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Stark Reflections

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"Do you mind walking around the yard?" Sansa asked Sandor as he lifted her to take her back to the cabin. "I like the fresh air."

"Would you prefer the basic package or the scenic tour?" he asked sarcastically.

With her left arm slung around his neck Sansa had an up close and personal look at the disfigured side of his face. Whatever had done this must have caused him excruciating pain. The scars were thick and hard as though he'd never received any medical treatment at all. In her medical career, anyone else she'd come in contact with who'd had such a devastating injury had also suffered the effects of traumatic shock. Despite his grouchy temperament, he seemed rather well-adjusted. She wondered again how it happened and why hadn't anything been done about it? With all the new medical technology available, there was no reason for Sandor's disfigurement to be this bad.

Sansa hoped she would have time to get to know Sandor. Perhaps part of it was the doctor in her wanting to know about his medical history, his trauma and maybe even a little bit of a need to "fix" him. It was in her nature - it was in any doctor's nature to want to fix something that was broken whether it was a bone, an organ, a psyche, or a face. Sansa wasn't any different. She just wanted to help him. Yeah right, she thought sarcastically, I'll fix him as soon as I can walk again.

When Sandor realized that Sansa was looking so closely at his scars, he tried to turn his head away, but there wasn't really much he could do. It was too late to pick her up from the other side now.  He mumbled something derisive under his breath and tried to ignore her. But it was too difficult. When was the last time he'd had a woman in his arms? Oh ... umm ... never! And here he was carrying this little girl around his dooryard. Despite his protestations, he carried her slowly around the property just inside the tree line.

Sandor tried to pretend that he was just as interested in the scenery as she was. Thing is, the only scenery that seemed to interest her at the moment was him. His face began to sweat under the weight of her examination. Though, he had to admit to himself that it probably wasn't the only reason his face was sweating. It certainly wasn't because she was heavy. She was thin and light and pretty.

There. He admitted it. She was pretty.

So why was he so damn cranky? A pretty girl who hadn't run screaming at the very sight of him? He ought to be thankful. Sansa seemed like a nice girl - a bit spoiled and frivolous - but nice. Yet, she was getting under his skin. All he wanted, all he'd ever wanted, was to be left alone. Sandor wanted nothing more than to take her down the mountain into Leeston so she could be someone else's problem. But he was stuck with her, for now at least. He hoped she wouldn't be too much of a nuisance and vowed to try and make the best of it.

After a long tour around the property during which Sansa had turned her face into the warmth of the sunshine and gotten some fresh air, Sandor took her inside. He gingerly set her down and helped her get comfortable on the bed. Sansa was worn out and wiggled down under the quilt so that she could close her eyes for awhile. Stitching her own wound and then keeping herself tense and tightened up because of her full bladder had taken a lot out of her.

With her body so relaxed and the throbbing in her side ebbing slowly away, Sansa's eyelids began to grow heavy. She heard Sandor clomping around the cabin and shuffling furniture but she tried to ignore it. He was just going about his business and he was probably glad that he didn't have her to attend to for at least a short while. When Sansa heard the cabin door open a few times, and what sounded like water sloshing, she finally opened her eyes to see what was going on.

Sandor was standing over her waiting expectantly. "Do you have any clean clothes?" he asked her.

"Of course. You didn't go through my backpack?"

Sandor shook his head. "I don't go rootin' through other people's things."

Sansa looked down at herself as Sandor fetched her pack and brought it next to the bed. Yes, it was about time she changed her clothes. She was a filthy mess. She pulled out some clean underwear, a t-shirt and jeans.

"You'll never get those on over your knee," Sandor told her. When he'd found her, Sansa had been wearing wide-legged cargo pants with velcro straps at the ankles. Sandor had been able to roll the lightweight fabric above her knee allowing him to re-align her joint, but the pants were torn and ragged from her slide down the mountain.

Sandor pulled out the bag he'd brought back from town the night Sansa had met him for the first time. Inside were a clean t-shirt and a loose-fitting pair of jogging pants. The label on the side of the bag declared "Mine Then Yours." Some sort of resale shop, Sansa guessed. The clothes were clean and looked in good shape.

"I had to guess at your size."

"No, that's perfect. Thank-you," Sansa said. There was no way she was going to be ungrateful, especially after all that Sandor had done for her so far. "Um, can you go outside while I change?" she asked hesitantly.

Sandor shook his head. "Oh no. You're not changing yet." He bent to pick her up off the bed. "You're having a bath first."

"A bath?"

"Yeah, a bath," he growled. "And you think the outhouse smelled bad?" Sandor carried her across the room to a door near the bottom of the stairs, just beyond the fireplace.

"Please don't tell me you're going to stick me in a bucket out in the barn," she protested.

Sandor kicked open the door to a small room that contained an old-fashioned hand-cranked washing machine and a bathtub.

Sandor set her down on a wooden stool that he'd placed inside the tub which was filled halfway with cool water. The short legs of the stool stopped just below the surface of the water - high enough for her to reach down into it, but not high enough to touch her fresh stitches.

"You have a bathtub?" she asked in disbelief.

"Just what kind of hick do you think I am?" he yelled.

"I never said you were a hick. I just thought - "

"I swear to God, little lady, if you - "

Sansa raised her hands in surrender. "Okay, okay. I'm sorry."

Sandor was breathing like a bull with both fists clenched at his sides. When he'd got himself under control, he picked up the buckets he'd used to fill the tub and left the room. When he came back, he had the cauldron in one oven mitt-covered hand and her clean clothes in the other. He dumped the cauldron of hot water in the tub, resulting in pleasantly warm water. From the fold of the clothes, he produced a knife.

"Use this to cut off your pants. They're ruined anyway. When you're done, pull the plug out of the drain. The water goes into a reserve tank that waters the garden down the hill." He pointed to a shelf over the edge of the tub. "Soap, shampoo, washcloth, and a pitcher to rinse with." From a linen cabinet, he retrieved a thick fresh towel and set it on top of the clothes. "Call when you're done and I'll come get you."

Sandor stood on the other side of the door and leaned against it, trying to get his breath. He didn't understand what was wrong with him. His hands were shaking again and he was sweating. Suddenly Sandor bolted into the main room and grabbed the bottle of moonshine. He uncapped it and gulped as much of it as his throat could stand. He had a feeling it was the only thing that was going to get her out of his mind.