“Hit it in the middle with your fist,” Sandor told her. Sansa punched the dough the way he’d shown her. Sandor watched over her shoulder from behind as she folded and kneaded. His chin was resting on her shoulder and his arms were around Sansa’s waist and she was perfectly comfortable.
It had taken a few days for him to be able to be confident with the casual contact between them. Sandor was always touching her, and Sansa always let him. Each day, they were closer and more affectionate.
When he felt it was ready, Sandor placed the big white blob in a skillet with high sides and draped a damp towel over it. The towel, he explained, would keep it from drying out while it “rested.”
“It’s kinda small,” Sansa told him wrinkling her nose.
“That’s what she said,” Sandor joked. Sansa rolled her eyes.
“For someone with no internet and no television, how is it that you still know all the bad jokes?”
“Doc keeps me up to date,” he confessed. “The yeast in the bread will make it rise. When it’s risen, we’ll bake it.”
Sandor squeezed his arms around her tighter and lightly kissed her neck. Sansa giggled shyly. She was warm and receptive and things were going better than Sandor had imagined. However, something had started picking at Sandor’s mind. It hadn’t really occurred to him in the beginning, and now he was trying to ignore his nagging doubts.
At some point he would have to face it and he and Sansa would have to figure it out, but for now, they were happy and getting ready for a dinner party.
Sansa had asked for the dinner and Sandor thought it was a great idea. Sandor wanted to meet his nephew’s girlfriend. Sam and Gilly had been together for a while, but he’d never really had the chance to meet her properly. Sansa wanted to get to know Sam, Sandor’s only blood relative, and the rest of his family. That included Doc Tormund, and Nick and Netti Davos.
Everyone would be coming to the cabin, so Sansa had worked hard alongside Sandor to get everything ready. They would be serving roast beef and mashed potatoes, fresh home-baked bread, and salad from the vegetables in Sandor’s garden. Nick was bringing a special batch of something he’d made and been keeping for a special occasion. That had worried Sansa, so she’d made sure to pick up some wine in town the day before. While she was in town, Sansa stopped at Nick’s office for a brief visit and to use the phone, which he’d told her she was welcome to do at any time.
“Are you sure I can’t pay you for my long distance calls?” she asked Nick. He dismissed her concerns.
“I make so many business calls all over the country, you’re probably saving me money,” he joked.
Sansa called Catelyn and got updates on the status of her family. Arya was currently in Australia. She and Catelyn had agreed to a tentative truce when Arya admitted that everyone was right. Arya’s girlfriend had stolen her boat and sailed off into the sunset without her. Now Arya was waiting for a flight to bring her back to Chicago.
Next, Sansa called Jon and was surprised to find out that Robb was there with him. Robb had been wounded (nothing serious) and sent home. Because he was still angry with Catelyn, he decided to go stay with Jon for a while and check things out. Jon had just been promoted to shift supervisor and was ecstatic to hear from Sansa.
As usual, Bran and Rick were off somewhere doing college boy things and not answering their phones, so she left messages.
The evening was amazing. Sandor and Sansa learned a lot about Gilly and were positive that she and Sam were perfect for each other. Gilly was attending college in Portland and was studying early childhood education and specializing in childhood trauma awareness. She wanted to be an influence in the lives of young children so that they wouldn’t have to go through what she did as a child.
Sam and Gilly discussed their plans to stay in Portland permanently and get married after they were finished with school. He still had a way to go with his thesis, but already, Sam had been tentatively offered a position at Concordia.
When asked, Sansa told everyone about her education and residency at Grey-Sloane Memorial. She was hoping that’s all they wanted to know, but Netti delved deeper.
“How long do you have left?” Nick’s wife asked.
“Before I left I had just passed my third year exams so I have two years left,” Sansa answered politely hoping that would be the end of it.
“That’s a shame,” Sam said. “Just when you and Uncle are getting on so well. And now you’ll have to be apart for two years while you're back to Seattle.” Sam leaned forward and wrinkled his brow. “I just can’t see Uncle leaving here to go to the city to be with you.”
An uncomfortable look passed between Sandor and Sansa. Gilly elbowed Sam hard in the ribs and gave him the look.
“Taking the Hound off the mountain is like trying to take the flea off the dog,” Nick informed them all.
Sandor put his arm around Sansa and pulled her close. “We’ll figure it out,” he assured them. He just wished he could assure himself.
Everyone laughed and joked and talked into the evening. Nick was disappointed that only Doc and Sansa were willing to try what he referred to as his Leeston Elixir. The rest enjoyed the coughing and sputtering that ensued. Doc thought it was “good stuff” and Sansa mistook it for paint stripper.
As everyone left for the night, Sansa and Sandor were complimented on both the meal and how well they fit together as a couple. They saw their guests off, went inside and sat together on the couch, Sansa snuggled under Sandor’s arm.
“What are we going to do?” he asked. “At some point you’ll have to go home.”
“I’m not sure I want to,” Sansa confessed.
“Are you worried about Ramsay?”
“Maybe,” Sansa said. “but that’s not why.”
Sandor twisted around so that he could put his hands on Sansa’s shoulders and look her straight in the face. “You’re not thinking of doing it for me, are you? I won’t let you give up your chance at a career as a surgeon. I would never ask you to do that.”
“Thing is,” Sansa said with a long sigh, “I don’t think I was supposed to be a surgeon. I became a doctor because my dad was a doctor and I was the only chance left to follow in his path. Jon became an engineer, Robb was never really sure what he wanted until after my dad died, and then he joined the Marines. From the time she was little Arya wanted to be an oceanographer.”
Sansa made an I-give-up gesture. “I did it to make my dad happy. It feels like almost everything I’ve done in my life was to make someone else happy. Hiking the trail wasn’t just about getting away from Ramsay, it was about figuring out what I really wanted.”
Sandor took a breath and held it. “And did you find what you were looking for?”
Sansa smiled wide and nodded. “Lucky for us I wasn’t a more experienced hiker. Then I never would have wandered a hundred miles in the wrong direction and ended up here.”
Sansa got a worried look on her face and chewed on her lip.
“What’s wrong?” Sandor asked.
“Have you ever wanted something but you were afraid to want it because you might want it a little too much?”
Sandor’s eyes widened. Oh yeah, ever since you showed up, he thought. Instead, he bit his lip and smiled.
Sansa felt the back of her neck grow hot and her face flush. Her heart was pounding so loud that she was sure Sandor could hear it. Her breath was short and rapid. She knew what she wanted but she couldn’t move.
Sandor also knew what she wanted. He could see it in her eyes. All this time, he had let Sansa take the lead, letting her decide what she was comfortable with. She had reached that point, but her fear wouldn’t let her go any farther. That was Sandor’s cue to lead her there.
Sandor took Sansa’s face in his hands and brought his lips to meet hers. Sansa’s lips were soft and warm. He wanted to keep kissing her forever, but he wanted to be sure.
Sansa lifted her hand to stroke his face. The smooth scars rippled under her fingertips and his beard was soft on her palm. She leaned forward and kissed him again, this time firmer and longer. She parted her lips allowing Sandor’s tongue to touch hers. The tingle of her warm breath, the taste of her enflamed him and he wanted more.
Sandor kissed her lips, her face, her neck. He could feel Sansa squirming against him as his lips trailed across her collar bone, so he forced himself to stop. Holding her by the shoulders, his breath heavy and fast, he watched as Sansa brought her fingers up to the top button of her flannel shirt and opened it. Her fingers slowly moved down, undoing each button. As gently as he could, Sandor slipped the shirt off her soft silky shoulders. He was aching inside, aching to be with her, to lie next to her and feel her skin against his.
Flannel shirt still hanging on her arms, Sandor picked Sansa up and carried her upstairs.