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A Gifting Dilemma

Chapter Text

“Good morning Dr. Clegane.” Sansa smiled brightly at the man hunched over his desk.

He grunted a reply, not looking up from his work.

Sansa cleared her throat and moved farther into his office. “I’m excited to finally get the chance to work with you. I’ve been here for—“

“I know how long you’ve been here girl. It’s my bloody clinic.”

“Of course. I just meant, we’ve hardly crossed paths. It will be nice to...”

“Will you just get on with it please?”

“Yeah, I just came to tell you that your patient is ready for you.”

“That was simple, wasn’t it? Doing your job? Save me your empty words, I don’t have time for meaningless blather.”

She knew she could not show weakness if she were to stay on as his medical assistant.

“What you may see as meaningless blather, I see as common courtesy.”

“Fuck your courtesy.”

“Why are you being so rude?” Sansa legitimately wanted to know.

“Trying to sniff out a coward. I have to know if you can handle a dog barking, because when he bites, he’ll break you if you’re soft.” He shifted in his seat, his gaze teatering on that of predatory. “Tell me, are you a soft Little Bird?”

“I am a Stark from Winterfell. A wolf of the North.” Her eyes turned ice and she laid her palms on the edge of his desk and leaned in. “And I will rip the throats out of anyone who tries to break me. Tell me, Dr. Clegane, who’s stronger? The dog? Or the wolf?”

He kept her stare as an understanding came over them. He stood without breaking eye contact. “You’re a bold little thing, that’s for sure. But tread carefully, this is still my clinic and you are still my employee.”

She didn’t say anything else, only turned and left. She knew he had a reputation for being cold, but it was something else to experience it firsthand. She couldn’t let it get to her though, she did in fact have a job to do.

Under normal circumstances, Dr. Clegane exclusively worked with one medical assistant. However, Shae has gone on maternity leave. Now for the past two weeks Clegane had been recycling through all the assistants in the office. More often then not they’d be dismissed from his service in tears.

Sansa was hoping he wouldn’t toss her out in the same fashion. She had drawn his name for her very first Secret Santa exchange and had specifically asked the office manager Tyrion to be placed on his service. Tyrion had readily agreed seeing as options were dwindling down.

Now she was on a mission to figure out the inner workings of Sandor Clegane and give him a holiday gift that would without a doubt put a smile on his face. No matter his temperament, nobody would be able to say that Sansa Stark didn’t give the best holiday presents.

As the day went on she tried to be as short and pleasent as possibly during her exchanges with the imposing man. He seemed to appreciate it. She could only tell because he hadn’t been overly rude to her anymore. This was a step in the right direction. Now it was time to begin her information extraction.

Sitting in his office at the end of the day, Sansa took stock of the room.

“Is that your dog?” She asked, breaking the quiet.

Sandor looked up from his computer at the picture sitting on the oak bookshelf.

“No.” His curt reply had her head jerking back to him as he looked down and scribbled some notes. “I have a framed photograph of someone else’s dog in my office.” The corner of his mouth raised a tiny bit and his eyes met hers with a hint of amusement.

She silently chuckled, completely taken aback by his humor. Sansa had been working at his medical office for nearly a year now and she had heard many things about the man, but never once that he had a sense of humor.

“I have a dog too, her name is Lady. She’s the sweetest.” She offered, hoping he’d tell her about his dog in return. She needed to find some common ground and dogs were great connection makers.

“Stranger wouldn’t know sweet if you threw a damn cake in his face.” He spoke while continuing to concentrate on the work he was doing.

Sansa smiled brighter. “He can’t be that bad, you have a photo of him in your office after all.”

“I suppose not.”

Sandor went back and forth between studying the computer screen and scribbling things down. Meanwhile Sansa took the time to continue her visual hunt for clues.

He didn’t have a lot of personal touches. His degree was the only thing hanging on the wall. A large number of medical textbooks aligned the shelves of his bookcase. A coat rack that held a large black jacket, hat and scarf was in the corner. Under the window he had an handmade wooden sailboat. It looked delicate, like if you’d touch one of the sails with just the slightest pressure it’d snap in two.

“Do you like to sail?” She asked.

“What?” He sounded mildly annoyed.

“That’s a beautiful boat there.” She nodded to the figure.

He regarded the sailboat off to the side of him. After a moment of silence, he sighed and spoke while staying on task. “My hands were very clumsy in the beginning of med school and I had a teacher who suggested I take up the hobby to help steady them.”

“Did you build many?”

He stopped what he was doing and looked at her. “Aye, I built many.” He glanced back down.

Another several minutes went by without either of them speaking. Sansa began twisting her hands together in her lap. Nervous to ask.

“So...how did I do today?”

“In regards to what?”

“My performance.”

“Your performance?”

She nodded. Then realized he wasn’t looking. “Yes.”

“Are you still sitting in my office?”

“Umm, yes?”

“Then you did fine.”

A weight lifted from her chest. “That’s good to hear.”

“Is it?” He set down the pen in hand and clasped his hands together, regarding her with interest. “And why is that?”

“Well, I’d hate to be released from your service.”

“It’s only a matter of time before I make you run away crying.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Experience.”

“Hasn’t Shae worked with you for years, she seems unscathed.”

“Shae is a lion. She knows when to push back and when to retreat.” He took his glasses off. “Can a wolf learn their place.”

She sat up straighter. “Wolves are smarter than dogs are they not?”

“I’d say that’s debatable.”

“And I’d say you’d lose that debate..”

His eyes looked thoughtful as his head gave a slight nod. “You’re going to give me trouble.”

“I’ll only give as much as I get.”

“I give a lot, Little Bird. More than most women can handle.” He raised a challenging brow.

“I can take it.” She assured him. Hearing his innuendo, but ignoring his bait to trip her up. She could play on his level and be just fine. It wasn’t her first rodeo with a cocky man after all.

“I bet you can.” He smiles and closed the folder on his desk. “I’ll see you in the morning then.”

 

The day had gone better than she’d hope. She had learned that Sandor had a troublesome dog and built model boats. He even had a bit of a sense of humor. Though he had been vulgar at a point, she wouldn’t be bothered by his attempts to drive her away, she’d seen much worse than him.

She wasn’t sure how this was helpful, but it was more than she had been expecting. She thought on what kind of gift she could get him based on dogs and boats. Maybe an amusing painting of a dog sailing on the ocean. Maybe she could get a laugh out of him, or at the very least a smile. Or how about a painting of a dog and a wolf getting along, playing in the snow. Bridge the gap between them, show him she was an equal and would not be scared away. His office was so bland, he really did need something in there.

Chapter Text

It had been after several days of working under Dr. Clegane that Sansa finally felt she could— for the most part—let her guard down. She was slowly turning back into her bubbly self. The last several days she had always been waiting to defend, waiting to fight. Thankfully they were able to smooth out most of the kinks of their new working relationship pretty quickly, so it would seem at least.

He had obviously never been taught proper manners, but that was okay. He was who he was.

Conversation was usually minimal and sometimes strained and he was almost always curt and straight to the point. While sometimes she longed for more pleasent encounters with him, it was somewhat refreshing knowing exactly when she was doing something he liked versus something he didn’t. Though that meant that figuring out what to get him was no easy task.

 

“How’s working for Dr. Clegane?” Rosalyn asked while they ate together during their lunch break.

Rosalyn has been a medical assistant at the clinic for over five years. She had been the first person at the clinic to seek Sansa out and get to know her.

Quickly finishing the small bite of sandwhich she took, Sansa answered. “He’s been fine, a little rough around the edges, but not too bad overall.”

“I’m surprised, he’s usually such an asshole.” She shuffled around in her seat. “You’re such a sweet girl, Sansa. I’ve been worried.”

“I think he’s just very set in his ways and doesn’t like change.”

She sipped her water. “He shouldn’t get to go around yelling at everyone though. It’s not fair.”

“He doesn’t do that, Ros.”

“Kind of, yeah.” She insisted, though both knew she was stretching the truth of the matter. He was relatively quiet around the office, not to say he didn’t yell occasionally. He more or less just kept to himself.

“Gods, it’s like he’s made it his mission to get me to quit.”

She laughed. “What did you do to get on his bad side anyhow?”

“Isn’t everyone on his bad side?” She joked and then appeared uncomfortable. “I may have gotten a little extra tipsy at the holiday party a couple years ago and came onto him.” She finished with her head down.

“But you’ve said that his face was horrid!” Sansa said flabbergasted. “That was like, one of the very first things you said to me when I started working here.”

“Well, yes. But his body is tight as fuck and like I said, I had been drinking and was horny.”

“So he hates you because you came onto him? That doesn’t make sense.”

“I told him to take me in his office and bend me over. He said something about me being a needy bitch in heat. And then I said I was a needy bitch for a monster cock. Or something of the like.” She waved her hand at the foggy memory. “Anyways. Suffice it to say, he’s hated me since.”

“Well that was very rude.”

“Please, I’m sure he’s heard far worse.”

“Doesn’t make what you said any better.”

“I know, but I can’t take it back and I did apologize for it, he just didn’t wanna hear it.”

“Well I can’t say I blame him for being upset.”

“I apologized! Besides, I didn’t mean it how he took it. It had nothing to do with his face and everything to do with dick, I swear. He’s built like a fucking God and probably fucks like one too. I’m quite pissed I didn’t get nailed by him actually.” She pouted.

Sansa stared at her coworker, dumbfounded by the confession. Of course she’d noticed Sandors physique, everyday during lunch he would change into gym clothes and go for a run. You’d have to be blind to not notice his muscular legs and thick arms bursting from his tight tee shirt. If it wasn’t for the burns on his face, he’d probably be surrounded by a gaggle women at all times. They were impossible not to notice and unfortunately hideous.

Sansa thought back to a popular article they did on him a little while ago. As a child, his entire family was lost in a house fire, but according to the police it looked more like a murder plot. However, no other details had ever been released. It was absolutely heart wrenching. He’d been going through life with a physical reminder of an enormous tragedy everyday. She couldn’t blame him for turning angry and hard.

Sansa could see that his scarring was something he was self conscious about. His hair always hung over them and his head was more often than not tilted away as if he was trying to spare you from being offended by them. New patients were also to be informed ahead of time to prepare themselves. You could tel the scars were always on the forefront of his mind.

When Sansa and Ros we’re walking back to the office they spotted Sandor coming around the corner. It must have been a relatively short run because it didn’t look like he had even broken much of a sweat. She wondered how he could stand to run in shorts and a tee during the dead of winter. They were all headed for the back door to the clinic. Sansa gave him a warm smile.

“Have a good run Dr. Clegane?” She asked while Ros swung the door opened and continued on inside.

Sandor eyed her sharply and turned away through the door, it closed in her face. Leaving Sansa standing there feeling like a bucket a water had been thrown on her. She felt a pang in her gut from his cold behavior.

As she made her way through the halls and hung up her coat and scarf, her hurt turned to anger. She had been nothing but nice to the man. Bent over backwards for the man. Perhaps it was time to take a page out of his book.

For the rest of the afternoon, she was extra short and sour in response to him. Opened and closed his door with more force than necessary. She didn’t smile or say please and thank you and she kept eye contact to a minimum. By the end of the day she was exhausted and felt like the scum of the earth.

Yelling back and standing up to him was one thing, whatever this was, was just too out of character for her. She felt hateful and petty and all it had done was ruin her day.

Everyone else had gone home and Sansa was sitting in Sandors office, much like the previous days before. This was the routine now. Lock the doors, make final notes and tie up any loose strings from the day before leaving. At least five minutes of tense silence passed between them before Sandor threw his glasses on the desk in front of him and sighed loudly.

“Alright, what’s your problem?” He rasped, looking her dead on.

“What do you mean?” She was caught off guard. Not expecting to be confronted by him. She figured he’d just continue to ignore her and move on.

“You’ve had a stick up your ass since you returned from lunch.”

“I have a stick up my?” She paused as her anger rose. “With all do respect, you are the one with a stick...up there.”

He laughed. The scars twisting on his face. “With all do respect, she says.” He let his laugh die down. “Yes, but I always have a stick up my ass. You on the other hand are normally spouting sunshine and shitting rainbows. So I’ll ask you again, what’s your problem?”

She took a deep breath, knowing she needed to be upfront with him. Nothing would be solved by continuing to act as if she didn’t feel scorned. “You...you can be short and rude sometimes and that’s fine.” She stood up and paced, trying to calm the butterflies in her tummy. “But when you look at me with such disdain and then blatantly ignore me, walk by me as if I’m...I’m nothing, that hurts my feelings. And I know you don’t care about my feelings, but you should. I work hard here, for you, for everyone around me. I deserve a little more respect from you.”

Their eyes stayed locked as her words hung in the air. Sansa fully expected to be thrown off his service now and given the cold shoulder for the duration of her employment henceforth. She braced herself.

“It was fine.” He grumbled, gathering up paperwork from his desk.

Sansa’s eyes narrowed in confusion. “Huh?”

“My run. You had asked how it was and I ignored you. It was fine.”

“Oh.” She lowered herself back down to the chair. “That’s...good.” The air of confusion grew surrounding her but she didn’t want to question it. Was this his way of apologizing? By just going back and having the conversation he’d ignored earlier?

“Did you...have a good lunch?” It sounded as if he was about to have teeth pulled.

“It was fine. We went to Hot Pies.” Every word said felt like it might topple down a house of cards.

“The owner is an annoying little shit, but he makes a pretty good meat pie.” He offered a little more easily.

“He means well and yes, I agree. Though I prefer his deserts.” She hesitated before continuing, but she needed to know. She had thought they were on good terms after all. “Why did you ignore me earlier? Did I do something?”

He let out a tired sigh. “It wasn’t you or anything you did.”

”What was it the? Did something happen?”

”Nothing for your concern. Just saw something I didn’t care for.” He stood looking around, double checking things before turning off his monitor. “We’re done for the day.”

Grabbing his coat and scarf, Sandor wrapped himself up and they quietly walked to the back door. Sandor set the alarm as Sansa bundled herself up. Locking the door swiftly behind them. They stood outside in the snowy winter weather.

“Thank you for letting me speak my mind.” She was truly grateful that he didn’t force her to censor herself or get angry at her for challenging him.

It took him a moment to look at her. “No matter how harsh it is, I will always demand truth. It’s when you start lying that we’ll have a real problem. I acted like an asshole and you put me in my place. You did good.” He adjusted his scarf more comfortably around his neck. “And for the record, I do care about your feelings. I may look like a monster, but I’m not.”

Her mouth parted. “I don’t think—”

He threw his hand up. “I know what I look like and I know most of the office is frightened by me. I’m ugly not dumb.”

She huffed and stiffened. “I would appreciate it if you didn’t interrupt me.”

His eyes grew at her boldness and told her to go on.

“I’ve seen real monsters, Sandor Clegane. My last boyfriend was one. Very handsome, charming, wealthy and powerful. When I think of monsters, it’s men like him that come to my mind. Not men like you. You may be grouchy and rude, but you’re not a monster.”

He searched her face for falsity, but found none.

“If you say so. But, there’s still time to prove you wrong. I’ll see you in the morning. Good night Ms. Stark.”

 

Sansa felt lighter walking home, like she had punched through a wall and made it to safety on the other side. Though Sandor hadn’t divulged anything significant, she did take notice to his scarf. The thin red material looked heavily used and must have seen better days. Too bad she didn’t have enough time to make one by hand. Perhaps she would buy him a new one instead.

Chapter Text

As usual, Sansa went about her morning routine at the office. Making sure the exam rooms were all sufficiently stocked and starting up all the computers. Printing out any and all lab and imaging results for the days patients and slipping them into colored folders for later.

Once she had his first patient ready, she headed for his office. She needed to uncover something good today if she was to find the perfect present in time. It was always difficult to find time to actually ask him about anything non work related without it sounding forced or suspect.

“Good morning Dr. Clegane. How was your commute today?”

Sandor was rolling up his sleeves and straighteneing his tie in the mirror.

“Slow.” He rasped while stretching his neck.

“I saw several cars get stuck on my walk over. I was worried that you’d get stuck, you live on the mountain right?” She said as she took her usual seat.

He looked at her through the mirror. “How do you know that?”

“Oh.” She blushed. “Uh, I overheard Dr. Blackwater talking to you once. He said something about ‘you mountain men.’ I just figured you must live up there.”

He smoothed his tie and walked behind his desk to sit down. “Aye. I live on the mountain.”

“Do you like it up there? I bet it’s beautiful.”

“Aye.” He mumbled putting on his glasses and focusing on his computer screen. “Weather like this means I have to get up much too fucking early though.” He yawned and let out a tired groan. “Call Vale General and have them send over the most recent imaging for the next patient. This can’t be everything.”

“Okay, I’ll get right on it.” She jumped out of her seat to leave his office. “You’re all set in exam 1, by the way.”

He nodded that he heard her and grabbed his stethoscope.

They were halfway through the morning and it had been smooth sailing. Sansa was starting to truly enjoy working for the brusque man.

“I’m going to grab a coffee from next door, do you want anything?” She asked standing halfway in his office.

“Getting me coffee is not part of your job.”

“I know, but I’m offering since I’m going over there and no offense but...you look like...shit.” She grew red at her words, but enjoyed the smile that it brought to his face.

“Hate to break it to you Ms. Stark, but I always look like shit.”

She smiled at his light banter. “I have to disagree with that.”

“You need to get your eyes checked, girl.” He grumbled.

”What’s your poison, Doctor?” She looked on with patient authority. “I won’t take no as an answer.”

He took in her set shoulders and sighed in defeat. “Get the biggest, blackest coffee they have.” He pulled out his wallet from his pocket, flipping through the bills.

“I got it, don’t worry about it.”

He stood shaking his head, holding out a twenty. “That’s not happening. Take it or don’t come back here with anything for me.”

His seriousness caused Sansa pause and she took his money, nodding.

“No change.” He added.

“That’s a huge tip!” Her eyes bulging.

“Wouldn’t be the first time a woman has said that to me.” He rasped quietly smirking and sitting back down.

She turned beet red. “You did not just...oh my Gods I should report you!” The hint of a smile assured him she would not.

“I encourage you to report me. I’d like to watch you squirm as you tell Tyrion.”

“You’re impossible, you know that.” She chuckled.

“I’ve been called worse.” He shrugged.

When she returned with their coffees, she informed him that their next patient had canceled last minute.

“I got a piece of lemon cake, wanna share?” She asked with a giddy smile and brow wiggle.

He looked at the bag in her hand that she was opening. “Nah, that shits too sweet.” He gulped his hot bitter beverage and turned back to work.

“I have a weakness for sweets. Especially anything lemon flavored, I can’t pass up anything if it’s lemon. Are you that way with anything?”

“I don’t know. I guess not.” He said absentmindedly while opening up a thick ledger on his desk and scanning the numbers.

“What about something like a big juicy prime grade steak?”

His finger ran over the lines on the page. He didn’t look up. “I don’t eat a lot of red meat. I’d take a chicken over that any day.” He flipped a page.

“Really? I’m surprised.” She took a sip of coffee.

“I am a doctor you know, I try and be as healthy as I can. Set a good example and all that horseshit.” He slammed the ledger closed and trained his focus back on the monitor.

They enjoyed their drinks in silence together for the next few minutes. Sansa scrolling through her phone, Sandor plugging away at his computer in between guzzling his drink.

Sansa groaned and she roughly gripped her phone, jerking it to her leg. “My sister is bringing her new boyfriend to Christmas this year and my mother is freaking out at me right now.”

Sandor looked to her, his eyes finding hers from above his frames. “Tell her your working. Which is what you’re supposed to be doing right now anyways.”

She waved her coffee cup at him. “I’m obviously on a break. It’s illegal to not allow me breaks, Dr. Clegane.”

She smiled and knew that she won for the moment.

“She’s telling me if Arya gets married before I do, she’ll have a stroke.”

“That’s not medically possible.” He droned as he entered in some information into the computer.

“As if I’m some old maid.” She spoke, mostly to herself. “I mean, I really should get married before Arya, she never even wanted to get married. But it’s just a boyfriend, it’s probably not even serious, though she’s never brought anyone home before. I haven’t dated anyone in forever, not even a hint of a romantic entanglement. I’m going to die alone.”

“Fucking hells that escalated. If you’re dying alone, then there’s definitely no hope for me.” His words laced with annoyance.

“Wait, now she just sent a wall of text. Oh my Gods.” She shot up from the chair. “She can’t do this!” Her breaths came out in a sharp panic.

That obviously caught Sandors attention as he turned his full attention to her.

“She’s inviting Harry to my fathers company party this weekend.” She looked up to meet Sandors eyes. “Harry! She’s trying to set me up with that...that whore monger! Doesn’t she know his reputation? It’s well known all over the Vale. Uncle Petyr is the one who warned me about him, how could she not know? I’m so livid right now I could hit something!”

She felt like the walls were closing in on her. Her mother had always pushed her in one direction or the other, trying to dictate her life. Catelyn had made her believe her ex boyfriend Joffrey was good for her. Not that her mother really knew what was going on behind closed doors. She was too ashamed to tell her what was truly going on.

But dissapointing her mother always weighed heavy on her. She had already been a disappointment by not following in her fathers footsteps and by not marrying Joffrey. There was something inside Sansa that needed her the approval and something that died a little each time she let her down. It would be a very tense Christmas if Sansa denied her this, ruining it for all her siblings. She felt herself spiraling down a dark hole.

“Take a deep breath.” Sandors strong rumbling voice broke through her thoughts. He waited to speak more until she sat back down. “Simply tell her you don’t want to be set up and that’s final.”

Her eyes sharpened to glass. “One does not simply tell Catelyn Stark what to do. She will bring him even if I were to suddenly come up with a date. It’s war now.”

He chuckled momentarily, until her gaze cut through his windpipe and he choked on his own saliva. “Well, this almost makes me glad to have no family. War is a dangerous affair afterall.”

“She’s impossible.”

“You’re going to need to go to the mattresses.”

“What?” She looked at him as if he’d spoken another language.

“You know, be ruthless and cutthroat. In war. It’s from The Godfather.”

“What is it with men and The Godfather?” Exasperation written on her face.

“It’s our favorite movie.” He said as if obvious.

“As in all of men? No, I don’t buy that. The Godfather is not your favorite movie.”

“Sure it is. Its a mans movie.” He insisted.

“No. There has to be another one out there. Something you put on when your sick and wanna curl up on the couch with hot tea. Something you’ve seen a thousand times but you happily get sucked in every time because it makes you feel good.”

”The Godfather.” He chimed again.

”Wrong.” She was being demanding. “Don’t lie to me Sandor Clegane. It’s not The Godfather, I can sense it.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He mumbled sheepishly.

“Come on, give me something. My moms trying to marry me off. Give me something good here.”

He look at her with an unimpressed gaze over his glasses. After a silent stand-off, he gave in.

“Once.”

“Once what?”

“The movie. My...favorite movie.”

“The musical?” Her face shined brighter than the sun.

“It’s not a musical!” He quickly grumbled.

“It’s not? I thought it was.”

“There’s music and singing throughout, but it’s not a bloody musical.”

“It’s about a singer and a girl that fall in love, right? Awe, you like romantic movies.”

“No I don’t and it’s hardly romantic, they don’t even end up together.”

“I thought they ended up together. Hmm. It’s been years since I’ve seen it.”

“He’s ugly and too old for her, of course they’re not going to end up together. That’s why I like it, it sets realistic expectations and the musics also good.”

“I’m telling you, you’re a hopeless romantic.”

“Emphasis on the hopeless.”

“Ha! So you admit it!” She jumped pointing at him.”

“Don’t point you’re fucking finger at me.” He sighed, rubbing his forehead. “Well at least you’re in a more cheerful mood now. Don’t know if that’s good or not.”

She looked back down to her phone remembering and groaned. “Dammit. You know, the holidays are supposed to be enjoyable. With or without a family, they are supposed to bring joy and bloody cheer.” She slid her phone into her pocket, tossing her coffee into the trash bin. “I’m going to head back to work.”

She found it hard to smile, hard to pay attention to anyone around her. She couldn’t help but to drag her feet, lost in her own mind. Her mother’s clipped words playing over and over. She was on autopilot, bouncing from desk to patient to the lab. Rinse and repeat.

Every time she’d have an encounter with Sandor she put on a false face and willed him not to notice she was struggling. She had really tried to put it in the back of her mind, but she just couldn’t.

By the end of the work day, Sandor had finally said something after they were alone in his office once again. Looking at her with his hands curled into one another atop his desk.

“You can’t let your mother dictate your life for you. I don’t care what her name is and how many bombs she drops on you. You’re your own person and if you don’t want to be with that Harry person, you will not be with him. You are Sansa Stark, the Wolf of Winterfell, aye? You are strong and fierce. Understood?”

The first genuine smile since the morning grew on her face. After a day of feeling hopeless, this was exactly what she needed to hear. She had already given into the fact that she would let her mother push her and Harry together, but if Sandor believed that she could do this, she certainly wasn’t going to make a liar out of him.

“Thank you.”

“Don't fucking thank me.” He grumbled. “Just be the same person that you are in here out there.”

“You’re pretty good at that.” She smirked.

“At what?”

“Giving advice, being helpful.” She shrugged.

“Well don’t tell anyone, I happen to like my reputation. Don’t need everyone coming and crying to me.”

“I wasn’t crying!” She balked.

“A lot of fucking whiny words were coming outta that mouth earlier. Not to mention having to watch you mope around here as if somebody shot your damn dog. Somebody had to do something.”

“I won’t tell anyone that you’re just a big soft teddy bear.”

“Walking a thin line, girl.” He sighed standing and cracking his back. “And there ain’t a damn thing soft about me.”

“I think you have a soft squishy heart behind that giant wall of hard muscle.” Her good mood had fully returned.

“You’re going to send me to an early grave.” He said blinking heavily.

“Not medically possible.” She said, attempting to imitate him but laughing through her botched attempt.

He looked at her with half opened eyes, trying to hide his amusement. “Don’t quit your day job.”

“And miss our heart to hearts? Never.”

“I don’t have heart to hearts.” The words stumbling out.

“It’s our little secret.”

Her teeth beamed white at him and he couldn’t help but return the smile.

“Time to go. You know, I was tired at the beginning of the day but dealing with your bloody emotions is exhausting.”

 

Walking home she was amazed at the days turn of events. What a roller coaster of a ride. Sandors words really stuck with her. She needed to be the same person there that she is at work. Strong. If she can stand up to the notorious Dr. Sandor Clegane, she could stand up to her mother. She wondered if Catelyn Stark would frighten Dr. Clegane though. That’d be fun to watch, she thought. Sandor running scared from her mother. She laughed out loud on the empty sidewalk.

She still wasn’t sure what to get him, she had a couple good ideas though. Today he mentioned that he led a healthy lifestyle. She noticed the leather band on his watch looked pretty old, maybe she could get him one of those fancy watches that tells you how much calories you’re burning and your heart rate and all that stuff. But, that was probably over the spending limit. Would they really frown on that though? Was it perhaps too impersonal? She was looking to knock it outta the park here after all.

Chapter Text

The end of the week was upon them. Tomorrow Sansa would fly to Winterfell for the night and be smothered and showed off like some prized cow. She had been previously looking forward to seeing her family and catching up with some old friends, but now she was just full of dread.

She had been glad for these last couple of weeks. Working for Sandor had reminded her of her strength—something she had forgotten about. However, that didn’t make the task of facing her mother feel any less daunting.

Sansa has found she was preferring Sandor’s company over her other co-worker lately. He was funny in the most unexpected ways, you never saw it coming. He took pride in his work and was serious about it. One of the nicest things was that he was never being fake or pretending to be agreeable.

Wanting to spend some time with him during her lunch hour, Sansa grabbed her lunch pail and strode towards his office before any of the others could question her and try and drag her someplace.

With a couple quick knocks, she let herself in. “Hope I’m not—“ She froze in place.

Sandor stood next to his desk in nothing but his black boxer briefs. The hand clutching his running shorts shot to his crotch to cover himself.

“Ever occur to you to wait for permission to enter? Or to shut a fucking door?” He gritted out while shuffling behind his desk.

She quickly turned around, slamming the door and dropping her head to it. “I’m so sorry.”

“You’re on the wrong side, girl.” He growled.

“The damage is done! I already saw!” She peeped out with embarrassment. She wouldn’t be able to stop her mind from conjuring up the most dirty and taboo scenarios now. His beautifully sculpted hair-filled chest. Those arms that could surely lift her without pause. His toned thighs and perfect calves. That very prominent, jaw-dropping bulge. She always knew he had to be big, but to have an outline of his manhood made her mouth water. He was long, lean and muscular and looked like a five course meal and Sansa was starving. She shook herself from those thoughts. “Why didn’t you lock the door?” She huffed. Wanting to cover up her embarrassment.”

“Usually people don’t just barge in here!” He argued.

“I do! I do it all the time!” She willed the redness in her face to go away.

“You can turn around now.” He said standing in his workout attire. “And I’m still not used to you barging in here like that. For being so hellbent on courtesy, you sure do ignore it when it comes to my office.” He raised an eyebrow at her. He didn’t sound mad, perhaps just flustered.

“Rest assure I’ve learnt my lesson.” She wiped a strand of hair from her face.

“What are you doing here anyways?” He asked.

She was suddenly more shy than she’d ever been.“I was going to eat in here.”

“This is not a lunch hall.”

“I didn’t think you’d be stepping out so soon. Usually you don’t leave for a bit, I thought we could eat and chat a little.”

“Why not eat and chat with one of your little girlfriends out there?” He sounded childish, almost jealous.

“I don’t wanna sit there and gossip with any of the girls. It’s always the same complaints just a different day. I’d rather your company instead.”

“So you came to talk my ear off instead, huh? I’d prefer you didn’t. Went through a lot of surgery to keep the damn thing.” He smiled while rifling through his gym bag.

That made her visibly relax. She appreciated his efforts to break the tension, but she still felt unsure of herself.

He could say the most crude things and it would hardly faze her, but show her a half naked body, his half naked body and she was a lost little lamb. “No. I...I just...I don’t know, I can go.”

“It’s fine, you can stay. I’ll be back in twenty.”

“It’s okay, I don’t mean to overstep.”

“If I didn’t want you in here, you wouldn’t be in here.” With that he left, leaving no room for discussion.

 

When Sandor came back in all sweaty and glistening, Sansa was bent over examining his wooden sailboat. She was fascinated by all the detail.

She turned to him with a dazzling smile. “You know this thing is really...” She trailed off as her eyes took him all in. The sheen of sweat covering his neck and biceps, the way his shirt was clinging to his torso and rode up a little as he wiped a towel over his face. The trail of hair leading down into his shorts. Her mouth went dry. “...impressive.”

His eyes danced while his mouth suppressed a grin. “Is it now?”

“You’ve clearly put it a lot of work.” She stumbled over her words and her face was hot. “To the boat, it’s—“

“Impressive?” He offered cheekily.

“Yes.”

“I appreciate your praise of my...boat.” He bent down to grab his gym bag. “I’m going to go shower.”

He came back freshly cleaned in his dark blue slacks and white button down. His tie hanging freely from around his neck. He rolled his sleeves up his forearms.

“Did you enjoy your lunch?” It’s still sounded like it pained him to make idle conversation, but he was trying.

“Yes, it was peaceful.” She said taking her usual seat and crossing her legs. “How was your run?”

“It was fine.” He pulled out his lunch from his desk and opened it.

“Do you enjoy running? I’ve always wanted to be a runner, but I hate it. Every second is miserable.”

He chuckled. “I don’t enjoy it, no. But it does feel good when I’m done. I much prefer weight lifting to cardio.”

“Oh, you lift weights too?” She asked a little too casually, because obviously he did. She could have slapped herself.

“You think I got these arms by sitting on my ass?” He chuckled.

She shook her head and laughed at her stupid question. “No of course not. So how much can you bench press then?”

“I usually do my reps at 280 but sometimes just for fun I throw on a little more.”

“How often do you lift weights?”

“Four or five times a week.”

“So it’s safe to say working out is a favorite pass time of yours.”

“I suppose so.” He stuffed a fork full of rice and chicken into his mouth.

“I can’t recall the last time I stepped foot into a gym.”

“You should.”

“Are you trying to tell me something?” She joked.

“Everyone should work out, no matter their size.”

“I know. Hey, maybe I’ll start running with you at lunch.”

“You think you can keep up with me?” He challenged.

“Worried I would slow down an old man?”

“An old man?” He shook his head as he inhaled more food. “And I’m not worried, you’re welcome to join anytime.”

She thought about it. “Maybe after the holidays. After I’m feeling especially guilty from all the treats I’ll be stuffing in my face.” She lost her smile. “I’m sure to gain 10 pounds this weekend trying to avoid talking with Harry. I’ll have to make sure I’ve always got a mouth full of cake.”

“Tell him you’re not interested.”

“It won’t matter. He’s interested and once he has you on his radar, he’s not gonna stop. He’ll follow me around all night and I can’t make a scene at my fathers event.”

Sandor pushed his empty bowl aside and opened a drawer. He furrowed his brow, looking exceptionally serious.

“Sansa, there’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you.”

Scooting to the edge of the chair, worried. She waited for him to continue.

He threw a piece of cardstock on his desk, it slid just in front of her. She picked it up hesitantly, trying to read his facial expression before looking down.

“This is an invitation to my fathers party in Winterfell. How did you get this?”

“I was invited.”

“Why?”

“A couple of years ago your brother Robb came and did a story on me and the clinic. Kid followed me around for a almost a week and asked a million fucking questions. You’re almost as bad as him, by the way.” He smiled good naturedly. “Anyways, when it finally got published, it was one of your fathers best selling issues apparently. The tale of the half burnt man fixing the broken. They ate that shit up. I ended up appearing on Olenna for a special segment and now they’re making some piece of shit movie based on it. I’m not thrilled, but the money is fucking outrageous. I’d be an idiot to stop them.” He shook his head in obvious displeasure. “Anyway, I made your father a shit ton of money. Not that he needed it.”

“I remember the issue. I didn’t realize it was such a big thing though.” She felt almost speechless.

“I’m surprised your father didn’t say anything considering you work for me.”

“We don’t talk too much, he’s always so busy when we get together. There’s six of us kids anyhow, easy to get lost in the chaos.” She shook off her brief melancholia, happy to hear that Sandor would be there. “So I guess I’ll see you this weekend then? I’m excited to show you around the estate. It’s stunning really.”

“I wasn’t planning on going.”

“Oh. Why not?” She was disappointed to say the least.

“I’m not really a party mingling kind of man.”

“Well, I would love to see you there, but I understand.” Taking the high road. Really she wanted to beg him to come. She felt she’d have an easier time handling the Harry situation if Sandor were by her side. Not to mention, just spending time with him in general would be nice, showing him pieces of her childhood. Not that he was interested in any of that stuff though.

He gave her a long thoughtful look. “Do you really want me to come?”

“I would be thrilled if you came.” She lit up brightly and spoke quickly in excitement. “Maybe you can scare Harry off!”

His face fell and she threw her hands over her mouth.

“I didn’t mean—”

He held up a hand and put his glasses on before glancing at the computer. “I’ll be there and I’ll scare whoever you want me to scare.”

“Sandor, I really—”

He spoke softly. “It’s time to get back to work, Ms. Stark.”

She swelled with a rage. “I told you not to interrupt me!”

“And I told you it’s time to get back to work!” He roared in return.

“I didn’t mean it like that. It has nothing to do with your face!”

He was seething now. The blood rushing to his head. “It has everything to do with my face.”

“But that’s not what I meant.” She said exasperated.

“If I hang around you, then you’re little lover boy will most certainly be scared away by my face and you know it.”

“But I didn’t mean it like that.”

“You may not mean it like that, but it’s still a fact.”

His voice was so low that Sansa shivered.
“Now, in case you forgot, I am your superior and I told you to get back to work.”

“I’m sorry.” She shook her head as she felt body tingle with shame.

He gave her a hard look filled with hurt and anger. “Yeah.”

 

Sandor had been tight lipped the remainder of the day. Grunting his responses and spending as little time with her as possible. Sansa was worried she ruined their whole relationship. All because of a careless comment. She truly didn’t mean it the way he took it. Just like Ros had done. He has spent his life being stared at and judged for the markings on his face and even though she wasn’t thinking it, other people at the party would. Harry would. They would all gasp at first glance before politely putting on a neutral mask. Pretend there was no offense made. Pretend not to notice. It made perfect sense why he valued the truth so much.

Nothing she could get him would be good enough.

Chapter Text

The party was at her parents massive estate in Winterfell. The entire place was decked out with garlands and soft white lights, candles and holly. In the center of the grand foyer stood an enormous 18 foot grand fir filled with white lights and ribbons, shiny colorful balls and a sparkling silver star nestled at the top. The whole place radiated warmth and love.

Sansa felt cold and empty as she prepared herself for the battlefield downstairs. Since arriving, she had barely spoken two words to her parents. They’d been busy with the final party preparations. Her guts twisted knowing she was about to be publicly ambushed.

Sansa studied her reflection in the mirror of her childhood bedroom. She wore a dark green velvet dress. A tight bodice that loosened as it made its way to the floor. The back dipped low, perhaps a little lower than appropriate for such a function. Her sleeves were long and made of a fine lace. She wore her hair in a loose side french braid. Her make up was heavier than normal. Dark red lip stick and winged eye liner. She wore it as a mask, as if to hide her true identity from the party-goers.

Her mother insisted on her wearing some of the family diamonds. Her neck was adorned with a thick sparkling choker and ears shined almost blindingly so from two large studs that were as big as her earlobes themselves.

The caterers were gliding about the room holding their trays of bubbly and hors d’oeuvres. Guests were forming small clusters around the room, laughing and drinking. Sansa let her hand lightly glide down the railing as she descended the wide staircase.

There were a few select members of the press casually snapping shots and walking about. The high profile guests being cordial and welcoming of their presence. She smiled and nodded to one that captured several shots of her descent.

Her mother was waiting at the end of the stairs with Harry on her arm. Sansa forced the smile not to slip, knowing there were dozens of eyes on her.

“Sansa darling, you remember Harry?”

“Of course. Mr. Hardyng, it’s nice to see you again.” Ever so polite.

He took her hand, kissing the top of it. “You are a vision, my lady.”

“Thank you.” She swallowed as her stomach turned. The guy was such a sleaze and her mother was putty in his hand. “I was about to go get a drink, if you’ll excuse me.” She bowed her head to depart.

“I’ll join you.” Harry said a bit too quickly while he disentangled from Catelyn.

Catelyn beamed with joy. “Wonderful idea. I’m going to find your sister, leave you two to get more acquainted. I’ll find you later darling.”

Suddenly it was just the two of them walking to the bar in the next room. He laid his hand on the small of her back, causing her shackles to rise. His touch was most unwelcome, not that he would care. Just grin and bear it she told herself. Don’t make a scene.

“You know your mother is looking to set us up.” He whispered in her ear.

“You don’t say.” She smiled without enthusiasm. “She does tend to get ideas in her head that she just can’t seem to let go of.”

“Well, I think she might be on to something.”

“I must be honest and say that I don’t share the sentiment.”

“I know we haven’t always been in the same circles or shared the same ideals, but I think if you gave us a shot, we’d make a striking couple.”

A throat cleared behind them in line and they turned. Sandor Clegane stood tall, seemingly taller than usual. Sansa was taken aback by his appearance. His hair was loosely tied back at the nape of his neck. Still covering some of the scarring, but leaving more on display than usual. He was absolutely breathtaking in his custom black suit. It hugged him in all the right places. His dark green plaid vest matched Sansa’s dress and her heart skipped a beat at the happenstance. He held two glasses of red wine in hand.

“Little Bird.” He pushed a glass towards her hand and she readily accepted. “I got you the same thing as me, hope that’s okay.”

“It’s perfect.” She said in awe. “Thank you.” With a twinkle in her eye, she drank half the glass.

“And you are?” Harry asked condescendingly.

“Sandor Clegane. You?”

“Harrold Hardyng. An old family friend.” He ran a finger from Sansa’s shoulder down to her elbow.

Sandor growled. “Yes, I’ve heard all about you.”

“Funny, I’ve heard nothing of you.” Harry’s grin was challenging.

“Perhaps that’s because you don’t speak to Sansa everyday like I do.” Sandor countered.

“Oh, so she speaks about me then?” His eyebrows raised please with himself.

Sansa finished off her glass of wine as the line moved and she ordered a new one.

“She only mentioned you while venting about her mothers futile scheming attempts.” Sandor commented.

“Sandor, so good to see you again!” Robb came up smacking him on his shoulder.

“Wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you, Robb.” Sandor shook his hand with an enthusiasm that Sansa hadn’t seen before.

“And I wouldn’t have been given half the leads I received if not for your story.“ Robb told him before turning to Harry. “Harry, Mom said your planning on taking a position here in Winterfell?”

“Yes.” He smiled. “It really is a beautiful place to raise a family.”

Sandor pipped in. “Aye, I heard from Mya Stone. She said she’s due in 6 months.”

Everyone’s mouths dropped.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Harry chuckled awkwardly.

“I’m quite sure you do though.” Sandor said with a twitch of a smile.

Sansa smiled with self gratification, letting herself revel in the entertainment only a moment longer. She took Sandors arm, cradling into him. He rubbed her hand with affection as he looked down on her.

“Sandor?” She looked up into his eyes with a coy little smile. “I’d love to show you something up in my room. Come with me?”

“I’m always happy to come, Little Bird.” He smirked as the two men looked on in disbelief while they retreated.

“You horrible man.” She laughed and held on tighter as she swayed into him. “I can’t believe you kept that little gem of information to yourself and then just...” she made a bomb explosion sound and gesture. “Amazing. Mya? Really? How did you know that?”

“I like to keep an air of mystery.” He squeezed her arm with his bicep. The force caused her body to move into him more. She stumbled over her herself and he quickly wrapped his arm around her waist, steadying her by the hip.

She felt a burning as his thumb grazed her skin and his hand held firm, holding her entire hip in the palm of his hand. His hands were huge and warm and difficult to ignore.

“I didn’t think you’d come. I thought you were mad at me.” She said almost breathlessly.

“You know, I’ve been told that sometimes I can overreact a little.” He looked down to her before continuing. “I was never mad at you.”

“I’m glad.” She said in earnest as they entered her room. She let go of his arm and went to sit on the bed. “Thank you for that down there, by the way. Hopefully he gets the hint now.”

“If not, I’m here all night.” He said while shoving his hands in his pants pockets.

“Well, I’m not letting you out of my sight.”

“Nor I you.” He began walking around the room. “So this is your childhood bedroom?”

“Yeah. Nothing special.” She watched him as he took everything in.

“It’s very special.” He said looking at a cork board filled with pictures. “I can hardly recall my childhood room.”

“I’m sorry.”

He shrugged it off as he scanned the photos. He glanced back at her curiously and then back at a picture of her as a young girl. “You had freckles.”

Embarrassed she fell back on her bed covering her face. “I still do.” She admitted.

“You cover them? Why?”

“Yes, they’re ugly!” She groaned.

“Nothing about you could ever be ugly.” He told her softly.

She slowly stood back up, smoothing her dress over. “That’s very kind of you to say.”

“Just telling it like it is.” He reminded her. “We should head back down before your mother or father get word you’ve brought an old man up to your room.”

 

They had wandered into her fathers study. Two walls were lined with books from floor to ceiling. The other windowless wall held framed photos of the family, various political figures and celebrities. Ned Stark had his first publication up there as well. The Targaryen family had granted him access for their only formal interview known to man. Eddard Stark obviously knew some very important people and pulled many strings to land this. That interview skyrocketed his magazine into the most respected outlet on the market.

“I remember this.” Sandor commented as if recalling a long lost memory. “I was just a wee thing, but aye. I think everyone in the world must have had a copy of it at one point.”

“It’s so sad what happened.” Sansa said thinking of the family’s descent into madness.

Sandor kept moving around the room and stopped at some family shots. “What is this?” He smiled pointing at one.

“Oh no.” Sansa saw what he was looking at.

“You look like you want to murder someone.” He spoke with merriment.

In the picture she was wearing her baseball uniform and barely gripping onto the handle of the bat. Her father stood next to her smiling, but Sansa’s angry stare punctured the lens.

“I was a seven year old who wanted to play knights and princesses and my father forced me to play little league. Suffice it to say, I was a little cranky. Daddy always gets a good laugh at that picture. Thank the Gods I only had to play the one year and be done with it.”

“I always wanted to be a baseball player. If I wasn’t a doctor, I might have gone down that path.”

“Do you play?”

“Aye. Well, used too.”

“Why did you quit.”

“I don’t play well with others as you’ve noticed. Besides, they were all a bunch of cunts. Still love the game though.”

“Sansa!” Her fathers jovial voice filled the study. “I was wondering when we’d cross paths.”

“Hi daddy.” She went up to him, kissing his cheek. Hoping he didn’t hear Sandor's crass words. “You know Dr. Clegane.”

“Of course.” They exchanged a firm handshake. “Good to see you again Dr. Clegane. I’m so glad you could make it.”

“Sandor, sir.” He nodded. “And thank you.”

“How’s my daughter doing at your clinic?”

Sandor glanced at Sansa then back to Eddard. “She’s working her way to being the best one of the whole lot of them.”

Astounded by his admission, her lips parted, but she stayed silent.

Ned nodded an approval then turned to his daughter.

“Darling your mother is insisting you save a dance for the Hardyng boy tonight. Please, for my sake appease her.” His eyes bore into hers, pleading.

Resigned, she felt she had no choice. “Of course daddy.”

“Alright, I must mingle more. Don’t hide away in here all night.” He was about leave when he turned back. “Oh and Sandor, Olenna brought her granddaughter. She told my wife she was going to try and set you two up. Thought I’d warn you so you wouldn’t be caught off guard. This way you can plan a good move ahead of time.” Ned winked.

“Her granddaughter you say?” Sandors brow rose. “Sounds much too young for me I’m afraid.”

“Nonsense, she’s Sansa’s age.” He began then conceded. “But if you prefer women your own age that’s commendable. Just let them down gently.”

 

Sansa couldn’t help her mind from dwelling on their conversation. She became fixated on Sandor saying Margaery was too young for him. Which meant that she herself was too young for him. Not that she had any serious thoughts on the two of them or anything. Did she? No, of course not.

 

Dinner was in the main hall with all the Starks, along with Aryas new beau, sitting at the head table. The rest of the guests were seated at round tables a step below. Eddard Stark looked fit to be King up there surrounded by his beautiful family. Sansa sat in her usual place between her mother and Arya. While the boys sat opposite their father. The Starks were nearly royalty. Something Sansa used to love, but now detested.

After the normal toasts from Ned, Catelyn and Robb, the feast began. Sansa wished she could be seated down with Sandor. She could see him a couple rows in, seated with Olenna and Margaery Tyrell as well as Tormund Giantsbane the CEO of Free and Wild sportswear and Melisandre—a fashion designer extraordinaire.

He wasn’t scowling, so it must not be too terrible. Though she didn’t like the amount of smiling from Margaery. Not that she was jealous or anything. She did envy that table though and wished she could take up a seat next and join in on their conversations. She had met Tormund several times and he always had the best tales. Instead she was tethered to her mother up on their pedestal.

When dinner finally finished, everyone moved to the dance hall. It was set up to the nines for the occasion. Large wreaths aligned the walls, perfectly distanced from one another through the whole room. The drapery had been changed out to red and green with gold sashes. Crystal chandeliers hung from the high ceilings. Specialty holiday themed tapestry’s had been commissioned for the walls as talking pieces. The live orchestra played beautiful melodic music in the corner while the caterers made their rounds.

The glitz and glam was all very over the top, no expense was spared to impress their prestigious guests.

After two more glasses of wine and much badgering, Sansa finally did her duty as a good daughter and danced with Harry. The alcohol made it not as bad as she anticipated, she simply didn’t take notice in her partner at all. Ignored his comments and flirtations while focusing on the movements and music. If he was put off by it he certainly didn’t show it, but he did seem happy when Sansa excused herself. Perhaps he had got the hint after all.

Afterwards she saw Sandor leaning against a pillar away from the dancing. He was sipping a glass of wine, looking pensive.

“How’s the wine?” She asked standing next to him while they both scanned the crowd and stole glances at one another.

“Not as good as a Dornish sour, but it’s good enough.”

“Is that your favorite?”

“Aye.” Then in afterthought. “Do you have a favorite?”

“I once had this wine from vineyard in a little village outside of Meereen. It was the best thing I’ve ever tasted.”

“Next to lemon cake I presume.” He threw her a playful little smile.

She smiled and pretended to weigh the two while snatching a drink from a tray passing by.

“Do you like dancing?” She looked on dreamily at the couples on the dance floor.

“Dancing?” He chuckled while shaking his head. “Not one bit.”

“I love dancing.” She swayed on her feet, briefly closing her eyes. “What’s your favorite sport?”

“Sport? Uh, Football and baseball. You can’t make me choose.” He insisted.

“My favorite sport is Ice skating.” She smiled wide, bracing herself for his response.

“That’s not a fucking sport.”

“Is too! Can you do a double axel?”

“No, but that doesn’t make it a sport.”

She held out a firm hand. “It’s a sport, alright?” She narrowed her eyes. “Now, next question. Sunrise or sunset?”

“Sunset.” He said without hesitation.

“Sunrise.”

“Of course you’re a bloody morning person. Up chirping with all the other little birds.”

She giggled having grown fond of his little nickname he had bestowed upon her.

“Do you prefer cats or dogs?”

“I have a dog, never had a cat.”

“So that’s...dogs then? Yes, of course, dogs.” She scrunched up her face. Concentration was becoming more difficult. “Umm, what’s your favorite color?”

He turned to her with amusement filled eyes and a shake of his head.

“I think the Little Bird is feeling her wine settle in.” He chuckled. “And I’ve let your silly little game of twenty questions go on far too long. What would people think?””

With mock seriousness, she leaned in. “Indeed, you would never play silly little games with silly little birds. You’re a hard man, Sandor Clegane.” Her eyes were shining as brightly as her diamond necklace as she burst out laughing.

“You’ve no idea, Little Bird.” He mumbled. “It’s getting late, I should be heading to my hotel.” There was an air of regret in his words.

“So soon?” She panicked. She didn’t want him to go.

“It’s nearly midnight and way passed my bedtime I’m afraid.”

Her smile appeared once again. “You are surprisingly funny, you know that?” She swayed on her feet. “And while I admit I’m usually in bed by now too, I’ve just been having so much fun and don’t want it to end yet.” She pouted while giving him puppy dog eyes. The biggest she could muster.

“You are so very drunk.” A smile was plastered on his face. “How about a walk around the grounds to clear your head before I go?”

Her face lit up like a beacon. “That sounds amazing! Let’s grab our coats!”

“I don’t know how amazing it’ll be. I’m liable to freeze my balls off out there.”

“You just need another drink to warm you up!”

Sandor opened the front door, shaking his head at her and they set off.

“I’d need another ten drinks to counter this frigid northern weather.” He shivered.

“Where are you from?”

“The Westerlands.” He shoved his hands in his coat pockets and Sansa wrapped her arm through the crook of his elbow. Partially to keep her steady and warm, but also, just to feel him.

“No wonder you’re being a big baby about it.” She jested.

“Never been called a baby before.”

“I’ll have to call you baby more then.” She teased bumping into him.

He glanced down at her then quickly looked away. “Probably not appropriate.”

“Hmm? Oh. Yes, right. Sorry. Not appropriate.”

“Sansa Stark would never doing anything inappropriate.” Sandor joked with her.

“I’ve done stuff!”

“Oh I’m sure. I’ve got a real bad girl on my hands don’t I?”

“I’ve broken a few rules in my time.”

“Of course you have my little princess.”

“Hey!” She smacked his arm laughing. “What are you talking about anyways, you’re a well respected doctor in the community. You like, save lives. I barely help the people. I’m way more of a delinquent than you are.”

“There’s no way in all the seven hells you are, Little Bird.” Shaking his head he looked to the dark sky.

“What bad things have you done then?”

“I’m really not proud of them and it would certainly spoil the mood.”

“Come on Sandor, just one little story, please? Pretty please? I wanna know how much of a bad boy you were!”

He looked at her with a questioning eyebrow and waited a minute.

“I used to be really angry.” He began with reluctance.

“Used to be?” She arched an eyebrow, smiling.

“Aye. Used to be. I’m much better now.”

“Well I wouldn’t wanna see you even more ill tempered than you are now!” She chuckles.

“No, you wouldn’t.” He spoke quietly. “I would get into fights a lot. Nobody ever stood a chance against me. When I was 16, I almost killed a man. I did some damage, permanent damage. He didn’t deserve that, what I did to him. The court mandated I enter all these different rehabilitation classes, do a bunch of community service. In the end it probably saved my life. It’s the reason I became a doctor really.”

They stopped walking at some point and Sansa had let go of his arm. She stared at him, her eyes watery.

“Don’t repeat this to anyone.” He commanded not looking at her. He almost sounded regretful for sharing it.

She nodded blindly and he took a step towards her, not quite touching.

“You see Little Bird, you are very much a good girl and that is a good thing.” He rested a palm on her cheek for a beat. “Now lets get back to the house before we’re buried out here in the snow.”

They didn’t speak until back at the porch. Sandor waved at the valet to get his rental car.

“Sandor, thank you for being here tonight. It really means a lot to me.”

“Of course. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I had a good time surprisingly enough.” “I’m glad to hear that.” She stepped forward, wanting to reach out to him, but holding back out of fear. “You looked great in your suit by the way. I don’t think I ever told you.” He looked down with a tinge of red forming on his cheeks. “Bronn picked it out.” He scratched the back of his neck and sighed. “You look nice too, but you know that already.” “Still nice to hear from you.” She smiled biting her lip. He cleared his throat as his car pulled up. “Well, I’ll see you Monday, Ms. Stark.” He turned away.

“Yeah. See you Monday.” There was obvious disappointment in her voice.

 

As she went inside and walked up the staircase with care, she went about her bedtime routine. Her thoughts fixated on her remarkable evening with Sandor. His solid presence and his captivating scent that had lingered on her arm. His fingers that left a scorch on her back. The way his voice rasped beside her all night, as if he were telling her a secret. Which he truly did. A shocking one at that. She knew she would never tell a soul.

Turning her attentions to her task of gift giving, she thought on the topic of baseball. If she could find out a favorite player of his, maybe she could get a signed bat or ball. Or maybe she could get him tickets to a local game, maybe he’d take her with the extra ticket. She conjured up a picture of the two of them eating hot dogs and laughing in the stadium. Shoulders touching, wiping mustard off his beard. When was baseball season anyway?

Chapter Text

Sansa woke up Monday morning exhausted from the weekend and her late flight the previous day. She laid in bed waiting for her alarm to sound for the third time.

She had thought she’d enjoy a lazy family day on Sunday, but her mother had other ideas. They started the day arguing about her behavior, which in turn made everyone scatter. Apparently Sansa had embarrassed her by ignoring Harry and choosing to follow around ‘that repulsive doctor’ who she had deemed much too old for Sansa. Funny that he wasn’t too old for Margaery.

There was never any pleasing her mother.

She felt herself thinking more and more about Sandor Clegane. She had enjoyed getting to know him over the past month and then when he showed up at her parents house in a mouth-watering muscle hugging suit, she hadn’t been able to shake his image. Along with many other fabricated images

He had spent the majority of his evening by her side, answering any frivolous question she threw at him. Not to mention giving Harry a hard time. He’d been a knight in shining armor for her, ready to pounce at a moments notice.

She had yearned for him to kiss her at the end of the night, she wanted to feel his skin upon her skin. Discover if his lips were soft or rough like his hand had been. She had wanted to return to the clinic with their own dirty little secret. Steal kisses in his office. She wanted him to pick her up and drop her on his desk, spread her legs and open her up with his tongue and take her.

She wondered if he could possibly feel anything more for her. It’s not as if he’d tried to make any sort of move on her, maybe she wasn’t his type and she was reading into things. Perhaps he wanted someone closer to his age, like he’d said to her father, or someone more accomplished. Was she not enough for him?

The man was having a movie made after his life for crying out loud. Sandor built himself up from nothing, overcoming tremendous odds. Opened up a humble little one man medical clinic and turned it into an award winning facility that employed dozens of staff. He was a giant among men, not only in the physical sense.

The alarm went off again and she shoved the blankets off of her. She got up slowly and studied her weary form in the mirror. Her hair messy from sleep, leftover mascara around her puffy red-rimmed eyes. The newly formed zit on her chin.

She began spiraling down a dark path as she examined herself, picking herself apart inside and out. Not able to stop herself from her own self-destruction.

She was just a girl who squandered countless opportunities because she stupidly thought she knew what love was. She was ashamed of herself for having turned her back on her family, for letting a man dictate her life for so long. For letting that man strike her time and again.

Sansa knew she could have done better. She should have done better. She should have left sooner, been stronger and defended herself. She should have told her parents the truth about her horrible ex. But the burning shame of her weakness kept her silent and resentful.

She knows that she let her family down, as if her mother would ever let her forget it. More importantly though, she let herself down.

There were a lot of things she could have done differently. But she hadn’t and here she was in all her glory. Standing nearly naked in front of a mirror in a pit of self loathing. She was pathetic and weak. A stupid girl, as Joffrey would say.

She wasn’t good enough or strong enough for someone like Sandor Clegane.

 

Walking into work that morning, she had a heavy heart. Why she chose to tear herself down first thing in the morning was beyond her. Another stupid decision on a long list apparently.

She went straight to her desk and took off her winter layers. She logged in to her computer and began going through her emails. There was one from Tyrion reminding everyone about the party on Friday. She groaned, still not sure what to get Sandor. After her little epiphany, she didn’t even want to think on it. But she had a job to do.

She went and roomed his first patient of the day and just her luck it would be like this today. Because when it rains, it pours.

She knocked and entered Dr. Clegane’s office.

“Morning, Dr. Clegane.” She was sullen and there was no masking it today.

“Morning.” He greeted as usual, not looking up.

“Your patient would like me to be in the room when you go in there.”

“Okay.”

“Okay.” She parroted.

He paused what he was doing and looked at her for the first time. She hadn’t showered, having spent to much time hating herself in the mirror. She wore no make up, her newly formed baby volcano on full display. Even her scrubs were wrinkled.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.”

“Oh no.” He tossed his glasses down and stood up shaking his finger. “It’s not nothing and it’s too fucking early for guessing games. Spit it out.”

“I’d rather not talk about it.”

“Fine. Is there anything I can do to change this?” He waved his hand up and down her body.

“I don’t think so.” She couldn’t keep the monotonous tone from her words.

He gave her a hard look before accepting.

“Very well then. Let’s go.”

 

After finishing with their patient Sansa needed a moment before moving on to the next one. The woman they had just examined had fled from her abusive husband and needed some bruising checked out. It took everything in Sansa not to cry in that exam room. She made it to the restroom before sobbing her eyes out.

As quickly as possible, she composed herself and went to get Sandors next patient ready for him. When she went to let him know, he stopped her.

“Hold it. It’s obvious that you’ve been crying. If you need a personal day, just tell me. You can go home.”

“I’m fine.” She said not looking at him.

“You’re not fucking fine Sansa!” He yelled. “Don’t lie to me.”

She shrunk back, her body hitting the door causing it to close. She scrunched her eyes closed and a couple tears escaped. “I’m sorry.” She breathed out broken words.

“Don’t be sorry, just tell me what’s the matter or go home if you need to. Or both. Just stop pretending everything is fine.”

After a couple steadying breathes, she spoke quietly. “That woman just reminded me of me.”

“In what way?” He asked confused.

“Her story. Only he wasn’t my husband, but my boyfriend. Seeing her bruises reminded me of my own. Reminded me of...receiving them.” She took a deep breath. “I’m usually fine, he’s in the past and that’s where he stays, most of the time. It’s just every once in awhile it all hits me and it’s so frustrating. I’ll not think of him for months and then BAM! I’m a crying mess. I hate that he still holds this bloody power over me!”

Sandor lowered himself back into his chair stunned. He took several moments before he met her eyes with empathy. “The bruises may fade, but the feelings will never truly be gone.”

“I just need a minute to breathe. I’ll be fine after a little bit.” She said while physically shaking herself to let it go.

“You will.” He nodded and wiped a hand over his face. “However, I do think you’re leaving something out. You were upset when you got here, before you even saw that patient. I’ll not pry, but I see that you’re having a rough day, so I’ll ask again. Do you want to go home?”

“No, I’ll be fine. I promise.”

“Don’t need any promises.” He got up again, wrapping his stethoscope around his neck. Taking a couple steps towards the door he stopped and looked back to Sansa with sincerity. “You’re going to be okay, Little Bird.”

She could only nod, not able to trust her voice or the possibility of fresh tears.

Truthfully she did want to go home, crawl in bed and eat all the ice cream and watch all the baking shows. But she knew that would solve nothing and only further her current state. No, she needed to get back to work, keep herself busy and get back to figuring out a damn gift for that man.

 

Just after the office closed and the final patient was walking out the door, Sansa sat down at her desk to check her emails one final time. Letting out a cleansing exhale, she ran her hands over her tired face. Around her, her colleagues were all gathering up their belongings and racing for the exit. She couldn’t wait to be doing the same, wanting to get this day over with it and put it behind her.

She noticed an email from Sandor, which was curious. He never sent her emails. She quickly clicked the message. He wanted her to come to his office at 5:15. That’s weird, she always just goes straight their after she finished her final tasks. 5:15 was so specific and so out of character, it made her nervous about her job. Had someone complained? Had she pushed Sandor's final button with her uncontrolled emotions?

She quickly restocked the exam room and shut down the computers before making her to his office for her scheduled meeting.

Upon opening the door, her mouth dropped open.

He had cleared part of his desk and had fancy take out containers of food waiting for her. Pasta and bread, cheese and meats. And in between their two main dishes was a huge piece of what appeared to be lemon cake. There was even a bottle of wine. He had shut off the overhead lighting in favor of the lamp on his desk. Sansa couldn’t have asked for anything more perfect.

Sansa’s smile was contagious and Sandor broke out in a pleased grin.

“I figured you could use a pick me up today. I know food always hits the spot when I’m feeling out of sorts.”

“Sandor, this is...I can’t believe you’d go through all this trouble.” Her eyes glistened. “Thank you.”

“Just don’t bloody cry again.” He brushed off her thanks. Clearly uncomfortable.

“They’d be happy tears this time.” She said still smiling.

“I suppose that’s acceptable.” He grumbled as he sat down. “Don’t let it get cold, this place costs an arm and a leg.”

“Where’s it from?” She asked taking a seat and folding the napkin on her lap.

“Martells.”

She stopped as she was about to take a bite and her eyes grew. “Martells?”

He chewed a piece of bread. “It appears your hearings just fine.”

“I’ve always wanted to try them.” She said once again blown away. Martells was the cream of the crop.

“And yet you’re still talking.” He playfully scolded.

Letting out a content sigh, Sansa opened her mouth and took her first bite. Her eyes closed as she savored the flavors. It was blissful and she couldn’t keep the smile off of her face as she chewed.

“Oh my Gods this is amazing.” She cooed, looking at him.

“Good. Now maybe we can eat in peace.”

She giggled and happily continued her food journey.

She doesn’t know what compelled her to broach the subject, she was just so curious about his love life.

“You know, Rosalyn told me awhile ago that she had a crush on you.”

He purposefully dropped his fork and wiped his mouth with a napkin, eyeing her carefully. “Okay. And where might I ask are you going with this?”

She wasn’t sure what kind of reaction she’d get from him, but he was definitely calmer than she’d anticipated. “She just told me that she hit on you, but you weren’t interested.”

He barked out a laugh. “Is that what she said? I suppose it’s partially true.”

“She’s very attractive.”

“Not my type.”

“Tall gorgeous red heads aren’t your type? Is it the red hair? You know we’re not all crazy, right?” She smiled playfully.

He gave her a genuine smile at her comment. “Red is a beautiful color. Ros is a drunk and will spread her legs for every man around.”

“I guess that’s reason enough.”

“Besides, it’s not very smart to get involved with employees.”

Sansa burned, of course. That makes the most sense. A lot of people had those rules.

Even though she had beat herself up this morning over not being good enough, she knew deep down she was good enough. She was enough. She had still been holding out hope for something, but it appeared the door just slammed in her face.

“So, how were things with your mother after I left?” He asked, interrupting her thoughts.

Sansa finished her bite of food and cleaned the corners of her mouth before answering. “Still pushing, but I told her it was never going to happen. We had a huge blowout yesterday. It was...very distressing.” She twirled some more pasta on her fork. With mock excitement she added. “So I guess we’ll see where we’re at come Christmas Eve when I go back.”

“Hopefully she doesn’t spring him on you then.”

“Oh Gods, I hadn’t thought of that.” She grumbled. “She would too, it would be just like her.”

“If she does, you can handle it.” He took a sip of wine. “And if you need some pissy words of encouragement, just call me.”

“I appreciate the offer, but I wouldn’t want to disturb your holiday.”

“I don’t celebrate.” He shrugged.

“You don’t?” She shouldn’t be surprised really.

“I don’t have any family, so I just don’t celebrate.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be, truly. It’s been like that for most of my life, I’m used to it.” He cleared their empty containers and he motioned to the cake.

Sandor let her have most of the cake, only snagging a couple bites before he mentioned how he’d have to spend extra time on his workout tonight. Sansa joked that he could afford one night off. He didn’t disagree.

They spent the next hour talking and sipping on wine before ending their night and going there separate ways.

 

Sansa’s face was stuck in a sweet smile as she walked home. It had almost felt like a date, of course it wasn’t though. He was just trying to cheer her up. Sandor didn’t get nearly enough credit, he really did care about his employees. Well, most of them anyways.

She decided she must make his gift as average as possible. How about a coffee mug that said Worlds Best Boss? It was truthful and kind but not too personal. It was also probably her lamest idea yet. But she couldn’t let her newfound feelings bubble to the surface. It was like walking a tight rope. And it was especially difficult now that he’d sprung such a lovely surprise on her. She swore she could see something twinkle in his eyes when they were near one another, but she couldn’t be certain that she wasn’t just projecting. After all he did say it wasn’t smart getting involved with employees.

Chapter Text

The office had closed a little early on Friday to allow extra time to set up for the company holiday party. The staff had been instructed to bring a change of festive clothing to partake in the annual holiday traditions. So while everyone was finishing up last minute work and changing, Tyrion and a few hired hands were decorating and assembling out in the waiting area.

Truth be told, Sansa was nervous about her gift. Questioning her decision night after night. Then continuing to question it up until it’s very purchase. She absolutely had to get him something meaningful. If he figured her feelings out and rejected her, that was a price she had to pay. Sandor’s one thing was honestly and Sansa had to be true to her heart. She wasn’t outright declaring love for the man or anything, but it felt close enough.

After Sansa changed into a modest knee-length red dress and black heels, she touched up her make up, adding just a sprinkle of extra elegance. She took her hair down from her standard pony and shook out the waves.

There were several other girls sharing the bathroom and doing similar activities. Sansa was glad she chose this dress, as it was just in the middle of conservative and sexy. Unlike Rosalyn who went full harlot with a plunging silk neckline

The cheery holiday music hit her ears as they made their way to the office’s waiting area. Sansa was amazed at the total transformation. All the chairs, side tables and standard stacks of boring magazines had all been removed. The normally large sterile waiting room was unbelievably unrecognizable.

Several large tables covered with black linens were strategically placed around the room. On one side, there was a table that held gifts while a couple others housed various scrumptious looking hors d’oeuvres and flutes of drinks.

There were red and silver streamers strung about. Clusters of red and silver balloons with a green one mixed in here and there. The overhead lights had been turned mostly off and to the lowest illumination and twinkle lights hung from the walls and ceiling. Batches of fake snow collected around the corners and edges of the walls. It was a little winter wonderland.

There were several games set up throughout. A pin the carrot on the snowman game was hanging from the front door. A cornhole game in the corner. A wheel with various marked prizes to spin and win. Sansa laughed when she spotted a dart board with a picture of the Grinch on it. She never would have guessed how much effort would have been put into all this.

Sansa hadn’t been expecting much, a few streamers and a couple party platters perhaps. This was delightfully impressive.

 

“Alright everyone.” Tyrion called out with a champagne flute in hand. “Grab a drink and gather around for a toast.”

As everyone moved about the room, Sansa plucked a glass from the table and settled in beside Ros. She saw Sandor enter the room from the corner of her eye, though he stayed back from the group.

“From the bottom of my heart and Dr. Cleganes—I swear he has one buried in there somewhere—“

Everyone laughed. Sandor merely raised an eyebrow shrugging as if to say ‘maybe I do maybe I don’t.’

“We want to thank each one of you for your hard work and continued dedication in molding our office into the world renowned clinic it is today. Raise your glass and drink to each other. We couldn’t do all this without you.” Everyone smiled happily as they raised their glass. “Now, get some food, play some games and win something good.”

Sansa began mingling with some of her medical assistant coworkers that she didn’t see too often. A small group of them made their way to play a game.

Her eyes found Sandors from across the room watching her. She smiled just as she was being blindfolded. She was handed a velcro carrot and roughly spun in circles several times. Almost tripping on her heels, she regained some semblance of balance and marched forth. After placing the fake carrot, she ripped off her mask to see she was way off mark. Throwing her fists up she groaned. “Nooo!”

“Sorry, Sansa.” Jeyne had laughed. “Now outta the way, let me show you how it’s done.”

Sansa pretended to pout and caught Sandors eye again. His lips held a hint of a smile as he raised his glass with a shrug that said ‘you can’t win ‘em all’.

She gleefully blushed at his attentions. Then looked away quickly with a longing to go slide up next to him, but instead watched on as her coworkers continued playing the game.

While sipping champagne and chatting, Sansa and her small group of ladies found themselves at the prize wheel. It was the first time she’d been up close to it. There were around twenty different dollar amounts in each slot.

“Is this for real?” She asked astonished.

Rosalyn swallowed the last of her drink, leaning into Sansa. “Yep. Everyone gets one spin.”

Her head whipped to Sandor, still standing against the wall, drink in hand. His eyes narrowed curiously and she just gave a small shake of her head.

“There are at least thirty employees here.”

“Thirty-seven.” Rosalyn offered.

“But what if everyone lands on the big one?”

“Then dear ole Sandy-Claus is writing thirty-seven big fat checks.” Rosalyns eyes were aglow. “I’ve only seen it land on the big one once though.”

Tyrion had finished up with the previous spinner, handing her a slip of paper before turning to Sansa. “Ready for your spin?”

“I don’t know.” This didn’t feel right.

“You sound nervous, it’s not going to bite.” Rosalyn guffawed and lightly shoved Sansa out of the way. “I’ll go.”

She gave the wheel a spin. Sansa watched it go round and round while stealing sly glances at Sandor who was watching. She wondered if he hoped Rosalyn would land on the smallest amount.

Suddenly Rosalyn jumped up and down clapping and yelling.

“Congrats.” Sansa said when Ros looked at her obviously waiting for some shouts of shared joy.

“Okay, you’re turn.” Rosalyn sang, scooting Sansa closer.

“I’ll go later. I have to go to the restroom.”

She slipped away. For whatever reason it didn’t sit well in her stomach, the thought of taking Sandors money. She just couldn’t do it.

When she returned, she went to the food table and grabbed a plate. Selecting several little savory and sweet items, she grabbed another champagne and decided to finally join Sandor at the wall.

“It’s all so beautifully decorated in here.” She said at his side.

“Aye, very beautiful.” He said looking at her with a small smile. “You didn’t spin the wheel. It’s everyone’s favorite.”

“It’s too much.” She shook her head.

“They deserve it.” He shrugged.

“No they don’t. Not from you.” Her heated words came out more forcefully than intended.

“Why? Because they’re scared shitless of me?” He spoke softly and playfully, eyeing the room.

“I mean, not all of them are.” She looked at her glass in hand, feeling bad about her little outburst.

“I’m a hard ass, can’t change that. This softens the blows I give them through the year.” He explained.

“Money doesn’t make everything better.”

“No, it doesn’t. But it certainly helps.”

She couldn’t argue with that.

“I want you to spin.” He urged.

“Why?” She was baffled.

“Because it’s awfully strange if you’re the only one here who doesn’t.”

“Nobody will even know.” She countered.

“Just spin the damn wheel.”

“I don’t want to take your money!” She quietly yelled.

“Why?” He asked moving to lean on one shoulder, facing her with his arms folded. “Why can they take my money but not you?”

“Because we’re...I’d like to think...friends...or something.”

“Friends or something?” He raised his brow and drew a questioning frown. ”Bronn is my closest friend and he has no qualms about taking my money.”

“Well then maybe he’s not that great of a friend.” She huffed the lie.

“That’s not what it is.” He shook his head and pushed off the wall, facing the group of colleagues. “You’re hiding something, Ms. Stark.

Cling! Cling! Cling!

“Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for the secret Santa gift exchange. Everyone grab your presents and we’ll get this train moving.”

Chaotic shuffling ensued as everyone had they’re gift in hand and made a large circle. Sansa willed her heart to slow it’s speed. She couldn’t help but imaging Sandor unwrapping more than just his gift. The moment of truth was near and the butterflies are working overtime.

Tyrion took to the center of the circle.

“Okay, lets start with Gilly. Who did you pull for your secret Santa this year?”

“I got Pod.” She smiled walking across the circle to hand him his gift.

“Thanks Gilly.” He said with pink cheeks.

“Pod, now you.” Tyrion motioned for him to continue.

“I got Dr. Blackwater.” He handed the gift to the man next to him. “Happy holidays, sir.”

“Thanks, man.” Bronn sheepishly smiled. “And I got Ms. Stark.”

Sansa took the gift he held out to her with a sweet smile. “Thank you.” She felt all eyes on her as she walked across the circle. “I picked Dr. Clegane.”

Sandors eyes widened a fraction, but hid any surprise well. He cleared his throat and grumbled a thanks while taking the small box. He then promptly took several strides to meet Jeyne. “Happy holidays, Ms. Poole.”

“Thank you Dr. Clegane.” Jeyne’s nervous words barely heard.

After many more rounds, everyone was instructed to open their gifts. Sansa had received a lemon scented candle. A grin spread across her face as Dr. Blackwater came up to her.

“I heard you liked anything lemon related.”

“I do. This smells delightful. Thank you so much.”

He nodded. “You’re very welcome, happy holidays.” He then walked off to give his own thanks to Pod.

Sansa looked up to Sandor who was holding the opened gift in hand and talking to Tyrion. She had decided to make her way over to them when Sandors eyes snapped to hers. The look he sent made Sansa take a step back. His eyes were filled with a fire that burned her gut. There was anguish and betrayal swirling about. And then he stormed off without second glance.

She was panicking inside. What could have happened? The party had been going so well. She needed to speak with Tyrion immediately.

“Tyrion, is Dr. Clegane okay?” She tried not to sound too worried.

“I...I don’t know what just happened.” He looked up at her confused.

“What were you guys talking about?”

“He was telling me about the gift you got him and how thoughtful it was.”

“Okay? Then what?” She rushed the words, needing more.

“I told him that was your intentions. He was confused, so I told him what you told me.”

“What do you mean?”

“I told him that you asked to be put on his service so you could dig up some dirt on him for the exchange.” He put his hands in his pockets and rocked back and forth. “I said you were very eager to be a little spy and it was quite endearing the importance of giving a thoughtful gift was to you and the lengths you were willing to go. I mean nobody ASKS to work with him.”

“And that’s when he left?” Her stomach felt like sludge.

“Yeah.” He shook his head. “I didn’t think it’d make him so angry.”

“Of course it upset him! You told him he’s been being spied on!”

“Well pardon me, but that’s exactly what you told me you were doing. You quite literally used the word spy.”

“I have to go talk to him.” She said shaking her head.

 

She scurried to the back office. As she was about to pass her desk, she saw a tall red box with a green ribbon around it sitting on it. She paused and looked around before going to it. She untied the ribbon, confused at who would leave a gift at her desk. Opening the lid revealed a bottle of wine. Not just any wine though. Upon examination of the bottle in hand, it proved to be the very wine she spoke to Sandor about. Had he gone all the way to Meereen?

There was a piece of folded paper at the bottom of the box. She unfolded it and read the short inscription.

—Sansa,
You’ve made this grouchy fucker smile more times this past month than I have all year, its appreciated more than you know. Somehow you have become the brightest part of my day. I hope you will consider coming onto my service permanently. Happy holidays Little Bird. -S.C

Her breathing was labored as her head spun with thoughts. These words had to mean something. If he had flown all the way to another country, it had to mean something. Nobody flew thousands of miles to buy a bottle of wine for a colleague or a friend. He must have feelings for her. This was some grand gesture, right?

He came bounding down the hall but stopped short when he saw her standing there. His eyes were dark and furious. Without a word he spun on his heel and hurried out the back exit. No coat or scarf, just fled out into the snow.

She yanked her jacket off the back of her chair, quickly pushing her arms through. Then threw the strap of her purse around her neck and grabbed the neck of the bottle. Following in his footsteps out the back. She could make this right, she had too.

The cold air smacked her hard in the face when she burst through the door. Big puffy snowflakes cascaded down all around her and the ground was a a blanket of sparkling white. The moon lit the darkened sky, as did the street lamps lining the walkway.

She spotted Sandors large figure across the street and down the block. He hadn’t got too far.

“Sandor!” She shouted while jumping to a sprint.

He didn’t turn back as she ran through the snow.

Her toes already felt frozen in her black heels, but she paid them no mind. Her hair and shoulders were dusted with melting snow. The flakes were so large that she kept having to shake them out of her eyelashes.

“Sandor wait! Please!” She shouted again. Looking both ways she crossed the street in a careful jog. One should never run in this weather, let alone in heels, but she had to get to him. When she went to hop up the curb, her shoe slipped and she went down hard with a pained scream.

The bottle of wine shattered around her. Clutching her ankle she cried out. “No!”

It was freezing, the snow was seeping through her dress. She tried getting up, but it was so awkward in her attire. She planted a hand in the snow to push herself up but she caught a bunch of tiny shards of glass in her hand. She hissed in pain and brought both of her hands to her chest.

Tears fell down her cheeks and she let out a sob. Everything was so messed up.

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” He growled while bending down to lift her.

She hadn’t notice him turn back for her. She stared at him speechless as she was hoisted up bridal style.

“Well wrap your arm around me for fucks sake. I’ll take you back inside. Plenty of cunts in there to patch you up.” He spoke, not looking at her.

“I don’t wanna go back in there, please.” She sounded panicked as he strode towards the building. “Please, Sandor don’t take me back in there.”

“You need to get that glass out of your hand and your ankle checked out.”

“I know, my apartment is only a couple blocks away. I have all the stuff I’d need there. Please, I don’t want to face everyone like this. I don’t wanna ruin the party.”

He thought on it and then turned, walking in the direction of her place, grumbling. “As if they’ve never seen someone injured before. They’re bloody doctors for fucks sake.”

“Take a left up here. It’s the blue and white building.” She said ignoring him.

She studied his profile, his scars. She had never been this close to them. If things were different she’d reach up and touch them, snuggle the top of her head against him. But he was in a foul mood and would likely drop her and leave her to freeze in the snow.

“I’m sorry I broke your gift.” Her voice meek. “It was so thoughtful.”

He grunted.

“Did you really go all the way to Meereen to get me a gift?”

“It wasn’t a big deal.” He grumbled. “Just forget about it.”

They were standing in front of her building now.

“Would you mind helping me get the glass out of my hand?”

“Fine.” He sighed and walked up the stairs.

He set her down in front of her door and she unlocked it and let them in. Walking in without trouble, she went to her first aid kit. When she came back Sandor was staring at her in bewilderment.

“It appears you’re walking just fine.” He deadpanned.

“Yeah, it hurt a little when I hit the ground, but it’s fine.”

“You could have walked yourself then?”

She tried to suppress a guilty grin as much as possible. It had just felt so nice to be in his arms. “Yes, I suppose so.”

His eyes narrowed as he yanked the kit out of her hands. “Sit.”

Once he was kneeling in front of her with tweezers, she spoke again as he got to work.

“You didn’t have to get me a gift.”

“Aye. It’s obvious I shouldn’t have. Especially considering you carelessly dropped it.”

“I wouldn’t have dropped it had you not run away.” She spat angrily.

“I didn’t run away.” He yelled.

“You most certainly did.” She insisted.

“I told you parties aren’t my thing.” He mumbled into her hand.

“It didn’t have anything to do with what Tyrion said then?”

He let out a long sigh. “It doesn’t matter. Leave it be.” He placed a bandaid over the small cuts.

“I don’t want to leave it be, Sandor. I want to—”

“Dammit woman!” He yelled and ran a hand through his damp hair. Standing he stepped away from her. “Learn to shut your mouth once in awhile.”

She stood in anger. “Do not speak to me like that!” She slowly walked up to him. “I put up with your mouth, you can put up with mine.”

“Fucking hells you’re infuriating.” He growled and turned away for a moment.

After a quiet beat, Sansa nervously asked. “Did you like my gift?”

“No.”

It was as he he punched her in the stomach. Any fight she had in her vanished. “You didn’t?”

“Do I look like the kind of man that goes out and watches plays?”

“Well no, but it’s your favorite movie and I thought that you’d enjoy seeing it live. It even has the same actor and everything. It’s supposed to be really good.” She felt like the life was draining out of her. “I thought—”

“You thought wrong.” He paced. “As if I’m going to ask one of my friends to go watch a play with me.”

“I wasn’t thinking that you’d ask one of your friends. It’s really more of a date thing.” She looked down.

He laughed a little crazily. “Aye. Because I do that sort of thing. Go on dates. You know for all your bloody spying, you did a real shit job at picking out a gift.” His shook his head angrily. “I should have seen through all your incessant chirping and questioning.”

She rubbed her arms together, holding herself. She began to cry. “I didn’t...You said...you said that I was the brightest part of your day.”

He grabbed her arms, his harsh whisper warming her forehead. “And I told you to forget about it.” He pushed her away gently.

“I don’t want to forget about it. And I hate how your being right now.”

She couldn’t believe this was happening. Everything was blowing up in front of her face in slow motion.

“You’re such a fool, Sandor. Such a bloody fool.” She was angry.

“You wanna say that again?” He stalked up to her, hovering over her. His menacing eyes roaming her face.

She let out a solitary laugh as she became consumed with rage and sorrow. “How dare you try and threaten me. What are you going to do? Hit me? Do it. Prove to me that all the men I fall for are vile abusers.” She shoved him in the chest, pushing him out of her space. “Am I really just a punching bag? A magnet for men who want to break me?” She was spiraling down by the second. “I thought you could be different. I thought you were be good. But you stand here now, trying to intimidate me, belittle me. Perhaps I’m the fool, not you.”

He staggered backwards, not stopping until he was up against her door. His eyes were full of regret. His hand blindly reached for the handle, but before he turned and left she stopped him.

“Nothing?” She spread her arms out. “You’ve got nothing to say?”

“I’m sorry. Truly.” He looked like an absolute wreck. Defeated to the very bone. His body slumped into the wood. “I’ve ruined everything.”

She didn’t say anything.

“You have...feelings for me?”

“Yes.” She took a couple steps closer, though they were still far apart. “I was hoping you’d want to use that extra ticket on me. I was hoping that I could be your date. I was about to come up to you and hint at it, but then you were running out of there.”

“I lied.” He blurted out.

She made a face that said ‘go on’.

“I loved your gift. My first thought was in fact to ask if you wanted to come with me, but then Tyrion had told me, you’d made it your mission to rip me open and see how I tick. Then all I could see was red and I couldn’t think straight.”

She held out a hand and came closer, as if he were a wounded animal. “At first, yes. All I had was office gossip about you and pity from several people because I had to work with you. But I quickly learned that you’re actually kind of amazing and funny and smart and...sexy.”

“I find all that hard to believe.” He shook his head and looked to his feet.

“You charmed me.”

He huffed. “You charmed me the first day you set foot in the clinic, Little Bird.”

“You didn’t even speak to me my first few months.”

“I saw you smile.” He closed his eyes and smiled. “I saw it from across the room, it lit up my soul like the sun itself.” Deciding to switch topics somewhat, Sansa had to know. “You said it wasn’t smart to get involved with employees.” “I never claimed to be a smart man. I just stated a known fact.” He admitted. “It would be complicated and incredibly difficult at times. No, it’s not smart. But, I don’t give a single flying fuck, because I’ve already accepted that I would do anything for you.” “You said Margaery was too young for you.” “Huh? What does that—.” He was caught off guard. “If she’s too young? Aren’t I?” She asked. “I just said that to get your father to drop it and for it to be known that I was not interested.” Then with hesitation he asked. “Aren’t I too old for you?” “No. I don’t believe you are.” She told him honestly.

They were almost close enough to touch now, but still out of reach. She stood straight, her posture firm. Clasping her hands in front of her.

“You can’t ever try and intimidate me again like that. You can’t...you can’t do anything like that again.” He went to speak but her raised palm stopped him. “I know your a grumpy man, foul tempered and generally all around moody. I like that about you, oddly enough I find it to be endearing. But if you ever try and use a show of force against me again, that will be the end, I swear on the old Gods and the new.”

He stepped away from the door, took ahold of her hand and bent down on one knee. Kissing her fingers he sighed out and pressed his forehead against her belly before leaning back and looking up at her.

“I swear I will never raise a hand at you, I will never hit you or try and frighten you. I will always be sorry for the way I acted tonight. I am the fool, not you.” He took a deep breath. “You have become my everything, Sansa and I will do everything I can to not fuck it all up.”

“Rise.” She smiled brightly through water eyes, she placed his cheek in her palm. “Rise so that I can finally kiss you.”

Popping up quicker than she expected, she let out a bubble of laughter. Which Sandor swallowed swiftly. Closing his lips around hers in a soft and eager meeting. His hands came to rest on her hips as hers snaked up his chest and around his neck. Her entire body was pressed against his as she balanced on the tips of her toes.

Sandor expertly deepened the kiss, opening her up with his tongue. Sansa moaned at the welcomed intrusion. She then pulled herself up and with Sandor’s help she wrapped her legs around his waist.

He walked her to the kitchen island and sat her down, but stayed glued to her. His hands trailed up her legs, pushing up the hem of her dress. The pads of his fingers were like little bolts of electricity shooting straight to her core. He breathlessly broke the kiss. “How far does this go tonight, Sansa?”

“As far as you want.” She smiled kissing her way up his neck.

He pushed her back and brought her chin up with a crooked finger. “No, as far as you want. You have to be sure about this. There’s no going back. You’re mine if we do this.”

“Sandor—.” She grabbed his hand and guided his fingers inside her dress and beyond her panties. “Do you feel that?”

His eyes were wide as he swallowed thickly and nodded.

“I’m wet and slick for you. I’ve thought about this moment for awhile now.” She huffed a little laugh. “I would have let you fuck me against a tree at my parents party had you tried.” She pulled out his hand and brought his fingers up to his mouth. “Open.” She instructed.

He parted his lips and she pushed his fingers inside. He licked and sucked her fluids from his digits. Closing his eyes and savoring every drop.

“Do you want more?” Her voice a husky whisper.

He nodded, panting like an animal.

She leaned back on her palms and spread her legs. “Then come and get it.”

After a fast and frenzied coupling, Sandor hauled Sansa over his shoulder and carried her off to her bedroom. Sansa couldn’t help but marvel at the ripples of muscles down his back. As she dangled in the air with her hair brushing his bare ass, she slid her hand over the firm piece of flesh and squeezed.

“Hey!” He yelped and slapped her ass before depositing her on the bed.

He crawled over her, kissing the tip of her nose. “Naughty girl.”

They shuffled their way up to the pillows and laid side by side. Sansa propped herself up on her elbow. “So, did you decide on who you’re going to ask to go to the play with you?” “What? You, obviously.” He said as if it had already been decided. Of course it had, but that was beside the point. Sansa was feeling sassy and playful in her afterglow.

“But I don’t remember being asked.” She looked on innocently.

Sandor moved slowly to prop himself up opposite of her. Tired and perhaps a bit sore. “That’s how it’s gonna be?” He raised an eyebrow.

“I’m a proper lady, sir.” She raised her nose in true brat form.

He let out a long sigh with a shake of his head. “Some annoying girl got me tickets to a dumb play. Wanna go?”

She shrugged uninterested. “I can probably arrange that.”

Sandor pushed her onto her back, pinning her arms and spreading her thighs with his leg. “You little shit.” He roughly rubbed his leg over her sex. “You’ll go with me and you’ll hold my bloody hand and it will be so proper that I’ll have you on your knees by the end of the night. Sound good to you?”

She moaned as he worked her up with only his thigh. Still sensitive from before, she felt he could easily make her climax this way. She rutted her hips against the coarse hair of his leg. “Yes.”

“Good.” He kissed below her ear as she writhed underneath him. He rose up and then flopped on his back, satisfied. “I’ve been waiting years to go see this damn play.”

“Hey!” She whined, pushing up on her forearms in a fog of pleasure, upset he stopped. “Wait, really?”

He smiled at her. “Aye. Haven’t had anyone worth taking.”

She threw her leg over his waist and sat atop his large frame. He brought his big hands to her hips, stroking lovingly. She ground her hips down on his hardness with heat in her eyes. “Well, now you have me.”

“Aye. Now I have you.” He sat up, cradling her body in his arms and kissed her with unrestrained passion.