by another soft shit barely off his mother’s teat.

The training continued, as did the barbs.

“I bet she’d make a fine play thing,” Trant speculated, his tone easy and light, as though discussing women was something he did often with Sandor. “Might you pass her around when you’re done with her? ‘Course, I’d get her first, so go easy on her.”

Sandor advanced on the boy until he was on his back in the mud, his arms crossed over his face. 

“Next!”

Sandor didn’t want her. Not really. He didn’t want the complication. He didn’t want the headache that would come with her.

“It’s been a long time since we saw fresh meat in the camp. When might you bring her out so we can all get a look at her?”

This new boy was more of a man, still with hardly any fuzz on his face but at least up to Sandor’s shoulders with some bulk on him. He figured whiskers weren’t too far away. And it was good to have a training opponent who swung with some force, someone to challenge his stamina without having to be prompted to put their fucking weight into swinging their sword.

Meryn’s taunting voice came from the side of the clearing. 

“When we move out, she can ride with me if you’d like.” 

Sandor growled deeply when the young man thought to advance on him and gain the upperhand. With swift feet Clegane used the broadside of his sword to smack the back of his opponent’s thighs. The boy went down like a sapling.

In another life Sandor might have shown his respect for the boy by offering him a hand up, but that wasn’t his way. He showed his respect in treating them all equally – like fucking nancies. He took a few steps away, using the underside of his leather gauntlet to wipe away the long sweat-soaked hair clinging to his brow.

“Next!”

How many was that? Twenty? Thirty? It didn’t seem like it had taken long. Once one fell it was up to them to drag themselves away and allow for the next one to come up, the line of recruits commanded to practice seemingly never ending. But today he felt his patience running thin, and when the last one stumbled away with a bloodied nose from Sandor’s backhand, he knew it was time for a break.

Meryn had left, thank the gods, but all the things he said had left a bad taste in Sandor’s mouth. The woman – Sansa, he reminded himself, though he didn’t know why he cared to – was going to cause him nothing but grief. But he wasn’t convinced that he should turn her in.

No, not after that tearful pleading she’d done before he left. She was right, and he wasn’t a liar – he had sworn not to harm her, and turning her in as a Northerner would do exactly that. He was certain she wasn’t a spy, since she didn’t seem capable of subterfuge, and he was also certain she wasn’t just a mere peasant based on the softness of her skin and the lack of any coarseness to her. 

So who was she? 

She told him she lived at Winterfell and she was a Stark, but… Fuck , he just wanted to finish this damned war and return to King’s Landing where he could continue his normal routine – training; drinking; paying for the occasional whore.

Perhaps Jamis could do some digging and find someone who would be kind to her. Although with this many men in the army, spread out over miles as they were, it could take quite some time. But at least they had the entire journey home to find one who would take her on and who wouldn’t beat her. And he was sure Jamis would do a good job, not only under threat of bodily harm by Sandor, but because Jamis was good at everything, including talking. If there was a soft bellied man anywhere in this army with more than two decades since his birth and a lick of common sense, Jamis would ferret him out.

He just had to hope the man Jamis found wasn’t inclined to entertain other men.

After supervising all the training weapons being turned into the armorer, Sandor stooped to pick up his own sword belt, swinging the heavy leather around his waist and belting it at his front. He adjusted the hang of his heavy sword, unlatched and latched the sheath that held his dagger, and was tucking in the extra strap when he heard a commotion coming from the general direction of the brigade with which he had camped. 

Soldiers all around him dropped what they were doing and stood, vying for a glimpse of who was causing the ruckus. En masse they moved like a flock of birds, eager to see what all the excitement was about since at this point in the war there was often very little to do besides train and walk.

Sandor also wondered what it was, though he was in a position where he needed to appear calm at all times, being in a position of authority albeit far beneath the commander or anyone in his tent. Were he at the capitol his place would be beside the king – a far cry from his lowered position here in the army, but one deserving of a bit more respect. Here he trained, he led the grunts, and he took order just like the rest of them.

Amidst the hum of voices and the sounds of men speculating what was causing the ruckus, Sandor heard screams, a woman sobbing, and he paused to wonder what were the chances those screams were coming from Sansa, who was safely ensconced inside his tent with Jamis.

It wasn’t often that a woman was openly mistreated in the camp, but it did happen occasionally. Washer woman sometimes showed up with linens while sporting a black eye, or a known whore would enter a man’s tent and would exit covered in conspicuous bruises. Camp wife was generally the most respected female role amidst the army, but even they were kept in line with a few slaps every now and then.

But the damage was most usually done in the privacy of a man's tent. This…

This woman was pleading out in the open.

“Look what I found, boys!” 

The unmistakingly grating sound of Meryn Trant’s rose above the din, annoying Sandor as it always did. The man should have been drowned at birth, probably like all Cleganes.

Sandor towered above the other men, so it took him only a few steps to be behind the crowd that had surrounded the movement – the dark haired soldier struggling to keep hold of the woman. The mass of soldier’s heads moved as one like birds in flight, following the one in the middle as he made his way towards another area of camp. Their escalating murmurs and cheers all served to nearly drown out the abuser’s voice, as well as to muffle the cries of the victim.

Sandor was about to turn away when something caught his eye – a flash of color. It could have been part of a uniform, but this red was brighter than the blood red Lannister colors, more orange, almost like – 

Dread and rage dropped into his heart the instant he realized what it was.

Chapter Text

Note: Violence against women in this chapter

 

The first two men in Sandor’s way never stood a chance. They went flying off to the side when he shoved them out of the way. 

The group to his left fared better, merely stumbling and grabbing at anyone around them to remain upright.

But after that he barely had to make contact as the commotion behind the men drew their attention away from Sansa.

The group parted for him as Sandor approached, seeing Meryn Trant’s hawkish features come into view, the older man's face contorted into a strange mix of rage and satisfaction, of pure male conquest at having obtained his prize.

In the short time it took him to reach the edge of the throng of soldiers Sandor realized they were ogling Sansa.

As he watched her being dragged by her hair, he flexed his long fingers envisioning them wrapped around the neck of the other soldier. 

Her lip was bleeding, her wrists were bruising, and there were four thick red welts on her swollen cheek where she had been slapped. Sandor’s stomach turned at the thought that Trant’s hand would likely match those marks perfectly.

Sansa was attempting to hold onto Trant's wrist to take the pressure off her hair but he wasn't releasing his hold, and tears were pouring down her face as she sobbed loudly. Sandor felt an unfamiliar surge of emotion well up inside him – one that he couldn’t have named even if he’d tried – and he froze just as Trant saw him, an arm's distance away.

“Let her go,” Sandor growled, feeling as though his fingers were going to cut into his palms with as tight as they were fisted.

All around them everything stopped. When he spoke it was usually loud, angry, and harsh; his tone carrying even in the loudest of rooms simply because he rose a head above the tallest men. 

But he was deadly calm now, and the men took notice.

“Fuck you, Clegane. She's mine now.”

Sansa was still struggling against his hand so as Trant spoke, his body jerked with his inadequate attempts to stand still and her concerted efforts to escape. 

“You took her from my tent – ”

“You never laid claim to her,” Trant interrupted snidely, a smug smile spreading across his weathered features marking his glee at having the upperhand over Sandor. 

Sansa kicked at the dirt in an attempt to turn and rise on her knees, but Trant responded by yanking her hair to the side so she once again lost her balance.

Sansa’s cry of pain tugged at Sandor’s conscience at the same time it made him see red. He had to hold himself steady so he didn’t clench his fists, showing the cretin in front of him any weakness or reaction. Sandor didn’t want to care. He wanted her off his hands. He preferred living alone, with nothing to worry about but himself.

But then Sansa looked upwards, her eyes seeing nothing, but in his heart Sandor felt as though she were looking for him. She obviously knew he was there because he had spoken, and though he didn’t want her to, part of him wondered why she wasn’t calling out to him. He was after all the person – according to her – who had vowed not to harm her. Her eyes were red and puffy, sad and pleading, making her look like a woman perilously close to losing all hope. 

At that moment he almost wished he didn’t have a heart.

She pulled at Meryn’s hand again, trying to get him to loosen his grip and let her go, and the soldier pushed her hard, making her lose her balance yet again. Not only did she fall as he abruptly released her, but the front of her dress lowered enough to expose a breast to the gathering crowd. She wasn’t fast enough at gathering the fabric back to cover herself before jeers and calls erupted from the soldiers, all cheering for a show.

Sandor looked back at Meryn, determined not to let his concern for Sansa show in front of all the troops who had assembled to watch. The man wasn’t paying any attention to him, but was instead looking down as Sansa used one hand to hold up the dress and the other to brace herself against the ground in an attempt to stand.

With the way she held herself, how she aimed her face towards nothing in particular – not even at Meryn, of whom she should be especially afraid – and then how she grappled for purchase and hesitatingly got her feet beneath her, what was obvious to Sandor soon became obvious to everyone else around her.

Sandor held back the wince that threatened to show on his face when Meryn turned from Sansa to look at Sandor, that glee spreading a wide grin across his weathered face.

“Well, well, well,” he crooned happily, making Sandor’s skin crawl. “Isn’t this fitting. I was wondering why she didn’t struggle until I had a hold of her.”

He turned in a circle, gesturing to the men gathered around the three of them.

“As it turns out, lads, the Hound has gotten himself a whore who can’t see his ugly mug! She’s fucking blind!

The dread Sandor had felt when he realized the woman was Sansa suddenly multiplied with the awareness of what this looked like – as though he was relying on Sansa’s blindness because he was so horrifically scarred. 

The Hound, the Lannister dog, needing to stoop to finding a blind whore in order to get a woman to bed him. 

And although only a soldier intent on being punished in training, or a soldier without fear of repercussions such as Trant, would say anything to Sandor’s face about it, he knew they would all be talking behind his back about it.

Did that bother him? He looked at Sansa – her stance wide for balance, clutching the ugly, ill fitting, roughspun dress to her, bleeding and bruised from Trant’s beating – and knew he would be telling Jamis to find a gentle, mild mannered soldier to take her on, even if that soldier happened to prefer the company of men. At least that way Sandor could be reasonably assured the man would be kind to her. 

But until that could happen, there was only one thing he could do, and in this instance, where the alternative was to release her into Meryn’s care and wholly expect her to be beaten or worse on a daily basis, he saw no other way.

“She’s not a whore,” he growled, taking a menacing step towards Trant. 

The smaller man turned fully towards him, chest puffed out and hands held into fists at his sides, as though he expected at any moment for Sandor to take a swing at him.

But that wasn’t going to happen. Not now, and preferably not ever. Meryn wasn’t worth the horse shit on the bottom of Sandor’s boot.

Sansa straightened, her face turning in his direction as her unseeing eyes remained trained on the ground. The crowd hushed, waiting to see what Sandor said next. 

He looked at her and hid his sigh behind an iron facade, pressing his lips into a fine line as he felt the breeze blow his hair across the unfeeling surface of his scars. The reminder of who he was stung, a feeling he didn’t often have to endure after numbing his thoughts on the subject over the past decades. The hair tangled in his beard and held as he looked back at Trant, while the fucker smirked. Sandor knew the soldier was delighted to have backed Sandor into an unexpected corner.

Steeling himself for the inevitable ruckus he would cause, Sandor inhaled deeply and spoke words he had never thought to hear come from his own mouth.

“She is my camp wife,” he said slowly, deliberately; loud enough so all could hear, “And as such is under my protection.”

Without hesitation he pushed past Trant, nearly knocking the man over before reaching for Sansa, who was visibly shaking with fear. Sandor’s hand making contact with her arm startled her and she attempted to pull it back, likely not knowing who it was that was grabbing at her. But he held firm, not willing to fight with her in front of all these soldiers but also keeping his fingers loose enough to not press into her reddened wrists. 

She went to swing at him, which made the situation worse as laughter began to bubble up from the crowd.

For the first time in anyone’s memory Sandor Clegane had a camp wife, and despite being blind, she still didn’t want to go with him. 

Fucking hells , he thought.

He refused to cow down to the pressure to get angry, and instead hauled her over his shoulder. He wasn’t sure what was worse – the laughter following at his back as he made his way across the ground to his tent at the edge of the clearing, or the hoots and hollers by those who obviously saw him carting off his spoils. 

~ ≈ ~

Some rational side of Sansa’s brain told her this was Clegane, the one who had found her and who had been gentle with her and who hadn’t attacked her while she slept next to him on the small pallet in his tent.

But the irrational side saw him as another source of pain.

When the other man had burst into the tent she didn’t have any time to process what was happening before she heard the sickening thud and pained grunt of someone’s fist connecting with someone else’s face. But it soon became clear that it was Jamis’ dark shadow slumping to the floor and someone sinister grabbing for her where she sat on the corner of the pallet.

As much as she had tried to scramble backwards, the man was faster than her clumsiness and her vain attempts at getting away from him while struggling with the folds of dress beneath her feet and hands. He had grabbed for her hair and had her beneath him in the time it took for her to realize she was like a sitting duck – barely dressed, a woman surrounded by men, and blind as well. 

She was terrified.

He had grabbed her wrists and pinned them, but when Sansa struggled against him he straightened and slapped her so hard she saw stars, the pain was excruciating and she felt blood drip into her mouth from the split corner of her lip.

Then the humiliating part started. It was the sunlight that alerted her to the fact that he had dragged her outside, all the while saying things about owning her now, stealing her from the Hound, and teaching her how a whore was supposed to act. 

She heard men around them then, even as she grabbed for his wrists and attempted to get him to loosen his grip on her hair. The pain was unbearable, and she felt the tears pour from her eyes as they quickly mixed in her mouth with the coppery taste of blood.

She didn’t know when she began to scream, didn’t even realize she was doing it until they came to a stop and she begged him to let go of her. Her face burned, her scalp felt like it was being torn off, and still he held her hair in an iron grip.

Sansa had never experienced anything more terrifying than this. This was no reenactment. There was no camera crew off to the side, no paramedics ready with first aid kits and an ambulance to take her to the hospital.

There was no denying the brutality to which she was now being exposed. She had travelled back in time, far enough that she now occupied a spot on the hierarchy of social status that was lower than a war horse.

Her heart hammered in her chest, even when she heard Sandor’s voice as she struggled against the man’s fist.

“Let her go…”

“She’s mine…”  

The voice was the man who still held onto her hair.

“You took her…”

“You never laid claim to her…”  

Laid claim? If not for the pain in her hair and her crippling blindness, now would have been a time when she should have stood for women's rights and proclaimed herself her own person, no one’s property.

But she supposed women really weren’t allowed or expected to do that in this time – whatever medieval period she had somehow, tragically ended up.

She had just managed to get her feet beneath her when the soldier yanked hard on her hair, causing her to stumble sideways as pain bloomed across her scalp. 

Clegane , she thought desperately – he was there somewhere. 

He had promised he wouldn’t hurt her.

In vain she looked around, knowing she wouldn’t be able to see him. But he had to be there, was arguing with the man about to whom she belonged. He would save her. He would!

She pulled on the soldier’s hand once more and he pushed her this time, causing her to stumble away from him and fall over. It was when she cautiously scrambled to her feet that he made the announcement.

“She’s blind…”

In her shame at being uncovered in front of what apparently was a crowd of men, and her terror at being held prisoner again, and her confusion and anxiety over not knowing what was going to happen to her, she almost missed the references to the Hound, who must have been Clegane, and his ugly mug

Clegane had called himself hideous earlier when she had woken up in his tent; said he knew what she saw when she looked at him. What did that mean?

But she didn’t have time to ponder it now, not while bracing herself for the next hand that was going to hit her or bruise her, or the next man who was going to drag her to his tent, without the ability to see any of it coming. She felt herself trembling and knew a fear unlike anything she had ever experienced, her mind attempting to sort through Clegane’s words – ”She’s not a whore… my camp wife… under my protection…”

What?

Then a hand was wrapping around her already sore wrist and she panicked, only to be hauled over a broad shoulder. She beat into his back with her fists, unable to discern whether the man who carried her was indeed Clegane. A strong arm banded around her legs and armor dug into her stomach, but still she beat at him, crying and yelling incoherently while long strides took her to gods–knew–where. She could hear the cheers of men urging on the Hound, saying crude things sometimes in words she didn’t understand but which meaning was clearly understood.

It didn’t take long for him to reach his tent, and she felt him stoop to enter, her fists beating at his back, his shoulders, his chest as he stood and let her slide down his front. 

Then those same strong arms that had held her firmly against his body did so again, pinning her arms between them as he crushed her to his chest, heedless of her struggles and kicks to armor–plated shins.

But then he spoke, and it cut through the haze of despair and terror that threatened to overtake the last vestiges of her sanity. Sansa stilled as she heard his quiet, calm command.

“Hush, little bird. You’re alright now.”

Sandor’s voice, his words; they were authoritative and reassuring, comforting in ways Sansa didn’t understand, and while all the fight left her, it was the panic that had settled into her heart that had her grasping for edges of his armor to hold her up while she sobbed into old leather. Her mind registered that the imminent threat had been neutralized, but her body was on high alert, and she held onto the only person she had a shred of a chance of relying on in this, her time of great need.

His arms loosened around her and he held on, making Sansa grateful for that one small thing. But then reason began to return and she realized this man had just called her his camp wife , that though he had saved her from that monster of a soldier, she was in his tent, and would now likely stay in his tent.

It was fear of him that had her pushing away from him, that had the trembling resurging as his gloved hands slid away from her body and she lowered herself to the floor, feeling about as her hands landed on the pallet. 

Uncertainty and pain drove her to the corner of the tent beyond the pallet, curling up in a ball and hiding her face in her knees as she rested one hand on her sore scalp.

Over and over she replayed the events in her mind, all that had happened to her since she had slipped out of the castle and into the godswood to enjoy the warm pools two days ago. Waking up to Clegane carrying her, his murmured assurances that he had mirrored just now, the uncertainty and speaking with Jamis. 

Figuring out that she had in fact travelled through time and somehow ended up here.

For that reason she knew the treatment by the soldier was one she could expect to happen again if she left this tent, if Clegane left her unattended. Back then – now, rather – women were possessions, and an army full of men was a bad place for a blind young woman to find herself. And she had no doubt now that what Jamis had said was true – that tens of thousands of men were outside this tent, waiting to get their hands on her. And it terrified her.

Poor Jamis, she didn’t even have the urge to ask about him. But she heard Clegane trying to rouse the young man, the moans that came as he regained consciousness. Struggling to make sense of all that was happening, she listened as the two men spoke in low voices, hearing no censure from Clegane over Jamis’ lapse in protecting her the very first time Clegane left her in the young man's care. 

By the sounds of it, the other soldier – Meryn Trant, she gathered – likely would have gone to any lengths to get his hands on her. 

The fact made her shiver.

Chapter Text

Jamis soon recovered, and while Clegane attended to something on the other side of the tent, Sansa lifted her face and shied away from the shadow that approached her slowly – Jamis.

“My lady, I need to apologize for what happened.” 

He sounded sincere and as he settled a short distance from her, she sensed he wasn’t done speaking. 

“I am sorry my ineptitude caused you harm and grievance, and I am humbly asking for your forgiveness. Had I known Trant would be so brazen as to attempt this in broad daylight, I would have been ready.”

She heard him move and thought that perhaps he had reached out, so she instinctively leaned away, her entire being rejecting the thought of anyone’s touch. The last thing she wanted was to feel a man’s hands on her – not after all the pain and anguish Trant had put her through. Her wrists still hurt, and her cheek was sore. She knew she would taste dried blood if she allowed her tongue to venture out; could feel it crusted on her lips; and that her hair would be a mess and her scalp painful where he had gripped her hair.

Jamis apparently got the message, as he settled once again beside her, silent for a moment as Clegane worked. When he spoke again his voice was honest and true, his vow spoken strongly.

“That will not happen again, my lady. I will not allow it. I will not let my guard fall – ”

“And you’ll keep a fucking weapon on you,” said Clegane, closer now than he was before. Sansa jumped at the sound of his voice so near, being loud even when he seemed to be trying to speak somewhat softly. “Your sword,” he muttered, as though that much should have been obvious. “And this dagger, Jamis.” 

Sansa sensed an exchange next to her but she refused to look, since it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. Being slapped in the face didn’t suddenly make her vision return.

“Use the dagger in close quarters such as the tent,” Clegane was saying, his tone only slightly irritated now. Jamis didn't move but she knew he was listening as well. “I don’t care if Trant returns – you use it on anyone who tries to take her.”

There was silence, though Sansa could hear the larger man’s breathing even though he stood tall above her and Jamis.

“I need you to get some things…”

Jamis rose and the two men spoke by the tent opening – Clegane more than Jamis, though every now and then there would be an affirmative reply from the younger man. 

Sansa let her mind drift, feeling the absence of danger with both of them in the tent, though still reeling from her realization of earlier about how she came to be here, and of the events of the afternoon. Though what she felt couldn't be described as calm with everything that had happened, she at least felt safer now, even when Jamis left. She knew it was because the kindness Clegane had extended to her. 

Rescuing her from her would be rapist, and taking her on as his camp wife – whatever that was – meant Clegane wasn’t going to turn her in. Had he gone through with that plan, she knew now that she was indeed in a war camp packed with an army full of men, back in a time in her country where women were used and abused on a regular basis. 

But despite the issues this might create in his own life, he had done it and had vowed in front of the group of men outside that he was now her protector. 

She hoped, as he had claimed, that he was a man of his word, and that he would keep his promise to protect her. Because of that she now felt a slight measure of calm in his presence, a change from just a little bit earlier when she thought that Trant’s abuse meant she would be afraid of every man she encountered in this time. It was as though Clegane’s actions covered the open wound of her new reality - making it no less disastrous and nightmarish, but possibly manageable to a certain extent.

And with that thought in mind, she knew it was imperative that she somehow figure out how to get back to her own time. If the process had anything to do with the heated pool she was found beside, she needed to get back to that location as quickly as she could. 

But how was she supposed to broach that subject with a soldier who would likely think her daft for the possibility? A soldier who, in all actuality, would likely have to be her accomplice in any scheme she managed to drum up. She struggled between wanting to blurt it out now, and knowing he would likely write her off as being insane. But she found the notion of waiting and attempting to befriend him so that he would be more willing to listen to her reprehensible. Sansa was not a false person, and the idea of playing the part of submissive captive didn’t sit well with her as much as she wanted to remain curled up in a ball and hidden away in the corner of Clegane’s tent.

One month. She had a month before they were due to leave for King’s Landing. What could she possibly do in that amount of time to convince him to take her back to that pool? Should she tell him outright her theory on how she’d gotten here? Or convince him by some other means? Although the only other reason for her to go to the pool, in a time before indoor plumbing and what now felt like the miraculous invention of water heaters, would be to bathe…

So maybe tomorrow – she would tell him she wished to bathe since by then she would have gone three days without a shower. Feeling a tiny spark of hope, she tried to remember anything she had done two days ago when she had gotten to the pool, wondering if she had in some way triggered something that had sent her back in time. But there didn’t seem to be anything other than her stripping out of her clothes and slowly lowering herself down into the pool. The last thing she remembered was slipping below the surface to wet herself completely, and then there was nothing.

No, she wouldn’t tell him about the time travel. She would try the bath story, and only if that didn’t work would she reveal her theory.

She was startled out of her thoughts when she realized abruptly that he was sinking to the pallet, though further from her than Jamis had done. Sansa didn’t look in his direction, not only because she knew she wouldn’t be able to see anything but also because even if she had been able to, she wouldn’t have wanted to make eye contact with him right now, not after he had witnessed her treatment by Trant, and had been forced to rescue her after insisting he needed to turn her in to his commanding officers as a Northern traitor.

He sat still beside her and she sensed him watching her, so she stared ahead at the wall of the tent, knowing it was there but not really knowing how far away from her it was. 

“Here,” he said quietly, and her eyes darted towards him before returning to the tent wall. “I want you to keep this on you, and use it on anyone who tries to take you.”

His voice was deep but softened somewhat, still raspy but inexplicably gentle for a man w ho seemed as frightening and intimidating as he . She saw the shadow of his hand beside her as he leaned over and held out something, obviously intending her to take it. 

She thought about not taking it, but then realized he was giving her something that she could use to protect herself. Slowly, bracing herself for – she didn’t even know what. Him to hit her? Him to grab her wrist?

But nothing came, and she opened her hand flat, palm up, knowing she would be groping around for whatever it was he was giving her.

Very gently, he laid the object in her hand and then pulled his own away, remaining where he sat while she squeezed her hand around the hard, smooth surface. 

She brought her other hand over to feel it and he murmured, “Careful,” still sounding somewhat gruff.

While heeding his advice she used her fingers to explore what she soon realized was a knife - just as her finger slid along the edge of the blade and sliced into her skin.

“Ouch!” she exclaimed, dropping the knife to the ground in front of her. 

“Fucking hells, woman. I told you to be careful.” 

The pain was no more than a bad papercut but Sansa felt a bit of panic anyway, realizing she couldn’t even tell how bad the small injury was. Sansa heard movement from beside her and suddenly her hand was grasped inside a much larger one, the panic she felt a moment ago increasing exponentially as it was tugged away from her.

Instantly she pulled back, extricating her hand from his grasp and clutching it to her chest as though he had burned her. 

“Woman -” Clegane began, and he grunted again, the sound disapproving, “I’ll tend to the cut,” he said, as though that would be explanation enough.

When she didn’t return her hand to him, a normal person might have tried to pacify her. But instead he said in an irritated tone, “I told you to be careful.”

“Yes, well, you could have just told me you were handing me a knife,” Sansa spat back at him, irritated that he was irritated. Who did that kind of thing?

His voice rising, Cegane said, “I wouldn’t have to if I didn't have a bloody woman in my tent!”

Sansa’s ire increased, almost a welcome reprieve from the worry. 

“If I had my sight you wouldn’t have a bloody woman in your tent!” She could have run, could have escaped, instead of being stuck in the care of this beast of a man. The gravity of her head injury coupled with her predicament was enough to make her blood boil. The Gods must have felt like playing a cruel joke on her.

“Give me your fucking hand,” he growled, and a flash of white moved in front of him. A bandage? She wouldn’t give him the satisfaction, not if she was such a burden. 

“I’ll tend to it myself, thank you very much,” she replied sarcastically. From what she could see of him, sitting so tall and dark beside her, he seemed satisfied with her answer because he sat back, his form seeming to settle into his seated position on the other end of the pallet.

“Aye?” He asked, his tone dubious. Sansa nodded once, holding her injured hand in the other, feeling a small sense of victory now that he had stopped arguing with her. That is, until he spoke again as he rose from his seat.

“Show me.”

Shoot. He called her… was it a bluff? Or just an unintentional lie? Because Sansa didn’t have anything to tend the cut with, and she could feel a trickle of blood making its descent down her finger.

She looked down, not knowing how much blood was there although it felt like only a little. She remembered all the times her brothers had gotten a cut or a splinter and their knee jerk reaction to put the wound inside their mouth. The taste of blood had always made Sansa want to gag. Feeling the urge rise inside her, she ignored it. She wasn’t some simpering female, one who needed protection. Usually.

A sound came from Clegane’s direction, something that sounded like half of a laugh and half of another one of his disgusted grunts, before he lowered his form back to the pallet beside her.

“Give me that,” he said, brooking no argument this time as he grasped her wrist and pulled the finger from her mouth with an unrelenting hold. Before she could protest she felt a damp cloth being run over her finger and the back of her hand, his grasp warm but solid as he administered to her cut.

“I could do that myself,” she said obstinately, although she didn’t pull her hand from his grasp. After the treatment she had received by Trant, Clegane’s gentleness almost felt good. His hands were slightly rough, hands of someone who worked with them every day, and she could tell they were large, probably matching his overall size.

In her mind she heard Arya’s voice say crudely, “You know what they say about a man with large hands…” She turned her face away from him so he wouldn’t see her embarrassed blush at thinking such a thought.

After just a few seconds Clegane stopped, dropping the cloth into her hand before picking up the knife in front of her. Sansa turned back to him as he rose once again.

“Clean your face,” he advised, and Sansa was reminded of the crusted blood on her lips. Watching his large shape walk to the other side of the tent, she used the cloth to wipe her tender face, not knowing if she got it all but figuring she had at least removed all the crusty blood. After a moment he returned and she gave him the cloth, only to feel it replaced in her hand by something else.

“Leave it in the sheath until you need it,” Clegane said dryly, and Sansa shot him a look that said she knew exactly what he was talking about, hoping that her gaze had landed at least near his own eyes.

The knife was now in a sheath made out of leather, and it was small, fitting perfectly in her hand. It felt good – knowing that she could do some real damage to the next man who thought he could boss her around.

Or hit her, or abuse her, or rape her, as absurd as it sounded in her mind to even think those things.

But she supposed, when in Dorne, do as the Dornish do . And the gods protect her – she was definitely far from home. If protecting herself was necessary in this time, than she would do what had to be done.

The sheath was weighted at the tip, with a braided leather string long enough to hang around her neck. He must have been watching her because as she ran the woven leather through her fingers, he said, “Wear it inside your dress.”

And that was it. He just returned to the other side of the tent, leaving her to ponder the gruff soldier who held her as she cried, almost willingly tended to her wounds, and gifted her with a dagger small enough to fit her hand. 

Sansa was confused about where she was, what she was wearing, what she was going to do, and how she was going to survive until she got home.

And now she was confused by her combined fear of, and thankfulness for, her captor-turned-savior.

~ ≈ ~

Sandor awoke in the middle of the night, the low rumble of activity outside the tent a constant reminder he was part of an army that never completely slept.

He didn’t know what had woken him, so he stayed still, listening as the fog of sleep slowly dissipated. He heard nothing from Jamis’ tent, now situated right beside his own, nor from the stubborn woman who had fallen asleep curled up in the corner on the ground. She had refused to sleep on the pallet with him, and he’d be damned if he’d freeze sleeping in a chair just because she wanted to be frozen. He wasn't giving up sleeping in comfort, and she needed to get over her fear or pride or whatever it was, and know what was best for her.

He didn’t want to scare her, didn’t want to make her think in any way that he would ever be like Trant. So he had dropped the subject, irritated as it made him, and just left her there in the corner, although he made sure to stay awake long enough that he heard her soft, even breathing signalling sleep.

Sandor thought back to the events of the day and how she had spent the entire rest of the evening in the corner of the tent. Jamis had given her a small plate of food, of which she ate very little, and Sandor noted the squire – his squire, he had to remember now – had cut everything into small pieces for her. She had thanked him, but as Sandor watched her eat, the smaller pieces looked more manageable than if he had given her the big pieces he had had in mind.

Jamis also had to remind Sandor that Sansa needed privacy before heading to bed so that she could use the chamber pot. It was something else Sandor wouldn’t have thought of, seeing as how men pissed right next to each other and didn’t say shit about anything. And if they did, they often left with a fist-shaped mark on their jaws.

Thinking that thought reminded Sandor now of the welt on Sansa’s cheek, and how before they turned in for the night the area around that skin was an angry red, and the welt itself was a dark red-purple. It had to hurt, as did the now swollen split lip. 

Sandor had seen a woman become victim of abuse before, but this woman… He stopped short of telling himself she affected him in any way. He wanted to inflict the same pain on Meryn that the man had given Sansa, but he told himself it was because his own mother had suffered a time or two at his brother Gregor’s hands. The indignation and anger in young Sandor had been dredged up again today, although he had managed to keep it hidden behind self righteous irritation.

When he and Jamis had stepped outside, Jamis informed him of all the odd things Sansa had said when Sandor was gone that day, first of which was explaining she had wanted a toy-let when he had offered her a chamber pot. She also asked him if he was an actor, and didn’t believe their army was seventy thousand soldiers. 

She also revealed that she wasn’t a maiden, nor a widow, nor a princess. None of that made any sense to Sandor. If she wasn’t a virgin and wasn’t a widow, then that could mean she was a whore, or married. She could also have been a victim of abuse, but if she indeed wasn’t blind until he found her at the pool than he couldn’t imagine a woman like her allowing herself to become a victim. 

She was strong-willed; it was her blindness that made her helpless. Lesser women would have submitted almost immediately to Trant, knowing full well the repercussions of being undefended in a camp full of men. Sansa, however, seemed to fight Trant every step of the way, which in itself could have been construed as insanity.

Perhaps he should contact a maester…

A soft groan sounded from the corner and he rose onto one elbow to look over at her. It was dark but she was close – he could reach out to touch her if he wanted to – and so when a chatter sounded from her body, he could hear it clearly.

He cursed quietly. Stubborn woman indeed. She was going to freeze to death trying to sleep on the ground like that. He would know – he had spent plenty of nights on campaign sleeping on similar ground, and he nearly froze even when sleeping on a bedroll. She didn’t even have that small comfort.

Well, he wasn’t going to let her die during the night. The last thing he needed was for the men to find out that a day after he had claimed her as his camp wife, Sandor had somehow killed her. Fuck him , he’d be ostracised even more than he already was. 

He rose quietly and pushed his cloak aside, then reached for Sansa. She wasn’t a short woman by any means but he easily picked her up. 

If not for bumping his foot against the corner of the pallet, she likely would have stayed asleep the whole time. But that movement jarred her awake and suddenly he had a thrashing woman in his arms. It was all he could do to wrestle her down to the pallet, her back to his front, his arms wrapped tightly around her middle like manacles.

“Cease, woman – cease! ” 

But she wouldn’t, and she landed a couple good kicks to his shins before he also threw his leg over hers and effectively pinned her. “You will freeze in the corner,” he said angrily, before checking his temper and attempting to tone down his voice; no easy feat for someone who spent all day yelling at soldiers. He still sounded gruff even to his own ears, but she irritated him to no end. “So unless you wish to die during the night I advise you to keep still.” 

Still she fought although she remained silent, and Sandor thought that he knew what was going on. He had to push aside his annoyance and focus on the fact that what she had gone through that day was likely incredibly traumatic for her, and that struggling against a man who wanted to control her and make her do his bidding was probably going to be her reaction to any similar situation.

He needed a different tactic, and he recalled how in the last couple of days there had been a couple instances where she responded positively to him if he spoke to her calmly. It could work, and he was really hoping to get some sleep, so by that point he was willing to try just about anything short of shoving her back off the pallet to fend for herself.

Leaning in close, he spoke quietly into the soft shell of her ear, hoping it would break through her waking terror and that she would understand him. 

“It’s sleep I want, little bird. Just sleep.”

He waited, her thrashing slowing and then finally coming to a halt, but tension still radiated from her body. She wasn’t going to make this easy.

Her legs were rigid, and one of her hands gripped his arm through his tunic, her nails like claws digging into his skin. Sandor shushed into her hair which, still knotted, smelled sweet. It annoyingly fanned the low thrum of desire for her that seemed to have taken root deep inside his body, but he ignored it, focused on getting both of them back to sleep.

Setting the thoughts aside, he inhaled deeply, taking the liberty of enjoying her scent while letting her feel his expanding chest and his slow, even breaths. He used a similar tactic on her as he did on his war horse, Stranger, the only thing in this life he cared about. 

Beneath his arm he could feel Sansa’s breathing slow, and bit by bit her body relaxed – her legs, her torso, and then she allowed him to bring his arm up to pillow his own head. Her spine stiffened when he reached for the cloak and drew it over the top of both of them, but otherwise she remained motionless.

“Sleep, Sansa,” he ordered, exhaling into her hair as loose strands tickled his face. She kept a space between their bodies, leaning slightly forward to make it so, but she didn’t object and after a time even brought her own arm up to pillow her head.

He almost wished she had said something, but figured she may in the morning. He could easily picture that blind, vacant stare as she let loose a piece of her mind, going on about propriety and space and sharing a bed with a man. But then again, he could also just as easily picture her cowering in the corner again. The former had won out over the latter thus far, but he knew the timid bird was hovering just below her surface.

“I won’t harm you, little bird,” he spoke into the quiet darkness surrounding them, using the nickname that had come to him when he’d found her asleep in the grass beside the pool. She must have been comfortable because she didn't move again.

It took a while but he stayed awake until her breaths were once again deep and even, and he rested his other arm over his hip, feeling the slight chill at his back from where the cloak didn’t quite reach the pallet, sealing in the warmth. 

Fuck . He didn’t want to move, and he didn’t want to adjust it, for fear of waking her up. 

It was just one night. Tomorrow he would do better at situating them both equally on the pallet and under the cloak. 

With the same pleasant fragrance wafting up to his nose from her hair like it was now, he had to admit he wouldn’t mind at all.

~ ≈ ~

Sansa awoke sometime later, startled at first to feel the solid length of a man’s body behind hers, and the unfamiliar heavy weight of his arm draped over her waist. The closeness terrified her for brief moments as clarity came through her, but then she remembered all that had happened in the last few days and felt tears fill her eyes when the sounds of the army outside filtered into the quiet inside the tent.

Clegane. By this point she was certain he hadn’t abducted her. He had indeed found her by the pool after she travelled from her time into this one. Then not only had he covered her naked form and brought her back to camp, but through a series of unfortunate events, had vowed to take care of her and to protect her.

And now she was sleeping on his small bed for the second time, only this time his back wasn’t to her but rather her back was to him . They were spooning, she thought with a grimace, and when Sansa should have felt panic at not knowing him and affront that he would take this type of liberty, she instead became aware of how agreeable it was, how perfectly she seemed to curve around his knees, how his broad chest warmed her back and his arm around her was more comfort than cage.

He was breathing evenly, deeply asleep, and for the first time in two days Sansa was able to breathe easily and without fear of any imminent danger. 

It was all because of the man laying behind her.

With the low rumble of voices, of creaking wood and what sounded like swords being sharpened, there was no doubting she was in an army encampment. The thought terrified her and she shivered involuntarily, frightened at what might happen if she didn’t find a way home soon. 

With her movement, Clegane’s arm tightened around her briefly and she felt him sigh into her hair before he resumed his long, deep breaths. She stopped just short of admitting to herself that the closeness felt… good.

She wished she could see. A small part of her knew it would be a sight – that whatever time she had dropped into, seeing what was outside this tent would be something that possibly no one from her time would ever get to do. It was sort of a gift in a way, although a fairly violent one. Her cheek still smarted, and she tested the tenderness of her lip with her tongue. That, paired with the scrape on her shoulder from her disoriented fall inside the tent made her feel like she had been tossed into a washing machine on the spin cycle.

She did not wish to see this Meryn Trant who had beaten her so, and who had attempted to steal her away from Clegane. As far as she was concerned, Trant was her enemy, and she wished to avoid him at all costs. Thinking of his hands on her, the things he had said to her and the way he had dragged her through the camp by her hair made her feel queasy, and she knew she had never known such terror in her safe, protected life at Winterfell. 

Sansa had never been on the receiving end of domestic violence. It was always something that happened to other people, on the handful of occasions she had heard about it happening. 

Now she knew what it felt like to be considered less than . And she would be even more less than now if not for the sleeping man behind her.

Still, she didn’t know him. Reaching beneath the cloak, she grasped the rough fabric at his wrist and with great effort, lifted his arm up and off her. He pulled it back in his sleep, sniffing and smacking his lips before settling back down again. Then she moved forward slightly, enough that their bodies were no longer touching.

His torso still warmed her with a small space between them, so she settled and managed to fall back asleep.

Chapter Text

She must have been dreaming of what Trant would have done to her, because Sansa awoke a while later with a quiet sob escaping her lips as tears slid down her nose and temple. She immediately thought that, if not for Clegane – if he hadn’t stepped up and rescued her from the other soldier; done something he was under no obligation to do, and something she knew he hadn’t wished to do – she would be in much worse shape right now than what she was. 

She unsuccessfully tried to bite back another sob, as the arm that was around her waist once again tightened in reassurance. Sansa stiffened at the contact, and then sniffed, bringing a hand up to wipe at her face.

Clegane shushed her, but her body shuddered with a silent sob she wasn’t able to hold back, and now she felt bad for waking him. As ornery and stubborn as he seemed to be, he was beginning to feel like the only thing keeping her grounded in this storm.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered, feeling his breath in her hair although he remained motionless behind her. And she was sorry – for being a burden, for being blind and helpless, for making him step up when he obviously didn’t want the responsibility of watching over her. He had taken on Jamis full time as a squire to aid in the endeavor, and he didn’t seem too happy about that either.

“Just… for everything,” she explained lamely, conscious that she did not want to open up to anyone here, but powerless to deny her people pleasing nature by not letting it be known how thankful she was. Then she felt silly for talking, and she gave a small shake of her head. “I’m sorry for waking you.”

He was silent, and for a few moments she just lay there listening to the hum of the camp around them. She could hear men talking though she couldn’t make out what anyone was saying. It was more of just the low murmur of voices, the only thing discernible about them being how deep they were. Around them she heard fires crackling, and the song of a lone sparrow breaking through the nighttime hum.

When Sansa thought Clegane had gone back to sleep, she simply rested, feeling oddly comforted by his presence, if a little uncomfortable with his arm around her waist. She had removed it once and he’d put it back, which was curious. He wasn't moving, and there was no sign of arousal as there had been that first day, though, so she felt… safe.

As safe as she could be in a medieval army camp surrounded by tens of thousands of men who apparently wanted to use her as a plaything.

When Clegane spoke his voice was deeper than any she heard outside, the grating quality of it coming from just behind her ear and sending an inexplicable shiver up her spine. His arm twitched as her body calmed, but he didn’t remove it.

“No need to be sorry,” he said, his breath warm in her hair. He paused and against her back she felt him take a deep breath and sigh. It was then that she came to the full realization of just how close they were. She was once again pressed to his full length, from her shoulders against his chest to her heels pressing into his shins. She was about to pull away, about to put space between them when he spoke again, words that made her pause.

“You didn’t ask for this.”

Sansa couldn’t help it. She huffed a single harsh laugh, both at his still irritated tone and at the truth of his words.

“You can say that again.”

It was his turn to pause, and after a moment he let out a grunt that Sansa took to mean he wanted an explanation.

“Nothing. It’s just… thank you for what you did yesterday. And for the knife,” that still hung from her neck. She doubted she would ever take it off.

Again he was silent, though by now she had heard that he was a man of few words. Or rather, a man who chose not to speak often, which she could appreciate. In this time it must have been a survival tactic.

They laid there for a while, long enough that Sansa thought yet again he might have gone back to sleep. But then he adjusted one foot, his knee sliding against the back of hers, and he made a sound like he was clearing his throat. 

She wondered if he had put his arm over her in sleep or if he had done it consciously. Propriety dictated he remove it, and yet he didn’t seem inclined to do so. The fact that its presence only partly bothered her niggled at her mind.

“What’s a.... camp wife?” she asked quietly, hesitatingly in case he was falling asleep. She felt his breathing stop for a second behind her, enough to know it was probably a question he hadn’t expected her to ask. But it seemed important, since apparently it signified she somehow belonged to him and, as he’d said, was under his protection. It sounded more significant than being his captive, which apparently she was not. Not really – she was more a captive of her blindness and was being forced to rely on him now, instead.

After a moment he answered harshly, as though it was a line of questioning he didn’t wish to explore. She almost wished she hadn’t asked.

“Like a whore but more permanent.”

Well

She hadn’t expected that answer. And it was quite obvious she was not offering a whore’s services, but was he planning on taking them? 

Sansa opened her mouth and took a breath to speak again but Clegane beat her to it.

“A wife,” he said haltingly, as though he wished to explain it better, “Who follows the husband to war.”

Sansa considered that for a moment, still unsure of his motives and wondering exactly what it entailed. But if she managed to convince him to take her to the pools tomorrow, would she be here long enough to worry about it?

“So they’re married?”

Behind her, Sandor grunted. She thought he sounded displeased with the idea.

“Nay.”

“So a man can say a woman is his camp wife and that makes it so?”

He paused before answering. Sansa wondered if it was merely a time when one of Clegane’s truths was explained out loud, something he had taken for granted his whole life but had never heard put into words.

“Aye.”

Interesting, and horrifying. Like one of Arya’s pickle cupcakes. 

She swallowed and paused before asking her next question.

“Like you did?”

He paused as well, before answering. Somewhere in the distance a sparrow chirped.

“Aye.”

She thought about this, wondering what about the declaration made the position a protected one. It seemed possessive, although she had to admit if she had the choice between being Trant’s unwilling whore and Clegane’s willing camp wife, the latter sounded vastly more appealing. 

Unless…

“Am I expected to… you know.” 

She didn’t want to say it out loud, but he obviously knew what she was saying. She could feel the redness creep into her cheeks at having to voice that stunted question out loud.

His voice was gruff, almost exasperated when he answered, “Nay. I’ll not expect that of you, Sansa.” 

So it seemed as though yesterday he had thrown the camp wife title out there merely as a formality, a way to get Trant to leave her alone. For that she was grateful. Sex wasn’t something that had even entered her mind. Not that she was a prim and proper lady in modern times, but she didn’t have sex with just any soldier who happened to wander by. 

He abruptly turned to lay on his back, removing some of the warmth of him and leaving only his arm against her spine. He settled, making sure he was covered by the cloak and stopped moving, though Sansa wondered what had made him upset.

He had protected her, had claimed her, although she bristled at that word, all of her contemporary, modern feminist ideals that colored her opinions of how women should be treated screaming that she needed to be outraged. She couldn’t bring herself to be, though; not with Clegane openly claiming she was under his protection. He was willing to lend his name for her safety at seemingly no gain to himself. He certainly wasn’t acting like it was for the pleasure of her company.

With this knowledge, until she figured out how she could get home she needed to try better at staying on his good side, possibly not arguing so much. It seemed as though men of this time could be unpredictable, and although he had vowed never to hurt her, she didn’t want to press her luck. It would be so easy for him to change his mind and shove her off on the nearest unsuspecting soldier who might not be so kind.

Being careful to keep her dress pressed to her chest, she turned beneath the large fur cloak and lay on her other side, facing him. She couldn’t see him still, but knew it was the middle of the night with the darkness that still pervaded the space inside the tent. Still, she found herself not wanting him to be upset with her. He and Jamis could very well prove to be the only two people in this time who would look out for her well being, and with the blindness showing no signs of letting up, she was in desperate need of friends.

“I just… I don't know. I want to know what you expect of me.”

“I expect nothing, Sansa. Go to sleep.”

She was being dismissed, and oddly enough, it hurt. She had never been the type of person who could easily brush off the pain of being a disappointment to someone else, but this was different. The need to be on good terms with him was even more pronounced with her lack of sight, and if she couldn’t read his facial expressions, she felt that she needed to draw from this reticent giant the verbal affirmations her eyes could not discern.

In a quieter voice she said, “Would you please let me know if there’s anything I can do to…” She didn’t know what to say here, but knew there had to be something. She finally landed on, “Earn my keep?” And waited for him to reply.

She heard him move and realized he had turned his face to her, but he didn’t reply. Instead she felt him staring at her in the darkness, long enough to make her slightly uncomfortable.

When he finally spoke he no longer sounded as annoyed as he had a minute ago.

“Aye, I will.”

She wished she could see him, but when she lifted her eyes to about where his face would be, there was only a slightly darker shadow than the space behind him. She wanted to know if he looked kind, or if he looked the part of the fearsome warrior. There had been no argument when he’d taken her from Trant and walked away, so she wondered if he held some sort of respected role in the army.

Thinking about that situation made her remember what Trant had said about her blindness, something that had cut through her pain- and panic-laced fog; that it was somehow fitting that the Hound – Clegane, she presumed – had found himself a blind whore who couldn’t see his ugly mug. 

Then there was that conversation they’d had the day she had woken in his tent.

“What were you going to say the other day?” she spoke quietly, staring into the vicinity of his face, “When you were… holding me down.” She swallowed, not sure if she wanted to pursue this but already too far into it to halt the progress without sounding odd. “You said you knew what I saw when I looked at you, that I would see a hideous something. I interrupted you to tell you I couldn’t see you.”

His face turned away then, and she wished even more fervently that she could see his expression, attempt to read his thoughts and emotions by what was on his face.

“Best forget you heard that, girl. You’ll be happier for it.”

Not wanting him to just put off her question, she persisted.

“But Trant seemed to think that my blindness was somehow a good fit for you – ” she pressed, but he interrupted her, turning his face even further away from her, so that he was facing the opposite side of the tent.

“Go to sleep. I’ll not talk of this now.”

He was back to being moody, as she could hear it in his voice. Somehow talk of his appearance had displeased him, and she wondered why. Perhaps Jamis would speak to her when she saw him in the morning. 

There was one last thing to say before she obeyed him and went back to sleep. 

“Thank you, Clegane. For... everything.”

It was like he had to think about everything she said before he replied, and this time was no different. His mumbled “You’re welcome” came a moment later, but was then followed by something she hadn’t expected.

“Sandor,” he said quietly, sounding tired but also a little irritated. She suspected that was his natural intonation.

“Sandor?”

“My name is Sandor. You may call me that when we are alone.”

Then he was quiet and he shifted again, getting comfortable.

“Sandor,” she tested, feeling the smooth flow of syllables that rolled off her tongue. It was an odd name, one she hadn’t heard of before, but it fit him.

“Good night, Sandor,” she replied quietly, and she tucked her chin down towards her chest, not expecting a reply. She could still feel his warmth under the cloak even though now they weren’t touching, and she knew it wouldn’t be long before she was lulled back to sleep. 

Just before it happened she heard him murmur, “Good night, Sansa.”

~ ≈ ~

Sandor was dreaming, that Sansa was his camp wife in truth. They laid on the pallet together, her knees pressed against the side of his leg, her arms wrapped around one of his. He turned his face towards her, hearing no sounds outside the walls of his tent. They were alone – well and truly; safe and peaceful, without threat of war or terrorizing soldiers to rob them of what he realized was a deep feeling inside his heart, long thought dead.

Joy. It was so foreign to him that it took him a moment to realize it, as he buried his nose into her hair. He listened as she inhaled deeply, and exhaled with a soft sigh.

She was his, and he was hers, as the septon had told him it should be.

~ ≈ ~

The following morning Sandor was gone when Sansa awoke, as stated by Jamis who sat just inside the tent flap. She heard a slightly grating, sliding sound, and realized he had waited until she awoke to sharpen the dagger Sandor had given him to protect her. She remembered the edge of hers and knew it didn’t need it. But even so, it would be a good thing to learn.

That was, unless she could convince Sandor she needed to go to the pool today and managed to succeed in her plan to get home.

“Good morning to you, my lady,” Jamis spoke, and Sansa held the cloak up to her neck. Was it cold outside? Was Sandor leaving her the cloak when he should have been using it?

“Good morning,” she said, having taken note of his quieter tone today. It felt immediate, this intuition that Jamis was indeed one of the good guys and that he genuinely felt bad for what happened yesterday. She didn’t want anything hanging between them, especially if they were still to spend the entire day together, so she chose to get it out of the way immediately.

“Jamis, I’m sorry for what happened – ”

“Nay!” he interrupted, then coughed to cover his blunder. “I mean, it is I who is sorry. I was taken unawares, and when I heard what Trant did to you I was sickened.” He set his things down on the small table and she saw him stop moving, perhaps looking in her direction. 

“It was bad,” she admitted with a small nod, “But not as bad as it could have been. If not for Sandor – ” She stopped when she realized she had used his first name. She wasn’t sure if Jamis should know Sandor had given her leave to use it.

But the younger man didn’t seem to notice, or if he did, he didn’t bring up any issue with it. He merely began talking.

“Aye, he told me what he did. You’re a great deal safer here today than you were yesterday. No one wants to trouble with the Hound, my lady. He is one of the best fighters in the army, if not the best.” He gave a short laugh, which made Sansa smile slightly. “You couldn’t have chosen a safer man than if you’d been able to see what you were doing.”

He sounded like he was still smiling but Sansa didn’t want him to think she had been calculating at all.

“Oh, it’s not like that, Jamis, I swear. You see, he found me , and brought me back here. I could just as easily have been found by anyone who happened to wander by those pools.”

“Aye, my lady, I understand. I wasn’t saying what you’re saying – I just meant that not many people mess with him, is all. Truth be told, the only reason why Trant likely did is because he was sent by the king to watch over the king’s uncle, Jaime Lannister.” Jamis grunted, as though the whole deal was ridiculous. “If not for his position in the commander’s guard, Trant would be no better than any other soldier in this camp and Clegane likely would have pounded him into the ground for what he did to you.”

Sansa laughed lightly, trying and failing to conjure an image of Sandor’s face as he punched a large meaty fist into a weasley smaller man.

Instead of voicing her thoughts she said, “I don’t know about that. I seem to annoy him more than anything.”

There was movement from Jamis, even though he didn’t rise from the chair.

“Nay, my lady – when I came awake from when Trant knocked me unconscious, Clegane’s face was unlike anything I’d ever seen. He was furious and at first I thought he would have me beaten. But I always forget there is something human about him, even if everyone around him always forgets.” He laughed quietly again, adding, “But you didn’t hear that from me.”

Sansa didn’t know what he meant by everyone forgetting Sandor was human, but she listened all the same, ready to absorb anything he had to say about the man.

“You are his concern now,” Jamis continued, “and between he and I, we think it’s possible to keep you safe, even though everyone in the camp knows about your blindness. But, my lady, you can never be alone, understand? ‘Tis too dangerous for you.”

After they had both found out how easy it was for someone to come in and abduct Sansa when she and Jamis were unawares, she felt certain they would both be more cautious from now on. She reached up and felt the dagger where it rested between her breasts and knew she would use it without hesitation. 

Now that they were both satisfied that they could put the events of the day before behind them, Jamis went about cutting up some food for her, which she insisted he didn’t have to do but he did anyway – ”You don’t need to eat like an animal simply because you can’t see.” 

They ate a small breakfast together, Jamis telling her about the daily activities of the camp, and as Sandor’s new squire, what his duties would be now that he was serving one soldier instead of many. 

Sansa used the chamber pot in the privacy of the tent and then sat on the edge of the pallet while he went to empty it just a short distance from the tent. The flap opened and closed, and she looked over out of habit, expecting to give Jamis thanks for all that he had done for her. 

But the shadow in the tent was much larger than Jamis’ and with her inability to see who it was, a sudden wave of panic choked her as she struggled to scramble backwards and scream at the same time.

Chapter Text

“Sansa! Sansa – ” 

She recognized the voice as Sandor’s even as the shadow just inside the tent opening lowered and came towards her. But her heart was beating rapidly and she blinked furiously, willing her vision to clear so she could determine whether this hulking figure was a friend or someone come to harm her.

Large hands landed on her shoulders, startling her just as she heard another voice – Jamis, she realized – as he entered the tent.

“My lady, be calm – Sansa, it’s me, Jamis, and Sandor. It’s us, my lady,” he soothed, his second shadow coming up beside Sandor’s larger frame. 

She lifted her gaze to both of them, her eyes darting back and forth between the shadows of the only two people who had shown an ounce of care for her since she had found herself in this godsforsaken camp, and she felt the panic flow from her as though a drain had opened at the bottom of her heart.

But the panic was quickly replaced by despair – the incessant blindness and the total feelings of helplessness and hopelessness descending like a fog until it choked the breath out of her. She covered her face with her hands, sobbing silently into them as she heard Sandor tell Jamis to leave them.

It took a couple moments but the younger man did, stating he’d be outside if they needed anything, and then Sandor simply sat on the pallet beside her, letting her cry as much as she needed to.

It turned out to be quite a bit, as she cried for herself while overcome with emotions surrounding her predicament, and finding herself here. 

She cried for her inability to protect herself, dagger notwithstanding.

She cried for what Trant did to her, and for how powerless he had made her feel.

And she cried for finding that in a time when women were usually seen as inferior and as material objects, she was more like a newborn fawn than the self-assured, confidant progeny of her two very strong parents who was raised to not take any shit from people; especially men.

When she was done she was exhausted from the emotion of it all – not feeling safe despite his and Jamis’ assurances, unable to see anything beyond blurry shapes and colors, so out of her element that it wasn’t even funny. Her cheek hurt, her lip still stung where it was split, and her scalp was in sore need of a hot shower stream to ease some of the discomfort. And here she was, using a chamber pot, having her meals cut up for her, and at the complete mercy of two men she had met merely forty-eight hours before. Nearly as helpless as a newborn babe, without the wherewithal to get herself back to her time. 

Which brought back to mind the thought that she needed to get back to the pool to see if she could figure out how to go home. She missed Winterfell desperately now, and was ashamed to find that it had taken this horrible experience to make her see how good she had it back home. How she missed Brienne! And her family - Arya and her brothers, and her mother and father. The thought of never seeing them all again squeezed at her heart painfully.

Sandor speaking brought her out of her thoughts, though she kept her face buried in her raised knees.

“I brought you some things,” he said gruffly, as though simple words didn’t come easily to him, and when she looked up he was bringing a light colored bundle to rest on his lap. He cleared his throat as if to speak but then remained silent, long enough that Sansa straightened and wiped at her face.

“I’m sorry for freaking out,” she said quietly, and he still didn’t say anything. She realized he probably didn’t know what that meant. “For crying, for getting scared because I didn’t know it was you.” 

Gods , she wondered how that made him feel – if it made him feel anything at all. Try as she might, she felt only a sliver of shame for her reaction. After all, he was one of the most massive men she had ever met. Enormous, even. There was a possibility she would be afraid of him even if she was in possession of her full sight and he came upon her unawares.

She swallowed, feeling her heartbeat calming now, those same sounds filtering in through the thin walls of the tent – men, horses, metal on metal. It was such a constant that Sansa was beginning to not hear it unless she made a point to.

“Aye,” was his reply, and she watched the blur in front of her work at the bundle and unfold it. 

He listed off the things inside, as though he had just gone to Wall-Mart with a shopping list. “Comb, soap, slippers, dress. If there’s anything else, tell me.”

He put them in her outstretched palm as he listed them, finishing with the dress. Sansa truly didn’t know what to say.

“What – ? How?” 

She lifted the soap to her nose and it was sweet, a sort of berry and flower fragrance that had her closing her eyes and smelling it deeply, using it to chase away the fear and panic of a few moments ago. 

“Sandor,” she breathed, shaking her head, “How did you get these things? They must have cost you a fortune.” 

The comb felt like it was made of wood, and the slippers were worn but seemed the right size. She didn’t know what the dress looked like but when she ran her hands over the fabric it felt fairly sturdy but comfortable, and in good condition, unlike the rag of a dress she currently wore.

“Aye, it did,” he admitted, but she heard the satisfaction in his voice when he continued, “But you needed them, and I have the means.”

She clutched the dress to her chest, wishing she could see his face.

“Thank you so much, Sandor. I… I’m so sorry for being such a pain in the butt, but thank you ,” she said earnestly. 

Then an idea occurred to her, and she hoped that when she voiced it she wouldn’t be ruining the moment with the lie she was about to tell.

“Do you think that, um… Do you think you could take me back to that pool so I could take a bath? I’d love to use the soap there,” she added, holding it up as though he wouldn’t know what she was talking about. 

“Aye,” he agreed gruffly after a moment, and then added, “Before dark. I’ll return before the evening meal and we’ll go then.” 

He rose and walked back towards the tent opening, pausing before exiting. 

“Best put that dress on now, and I’ll send Jamis back in when you’re done.” 

Then he was gone, and Sansa suddenly felt a wellspring of conflicting emotions bubble up from deep inside her. 

Sandor was kinder than she ever could imagine a fearsome warrior would be, and had shown her in his own way immeasurable kindnesses when compared to the treatment she’d received at Trant’s hands. He spoke to her respectfully most of the time – or at least without disdain, when she wasn’t doing something that irritated him – which was more than she could say for the other men here besides Jamis. And he continued to share his bed and cloak with her at night, despite the small size of the sleeping surface.

And now these gifts – soap and comb, slippers and dress. She didn’t know what to think. He said they were simply things she needed, but would another man have been so thoughtful?

She knew he assumed she would be with them for at least the entire length of their journey to King’s Landing, and although she would do anything to avoid that, she also knew she couldn’t tell him the truth – not without him thinking she was crazy and tossing her at the first random soldier who crossed his path. 

No, she needed to keep the time travel a secret.

But until she went home, which very well could be that afternoon, she wasn’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth. She pushed off the roughspun brown dress she had worn since arriving here and pulled on what she could now see through her severely blurred vision was a pale green gown made of two layers – a thicker off white under layer and the softer pale green outer layer.

After fiddling with it for a few minutes and trying it on both ways – with the lacing in the front and then the lacing in the back – she realized it was indeed meant to be laced up her back and knew immediately she wouldn’t be doing that alone. This wasn’t a simple whore’s dress, perhaps like the brown one. This one had been made for a woman with a personal maid. It wasn’t a ball gown, but nor was it a simple peasant’s dress.

The question was, after swallowing her pride, would she ask Sandor or Jamis to help her?

~ ≈ ~

A slim, pale hand extended through the tent flap and both men turned as Sansa’s voice came through the slight gap.

“Sandor?”

He stepped forward, grasping the impossibly soft fingers for just a moment to let her know he was there, before she pulled her hand back inside the tent.

“I, uh, need some help with the dress. Could you please?” 

Her voice was quiet, slightly embarrassed as though she really didn't want to ask this of him. He looked back at Jamis who was looking at him with a smile he wasn’t doing a damned thing to conceal. 

Fucking squire . He should be doing it.

But even as he thought that, he knew if she had asked Sandor it was because she wanted him to do it. She knew Jamis was out here and she hadn’t asked him. 

Sandor ignored the angry thought that appeared in his mind at the thought of Jamis helping her with this task, feeling for the thousandth time that she shouldn’t mean anything to him. But it was there – that spark of male satisfaction that she had chosen him over the other option.

If he were alone, he’d likely let loose a string of curses about how ignorant he was; how foolish it would be to form an attachment. Fucking women . That’s all they were good for.

When he lifted the tent flap and stepped in, letting it fall closed behind him, he turned to find her standing just on his side of the center pole, facing him. Her hair was pulled over one shoulder and her eyes were trained on the ground, her fingers laced demurely in front of her.

With one glance in his direction, her eyes not quite reaching past his chest – maybe to discern whether it was truly Sandor who had entered the tent – she gave a small nod and turned, putting her back towards him.

She had the gown on, and he was happy to see it extended all the way to the floor, which meant her tall form would be covered and away from prying eyes whenever they travelled. It seemed to fit her well, though when his roaming eyes landed at her waist he nearly turned around and walked out of the tent.

The dress was completely unlaced, the strings that would pull the sides of the gown closed falling down the back of the skirt nearly to the ground. This left a large swath of her back exposed to his gaze.

And what a back it was – smooth with no scars, nothing to mar its pale surface except for the freckles on top of her shoulders that dotted her upper back. She held her hair over one shoulder and out of the way, and not for the first time Sandor could appreciate the combination of fiery red hair with pale skin.

Even from behind, mostly clothed but with this slice of skin exposed, she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.

“I just need someone to lace the dress and tie it,” she explained, as though it was a simple task any idiot could do. 

She was probably right, but this idiot rarely slowed enough when he had a whore beneath him to undo their dress. Most often the woman simply hiked her skirts up, turned her face, and he was soon done and dropping coins into her hand.

“Aye,” he said, though his voice caught and he coughed. Stepping forward, he watched as she steadfastly remained perfectly still.

If he didn’t do something soon she was going to grow suspicious of why he was standing there staring at her, so he reached for the laces and began the task.

The first holes were so low that, had there been just one or two more, he would have seen the crevice in her bottom. As it was, Sandor had to keep his big, clumsy fingers from grazing the skin on the slope of her back, where he could see two dips on either side of her spine, just beneath the edges of the dress. He swallowed, suddenly feeling as though his tongue had turned to stone while the beat of his heart reminded him he was very much alive.

Alive, aroused, and pissed the fuck off. At himself, for sure, not at her. Well, a bit at her. After all, what right did she have to look like this, asking him for help instead of Jamis, and reminding him yet again that he had no business having a woman in his tent to slowly chip away at the boundaries he had erected around himself for years and years.

He laced the alternating sides, actively not paying attention to her body except to close his eyes whenever he got close enough to feel the warmth radiating off her skin, and consciously keeping his movements steady when he wanted to jerk the laces and yank them tightly shut. When he reached her upper back he was glad to be done, but he paused when he saw the small goose pimples spread over the backs of her shoulders.

An unexpected and unwelcome wave of uncertainty flooded through him, bringing with it more irritation and confusion. Could she still be afraid of him? And why the fuck did he care? His own emotions were confounding him, and it was all her fault. He continued his work, eyeing her frame and watching his own fingers betray him when they purposefully grazed her skin. Her shoulders twitched at the same time he heard her draw in a sharp breath.

His cock immediately hardened, and he hated himself for it. Hated her, too, at the same time his rational side told him it wasn’t her fucking fault. She was an innocent, and it wasn’t any of his damn business to lust after a woman who was going through what she was.

When he was working on the last loops she slowly turned her face to the side, and he caught sight of parted lips, her stare vacant as he tied the ties in a bow at the nape of her neck. Then she dropped her hair, and he felt his cock twitch inside his breeches, betraying him yet again. Her hair was combed through, straight as a pin but so sleek the image of him running his fingers through it swam through his mind. It had gotten quite tangled over the last couple of days and when the washer woman had asked him if he wanted a comb for his camp wife as well, he knew she would appreciate it.

He just hadn’t known what effect it would have on his budding attraction to her.

Beyond frustrated and without saying a word, but with his body humming with a whirlwind of emotions he hadn't felt the likes of since the days when he first sprouted whiskers, he turned and strode out of the tent and past a stunned Jamis.

“Tell her I’ll be back before dinner,” he muttered, and then went in search of recruits to take his anger out on.

~ ≈ ~

True to his word, Sandor returned just as Jamis’ stomach started rumbling. Sansa had spent the better part of the afternoon sitting in silence, bored out of her mind but not willing to ask Jamis anything about Sandor. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to know anything about him, but rather the dangerous consequences of finding out more intimidated her. Already her questioning had led to the discovery that she had travelled back in time. What more would questioning Jamis gain her? That there were mythical creatures outside the tent? That Clegane was a shape shifter? Was she secretly a hostage because she was the queen of Westeros?

Those thoughts pushed firmly aside to preserve her sanity, Sansas mind wandered to the dress she now wore, and the person who had given it to her.

It was a no brainer, asking Sandor to lace up the dress instead of Jamis. Jamis might have appeared to be the wiser choice, but despite his size and gruff demeanor, Sansa was much more comfortable with Sandor. She had already used the large man several times both for hands-off and embarrassing hands-on comfort, so it just made sense that she felt more comfortable with him helping her than Jamis.

But boy, had it been a mistake. 

What started out as nervousness while he was fiddling with the ties low on the back of the gown quickly morphed into something else, something altogether more potent than what she had expected. 

Her awareness was peaked at his presence behind her, and for some reason the fact that she couldn’t see him, now because her back was to him, made him seem larger, more towering and his size more imposing than any man she had ever met. He was at least a head taller than Robb, and her brother was the tallest person she knew. It did something to her insides, something strange that caused them to flutter, knowing that a man as big as him had willingly taken on the task of tying a woman’s laces. Hers, as it would happen; a strong warrior doing this small, menial favor.

It could have been the pauses though, that set her heart racing, where his hands ceased moving and she could hear him breathing. He drew large gulps of air into his lungs as though he worried the supply might be cut off. Knowing that he had stopped tying and was merely staring at her gave her goosebumps.

It might have been the way he tried his hardest to avoid touching her skin with his fingers as he worked his way up the edges of the dress, pulling at the fabric so it came away from her skin rather than allowing the contact she had inexplicably become curious about.

But then, it was probably all of it paired with the one time he did let his fingers brush against her – just the barest caress of his knuckle against her back. Again, she could hear him breathing, and when his breaths stopped at the contact, she hadn’t known she was going to gasp until it was already out of her mouth. She might have suspected he was unaffected if not for the way he rushed out of the tent after finishing, when she dropped her hair back down.

He had already shown her once that he was attracted to her – as unintentional as that moment on her first night there had been for him – but this was a dangerous game. It was disconcerting enough that she had to remind herself it was a game she didn’t want to play. She wanted to go home, and that was a goal she couldn’t let slide through her fingers even the slightest bit. She didn’t want to find anything in this time that she might actually miss when she left. She didn’t want to develop feelings for the big warrior who she couldn’t even see. And she didn’t want to lose even the smallest bit of her heart to a man who only kept her around because she was an obligation.

She needed to keep her distance, except for when it was impossible such as at night, when they were in bed. So with that in mind – and her soap in her pocket – when he came to retrieve her for the short walk to the godswood pools, she put on the slippers that fit just right and vowed she would get to the godswood without aid from him other than telling her where to step.

This turned out to be harder than she could have imagined.

“Take my arm.” 

She could see him to her side and guessed if she reached out, her fingers would encounter his strong arm ready to guide her. But she didn't want to touch him - needed no reminders of her unwanted, incipient attraction for him - and so remained stoic.

“I prefer to walk on my own, thank you,” she said. 

It wasn’t at all rude, but it was firm. He had said it himself – they were camp husband and wife in name only. He couldn’t boss her around, no matter how petulant the thought sounded in her own mind.

But by the time they had left the encampment behind and were a good distance into the woods, Sansa had already tripped and fallen five times and knew she wasn’t going to last much longer on her own. Her knees were sore, her hands were probably dirty, and her patience was wearing thin.

Every time she fell, Sandor was there to pull her up by her arm but then he would let go. The man was really taking her refusal of his help seriously, but she wondered if she had been able to see his face, if there would be any amusement there. A lesser man might have laughed at her ineptitude and her stubbornness, but she wasn’t sure Sandor was the type. He was likely watching her, making sure she didn’t kill herself, and waiting for her to ask for help.

That moment was fast approaching.

“Sansa, watch out for the – ”

She went down over a root sticking out of the ground and would have fallen hard, this time flat on her stomach and chest, had Sandor not caught her in time. With his arms wrapped around her torso he stood straight, holding onto her while she tried to get her footing. It took her a moment, but eventually she sorted through the folds of dress and set her feet down on a spot where the root had not extended its trap of a presence. 

There was no help for it now. When Sandor set her aside and waited for her to continue, she held out her arm.

“I do need help,” she admitted softly, but when she thought he would take her arm to lead her, he instead grasped her hand in his, wrapping his large fingers around hers as he pulled her in closer and began moving at a slow pace through the forest.

The relief was instant, although more of an unconscious release of apprehension by her mind than a conscious choice to trust he would not let her fall. Sansa’s steps were more assured without any thought on her part, as Sandor led her over roots and prevented her from walking into branches. It was perhaps the first time since waking with this blindness that she felt confident her body was quite literally in safe hands.

The day around her was sunny and bright, but beneath the canopy of the trees she saw muted greens and shades of dull brown. The warmth of direct sunshine had nearly disappeared once they were past the edge of the woods, but she had the heat of the pools to look forward to, as well as the prospect that she might be going home in a few minutes. Whether her heart rate had ticked up from that or for the warmth of the massive hand enveloping hers, she didn't care to dwell on.

As they walked closer to the godswood the colors in her line of vision changed, and she knew they were in the right place when the leaves above her were no longer green but dark blood red. In front of her she could see black shadows that she knew would be the pools, with several sparrows somewhere in the massive tree chirping their song as though heralding her arrival back at the source of her displacement.

Her heart beat faster and she had trouble schooling her breaths into slow, even rhythms. Sansa didn’t want Sandor to know anything was amiss, so she hid it from him as best she could, allowing him to walk her up to the edge of the pool.

It was there she turned to him, staring at the blur of his chest and smiling a small, sweet smile she expected would look placating at best, and only slightly suspicious at worst.

“Thank you,” she said with a small nod.

Sandor didn’t move, and for perhaps the thousandth time she wished she could see his face. Looking up she saw the round shadow of his head and the lighter color where his hair hung low around his shoulders. The man was like a statue, and she wondered at the weight in her heart that this might be the last time she spoke with him. But she didn’t want to let on that anything was amiss and as such could not say goodbye, so she aimed a brighter smile directly at him and hoped it would convey enough of her thanks that he might understand when she was gone, how truly grateful for him she was.

“You can stand to the side, Sandor… And turn your back, please,” she added, attempting to think on her feet. Perhaps she should have thought the whole thing through a bit more.

After a moment he did as she bid, and she turned back to the pool once she was satisfied that he was again a statue at the edge of the clearing, just a few of his long strides away. She knew he would guard her well, and even with the inevitable goodbye it made her heart skip that she couldn’t guarantee he wouldn’t peek when she undressed.

Her heart was racing for other reasons as well, namely the hope that once she immersed herself into the pool, that whatever forces had drawn her from her time into this one would work their mystical powers and magically return her. It was likely she would wake up naked again next to another weirwood with a warm pool beside her, so she silently prayed to the gods as she worked to untie the laces on the gown that they would return her to the one at Winterfell, the pool beside which her clothes still lay in a neat pile along with her shoes.

But there was no way of knowing if that was actually going to happen; not without actually getting in. So with a glance in Sandor’s direction – which did absolutely nothing since she could barely make out his silhouette against the shadowed forest – she pulled the dress apart at her back and shimmied out of it, for once grateful that she didn’t have any underwear on. The less time spent out of the water, the better.

With tentative steps she approached the edge of the pool, and then lowered herself over the edge. It was the same temperature as the one in Winterfell, just this side of scorching, and she wished she had time to wash her hair with that wonderful soap Sandor had given her.

But she couldn’t, not when it was imperative that she carry out her plan before Sandor wondered if anything was awry.

So instead she cautiously slid down the steep slope under the surface until she was in deep enough that she could pull her body under water. When she did she lowered herself through the water right where she stood so that her bottom was touching the gritty soil, the heat of the water shocking her as it travelled up past her stomach, her breasts, her shoulders, neck, and finally her face. Everything was suddenly silenced or disappeared - the sparrows, the breeze rustling the tree leaves, and as she closed her eyes, the blurry sight of the beautiful day she had to say goodbye to

Then she closed her eyes and prayed.

Chapter Text

Sandor didn’t want to look. He tried not to look. He really did. But fucking hells , one glimpse of Sansa’s bare back and he was entranced at the sight. He only looked long enough to see the dress fall to her feet, before turning back towards the forest, knowing the sight of her perfectly bare backside was going to be forever burned into his mind.

He heard the sounds of water swirling around her as she entered the pool and knew she would call out if she needed anything. But he was certain she could wash her hair on her own. 

He couldn’t blame her for wanting a bath; not really. He had told her the journey back to King’s Landing would be over a month, possibly two, and there weren’t many chances between here and there for a warm bath, if any. Most bodies of water were fairly frigid, and by the time the army got back to the city the lot of them would all be pretty ripe. Bathing in ice cold water could get old really fast. 

Mentally, he prepared himself for bringing her to this pool every few days, until they had to pack up and leave on the long journey home. A small part of him remained constantly aware of her ailment, her unwanted blindness, and the hopelessness that might arise from such an affliction. Granted, at times it felt unnatural to be so aware of another person’s emotions. But that didn’t stop him from considering that a bath in the pool once in a while would give her something to look forward to. 

He wasn’t an idiot, he knew his company wasn’t something to covet. 

His thoughts wandered to how exactly they were going to get back to the city with Sansa, and what was going to happen there. He hoped Jamis would earnestly track down a mild mannered knight willing to take on a camp wife, or for when they reached Kings Landing, an actual wife. As fucking irritating as her presence was, he felt she needed someone who would take care of her, someone who could keep her in a station above a peasant.

The idea of her with another man made him wince, an unfamiliar pang striking inside his chest before disappearing a mere heartbeat later. He loathed himself because of it. He didn’t want to care, didn’t want to acknowledge the sliver of possessiveness he felt when he thought of coming back to his tent and not finding her there. 

He didn’t want to care about anything she did, anything she said, what became of her once they arrived in the capitol.

But the idea of her being with another man – marrying him, bedding him, bearing the man’s children – was as appealing to Sandor as shit soup. 

That wasn’t to say he wanted all of those things. No, he wasn’t the marrying type, nor the giving a woman children type. He was the bedding type, in a way, but he knew Sansa wouldn’t accept the life of a paramour, no matter what kind of lifestyle Sandor could keep her in.

As soon as that thought formed he squeezed his eyes shut, wondering where the fuck he got off imagining himself ever propositioning her to be his mistress; his camp wife for true. He was disgusted with himself; with the way he had separated into two forms inside himself. 

One didn’t give a shit about her.

One of them did.

However, the former won out in that instant, softly saying his feelings didn’t preclude thinking about it. A torrent of images flooded his mind’s eye, sailing over Sandor’s self control as though they were a fall wind and his control was merely blades of grass in a field, bending at the other’s will. Her naked body turning towards him, her hands beckoning to him, her body welcoming him in, her cries and moans and wandering hands...

Fuck , he was going to have to escape to give himself relief if he kept up this line of thinking.

Remembering he ought to be paying attention to his charge, he listened now for the sounds of water trickling back into itself, for splashing or movement or anything that would lend to the mental image he now held of her beneath him on his pallet, and realized he couldn’t hear anything. A quick glance back told him her dress was still at the edge of the pool along with her slippers, but he couldn’t see Sansa. He turned fully towards the pool, waiting to see her emerge from its depths.

Only, she didn’t.

Sandor waited the span of three deep breaths before he rushed over to the edge.

“Sansa!” he called, as though she could hear him from beneath the water’s surface.

It was irrational, this panic he felt suddenly bubble up from within him. Thoughts revolved in his mind – she’s blind. Maybe she can’t swim. She’s blind. Could someone have taken her? She’s blind. Defenseless.

He looked just beyond the edge of the pool, sinking to his knees with his hands on the edge, digging into the dirt as he scanned the surface for signs of movement.

There were none.

Sparrows trilled in the trees above him and it nearly drew his gaze. Was there any way while he’d been lost in his obscene thoughts that she had somehow left the pool and wandered away? Could he have been that negligent?

But just then a breeze rustled the weirwood leaves and sunlight split the air, perfectly illuminating the water. And just past the edge of the hot pool – deep, though, an arm’s length, maybe more – was her copper fire hair.

In the time it took for Sandor’s body to catch up with his mind, he thought his heart might have stopped.

Not now , he thought as he tipped his own body over the edge and into the water, his reflexes feeling inordinately clumsy in his armor as his heart pounded in his chest. 

Not like this…

Sandor plunged into the pool heedless of the heavy armor he wore and the sure knowledge that when men in full armor fell below the surface of a body of water, they rarely ever surfaced again. He hoped this pool wasn’t so deep that he wouldn’t be able to stand in it, but knew if he could just lift her from its depths and get her onto the ground, he would accept whatever fate the gods had in store for him.

The heat hit him first, making him feel as though he would boil alive inside the chainmail shirt and metal plates covering his arms and shoulders. With one hand digging into the dirt at the edge of the pool, he pushed his head below the waterline, eyes wide so he could see where Sansa was. He could feel the searing heat of the pool through the numb scar tissue on his face. 

Sandor saw her immediately and he reached for her, his hand clamping down hard on her upper arm and yanking her up towards the surface. His throat nearly closed with the fear of finding her limp and lifeless, but it was soon apparent that that wasn’t going to be the case. 

As soon as his hand caught her arm she began to struggle against him, baffling him as she tried to pull out of his grip. She wasn’t drowning? She had sunk of her own volition? She had… tried to kill herself? 

He was stronger, and he wasn’t about to cater to her ridiculous whim. They broke the surface together, water spraying as Sansa sputtered and fought, kicking and hitting him as he lifted her up and out of the pool. 

“Let go!” she cried, coughing and flailing until he allowed her to dislodge his hand.

He barely managed to get a foothold beneath the water, his booted feet slipping before he finally heaved himself onto the ground beside her. 

“Fucking hells, girl,” he muttered, shaking the water from his head and hair. As waterlogged as he was, his armor and clothing felt like they weighed twice as much as they did dry, and it was a struggle to maneuver so he simply collapsed to the ground, laying on his back beside the naked, sobbing heap of woman.

Wait, sobbing?  

“Sansa, what the fuck - Woman, why would you do such a fool thing like that? Fucking hells, we both could have drowned.” Fresh anger pushed away his earlier thoughts, and he lifted an arm to wipe wet hair out of his face, away from where it had tangled in his beard.

He didn’t even know what to say.

Sandor turned his head, seeing her curled up facing him, one arm covering her breasts while her other hand covered her eyes as she cried. It wasn’t soft whimpers, either. Her sobs were loud, shaking her body as she struggled to draw breaths into a body that had just struggled as though her life depended on it.

Or her death , he thought, immediately dismayed at the possibility of what she had been doing. 

He watched her crying into her hand, felt the sorrow dripping from her body as surely as the water droplets that slithered across her skin, and felt for the first time that he might not have as firm a grip on what to do with her as he’d thought. Because if his previous treatment of her, and her blindness, and the fact that she was lost and not home and residing in an enemy camp, was enough to drive her to drown herself, then it was highly likely there may not be a “right person” to care for her.

He was in over his head, and it wasn’t the pool beside them he was referring to.

But then his dismay shifted, once again clouded by his anger as he struggled up to sitting. The enormity of her attempt and then the realization of what she’d done, and how she had tricked him into bringing her to the pool causing the breath to rush from his lungs. 

Suddenly he felt the fool, and all but a fine sliver of sympathy for her plight faded away. 

He watched her body tremble, his attraction dimming as ire mad his hands shake.

“You never wanted to bathe, did you,” he shot at her accusingly. 

Her sobs quieted a bit, and he waited, intending to hear what she had to say before they returned to camp. Figuring she might want to cover up, he leaned over her and dragged her dress – which still had the soap in her pocket – to lay across her. Then he looked away, refusing to be enticed by her nudity.

Rustling behind him signalled her pulling the dress over her head, and when he turned she was holding it to her chest. He knew the back was open, but he felt as willing to help her as he was willing to let her drown herself in that pool.

He refused to examine why her actions angered him so much.

“Well?” He wanted to know. He wanted to know her intent, her reasoning, why she did it, why she was that hopeless, why his care of her hadn’t been enough.

He only let his burning ire show in his voice. Her hair draped over her shoulders, dripping into the dress’s fabric and darkening it. Her eyes were rimmed in red now and she was staring at the ground between them.

When she shook her head, she dropped her chin to her chest, and it was all he needed to know.

Rising, he reached down to haul her to her feet by her arms, and spun her roughly, ignoring the gasp of surprise at his handling. With quick, jerky movements he pushed her hair over her shoulder and tied the laces at the back of the dress, and then retrieved her slippers. It only took a moment for her to slide them on, and he watched her stand straight, eyes pointed at the ground, her posture telling him she was disappointed in the results of her attempt.

Good , he thought, trying to kill yourself on my watch. Won’t happen. 

He shook his head, wishing he could simply storm off and leave her – likely would have, if he didn’t suspect she would simply climb back into the pool, this time for a successful second attempt.

It took several minutes of leading her by the wrist through the forest but they eventually made it back to his tent, Sandor ignoring the odd looks men gave him. He must have been quite the sight, he knew – dripping wet armor, sometimes leading Sansa and sometimes nearly dragging her. To everyone else it must have looked like they were returning from a tryst and something had gone wrong. He knew it looked like Sansa had gotten herself into trouble with him.

Well… she fucking did!  

He wanted to yell. 

He wanted to hit something. 

He wanted to grab her by the shoulders and demand she answer him when he asked why she thought that route was better than spending the next few months or so with him, sleeping near him, under his protection. 

He wanted to drown himself in wine so he could stop feeling that question humming through his mind, and all the damned implications of its existence within him. This was not him. This was not the Hound, the person he had become and been content with over the last few decades.

If he hadn’t known she couldn’t see anything he would have demanded to know if it was because she couldn’t stand the look of him. But seeing as how she was yet unaware what he looked like – 

What else was there? Was he so abhorrent a man that his vile nature transcended sight and reached her through his words? His touch?

When they reached his tent he pushed her in ahead of him, then followed her in. Sansa stumbled, but managed to lower herself to the pallet, crawling up to the top and drawing her knees to her chest with her back to him. She didn’t utter a word, and right then Sandor didn’t know what he would do if she did.

To his left Jamis sat silent, staring open mouthed and wide eyed at what was happening. Sandor couldn’t speak, he was so mad. He began pulling at the buckles of his vambraces, popping the ones on his chest that held his pauldrons to his shoulders, and when that was done he aimed his back in Jamis’ direction, the young man taking his cue to undo the buckles mostly out of Sandor’s reach. Before long they were lifting the heavy mail shirt off his chest and setting it aside.

Every piece would need to be dried and oiled, though he trusted Jamis was knowledgeable enough about armor to know that it was also a good time to clean them.

Without a word to the other two occupants of the tent, he stormed out, not knowing where he was going to go but knowing it likely had to do with the mess tent where all the wine was kept.

~ ≈ ~

Sansa was crushed. Her plan hadn’t worked, and now she didn’t know what to do. The pool from which she had come hadn’t returned her to her time like she wanted; like she needed. 

There was no one who could help her, no one who knew about her true plight, and of the only two people who seemed willing to be kind to her, one was furious at her for reasons she didn’t quite understand.

If only he knew the truth , she thought, even as the knowledge of what could happen should she tell him the truth frightened her – branded a witch or a sorceress or the time-period equivalent for such claims. Set free to survive on her own, or even sentenced to death for yet another reason. 

No, now her life was a matter of survival with the hand the gods had dealt her. She needed to face it that she would never see her family again, would never see her Winterfell again, would never enjoy the modern conveniences she had come to take for granted. And of course she had taken them for granted – time travel wasn’t supposed to exist except for in young adult novels.

“My lady.”

Jamis’ voice cut through her thoughts and she turned her face towards him in acknowledgement. 

“I don’t know what happened between you and Clegane out there, but I have never seen him this angry at a woman.” 

He paused, as though he wasn’t sure what to say, or how much to say. 

“Perhaps… Perhaps it would be best if we both stayed out of his way today. I mean, he won’t hurt you, but he’s not above making life miserable.”

Sansa sighed, closing her eyes.

“I wasn’t blind three days ago, Jamis. Life can’t get much more miserable than this.”

“Aye, my lady.” His tone said he wasn’t done talking so she waited. After a minute of thought he added, “But it’s not all that bad.” 

His voice was plaintive and reassuring, and she thanked the gods she had found somewhat of a friend in the younger man. 

“You have a protector, and the best one in the whole army, might I add.” He sounded proud as he continued, “It was quite the boon for me when he told me I worked for him. Not everyone would have wanted the position. But I’ll have the best training, I’ll likely rise to knight faster for being his squire, and I’ll also likely work for him for a long time because he’s not one to fall in war.”

Sansa almost smiled, not even needing an explanation for why that was true. Clegane – Sandor, she corrected herself – was huge. Taller than any man she had ever met, with a body that matched his height in impressiveness. She could imagine the path of carnage he would leave on a battlefield, and the men who would flee when they saw him coming.

“What I mean to say is, cheer up. There are worse things than being camp wife to the Hound.” He paused, shuffling about with something from the small table beside him. When he approached her she realized it was a plate of food.

Turning sideways to access it, she slid her hand over the plate, wondering what he had procured for her today. 

“Thank you, Jamis, for taking care of me.” She swallowed around a thickness in her throat, now feeling a combination of sadness over what was apparently her new life, and regret over being a burden to Jamis and Sandor. “I’m sorry for adding to your duties. I’ll try to not get in the way.”

“Oh no, my lady, I don’t mind at all,” he reassured her jovially. She thought she even detected a smile. “It has been nice having a woman around, even if you don’t talk much.” His censure was apparent, but also kind. “My duties, as given to me by Clegane, are to keep you safe while he’s away. Part of keeping you safe is seeing to your sustenance. Eat, my lady, and we’ll talk if you’d like.”

Sansa did as she was told, slowly though and with no enthusiasm. The food was decent, more meat, cheese and bread, and when he handed her a cup she found it was watered wine, which tasted a whole lot better than straight wine.

“What’s going to happen to me?” she asked after a while, hearing from the other side of the tent the sounds of his own chewing. 

“Well,” he said after a swallow, “You’ll likely travel with me and the other civilians. I’m sure Clegane will find a mount for you to ride.” He was about to go on when Sansa sat up straight, holding her hand out to him.

“Wait – ride? I don’t know how to ride, Jamis. I can’t ride a horse!

He laughed lightly at her.

“Who doesn’t know how to ride a horse? Aye, you’ll have to learn and fast, else you’ll be walking to King’s Landing.”

Her shoulders fell, and Sansa felt despondent all over again. Was there anything she knew how to do that was useful in this time? She guessed Jamis wouldn’t want to learn how to perform yoga poses or how to start a system update on his cell phone.

“It’s easy, my lady. I’ll let Clegane know tonight and we can give you a lesson before we head out in the morning.”

They spent the remainder of the evening talking about anything that didn’t include Sansa’s time travel fiasco, Jamis all the while cleaning and oiling Clegane’s armor. He told her of his childhood in the Lannister house and how travelling with the army afforded him opportunities he wouldn’t have had if he’d stayed at Casterly Rock, the Lannister ancestral home. Sansa struggled to fathom how it was that various people who lived in this time also seemed to live in her time, except for her. 

The Lannister family were well known philanthropists, although even as they championed causes mostly picked by Tyrion Lannister, they also flouted societal courtesies and flaunted their wealth.

Not so much the youngest Lannisters, Myrcella and Tommen, both of whom were on their way to graduating from ivy league schools with impressive degrees. But their older brother Joffrey – he was, in Sansa’s opinion, the bane of society and perhaps the only person alive besides his mother that she would say should have been drowned at birth. Her father and his has grown up as friends and having dinner with the Lannister family once a year was more than what Sansa would prefer to see them.

Jamis made it sound as though the story was similar here – Lannisters at the top of the social ladder and while they were apparently royalty, which paralleled their roles high in the echelon of King’s Landing, they were just as much snobs looking down their noses at their subjects.

Not much else was the same, though when Jamis mentioned Winterfell she stopped him, not wanting to hear about how the entire Stark family was dead. These people were not her family, despite the elder two being named Eddard and Catlyn, just like her own parents, and she needed to remember that. Hers were alive and well in the 21st century, residing at the largest bed and breakfast in Westeros, the Stark ancestral home of Winterfell.

They spoke until Jamis began to yawn, and when Sansa realized he had been hiding yawns from her for a while, she managed to laugh lightly for the first time in days.

“Jamis, you don’t have to keep me constant company.” 

It felt good to talk to someone though, and she was going to do everything she could to maintain this friendship. She didn’t want to allow all the negative things going on around her and happening to her to crush her spirit. To do so would lead to giving up, and right now her main objective needed to be survival. She had no idea how to do that, especially with the severe vision impairment she had somehow developed, but she had to at least try.

“I don’t mind at all, my lady,” he assured her, gathering up their plates and readying the tent for night time. “If not for you I would probably be cleaning chamber pots and scrubbing armor til my hands bled.”

“Instead you’re emptying my chamber pot…” She smiled, embarrassed at the thought, but he merely laughed.

“Tis an honor, my lady,” he replied, causing her to laugh genuinely at his highly dramatic, exaggerated happiness. 

“But honestly,” he added, “I am tasked with your well being. Ask of me and it shall be done, my lady. Bearing in mind that all you ask must be cleared with Clegane, but ask anyway. He might be a beast of a man but he is nothing if not fair.”

Sansa had just nodded when the man in question barged into the tent, his large silhouette coming to stand beside Jamis’ smaller one, against the dim evening light outside the tent. Sansa didn’t have an opportunity to be startled before Jamis was jumping to attention at the sudden arrival of his boss.

“Good evening, my lord – ”

“Shut up and get out,” growled the big man, and what was left of Sansa’s smile slipped from her face. He sounded furious. She knew it was very likely he would be angry with her for a long time about what had transpired earlier. Perhaps he was mad that she had quite obviously lied to him about why she wanted to go to the pool? Truth be told, she hadn’t put much thought into his feelings today, but instead preferred to push him far from her mind.

“Ser, I don’t think – ”

Jamis!”

But Jamis, sweet as he was, was merely trying to stand up for her. If Sansa could have been sure Sandor wasn’t looking in her direction, she would have shaken her head in the young man’s direction, letting him know it was unnecessary.

“The lady needs time to ready herself for bed, Clegane. Mayhaps – ”

“Do you dare defy my order, Jamis, because so help me I’ll – ”

Sansa stood then, clearing her throat which immediately made him cease talking. 

Good. She needed to get her confidence back, or whatever she could muster without the ability to see. Finding herself trapped in the past need not be a death sentence, and she wasn’t about to let him browbeat her or Jamis for anything that had happened that day. 

Clasping her hands in front of her, she stood on the ground at the edge of the pallet and lifted her chin, glad that her presence had struck Clegane mute for the moment.

“I need a moment alone, my lord,” she said calmly, thinking that if she was going to get by in this time, she should probably attempt to sound like them. Calling Clegane my lord might get her further than you big brute .

He remained motionless for a moment before he turned and strode out of the tent, a string of vile curses following him in his wake. This left her with only Jamis, who made sure she knew where the chamber pot was, and that he would collect it when she was done. 

“He’ll not hurt you, my lady; but should you need anything, I’ll be in the tent right beside this one.”

Chapter Text

“He’ll not hurt you, my lady," Jamis said gently. “But should you need anything, I’ll be in the tent right beside this one."

Sansa nodded, accepting his concern with grace, but her attention was divided. She could hear heavy footsteps pacing on the other side of the tent wall.

It was Clegane, and he was drunk as a skunk.

So the beast of a man who had stormed into the tent moments earlier had been sloshed, she decided.

The slightest tremor of fear rippled up her spine.

He was huge, and he was a soldier in a medieval army, but from working at a bed and breakfast for several years where visitors often brought alcohol and could be found wandering around late at night, she knew how to handle the odd drunk male who hit on her. If Clegane got handsy or mean, not only would a swift knee to the groin incapacitate him, but she had the dagger he had given her if worse came to worse.

“Thank you, Jamis, but I think I can handle him. He has been kind to me so far,” and as she said it, she knew it to be true. The fear dissipated somewhat. “We will be okay. Goodnight, Jamis.”

He murmured goodnight, and when the chamber pot business was finished, she laid down on the pallet, her back facing the tent.

She heard Clegane come in a few moments later, and she pretended to be asleep, knowing he would likely fall asleep fast if he would lay down. But instead she heard him sit in the chair, the wood sounding old and strained under his weight as it creaked beneath him.

He sat there for a time, while the sounds of the camp around them slowly faded as more and more soldiers found their sleep. The tent darkened but Sansa had already seen it wasn’t Sandor’s habit to have a lamp. It didn’t matter to her, not now that she couldn’t see. She was likely headed for a very dim, boring life, assuming she lived past the next few months.

What a dismal thought to fall asleep to, she thought. But it couldn’t be helped. She hadn’t exactly landed in a time where everyone loved flowers, hated violence, and made peace but not war.

After a while she heard Sandor sigh heavily, and he moved, the sound coming from him she recognized from her father when he would scratch his beard. 

But then Sandor spoke, and Sansa tensed as he muttered, “Fucking hells, little bird.”

~ ≈ ~

It took him a while, but when Sandor laid down beside Sansa he wasn’t quiet, nor was he gentle. At one point he nearly fell into her, but caught himself after bumping her hip with his knee. When he finally settled he seemed to struggle getting comfortable, and tossed and turned as though nothing was going to work.

Sansa didn’t want to move because she didn’t want to anger him. She didn’t want to upset him, or in any way make him react to her because she didn’t know what he would be like when he was drinking. It always seemed best to let a drunk person’s true colors come out rather than assume they were going to act one way or another. While there had been times she thought she might be accosted by a Winterfell guest who had obviously had one too many drinks and it simply turned out they wished to talk to her for hours about anything and everything, so too did it sometimes end up the opposite. The drunk would seem unassuming until they not so stealthily slid their hand to the back of her neck or touched her shoulder. Again, a knee to the sweet spot could do wonders for a woman’s self preservation.

When Sandor finally stopped moving she listened to his breaths, finding them somehow as deep as his voice and as large as his person. She soon realized he had turned to face her back, and hoped he would simply fall asleep, so she closed her eyes and willed her own sleep to take her.

“Don’t know why you fucking did it,” Sandor mumbled, the words almost angry.  

Sansa was tempted to answer him, but he went on, and she understood he still thought she was asleep.

“It won’t solve anything.” 

He was starting to slur, as though he had drained his cup before coming back to the tent and more of the alcohol still had yet to take effect. His words came out sounding more like, “T’won’t solve an’thing.” Sansa rolled her eyes, thinking of how much alcohol it must have taken to get him to this point.

Fuck . Didn’t know I was such a shit. Can’t stand being here.” His ramblings weren’t making sense, so she continued listening to him without doing anything. “Don’t know why I try. Didn’t even use the fucking soap, little bird.”

Oh gods . He was talking about her, and the pool! But… what did he think she was doing there?

“There’s easier ways…” He cleared his throat and she felt him move a bit closer on the pallet, making her very aware of his closeness. She could feel his warmth through the thinness of her dress. 

“Water,” he went on. “Fucking drowning. Ffft.” She almost laughed at his sound effect but then realized what he was saying.

He thought she had tried to kill herself? 

Won’t solve anything… She had to agree with him there. 

Didn’t know I was such a shit… Can’t stand being hereDon’t know why I try… 

And no, she didn't use the soap. 

When realization dawned on her, Sansa felt her heart do a flip in her chest. 

She had hurt his feelings! 

She squeezed her eyes shut and bit her lip, feeling so ridiculous for not seeing it before. Of course, she had been sort of preoccupied with desperation over getting home and then depression over her failed attempt, but she hadn’t seen that he had assumed she was trying to kill herself, and – and… 

He thought it was a reflection of him and his care for her? 

Oh my gods

Suddenly she was seeing Sandor Clegane in an all new light.

She doubted she would have gotten this glimpse of him had he not come back to the tent drunk tonight, but she was so glad he had. There had been something about him these last few days, something caring and thoughtful beneath all the anger and rage, at least after Meryn Trant’s brutality had forced Sandor’s hand and he’d claimed her as his camp wife to protect her from everyone else. Taking on Jamis to help her, willingly sharing his tent, and the dress, comb, slippers and soap.

How could she have been so... blind?

As ridiculous as she felt thinking that word, it was true. Granted, her plight was a tragic one – as well as, it would seem, an unsolvable mystery – but she hadn’t stopped to really ponder Sandor and his motivations.

He had called himself hideous, Trant had joked about Sandor needing a blind camp wife, and now he was saying Sansa would rather kill herself than remain with him. Gods , he made it sound like his self esteem was rock bottom. How could that be? Such a revered warrior, pride of the King’s army, and feared by nearly all of the tens of thousands of men in this camp? It seriously blew Sansa’s mind, it was almost too horrible to think about. 

But… could she really do anything about it? Did she want to? Should she do anything? 

There were some things she would be willing to do, like make his life more pleasant, even for just the time they would be together. She could enlist Jamis’ help, although she would never tell the squire she had discovered a heart wrenching vulnerability of Sandor’s. The man was much too private and much too proud for her to reveal something like that. Not to mention, this was a camp of seventy thousand men. Finding out one of them had low self esteem might be like painting a target on his back. Sansa wasn’t super knowledgeable about men but she assumed it would be similar to junior high, only there was no way any man would lay hands on Sandor to give him a swirly in a toilet.

But they had the power to make his life miserable, especially if they ganged up on him. No, she wouldn’t say anything, but it was entirely possible that she could become – at least to anyone not her – resigned to her lot in life and merely wanted to make her living space more pleasant. Then, it would just be a consequence that Sandor’s living space would be more pleasant as well, simply because they were sharing a tent.

Yes , she thought. I know what to do, now.

Sandor wouldn’t have any cause from this point on to think he was unworthy of her friendship. Judging by his treatment of her these last few days, Sansa might have found one of the very few men in camp who would have made such a large sacrifice for a woman they didn’t know, let alone a Northern woman who claimed to be a Stark.

Sandor stirred behind her and she felt his hand bump her back. As though reminded that he was sharing a bed with someone, his long arm suddenly wrapped around her middle and hauled her back against him, while his face came forward to nestle into her hair. His breathing evened out, and Sansa knew he was back to sleep.

Reaching over, she gathered his cloak and tossed it over both of them, making sure that the generous amount behind her would fall and cover him all the way to the floor. 

Then, with his large hand gently resting over her belly and his breath warming her neck, she tucked her legs around his knees and closed her eyes.

~ ≈ ~

When Sandor woke the following morning his head hurt, which was normal for when he drank too much. But what wasn’t normal was the soft flesh beneath his palm, and the way his elbow was holding Sansa in the cradle of his body so snug that he could hardly tell where he ended and she began. They were touching completely, from where his nose was pressed into the back of her head, down to her heels against his shins, and everywhere in between.

And his hand was on her breast, cupping the soft mound so that rather than resting on the pallet’s surface, it was molded to the shape of his palm. He was so surprised by this that he froze, immobilized by shock.

Gods , was she sweet. She fit his body perfectly, and he felt that if it was possible, laying there like that would be just fine to do for the entire day. She didn’t even have to give him any of her body other than what he already had – merely her warmth pressed against him and this intimate hold he had on her.

But the sounds from outside drifted through the thin walls, and so too did reason in his heart, and the familiar irritation at the weakness newly discovered within said heart when he was around her. Pulling his hand away before she woke with it on her breast, he drew a heavy breath into his lungs and then pushed himself up on one arm to look down at her sleeping face.

Seeing her brought back every memory from the day before and what she had attempted. It still galled him, still hurt, that after all the nice things he had done for her, she chose to attempt to end her life rather than spending the next few months with him.

He hoped he had kept his fucking mouth shut the night before. It wasn’t often he got drunk but he had heard some stories about shit he’d say when he did. One time he’d told the mess tent worker that all of his wine was shit and that Sandor would rather drink it after pissing it out than imbibing on it while fresh. Whether it was true or not, what a fucking embarrassment.

But last night had been different. The intensity of his reaction shocked him. She had driven him there, to drinking, and he’d been nearly powerless but to indulge in the only thing that could make him forget she didn’t want anything to do with him, and was so desperate to get away that death was preferable to staying with him.

Fucking women .

Last night’s drinking had been a direct result of his emotions raging within him. He didn’t understand most of them, but he recognized anger directed at her, irritation aimed at himself, and something stronger, something less familiar but equally as potent as the others. It was almost like…

Rejection?

Fuck, no . Sandor wasn’t feeling that, he was sure of it. He was the most notable soldier in the Lannister army, the most feared warrior, the one man every one of his commanding officers would say was indispensable if they had been so inclined as to speak about a fellow soldier in that manner. They didn’t, but that was neither here nor there. Sandor knew he was a value to the crown.

So how was it possible that, if he took a moment to really delve into the feelings in his heart this morning, he was feeling rejected?

He turned his eyes away from Sansa and rolled off the pallet, quietly rising to sit on the chair in the corner.

Giving up all pretense of ignoring the shit eating away at his gut, he sat there and admitted to himself that he knew exactly how he could be feeling that way. 

The small things he did for Sansa – the gifts, sharing his bed, even every small, kind word he spoke to her rather than his usual gruff, surly tone – had been given in the hopes of raising her opinion of him. A fool’s errand. Had he really hoped to accomplish such a feat?

And why did he want to raise her opinion of him?

Sandor shook his head and rubbed at his forehead, behind which was a headache that could down a horse. 

Fucking hells , he knew why. He just didn’t want to give life to the thoughts and form them into cohesive words in his mind. It would somehow make him feel even more pathetic than what he knew he already was.

He wanted to raise her opinion of him because she was blind. Simple as that. She was a woman, she was blind, and this was his opportunity – the first of its kind since he was a child, burned at the hands of his brother – that a woman could look upon him and smile, and not be afraid of what she saw.

Because Sansa couldn’t . She couldn’t see him, and had already delivered to him more smiles from a woman than he had received in all the years following his mother’s and sister’s deaths.

And he wanted them to continue, damn it. He had grown to look forward to those rare smiles, despite how his rote reaction to them was to be surly back to her. He wanted to see her smile every day, had even considered a time or two telling Jamis to cease his search for a man to take her on. If he could make Sansa happy, and if she was content to spend the rest of her days with him, than what they could have between them… Well, it would be… 

He struggled to find a word appropriate for what he was imagining in his mind.

Miraculous. A fate handed to him by gods he didn’t really understand, but that whom he would attempt to get to know if only this desire for her would come to fruition.

Blind. She was fucking blind, and he was a fucking monster, scarred horrifically and feared by many.

It was a match made in the seven fucking heavens.

But just as those thoughts built and struggled upwards in his mind, finding grasp on the outskirts of his imagination and scrambling for purchase on the crumbling dreams he had as a young boy, so too did reality - crashing down on him like a bucket of sand on a campfire.

It was a match made in the seven heavens until she lied to him and tried to kill herself, sending Sandor back into his familiar pit of despair, waiting complacently for the day the Stranger would come and take him.

Thinking about what she had done was enough to send him out of his tent without his armor on, waking the still sleeping Jamis to tell him to keep an eye on Sansa. Then he wandered off in the direction of the corrals to brush down his war horse, Stranger.

~ ≈ ~

Sandor was gone all of that day, and the day after that, as well as the day after that. In fact, all week he remained distant, neither sharing meals with Sansa nor spending so much as a few minutes before the day started speaking of his plans. Sansa was left to fend for herself in terms of finding things to occupy her time, which she wasn’t very successful at.

She now knew everything about Jamis, from the cat he had as a child that he claimed was a pet but who really just didn’t mind the extra food he would leave outside his cottage door, to that he dreamed of one day being a knight and marrying and having a whole mess of kids to take care of him when he was old and gray. He proved to be a fine conversationalist, but Sansa was also glad for the times when they could just sit in companionable silence.

She was at a loss for what to do about her apparent future in this time. One thing was certain – that if she couldn’t find a way to get home, since now she was out of ideas as to how to go about returning to modern day Winterfell, she had to find a way to be happy here.

And that’s where Sandor came in.

Or rather, that’s where he would come in if he would just give her the time of day. The man stayed away for long hours, was usually gone when she awoke in the morning, and didn’t bother coming back until late in the evening when Jamis would step out of the tent so Sansa could lay down and attempt to sleep.

As though it was a curse, she found she couldn’t fall asleep unless Sandor lay beside her, so she would remain awake, listening to the sounds of the camp and the men going about their business until the big man himself would come into the tent and sit in that chair.

He would sit there for quite some time, sometimes perhaps half an hour, she guessed, ruminating or staring at her. Truthfully, she had no idea what he did since she couldn’t see anything in the dim light, with no discernible shadows or obvious shapes. He would stay there as she lay motionless, eyes closed and her back to him, until she would finally hear his armor come off or, if he hadn’t worn all of it, whatever pieces there was to remove. 

Then he would climb onto the small bed behind her and settle in for the night, never touching her. 

Sansa was confused when she realized she didn’t know whether or not she missed his warmth.

There was one instance just a couple nights ago where she woke with his arm once again curled around her, his entire body pressed tightly against the back of hers. It was another chilly night so when she drifted back to sleep it was a deep, restful slumber. And though she awoke alone the next morning, she was more well rested than she had been since finding herself in medieval Westeros.

There had been boyfriends in her time that she had slept with, but she had never craved a closeness with them in the middle of the night the way she did with Sandor. It may have been his size, how he was like a huge warming pad that stretched the length of her. Or it could have been how safe she felt with him, the dichotomy between her little sanctuary within the tent walls compared to the chaos and uncertainty that awaited her outside the tent. But whatever it was, it had never been present with anyone else. She knew that as surely as she knew Sandor was a man worth getting to know, a man likely worth his weight in gold, amidst the thousands of other soldiers that surrounded them every day.

She wondered what he thought of that night, what he thought of holding her while they slept, of sharing warmth and that bed and the closeness they seemed forced to endure. She guessed there was a part of him that liked it, since there was a pretty good chance that if he was able to get her a dress and soap and the other things, that he would have been able to find another one of these lumpy mattresses for her to sleep on.

Sansa wanted them to stick to the arrangement they had cultivated between them, with him as her protector. She just hoped Sandor liked it as much as she was starting to.

She didn’t kid herself. She liked it, yes, but it was also a necessity. Regardless, someone somewhere had seen fit to put her in Sandor’s path. Perhaps the gods had been looking out for her that day. 

Jamis was certainly nice, but it was Sandor from whom she had drawn comfort more than once. It was Sandor who was so surprisingly gentle and kind that the only future she envisioned here was one with him in it, in whatever capacity he wished to remain.

Life in medieval Westeros wasn’t going to be so bad, she told herself. Over and over she told herself that, until she had half convinced herself that it was true. She could stomach the food, the company, and was certain she could find tasks that could make her feel useful. 

But then one night tragedy struck, in the form of Sansa’s period. Having spent all afternoon dealing with painful cramping, it was an extremely awkward conversation to have with Jamis, having to finally exclaim, “I’m bleeding!” in order to get him to understand she was on her period. What she wouldn’t have done in that moment to have her sight, a sink, and a box of tampons. Some chocolate and a heating pad would have also been nice.

Jamis called it moonsblood, and she was inordinately happy she didn’t have the vision to see his face since he was probably as embarrassed by it as she was.

It was early evening and Sansa was in no mood to sit there without underwear, but there was nothing that could be done. She took the clean rag from the chamber pot and sat on it for two hours, until Sandor finally returned from whatever it was he did during the day.

She had already compiled a list of supplies that Jamis generously took mental note of, and he was gone to retrieve what he could almost as soon as Sandor entered the tent.

“Where’s he rushing off to?”

As pieces of his armor hit the ground, Sansa immediately became irritated that after an entire week of mostly silence from him, his first and hopefully only question of the day sounded nothing like, “How was your day?”

“He’s getting me some things,” she said, knowing she sounded snippy. But this week had been tiring, and spending the last two hours sitting in her own blood hadn’t done any favors for her mood. 

“What things?”

Sansa, who had been looking at the floor between them, now turned her head to stare at the wall.

“Women things.”

Chapter Text

Sandor stopped removing his armor at the front of the tent and Sansa heard him move, maybe turning to look at her. 

“Women things?” he asked, repeating her words.

“Yes, Sandor,” she replied with a sigh. She didn’t want to tell him everything. It was bad enough Jamis had to know she’d gotten her period, since she really did need someone to get her some supplies. There was no Westero gas station on the corner where she could pick up a box of tampons, and she was pretty sure the bushes outside didn’t have those pad machines that took copper dragons and looked like no one used them.

“Like… what?”

It could have been the cramps, or the crime scene she was sitting on, or the strain of not having Sandor around all week and then suddenly having his nosy self up in her business, but she snapped – holding up her hand to count off on her fingers the things she had just requested Jamis track down for her, along with the why for every item.

“If you must know,” she began, swinging back to aim her gaze in the direction of his head, “I started my moonsblood a few hours ago and have nothing to manage it with. I asked him to retrieve several lengths of cloth I can turn into panties, to hold the other cloths I asked him to find so I don’t bleed all over the only dress I have, and some extra cleaning cloths because I’m not feeling so fresh right now!”

She would have stood and stuck her finger in his face if it were possible, but it hadn’t been so she went on from where she sat.

“If you hadn’t said your vow of silence and made yourself so scarce all day, every day, you would have been here so he could have done the errand earlier.” She knew she sounded a bit irrational but she couldn’t bring herself to care. After her dip in the pool and her failed effort to return home she had come to the conclusion that Sandor was indeed the closest person to her in this time, and even had hopes they could build a friendship of sorts. “But you seem to want to be anywhere but where I am, and I’ve stopped caring about it,” which was a lie, “So feel free to step out when he gets back – I’m going to need some alone time.”

She angrily crossed her arms over her stomach, grimacing at the discomfort deep in her belly.

“And a pail of warm water,” she added, looking away.

There , she had thought. Bet he won’t be asking any more questions.

And she was right – he didn’t. After a few long moments he resumed taking off his armor and then they both sat in silence waiting for Jamis’ return.

What followed was the oddest evening of Sansa’s life – having to remind both men that she would call them when she was done, and thanking Jamis for retrieving the supplies and the warm water. Not wanting to get any blood on her dress, she’d taken it off after they finally stepped outside and deposited the soiled rags as well as the used cleaning rags into the chamber pot, banking on Jamis’ promise to be discreet and his assurances that though he hadn’t performed this duty for any woman before, he was at her service and would do everything he could to provide for her comforts. 

He had joined Sandor outside and when Sansa was done it was to the younger man she called out to deliver to him the pot. She was the proud new owner of the most rudimentary pair of panties – tied at the hips on both sides – that she’d ever thought to have in her life. It felt more like wearing a diaper, with the thick pads between her legs, but there was no help for it. Again, when in Dorne…

But after handing off the pot to Jamis and hearing his departure, it was Sandor’s turn to render aid, and she called him into the tent to re-lace her dress.

This he hadn’t done since the day at the pool, the day he assumed she had tried to commit suicide. She knew it would be tense, but there was no help for it. 

He did as he was bid – lacing up the dress without so much as brushing her skin with his fingers, and he did so this time without pausing or making her uncomfortable in the slightest.

He didn’t make her uncomfortable, but his presence behind her did. 

Sansa felt the increase in her heart rate and silently berated herself for being attracted to a man she could not see, a man who had left her alone in the tent with only Jamis for company for the better part of the week. That night when she finally laid down on the small bed she did so as close to the edge as possible, not wanting to acknowledge his presence nor her inexplicable growing attraction to him. Still irritated, she closed her eyes and willed herself to go to sleep before he made his way over to the bed for the night.

It hurt, this snubbing from him. Over the course of the week she’d convinced herself that the reason she felt as she did was because the word she had begun to associate both Jamis and Sandor with in her mind was friend . If there was such a thing in this time, then these two men were the closest thing she had to it, and finding one of them actually not giving her the time of day, well, it just plain hurt.

She laid there while he slid into the bed, adjusting the cloak so it covered himself as well. Then she realized he must have leaned back because it nearly pulled the cloak off her.

But then he was back suddenly, and he was nudging her side with his arm.

“What, Sandor,” she said tiredly. She didn’t want to be bothered with anything he had to say, but then immediately regretted her attitude when he spoke again.

“I had Jamis make this for you.”

His arm still rested over her side, so when she hesitantly reached out it was to find a bundle of cloth radiating heat hanging from his hand.

A genuine medieval heating pad. The man had Jamis make probably the only thing that would be able to bring her comfort during this time, and she had just laid there thinking she wanted to be anywhere but there with him.

Shame flushed through her thoughts as she took the bundle from him. He lifted the cloak off her, giving her room to slide the bundle down against her lower belly. It was heavy and she guessed it was rocks padded by several layers of fabric and heated by a fire.

“Sandor, that’s…” But she found herself unable to continue. Shocked, she felt tears in her eyes. He was such an enigma – angry and standoffish one minute, and incredibly kind and thoughtful the next – that she felt her head spin.

Behind her he laid his head down, and when he spoke it was into her hair.

“I was in the queensguard. I saw these delivered to her when...” He let his voice trail off, the subject matter likely embarrassing him. And his tone wasn’t exactly friendly, but nor was it hostile. It was just… flat. His normal tone, she supposed. 

With a nod, she replied, “Yeah, this is extremely helpful.” She swallowed, feeling emotion clogging her throat at how considerate of a gesture it was. “Thank you, Sandor.”

He didn’t move but she heard him inhale deeply and sigh.

“Goodnight, Sansa.”

She smiled lightly, feeling for the first time that even though he wasn’t always present, perhaps he cared about her in some way anyway.

“Goodnight, Sandor.”

~ ≈ ~

Several days later Sandor knew from Jamis that Sansa’s moon cycle was over, and it was time to begin preparing her for the journey to King’s Landing. He’d gotten out of bed a while ago but had sat to watch her sleep, pondering the quiet repoire that had developed between them over the last few days. 

Whatever it was his wretched heart felt for her, he had finally stopped putting up such a stringent fight against it and instead just let it be, neither fostering the emotions or refusing to admit they existed. It wasn’t as he thought his life should be, but it was better than the constant war within him that had been waging from just about the moment he laid eyes on her.

And it truly was almost from that first day at the pool when he found her naked and delirious. This it took a while to admit to himself, but he did… Eventually.

It still pained him to think about the second day at the same pool. Had it really been a week and a half since she’d tried to take her own life? Nearly two weeks since he found her? But now she seemed… almost happy.

Even Jamis reported that they had several lively conversations, with Sansa teaching him some things he’d never heard of just to wile away the time they spent together in the tent.

Sandor had wanted to punch Jamis when the young man told him Sansa was teaching him several of what she called tongue twisters , their name sounding to Sandor more like a trick done by a Flea Bottom whore than the verbal exercise it turned out to be. 

He also chose not to dwell on the urge to do bodily harm to Jamis at his suspicion. Only trouble lay down that path.

But there was more to her than just the things he heard about from Jamis. She had been somewhat emotional since he found her – timid and docile after her bout with Trant; feisty and combative at others – but he had to admit that ever since her attempt on her life, her attitude seemed to improve, and even more so after the night he gave her the heated rocks for her discomfort. Her apparent happiness also meant she seemed more content, which had turned their short time together almost pleasant. 

Sansa wasn’t cowering in a corner, waiting for someone to abduct her. She didn’t appear to dwell on wherever it was she came from, nor where they were going. 

It was almost as though she was coming to terms with her new life, and perhaps even her lack of vision.

It had been a good idea to stop staying out quite so late like he had been. She’d said in her tirade the night of her moon cycle that she was aware he was staying out to avoid her. But then she’d said, “I’ve stopped caring about it.” That, to him, meant that at some point – possibly even the moments during which she uttered those words, she did indeed care about his whereabouts, and likely his motives for not being with her as often as he had been.

And if she cared, and if she seemed more content now that he was spending a bit more time at the tent again, then might be that meant she was happier because of him?

He wrestled with these thoughts daily, mostly because of how he wished it was true. But there was certainly never a good opportunity to ask about it, nor would he should the opportunity arise. He just wasn’t that kind of man – not one to reveal his emotions in such a manner, unless the emotion he wished to reveal was anger or disgust. Those were relatively easy compared to any emotion provoked by a woman. 

It galled him to even have such emotions. Letting them be known would have been akin to crying in public. A man of his station, of his stature, just didn’t do such a thing. And he would keep it from her, because he still did not know her true desires, and he didn’t think a man as solitary as he, and who had been so for almost his entire life, could deal with anything even remotely similar to heartbreak.

The more time he spent with her, the less he felt injustice at having to care for her, and the less he felt angry that his life was venturing far from the path on which he had set it. There were days he contemplated what it would be like to have her as a true camp wife, and nights where he had to ban the thoughts from his mind lest she awake to see his arousal beneath the cloak.

But because things were better between them, he decided today they would try something new in preparation for the journey South; something he and Jamis had discussed at length and both agreed was a necessity.

Sansa stirred on the pallet, her arm coming up out of the cloak to stretch above her head as she extended her body into a straight line, flexing like a cat waking from a nap. Sandor averted his eyes, ignoring thoughts of what she would look like doing that same move naked.

“Sansa,” Sandor spoke quietly after clearing his throat, turning back to her just as she slowly sat up, facing away from him. 

Bright red hair toppled down her back nearly to her waist, and he knew then – though not for the first time – that he had never known anything so soft and glorious to sleep with against his face, than that wonderful mane of copper hair. Again he cursed himself in his mind and turned away. Best not give her any hint that she affected him in any way.

“Meet me outside. You learn to ride this morning,” he instructed, the words an order but managing to keep his tone even. He expected her to obey him but somehow knew that gruffness wouldn’t earn him her favor.

He rose and left the tent, not bothering to see her reaction to his statement.

It was a short time later after Jamis had finished the buckles on his armor that he watched the tent flaps part and she stepped outside. He focused on adjusting the cuffs of his mail shirt and the tunic beneath, else he might be tempted to stare at her. But his brief glimpse told him she had braided her hair over one shoulder and had tied it with a small piece of fabric, and the dress he’d gotten for her fit her as though it had been made for her. It hugged her curves and flared around her hips, falling in loose folds to the ground.

He knew for certain then that he may have been lying to himself, and that he likely stayed away for a week due to the physical nature of his thoughts for her. He was so fucking frustrated. 

What manner of joke was this to have a woman such as she drop into his life? 

~ ≈ ~

Jamis led the horse, a young gelding whom Sandor had seen with the others, out to the field beyond the edge of the camp while Sandor led Sansa by the arm. Sansa’s touch was light and delicate except for when she wasn’t sure of her footing. One time she nearly tripped on a large stone and her other hand came over to grip his arm, though she didn’t let go once the ground levelled out. She held onto his vambrace with both hands, making Sandor stubbornly deny he was wishing he wasn’t wearing the stupid piece of armor.

The gelding was one the stable master had said was gentle in spirit but intuitive to whomever rode him. Sandor had said the man better not be stretching the truth because he intended to buy the gelding at the end of the day if Sansa was able to ride him. 

After taking the reins from his squire, while Jamis stood off to the side Sandor stepped forward with Sansa to introduce her to the horse.

“Just put your hand out,” he instructed, and she did so, keeping ahold of his arm and extending her other towards the horse. It was tentative, and it was obvious Sansa was afraid. When she looked in his direction, towards his chest and not his face which is something he was getting used to despite the fact that he liked to see her bright blue eyes, he saw they were wide.

“Sansa – ”

“I’m frightened, Sandor,” she whispered, and he could hear it in her voice, the way she nibbled at her lower lip nervously. She even squeezed her eyes shut when the gelding put his nose into Sansa’s hand.

It was amazing how a woman who had stood up to him multiple times with a fierce stubbornness, now feared this gentle creature.

“There’s naught to be frightened of, little bird.” 

He made his voice gentle but was certain it was still loud enough for Jamis to hear. 

“I mean, I know,” she responded, opening her eyes but not looking at the horse. She still held onto his arm as the gelding sniffed her palm. “But… I’ve never ridden one before, and – he’s huge!”

To that Sandor’s body twitched with a silent laugh.

“Jamis!” he called, and the squire stood from where he was sitting. “Fetch Stranger, no saddle.”

“Stranger?” she asked, looking higher, towards his far shoulder. Staring down at her unseeing eyes, Sandor wondered what it would feel like to have those eyes trained on him, to see her smile at him and to be happy that he was in her presence. He had wondered several times throughout his life what it would be like to receive that from any woman, but it still galled him that he found himself wanting it so badly specifically from Sansa. 

Straightening and looking off into the distance, he replied steely, determined not to let anything he felt show in his voice. 

“He is my war horse. You’ll not ride alone, but with me beside you.”

He heard her sigh but didn’t know it was a satisfied one until he looked down and she was smiling, a tremulous one but it was there, spreading her soft lips across her teeth.

“Thank you,” she said softly, and if he hadn’t heard her voice with his own ears he wouldn’t have heard the grateful tone that reached straight into his chest and squeezed his heart. In this light, with the sun peaking over the horizon and her hair pulled back into that braid, her smile was enough to light up the clearing they were in, and Sandor had to look away lest he be caught completely mesmerized by the sight.

While they waited for Jamis to bring Stranger, Sandor dug a piece of dried apple out of a pouch at his waist.

“Take this,” he said, holding out his hand. Sansa held out her palm and accepted the piece of apple he dropped into it. She didn’t seem to notice that he deliberately tried not to touch her, which was fine by him. The less she knew of how she affected him, the better. 

“Hold it out in your palm and allow him to take it, then scratch the front of his face.”

Sansa did as she was told, hesitating briefly before she curled her fingers and scratched at the short, stiff hairs on the gelding’s nose. Then she smiled, saying, “I can see that he’s light, maybe off white? He must be a beautiful horse.”

“Aye,” he replied, eyes on Sansa. “He is.”

He realized his mistake when her smile disappeared as she lifted her face to his, the blank stare in her eyes landing somewhere near his left cheek. He should have been looking at the horse when he said those words.

Shocked into silence by his own blunder, Sandor moved on, giving her some instruction for riding and telling her to repeat it back to him. But as Sansa continually shied away from the gelding with every one of the horse's movements, he decided to alter the training.

When Jamis strode into the clearing with Stranger in tow, Sandor took the massive black destrier’s bridle in hand and walked with him back to where Sansa was standing, her hands clasped in front of her stomach.

“There's nothing to fear, lass,” he reassured her, keeping his voice low. 

Jamis would know of Sandor's soft handling of Sansa but it wasn't something he was ever going to flaunt. Years of becoming the hardened warrior prevented him from being completely mild mannered with the woman. When she still shied away from Stranger, Sandor felt as irritated with her as he would have a young recruit, although he was continually having to remind himself that she was a woman who for some ridiculous, unknown reason had never ridden a horse before, had likely never done a hard day’s worth of work, and who was an entirely more delicate person than what Sandor was mentally equipped to work with.

So instead of coddling her he moved behind her and took her hand, pressing it against the side of Stranger’s neck. 

“You'll want to make sure they know where you are at all times.” 

Then without warning her, he fairly tossed her up onto Stranger’s bare back, giving her no time to become accustomed to it before he nudged Stranger into a walk.

“Sandor, no – I need to get down,” she said, but he could see her entire body was rigid, her hands splayed over the back of Stranger’s shoulders as though to let go meant she would fall from the horse.

Knowing he probably had limited time before Stranger became vexed over the odd treatment he was getting, Sandor slowed so that he walked beside the massive horse. With one hand on the reins and one on the horse’s side, he tried not to look at how, with no time to adjust them, Sansa’s skirts had risen up to expose a great deal of leg, much more than was appropriate.

“Fix your skirts,” he murmured, looking up at her face. 

But Sansa appeared terrified, and instead of listening to him she reached out in his direction, eyes wildly fixed in front of her on Stranger’s head as she groped the empty air between them.

“Sandor, I need to get down – ” Her voice was nearly frantic, which wasn’t going to go over well with Stranger. “I can’t do this – please get me down – Sandor, where are you?”

She was panicking and if she didn’t cease, Stanger was going to buck her off. 

“I’m here,” he murmured, his tone only slightly sharp as he flipped the reins so they fell over Stranger’s neck. Sansa’s hand still waved about, trying to find him in the empty space beside her, and to his dismay he saw a tear slip from her eye, trailing down her cheek before being joined by another.

“Where?”

He led the horse over to a fallen tree at the edge of the clearing, on the opposite side from where Jamis stood with the gelding. He stepped up onto the log and then swung his leg over the horse’s back so that he sat behind Sansa, all the while dealing with the patting and groping of Sansa’s hand.

“I’m here, little bird,” he murmured, though with his head turned away from Jamis he had to close his eyes, reminding himself that this was not the time to become aroused at the feel of her between his legs.

But oh, was it sweet. Her scent, and the way wisps of hair reached up to caress his face, and how her hands were reaching back to find his thighs where she dug her fingernails into his skin just below the edge of his tunic – 

“Fucking hells, woman,” he grumbled, reaching down to pry her fingers away from his thighs. 

When she had his hands in hers she held onto them as equally tight. 

“Don’t let me go,” she whispered, and he remembered the tears, sighing heavily behind her. 

“Nay, I won’t, little bird.” 

He meant it, too. While she was here in front of him, on his horse learning how to ride, he wasn’t going to let anything go awry. Stranger was under his full control now, and wouldn’t disobey now that his master was astride.

Chapter Text

Sandor understood that Sansa was terrified of riding a horse but there was no help for it – she was going to have to get used to riding single because he was more than likely going to be needed at the head of their company with the other senior soldiers. 

But what he didn’t understand was her willingness to touch his thighs, to take his hand and wrap it around the front of her waist as she was doing now. For one thing, it simply wasn’t proper, but then neither was climbing up onto the horse behind her like this. She had said she wasn’t a whore, and he believed her, so her welcoming his touch like this was highly unseemly for a woman of her bearing.

And also, wasn’t she so disgusted with facing a life here, with him, his camp wife, that she had tried to end her own life?

None of it made sense, but for the time being he chose not to question it out loud. If she wanted his bare hand pressed against the flat expanse of her stomach, then who was he to deny her?

But there was one thing he wasn’t willing to allow to go on, and that was her giving Jamis a view of her bare legs. True camp wife or not, no other man was going to see her ever again. Her days of being exposed and humiliated in front of the other soldiers were over because she belonged to him.

“Fix your skirts, little bird, lest you give any men including Jamis a show.”

~ ≈ ~

Sansa had barely managed lifting her legs and tucking her skirts down around her ankles before righting herself again. The last thing she wanted to do was slide off, though with how she was holding Sandor’s arm around her, she felt confident that he wouldn’t allow that to happen.

Her initial terror in being on his warhorse had diminished once he got on behind her, to be replaced by an altogether different feeling. 

Awareness .

She had grabbed his thighs out of fear, but she wasn’t blind to the thick muscle she had felt beneath her hands.

Nor was she oblivious to the strong way he held her to him with a hand on her stomach, or how every now and then he would lean forward to speak into her ear and the sensation of his voice against the bare skin of her exposed neck would give her chills she attempted to hide.

It’s not that she had planned on becoming attracted to the big man, but it was happening nonetheless. And she wasn’t sure how she felt about it. 

In the week and a half since that ill fated day at the pool she had done a lot of thinking. With the long, lonely days spent with Jamis, and much of those days spent in silent contemplation with nothing else to do, she came to the conclusion that, despite Sandor’s new penchant for staying away until it was time to sleep and being gone before she woke up in the morning, the last thing she wanted him to feel was… well, less . Her goal became to get him to repudiate all notions of guilt or unworthiness, since it was obvious by his late night drunk ramblings that he assumed there was something wrong with him and it had driven her to attempt to take her own life. 

She didn’t want him to think that she had tried to kill herself because she couldn’t stand the thought of being in his company. There must have been something about him that would lead him to that conclusion, along with those asshole fellow soldiers who were willing to hurl insults at him like Meryn Trant. 

But none of that would come from her. Indeed, the opposite would.

However, now – while she found ways to convince him of her acceptance of him – she also had to wrestle with attraction.

It just didn’t seem fair.

Of all the things the gods had hurled at her over the last few days, a grumpy, irritated, inconspicuously chivalrous soldier had been one she didn’t expect. Although now she realized with the way her life was going, she really needed to be prepared for anything. 

With Sandor’s gentle, if a tad short, teachings, Sansa was soon more at ease on top of the large war horse. The gentle gait with which he walked had her and Sandor swaying together, her back rubbing against the front of his leather tunic. She could feel the warmth coming from his lower body, and the clasp of his thighs against hers was reassuring. She felt safe, here in the cage of his arms as he easily directed Stranger in which direction to go.

The weather was nice, with a light breeze seemingly stealing much of the sounds of the encampment, leaving them in a world all to themselves. All that could be heard was the hum of activity, one sound blending into another. Only the songs of sparrows carried above the breeze, their shrill chirps accompanying the warmth of the sun to create what must have truly been a beautiful day.

When it was time for Sansa to try the gelding once more, Sandor slid off Stranger first and then reached up, grasping ahold of her waist. She thought he may have held his hands there for longer than was necessary after she had assured herself her footing was sound, but then they were gone and she couldn’t be sure. But then, she, too, rested her hands against the armor covering his upper arms for longer than she should have, and if she hadn’t been blind and unable to see his facial expression, she would have wondered if they had just had a moment , where he would have looked into her eyes and she into his.

But when Sandor let go of her he did so suddenly, almost pushing her away from him, and she wondered then if perhaps her quest to make him feel accepted might be in vain.

He exchanged Stranger for the gelding with Jamis, but when he brought the horse back over to her, Sansa had a thought that she felt needed to be voiced out loud.

“What’s his name?”

She reached out this time, seeing the large off white horse standing in front of her, not nearly as tall as Stranger but still a massive animal. Her heart didn’t beat quite as fast now with the gelding as it had in the beginning.

“He doesn’t have one,” Sandor replied, reaching for Sansa. She sidestepped, seeing an opportunity to make a point. Although it galled her slightly to reduce herself to a possession, she was beginning to realize that if she was indeed stuck here in this long-ago century, that Sandor Clegane was the man to be stuck with. When in Dorne , and all that jazz.

“He must, though. You can’t ride a horse and not know what to call him.”

Sandor’s hands dropped, and she was certain he would have had the most exasperated expression on his face. He kept his voice even when he responded.

“He doesn’t have a name because I wasn’t certain I was keeping him.”

“Oh.” 

Sansa made a show of pondering what he’d said, petting the horse’s neck and shoulder as she turned her back on him. She needed to tread carefully and she didn’t want Sandor to see any uncertainty on her face.

Just as she felt him come up behind her to lift her onto the horse she turned, one finger up as though she had an idea.

“Are you certain? I mean, that you’ll keep him?”

Sandor sighed. Definitely exasperated.

“Aye, little bird.”

“And you give names to things you intend to keep?”

She could see the blurry shadow of his arms as they came up to rest on his hips. He was so tall, so big, blocking out the sun so that Sansa felt almost entirely in his shadow. He wasn’t getting angry at her, which was good.

But his response was a grunt of assent, which was followed by a few chirps from sparrows off to the side of the clearing. it was as though they were in agreement with the scene Sansa was slowly unfolding for Sandor.

She turned towards the horse again, but abruptly turned back so that Sandor was now a step closer, once again having reached for her to lift her. His hand slid away from her and she could sense his mounting frustration. She wiped the smile from her face and lifted it to look in the area where his face would be if she could see it.

“Is that why you gave me a name? Little bird?”

His shadow didn’t move, nor speak, nor react in any way. She wanted to curse the gods for whatever had happened to her to make her blind, but inwardly grinned at her own cleverness for figuring this out.

Quietly so she was certain only he would hear her, she questioned, “Do you intend to keep me, Sandor?” 

She liked saying his name, as though allowing her to was a small gift he gave her and no one else.

She saw movement and thought that he might have looked away, taking a couple deep breaths, and then looked back down at her. Then he brought his hand up to tap a knuckle beneath her jaw, his thumb grazing her chin, a wholly unexpected act on his part. Sansa was stunned speechless.

“Might be,” he replied after a moment, and it sounded like an admission. One drawn out of him by a well placed question that he obviously hadn’t expected. 

Sansa felt as though she had scored some sort of point in this ridiculous game the gods were playing with her. Only it wasn’t them who was playing against her – it was Sandor. He dropped his hand but remained close, and she kept her sightless eyes trained on his face.

Remembering the words he had spoken that night in his drunken haze – ” Don’t know why I try” – she reached out, resting her palm against the front of his studded leather tunic. It wasn’t a caress, it wasn’t a hold, but it was an acknowledgement of the time they would be spending together from this point on, and the fact that she didn’t mind being close to him.

“Do you want to keep me?”

It needed to be asked. She needed to hear him say the words for her peace of mind, both because it bothered her what he thought about her despite her not being able to tell him the truth, and also because if she was going to be stuck in this time – quite possibly for the rest of her life, never seeing her family again, enjoying modern conveniences, or with the rights women had earned in the future – she needed to begin defining the path of her life. She wanted that definition to begin with Sandor, and the moment between them they were engaged in presently.

Sansa also suspected that if he was going to take the truce she was offering, that he needed to hear the words - his response, and the one she anticipated he would give - said out loud as well. It took him a minute to answer but when he did, his deep voice was even deeper, the rasp more grating, as though to speak the words aloud had taken more for him to admit than anything ever had in his entire life.

“Aye, little bird.” 

He paused, and then breathed in so deeply that Sansa wondered if he didn’t have the lung capacity of a competitive freediver. 

And when he exhaled, the last of his breath was used to affirm her as he said, “I do.”

~ ≈ ~

“Will we see Sandor at all today?” 

Sansa waited perched on a small box, waiting beside the yet-unnamed gelding while Jamis moved around her, tucking things into the saddle bags, assuring their pack horse was situated behind his own, and making sure everything was in order. The army was on the move, the commanding officers having learned of a small contingent of rebel Northern soldiers manning a castle approximately a week from their location near Winterfell. Preparations were made, every last person was notified, and soon they were spending two whole days preparing sixty thousand people to head out and move South.

Sansa had a hard time not being preoccupied with how she had ended up in the past. It was hard, thinking of all the people she wasn’t going to see again, but those thoughts inevitably invaded her mind and she forced herself to picture their faces, knowing should years pass she may forget what they look like over time. 

The ones that hurt the most were her family, and Brienne, who had been her friend for years. Even Arya, with who she had fought like petty little girls up until the day Sansa had disappeared into the past. Arya would have loved being caught up in a genuine army and all of the drama that came with the new role, being the type of young woman who craved adventure.

Brienne, not so much. Good, steady Brienne. She liked her tea, loved her novels, and could always be found curled up with one on a Friday night on her couch in front of her electric fireplace. No, she would not have liked being sent back in time.

Sansa missed her parents and siblings as well, and she missed other material things she had always taken for granted. Although it seemed as though Sandor and Jamis washed themselves at least somewhat regularly, the same could not be said for others in the army. She couldn’t count how many times she had caught a whiff of ripe body odor or what she assumed was unwashed butt, sitting there on the horse waiting to leave. And no, it wasn’t the horses. Compared to the scent of some of the men, the horses were downright pleasant.

Jamis was taking a while to check things, but she knew it would be his fault if anything was left behind, so it was reasonable that he was being extra cautious.

“No, my lady,” he said, addressing her question about Sandor. “We won’t be seeing him until nightfall when we make camp.”

She tried not to be disappointed at that. It wasn’t like she needed Sandor’s company, but he was her only other friend. And since she didn’t know anyone besides he and Jamis, with her sight no better than it had been days earlier, she craved his company for purely selfish reasons. 

Of course, it didn’t have anything to do with his confirmation that he wanted her to remain his camp wife. 

Nope. Pure coincidence.

While she tried to accept that lie, she figured Jamis would have to do, and he wasn’t a horrible substitute. He had kept up a string of chatter while preparing them for the journey.

The last week was more of the same – a truce of sorts between Sansa and Sandor in which they were able to spend companionable stretches of time together without negative feelings clogging the air. It had been painfully obvious for quite some time that he didn’t want her here, and only after her talk with Jamis and putting together the more recent behaviors she had experienced from Sandor did she realize his mind was slowly changing. Yes, she was a burden. But it seemed like she was becoming a burden he was willing to bear.

Something else was happening, something Sansa wasn’t sure how she felt about it. The attraction she was beginning to feel for the man was both alarming and unsettling. She had never been in this position before – blinded by an unknown illness or event with no hope of recovery in sight, and attracted to a man she knew almost nothing about. 

In her time, if Sansa had met Sandor and had managed to get past his gruff personality to the caring man he carefully hid from the world she may have acted on the attraction. It would have been easy enough – read his facial expressions, gauge his interest, flip her hair, bat her eyelashes, ask for something on the top shelf and not-so-accidentally be caught giving an assessment of his backside…

She had her methods, and they had served her well for many years.

Not only that, but also in her time it wasn’t uncommon to skip to the physical part of a relationship well before the amount of time that had already transpired for Sansa in this past. It was highly likely she and Sandor would have already slept together and decided if they were physically compatible – if they liked similar things in bed, if he was attentive enough, if she wasn’t turned off by his body or him, hers. 

But to be blind while trying to decide if it was worth it? If she wanted to, pursue something between her and Sandor? It was maddening, but it also made her cautious. 

An interesting thing was, she could have sworn the attraction was mutual. She could have sworn she dreamt a couple times of strong arms encasing her as she slept but she always awoke on her own in the rough bed. It was as though he didn’t wish her to know there was an attraction on his part, if there indeed was. It confused Sansa, but it was also just another reason not to act on it. They still slept side by side, but that was the extent of it. 

Sandor had not yet brought her back to the pool to bathe, and wouldn’t now with their imminent departure, so there had been no more instances where he had to be in close quarters with her while she dressed. And it wouldn’t have mattered if he needed to disrobe in front of her – which he didn’t do, anyway – since she wasn’t able to see anything. 

So now she wouldn’t be seeing him until late at night since he had to travel with the rest of the commanding officers, and he had taken everything he needed with him while he travelled with the troops, though his parting words were to Sansa.

“Name that horse,” he’d said, and she had smiled towards him in a way she hoped said she was pleased with him before he’d ridden off with Stranger.

Her smile faded as he rode off, her confusion as multifaceted as ever. Confounding man. He filled her thoughts almost as much as her predicament did.

Before they left Jamis instructed her to wait by the cart that was to be attached to the pack horse – a small contraption from what little of it she could see, hardly more than a glorified wheelbarrow. But apparently it held all of Jamis and Sandor’s belongings just fine. He even gave her a small pouch that held some food, which she ate while listening to him talk to the gelding. She suspected Jamis did it so Sansa would know where he was, and she was grateful for it.

When he came back to her he informed her a saddle had been dropped off for her gelding, and Sansa shook her head.

“Oh, he’s not mine, he belongs to Sandor.”

Jamis chuckled and asked that she take his arm. Then he led her to beside the gelding and helped her mount in the modest way Sandor had instructed. She managed to not fall off, though she was still wary of leaning down to arrange her skirts so they covered her ankles. After it was done and she sat tall, she smiled lightly to herself at the comfortable saddle Sandor had acquired for the horse.

“He’s yours,” Jamis was saying, adjusting the stirrups so they fit Sansa. “Sandor bought him, and he wants you to name him. I’m certain that means the gelding belongs to you.” 

Sansa could hear the smile in his voice, and he let her know he was handing her the reins so she could take them.

“In addition,” he added, and she could hear the laughter in his voice, “There’s not a man in this army who would fit into a saddle that small.”

He was still chuckling as he resumed his duties, and Sansa scrunched up her face, smiling lightly at all that was happening.

A horse . Sandor had bought her a horse? Sansa could only imagine how much that had put him back. It must have been similar to if he had bought her a car in her time. It was a loud gesture, one she tried not to dissect but a feat that proved impossible. She was his camp wife, after all. Shouldn’t she have a horse? He probably could have made her walk without batting an eye. But a horse was a commitment, a large expenditure. What did it mean?

They were on their way shortly after that, Jamis and Sansa travelling with a large group of camp wives, whores, washerwomen, other squires and what Sansa lumped together as support staff. Conversation filtered through the noise of everyone moving at once, and she began to settle in for the long, undulating horseback journey to King’s Landing, only slightly nervous about being out in the open with so many people. She had the dagger, and Jamis was armed with both dagger and sword, so she felt as safe as she figured she could.

~ ≈ ~

“Bobby.”

Sansa waited for Jamis’ reply.

“Biscuit,” he said. Sansa scrunched her nose.

“Tom Petty,” she said with a small laugh, thinking of names from her time. “Or Snoop Dog.”

“If you want him teased by all the other horses.” Jamis snorted in disgust.

Sansa shook her head, chuckling.

“Latte? Macchiato. Starbucks!”

“Potato.”

“Jamis!” She laughed at his suggestion. The gelding was not going to be named Potato.

“He’s the right color, miss.”

He had explained to her that, while travelling with everyone else, in order to not appear as a woman trying to rise above her station, Miss was the correct way to address Sansa, especially since she was attached to Sandor and Jamis worked for the man.

“The right color, yes, but… that just sounds so dull.”

“Then perhaps a different direction?”

Sansa agreed, and they continued bouncing names off each other, trying to settle on one that fit the gentle gelding Sansa sat on.

The day seemed to drag on and on, and without even stopping for lunch it seemed like it would never end. Some time ago she had begun to feel sore on her bottom, and tilting her pelvis this way or that would temporarily relieve the discomfort, but it always came back. 

Jamis had made sure she had food and drink, though she willingly kept her drinks to a minimum so they wouldn’t have to stop often. But she was relieved when word was sent down the line to all those in the back that the front of the army – miles ahead of them, incidentally – were coming upon a river valley in which they would settle for the night. Sansa couldn’t wait to get out of the saddle, even if they hadn’t settled on a name for the gentle gelding.

“Sparrow,” Jamis said as they rounded the base of a hill that rose above them to the left. Though the road they were on seemed wide, the towering shadow of rock cliff next to them made Sansa nervous, and she wondered if in time the passing of so many vibrations wouldn’t rattle loose a rock slide.

But she heard the name Jamis suggested and it immediately made her think of Sandor.

“I like it,” she said slowly, smiling through the pain in her bottom. “Sparrow.” She tested the name, and pet the sloping side of the horse’s neck. It would be fitting, with all the sparrows she seemed to hear around her. There must have been many sparrows in this time period for her to hear them as often as she did. “What do you think, Sparrow? Do you like that name?”

The gelding nickered in return and Sansa had to laugh.

“I think he likes it, miss,” Jamis said from beside her. Sansa nodded.

“Yes, I do believe he does.”

Chapter Text

By the time they reached the site where they would make camp, Sansa was cringing at every movement Sparrow’s swaying back made. 

How many more weeks of this? She wasn’t sure she would make it. Sansa was feeling aches and pains in places she didn’t know she could have aches and pains. What she wouldn’t do for a long soak in her jetted tub!

“It won’t be long and I’ll have the tent and pallet set up, miss.”

She had to sit in the saddle while he went about his business, and dwelling on all that had happened to her, from waking up next to the weirwood pool to this day, and travelling with an entire army several centuries before she was born, took her mind off the pain. She hadn’t yet asked anyone what year it was, nor was she likely to. It didn’t sound like something someone just asked about offhand.

She was sad whenever she thought about her family, and she even had a few sympathetic thoughts to whatever version of the Stark family had lived in this time. But she didn’t dwell on their demise, any more than she did on her failed attempt at getting home through the pool. To do so would be to invite depression, and she didn’t want that.

She had no choice but to look at this as an adventure, although it was already proving to be one that could be painfully uncomfortable. Her lip was healing, and Jamis told her that the marks on her face were faded, the bruises merely yellow. The scrape at her collarbone still smarted if she forgot it was there and scratched it, but other than that she seemed to be doing okay. And she hadn’t fallen off Sparrow, which had to count for something, thanks to the sturdy saddle Sandor had commissioned for Sansa. 

And for now she had Jamis and Sandor, her only companions. Becoming Sandor’s camp wife had apparently been a boon, as Jamis told her unattached females in the camp nearly always ended up whores that were passed around between the soldiers. This information was tough to get out of him, since it took a while to convince him she didn’t mind talking about such topics. It was the only way those women could gain food and a place to sleep.

Being with Sandor meant she didn’t have to wonder where those things were coming from. And she had Jamis, who was sort of a manservant, and one who had made it his mission to take care of her. 

Between the two men, Sansa hadn’t lacked for any necessity, although she acutely missed her cell phone. In fact, there were quite a few things she missed.

Showers were one. She didn’t regret using her time in the weirwood pool to get home, but she thought that perhaps she could have bathed first. But then again, she wouldn’t have had to worry about cleanliness if she had woken up in the 21st century like she’d wanted. And it wasn’t as though Jamis hadn’t supplied her with bowls of warm water to bathe herself with. She was clean; just not as clean as she wanted to be.

She didn’t miss television so much, nor movies, but music was sorely lacking in this time. During lulls in her and Jamis’ conversation she found herself humming some of her favorite songs.

She missed all of the modern conveniences that she would have used multiple times in the short time she had been here – her hairbrush and toothbrush, toilet paper, even her clothes. Wearing the same dress day in and day out with only the crude version of tying underwear she had managed to make, was getting old.

“The tent is ready,” Jamis said, pulling her out of her thoughts. She looked down at him and nodded, feeling exactly how tired she was. Doing nothing but riding in a saddle all day had made her tired.

And sore , she realized as soon as she stood in the stirrups to get down. Muscles hurt that had never hurt before – her back, shoulders, arms and legs. And the pain on her butt made her wince as she swung her leg over, so much so that by the time Jamis had helped her down to the ground her eyes were swimming with tears. 

“I’m sorry, my lady,” he said quietly and only to her. He had a hand on each of her elbows from behind as she hobbled over to the opening of the tent. Once inside, he told her he had set up the chamber pot next to the pallet, and already had a steaming cup of watered wine sitting on the small table. 

“‘Twill ease your soreness,” he explained, but all Sansa could do was nod.

He left her standing in the middle of the tent and she went about using the chamber pot, only crying out when she had to lift herself back up. Jamis returned to remove the pot and to make sure she drank the wine before lowering herself down to the pallet. With her back to him, she let tears flow as she noted every single pain in her body.

Jamis was polite enough to remain silent, until Sandor cleared his throat outside the tent to make himself known. She was still facing the wall of the tent when he asked Jamis how she did.

“She was in good spirits the entire day, until it was time to dismount.”

There was silence and Sansa could imagine them both considering her prone form. Then while Jamis helped Sandor with his armor, she wiped away the tears and braced for the impact of Sandor climbing onto the pallet.

The sounds from outside were louder than usual, likely due to the influx of activity caused by soldiers returning to their tents, so Sansa only realized that Jamis had left when Sandor began to speak.

“How do you fare?”

His voice - Sansa felt such a wave of relief that he was there, even from across the tent, one of the few constants she had come to rely on in this time, that she immediately began to cry.

“Your muscles will be better on the morrow, I promise,” he said softly across the distance between them. Sansa merely nodded, though she didn’t turn. Sandor shifted in his chair and cleared his throat, but when she thought he was simply getting comfortable he spoke again.

“How is your…” He coughed, and it sounded like he did it into his hand. “Are you sore, little bird?”

Sansa couldn’t do anything other than nod, and she heard Sandor’s affirmative grunt. 

“That may be worse tomorrow, I’m afraid. I’ve sent Jamis to get a salve – ” He stopped there just as the squire reappeared.

“I’ve got it,” Jamis said as he entered the tent. “If there’s anything else, I’ll just be in my tent.”

“Aye, Jamis,” said Sandor, dismissing the squire as he approached Sansa.

She heard the tent flap moving and then it was just her and Sandor, and she wondered what he meant by salve

“Sansa,” he said, getting her attention. She felt him sit on the edge of the pallet behind her and waited until she turned slowly towards him. “You’ll want to put this on. ‘Twill lessen the soreness both today and tomorrow.” He handed her a small ceramic jar and Sansa winced as she took it. It was dark, a color she wasn’t able to discern in the low light, an adorable little jar that would have fetched a good price at a pottery shop in Winterfell. She brought it close to her face and winced again, though this time at the sour smell of whatever it was inside.

“I’m to put this on…” She left the question unfinished suddenly realizing what he intended for her to do.

“Aye. Tonight, and again in the morning. If you’d like to do it now I can step out.” 

He stood, though he waited for her to answer. When she nodded she heard him exit the tent, his shifting feet scuffing the dirt outside the tent flap.

Sansa couldn’t believe she was in such a ridiculous situation. She had never guessed riding a horse in a comfortable saddle all day could cause her this much pain and discomfort. Had she been home in Winterfell she would have sworn to never ride one again. But even as the thought scrolled through her mind, she knew if she had a horse like Sparrow at home, she likely would have been on him every day. He was such a sweet, mild mannered horse – Sansa didn’t have it in her to have ill thoughts towards the creature Sandor had bought for her.

But she didn’t have time to dwell on everything that had happened that day, so still laying on her side, she reached down to pull her skirts up to her waist. Then she dipped her fingers in the offending salve, which felt very similar to petroleum jelly even though it smelled nothing like it, and straightened her arm to put it on her butt.

The charlie horse that erupted in her upper back made her cry out in pain, and she curled her arm forward against her chest, willing the cramp to go away.

“Sansa?”

“Don’t come in!” she cried out through clenched teeth, and she took a couple deep breaths as the pulsing cramp decreased in intensity. There was only one alternative to her doing this herself, and that was for someone else to do it, and Sansa wasn't yet willing to give into that possibility. 

“I’ll be just a minute,” she responded in a strained voice, belatedly realizing he might not even know what a minute meant. Did they have clocks in this time?

With her face in the pallet beneath her, the more preferable scent of Sandor in her nose, Sansa reached around again attempted to apply the salve, only for the same cramp to return. Again she yelped at the pain, and this time Sandor opened the tent flap and came in.

“Sandor, no! I’m not decent – ” she tried, but he simply ignored her. 

Mortified that he was seeing her like this, she tried to push her skirt back down over her makeshift panties, only to have his hand stay hers with its grip on her wrist.

“You need the salve,” he said simply, and Sansa thought she might faint of embarrassment. Here she sat with her dress around her waist and her butt nearly completely exposed to Sandor if not for the single undergarment she wore, and he was talking to her like this was something he did every day. 

If another time portal could open up and swallow me right now, that’d be great , she thought miserably. 

“I just… I get a cramp in my shoulder whenever I try – ”

“It’s alright, little bird – ”

“Don’t you little bird me, Sandor. I don’t want you doing this.”

‘You don’t want me to, but you need me to.”

“But… well… maybe Jamis – ”

“I’m not letting fucking Jamis touch you,” he grumbled, and it was so unexpectedly feral, so wholly possessive, that she shut up. 

Well . That was her only thought, because she didn't even know where to go with that.

But crap, he was right about needing the salve, though she was irritated that this was actually going to happen. Sandor was going to put a salve on her butt – was going to put his fingers near there – willingly. 

The gods help her .

It was so embarrassing, though, that the tears kept flowing from her, and she turned to push her face into the soft pallet.

He took her hand and rubbed the salve from her fingers onto his, then let go. With a nudge to her hip he had her roll to her stomach, and she was immediately thankful for the low light, and that Sandor wasn't a man who kept lanterns in his tent.

~ ≈ ~

Sandor was glad he didn't keep lanterns in his tent, because he was about to condemn himself to a night of sheer torture.

And yes, there was no fucking way he was going to let Jamis – or any other man – touch Sansa. If that meant he was already thinking of her as being his than so be it. She was his. He had claimed her and she hadn’t said no.

Her odd speaking patterns aside, it was painfully obvious that Sansa didn't want him to do this. But one outcry of pain on her part he could ignore because this was none of his fucking business. Nevermind that he was fisting his hands, only because he remembered the ill treatment of his sister at the hands of his brother when they were young, and the sound of the little girl in pain was to this day still fresh in his mind. 

But two cries from Sansa and he needed to intercede. She was having a hard enough time adjusting to this life, and he needed to do all that was in his ability to alleviate her discomfort.

If that included rubbing the soothing salve into her bottom then, by the gods, he'd do it.

If he was honest with himself, it was the last thing he wanted to do. Of course, Sansa was a beautiful woman, obviously the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. It was one of the reasons why he had taken Jamis on. Most camp wives in large part took the place of a squire, with the added benefit of having someone to fuck whenever a soldier wanted. 

But Sansa wasn't that type of camp wife. She was beautiful, which put her at risk of being stolen from him, which would have led to a fight wherein it would have been required of Sandor to kill another man. 

As easy as that was for him to do, it was something he wanted to avoid. The men were all wary of him enough – he didn't want to give them any cause to complain to their superiors and somehow find out he was harboring a Northerner. 

The consequences of that would likely be disastrous.

Sansa also had no obvious knowledge of living during wars, campaigns, of being a camp wife, or performing any duties customarily taken care of by a squire. Not that she couldn't be taught, but that would perhaps come in time. 

It would be difficult with her blindness but he had been thinking since she broached the subject of tasks she would be able to do, what were tasks either he or Jamis could teach her. Soon he'd like to teach her how to help him with his armor, perhaps how to prepare simple meals, and how to help Jamis with the setting up and taking down of their camp. 

There might be a time when she could do limited sewing – he hadn’t asked if she was capable of this prior to her blindness – and even that would depend on how long she was with him. 

There was a chance she would want to be rid of him as soon as they reached King's Landing and she could find herself better employment – a paying position, since the only compensation he had to offer her was his protection.

He had only been around her for a just over a fortnight and already he felt a pang of disappointment that she might leave.

Regardless of what might or might not happen in their future, she was here now and he needed to help her with this task.

On the other hand, if he was being truly honest with himself, he was about to touch her body – the body he’d seen at the pool that day, now remembering in full clarity – in a way he had never touched a woman, and he was absurdly looking forward to it. 

He wasn’t, however, looking forward to causing her more pain or discomfort.

With one hand holding the pot of salve and the other fingers spread thick with it, he looked to where she had her face turned away from him.

“This might hurt.”

When he pressed his fingers to the back of her thigh she winced, but he didn’t pause. He knew it would be best to get it over with as quickly as possible. Over the back of one thigh his fingers slid, dipping into the crevice where she had her legs pressed together. Then he moved to the other thigh, knowing if he had light he would likely see a large swath of redness on both sides.

He was getting hard and he ignored it. With one more dip into the pot he scooped out enough to do the swells of her bottom, only going as far as he knew the redness would go beneath her undergarment. This was not the time to give her the impression that he was taking advantage of her predicament.

When it was over he pulled the skirts of her dress back down to her ankles and wiped his hands off on a rag. He pulled his fur cloak over them, being careful to lay it gently over the backs of her legs, and laid down on his side facing her.

She sniffed, and he understood her reluctance to face him. She was crying and didn’t want him to see.

He had decided she wasn’t going to say anything so he closed his eyes, ready to sleep for the long day they had ahead of them tomorrow. But when he began to feel sleep take him he felt her lift her head and turn towards him before settling back down on the pallet.

Sandor opened his eyes, seeing hers open in the dim light cast by others’ camp fires against the walls of his tent. He knew she couldn’t see, so he merely looked on her face, noting again the redness that would be there had he the lighting to see it.

“Thank you,” she said quietly, her voice almost a whisper. He heard her swallow in the darkness and then she spoke again. “I have to ride again tomorrow, don’t I.”

It wasn’t a question, but he answered anyway, knowing she wasn’t going to like what he had to say but saying it anyway.

“Aye, little bird. And the next day, and the next, and the next – ”

She interrupted him with a low, dramatic groan. It made the corners of his mouth twitch, which felt good. It felt good to smile, when he so seldom had reason to. And how many times had Sansa made him smile since he met her?

“I suppose tomorrow I’ll have to put on the salve again, too.”

He nodded once, which was enough of an answer for her. 

Suggesting out of the need to be helpful, he whispered, “But I could help you if you needed it –”

“No, Sandor. I’ll do it myself.” Her words were final but he could hear a smile in her voice, see her white teeth gleaming through the darkness between them. 

He almost smiled, except she moved then, scooting her upper body every so slightly closer to his so her forehead was but a finger’s width away from his chin. Then she yawned, and he wondered how it would feel to press his lips to her hairline – a foolish inclination though one he managed to suppress. 

That he had the urge scared him enough. What was she doing to him?

“Good night, Sandor,” she whispered, and she sighed softly against his neck as he replied.

“Good night, little bird.”

Chapter Text

Sandor was right. Sansa did have to ride the next day, and the next, and the next. But that second night after riding Sparrow all day proved slightly easier for her to apply the salve herself. Despite crying out in pain, she also demanded, just loud enough for him to hear, that he was not to enter the tent because she was able to reach the affected spots herself.

Her days were spent with Jamis, and her nights with Sandor. The days were getting easier, and she was slowly becoming accustomed to spending all day in the saddle without the soreness that accompanied riding those first two days. She was even approached by a couple curious women who wished to say hello to the blind newcomer, and during those times Sansa did her best to sound like an authentic medieval peasant, something she hadn’t thought of doing with Jamis and Sandor. Thankfully they never questioned how she spoke.

The times Sansa spent with Sandor were becoming more and more important to her, as though her sanity rested firmly in their shared and quiet domesticity. Not that it felt like they were an old married couple when they came together at night after Jamis had turned in, but they were growing used to working around each other.

Sandor and Jamis had taught her how to feel with her hands the buckles connecting his various pieces of armor. She learned how to assist him in getting on the mail shirt that went over his clothes, and after that connecting the buckles under his arms that connected the front and back of his studded leather tunic.

When everything was said and done she knew he had metal plates covering his neck, chest, shoulders, and arms. He had gauntlets that went over heavy leather gloves, and plates that covered his lower legs over his boots. She wished she could see him all decked out but her vision showed no signs of returning, so she had to content herself with pictures she came up with in her imagination as she sorted through buckles and straps, all the while somehow avoiding touching his body if at all possible.

There were plenty of times where she had inadvertently done exactly that. While lowering the mail shirt over his head, her fingers grazed the back of his hair and she felt its softness against her skin. 

Connecting and buckling the straps at his sides when helping him with the leather armor meant she had to tuck herself under his raised arm and several times wasn’t able to avoid pressing her hands into his warm, solid sides.

The shin pieces were perhaps the most unsettling, as it meant he would be sitting in a chair and she would kneel before him. And with her attraction growing for the man, she didn’t even want to acknowledge the thoughts she had about him while in that position.

Then there was that one time she had almost cut herself with his small blade while preparing a dinner for them. She had said she could do it, since she had been using knives to cut food for all of her adult life. But the moment she thought the long dagger had cut into her skin she’d yelped and brought it to her mouth, afraid for what she knew could become an infected wound in a time without penicillin or common sense medical care.

Sandor was there in an instant, having dropped his sword to the ground from where he had been sharpening it – grasping her hand and pulling her finger from her mouth to inspect it.

“Am I bleeding?” she asked in a panic, though she hadn’t tasted any blood. Still, the blade had cut her, she knew it. She had felt it. Sandor must have seen her fear in her expression.

“Nay, little bird, not bleeding. But you did slice off a bit of skin.”

He’d come around behind her and, hand over hand, showed her how she should be cutting carefully, holding the bit of meat with her left hand, fingers curled under, while his other hand covered hers on his dagger and he sliced slowly. He had been standing so close to her that her entire backside was warmed by his presence, and his breath stirred her hair where he leaned over her to see what they were doing.

After a moment of demonstrating how to carefully cut the food, he’d stepped away and she had felt the loss of his presence acutely.

Those disturbing moments aside, Sansa was learning how to enjoy Sandor’s company even though he was so different than anyone she’d met in her time. 

He didn’t laugh, though she had felt his body shake with mirth a time or two while laying next to him on the pallet, usually from something she had said. He seemed appreciative that she spoke her mind and wasn’t one to mince words. And there were a handful of times where she thought she had heard what could be called a laugh, usually at her expense. If he smiled, she couldn't say. She had never seen his face, and wasn’t familiar with any of his facial expressions as she would have been prior to losing her sight.

It saddened her that she couldn’t tell when he was mad or upset, nor when he was being serious as opposed to those rare times he was jesting or being sarcastic. Most of the time she gathered that he was introspective and quiet, studying her even though all she knew was that his attention was on her. There was something about those times, as though his stare was something physical she could feel on her body. A time or two she had started talking about anything at all that came to mind, simply to distract her mind from his intense attention.

Several times his patience had worn thin with something Jamis did, and his voice would rise and she would hear his armor scraping together as he gestured wildly with his hands. During those times she kept quiet, though after the dust had settled she would find a way to draw him into conversation or she would begin to hum. It was the humming that seemed to calm the storm in him more than anything else.

He never questioned her odd choice of music, though she was sure if he could hear the full instrumental versions of her classic hits, he would have thought her insane. She had heard what passed for music in their time and was not impressed.

It was the first time she’d done it that had sold her on its efficacy. Just days ago, Sandor found out that Jamis had misplaced one of Sandor’s pauldrons between the time they had set up camp and when he was supposed to dress to leave the tent. The yelling began while Sansa still lay on the pallet, and she covered her head with the cloak that smelled of the large soldier, although a metal box wouldn’t have saved her from his tirade. She wasn’t sure what had gotten into him, but Jamis had alternated between apologetic and silent, which she decided was probably best for the situation. 

Once the young squire was sent on his way to find the missing piece of armor, Sansa had slowly crawled out of the makeshift bed and towards where Sandor had sat down heavily on the lone chair, hesitant that his anger might turn on her when he saw what she was doing..

Rather than attempting to talk him through it, which had proven ineffectual before, she simply did what felt natural in order to assist her friend with managing his emotions – she quietly sat at his feet with her cheek resting on her raised knees, and began humming When Somebody Loves You, slowly but happily, keeping the song light and bouncing and carefree. She had gotten so into it that she found herself swaying and tapping her shin to the beat.

At the time, Sansa couldn’t be sure exactly what effect it had had on him since she couldn’t see his face. But he sat still for the duration of the song, until she finished off with the last long note, a smile spread across her face because the music had somehow drawn her out of her own melancholy and had cheered her up before she’d even realized she needed it.

The silence between them no longer bothered her, so as she sat still and quiet, listening to his breaths change from deep and loud to long and soft, hearing him scratch his beard once, rub his hand over his knee twice.

But after a moment she felt a hand alight on her shoulder, wide and warm, and Sandor’s strong fingers gave her such a tender, reassuring squeeze that her heart tripped in her chest. 

In return she had put her own hand on top of his, and that wonderful moment lasted for nearly half a minute before Jamis burst in on them, exclaiming happily that he’d found the missing pauldron.

~ ≈ ~

There was one night that had seemed a sort of tipping point in Sansa and Sandor’s friendship, one that had come wholly unexpectedly.

He was tossing and turning after they’d gone to bed, and Sansa had felt her annoyance growing. True to his nature, Sandor was verbally silent, though his restlessness was fairly screaming in the dark of night, and she was being drowned in it.

She turned on the small pallet, very aware that there just wasn’t enough room to act the way he was without disturbing the other person sleeping on it. When she faced him he still didn’t settle, and when he ended up on his back Sansa reached out and laid her hand flat on the center of his chest, just over his heart.

Sandor immediately stilled, and Sansa didn't do anything for a long moment besides feel the rise and fall of his cheat with each breath, and the warmth and strength of him beneath her palm. Then, as she began to hum the same tune, he put his large, callused hand over hers.

Sansa hummed softly and then, because their repoire had been getting more and more intimate with the time they spent together in the confines of that tent, she had rested her cheek against the side of his shoulder and closed her eyes. She reached the second half of the song, where the vocals became a little less steady and the short trills at the end of words turned just a tiny bit more imaginative, and she went with it, letting her voice roll over both of them as she stroked him with her thumb, feeling both the solid wall through the rough material of his tunic and the thickened skin of his hand above hers.

Sansa didn’t know if he’d appreciate the words so she had never sang the song, but it became – at least in her mind – their song, and every time it came to mind it made her smile.

That was, until the following morning when she heard him humming it while he thought she was asleep. Sansa woke to his deep voice, and to a warmth spreading through her chest that told her she was in deeper than she thought with the man whom she had never even seen.

~ ≈ ~

Sandor sat on the lone chair in the tent drinking the hot watered wine Jamis had brought him. It had become Sansa’s favorite morning drink and when Sandor tried it, he’d found it served to clear the fog of sleep better than almost anything except a good fight.

She had been here for nearly three weeks now, and he wasn’t sure exactly what to think about the feelings he was developing.

Feelings. He was the Hound. The king’s dog when he was in King’s Landing. Feared warrior on the battlefield, soldier everyone avoided when they weren’t. 

And yet, he found his heart softening for this wisp of a woman who even now slumbered on their pallet.

He didn’t know when it had become that – their pallet. Nor did he know when he began to see it as their tent, their home – no longer his. Sansa was, completely without effort, solidifying her place in his life and eradicating any desire of his to remain solitary, simply by being here. He was as shocked as anyone else would be.

She was blind and didn’t do many things, but what she did do meant more to him than at any other time. He had gotten used to being helped with his armor, but it was different from when Jamis helped him. Seeing Sansa stand before him while buckling his gorget to his tunic, her slender fingers working the strap and feeling for the moment when the prong fit into the hole in the leather, and how hard she concentrated on her task, for some strange reason warmed his big, cold heart. She would stand even closer when she worked at the buckles at his sides and he would fight the absurd urge to wrap his arm around her and crush her to him.

Then the times when she knelt before him and worked at the buckles on his greaves, first the outside buckles and then the ones on the inside of his leg – gods , the images that flooded his mind were almost enough to make him ashamed.

He blamed it on her beauty and how, being blind, she would obviously have no idea what it did to him, or how often he stared at her. She didn’t know when she knelt before him how he wanted to slide his fingers through her hair. Nor how when she stood before him, he longed to see what it would feel like to press his lips to hers, seeing as how he could count the number of kisses he’d experienced from woman on one hand. And in bed late at night, he wanted to hold her to him as he had done those first couple of nights, with her back to his chest, though he was afraid of waking up and finding his hands had wandered again.

Which is why he had such a hard time falling asleep the previous night. With Sansa laying beside him it was almost too much to bear, having her soft body warming his despite not touching, knowing her hair was loose and spread out, ready for him to press his face into and be overcome with the sweet fragrance of it.

Then her hand had come up when he had shifted to his back, and she’d laid it over his heart and began to hum. It was all Sandor could do not to drag her on top of him and show her exactly what she did to him without trying at all.

And that song she always hummed – he cleared his throat and hummed a few notes, finding it a foreign feeling, something that he perhaps hadn’t done since he was a child. But she hummed it often enough that he knew the first part of it, though his voice sounded like someone else’s instead of his own.

Could he ever hum to her the way she did him? He didn’t know. But he wondered if someday he might want the opportunity to try.

Perhaps one day when she was upset, for it was a heady tactic she’d used that day he had been worked up over unrequited lust and had yelled at Jamis for losing the pauldron. Of course, losing a piece of armor was a serious offense when out on campaign like this, but even Sandor knew it was likely with the cart. Hells, he could have gone and gotten it himself if he’d wanted to. But Jamis had proven a willing dummy for the words Sandor had slung at him.

As soon as Jamis left and Sansa had crawled over from the pallet, he had calmed enough to watch what she was doing. Her humming had been a balm for his soul and he’d been powerless to stop himself from putting a hand on her shoulder in thanks. That she covered it with her own, making his heart flutter in his chest, had been completely unexpected.

He stopped humming now and looked over at the pallet. Sansa’s breathing had changed, and he suspected her eyes were merely closed and she was listening to him.

Gods , he wanted to lay himself down on the pallet next to her and gather her into his arms, just to remain there for a while longer before he was required to don his armor and leave her and Jamis for the day. When had it come about that the urge to wile away his day in his tent would surpass the urge to beat the shit out of the young recruits?

When she opened her eyes he remained still, watching her. She yawned and stretched a bit before settling back again, resting her cheek against the pillow he’d gotten for them to share. He had been sleeping without one for years, but she had mentioned it to Jamis, who had mentioned it to him, and it was that very night when one of the washerwomen had shown up with the one he’d paid her to make.

He had to admit, it was nicer to sleep with a pillow than without. But it was just another item to add to his small cart of supplies, though he suspected Jamis didn’t mind. The lad seemed happy to have a single routine he had to memorize, rather than jumping around from soldier to soldier.

Sansa looked around the tent, her eyes unfocused and lazy with her lack of sight until he saw them land on his shadow. She had told him she knew the difference between he and Jamis simply because of his size. It made him feel good that she had taken the time to memorize his shape so that she could be aware of his presence, almost as much as he was aware of hers.

For a moment it appeared as though she could see him, and a familiar panic rose into his throat for the span of half a heartbeat before her eyes slid lower and to the right, down his neck and torso before drifting away from him completely. No, she could not see him, and she still had no idea he was horrifically scarred. He repeated it in his head; that she couldn’t see him, couldn’t see him, couldn’t see him.

Sansa tossed the cloak towards her back, a fold of the furs still covering her side, and he thought she meant to get up. But she didn’t move from her spot, but instead laid her hand flat on the spot where he had slept as her eyes returned to the vicinity of his face. He wondered what she was doing, laying there as beautiful as she was while sparrows chirped away somewhere outside the tent.

Her hand circled the spot on the pallet where he had slept, the curve of his body still visible where he had spent a long night wrestling against his mind and its urges to claim her.

Then his heart tripped within his chest as she patted that spot a couple times, those soft lips of hers curving into a small, sweet smile.

She knew he was watching her. Fucking hells , and she knew he wouldn’t turn down that invitation. How was it in such a short amount of time they had developed this connection between them? Sandor wanted to sit and question it and mull over it hour after hour after hour, but in this moment he chose not to. He simply rose from his seat, lowered his body to the pallet, and watched as she curled herself around his side, her head on his shoulder, dragging the cloak back over the two of them.

Then she sighed, and if she’d been a cat he could have sworn she would have purred.

“What’s this, little bird?” he asked quietly, his head tilted slightly towards her. He laid still beside her as she rested her hand once again over his heart. Though she trapped his arm he left it limp behind her, refusing to touch her until she showed him she wanted to be touched.

He had never before felt such comfort and belonging as he did there with her arm resting over him. The other night she had done the same thing but obviously with the purpose of calming him. 

This time… This was simply for both of their pleasures, something he never would have expected. 

“I was just thinking how nice it would be to sleep in together, and not have anything pressing that needed to be done. Just laying here, being warm and happy.”

Sandor caught the last word and his one eyebrow rose.

“Are you?” He cursed the grating tone of his voice, swearing off the uncertain tone and clearing his throat to clear the sound. “Are you happy?” 

The thought of her being happy warred with the reminder she had attempted to take her own life, and he wanted to ask if she was tempted to find some other means to attempt it again. But he thought better of it, not wanting to ruin this moment. It was a question he would gladly leave unanswered, if it was happiness she was speaking of now.

She lifted her face a bit, and he could better see the furrow between her brows when she did.

“Truly?” she asked.

“I hate liars,” he said evenly, and Sansa chuckled in reply, patting his chest once.

“I can appreciate your bluntness.” 

She inhaled deeply and sighed, as though she had to ponder whether she was indeed happy. He knew there had to be a part of her that wasn’t. They had taken her further and further away from Winterfell every day, and he remembered back to the day she had begged to go home. He also remembered the day they had returned to the pool, but tried to push it from his mind. He didn’t like to think about that day, nor of what it had meant to him.

But now, she hadn’t complained lately about anything. So was she happy? Did he make her happy?

“I think,” she started, being very purposeful with her words as she absently ran a finger over the bottom edge of the short V in his open tunic, “That I am happier than I thought I’d be.”

That sounded honest, but he realized he wanted more of an answer.

“How so?”

Sansa chuckled, rubbing her legs together against the outside of his thigh.

“Curious, Sandor? Are you reaching for a compliment?”

He realized how he may have sounded to get that sort of reply from her and he began to deny it, but she interrupted him, tapping him once on his bare chest above the V before resuming her toying with the edging.

“I kid, I kid.” She paused again, angling her face up towards him with a wide smile on her face. “Jamis has done very well at taking care of me – ”

Gods , she was teasing him! He didn’t quite know what to do with that, but the thought of Jamis taking care of her was enough to make his blood heat in his veins.

“– and he is very attentive to my needs –”

“If you want Jamis to live another day you best stop talking like that,” he growled, and Sansa’s tinkling laughter told him she thought he was joking. But her laughter distracted him, and he realized he liked the sound of it.

It was difficult not to pull her tightly to him, to show her exactly to who he thought she belonged with a show of strength.

“But truly, yes,” she continued, a smile still in her voice. “I am happier than I thought I would be. I’m not being accosted by egotistical man-pigs thanks to you.” Sandor could only imagine she meant Trant. “And,” she went on, “even though with each day I put more and more distance between myself and my home – more than you know, mind you – I am coming to terms with the fact that I will most likely never see it again, nor my family.” 

She became quiet for a moment and he waited, feeling the way her fingers softly moved over the fabric of his tunic, and not wanting to do or say anything that would keep her from sharing her thoughts with him.

“And I wonder about life in King’s Landing,” she admitted after a moment, sounding unsure of herself.

“When we return?”

“Aye,” she replied, using a word he used so often. It almost made him smile that she was picking up on it. “I wonder what will happen to me, where will I go. I have no marketable skills without my sight, so I couldn’t be a weaver or a lady’s maid. I don’t see any respectable employment in my future, and as much as it galls me to say, I’d rather die than become a whore.” 

Sandor was so shocked at where her thoughts had turned that he almost didn’t hear what she said next.

“There’s always the church, which is sometimes what disadvantaged people do where I come from, when they’re not begging on the streets – ”

“You will come with me,” he said firmly.

Chapter Text

“You will come with me,” Sandor said firmly from beside her on the pallet, wanting to put an end to Sansa’s train of thought. The idea of her being on the street begging for food and coin – where she might very well end up being stolen and put into a whore house anyway – made Sandor see red. 

“Oh, no, I couldn’t, Sandor,” she replied with a shake of her head against his arm. “You’ve already done so much for me, I couldn’t impose on you any further –”

“Tis not an imposition,” he said. “I’ll not have you dressed in rags begging for dinner. You’re a lady if ever I saw one, so at the very least you will live with me and want for nothing.”

“But…” Sansa lowered her face towards his arm and he wondered if she didn’t want him to see her face. “Your wife – ”

“Don’t have one.”

She snorted a short laugh.

“Yes, but you might some day. Sandor, you can’t live with a single woman in your home.”

“Don’t have a home, either.”

Sansa coughed, and he suspected it was to cover another shocked laugh.

“What do you mean, you don’t have a home? Surely you must live somewhere in the city.”

“Aye, I do,” he said, feeling wholly uncomfortable with this topic of conversation. This lazy morning in their bed had taken a turn for the worse and he wasn’t sure how much more he wanted of it.

“Where?”

“I have a room at the Red Keep, as I work for the king.” He fairly heard her thinking and he added, “But I would purchase a home if I invited you to live with me.”

“Well, you just did.”

“Aye,” he said, trying not to smile. Her blunt way of speaking was often entertaining. “I did.”

“Are you asking me to move in with you, Sandor Clegane?”

He looked down at her, where she had her cheek pressed into his shoulder but he couldn’t see her face. 

“Aye,” he said. “I am.”

“And should you want to take a wife later? What will become of me –”

“Sansa.”

“– When she learns you have an unmarried woman in your home –”

“Little bird.”

“– because I won’t be a homewrecker, Sandor –”

“Be quiet, Sansa,” he said firmly, and she finally was. She had gotten herself worked up over the thought that he might someday wish to wed and likely have children. He had known for a long time there was no woman out there for him, no possibility that someday he might sire children. 

But with Sansa in his life he had a chance to achieve that long forgotten childhood goal of happiness, children or no, married or not. This was an opportunity he wasn’t going to let escape.

“I hate liars, little bird, so listen to me and listen well.” He waited until she angled her face up towards his, and he tucked a knuckle beneath her chin to keep it there. “I vow not to take a wife for as long as you live with me, do you understand?” Her lips parted as if to protest but then she nodded once, and he let his finger slide away from her face. “T’will be you and me, and only us.”

Sansa laid back down, her cheek to his shoulder, and stopped moving, as though she was thinking on what he said. It would have to be a good offer, because it was what he was willing to do. He didn’t wish to be apart from Sansa, but nor did he want her to feel tied to him with marriage. She was free to leave at any time. But for as long as she wished to live with him, she would have a place in his home.

Or rather, the home he would buy once they reached King’s Landing. 

“What about Jamis?” she asked softly, and Sandor was about to curse the lad’s name when he glanced down and saw the corner of her mouth turned up in a smile. Sandor growled down into her hair.

“You test me, little bird,” but his body shook with laughter.

~ ≈ ~

Sansa missed her family every day, but every day the pain became slightly less with the friendship between her and Sandor. 

During the night they most often slept facing each other, waking up a time or two with hands held together between them. 

Sansa was able to prepare simple meals for them as long as Jamis delivered to her the prepared foods, and her roles as his camp wife – with as little as she could do – were becoming more defined. She found herself looking forward to waking up next to him, and to seeing him after a long day of travel.

Nearly a month had passed since she’d arrived in this time, and their conversation about what to do when they reached King’s Landing had happened several days prior, when news travelled down the line that the castle the vanguard had set upon was easily recaptured, the inhabitants either killed or taken prisoner. Tomorrow would begin another couple of weeks of rest for the entire army before they set out again for the capitol. It was welcome news, and Sansa thought even Sparrow might enjoy the respite from travelling. The poor horse had been carrying her for so many days that Sansa thought he might have forgotten what it was like to have horse down-time.

The chatter towards the end of the army’s line was busy with talk of what everyone would do for the two weeks of rest, and what preparations needed to be made for the remainder of the trip now that they were about a quarter of the way to the final destination.

Jamis and Sansa discussed doing an inventory of their belongings, as meager as Sansa’s were. She still only had the soap, which she had used to bathe in the tent only a couple times, and the comb that Sandor had found for her. But rest was a good time to gather supplies from the army’s stores if needed, and to make sure the remainder of the journey was spent without much worry over whether they were going to run out of something.

Shortly after noon when Jamis and Sansa had snacked on berries and meat atop their mounts, a horse and rider went galloping past, catching Sansa off guard. She and Jamis rode to the outside of the column, and having a rider come so close to them set her nerves on edge.

The lack of sight hadn’t been a huge issue, other than having to deal with possibly never seeing anything with any clarity ever again. But just as Sansa was coming to accept her new fate in this new time period, so too was she accepting of the blindness that had forever altered her life in different ways. 

Though she had to admit that most of the reason why the blindness wasn’t causing her to sink into a deep, dark depression was due to the support she received from Jamis and Sandor.

The two men were now her world, though in two entirely different ways. Jamis was her constant companion during the day – wherever she went, he went, and vice versa. It was what was required of him to keep her safe. He spoke with her and kept her company, made sure she had food and drink, and had aided her in getting on and off Sparrow until she was comfortable doing it herself.

And then there was Sandor. It was getting harder and harder for Sansa to think of him as a friend. When she had realized she was indeed somehow pulled back in time by several centuries, she never imagined becoming attracted to a man. Then again, nothing in this time was ever expected and that meant everything about it was unexpected, so Sandor was lumped in there with all the rest. 

But when he had rescued her from Trant, made her his camp wife, and proceeded to care for her in ways she was certain no other man in that army would have done, he somehow wound himself around her heart and made a home there.

So when a horse and rider rode up beside her towards mid afternoon, and while she had been thinking of Sandor just then, she turned on the rider and smiled, not realizing until it was too late that the horse the man rode was a dark auburn instead of Stranger’s stark black fur.

“A smile?” she heard, immediately recognizing the slimy voice as that of Meryn Trant.

Her smile fled and her hand went to the bodice of her dress where, buried between her breasts lay the small dagger Sandor had given her. She wanted to be brave, wanted to stand up for herself in front of this man, but fear weighed heavily on her and she dropped her chin to her chest. There was something about her lack of sight and the purely violent treatment she had endured at this man’s hands that turned her into a small child in his presence. 

Perhaps it was best, then, that she remained silent while he spoke. There was no telling what a man would do in this time if he suspected insolence from a woman.

“I must say, I hadn’t ever imagined you would be happy to see me after my behavior.” 

He nudged his horse closer to hers, and Sansa heard Jamis say the man’s name in warning.

“Calm yourself, squire – the lady and I are merely speaking on even terms.” Then, leaning slightly closer to her, he dropped his voice and spoke so only she could hear. “Isn’t that so, my lady?” He said the title mockingly, and Sansa felt as though she wanted to wash his voice off her skin. “Perhaps sometime soon I’ll get a chance to finish what I started, hm? I like my women young, but you’ll do quite nicely out here, away from the city.” 

She felt the touch of his gloved hand on her thigh before she saw its shadow, and startled, sending Sparrow sidestepping momentarily before she regained her control. Sansa held onto the reins but made sure not to spook her mount, despite the slow path Trant was making of his caress towards her inner thigh.

“What say you, we meet at my tent and I teach you how a woman services a real man, not some ugly, burned bastard like the Hound – ”

“Ser Trant, you are mistreating Sandor Clegane’s camp wife, and he will hear of this.”

She sensed Trant look past her at Jamis, and his slimy, self-satisfied chuckle pushed his foul breath past her face.

“Just inspecting the wares, boy, nothing more. I’ll not harm the lady.”

Again he leaned close, his leather saddle creaking beneath the strain, and this time his hand moved up her stomach, his touch slightly shaky with the movement of the horses. Sansa clenched her eyes shut as tears gathered, feeling that soon she would have no choice but to draw the dagger. But oh , what kind of trouble would that put Sandor in?

When his hand came up to fondle her breast she whimpered in disgust just as the sound of a sword coming unsheathed sounded from beside her. Trant’s hand remained on her as Jamis spoke again.

“Unhand her, ser, or I will be forced to defend her honor.”

Trant laughed again, and parted with a sudden and obscene, painful squeeze to her breast. 

“Ah, boy, when are you going to get fucked? You’ll never know the allure of a woman ‘til you get one of them pretty quims wrapped around your cock.” 

Sansa winced at his vulgar language and, eyes still shut, turned her face away from the man. She didn’t hear Jamis sheath his sword until Trant had kicked his horse into a canter, the sound of the horse’s hooves disappearing into the mass of walkers and riders and carts in front of them.

“Miss – Sansa, are you all right?”

Jamis was at her side immediately, and she was grateful for it. But she couldn’t erase the feel of Trant’s hands on her. Where before he had merely hurt her – slapping her and splitting her lip, bruising her wrists, and pulling her by her hair – this time he had violated her, and had touched her in a way that made her feel dirty. As hard as he’d grasped her breast, it was now sore, a certain sign she would be remembering the feel of him for hours yet.

She shivered visibly, and Jamis made a sound of disgust. 

“I’ll be fine, Jamis,” she said softly, opening her eyes and wiping away the tears that had streaked down her face. 

“Aye, but he hurt you – ”

“Not as much as he could have,” she said, interrupting him. Then she smiled, though it was simply to reassure him. “I’ll be fine, Jamis. Thank you for defending me. I don’t think he wanted to fight with swords over me.”

“But he might be back,” said the squire, and Sansa nodded sadly. Jamis continued, “I defended you but not in the way I wanted to. I wouldn’t mind sliding my sword straight through his gullet. The fucker – I mean, pardon me, but he has no inclination how to treat a woman.” 

He grunted again and Sansa got the impression that Jamis was likely raised around someone more loving than the people who had raised Trant.

“No, he doesn’t,” she agreed, feeling more like sobbing than speaking. But Jamis needed to be reassured, because she didn’t want him feeling in any way that he had failed her.

“You stood up for me, Jamis, and for that you have my thanks.”

~ ≈ ~

The encounter with Meryn Trant stayed with Sansa for the rest of the evening, but came out fresh once again after she had readied for bed and Jamis was by the door of the tent, waiting for Sandor.

He had been unaccountably quiet for most of the evening, though she was pretty sure it had something to do with her own silence. Normally the conversation between them kept up a steady pace through the day, except for those times when they both were lost in their thoughts. She was certain he was concerned for her, but as the night wore on and the memory of Meryn’s rough hand on her didn’t go away, she laid down on the pallet facing away from Jamis and let the silent tears fall to the edge of the pillow.

When at last Sandor made himself known outside the tent she heard Jamis beat him to it, opening the flap and exiting before Sandor could come in. He was so fast that Sansa wouldn’t have had a chance to tell him not to tell Sandor, even if she had thought about it sooner. And there was no doubt in her mind that was exactly what Jamis was telling him – in detail.

Several moments later the flap opened and closed, and Sansa heard Sandor enter, the plates of his armor scraping against each other in the otherwise quiet space. He stood by the door and she prayed he would assume she was asleep, though it was unlikely knowing Jamis would be aware that not too long ago she had been awake.

“Sansa,” he said, but his voice was rough, as though he was holding back emotion but not doing a very good job of it. 

Sansa waited, long enough to weigh whether he would believe her to be asleep if she didn’t move, before deciding dishonesty wasn’t something she wanted between them. 

In the darkness she turned towards him, hardly able to see even his shadow against the dark tent walls.

“Come help me with my armor,” he bid, and she nodded slowly, rising to do as he asked. She tried to inconspicuously swipe at her tears but was sure he saw anyway.

He had removed his sword belt and pulled off his gauntlets, setting those beside the table. Then he held up his arms so she could undo the buckles that held the vambraces to his forearms. She set those down on top of his gauntlets, starting the pile that would eventually be quite large.

Next came the pauldrons that covered his shoulders and upper arms, and then the gorget around his neck. Many of them he could do himself, but she had begun to get the impression over the course of their time together that he liked it when she did it for him. He always helped Jamis, but he let her do it all. If she had showed him that she minded it might have been different, but truthfully she didn’t mind at all, and rather enjoyed the slow, methodical removal of all the pieces. It was one thing that really made her feel useful, with as few things as she was able to do.

She worked at the buckles on his chest and back to remove the gorget, which also went on the floor, and then stepped close to him when he lifted his arms so she could unfasten the three buckles on each side that held his leather tunic together. When that was lifted off, and he had sat so she could remove the greaves from his lower legs, she stood to help remove the chain mail shirt, the last piece, and to step aside so he could lower it to the floor beside the chair.

When he sat in what she assumed was just his boots, breeches and tunic, he remained there, her standing before him, neither of them talking. Sansa felt unaccountably shy, though it was likely because she knew what was coming – some sort of encounter or discussion based on the assault by Meryn Trant. She didn’t relish the idea of rehashing all of the thoughts and emotions she had been feeling on the road that day.

But Sandor said nothing, and when his large hand came out to grasp one of her own, Sansa’s self control fled and she felt tears fall to hit their entwined hands.

When he pulled her onto his lap, her thighs crossing over his, she went willingly into the arms of the only person who had offered her this type of comfort during her time here. With one arm wrapped around his back, she gripped his tunic with her other and pressed her forehead into his neck as she cried into the warmth she found there.

~ ≈ ~

The dreams were coming more frequently. In the one that troubled him that night it was pure rage that had him clawing at the bed, wanting to rip this man’s eyes from their sockets with his bare hands, the urge so strong that in the barest hint of moonlight coming in from outside he looked at his hands to see if there was blood on them.

But there was none, and instead he curled himself around her form again, doing as he did every night – burying his nose in her hair and inhaling the sweet scent that even to him was as foreign as the sands of the Dothraki Sea.

He didn’t question it; only cupped his hand around her breast while his other found hers above the pillow, entangling their fingers as she sighed softly in sleep.

Chapter Text

Sandor held her for quite some time, letting Sansa cry into his shoulder as he rubbed her back in a gesture completely surprising for him. She never would have expected that out of him, and so it meant that much more to her that he did it.

Outside the tent a lone sparrow trilled a sweet song, and Sansa thought if she had to endure what Trant put her through, to be able to end her day in Sandor’s arms with that beautiful sound coming through the fabric walls of their tent was enough of a balm to soothe her.

Sandor’s other hand remained loosely on her waist, until Sansa finally came to her senses and realized her forehead was pressing into skin that didn’t feel like normal skin. She knew he had a beard – had seen that colored shadow once or twice when she was close enough and they were in the full sun to see it.

But what she now felt against her forehead was neither smooth nor hairy, and it drew her attention enough that for the time being, her own troubles melted away.

It all dawned on her in one heavy, clarifying moment. 

Everything Trant had ever said about Sandor being hideous and ugly, and what he’d said today about him being burned. How even Sandor had said he was hideous, and the comments about him needing to find a camp wife who was blind.

Sandor was burned , and it was here on his neck. It must have been why he wore his hair long, which was a thought that made her want to cry again.

She lifted her face enough that the tip of her nose dragged over the skin in a gentle caress, feeling where the coarse hairs on his neck dwindled to bumpy, uneven scar tissue. She could only imagine a burn in this day and age, and the glaring lack of medical care. 

How he must have suffered , she thought sadly.

When it was her closed lips making contact with the skin he seemed to finally grasp what she was doing, and he moved to pull away. But Sansa didn’t want him to. She didn’t want him to think that she thought him hideous, or ugly, or any of the horrible things it seemed people had been telling him since whenever it was he’d received the burns.

So she lifted her hand to the left side of his face and slid her fingertips along his jaw, feeling the coarse, thick beard beneath her palm. When her fingers slipped below his ear she gently pressed, and with her mouth on his other side she laid a whisper soft kiss to the ruined skin beneath her lips.

She thought to end it there, to leave him with this one thing that would show him someone in the world didn’t think he was a monster. 

But the deeply drawn, shuddering breath she felt tremble past his throat and through his torso spoke to the very center of her soul, telling her this was her moment when she could give back to the man who had given her so much.

It wasn’t sexual. Oddly enough, this had nothing to do with their mutual attraction, about the way she found comfort in the circle of his strong arms, or silently yearned for more when she woke in the middle of the night to find his body spooning against her back. 

No, this was truly giving back – showing him with her touch that this one thing, this one small, insignificant thing, would never have scared her off even if she had been able to see.

Just once, she allowed her thumb to slide with the hairs on his other cheek, stroking downward with his beard as she drew his attention from what she was doing to his scarred neck. Her mouth lifted, moved a finger’s width higher towards his jaw, and pressed again. 

It was a struggle to not react to the way the skin here felt even worse than before, her sensitive lips picking up on the smooth ridges and deep divots of the long ago healed burns. As her lips pressed into his warmth, she felt his hand on her waist tighten, as though he wanted to push her away but his body was unwilling to allow it.

Again she repeated her actions – sliding her other hand further back beneath his left ear as she lifted and pressed, lifted and pressed; her lips open as they came into contact with his strong jaw. The scars here seemed thicker, more pronounced, the hairs of his beard poking at the corner of her lips as she moved higher and higher. When she thought she might encounter smooth flesh she was dismayed to find yet more burned tissue, more reminder of what must replay through his memories whenever someone mentioned his appearance. It hurt her, making her heart clench painfully inside her chest, her soul crying out to ease his pain and show him what in her time would have been a simple thing called acceptance.

She slid her lips over the rigid strip of skin where his sideburn would have been, feeling her tears mingle with the heat of his flesh as she kissed the uneven curve of his ear.

“Little bird,” he started, his voice rough with emotion. She shook her head, holding him tightly to her as he sighed heavily, tilting his face to give her access. 

What had started out as a burn on his neck was swiftly becoming so horrific that Sansa couldn’t hold back her tears when she realized from her position she could no longer reach any more scar tissue. 

Despite his acquiescence to her touch as she perched atop his lap, he protested a change in position with, “Sansa, no.” 

But she didn’t listen to the catch in his voice when she stood and pressed her hips into his side. His arm came up, wrapped around her to grip her thigh while she felt his other hand clench the fabric of her skirts. Beneath her mouth she felt the absence of his eyebrow, discovered the mangled flesh that pulled at the corner of his eye, and the hairline pushed well back towards the crown of his head. She had to stroke his hair away from that side of his face, and realized then that that was why she had never been able to see that he was scarred – he covered it with his long hair so that it would only be visible to people who could clearly see him.

“I didn’t know,” she whispered, feeling how soft and smooth the bumps and fissures were against her lips. She hadn’t, but as the shivers wracked his body at their contact, Sansa wrapped her arm around his neck and held him tightly to her breast.

“I’m so sorry, Sandor,” was her ragged declaration, and he huffed a harsh, dry laugh even as his hand slid up her back to rest between her shoulder blades.

“Tis not for you to be sorry for, little bird.”

Sansa could hear the pain in his voice, though, and the self-preservation born from years of practice. His jaw moved against her chest as he spoke, his beard catching in the roughspun linen of her dress.

It simply wasn’t fair that he had been made to walk the earth with such a horrible affliction, judged at every turn and ridiculed by men like Meryn Trant. Sandor was kind and generous, and had shown Sansa a level of caring that she would not normally have attributed to a man who lived in this time. He didn’t deserve this.

She lowered her chin to the top of his head, feeling like she had never experienced anything so sweet as when he wrapped his arms around her waist and held her tight, the heat of his sigh warming the thin fabric covering her breasts. There they remained in silence for some time, as Sansa absentmindedly stroked Sandor’s hair like a mother might a child, and getting the impression after he didn’t tell her to stop that he actually might like it. She could feel the shift happening, as though what was developing between them had the power to register tectonically on an earthquake scale.

In that quiet, intimate moment, their friendship moved to the next level; whatever that might be, she marvelled.

When at last he spoke, his face moved again against her chest and she felt him take a deep breath, as though fortifying himself for the conversation to come. She could tell even before he said anything that she wasn’t going to like it.

“Tell me about Trant.”

~ ≈ ~

Sansa didn’t want to tell Sandor about Trant, not after the sweet moment she had just shared with him. She would much rather have continued their shared intimacy and perhaps gone to bed. But she supposed what Trant did was going to have to come out, even if he had already heard everything from Jamis.

She compromised by telling him she would tell him once they were laying down, in part because she wanted to end their night there and not with telling him that throwing things in the tent was not appropriate behavior.

Once they were on the pallet and Sandor had covered them with the cloak, Sansa laid on her back and stared towards the top of the tent while she recounted how Trant had come up beside her and put his hand on her thigh. She told him of the ugly things he’d said to her, and how Jamis had pulled his sword and defended her. She told him she had been afraid, and that she knew there was little she could do to defend herself when they were in the middle of the moving army like that, whereas she wouldn’t have hesitated to draw the dagger and stab the crap out of the creep if he had managed to get her alone.

The entire time she spoke about the encounter she had felt Sandor’s rage ebb and flow, his fury at the liberties Trant had taken only tamped by his relief with Jamis’ presence. He hovered above her and watched her face in the darkness as she spoke, propped up on his elbow.

“But we can’t make a big deal out of this, Sandor.” 

She didn’t want him getting into any trouble by stirring something up with the other soldier. It was one of the reasons why she hadn’t made a scene when she had had the opportunity to. She didn’t want anything bad to happen to Sandor, especially if she could prevent it.

“I’ll go to Lannister. He is many things but not a womanizer.”

“Jaime Lannister?” Sansa asked, thinking of the sordid tabloid headers she had read over the years about the two elder Lannister siblings. 

Sandor nodded, saying, “He’s the senior officer. I work for his nephew, the king.”

“Yes, I have heard you referred to as the King’s dog. What does that mean?”

But he must have seen right through her, because he tilted her chin towards him and she guessed the movement she could barely see was him shaking his head.

“Nay, Sansa, you cannot change the subject. Tell me, did Trant do anything else?”

Way to get to the point, Sandor , she thought ruefully. She imagined coming up with a story to tell him in case Jamis hadn’t indeed told him every tiny detail, but his next words, although softly spoken, dashed that idea.

“Do not lie.”

She wished she could see his face, but even in darkness it would have been hard. 

Sansa didn’t want to tell him in part because she also didn’t want to relive the moment, but even as she thought that, she knew it would follow her for a long time, and Sandor had proven to be an excellent source of comfort.

Even so, her tears started fresh when she began speaking.

“He moved his hand from my thigh to my breast, and he…” She sniffed, closing her eyes tightly against the memory of Trant’s hand on her. Sansa drew in a ragged breath and finished, “He grabbed me and held, until Jamis threatened to harm him and he let go, but not until he – he, um,” she tried, hiccuping as her tears quickly escalated to soft sobs. “He hurt me. Before he let go.” 

It was over. She’d said it out loud, so she turned into Sandor’s chest to hide her face and cry the memories away.

To his credit, the only outward sign of anger Sandor allowed was a brief hesitation between his rigid posture and wrapping his arms around her. But when he did, he enfolded her into his embrace and laid back against the pillow, cushioning her head with his arm and tucking her under his chin.

“Ah, fuck, little bird,” Sandor rasped, his voice packed with emotion and regret. He continued rubbing Sansa’s back as she cried, and she felt soothed by his touch, his warmth, and his attention. 

“It just – ” she hiccuped again, “caught me off guard.” 

But Sandor shook his head above hers, bending it to press his lips to her hair.

“No, Sansa. I’ll kill him. I’ll kill him if he ever touches you again.” 

The vehemence of his declaration surprised her. It said she was more important to him than she thought.

“No!” She pulled back, reaching up to press her hand to his bearded jaw. It was only the second time she had ever touched his face, the second time today, but she felt it was the only way to show him the depth of her emotion when she spoke next. “You can’t, Sandor, you have to promise me. Nothing can happen to you, because if you’re taken from me, where will I be then? Alone, with no one to care for me.” 

She rubbed her thumb against his beard, pressing her fingertips into his cheek to emphasize her point. 

“Please, Sandor – promise me. Promise me you’ll do what you need to, to stay with me!”

“Aye, yes,” he said, “Fine.” But it might have been to get her to stop begging him. She dropped her hand and wiped her eyes, snuggling up against his chest once again. Sandor sighed into her hair, his warm breath fanning her forehead as he curled his arms around her once again.

They were both quiet for a time, Sansa trying to banish all thought of Trant as she pressed herself up against Sandor. The slow movements of his hands over her back were going to lull her to sleep.

“Sansa,” she heard him say after a while, so quiet that she thought he might have assumed she was already asleep. 

She was in fact almost there, so she answered with a simple, “Hm?”

“I’ll never hurt you.”

Sansa smiled into the front of his tunic.

“I know.”

~ ≈ ~

Sansa used the time spent not travelling to learn new things that could help Jamis and Sandor, as well as herself. She knew at some point she would be getting her period again, so she finally convinced Jamis she was okay – with his presence – to go to where the washer women worked and learn how to clean articles of clothing. 

She also acknowledged silently that it would be nice knowing she could clean her own rags instead of having Jamis do it, which was absolutely mortifying despite his assurances that he didn’t mind.

With her hand wrapped around his elbow, they walked the short distance from the tent after lunch to the work area set apart from everything else. The women were already working hard, the sounds of water sloshing and women laughing reaching Sansa’s ears well before they arrived.

“Jamis!”

“‘Ello, Jamis!”

“Jamis, my boy! Where’ve you been, love?” 

Judging by the quiet, sheepish laugh Jamis returned, Sansa would have bet that if she had been able to see his face, it would be bright red.

“Been working, ladies,” he said as he led Sansa into the group. She could see their forms in the sunlight, maybe a half dozen women all moving about as they worked and talked and laughed.

“This is Sansa,” he offered after making sure Sansa was on solid footing. “She would like to learn the laundry methods so she can be of more help to Clegane.”

His voice wasn’t hesitant, but the woman’s working all stopped at once and there were a few murmurs of surprise before one of the ladies, the one Sansa thought might have been closest to her, spoke up.

“So yer the Hound’s camp wife, are ya? Ladies, ladies, now be gentle with this one.” 

And all of a sudden she had a small, gentle hand on her arm, followed by a second one on her other arm, as they led her a short distance into their circle and directed her to have a seat on some type of chair.

“I’ll be, uh… right over here,” Jamis said, but Sansa could hear the smile in his voice. He quite loudly sat off to the side, adding, “I’m here, miss, when you’re ready to return to the tent.”

But Sansa merely had time to nod before a barrage of questions and comments came hurling her way from the group of women that had suddenly closed in on her. As she watched through mostly unseeing eyes, a couple knelt at her feet while some of them stood behind them, all apparently ready to interview her.

Was she some type of celebrity? That title, Camp Wife Of The Hound , sounded ominous, as though their preconceived notions of what the man was like preceded their willingness to hear otherwise.

“Is he cruel to ye, lass?” came a voice from the ground in front of her, a soft sounding voice that perhaps belonged to a younger woman.

“Has he beaten ye yet?” was another from a stern sounding woman still standing.

“Oh, come now, ladies, that’s not what we want t’ hear, now, is it?” 

This from the woman who had initially greeted her, and the statement was followed by titters of laughter that left no doubt in Sansa’s mind as to what these women were thinking. She couldn’t help but smile at their questions, though she was obviously torn as to what exactly to tell them.

As the questions continued, Sansa wrestled with the urge to tell them how gentle he was, how tender and giving and considerate. She wished to tell them how selfless he had been since she appeared in this time – or rather, since he had found her, since no one could know her secret origins. 

But at the same time, a voice inside told her this is not what she should be doing. Sandor had a reputation and, despite this being probably hundreds of years before Sansa’s time and a completely different society, the laws amongst men were more than likely very similar.

A man had a reputation to be concerned with, and anything that tarnished that reputation was not desirable. 

As well, it couldn’t get out that Sansa had told Sandor she was a Stark of Winterfell. To do so would probably mean death for both of them, and possibly Jamis as well.

She wondered what the legal equivalent in this time was to harboring a fugitive

No, these women must be made to think that Sandor was exactly who they suspected he was – cruel but also likely fair, demanding and authoritative, with just enough hinting to keep them wondering about what level of sexual prowess he possessed.

After all, even Sansa didn’t know that detail, despite feeling the flush across her cheeks at the mention of his… parts .

“Tell us, tell us! We’re dying to know details, Sansa.” It was the one who had approached her first again, reaching out to pat her knee. “Everyone knows ye can’t see, so we want to know how you’re getting on with him!”

All right , she thought. Time to spin a tale .

“That’s true,” she admitted, “I can see light and dark but nearly nothing else.”

“Aye – must be why he chose ye,” said the young one, almost sympathetically.

“That’s what they’re saying,” said one who hadn’t yet spoken. “That he chose ye because ye can’t see his ugly mug.”

Sansa bristled but kept it hidden. It irritated her to hear them speaking of him that way, but she merely pursed her lips and nodded, as though agreeing with them.

“I know of the scars, yes,” she replied. “And whether that was his reasoning or not, he has agreed to keep me on as long as I am useful to him.”

She wondered if Jamis was listening, though she hoped he had closed his ears or at least couldn’t hear everything that was being said.

“Useful?” A snort of laughter erupted at the single word. “Come now, lass – don’t be shy.” The sterner woman who was standing seemed to lean forward, since her voice sounded closer than it was before. “What’s the man like in bed? Is he as big as we all suspect?”

Agreements to the question resounded from the rest of the women and Sansa knew it would sound odd to say they had not had sex. A camp wife probably first and foremost had to please her man in bed in order to be kept around. It was just another thing about this time period that galled Sansa – how women were treated like property.

With that thought in mind, she formulated an answer that she hoped would appease the women. Since, “I’ve seen bigger,” was neither true nor very funny, she had to think of something else.

“We get on,” was her simple reply. Then, for good measure she added, “He said if we didn’t he’d set me out in the cold so I don’t really have a choice.”

For the time being it seemed to satisfy the ladies, although she shook her head when asked for more details. It sounded like she had done enough to preserve Sandor’s reputation – making him sound like he valued her for sex above all else. Pretty reasonable for medieval times, she thought.

The washing lesson went well, and as she listened to the women speak around her while she scrubbed at one of Sandor’s tunics with the harsh soap, conversation wended easily across a multitude of subjects.

They pointed out that one of the women had a limp, which they attributed to her camp husband, if that’s what he could be called. Another spoke of her black eye, though the ladies laughed about it so openly that they made black eyes sound more like curling iron burns – a necessary evil of the job. One of them even told Sansa to expect a few before they returned to King’s Landing, though she didn’t have to tell the woman that was unnecessary. Sandor had promised not to hurt her, and she believed him.

Actually, she believed him with all her heart, and the realization shocked her so much she paused in her washing.

Had her feelings for the man grown that much just this past week?

But even as she thought it, the question was absurd. It was all in the way he had held her, let her cry, let her snuggle up to him and how they even managed to laugh together, though his was more of a grunt. When she realized she would be stuck in this time forever, she never expected to find a companion, let alone one who cared for her in the way he did.

So when he said he wouldn’t hurt her, yes – she believed him. And it made her smile down towards the bucket of water she was working in as she listened to the women talking.

Chapter Text

Sansa’s day with the washer women had gone so extraordinarily well that by the time Jamis ushered her through the tent flap later that afternoon, she was fairly bursting with the smile that broke free once she was firmly ensconced on the pallet.

They had all been so nice to her, so curious yet not too pushy about details of what went on between her and Sandor. Sansa got the impression that the women were accustomed to only asking so many questions of a camp wife before they gracefully let the subject drop, perhaps because they actually did understand the need for privacy between the man and woman in question.

There was one conversation between them, when the topic turned back to Sandor, that had unsettled Sansa deeply. 

The first woman who had greeted her, who sounded more like the leader of the group, once again broached the subject of Sandor’s scars and asked Sansa if she knew how he had gotten them. Sansa didn’t see any reason to lie and say she did, so she shook her head and continued scrubbing at the garment she was washing, listening to the flow of women’s voices around her.

“I heard it was a dragon,” said the young woman from beside her where she too was stationed at a bucket. 

Plenty of scoffs resounded at her suggestion, and one woman replied with, “Don’t you know all dragons are dead?” Which was true – even Sansa knew that.

The first woman spoke again, saying, “No, you ninny. It was his brother, the Mountain. Heard it happened when they were boys – or rather, when the Hound was a boy and when the Mountain was already a child in the body of a massive man.” Her water’s sloshing stopped as she warmed to her subject. “You see, Sansa, the Hound has an older brother who’s twice as evil as yer man.” Sansa let that go, as she had been doing all day with their inaccurate comments about Sandor, in favor of listening to them and gleaning information from their ramblings. “He is also a head taller than Clegane, with a penchant for pure brutality. Wouldn’t want to be at the receiving end of that one’s ardor, I’ll tell you what!”

She snorted a laugh, as though that was supposed to be funny. Some of the women did as well, but their lack of enthusiasm struck Sansa as very telling about this man.

“So anyway, I heard the Hound did something he wasn’t supposed to – don’t know what – and the Mountain – Gregor, his name is – punished him by burning.”

Sansa gasped out loud, the horrific detail causing her to not be able to hold that back.

Sandor’s own brother burned him? She felt her stomach churn at the thought of Sandor as a boy going through such agony as an untreated burn to the face. How he didn’t die, she would never know. The medical treatments in this time were abominable. 

“Aye, lass – his own brother. So now maybe ye can see him in a new light on the nights he wishes to beat ye. Some men…” She paused and sighed, while all the other women remained silent. “They just can’t help it, ye see. Soldier’s heart, it’s a horrible thing.”

Murmurs of assent went up around her and she nodded, though she didn’t truly see. It was only the grace of further, more upbeat conversation that managed to draw Sansa out of her deep sympathy for Sandor that afternoon.

“My lady,” Jamis said as soon as the tent flap closed behind him. He sat in the chair and spoke towards where she sat on the pallet. “Why did you lead those women to believe that you and Clegane were…” He paused, “Are…”

“Intimate?” she asked gently, providing him with the word. She suspected he nodded because he didn’t say anything, before a few moments later when he verbally affirmed her suggestion.

Sansa’s smile was almost self deprecating. 

“They assumed it anyway, and wouldn’t it be odd if it wasn’t true?” She laughed lightly, realizing what it was she just said. Then she shook her head and crossed her arms over her raised knees. “Jamis, can I speak plainly to you?”

“Yes, of course, Sansa,” he said readily.

“Sandor is… not what I expected. Somehow we have developed a – not sure what the word is.” She thought for a moment before it came to her. “We developed a mutual respect , and I think what he and I have is far stronger than any of these other camp wife arrangements.”

His chair squeaked as he moved, but he spoke, saying, “Aye, actually I think I’ve seen that as well.”

“I don’t know how it happened –”

“Nor do we need to know,” he interrupted, making them both laugh. Sansa nodded again, looking down at where she toyed with the hem of her dress.

“Yes, but it’s there, and I like it.” Her face fell, knowing there was more to be said but almost not wanting it to be said out loud.

“But he is a certain type of man to everyone else, and I can’t jeopardize that. You’ve seen it – he seems to be more than a fair employer to you, though he can still talk to you like crap. But he looks out for you, makes sure you’re fed and prepared and not wondering who’s going to provide for you the day after and the day after that.” 

She smiled again, trying to imagine what Sandor truly looked like from what she knew of his face – scars, long hair, beard. She knew enough about his body to know it must truly be impressive; tall, broad, muscular. If it was simply the scars and his horrid demeanor around everyone else, Sansa couldn’t really understand why another woman hadn’t bagged him yet. He was, at least in her mind, quite the catch.

“He’s the same way with me, Jamis. Often short, not prone to lengthy conversations or long discussions about emotions, but he cares for me in every way that matters. He tells you to care for me, and you do. He makes sure I have everything I need. He protects me, comforts me, and in his own way he’s a kind person.” She chuckled, staring down at the ground just past the edge of the pallet. “Totally unlike everything those women said today, but it’s true. And I’d do anything in my power to prevent him from getting into trouble for me being here – ”

She looked up towards where Jamis was sitting only to see that someone else had entered the tent while she’d been talking. Someone extraordinarily tall, and broad. And probably very muscular.

“Sandor!” she said cheerily, though she knew her face was probably red. How long had he been standing there?

“Time for dinner, Jamis,” he simply said, and the young man stood, clearing his throat as he did.

“Thank you, Jamis, for bringing me out today. It was nice to learn a new skill, as bad at it as I might be,” she added with a chuckle. He laughed as well, though a bit nervously.

“It was nothing, my lady. You don’t do yourself justice. The garments you washed were as clean as any the other ladies washed –”

“Dinner, Jamis,” Sandor said again, and the man scooted out of the tent without another word.

~ ≈ ~

Sandor didn’t know what to think. He had forgotten to announce himself, and with the limited armor he had worn that day, he hadn’t made much noise entering the tent.

He knew Jamis and Sansa were having a conversation, but what he didn’t know was how it was mostly just Sansa doing the talking – her telling the squire how Sandor was a fair employer and going on to enumerate all the reasons why that was. Truth be told, he hadn’t realized he was seen in that favorable of a light to any one, let alone Sansa or Jamis.

But he’d truly been caught off guard as she continued, telling Jamis how he cared for Sansa in every way that mattered.

He was struck dumb by her words and had frozen in place, hearing her speak until she’d looked up to see him standing there. If her words hadn’t frozen him in place, her smile directed towards him would have. 

She was happy to see him, and though this wasn’t the first time he’d suspected that, it still made his heart flip over inside his chest at the thought.

Fucking hells , she was going to be the death of him.

“Come help me, little bird.”

Not that he needed help – he was only wearing the armor on his arms and the gorget around his neck today, and Jamis could have helped. But… 

He had need of Sansa’s presence near him, and this was the way to do it knowing full well she would jump at the chance to help him.

And indeed she did, standing and carefully navigating around the center pole to reach his side of the rectangular tent. He told her the pieces he wore, having her say the names back to him as she went so she could stop saying those strange words she used sometimes – ”The shoulder thingy; the neck doodad.”  

“Gauntlet,” she said, pulling them off his arms and setting them aside, followed by, “Vambraces… Pauldron… George–et.”

“Gorget,” he corrected, looking down at her as her lips twisted into a smile and she repeated the word correctly.

When she was done, the leather came off and she reached for him again, her hands going to his chest to feel for the edges of the chain mail shirt he normally wore beneath the tunic. Only today he hadn’t worn it, deciding to forgo the heavy contraption due to the nature of training the youngest recruits today. Being in no real danger, he saw no need for the garment while sparring with boys whose chins had hardly sprouted the soft fuzz of manhood.

“Oh –” she exclaimed, her lips parting when she realized her hands had encountered his chest, only covered by his thin roughspun tunic. When she made to draw her hands away Sandor found himself capturing them within his and putting them back.

He didn’t know why he did it, but only that it felt nice to have her hands on him for reasons other than aid in removing his armor. He watched her emotions play over her face – confusion, surprise – but before he could name the last one he saw, another thought occurred to him.

“Sansa,” he said quietly, curious and unable to stop himself from asking her, “What did the women say?”

At his words her eyes darted up, landing somewhere near his upper lip. They darted around as though searching for something, something he knew she would not find. He had become used to her unseeing gaze, but still liked when it was trained on him, knowing she could see shadows, some shapes.

“The women?” she asked, but her voice hitched as she said it, her tongue darting out to wet her soft lips before disappearing once more as she swallowed.

“Aye,” he said simply, drawing his gaze back up to hers.

Sandor could read people – often knew what their aim was before they knew it themselves. But Sansa was a bit harder to read than most, mostly because the sheer amount of emotion that flowed over her features would have confused the gods could they have seen her as she was now.

Slowly, her hands still held in his, he backed up until he could sit in the chair, drawing her close to him and between his legs.

Then he waited for her to speak, knowing he only had to say it once. She knew what he was getting at, and would answer him when she was ready.

It took her a minute, though he guessed she might be leaving some things out judging by the smile that flitted across her face for the barest of moments, before it disappeared to be replaced by something much more serious. It was as though she had thought of pleasant parts of her day before those thoughts were clouded by less pleasant ones.

Her eyes rose to his face again, and she pulled a hand away and reached out for his cheek – the burned one. It took a great amount of effort to remain still as she slowly allowed her fingers to come into contact with first beard, and then the ruined skin just past it.

“They said your brother did this –”

It was the tears that did it. They sprang forth from her eyes almost as soon as she began speaking; hearing Gregor mentioned from Sansa’s mouth and seeing her tears caused by the event that was ingrained into his memory, made him release her and push her back. Irritation not unlike what he had felt when she first arrived flooded back, instinct pushing a barrier between them as he struggled with his emotions. 

He wasn’t ungentle, and she stepped away as he rose and turned to the side of the tent, not wanting to see her face.

It wasn’t that he never would have told her, or that he hadn’t wanted her to know. But seeing her cry over him was such a shock that he feared he couldn’t handle it. He didn’t want to leave, nor did he want to request Jamis take her somewhere, but he needed to get his tumultuous emotions under control before they erupted as anger as they so often did.

“Don’t cry for me, little bird,” he rasped, his voice low and menacing. 

To his surprise, she let out a short, choked laugh.

“Oh, Sandor – how could I not?”  

At her blunt question he dropped his head, willing himself to not look at her. To do so would… well, he didn’t know what it would do. He didn’t want to look at her and release three decades of emotions from behind the barrier he’d built in his mind. He didn’t want to allow this attraction for her to grow into something more, something neither of them could contain or stop. He didn’t want her to have a hold of him, of his heart, or to give up any ounce of control when it came to his mastering of his own past.

That event was back in his childhood. The burning, the pain, the agony, the smell . He had always known his brother was a monster, but what the small seven-year-old Sandor had not known was that his brother could be a monster to him .

Even now, hatred for the man burned deep within his belly, and he vowed to someday get revenge on the fucker, if it was what he did with his dying breath.

Behind him Sansa sniffed, and he wanted to chase her away. He didn’t want her tears; didn’t deserve them. He didn’t deserve any of her kindness.

“I said, don’t cry …” he growled, his tone meant to convey danger when in fact it just meant he was close to walking out.

On any other man or woman alive it would have worked. He should have known Sansa was different – should have known she would do the opposite of what he wanted her to do.

He heard her slow steps moments before her arms slid around the sides of his waist and clasped in front of his stomach, her body drawing up to full contact with his back.

“Make me,” she whispered, and as bewildered as he was at her attitude and complete lack of survival instincts when confronted with an angry soldier of war, he also wrestled with the urges that came pouring back from his youth like flames sputtering back to life – the desire for hugs from his mother, the way a woman’s arms felt around him when they gave comfort, and the tangible emotions that could erupt from a woman’s heart to ground a man when his instincts begged him to fight or flee.

So instead of telling her his thoughts, he simply shook his head before dropping his chin to his chest, breathing deeply as Sansa pressed her cheek to his back. 

~ ≈ ~

From the realm of the gods, the seven watched the scene unfolding, the Smith schooling his features so the others wouldn’t be drawn to examine him instead of the humans. But as usual, the maiden had her eye on him, a smile drawing up one side of her rosey lips.

“I lack faith in your plan,” said the Warrior in a deep growl, eyeing the large human male as the female wrapped herself around him like a vine. 

“And I as well,” intoned the Father with a nod. He looked away from the shimmering surface of the floating table from whence they watched the couple inside the tent.

The Crone shook her head, looking sad but resigned, and the smith knew he had a supporter in her. She saw the wisdom behind his machinations, though she also saw the terrible consequences required in order to see it through. 

With a nod, the Mother appeared to agree with the first two and their unfavorable opinions, though he knew they all saw the final outcome as well as he did.

“I don’t see the purpose in making them go through – ”

“Aye, I do, Mother,” whispered the Stranger. All eyes turned to his faceless visage as he continued. “We will see this through. The woman’s time will know nothing of what we have done, but the path of their lives will be set right because of it.”

“I agree,” said the Maiden, finally. The Smith looked to her, feeling uplifted at her support. “The mistake being righted leads to the purest outcome, and our methods – your methods, Smith – leave them – ” she motioned to the couple in the surface of the table, “ – innocent, and with a love that will truly transcend time.” She nodded sagely at every member of the group, softly speaking as she added, “This is the right thing to do.”

A red glow suddenly began from the side of the table where the Warrior stood, and those around the circle could feel his anger.

“This is unjust,” he rasped, flinging up his hands in disgust. “The means do not justify the methods.”

And with that he turned and strode away, disappearing into the hazy mist to parts unknown.

Several others left as well, until it was just the Maiden and the Smith, sitting across from each other.

On silent feet she walked around the table, though her steps never landed on any surface.

With one hand she rested her palm over his forearm, feeling beneath the surface of his ethereal skin tension and guilt. She closed her eyes, willing some of it to flow into her so that she might relieve some of his burden.

He instantly was aware of what she was doing, and pulled away with a, “No – ” but she persisted. Laying a hand on him again, she sat beside him and rested her head against his shoulder, humming the tune the human woman used to calm the large soldier.

“It will all work out for the best, you have seen to that,” she reassured him, drawing her fingers up his masculine arm. 

As he was soothed by her touch and her voice, he leaned his own head against hers, sighing heavily as the table wavered and disappeared.

“Aye,” he agreed, “I know it. But it still hurts.”

The Maiden nodded beneath his cheek, but he could feel her smile against his shoulder.

Chapter Text

Sansa felt wonderful in her dream, wherein Sandor showed up at Winterfell – the future one, where she was from – and introduced himself to her parents and family. Everyone was there – her parents, all her siblings, even her puppy, Lady; whom Ned had given her just that year for her birthday. 

Everyone loved Sandor, and she had sat with him the entire evening, holding hands.

But when she awoke she was confused by the dream. Did it mean she truly saw Sandor as more than her protector? The man she had come to rely on for her safety and wellbeing?

When she opened her eyes to the early morning light she could see the shadow of his face on the pillow next to hers. They were on their sides facing each other, the fur cloak drawn up to their waists, and Sandor's hand rested on the pallet between them with hers on top. 

He was still asleep, so she saw no harm in lightly exploring the texture of the back of his hand. After sensing the previous night exactly how troubled and deep a man he was, she had found herself wanting to know more of him – his thoughts, his emotions… 

But with the contact between them now, she also wanted to explore the physicality of him, so softly she moved her fingers over his, feeling the hairs on his skin, the grooves between his splayed fingers where they disappeared down towards his palm, and the bumps of his knuckles. She was feeling down the long length of his index finger, just coming to the tip of his blunt nail, when she realized his breathing had changed.

She couldn't see his face but this thought of her growing attraction turning into something more surfaced in that moment, and her eyes moved to where his mouth might be, her mind of its own accord sending her lips questions of what it would feel like to kiss, to feel his beard against her skin, to taste him. She felt a familiar heat pool low in her belly as she boldly lifted her fingertips to his chin, skating them up over the surface of his beard and finding his closed lips beneath the thick mustache.

It was so odd to think the man who rescued her from beside the weirwood pool was the same man she was starting to have feelings for. That this scary, massive, yelling man was more appealing to her with every day they were together. 

It could have been her tenuous position in the camp, and how even with him she had only a certain measure of safety; or the efforts he had gone to in order to provide her a place to stay, food and clothing, and everything she might need.

But she knew there was something else – something baser, more carnal, and she was experienced enough with the opposite sex to know the pull low in her belly meant her body wanted more contact with his.

She couldn't see him and he wasn't stopping her, so with the tip of one finger she traced the shape of his lower lip, feeling his breath from his nose feathering against her skin. 

His skin wasn’t as smooth as hers, but his lip was round, soft beneath the pressure of her finger tip. His upper lip was nearly hidden beneath his mustache but she felt along the seam of them, drawing her own lip beneath her teeth as she concentrated on exploring the surface of his mouth.

When she had discovered the breadth of his scarring with her mouth, she wanted to show him that there was nothing about him that could chase her away or make her feel towards him the animosity everyone else seemed to throw at him. But it was also because, after that initial press of her lips, she knew her mouth could tell her things about the surface of his skin and the man beneath due to her lack of sight and heightened sensitivity, that her mere fingertips would never understand.

It was that thought, that moment of clarity inside herself, that caused her to part her lips, the thought of kissing him in order to feel the surface of his mouth almost as astounding as the thought that followed – that she was most assuredly going to enjoy the kiss on a deeper, more physical level than was appropriate.

But did that really matter? In this time, with him, and the uncertainty of her future facing her at every turn? Did it matter that she wanted this even when he had vowed not to take a wife, and to protect her and keep her safe for as long as she needed him to?

Would a kiss ruin this tenuous bond they had erected between them? She needed him to know that it was more than attraction that drove her to this contact.

It was respect, it was friendship; instinctively she knew in his kiss she would find peace, safety, comfort.

The more she thought about it, the less argument she found for moving forward with her inclination. Wishing she could see his face, and knowing that would never be possible, she leaned forward as her eyes drifted closed, ready to show him what he had come to mean to her.

Only, he wasn’t there. The contact didn’t happen. Where his mouth should have been she encountered air. Where his head had been she found only a sputtered puff of air, a very manly version of the choking sound a woman might have given at being propositioned by a construction worker.

Sansa opened her eyes, self-doubt attempting to mash with incredulity and being as successful as the blobby mixture in Arya’s lava lamp. He had drawn back… What? 

“Sandor, I – ”

“What the bloody hells, little bird – ”

“Sandor,” she said again, exasperated at his bewildered – and surprisingly, irritated – tone, “I’m trying to kiss you.”

He was silent but Sansa didn’t move. There was a universal language of kissing, and a massive message was spoken when one person moved to kiss someone else and that other person drew back to avoid the kiss.

This was not what she had planned.

Sandor wasn’t saying anything else, but nor was he leaving her altogether, and Sansa didn’t know what to do. Try again? Give up? What was the matter with him?

She had to admit to herself that it was awkward – she had never attempted to kiss someone and had them reject her, but try as she might to be strong and not let this faze her, she felt the sting of rejection. It left her embarrassed; confused.

“I’m sorry, I just…”  Don’t know what to say? she finished silently. 

So much for the moment she had initiated.

Could she have read him all wrong? How her humming could calm him; her touch seemed to soothe him; how he even allowed that touch in the first place, knowing to what extent now he was scarred and the origin of those horrific burns. Was she so off track, so ignorant with her blindness, that she had misread him?

Drawing back herself, she turned onto her back and thought of all the other intimate moments they had shared recently, especially that morning where she encouraged him to come back to bed so she could rest her cheek against his arm. Such pleasant conversation they had that morning – the laughs and teasing, how he said he would not take a wife while Sansa lived with him in King’s Landing. What sort of man makes an oath such as that one, to a woman he has no feelings for?

Unless…

No , it couldn’t be. Surely the Hound those washer women spoke of wasn’t… of a certain persuasion?

It was true, Sansa had never heard him talk about visiting whores or ever previously having a camp wife. And none of the women she met that day had obvious carnal knowledge of him – not if they were asking about the size of his… ahem .

And it was also true that he was somehow both a battle hardened, violent soldier, and a gentle, caring whatever-he-was, when it came to Sansa.

Did his position even have a name? Was camp husband appropriate?

Could one be attached to a camp husband who preferred men?

Sansa didn’t even realize she’d become lost in her own thoughts until Sandor moved beside her, and a glance told her he’d risen onto his elbow and was probably looking down at her.

Again she tried to apologize, although she wasn’t necessarily sorry for trying to kiss him, but rather for making assumptions about him that led her to think he would welcome the advance. She was confused; so dang confused! 

He interrupted her repeated apology and she was shocked at what he had to say.

“Why would you want to,” he said, his voice flat with that familiar deep rasp, only now with a distinct edge to it – sorrow, she recognized, though Sansa was certain Sandor hadn’t intended it to come out that way. He formed it as a statement for a reason. Without saying it out loud, he was saying something loud and clear.

“What – why? ” She was incredulous. Had he actually just said that? “Why would I want to? That’s sort of obvious, I would think,” she said with a scoff, embarrassed now at feeling like she had to explain herself. If one’s heart was true – and hers was, for sure – then one kissed because one was attracted to the other individual.

Goodness, was he really that dense?

But Sandor was no longer speaking, and she wished she could see his face to read his expressions. She wanted to know if he was waiting for an answer, or looking at her irritated, or as ready as she was to end the conversation – 

Wait .

She brought her eyes up to where she thought his might be, looking around the blur of skin above the shadow of his beard.

“What do you mean, why would I want to?”

Thinking back to when he asked that, the meaning in his tone suddenly struck her, as though he held a trout by the tail and had smacked her across the cheek with it.

Why would I want to , she repeated silently. It was most certainly a question though he didn’t intend for her to answer it. No, he wasn’t asking her why she would want to kiss.

Seven hells, he was asking her why she would want to kiss him .

“Oh, Sandor,” she breathed, wave after powerful wave of emotion crashing over her heart like the ocean over rocks. Grief, sympathy, tenderness, compassion, acceptance. This man made her feel so many things with just a few simple words; with hardly any understanding of what was behind those words, but knowing the depth and complexity held inside his brain was far beyond what anyone in his circle of acquaintances could ever comprehend, least of all Sansa. 

This was a moment for prudence and empathy, Sansa vowing silently to tread these waters with the utmost care.

She almost said, “In my time,” but then corrected herself and began, “Where I’m from,” she began, deciding this was perhaps the best way to approach this, “You kiss someone because you want to get closer.” She reached a hand up and cupped his good cheek, drawing her thumb down over the beard slightly rumpled from sleep. “You kiss someone because you want to share a part of you with them, to show them what they mean to you.”

She paused, feeling that was a fairly good definition of kissing, when a thought occurred to her.

“Don’t you, um… when you visit a whore house, a brothel… don’t you kiss?”

He gave a curt shake of his head, but that was his only answer.

“Oh,” Sansa said simply, not having known whatever it was that goes on in a brothel besides sex. It would just make sense, since kissing to her was a great way to lead into sex. And nice during sex. And after. And, she supposed, randomly throughout the day. She just in general liked to kiss.

“Well,” she asked after a moment, “Is it something you would want to do?” Her pause was brief, but when she spoke her voice was barely a squeak, realizing she could quite possibly sound a little needy and not wanting to bother him with that. “With me?”

He snorted, which sounded more like a self deprecating laugh. But he turned his head away from her hand so she let it fall, not knowing where they stood now.

“I don’t kiss,” he replied quietly, even a tad grumpy. Sansa wasn’t sure what to say, but that didn’t mean she didn’t want to kiss him still. Perhaps she was wrong with the whole preferring men thing. Maybe kissing wasn’t done in this time the way it was in hers.

Well, there was only one way to find out, and that was to push the issue.

“Don’t or won’t?”

He wasn’t looking at her, this much she knew, so when his reply was a simple grunt, she figured he wasn’t completely shutting down.

“Because I want to,” she whispered, “With you.” 

He needed to know that – needed to know that she wasn’t doing this simply for the experience of it. Just like she had said a minute ago, she liked to kiss to show the man what he meant to her, and the more she thought about kissing Sandor, the more she wanted to do it.

He still wasn’t moving, so she lifted her hand once more and slid her finger up his throat to the opposite side of his jaw, drawing his face around so that it was directed at hers.

“Please,” was her soft request, knowing she was going to do everything in her power to not scare him off. She got the impression that it was he this time who was as skittish as a deer, and any wrong move on her part and he’d be off like a frightened buck.

It took some time, but when he sighed she knew she’d gotten through to him – that her words had broken the dense barrier he had erected and he was now willing to try something with her that he had perhaps not done recently. Or ever – goodness , had he ever kissed anyone?

“You want this?” he asked, his voice hardly a rumble in his throat as he looked down at her, lying prone on the pallet beside him.

Sansa nodded, allowing a small smile to spread over her lips as she whispered, “Oh, yes,” up towards his face.

Somehow this had turned from seeking comfort to satisfying a need, and she revelled in the newfound feelings of attraction she felt swimming through her veins.

~ ≈ ~

It was the damned enthusiasm in her voice that pushed Sandor over the edge.

Kissing. Fucking hells . Who kissed anyone? He certainly didn’t, except perhaps his mother when he was very young, and even that only lasted a few years until he was old enough to understand what Gregor was teasing him about.

Kissing a woman. It just wasn’t done. Of course, he’d seen it before – done between men and the whores they planned on paying, some more enthusiastic about it than others. The really drunk ones, the ones who had wandered so far into the cups that just about all of their fucking inhibitions had been washed away by the drink – they were the ones Sandor cringed inwardly at.

Mouthes clashing. Tongues together. How did they manage to not break their teeth?

The more tame ones were perhaps the only ones that made him want to try now with Sansa, and even that thought surprised him. Just pressing of lips, drawing back and returning, feeling her skin beneath him, those soft lips of hers on his.

He wanted to say no, wanted to tell himself this wasn’t what he wanted, but in the moment his body betrayed him and he felt himself harden inside his breeches.

This was carnal, and she wanted to do it with him. This was insane. This was ridiculous.

This was a bit amazing.

Sandor didn’t think he could pull away at that point, not after hearing Sansa tell him she wanted to do this with him, so he hesitantly brought his hand up to mimic hers, and cupped her cheek with his large palm. To his surprise, she closed her eyes again and leaned into it, giving her head a little nod to rub her skin into his hand.

Sandor felt his heart constrict, and he wondered – probably not for the first or last time – if he would survive the time Sansa spent with him.

Then he bent and put his face closer than he’d ever been to another woman’s face. But Sansa’s eyes were open, her hand was on his scars, and she was smiling .

Heart pounding, Sandor left his eyes open as he closed the distance between them, pressing his lips to those of a woman for the first time in his adult life. He could smell her breath, knew she could smell his, and felt that perhaps he had nothing to worry about.

Sansa’s eyes had drifted closed, her smile fading as she tugged at him to lower, and Sandor had to admit the sensation was pleasant; not at all the tumultuous drunken kisses he’d seen at brothels. Maybe he could do this. Maybe this wasn’t so bad after all; no reason for him to suddenly balk and tell her he never wanted to do it again.

Then her lips moved, just slightly beneath his, a side to side as though she wanted to rub her mouth against his. It, too, wasn’t unpleasant, and he was about to do the same when she parted her lips and he felt her tongue .

He was so shocked he froze, almost pulling away to ask her what the fuck she was doing. But there was a large part of him that didn’t want to appear like an inexperienced green boy, so he remained where he was, feeling the soft sensation of the tip of her tongue running along the seam of his mouth.

Surging up inside him was… something. Something he couldn’t identify. In return Sandor did the same to Sansa’s parted lips – swiping his tongue from left to right, his fingers sliding into her hairline as she angled her body towards his.

He wasn’t sure what changed between them. It could have been the closer proximity of their bodies, or the soft moan that escaped her lips, but before he knew what was happening, Sansa had wrapped an arm around the back of his neck and pulled his body down towards hers so that his chest pressed her into the pallet beneath them. Her tongue slid into his mouth on another moan and Sandor didn’t have time to be surprised before he realized his own was caressing hers, his lips mimicking her come-forward and draw-back motions. 

The next moan heard inside the tent was his own, and he slid his other hand into her hair to anchor her head so he could angle his face and delve deeper into this newfound exploration, peppering her mouth with the same ministrations she had a moment ago been delivering to him.

Her sighs and smiles spurred him, and he kissed her deeper, amazed that their teeth were indeed not banging together, and that this melding of their mouths was anything but disgusting or undesirable.

Sandor thought about pulling away for just a moment, right about the time he realized he might be losing control as her knee rose and she rubbed at his hip with her leg. But then reason fled, and Sansa was no longer a Northerner he was harboring, masquerading as his camp wife. She was his camp wife, and there was nothing that would convince him to drag his body out of that pallet at that moment.

Her breath was warm, as was her hand on his neck, and he felt no compunction to tell her women didn't kiss the Hound, that his experience in it was nil. She knew now of his scars, amazingly enough, and it appeared that she just didn’t care. How, he had no idea; but he wasn’t about to question it and drive her away with his insecurities. He berated himself mentally, suddenly wondering if she would notice his inexperience or if she would even care, but as he accepted her impassioned kiss, he didn't feel her hesitate at all.

Sandor wasn’t even aware he was capable of this – soft touches, the gentle slide of his hand as it dropped to the curve of her waist, the sounds that drifted to his ears that sounded suspiciously like sighs coming from his own throat.

Sansa did this to him, and more than that, she seemed to enjoy it. She kissed him as though they had all the time in the world to explore each other, and in a way Sandor expected that they did. As long as he kept her safe, as long as Trant was kept in check, as long as the gods saw fit to keep her here in his tent, focused on him and him alone; he thought they might have a chance.

But a chance at what? Forever? Was he capable of being a forever type of man? And how the seven fucking hells did he come to a point in his life where he was even asking himself that question?

As sansa nibbled at his lips, sliding her hand over his beard and drawing her palm up and over the soft, thick skin of his scars, despite not being able to feel her touch on the surface Sandor felt the pressure, and it made small bumps rise on the skin of his arms beneath his tunic.

If , he thought then. If she would stay with him, if they made it back to King’s Landing without him murdering Trant in the bloodiest manner he could imagine, and if he could manage not to fuck up whatever this was that the gods had dropped into his lap, than perhaps he could see himself with Sansa for years to come – living in the city, maybe later on the outskirts, both of them graying and weathered but together. And children – gods , he didn’t even want to let his thoughts stray there.

But she made him think of such things as his tongue touched hers, as she tasted and sampled him while he returned the gesture.

It was as though her touch elicited a hidden fantasy buried deep inside him – a memory perhaps, of a vision from long ago. Childhood? Of children of his own, the opportunity to raise sons who were not monsters, who did not grow to become killers and murderers, and on Gregor’s part, rapers. 

He hadn’t known he wanted that chance until Sansa.

A short while later, when they had finally drawn apart and quieted, Sansa turned over to tuck herself into Sandor’s embrace, perhaps for the first time willingly enfolding herself into the circle of his arms. 

He fell asleep holding her hand, and he dreamt of a boy with dark brown hair, and a girl with the same fiery copper hair as Sansa.

Chapter Text

The next morning Sansa woke to the smell of warm wine and a chill in the air. She opened her eyes to see Sandor’s large form moving about on the other side of the tent, and she smiled slightly, snuggling into the folds of fur cloak. She wished she could see his face, because she wanted to know if he felt as unaccountably shy as she did.

“Sandor,” she said quietly, and the form rose to full height and turned. 

“Aye, little bird,” he said, but even Sansa could hear the good mood in his voice. 

So the big man woke on the right side of the bed , she thought. With another smile she pulled back the edge of the cloak and patted the pallet where he had been sleeping.

A very ungentlemanly snort came from the other side of the tent, and she heard him put something down on the table.

“Is this how it is?” 

She couldn’t tell if he was teasing her or not, but he was already walking towards her, crossing the short distance between them and lowering to the edge of the pallet.

He added, “Women luring their men back into bed when there’s work to be done?”

He didn’t lay down, though, but rather remained where he was, much to Sansa’s chagrin. The thought of spooning with him on this chilly morning sounded very nice.

“Is it working?” she asked, hiding her smile behind the edge of the cloak. She drew it up to her nose, but reached out with her other hand to find his where it laid flat on the pallet.

His reply was quiet, his tone remorseful as he said around his own smile, “Nay, woman. Last time I was nearly beaten in training.” She saw his form look down at her and imagined the barest hint of a smirk on the corner of his mouth. “I’ll not be put into that position again.”

Sansa chuckled, but nodded. No, she most certainly did not want him injured.

He rose again without touching her, much to her disappointment, and continued to ready whatever it was he was working on. After a while he announced there was a plate of food for her, but that he had to go soon.

That was Sansa’s cue to rise and help him, so she pulled on the slippers and stood in the dim morning light, quickly finding him already lowering the chainmail garment over his head. Piece by piece they dressed him in his armor, until he had his sword belt strapped around his waist and his gloved hands fell limp at his sides.

“Well, I guess I’ll see you this afternoon,” she said, stepping back and clasping her hands in front of her. She stared somewhere in the vicinity of his chest, thinking how nice it would be if he wanted a kiss goodbye. He must have liked it last night, judging by his fervent reaction to her advances.

But then, maybe that was it. Her brow furrowed at the thought – that maybe he was so inexperienced that it would have to be Sansa who was the aggressor. After all, it had been her to bring up the subject last night, so maybe that meant she was going to have to convince him that it was alright – 

“Sansa,” he spoke, his deep voice drawing her out of her thoughts. 

She didn’t give herself any time to answer before she acted on impulse, stepping into him and reaching up. With her hands grasping his head about the ears she pulled him down, gratified when he made sure their mouths were what connected as she blindly sought out his mouth with her lips. 

It was very similar to the previous night’s kiss – soft and gentle, but he seemed more self assured this time and accepted her gentle touch, his hands resting at her waist. Never before had Sansa cause to think that kissing a man who hadn’t done much kissing at all, if any, would be so enjoyable. But just knowing it was Sandor, knowing he was being careful but also willing to do this with her, for her, heated her blood once again.

It was odd, feeling as though somehow their roles were reversed. As she coaxed his mouth open with a soft caress of her tongue, she felt that normally it might be the other way around.

But this was a man who wasn’t used to physical affection, while Sansa, in her time, had had enough to know exactly what she wanted, when she wanted it, and with whom.

Kisses; now; Sandor. 

And there was no way he was leaving that tent until he accepted and stored this knowledge in his heart.

So she slid a hand into his hair and tilted her face, feeling his gloved fingers grip into her flesh ever so slightly harder than before, and she smiled against his lips. Everything about the embrace was pleasurable, from the sweet scent of wine on his breath to the tickle of facial hair against her sensitive skin. When she finally broke the kiss she kept his head low and rested their foreheads together, reaching up to press one, two more chaste kisses against his mouth before slowly releasing him to stand tall.

“I’ll see you when you get back?” she asked, her words a little breathy as she slowly inhaled and exhaled, attempting to steady her heart.

“Aye,” he replied, sighing heavily out his nose. Sansa really wished she could see his face.

“Tonight?” She didn’t want him to go at all, but she knew he had to.

He grunted in response, and she felt his fingers flex against her skin through the fabric of her dress, the gloved fingertips scratching lightly back and forth as though trying and failing to convince themselves to let go.

“I want to kiss you again – ”

He beat her to it.

~ ≈ ~

The day was bright and sunny, but not too warm. Preparations for leaving were well under way and it would be just a couple days before the entire army received the signal from the commander to move out. 

Sparrows were singing, the leaves were rustling in the trees with a warm breeze, and Sandor was wondering what magic Sansa had woven around him that he was now noticing shit like that.

It had to be her kisses, as absurd as that still sounded to him. 

Sandor Clegane, kissing a fucking woman. He’d lost track of how many times he thought that thought and responded by shaking his head at himself. If the men he trained with noticed anything, they didn’t say anything.

A good result of this newfound – fuck , he didn’t want to call it a passion. He wasn’t a fucking poet. But if he had to put a word to it…

A good result was that he seemed even more effective in training than usual. His swings were harder, his commands sterner, the recruits beaten back but also eager for more. There had to be something about this new Hound they sought after, because he was even more in demand as a trainer than usual.

Then again, it could have been the way he’d actually helped a few of the boys off the ground. Or how he’d picked up a fallen sword and returned it to the one who had lost it. It could even have been that he stared at trees.

Sandor Clegane was staring at fucking trees, like a daft fucking idiot.

Word was going to get around, but there was no help for it. At this point it was either get rid of Sansa – and there was no chance in any of the seven bloody fucking hells he was doing that – or deal with the effects of her on him, and the changes they had wrought between he and his men.

Luckily for them, they weren’t stupid shits and didn’t say anything to him about it. Very lucky for them.

These last four days – he again had no words to describe them. Sansa greeted him in the evening when he returned to the tent and the woman was always meek and submissive, but he wasn’t stupid. He merely had to reach for her and that radiant smile of hers would return, and she’d share more of her kisses with him, this temptress who had no idea what she did to him.

True, he walked around in a nearly perpetual state of arousal when he was around her – thank whatever fucking gods existed that had made her blind so she couldn’t see the evidence of it. 

But it was worth it. This was something he had never shared with another woman, and he was fairly certain that most men never would in their lifetimes. Hells, he figured if she had been anyone else he too wouldn’t have it like this. There was something about her lack of sight that made it easier to allow his mouth to turn upwards into a smile. 

He also suspected that wherever she was from – Winterfell, the North, or wherever she may have come from – that they did indeed do things differently, as he’d never seen a woman behave the way she did about pressing mouths together.

“Heard your bitch had to be taught how to wash, Clegane,” smirked a sinister voice from behind where he stood at the horse enclosure. Even Stranger stamped his feet at the sound of Trant’s voice. Must be a good judge of character, Sandor thought as he turned.

“The fuck you want, Trant.”

There was no need for pleasantries between the two men. Beyond what the shit had already done to Sansa, even in the capital it was no secret what sort of man Trant was. Sandor had no time for men who preferred girls to women, or who took pleasure in the beatings the king ordered them to dole out. He couldn’t help but wonder how Trant had made it this far in life without fucking with the wrong man. How he still had his head – or his balls – Sandor couldn’t say.

The shorter man had sauntered closer, standing just a couple strides away from Sandor and his horse, a couple of his loyal henchmen behind him – lesser knights who latched onto someone with superiority like leeches hoping to be rewarded for their service. Sandor paid them no mind. He was certain he had beaten at least one of them in training at some point recently, and it hadn’t been very difficult.

“Just a friendly conversation, is all,” said Meryn, though there was nothing friendly about his voice.

He eyed Stranger up and down then took a step closer, his smile widening as the great warhorse side stepped away from his master on the other side of the fence.

“Got none for the likes of you,” rasped Sandor, turning his back to drape Stranger’s tack over the top rail. 

“Oh, come now – heard you and the bitch are getting along quite nicely. I just wanted to congratulate you.”

Slimy. His voice had a slimy quality to it and Sandor waited, knowing there was always something left unsaid with Trant; always the point to his statement that he left for the end.

He heard the older knight take a step closer before the man said, “‘Tis not every day the notorious Hound –” he emphasized Sandor’s moniker, “– bags a Northerner.”

An icy cold draped over Sandor’s heart, but outwardly he remained stoic, going about his business wiping down the saddle and laying it over the top rail as well. There was no need to react to Trant’s probing. If he knew Sansa was a Northerner, well, what difference did it make. Men were free to take camp wives from anywhere, unless they might be worth more as a prisoner. 

But there was no way he could know Sansa had wished to stay in the North, or that she wanted nothing to do with the war. Trant had no knowledge of her claim of being a Stark, nor even the fact that she appeared highborn.

Except for his first comment. It was true – Sansa had needed to be taught how to wash, which was something servants and anyone not born into a wealthy or highborn family knew all about.

Even so, it didn’t mean anything. Trant was baiting him, and the man was going to be disappointed when Sandor didn’t respond.

It wouldn’t do to go on the defense so Sandor merely gave Stranger a pat on the rump and walked away, hearing the scrape of armor as the three men hurried to follow his long strides. 

“Tell me,” Trant said as he caught up to Sandor, “how is it that a bitch such as her found herself the Hound’s camp wife? And, if the rumors are to be believed, that she is happy about it?”

“Fuck off,” Sandor growled, but the man was not to be deterred.

“She certainly has an unusual look about her, doesn’t she boys?” 

There were a couple grunts in response from behind him but Sandor ignored them.

“Red hair,” Trant was saying, “that gorgeous pale skin – I can imagine she must be one large bruise from the neck down, being the Hound’s bitch – ”

Sandor stopped and whirled, just barely managing to quell the urge to wrap his gloved hands around the vile man’s neck before he replied in a low, threatening voice, “Not all of us have to beat a woman to get hard, Trant.”

The blow reached its mark, as Trant’s face turned a humorous shade of red. But as he stared up at Sandor his smirk returned, and he stepped closer despite having to look up into Sandor’s face.

“No, but it sure was fun when I had my hands on your bitch. Might be I’ll get another chance – ”

With a feral growl Sandor did lunge and go for the throat, managing to get one solid grip on Trant’s neck before hands heavy with metal gauntlets began beating at his forearms as they both fell to the ground. The image of Trant in Sandor’s mind, holding Sansa by her hair as she cried and frantically looked around with her blind eyes, made a boiling hot rage fill Sandor’s veins. Heedless of the attempts of Trant’s men to remove Sandor from their superior, he rose above the knight and released his throat, only vaguely pleased as Trant coughed and scratched at his gorget, gasping for breath.

“You touch her,” Sandor growled, lowering his face so much that he could smell the vile air wheezing out of Trant’s mouth, “And I’ll cut off the parts you use to abuse innocent girls.” It was nothing to gather the spit in his mouth and launch it at the man’s eye, gratified by the gesture before enumerating said parts. “Hands… feet… tongue… cock. I’ll feed them to the king’s hounds ever you come near her again.”

Sandor suspected the fear on Trant’s face disappeared quickly when he pulled away because without the curtain of Sandor’s hair, the men who had backed up a few steps at his threats could have seen the terror written in Trant’s eyes, and the quivering of his lips.

Deciding he’d wasted enough of his afternoon, he rose over Trant with feet on either side of the man’s hips and sneered down at him, watching the knight wipe spittle off his face as he glared up at Sandor. Satisfied that his message had been delivered, Sandor turned and walked away.

~ ≈ ~

They had two days left before they would head out, the entire encampment of sixty-thousand men and a handful of women, making their way to the capitol. 

Over the last few days, Sansa kissed Sandor every chance she got, all the while wondering if women in this much older century were as dumb as she suspected.

She knew it sounded harsh, even as she thought the thought, but she wanted to find every woman who had ever laid hands on Sandor and throttle them for turning him into this caged – caged – hound!  

He was so full of life and passion, and yet he still needed coaxing most times, still needed Sansa to initiate the contact, except for when they were in bed. It seemed that any time Sandor found himself facing Sansa in bed, the compunction to press his lips to hers was too great to ignore.

Not that Sansa minded at all. Nope, not one bit.

The morning of their second kiss there had been a voice clearing on the other side of the tent flap just before Sandor had pulled back for the final time, hesitating only briefly before she leaned forward once more and willed him to be there; glad of it when he was, to accept her chaste kiss in parting as she smilingly disentangled herself from his arms.

But now – gods , she hadn’t known coming together was going to be like that! She felt giddy, which was a welcome emotion compared to the despondency and sadness that had lived inside her over the past weeks. Giddy and hot, as though Sandor had lit a fire under her and then walked away without putting it out.

She knew he was clueless as to the state in which he had left her body. He couldn’t have known her heart was racing, her blood coursing through her veins as though chanting his name with every beat – Thump-Thump! Thump-Thump! San-dor! San-dor! 

She took a deep breath and pressed her fingertips to her lips for just a moment, remembering the way his mouth had possessed hers so fully, without reservation, just this morning before he left the tent. He was a quick study, and after a week of kisses was now well on his way to leaving her so sexually frustrated – totally unbeknownst to him – that she was beginning to rue the moment they laid down next to each other to sleep at night.

Thoughts of him consumed her days and her nights, though they had as of yet not ventured past kissing on the mouth. He hadn’t even touched her outside her clothes, let alone the touching underneath them she yearned for on a daily basis. As she worked during the day, whether it was polishing armor with Jamis or washing clothing with the other women, all Sansa could think about was what to do now; what to do about this gnawing ache inside her belly that yearned for a more physical relationship with Sandor.

Chapter Text

Sandor watched Sansa the next evening as she, Jamis, and Sandor all sat in Sandor’s tent having dinner. Sansa sat on the pallet, Sandor in the chair and Jamis in the corner on the ground, which he didn’t seem to mind at all. 

Sansa daintily picked at her food, just one more thing that he liked watching her do. The way her hands skimmed over the surface, prodding at her plate to discover what was on it if he or Jamis hadn’t told her, and how she would tear into pieces so that the bite she put between her lips never surprised her with its size. He liked watching her jaw move as she ate, that vacant stare she usually seemed to have, except for when she was trying to focus on him. He found himself watching her for long periods of time, sometimes while pretending to do something else.

Everything in her heart seemed to filter through her face, and he was able to read her every emotion. He could tell when she was dwelling on what she had left behind – family, her home – and when she was inexplicably happy with how she felt on any given day. He liked her smiles, her confusion, her upset and her sadness, because every emotion was an excuse for her to seek him out.

It was mostly done in the privacy of their tent, but that didn’t matter to him. It was he who she cried on, who she aimed her smiles at, and who she reached for in the middle of the night in her sleep. This was how he wanted it to be between them – their future, their path together, as her acceptance of her surroundings began to open her up to new experiences.

Sandor wanted her. He wanted her as his camp wife, and not just for her protection. He wanted her to stay with him when they got to King’s Landing, although she didn’t know as of yet that the reason why he wouldn’t take a wife so long as Sansa lived with him was because he wanted her to be his wife. He would protect her, and care for her, and do everything within his ability to make her life comfortable and easy, because it is what she deserved.

So when she finished the food that was on her plate he didn’t think twice about rising in Jamis’ presence and taking it from her, accepting her sweet smile with silence mostly because he was certain she knew what her smile did to him.

And he ignored the surprised look Jamis gave him when he sat back down in his chair, shaking his head once to let Jamis know he was to keep his mouth shut whether they were in Sansa’s presence or not.

This evening they were discussing the remaining weeks of travel and their plans for when they got back to King’s Landing.

“Do you have family in King’s Landing, Jamis? Other obligations?”

Trying to get the boy’s mind out of wherever it had gone was going to be a chore, but Jamis looked between Sandor and Sansa and smiled, knowingly.

“Aye,” he replied, setting his own plate aside. “I live with an aunt and uncle, though no employment. I was actually hoping you’d keep me on.”

Sansa smiled hesitantly in Sandor’s direction, so it didn’t quite reach her eyes. She seemed to wait for his reply.

He thought of how much help Jamis had been with Sansa, and though there would be times in King’s Landing when Jamis would have to come with him instead of remaining wherever he lived with her, arrangements could be made for a guard, or even a long term lady’s maid should Sansa wish to have one. But when he didn’t require Jamis’ presence, having a man he could trust around her sounded better than hiring someone he didn’t know.

“That could be arranged,” he said, and Jamis smiled widely. Sansa’s lips closed but her expression said she was pleased with his answer. “I will need to find a suitable place for Sansa and I to live, and we’ll discuss it from there.”

“You’ll not be living at the keep?”

“No, there’s nothing but vipers and their plots. I’ll not have her tangled in that shit.”

Again, Sansa’s expression changed, more thoughtful now than she had been before. 

“As for tomorrow,” he went on, “What word has reached you of our travel?”

He and Jamis compared versions of tomorrow’s leg of the journey, each having heard different things from their respective circles of command. Sandor was privy to most of what was said in the meetings with commanders and so knew that they would be heading into some hills that may slow their progress. But Jamis travelled easily through the camps of washerwomen and servants, occasionally gleaning from them information about landmarks and potential troubles from villages not entirely trusting of the Lannister rein. 

As they spoke, Sandor watched Sansa, her thoughtful face showing that she was listening to their every word. Sandor didn’t mind, knowing instinctively an uninformed woman would never be any use to him. That Sansa was paying attention meant he wouldn’t have to repeat any of this information a second time, and she could begin to anticipate their needs rather than having to be told at every turn what was expected of her.

“We will be passing an area rumored to have a very old godswood, not easily accessible by the road but also not far.” 

At Jamis’ words, Sandor watched Sansa sit up straighter. 

“I haven’t heard of too many people who plan on visiting it, mostly since there aren’t too many followers of the old gods in our ranks and the servants will be too busy even if they were.”

Sansa’s face had taken on a passive curiosity, and Sandor’s heart seized suddenly as a pit developed deep in his stomach. It seemed so long ago, but scenes replayed through his mind from their last visit to a godswood and the terror he’d felt at thinking he had reached her too late, dragging her out of the weirwood pool after she had tried to kill herself.

“Have you heard, is there a pool at this godswood?”

Her tone betrayed nothing, and Jamis suspected naught as he rose with his plate, heading over to gather the other two empty ones as he spoke.

“I’m afraid not, my lady. Just a small grove with a very old, sad-looking weirwood.” He turned back to her, explaining, “But I wasn’t sure if you held with the old gods or with the Seven, and thought you might like to take a trip there, regardless.”

Her shoulders slumped. A piece of Sandor died inside.  

So that’s how it is, then.  

She could kiss him and hold him and make him feel things no other woman had ever made him feel, but when it came down to her future with him and the prospect of spending the rest of her life with the Hound… Disgust and anger ripped through him and he knew if he hadn’t put down his horn of ale, he would have crushed it in his hands.

“I heard tell there’s a septon with the prisoners, too, my lady,” Jamis continued, oblivious to the tension Sandor was now radiating. In a quiet voice he added, “He’s from Winterfell, you see, and I know you be missing your home. If there’s any way we could get you there to talk to him, maybe that’s something you could do without having to travel to the godswood.”

Sansa stood, but Sandor remained sitting, watching her as she nodded at Jamis and showed the lad a small, tight smile.

“Yes, Jamis, I’ll think about it. Thank you for the information.”

“Alright then, I’ll see you both in the morning.” 

He nodded his head at Sansa but didn’t wait for a farewell from Sandor before exiting the tent.

Thoughts assailed Sandor as Sansa bent to straighten the pallet and the cloak on top.

Her on his lap, kissing his scarred face as she cried. Were those tears for him, or for her?

All the nights she moved in close to his body, and how she felt wrapped in his arms, how her hair smelled close to his face.

That smile that had coaxed him to join her in bed the other day, the smiles that seemed directly caused by and aimed at him.

Gods – how responsive she’d been recently, how eager, her requests for kisses - some shy and some not - and the feel of her hands on him, her mouth under his. 

Had it all been a lie?

~ ≈ ~

Sansa was confused, though not exactly upset over finding out the godswood they would pass tomorrow didn’t have a pool. She had begun to imagine a life here with Sandor, but the question was, would she pursue a way back home if she came upon one? And even if there was another godswood with a weirwood pool, if she spent enough time here, enough time with Sandor building a life with him, would she want to try? Would she want to leave him and go back to her time?

The honest truth was that she didn’t know. But she recognized the emotion in her heart when Jamis said there was no pool – it was disappointment.

Since coming to this time she had found out her entire life would be different. Not only would she not have all the material things she had taken for granted such as her car, expensive coffees, her phone, and nail polish. But she would be losing things she wasn’t sure she wanted to give up – her sight, for one thing, which might have been corrected by doctors in the future. There was also her autonomy, the ability to go wherever she wanted, whenever she wanted. 

Going back would mean she wouldn’t have to be reduced to a possession, no matter how polite Sandor was going about it. She wouldn’t have to fear for her safety, to deal with beatings and threats and vicious assaults by the likes of Meryn Trant. She wouldn’t have to live as though being a woman was a disadvantage.

Her right to vote, her right to have a say in her own future, her right to be herself…

On the other hand, to have fallen into Sandor’s hands had been the best thing for her. She was sure Sandor would be fair and he would take her feelings into account at nearly every turn, as he had already proven. But he would still be the man, would still own her, would still be the one person she had to answer to no matter how insignificant her aim. 

The disappointment, however, was coupled with relief at the lack of a weirwood pool; relief that this life she had begun to grow accustomed to would remain. Her time with Sandor would remain, her nights with Sandor would remain, her friendship with Jamis would continue and the hope she had been growing towards a happy future would still be there for her to nourish and feed.

Deciding to hold onto that truth, she straightened from readying the bed and turned to Sandor, finding him still a silhouette in the chair against the tent’s wall, lit from outside, where he had sat to eat his meal.

Sansa smiled, thinking of what they would do together, tonight as they laid in bed. More kisses, yes, but would there also be more touches? Her heart hurt for the man who was burned, so every time she came near him now that she knew the burns were there, she could hardly resist the urge to draw that part of him down to her and to love on it as though her caresses could someday heal the pain, as though it could erase the agony of the event that must have caused the scars.

Sansa also knew that she would love to feel his lips on her body instead of just her mouth, which they hadn’t yet done, and to allow his hands to touch more of her, though perhaps still remaining above the waist. She wasn’t certain she was ready for anything else. Second base was still safe.

She couldn’t see him in the dark shadows of the tent but she could see his shape, and she reached for him, ready to help him with his armor so that they could get on with enjoying each other’s company.

She let out a small yelp when his strong hands came up to grasp her wrists, and for a moment she smiled, thinking that perhaps he wanted to take control from the start tonight.

“We need to take off your armor – ”

She stopped speaking when she realized his grip was getting stronger, almost to the point of discomfort. 

“Sandor, you’re squeezing me too tightly,” she said as her smile slipped, but his grip became stronger. 

All thoughts of carnal pleasure disappeared, to be replaced by worry, and then panic when he didn’t reply. 

“I don’t – Sandor, what’s wrong. Ouch, you’re hurting me – ” She tried to pull her wrists away, fear creeping into her tone as she realized he was breaking his vow to her. But… why? What had happened? He wasn’t drinking, wasn’t hurt, she hadn’t done anything wrong as far as she knew – why was he doing this?

He still would not let go of her, but he spoke after a time, his voice low and menacing, a tone she hadn’t heard him use since the day he had rescued her from Trant.

“Tell me true, Sansa.” He sounded as though he was speaking through clenched teeth, and she cursed fate that she couldn’t see his face. “Is this an act? Why do this, when you have no intention of staying?”

He stood then, his hands still grasping her tightly at the wrists. 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Is what an act? Why would you think –”

“The pool , woman!” He bent slightly, and Sansa knew he was trying to intimidate her. But she couldn’t fight the fear that she felt over being sightless, being at his mercy, knowing that he was so much bigger than Trant and, if he chose, could do so much more damage. Even as her mind reasoned that he would never hurt her, the grip on her wrists was beginning to be painful.

“What about the pool? You’re hurting me, Sandor –”

“I saw the way you looked when Jamis said ‘twas no pool at the godswood.”

“How did I look?” Her eyes were wide with panic but she still could not see him. Tears spilled forth as she struggled to understand what he was talking about.

“You looked like a woman who had lost another opportunity to end her life – that’s how you looked. Tell me, have you been biding your time since I took you into my tent, using your body against me to distract me from your true intent?”

Sansa’s mouth opened in shock, and she was powerless to shut it. He thought – he was saying – using my body??

Oh gods , he still thought she meant to commit suicide, and that’s why she was disappointed about the pool.

“No, you don’t understand – ”

“Aye, I understand well enough,” he said, his voice low. They were in a tent and it had thin walls, and she knew he was trying to keep his cool enough to not draw attention to them. But that made the anger in his voice all the more dangerous.

“No, you don’t, Sandor. I wasn’t trying to kill myself – ”

He kept interrupting her. “No? Then what do you call holding yourself under water like that? Not bathing, lass, because I know what bathing looks like. And aye, I watched you – watched your pretty naked body slide into the pool so don’t think to tell me it was an accident.”

He had watched her? Of all the things he’d said she could pick up on, that one sparked in her mind. But still she tried to pull away, tears streaming down her face at the pain and the fright she felt.

“It wasn’t an accident, but…” She couldn’t tell him the truth! She couldn’t tell him she had hoped the depths of the pool would send her forward in time! “You just have to believe me! Please, Sandor, I wasn’t trying to kill myself!” She struggled to keep her voice low as well, adding, “Please let me go, you’re hurting me – you promised me you wouldn’t hurt me!”

“Explain yourself!” His face was so close now she could feel the warmth of his breath across her cheeks. He wasn’t letting go, and this massive soldier was the furthest thing from the Sandor she knew, and it terrified her.

“I was trying to get home!” she blurted out, eyes wildly looking at the shadow of his face, desperate to see any definition instead of the dark blur in her vision, desperate to get him to let go, desperate to get him to see through his own irrational thoughts about her.

Sandor didn’t say anything but she could still feel his fury. She battled fear and self preservation, their short shared history fighting against common sense that screamed at her to keep her mouth shut. But one outweighed the other, piggybacked by fright and anguish.

“The pool was how I came here,” she blurted out, shaking her head as though denying her own words but powerless to stop them. “So I thought it would bring me home! Now please let go of me – you’re hurting me, Sandor –”

“Bull shit! Do you know how absurd that sounds? All this time you were playing me for a fool –”

“I’m from the future!” she hissed, wanting to scream it at him as she twisted and pulled at her wrists, but settling for shoving her face so close to his their noses bumped. “I’m not from here, Sandor! I’m from the future, the weirwood pool brought me here, and I was trying to use another one to get home! I’m not from your time!” 

“Liar!”

“I’m not lying! I’m from the year –”

“Should have fucking delivered you to Lannister all those weeks ago –”

She yanked on her wrists again and this time he let go, and without thinking she aimed as best she could and delivered a slap to his face that was likely heard several tents away.

Sansa didn’t know what had shocked her more – that she had blurted out her secret, or that she had struck him. But suddenly all she wanted was her mother’s arms to cry in, and her sister’s hand on her back, Brienne’s calm voice on the phone, and the warm fur ball of Lady snuggled up to her in her bed. She wanted a warm cup of cocoa and watching a movie with her brother Robb. She wanted lazy Sunday afternoons with Bran and Rickon where she embarrassed herself playing their video games, and visits with Theon and Jon when they came home from military school. 

And she wanted her father, a man who never in his life had spoken to her in the tone that Sandor just had, a gentle man who had never raised his hands in anger towards her mother Catelyn, nor to any of his children, and yet somehow had still managed to raise good, kind, respectful children.

She ached for home, even as her palm ached with the ferocious slap it had delivered, and her wrists bore the burn of Sandor’s grip where she now rubbed them.

And her heart – it was her heart that perhaps ached the most. Because somewhere in it, Sandor had been making a home for himself, and she had let him.

A home that now crumbled into dust.

Chapter Text

“Get out.”

It was probably the first time since childhood that Sandor had answered a demand given to him by any woman not in the royal household. He turned and stormed out at Sansa's words, briefly stopping by Jamis’ to instruct him to sit outside Sandor’s tent but under no condition was he to speak to her or go inside.

The squire’s eyes had been wide as he pulled on his coat, but he strapped on his dagger and nodded quickly as Sandor’s long legs carried him far away from them both.

Sansa had to be daft. If she wasn’t blind before he’d found her then maybe she had been hit on the head, and the impact had addled her wits as well as robbed her of her sight. For who else would claim to be from the future?

He walked past rows of tents and makeshift corrals where the horses were kept. He came upon Stranger before he realized he even intended to stop, and the large black destrier walked over to him. Sandor still had his pouch strapped to his sword belt so he pulled out a couple pieces of dried apple and fed them to the war horse.

Time traveller. Fool? Or witch? Sorceress? He didn’t know what Sansa was, but even as he thought the words he knew she wasn’t a witch or a sorceress. Not a red woman, not a practitioner of the dark arts. No, she was simply lost, and had somehow convinced herself she could travel through time by submerging herself in weirwood pools.

Only the last one hadn’t worked, so she thought she could find another.

Sandor shook his head, feeling the way his good cheek smarted where her hand had connected with his skin.

He knew why she had slapped him – there would be bruises on her wrists on the morrow. He had watched her approach him, that same soft smile on her face that she only ever directed at him – all the while his blood had been boiling and he’d been so overcome with his anger that when she reached for him he immediately stopped her.

When he should have let go, he found himself unable to. It wasn’t that he had wanted to hurt her, although that is what obviously happened. But… he felt betrayed. He felt wronged, and not in a way done by a man or another soldier. This was betrayal of his heart, so long left cold and dormant. Sansa had warmed it, had warmed him , and his feelings for her had grown even while he had spent weeks ignoring them.

She had gotten into his heart, and then had betrayed him.The last time he had been betrayed to such an extent, it was Gregor shoving his face into the hot brazier.

Time traveller, fucking hells . She merely wanted to try to take her own life again.

But even as he said it, unwarranted thoughts came to mind as his feet took him away from the corral and down through the middle of the long line of army camp.

First there was the manner in which he had found her, and her state of undress – naked, beside the weirwood pool, the only weirwood pool for leagues and leagues. There might have been one in Winterfell but there had been no way of bringing her back there to see it, claims of being a Stark of Winterfell notwithstanding. It was odd enough to find a woman delirious in the woods, but another that she had not a stitch on her, nor clothing anywhere around, spouting that she was Sansa Stark of Winterfell.

Her speech had been odd from the start, but he had always attributed that to her being from a different part of Westeros than he. But then, he knew plenty of Northerners in his life and none had ever sounded like her. That first morning she’d woken up and he had been enticed by the expanse of pale skin above that farce of a dress; the same morning he’d held her down on the pallet so she didn’t attack him – she’d said, “Eyes up here.” At the time he had ignored it, but now it was just one of the many things that made her odd.

“Egotistical man pig” – what did that even mean?

Added to these oddities was the time she thought he was jesting when he said she could be put to death for being a Northerner. Then she’d spoken to him as though he was not due respect as a soldier and a man – although he had to admit that she spoke in such a manner often and he never bothered to correct her. 

Then finally, she’d had no idea what a camp wife was, and was terrified of horses – two things not often found in all of Westeros. Even queens and their ladies knew what a camp wife was, and were raised with horses since the beasts were the only form of transportation and every household housed at least one, sometimes hundreds. 

But Sansa had been terrified, to the point that Sandor was forced to mount behind her and guide her through the motions of how to control the animal. She had learned quickly, but not before adding a row of crescent shaped indents on each of his thighs with her fingernails.

None of this made sense, but he also wasn’t willing to entertain the possibility that she had travelled through time. It was just preposterous. The notion that she was from some point in the future, and that she had sunk herself into that damned pool in an attempt to go back, made him wonder again if she hit her head at some point. 

As he walked, he thought back on the conversation that had quickly turned into the wool being pulled from his eyes.

Sandor was still angry over what he had seen cross her face when Jamis had said there was no pool by this weirwood, and as much as Sandor wanted to give Sansa the benefit of the doubt, it was still true that she had been disappointed. And the only possible explanation was that she had wanted to return to the pool to take her life. 

But it galled him most that she didn’t want him.

It had all been an act, and he’d lost his heart to a woman who didn’t want to go on living.

He walked until he knew it would take him a good while to get back to the tent, and found himself in a part of the army encampment that housed the prisoners. Whether it had been fate or his own thoughts that had brought him here, he wandered around the rough hewn cages full of dirty, broken Northerners whose fate would be decided once they returned to King’s Landing.

Sandor knew at one point he would have delivered Sansa to one of these cages himself, knowing how ready he’d been to turn her in when she had revealed herself to be Northern, and claiming to be a resident of Winterfell.

But looking at the cages now, he was thankful for her desperate plea that he not harm her, because it was likely she would have been chained to one of these poles, splashed with mud, living in her own refuse, and made to be ridiculed and spat at on the journey South. Prisoners were not treated with any measure of respect unless they were nobility, and even then it depended on the crimes they had committed. Word was, Jaime Lannister had been chained to a pole similar to these, and regularly beaten randomly by anyone who wanted to release some anger on the arrogant bloke.

Sandor pictured Sansa huddled on the ground in her green gown, hair matted to her head with mud, the color indecipherable beneath all the dirt and grime, and felt a chill in his heart still. Regardless of what she had done, it would be a tragedy to see Sansa relegated to the status of a prisoner of war.

He realized he had been staring absently at one prisoner in particular, an old man huddled against the log wall of the cage. There was a manacle around one ankle, though his skin was so dirty one could hardly tell where the manacle ended and flesh began.

As Sandor turned to move on, the old man shifted and smiled, and something stopped Sandor in his tracks. It was as though the man had been waiting for him, which was impossible. But the way he looked up at the soldier – as though he was simply a kindly grandfather who happened to be sitting on the cold, rough ground – brought Sandor back around.

Somehow he just knew this was the septon Jamis had spoken of.

“Septon,” he said, speaking quietly, aware that he was in a place that afforded them very little privacy.  

But would he have wanted it anyway?

The old man smiled, a smile that said he knew Sandor was troubled.

“My child,” he replied, shifting to face Sandor. He winced as he moved, reaching out to grasp his untethered leg at the knee with both hands and dragging it with him as he moved. Sandor could see it was visibly smaller than the other. 

The man was a cripple, a septon, and yet he was still kept here with the other prisoners, a man who should have been shown respect for his religious station.

“What brings you out this fine night?”

Sandor looked away, noting how far he was from the guards stationed at the front of the long rows of cages. That, and the distance between the septon’s cage and the one beside it, made it so that Sandor’s feet carried him to the wall the septon was leaning against. Again he looked around, at once wondering what the fuck he was doing and making sure no one was paying enough attention to see him lower himself to the ground. Once he sat, facing the septon on the other side of the wood bars, he leaned against them and looked directly into the man’s eyes. 

Sandor didn’t even know where to start, so he chose a tame topic, one the septon might be able to help him with.

Keeping his voice low so that no one but the septon would hear, he said, “My camp wife claims to be a Northerner.”

The septon’s bushy eyebrows rose, but he smiled that same smile again, ever the willing confidant even as he sat in filth and faced almost certain death once they reached the city.

“Is that so?” The man spoke with humor in his voice as he asked, “Are you not the Hound, most feared warrior in all of Westeros.”

Sandor rolled his eyes and looked away. 

“Aye,” he grumbled, “So I’ve heard.”

“Then what, my boy, are you doing with a Northern camp wife?”

Sandor sighed heavily, not realizing until now how good it would feel to say this out loud.

“I found her naked and blind by the pool at the godswood not far from Winterfell.”

He looked back at the septon, whose eyebrows rose even higher as he spoke again, “Is that so?”

“I had promised not to harm her,” Sandor replied defensively, “But – ”

“But turning her over to your superiors would do just that.”

Sandor didn’t even mind that the septon interrupted him. It meant the man had said what he didn’t want to admit out loud. He pursed his lips and gave a curt nod.

“Aye.”

“That is quite a predicament, my son.”

“Aye,” Sandor muttered this time, ignoring the familiarity.

There was a sound behind him and Sandor looked, thinking for a moment he had heard someone, but there was no one there besides prisoners too far away to hear what was being said.

When he turned back, the septon was studying his face.

“Speak plainly, son,” the septon said then, reaching through the bars to press a fatherly pat Sandor’s knee. “I have nothing but time.”

“She claims to be a Stark.”

The septon’s smile disappeared, and Sandor knew he looked to see if there was any sign of the jest on Sandor’s face. When he saw none, for there was none, he replied in a somber tone.

“The Starks are no more, all dead by Lannister hands.”

“Aye, I know this. But she says her name is Sansa Stark.”

The septon looked away, obviously saddened by the turn in conversation.

“I know no Stark by that name.”

“Nor do I,” said Sandor. Neither of them spoke for a time, though Sandor knew they were both lost in their own thoughts. He couldn't believe he was sitting here telling this enormous secret to a prisoner, but there it was – his compunction to do so, possibly out of guilt for treating Sansa so harshly. But that was an emotion he chose not to examine.

“You say you found her by a weirwood pool?” The septon looked back at him, brow slightly narrowed as he added, “Naked?”

Sandor cleared his throat, trying not to think of Sansa’s body as he replied, “As her nameday.”

“And her mannerisms… Does she seem odd?”

An odd question, that was for certain. Sandor narrowed his eyes.

“Speak plainly, septon.”

“Forgive me, son. I only meant her speech, her knowledge of the way we do things. Are they… out of place?”

All the things about her he had enumerated silently on the walk through the camp came to mind – her speech, fear of horses, lack of command over simple things such as camp wives. 

“Aye,” he replied haltingly, wondering if he had said too much. “Mayhaps.”

“By the gods –”

"Septon –” Sandor fairly growled the man’s title, even as it felt like his heart dropped like a lead weight into his stomach. The man knew something.

He watched the old man swallow, the loose skin of his jowls wiggling with the action. 

“Oh, sorry, sorry.” He took a deep breath, pursed his lips, and then sighed heavily with a shake of his head. “It’s just that I’ve heard of a legend told only among septons and the church, of people sent to other times to right the wrongs done by the gods.” He looked back at Sandor, holding up one hand and waving it animatedly as he spoke. “These people would obviously seem out of place because they are not from here. It has never been seen before – ”

Sandor attempted to process what he’d heard but found his attempt lacking.

“Are you saying the gods sent her here? From where? Dorne?”

But the septon shook his head, watching Sandor’s face closely as he explained, “Nay, my son, you are not hearing what I am saying. It’s not from where – but when .”

Sandor balked inwardly, instantly feeling denial throughout his entire body at what the septon was implying.

He wanted to walk away. He wanted to leave. He wanted to return to his tent and find no trace of Sansa, no hint that she had ever been there. And yet he felt rooted to the spot, disbelieving of what the septon was saying but unable to turn away for the simple reason that this is exactly what Sansa had said.

“That’s not possible,” he whispered hoarsely, remaining motionless as he insisted the septon was saying untruths.

But the old man nodded, his smile almost wistful now.

“Aye, the gods sometimes work in mysterious ways.”

Mysterious ways? No, this was just as the septon said - unheard of. It simply wasn’t possible to move from one time into the next. If anyone ever had the story would have been widespread, the stuff of legends. 

There was nothing in the septon’s words that sounded like truth. Sandor grasped on one aspect that would seemingly refute the septon’s claim.

“But you’re saying the Seven may have used the weirwood pool. That can’t be, since they have naught to do with the old gods.”

The septon smiled at Sandor, as though Sandor were an ignorant child who needed to be lovingly enlightened.

“Oh, yes, my son. Despite the weirwood pool being a sacred place of the old gods, much like the pool at Winterfell, it is nevertheless a spiritually powerful place, able to be used by any deity. The gods may have used the weirwood pool in ways you cannot fathom, son.” He inhaled deeply, the corners of his mouth upturned in a most self satisfied manner. He was very happy to be imparting this… this… nonsense, on Sandor.

“But I suspect your Sansa is not of this time.” With a shocked, almost gleeful bark of quiet laughter, the septon shook his head and stared off into space. “Fascinating!”

But Sandor still did not understand. What the septon was speaking of was almost cryptic in nature, for all that he understood what was going on. Perhaps if he questioned the man more, pieces would fall into place? The correct pieces; ones that made sense and were at least logical. Sandor needed to weed through what the septon said and discover the truth.

Still, there was the small part of him that hung onto the septon’s every word – that there were things about Sansa that were just too strange to completely deny the possibility that what the septon believed to be true, actually was.

“You say to right a wrong – what wrong? What use to the gods would Sansa be?”

He couldn’t believe he was even entertaining the septon now, with these ridiculous notions, but still he remained, unable to tear himself away.

“That, unfortunately, is only for the gods to know.”

“Are you saying the gods tamper with our lives? As though we are mere… toys?”

But the septon once again narrowed his eyes, staring Sandor down as if he had just uttered a blasphemous statement.

“Oh no, ser. They would not have done this unless it was of utmost importance. If what I say is true – and I wholly believe it is – your lady is indeed a Stark but from another time. The gods would not have sent her here unless they had a purpose for her; unless they needed her help in solving their problem.”

Sandor shook his head, hoping it would sort his thoughts and allow them all to fall into the correct place.

“Assuming what you say is true, what could be important enough to warrant this? What do the gods want of her?”

“I do not know. But tell me… Does she have something now that she says she did not have prior to you finding her at the pool? An object? Or perhaps a mark on her somewhere? You said she was your camp wife.” He raised a single bushy eyebrow now as he continued, “Perhaps there is something you have seen that she has not – ”

“We have not been intimate,” Sandor admitted, the man inside him galled at the truth of that. To have a camp wife and to not know her in an intimate manner was unheard of. Should any man find out about that… Sandor didn’t want to think of the ramifications. Sansa would be seen as fair game, an easy target. Consequences of theft would be ignored and attempts would be made. 

Sandor couldn’t even look the septon in the eye as he said it.

“Yes, well,” the septon replied after a moment, his tone censorious, “that she is your camp wife begs to differ – ”

“Even so, tis true,” Sandor said firmly. “I named her my camp wife for her protection. She’s – ”

But then it suddenly dawned on him, and his jaw dropped involuntarily as he looked back at the septon, eyes wide.

“She’s blind.”

“Blind?”

Sandor nodded, closing his mouth and swallowing loudly. 

“Aye, blind – can only see colors and shapes, but says until she woke up at the weirwood pool she possessed full sight.”

“Yes!” the old septon hissed, his excitement for the subject obvious. Sandor felt his was less so. “You see, the gods will somehow mark or bestow an affliction on the person they use. It will come on suddenly and will only be removed when the person fulfills their duty.”

It was beginning to make sense to Sandor, although he was still having trouble believing it, despite the septon corroborating Sansa’s entire explanation, without Sandor giving him too much information and allowing him the opportunity to fabricate a story.

Which meant – gods , he was such a fucking idiot. He had just treated her worse than dog shit even though she had been telling him the truth the whole time. He’d forced it out of her, even after she told him she couldn’t tell him – had hurt her in order to get her to tell him.

Then he’d called her a liar. Fucking hells .

He was not the type of man who needed to make amends often – couldn’t even remember the last time he’d had to apologize for anything, and he wasn’t sure this was something he would be able to fix. Hells, he didn’t even know how to fix it. And Sansa had slapped him, righteously. His cheek likely still bore the redness from the hit.

Another thought struck him, one of many this evening, it would seem.

“So when she rights the wrong done by the gods, her vision will be restored?”

“Yes, and that is how you will know she has accomplished her goal.”

“But you don’t know what that goal is?” 

Sandor wasn’t certain he could appreciate the turn in his thoughts as he processed what he was hearing.

“No, but might be she could figure it out. Perhaps you might bring her here to speak to me?”

Sandor sighed, knowing the septon likely yearned for more companionship. But it wasn’t safe. He had to be honest with the man as he rose from his position next to the cage. 

“I’ll think on it, septon.”

With a small wave, the old man nodded and smiled, that same friendly smile he’d bestowed on Sandor upon his arrival at the cage.

“My thanks, son.”

Sandor turned to walk away, his thoughts on the possibility that Sansa’s blindness was of the gods, and that they could restore it at any time. He felt a churning deep in the pit of his stomach at what that would mean for him, but pushed it aside when another question made itself known. When he turned back the man was still watching him.

“What happens to her when she rights the wrong, after her vision has returned?”

The smile the septon sent him then was more knowing than friendly, and Sandor had the impression this man could see down to the depths of his very soul. 

“That is only for the gods to know.”

Chapter Text

As Sandor walked away from the cage in which the septon now reclined, he passed others with prisoners who looked the same – bedraggled, filthy, as though the notion of keeping prisoners of war in good health was a foreign notion to these troops. The thought of speaking to the commanders about conditions in the prisoner’s camp crossed his mind, but he quickly banished it. Sansa may have softened his heart over the last few weeks, but complaining about the quality of living conditions of prisoners was not something the Hound would do.

And for right now he had bigger problems.

So… Sansa was from the future. Gods , he was even loathe to hear the words in his own thoughts, let alone speak them out loud, or hear them spoken. There was no way to deny it now – not when the septon had not only corroborated what Sansa had said earlier, but had expounded on the notion in such a way that everything about her now made perfect sense.

And Sandor had hurt her.

He felt like the lowest kind of man, worse than a raper or a murderer. He had taken her trust in him and had thrown it away, and fairly easily at that. 

When he thought she’d gone to the pool to kill herself, she indeed had been attempting to get back to her own time, only she hadn’t known it would be impossible – as he did now – until she righted whatever wrong it was the gods had chosen to use her for.

Fucking gods . Even the septon had said they had fucked up and needed a mortal’s help in rectifying it. Only, the septon couldn’t tell Sandor what it was Sansa needed to fix, nor what would happen to her once she had fixed it.

One thing was certain, though, and he found himself also loathe to admit this out loud – once she did, her sight would return, and so would her ability to see him. 

What would she do once she laid eyes on him for the first time? If the nature she had shown him thus far was an indication, she would accept him as he was. But there was a part of him that denied this possibility, a part that told him he was hideous, a monster, forever destined to live as a social outcast because of the gods deeming Gregor the right brother for Sandor. 

Fucking Gregor .

Was there anything else Sandor could curse? Because he had a lot stored up, ready to utilize.

He needed to go apologize, offer his help, his tent, whatever it was she wanted and needed to fulfill this quest, and to step out of the way if she demanded it. That she had been chosen by the gods meant Sandor could not impede her progress. Unless she miraculously accepted his apology and wished to continue as before, he needed to step away and respect the path the gods had chosen for her.

Fucking gods. Fucking fate. Fucking ridiculous.  

Sandor didn’t know what to do with his anger, so he cursed the gods in his mind as he made his slow way back to where his tent was set up.

He caught sight of it before he saw Jamis, sitting on the ground at the entrance, dagger in his lap. He was wide awake, scanning the area around him, between Sandor’s tent and the others, as though expecting an enemy to jump out and fight him at any moment. Sandor chose not to delay, and waited until Jamis’ eyes had landed on him before waving the squire over to him.

Jamis eyed him warily, obviously expecting the anger of before to still be simmering inside him. But the only anger he harbored now was towards himself and towards the gods. The anger for himself was deepest, and led him to clench his fists at his sides as he forced himself to face the product of his own ignorance.

“Has she come out?”

Jamis sheathed the dagger, glancing back at the tent with a shake of his head.

“Nay. Not a sound, in fact.”

Sandor grunted.

“That’s not good.”

Jamis nodded in reply, narrowing his eyes up at Sandor as he agreed, “Nay, not good at all.”

There was no help for it – Sandor had to face this, face Sansa, right now. He couldn’t wait, and as much as he dreaded the thought of her banishing him from his own tent, he knew it would be no less than what he deserved. Painful slap notwithstanding, Sansa was innocent in all of this.

“You’re relieved,” he said to Jamis, who merely nodded again and walked slowly towards the front of his own tent. He waited until it became awkward, watching Sandor standing a short distance from where Sansa was inside the larger tent, and finally entered his own.

Sandor took a deep breath, inhaling and exhaling as though the time it took to do so would grant him some measure of clarity over what to do now, but there was no hint that it did. He was stuck with this disaster of his own making, and it would be up to him to rectify it.

He walked to the entrance of the tent and hesitated a moment before speaking her name softly.

“Sansa.”

~ ≈ ~

Sansa sat in the far corner with her back to the tent’s flap, her arms wrapped around her raised knees. She heard Sandor come in but couldn’t bear to look at him. He had been so – so – cruel .

She remained where she was on the far edge of the pallet, feeling as though over the last few weeks she had cried enough tears to fill an Olympic sized swimming pool. Of all the rotten things to happen to her, this was the worst of them all.

That was, besides being put to death as a traitor. If that happened, nothing could really beat that.

But to have Sandor treat her in such a way because he still believed she had tried to kill herself in the weirwood pool was too much. It stole the life right out from under her.

Things had been so good. She had been acclimating herself to life in this time. She and Sandor had shared so much, had done so much, and the connection she felt between them had been growing and seemed stronger every day, stronger even than any she had had with men previously in her own time. She went eagerly to his arms at night and had awoke, thankful in them in the morning.

After today, she felt dead inside. Sandor had hurt her, had left angry, and Sansa felt more loss than ever. 

“Little bird, would you help me with my armor? Please?”

Her chin dropped to her chest. She didn’t want to help him, but it wasn’t an option for him to just sleep in the armor, and it was likely Jamis had already gone to sleep. So like a moving statue she rose, unsmiling with eyes that must be red, and maneuvered slowly around the pole in the center of the tent’s only room. He had taken off what he could – gloves and greaves, lower vambraces – but still had the upper vambraces, pauldrons, tunic and mail. She did this now, her fingers still aching to touch him beneath the roughspun tunic but not willing to go there.

She managed to get to the leather tunic without touching him, but when she had to tuck herself beneath his arm and she felt the warmth as she stepped close to his body, she nearly broke. She unfastened the buckles as fast as she could and stepped back so he could take it off. The mail shirt was next and when they were done, she returned to the corner of the tent.

They remained in silence, Sandor at the chair and Sansa at the head of the pallet, for quite some time, neither of them speaking. She felt there was nothing to be said. She had told him her secret, he had denied it, so all that was left was waiting for King’s Landing and seeing where she should go from here. She didn’t think he would turn around and deliver her to the commanding officers. He might have acted horribly but she didn’t think he was hiding an inherently evil person within him.

No, they would reach King’s Landing and perhaps she could find someone there who might help her – someone who might practice magic or the dark arts who could explain to her how exactly she had arrived, and thus how exactly to get back.

It hurt her heart to think of saying goodbye to Sandor, but it seemed as though that was the path they were on.

After a while he rose and she heard him pour himself a cup of wine. Perhaps he needed fortification now, to stay the night in the same tent with her. His opinion of her when he’d left was almost unbelievably low – to accuse her of lying to him and only pretending to give herself to him. Gods , how awful.

Outside, the camp was quieting for the night, the low hum of activity lessening until all that could be heard was the occasional clang of metal and the nickers of horses settling in for the night. Voices drifted through the thick tent walls but were so quiet they were indistinguishable.

“I believe you, lass,” came Sandor’s soft voice, interrupting her thoughts. It had barely been above a whisper, but she heard it loud and clear in the silence of the tent.

But it sounded hollow. 

She didn’t believe him now, and therein lay the problem. They couldn’t trust each other.

There was a chance he was just saying that – although her heart rebelled against that thought. 

No , it seemed to say, he’s not a liar.  

But the bruises she would have on her wrists in the morning painted him in a different light. 

Sandor was as capable of going back on his word as everyone else.

So she didn’t reply, and simply waited. He could explain, or he could remain quiet. It made no difference to her.

After a brief moment of silence he spoke again, his tone halting and hesitant, but true.

“I believe… you came from another time.”

This got her attention. She waited, hoping he would get the message that she wasn’t open to talking.

“Before, when I…” He paused, coughed, and started again. “Before, I couldn’t imagine anything of the like. It sounded so… It’s just not heard of.” Again he stopped, and she was pleased to at least hear that he was uneasy. “I couldn’t fathom another reason for you going into the pools, and I… Fucking hells, girl, I thought you’d lied. I thought it was all a lie – everything we’ve done, everything that’s been said.”

Sandor Clegane was a man of few words, and the ones he now strung together were disjointed and broken. But she still understood. A person from his time – even a person from her own – would have a hard time believing what she claimed. 

“I need to ask for your forgiveness, little bird, but I’m shit at it. It’s what I’m trying to do.”

He stopped, waiting for her now. It took Sansa a moment to compose her thoughts, but there was only one thing for her to say to that, despite still hurting from his words and his actions.

“Aye,” she said softly, “You have it.”

From behind her she heard his breath come out in a woosh, and she realized he must have been holding it, waiting for her reply. But then he stood and took a couple steps towards her, and Sansa’s entire body stiffened.

“Don’t touch me, Sandor.”

The command was quiet, but it was one that needed to be said. He stopped, and slowly she rose to standing, turning where she was so that they faced each other. But she stared straight ahead at his chest, almost closing her eyes at the pain she felt knowing she should not go to him – that the one person she had drawn comfort from over the last few weeks was off limits to her for now, at least this night. 

As much as she wanted to press her face into his tunic, to smell his scent, feel his arms around her as he held her to his solid chest, she could not. She needed to approach this with a clear head, and to give herself time to process how he had unjustly thought she had wronged him.

“Sansa,” he said, his voice almost a plea. It ripped through her heart and tore at her willpower, but she stood her ground. She knew what he was pleading for, but it was something neither of them would be getting.

Voice shaking, Sansa shook her head. This was going to wound her as much as it would him.

“You hurt me, Sandor,” she said softly, unable to keep her hand from grasping the opposite wrist. 

She circled her fingers around it and rubbed, still able to remember the fresh impression his grip had made. A strong grip, controlling, demanding, forbidding. If he watched her visual reminder of what he had done, she wasn’t able to see it. 

“You said you wouldn’t, and you did. I’m sorry I slapped you – I never wanted to hurt you.”

She swallowed past the lump in her throat, blinked away the prick of tears and composed herself before continuing.

“You said you wouldn’t hurt me, but you did anyway because you thought I had lied to you. I can’t do this tonight, Sandor. I can’t –” She stopped, wondering how much of herself she should reveal to him. But after a time, knowing how close they had gotten, how much this hurt, she decided to bare it all to him, if only to show him the magnitude of his wrongs.

“I can’t freely give my heart to someone who will abuse it.” 

The tears came despite her best efforts to keep them at bay, first one rolling down her cheek, and then another, and another. 

“I need to… I need some time, Sandor.”

“Don’t do this,” he said softly, stepping towards her. He made it sound like he thought she was distancing herself from him indefinitely, but she didn’t have the heart to correct him. The anguish in his voice surprised her, coming from such a large man, a seasoned soldier, a warrior – a man who likely thought nothing on the battlefield of pushing his sword through another person, and who lived in a time where it was okay to hurt women. The emotion she was feeling from him now shocked her, though she didn’t let it show. It was entirely possible he had just put to voice more emotion in those three simple words than he ever had in his entire life.

She was confident he wouldn’t harm her now, if what he said was true – if he did indeed believe her explanation for why she did the things she did. She didn’t know what had caused his change of heart but she was grateful for it, if only for the light of truth that now shown on everything between them.

“It’s self-preservation, Sandor.” 

Sansa swallowed around the lump, but was powerless to move away when he lifted his hand to her cheek. It took her by surprise since she had just told him not to touch her, but instead of pushing him away she pressed his palm to her face as he swept away her tears with his thumb. Leaning into his touch just briefly, she squeezed her eyes shut. This wouldn’t hurt so bad if she hadn’t known how good it could be between them.

When she pulled away he dropped his hand, but she didn’t say anything else. There was plenty she wanted to say – Just give me time; please wait for me; don’t go; I still need you – but none that her heart would allow her to say. 

“We can talk more tomorrow. Right now… I would like to go to sleep.”

And it was the truth. She was bone tired, although she knew if he truly believed her, there was much to be said. Much that she wanted to share with him, and to discuss, and to finally be able to speak freely about herself.

Just not tonight.

When she laid down on the pallet she kept her back to him and stayed on the edge, even as he laid down behind her. And when she fell asleep there was not one inch of them touching.

~ ≈ ~

The next morning was tense between them, but Sansa didn’t know what to do anymore. Sandor knew about how she came to be in his time, but he had also hurt her, and that she just couldn’t wrap her head around.

She had never been in an abusive relationship. There had been one close call when she somehow had thought dating her father’s best friend's son – who just so happened to be Joffrey Baratheon, but the one in her time – but as soon as she found out his true nature she had dropped him like a rock.

As much as she told herself that Sandor was raised in a time when hitting women was likely common place, Sansa was not. She didn’t want to adjust her way of thinking simply because When in Dorne, do as the Dornish do . It wasn’t in her genetic code to suddenly become okay with domestic abuse.

As hurt as she was, though – emotionally, especially – she still felt the pull of him. When he asked her to help him with his armor she did, still wary of touching him. When he invited her to break their fast with him she accepted without conversation. 

But when he asked if she wanted some time alone , she was about to tell him that was a good idea when she stopped herself. Having slept beside him all night without touching, feeling the magnetism between them but not acting on it, Sansa’s heart was more anguished than ever.

“No, Sandor, I don’t,” she sighed. 

She heard his moving cease, and felt that he was waiting for her to go on. She had likely just said something he wasn’t expecting to hear.

“If I told you I wanted you to leave, I would be lying,” Sansa murmured, trying to keep her cool. She was back on the pallet and he was in the chair, and he didn’t say a word. Of all the times she wished she could see his face, this was one of the worst. “I want to talk to you, and I want you to understand, and I want…” She didn’t really know what she wanted, but she did know one thing for sure. “Although I wanted some space, some time to think some things through, I don’t want this to be the end of us.”

She swallowed past the lump in her throat and dropped her gaze, toying with the folds of fabric in her skirt. She needed to word this carefully, because she needed her pride but she also didn’t want to chase him away.

But it seemed she was doing just that, because he stood, a towering shadow in the tent that she had to look up to in order to look in the general direction of his face. Sansa felt her heart rate increase as she stood, panic spurring her next rushed words as she held her hand out, as though to stay his movement towards the door.

“Don’t go – ”

She had barely gotten them out when she was pulled against his body, crushed into the shape of him beneath the leather and mail, feeling the press of armor as she rested her cheek against his chest and wrapped her arms around his waist. 

“I’m sorry, Sansa,” he said, his voice full of harsh emotion, as though he wasn’t used to feelings he couldn’t hide. “I’m so damned sorry.” 

His arms squeezed into her, just enough to be uncomfortable and Sansa didn’t care. He was holding her, she was back in his arms, and he was still here. They would work through this, she was certain. She knew he was proud, knew he likely had never been in this position before. But if he felt for her what she felt for him, he would understand that what they had was worth this time.

They held each other for quite a while, neither speaking but then neither had to. Sansa felt her grasp conveyed her emotions, and that Sandor’s left no doubt that he cherished her on some level. But the sounds of the camp coming to life were beginning to pick up speed and volume, and it was nearly time for Sandor to leave for the day.

Sansa stepped back, feeling bereft as his arms slid from her body. With her hands clasped in front of her, tightly so that she didn’t give into the urge to pull him in close once again, she opened her mouth to speak but was brought up short when Sandor took one of her hands in his.

Feeling his skin on hers, hearing that slide of metal plate as his armor moved, and knowing that her body cried out for his even as she was determined to keep them apart, made holding onto her resolve difficult. But when he swiped his thumb over the back of her hand and brought it to his mouth for a soft kiss, her insides melted all over again.

“I’m sorry, Sansa,” he said again, his voice no more than a harsh whisper. Then he traced what must have been bruises on her wrists, because they were still sore. “You cannot know…” He started to say something but then trailed off, his voice breaking, and Sansa clenched her other hand into a fist so she wouldn’t be tempted to reach for him.

“I am a man of my word, little bird,” he murmured, then she thought he shook his head, but with the dim light of morning she couldn’t be sure. “I don’t say vows – tis why I am no knight – but I vow to you now. I will never hurt you again – ”

She just couldn’t do it. 

With a strangled cry she rushed forward, wrapping her arms around his neck and pulling his mouth down to hers. Pride be damned, all that mattered was Sandor’s long arms wrapped around her middle, holding her against his armor, his gorget around his neck digging into her chest although she didn’t even care. What mattered was this – the press of their mouths, the sweep of Sandor’s tongue, the way their breath mingled and he kissed her with more emotion than she had ever heard in his words. It was this sharing of hearts, and that she felt in hers that Sandor was true to his word. 

“I’m sorry for hitting you,” pausing the kiss to whisper harshly against his lips, turning his face so she could press kisses to where her fingers must have hurt him badly. Over his beard, to the soft skin under his eye, and then back to his mouth as he pulled at her, arching her body beneath the bow of his own. 

“Nay, little bird – I deserved it –”

Sandor froze, his lips pressed to the corner of her mouth before leaning back slightly. She knew he was looking into her eyes and her heart cried out to the gods that she couldn’t see his own in his eyes. Because surely that moment was when she would have seen directly into his soul with the words he spoke next.

“Tis true, lass. I did deserve it.” 

He sounded in awe of this revelation, but Sansa ran her hands over his face, his forehead and scars, over the coarse hair at the corners of his mouth, desperate to feel what her eyes could not see. 

“For hurting you,” he said, his voice hoarse, “For not believing, not speaking to you. Fuck, you must have been hurting all this time... and I was a fool not to see it.”

Sansa nodded tearily, but then the corner of her mouth upturned, seeing the hidden humor in what he was saying.

“It’s easy to forget your woes when you have such wonderful distractions,” she said softly, her fingers against his lips. She felt them spread wide, felt her fingers encounter teeth as he smiled. She mirrored the gesture, and bit at the corner of her lip when he pressed a kiss to her finger tips.

“Aye, little bird – distractions.” He bent to kiss her once again, making her warm and tingly down to the soles of her feet. When he finally released her, she sighed and he groaned, thankful for the truce between them and putting this ordeal behind them.

Jamis chose that moment to appear on the other side of the tent flap, clearing his throat to announce his arrival.

“Clegane?”

From above her Sansa heard Sandor sigh, his breath tickling her face. Then he turned so that he could respond to the squire, and when she assumed he would leave, he surprised her again.

“You can fucking wait!” he growled, startling a quiet, choked laugh out of Sansa.

She hadn’t expected to talk to him today, and then she hadn’t expected to touch him, nor had she expected to forgive him, or hold him, or kiss him and laugh with him. 

When he looked back at her, despite not being able to see him, Sansa could feel the gratitude oozing from him, and the smile on his face – her hands ghosting over the surface of his cheeks and lips, and the ridge of his brow. She was glad he no longer seemed self conscious of his scars, and she thought that perhaps her exploration of them and how she merely accepted them without hesitation had something to do with his change of attitude. She knew he had hidden them from her for the longest time, and was glad he did not now.

Combing his long hair back and off his face, Sansa splayed her fingers over his temples, ran them down the sides of his face, her fingers sliding over the two very different surfaces of his ears. Then she pulled at him, letting him know she expected another kiss. 

And that is exactly what he did – bending to put his mouth close to hers and waiting for her to meet him halfway. When lips touched lips Sansa kept hers closed, intending for it to be chaste, just a soft goodbye kiss, really. But then her sensitive mouth betrayed her, and as she felt the softness of his lips beneath hers, she lost some of her resolve and slipped out her tongue, tracing over the seam of his lips, seeking entry. 

Groaning, he readily gave it.

Chapter Text

Sandor felt like he had just been given the greatest gift anyone could have given him. Sansa was here in his arms, and although he was completely outfitted in armor aside from his hound’s helm, there was no sweeter thing than the feel of her willingly giving herself to him.

Her tongue swept through his mouth, his hands grasped at her back and waist, and he revelled in the feel of her hands sliding around his neck and into his hair.

Jamis stood outside but could go fuck off, for all Sandor cared. He could hear the camp alive, teeming with activity. Men working, moving around, horses nickering, women laughing in the distance, and those damnable sparrows sounding like they had taken roost somewhere very close to his tent. 

But the only important thing right now was right here, standing before him, the most important thing in his life and the best thing that had ever happened to him.

“Never hurt me again,” she pleaded against him, her mouth and movements as eager as his own.

“Never,” he agreed raggedly, pulling away and drawing one of her wrists to his mouth. He placed an open mouthed kiss on the inside, over where a bruise was forming. It wrenched his heart to know he had put them there, and he found himself feeling the prick of completely unexpected tears. 

Sansa had a hand on his scarred cheek and she brushed her fingertips over his brow, feeling where it furrowed over his eyes. She smiled a soft, knowing smile, and he realized it was likely that she did understand. 

She confirmed it when she said, “I know, Sandor,” making him wonder how empathic she would be once she regained her sight. Her fingers slid to his other side, brushing across the area where she had slapped him the night before. Her whispered, “Me, too,” was accompanied by a fat, wet droplet escaping her eye and leaving a trail of wetness down her soft cheek. 

Gods , she was crying. Sandor reached up to wipe the tears from her face.

“No crying now, little bird.”

She smiled weepily, happily, when she said, “Can we talk tonight?”

“Aye, lass.” 

Sansa needed more, he knew, but words failed him more often than not, so tonight would be best when they had the time to work this out together. There was so much he wanted to hear from her, so many things that would help him comprehend all that he’d learned of her.

When they finally parted and he stepped outside to have a few words with Jamis, the young squire looked upon him warily, likely uncertain as to what mood he would find his master in. Sandor merely nodded at the man, giving the same instructions he gave him every day about watching Sansa and letting no harm come to her. He vowed to begin training the squire soon in the art of warfare, simply so that he would be able to defend Sansa against any threat.

All day he thought of her, of the things the septon had told him and what could possibly be her purpose in being sent back in time. He wanted to find out the year she’d come from, to ask her about it, to puzzle out some of the oddities she’d brought with her – her speech, mannerisms, what was different now from her time.

He was in a meeting with the commander and the other senior soldiers when he thought of their parting kiss, and how thankful he was that she had recognized both of their culpability, and both their willingness to set aside the events of the previous night.

His happiness depended on it.

But it was that thought – his happiness – that made his mind wander from the meeting and he found himself staring absently at the center of the table behind which he stood, over the shoulder of some knight or another, the image in his mind that of red hair, soft lips, gentle touches. 

There had never been a time in his life when Sandor saw a woman as useful for anything but cleaning and whoring. And yet, Sansa could neither clean very well due to her blindness, and he found himself thinking of her mouth and her kisses and the sighs and moans elicited from her when he had his fingers buried in her hair and her arms were wrapped around his neck. He never would have thought the simple act of kissing could be so satisfying; so fulfilling.

That wasn’t to say he didn’t think of doing other things with her. To say he’d never thought of fucking her would most certainly be a lie, but over the last few weeks he’d come to realize the act itself would mean more with her than it ever had before – before, when he would exchange a few coins for a whore who would turn her head the other way.

It would also be a lie to say he didn’t lay on the pallet at night with her in his arms, wishing she would wake up and turn to him.

“Clegane.”

“Sir,” he responded immediately, eyes drawn to the commander. Lannister was looking at him straight, his face emotionless.

“I was asking you what your thoughts are on the stability of the North, but your mind seems to be elsewhere today.” At that he raised an eyebrow, though his face fell just short of smirking. Sandor nevertheless saw the emotion on the man’s face and knew he had an inkling of exactly where Sandor’s thoughts had been.

“The stability of the North will depend on your appointments, Commander,” Sandor said evenly, not having followed the conversation but knowing enough about the purpose of the meeting to respond appropriately. “Keeping them under the Lannister heel will keep them in line.”

The commander nodded, though the corner of his mouth lifted just slightly before he turned away, once again addressing the lords and knights seated around the large, rectangular table.

It was all Sandor could do to concentrate from that moment on, and as soon as he was relieved he forwent any further training that day, his desire to return to his tent and to Sansa so great that he ignored the curious looks of men readying at the training field and strode on past. As soon as he reached the tent he paused outside, hearing the low voices from inside reach him through the thick material. Sansa and Jamis were speaking of preparations for leaving tomorrow, and deciding on tasks that she could do to make it easier on both Jamis and Sandor.

He announced himself before entering and Jamis stood, nodding at Sandor even as he put his sharpening stone away and sheathed his dagger.

“Clegane, we didn’t expect you until much later,” he said, though there was no censure in his tone; merely surprise.

The surprise was on Sansa’s face as well, though he nearly forgot Jamis was even there as the emotions began to play across Sansa’s features at his intrusion – confusion and expectation, and then… happy.

It was a foreign notion to him, but he was feeling the same damned thing inside his chest just looking at her.

“Jamis, you’re relieved for the day.”

There were a couple choked sounds from behind him as he faced Sansa, so he turned to find Jamis’ mouth opening and closing, looking from Sansa to Sandor and back again. It was obvious that Jamis had not expected that – Sandor was prone to staying out until it was nearly dark, and here it was just past the midday meal.

Sandor waited, but Jamis seemed at a loss, as though the break in routine had addled his mind and turned him mute.

“Now, Jamis!” he prodded none to kindly, his voice loud and in a tone that brooked no argument. Again Jamis nodded, and Sandor stepped towards him, obviously ushering him out of the tent as he instructed the squire to begin preparations so that Sansa wouldn’t have a lot of work to do the following morning. As soon as Jamis was out, Sandor folded the tent flap in on itself before turning to find Sansa already standing next to the pallet. Inside his chest his heart stuttered, his eyes not knowing which part of her they wanted to land on as he took her in from head to toe and back again.

Emotion thick in his throat, he cleared it roughly and slipped his thick gloves off to set them aside.

When he spoke again his voice was harsh but gentle as he said, “Help me with my armor, little bird.”

~ ≈ ~

Something was different. Sansa sensed it as soon as she heard Sandor announce himself outside the tent. He never came back this early, and as much as she wanted to see his face at that moment, she also knew it wouldn’t have mattered. The tension simmering between them told her she was as excited to see him in the middle of the day as he was her.

She stepped forward as soon as he bid her to, holding her hands out to avoid the center pole in the tent and to find him in the small space. But with the brightness of the sun illuminating everything inside so well, there really was no need. She knew exactly how far Sandor was from her, and her hands colliding with his chest as she moved nearer to him was just a formality.

Piece by piece they removed the armor, with Sansa attempting to concentrate on all the buckles and straps even as she endured his undivided attention. He was staring at her though not speaking, and it unnerved her.

She didn’t know what was going to happen, but she realized peeling off the pieces of armor was symbolic of a change in their relationship.

After removing each vambrace from his forearms she placed her hand there and squeezed lightly, feeling the sinewy muscle, tense and hard beneath her sensitive palm. The upper vambrace – the rerebrace – was the same, and after each had come off she took a deep breath and slid her hand around the roundness of his bicep, curling her fingers as she slid her hand down to his elbow on each side in turn. 

As the pauldrons and gorget were removed, Sansa stood behind him and slid her hands over his upper back, reaching up to cup his rounded trapezius muscles at the base of his neck before they disappeared under the edge of his leather tunic. She found them just as tense as every other muscle, so with a few gentle squeezes and a low, satisfying groan from him, Sansa knew she had found one more thing she could do for him that she was certain he would enjoy immensely – a shoulder massage.

Her hands slid down over the rounded caps of his shoulders and she unbuckled the tunic beneath his arms, finally lifting it off to reveal Sandor in nothing but his tunic, breeches and boots. But she wasn’t done – didn’t feel like this is where they should end this moment.

She came around to his front, stepping carefully so that she didn’t trip on anything before she chose what to do next.

“Thank you, little – ”

Sansa reached for the hem of his roughspun tunic, and Sandor’s words suddenly ended as she gathered the fabric and lifted it, upwards towards his armpits until he took the hint and lifted his arms. Bending slightly at the waist to aid her, Sandor bowed his head so Sansa could pull the garment off him and drop it to the chair beside them.

“Sansa, I…” He stopped talking when her hands came up, not yet touching him but showing her intent as she stepped closer.

This is what she’d been thinking of all day; Sandor, feeling him, exploring him. 

A moment before her hands would touch him she looked up in the direction of his face, her lower lip sliding out from between her teeth as she asked, “May I?”

He swallowed so thickly that she could hear it despite the sounds coming in from the army outside.

“Aye,” he responded, his voice hardly more than a whisper.

Sansa didn’t know what prompted her to be so bold, to be intimate with him in this manner when in all her previous relationships it seemed to work differently. Sex was merely another step in the dating process – a stepping stone to finding out whether you wanted to spend the rest of your life with someone. And though the sex could be good, the person opposite her usually turned out to be shallow or uninteresting or a pig.

Sandor was none of those, and though sex might ultimately be her goal, today it wasn’t. Today she wanted to explore him as though he was uncharted terrain, and with her lack of sight that meant having to use her hands to touch him, her mouth and tongue to taste him, and her ears to hear his ragged breathing.

She was certain he didn’t know what to expect, but when her hands alighted on his sides, the muscles beneath her palms twitching at the contact, and as she stepped into him and pressed her nose to the center of his chest, she heard a deep rumble in his chest as his hands came up to rest on her hips.

No one had ever touched him in this manner – the knowledge of this so thick and deeply rooted within her that it caught her off guard to form it into that thought. As she turned her head slightly from side to side, smelling the scent of him she’d been smelling for weeks during the night, and feeling the way the thick pelt of hair on his chest tickled at her skin, beneath her hands he breathed and trembled, his breath stirring the hair on the top of her head.

Her heart was beating fast in her chest as she swept her thumbs over his sides, the flat of her hands sliding up his back and down towards the muscular ridges above the waistline of his breeches. There was hair there as well, though finer and softer than what was on his chest, so she brought her hands back around to feel his belly and the dips and hollows formed by the muscles just underneath his skin.

He didn’t speak, but kept his hands softly on her as though ready to catch her if she tried to pull away. Sansa could feel the small lines and lumps of scarring peppering his skin; encountered one on the inside curve of his pectoral muscle that she tasted with her tongue.

Sandor hissed, which almost struck her as funny until she realized his teeth were probably clenched tightly. 

“Sandor?” she hummed against his skin, pressing a kiss to the scar she had just loved on, his answer simply a grunt as she moved over again to press a kiss to his muscle. “Are you okay?”

His hair was thick, the scent of his skin unlike anything she’d ever smelled – masculine, like nature and a faint soap and him . When her mouth encountered his nipple she spread her lips and swirled her tongue over the hardened bud.

Sandor’s hands tightened on her hips in a wordless answer as she turned her face to rub her cheek against the center of his chest. Her hand skated up his front to glide over the pectoral she’d just left as her mouth turned to his other one, administering to his other nipple in the same manner she had done the first. His unsteady breathing urged her on, and when her hand continued its path upwards towards his jaw and cheek, she was rewarded when he turned his face into her touch and kissed her palm.

It was so sweet, so unexpected, that she stopped what she was doing and looked up towards his face, only to find it descending on hers as his lips pressed against her mouth in a passionate kiss.

His arms tightened around her, her back arching as he pressed his tongue into her, her fingers tangling in the hair at the nape of his neck.

And in the next instant she found herself following him to the pallet, but stopped him before he could lay her down. 

Upright , she coaxed herself, knowing that if she were to lay down there was no way she’d be able to resist getting him out of his breeches and giving herself completely to him. And that was something that just couldn’t happen right now. Condoms, children in this medieval time, all sorts of reasons filtered through her mind as she guided him down to sitting on the pallet.

His hands were already reaching for her as she attempted to maneuver down to the pallet with him, but it became apparent he wanted her on his lap as he tugged her in that direction.

But, skirts! Sansa shifted the folds of fabric and finally settled on lifting them to her knees so she could straddle his thighs, quickly resuming their kiss as one of his arms banded around her hips and the other her upper back.

All thoughts of sore wrists, of broken promises and unholy slaps fled from her mind as he pulled her torso into his body. This moment had been building between them for two weeks, ever since they had shared that first kiss, and Sansa had never felt more closely connected to a man than she did with Sandor in that moment.

She tried to remember that he was from a different time; that women of this age were either innocents or whores, and that Sansa was neither of those. But she didn’t want to pass up this opportunity to explore the explosive connection developing between them. 

So with all reservations set aside, she ran her hands over his hair, his neck and back, down his arms and back up to cup his jaw. She angled her face and kissed him deeper, liking the way his face in this position was at a height with her own. He was so big , all tall and muscle and man, and she felt drunk on his presence beneath her.

It seemed natural to rotate her hips in response to the ache of need she felt between her legs, and Sandor’s answering groan fueled the passion Sansa felt. She wondered if he’d be able to see it seeping from her pores, because she felt overflowing with the desire to tear his breeches off and forget that the world and risks and consequences existed outside their tent.

When Sansa pulled away to speak she lost her breath as his mouth worked over her jaw, the scrape of facial hair against her skin sending delicious shivers radiating outwards over the surface. It took her a moment to speak while his mouth kissed and nibbled at her neck.

“This was – ” 

Sandor scraped his teeth over her pulse point and she moaned, feeling swept up in a storm of her own making. 

“Just a kiss,” she tried again, running one hand over the cap of his shoulder and down his arm to his elbow, squeezing and feeling the strong muscles beneath his skin as he held onto her tightly.

“Aye,” he growled, encouraging Sansa to tilt her chin up. 

Her head fell back as he kissed above the high neck of her gown, over the hollow in her throat and to the other side. His hands came up her sides and his thumbs grazed the sides of her breasts, leaving Sansa with the sensation that she might burst if he didn’t do something about it.

“Sandor,” she whispered, breathless now with want, “ Please – ”

In the next instant her dress was untied, the sides pulled apart and loosened, and Sandor was trying to help her pull her arms out of the sleeves. But when she was bared to him, her dress pushed down to her waist and trembling with the urge to pull his mouth to her chest, he sat her back and held her by the shoulders.

“Sansa...” 

One word. Her name, and in it was more appreciation, more desire for her than she had ever heard from any other man before him. 

Fuck , you’re so beautiful, little bird.”

It was all well and good, but there would be time for visual inspection later.

“Sandor, I need you on me,” she whispered hoarsely, rising up on her knees to bring her chest closer to his face. “ Now,” she pleaded, sliding her fingers into the hair at the back of his head.

~ ≈ ~

Sandor felt like his cock was going to split apart with desire for her. He wrapped his arms around her and flipped them so that she was laying on her back, heedless of her hoarse cry. Did she want this? Did she mind? With her legs caging his hips and her fingers twined in the hair at the back of his head, he didn’t think she was objecting as he looked down at the prettiest teats he had ever seen.

Soft white mounds tipped with pale pink nipples, hardened now in the chill of the tent. He felt his mouth water as he looked at them.

He had never done this before, had never enjoyed a woman’s body in this manner, nor allowed a woman – nay , had never had a woman show interest in enjoying his as Sansa was doing. And seeing those teats beneath him now he knew exactly what he wanted to do; was fairly certain he knew what Sansa wanted as she tugged at his hair to draw his face closer to her chest.

He lowered to take one coral tip into his mouth.

Sansa hissed above him and he sensed her turning her face from side to side, her hands working at his hair and the back of his neck as she whimpered. With a swirl of his tongue over a beaded nipple, Sandor strongly drew the peak into his mouth, earning him a thrust of her hips that brought them into contact with his arousal.

It felt so good, so right, and she seemed to be enjoying what he was doing. Gods , she was so damned alluring he thought his head might explode with the desire he felt for her.

He pressed his arousal against her in response to her writhing, switching his mouth to her other side while he brought a hand up to caress the breast he’d just left. 

“Sandor, I don’t – ” 

She tried to speak but when he suckled at her again, her breath hitched and her hand tightened in his hair. 

“I’m not gonna – mmm – I won’t want to stop,” she said down to him, lifting her hips again as he thrust against her. 

But Sandor didn’t want to stop, and he lifted his mouth from her breasts to kiss her, feeling her desire for him as she accepted his mouth eagerly, her tongue tangling with his own. He felt as though he’d been taken over by passion, and he pressed his hips against her core again, and again and again, feeling the contact, the friction, bringing him to a height of lust he hadn’t expected.

Later he would reflect back on that moment as a loss of control, as being so caught up in the moment that he hadn’t listened to his body. But when he found himself burying his face into her neck, his eyes squeezing shut as colors burst behind his eyelids and he released inside his breeches, he knew he had never felt anything so powerful as those few moments in her arms when she held him close, sending him over the edge as she murmured encouragingly into his ear.

It might have been that loss of control, or perhaps the soft, stroking touches from her fingertips that she dragged over his back, or the gentle kiss she pressed to the scarred temple she faced when she turned her head towards him – he wasn’t sure. But something made him angry, and that he was still laying there trembling in her arms like some boy after his first whore, made him feel like an idiot of the worst kind.

He felt himself close off, and as he pulled away he told himself he should be doing something for Sansa – helping her with her dress, soothing her nerves, returning that achingly soft kiss she’d given him before he sat up.

But instead he moved off her and to the edge of the pallet, reaching back to rest a hand on her stomach, not trusting himself to do anything else. He didn’t look at her – didn’t want to see the expression on her face even as he wrestled with the need to get away and the desire to hold her in his arms.

Was she disappointed? He couldn’t bear to look at her to see.

Instead he stood, rifled through the small trunk for a clean pair of breeches, and walked out, figuring he could use Jamis’ tent to change.

~ ≈ ~

He dreamt that he awoke drenched in sweat, wondering to what hells the gods would lead him to next. Perhaps a woman professing her undying love? Saying she wished to bear his children? Ask for his cloak?

Seven fucking hells, he was frustrated.

Chapter Text

Sansa laid on the pallet, alone and bared from the waist up, wondering what the hells just happened.

Everything was going so… great. That was, until Sandor… well, until he…

She guessed that he had found a new pair of breeches to wear before leaving, so hopefully that meant he was just next door. 

Realizing she was incredibly vulnerable in her current state, she sat up and dragged her dress up her arms, figuring she’d just have to wait for him to return to help her with the laces.

Thinking back on what had happened in the short time since he returned to the tent, all Sansa could think was wow . It had been hot, and sexy, and more than she could ever have imagined with him. He might have been a medieval soldier whose only sexual experience was whores and brothels, but with some slight encouragement he was apparently capable of being every woman’s dream. 

Her dream, to be exact.

The way he’d set on her breasts like a starving man drove her wild, and even now she could feel the pent up energy of a release that never had a chance to rip through her, as she knew it would have. She was due for a clean pair of homemade panties, that was certain.

But Sandor… He was so upset when he left, she could feel the irritation radiating off his body, and she came to the conclusion that the only thing he could be irritated with was the fact that he’d came in his pants. Even in her time, to do so and then having someone else find out about it would likely mean years of ribbing and ridicule by a man’s friends.

Sansa’s eyebrows went up as she tried not to smile at the thought of it happening to Sandor. It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, she pondered. The fact that he was so excited and worked up that rubbing against her was enough to send him climaxing was sort of… hot.

Like, could she do it again?

Did she want to?

The idea excited her, but then she had to remember he was a respected member of this army and doing anything that might make him feel less – such as forcing upon him premature ejactulation time and time again – would probably damage his ego.

But that didn’t mean she couldn’t... tease him… just a little. Or seduce him a bit. Or entice him into doing all of that again with her.

She didn’t want him to be upset, especially since he’d come back early and had told Jamis he would have the rest of the day to do other things. That meant when Sandor came home he intended to spend the remainder of his day with Sansa, alone in this tent, just the two of them. 

And Sansa most definitely wanted that as well. She needed to talk to him about how she got here, tell him about the time from which she had travelled, finally open up to him about her family and how she truly was a Stark of Winterfell, only not the ones who had in this time apparently been killed for this war.

She and Sandor had a chance to be together for a longer period of time than they had in the last nearly five weeks, and Sandor was off stewing over what he probably perceived as a mistake. Well, Sansa intended to show him she didn’t think less of him for what happened, but that she did expect the favor returned.

With a smile, she sat at the top of the pallet and waited for him.

~ ≈ ~

The short time it took to clean up and change – while Jamis waited outside – wasn’t long enough in Sandor’s opinion for genuine soul searching. But he couldn’t just avoid Sansa for the remainder of the day; not when she knew by now that it was supposed to be the two of them until tomorrow morning. Their time needed to be spent discussing what he now knew about her and what exactly needed to be done, if anything.

However, he did have a moment to realize that if there was something to be done about her, he wasn’t going to be happy doing it. 

He had grown accustomed to her presence – her warmth in the middle of the night pressed against him; her dainty but effective hands while helping him don and remove his armor; her companionship, even as a group when they sat with Jamis eating a meal.

Sandor didn’t want this to end, but he had to tell her what the septon had said.

And he had to face Sansa now, after embarrassing himself.

Fucking hells .

Jamis said not a word as Sandor exited his tent and reentered his own, which was a blessing because Sandor wasn’t sure if his instincts would have led him to yell at the squire or ignore him entirely – which would have looked entirely too suspicious.

Sansa was still seated on the pallet, though when she looked up and saw him he expected her face to hold derision or humor on it. He had begun to anticipate spending the night in his cups somewhere on the other side of the camp.

But the smile on her face was different, not what he expected. It was happy, and she rose immediately and, though she was careful doing it, she took the few steps it required to walk directly into his body, her arms around his waist.

Sandor was shocked. But as though she had been made for him, instinct this time drove his arms around her, his face down into the crown of her hair.

“I’m glad you’re back,” she said softly into his chest, turning her face so her cheek rested against his sternum. The movement rubbed her hair against his nose and Sandor inhaled, knowing that feminine scent was something he would never tire of smelling.

He grunted in response, unable to speak. He neither wished to sound unsure of himself, nor did he want to make a show of bravado where he had none. He came to her now, he supposed, a simple, humble man, and his heart ached with the sweetness of her arms around him and the feel of her pressed into him.

“But Sandor?”

Drawing her head back, Sansa tilted her face up to his and smiled once again as he looked down at her. Then she reached up to tug his face down to hers, giving him a gentle kiss that seemed to tell him she held no ill thoughts towards him for what happened earlier.

With one hand she brushed his hair back and away from his scars, a movement he had been slowly getting used to over the last few weeks. It no longer struck fear in him that she was somehow going to see the mass of scarred skin that was his face, and turn tail and run. He knew she couldn’t see it but was aware of its presence, and he also knew that she had felt it, kissed it, and still had no desire to be away from him. It confounded him, but again, he refused to question it.

Her eyes were stunning – blue like the sky, clear and expressive. As they looked at him they held joy and warmth, emotions he never would have thought to ever see in a woman, not directed at him anyway. Then she smiled again, one eyebrow lifting slightly.

“Next time it’s my turn,” she all but whispered, gliding the pad of her thumb across his lower lip.

His heart may have stopped at that moment, he couldn’t be sure. But it certainly felt like it.

He had… in his pants. And she wanted…

He had heard women could do that – come to release – but he had never done it; had never brought a woman to climax. 

Sansa’s smile widened at his audible swallow.

“Now, help me with my dress,” she said, abruptly stepping away from him and turning.

This newfound confidence in her speech and movements, he began to think, did not bode well for his state of mind.

It took some doing but he managed to set aside most of this thoughts as he watched Sansa gingerly cut their food, after offering to let him sit while she worked. He knew that she knew that he was staring at her, but she didn’t say anything or object. She merely sent a small smile his way every so often, pausing in her cutting and preparing to use her forearm to push away a tendril of hair. 

He needed to find her some dresses. Two, maybe three. He would set Jamis to the task, he decided, knowing the lad would be anxious for something to do after having the entire evening to twiddle his thumbs.

Though he knew naught else that he could do for her, a woman from the future. 

It wasn’t that he didn’t know what made women happy, because he did have a decent idea. After all, he’d spent enough years at court to see the finery and frippery those ladies adorned themselves with, the activities they used to wile away their time, and topics of conversation that sent them tittering behind their hands.

But Sandor didn’t have jewelled combs to give to Sansa, nor the finest silks, or servants to carry a gilt litter. He wasn’t poor by any means, but neither did he possess the resources or desire to waste his money on things such as those.

And yet… if Sansa wanted them… Perhaps?

“Are you happy?”

He didn’t mean to voice the question aloud, didn’t mean for his thoughts to escape his mouth. But this seemed something he was doing more and more often in her presence – talking before thinking. It was a dangerous habit, one he needed to isolate to the tent if it was to continue.

She smiled softly, setting the knife down on the small table beside the plates. But then her smile faded, and he waited to see what had gone through her mind to make it so.

Carefully picking up one plate, she handed it to him before taking her own and making her way to the pallet to sit. When she spoke, her voice was soft, not unhappy but not as enthusiastic as when she had spoken about whose turn it would be the next time they came together in an intimate manner.

“I am, Sandor,” she said, her tone saying she spoke his name aloud as though he was a reason for her happiness. Not one to roll his eyes, he did it then knowing she couldn’t see. He was fairly certain he wasn’t the cause of anyone’s happiness.

“I suppose to fully answer that question I have to talk about how I came to be here, and… my feelings surrounding that event.”

Sandor enjoyed watching her – the way her brow wrinkled with consternation, the careful way her fingers moved over her plate, keeping the piles of foods separate from one another. He even liked watching her jaw move as she chewed, even that small movement dainty and feminine in a way he wasn’t used to. She chewed with her mouth closed, which wasn’t something he was often able to enjoy in a meal companion.

“And I suppose you have questions about that as well?” she offered. He nodded in return but realized she couldn’t see, and chose not to respond anyway. She knew, so it didn’t matter.

Mind still reeling from the events of the day, Sandor sat still, food forgotten, as she recounted for him how she had left her family’s home late at night – Winterfell, as one would have it – to go for a swim in the pool when there were no guests about. 

Sandor thought it odd that a woman, maiden or not, would do that without a guard, but thought that perhaps in her time things were that different.

Sansa went on to say she had stripped and gone under the water, and then had apparently lost consciousness because the next thing she knew, she was waking up in the clearing and Sandor was coming towards her.

He remembered that moment well. Seeing her laying there, not knowing who she was, what she was doing, or what the seven bloody hells he was going to do with her. He remembered wrapping his cloak around her and carrying her slight form back to the camp. Had that really been more than a month ago?

“As for whether I’m happy?”

Sansa set the plate down, her food only half eaten, and folded her hands in her lap. Her stare was blank, aimed somewhere at the floor beside his feet. A resigned sadness washed over her face as she shook her head, and then nodded.

“Yes and no, honestly. I mean, I miss my family.” Glancing up in Sandor’s direction, she gave a disbelieving quirk of her mouth as she continued, “My dad is Ned Stark, my mom, Catelyn Stark. I have brothers – Robb, Bran, Rickon; and a foster brother, Theon; and a cousin who lives with us, Jon. And a sister,” she added, a soft nod and a tear accompanying the mention. “Arya. She’s a little brat but I love her, and…”

Sansa ran a hand down her face, as though memories of them were causing physical pain.

“And I’ll never see them again,” she whispered, her face falling so he couldn’t see. But he noticed the tremor in her shoulders, and knew she was crying even though she made not a sound. 

Sandor gave her a few moments before unknown feelings inside him drove him to set his plate on the table and rise. This instinct that was developing – to care for her, to protect her, to comfort her – had been increasing with every week she was near. The longer she was with him he found it easier and easier to just indulge his legs when they propelled him towards her, his hands when they reached for her, and his heart when it constricted tightly as he lowered himself to the pallet and she grasped for him. 

As Sansa leaned into his chest and softly wept into his tunic, he thought about what she had said of her family. He knew those names, knew those people to be dead and gone now, killed by Lannister forces. Though if she were indeed from a different time, he supposed he couldn’t deny the possibility that they all existed again sometime in the future, as odd as that might seem. Only, Sansa didn’t exist in this time, which only lent more oddity to the fact that it was she who had somehow fallen back into his time. If she were indeed the only Stark who didn’t exist – and he was certain he had never heard of a Sansa Stark – then why was she here? 

The septon had spoken of a purpose for her, a quest of some sort to help the gods rectify a wrong, but the old man wasn’t able to enlighten Sandor as to what that might be. And at this time, he wasn’t sure speaking of that matter to Sansa would be appropriate. Not, in any case, while she was weeping in his arms over the loss of her true family.

But as Sansa’s tears quieted, Sandor found he wanted to hear more of her time, not only because he preferred her speaking to crying, but also because he was curious about her time. What sort of people were they that she didn’t know anything about armies and warfare? About riding a horse? And what did they wear?

And what in Westeros was a phone?

~ ≈ ~

Sansa wasn’t sure how long it had been since Sandor had lain back against the pillow and she’d snuggled up to his side, wrapping an arm around his broad torso and letting the beating of his strong heart calm her nerves. But it was long enough to be jolted several times by his scoffing at objects and ideals that were commonplace in her time.

“Women? Voting? Bugger that,” he muttered, to which Sansa merely had to smile. 

“It’s true, and a great many other things, as well. Women won the right to vote over two hundred years ago, and to own their own homes, to sue for divorce, to use birth control – ”

“Birth control?”

Sansa was glad he couldn’t see her blush. Of all the things she’d listed, he had to call her out on that one.

“Yes, birth control. They are methods to prevent unplanned pregnancies.”

He scoffed yet again, his male superiority showing in the flippant way he waved his hand.

“A man needs only to pull out. Everyone knows that.” 

His voice was deep and rough, as though it was an embarrassing subject even for him. Sansa smiled, though she was glad they weren’t face to face.

“Actually… that’s not entirely true. It might decrease the chances, but a man… well, a man leaks ,” she said hesitantly, not knowing exactly how much detail she wanted to go into the modern study of conception.

Sandor made a grunting sound that left no question he was asking her to go on. All righty then .

“It’s called pre-cum. The part of a man that joins with the egg inside a woman is called sperm, and they are in the man’s semen,” she said, plowing ahead as easily as she was able to, knowing exactly what had gone on between them just a couple hours prior. “Semen is the white stuff that comes out of a man, and when he is aroused some of it comes out early. All he has to do is get a little bit of it in a woman and she can get pregnant. It doesn’t take completing the act – for a man to cum inside a woman – for her to get pregnant.”

Sandor was silent for a time, and it made Sansa wonder if he was asking himself if there could be little Sandor’s running around Westeros. Hells, even she was wondering now.

“How is it that we do not know this?”

“Well, I’m pretty sure you guys don’t have microscopes yet, and if you do they’re not very powerful. Under a microscope you’d be able to see the sperm swimming around, and scientists have even been able to see the exact moment under a microscope that a sperm enters the egg.”

“You have… eggs? Inside you?”

Again, she smiled.

“Not the same as you might be thinking. They’re small, nothing like a chicken egg. So small that you can’t see them without a microscope.”

“Hm.”

Moving on , she thought desperately, before she continued, “What else would you like to know?”

He thought for a moment before he spoke again, this time asking her what a phone was.

“You asked for one when you first arrived,” he added, and Sansa nodded, remembering how desperate she was to get a call to her family, not yet knowing exactly how impossible that would be.

“A phone is a communication device. In my time, people have discovered that you can send messages through wires – audio messages; voice messages.” This was harder to describe than birth control. “So we would talk to each other on phones in our own homes that were all connected by wires all over the city. Everyone in Westeros had a phone, and then they discovered they could do the same thing without the wires, and now we have phones called cell phones.”

“And you wanted to attempt to contact your family using a… phone.”

“Yes,” she said, glad he understood that.

“But we were a good distance from Winterfell.”

Ah, so he didn’t understand.

“Yes, but with a phone I could call someone in Qarth and we could have a conversation, even though I am in Westeros and they are on the other side of Essos.”

Another scoff was his reply, and once again Sansa smiled.

“I know it might be hard to believe, but… I think you would like it in my time. There are no more wars, no more fighting. Actually, the Lannisters are socialites with too much money instead of royalty, since the royal houses were all replaced by a centralized government hundreds of years ago. Even the Targaryen dynasty, which briefly came back into power, was willing to give up reign in favor of a unifying peace treaty. There hasn’t been a public execution in probably two or three hundred years.”

After that Sandor almost became upset over the lack of corporal punishment in her time so they moved on, talking of food and hobbies and travel. Airplanes were hard for him to grasp, but when she explained they were largely technology developed after years and years of study based on the aerodynamics of dragons, that seemed to make more sense. It wasn’t too long before Sandor’s time that dragons still flew the skies, and apparently large metal dragons made by humans wasn’t as big a stretch to him as cell phones.

There came a time when the conversation between them quieted, and they both laid there on the pallet lost in their own thoughts. Sansa was remembering what it was like to grow up in modern day Winterfell when Sandor spoke, breaking the silence that had surrounded them.

“Could you be happy here?” he asked quietly, and Sansa thought she heard uncertainty in his voice. She attributed it to the unspoken question of whether she could be happy there with him .

Rising up, she moved his arm beneath her so her elbow was propped beside his shoulder, and she looked down into his face, wishing yet again that her sight hadn’t been damaged in whatever it was that had brought her to this time.

But also knowing the connection that had developed between them, and knowing without a doubt that Sandor would do anything within his power to protect her and do right by her, and smiled down at him and answered truthfully.

“I didn’t think so, not in the beginning. Not when I felt like I had to wait for Trant to pop out from every shadow, or when I questioned whether you would take care of me.” She brought a hand up to rest against the scarred side of his face, feeling his unmoving gaze on her.

“And now?”

Gods , he was so… sweet. How was it that a battle hardened warrior such as Sandor could be at once a terrifying, intimidating presence, and a gentle giant concerned for her feelings? It warmed Sansa’s heart, and her smile was wide when she used her hand to position his face so that her kiss landed square on his lips. It was soft, a kiss through the smile that still spread across her face. And as she felt his hand move up her back from her hip, sending a shiver up her spine at the promise of a fun evening, she knew that of course the answer was yes. As long as she had Sandor.

But what she said to him as she pulled away was, “Well, Jamis has taken very good care of me – ”

Sandor’s answer was a growl as he suddenly wrapped his arms around her, holding her tightly as he flipped them so that he rose above her and pressed down into her side.

“Woman – ” he said, his beard scratching at her face as he pressed his lips to the sensitive skin in front of her ear. Sansa wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled at him, chuckling softly as she felt his lips pull unto a smile against her face. “You test me…”

Chapter Text

As the night wore on and Sansa spoke more about her time, it became easier and easier for Sandor to accept the truth of it all.

She was from the future, and she actually did not have any clue what living in his time was like. 

But there was also the fact that he needed to tell her what the septon said, and that thought was nearly enough to ruin the good mood she had put him in.

It wasn’t that he was so completely selfish that he would keep the information from her just to keep her with him, since he knew as well as she did, after speaking about this exact topic, that her knowledge of the future could have great ramifications if any of it got out. Sansa had explained all the theories she knew of time travel and had spoken of stories where a technology or ideology would change the course of history, and that people in the future would begin to disappear due to the decision of someone who had travelled through time. Leaving a footprint in the past could have drastic consequences on the future.

This confused Sandor even more, and Sansa admitted to the same; though her confusion stemmed from not knowing why she was here, while Sandor’s was due to the knowledge that she had a task to carry out assigned to her by the gods and no one would have any idea of what that task was.

Vowing to not let those thoughts ruin the evening he’d chosen for them to spend together, he’d allowed her to touch him, indulged both of them with kisses aplenty, and explored her body in ways no other woman had ever let him before. And all the while the sounds emanating from her spurred him on, inflaming his blood and making him resemble a young man eager to please his first woman.

When he bared her breasts again, she impatiently dragged his face to them, much to his delight. Taking the soft mounds in his hands and the hardened tips into his mouth made him see stars. Or that could have been the tight grip she had on his hair, he couldn’t quite tell. But either way, it was enjoyable.

When his hands yearned to wander and that private place between her legs seemed to call to him, he made himself pause, looking up at her face as his thumbs stroked over her pebbled nipples.

“You’re not a maiden,” he said, though he wished it to be a question. Unseeing eyes looked in his direction and she shook her head. 

“Nor are you married?”

Another shake of her head, but before he could speak again she smiled and stroked his hair back from his face.

“And I’m not a whore, either, Sandor,” she asserted with a soft chuckle. Sandor shook his own head, wondering at the conundrum she was, a woman from a different time who was free with her body and yet feared not the repercussions of such actions.

And yet a part of him wondered what that meant for them, for this night and for what would happen between them. He would go as far as she wanted, but he wouldn’t push her. Sandor had come to respect her for her strength, for her resolve in turning this time travel situation into a good life for herself – one without fear and with a willingness to stay with him and to make a life with him .

With one large hand, he ran his palm down her hip and lower, past her thigh, her knee, to where the hem of her dress rested against her ankle.

In his mind he pictured exactly what he wanted to do, though he had never done it before. But if she would let him…

Sansa’s breath hitched in her throat as his hand travelled up the outside of her leg, over the soft skin of her thigh and up to the ties at her hip.

She wasn’t smiling, though her breaths were coming short and fast. Her eyes seemed even more unfocused than ever, and she was gripping his other arm tightly as he pulled at the ties he could not see.

When he pulled the tie loose she gasped, his name hoarse on her lips, “Sandor – ”

Immediately he ceased moving, worry that he was moving too fast overriding his growing desire to see her reactions to the ministrations he’d only heard rumors of over bawdy campfire talks with other men. They all assumed he’d done it all, and they were all wrong.

“No, Sandor,” she breathed, sliding her hand into the hair at his nape and tugging him up to her. Raising on her elbow, she came up to meld her mouth with his, kissing him fiercely, passionately, possessively . “Don’t stop,” she whispered against his lips.

Hand spanning her hip, he squeezed just above the rounded bone he found there, a deep vocalization reaching his ears when he realized it was his own voice making it.

Then he realized she had raised her leg, her knee pointing towards the roof of the tent, and he knew he was a man lost. This woman had enchanted him, had wrapped herself around his heart – this realization coming to him now not for the first time. But it amazed him every time, and this was no different. Knowing she was exposing herself, giving her body to him in this manner – it scrambled his thoughts and made him only feel .

~ ≈ ~

Sansa thought she might explode, and she knew this wasn’t the first time Sandor had made her feel this way. He was being so careful, so tentative with his movements. He was like a scared horse, though she suspected he was just being careful with her, treating her as though it was she who was the scared one.

It couldn’t have been farther from the truth.

When at last his hand brushed over the curls between her legs, she dove her tongue into his mouth, tasting the wine he’d had with dinner and enjoying the way he returned her kiss with equal fervor. And yet he still touched her as though she was made of the thinnest crystal.

As his fingers slid between her folds, finding what she knew would be the proof of her arousal, she smiled against his lips and bucked her hips against his hand. 

Then when his thumb brushed over her clit she was forced to break the kiss lest she steal the oxygen from his lungs.

He gave such a self satisfied male growl at that moment that Sansa had to smile again, this time burying her face into his neck as he repeated the action over and over again, forcing her to bite at her lips so she didn’t cry out. Never before had she been this aroused. Never before had a man made her feel this way, though she knew she’d been with men more experienced than Sandor. There was just… something. Something about him, something about their situation, something about the way he made her feel in her heart.

He gave her no warning before thrusting two fingers into her, and she fell back against the pillow, forcing herself to release his hair from the tight grip she’d had on it. She felt the tension building between her legs, felt the nerves in her limbs begin to tingle, her heart stutter inside her chest when Sandor leaned down pressed a hot open mouthed kiss to her collar bone. When she turned her face into him, it was his scarred temple her mouth pressed against, a stark reminder of this damaged man and his willingness to completely alter his life in order to care for her.

“Sandor – ” she hissed, reaching around to wrap her arms around his shoulders as she lifted her hips. Once, twice, he slid his fingers out and back in, brushing against her sensitized clit as he did so. Again she bit at her lip, squeezing her eyes shut so tightly she saw stars behind her eyelids.

When her orgasm unexpectedly ripped through her she jerked beneath him, thankful for the weight of his body pinning her to the bed as her legs twitched and her chest felt as though it would explode from the force of her climax. His mouth remained on her skin, his hand on her, his fingers inside her, as he groaned against her neck. Sansa could feel her muscles pulsing around him, surprised at the lack of awkwardness in his apparent desire to feel her body ride out the waves of pleasure he’d just caused.

It was some moments before he finally lifted his head, until her breathing calmed and she saw him in the dim light looking down at her. Again her breath caught as he finally slid out of her, drawing the skirt of her dress down her legs as the air in the tent grew cool with the coming darkness.

Her only recourse for what had just happened was to again lift her hands to bracket his face, and to guide her thumbs and fingers over the face she wished she could see.

“Thank you,” she said softly, feeling more bone tired than she had in weeks. With an orgasm like that, she knew it was to be expected. She had never felt so sexually sated in her life.

With her thumbs resting at the corner of his mouth she felt his smile, small as it was, before he replied, “You said it was your turn.”

So shocked was she that he chose that moment to remind her, Sansa could only laugh out loud. 

“Yes,” she agreed, nodding into the pillow behind her. “Yes, I did.”

It took a few minutes for him to wet a cloth and give it to her so she could clean up, and for them to once again lace up the back of her gown.

“I’ll get Jamis to find more of these for you,” he said quietly as he finished, tying the bow at the top as she held her hair out of the way. Then he laid down behind her, drawing the cloak over both of them as Sansa snuggled backwards into his chest. With a yawn, she paused before answering.

“That would be nice, Sandor. Thank you.”

“You don’t have to thank me for everything,” he said, though she heard a smile in his voice. 

She smiled back, responding, “Aye, I do. You saved my life, you gave me shelter, and you make me very happy.” One of his hands rested on the pallet in front of her stomach, so she pulled it up from beneath the heavy cloak and kissed his knuckles, tucking the large hand beneath her chin and cradling his arm to her chest. “Very happy,” she said again, smiling as she felt sleep calling to her.

~ ≈ ~

The day to continue their trek to King’s Landing was upon them, and Sansa was nervous. Sandor had been quiet that morning, his arms rock steady around her when they woke but then notably absent throughout the time it took them to break their fast and ready for leaving. Sansa decided he likely had a lot on his mind, now knowing for true that she was indeed from the future.

As she helped the men by handing them things to empty the tent, she wondered if Sandor still had questions, or thoughts that plagued him. Sansa did, that was for sure. 

As she handed Jamis the chamber pot she wondered if that would be her life from then on – doing her business ingloriously in a pot that someone else would empty. Sitting in whatever home Sandor would procure for them once they got to the city, with nothing to do all day while she waited for him to come home. Wondering until the end of her days what her family thought of her sudden disappearance – if they thought she was abducted once they found her clothing by the weirwood pool, and the horror and other emotions they would live with for the rest of their lives.

Those thoughts and others were enough to make her despondent, paired with Sandor’s lack of attention. So when it was time for her to stand aside, waiting with her horse while Jamis and Sandor broke down their two tents and packed them onto the cart, she let her mind wander as she stared at nothing in particular.

“Excuse me, miss,” came a voice, interrupting the imaginings of her family she’d been indulging herself in.

Sansa’s heart tripped inside her chest, though she remained calm, having immediately ascertained the voice did not belong to Trant. Nor did it sound evil or harsh, as Trant’s buddies.

The man was on the far side of Sparrow, where she suspected Sandor and Jamis wouldn’t even be able to tell she was speaking to someone. But she could hear the men moving off to her left, a good distance away but close enough to both hear and see her if something became amiss.

“Yes?” she responded, holding tightly to Sparrow’s reins. The horse beneath her was calm, which she hoped meant the animal didn’t see the man as a threat.

“My name is Samsen Cheswright,” he began, his voice soft and smooth but not artificially so. Sansa got the impression this was simply a soft spoken man, and she wondered at his business with her.

“Sansa… Snow,” she offered, thinking fast on her feet for once.

“It is good to meet you, finally. Jamis has spoken highly of you, but I’ve only just now got a chance to come by and introduce myself.”

His tone was happy, that of a man who thought he was exactly where he needed to be in that moment. It made Sansa confused, and she felt her brow furrow as she tried to take in his appearance through her lack of sight. Sun reflected off light colored hair, and though he was taller than Jamis and nowhere near as tall as Sandor, he was also fairly wide, which Sansa took to mean he must be stocky beneath his armor.

“Pardon me, ser, but what is it exactly…” 

She gave a small shake of her head, not sure how to ask what his business was with her. Sansa was aware that, on top of just identifying herself as a bastard, she was basically Clegane’s property, perhaps just above a slave, and the last thing she wanted to do was inadvertently insult a knight who might or might not decide the offense warranted retaliation. In all her dealings with Trant, this was perhaps the strongest survival instinct that had grown inside her during her time here – don’t make a fuss; don’t cause a scene.

“Oh, yes miss,” he stammered, his arms moving. 

She thought he might have clasped them in front of him, a gesture making him appear nervous. Try as she might, she felt her defenses falling in his presence. It didn’t make sense to her that a man would go through the trouble of putting on this act just for her.

“Jamis had approached me some weeks ago – I think perhaps shortly after you arrived – about your position here in the camp and the fact that you didn’t have a place of your own or someone to care for you.” 

He took a step closer, which did make Sparrow turn his head to look at him. Sansa kept her grip on the reins, in case she needed to bolt. 

“Clegane wasn’t interested in having a camp wife and had instructed Jamis to find someone who might… take you…” 

He paused, clearing his throat as she watched his head turn away, as though the subject made him uncomfortable. Sansa felt the hair on the back of her neck rise in suspicion, but she vowed silently to hear him out.

Cheswright turned back to her and Sansa’s gaze connected with his chest, remaining there as he continued, “To take you on as a camp wife and to offer you protection, since this was something Clegane wasn’t willing to do.”

Dread spread through Sansa’s heart, as did an indignation and, much to her chagrin, an opaque sadness that smothered her growing feelings for Sandor. 

He didn’t want her, after all – hadn’t called off the search for a replacement for himself. And if Samsen was to be believed, hadn’t wanted her all this time.

And she had let him touch… And kissed him… And he now knew the truth of her origins.

Cheswright took another step closer and Sansa straightened her back, hoping her rigid posture did what words failed to do at the moment. He stopped, and she could feel his stare on her face.

“Of course, I was not the only one approached, so if the thought of coming with me does not appeal to you… You have other options, miss. I suppose it all depends on how much longer you wish to remain in Clegane’s company.”

He went on, speaking of living arrangements, even mentioning a few other names that went in one ear and out the other as Sansa remembered the conversations and laughter and all the intimate moments she had shared recently with Sandor.

Her discovery of his scars, how he had grown in her regard over the time they had known each other, and how she had just begun to think of a future with him, and the possibility that she could indeed be happy in this time as long as it was with him by her side.

She went back through her memories – to him carrying her from the pool and the gentle way he had held her. She thought of the care he’d given her, tending to her wounds, protecting her from Trant, the day he’d put the salve on her bottom after she had received the saddle sores from the seven Hells. She remembered his hand over hand instructions for cutting food, the way he held her so closely during the night, the way he could send shivers up her spine simply by tightening the laces at the back of her dress.

And all this time, he’d been planning on giving me away .

Surprisingly, after all the crying she’d done over the last weeks – tears for her situation, the hopelessness she’d felt, the longing for her family, the abuse by Trant – she felt none come to her eyes now. Overshadowing the sadness and despair was a wave of self preservation that had her back ramrod straight and her resolve to survive winning out over whatever seeds might have begun to grow in her heart for Sandor.

Sansa forced a smile to her face, knowing it might well have looked forced but would need to suffice for the following moments.

“Thank you, Ser Cheswright, for approaching me with this.” He could not know he had taken her by surprise with this news, and she resolved to make it so. “I would appreciate some time to think on your offer, if you don’t mind.”

When he spoke again she could hear the smile in his voice – probably because she hadn’t denied him outright, right off the bat.

“Yes, absolutely, Miss Snow. And please, call me Samsen.”

She could see his hand reach out, and she quickly decided to what extent she wanted to return his farewell. She decided on not responding in kind to his offer of using first names, though she did extend her hand slightly, enough that he had to grasp it since she likely would have missed had she gone directly for his. Warm, strong fingers grasped her slender ones, and she felt the barest brush of a soft mouth, devoid of facial hair like the mouth she had come to desire so much, across her knuckles before the contact was ended.

“Thank you, ser,” Sansa said, once again holding her reins. In the bright sun she detected movement, thought that he may have nodded his head, before he turned and strode off into the swarm of activity off to her right.

She felt herself staring in his direction, her smile having faded as soon as he’d turned, though her thoughts were in turmoil. It was as though someone had pulled the plug on all positivity in her life over the last five weeks, and the sinking feeling deep in her stomach was rather the rush of emotions as they left her body – happiness being chief among them, but also regard for Clegane, hope for a future together, and the anticipation of their growing physical relationship that had just the night before made her nerves sing and her flesh rejoice.

All this time , she thought again, a bitterness now finding root inside her chest. All this time .

Chapter Text

Sansa barely acknowledged Sandor when he bid her farewell for the day, which he attributed to their being outside the tent and around other people. Sandor knew any signs of affection from him would be considered weakness, so that was something he simply was not allowed to do. But to not even get a smile from her – it unsettled him, but he knew it had to be done.

It took him over an hour to reach the party in which the commander rode, the man himself conversing with a handful of lords who crowded around him like hens to a cock. Once Sandor appeared, the commander sent the drooling lords off, commencing the assigned meeting Jamis had notified Sandor of just that morning.

The weather was decent, sunny but not hot enough to make a man uncomfortable with sweat beneath his clothing, and the road beneath them looked to have not seen rain in a long time. Dry, the horses kicked up dust but not so much that traveling in the thick of the army was unbearable.

As Stranger plodded along with the commander’s horse, the two men spoke of updates – how long it would take to get to King’s Landing, their plans once they arrived, and how Sandor’s regiment was doing. He updated the commander on the need for some supplies, how two horses had died and the knights to whom they belonged would need aid in acquiring more.

“Yes, do make sure they are outfitted properly,” the commander replied with a nod. His blonde hair, now an odd length just below the edge of his ears, waved in the slight breeze as he looked around at the army surrounding them. “They can repay the crown upon our return to the capital.”

Sandor nodded, and waited for the conversation to turn to more military matters. But when the commander spoke it was a subject Sandor was unprepared for.

“Heard rumors of Northerners – Northern loyalists who may be infiltrating the peasants and servants traveling with us. Have you?”

Sandor kept his face even as he nodded, replying, “Aye, I’ve heard the rumors.”

“”Do you know of any?”

He looked over at the commander, who was turning away, watch the group of walking infantrymen in front of his horse. 

“Any, commander?”

“Northern loyalists. Has word reached you of any specific individuals in camp?”

It was only when the hair on the back of Sandor’s neck rose that he realized this was an unusual conversation, one that he was wary of where it was going.

“No, ser.” He kept his response bored, despite the whirlwind going on in his mind. The commander’s next words confirmed that the man had heard something, and that Sandor would from this point on have to be exceedingly careful what he did and to whom he spoke.

“This camp wife of yours. You are getting along well?”

“Aye.”

Lannister nodded and Sandor looked around them. There didn’t seem to be anyone listening in, no one within easy hearing distance. Perhaps that was why the commander had chosen now to have this conversation instead of in the privacy of his tent.

“Any idea who she is?”

Sandor shook his head again.

“A Northern bastard with no allegiances.” 

It was a simple enough answer, and his tone spoke of the truth of it, despite the fact that it was a lie. It went against everything he stood for, everything he believed in, to lie to his commander’s face. But in the split second it took him to realize he would lie for Sansa, he also realized something else.

There was love in his heart for her. Fucking hells , he was at once terrified and stunned to realize it. His stomach churned and he felt like leaning over to the side to retch and rid himself of this morning’s repast.

“Except to you?” Lannister was looking at him, a curious smile on his face.

“Aye,” Sandor said, setting his jaw firmly. “Except to me.”

But even that struck him as dubious, considering the cold farewell she had given him just that morning. 

“Seems to me, Clegane, that a camp wife has been a long time needed for you.” He stared at Sandor, his smile saying he was measuring the reaction to his words that might cross Sandor’s face. “Why now? Why her?” He threw up one hand, turning away briefly before returning his gaze. “I heard she may be the most beautiful camp wife with us. So, pardon me for asking, but why the bloody fuck is she with you?” 

His smile was smug, and just as with anyone else who asked such a bold question, Sandor had the urge to smash his fist into the man’s pretty face.

He held back, replying with a slow, measured, matter of fact tone, “I don’t beat her.”

“Yes, but your countenance isn’t one likely to inspire lustful thoughts.” Lannister’s brows were furrowed, an amused confusion distorting his features. “Surely there is another reason?”

Sandor knew the man knew the answer to that, but one didn’t just ignore their commanding officer when asked a question. Through clenched teeth, Sandor replied.

“She’s blind.”

The commander’s smile was near blinding, as though it gave him joy to hear Sandor speak the words out loud. Sandor was certain the man just liked to see him – over a head taller, broader, and a better swordsman than even the Kingslayer – taken down a notch.

“Ah, yes – I had heard that as well. Quite serendipitous, yes?”

Sandor grunted his reply.

Lannister chuckled low before continuing, “Come now, Clegane, you must admit how fortunate it is that she lacks sight. You present quite a…” He paused, as though searching for a word, “Intimidating presence. That she was able to get to know you without terror upon looking at your lovely face was surely a gift from the gods.”

The commander’s attempt at humor obviously pleased him to no end, as his smile was stark white even in the brightness of the midday sun.

But his words struck Sandor, as surely as if they had come straight from the septon of Winterfell who even now marched slowly with the other prisoners.

If it was indeed the gods who had sent Sansa back in time, to help right whatever wrong they had done and to fix whatever grievous mistake that was bad enough to warrant messing with the present timeline and future ones, then could they also have specifically chosen Sandor for the task of finding her and caring for her? Had they intentionally put her with him knowing that, as the commander said, she wouldn’t be terrified of his face? 

And if so, then what did that mean for Sandor and his role in all of this?

The questions threatened to make him as dizzy and nauseous as the thought of Lannister suspecting Sansa was a Northern loyalist. With great effort he responded to the commander’s last statement, affecting a bored expression that he hoped was convincing.

“I neither wanted nor needed a woman.”

Lannister’s chuckle called him out, though the smaller man left it at that. Sandor supposed even his superior knew better than to continue pestering him about topics that were really none of his fucking business.

“Yes, but now that you have one?” He even leaned slightly towards him, as though this contribution to their private conversation warranted an even more private setting between them. “Has she changed your mind?”

Sandor wasn’t sure how far he needed to go with his reply. Glancing over at Lannister, he saw the man smiling, almost eager to hear the answer. 

The man might have been many things, but just as he was not a womanizer, he was also not a gossip. Sandor didn’t count him – or any man – as a confidant, but he felt he had an answer that would both pacify Lannister’s curiosity and get the man to change the topic of conversation.

With a small shake of his head, he looked forward once again and muttered, “Perhaps.”

~ ≈ ~

That night there seemed to be a shift in Sansa, and Sandor wasn’t able to figure out what it was. She spoke to him but not at length, didn’t reach for him the moments they were alone as she had taken to doing, and he found her demeanor friendlier when Jamis was around than when the squire was off doing one errand or another.

Looking back to their morning and their afternoon, he could find nothing amiss with what went on between them. Upon waking her kisses had been the same – eager and willing, seductive; passionate enough to send him out of the tent with a rock hard cock barely hidden beneath the weight of his mail and leather tunic. 

It was only upon his return to their camp towards dusk that he noticed something was different.

When she entered the newly erected tent for the evening, leaving him and the squire standing outside while she attended to her woman’s needs inside, he inquired about it to Jamis. But the young man simply shrugged, saying she was quieter than normal on their ride today, though not incredibly so. 

Once Sandor went inside, she helped him with his armor but immediately retreated to the pallet when that task was completed. 

She prepared their food but invited Jamis in for the meal instead of spending that small amount of time alone with Sandor, as he had assumed she was beginning to prefer.

And when it was time to go to sleep she turned her back to him and offered not one bit of affection other than to allow him to hold her when he joined her on the pallet and covered them in the cloak.

It confused him, and he almost pulled away from her. This wasn’t something he was used to dealing with – women, emotional ones who gave him no clue as to what would fix their issues. When he was queensguard to Cersei Lannister she had ladies in waiting who dealt with that.

And it wasn’t as though Sandor had a plethora of previous camp wife knowledge to draw upon.

But he wasn’t going to ask shit of Jamis. The young man already thought Sandor was enough of a besotted fool. Bugger him that it was true, but Sandor wasn’t going to give his glee any fodder.

Neither, however, was he going to broach the subject with Sansa. If something was wrong, she needed to come to him. She always did, eventually, but he also was not a man who would seek out the information. Her problems were just that – her’s. This time had to be no different.

Come morning he found himself alone on the pallet, which surprised him enough to throw off the cloak and whirl around in the bed, finding Sansa sitting on the chair in the corner. At his movement she immediately stood, going to the tent flap and speaking Jamis’ name.

Sandor was beyond shocked. Not a Good Morning between them and already she was requesting Jamis’ presence.

What the bloody fuck?

~ ≈ ~

The thought of accepting or giving affection to Sandor repulsed Sansa. The vehemence of her feelings surprised her, as did the absence that morning of sadness and despair, despite the depths of emotions she had begun to feel for him.

It was true – that Sandor had become more than her protector, more than the man willing to care for her. She tried not to dwell on the thought that, blind or not, it seemed as though the connection they could have built together would have been strong, with Sandor quite possibly more loyal to her than any man she had met in her time.

And she could have been… well, his everything. In this time it seemed so simple, and she had begun to look forward to filling this new role, with only sporadic bouts of homesickness and longing for the family she had left behind. 

Her new role would fill the hole they had left. Being a true wife – because certainly it wouldn’t have been long before she’d opened her arms truly and welcomed Sandor not only into her heart but also into her body. Being a homemaker, with her limited sight and perhaps Jamis or a maid’s aid. 

And maybe, just maybe, the role of mother, if children were something Sandor might one day wish to have. 

And now… It was as though the hurt she’d been feeling for the last twenty-four hours had dwindled down to anger and a resigned resoluteness that she needed to forge a new path in this time, perhaps with Mr. Samsen Cheswright.

With that thought in mind, it took all her will and courage to not throw off Sandor’s arm the prior evening when he had joined her in the bed. She didn’t want to argue. She didn’t want to rail into him, despite the strong urge to yell at him that he was giving up something that could have been amazing. And nor did she want to make him suspicious, so much so that he would throw her out before she’d had a chance to secure her next placement with whomever would take her on.

But she would not touch him. She would not kiss him, or hold him, and neither would she sit there pining for his kisses and his touches and for what could have been between them. To do so would mean the death of her will and drive.

When the men were outside Sansa avoided listening, but soon Sandor entered the tent, announcing himself before he did so although his huge shadow on that side of the tent gave him away.

“Here,” he said, and it took Sansa a moment to realize he was holding something out. Grasping it, she found a bundle of cloth in his hands and took it from him. “Dresses,” he said simply, and then, “For you.” 

A man of many words , she thought sarcastically and somewhat righteously, but then her conscience kicked in and she tried to ignore the shame that overtook her mind. He had been good to her, and she didn’t need to begin thinking so condescendingly simply because it turned out they didn’t see as eye to eye as she thought.

“Thank you.” 

With a nod in the direction of his chest, she left it at that and bowed her head, waiting, hoping he would get the message. A couple thudded heartbeats in her chest, and he was gone.

Fair. Life was hardly being fair to her, but she knew she needed to make the best of the hand she was dealt. Sorting through the bundle, she found two dresses – one that looked to be a dull blue, and the other a rusty russet. Choosing that one simply because the color reminded her of Winterfell in fall, she began the process of discovering the garment’s pieces and sorting out what went where.

Pleasantly surprised when she found the laces placed where there was extra room in the front for a woman’s chest, she did them up tightly to her neck and tied a tight bow before tucking them beneath the collar. 

Would Sandor be disappointed she didn’t need his help? She decided it didn’t matter. He lost any claim to her body the moment Cheswright made his purpose known.

With that, she tucked away the other two dresses near the corner of the tent where she kept her comb and other meager belongings, and set about preparing three plates of food.

~ ≈ ~

“And… Sparrow?”

Sandor had never quite taken to the horse’s name, but now Sansa was questioning everything. Would the horse go with her when she left him?

“A fine horse,” Jamis said around a mouthful of food. Sansa could hear him swallow and then take a noisy drink of their watered down wine. “Sansa has become a good rider, and I have no doubt she’ll make it to King’s Landing in good health.” 

She could hear the smile in his voice but couldn’t bring herself to return it as she allowed her gaze to rest on her plate. Sandor’s answering grunt was indecipherable – that maybe he was in a similar mood, or it could have just been his standard reply.

The men continued speaking, mostly Jamis but with interjections from Sandor when he needed to correct the squire or impart necessary information for their coming journey. But it was several minutes later when Sansa had stood, collecting their plates and readying them for cleaning when Jamis said something that made her pause. 

“We’ll be coming upon a godswood today, my lady – one with a weirwood pool or so I am told.”

Sansa’s hands hovered over the stack of plates, frozen as he continued to speak. In her chest she felt her heart hammering against her ribs.

“With it being fairly distant from the trail I doubt many will venture out to use it, but I thought you might appreciate knowing, seeing as how it’s been so long since you had a proper bath.”

She could hear the kindness and consideration for her in his tone and was grateful, letting it soothe her nerves as she geared herself up for the wave of renewed but guarded hope she felt at the prospect of finding another pool.

“Yes,” she said slowly, plotting the beginning of a plan and nodding as she tended to the plates. “Yes, thank you, Jamis.” 

But she could feel Sandor’s eyes on her, that saying of someone’s gaze “Burning a hole” taking on new meaning when the hairs on her neck stood on end.

Swallowing, she nodded again and continued, “That sounds lovely. I think a bath would be wonderful.”

She finished with the plates and set them aside to be taken out later and cleaned. Then she turned and passed Jamis on the floor, moving to the corner of her tent to prepare a bag of her things, acting as though a bath was indeed the reason why she was eager to leave the army horde for a while. It was only slightly difficult to ignore Sandor’s unmoving presence in the tent.

A short time later, as she rode Sparrow beside Sandor, who was atop Stranger, they both remained silent. The godswood was indeed a good distance from the army and they had already been travelling for at least thirty minutes, though that would be a foreign concept to Sandor, who had no use for sun dials out here with the army. Everything was dawn, midday, dusk. Nothing was so important that anyone needed a measure for how long five minutes was.

But Sansa was counting the seconds, and if she found her mind wandering down what could be her imminent goodbye to Sandor, she would just remember where she was in her count and continue after jumping ahead a few seconds.

The reality of what might happen only came to a head when she saw the change of color in the tree canopy up ahead – the brilliant green of late summer foliage turning to the bloody red leaves of a weirwood tree. And below, she could just make out the shadowed patch of ground that had to be the pool.

Anticipation ran through her veins and she didn’t wait for Sandor before she swung her leg over and slid off Sparrow’s back, uncaring whether the ground she landed on was solid or not.

Thank goodness it was, because she remained on her feet as she stepped past the horses and towards the pool. So intent was she on her goal that she didn’t even know Sandor was behind her until his gloved hand grasped her elbow and halted her progress.

“Wait,” he said, his voice rough with unnamed emotion. Sansa refused to turn around. The hurt was still fresh, the realization that he didn’t want her – had chosen to pass her off to the likes of Samsen Cheswright or some other sop willing to take on a blind camp wife.

“I need to do this, Sandor,” she said, her voice flat and her tone devoid of feeling. She ignored her heart ripping inside her chest, the feeling that his hand slipping off her arm symbolized the passing of a chance to be happy that transcended all others she’d ever experienced, either in her time or in this one.

With arms at her side, she lowered her chin, closing her eyes against the tears that threatened to spill down her cheeks. 

She expected him to speak. Wanted him to say something. Almost – almost – wanted to give him a chance to take it all back, to explain himself and to refute the words Cheswright had spoken to her.

But with the shadowed pool beckoning her, she inhaled a shaky breath, her shoulders trembling as she heard his large booted feet take a step back, and then another, and another. He paused and she could hear his deep inhale, her heart tripping at the thought that he might actually say something – perhaps the words she longed to hear from him.

That he wanted her; wanted to keep her. That it was all a mistake.

But then, the pool… her family… her other life… And Sandor’s heavy footsteps as he turned and walked back towards the nickering horses, the only other sound being the rustling of trees overhead. The sparrows that she had come to associate with her time with Sandor, who always seemed to be about and singing when she was with Sandor and her emotions were high, were conspicuously absent.

It was the lack of their song that pushed her resolve over the edge and spurred her to action. 

She stepped forward, reaching up to unlace her dress as she approached the darkness that was her only hope for returning to her home.

Chapter Text

When Sandor stood at the edge of the pool, staring down at Sansa’s naked form beneath the water until her arms jerked and she suddenly shot up, he didn’t know how relieved he’d be that she was still there. 

If there had been a day for her to return to her time, a day that mirrored the one in which she had come through whatever mystical portal might exist within the godswood pool and into his time, this one was it. The rustling of the leaves in the trees with the warm fall breeze, and the blood red canopy above them of the weirwood tree – it was all a perfect replication of the day she entered his life. 

The only difference was the sparrows. They were there, as they had been so many times over the last few weeks, but their reaction to the scene playing out before them was not to impart their trilling song upon the humans in their midst, but rather to sit in the trees, unmoving. Their small bodies perched on branches hardly big enough to be called twigs. Every once in a while a head would turn, wings would flutter, but they uttered not a single chirp.

It unnerved Sandor, nearly as much as the knowledge of why he and Sansa had come to this clearing in the first place.

Breaking the calm, crystal clear surface of the weirwood pool, Sansa’s darkened hair plastered itself to her shoulders and neck as she partially rose out of the water, standing on the sloping bottom while the surface lapped just above her breasts. He could see them just beneath the reflection of the weirwood canopy on the water, but what drew his gaze more was her sputtering, coughing face.

With fast hands she angrily brushed hair away from her face and wiped her eyes of the warmed water of the pool, looking around in a way that told him she knew exactly where she was.

Was she going to be disappointed that he was standing there? That she hadn’t indeed returned to her time as he knew she had hoped?

He had his answer when her eyes finally turned towards him and landed on his legs, skimming upwards and taking in his breeches, tunic, the armor on his neck and shoulders before the look on her face went from one of anger to disgust.

Then she uttered a string of curse words he had not expected from her, and he stepped back, somewhat shocked that she had spoken in such a tone.

“Damn it,” she muttered, shaking her head as she turned and reached for the dress at the edge of the pool. Gathering it to her as she stood, she clambered out of the pool, her sight obviously not having returned as she took extra precautions to steady herself as she stood, the dress only hiding her breasts and the very center of her body down to her feet as she held it against her.

“Damn it, damn it, damn it,” she muttered, staring at the ground. Then she brought up one hand as the other held the dress, and rubbed at her forehead as though warding off a headache.

“Sansa – ”

Don’t!”  

Her word cut off his address of her, and her gaze shot up, somehow landing somewhere near his face as she glared at him. She was very clearly angry, and he felt partly responsible for not explaining to her what the septon had told him.

This never would have worked, and he knew that. But he couldn’t bring himself to be the one to dash her hopes that the pool would return her to her time. He hadn’t wanted her to look at him with any more disdain than what she had been for the previous day and night.

“Don’t,” she said again, though this time she turned, giving him a full view of her naked backside as she dragged the dress over her head and yanked her hair out of the back. It dripped onto the back of the gown, darkening the rust color to a dark brown patch that began to spread throughout the fabric.

“Just don’t,” she muttered again. Then, “I don’t need your help, Sandor. I don’t need your advice.” 

The bitterness in her tone surprised him, but with years spent hiding his reactions from others, if she’d been able to see him she would have seen no reaction at all.

“I don’t need a man telling me what I should do or not do.” 

She turned, tucking the now tightened laces beneath the collar to hide them from view. She wiped away a few errant droplets that were trailing down her temples and pulled her hair over her shoulder, squeezing it out so a stream of water dribbled onto the hem of her gown.

Still he remained silent, her earlier curses still floating around in his mind as he watched her anger play itself out.

“This didn’t work. Well, I’ll figure out what to do. I’ll figure out how to get home, if it’s the last thing I do. And neither you, nor Jamis, nor – nor –” 

She seemed to fumble around for something, waving her hand as though hoping it would help her conjure up what she was having trouble saying. It seemed to work, because when she looked up at him, her eyes connecting with what he thought might be his beard, there was a bitterness in her eyes that surprised him. 

Cheswright – none of you will determine my fate. None of you!” Her hands fisted at her sides as the breath whooshed out of her body. Again, more softly but no less determined, she uttered, “None of you,” as she turned to gather her bag.

She was so damned beautiful. Sandor had thought it before, but seeing her like this – cheeks reddened, eyes blazing, her hair an absolute mess from her short dip in the pool – made him want her even more than he already did. He had never met anyone like her before; had never expected a camp wife, of course. But now that he had one, it seemed as though he was learning she might be more dragon than meek, submissive wolf.

And yet… Cheswright?

“Who is Cheswright?”

Though his heart had slowed its pace when his suspicions were confirmed that she was indeed not going anywhere after entering the pool, it now plummeted into his stomach when she stood up fast, her angry gaze frantically searching for the features of his face as she whirled on him.

“Who – who? You – ” 

Sansa seemed to strangle on her words, and Sandor may or may not have felt a brief moment of panic, depending on exactly how private his mind chose to keep his feelings. Even for him, it was a foreign concept that a woman could make him experience such a wide range of emotions.

Her hand clenched around the loose fabric at the top of her bag, and now his brief thought was whether she was going to swing it at him. Inside was her comb and soap, which he knew would smart if she was actually able to make contact with it.

But instead she spoke again, her voice low and even but weighted with the negativity of her words.

“Cheswright is one of the men Jamis spoke with when you told him you didn’t want me.” 

Her shoulders shook with anger and Sandor wondered if his heart would ever return to its normal position in his chest.

“He approached me yesterday morning to meet me and to introduce himself. Apparently the thought of having a blind camp wife,” she sneered as she said the words, “Isn’t as abhorrent to him as it is to you. I can only imagine how many men Jamis told, so now I must wait and measure them all to find one who will take me, since… since this…” She turned to the pool, not quite meeting it with her gaze. “Since this didn’t work.”

There . There was the sadness, and Sandor tried to reconcile what she was telling him with what he knew she had gone through, and the decisions he’d made over the previous weeks.

“That’s not – ”

“What?” she interrupted, the word harsh and demanding. She looked in his direction once again and stepped towards him as her voice rose. “That’s not what, Sandor? What did I just say that wasn’t the truth? Did you or did you not tell Jamis to ask around?”

This was something else he’d never experienced before – a woman obviously trying to back him into a corner about something he’d done. Sandor was old, battle hardened; a warrior of the worst kind, and he felt his hackles rise at the thought that she was trying to badger him into speaking of a decision he was quickly coming to regret.

“I did,” he said, and he watched as her nostrils flared at the admission. “But you knew. You knew this wasn’t what I wanted.”

Telling her that didn’t have the intended effect. Instead of deflating her anger it seemed to fan the flames and her eyes widened.

“Then why? Why do all the things you’ve done? Why give me these?” She waved the bag at him, and Sandor almost gave into the temptation to flinch. But she was merely showing it to him before she dropped it to her side again. “Why the dresses? Why be so kind to me? Taking care of me? Promising me no one would hurt me?” 

Sansa’s voice was crumbling, he realized, and becoming softer as she seemed to go backwards in time and recall everything nice he’d done to her or for her. 

“Why did we talk about King’s Landing and what would happen there? Why have you hid where I’m from, from everyone else? Why – ” He saw the tears in her eyes as she paused, looking away and blinking before she looked back towards his face, despair writ across her features. “Why did we do the things we did if you had no intention of keeping me?”

He could have reached out to touch her, she was standing so close, but he didn’t. Rather, he remained motionless, reliving at the same time she was, all the things they had done together – their conversations, their kisses, the touches and intimacies they’d shared. 

“Are you just… just that horrible of a man, that you would toy with a woman until the day came when you could foist her off on someone else? Were all those promises you made to me – ” She hiccuped and he could see she was crying in earnest now. “Were they empty? Were they lies?”

This was unfamiliar territory for Sandor. She was at once ripping his heart out and infuriating him with her words. Lies? He hated liars, and he had vowed never to lie to her. But he supposed in not calling off the search for a suitable caregiver for her, he had indeed been lying in a way to her all this time with whatever it was between them that he had allowed to grow. Promises of living together in King’s Landing, of caring for her for as long as she needed him, and then permitting with his silence the man, Cheswright, to approach her with a proposition of taking her off Sandor’s hands.

Gods , he had backed himself into a corner.

“No, Sansa,” he said, stepping towards her, only to find her taking a step back. A few more of those and she’d topple into the pool so he stopped, trying to come up with the words needed to fix the hole he had dug for them both.

“I did tell Jamis to ask around,” he said, his voice rough even to his own ears. 

That was a hard admission to make, but it had to be done. Sansa was here until they figured out what it was she needed to aid the gods with, and there was no telling when that might happen. She needed to know now that he didn’t intend to give her to anyone , no matter what a saint this Cheswright might turn out to be.

Tears slipped down her cheeks when he said the words, so he continued, “But things changed.”

Not one to talk at length about his emotions, Sandor searched for the right words that would convey what he knew he was feeling in his heart. Such a concept was hard for him to comprehend, let alone form into coherent sentences. 

Would it not be easier to tell her with gifts or trinkets? he thought, irritated.

“I am used to being alone,” he said slowly, watching the blank sadness on her face remain. “I am accustomed to… life as a soldier. No women.” He looked away, muttering, “Complications,” a single word that he hoped would communicate exactly how he had felt at one time of the idea of having a camp wife. 

“Then why?”

Softly spoken words, but he knew exactly what she wanted. She either wanted to hear that he had indeed toyed with her, or that she meant more to him than he was letting on. And one of these was not true, while the other was perhaps the most difficult thing he had ever said to another human being. 

~ ≈ ~

Sansa listened to his breathing and knew the question she asked was a hard one for him to answer. But it was his answer that would determine her future in this time, so she wiped away the tears spilling over onto her cheeks and waited.

It caught her by surprise when his hand grasped hers, but she didn’t pull away. Instead she waited as he wrapped her palm around his and pulled her towards him, the back of her hand resting against the front of his tunic.

“Because,” he said simply, as though that answered everything. His other hand came up to brush drying tendrils of hair away from her crown.

“Because?”

Sansa’s heart began to beat faster, but still she needed to hear an answer. She didn’t pull away at his touch, but nor did she lean into it.

“Damn it, woman, you’ve…” 

He grunted, showing his displeasure for her demand that he speak, but Sansa was relentless. She waited silently. 

“You’ve shown me what it can be.”

“What what can be?” she pressed, her heart soaring at the simple words. Again he grunted, and when Sansa looked up at him he had looked away, his face looking out to their side as though he would find his answers there. “What, Sandor?” 

Saying his name – gods , if she needed to stay here it was with him she wished to stay.

“Having a woman,” he began. “Having a wife. Someone.”

“As opposed to…?”

A heavy sigh preceded his response, but Sansa was going to drag this out of him if she had to stay in that clearing all day to do it.

“No one, Sansa. As opposed to having no one,” he grumbled after a time, the words forced out of him but no less truthful because of it.

And though she didn’t feel like she still needed to ask, she did so anyway, curious despite Sandor’s admission that having a camp wife was not as bad as he had originally expected it to be.

“And Cheswright?”

He fully growled this time, his other hand wrapping around the back of her shoulders as he pulled her hard against his chest.

“Fuck Cheswright, and any other who tries to take you from me – ”

If he wanted to speak more, Sansa didn’t let him. Reaching up to grasp his head, she pulled him down to press her mouth against his, feeling the hot kiss of a passion that she knew he reserved for her and her alone – a passion she had missed last night and this morning despite the intense anger overriding all sensible thought.

Perhaps it was overcoming the absurdity of the day, or the emotions surrounding her failed attempt at getting him, or Sandor’s growled assertion. Sansa couldn’t say what it was that drove her to him, but driven she was – her hands moving over the pieces of his armor as they stole kisses and struggled with the damned pieces of metal.

The small clearing rang with metal against metal, though there was no warfare to be seen. It was pauldron against vambrace, gorget on top of the pile, followed hastily by the leather tunic and shortly after that the heavy mail shirt beneath.

Sansa’s entire body wanted him, and his roaming hands and hungry mouth spoke of his need matching hers. When at last he was devoid of all armor, somehow they ended up on the soft ground, at times with Sandor atop her, grinding himself into her as he kissed her, and at other times with Sansa on top as she tilted his face to the side so she could trail kisses down his throat and back up to his ear.

“Don’t – do that,” she gasped when he turned her once again, covering her body with his as his mouth landed on her neck. She felt him shake his head – knew he knew she was speaking of what he’d done – the familiar scratch of his beard feeling like coming home after a long day. Gods , she had missed this.

“Never,” he agreed, kissing down the column of her throat to the neckline of her gown. Then a growled, “Off,” as he tugged at the fabric, and lest she wanted him to rip it off, she knew he was intent on having her as much as she was of him.

The laces were loosened between them as he slid his fingers into her still damp hair and he recaptured her mouth with his, deepening the kiss from before and showing her exactly what he felt of possessing her. It didn’t faze her, that he was so in control of their kiss when she knew just several weeks earlier his kisses were tentative and shy, with her own pulling the virile, sexy man out of the shell of a soldier for her own enjoyment.

I missed this , she thought as he helped her shimmy out of the dress. Next came his tunic, which she dragged up and off of him, quickly followed by him kicking off his boots and sliding out of his breeches before rejoining her on the soft grass. I missed him, I missed – 

Suddenly he was there , between her legs pressing against her, and rather than crowding the space between them with words, she wrapped her legs around his hips, cradled his face between her palms, and pulled on him. It was all the urging he needed, as he gently slid into her and dropped his forehead to hers.

“Sansa – ” he whispered, his breath fanning her lips. 

It was a prayer, a plea, and a demand all in one. She could feel that she was exactly where she needed to be right at that moment.

He was big, but she relaxed her body, knowing it had been so long since she’d done this but also knowing it would have taken an act of the gods to stop her from joining with him. Her heart sung to him, called to him, and she felt his trembling body do the same to hers as he pushed in, retreated some, and pushed in further, her legs pulling and releasing, pulling and releasing.

“Sandor,” she said, wishing she could see his face as he lifted to look down at her, and she smiled for the first time since the day before. 

“Sansa,” came his growling reply, and as he began to move inside her she let her lips part, her breath coming in short gasps at the sensation of fullness he gave her. 

She could feel the front of his thighs against the backs of hers, the way his chest hair tickled the tips of her breasts, rubbing at her already sensitive nipples. How he dropped his face to nuzzle at her cheeks and the way his hair fell over her face, smelling like him – earthy, masculine but clean, as though he’d found time to wash recently. Sansa tilted her face towards his good ear, drawing his hair up and back over his head as her palms tingled with the need to touch him.

He moved steadily above her, the hard length of him entering and retreating almost completely before coming back to being buried deeply inside her. Her hands slid down and over his back, deciphering the textures of his skin, the dips and bulges in his muscles as though he were a book to devour. Up and over his shoulders she reached, feeling the strong cords at the back of his neck, the rounded, hard caps of his shoulders, the way the muscles of his back moved beneath his skin. 

He moaned into her ear, quickened his pace, and at the rumbling sound of his voice it was her heart that told her something was happening – something she hadn’t expected. 

She could feel her heartbeat increase inside her chest as he moved faster, filling her over and over again while a buildup of sensation began to pool there, between her legs where he focused his attentions. 

During sex? Sansa had never felt this before, this simultaneous buildup of an oncoming orgasm while her partner moved inside her. Before, during foreplay, and sometimes afterwards if she had an especially attentive lover – which didn’t happen often. But during?

Gods , she was going to cum, and she whimpered at the realization.

“Don’t stop, Sandor,” she pleaded, squeezing his hips with her thighs and driving her heels into the backs of his legs. 

His grunted reply was lost somewhere in her hair, and Sansa felt herself lose control of her voice, unable to tell if those sounds she heard – the cries and moans – were indeed from her or if she was imagining them. Sandor moved faster still, his hips snapping against hers as she thought that perhaps she would lose all rhythm in her breath. The building was agonizing, delicious, made all the more intense as her hands roamed over his body, bringing her to heights of arousal she couldn’t fathom. 

It was intense, almost too much when he lifted his face to look down at her. 

Briefly, so brief that Sansa thought she might have imagined it, she thought her vision was about to return. Sandor’s face breezed in and out of focus – one dark brow showing clearly to her before disappearing again; lips parted in exertion before they melded once again into the shadow of his mustache and beard. She saw scars – the mangled skin of his cheek and temple, the strong, slightly crooked nose, and just before the release in her body crested it was his eyes that she brought with her over the precipice.

Gray , she thought absently in wonderment, before her orgasm ripped through her body at the same time she felt his own tense up with sharp thrusts. Then the world around them once again faded to a colorful blur and the only thing stopping the scream of her release from filling the clearing in the godswood was Sandor’s mouth capturing it.

Chapter Text

“Did you see?” asked the Smith, looking up from the shimmering surface of the table the gods all sat around, all of them having seen the scene unfolding before them that he himself had watched. 

There was only a mild amount of embarrassment in him, knowing the seven had all just watched the couple copulate in the godswood, completely oblivious to the cacophony of sparrow songs surrounding them.

“Yes, we did,” assured the Crone, looking as though she herself was the one who had concocted the plan the couple before them was even now bringing to fruition. 

As they watched, the man cradled the woman’s head on his arm as he halfheartedly pulled the damp gown over their middles, cradling her slight form to his chest.

“She is heading in the right direction,” nodded the Maiden, the smile she aimed at him one of approval and maybe a hint of pride. Thankful again for his dark, leathery skin, the Smith was certain his blush was hidden in the depths of his worn face.

“And yet they do not have much time.” 

This from the Stranger, whose face was hidden within the deep shadows of his hooded cloak. 

“If events unfold too quickly, your plan may need further input from you.”

The Smith knew what he was referring to, but he didn’t want to acknowledge it yet. The Warrior grunted to the side, his ever present soldier’s stance an even more rigid display as he took the Stranger’s meaning. Without further talk, he turned and vanished.

“You must see this out,” said the Father as he rose, the image of the couple in the human’s realm rippling on the surface of the table as the meeting came to an end. 

“Yes,” agreed the Mother, coming to stand beside the older man. 

She looked at the Smith, a kind smile on her face. 

“We all know how this ends, but it is up to you to get them there.” 

Fondly looking at the couple, still wrapped in each other’s arms as their image faded to nothing, she nodded. 

“We all know how this must end, and it is vitally important that this time around, things are set to right.”

“They will be,” assured the Maiden, coming to his defense. Or not his defense, really, since all of them seemed to assume the Smith was now capable of carrying out his task. But rather, the Maiden seemed to be vocalizing her vote of confidence, instead of issuing yet another warning that he didn’t need to hear. Smiling at her gratefully, the Smith watched as she turned and faded – as one by one they all did, setting about their tasks and waiting once again for the next time they needed to reconvene.

But the Smith knew he was on the right track. 

The woman’s vision had flickered. The seed had been planted – the seed of love, he silently corrected himself, almost laughing at his blunder. But the gods did not laugh, so he indulged in a small smile and then stared at the table until both he and it disappeared into a shimmering haze of cloudy matter.

~ ≈ ~

“Sandor?”

Sansa’s voice broke through the silence that surrounded them, the silence he had been basking in after the gloriousness that had happened between them. Not that he minded, really. Her voice was back to being soft and even, a far cry from her frantic yelling and cursing of earlier when she’d been upset about not returning to her time, and upset that he had apparently never told Jamis to call off the search for a suitable replacement husband for her.

Not that she wasn’t upset that he’d done that to begin with – set Jamis on a search for someone else who would care for her. But it had become null soon after making the decision, when he began to feel like she was more to him than a simple temporary camp wife. Plans… changed.

“Hm,” he responded, his breath moving the hairs on her head that tickled his nose. 

With her tucked under his chin and his arm tight around her shoulders, her own arm draped lazily across his chest, he wondered if there had ever been a more perfect moment. The sun shone through the red and green canopy above them, the leaves rustled in the slight breeze, and only the distant rumble of sound told them they were anywhere near another living soul.

If he died at that moment, he would die a content man, he knew.

“Are you aware of why I was so upset earlier?”

Oh, aye, he knew. But that didn’t mean he wanted to talk about it. He wondered what she would do with an answering grunt and if she’d drop the subject. But he should have known. Sansa was a woman with a deep mind, full of thoughts and emotions of which he had only just begun to scratch the surface. 

“I mean truly. Do you know?”

Her fingers were doing what they did so often, drawing soft circles into the hairs on his chest. He figured it must have meant she liked it, wiry and thick as it was.

With another sigh he nodded against her scalp, saying, “I was going to send you away.”

When she sighed it was a bit shaky, but then she nodded, rubbing her cheek against his shoulder as she did. Her hand stilled, and he thought she might be able to feel the thud of his heart reverberating through his entire body in that moment.

“But… only in the beginning?”

So she wanted to rehash the entire thing again. Bloody hell , he thought with a roll of his eyes. But even as he did, his arm tightened around her as though it had a mind of its own, and he was comforted when her arm did the same.

“Aye, only in the beginning.”

“What changed?”

“Fucking hells, woman, you bloody well know what changed.” 

He should have just shut his mouth, knowing as he did that he was walking a tight line and he was close to insulting her. But this was a frustrating subject, and he wasn’t sure he was willing to go through the whole ordeal again just to clear things up for her. He’d said no one would take her from him and that was that!

“I know what changed for me, but I want to know what changed for you.”

That got his attention. 

“Aye? What changed for you, little bird…”

But Sansa laughed, a pleasant sound but a refusal soon followed.

“Oh, no you don’t. You can’t answer a question with another question. I asked you first.”

With a growled laugh of his own, Sandor reached for her and hauled her atop him so that her torso rested along the length of his. With her knees bracketing his hips he could feel the warmth of her near his cock, and tried to tamp down the stirring he felt there.

Gods – a red headed banshee came into my life – ”

Banshee?!”  

Her laughter rang through the trees and it was music to his ears. But then she lowered her face for a kiss, her lips going soft at the contact and moving over his in that way he had become so accustomed to – alluring and passionate, as though drawing forth from him all the emotions and longing he had kept buried since he was a young boy.

“Come now, woman – don’t make me say it,” he said against her mouth, and he felt her lips spread into a wide smile even as she accepted his kisses, swiped her tongue along his in a gentle caress.

“I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours,” she promised cheekily. 

Sandor broke the kiss, resting his head back as he looked up into those pure blue, unseeing eyes. With her pale skin and hair now dry, she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen.

He lifted a hand, cupping her cheek and gratified when she closed her eyes briefly to lean into his touch. The smile on her lips was one he’d never thought to see aimed in his direction by a woman, and he thought not for the first time that he was perhaps a bit thankful she couldn’t see. She knew of his scars, but would she think him a monster if she could see him properly?

But then her face sobered, and she opened her eyes again to gaze down at him, scanning his features as though they might come into clarity at any moment. Her sigh of disappointment turned into a shadow of sadness across her face, and when she began speaking he realized why.

“I should have known, Sandor.” 

With a small shake of her head she dropped her gaze, letting it land somewhere on his neck. 

“After the things we did, the things we told each other, I should have known you wouldn’t have sent me away. But… It still hurt, you know?” 

Again she looked up, a sad smile on her face. 

“Hearing that you had sent Jamis to find other men who might take me off your hands – that’s why I couldn’t be with you that night; why I all but ignored you this morning.” 

Her hand came up to stroke his beard, missing the mark at first and getting the side of his nose but she soon corrected it with a smile. 

“I should have known that I knew how you felt.”

At that Sandor nodded, thankful she said the words when he didn’t have to. And yet, she wanted something from him so he searched his words to find ones she would take to heart.

“I meant what I said, Sansa,” he began, clearing his throat. There was one thing he could repeat that would show her what she meant to him, and he told himself he would say the words to her, though it went against all the rigorous mental training he’d gone through in years of warfare and battle conditioning. Hide your heart , the training had taught him. But in this case it was the opposite that he knew he needed to do.

“Should any man attempt to take you from me – ”

“You’ll pack my bag for them?”

The smile on her face was what brought him out of his shock, and he chuckled softly, another new experience he was just getting used to. Genuine laughter, sober and in broad daylight with this wonderful woman. Oh , the things she dragged out of him with her humor!

“No, little bird,” he said softly. But then he did sober, his tone growing serious. “Should anyone hurt you, I’d kill them.”

He meant it. The thought of seeing bruises on her, seeing her in pain at the hands of another man, now made him see red at the edges of his vision. He would rather hang than see her succumb to that fate.

Her face straightened for a moment, but then it seemed perhaps she understood why he said that, because her hand lifted further and she brushed her fingertips over his good temple, running them through the hair before coming back to repeat the process.

“But you’ll protect me,” she replied, nodding once. Her lips lifted in an understanding smile, and Sandor nodded as well.

“Aye, little bird. I’ll protect you.”

~ ≈ ~

Sansa couldn’t say she was surprised to hear him say he’d kill someone who hurt her – not after the revelations that today had wrought from him. He was a great big beast of a man, as evidenced by the sheer size of him beneath her, and to say he was intimidating would be an understatement. She had no doubt he could crush most men with a single fist, or deal them a death blow with just one swing of his massive sword.

Protecting her would probably be more similar to a boy protecting his favorite toy than a man standing up against insurmountable odds.

She was drawn out of her thoughts at movement, his body moving beneath her as though he’d used it to gain her attention. And when he spoke she could hear a nervousness in his voice she hadn’t expected.

“Now yours,” he said, his voice a deep rasp, hardly more than a whisper.

Sansa held back her smile. The big man wants to hear how much he means to me , she thought.

Well, it was her time to get serious. She thought a moment, bringing her other hand up to stroke the other side of his face, this one mottled and bumpy beneath her fingers. A scarred man. A broken man. A man used to life alone, and yet she was here with him, opening their hearts together and sharing parts of them both that they had likely kept hidden for a long time.

“When you come back to me at the end of the day it makes me happy,” she started, smiling at the honest truth in her words. “When we lay down at night together, it makes me happy. When I wake up next to you in the morning, it makes me happy.”

She thought her words might lift his spirits but he stilled beneath her, his hands coming to rest at the curve of her waist. He was still, barely breathing and she knew something was amiss.

“Is that not a good thing?” she chided with a smile, drawing her thumbs over his lips and to his bearded cheeks. But she detected no smile, could see no gleam of teeth in her limited vision.

He exhaled a breath he must have been holding and turned his head away, and when he spoke his voice was hushed and a bit harsh.

“Not good enough that you won’t seek opportunities to leave.”

There was a bit of censure in his voice, but also a sadness he wasn't quite able to hide. And Sansa couldn’t deny the truth of it. She hadn’t imagined their time here in this clearing, beneath the weirwood tree, would turn so serious. But she supposed this was something that was going to have to come out between them at some point.

“Well,” she began hesitantly, “If there is a way for me to return home…” 

She paused, using her hand to turn his face back to hers. Again she stroked his lower lip with her thumb, the soft skin beneath his eye with her index finger. Gray . She could have sworn she’d seen his eyes clearly just moments before he had brought her to climax. Gray and serious and intense – focused on her in a way she’d never seen in any other man’s eyes.

Wishing she could see them now, knowing he deserved the truth, she bent to press a soft kiss to his unmoving lips, knowing even before she did so that he wouldn’t return it. She was about to hurt him, and there was no help for it.

“If I couldn’t,” she started again, choosing to reassure him first, “And I was forced to stay here, then I would choose to never leave your side.” 

Gods , this was sad. She felt the prick of tears form in the corners of her eyes, but trudged on ahead anyway, knowing she had to get this out. 

“I would follow you to King’s Landing, live with you, be your wife, and you would never want for anything, Sandor.”

Feeling moments away from dripping tears on him, she lifted her hand to wipe at her eyes, surprised when he caught it in his own and brought her damp fingers to his mouth. He kissed her there as she smiled what must have been a watery smile, because she felt the forced puff of air that signalled his abbreviated chuckle.

“But if I could get home, then yes, I would choose to go home.” 

She swallowed past the lump in her throat and found she had lost all will to hold her head up. Dropping it, she turned her face into his neck and felt comforted when his arms came around her. 

“I’m blind, Sandor – something that wasn’t so in the time I came from. And as much as you want to protect me, this is a dangerous time period. Your people lack medicine, laws, basic rights of every citizen. People wage wars over birthright, girls are married to men old enough to be their grandfathers – against their will, might I add. And don’t even get me started on life expectancy.” She drew in a shaky breath, inhaling the scent of his skin and feeling the coarse hairs on his neck rub at her nose. “If I had to stay, I would be happy doing so. But if I can leave… then I will.”

They were quiet for a few minutes, both knowing that it was drawing closer to the time when they needed to return to the encampment. Sandor lifted an arm and drew Sansa’s loose hair back from her face and then let his hand trail down her bare back to where her gown haphazardly covered both of them about their hips.

When he spoke, Sansa hadn’t expected it and she startled slightly hearing the assertiveness behind his words.

“I have something to tell you,” he said, and though he spoke calmly, she detected reticence in his tone. He didn’t want to tell her what it was, and so she recognized the gesture for what it was – she had accused him of keeping things from her, and this could possibly be something else. Only this time, he was choosing to come clean about it.

Without waiting for her to speak, he went ahead and began, “I spoke with Winterfell’s septon.”

Sansa lifted her face, looking down at him. It would have been nice if she had been able to gauge his emotions, but since she couldn’t see him, she examined what she could of his tone.

“When?” she asked, already knowing he wasn’t going to say yesterday. He was a man who kept things to himself for great lengths of time, and this, she knew, would be no different.

“The day you told me you were from the future.”

“Sandor! That was… so long ago! What did he say?”

He didn’t speak at first, and she knew she had to be patient. But with this man, her virtue of patience was becoming less and less. Men in both times were obviously very similar to each other.

“He knew you spoke the truth before I did. He knew… things.” He paused but Sansa gave him his lead, letting this man of few words get everything out he thought he needed to get out. “He said your blindness is of the gods.”

“What? What do the gods have anything to do with me being here?”

His arms squeezed her, as though bidding her let him speak uninterrupted. He cleared his throat before continuing.

“He spoke of a mistake wrought by the gods – that you have a purpose here.” Again he paused but this time Sansa remained silent, trying to process what she was hearing. “You’ve a task to accomplish, though he didn’t know what it was. You… are here to aid the gods in fixing their mistake.” 

He inhaled deeply, making Sansa rise and fall on his chest. Slowly she slid to the side and off him, sitting on the grass as she drew a corner of her gown up to cover her breasts. 

A mistake… the gods… Sansa was to help them fix it?

“What happens if I fix this – whatever this mistake is?”

Sandor was silent, but she could sense his eyes on her. He didn’t want to tell her, she surmised – or rather, he didn’t want to say. But he did, his voice almost a whisper it was so quiet.

“Your sight will return.”

There was such sadness in his voice that Sansa momentarily forgot their conversation, instead her mind focusing on why he would be feeling such an emotion when in her heart she felt that that day would be a day worthy of celebration. Her sight returning would be a dream come true – and it would mean she hadn’t hit her head, or been injured when she was transported from her time to his. This blindness was just a symptom the gods had bestowed on her, which meant they had the power to take it away!

“But… that’s not a bad thing, surely,” she prompted, looking in his direction. He remained silent, but she wanted him to feel the same way; needed him to feel it. Leaning towards him she rested against his shoulder, bringing her hand up to cup his face. “Sandor, it would be wonderful for me to regain my sight. I can’t think of anything I would like more to happen in your time than for me to be able to see everything – the camp, the sights, how things look different…” She smiled, thinking of the one thing she would most like to see. “You,” she added softly.

Sandor turned his face away from her, and she felt the brush of scars against her fingertips as he did so, and she instantly knew where his sadness had come from.

Oh, the poor, poor man , she thought, her heart splintering within her chest at the anguish she now recognized in him. How could she have been so… blind? She knew of his self consciousness about his appearance. She knew of the taunts by the other men, of what they said about Sandor having a blind camp wife. The awful rumors that must have been circulating through camp about how she might be the only one who would accept him.

With a resounding No heard clearly in her mind, Sansa pulled his face back to hers, her tears now dry and a resolute expression on her face. 

“No, Sandor – don’t turn away from me.” 

Softly, she caressed his forehead where smooth skin met scar, then down his temple and over the rough skin that drew down the corner of his eye. Jagged line of beard, mangled shell of his ear, down to the expanse of soft bumps and crevices that extended downwards towards the angle of where neck met shoulder.

“You have nothing to fear,” she assured him, not bothering to ask him if she was on the right track. That he didn’t speak, didn’t even move a muscle as she touched him, spoke volumes. He was accepting her touch, but emotionally keeping her at arm’s length.

“The day I regain my sight is a day I will rejoice, and the first thing I want to see is your face looking at me.” Just the thought brought more wetness to her eyes, and she lowered her head to press her lips to his. “Your face coming home to me,” she continued, pressed a kiss to the corner of his mouth, “Your face at night when we get in bed,” and another kiss, closer to center, “Your face as we make love.” 

When at last she touched her tongue to the seam of his lips she felt his exhale as he opened to her, accepting her deepened kiss as his arms tightened around her, pulling her in close to his warm body as she leaned over him. 

She simply kissed him for a time, feeling the delicious sweep of his tongue, the roughness of mustache and beard against her skin, and how his rough hands held her as though they never wished to let her go.

But then she pulled back, needing to drive home her point, and she did so with a smile, both hands cupping the asymmetrical sides of his face with equal softness and care.

“What I wish to see most is you, and when that day comes I will be the happiest woman who ever lived.”

When they came back together it was with a passion from both sides that spoke of separation, of a sadness barely held at bay, and joy that they had somehow found each other in this odd scheme of the gods. Sansa gave herself to him again, though this time faster, their lovemaking tinged with an urgency borne not only of the need to return to camp, but also of what could be their limited time together. 

And when they returned to the camp they parted ways only after sharing more passionate kisses inside their tent, stopping just short of succumbing to the urge to remove each other’s clothing once again.

Chapter Text

Every day Sansa wracked her brain for ideas on what the septon could have meant. The gods made a mistake and she was sent back in time to help them fix it? It didn’t make any sense. There were no clues, no hints as to what her purpose might be. Though she rejoiced in her relationship with Sandor, silently she despaired that she might lose the battle to go home.

Gray eyes . Daily she imagined them – when she woke next to him, when he kissed her, when he bent to hand her a plate of food. She imagined those eyes on her, looking at her, staring at her, seeking her out on the other side of the tent. She had seen them – she knew she did.

But that had been a week ago, and now, a week outside King’s Landing, she had gone this long without so much of a glimpse of anything else.

Why was it that her vision had cleared long enough to see him? She was certain she hadn’t dreamed it, as that first time together had been nothing short of beautiful and she remembered every single moment of it. It matched their lovemaking since then – the nights spent in each others arms, sometimes the morning waking up to Sandor’s touches and kisses.

Smiling to herself atop Sparrow, Sansa looked around when she realized what she was doing, immediately feeling foolish knowing that even if anyone saw her smiling, she couldn’t see them . But if they saw she was happy, well… so be it.

She wanted to shout it from the rooftops that Sandor was not only well versed in the act of lovemaking – with impressive stamina, to boot – but that he was also eager to learn. He’d mastered oral sex, could strum her with his fingers as though she was a guitar and he had been playing all his life, and had managed to find every erogenous zone on her body that could make her purr when he pressed his mouth to them.

Quite simply put, the student was now the master.

Last night had been the first time he had gathered what apparently needed to be courage, and he’d guided her hand beneath their cloak to encircle him. What followed was a lesson in pleasing him that had aroused her until she was both stroking the length of him and attaching herself to his neck, suckling at his skin while he groaned beneath her.

It seemed like she had awoken in him a sexy beast that somehow all women of his time hadn’t recognized, and Sansa revelled nightly in the fact that he was hers, and she was his. The only thing missing was the opportunity to gloat.

Not that others completely missed the mark on what really went on in the Clegane tent. Those washer women certainly were a perceptive bunch, waiting just a minute after Jamis had gone to the edge of the clearing to sit and sharpen his blade to descend on her like hawks, that outspoken leader of the pack suddenly grasping her elbow and fairly demanding to be let in on what was making Sansa glow from within.

“Tell me it’s not Clegane,” she dared, though Sansa could hear the smile in the woman’s voice. 

Titters went up through the small crowd around them, chuckles and hushed bawdy comments that spoke of his underestimated prowess and how she had somehow tamed the Hound. He was just as beastly during training, they assured her, and as fearsome a sight when he strode through camp.

But - oh, they jeered - were his steps ever purposeful when he made his way back to his tent!

Sansa tried to hold in the smiles, and she did to a point, ever aware of the necessity to uphold Sandor’s persona to these women. She still dropped hints of bruises they couldn’t see, or a beating that she might have earned, but she also participated in the laughter when the women speculated about his size.

“I’d say a horse,” commented one as they all sat around wash barrels, scrubbing the articles they’d brought with them or that had been dropped off for them to attend to.

“Naw, Sansa’d be dead, you ninny,” the leader retorted, much to the glee of the rest of the ladies, whose roar of laughter likely scared birds from the treetops. Sansa simply smiled, scrubbing one of her gowns on the ribbed board as she had been shown to do.

“Alright then, what’s smaller than a horse?”

“An elk!”

“Nay, aurochs!”

“Still dead!”

“A bear then.”

“Goat!”

Everything around them went silent at that last one, and even Sansa’s mouth dropped open at such a ridiculous notion.

“Are you saying,” said the leader, her tone incredulous, “That you think the Hound has a cock the same size as a goat?” A sound erupted from her throat that almost sounded as though she had gagged. “Have you gone bloody insane, lass?” 

Giggles erupted from the ladies, and Sansa thought she detected even a laugh from the embarrassed source of the comment, though she finally decided she was able to contribute to the conversation that was about a subject she knew best.

“I think… a direwolf.”

Silent descended once again and she was certain she felt at least ten pairs of eyes focus on her moments before the clearing once again erupted in a round of hoots and laughter. There was a lot of slapping of thighs and sloshing of water as the cacophony of mirth reached Sansa from all sides.

“Oh, aye, methinks you’d know your canine best, Sansa Snow!” chortled the leader, good naturedly and for good measure. Then she added, with the chorus of accompanying giggles from the other ladies, “Now you run along and satisfy that man of yours. You’d know more than us what he’s like when that hound gets a smell o’ what’s between your legs!”

~ ≈ ~

Sandor didn’t know what to think of what had become of his life over the past nearly two months. They were a week outside King’s Landing and he knew for certain that nothing would ever be the same. Returning to the city wouldn’t be simply returning to the life of a soldier. This time he had a camp wife, whom he was fairly certain was willing to become his wife in truth; and an unrecognizable path he would be on from then on.

He understood Sansa’s reluctance to remain in his time. If what she said was true, and he had no reason to doubt that it was, then her time was full of these... technological advancements... of which she spoke, including medicine and quality of life. Who wouldn’t want to live in a time like that?

Sandor only wished he could be there with her. He’d thought on it a time or two, whether – once her sight returned after this yet unnamed task had been carried out – he would be able to go with her. From everything they had spoken about, it seemed something she would be amenable to.

But was it possible? The gods had a purpose for her, yes, but would they allow Sandor to go with her? Once her sight returned, could they both enter into a weirwood pool and be brought forward in time?

What he didn’t wish to happen – the worst possible outcome of attempting such a feat – would be for him to open his eyes and find himself alone in the pool. 

It was the stuff of nightmares, so he tried not to contemplate an unwanted outcome.

But until then they had this time together, and he’d be daft to not realize how wonderful it was. 

Sandor was not a stupid man. He knew what was in his heart, even if it had taken him a while to admit it to himself. He remembered from when he was a boy what love felt like, and he was certain that is what he felt for Sansa. It was a peculiar thing, such a hardened warrior suddenly deciding one day that he had succumbed to such a womanly plight. But if it was a plight – an illness, an affliction – it was one he was more than happy to bear, for the reward was much greater than the suffering it could cause.

There was suffering, for certain. He spent all day that he was away from her worrying about her, wondering if she was thinking about him. He tried to keep eyes on Trant, and could feel his heart beat a fast rhythm in his chest during the times the other soldier wasn’t part of their party. Was he seeking Sansa out? Was he accosting her? Harming her? Sandor couldn’t count the number of ways he envisioned taking Trant’s life as he rode towards the front of the army.

And the rewards – gods save him . Sandor hadn’t known, and was certain most men didn’t know what could happen between a man and a woman. 

He suspected part of their intimate pleasures came from the habits of women in her time – this mutual pleasure she insisted on that he found, much to his surprise, just as satisfying as when he used a woman simply for his own release. He got nearly as much enjoyment out of watching her come apart in his arms as he did being inside her and himself shattering to pieces above her.

But damn – what a sight it was. As he rode Stranger with the other soldiers he sometimes wondered if they could read his thoughts, and he fervently hoped that wasn’t the case. Because often it was her blue eyes drifting closed that he thought of, the way her lips parted on a gasp, the way her breasts quivered with the remnants of her release as her body trembled from the sensation. He would kill any man who had the same visions of Sansa that he had.

He loved the way she reached for him at night, relying on him to give her exactly what it was she wanted. And he loved how in the morning it was that familiar pat on the pallet by her slender hand that would draw him back down and into her arms, ready to accept the pleasure she was so willing to give. 

But it was her presence, he had to admit, that he probably loved the most – the feminine presence that had been missing from his life. Every day he could count on her being there to greet him when he returned, to kiss him so softly in welcome, to aid him in removing his armor and to hum that same song when he wished to relax after a long day. Though he knew not the words, that melody was forever etched on the walls of his heart, as though she had climbed inside and used her dagger to make her mark on him.

He had opened up to her, gradually losing the habit of talking in short, simple sentences. It had been a habit he would draw upon to get his message across to dense soldiers who couldn’t process complex commands. 

With Sansa he didn’t fear she wouldn’t understand or would tire of listening to him speak. She would sit on the pallet, sometimes looking at him but sometimes not, engaging him in conversation that often had him thinking about things he hadn’t thought of in years, or laughing with her as they readied for bed.

It was a life he had never envisioned for himself, but it was a life he couldn’t imagine never having now.

~ ≈ ~

At dusk, as the army was coming to a stop for the night, Sandor knew there was something he could do for Sansa that she might not have expected. After instructing Jamis to set up camp and saying they would be back after a while, he hauled Sansa up onto Stranger behind him and waited until she had wrapped her arms around his waist before setting off to his destination.

As they drew closer he could feel Sansa’s nervousness. He had never taken her from camp so late at night, but he didn’t feel it safe to explain to her just yet where they were going. It was something she would need to discover once they arrived.

But because he couldn’t help himself, he briefly reached up to pat one of her hands where it rested on the stomach of his leather tunic before gripping Stranger’s reins and leading the horse onward.

It was a short while before they came upon the area of the camp where the prisoners were kept, and after they dismounted, Sandor was glad to find the septon once again alone in his own cage. 

Still as worse for wear, he approached the man with Sansa following behind him, her hand held firmly inside his own.

“Septon,” Sandor said in greeting. The older man slowly lifted his head and gave him a weak smile, which widened when Sansa stepped out from behind him.

“Ah, my dear, so he brought you at last,” he said softly, and Sandor felt Sansa’s hand tighten in his.

“I will keep watch,” he said to the two of them, but after releasing Sansa’s hand he pointed at the septon, the old man’s smiling face lit by the dim light of the nearby torch. “You try anything and you die today,” were Sandor’s parting words before he turned and walked towards the beginning of the cages.

~ ≈ ~

“Pleasant fellow,” said the septon, and Sansa was so caught off guard by the joke that she had to cough to cover her startled laugh.

“Yes, he is a charming young man, isn’t he,” she replied with a pleasant sarcasm that matched his own. The man gave a soft chuckle but said no more as Sansa waited.

After a moment his kind voice came from within the cage, “Pardon me, my child, but here I am waving to you to sit here beside the cage and you can’t see a thing, can you?”

Sansa shook her head, hardly able to even make out his form inside the cage. But with a confidence borne of the information this man had given Sandor all those weeks ago, and the feeling that this kind septon likely knew the Starks seeing as how he was a septon at Winterfell when he was captured, she felt safe enough to crouch low to the ground and find a seat close enough to him that they could have a private conversation.

“So,” he began, “thank you for coming to see me. That man – ”

“Clegane,” she offered politely.

“Yes, Clegane. He told me of you when he first came to see me, and I must say, I am so glad you came.”

Sansa smiled, wishing she could see what he looked like. He sounded like a kind, old grandfather.

“He didn’t tell me where we were going, and I didn’t know it was you until he addressed you.”

Another chuckle came from the old septon, followed by a good humored sigh.

“Yes, well as I said, a pleasant fellow. Even so, we have much to discuss.”

It took some time but he spoke to her of what must have been all the things he’d told Sandor, likely answering the same questions that Sandor had had for him. All of it corroborated with the limited information Sandor had given her a week ago at the last weirwood pool, so she simply nodded and followed along, formulating her questions while waiting for him to finish his explanation.

“But what I did not tell Clegane is that I’m fairly certain I know why it was you who were brought back into this time.”

Sansa’s mouth dropped open, hearing that there were things the septon had kept from the soldier and that he obviously thought she should know.

“Yes?”

“All of this is likely because you were supposed to exist in this time, and that the mistake the gods made that they wish you to help them rectify is that they failed to create you when they created your family. You see, all children are ordained by the gods; all people have a purpose. And if there was a purpose for you to fulfill in this lifetime and you were not here to fulfill it, then returning you to this time would enable the original timeline, or a satisfactory replacement, to unfold, thereby fixing the gods’ blunder.”

He paused, leaning close to her as he lowered his voice, even though it was unnecessary.

“You see, child, you were overlooked, which is an embarrassment to the gods. Hence why, I’m fairly certain, when you return to your time it will be as though nothing ever happened.”

This surprised Sansa. If what he said was true, then it was indeed highly likely that she would eventually return to her own time and when she did so, she would go back to the night she initially disappeared from the pool at Winterfell.

She ignored the pang of sadness at the thought of her departure being inevitable. She missed Sandor already and she hadn’t even left yet.

Bringing herself back to the present, she knew what the septon said still begged the question of what could the gods’ mistake be?

“What mistake would be here that would be powerful enough to send me through time?”

“Ah,” he said, and she could hear the smile in his voice. “Another tidbit I failed to mention to your Clegane there.” 

He motioned with hands weighted by clinking chains in the direction Sandor had disappeared. 

“I was certain this was something he wouldn’t want to hear.” 

Lowering his voice again, he nearly whispered to her, “True love, my dear. Consider it – the gods made you blind so you would know your true love’s heart. Once you find him your affliction will be lifted, and as I said before, that is how you will know you fulfilled the gods’ purpose for you.”

“What does true love have to do with it?” 

Love and ending up here in this time wasn’t something Sansa had put together even once, so the thought that it could be what had motivated the gods to do what they did, it just sounded so far fetched that she had trouble believing it.

“Sansa, love motivates the gods to do all manner of irrational things. But truthfully, we septons have heard of this sort of thing before, and the one thing all of the cases have in common is that the affliction bestowed by the gods is removed when the recipient falls in love.”

The tone of his voice said he was speaking the truth – or at least what he believed to be true. But it still made no sense to Sansa. She was supposed to exist here? And because she didn’t, she was sent back in time to find her true love? It just boggled her mind that any of this could be true, and yet this septon appeared to know what he was talking about.

“But what about in my own time? Wouldn’t I have a true love there?”

He paused then, and she wondered if he might be pondering her words. When he spoke again he sounded thoughtful, his words as perplexed as she felt.

“Hm. Yes, it would seem.” Changing to a more chipper tone, he continued, “But alas, this is all I know.”

“And why would I go home once I found my true love? Isn’t that sort of counter-productive to true love? Why would the gods do that? To me, to the guy I’m supposed to meet – it sounds downright awful of them.”

Again he was thoughtful, but now also sad when he replied, “I cannot say because I do not know, my dear.”

There was movement towards the other end of the cage and Sandor’s voice appeared from around the corner.

“Sansa, the guards are returning. We need to leave.”

Immediately she stood, but on impulse reached out to grip the bars. In doing so she was able to gauge where to put her hand so the septon could grasp onto it with his own.

“Thank you, septon,” she said in earnest, before drawing her hand away.

“I am pleased to meet you, my dear. I served your family for many years, and would have loved to have known you.”

The genuine quality in his voice brought tears to her eyes, but her reply was limited to a tearful nod as Sandor grasped her hand and pulled her in the opposite direction. 

She had so much to think about, so much to consider of what the septon had told her. True love? It sounded too out of this world to be true, and yet if there was a chance he had been speaking the truth, what was she supposed to do about it?

When she found her true love, or so he’d said, her affliction would disappear. Her blindness would disappear. She’d be able to see. To see things .

Things like gray eyes.

Sandor helped her up onto Stranger behind him but again they didn’t speak, and Sansa was grateful for it. The massive beast beneath them took a few steps in the direction of their camp before whinnying and sidestepping when a voice reached them from the far side.

“Clegane.”

Trant.

“Take your bitch back to your tent before some sort of harm befalls her.”

“Fuck off, Trant,” was Sandor’s reply as Stranger plodded on. But Sansa could feel how his torso tensed within the circle of her arms at the short interaction.

It was so short that she barely had time to worry before she knew Trant had faded into the camp behind them. 

Then the entire way back to their tent all she could think about was what the septon said.

And gray eyes .

~ ≈ ~

None of this made sense. His dream spoke of things that felt so familiar, and yet he knew nothing of what they were speaking. Fate? Gods? 

How was it that Sandor knew so much of things not of his world?

He wondered if he should talk to someone about it, but even as the thought crossed his mind, he knew it for the absurd notion that it was. No one would understand. No one would believe him. 

No one could help him.

Chapter Text

There had been no way around Sansa telling Sandor about what the septon said. If she had one true ally in this time, and any hope at all of gaining his aid in returning home if it was possible, then she decided that he needed to know everything the septon told her.

So, awkward as it was, before they had gone to bed their pillow talk consisted of her retelling the remainder of the septon’s tale, followed by an awkward silence that preceded a long night for them both.

When morning dawned and the camp around them began to teem with life, Sansa found she didn’t want to go anywhere. She didn’t want to acknowledge what the septon had said; didn’t want to proceed to King’s Landing, just a handful of days away; and she didn’t want to acknowledge either the possibility that she and Sandor would part ways at some point in this time due to true love, or the fact that she was positive it was his eyes she had seen.

The latter was what worried her most. Finding true love – one’s soulmate – had been talked about in little girl circles since the dawn of time. As a child Sansa daydreamed of finding a prince who would fall madly in love with her and she would marry him and live in a castle. Her friends had similar dreams, and it's what they spoke of in late night chats beneath blanket forts lit by a single flashlight.

But now, with the prospect that – gods , she hardly wanted to put the thought into words. Sandor, her true love? She didn’t necessarily feel he was such, but when she told herself there was no way it could be, there was a small part of her, deep inside the bottom of her heart, that she could hear laughing at her.

She laid for long moments beside him on the pallet, her nose pushed into the short curls on his chest and her arm around his waist, inhaling that familiar scent of his skin and feeling his chest expand and contract with long, even breaths. What she conducted could only be described as an inner interrogation.

How would she feel if they parted ways?

Would she miss him if that happened?

Over the last nearly two months how important had he become to her?

And still, at the tearing feeling she felt in her heart when she attempted to answer those questions, she still tamped down the emotions she felt with a healthy dose of doubt. 

So to test her theory – that Sandor was indeed this true love of whom the septon spoke – she leaned in and pressed her lips to Sandor’s chest, fully expecting to be able to remain staid and businesslike while giving him pleasure. After all, if it wasn’t true love then she would remain in control of the amount of pleasure she gleaned from giving him pleasure.

Right?

She started slow, tilting her head up as she kissed and feeling the coarse hair on his neck tickle her lips. A tingling began deep in her belly but she ignored it, flattening her hand against his warm back.

She moved her face upwards, slipping her tongue out to trace the hollow of his throat and tasting skin that now felt as familiar to her as her own. Her nostrils flared involuntarily, arousal building inside her like a tropical storm. 

If she thought of something else she could control her reaction to what she was doing, right? So she attempted to think of Sparrow, or their trek South, or how Sandor suddenly inhaled buckets of air, tightening his arm around her and tipping his chin up on the pillow to give her better access. 

No. Brienne, Arya - Sansa fought to control her thoughts, to reign in the effect he had on her. Ah, there it was again. Winterfell, college, her puppy Lady. She remembered the weirwood pool outside Winterfell’s grounds, how nice it was to slip into the pool and bathe, how she had fallen through time and awoken to a sunny day and a warrior lifting her into his strong arms.

And as Sandor slowly exhaled through his nose as she kissed the length of his neck, the arm around her became a hand caressing her, sliding high up to her shoulders and then lower to the curve of her backside. A simple pull of her body brought her into contact with the hardness inside his breeches.

Sansa choked on her breath, the feel of his arousal sending darts of desire upwards towards her heart, centering around her heart with an intensity that, unbeknownst to her, banished all rational thought. She rocked her hips against him and opened her mouth to his skin, kissing his jaw as it lowered so their lips could sleepily meet in the middle.

His groan as he took control of her mouth made her entire body tremble, and all thoughts of controlling her reaction to him fled.

More moon tea this morning , she thought, trying not to smile. Their means of contraceptive was apparently effective, but she hated the stuff. It was bitter, and there weren’t heaps of sugar to be had that she could sweeten the concoction with. 

But the things they could do because of the moon tea made it all worth it.

She had nuzzled up his chin, over his beard to find his waiting mouth, but as soon as they began to kiss he moved to push her onto her back. Steadfastly she denied him, and instead led him to shift so that it was he who was on his back, a smile on her face as his hand alighted on her hip hesitantly.

He had been beneath her before, but not at length, not like this morning when she bid him to rise so she could pull his tunic off and she loved his shoulders, chest and arms with hands and mouth. She loved the hiss of breath as she scraped teeth over his nipples, the way his skin twitched when she drew her fingernails down his sides, sensitive spots beckoning her just above his hips. 

And when he breathed her name as she untied his breeches, nudging his hips to rise so she could pull them off, she thought it might have been the loveliest thing she’d ever heard.

This morning was about him, about her exploring his body, giving him pleasures he had been giving to her for so long. She couldn’t even think of how many times they had made love – twelve? Maybe more? There was that one time he’d woken her in the middle of the night, making it three times in one day. 

So today would be a day of firsts, a day when she would see what parts of him came into her vision, what areas of his body the gods wished her to see, if he was indeed – as she was currently trying to remember she was testing – her true love.

Straddling one of his massive thighs, she reached out with her hand, sliding it up over the hairy skin to find his arousal standing tall. He was big, much bigger than any of her previous partners, but she knew without a doubt that when they came together it felt like a perfect fit. The friction they created had the power to make both of them moan with their releases, the sound of Sandor’s orgasm like the sweetest music. She wondered if it was the same for him when he listened to her.

Sansa stroked him softly, feeling the bit of fluid at the tip and using her thumb to spread it around, before she took her other hand to untuck and untie the laces of her dress. It didn’t take her long to loosen it enough that she could draw both arms out of the fabric and let it pool around her waist.

Sandor attempted to sit and pull her to him, but with a shake of her head and a gentle push Sansa encouraged him to lay back down. 

Then without another word she lowered her mouth to him.

She was certain the rumble emanating deep within his chest could have registered as seismic activity when she dipped low and felt him push against the back of her throat. As she rose his hand reached out to grasp the wrist on which she leaned, planted firmly on the pallet beside his hip. That contact remained as she moved, taking him in and sliding out, as she came off of him to love him with her tongue, to press kisses to the swollen head. His fingers tightened when she opened wide again, taking him deep in her mouth, though he didn’t hurt her. It was more a symbolic touch – how much she was affecting him, how much she was turning him on, translating into the strength of his grip as his fingers easily encompassed her entire wrist and then some.

“Sansa, I – ” 

The words caught in his throat and she knew he was close. She had no intention of stopping, and so she increased her speed slightly, bobbing so deeply down onto his cock that she fought back when her body wanted to object to the intrusion. But this was for him, this was all about him – and the growing heat and wetness between her legs meant her body couldn’t lie about its reaction to what she was doing.

“I’m – ”

His voice broke again, and she would have smiled if she could have, knowing how easy it was, how wonderful it was, to make this giant of a man completely unravel beneath her with just her mouth.

The hand tightened once again and she felt his other come up, having not known it had even moved until his feather light touch rested on the side of her head. His big palm slid into her hair but he didn’t guide her so much as followed her, as though adding a layer of sensation, of experience, to what she was doing.

Then without any words she could hear his breath quicken and she knew what was coming, slowing just enough that she could use her mouth to suck strongly with every upward stroke. His hand on her wrist trembled, the fingers in her hair losing the rhythm and bumping her as she moved. 

And just as he came, that hand quickly left and the movement she looked up to see was Sandor grabbing something – his tunic, maybe – and slapping it to his face as he cried out in release.

Sansa still worked him with her mouth, swallowing what he released, stroking him around the base with her other hand until she was certain he was finished. And her heart – she could feel something happening, as though she were standing on a precipice and all she had to do was take that one last step to go tumbling into the great unknown.

Beneath her hand he remained mostly hard, his arousal only waning slightly as his big body twitched with her ministrations. 

She knew what she wanted, and she knew what she wanted to do.

Making a quick decision, she stood and allowed the gown, as well as her homemade panties, to fall to the floor.

“Sansa,” he spoke, his voice rough from his now uncovered face.

“Shh,” she shushed, and when she came back down to straddle his hips, it was not before guiding him to her entrance, rubbing him with her own arousal before sinking down onto him.

It was like coming home, this sensation, and she was unable to do anything than take him all in and allow her head to fall back, so full and complete she felt. And as she settled, swiveling her hips to feel his girth inside her, the feel of his strong hips beneath her, his hands came to rest on her thighs and she tilted her face down to look at him.

He was a blur, with no distinguishable features other than the lightness of his face and the darkness of his beard and hair. But keeping the disappointment at bay, Sansa began to rock her hips, backwards and forwards, in a way she hadn’t yet done to him. 

This was a position they hadn’t explored – really, all they had done so far was missionary – but she found she liked it; liked it even more when his hands slid up and over her hips, across her belly, up her own sensitive sides to cup her breasts. As she moved on him he swept his thumbs over her nipples, and she brought her own hands up to grip his wrists, holding his palms to her chest as he molded her breasts and caressed her skin.

Within her she felt him grow once again and knew he would have another release, though likely not before she had hers. Wasn’t that the way with men who could go twice, she wondered – increased stamina the second time around? Sandor had never had a problem in that arena. 

She rode him just like that for some time, but frustration with thoughts of true love encroaching on a mind that should have been filled with nothing but ecstasy. So finally she took one of his hands in hers and slid it down her body, letting him get her understanding before pulling it away again to rest on the center of his chest.

“Touch me,” she said, her voice a harsh whisper as she moved, and the moment he did, all thoughts vanished and she was left with sparks and stars and sensation.

Sandor found her sensitive skin like a master, and once again her head fell back as she felt her release building inside her. Rocking her hips, she increased her pace, feeling his other hand slide from one breast to the other and back again as they moved with her motions. Like a boy discovering something new , she thought, unable to hold back a smile as she lowered her chin and looked towards his face.

Gray eyes , staring up at her, though this time his pupils were wide, and she could see the corner of one slightly covered by scarred skin. 

Sansa’s breath caught and she lost her rhythm, so entranced by what she saw that it was as though her body forgot what it was doing. She brought both hands to his chest, leaning on him as he simultaneously dropped his hands to her hips and began moving beneath her, taking the work and continuing what she had started. 

Lower and lower she leaned, wanting to be closer to his face, to see more detail in those eyes, and she felt her heart bursting with so many emotions and thoughts that she couldn’t keep any one of them still enough to identify it. His body began rubbing her where his hand had been but this time it was almost as though she didn’t want it to end, didn’t want this moment to come to a close because she knew he would disappear as soon as it did.

But it was inevitable. He quickened his pace, and the rubbing intensified. As she felt her release building she stared, and stared and stared, even as bolts of electricity began to radiate outward from her core. Her body pulsed around his cock as she cried out, her eyes unwilling to lose focus on his, and suddenly it was everything that was clear – his eyes and nose, mouth, beard. 

She could see all of it, and she knew – she knew

Her arms trembled, her legs shook as she felt him inside her, and suddenly his own movements became shaky, thrusting once, twice, and a third time as his own orgasm caused him to squeeze his eyes shut and groan, his breath hissing through clenched teeth.

And Sansa could see all of it.

As her body came down from the emotional and physical high she could feel the heat between their bodies, almost stifling, and yet she refused to move. 

He was fading, and she didn’t bother hiding the fact that she was staring at his face. Lifting a hand she cupped his cheek, watching the line between beard and skin fade, drawing her thumb over his lip and feeling his breath on her hand as they began to blur. And finally his eyes, still intent on her, though showing concern now likely for her odd behavior, were all that was left clear and in focus.

“Sansa?” he said softly, but she couldn’t react to it. She was frozen – frozen with a stunned realization that she was in danger of falling in love with the man beneath her, the man who even now was buried deep inside her. 

And if what the septon said was true, and her sight would return when she found her true love, then it was basically inevitable.

“Little bird,” he said, his voice deep and tinged with worry. But he was fading, the scars slipping away, the one eyebrow becoming nothing more than darkness, until finally all that was left was the gray irises and black pupils melding together to form murky silver pools, and then nothing.

“Gray eyes,” she said shakily, not even caring if she shouldn’t have told him. She was powerless to do anything other than speak what was raging through her heart at the moment.

Sandor stopped breathing beneath her. He, too, would know what the implications of that were. He would know, after hearing what the septon had said, that her ability to see even the smallest part of him, would be so heavy with meaning that the insinuation would be hard to ignore.

Sansa swallowed, and then took a deep, shaky breath.

“Sandor,” she said quietly, awe and fear and wonder filling her voice, “You have gray eyes.”

~ ≈ ~

The following week was difficult for them both. 

Sandor had trouble processing what Sansa had told him. He spent his days imagining her face in the moments she must have been able to see him – that stare, so intense and bare, unable to hide the wonder in it. It was then that she had been able to see him, and he wasn’t sure if he wanted to be scared, or elated, or angry.

The anger was there because of the gods. What cruel twist must they have had in store for Sansa if it was Sandor they intended for her to fall in love with? Because that was the only possible explanation for her being able to see him, even for that brief moment. The Hound – scarred, mean, vicious, a murderer of the worst kind, and the gods saw fit to saddle Sansa with him. It was a twisted fate he wished on no woman.

But for himself? He couldn’t deny that deep within his heart he was happy about it, although that only served to make his swings in training more harsh, his words more cutting at the young recruits. He loved her, without a doubt. But was she being forced to love him in return? How had this happened? He had more questions than he did answers.

Going back to see the septon was out of the question, since they were so close to the city and the prisoners were getting extra treatment – both of the unsavory and the hospitable kind. Sandor learned those who were dirtiest were allowed to bathe, while certain captives were being put through another round of beating ahead of what would end up being a public execution – a last ditch effort to gain information from them before the opportunity was lost to their deaths.

Sandor had no doubt much of the beatings were done without Lannister’s knowledge, although some were sanctioned specifically by the commander. He wasn’t a cruel man, but it was his own family he was protecting, and a man would do foolish things to protect his family.

Sandor was only glad it wasn’t him who was called upon to do the interrogations. No doubt Trant was getting off on beating information out of the few female prisoners added to the list of beatings.

Sandor was busy worrying about Sansa. As new as this sensation was – worry for another person – he found it consuming his thoughts. After the morning where she had given him experiences he would never forget, there didn’t seem to be any more instances of her being able to see him. He wasn’t sure what alarmed him about that more – just the fact that she could see him that time meant he might be the true love that the septon spoke of, or the fact that because she hadn’t seen him since, he might not be. 

And those thoughts would get him into trouble if he kept them up, he was sure of it.

Did he want to be her true love? The answer to that was complicated. He wanted to shout to the heavens, to rail at the gods in whom he never believed, that she could become the woman meant for him and only him, only for her to return to her time once it happened. Where was the fairness in that? Where was the kind, omnipotent deities the masses always spoke of? 

If their aim was to bring Sansa and Sandor together, only to rip them apart again, then Sandor wanted no part in their schemes.

And yet… to have this with Sansa for such a short time – wouldn’t even the smallest amount of love be worth having rather than none at all? He was plagued by such thoughts all day long, all week as they travelled, at night when they came together and in the mornings when he held her in his arms.

The trouble came from not knowing what she thought about it. It wasn’t something he wanted to just ask her, seeing as how she seemed as troubled as he was at this turn of events. 

But he was powerfully curious, almost to the point of breaking down and asking her if she even wanted him to be her true love.

True love . Such a ridiculous notion to him even just a month ago. He always looked down at young girls who spoke of it, had listened enough to Princess Myrcella and her horde of ladies, talking about the absurdity of loving the person one was married to. There was no love between Cersei and King Robert when he was alive, nor did they have any need of it. Offspring could be had without it, a successful partnership could be had without it.

But still – why did Sandor find himself imagining more between him and Sansa? And that infernal vision of the girl with red hair and the boy who looked like him?

It was thoughts like these that followed him until the day they reached King’s Landing, and he led Sansa to his small rooms in the Red Keep, dropping her small bag of belongings and telling her to stay put while he went to find Jamis. But before he left he was unable to just part ways without some sort of goodbye. 

She looked so small – so lost and troubled, standing there in the center of the outer room. He had shown her the table and two chairs, his bookshelf with dusty books he knew she couldn’t read, and the bed with the chamber pot beneath it. That was it, all he needed to do before striding out the door.

But then she turned to him, standing in the ray of light from the high window, her hair like a halo of flames around her face and he couldn’t help himself. In full armor, gloved hands and his helm tucked beneath his arm, he strode to her and slid a hand behind her head, gratified when her hands came up to bracket his face, as though they were as needy as he felt his own body.

When she kissed him it was passion and want, and yes, need. Her lips were welcoming, her tongue seeking, and in their kiss there was a silent communication that neither knew what they were doing.

When he went to pull away it was her fingers in his hair that kept him held to her, and she tilted her head as he returned the kiss just as desperately as she kissed him. Helm forgotten, it crashed to the floor as he wrapped that arm around her back and crushed her body to the front of his armor.

“I need to leave,” he growled, kissing back across her cheek, scraping his teeth against the softness of her ear, and feeling the fervent shake of her head as she denied him that one thing.

“No, I don’t want you to.” Her voice was anxious, full of uncertainty and worry as his mouth returned to hers.

“I know, But I have to,” he insisted, but he didn’t mean it. 

When he finally set her apart from him he could see tears in her eyes. 

As much as he wanted to stay, as much as he wanted to comfort her and remain in the room with her for the rest of the day, he had tasks as a soldier he needed to carry out. But even so, he wrapped his arms around her and held her to him, unable to feel her warmth through his layers of armor but needing to know all the same that she was there, and would be when he returned.

With a last kiss to her hair he backed away, picking up his helm and walking back to the door. 

“Bar it,” he instructed her as she followed him, “And let no one but Jamis and myself in.”

Leaving her that day was the hardest thing he’d ever done in his life.

Chapter Text

Note: violence against women mentioned in this chapter

 

Sansa remained in Sandor’s room, sometimes attempting to explore his meager belongings, sometimes just sitting in one of the chairs staring at the sunlight coming in through the window. 

She tried to not focus on missing him, but now that they were in the city, in the castle, she was more nervous than ever. He was a comfort when he was around, and seemed to have taken on that role soon after she had arrived in this time. She remembered back to that first time she had cried on him, when Trant had stolen her. Even way back then there had been something about Sandor that drew her to him.

If he was meant to be her true love – and that was a big if – could he be part of the gods plan for her? She had been pondering this for a couple days, wondering if Sandor wasn’t just a random man who had stumbled upon her. But rather, did the gods put her where he was going to be?

If that was indeed the case, then it would lend to the theory that he was indeed meant to be her true love. 

It was all very confusing.

She knew the dangers of her presence in King’s Landing, being a Northerner and quite possibly what they would consider a traitor. Since only she and Sandor knew the truth, and because it was a truth they couldn’t reveal to anyone, the danger to Sansa was real.

She also knew that Sandor was guilty by association, and that thought scared her just as much.

After a couple hours of waiting and pondering her position and what they were going to do, there was a knock on the door but no voice announcing who the visitor was. Sansa’s heart rate increased, stealing her breath as she silently moved towards the door. Rather than answer, she waited just on her side of it, not quite pressing her ear to it but close. She could hear no movement on the other side, but startled anyway when the knock came again.

Sandor had said only open the door to Jamis and himself, so she wasn’t about to reveal herself to someone not willing to identify themselves. She was just about to walk away when a voice came through that sent chills up her spine.

“I know you’re in there,” said Trant, his tone quiet but not so much that she couldn’t hear him clearly. From the sound of it, he was speaking directly into the crack of the door. She could imagine his mouth and nose pressed to the crack, ensuring whatever he had to say would be heard by her.

Terror gripped her heart at his mere presence, and Sansa remained where she was, frozen in fear that he would hear her if she so much as moved.

“If you think you’re safe with the Hound, think again, Snow.” He sneered the name for a Northern bastard, his tone dripping with condescension. “You’ll never be safe, and I will have you.”

There was a rustling of metal against the door, as though he shifted his body to get closer. When he spoke again his voice was louder through the crack. She could feel the hairs on her skin rising, goosebumps forming as though he was able to reach through the solid wood door and touch her.

Silently she prayed that Sandor just happened to come down the hallway at that moment.

“You’ll be my bitch, and you’ll have to do everything I tell you to. That is, if I don’t tell the king who Clegane is hiding in his rooms first.”

There was silence as he let her digest his words, and they had their intended effect. Sansa was so afraid that he spoke the truth about turning her in, that she felt like she was going to lose the meager food she had eaten earlier. Her stomach flipped and she pressed a hand over her mouth to stop any sound from escaping.

“Take your pick, bitch. Come with me – tomorrow after the castle has broken their fast, and willingly, without a fight – or I turn Clegane in for harboring a Northern sympathiser.”

There was a low, menacing chuckle from the other side of the door and Sansa wanted to scream out her despair.

“Can’t wait to get you under me, you red-headed bitch. I wonder what it’s like to fuck a Stark – to make you bow to me, to be my slave, knowing what a rich, high and mighty family you came from.” He laughed harshly, and then moaned, a sick and disgusting sound. “That’s right – I heard the septon that night. I know exactly who you are. Tell me, do Starks suck cock as well as any whore, or will I have to force you?”

Sansa barely had time to stumble away from the door before she fell to her hands and knees and vomited, just as she heard more movement from beyond the door. Calm voices came through, one Trant’s and the other too far away to make out. But after a moment Sansa sat back on her heels, wiping the back of her hand across her lips.

She had never known such fear in her life, not even when she’d been dragged half naked through the camp by the evil man, his hand wound tightly through her hair. 

No, this was worse. Much, much worse. This was a threat against Sandor’s life.

“Miss, it’s me, Jamis. Please open the door – ”

“Jamis!” 

Panic gripped her and Sansa stumbled to her feet, falling against the door before righting herself and unbolting it. She stepped away as the young squire entered and shut the door behind him, sliding the bolt shut and locking them inside.

Sansa had her hands on his coat in an instant, tears already pouring down her face.

“Jamis, he knows!” she cried as quietly as she could, aware that there could be ears on the other side of the door. She held onto his coat, hands fisted in the thin material as he guided her backwards towards the bedroom, away from the puddle of vomit he’d probably seen on the floor, and away from where anyone might have been listening.

“Calm. Be calm, Sansa.” 

His voice was familiar, not as soothing as Sandor’s would have been but enough that she was able to tamp down the urge to ramble, probably incoherently, about the things Trant had just said to her. 

Bending to have her sit on the edge of the bed, Jamis disentangled her hands from his coat and turned, headed towards the wide doorway of the bedroom.

“No!” she cried, reaching out to the air between them. If he walked away her blindness would seem more of a prison than it already was, and it formed a fresh wave of panic. 

Quickly Jamis turned and strode back, grasping her hand in both of his.

“Hush now, I’m merely getting you a drink and a wet rag,” he said, his voice soft and soothing. “Be still, I’ll just be over there.” With that he let go and turned, speaking as he went.

“Clegane will be back in several hours, and you’ll tell him everything that happened.” 

Sansa heard him pour water into a basin, and she heard sloshing as he wet and squeezed out a rag. Then his shadow moved to the other side of the outer room and she heard him pouring wine into a cup, before returning to her with a chair held in one hand. After giving her the rag to wipe her mouth and face, and the cup to take a long drink from, he moved about while cleaning up the mess by the door and then moved a chair in front of her to settle into it.

While they waited she told him about Trant’s threat to turn Sandor in, but not any details of the rest of the man’s vile words. She was too shaken, and as much as she trusted Jamis, it was Sandor she wished to see.

Eventually she calmed enough to rest on the bed while Jamis sat in the main room, and when a pounding at the door signalled a new visitor she couldn’t resist the urge to curl up into a ball by the wall and wait to find out who it was.

She heard Jamis question the arrival but then promptly open the door, and Sansa immediately recognized the deep rumble of Sandor’s voice as the door was shut and bolted.

“Sansa,” he said, his tall shadow filling the wide doorway to the bedroom. 

Immediately she rose, scrambling across the bed on all fours before rushing to him. She reached for him immediately, pressing herself up against dusty armor that she gave not one care about. It was enough to simply be in his arms after the tumultuous afternoon she’d had.

Shaking now with renewed fear, it was all she could do to calm herself when he bid her to help him remove his armor. With trembling hands she did so, while Sandor spoke in soft tones.

“Jamis told me what happened,” he said, holding out his arm for her to unbuckle the tunic at his side. “Now I want your version.”

His tone said he would have it, but she paused nevertheless, at once afraid to tell him and intimidated by the enormity of Trant’s demands.

But she would tell Sandor. If there was someone who would know what to do about this awful situation, it was Sandor.

As soon as they were finished he led her to the table and sat her in one of the chairs, taking the one opposite her. And as he poured them both cups of wine she told him everything – every last detail, leaving nothing out, and finishing her tale as she finished her cup of wine, tears spilling onto the table.

“Oh, Sandor,” she cried, dropping her head to her forearms, “I don’t know what to do. I’m so scared – ”

“You need not be, little bird,” he assured her, but his tone betrayed what she suspected was his own measure of fear. He wasn’t as confident as he was trying to appear.

“How can I not be?” she sobbed, fearing for the first time the genuine pang of loss even though it hadn’t happened yet. She didn’t even feel this devastated when contemplating returning to her time without Sandor. She decided this time it was the threat to Sandor’s life that had her so upset, on top of the brutality she obviously faced at the hands of Meryn Trant.

Another thought came to the forefront of her mind, and she voiced it aloud, feeling behind it the weight of what she was saying and the gravity of the decision.

“Sandor, I can’t allow anything to happen to you – ”

“You are not going with him,” he said suddenly, as he slammed his palm down onto the table. 

The sound startled Sansa, and her hand flew to her throat at the loud slap and the rattling table. It was a show of aggression that she hadn’t been able to see coming, nor expected out of Sandor.

But she knew deep down that it showed how upset he was.

“Sandor,” she said softly, “If my choice is to go with him or see you executed, you know exactly what I would choose.”

“It is not what I would choose,” he replied, his voice firm and angry.

“I know.” 

Trying to be calm, Sansa reached her hand out, palm up. She waited, not sure if Sandor was even looking her way, until finally he slid his hand into hers and held on tightly. It was a long time before either of them moved, so lost in their thoughts were they that they both hardly noticed the passage of time through the small window high in the stone wall.

~ ≈ ~

Sandor was furious. Furious at himself for not seeing this coming; for not protecting Sansa by doing… by doing…

By doing what? He searched his mind for any possible path they could have taken to avoid this outcome, and found none. 

He could have deserted his post and taken Sansa off into the mountains, to hide from the Lannister army and hope to start a new life with her far from anyone else. But as a soldier – someone who was accustomed to signing away his life and loyalties for extended periods of time in exchange for food, lodging and coin – he knew that wasn’t an option that would have ever occurred to him.

As painful as the thought was, he also considered if things might have been different had he gone through with his original plans and foisted her off onto someone else.

But even then, it was likely that the same thing would have happened to Sansa. Her identity would have been found out – her Stark lineage, and hr status as someone higher than a true camp wife or whore – and Trant, who had shown an interest in her from the very first day she was in camp, would have even then stopped at nothing to get his hands on her.

No, somehow Sansa would have ended up in the same exact position she was now, be it with Sandor or some other man.

As he held her hand, felt her soft fingers curl around his and glancing sideways at her as she was lost in thought, he couldn’t imagine ever handing her off to Trant willingly. It just was not going to happen.

Having the afternoon away from the troops now that they were all beginning to finally be granted some leave, Sandor found the urge to return to his chambers an odd one, knowing how in the past he might have found a willing whore or a full bottle of Dornish red. But knowing Sansa was there waiting for him, and feeling in his heart that with her was where he belonged, he allowed his feet to carry him none-to-swiftly back to the keep.

That he found her in a state of panic had disturbed him, and that he had no solution to the problem disturbed him even more.

But when she finally rose from her seat and rounded the table, stepping into the space between his thighs and wrapping her arms tightly around his neck, he leaned his forehead against her collarbone and sighed as she did.

This was not how things were supposed to happen. 

While her fingers stroked his hair he thought of the plans they had made, of getting a house and keeping Jamis on. Of spending their lives quietly outside the castle, building a life together and seeing where it brought them.

He thought of how that dream seemed to now be unattainable.

He needed to fix this, but he didn’t know how.

When Sansa pressed her lips to the top of his head, Sandor pulled back, looking up into eyes that even now, up close, seemed unable to focus on his own as they had done once before. But it didn’t matter, because if her eyes were in her heart he felt her focus singularly as she braced her palms against his cheeks and kissed him thoroughly.

Sansa’s movements seemed determined to enjoy the moment, even though the quiver in her breath and the trembling in her fingertips betrayed the turbulent emotions hidden just beneath her surface.

With a goal in mind, Sandor rose to embrace her, breaking the kiss and moving to enfold her in his arms. 

But instead Sansa took his hand and pulled him towards the back room, to where she stood them beside his bed. There she began to undress him, and, upon realizing her aim, he did the same for her. It was only when they stood before each other naked as their namedays that Sandor felt the acute sense of loss as though what might happen in the coming hours had already happened.

And along with that loss he felt the surge of emotion that he now, inexplicably, almost unbelievably, could call love .

He loved this woman, as surely as he had loved his father’s hounds growing up in the Westerlands; as surely as he had loved the mother he now barely remembered; and as surely as he knew he would give his life for Sansa should the need to do so arise.

So when he reached for her one last time he attempted to allow his own movements to betray that emotion of which he knew he would not speak. 

His arms slid around her with devotion in their touch; his hands cupping her waist and sliding up her back with years of adoration he suspected they didn’t have.

And in his kiss he held nothing back – making love to her mouth and being the gentle presence she now needed, sparking in his groin a flame of lust such that he had never experienced before.

Could she feel it, he wondered? Could she sense his turbulent emotions? Did she return them? But then, if she did return them wouldn’t she be able to see him? At least part of him, as before...

Her hair toppled over her shoulders, the tips brushing against his forearms as he guided her back onto the bed. Its softness pillowed her head as she laid back against his pillow, spreading over the surface like copper flames, smelling sweetly of her as he bent to press his face into it. As he did, she wrapped her arms around him and held, only relinquishing their grasp when he pressed his mouth to her ear, and then her jaw, and her neck; moving down the slopes and curves of her body until he took the tip of one breast into his mouth.

Her soft moans reverberated through his blood and her sighs fanned his hair, but it was her touch that fueled his passion to boiling. 

For the time being he could forget what was going to happen. He could set aside what he had to do.

For the time being he could simply love her.

~ ≈ ~

Sansa was dizzy, unable to think of anything that had happened prior to Sandor’s return with the way he was setting on her body like a starving man. She couldn’t decide where to put her hands, wanting to feel every inch of him, to memorize every nuance of his skin and hair, for the days when she would be without him.

His hair drew across her chest as he moved from one side to the other, and she tucked it off his face and behind his good ear, reaching beneath the dark mass to slide her fingers across the nape of his neck. Such strength she found there – the tendons and corded muscle, the barely restrained movement; as though he was a direwolf waiting to burst from his haunches and launch himself into pursuit of his prey.

Across his shoulders she slid her fingertips, feeling the fine covering of hair and the muscles beneath his heated skin. Then down his arms where they braced him above her on the bed, she found the rounded surfaces and contours of arms she knew she would never forget.

It seemed like ages later, although it could have been mere moments, before she felt him settle between her legs, and as he gently pushed inside her they both groaned in unison – as though their bodies had waited eons for this to happen. 

Of course, it was not their first time, but Sansa knew this could be their last time, so she pushed those thoughts aside and enjoyed the sensation of Sandor’s girth stretching her.

This was more than sex; more than making love. Sansa felt as though their bodies were joined not only carnally, but between their chests as well. Her heart was reaching out to his, and his to hers, and nothing – not Trant, not this time, or her time, or any force unto which the Gods had control – could tear them asunder. She felt this with a certainty, just as she began to feel the build up of release begin low in her belly.

Sandor was all around her – his scent, his presence, his arms cradling her, his hips moving against hers. He alternated between silent heavy breathing in her ear and bringing his mouth up to join with hers, as though he couldn’t get enough of her. And Sansa couldn’t get enough of him, which was why when she felt her release building to its crescendo she nudged his face up so he could see the love on her face – words she vowed to speak to him before fate took him from her; before… before… 

It was happening again! Sansa’s breathing quickened as Sandor’s face darkened and then lightened, shadows moving across it and leaving clear spots in their wake where she could see a bearded cheek, the edge of scar tissue.

Bracketing his face with her hands she held it steady even as his pace increased, and she felt as though her lungs could no longer draw in air.

Brows. Mouth. All was becoming clear as she watched, until finally the clarity encompassed his nose, his eyes, spreading as though opposite from a faint – Sansa was regaining her vision .

His hair. His shoulders – gods , she couldn’t breathe. 

Vaguely she registered the dark stone walls behind him, the old wooden ceiling above him, the sunlight dappled with dust streaming into the room, registering with her mind at the same time she felt love burst forth full strength from her heart.

Love. Love!  

The septon had said – goodness , it was hard to concentrate as her release flowed through her veins, stealing what was left of her breath and robbing her of nearly all rational thought. He had said her sight would return when she found her true love!

But if that was true, then Sandor… Sandor!

Again and again he thrust, even as all Sansa wanted to do was to stop him and wrap her arms and legs around him and never let go. She nearly did so, drawing his torso down to hers so he wouldn’t see the tears in her eyes, and wrapping her heels behind his knees, effectively trapping him in her embrace. Once, twice more he thrust, and then fell limp for a few seconds over her before realizing he would crush her.

But when he moved to pull away Sansa didn’t let him, instead closing her eyes and holding him as tightly as she dared, stroking the hair of the man she loved until the tension left his body and he settled above her, shifting his weight to his elbows and knees as he tucked himself around her.

She felt so full and so happy – having lived the moment she had only dreamed of. She had seen Sandor’s face the moment her sight had returned, and she did feel like the happiest woman alive, just as she had told him she would.

But at the same time a sadness like no other settled over her heart, and a crushing revelation suffocated much of her joy as she realized she couldn’t tell him. She couldn’t show Sandor that she could see him, not when she was getting herself mentally prepared to save his life by surrendering herself to Trant. She wouldn’t do that to Sandor, and she wouldn’t do that to herself. If there was something she didn’t think she could handle seeing on Sandor’s face, it was heartbreak.

So again, she nudged his face up and back, trying and failing to keep her eyes off his eyes – off the dark round depths of his pupils and the silvery flecks in his gray irises. 

Yes, for the rest of her days she would remember what he looked like. After a quick memorization of his features – the missing eyebrow, the mottled scarring, his soft lips and full beard and mustache, she focused on a spot just below his eye and smiled, blinking back the tears that now trickled down her temples.

And when he bent to kiss her softly, and to wipe away the tears with his thumbs, she was certain he had fallen for her act.

Chapter Text

Note: violence against women mentioned in this chapter

 

Tomorrow morning . Sandor had until tomorrow morning to find out how to get Sansa out of the capitol, and he knew his only option was Jamis.

The boy sat across from him at the small table in his rooms while Sansa slept on the other side of the wall. It was imperative she not know the plans they were making, since he was certain she was planning exactly the opposite of what he wanted.

She was going to give herself to Trant. He knew this with as much certainty as he knew he could never allow her to fall into the hands of that man again.

But she would do it for him. She would endure atrocities such as the ones he witnessed while out on campaign, horrors against women only the likes of which his brother Gregor was capable of. 

Rape. Beatings. Made to serve as though she was no higher than the lowest slave in Trant’s household.

Just thinking about seeing Sansa with the man made Sandor want to punch something.

But in the effort to keep Sansa asleep he reigned in the urge and continued talking with Jamis until the plan was complete, and the young squire knew his task.

When morning came and the light through the window was hardly more than a faint glow, he and Sansa made love again. His heart hurt more than he ever thought imaginable as she loved him thoroughly while he wiped away her tears. 

She seemed to stare into his face more than she had in the past, but then so too did he stare at hers, he memorizing every aspect of her while he guessed she fought to discover anything of him she could commit to memory. He wished she could see him, wished she could see that he loved her. 

They both knew something was going to happen today that would pull them apart, but Sansa was the one whose thoughts were incorrect. And try as he might, Sandor could not bring himself to let the last words he said to her be words of love. The less she knew, the better.

There would be no escape for Sandor. 

He had no choice but to distract the castle’s forces while Jamis spirited her away, and knew this day would likely end with him in chains.

So when he touched Sansa he did so like a man touching the woman he loved for the last time, just as she did when she touched him. Her fingers were shaking but firm, her kisses heated and passionate, but also sad. 

He wished he didn’t have to deceive her, as he had promised not too long ago to never do again.

When it was time for them to part he recognized the slope of Sansa’s shoulders, knowing she had accepted the fate she laid out for herself but not able to tell her she had nothing to fear. His plan was foolproof, since he knew the ignorance of the castle guards would be their undoing when they saw Jamis walking with a servant girl.

When Sandor suggested to her that she go with Jamis to the market for some supplies, she accepted sadly. Sandor knew she assumed there would be things she needed if she went with Trant. The deception pulled at him, causing him to draw her into his arms even though she wouldn’t be able to see the shimmer of unshed tears in his eyes.

And though she jumped at the soft knock on the door, her body shaking like a frightened dog, she drew back those sloping shoulders as Jamis was let in and she resigned herself to the fate life had handed her.

It was that last moment that made his heart stutter within his chest, the moment when Jamis stood halfway out the door, a bag of Sansa’s meager belongings hidden behind his hip.

Sansa stood in her green gown, her hair braided and pulled over her shoulder. If not for the sad expression on her face, the hopelessness in her eyes, Sandor thought he wouldn’t mind spending the rest of his life with this as the last image of her. He knew he had, as it was, a lifetime of memories of their lovemaking to warm him through the cold nights to come in the King’s Landing dungeon.

He knew not what fate had in store for him, but with Trant’s machinations Sandor was certain it wouldn’t be a slap on the wrist. But then, Joffrey was unpredictable, and this could very well end with a public lashing that would put him in bed for months.

Whatever the path he was about to go down, he would endure anything if it meant Sansa could be safe.

She had already given him one last kiss, had already squeezed his arm through his tunic, slid a hand down the front of his chest, and tucked his long hair behind his good ear. It was as though her hands couldn’t stand the thought of their parting, though her mind knew it was inevitable. 

So this short distance between them, he would not breach. Could not, lest his strength of will be tested beyond its endurance. Beyond the awareness that Sansa’s unseeing eyes were looking at his as though she could see deep down into his soul.

~ ≈ ~

“Where are we going, Jamis?”

They were down to the end of the hall – opposite, she knew, where the entry into this part of the keep was. Sansa in fact had no idea what was down this hallway, only that it seemingly led nowhere.

“To where Clegane wanted you to go, miss. We’ll be there shortly,” he prevaricated, but when she faltered, being careful to not look him directly in the eye, he reached out and gently took her hand. She didn’t want him to know – didn’t want anyone to know – that she had regained her vision. 

“Not much further,” he assured her, and though his voice was calm, a quick glance at his eyes showed a measure of panic she had been unprepared to see.

As he pulled her along, the hallway wending left and right, past doors that she knew held other soldiers who had no families, her mind raced. It was obvious something wasn’t right, but she couldn’t put her finger on what. Sandor had said she would return to his room because he had a plan for them, but there were things she needed to get first, so to go with Jamis while Sandor went about his normal duties.

But… That last kiss between she and Sandor had been different than she expected, less sad on his part. Less… resigned.

He had kissed her like a man who knew exactly what was going on, and with none of her uncertainty.

Jamis led her around yet another corner into a corridor that held no windows. It seemed as though they were in a part of the castle where not many people ventured.

A tingle ran up Sansa’s spine.

Something was most assuredly not right.

“Jamis, you need to tell me – ”

“Just up ahead,” he interrupted, not looking at her.

Then in the darkness she saw the bag, hanging from his belt.

Her bag.

“What are you doing with that?” she asked, pulling him to a stop – no easy feat considering he was a full grown male with a one track mind. Once he turned around he looked at her, and then where she was pointing at the bag on his belt, and again at her. His mouth worked but for a couple seconds no words came out.

“You’ll… you’ll need somewhere to put your things, miss. Now, come along,” he said again, but Sansa didn’t budge. 

“Jamis,” she began, but the pieces were falling into place. 

Sandor’s kiss. He and Jamis up last night speaking words she hadn’t been able to hear.

The way he had made love to her twice in the night – not entirely as thoughtful as he was in the past but more like he wanted to eek out of the experience every last detail he could before the sun had risen.

The love she’d seen in his eyes before Jamis had tugged her out the door.

“Jamis – ” she began again, but men’s voice and the clanking of armor back in the hallway from where they’d come distracted her.

“Sansa, now ,” Jamis said, this time pulling on her hand in a way that said she would go with him even if he had to carry her.

She did, but didn’t stop her line of questioning.

“Oh my gods, Jamis, what is going on?” 

He picked up his speed as the commotion behind them grew louder, heading towards a lone torch at the end of the hallway. Just beyond she could see it was at the head of a stairwell leading down, to where she had no idea.

“Clegane is taking care of everything,” he said simply, as though that would pacify her, but it did anything but.

“Taking care of… Jamis, I’m supposed to return to the room!”

Panic began building in her throat, her hand clammy inside Jamis’ as he reached for the torch.

“Careful now, miss, these stairs can be – ”

But she was already following him down at a decent clip, and she watched his face turn to hers as he held the torch up, as though doing so would reveal to him something about her face he hadn’t even considered.

The voices were closer so they hurried, Sansa now in a full panic after realizing what Sandor had done.

“Jamis, they’ll hurt him!” Thoughts of Sandor in chains flashed through her mind, of floggings and bruises. Humiliations. A demotion would be the least of his problems. “We need to go back! I need to go with Trant – ”

“He would never let that man get a hold of you, Sansa – surely you must know that!”

They reached the end of the staircase, leading to a dark, dank hallway at the end of which she could see the light from what must have been windows up ahead. 

“But – no, Jamis! This isn’t supposed to be how it is! If I run away, we have no idea what they’ll do to him!”

Jamis dropped the torch behind them in the center of the hall, leaving it to burn behind them as the clanking of armor could be heard descending the steps.

“Faster, miss,” he said firmly, pulling on her hand to get her to speed up. She did, and just as the hallway turned she saw a large portion of stone floor had cracked and risen up a couple inches.

Again, Jamis attempted to warn her – likely assuming she was still of limited vision.

“Watch your step here, San – ”

But again she was already stepping over the raised floor, and this time Jamis looked over at her and she looked straight back at him. He coughed as they moved, or choked, she couldn’t be sure.

“You can…” 

Sansa merely nodded, though her eyes were filling with tears at the thought of what they were doing – leaving Sandor behind to be at the mercy of the guards while she and Jamis escaped. Her heart was ripping apart in her chest.

“Gods be praised,” Jamis muttered, releasing her hand long enough to duck into an alcove and grab an old, tattered cloak.

“Let’s not talk about the Gods right now,” she grumbled, annoyed that it was they who had put her into this position.

“Here,” Jamis said with a nod, tossing it to her and watching carefully as she easily caught the garment. “Put this on, and rub the hem on your face. It has dirt on it so – ”

“Yes, yes,” she stopped him, doing as she was told.

She knew the plan. Should have known, in fact, that Sandor would do something like this. But she had been too blinded by her thoughts of saving him and sacrificing herself that she hadn’t given a single thought to the possibility that Sandor might do the same.

And apparently he was more forceful with his plans than she had been with hers.

She would be disguised, likely as a servant, and Jamis would be able to walk out of the castle with her on his arm since he was obviously no landed knight or castle guard.

With the cloak he’d grabbed a basket of some sort, and inside she could see empty rags and a few onion peels. He handed it to her now, just before quickly dragging her into another dark alcove, this time deep into the shadowed corner as they waited for the guards to hurry past them.

In just a few moments the immediate danger of being caught was gone, the armored men having passed the alcove en masse, swords drawn and voices low. Once they were gone, the sounds of their armor clanking having faded into the distance, Jamis poked his head out and looked left and right, judging the way to be clear.

“Come,” he said quietly, and he pulled her in the opposite direction of where the guards had just gone, back down the hallway from where they had come.

There was a door, and from then on everything went by in a whirlwind – Jamis’ smooth face as he made sure she had rubbed enough dirt onto her face, his hands paler than Sandor’s but still rough as he pushed the rope of her braid down the back of her dress and dragged the threadbare hood of the cloak over her hair.

Then they slowed to an almost ridiculously relaxed pace, Jamis suddenly talking about plans for the evening after he got off work and where he was going to take her for dinner as they passed a couple guards.

On this went as the path took them through a garden, through a yard full of women washing linens and speaking in hushed tones, and finally out through a small gate into the streets of King’s Landing.

There seemed to be no destination in Jamis’ mind as they leisurely strolled through the throngs of people. No one paid them any mind, and soon the people began to thin, the beggars on the corners fewer and fewer, the buildings less of a business district and more of a residential. 

When he directed her to the door of a small cottage in the middle of a line of others, he unlocked the door and guided her inside, but she didn’t bother to look around and see her surroundings. In the far corner was a bed, and she walked right to it, melted into a heap in the center of it, and began to sob.

~ ≈ ~

“There seems to be something missing.”

Trant’s voice was irritated, but tinged with amusement as he walked back from the back bedroom in Sandor’s rooms, towards where two guards held the tall man, one on each arm. He could have struggled, could have pulled out of their grasp without an issue, but then a fight would have ensued and he needed to keep the men occupied long enough for Sansa and Jamis to get away.

To that end, he remained silent, letting Trant have the correct impression that Sandor had nothing to hide.

He didn’t, after all. He had hid a Northerner in his rooms, masquerading her as his camp wife, and now she was gone. Escaped, Trant would say later to the king, moments before the order rang down from the boy on the throne that his Hound was to be thrown into the dungeons while the king decided what to do with him.

It was on their way to the dank lower levels of the castle that Sandor broke his silence, a peace overcoming him as no word had reached the castle that the Stark woman had been found.

“No prize for you, Trant?” 

He snorted derisively as the smaller man’s hand tightened on his upper arm. A lesser man might have called the grip painful. Sandor hardly felt it.

When Trant didn’t respond he added, “So the castle guard was bested by a woman and a squire. Really no surprise there.”

With a disdainful glance down at the old soldier he shook his head and kept walking, noting how much shorter Trant’s strides were than his own – just one more reason why the inferior sack of shit meant nothing to him. As long as Sansa was free, escaped with Jamis, then Sandor didn’t truly worry about what happened to him. Public flogging, imprisonment, it didn’t matter. With his jaw firmly set, he walked along the corridor until all natural light disappeared and they had to use torches to light their way.

He was placed in a cell that soon descended into darkness once the thick wood door was bolted shut and Trant and the guards were long gone. Assuming he was alone, Sandor found a wall to slide down and propped his manacled wrists on his raised knees. It was time to settle in and wait – to find out exactly what that nancy boy king decided what to do with him.

He honestly didn’t think it would be any worse than some type of public humiliation. He was, after all, the king’s Hound. A favorite, often used as means for intimidation and murder. It made no difference to him. He killed indiscriminately and accepted in payment his stipend and lodging. It wasn’t a clean life, but it was a life.

Soon he would return to it, he was certain. Joffrey would tire of the pretty boys he was now surrounded with, would exact a revenge of sorts on his sworn shield for betraying him, and Sandor would be back in his armor, carrying out the king’s ridiculous demands.

And Sansa – she would be safe. He wasn’t sure if she would ever make it back to her time, but it was enough that she was no longer in the keep. Jamis had a directive, and Sandor made sure he had everything he needed in order to carry it out.

He was in the middle of thinking about her – her beautiful hair, the way she had felt the last time they made love, and the way she had tried to focus on his face, her eyes scanning, searching – when a weak cough sounded from the corner of the cell. It was then that Sandor knew he had been wrong, and that he was not in fact alone.

“So they left me with company,” he said, keeping his voice low. 

In the darkness and the quiet, even a whisper seemed loud enough to be heard for miles.

There was another sound from the corner, what he thought might be a laugh, when the voice that spoke suddenly brought back memories of the campaign trail that had led them home.

“At least they gave you a good conversationalist,” said the familiar voice, and Sandor would have smiled had it not been for the events that had led up to him being here at this very moment.

“Septon,” he said in greeting, nodding even though the old man wouldn’t be able to see him.

“Clegane,” the septon said in return, and Sandor recognized the sound that followed as a weak chuckle.

“You sound ill,” he said, stating the obvious for the sake of talking to someone he knew to be a friend. He didn’t have many of those, and he supposed meeting Sansa had softened his hard heart enough to recognize the blessing of kind spirits.

“Oh, aye,” replied the septon in a harsh, raspy voice. “I’ve been in this cell since we returned with no food or water. I suspect,” he said sadly, “That this is where my days will end. Either that or they don’t see me as a valuable hostage so they will do away with me soon.”

A coughing fit racked the older man’s presence, and Sandor envisioned him clutching at his chest. Wanting to be of help but not knowing if there was anything he could do, he stayed where he was.

“I have made peace with it,” said the old man, his voice content but weak. “At this time I have lived a good, long life. If the gods see fit to take me soon, I welcome the opportunity to meet them.”

Sandor wondered if, when his time came, he could feel such peace. He hoped so, even at the same time he doubted it. He was a fighter, and would be until the very end.

“So tell me,” came the septon’s voice after a while, “What brings you here? I must say I’m surprised to see you. Last I knew you were with that dear girl Sansa, and you were trying to figure out how to get her home.” He coughed again, and then weezed for a moment, getting back his breath before he continued. “You were quite fond of her, as she was you, I believe. I had thought…” 

His voice trailed off and he made a non-committal sound, as though shrugging off whatever notion had just occurred to him. But Sandor picked up on it, curious as to what the only other man in Westeros who knew Sansa might be thinking of her.

“We are – were – fond of each other –”

“Nay!” exclaimed the septon immediately. “Tell me nothing has happened to her!”

He coughed again, and this time it ended with the sound of him spitting something – phlegm, or blood, perhaps – onto the ground next to him.

“No, nothing of the sort,” Sandor quickly reassured him, keeping his voice low and even out of habit, though he wanted to allow a sliver of joyful inflection show at the prospect that she had made it out safely. “I merely meant she is gone from the keep, and I am here in her stead.”

“Oh, gods be praised. Boy, you had me going there.” The septon chuckled harshly, but then sobered to ask, “In her stead? She would have been thrown here? In the dungeons?”

Sandor shook his head, then answered negatively when he remembered the septon wouldn’t be able to see him.

“Worse, I’m afraid. She was offered a position as mistress to Meryn Trant in exchange for my life once it was discovered she was a Northerner. Instead, I sent her away and surrendered.”

The septon grunted as though considering this, and Sandor thought that would be the end. There was, after all, nothing left to say.

But when he rested his head back against the wall the voice from across the cell came again, this time decidedly happier than it had been a moment before.

“Sounds like the actions of a man in love.”

Chapter Text

Silence followed the septon’s words: “Sounds like the actions of a man in love.” 

Sandor hid in the darkness, his shock likely showing on his face and yet blessedly unseen in the dank dungeon cell. To be called out so bluntly by someone who he had only brief dealings with, and to be called out with the truth of it, shook him to the core.

“You can’t know that,” he whispered, unwilling to trust his voice. But the chuckle from across the small room said all he needed to know.

“Oh, aye, I do know that. And I could not be happier for you, boy.”

Ignoring the ridiculous moniker, Sandor responded harshly without denying the septon’s statement.

“How could you be happy, if she has been put into this position – that we both have been put into this position, with no other way out other than to be separated?” 

He knew he was saying too much, revealing too much, but he was powerless to stop the words. 

“How can you know, when you're just a septon and you’re here in this cell, locked away just as I am? You know nothing, Septon.”

“There are things, Clegane, that were not discussed with you back on the road to the capitol, so it is likely you are unaware of the magnitude of your relationship with the girl.”

Frustrated, Sandor leaned his head back against the wall and closed his eyes.

“You speak in riddles, old man.” 

He didn’t care if he was showing his agitation. He was beginning to wonder if being put in a solitary cell would have been preferable.

“As a matter of fact,” the septon said, a smile still in his voice, “I do not. Did Sansa not tell you all that she and I spoke of the day you brought her to me?”

“She told me what she needed to tell me,” was all he said simply, feeling it was the truth. He didn’t wish to speak of true love, not when there was a pain in his heart at the thought that he was not, as absurd as it sounded even now, Sansa’s true love. Not now, when he had already realized his love for her.

“She told you of the Gods’ need to have her here, in this time? And of her task to find true love –”

“Yes, yes,” Sandor interrupted. “She told me, but it matters not. I am not her true love.”

A chuckle came from across the room, quickly followed by a small bout of coughing. 

“Are you certain of this, boy?” the septon asked, sounding genuine. “Was there never any moment where you thought she could see you? Because from what I could tell, she is a woman just as capable of scheming as you.”

Sandor pondered that, still dealing with the choking finality of their parting, when he had resigned himself to the fact that it was likely the last time he would lay eyes on Sansa’s beautiful face. 

Her very aware, very focused gaze as she looked upon him with sadness.

As she looked into his eyes… from a distance that normally would have rendered her completely blind.

No… Not possible , he thought.

“There… was a time,” he began, thinking back to the moment they were making love and she correctly told him he had gray eyes. He remembered his shock, though afterwards he also remembered how her blindness was such that it could not have been feigned. She was the same Sansa he had known for weeks prior, needing aid and moving about like someone with limited sight.

“A time?” the septon prompted, and Sandor nodded again. 

In the darkness he forgot the septon couldn’t see him, as his eyes were no longer seeing the darkness. He was staring into the void and seeing Sansa’s face as she stared at him before walking away with Jamis for the last time.

“She said I had gray eyes – that she had seen them for just a moment but then was blind again. I –” 

He swallowed, afraid to speak the words aloud, lest he find himself building up a hope he had no right to have, a hope that would prove false as soon as the septon opened his mouth and told him the right of it.

“It was for but a moment,” he explained, shaking his head to rid himself of Sansa’s image, only to find it staring back at him as though in perpetuity. “The gods wouldn’t… Not when this was our destiny, to be parted. Surely…”

Sandor could barely form his thoughts, with his heart telling him he had done the right thing, that Sansa was safely spirited away – away from him, from Trant, from danger.

And yet, his soul was telling him something else – that Sansa was a better mummer than she had let on. That her blank stare at the very end was deceptively focused, and incredibly aimed at his face, as though she was seeing him, and memorizing him because she knew it would never happen again.

The blank stare, which really hadn’t been so blank at all.

“Seven bloody fucking hells,” he murmured, his voice colored with awe and confusion.

“Boy, even if she saw you for but a moment, did you not stop to think of what that could mean?”

Sandor dragged a hand through his hair, dropping it at the back of his head in a gesture he reserved for when he was alone in his room.

She had said the first thing she wished to see if it turned out that he was her true love, was his face. She wished to see his face most of all, and by the gods, she had. 

And yet her sight had not fully returned. Even the septon said the gods would heal her affliction when she found her true love. So if she had seen him for but a moment, then a moment was all it was. It proved nothing. He couldn't believe that at the end, when they said their goodbyes, that she had truly seen him.

It just wasn't possible. 

Mercifully, the septon let the matter fall. They succumbed to the inky silence that surrounded them, soon filled with the low buzzing of the septon’s snoring and his occasional coughs.

~ ≈ ~

“We’ll stay the night here, and then head out of the city tomorrow.” 

Sansa glanced up at Jamis as he peered out the crack in the tattered curtain.

She wasn’t sure where they were, nor what exactly the plan was. As far as she knew it was to get out of the city and possibly head North? Maybe find a godswood with a weirwood pool, Jamis had said, and see if she could get back home? And yet, wasn’t there a chance they would let Sandor go?

“How long have you been able to see?” he asked quietly, not turning back to look at her.

Sansa had expected the question, but Jamis understandably allowed her a time for grieving and crying, and then more time after her tears had dried to process what was happening to her; to process what might be happening to Sandor.

So now it was there, and she found herself in a room with the only other person in Westeros – in this time, at least – that she could trust.

So the truth came out. All of it. Every last horrid detail, starting with the year in which she was born, to the date she had stepped into the weirwood pool for a late night dip, and Sandor finding her the next morning in this time.

Sansa didn’t look at Jamis as she told him her story, but knew that he remained motionless, with no sound betraying any startled gasps or even the slightest nod.

She told him of waking up blind, of learning to trust Sandor and even Jamis himself, and then of growing closer to Sandor than she had ever intended.

And the septon – with tears in her eyes she told Jamis about what the septon told first Sandor and then her, and how her sight would return only once she found the man she was meant to love. But she also told him how her blindness disappearing was also the signal that the gods were ready to send her home.

Left unsaid was what that had meant for her and Sandor – that upon discovering her love for him and growing accustomed to the idea of staying in this time and being with him until the end of their days, that it also meant the happy ending they had both envisioned would be ripped from their hands. After weeks of slowly coming to accept that she would never see her family again, that possibility was now upon her but so too was the violent removal of all she now held dear.

She didn’t have to say it. When she glanced up at Jamis to see his reaction, the horror of it all was shining through in the way he looked at her, and her tears ran anew.

“We can’t leave him,” she said firmly, knowing Jamis would know about whom she was speaking. 

He looked away then, out the window, once again lost in his thoughts. 

“We also can’t know what they plan to do with him.”

His words were quiet but biting. Sansa shook her head at what he was implying.

“Surely they wouldn’t punish a man so severely; not one as valuable to the king as Sandor?”

Twisting the old dress in her fingers, she worried the fabric as she wondered what this King Joffrey would do.

“It is the king I worry about, Sansa,” Jamis said sadly. “He is volatile, and susceptible to whims. He could just as easily allow Sandor to walk free as he could decide to make an example out of him.” At Sansa’s gasp, he looked back over towards her. “The problem is we have no way of knowing.”

Thinking of Sandor’s fate in the hands of such a man made her want to weep, but Jamis’ next words stunned her out of her sadness.

“It was Sandor’s wish that we not stay here to find out. We need to go, and yes – he had mentioned finding a weirwood pool, though I didn’t know why –”

“We can’t leave him, Jamis!” she nearly cried, and then hiccuped past the tears that clogged her throat. “We need to go back! To find him, to rescue him!”

“We’re just two people, Sansa,” he said calmly. “And one of us, a woman. What could we do against a horde of castle guards? We are powerless,” he added, shaking his head. Looking down at his clasped hands, he sighed as she cried. 

“We just can’t, Sansa.”

“Then… Then if we can’t, we can at least go back to see what happens –”

“And if they recognize you?” He looked up at her, his expression telling her exactly what he thought of her suggestion. “Or me? Everyone knows me, Sansa. I made the rounds before finding employment with Clegane. I have helped so many knights and soldiers in His Majesty's guard that they will all know me on sight.”

“That doesn’t matter,” she grasped, shaking her head. “We need… He needs to know we didn’t abandon him!”

“But that is exactly what he ordered me to do.”

When he spoke again, Jamis’ voice was quiet, gentle.

“We leave in the morning; go back the way we came. We will head to that last weirwood pool.”

He turned from her, as though ending the discussion, but Sansa wasn’t done. She would not abandon Sandor, not when she now could think somewhat straight and she had the means to see her surroundings and the ability to defend herself at least somewhat from those who would wish her harm.

So she straightened her back, and spoke in a firm but hushed voice, aware that there was no glass on the windows and anyone could be listening.

“Then you will go alone, because tomorrow morning I am going back to the castle and finding out what’s going on.”

With that she stood, looking around and inspecting the small bed on which she had sat. She would nap, she would sleep, until it was time to go.

“Sansa, no –”

“You can’t tell me no, Jamis. I am not yours to boss around.” 

She wiped her face of tears, resolved now to her plan, as flimsily put together as it was. 

“No, but my position now is to protect you.”

“So do it tomorrow when we go back into the city.”

Laying down, Sansa curled up with her head on her arm. With one last glance at Jamis, she spoke again.

“You won’t change my mind. I’m going.”

Then she closed her eyes and willed her mind to calm long enough for sleep to come.

It was a few minutes later, minutes over which she thought of every possible outcome between somehow, miraculously rescuing Sandor, and of finding out he was to be executed, the latter of which made her want to scream as she fought back another wave of tears. Jamis spoke from across the room, and Sansa’s reply was a simple nod.

“We will go in the morning,” he said, his voice low and resigned, and his acquiescence was one thing she felt she could be grateful for.

~ ≈ ~

Sandor hadn’t slept at all, so when the guard came to get him and he had seen the slowly growing glow of torch light, he rose to his full height and waited for them to enter.

So too did the septon, who struggled to his feet and stood beside him, their chains clinking as they stretched their backs and prepared to walk upright for the first time in hours.

“Whatever happens,” said the septon, before the door opened, “Rest assured it is the gods’ will.”

Sandor wanted to roll his eyes or balk at the old man’s words, but he merely nodded. Over the course of the night he had come to one conclusion, and it was the only conclusion by which he had managed to obtain a measure of peace.

“I agree,” he said simply, feeling in his heart that it was true – knowing deep in his bones that as long as Sansa was safe, what happened to him mattered naught. His pain tolerance was high, and it was all but a slap on the wrist when compared to the eternity of torture he would have endured had Trant managed to get his hands on her.

They were led by a guard who he had previously worked with, though none of them said anything. Neither Sandor nor the septon asked, presumably because, as Sandor suspected, they were both of like minds. Whatever this led to, it led to, and they were both powerless to stop it.

Their path wended its way up through the bowels of the castle until they were in a level with small windows. Through the entire trek their chains clanked together. The chains between Sandor’s feet – seeing as how he was the only one bound at the ankles – dragging between his shortened strides.

Once led outside the keep they found themselves led through the courtyard, out a gate and into the public square where announcements and sentencings were often held. The temperature was warm whereas the dungeon had been dank and wet, and the smell of fresh air and fragrances floating in on the breeze from the market just outside the outer wall was a far cry from the human masses inside the cell and the pervasive scent of mold. 

There were no trees about and yet the songs of sparrows reached his ears anyway, low and almost mournful now, so at odds with the songs he and Sansa had heard on the campaign south. 

A quick glance around revealed none of the small birds, and he wondered if it was the gathered crowd that kept them hiding their presence.

What was different about today from past events was the size of the crowd, which was immediately noticeable to Sandor. And as soon as he was up on the platform where the royal family was assembled, the jeers started.

“Kill the traitor!”

“Slaughter the Hound!”

“Mercy for the septon!”

“Burn the dog!”

Outwardly Sandor remained calm, as was his normal duty whenever he was up on this stage in his previous capacity of King’s shield. His face remained passive, his hands clasped in front of him as he stood in his dirty tunic and breeches, his boots flat on the ground even though the urge to flee was beginning to crawl up his throat like last night’s wine.

Never before had he experienced such a dichotomy of emotions – between appearing stoic and uncaring, while battling the mounting panic that threatened to make the beating of his heart visible through the wall of his chest.

The people wanted him dead, though if he thought back on what he had done – harboring a Northerner and attempting to pass her off as a simple camp wife when the capital was engaged in a bitter war with the North – he should have expected nothing less. He was indeed a traitor, and he waited to see if his king would grant him mercy as he was apt to do for his favorite toys. 

After all, Sandor was in fact, one of the king’s favorite toys.

Calls for mercy for the septon were to be expected, though mixed into the throng were calls for his execution as well. Sandor nearly glanced over at the elderly man standing beside him but knew he would find the same stoicism as what was found on his own face.

This was where their fate would be decided, and the clinking of armor on the line of guards standing behind them was reminder enough that there was nothing the two prisoners could do about any of it.

The clamor of the crowd stayed high even as the King raised his hand for quiet, the boy appearing small and diminutive on the raised platform surrounded by so many grown men. 

It was only after he motioned for all those guards to take a step forward that silence eventually descended on the courtyard, and the people were ready to hear him speak.

Despite the quiet Sandor wasn’t able to pay attention. In his mind he had already distanced himself, imagining Sansa as he found her that day by the weirwood pool, naked and scared. How light she had been when he carried her back to the camp, and how affronted he was when Lannister, who stood off to the side with his sister the Queen Regent now, told him to keep her.

And the relationship that developed between them after that moment – his urge to protect her after finding out she was blind, and of deciding if he was to have a camp wife dropped into his lap, who better than a blind one?

After all, a seeing camp wife would have likely eschewed his touch, turned away the actions he was able to pass off as affections once she realized what was expected of her.

Only, Sansa had not. Sansa had welcomed him, even in the beginning when he had decided all he would offer her was warmth at night and comfort when she cried. The way she melted into his embrace in both situations had only helped to form the holes in his heart through which she had woven her spell and created a home for herself. 

From somewhere in the distance he heard a cheer go up through the crowd, as though someone had thrown a stone at someone in the front and the word reaching back through the masses caused a ripple of reaction.

Something was happening, so he dragged himself out of his reverie and listened to the king’s words beside him.

“He is a traitor,” the boy was saying, “simply because he remained loyal to the North until the very end. Thus it is my decree that he loses his life today, a sacrifice for the greater good.”

A handful of attendees yelled at the news and between the heavy beats of Sandor’s heart he heard outrage and denials, that the man of whom the king spoke didn’t deserve to die.

It was only when the septon was harshly yanked backwards, out of Sandor’s peripheral vision, that he noticed nearly every muscle in his body had tensed at the prospect that the king might be speaking of him.

Sandor looked once, long enough to make eye contact with the septon as a silent message was communicated between the two men’s gazes – the will of the gods be done. The old man was pushed to his knees and asked if he had any last words. When he said he had none, Sandor looked back over the crowd, thinking for a moment off to the side he saw a flash of red that reminded him of Sansa’s hair.

There was a harsh moment of complete, utter silence from the crowd as he looked again but saw nothing, and the next thing he knew the crowd erupted into cheers with some mournful wails interspersed as an object rolled into Sandor’s vision on his right.

He didn’t have to look to know what it was.

There – the red appeared again, and in the bright sunlight of day he narrowed his eyes and focused where he had seen it.

He didn’t really believe that it was Sansa, but he supposed attempting to see the source of the unusual color was better than looking over at the pieces of the man who had delivered to him the news of his fate, and how he might have played a role in Sansa’s part in rectifying the still unknown mistake the gods had made. 

But the crowd was moving; a living, breathing entity bent on bloodlust and justice – or injustice, be that as it may. The septon hadn’t deserved to die, but at least he had done so with dignity. Sandor swallowed, biting down hard on the inside of his cheek to ward off the panic that was growing in his chest.

“And now we have my dog – Sandor Clegane, the infamous Hound.” 

King Joffrey walked up to him, and as expected, Sandor looked down at the boy though not with any deference in his gaze. It was simply the habit of addressing the person from which the majority of his orders came.

Speaking to Sandor, the king said, “You are being charged with treason as well, Hound. Do you have anything to say for yourself?”

Sandor looked away, feeling thousands of eyes on him as he contemplated saying nothing. But then he saw it again – that flash of red off to the side, and a pale face inside the halo of color.

No!  

“Will these be my last words?” he asked quietly, knowing the crowd wouldn’t be able to hear. In Joffrey’s voice he heard that familiar smug smile of a boy turned king too young, who now felt the call and allure of being in control of so much power.

“The Hound asks if these are his last words!” he called out, but Sandor was hardly listening. 

He was too busy now, staring at Sansa’s eyes across the crowd, his face schooled into a calm facade when he wanted to yell at her to get away, to grab ahold of her shoulders and shake her and ask why she had not escaped with Jamis as Sandor had intended.

The people lining the surface of the square all cheered, their own bloodlust up after seeing the beheading of the septon. 

“I don’t know,” said the king, loud enough for everyone to hear. 

He turned to Sandor, his voice still high – that of a young man still in the throws of the change when his voice could neither be described as that of a man or that of a boy. 

“I suppose it depends on the answers to my questions, Hound. Tell me,” he began, tucking one hand behind his waist while the other played at the chin that had yet to sprout the thick hairs of manhood, “Did you know your camp wife was a Northerner?”

Sansa was staring back at him. 

Staring. 

Sandor’s heart pounded so forcefully within his chest that it hurt.

She could see him.

“Aye,” he simply said, and the calls for his head doubled from the crowd for a moment before the king once again held up his hand.

A hand clamped on her shoulder – Jamis, he knew – but she was not deterred. Her gaze was strong, steady. Her eyes would not leave his, and in them he knew she was reaching for him, reaching for him in the only way she knew how.

He did the same, not knowing how these moments were going to end but knowing that he had nothing to be ashamed of – his face, his past, who he was, how he treated others. 

Sansa loved him. 

She could see him, she loved him, and he struggled to not be either ecstatic over that revelation, or devastated by the position they both now found themselves in.

“And tell me, Hound. Were you planning on turning her into me when you returned to the capital?”

Even from this distance he could see a tear roll down her cheek, and the urge to feel the wetness on his lips as he kissed it away was nearly enough for him to fight his bonds like a madman.

She knew he would tell the truth. She knew he hated liars. She knew, and he knew.

“No.”

Again, the crowd’s noise rose to an uproar, their shared indignation at his answer like fuel to the flame of their need for justice. Sandor had wronged their king, and they wanted to see his blood.

“I see,” said Joffrey calmly. Still standing beside Sandor, his voice was aimed at the ground as though he was in deep contemplation at not only his own questions but the answers to them he was receiving.

A breeze brushed past his face, lifting his hair back and away, and he could feel the hot sun burning down on his exposed scars. Still Sansa did not look away. Still she stared, as another tear escaped her other eye.

“So you knowingly kept a Northern woman in your tent for two months on your way back to the capital, and you hid this information not only from your fellow soldiers,” Joffrey looked up at him then, “But from your commander as well? Jaime Lannister, my uncle? You willfully withheld vital information that might have aided in our cause?”

Sandor knew what he was referring to. It wasn’t unheard of that women were tortured until they gave up details of Northern factions who held out in the mountains or abandoned keeps. 

The idea of Sansa being whipped and flogged – his Sansa, who knew absolutely nothing of their war, of their history, of the conflict that had been waged for years in Westeros – made him nauseous, and he swallowed back the saliva as his mouth flooded. 

Murderous was how he felt, which was the exact opposite, he knew, of how the king would have wished him to feel in this situation.

“Aye.”

“And for what, Hound? Was the call of her cunt too sweet for you to resist?”

He felt his eye twitch, but Sansa saw it as well and the single movement of her head to one side was a refusal on his part – do nothing , it pleaded. Do not react, she begged.

When he didn’t reply but kept his gaze focused on Sansa’s face, the king continued, urged on by the goading of the crowd and the jeers and heckling directed at Sandor.

“Is Northern cunt really that much better than our own high grade King’s Landing variety? Because I must say,” he wandered closer to the edge of the platform, his voice ever condescending and self righteous, “In my opinion nothing beats King’s Landing cunt.”

The cheers from the crowd – men and women alike – would have disgusted Sandor had he not had Sansa’s face to concentrate on. 

The tears had created a clear trail down her cheeks, and despite her obvious attempt at disguising her identity with dirt rubbed into her cheeks, the paleness where the tears had washed away the dirt stuck out in stark contrast. 

He wished he could hold her, as odd a feeling that still felt to a man who thought he would be alone forever. That he was up here on the platform facing his unknown fate and still had thoughts of how she felt in his arms, how it felt to lose himself in her, to laugh with her, to listen to her hum that infernal song she always hummed, made him feel that for at least a time he had been the luckiest man in Westeros.

He wondered what she would do if he was thrown in the dungeons for the rest of his life, even though he doubted Joffrey would waste a man like him in that manner. The Queen Regent, yes, but not the King. Joffrey was too ignorant to enforce a punishment such as that.

So as he waited for the announcement, his hands clasped together until his fingers began to go numb, while Joffrey worked up his crowd of onlookers to frenzied heights.

“Tell me!” he called out to the people, obviously loving the attention this was getting him. “What would you have me do with him?”

There were calls to flog him, calls to behead him, and amidst them all Sandor thought he could hear Sansa’s sobs, as silent as he knew they were. Perhaps it was Sansa’s soul calling out to his, her spirit reaching him in this horrible moment.

There was even a time when Jaime Lannister stepped forward, and off in the distance, bidding the king only loud enough for those on the platform to hear, to be lenient on a soldier who had never been anything but loyal to the crown, and to the King. 

It seemed a tipping point in the afternoon, and what happened next was a bit of a blur for Sandor, seeing as how movement in the crowd made his focus on Sansa intermittent, even as he was grabbed from behind and kicked roughly behind his knees.

“There will be no leniency for a traitor to the crown, Uncle!” the king yelled, his voice rising to maniacal heights. 

To cheers and hollers from the crowd he said words Sandor didn’t quite comprehend, even as his glimpses of Sansa came and went – her crying face, the streaming tears, the mouthed words, “I love you,” coming from her lips. 

He didn’t understand any of it – not until someone grabbed his hair, the telltale sign that at any moment his head would be shoved forward, his hair brushed aside to expose his neck to the king’s executioner. He had seen this countless times and had watched nearly as many as he had attended, never expecting that he would ever be on the receiving end of that sword.

“Joff, surely you wouldn’t –” 

Lannister tried, but Sandor could see the quick movement of the King’s cape as he whirled to face his uncle in Sandor’s peripheral vision.

“You will not address me so informally in front of the people, Uncle!” he hissed, before turning back and announcing the sentence of beheading would be carried out immediately.

“Sandor Clegane, I pronounce you a traitor, a betrayer, and a collaborator to the Northern cause, and hereby sentence you to death by beheading!”

The well of emotion within Sandor was the first victim of the executioner's sword. It cut off like a stream that suddenly had its bed fall out from beneath it. It was about that time when the noise drifted away, and Sandor was reminded of the agreement made between he and the septon – that whatever happened today up on the platform was the will of the gods. 

In a stunning moment of perfect clarity, Sandor realized that this was it; this was what Sansa had been brought back to realize.

Sandor was meant to die in this time. The recent events tumbled back into his mind like rolling stones, one after another, playing out this absurd story for the ultimate mental focus.

Had Sansa not come back, had she not fallen in love with him, gotten him to fall in love with her, it never would have happened. For some reason the gods needed him dead, and with that knowledge came the curtain of peace that only someone who had come to terms with his imminent death could attain.

“Ser Illyn!” the king called, but in Sandor’s mind all he could see was Sansa smiling, Sansa happy, Sansa talking about living together and building a life together.

She was still staring at him, as the crowd calmed down and waited for that fated moment – fated by the gods, as was their will – as a slim hand came up to wipe the tears from her face.

And then she smiled, and for just a moment Sandor’s heart cracked open and he felt the hand in his hair tighten.

“I love you,” he mouthed, and her smile widened as she returned the sentiment, both in the movement of her lips and the look of adoration and acceptance in her eyes.

The last thing Sandor saw before his head was tilted down and a gloved hand pulled his hair off to the side was the look of the woman who had accepted him as he was, for who he was – scarred, flawed, mangled, and rough. 

He saw on her face a love he had never thought to experience, and a recognition of his worth, and the affirmation that for several moments while he still lived on this world, he had found his one true love.

“Now, Ser Illyn!”

Chapter Text

The truth hit Sansa as she and Jamis walked through the thick foliage beside the road that would take them North, at least to the weirwood and the pool just outside King’s Landing. It was the same road they had travelled heading into the city – when she and Sandor were still talking about what the future had in store for them.

But the truth… It occurred to her on the second night, after she had once again shed enough silent tears and choked sobs that her throat was parched and Jamis had to help her dribble water into her mouth just so she could swallow.

Purpose for her to fulfill, the septon had said… Making her blind so she would know her true love’s heart … 

Find her true love.

But that had never been the end game for the gods. Finding Sandor, falling in love, her sight returning to her; they were merely steps in a sequence that hadn’t yet been fulfilled the day she regained her sight.

No. 

It was Sandor’s execution.

Sandor had been meant to die all along – she knew this without a doubt now.

She had wondered why in Westeros the gods would think that once she found her true love she would return to her time. It was a ridiculous notion, that she would then leave him and travel back to her time and attempt to live as though nothing had happened. It was absurd.

But that was never the plan. The plan was that in the end, when all was said and done and her sight returned, the gods would continue with their scheme and she would end up with no reason to stay here.

And in order to do that they would have to remove her true love from the picture.

Sansa’s role all along was to fall in love with Sandor and to somehow, awfully, in a roundabout way, get him executed. He needed to die to fulfill the correct timeline, to rectify the gods mistake.

There was no guilt on Sansa’s part, because she fully understood exactly how she had been used as a tool in the gods schemings. 

But oh, there was anger. And there was sadness – a bitter, heavy, drowning sadness.

What cruel joke the gods had played on her, to show her what amazing happiness she could experience at the hands of, and in the company of, a man such as Sandor Clegane, only to tear him from her arms in such a cruel, violent way.

Had they meant for her to watch his execution? 

Because she didn’t. She couldn’t. She fainted as soon as the sword began its fast descent towards his neck.

She only awoke a short time later, carried in Jamis’ arms as he huffed for breath, rushing through back alleys and between rundown buildings. After a few moments of getting her bearings she managed to motion to him to let her down and she followed him back to the hovel they had taken shelter in the night before, but that was it. That was the extent of her capabilities for normal functioning, and she descended into despair without the ability to even answer Jamis when he asked her if she was hungry or if she needed anything.

Almost an entire day had passed before she realized that not only did she have to go to the bathroom, but that she was parched and likely needed to drink something, and maybe have a bite to eat.

Her brain was mush when she listened to Jamis’ plan to get out of the city.

She imagined Sandor’s gray eyes, looking at her across the courtyard with love, as his mouth formed the words.

Jamis insisted they leave the city during midday, at the busiest time so the guards would have a harder time keeping track of the peasants that entered and exited the city.

She remembered how Sandor reacted to her when she found release at the work of his hands – how she was like a work of art that he had never seen before.

There seemed to be no flavor to the bread and cheese Jamis gave her, though she ate it mechanically anyway, along with the watered wine he pulled from his sack.

She wondered to what extent Sandor had thought of what their future held – living together, sleeping together, especially in a world with only one true contraceptive and no universal healthcare. Even now the idea seemed preposterous to her, but… none of that would have mattered, as long as they were together.

The trek out of the city was pretty much uneventful, though she assumed Jamis’s heart was probably beating more wildly than her own. In truth, she didn’t care one bit what happened to her from this point on. She could be found by guards, beaten, tortured, killed – it mattered not. She was numb from grief and despair, and almost wished the guard would look at her and see the escaped camp wife of the Hound.

But as though under a supernatural spell, the gaze of those guarding the gates of the city never fell on the pair of them, and Jamis pulled her by the hand through the throng and they escaped the city, her leaden strides barely keeping up with his.

It was reaching nightfall on the third day when she couldn’t hold it in any more, and in the middle of the night she felt a companionable, comforting hand wrap around her shoulder as she sobbed into the crook of her arm where she lay beside the fire. And when she was done she spilled everything to Jamis – her thoughts, her worries, her suspicions. How unjust the gods were, how unfair and hurtful their actions were. 

He simply sat behind her and listened, occasionally swiping at her shoulder with his thumb to let her know he was still listening. And when she thought she was done, she took a deep breath and went on for more, ranting that she had never been so angry at the gods, nor so sad at a loss.

She would have married him, she said to Jamis. She would have loved him, and been loyal to him, and been happy with him.

She would have this… She would have that… 

She would have, if the gods hadn’t intervened. 

But even as she ranted, she despaired at the travesty of it all – how the gods never would have allowed it, and how somehow, some way, they would have gotten what it was they needed out of her, and delivered Sandor to the fate that had always waited for him.

Sandor needed to die, and apparently she needed to return home with a shattered heart whose pieces would be left here, in Sandor’s time.

It just wasn’t fair.

A week out of King’s Landing saw them coming upon the weirwood pool, and a sad goodbye between her and Jamis. It was all she could do to remember her courtesies and to thank him for everything he had done. Though she knew she would never see him again – for she knew without a doubt that this pool would send her home, now – she needed him to know she would never forget him.

And she hugged him, which she was certain hadn’t happened to him since he was a child, if ever. 

It took a moment, but when his arms came up around her and held her tight, her tears started fresh, since she was saying goodbye to her friend, and to the last connection she had to Sandor; the last evidence that he ever existed.

Because when Jamis turned and walked to the edge of the clearing she stripped of everything she had brought with her – the old gowns, the slippers Sandor had bought for her, and the bag containing her comb, her dagger. Everything was laid in a small pile beside the pool.

With one last glance in Jamis’ direction she lowered herself in, feeling the heat of the water as it seeped into her pores and enveloped her naked body. Ankles, shins – she said goodbye to this time period – knees, thighs – she said goodbye to Sandor’s loving touch – torso, shoulders – she said goodbye to the notion that the gods were continually looking out for their children.

When she slipped below the surface she had the thought, I should breathe deeply; show them what I think of their damned plans.  

But she didn’t, because the only thing keeping her going now was the prospect of seeing her family again.

Eyes closed, she sunk down, down, until her bottom touched the slimy depths of the pool, and she let the darkness sweep over her mind until there was nothing.

~ ≈ ~

When Sansa’s face broke the surface of the pool she gasped, as though someone had been standing above her and breathed life back into her lungs.

Only when she opened her eyes there was no one, nothing. Darkness, she realized, only this time it was a nighttime darkness. Above her she could see the blinking light of a plane, so high in the night sky that she couldn’t even hear the whisper of its engines. 

The implications of it crushed her. She was back in her time, when such a thing was commonplace. 

She wished she wasn’t able to see it. Because if she couldn’t see it then she wouldn’t have her sight. And if she didn’t have her sight that meant Sandor was alive and she could see him again.

Turning over, she reached for the edge of the pool and lifted enough to gaze over at the pile of clothes, resting neatly folded on top of her sneakers.

Seeing this, she bent her head to her folded arms and wept.

~ ≈ ~

Sansa tried to act normal when she returned home. As glad as she was to see her family alive and well once again, she was unable to show them because they had no idea what she had gone through over the previous two months. To them she had been gone for a couple hours, but to her she had endured weeks of hardship and adjustment to a different way of living, of growing close to and falling in love with a man, and then losing him in the worst possible way.

None of this came out the following morning when she greeted her family, though it was apparent they knew something was wrong. 

Sansa’s mother and father wore their concern on their faces, and her siblings kept their distance. She operated in a daze, eating breakfast with them and attempting to discuss the plans for the day, struggling to remember exactly where it was she had left off in life. But she wasn’t able to focus on anything besides the scenes replaying over and over through her mind.

Sandor’s face the first time she saw it when her blindness faded.

She and Sandor making love.

Sandor on the platform, on his knees mouthing, “I love you,” to her.

So later when she was alone in the shower and she crumpled to the floor, sobbing and unable to hold herself together, she wasn’t surprised when she heard the water turn off and a towel thrown around her shoulders as her mother sat on the floor of the shower beside her. Quietly, Catelyn offered her support while Sansa lost all hope of dealing with the pain.

After a while her mother convinced her to get up and get a robe on, and when she led Sansa to sit at the edge of the bed, they sat together with Catelyn’s arm still around Sansa’s shoulders.

Unbeknownst to her, Catelyn gave Sansa the only way out of this awful situation and the secret she now bore that weighed her down so heavily.

“Is it a man?”

Sansa looked over at her mother, sitting demurely beside her on a towel since she had just sat on the floor of a wet shower, the supportive woman who had been there for her through all of Sansa’s life’s ups and downs. 

She nodded, and a fresh wave of tears flowed.

Catelyn wrapped her in a hug and Sansa cried once more into her mother’s shoulder, though not for as long this time because she was able to speak out loud about the relationship no one else knew she had even had. Catelyn even said as much, though Sansa offered no apologies when Catelyn chastised her for keeping such a relationship from her family.

“He was wonderful, mom,” Sansa said, looking down at her twisted hands. 

Grasping a tissue, she dabbed at her face over and over, folding and refolding the tissue as she smoothed it between her fingers. 

“Everything about him – he was quiet but kind, and worked hard. We spent time together and really got to know each other.”

Pausing, Sansa sighed shakily, the tears threatening as she remembered everything about the time she’d had with Sandor.

“He made me feel so special, and so loved.”

“Where is he now?” Catelyn spoke softly, but Sansa knew she was just concerned for her girl.

“It was never going to work out,” she replied, feeling the truth of it and knowing exactly how much the gods had made sure it wouldn’t continue. They had used death as a tool, and Sansa fought the anger over it even as she continued speaking. 

“We lived in two different worlds, and he’s… he’s gone now, and I’ll never see him again.”

Beside her Catelyn nodded, her hand squeezing Sansa’s opposite shoulder as her other rested on Sansa’s forearm.

“But you didn’t want it to end?” she queried Sansa, and with a shake of her head and the renewal of her tears, Sansa answered.

“No,” she whispered, looking back up at her mom’s face. “I didn’t want it to end.”

It was all her mother needed to know. Let the family assume, she decided, that she had been through a bad breakup, and at least that would cover the grief and sadness. 

And that is exactly what happened, with the entire family giving her the distance she needed as she coped with her loss; being supportive from a distance when she needed it, or hugs when she didn’t.

A week after returning home her parents sat her down and suggested they make a new plan for Sansa’s life, to which Sansa was receptive. 

Because the family business was flourishing and had been for years, it was acceptable to all of them to hire someone in Sansa’s place so she could find a new job. Ned looked with her and found a small but nice apartment closer to the city but still close enough to home that she could drive five minutes and be with them any time she wanted. 

Then the day her entire family packed everything she owned from their ancestral home and carted it over to her new apartment, Sansa ended the day sitting on the closed toilet of her yellow and blue bathroom. As she waited, she listened to the sparrows outside the small open window, wondering if they were the pair of sparrows she had been seeing recently as she watched two blue lines appear on a pregnancy test.

A baby. Sandor’s baby. 

Try as she might, the sorrow just wouldn’t make an appearance as she smiled and put her hand on her belly.

The gods had given her this, she was certain. They could have just as easily had nothing come of the times Sandor and Sansa had been together, but they did this instead, and had gifted her with a blessing that was second best to having Sandor actually here with her.

She was carrying his child, and she was going to love it with everything she had.

~ ≈ ~

She had managed to avoid the awful part of remaining at Winterfell – the reminders she now saw when she went back to visit for dinner and on weekends. 

The armor in the library reminded her of Sandor’s, although it was from a different time period and had been made for a man not nearly his size.

The soft country music that played from the speaker system in the lobby took her back to her nights of humming When Somebody Loves You , the lyrics of which made emotions lodge in her throat.

Laying in her bed at night in the new apartment was when she couldn’t avoid thinking about Sandor, and the small pallet they had shared for months. It made her miss his warmth wrapped around her in the night, the way she often rested her head on his bent arm while his other hand pressed against her stomach, transferring heat there. And the one night when she accidentally left the window in her bedroom open was enough to drive her to tears when she woke in the middle of the night reaching for his warmth, only to find she was in her chilled room instead of the cold tent on the ground beside him.

At the end of two weeks she finally ventured out to the weirwood pool once again after dinner with the family – a place she had avoided up until this point because she didn’t want the reminder of where her entire ordeal had started – where she had slipped into the pool and woken up at another, to a massive man in intimidating armor who picked her up as gently as though she were a bird with a broken wing who needed tending.

Sitting on a fallen log off to the side, from here the pool looked murky in the low evening light, its inky darkness like a beacon to her. She wondered if maybe, just maybe, she could slip in and close her eyes, submerge herself to the bottom and wake up in the same time, and the same moment she had before, so that she could enjoy Sandor once again for those two months that had turned into the most blissful of her life. The months where she learned the meaning of true love, and of giving herself fully to one person.

Maybe, just maybe, she would have the opportunity to tell him she carried his child within her womb, and to see if it would be worry or joy or something else that flashed across his face at her words.

She barely recognized her actions as she stripped of her clothes and slid beneath the surface of the water, only to burst once again back into the air when she realized nothing was happening.

This time, instead of closing her eyes and feeling a gentle sleep overtake her, she felt as though the life was draining from her, and that if she attempted to hold her breath for any longer she would be forced to see if there was an afterlife – to gamble that it would be there; that she would see Sandor again.

When she rose above the water, her movements making the surface lap against her back as she rested against the side of the pool, she cried, having thought that over the last weeks she had cried all the tears she had inside her and was as dried as a sponge in Essos. With her head bent and her cheek resting on her arm, she cried for herself, for Sandor, for their unborn child, and for the joke the gods had played on her.

Chapter Text

The clock on his nightstand read 3:47am when Sandor bolted upright in bed, this night’s dream being the most graphic one of all of them. It was as though he could smell the other man’s blood on the chopping block, sense the sword coming down on his own neck at the same time he watched it happening, while the woman’s face – Sansa, he always had to remember; Little Bird – poured tears from her eyes, and now other emotions as well.

Love. Acceptance. Sorrow.

He scrubbed at his face with both hands, unable to decide if he wanted to rid himself of the dream or remember it forever.

Shit

It had been so real, as evidenced by the sweat that drenched his sheets and made his body feel hot and cold at the same time. The crowd cheering, the devastation on her face, the disbelief and yet acceptance at the same time, bundled in his heart. Even now, with the outside world still dark with nighttime, and the only sound his own harsh, heavy breathing, he wondered why the seven bloody hells he was having these vivid dreams.

It was suspect – as though he was actually living the events of the dreams – because everything had gone black the moment that sword touched the back of his neck. He never saw the aftermath, never saw what happened to the woman, never even heard the reaction of the crowd.

It was as though when he died in that dream, he died for real.

Sliding a palm up to his neck Sandor shivered and pressed his fingers into his skin, absurdly gratified to feel a pulse beneath them. 

It was so real.

There was no way he was going to be able to get back to sleep so he climbed from bed, hitching his flannel pants up around his waist even as they slid low again to hang on his hips. He didn’t care. He just strode into his kitchen and grabbed a glass from the cabinet, filling it with water from the tap and downing the entire cup.

Well, his throat was still attached. No water dribbled down his chest, not even the few droplets that escaped into his beard in his haste to quench his parched throat, despite the dream being perhaps the most real one he’d had.

Wiping his mouth with his hand, he put the glass down on the counter and leaned back against it, bracing himself on edge as he dropped his chin.

What was happening to him? What would tomorrow night’s dream be? 

The dreams had been coming for months on nearly a daily basis – very vivid, very real, starting with the childhood of a boy who looked suspiciously like he did as a child. It was one thing to dream of a child, but another to realize the child was the spitting image of himself in those early family photographs he still held onto – so early that Gregor hadn’t completely turned into the evil fuck up he had, and his mother and sister were still alive.

But it was another thing entirely for him to process the feel of these dreams, and how they weren’t so much as dreams as they were… memories.

Crazy. Certifiable. But there they were – still in his mind despite having dreamt many of them months ago. The boy running around a small cottage, going to a castle with his father and tending to hunting hounds, seeing for the first time his brother – again eerily similar to Gregor – backhand his little sister and then his mother when she attempted to intervene.

Even in these dream memories, the older brother was someone to be feared.

Sandor remembered waking up similarly drenched in sweat the night the brother in his dream pushed the little boy’s face into the hot brazier. It was so close to what actually happened – late at night his own brother coming home to find him playing with a toy, and then pressing his face forcefully against the scorching hot outer shell of the family’s wood stove – that Sandor had woken with tears in his eyes. 

He hadn’t cried over that incident since he was a child, shortly after it happened. 

The dream memories, as he had taken to calling them, tracked the boy – Sandor – from the earliest childhood memories through adolescence, the suspicious deaths of his mother and sister, the death by alcohol of his father, and how he had been taken in by the old man who owned the hounds. Squire they called him, and eventually he grew so much bigger than the other knights and soldiers that they promoted him and sent him to serve as the queen’s shield.

Some aspects of the dreams were unlike his own life, which followed the same timeline of tragedy but saw him taking a different career path. As a firearms instructor he made sure men and women alike were all able to defend themselves and those around them. 

He taught handgun safety, and helped people acquire their concealed carry permits. It was steady work here in the greater city of Wintertown, a far cry from the capital King’s Landing where he had spent much of his adolescence, but still big enough so that he could make a living.

But when put side by side it felt the two timelines served as dual memories, for which Sandor had no explanation. It was as though he had lived both lives, remembered both clearly enough that at times when he woke up, groggy and confused with a mind unfocused and hazy, he couldn’t quite remember which one was real and which one was dream.

He wiped a hand down his tired face again, then sat on the couch and flipped on the television, not really watching anything but using the noise as background for his tumultuous thoughts.

Those dream memories… The more recent ones were the most graphic – the ones he re-lived daily as he went about his business. 

Finding the woman beside the pool, immediately calling her Little Bird, and bringing her back to the encampment. Some faces were hazy but he remembered caring for her, finding her presence somewhat of a comfort, and how despite being mostly blind, she had eventually come out of her shell.

Sandor had to admit that the dreams that followed were much more pleasant ones, usually centering around his interactions with the woman, though peppered with the distinctly enjoyable feeling of beating the fuck out of young soldiers in training as though he had a position of authority in the army. 

But It seemed that at some point he had claimed the woman, after rescuing her from a douchebag who wanted her for himself. And after that there were the moments where they steadily built up their intimacy after having slept together platonically for weeks.

The holding her at night, helping her with her dress, even that one evening when he rubbed a liniment on her sore backside after her first hard day of riding a horse. Sandor woke up that morning with an erection so hard he saw stars as he stumbled to the shower to relieve himself.

Breathing deeply, he reached up to scratch the line where his beard ended and scar tissue began, idly thinking of the light line that stretched from one side of his neck to the other. The birthmark had been so light that as soon as Sandor’s peach fuzz had disappeared and at thirteen years old he had begun to sprout the coarser hair of a man, he had all but forgotten about the mark.

The image of execution by sword flashed through his mind and he pushed it away immediately. There was no connection to the birthmark. None, he swore to himself.

Absolutely none. Right?

As his fingers travelled over to the scarring that stretched down past his neck, even now, after all this time had passed since Gregor had caused the burns, Sandor felt inadequacies over his disfigurement. But the happiness he’d experienced in the dream was both unmistakable and unforgettable. Sansa couldn’t see him, and he remembered feeling so relieved at that, and able to enjoy himself with her even after her hands had discovered the truth. 

He could remember the fear that one day her sight would return, especially after speaking with… Some things were harder to remember than others.

The septon! Yes, he had spoken with a septon, a prisoner of the war who had told him at some point Sansa would regain her vision – once she accomplished whatever it was the gods had set out for her to do.

He had been confused on that point until she told him what the septon told her, about her finding true love. And as much as Sandor in the dream hoped it was him, so too did he hope that it wasn’t, because if her affections merely hovered around the intense range and not within true love territory, she never had to lay eyes on him.

In the end it had happened anyway. Somehow on that momentous day in their tent, that one and only time she had gone down on him and brought him to the peak of physical arousal unlike any he had ever known – just another day when he woke up rushing to the shower – she had stared at him; really stared.  

And she had told him in a voice he could still clearly hear in his mind, “You have gray eyes.”  

She was able to see him, if only for a few moments when they made love. But she had seen, and she hadn’t been repulsed.

In fact, he was certain her affection for him grew more than anything else.

The dream had been so vivid that he woke with a concrete memory of the woman looking into his eyes, not the dream Sandor’s eyes. And he remembered with perfect clarity how stunningly blue they were.

He already loved her at that point, which complicated matters when he awoke each morning. He had known he loved her since the moment he realized he would lie for her, and he hated liars. Dream Sandor had lied to his commanding officer, which in the end had sealed his fate in that dream world.

As it had in the real world, come to find out. For now he woke each morning feeling a deep, burning love, an intense regard for this woman, who was apparently a figment of his imagination.

He taught classes with her on his mind, bought coffee thinking of her skin, drove home imagining the softness and vibrant color of her hair. 

He muted the television when he wanted to ponder the sound of her musical laugh, and gave up trying to be productive at home and instead laid in bed earlier than normal when he wished to close his eyes and imagine her head in his lap as she hummed that song – When Somebody Loves You .

In real life he knew which song it was, but it stood to reason that the Sandor from a time when they wore armor and fought with swords wouldn’t know the lyrics. 

How odd it was then that she knew the song, since he had met her in a dream of a time when radio and bands and all electronics didn’t exist. It was just one more thing about the whole situation he hadn’t been able to puzzle out or explain.

With two hours left to go before his alarm went off, he leaned his head back, his heart now calm after the ordeal he had gone through in the dream. The back of the couch was soft, his mind quieting as he let her voice wash over him, accompanying her in his mind with the lyrics he knew well.

Cause when somebody loves you

There's nothing you can't do

When somebody loves you

It's easy to get through

When somebody loves you

The way I love you

But it was all there – not only the dreams but the accompanying emotions. The sensation of acceptance at Sansa’s hands. The feeling of strength and fulfillment when swinging the massive sword. The throwback essence of horseback riding, and spending entire days in the saddle atop a steed he could recall he was extremely fond and proud of. 

Stranger, he remembered. The horse’s name was Stranger.

And Sansa’s was Sparrow. Why he remembered that, he had no idea. But then, he didn’t know why he was remembering any of it.

It was a long time before he could concentrate on anything that morning but her.

~ ≈ ~

Sansa’s phone buzzed on Sunday afternoon and she looked at it beside her on her couch, seeing it was Brienne responding to Sansa’s request for some girl time. Brienne asked in her text if Sansa had time for drinks that evening. 

She smiled lightly, knowing there was no way she was going to touch even a drop of alcohol for the foreseeable future. She typed in an affirmative reply and arranged to meet at a local bar that was owned by Brienne’s boyfriend. Free drinks because of that connection had always been a boon in the past, but this time Tormund was going to have to be happy giving her a tonic and lime.

“Sansa!” Brienne cried, stepping out of her compact as Sansa parked beside her. They embraced, Sansa holding onto her friend and feeling relieved that she was spending time with someone other than her family for a while.

They had been wonderful since she had returned, and she was grateful that telling her mother about the breakup that wasn’t really a breakup, had made coming home easier. Their penchant for tip-toeing around her as she recovered from that plight seemed much easier to bear with the actual state of her emotions than had they treated her this whole time as though nothing were wrong at all.

After they took a corner booth in the back at Sansa's request, Tormund delivered their drinks and gave Sansa a queer side-eye as he slid hers in front of her. To his credit he didn't say anything, but he did lean over Brienne and gave her a steamy kiss which only ended when she grabbed ahold of his bushy red beard and pulled him off of her.

“Off with you,” she murmured seriously, but her rosy cheeks and nervous biting of her lip said she wouldn't really have minded if the kiss had gone on longer.

Tormund left with a friendly wink in Sansa’s direction, Brienne watching his butt until he disappeared behind the counter before finally turning back to a smirking Sansa.

“That serious, huh?” she asked Brienne, who blushed but glared right back.

“You just hush and tell me why you chose a tonic and lime over your usual.”

Sansa took a drink, wondering not if she would get emotional in the retelling, but specifically when, so she began with, “Let me start from the beginning.”

It had been a very big decision, telling someone about her entire time travel experience, but in the end she decided she needed to do it so she could get it off her chest. And if there was one person she was certain wouldn’t completely judge her for what she was going to say, it was Brienne.

But she hadn’t gotten far when Brienne interrupted with wide eyes.

“You woke up next to the pool, naked? And a man found you?” 

Her tone was incredulous, alarmed even, and Sansa knew it was because these weren’t things anyone would expect to come out of Sansa Stark’s mouth. She may have been able to hold her own in an argument with Arya, and was known to like it when everything in her life was orderly and put together, but she also wasn’t much of a risk taker and never gave the gossip mongers any fuel for their back room discussions. 

So even to her, saying these events out loud did make her sound reckless, despite them not being her fault.

Well, the naked part was her fault, she supposed. But the rest wasn’t.

“Holy shit, Sansa!”

“Keep it down,” she hissed at Brienne when a couple people sitting at the bar looked over at them. “I’m telling you this in confidence – confidence!”  

Brienne sat back against the booth, arms straight as though she needed to brace herself against something. She pressed her lips together tightly, waiting for Sansa to go on.

“What I didn’t know at the time was that it was a different pool from the one I had originally gone swimming in. It wasn’t Winterfell’s pool, and the man just covered me in his cloak and brought me back to the camp.”

Brienne visibly swallowed at that.

“The… camp?”

Her beautiful, perceptive sapphire eyes were abnormally bright with shock.

“The army camp.”

“Army camp,” Brienne repeated, completely still and sounding not at all convinced.

“And I was blind,” Sansa added, screwing up her face as she added that last detail, knowing it all sounded so incredibly far-fetched that Brienne would have a hard time believing it.

After a couple moments of a blank, closed mouth stare, Brienne suddenly turned toward the bar.

“Tormund! Bring me another!”

With further fortification, Sansa was free to tell her closest friend about waking up blind, hearing the strange sounds of a massive group of people, and initially thinking they were some sort of hardcore re-enactment army, and that the men she heard were all actors.

“That would explain nearly everything,” agreed Brienne. 

But she watched Sansa’s face, the raised eyebrows and averted eyes obviously saying it didn’t. After a moment Brienne spoke quietly, her tone still tinged with disbelief. 

“But they weren’t?”

“No.” Sansa looked down at her glass, her fingers wrapped around the coldness of it before she returned her eyes to Brienne’s face. “I had gone back in time –”

“Bullshit,” was Brienne’s immediate reply, and not at all said in her usual soft, compassionate manner.

“Brienne, I washed out clothes in a bucket, ate meat and cheese and fruit, and was dragged out of the tent by my hair, half naked, by another soldier who wanted to steal me from Sandor.”

Sansa watched her friend squint, grimace, and then close her eyes completely as she rubbed at them.

“Wait, wait, wait. Sandor?” She aimed a hard, discerning gaze at Sansa. “Who’s that?”

Swallowing past the emotion that arose at saying his name out loud, Sansa explained, “He was the one who found me at the pool.”

“And this other guy?”

Sansa shivered at the mere memory. 

“Meryn Trant. Worst kind of man ever. I was lucky Sandor claimed me.”

“What? Claimed?” Brienne’s eyes widened yet again. “What the fuck, Sansa?” she exclaimed, her language colored likely by Tormund’s influence on her. The big redhead at the bar wasn’t known for censoring his language.

Sansa smiled, continuing, “Not like that. He told them I was his camp wife so no one else would think I was up for grabs. I mean, there were whores in the camp and other women, but not enough for sixty thousand men.”

“Whores?...” The single word was hardly more than a squeak.

Sansa nodded, taking a sip of her drink. Brienne took a large gulp of hers.

“A camp wife is different – not passed around or shared. Plus no one messed with Sandor. He was huge, and I’m sure very intimidating.”

She went on to describe what it was like living in the camp, reminding Brienne that she had woken up blind but not yet getting into the why of that situation. 

The chamber pots, the food, the company – she described all of it, before coming back around to Sandor. He was an unavoidable subject, and she had to swallow back tears several times as she spoke his name.

“I began,” she started, and then had to take a sip of her tonic water again to cover her emotional response to the thought. “I began to develop feelings for him –”

“Why?? I mean, assuming I believe what you’re saying is true, this guy was holding you hostage!” Obviously completely missing Sansa’s distress and emotional cues, Brienne threw up her hands in frustration. “Was this some kind of psychological trick he was playing on you? Where were the cameramen for the reenactment actors? The production crew?”

Sansa shook her head, responding, “No, no, listen to me. There were none, Brienne. I figured out fairly early on, even with the blindness, that I had travelled through time.”

Emphasizing those last three words, she paused to let it sink in, focusing on maintaining eye contact with Brienne even as the blonde woman looked at her as though she had grown a second head.

“Okay. You lost me…”

“I’m not joking.” Sansa leaned forward, speaking in an even more hushed tone than before. “I went back in time for two months, but when I came home no time had passed. Now, are you ready to really listen? Because you’re the only person I’ve told, and I have barely scratched the surface.”

It took Brienne several moments, a couple gulps of her drink, and some glancing around to ensure they had privacy, before she nodded that she was ready. Sansa took a deep breath and mentally prepared herself for the complete retelling of her tale.

She went into more detail about everything she could think of that would convince Brienne she was telling the truth, but as she spoke it also became apparent that the telling of her story was also therapeutic – as though the burden was lifting bit by bit. And by the end of their talk she realized she did indeed feel better just for having gotten the entire store off her chest. She left nothing out – not the liniment on her saddle sores, not the horrible things Trant had said and done to her, and not the closeness that developed between her and Sandor.

“And… you say you developed feelings for him? This… Sandor?”

The look on her face was only slightly less dubious than it had been previously, but Sansa could tell Brienne was struggling between wanting to hear her out and openly cringing at the thought that her friend was telling such a fantastical tale.

Smiling, Sansa nodded. 

“Oh, yes,” she said softly, her eyes drifting down to her drink as she thought of those last few hours together in his room, when she could see every physical aspect of Sandor. Though her heart hurt, she avoided imagining the last time she had seen him and focused instead on the emotions surrounding the last happy times they spent together.

“He did more than protect me. He… cared for me.” 

She remembered the times he held her as she cried, even before the feelings had begun to develop between them. 

“He was harsh,” she said, her smile widening, “Abrasive, demanding… and so horribly misunderstood that it’s no wonder I fell in love with him.”

Brienne gasped at that, so Sansa rushed onward, shaking her head in acknowledgement of the disbelief even she felt now at the whole complicated truth of it.

“I know, but it’s true. He was so kind and thoughtful, and he cared for me so much that I think it even caught him off guard.” 

She blushed, but looked up at Brienne as she explained further what happened between them. 

“When we started to become… intimate… his reaction made it obvious that no one had ever touched him in a loving manner. He had spurned human contact for his entire life, and he really came alive – no, we both did – during those weeks we were together.”

After a moment Brienne spoke quietly from the other side of the booth.

“So you’re saying you fell in love with a…”

“Soldier,” Sansa supplied, smiling softly. 

“A soldier. From the past…” Sansa nodded before Brienne added, “And you had sex.”

Again a nod, but then she replied, “But not at first. At first it was just… other things.” 

She could feel the blush stain her cheeks, but she couldn’t keep the smile out of her voice. 

“Then one day a man approached me. I was nervous by then around men I didn’t know and couldn’t see, but he was nothing but kind and courteous when he addressed me. He said Sandor had instructed his squire, Jamis, to ask around about other men who were good and who would treat me well, because he didn’t want me. So this man, Cheswright, was just letting me know he was an option should I choose to leave Sandor. To say I was upset would be an understatement.” 

She even chuckled lightly at the memory, thinking back on exactly how irritated with Sandor she had been. She hadn’t wanted to touch him, to show him any affection, or to be kind to him. She remembered being perfectly polite and nothing more.

“That night I learned we were going to come upon another godswood pool. When going into the pool didn’t bring me home like I had theorized, I was angry and upset and yelled at Sandor when he didn’t understand why I was saying I didn’t need a man in my life. You see, up until that point he had completely forgotten he had made that request of his squire, seeing as how happy together we were. And it was that day that he told me no man would ever take me from him, and it was also the first day we had sex.”

Brienne stared at her for a moment, unmoving, at that revelation. Then she gave her head a small shake and calmly laid her hand flat on the table.

“So you’re saying,” she repeated, patting her hand on the table every few words, “You fell in love with a soldier from the past and you had sex.”

“A lot,” she said, laughing lightly. 

“And you travelled through some kind of time portal in a weirwood pool to get there, and to get back again?”

“I know it’s all hard to believe –”

“Sansa, it’s worse than hard to believe. It’s impossible. And you want me to believe you? To accept what you say as truth?”

She had to admit that Brienne’s words hurt, even though she had also known to expect them. Time travel wasn’t something one simply thought of on a regular basis, and when the topic came up in a book or a movie it was always fiction. Always fiction. 

“For one thing, you know I would never lie to you,” Sansa said gently.

“This is true,” Brienne replied skeptically, almost regretfully.

“And for another, what reason would I have to make this up?” When Brienne opened her mouth Sansa held up her hand, adding, “But wait, there’s more.”

“Seven bloody hells, Sansa.”

Chapter Text

It took quite some time for Sansa to retell the talks with the septon – first the one Sandor had told her about and then the one she herself had with him. It was complicated, yes, all that talk of the gods’ plan and their mistake and how it was left up to her to fix their blunder. But she did her best to keep Brienne on the right track, only stopping to answer a question or two from her friend.

After telling Brienne of her sight returning and realizing she was in love with Sandor, she came to the sad part of the story and apologized for getting emotional.

“Oh my gods, Sansa,” Brienne whispered as tears began to trail down Sansa’s face.

She merely nodded, taking a moment to compose herself as she spoke of going to the square after Sandor had been captured for hiding her away. She barely got through that single moment of eye contact – the first in which Sandor was aware she could see him, and their exchanged words of love – before she had to put her head down on the table to cry.

Brienne came around and put her arms around Sansa, who turned to hug her friend. Through broken words she described his execution and the moment she fainted as the sun gleamed off the sword’s lowering edge. Brienne held her through it, only releasing her when Sansa reached for napkins to wipe her tears and blow her nose. After that Brienne remained beside her, and Sansa was thankful her back was to the door of the bar so no one could see her face.

“But the worst was afterwards when I realized it was in the gods plan all along. They had always intended for Sandor and I to fall in love, but we were never meant to be together; otherwise why would my blindness be lifted and my ability to come home be returned? I knew deep down that Sandor’s death was in the plan all along – as though my absence from that time period meant Sandor would go on living and all of future time would be thrown off course.”

Sniffing, she wiped her nose and took a drink of water, wiping at the tears that continually leaked from her eyes as she recounted her suspicions.

“If I had existed in that time period, I think Sandor and I would have found each other and fallen in love, and it would have happened similarly to how it happened to me.”

Brienne rubbed her back, and with a glance Sansa saw all traces of doubt gone from her friend’s face, replaced by compassion and a willingness to comfort Sansa in her time of need. It was one of the things about Brienne that had always drawn Sansa to her – her big heart.

So with a deep breath she quickly explained Jamis and how he helped her find the godswood pool, about saying goodbye to him, and about returning through the pool to her current time and finding, just as she had left them, her clothes and shoes beside the pool.

And finally, to finish her story, she turned to Brienne with a bright, watery smile lighting up her face. Because other than the memories of her time with Sandor and the love they had for each other, this news was perhaps the best of all, and she ached to be able to tell her friend about it.

“I’m pregnant,” she said, and Brienne’s shock was back though quickly replaced by a smile that mirrored her own. 

A hug followed, but then Brienne was leaning back slowly as though she had in that moment abruptly gotten the punchline of the joke.

“It’s…”

Sansa nodded.

“Oh my gods, Sansa. It’s Sandor’s baby.”

~ ≈ ~

Sandor went about his days as usual, but always on his mind was Sansa’s face – the woman from his dream. He struggled separating fact from fiction, and sometimes thought of her as a real person, sometimes as a figment of his imagination.

If only the dreams hadn’t been so damned real. If only they hadn’t left him with what felt more like memories instead of dreams he could remember.

He had even added some classes to his schedule, a home firearm safety course that met earlier in the morning so that stay at home moms and dads could utilize the weekday when their kids were at school to educate themselves on proper gun ownership in the home. It had worked out well, with all spots filling for the single six-week round of classes, each lasting four hours in the morning. 

Sandor was fine with that. The less free time he had in the morning, the better. If he could fill his imagination with home invasion scenarios and proper storage of unloaded guns instead of copper hair and soft smiles, then kudos to him.

The new morning classes meant changing up his morning routine but that didn’t matter too much to him. He was a regular at a local coffee shop around noon every week, so he spoke with the barista, Ros, the Friday before he was scheduled to begin the new classes.

“That sucks,” she said with an easy smile. 

Though she had gotten over his scars quickly and had never bugged him about them, what had developed between them was more of a working relationship, with her convincing her boss that allowing gun class advertisements to go up on their bulletin board was an acceptable idea to an out of the way, low key coffee shop. In return, Sandor would often buy snacks at the shop to bring to classes to share with his students.

“You’re one of my best tippers,” she went on as she poured his coffee. “I’ll have to tell the new girl to be on her best behavior.”

“New girl,” he repeated, already envisioning his coffee made wrong. How hard was it to pour from a pot? 

Ros nodded, sliding the lid on the coffee and setting it down beside the cash register.

“A new girl in town. But she’s promising.” She rang up his coffee and smiled as he handed her too much money. “Has taken to the training like she was made for it, though, and always seems to be smiling.”

“A smile means nothing without talent,” he replied, watching with disinterest as she pushed the remaining bills into the tip jar, as was their custom. 

But then she looked up at him, her smile even wider than it was before.

“Says the man who never smiles.” 

Sandor glanced up at the redhead, noting for the first time the difference in shade her hair was from Sansa’s. 

Too dark , he thought absently.

“I smile.” 

When Ros merely lifted a single eyebrow in response, he tried to remember the last time something funny had happened in one of his classes, but couldn’t. In the firearms world he was known as a tough sell – an exceptional teacher but not a fun one. He got the job done, and all of his students excelled when he was done with them. His online reviews were full of compliments along those lines.

“Yeah? When? 1976?”

Ros’s deep laughter rang through the mostly empty coffee shop, and she shook her head at her own joke as she went back to clean the espresso machine.

Laugh’s too deep , he muttered inwardly, but he nodded in her direction in thanks. 

“Maybe I’ll see you around sometime,” she called out as he walked towards the door. Sandor gave a backwards wave, ignoring the subtle invitation, and walked out without looking back.

Glaring errors in his thinking were beginning to show themselves, now that the dreams had stopped. For one thing, he seemed to have been siphoning off joy from the man and woman in his dreams as they experienced it – he and Sansa, apparently. Without the dreams all he had were the memories, and they were anything but sustaining. Better than simple dreams, he supposed, but still not the same. That he didn’t bother to return Ros’s sentiment in even a purely friendly manner just showed him one more dismal view of his future.

Friends? He had a couple, though none called him to ever do anything. The guys over at Beric’s man cave sometimes texted, Thoros extending a half assed invitation to come watch the game. 

Sandor just never accepted. He figured the invitation was more of a formality, harking back to his and Beric’s college days when they used to hang out. That sort of stopped when Beric met Thoros and they began dating, and it basically came to an end when they married – not because of anything Beric was or was not doing, admittedly, but more because… 

Sandor didn’t even like thinking the thought, but he had to admit he felt like a third wheel. He didn’t begrudge his friend his happiness, and surely the man had never smiled or laughed as much as he did after meeting Thoros. 

But still… He had to admit that a small part of him was jealous. It had taken a long time to admit it to himself, and once he had, well – that was sort of the catalyst to the end of their friendly association. 

He was a grown man who couldn’t deal with the fact that he would be alone the rest of his life.

Perhaps that was why the dreams had been so profound; that a woman who was blind and had no awareness of his scars could come to love him the way Sansa had. It boggled his mind at the same time it sparked a deep yearning within him. 

Fucking life . It just wasn’t fair.

Then to top it all off, even when she could see him, the love was still there. 

That last scene replayed over and over in his mind over the weekend – where she looked at him across the crowded courtyard, as though they were the only two people there. And the understanding that crossed between them.

It had been nothing short of profound. 

It made Sandor angry, that the gods would play such a cruel joke on him as this. Why send an unlovable man these euphoric, blissful, devastatingly sad dreams about a love so pure and strong and true, only to allow him to wake up every morning to find out they weren’t real?

He remembered Sansa’s face and that moment he realized she was seeing him clearly, then her face as they both realized what his fate would be, and then her face when they declared their love for each other.

As painful as it was, Sandor let the joyous parts of that scene wash over him now, for surely he would never again in his life feel that feeling – that someone loved him for him, in spite of him, all of him. 

True love was a myth, though some people such as Beric and Thoros may have thought they found it. But Sandor knew the truth. They were the blind ones.

True love was the stuff of dreams.

~ ≈ ~

It was still fairly dark when Sandor parked in front of the coffee shop the next morning. He was due to start his first home firearm safety course today, and he had seven women and three men who were expecting him to be in tip top shape.

So it was too bad he had hardly slept the night before. Thoughts of Sansa plagued him all night long, and those fucking birds outside his window – by the time his alarm went off he was in danger of using one of his shotguns on them. Bird shot from his window to the tree branches outside would fan nicely and likely get a bunch of them with one shot. It was almost enough to make him smile.

It seemed like whenever he was about to doze off, it was either that intense longing for a companion or the noisy fucking birds that startled him awake, so this morning he was anything but happy about waking up at the ass crack of dawn to get to the early class. 

What the fuck was I thinking, he wondered as he shut off the truck. Not that waking up at six in the morning was incredibly early, but anything felt early after a sleepless night.

It took just a few moments for the young man inside the coffee shop to visually decide Sandor was not one for chit chat, and he had Sandor’s coffee and muffin order on the counter and rung up on the register in record time.

“Need more blueberry muffins up here!” he called back down the hallway, probably to that elusive new girl Ros had mentioned. 

After paying with only an appropriate tip, Sandor turned and walked out, pausing between the two sets of doors to survey the bulletin board. He noticed his flyer had been covered by an ad touting someone’s need for a “beater with a heater,” so he set the coffee and muffins down briefly to move his ad back on top.

Once satisfied with its placement, he picked the coffee and muffins back up and pushed the door open with his shoulder. 

As it closed behind him he looked up at the sky, wondering not for the first time what the seven hells he was doing out at this time of the morning, when off to his right he could still see stars and to his left he could see the glow of the coming sunrise. He decided he must be insane, desperate enough that he had altered his schedule for the foreseeable future to include a morning class in his already busy schedule.

He shook his head and stepped forward, heading for his truck. He was about to step off the curb when a sparrow flew directly by his face, so close that he flinched and stepped backwards towards the wall of the coffee shop.

What the hells, he thought, watching the damned bird join a second one in flight and disappear over the edge of the coffee shop’s roof.

Odd, that a sparrow would do that to someone. He knew they weren’t at all friendly with humans, such as gulls or ravens that would come for food.

Looking up he watched as several sparrows appeared, flitting above him and going back over the front edge of the building. Slowly he turned, backing up to the grill of his truck to see what the stupid birds were doing on the roof.

It turned out they were just sitting there, moving and hopping around a bit but in general just watching him.

Watching him watch them.

Sandor blinked. He had never seen behavior out of birds like this, not these little song birds. 

It was strange that he was seeing sparrows pretty often these days. He wondered if there was going to be a problem, and if business owners such as the people who owned the coffee shop would end up appealing to the city to do something about the infestation.

Aware that it wasn’t his problem, Sandor stepped towards the side of his truck but was distracted by movement on the roof while still on the sidewalk.

The birds had followed him in the direction he had stepped, just using their distinct little hops to move with him.

What the…

Sandor stepped the opposite direction, towards the passenger side.

The birds followed.

He stepped again, and they followed again.

Fucking strange, he thought. Maybe they were trained birds that had escaped from someone’s home… or something.

He shook his head and was about to leave when the birds took it upon themselves to hop again in the direction he had brought them. They moved a pace to the right and stopped, still moving about in a small group but obviously watching him, their little bird heads twisting this way and that as though patiently waiting for him.

Waiting for me to do what??

Sandor moved his left foot in the opposite direction and almost startled when the birds began hopping higher and flapping their wings, chirping as though they were angry at him. Setting his foot down, he watched them hop just a bit to his right, loud miniature squawks heatedly shouting down at him from their perch on the roof.

Sandor felt ridiculous. Here he was experimenting with bird behavior and he had a class to run. Feeling like an idiot, he shook his head again and determined to ignore the vermin as he dropped his face, realizing he was standing in front of one of the plate glass windows at the front of the coffee shop, opposite several rows of tables and the counter behind which the coffee and food was prepared.

Ros? Sandor watched a redheaded woman, her hair pulled into a high bun, work at another counter with her back to him.

No, couldn’t be Ros. She didn’t work that early in the morning. No, it must have been the new girl.

But as he watched her move – the length of her neck and the gentle slope of her shoulders, and the way the apron nipped in at her waist but flared at the curve of her hips – the hairs on the back of his neck stood up and a chill ran up his spine.

He couldn’t say why he stood there, why he watched her, or why the birds had suddenly quieted and were apparently gone from the roof. But all he could think of was how much this woman resembled Sansa, and how good it felt to just take in her image as though he hadn’t seen her in a long time, despite her constant presence in his thoughts.

He closed his eyes before turning, though, and brought up her smiling face, her gorgeous blue eyes. Getting in his truck, he ignored the chirping that came from a tree off to the side, knowing if he looked that he would see sparrows there.

Such a storm of emotions was sweeping over him that he set the coffee in the cup holder and the muffins on the seat beside him, and started the truck. Then he grasped the steering wheel with tight hands and closed his eyes again, inwardly berating himself for his emotions at the same time he felt the familiar and intense sadness that thinking of her always conjured within him.

He was in love with a figment of his imagination.

He was in love with an idea.

He was in love with a woman who didn’t exist.

Allowing anger to creep in to tamp down some of this despair, he pulled away from the curb and headed to the class.

Chapter Text

An entire month had passed since Sansa returned to her own time, and the pain was as fresh as it was the day she had passed through the weirwood pool, if not worse. Only now it was accompanied by the intense joy she felt knowing she still retained a part of Sandor, which was even now growing inside her.

Because of that, some days she felt certain she would be able to regain some semblance of happiness in her life, with her new job in Winterfell at the coffeeshop Winterfell Grounds, and the nice people she worked with. 

Things were so different now.

There were other days when it did feel as though the sorrow weighing her down was worse daily, like she was in the bottom of an hourglass and the sand just kept coming, pouring down on her, each grain another memory of Sandor and a reminder she would never have him in her life again.

She walked that tightrope daily, with despair on one side and hope on the other, not quite succumbing to either of them but watchful and wary, fully prepared for either to pull her over to its side. 

And all the while the rope shook with the constant breaking of her heart, night after night as she spent those solitary, silent hours alone in her bed. She had taken to sleeping with the radio on, simply so she would have something else to listen to other than the incessant call of sparrows and her own thoughts.

Every day she missed him. She missed the feeling of completeness she’d had when she was around him, and the sensation of being loved in a time when love was so unattainable. She knew that even though she was from modern time, what they had together back then was unique and special – definitely something Sandor would never have found had she not been sent back, and something she never would have had, had she not found him.

The sliver of gratefulness that for a short time she had found what had made her truly happy; a love she had never expected to find but was so grateful when she had; and the life inside her, were the only things keeping her from shaking her fists at the gods.

And if she were to be honest with herself, it was in fact the gods who had enabled all of that to happen. So while she could lament they had taken him from her, she also had to acknowledge that it was they who had given her the opportunity to find out what it meant to be well and truly loved.

And Sansa had her final consolation – that the gods had allowed her to keep a piece of Sandor after all, in the form of his child. Not that she had ever pictured herself to be a young, unmarried mother, but finding herself in exactly that position actually afforded her a measure of joy she otherwise would never have found.

While she spent time with her family, who had learned of and graciously accepted her pregnancy, she managed to keep a smile on her face, hopefully throwing them off the scent that anything was amiss. She hid her sorrows from everyone – family, her friends, her co-workers. What use was it to do anything else, when no one would believe her about what had happened? 

Her family thought she had been gone for two hours, when in fact it had been two months of her life she had spent with Sandor in his time.

With an army and chamber pots and blindness. 

No, they wouldn’t understand. Even discussing it with Brienne had been a stretch, though it seemed as though her friend had accepted what she said as truth and was texting her daily to ask her how she was doing.

Though she had informed her supervisor she was pregnant she hadn’t told anyone else at work, so the day before, when Ros had shown up and Sansa was ready to take a break, they stood in the break room while Ros got ready for her upcoming shift.

“It’s about time you had something to smile about,” said the woman after Sansa told her, sending Sansa a knowing look. Tucking hair that was just a few shades darker than Sansa’s back behind her ear, Ros crossed her arms and smiled gently at her.

Sansa chuckled, taken aback by Ros’ statement.

“I don’t know what you mean,” she said, sipping her decaf coffee. Taking off her apron, she hung it in her cubby and stood by Ros at the doorway.

“You might be able to fool everyone else, doll, but not me. I’ve been around enough sad girls to know the signs of depression. And let me tell you,” she said, her voice low but the smile firmly in place as she stepped closer, “I am so very happy for you, Sansa. I wish you all the best.”

It was such a heartfelt declaration and the accompanying hug so thoughtful that Sansa fought back tears. Hugging Ros back, she nodded as she pulled away, acknowledging that at least part of what Ros said was true.

“Thank you,” she said, and then for good measure, “I’ll be fine, really.”

~ ≈ ~

It couldn’t be a coincidence. Sandor didn’t think a hundred sparrows perched in the tree above his truck was a normal sight, but as he looked around at the people walking and retrieving their morning newspapers, walking along the sidewalk – the woman with her stroller, the couple about to pass him, the man walking the dog who was heading in the opposite direction – none of them even bothered to look up.

It was almost as though they couldn’t see this strange phenomenon.

Sandor eyed them carefully as he walked down the path from his apartment and unlocked his truck, wondering at why there wasn’t a mess of bird droppings covering the hood. Nevertheless, he started it up and shut the door, then put it in gear and drove away.

It took him a couple minutes to realize every so often the flock would alight on a tree he was about to pass, and a couple times he slowed to see what they might be up to.

Nothing, it would seem. They flitted from branch to branch, lifting off as a group as he passed and then hovering high above his truck until they found the next possible roost – more trees, or powerlines, or a fence especially close to the road. And all the while no pedestrians paid them any attention.

It was all very suspicious.

It became even more so when he came to a turn in the road and he realized most of the sparrows had landed in a tree to his right, when he had intended on turning left to the indoor firing range where he held his classes.

Turning the wheel, he had pressed the lever for his left blinker when two sparrows suddenly landed on his hood.

“What the fuck,” he muttered, watching in disbelief as they both hopped down to the right hand corner of his hood, doing a small dance and flapping their wings, flying a couple feet into the air before coming back to land on the corner of his hood. It was almost as though they wanted him to follow the flock, which was even now getting a bit restless and moving about in the tree to his right.

Sandor turned his blinker off, sitting at the stop sign when he knew he should have been moving. But there was no one behind him, and he was baffled as to the birds’ behavior.

He felt like an idiot for thinking birds could communicate. 

Sandor turned his blinker back on and made the left hand turn, heading to the highway. He watched the two sparrows roll off his hood and then fly off in the direction of their flock, muttering to himself about damned birds and idiots who watched them. But he hadn’t driven more than ten seconds when two sparrows – he was sure the same two that had been on his hood a moment before – flew back down onto his windshield and attached themselves to his windshield wipers.

“Fucking hells,” he muttered, and was about to turn the wipers on to rid himself of the nuisance birds when another one landed on them, alighting next to the sparrows already there. 

Again he reached for the wiper lever, only to stop short when another, and another, and yet another sparrow landed on his wipers. He slowed his truck to a stop, unable to pay enough attention to the road as soon his hood was covered in sparrows, and eventually his windshield as well. There were so many of them that he was unable to clearly see through the window.

Sitting back, Sandor threw his truck in park  in the middle of the road and sat there, stunned.

Sparrows. It seemed like every last sparrow he had seen on the tree outside his apartment was now on the hood of his truck.

Dumbfounded, he simply sat there and watched them.

What was so appealing about his truck that they chose to land on it? 

The amazing thing was, even with all those tiny little bird butts hovering just over his freshly washed truck, not one of them was making a mess on it. They were all clean, moving about but also seemingly waiting for him to do something.

And for a moment he thought of getting out and brushing them off, but somehow he knew if he did that they would just come back.

Maybe…

No, he thought. Fucking ridiculous.

But they had seemed to want him to turn right back there at the stop sign, so maybe…

Sandor glanced at his watch, noting he had at least an hour before class started, and today it wasn’t extremely imperative that he get there early.

So… feeling like a fool, he put his truck in Reverse and turned in his seat, grasping the bench seat’s passenger headrest as he drove backwards into the nearest driveway. Then he parked for a moment, waiting to see what the birds would do.

They didn’t move. Or rather, they moved around a lot, but none of them actually left his truck.

That was, until he put on his blinker to turn in the direction from where he had come. Then as a whole, they all lifted off from his truck as though approving collectively of his decision.

This day couldn’t be any more odd , he decided.

~ ≈ ~

“Eh?” the Smith asked in question, glancing over at the Maiden who sat beside him. It was just the two of them, which often seemed a comfortable arrangement, especially over the last couple of millenia. It was no secret by now – he had a soft spot in his heart for her.

She nodded, her beautiful mouth curving into a grin of approval as they watched the truck moving down the road through the surface of their meeting table.

“I see,” she agreed, watching the man’s expression as he shook his head and gripped his steering wheel tightly. “He knows.”

The Smith nodded, rubbing his dirty hands together in what could only be described as subdued glee. He was happy with his work, which was obvious to see. 

“There’s nothing wrong with giving them a bit of help every now and then,” he said softly, his own expression changing from happiness to sentimental, as the scene before them changed and split into two, a blurred line down the middle. 

On the other side of the table a new scene appeared, accompanying that of the man. This new scene showed a woman in a black apron sitting outside a building, her bright red hair pulled over her shoulder as she idly played with the ends, clearly lost in thought.

“You feel it,” the Maiden said, now looking at the smith. She nudged him with her shoulder and he turned, looking upon her with fondness.

“Aye, I do. The pain is… lessening,” he admitted, but his eyes spoke the truth of it.

The woman they looked down upon was in terrible pain – in her heart, rather than in her body. And though she carried a new life inside her, her light was still dimmed by the memories she struggled daily with whether to forget or relive over and over.

“But not leaving,” the Maiden agreed, and they both watched the woman wipe away a stray tear.

With a flick of his hand the Smith sent two sparrows to her, allowing them to land at her feet. There they picked at non-existent crumbs, but she smiled anyway.

With fondness the Maiden watched the Smith’s handiwork, even as the truck pulled into the parking lot at the front of the building. 

~ ≈ ~

Sandor wasn’t sure how many times in one week he could feel this ridiculous without wondering if he was losing his fucking mind.

First it was the sparrows outside the coffee shop, and today it was the whole fucking flock of them leading him back to the damned coffee shop.

He had to wonder – what the fuck was wrong with him?

He was taking orders from birds. Little birds. Tiny birds. Vermin. Miniature vermin. And they seemed to enjoy it.

There he sat in front of the coffee shop, and on top of feeling ridiculous, today he felt embarrassed. He didn’t really want to go inside and see the woman he had ogled the morning before. He didn’t want to risk it happening again if she was behind the counter waiting on customers. And he certainly didn’t want to feel the dejection when she looked him in the face and poorly disguised her disgust.

Fucking hells. He wanted this day to be over with before it had even started.

Damned birds. What the fuck was he doing?

Still, Sandor got out of the truck and walked towards the door of the shop. He passed a couple co-eds exiting the building, at once ignoring their double takes at his scars and considering looking like he belonged in a fucking looney bin by asking them, "Can you see the birds?"

Deciding against sinking to those depths but cognizant of the fact that he had indeed fallen far judging by the organic GPS system he had followed to the coffee shop, Sandor bit his tongue. 

Dreams were one thing. He didn't need to announce to the world that he was also quite possibly hallucinating. 

~ ≈ ~

Okay, he was at the shop.

Now what? 

He looked around, looking for the sparrows but not seeing them. He put his hands on his hips and turned and then he caught himself.

What the fuck was he doing? Looking for birds for direction? For some sort of… of… instruction?

He had gone off the deep end. No doubt about it. 

He glanced at his watch – still plenty of time to make it to the class with some time to spare. He was going to need it to gather all his fucking thoughts from the far reaches of the galaxy where they had scattered like bird shit in a hurricane.

Turning to step off the curb and get back in his truck, something made him pause. Maybe a, “Just one more time,” thought flickering in his mind like a sputtering candle; a sense that sound around him had ceased, traffic had cleared on the road in front of the coffee shop, and there were neither running cars or talking patrons anywhere around. 

It was because of this that when he heard a sound coming from beside the building, it caught his attention enough for him to turn towards the sound, his mind inquiring as to what could have broken that surreal silence that had taken over the square city block he was surrounded by. With a glance in that direction he saw something that made his heart stop inside his chest, his steps ceasing awkwardly mid-turn so that he had to catch himself on the outer wall of the shop lest he trip on his work boots and fall sideways like a felled tree.

The entire damned flock of sparrows sat on the tree to the side of the building, and they were not moving. 

The sight unnerved him for several reasons, the least of which not being that he hadn’t even seen or heard them land. But it also unnerved him that they were as still as statues, none of them exhibiting their twitchy little movements characteristic of a bird their size. 

Not a single head was turning. Not a wing was flapping. It was as though he was looking at a painting of birds in a tree instead of a flock of damned sparrows.

A familiar chill ran up his spine at the same moment he heard a sound above him, and when he tore his eyes from the tree they landed on the gutter at the edge of the roof, where two sparrows were standing still, staring down at him.

Not moving.

Sandor took an involuntary step back, so unsettled by the sight that he wondered again if this was a hallucination.

Had he actually woken up that morning? Or was he in the middle of some sort of bird nightmare, and at any moment they were all going to launch themselves at him and peck him away piece by piece until nothing was left of him but a pile of abnormally large bones?

Certifiably insane, was his next thought. Certifiably fucking insane.

But he couldn’t ignore the sparrows when the two began hopping down the gutter, occasionally looking back at him as they made their way to the corner of the coffee shop. 

Sandor knew what they wanted – he just wasn’t sure he wanted to follow their instructions. After all, who the fuck listens to birds when they give orders?

He chose to instead squeeze his eyes shut, reaching up to shove the hair off his face as he turned his back and face the other side of the sidewalk. With both hands he scrubbed his beard and then brushed it smooth with his fingertips. He took a deep breath, feeling the air fill his wide chest with life giving properties, and then let it out on a long, slow sigh.

He wasn’t insane. He wasn’t insane. He wasn’t insane.

No. He was not. This was a hallucination from lack of sleep. Simple explanation, but the only one he was able to come up with at the moment.

When he was satisfied that his minute-long reprieve from insanity had brought him back to the present, he turned around, ready to open the coffee shop door and face his nemesis – the woman who resembled Sansa.

But there was a sparrow on the long door handle, and Sandor stumbled back in surprise – no easy feat for a man his size. Grasping the hood of his truck with one hand and his chest with his other, he willed his heart to lower back into his chest cavity from his throat and watched the bird stare at him for a moment before fluttering down to the sidewalk and approach him. 

His heart was pumping so fast Sandor thought he might faint as he watched the bird hop up to his boot and peck the toe.

One kick is all it would take , he thought. One kick, and it would all be over. 

If not for the hundred or so sparrows that remained on the tree, that is. 

Bones. Skeleton. Piece by piece.

Anything was better than doing what this hopping little bird was telling him to, and following it to the corner of the building.

But that’s exactly what he found himself doing.

As the bird lifted off and joined his comrades in the tree, Sandor watched it become as motionless as the rest of them before glancing around the edge of the building.

There sat a woman – the new girl? – on an overturned milk crate. She was smiling gently, looking down at two sparrows who were apparently foraging on the ground before her, scratching with their feet and pecking at the ground.

But Sandor’s breathing had stopped along with his heart.

Her hair was in that same bun he had seen from behind the day before, her apron tied about her waist, her arms long and uncovered in the t-shirt she was wearing.

So unlike what she looked like in those tattered gowns she wore in his dreams.

Sansa. 

Instead of skirts, her legs were encased in form fitting jeans, her shoes merely sensible sneakers.

But there was no mistaking her. 

The woman was Sansa, or rather, Sansa was the woman who worked at the coffee shop. And his brain couldn’t wrap itself around any semblance of an explanation for what he was seeing, so he simply stood there staring as she smiled and sniffed. 

As he watched, a peeping tom of the worst kind from around the corner of the building, she lifted a hand and wiped away a tear that escaped down her cheek, even as she smiled down at the birds. They frolicked and danced at her feet, putting on a show that was for her eyes only.

Then she stood, brushing off her bottom before turning and disappearing through an open door at the back of the coffee shop. Sandor watched it close behind her.

The two sparrows who were on the ground entertaining her suddenly turned and focused on him, that unearthly lack of movement making him feel like their tiny bird brains were judging him in that moment. Then his gaze followed them as they flew up into the tree with the others. 

The hundred tiny statues sat for a moment, all of them focused on him until as a group they all took flight at once, surprising him once again and dispersing into all directions rather than leaving in the flock he had grown accustomed to seeing.

It was almost as though they were telling him they had done their job and were no longer needed.

Sandor blinked. Then he blinked again. He was certain his mouth hung open but he couldn’t quite feel his face, he was in such a state of shock.

Looking back at the spot where just a minute ago the woman had sat, Sandor tried to reconcile what he had seen with what he had dreamed for all those weeks.

Sansa. 

But it couldn’t be.

She couldn’t be. It just wasn’t possible.

Unless… Maybe he had seen her somewhere before, and his mind had latched onto her image and projected it in those dreams, so that the dreams themselves had felt more real because they featured a real person.

No, it couldn’t be. 

Sandor shook his head at himself, squeezed his eyes as he pinched the bridge of his nose. Banishing all thoughts of Sansa and wondering at how complicated the mind must be to conjure dreams that included this woman, he wiped all emotion from his face and entered the coffee shop. It was nearly time for him to be at the shooting range for his class, and at this rate he wasn’t going to have any prep time before he got there. And no, he was not in love with the woman behind the counter.

Chapter Text

Sandor stood next to the door, watching the short line of people place their orders at the counter. 

As he watched, the woman entered and Sandor’s recently restarted heart seemed to stop once again.

Get ahold of yourself, he inwardly scolded. 

This wasn’t Sansa. This wasn’t the woman from his dream, the one for whom he had developed very real, very irrational feelings for. This was a stranger – someone who just happened to work at the coffee shop he frequented.

But he couldn’t help the longing elicited by simply watching her.

If someone glanced back at him he pretended to study the menu board, even crossing his arms over his chest as though he was having trouble deciding. But as soon as their eyes left him he returned to watching, waiting, seeing if any of her mannerisms matched those of his dream Sansa.

She was different, that was for sure. But that could have been because the woman he had known in the dream world had been blind for two months, whereas this one obviously had full sight. She navigated the counter and managed to produce the orders with relative speed, only asking the man with whom she worked for help every so often.

But some hair escaped her bun and she paused in her haste to get out orders, sighing softly as she tucked it back behind her ear.

There. His heart lurched, remembering. There was the woman from his dream. The woman who plagued his every waking hour, who still visited him in the night in his thoughts and who refused to leave in the morning when he went to work.

Sandor’s heart went from a stand still to a thunderous pounding in his chest, before he began to take the long, calming breaths he taught nervous shooters in his classes. His heart began to slow, the beating evening out until he felt he would be able to join the line of customers.

A coffee and… twelve muffins, he decided absently. And a biscotti. And maybe a breakfast sandwich.

Because he was hungry. Not because he wanted to prolong his time at the counter waiting for his order. 

Of course not.

~ ≈ ~

Those sparrows had been so funny, how they had come so close to Sansa and almost seemed to entertain her while she sat outside on her morning break. If only they hadn’t been sparrows, she would have been fine.

Finches. Maybe chickadees. Even crows wouldn’t have struck such thoughts into her mind.

But no, they had to be sparrows; the birds she had seen several times since returning home; the birds she seemed to hear while she was blind and in Sandor’s company so many times. Of course they reminded her of the horse she once had, the horse Sandor had given her. The birds reminded her of what she lost that day the sword came down on Sandor’s neck.

So she had wiped her tear away and stood, determined to think positively and to enjoy her day. According to her calendar she was passing two months pregnant. That was indeed something to celebrate.

It was with a smile on her face that she returned to the world of the living instead of the dead – leaving her memories of Sandor to trail behind her in her wake like needy children unwilling to release her hand. As best as she tried to ignore them they persisted in being there, in her way every time she turned around.

She filled orders as fast as she could while Jake spoke with customers at the register and took their money. Every couple of orders he would stop what he was doing, ask the next customer in line if they would wait a moment while he helped fill orders, and he’d step back with her to work. The process seemed fairly seamless and between the two of them Sansa was surprised at how fast they were delivering orders to happy customers at the counter.

At one point when the previous order was finished and the next one hadn’t come in yet, Sansa paused to tuck her hair behind her ear, and there it was – Sandor’s face, this time smiling at her in the clearing next to the godswood pool where they had first made love. The thought seemed to randomly appear in her mind’s eye, giving her heart such a pang of longing that she had to clear her throat and close her eyes for a couple heartbeats.

She nearly blushed, remembering how demanding she had been as she returned to her task. What must he have thought of her? A woman acting as she did must have been an anomaly in that time.

Though she had to admit to herself, it was likely Sandor received so little attention from women that he wouldn’t have minded; probably would have received such treatment with pleasure.

And if she remembered that smile correctly, that is exactly what he had done.

Sighing as she mentally ushered the memory aside, she received the next order from Jake – a frothy, fancy coffee that she didn’t know how to make, for a woman who was going to remain here to drink it. With a curious glance at the woman who ordered it, Sansa saw she was younger, younger than either her or Jake, holding a cell phone and wearing enormous sunglasses on top of her perfectly coiffed hair at eight in the morning. 

Had it not been completely unprofessional, Sansa would have released the snort of laughter she felt threatening to erupt from her mouth.

“Jake, could you show me how to make this?” she asked politely, and the man looked back at her, an easy smile on his nodding face. He had been kind from the moment she was hired, and she wondered if perhaps the handsome young man might – 

A shadow moved behind the woman who had just ordered, drawing Sansa’s eye. Behind the woman’s head her gaze encountered a wide chest in a buttoned shirt, above which was a small V showing a bit of hairy chest, and above that a thick, trimmed beard.

Above that was a smooth lower lip, an equally thick mustache, and a nose with a slight bulge in the middle as though it had been broken at one point or another. Then her eyes encountered a set of intense gray ones –

Gray eyes…

Sansa dropped the mug she was holding, and she hardly heard it shatter at her feet as those intense, focused gray eyes connected with hers.

So many things happened at once. 

Sansa heard but didn’t see Jake turn to her, not with her intense tunnel vision aimed at the eyes that reminded her of Sandor so much. 

Neither did she really comprehend why Jake’s astonished, “Sansa!” would cause those gray eyes to widen, an imperceptible emotion to pass over their surface before being hidden behind a wary, decidedly intense look.

And she didn’t register exactly what was happening when Jake said her name a second time, more urgently, as she finally looked away from the gray eyes, over the expanse of scarring that marred the man’s right cheek, to look at her coworker, who was looking at her as though she had just dropped a priceless porcelain sculpture. 

“I’m – I’m sorry,” she said softly, and then again, “I’m sorry, Jake. I’ll…” She glanced back at the man, and then back at Jake. “I’ll clean this up right now.”

But she didn’t. Instead her mouth watered and because she knew what was coming, she ran back down the hallway to the employee bathroom and slammed the door.

~ ≈ ~

This wasn’t happening. Sandor wanted to leave. He wanted to leave right now. He wanted to turn and walk away and never return to this damned coffee shop. 

Sansa. 

He must have heard her name somewhere. It was the only explanation. He must have heard it somewhere and his brain had stored it, along with her face, because he couldn’t deny that he thought she was stunningly gorgeous. That had to be why. 

His brain liked her.

His heart, however, had reservations. 

But try as he might, he couldn’t convince his feet to exit the building to never return. Instead he walked up to the counter and waited while the man apologized, making the woman’s drink before quickly sweeping up the mess this Sansa had made of the mug she had dropped.

“I apologize for that,” said Jake as he returned to the counter. “My coworker is new and she’s… not feeling well,” he offered as explanation, though Sandor thought the man looked about as baffled as Sandor should have been.

But Sandor wasn’t baffled. He was worse off than that. He was everything all at once, his nebulous thoughts curling in on themselves and making him feel like a star in the heavens ready to explode. 

What the hells kind of game were the gods playing with him? Why did they do this? Why orchestrate this farce of a meeting with the damned sparrows? Because upon hearing her name he immediately thought that that is how he came to be here. Sparrows didn’t act the way those sparrows did. Sparrows didn’t lead someone somewhere, didn’t show pleasure in someone’s actions or irritate them until the person did what they wanted them to. 

And sparrows appeared to everyone. Not just people they wanted to see them.

Like him. Like this Sansa.

He wasn’t hallucinating after all.

But why were the gods including her?

He ordered his regular coffee and muffins, skipping the rest and hoping he could be out of the coffee shop before she returned, but apparently his luck had run out.

Just a minute after he ordered and while Jake was busy taking the order for the man who had been standing behind Sandor, she came back out, noticeably paler than she had been before.

But the glance she sent him was… loaded.

Why did she drop the mug when she saw him, he wondered? Thinking back to that moment, none of it made sense. Could it really be that she had played right into the image of the woman he had expected, and his scars horrified her so greatly that he startled her into dropping it?

The thought plagued him even as he attempted to process the look she had just given him before she read his order and began preparing it.

Loaded. 

Wary, like his. 

But also shocked; disturbed, and surprisingly sad.

None of it made any fucking sense.

Sandor wanted to leave. He needed to get out of there. She approached the counter with his