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Stark Reflections

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Sandor gathered the things that Sansa had asked for. To her surprise, Sandor had a leather sewing needle that was curved. It looked very similar to a suturing needle and was perfect for what she needed to do. He also brought her a roll of thick thread and a small bottle that contained what appeared to be water.

"What's that?" Sansa asked.

"You asked for alcohol."

"Is it rubbing alcohol?"

"Not exactly," he admitted. "It's white lightning."

Sansa raised her eyebrows in question and shook her head.

"Firewater." Sansa shook her head again. "For fuck's sake! Hooch. Moonshine."

Sansa's jaw dropped. "Is that all you've got?"

"I have a friend who's a shiner ... a bootlegger." Sandor set the tools Sansa needed on the little wooden table beside her. "I grow potatoes and corn, he makes moonshine with it and we split the profits. I keep a few bottles on hand but I don't drink much."

"I don't believe you," Sansa challenged him.

"What? That I don't drink?"

"No. That you have friends."

Sandor might have thought she was serious if he hadn't noticed the smirk on her face. He tossed a snarky grunt in her direction anyway and went to put some boiling water in a bowl. This wasn't the time for smart remarks.

After both had washed their hands thoroughly, Sansa used the water to clean the wound as best she could. Following Sansa's instructions, Sandor opened the bottle and poured a half tumbler. From the spool of thread, he pulled a long line and snipped it off. Sansa told him to soak the thread in the moonshine and then squeeze out the excess moisture. Sansa took the sterilized needle and threaded it.

Before she could begin the procedure, Sandor handed her the tumbler of moonshine. "You might need this," he cautioned her.

Sansa threw back the shot of home-brewed whiskey and immediately thought that she had mistakenly swallowed a flaming torch. She coughed and sputtered as her eyes watered. "You drink this shit?" she asked Sandor.

"Fuck, no! They don't call it rotgut for nothing." Sansa gave him the most sarcastic look she could muster. "I keep a bottle for myself, but I use the rest in trade," he explained.

Sansa took a deep breath and got down to business. At the first stab of the needle, she yelped in pain. She closed her eyes, pressed her lips together and sucked air in through her nose. It took all she had to proceed with the second stitch. Sandor placed his hands on her shoulder and hip to keep her propped in position and to keep the skin taut as Sansa worked. When she hit a particularly raw nerve, she whimpered, but even Sandor had to admit she was a trooper about it. If it was him, he would have been spewing language that would make even the most foul-mouthed trucker blush.

By the time she was finished, Sansa was sweating profusely. It had taken every fiber of her strength to get through it but, she had to admit, the shot of whiskey had helped. Still, her hands were shaking and her face was drenched in sweat. She lay back and closed her eyes to catch her breath.

Sandor dipped a washcloth in the boiled water which was now gone cool, and wiped her face. He'd been impressed with her work. Sansa had stitched quickly and neatly creating a suture line that would likely not leave much of a scar after it healed. While Sansa rested for a few moments, Sandor went to the cupboard and came back with a tin that was slightly larger than a hockey puck. When he opened it, Sansa wrinkled her nose at the smell.

"What is that?" she asked. "It smells disgusting."

"It's salve," he told her. "It'll keep the skin around the sutures moist so it doesn't dry and tighten." Inside was a semi-opaque goop that reminded Sansa of Penaten cream. Sandor swiped a huge finger into it and traced down her skin on either side of the suture line. Sansa was surprised at how gentle he was despite his rough hands and oafish manner.

When he was done, Sandor began tidying up.

"Thank-you Sandor. I appreciate you helping me get through this."

"What was I supposed to do? Sit back and watch?" he growled. "If you'd made a mistake, you would ha' start bleeding again and then I'd be cleaning up that mess."

Sansa dismissed his harsh words. In the very short amount of time she'd known him, she realized that it was just Sandor's way. He was ornery and cantankerous and there probably wasn't much that was going to change that. She supposed it was because of whatever had happened to him that had caused his disfigurement. She was dying to ask, but until she knew him better, she doubted very much that it was a topic that would be open for conversation.

Sansa breathed deep and rapidly, in through her nose and out through her mouth. She closed her eyes and concentrated her effort on relaxing all her muscles.

"Well, I'm going to need your help again or you'll have another mess to clean up."

"For fuck's sake, what now?!" Sandor asked as he spun around and attempted to slam a dishrag onto the table. He would have been more satisfied if had been something heavy and loud. What could the girl possibly want now?

As soon as he turned to glare at her, he remembered. Even before the procedure she'd said she had to go to the bathroom. Sandor clenched his fists and snorted loudly, but he was surprisingly gentle as he carefully lifted Sansa from the bed. He slowly picked her up minding her leg and the fresh stitches which would likely be tender for a while.

Because his hands were full - full of Sansa - he asked her to open the door so he could take her outside.

"Why are we going outside?" she asked. "Where are you taking me?"

"To the outhouse! Where did you think I was gonna take you?"

"Outhouse?! Are you serious? Don't you have a bathroom?" Sansa asked as they burst through the door and into the fresh air.

"For fuck's sake, princess! I live on the side of a mountain. What were hoping for? A five piece en-suite with a bidet and gold faucets?"

As Sandor tromped down the steps, Sansa realized she was getting her first look at Sandor Clegane's home and property. The so-called cabin was more of what she would describe as a lodge. From the outside, it was even larger than what she'd seen from the inside. It looked professionally constructed and seemed solid and attractive. The cabin was located in the center of a small plateau with rocky steppes on three sides. The fourth side sloped downward to another lower plot that had been leveled for farming. The upper level contained the cabin, a huge barn with a small fenced animal pen to one side, an equipment shed (she assumed) and a chicken coop with a completely enclosed fence around it. At least a dozen chickens were scratching and pecking inside the wire barrier. The lower level contained large neat plots planted with corn on one side and various rows of knee-high vegetables on the other.

Just before the tree line was the outhouse. Sansa covered her nose and mouth and crinkled her brow.

"Don't give me that look," Sandor growled at her. "It's not that bad." He set her down on the wooden step and opened the door. Sansa was able to balance on one foot and by supporting herself with her good hand, was able to hobble inside. Between the wrist splint, the bandaged knee and the fresh stitches, Sansa was surprised that she could hobble two whole feet without falling on her ass.

As Sansa turned around to position herself in front of the seat, she couldn't hold her breath any longer. "OH. MY. GOD!" she yelled at Sandor.

Sandor slammed the door in her face and waited.