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Stark Reflections

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Sansa could feel her upper lip break out with beads of perspiration. She sat rigid in a puddle of shame and self-loathing. This is not how her mother had taught her to be. Catelyn had instilled manners and dignity in her children. She had taught her daughters to be tough and self-sufficient. And yet, at the same time, Sansa had been coddled and spoiled. Because of her family's money and status, she'd never really had to rely on herself - until this trip. It's why she had decided to hike the Pacific Northwest in the first place. She wanted to prove to herself that she could, in fact, be self-reliant, confident, resourceful, and tough.

Somewhere along the way, Sansa had been so determined to see this through to the end, that she had become obsessive in her determination. She refused to accept help from anyone and she refused to ask for it. Not only had this Sandor Clegane come along and and saved her life, but she was going to have to bite down on her pride, and admit that she needed his help. Sansa would need a lot of his help over the next little while. Coming to the realization was tough enough, but now she had to apologize and then smile, swallow the mouthful of shit she'd tried spewing at him and actually ask for his help. What frightened her was that even though she was temporarily immobile, he had the power to make her life a living hell. He couldn't exactly refuse to help her - she was stuck in his cabin whether or not either of them liked the idea - but she hadn't exactly made the best impression on him.

After a long broil in her own juices, Sansa decided that the best approach was not to apologize immediately. If she did, the apology would come off as insincere and just a knee-jerk reaction to being scolded by her host. No, she needed to worm her way back into his good graces with a more diplomatic approach. She waited until he was no longer preoccupied with cleaning up the mess he'd created when he'd thrown the spoon across the room.

Sansa cleared her throat. "Ahh ... Mr. Clegane? How did you find me? How did I get here?"

Sandor Clegane turned his back on the spoiled, ungrateful brat and tried calming himself down by focusing on the cleaning up the splattered stew. He wiped the table, threw the spoon into a wash basin and located a clean one. After scraping carrot peelings into the slop bin, he turned his attention to peeling a couple of potatoes, washing, and dicing them. With a naked potato in one hand and a paring knife in the other, Sandor closed his eyes and took a deep breath. In through the nose and out through the mouth, he reminded himself. His hands were shaking.

He didn't know if he'd been unsettled by the fact that she'd gotten him riled up so easily, or by her unexpected reaction to him when she'd seen his face for the very first time. His temper was legendary around these parts, but he usually managed to control himself unleashing only on those who truly deserved it. He regretted having gone full-Clegane on this little Sansa-girl, but there was more than just anger in his reaction.

Come right down to it, Sandor preferred his solitude. He supposed he'd grown that way after years of isolation, bitterness, and severe rejection by people in general, but people were just as much at fault by proving that they were, in fact, a bunch of assholes at the best of times. There were some notable exceptions, of course. Sandor just liked his own company over anyone else's. He could do whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted, and however he wanted. In one fell swoop, Sansa had come in and destroyed his solitude, upset his routine, and unsettled his emotional balance.

Despite all that, she had not seemed bothered by his face. Most people he met for the first time recoiled in horror. Sansa had not. That puzzled him even more. He had become seasoned at handling the situation when people gasped, turned their faces away, or even screamed. Sansa had caught him off guard by barely reacting at all and he honestly didn't know how to react to her lack of reaction. It was rather unnerving for him.

"Ahh ... Mr. Clegane?"

Sandor turned and looked at her. Sansa swallowed hard and asked her questions. Her face was pale and ashen and she turned her eyes down to her entangled fingers in her lap as she spoke.

"Just Sandor," he told her in a huff as he added the last potato to the pot. He stood up, set his knife on the table and turned a dining chair on the side of the table closest to her. He sat heavily in it. As he spoke, he kept his voice flat and his face stony to emphasize his displeasure with this whole situation.

"I was hunting. Lost a good catch, too, because of you." He watched her face carefully as he spoke. Sansa's eyes were wide and frightened. "I was in a hurry to get back - get out of the storm when the landslide cut me off. I had to go downslope to get around it. At the bottom, I saw your hand and leg sticking out of the slurry. Took me a bitch of a time digging you out of that muck. Then you nearly clawed my eyes out when I tried to lift you up. You couldn't walk so I had to choose between you and the stag."

Sandor stood up and moved to turn away.

"I was awake when you dug me out?" Sansa asked in disbelief. Sandor turned back to her and shook his head. "I should have chosen the stag.  At least I'd have gotten a decent meal out of him." Sandor walked out through the door of the cabin and slammed it behind him.

Twenty minutes later when he came back in, Sandor seemed slightly more relaxed. He took two porcelain bowls from a shelf and ladled hot thick brown stew into them.  He handed Sansa one of the bowls with a clean spoon and set his on the opposite side of the table so he could face her while he was eating. Before sitting, he opened a wooden box on the countertop and took out a partial loaf of crusty bread. He cut two thick slabs and brought one to Sansa.

"I imagine you must be pretty hungry by now," he grumbled. He motioned to the untouched bowl in her hands. "Eat up."

"Mr. Clegane ... um, Sandor?"

On his way around the table to his own food, Sandor stopped and turned to face her.

"I'm sorry for the way I behaved earlier. I realize now how selfish and ungrateful I was. I'm truly am thankful for what you've done for me. Thank-you."

Sandor nodded to her. He appreciated her efforts to recognize her own misgivings. As he sat down to his own bowl of stew, Sansa spoke again.

"Ahh Sandor? Thank-you for choosing me."