Sandor lay in bed, staring at the ceiling. He couldn’t sleep. He turned and looked at the digital clock on the dresser. It was 3:47am … and damn that thing was bright. Everything was too bright, too loud, and over-stimulating.
He’d woken again around 2:30 this morning when Sansa’s roommate, Eloise, had used the microwave to heat a quick dinner after a late shift. He’d listened to the sharp beeps followed by the hum and the clank of the door when it was done. After that, the furnace came on. All around him, Sandor could hear the ever-present hum, and see the glowing luminescence as light creeped in from the streetlights, the digital clock, and the little red light in the smoke detector.
Sandor rolled over in Sansa’s bed and pulled the quilt over his head. She was working a night shift. Sandor thought about the first time he’d seen her in her scrubs. She was almost a different person. Almost. She was still the same Sansa he knew, of course, but she looked so professional, so in charge.
This was her world. It wasn’t really that bad, but Sandor could never get used to it. Even Sansa felt differently when she’d returned home to Seattle. The absolute quiet and dark of the mountain had been a dramatic contrast to the constant thrum of life in the city.
Sandor was almost worried by just how quickly Sansa had re-adapted to her old life. It wasn’t long after they came here, that Sansa deleted Twitter and Facebook off of her phone, so he had to hand it to her there. The mountain had done positive things for her in that way. She relished the disconnection that the mountain life had given her, and Sansa had expressed a desire to get back to that.
“It’s only six months,” Sansa had told Sandor. He had been suffering from sensory overload, subjected to too many sights, sounds, and even smells coming at him from every direction. The constant bombardment of stimulation had left Sandor almost in a stupor.
“How the fuck does anyone focus?” he’d asked in bewilderment. But it wasn’t long before Sandor was able to move in a sort of rhythm with the city. He was slow and cautious, and he’d never get used to the lights and sounds, but it no longer got him “wigged out” as Sansa had called it.
People were exactly the same, though. That was something that was no different from Leeston. According to Sansa, in the city, nobody cared because everyone was different. That wasn’t exactly true, but it wasn’t a lie, either. Sandor was still the focus of stares and whispers. A teenage girl had pointed to him, said, “Oh my God!” and giggled with her friend when he looked in her direction. But for the most part, Sansa was right. Everyone was in such a hurry or eternally focused on their phones, that most people never even noticed him.
Sandor rolled over in bed again. He wished Sansa was lying beside him. He wished they were back in the cabin in Leeston. He wished he could sleep. Fact was, he was nervous about tomorrow. Tomorrow was the day. Tomorrow, Sandor’s face would be placed in the expert care of Dr. Jaime Lannister. He just hoped the guy was as good as Sansa believed.
Sansa ran down the hall toward Sandor. He watched as her stethoscope bounced against her chest as she sprinted around patients and carts. Her arms were full of patient files, but she was smiling and full of energy.
“Hey!” she said hugging him with her free arm. Sandor bent down and kissed her. He glanced nervously around as people paused to watch them.
“I wasn’t sure if you’d find your way to the right department.” She placed a hand on his arm and squeezed. “Are you going to be okay? I know you’re nervous, but I promise, Jaime is a great guy and he’ll take good care of you.”
Sansa led him into a short, quiet hallway and then into a plush office with a corner window. Dr. Lannister looked up from his paperwork when they entered. In Sandor’s first impression, two thoughts came to him. First, why wasn’t this guy modeling Calvin Klein underwear? And second, he didn’t so much as twitch when he first gazed upon Sandor’s face – as if he’d seen it a hundred times already.
“Jaime, this is Sandor,” Sansa said by way of introduction. Dr. Lannister and Sandor shook hands, then the plastic surgeon invited him to sit. Sandor waited expectantly for Sansa to join him in the other chair.
“I really want to be here, I do, Sandor, but I have a surgery scheduled. Besides, if I’m here you might not say what you really want to or how you really feel. We’ll talk later about it, I promise." Sansa kissed him again then bounded out the door.
“That’s a really wonderful woman you’ve got there,” Dr. Lannister said as he took his seat. "I want you to know that Sansa wasn't just making an excuse. It really is best if she's not here because I want you to be able to talk freely without wondering if you're giving me the right answers. Please be completely honest with me about how you feel." Dr. Lannister sat back behind his desk. “Before you tell me anything … before I tell you what’s involved … do you have any questions? Is there anything you want to tell me?”
Sandor thought for a moment. “Are you really as good as Sansa tells me you are?”
Jaime Lannister laughed openly. “Sandor … do you mind if a call you by your first name?” Sandor indicated the negative. “Look at my face. Do you seriously think I born this handsome?” he said with a quirky smile.
Sandor laughed and immediately felt at ease. As they talked, Sandor knew that Sansa was right. If anyone was going to be able to help him, it was Dr. Lannister. The doctor asked Sandor how it had happened, so Sandor told him the gory details. Jaime – that’s what he insisted on being called – examined the extent of his scarring, took some measurements and a small skin sample. He poked, prodded and finally pricked Sandor’s face with a needle to determine where there was working muscle tissue and blood flow, and where there wasn’t. Jaime checked his eyes, his ears, and his pulse to determine what shape Sandor was in overall.
After the thorough examination, Jaime Lannister explained what would be involved in giving Sandor plastic surgery, if that was in fact, what he ultimately decided to do. There were no obligations, and they still had to do more tests to determine to what extent they would be able to improve Sandor’s face.
“Any more questions?” Jaime asked him.
“Have you ever had a case as bad as mine?”
Jaime considered long and hard before answering Sandor’s question. “Did Sansa tell you what my specialty is?”
Sandor was confused and his face showed it. “You are a plastic surgeon, aren’t you?”
Jaime chuckled. “Even plastic surgery has specialties.” He was going to say more, then changed his mind. “Come with me,” he told Sandor.
“This is Sherry,” Dr. Jaime said indicating a brightly smiling teen girl. Well, she was smiling as much as possible with no lips and not much left of a face. Sherry’s face looked like someone had left a wax doll to melt in the sun. The web of scars disappeared under the collar of her hospital gown.
“Sherry was babysitting her two little brothers while her mom was working a double shift at an industrial dry cleaning factory. As a treat, she decided to make French fries for her and her brothers. When she had her head turned for a split second, the youngest brother tried to grab the pot handle off the stove. It was filled with hot oil, and it was a gas stove. It spilled on Sherry and ignited.”
Sherry waved from the bed. “Hi, I’m Sherry,” she said to Sandor. “How did yours happen?” Though she didn’t have a normal smile like other people, Sandor could see it in her eyes.
Sandor glanced at Jaime who encouraged him to answer. “I fell into a fireplace when I was about your age," he told her. No need to give her the horror story that was his life.
Sherry got a funny look on her face. “How come you didn’t get fixed?” she asked innocently.
Sandor shrugged. “I didn’t know I could get fixed until I met this doctor.”
Sherry smiled and waved from her hospital bed as Jaime took Sandor to meet some of his other patients on the ward. A fireman who’d had a ceiling collapse on top of him causing 3rd degree burns down most of his back. A little boy who’d found his father’s secret stash of fireworks and wanted to ride a rocket to the moon. A woman who’s possessive husband had doused her in gasoline and set her on fire because he’d rather kill her than let her leave him.
“See?” Jaime said to Sandor. “You and all my other patients are different from everyone one else. But they’re the same kind of different as each other. They suffered a trauma and now they’re here to get my help.”
Back in Jaime Lannister’s office, Sandor suddenly felt ashamed. He hadn’t realized there were so many people in the world who had suffered such horrible misfortunes as he had. In a kind of way, he realized, he'd been feeling sorry for himself all these years.
“How can Sherry be so happy after what happened to her?” Sandor asked. “She’s got to know that she’ll never be like other girls again.”
Jaime shrugged. “She knows that she’s alive, as opposed to the alternative. She also knows that if it weren’t for her, it might have been her little brother in here. You see, she used her body to block the oil from hitting him when it spilled.”
“Frankly,” Dr. Jaime said. “I don’t think she ever wants to be like other girls. She’s proud of who she is.”
It took a long time for Sandor to come to a decision once Dr. Jaime Lannister had presented all the options. Both Sansa and Sandor sat in the plastic surgeon’s office watching as photographs of Sandor’s face slowly morphed into a computer-generated likeness of how his face would look after the procedures that would be performed.
“Are you sure that’s what you want?” Sansa asked when she saw the result.
Sandor took a deep breath. He’d thought long and hard about it. He had worried and puzzled that he was doing the right thing, that it would be the right decision in the long run.
Finally, Sandor nodded. “Let’s do this thing,” he announced. Sansa squealed and hugged him. She was relieved that he’d taken his time to really consider all the ramifications of what changing his face would mean. After all, he would have to live with the decision for the rest of his life.
It wasn’t the first time Sandor Clegane was nervous and it likely wouldn’t be the last. He took deep breaths and tried to relax. Sansa stayed by his side and held his hand. She would stay until they wheeled him away. Then she would watch from the operating theater because she wouldn’t be allowed to assist or be in the operating room. Then, she would be waiting next to him when he woke up.
Sansa reassured him, but all the soothing words in the world wouldn’t change the fact that he was terrified. They had already shaved half of his head and his entire beard. They were only going to shave half of his beard but Sandor had told them to take if off completely.
“I’m not walking around with half a fucking beard!” he’d shouted. “I’ll look like a fucking fanny.”
“At least I got to see you once without it,” Sansa offered apologetically even though she’d had nothing to do with the decision. “It’s just hair. It’ll grow back.”
Sandor rolled his eyes. Sansa could feel the tremor in his fingers as he held onto her for dear life. Here he was, all six and half feet and 280 pounds of him and he was cowering like a little girl. And Sansa, 115 pounds and a whole foot shorter, was the strong one.
“You’ll be just fine,” Sansa reassured him again. “Jaime and his team are some of the best doctors and nurses in the country. You’re in good hands. I promise.”
When it was finally time, Sansa hugged him tightly, kissed him, and squeezed his hand as he rolled away. “I’ll see you when you wake up,” Sansa called after him.