The landing in Glasgow was mercifully smooth, Arya wasn’t sure Sansa could have handled a bumpy, or worse yet a delayed landing. Sansa was a weepy, snotty nosed mess and Arya had kept her with a steady supply of tissues (and once food and beverage service started, glasses of red wine) since they had left JFK airport last night. Arya was relieved they were finally in Scotland so she could get Sansa off the plane and somewhere private.
This was supposed to be Sansa’s honeymoon; well not this, she and Harry were supposed to be landing in romantic Paris, but instead she was here, with her sister Arya, in overcast, rainy Scotland.
It had all fallen apart a week ago; the night of the bachelor and hen parties. Sansa and her friends had a great time, bar hopping, dancing, drinking, singing; it was everything she had imagined for her last weekend as a single woman. Arya had even begrudgingly worn the “maid of honor” sash for 2 whole hours, matching Sansa’s “bride” sash.
It was the end of the evening when everything changed. One of Arya’s maid of honor responsibilities was to make sure that Sansa, who was tipsy teetering on drunk, made it home safely. They arrived at Sansa and Harry’s apartment only to discover that the bachelor party had broken up early and Harry was taking advantage of his last weekend as a bachelor. Myranda, his former girlfriend, was riding him like a bull right there in the bed he shared with Sansa. Arya wasn’t sure who was more shocked: Sansa at witnessing such a scene or Harry who realized that he’d been caught red handed. Arya knew it wasn’t Myranda, judging from the triumphant expression on her face, it was obvious to Arya that Myranda had hoped for something like this, and that perhaps this wasn’t a one-time thing.
After bundling Sansa out of the apartment as she hurled obscenities at Harry and Myranda; Arya was at a loss as to how to handle this. Her first inclination would have been to castrate Harry and gut Myranda; instead she drove Sansa to their parent’s house. Arya had never particularly like Harry; he was too pretty, too blond, too smarmy. But Sansa had loved him, so Arya had tolerated him for her sake (she took no pleasure in being right about him).
Waking up their parents and younger brothers (it was 4AM by that point) Arya explained the situation to Ned and Catelyn, who immediately launched into protective parent mode. Ned confirmed with Sansa (who by this point was an incoherent crying mess) that she wanted to call off the wedding, and set in motion canceling the ceremony, reception and everything else involved.
Catelyn took charge of Sansa. Stripping her of her clothing (including her now bedraggled bride sash), filling the tub with hot water, easing her into it, and staying with her as she sobbed her eyes out.
Arya, Bran and Rickon took charge of the “de-wedding” of the house as much as possible; anything that would remind Sansa that she was supposed to get married in a week was unceremoniously shoved into closets throughout the house. By 9AM an outsider would have been hard pressed to tell what had happened in the last 5 hours.
Sansa was finally asleep in her childhood bedroom, all traces of the wedding were gone, and Ned was just finishing up canceling the photographer (the last of the services).
Rob and Jon had been called and they were currently at Sansa’s apartment packing up her stuff, and possibly beating the shit out of Harry.
The only item that still had to be dealt with was the honeymoon.
Three weeks in Paris was to have been Sansa’s siblings wedding present for the couple. Jon, Rob, Arya, Bran and Rickon had pooled their money for Sansa’s honeymoon. Fortunately (because the Starks had paid for it rather than Harry) they were able to cancel everything and get a refund.
The question now was, what to do about Sansa. There was no way that she could resume her life anytime soon, she was devastated, and would need time to work through Harry’s betrayal.
While Sansa slept, the rest of the family gathered around the dining room table to discuss their next steps. All of them were willing to do whatever they needed to do to help Sansa though this ordeal.
It was actually Bran that suggested Scotland. When the siblings had first told Sansa and Harry they wanted to pay for the honeymoon as the wedding present, Sansa had suggested Scotland, saying she’d always wanted to go there.
However Harry had poo-pooed the location and said that they should go to Paris. He reasoned that it was the most romantic place on earth, plus it was so much more sophisticated than Scotland. Sansa, as always, had bowed to Harry’s wishes and the Paris trip had been booked.
But now, there was an opportunity for Sansa to go someplace she really wanted to go, somewhere that had no association with Harry, the question was who would go with her?
Obviously in her state, she couldn’t go on her own. All the eyes at the table swung to Arya. She’d received her degree in May and had taken the entire summer off to help Sansa get ready for the wedding, so she was the logical choice.
Arya agreed with family's assessment, she would be the best one to hand her tissues, let her vent, kick her ass and bring Sansa back from this.
So that was how Arya ended up in Scotland with a bag full of snotty tissues and an inconsolable, red-eyed, snotty nosed sister.
Sansa and Arya arrive at Clegane Keep, and we (and they) meet Pod.
The flurry of activity at the Stark household the 5 days after the “incident” was staggering. After Sansa agreed to the suggestion of going to Scotland with Arya, the whole family banded together to make it happen.
While Sansa had said she’d always wanted to go there, she hadn’t said where specifically, so it was up to her family to figure out where in Scotland was the best place to go to mend a broken heart.
As it turned out, Sansa and Harry were supposed to get married the same week that the Fringe Festival was taking place in Edinburgh, which meant the city was packed with tourists AND there were no hotel rooms, Airbnb’s, or even camping spots available. So it looked like Sansa and Arya were going to Glasgow instead.
Flights were booked, and Arya and Bran researched where they could stay. Bran rationalized that rather than a hotel, maybe a cottage would be a better bet. That way if Sansa just wanted to sit inside all day and brood (or cry) the maid service wouldn’t be at the door constantly
The idea of being outside the city also appealed to Arya. She knew this was going to be a emotional few weeks for Sansa, and wanted to spare her the necessity of having to pull herself together every time she wanted to eat something. Staying in a cottage meant there was a kitchen, and if they wanted to (or needed to) they could make their own meals. Perfect solution.
While Bran negotiated renting a car, an automatic, it was going to be tough enough for Arya to drive on the opposite side of the road, on those tiny lanes he imagined, without having to also shift gears; Arya started looking for rental cottages.
She eventually navigated to a cumbersome, not very user friendly, website for Clegane Keep which described a tranquil setting of cottages surrounding an ancient castle on the edge of a forest (but close to the bustling city).
The photos were beautiful, and the interior of the cottages charming; Arya hoped they hadn’t been photo-shopped and were actually shacks instead.
An email to someone named Podrick, apparently the manager, inquiring about availability was answered within a few hours and Sansa and Arya were immediately booked for 21 days in the Thistle cottage on the grounds of Clegane Keep.
Further emails between Arya and Podrick confirmed that the kitchen was usable and that there were shops nearby to purchase food and supplies, yes they should definitely bring hiking boots because there were trails all throughout the area, yes there were other activities in the area if they were so inclined, and yes the cottage was very private, in fact the nearest neighbor was the actual Keep but Podrick doubted they’d see the occupant, Mr. Clegane, he kept to himself most of the time.
Trying to figure out what to take with them became the next challenge. Rob and Jon had brought all of Sansa’s things to the house from the apartment, but they hadn’t really been all that careful as they threw things in boxes that Sunday morning.
Arya and Catelyn spent a couple of days going through the boxes, trying to find appropriate casual wear for spending time in nature. It turned out that most of Sansa’s clothing was not going to work out. Since being with Harry, Sansa had gone from a girl who was comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt, to a woman who couldn’t leave the house without a face full of makeup and the latest designer clothes. It looked like a new wardrobe was going to be in order.
With their mother’s credit card and carte blanch, Arya and Rickon hit the Mall to purchase clothes for Sansa.
6 hours and several hundred dollars later they returned home with: jeans, t-shirts, sweatshirts, sneakers, raingear (it was Scotland after all), hiking boots, socks, cotton underwear (there was no way Arya was ever going to let Sansa wear the hooker-like underwear Jon and Rob had brought home from the apartment ever again) and yoga pants for the plane.
They were quite pleased with themselves, despite Sansa’s lackluster response to the haul. Eventually everything was packed up by Arya in Sansa’s newly purchased (by Rob) suitcase (one look at her other new, monogramed with SSH, suitcase full of clothes for her honeymoon and Sansa burst into tears) and Sansa and Arya were driven the 3 hours by Ned to JFK airport where they boarded the direct flight to Glasgow.
After clearing customs, retrieving their luggage and picking up the rental car; Arya and Sansa drove the 45 minutes outside of Glasgow to Clegane Keep. City had melted into suburbs which melted into rural countryside until finally the GPS indicated that they were nearing their destination.
With the early morning mist surrounding the area, it looked to Arya like something out of an 18th or 19th century novel; all that was missing were the baying hounds and the evil Lord of the Castle.
As Sansa listlessly looked out the passenger side window not saying a word, but sniffling occasionally, Arya prayed she hadn’t made a mistake in booking them here; she hoped she hadn’t brought Sansa all the way to Scotland only to get them both killed in their sleep by some bog dwelling mass murderer.
They pulled up to the closed gates, and a man with dark hair and adorable (in Arya’s mind anyway) pink cheeks walked up to the driver’s side window.
“You must be Arya and Sansa, I’m Podrick, or Pod will do. How was your flight?”
Arya grinned up at him “Fine, but we’re both exhausted, any chance we can we check in now and relax?”
“Sure, why don’t you park and come on in to reception and I’ll get your keys and show you to your cottage right now.”
“Can you leave the gate unattended?”
“Aye, you’re the only two guests we have right now.”
Arya and Sansa tumbled out of the car and stretched; it had been a long 12 hours between getting to the airport, the flight and the ride here. Podrick ushered them into reception, grinning at Arya; after taking in Sansa’s appearance: rumpled clothes, red and weepy eyes, snotty nose; he looked back at Arya in alarm.
Arya met his eyes and shook her head slightly, indicating with a glance that she’d explain later. The girls were each issued an old fashioned key to the cottage and a map of the estate.
Their cottage was closest to the Keep and according to Pod (as he insisted on being called) their cottage was once the home of the estate’s gamekeeper.
Pod helped Arya and Sansa unload their car and escorted them to the cottage and lugged their bags to the bedrooms. Sansa immediately declared that she was going to lie down for a while, leaving Arya and Pod standing in the main part of the cottage.
“So” Arya started “as you can see, my sister is a little out of sorts. My family and I are hoping that some time away from home will help her start to heal her broken heart”
“Yea, today was supposed to be her wedding day, as you can tell, that’s not happening.”
Pod nodded understandingly “If you need anything, I mean ANYTHING, you have my number, or just walk down the path right outside the back door, I’m in the next cottage down, the one with the bright blue door.”
Arya smiled “what I need is for Sansa to realize that she’s better off without that prick Harry, and that she can do much better. If you can help me out with that I’d appreciate it.”
Pod chuckled “I’ll see what I can do” and with a wave he was out the front door and assumedly back to reception.
Arya looked around the cottage and once again prayed that she hadn’t made a mistake in bringing Sansa here.
Next up; we get to meet the owner of Clegane Keep.
Pod to the rescue, and we meet and learn the backstory of the owner of Clegane Keep.
Arya broke the cardinal rule of international travel, she went to bed.
After unpacking both Sansa's and her own bags and looking through the entire cottage to figure out where everything was kept, Arya figured she’d just lie down for a couple of minutes to decompress.
In truth, not only had it been a long 12 hours, it had been a long week. More than anything, Arya wanted to be Sansa's rock, but she was exhausted. Just a couple of minutes, that would be all she needed; 14 hours later, Arya woke up to realize that not only had she slept through the afternoon, but all night as well.
In a panic Arya leapt out of bed to check on Sansa, only to find her still asleep in the exact same position as she had left her yesterday.
After pulling on a clean pair of jeans and a sweatshirt, washing her face, brushing her teeth and running her fingers through her hair (who was going to see her anyway) Arya rummaged through the kitchen cabinets to see if there was anything to eat or drink in the cottage. She knew that food wasn’t included in their stay, but she hoped she could find at least a tea bag to get her through until they could get to a grocery store. Shit, shit, shit. Nothing; Arya knew she needed to get something for them to eat, but she just wasn’t comfortable leaving Sansa alone.
Suddenly she heard a light tapping on the back door. Taking the chance that bog dwelling mass murderers don’t usually knock, she cracked the door open to find Pod holding a tray with a teapot and what looked like freshly baked scones and jam.
“I noticed yesterday that you didn’t have any food with you, and I thought you might be hungry.”
Arya grinned at him, “Pod, you are a lifesaver, in fact you deserve sainthood for this.” Arya was pleased to see Pod’s already pink cheeks flush further, he really was adorable. She opened the door wider to let him in, suddenly realizing she hadn’t really combed her hair, and praying she’d gotten all the toothpaste off her mouth.
“How is your sister doing, any better?”
“I don’t actually know, she hasn’t been up since we got here.”
Pod set the tray down on the kitchen table. “So how are we going to help her?”
“of course we, I know we’ve only just met, but, there’s no way I’d just sit by and watch her suffer and you suffer trying to help her; I am an excellent problem solver if I do say so myself, between the two of us we can definitely figure out the best way for Sansa to forget about that tosser she was going to marry.”
Yea, seriously adorable. Arya grinned at Pod, “well first we’re going to have to convince her to get out of bed, are there any must sees around here to tempt her?”
“Well, there’s trails and a waterfall about as mile from here; if she’s more into cultural stuff there is a museum on the history of the area, or a distillery you can tour, although that might not be a good idea in her state, part of the tour involves drinking. If she doesn’t want to leave the estate, I could arrange with Mr. Clegane for the two of you to tour the main house. What do you think she’d want to do?”
Arya pondered the question “How about you give me a couple of hours to get her up, showered, dressed and fed; I’ll ask her what she wants to do, then I’ll come find you, will that work?”
Pod gathered up his tray to leave, commenting “if you want to give me a list if grocery items I can go shopping for you in the meantime.”
Seriously this guy was perfect, “no thanks I can figure out something later.”
After Pod left, Arya crept into Sansa’s room to check on her and try to wake her up. “hey, Sansy, rise and shine.”
Sansa woke up with a start, sat up and stretched and smiled at Arya. Suddenly her smile faltered, as if she had just remembered why they were here. “how long did I sleep?”
“about 16 hours, but I guess you needed it; but, you better get up, Pod brought us scones and I’m about a minute away from eating all of them.”
Sansa giggled and followed Arya into the kitchen. After oohing and ahhing over the spread; Sansa poured herself a mug of tea, selected a scone, slathered it with clotted cream and jam, and bit into it with relish, groaning with delight “oh my god, this is sooo good, did Pod make them?”
"I don’t know, but whoever did deserves a medal; I haven’t seen you eat, let alone enjoy anything in a week.”
“well maybe if someone had made me something this good in the past week, I would have eaten it” Sansa commented with a grin.
Arya grinned back “that’s my girl, I knew you were still in there somewhere.”
After completely devouring everything Pod had left for them, they took turns using the large old fashioned bathroom.
Once they were both clean and dressed, Arya broached the subject of which activity Sansa felt up to doing. Pondering the list, Sansa commented that she didn’t really feel up to seeing a lot of people, and maybe it would be fun to tour the Keep; after all they’d be staying here for three weeks and they should learn at least a little bit of the history of the place.
Arya went in search of Pod, to return his dishes and teapot and to find out if they could see the Keep. Pod assured her that he’d cleared the visit with the owner, and that he would meet them at the front door in 30 minutes.
Sandor had never thought he’d be back living in his childhood home. After the death of his father, it had been passed on to his older brother Gregor.
This had all happened years after Sandor had left home, swearing he’d never come back.
His upbringing wasn’t anything he liked to dwell on; a frightened, timid mother, workaholic father, and worst of all an abusive older brother.
The only joy in Sandor's childhood had been his sister, Nell. But all that had changed when Sandor was only 8. Gregor had tripped Sandor, and he had landed in the fireplace causing the severe scarring on Sandor's face and neck.
A year later Nell had fallen (or had been pushed by Gregor, Sandor suspected) breaking her neck and dying immediately.
The next six years were hell for Sandor, between the taunts and fights at school because of his appearance and the beatings from Gregor (which his parents were never able to stop) he couldn’t wait to leave home.
By 15 he had bid Clegane Keep goodbye and started to make his way in the world. For the next 20 years Sandor drifted from place to place learning various construction skills, as he moved from job to job.
He kept in touch with his Mum, calling every couple of weeks, and at 29 came home briefly for her funeral. He thought that would be the last time he’d ever step foot in the Keep, until two years ago when he was tracked down on a job site in Galway by a probate lawyer.
Sandor found out his father had died a year after his mother and Gregor had inherited the Keep. A month ago Gregor had died in a pub fight that he had instigated.
As his only known living heir, Sandor inherited the Keep and all its contents, what did he want to do with it?
At first, Sandor thought he’d just sell everything off and get on with his life. Coming home to the Keep he found that his father then later Gregor had let it fall into serious disrepair.
He made a snap decision (that he would come to regret more than once over the next year) that he’d restore the Keep before putting it up for sale, that was how he met Podrick Payne.
Podrick, or Pod as he insisted on being called, had been recommended by the lawyer as a builder’s apprentice. As it turned out, Pod wasn’t great with most of the trades (it took weeks to clean up the plaster after the “mixing” incident), but Pod was cheerful, strong as a bull and would do anything Sandor asked him to; it also didn’t hurt that he made delicious scones.
The two of them had worked for months restoring the Keep, then moving onto the 10 cottages on the property.
Once they were done, it was Pod that suggested opening the cottages up as short term rental properties. He convinced Sandor to let him move into one of the cabins, and advertise the others to rent out.
Pod also assumed the role of manager, handling all the bookings, advertising, the website and one on one interaction with the guests. He assured Sandor that he could decide for himself how much involvement he wanted in the day to day running of the business; realistically all he’d really need to do is keep the books.
Somehow, improbably within two years of his return home to Scotland, Sandor was a landowner and a business owner.
They’d started out slow, a couple of families using the cottages as jumping off points for seeing the Highlands, then a group on a golfing holiday; word of mouth and the website seemed to be working okay (although they could always use more business).
Sandor began to think that maybe Pod was onto something, and this wasn’t the craziest idea in the world.
That was until the Stark sisters rented Thistle Cottage, and his world turned upside down.
The Stark sisters get a tour of the Keep, and meet the owner
1. A huge thank you to Skyfox12 who agreed to beta for me; bad news kids, she doesn't seem to like run on sentences and semi-colons as much as I do.
2. I went ahead and changed the rating to mature, it's not for this chapter, but it's coming.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The Stark sisters
Sandor had seen them when they arrived yesterday morning. He had, in his mind anyway, creepily watched them from the window on the second floor as they got out of the car and walked into the reception area.
Two sisters Pod said, but they didn’t look anything alike.
A short dark haired one that looked more like a 12 year old boy than a woman in her 20s, and a redhead. Sandor would swear she was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen in his life, and he could happily spend the rest of his time on earth just looking at her.
He could see from his vantage point that her eyes and nose were red and runny, her shoulders slumped, she looked incredibly sad; he also noticed that the dark haired one seemed very attentive and concerned about her.
Later, when Pod approached him about allowing them to tour the house, he was told as much as Pod knew. The redhead, Sansa, was here to get over a broken engagement, and the little one, Arya, was going to help her do that. Sandor wasn’t sure how being here would make her forget what had happened, he supposed he’d just wait and see.
Maybe he could even help.
Restoring the Keep
Part of Pod’s mad scheme, when he convinced Sandor to open the cottages of Clegane Keep to the public, was to research the history of the house. Sandor had to admit that he knew very little about his home, only that it had been in the family for several generations.
Pod quickly learned that the Keep had been given to one of Sandor’s late ancestors as a reward to the kennel master for saving the life of his liege Lord during a mountain lion attack during a hunting trip. Subsequent generations had inhabited the Keep, it always passed to the oldest son.
Nothing of note really happened during all those generations; they lived, they died, they fought in wars, nothing different than thousands of other families in Scotland. However, Sandor was surprised to learn that with the death of his father and older brother, he had inherited a lordship.
Pod had also convinced Sandor to set up several of the unused rooms with the period furniture that they found throughout the house and attic. The rooms that Sandor regularly used were updated with modern amenities; a king-sized bed for his bedroom and a flat screen television and surround sound system in the den and modern kitchen equipment. But by using the large collection that he and Pod found, they were able to set up rooms to reflect life in the 18 th , 19 th , and early 20 th centuries.
That had been Sandor’s favorite part of the entire restoration process, working with the period pieces of furniture. He had gone so far as to set up a workshop in one of the outbuildings to restore some of the pieces they had uncovered. He had several spent years in the carpentry trade; re-gluing legs, restuffing cushions, and/or refinishing wood. Sandor found that giving so many of his family's pieces a second life was so much more satisfying. He had even tried his hand at crafting some replica pieces, such as the missing 6 th chair to go with the World War II era dining set and a new drawer front for the Georgian style chest; and according to Pod you couldn’t tell them apart from the originals.
So far Sandor hadn’t allowed the house to be open for visitors, but having seen Sansa’s tear swollen face yesterday, he knew he would do whatever he could to cheer her up, if even for a short time.
So when Pod asked permission to let Sansa and Arya tour the house, he had quickly agreed.
Pod had stopped by about 15 minutes ago to let him know that they’d be there soon. He had subtlety given Sandor notice in case he wanted to remain unseen, but having been so drawn to Sansa yesterday when he saw her from the window, and not knowing what possessed him to be so brave, he decided to stay and at least greet them.
Pod met the sisters at the front door. “Before we go in there’s something I should tell you about Mr. Clegane; he has very significant scarring on his face. It happened when he was still a kid, it doesn’t hurt, but I wanted you to be prepared in case we see him when we’re in the house.”
Sansa made a soft noise. “Oh how horrible for him, thank you for telling us.”
Pod opened the door and led them inside. “Welcome to Clegane Keep. This house has been in the Clegane family for seven generations, ever since Alistair Clegane, the kennel master to Lord Tywin Lannister, was gifted it and a Lordship for saving Lord Lannister's life. Today the Keep is set up to reflect 300 plus years of the families habitation in the home. Sandor, the current Lord Clegane, has worked tirelessly the past two years restoring the interior and the furnishings of the Keep.”
Sansa and Arya looked around in awe, it was a little overwhelming.
Coming from the United State, It was hard to imagine growing up in what amounted to a castle. Instead of a coat tree and a table to drop the mail and your keys on like the house they grew up in had, the formal entryway was decorated with wheat colored banners with three dogs on them.
“This is the Clegane coat of arms that was bestowed on the family by Lord Lannister.”
The tour took about 2 ½ hours, it probably took longer than it should have due to Sansa’s many questions about the rooms and the furnishings. Fortunately, Pod was able to satisfy Sansa’s curiosity about the building. She was especially impressed when Pod told them about the reproduction furniture Sandor had made to replace the lost or missing pieces.
“Since he’s a Lord, I guess he wouldn’t really be interested, but Mr. Clegane could make a living just making furniture, I couldn’t tell the difference even when you pointed it out to us.” Sansa gushed as they walked down a hallway towards the kitchen.
Pod grinned, “Sandor will be thrilled to hear that, I tell him the same thing, but I don’t think he believes me.”
“What don’t I believe you about?” They heard as they walked into the room.
“Your furniture making skill” Pod said cheekily, but his response was unheeded as Sandor and Sansa clamped eyes on each other for the first time.
“Hi..hi, I’m Sandor” he said shakily, sticking out his hand to Sansa.
“San-Sansa, Ser; or should I call you my lord?” she responded placing her small hand in his.
“Not a Ser, Just Sandor is fine, I didn’t even know I was a Lord until four months ago” he replied with a grin, not letting go if her hand.
Arya and Pod glanced at each other and shrugged, it was as if they weren’t even there.
Pod cleared his throat startling Sandor and Sansa and they quickly dropped their hands
“This is Sansa’s sister Arya, I was just going to make them some tea if you don’t mind, I think I wore them out on the tour.”
While never taking his eyes off Sansa, Sandor replied, “That sounds like a great idea, I’d love some too, okay if I join you? Maybe you could whip up a batch of scones, I think I have everything you need here”
Pod glanced at Arya again, rolling his eyes and shrugging again, what was going on here between his boss and their heartbroken guest? He’d never seen Sandor act like this before, normally if there were strangers in the house, he left Pod to deal with them, usually skulking in another room. This was so completely out of character from the grumpy, shy boss he’d come to know over the past two years.
Arya narrowed her eyes at the scene unfolding in front of her.
“Hey, I’ve always wanted to learn how to make scones, why don’t I stay here and Pod can teach me, and you and Sansa can go out to the dining room and talk about furniture making, she was raving about your pieces during the tour.”
Sansa blushed to her hairline “Arya, please, Sandor has been so nice opening up his home to us, I don’t think he wants to spend an hour talking to me about furniture.”
Sandor shyly smiled at her “I wouldn’t mind at all, I can even show you my workshop, I have a couple of pieces in progress right now.”
They drifted out of the room not even looking back at Pod or Arya
Arya snorted “Well I guess it won’t be as hard as we thought helping Sansa get over that prick Harry”
Pod smiled, waggled his eyebrows and started to gather up the scone ingredients.
Sandor and Sansa get to know each other.
Sandor and Sansa get to know each other, tell each other some secrets and look at furniture.
Colin Firth IS Mr. Darcy, fight me on this.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Furniture making and refinishing 101
“Would you like to see the workshop first?”
Sandor led Sansa out of the Keep and down a pathway to one of the outbuildings. Each stealing glances at the other, as they went.
Sandor wracked his brain for something to say, he wasn’t comfortable talking to new people in normal situations, but faced with speaking to the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen, he was more tongue tied than usual.
For her part, Sansa wondered what had come over her. She was supposed to be getting over a broken heart, less than a week ago she had been engaged to be married to her supposed love of her life; and here she was covertly checking out a huge, scarred, silent Scotsman; and she didn’t even feel bad about it. Taking in his appearance: jeans, work boots, a dark gray henley that matched his stormy eyes under a flannel shirt.
“Uhm, so you’re a Lord? You don’t dress like one.”
Sandor snorted “How should I dress?”
“Well, I don’t know, I always thought a Lord would dress like Colin Firth in Pride and Prejudice ”
Sandor barked out a loud laugh at that “Well first of all, Mr. Darcy, isn’t a real person. Secondly, Pride and Prejudice is set in the 19 th century and we’re in the 21 st . And lastly and most importantly, Mr. Darcy is English, I’m Scottish, I would never dress in that poncy way; if I was a 19 th century Lord, I would wear a kilt.”
Sansa puffed out a giggle “I hadn’t thought of that, I guess you’re right. Do you have a kilt, Lord Clegane?” she added with a huge mischievous grin.
Sandor grinned back; she was adorable, she reminded him of the pretty little red birds that inhabited the trees on the property
“Of course I do, every self respecting Scotsman does. Mine is in the Clegane tartan of yellow and black.”
“So..., is there a pond on the property in case it gets really warm, like there is at Pemberley?” Sansa asked, eyes sliding appreciatively to take in his form; she raised her eyes to meet his, and they burst into laughter. Ice broken, they arrived at the workshop.
“How did you decide to restore your Keep by yourself?” Sandor grimaced, but decided to be honest with Sansa about how he got to this point; she’d either understand, or she’d be horrified and flee.
“Well, it’s kind of a long, not pretty story. Kind of like my face” Sansa’s eyes flew to his, softening in sympathy and understanding.
“I’m not going anywhere for the next three weeks, so I have time.”
Sandor rubbed the back of his neck, and chuckled in embarrassment “So as I said earlier, I only found out I was a Lord about four months ago, when Pod was doing research on the house. In fact, I’m pretty sure my father and older brother didn’t know they were Lords either when they were alive. My brother had inherited the Keep and the title when my father passed away six years ago. I inherited everything when my brother died in a bar fight a couple of years ago.”
Sansa gasped and murmured in sympathy “I’m so sorry.”
Sandor waved his hand “Don’t be, my brother Gregor was a horrible person, he gave me these scars, and although I can’t prove it he probably killed my sister, and he instigated the fight that got him killed. Believe me, the world is a much better place without him.”
Sansa lightly grasped Sandor’s forearm “oh Sandor, how horrible for you.”
Sandor glanced down at her small white hand on his sleeve, he wished he could feel it through the fabric “it was a long time ago, I’ve done my best to move past it. Anyway, when the lawyer found me to let me know what had happened, I have to admit my first inclination was to just put this pile of rocks up for sale and never look back. But since I had to come back here to sign all the paperwork anyway, I took the time to come here and really look at the house in a way I never had growing up. No one in my family ever appreciated what we had, but after spending years working in the construction trade, mostly in carpentry, I decided to use the skills I had to restore the Keep, cottages and grounds to what it should have looked like when I was a kid. Then I was going to sell it; then Pod came into my life and everything changed.”
Sansa chuckled in understanding, Pod did seem to be an important part of this tale.
They moved throughout the workshop, Sandor pointing out different projects he was working on: stripping paint off staircase spindles, recreating one of the uprights of a four poster bed on a lathe in the corner, re-glueing several Windsor chairs; and probably the messiest project: restuffing and reupholstering a Victorian era sofa.
Sansa gasped and grabbed his arm again, Sandor could definitely get use to that.
“Sandor, this is amazing, you’re so talented. You could do this full time if you wanted to. I’m sure there’s lots of attics around here that are crammed full of furniture that need help.” Sandor flushed at the compliment.
“So you were saying that you were going to restore the house, then sell it. Obviously that didn’t happen, I guess that’s where Pod comes into the story?”
“Aye, that’s where Pod comes in. My lawyer, who I found out later was his uncle, recommended him as a builder’s apprentice, and since I didn’t really know anyone around here anymore, I hired him. To say that construction isn’t in his skill set would be an understatement, but he’s a hard worker, and he’ll do or try to do anything you ask of him. Somehow we’ve been at this for two years, we’ve made the Keep into something I could not have imagined living here as a kid. Not only that, he’s convinced me that we should rent out the cottages and open up the Keep to the public, and he should move into one if the cottages and be the manager. I don’t know how he did it, I suspect he puts something in the scones.”
Sansa burst into peals of laughter, and Sandor absently thought how he’d like to listen to her laugh for the rest of his life, then mentally scolded himself for wanting something that he obviously could never have.
“Well, I agree with you about those scones, they are pretty special. Up until this morning, I’ve done nothing but cry, sulk, and feel sorry for myself for a week,” Sansa took a deep breath, and mentally told herself to be strong, Sandor had just told her some painful things, she could too. “Last Saturday night I came home from my hen party to discover my fiancé having sex on our bed with his former girlfriend. Yesterday was suppose to be my wedding day. I was supposed to be landing in Paris this morning for my three week romantic honeymoon with my new husband. And something I haven’t really considered until right now is the fact that Harry and I work at the same public relations firm, which his family owns, I’m going to have to look for a new job when I get home; and to make matters worse, Arya graduated from college in May but delayed looking for a job so she could spend the entire summer helping me get ready for the wedding, she could already be three months into her career if it hadn’t been for me.” Sansa took another deep breath and looked into Sandor’s eyes “and, if I can tell you all that without bursting into tears, I think those scones are magic, and have done something to help me turn the page and start to get on with my life.”
Sandor wasn’t sure how to respond to what Sansa had just told him. No wonder she looked so sad yesterday; was it really just yesterday? He already felt as if he’d known Sansa forever.
He gently took her small hand in his, and rubbed his thumb over the back of her hand soothingly, “Oh, Little Bird, I’m so sorry, you shouldn’t have to endure something like that, your fiancé sounds like a complete tosser.”
Shit, did he really call her that out loud?
Sandor rubbed the back of his neck and flushed bright red “Aye, you remind me of those pretty little red birds I see outside sometimes, your pretty laugh reminds me of their chirping. I hope you’re not offended?”
Sansa smiled up at him and squeezed his hand “No, I’m not offended, I’ve just never had a nickname before, you took me by surprise, so you think I’m pretty?”
Sandor chuckled, replying with a smirk, “Fishing for a compliment are you? Well you do have a pretty laugh”.
Almost as if he was in a trance, Sandor reached out with his free hand and tucked a curl back behind her ear, not letting go immediately, rubbing the strands between his fingers; letting go of the lock reluctantly and looking back towards the direction of the Keep
“I guess we ought to get back to the house to see how the baking lessons went, and make sure your sister hasn’t burned down the entire Keep.”
Sansa laughed and reluctantly let go of Sandor’s hand “I guess you’re right, besides I want to see what kind of magic the next batch of scones will bring.”
Scone making and scheming
Scone Making 101
Pod and Arya watched as Sansa and Sandor drifted out of the room, once the door banged shut Arya swung her attention back to Pod and quipped “well I guess it won’t be as hard as we thought helping Sansa get over that prick Harry”
Pod smiled, waggled his eyebrows and started to gather up the scone ingredients “no I guess not. So do you really want to learn how to make scones or was that just a scheme to throw your sister and Sandor together?”
“welllll, learning to make scones will be an added bonus.”
Pod burst out a laugh “fair enough, but since you told Sandor you always wanted to learn to make scones, you’re going to learn to make scones.”
Arya groaned and rolled her eyes at Pod, “you may regret this, I once set the microwave on fire making popcorn.”
Pod just shook his head and headed over to the sink to wash his hands, once they were thoroughly clean, he turned off the hot water and left his hands under the running cold water.
Arya watched him with a confused look on her face “what are you doing?”
Pod turned around, and Arya noticed he was blushing “you need to have really cold hands when you work the dough, and my hands are kind of sweaty right now.”
“well normally I only make scones for Sandor, I’m not use to making them for a beautiful woman, so I’m a little nervous.”
“don’t worry, Sansa’s probably not going to be back for an hour or so, so don’t be nervous.”
“I wasn’t talking about Sansa.”
“oh.” Arya blushed as red as Pod, and felt her own hands start to sweat.
After his embarrassing confession, Pod launched right into teaching mode, instructing Arya to cut the butter into cubes while he measured out the flour. Now that her hands were sweaty too, Arya followed Pod's lead by washing them and leaving them under the running cold water before handling the butter. Once the flour and butter were in the mixing bowl, Pod showed Arya how to mix them together before adding the milk. Arya understood why their hands needed to be cold as they rolled and cut out the scones.
Once the batch was in the oven, Pod put the tea kettle on the stove. “why don’t you have a seat at the table, I’ll bring it over when it’s ready.”
Arya sat at the table watching Pod go through the entire tea making ritual of measuring out the tea and add it to the infuser, adding the infuser and water to the ceramic tea pot, pouring milk into a pitcher, getting the teaspoons out of the drawer, and bringing everything over to the table. She was exhausted just watching him.
“So how did you end up working for Sandor?”
“well, it’s not much of a story, my uncle is Sandor’s lawyer, and he recommended me for the job. I’d never done any construction before, but I’ve learned a lot, and I’ve made a really good friend in Sandor. Hopefully he feels the same way.”
The timer dinged and Pod got up to take the scones out of the oven. He plated them, then brought the dish over and placed it in front if Arya “ready to try your first scone effort?” Arya grinned, selected one, and broke off a corner to try it; not bad if she did say so herself.
Pod brought two plates over, selected a scone for himself, poured a cup of tea and settled in the seat across the table from Arya.
“So, how did you end up here?”
Arya glanced up at him with a questioning look “You know the answer to that, Sansa broke up with her fiancé and needed to get away.”
Pod rolled his eyes at her, “I know that, but how is it that you were available to spend three weeks babysitting your sister?”
“Oh. Well I graduated in May, but I decided to take the summer off to help Sansa get ready for the wedding. I figured I had the rest of my life to be tied to a job, but only another few months to spend lots of time with my sister. I hadn’t planned on starting to look for a job until after the wedding anyway; so, I was available to be here with her.”
Pod munched thoughtfully on his scone. “What was your field of study? I’m surprised you’re not anxious about getting a job.”
“Well I studied computers with an emphasis on web design, those kind of jobs are always out there. I’m sure once we get back I’ll be able to find something pretty quickly, so I’m not worried. It probably won’t be my dream job, but there’s such a demand right now, I’ll be able to pay the bills until my dream job comes along. “
Pod looked at her thoughtfully, opened his mouth to say something, and then closing it again. Finally, gathering up his courage “maybe you could take a look at our website? We had a firm put it together, and I maintain it now, but I think we could be doing a better job. We’d pay you, of course.”
Arya grinned at him “you know, I noticed it wasn’t the easiest website to navigate, but I didn’t want to hurt your feelings. But now that I know that you didn’t put it together, I would be thrilled to rip it apart and make it easier for people to use. The pictures are great, but that’s about it. It shouldn’t take me more than an afternoon to switch things around, I’d even take payment in scones!”
Pod let out a breath that he hadn’t realized he was holding. “That would be great, I really want Clegane Keep to be successful. You know Sandor had planned to sell the Keep, cottages and land after restoring it until I talked him into opening it up to the public. I want him to feel he made the right decision trusting me.”
Arya narrowed her eyes looking at him “you know, I bet there are a lot of things we could do to raise the profile of the Keep.”
Pod cocked an eyebrow at Arya, which she found seriously adorable “what do you mean?”
“I don’t want to give it away, but I bet we could get a lot more people making that 45 minute drive from Glasgow. I just need to have a conversation with Sansa first. She works in PR and she would really be the expert on this.”
As Arya was making this comment to Pod the kitchen door banged open and Sansa and Sandor walked in.
Sansa eyed at her sister with questioning look “I’m the expert on what? What harebrained scheme have you come up with now, Arya?”
Arya grinned at Sansa, then Sandor and finally Pod “I’ve got the beginnings of a fabulous idea that is going to make Clegane Keep THE place to visit in the greater Glasgow area.”
Sandor looked at Arya in horror, he was sure that he didn’t want Clegane Keep to be THE place to visit, although it would be nice to have a little more business than they did right now.
He glanced at Sansa to gage her reaction to Arya’s statement and discovered the ghost of a smile on her face. On the other hand, if surviving this plan meant that the Little Bird smiled more and maybe moved on with her life a little bit, he would gladly endure having more strangers in his home and on his property.
After sending up a prayer that he wasn’t making the biggest mistake of his life Sandor quipped to the group “okay, why don’t you two sit here and have some tea and some magic scones; Pod and I have some work to do on one of the cottages. That will give you some time to talk about how we’re all going to make this place THE place to visit in the Glasgow area.”
The Stark sisters make plans for Clegane Keep.
Pod and Sandor stomped out of the room, off to do something in one of the cottages, as Sansa and Arya settled at the table with mugs of tea and the remaining scones.
“So, what is this brilliant scheme you have?” Sansa asked with a quirk of her eyebrow.
“Well, first of all their website needs to be fixed, but I’m on that, and can probably get that done in a few hours. But, I think they are missing some opportunities here to promote themselves, increase their business and showcase some things that they are really good at.”
Sansa contemplated her sister as she munched on a scone. “This scone is soooo good.”
“Exactly! That’s why Pod should be teaching scone making classes as part of the Clegane Keep experience.”
Sansa choked on her scone and spit out a piece “what?”
Arya grinned at her sister “Well, Pod and I had a long talk about the Keep; and after the tour, my personal scone making lesson and hearing about how talented Sandor is with furniture restoration I think we can help them make this place a big success.”
“We? Why are we involved with making this place a success?”
“Well, we’re here for 3 weeks, you are a brilliant PR person, and you need something to occupy your mind so you don’t dwell on what happened, and…” Arya slid her eyes over to Sansa mischievously “I saw the way you and Sandor looked at each other. You wouldn’t mind spending more up close and personal time with him.”
Sansa blushed red to her roots and glared at her sister “Arya, I’ve been single for a week, it’s too soon to even think about something like that. I came here to get over Harry, not fall in love with someone else.”
“Who said anything about falling in love? What about just having some fun? Climbing that big man like a tree? Don’t tell me you haven’t already thought about it.”
Sansa puffed out an exasperated breath “I couldn’t do that to Sandor he’s so sweet, he doesn’t deserve to be just an object of lust, he deserves to be loved too.”
Arya smirked knowingly “Sweet, are you kidding me? You’re the only one that finds him sweet, Pod and I just find him grouchy. Now, let me find a pad of paper and a pencil and we can brainstorm some ideas for this place that we can present to Sandor and Pod later.”
Arya wandered into the parlor and rummaged through the desk, coming up with a legal sized pad of paper and pens. Once they finished their tea and polished off the rest of the scones, they got to work brainstorming ideas. Nothing was too crazy or stupid they just put everything they came up with down on paper, they could fine tune it later.
After about an hour they had a pretty impressive list of ideas. Of course, at the top was scone making lessons with Pod; but that inspired them to a whole other list of food related activities including: haggis and black pudding making (they weren’t sure if Pod knew how to make them, or if anyone was going to want to learn how, but this was Scotland, so they included them), 19th century afternoon tea parties, holiday decorating with food, Scotch whiskey and ale tasting, and Scottish dessert make and take (including shortbread and cranachan).
Sansa and Arya were quite pleased with the food list, then moved on to other activities that could bring in a crowd.
The most obvious one was tours of the Keep. Sandor and Pod had done an amazing job restoring the different rooms to different periods, and both Sansa and Arya had enjoyed Pod’s tour immensely. But, they were also sure that he had taken more time than needed when taking them through. A basic one hour tour of the house could be really popular with guests at the Keep, or even visitors to Scotland in general. The tour schedule could also expand it to have themed tours on special occasions.
They also went ahead and listed the idea of using the period rooms for promotional photography; why not let bridal parties or families use them as a backdrop for their pictures? It wasn’t as if the furniture was museum quality, people could touch them, sit on them, use them. Besides, if anything got damaged, Sandor could just fix it again.
Finally, as a completely wild ass idea (because they were sure he’d never agree to it), they wrote down furniture restoration and building with Sandor. Sansa had seen his workshop, it could accommodate at least 10-12 students at a time; if they could convince Sandor to be willing to teach this class and offer guidance it could be very lucrative.
Sansa was sure she hadn’t been exaggerating when she had said to Sandor that there were probably attics throughout the area crammed full of the same type of furniture as he’d restored; it was really just a question of letting people in the area know that there was someone out there, Sandor, who could help them restore their family heirlooms into usable pieces of furniture.
So engrossed in their list making, Sansa and Arya didn’t even hear Sandor and Pod come back into the Keep until Sandor loudly cleared his throat. “So how is the plotting going?”
Sansa would have preferred to put together a power point presentation, with pictures, to showcase all the ideas; but, she realized they were just going to have to talk Sandor into this with their enthusiasm alone, she wasn’t worried.
“I think we’ve come up with a pretty good list, some easier than others; some will take some investment on your part to get off the ground, but I think all of them have at least some merit. It’s just a question as to what you are comfortable with”
“Okay Little Bird, hit me with your ideas.”
Arya eyes widen at his statement, Little Bird? When and why had Sandor given Sansa a nickname? She didn’t look confused, so Arya supposed that she already knew about this nickname. Arya slid her eyes over to Pod, he looked as baffled as she felt. What had happened in that workshop? What had they talked about? Why were Sansa and Sandor seemingly so comfortable with each other? These were all questions that Arya was definitely going to get answers from Sansa when they got back to their cottage later.
Sansa grinned “Pod this involves you too, so you should have a say in what ideas we pursue further.”
The four of them spent the next few hours sitting around the table going through the entire list; arguing back and forth about what would work, what would take too much of an investment at this point, what kind of special permits or inspections they would need, what both men were comfortable with doing, and how they could get the word out about these new activities.
In her mind, Arya was already thinking about the photo shoot they would have to do to get more images for the website. She realized that if they proceeded with ANY on these ideas, she was going to have to completely rework and upgrade the website, not the little fix-it she originally had in mind.
She wondered if they would need to hire models to pose for some of these activities, or if the four of them were enough to stage all the images she would need.
She imagined Sandor carving a piece of wood for a chair leg, or Sansa motioning to a portrait during a house tour; Arya was lost in a fantasy of she and Pod posing as a bride and groom in the Georgian era portrait gallery, when she mentally came to her senses.
What the hell was wrong with her? Why would she be thinking about getting married? To Pod no less, she just met him for Christ sakes. But he would look adorable in a suit like Colin Firth wore in Pride and Prejudice, oh for crying out loud, stop it. Suddenly, mercifully, Sandor’s stomach growled loudly pulling Arya out if her downward spiraling fantasy of her as Elizabeth Bennett to Pod’s Mr. Darcy.
Deciding that this was the perfect point to take a break from the list, Pod got up to make some more tea for the group, as Sandor groused about how he hadn’t even gotten one scone before those Stark sisters scarfed them all up.
Sansa knew he was only kidding, and poked him in the ribs, telling him that he really needed to be careful about eating so many scones. Sandor roared with laughter, as Arya looked on in disbelief.
What was going on here? She had never seen Sansa act so comfortable with someone she just met before in her life. Sansa was always the lady, always impeccable manners; did she really just tell this big brute of a man that he had to watch what he ate? This trip to Scotland was going to be an eye opening experience that was for sure, and Arya couldn’t wait to see what happened next.
Implementation Part 1
After hours of talking and a few more pots of tea, and even some sandwiches that Pod and Sansa had thrown together from supplies found in the kitchen, they seemed to have a strategy for the next steps for Clegane Keep.
Sandor and Pod had agreed to, in theory, all of the cooking ideas except for haggis and blood pudding, to no one's surprise; and Pod was going to get started looking into permits and inspections needed to host such things.
Arya would start photographing some of the objects throughout the Keep to include on the website, she would figure out who would be photographed doing what later. In her mind she already had mentally composed the cutest picture of Pod with flour on his nose mixing up a batch of scones. No matter what, that photo WOULD be on the website!
Sandor and Sansa were tasked with picking through the attic of the Keep looking for pieces of furniture that Sandor could use to demonstrate restoration and re-creating parts, like a leg for a table.
To everyone’s surprise, Sandor had begrudgingly agreed to teaching a woodworking and furniture restoration class, he quipped that probably no one would be interested, but he was willing to give it a try.
Sansa and Arya were exhausted. Yesterday had been a very long, emotionally fraught day of airports, plane rides, and driving on the opposite side of the road. Today, their first full day in Scotland, as hard as that was to believe, had been so full of activities they didn’t realize how tired they were until they were sitting at the table sipping the delicious soup Pod had whipped up. They could barely keep their eyes open.
After finishing up, they bid Sandor and Pod goodnight and stumbled back to their cottage. Sansa had planned to just fall into bed and sleep for the next 8 to 10 hours, but Arya had other ideas. She wanted some answers about what she had observed between Sansa and Sandor, and Sansa wasn’t going to get any peace until she spilled the beans.
“So, what’s with you and the big guy, Little Bird?”
Sansa flushed “what? He’s nice, we talked, I told him about what happened with Harry, he told me about growing up here and how he got his scars, we’re friends. It’s no big deal.”
Arya smirked, sure it was no big deal “So, you told someone you’ve known for about a minute how your fiancé cheated on you, and in turn he told you about the trauma of how he got his scars? That seems really quick to be telling each other something so private. Are you sure you can trust this guy? I just don’t want you to get hurt again Sansa.”
Sansa, remembering the look on Sandor’s face as he tucked her hair behind her ear, smiled softly “Don’t worry, Sandor won’t hurt me, I’m sure of it. Now, is the inquisition done? I’m exhausted and I need to get some sleep. Someone assigned me to root through an attic tomorrow.” She added with a grin.
Arya snorted and waved her off to bed adding “this conversation isn’t over.”
Bright and early the next morning the group reconvened in Sandor’s kitchen where Pod had thrown together a Scottish fry-up.
While both girls realized they needed to eat a full breakfast, they had a long busy day in front of them, and who knew when they’d get around to eating again; neither one were particularly enthusiastic about eating blood pudding or fried eggs. They opted instead for mugs of tea, some fruit and something called a tattie scone, which turned out to be pan fried mashed potatoes cut into wedges. They tasted like heaven.
Before everything got devoured though, Arya rearranged the food on a couple of the plates and took some pictures with both her camera and phone. “You never know, maybe we’ll start doing breakfast here in the future.”
After finishing, and washing up their plates and cups, Pod announced that he was going back to his cottage to do some research on his laptop about forms and permits; if he figured out what he needed, he might go into the village later to talk to some people.
Arya said that she was going to wander through the Keep and the grounds taking photos, she asked if there was anything off limits and was pleased to see Sandor shake his head no and tell her to go wherever she needed to on the property.
Pod and Arya wandered out to start their projects leaving Sandor and Sansa alone in the kitchen. “Is that what you’re wearing Little Bird? It’s very dirty up there and I don’t want you to mess up your nice clothes.”
Sansa looked down at her outfit, a pair of jeans and a tee shirt, this was the best she could do; she hadn’t anticipated mucking through dirty attics when Arya had packed her bag three days ago. Sansa shrugged and Sandor commented “well at least let me get you something to wear on your head and over your shirt. We can try and minimize the damage. I’ll be right back”
Sandor returned with a flannel shirt, that was obviously his, and a blue bandana. Sansa donned the shirt which came to her knees and covered her hands, rolled the sleeves up and tied the bandana on her head.
“Okay, I’m ready, let’s go find some hidden treasures for you to fix."
Sandor barked out a laugh. “Why don’t we start with the boxrooms on the fourth floor, maybe we can find enough stuff there that we won’t have to actually go into the attic.”
“What’s a boxroom?”
Sandor smirked at Sansa “It’s obviously a room where you store boxes, although I store furniture there too; don’t they use that term in the States?”
“No I think we call them junk rooms, but lead the way.” Sandor guided her to the fourth floor, which Sansa had not seen on the tour yesterday, and opened up the doors to a series of small rooms that did in fact contain a bunch of boxes along with other stuff.
Sansa marveled at the amount of space in the Keep, and thought these rooms might be perfect if they ever wanted to do an upstairs/downstairs tour of the house. Sansa then mentally shook her head, we? There was no 'we' doing tours in the future; she and Arya were only here for three weeks, twenty days from today, she’d be back in the United States in her real life, trying to figure out what to do next. The thought saddened her, but she resolved to put that aside and enjoy the time she had here with Sandor. Enjoy the time with Sandor? What was wrong with her? She meant, enjoy the time she had here with Arya.
After sifting through the boxrooms, Sandor and Sansa only came up with a few items that might work. An oak rocking chair that needed a replacement rocker on one side, a washstand that appeared to only need to be re-glued and tightened up, and a folding 19th century traveling parson chair that needed new upholstery.
As Sandor proceeded her to the attic, he commenting over his shoulder “I hope you’re not afraid of spiders Little Bird, the last time I was up here the place was full of cobwebs.”
Sandor opened the door to the attic, pulled on the string to turn on the lights and stepped aside to let Sansa get a look at the space. It wasn’t Raiders of the Lost Ark, or even National Treasure; but, it did look like there was a lot of pieces they could work with.
Sansa clapped her hands and turned to Sandor with a grin “oh, this is going to be fun!”
Sandor’s eyes softened as he looked at her and replied “yes it is, Little Bird.”
Implementation Part 2
Arya wander through the Keep looking for interesting objects to take pictures of: a portrait of the very first Lord Clegane in the gallery, a tea service set in the dining room, a four poster bed covered with a toile bedspread, even the Clegane banners in the entryway; Arya marveled, there was so much to work with.
After about two hours she decided to move outside to get some photos of the grounds and more photos, other than were already on the website, of the cottages. It was a shame she couldn’t get photos during other seasons; she’d love to include shots with the leaves falling or snow on the ground with smoke coming out of the chimneys of the cottages; play up the idea of Clegane Keep being a year-round destination.
Maybe she could come back and take photos later in the year; Arya shook her head, later in the year, what was she thinking? Later in the year she’d be back in the States, working in her field, probably putting together boring corporate websites. It was best to just work with what she had right now, no fantasizing about being here beyond the three weeks, that was NOT realistic. Although the idea of images with snow on the ground and a horse drawn sleigh passing by a cottage refused to leave her mind.
Ugh, maybe she needed to take a break, she wondered if Pod was still at his cottage doing research; maybe she’d just stop by and see him, maybe he had some scones, she was feeling a little bit peckish.
Arya wandered down to Pod’s cottage and knocked on the blue door and waited, Pod swung it open, a surprised look on his face “are you all done taking pictures?”
“No but I needed a break, how about you? Any luck with the research?”
“Some, it seems easy enough to get permission to hold cooking classes, why don’t you come on in and have a seat and I’ll get us something to eat.”
Arya grinned “I thought you’d never ask.”
Arya looked around as Pod fiddled in the kitchen. Unlike the cottage that she and Sansa were staying in, this one was homier, with personal touches, which of course made sense since Pod lived there full time. The furniture was of good quality, but plain and sturdy. Arya assumed that Pod had purchased it, rather than using pieces out of the Keep.
There was a laptop on the dining room table with papers scattered around and a cluster of photos on the fireplace mantle. Arya went over to look at them; Pod and Sandor covered in dust and dirt with sledgehammers resting on their shoulders, Pod in the snow, his cheeks impossibly pink, looking adorable, Pod and an older man who had a weird little white wig on his head, Arya assumed that was the lawyer uncle that had recommended Pod for the job with Sandor, and an older photo of a youngish couple with a toddler who had Pod’s pink cheeks. Arya assumed this was a photo of Pod and his parents, she was still holding it in her hand looking at it when Pod re-entered the room with a tray full of scones and tea.
“Are these your parents?”
Pod smiled sadly as he put the tray down next to the laptop “Aye, this was taken just a couple of months before they were killed in an auto accident. I think it’s the last photo of the three of us.”
“Oh Pod, I had no idea, I’m so sorry.”
Pod waved his hand “of course you didn’t know, it’s okay, I won’t fall apart, it was a long time ago.”
Arya was at a loss as to what to do next, so she just let instinct take over. She put the photo back on the mantle then walked over to Pod and put her arms around his midsection and pulled him into a hug. Pod’s arms hung at his side for a moment, and Arya thought that perhaps she’d done the wrong thing; but, then he began to hug her back.
They stayed that way for a few minutes, hugging, with Pod resting his chin on the top of Arya’s head. Eventually he said distantly “I don’t really remember them, only the idea of them. It’s not as if I didn’t have a good childhood, I did, my uncle made sure I had everything I could ever want or need. The only thing I didn’t have was parents, and there was nothing he could do about that.”
Arya squeezed Pod tighter and looked up at him, he looked down at her and smiled his crooked adorable grin, and she rolled up onto her toes and planted a soft kiss on his lips. Pod froze for a moment then tilted his head and began to kiss her back.
OMG, OMG, OMG what was she doing? They were only here for three weeks, why was she kissing him? This was definitely a complication she didn’t need. She was here to help Sansa get over her broken heart not fall in love herself. Fall in love? What was she thinking, of course she wasn’t falling in love. This was madness, she needed to stop . Arya felt Pod’s tongue slide along her lower lip; oh fuck it, with a groan she opened her mouth and sucked his tongue in.
Arya let go of Pod’s midsection and moved her arms up to loop around his neck, weaving her hands into his hair. Pod groaned and bent to pick Arya up, grasping her below her bottom and bringing her to eye level with him. She wrapped her legs around his middle and pulled him tighter to her with her arms, Pod stumbled back, seating them on the couch without breaking the kiss, Arya straddling his lap.
Once they were in a more stable position, Arya stretched her neck to capture Pod’s ear with her teeth, she nibbled on it and whispered “I’ve been wanting to do this since you brought us breakfast yesterday.”
Pod responded by kissing a path down her throat and sucking lightly on her collarbone, although not hard enough to leave a mark “me too.”
Arya could feel his erection through both sets of jeans and felt herself getting wet; she would have liked nothing more than to drag him into the bedroom for the afternoon, but that probably wasn’t the best idea under the circumstances. Reluctantly she pulled away and sat back towards his knees “Unfortunately I think we need to finish up our assignments before we start something new, what do you think?”
Pod grudgingly agreed as they moved from the couch to the table, adding “I do need to go into the village, I want to talk to my uncle about some of the permits, get his professional advice. Do you want to come with me?”
“Sure, I think I took enough pictures to get started anyway, but we will need to decide who we’re going to use as models on the website. We’re going to need more than just the four of us.”
Pod laughed “you mean the three of us, I can’t imagine Sandor willingly posing for pictures, let alone giving you permission to use it on a website.”
Arya smirked at him as she picked up a scone and took a bite, chewed and swallowed “maybe I’ll just get Sansa to talk to him, I get the impression he can’t say no to her, whatever she asks.”
Pod rolled his eyes at her “you don’t fight fair do you? I think you’re right.”
They ate in companionable silence, Arya scrolling through her camera looking at the photos she’d taken that morning, showing Pod ones that she particularly liked. Arya mentally sighed; she could get used to this: taking photos of cool objects, living in a cottage, putting together a website she’d be proud of, kissing Pod. Wait, what? Where did that come from? Of course she enjoyed kissing Pod, but that was something she definitely could NOT get used to; argh, she was leaving in three weeks, this was NOT the time to start a relationship. Wait, what? What relationship? Jesus Christ she needed to get a grip .
Arya noticed that Pod was finishing up his snack, and she quickly did the same. They carried the dirty cups and plates into the kitchen and left them in the sink, Pod assuring her that he would just wash them later.
Arya ran back to her cottage to drop off her camera, grab a light jacket, her wallet and a tote bag, in case she saw something in the village that she couldn’t live without.
They stopped at the Keep to let Sansa and Sandor know where they were going, only to discover that there was no one on the first floor.
Arya shrugged “I guess they’re still in the attic, let’s just leave a note for them so Sansa won’t worry if she can’t find us.” Pod agreed, scribble their whereabouts on a piece of paper and attached it to the refrigerator door
“they’ll probably be hungry when they’re done up there, I bet they come here first before looking for us.”
Pod led Arya out of the Keep to the carpark and to his car, making sure she was comfortable, and buckled in, they set off for the village.
Arya hadn’t really had the chance to enjoy the scenery when they drove here, she’d been so concerned about Sansa at that point. So it was nice not to have to worry about finding the Keep, while driving on the opposite side of the road and avoiding sheep on the road; she sighed in contentment.
Pod glanced over at her “what was that sigh for, bored already?”
“No, I was just thinking how nice this is, and how I need to store up all these good memories for when I’m back in the States working at a crap job, putting together websites I don’t like.”
Pod chuckled “well let’s see if we can give you a bunch of good memories during the next few weeks.”
Sandor and Sansa explore the attic.
It wasn’t Raiders of the Lost Ark, or even National Treasure; but, it did look like there were a lot of pieces they could work with. Sansa clapped her hands and turned to Sandor with a grin “this is going to be fun!” Sandor’s eyes softened as he looked at her and replied “yes it is Little Bird.”
Sansa and Sandor contemplated what was in front of them. Where did they even begin?
When Sandor and Pod were furnishing the rooms throughout the Keep, they had specific ideas in mind about what pieces they would need to make the room look appropriate, now all bets were off.
Technically what they should be looking for was small pieces that Sandor could demonstrate repair/restoration on, but Sansa’s palms actually itched to look through everything.
There were wardrobes and trunks and chests of drawers; all of which could contain almost anything. Sansa turned to Sandor “So, what type of furniture should we be looking for? What would you feel comfortable demonstrating on? Is there a specific type of wood you like to work with?"
Sandor’s eyes widened as Sansa fired off questions “well, I think we need to find some small pieces that wouldn’t be too far gone that it would be overwhelming for someone to think they could fix it. Maybe some broken table legs, or a chair that needs to be upholstered. But, I can tell you want to look at everything, so why don’t you get started and I’ll look for rehab pieces.”
Sansa grinned wider, clapped her hands again and immediately bee-lined for a huge wardrobe and flung open the doors, only to squeal with delight at the clothing she found inside.
For the next few hours, Sandor methodically worked his way through the attic, selecting pieces that he could work on in front of students. He started a pile of items to be brought downstairs and eventually to his workshop and another pile of objects he came across that would fit into some of the already furnished rooms.
While Sandor had a plan, Sansa flitted around the room, opening every door and drawer, pulling out objects, often laughing and showing them to Sandor. She tried to be helpful, every once in a while coming across a piece that Sandor could use and adding it to his pile, but honestly, there were so many beautiful, interesting things to look at, pick up, examine; she was doing the best she could but everything was so distracting.
Eventually Sansa held up what appeared to be an Edwardian wedding dress up to her front and spun around, “oh, look as at this, isn’t it beautiful? Do you have a room that this would fit into? Maybe we should bring it down and hang it up in there, what do you think?”
Sandor turned to look at Sansa. She was a mess, she’d taken off his flannel shirt and tied it around her waist, her tee shirt was streaked with dirt, as was her face; he’d never seen anything as beautiful as Sansa Stark was at that moment. Sandor burst out a chuckle.
“what’s so funny?”
“You are Little Bird, you should see yourself, you’re covered in dirt.” Sandor walked over to Sansa smoothed down her wild hair and used his sleeve to gently wipe the dirt streaks off her cheek.
Sansa looked up at him, bit her lower lip and flushed. She wasn’t sure what had come over her, but at this moment all she wanted was for Sandor to kiss her. She knew it didn’t make any sense, she’d only just met him, a week ago she was engaged to someone else, but that’s what she wanted; she hoped he could tell, and wanted the same thing.
As Sandor wiped her cheek, he looked at her and his eyes softened, then flared when he noticed her biting her lip. He brushed her jawline with his thumb and started to bring his face down towards her, hesitating just a few inches from her lips. Was he making a mistake? Was he reading the situation wrong? What if she was completely disgusted with him, what would he do? As these thoughts swirled in his head, Sansa closed the last few inches, her eyes fluttered shut, and she pressed her lips on his. Sandor groaned softly, pulled her into his embrace and kissed back. Sansa looped her arms around Sandor’s neck, pulling him tighter to her and opened her mouth slightly, giving Sandor silent permission to deepen the kiss. Sandor tilted his face slightly and swept his tongue into her mouth.
In both their minds it was the perfect first kiss, once it ended, Sandor rested his forehead on Sansa’s “Little Bird, I’ve thought about kissing you since the first time I saw you getting out of your rental car with your sad tear stained face.”
Sansa grinned “I’m not sad now.”
Sandor groaned again and kissed the tip of Sansa’s nose “as much as I want to kiss you for the rest of the day, I don’t think that’s the best idea.” Sansa pouted and Sandor barked out a laugh “ look at us, we’re a mess, we have 300 years worth of dirt on us, and I don’t know about you, but I’m starving.”
Sansa grinned up at him, she hated to admit it, but he was right.
Sandor swooped in and kissed Sansa again “how about we lug some of this stuff downstairs, get cleaned up, and I’ll take you into the village for some lunch, what do you think?”
“That sounds great, but I warn you, I’m starving, and I can eat a lot.”
Sandor grinned “we’ll see who can eat the most when we get there, but I think you’re going to lose any eating contest to me.”
They picked through the two piles, and decided what to take with them now, and what to leave for later. Sansa insisted on taking the wedding dress with her, she was going to get it cleaned up, and definitely find a place for it in the Keep.
They separated with another kiss. Sansa to the cottage and Sandor to his set of rooms, to clean up so they could go to lunch; agreeing to meet back in the entryway to the Keep in an hour.
Sansa stood under the showerhead, shampooing her hair, thinking about her morning. Was she making a huge mistake? Was she just rebounding? Were they moving too fast? The last thing she wanted to do was hurt Sandor, but she did need to protect herself. She couldn’t rush into something she wasn’t ready for just to ease her bruised heart and ego. She resolved that she would have a conversation with Sandor before they left for lunch, just to make sure they were on the same page, and no one would get hurt.
As Sansa was having this inner monologue in her shower, Sandor was doing the same thing. He couldn’t believe Sansa had willingly kissed him. What was she thinking? She could do so much better than him. He was an ugly dog, and she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. As his thoughts spiraled into self-loathing, Sandor resolved to have a conversation with Sansa before they left for lunch, just to make sure they were on the same page.
An hour later, Sandor was nervously waiting in the entryway when Sansa came in. He internally groaned, of course she looked even more beautiful than earlier, even if she was only wearing a different pair of jeans and a sweatshirt.
Sansa hesitantly looked up at Sandor, suddenly they both blurted out “we need to talk.”
Arya and Pod go into the village, and Arya gets to meet some of the inhabitants.
Arya and Pod take a trip into the village, and Arya gets to meet some of the locals.
FInally, some additional tags! It's nice to spend time in the Keep, but there's a whole village to explore.
This chapter is all Podrya, but strictly platonic (so AdultOrphan don't get your knickers in a twist) and we get to meet Bronn.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
A Trip to the Village
The village was delightful, there was really no other word for it. Arya silently cursed herself for not bringing her camera, there were so many cute things to capture for the website; her smartphone was just going to have to do for now.
The first stop was Pod’s uncle’s office. Before entering Pod had cautioned her to be aware that Uncle Ilyn was going to be nosey and ask a lot of questions, was she ready for that? Arya thought she had been prepared, but it was nothing compared to the grilling she received.
How long had she known Pod? How long was she here for? What did she do for a living? What did she think of all the work Pod had done at the Keep? Was she married? How old was she? Did she have brothers and sisters? Were her parents still alive? Arya was afraid that Pod’s cheeks would explode, they were so pink; but truthfully she found it endearing.
After explaining the situation to his uncle, and showing him what he had printed out from the internet, Pod asked his uncle’s opinion about next steps, and if they were making the right move. Uncle Ilyn took several minutes to read over the information that Pod had provided, asking a few questions to clarify Pod’s notes, then chuckling at the idea of Pod teaching scone making classes.
“I always knew you would never make it as a builder, this looks like a much better option for you” Uncle Ilyn commented with a smile. After confirming what forms they would need to pick up at the town hall, and both receiving bear hugs from Uncle Ilyn, which Arya found she didn’t mind at all, they wandered down the street to the picturesque town hall/records building.
Again, Pod found the need to warn Arya that whoever would be inside would probably ask a lot of questions, both of Pod but probably also of her as well. They entered to find a young, attractive dark haired woman behind the counter.
“Hey Pod, where have you been keeping yourself? I haven’t seen you in town for ages.”
Pod flushed pink “Oh, hello Ros, you know how busy Sandor keeps me; I’m usually just too tired to leave my cottage at the end of the day.”
Ros gave Arya the once over, missing nothing. “Who’s your mate?”
“This is Arya, she and her sister are staying in one of the cottages for a few weeks.”
Arya could tell that Ros was not pleased that she would be around for a few weeks, and that there was some weird thing going on between her and Pod. Pod awkwardly cleared his throat and asked Ros for copies of the several different forms they would need to be able to proceed with their plans for the Keep.
Ros, after smoothing her hands over her too tight top and skirt, Arya assumed to show off her assets to Pod, went to the back room for a few minutes to get them. Arya quirked a knowing eyebrow at Pod.
On her return, Ros commented “you’ll have to get these notarized before you send them in, I can do that for you. If you give me a call when you and Sandor finish filling them out, I can stop by your cottage on my way home and put the seal on them.”
“Uhh, I don’t know how long it will take for us to complete this, there’s still some things we have to work out before we know how to answer the questions on the form. It’s probably better that either Sandor or I bring it here when it’s done.”
Ros showed some annoyance at his answer, but responded with a non-committal “whatever, I was just trying to help.”
Pod and Arya soon left the building, but not before Ros volleyed one last time “hopefully I’ll see you soon at Blackwater’s” as she leaned over the counter, showing off her (ample) cleavage.
“So, that was interesting, is she always so shy and retiring?”
Pod grinned at her observation “she doesn’t like to take no for an answer, and I’ve been saying no for a long time.”
They continued down the charming street, Arya snapping photos with her phone, Pod pointing out different businesses, and who owned and/or operated them. The Golden Lion antique shop owned by brother sister combo Jamie and Cersei Lannister; Wildling Organic Foods run by Tormund and his wife Brienne; the Baratheon Arms, a restaurant that was the place to go in the village for their famous Sunday roast, run by two generations of the extended Baratheon family. Arya wondered if any of the people in the village would be willing to allow their establishments to be photographed for the website, and if they’d be willing to pose in the pictures as part of it.
Once again Arya internally lamented that she couldn’t capture everything during different seasons, the village would be absolutely breathtaking in the snow.
Eventually they arrived in front of The Blackwater Pub. “Are you still hungry? Bronn does a pretty good noon time meal”
“sure, I could eat, lead the way.”
They entered the dimly lit pub to discover several locals sitting at the bar nursing pints, and a dark haired man with deep laugh lines behind the bar roaring with laughter at something one of the patrons said to him.
He looked up and grinned broadly “Pod! How are you mate? It’s been an age since you’ve been here. I told Ros she was pressing too hard, and she’d scared you off, but she never listens.” After a beat, when Pod did not respond “Who’s your friend?”
“Bronn, this is Arya Stark, she and her sister are staying in one of the cottages for a few weeks. Any chance we can get some lunch?”
“Sure” sticking his hand out to shake Arya’s “Bronn Blackwater, a pleasure to meet you.”
Arya grinned and grabbed his hand, she liked his looks, and he would be perfect for the website. “Nice to meet you too.”
Pod led Arya to a table near the back and Bronn brought them over some menus and took their drink orders.
Looking around Arya commented to Pod that she liked the look of the place, and that she would definitely like to include it on the website, did Pod think Bronn would go for that?
Pod shrugged “who knows, Bronn doesn’t even have a website, he just depends on local business and whoever stumbles in the place on their way from Glasgow to the Highlands. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind the extra business, you should ask him when he comes back over.”
Bronn came over with their drinks and to take their orders, and Arya asked him if she could talk to him about the idea of being included in the website for Clegane Keep. Bronn agreed and told her he’d be back to talk after he put their order in with the kitchen.
Pod and Arya were sipping their beers when Bronn came back with a mug of tea, sat down and commented that he was all ears. Arya launched into her idea about upgrading Sandor’s website, and thought the idea of highlighting, with photos, some of the local businesses that visitors to the Keep could utilize seemed like a logical idea. After seeing the Pub she would love to include it, what did Bronn think?
Bronn grinned “well, I’d love a bit of free publicity; where do I sign up, and what do I have to do?” Arya replied that all he would need to do is sign a photo release, then participate in a photo shoot with her; she would do all the rest, and Bronn would have approval on any photos they used on the site. Bronn rubbed his hands together and told Arya that he was ready to go whenever she was.
Mentally Arya kicked herself again for not bringing her camera with her, but responded to Bronn that she or Pod would be in touch about scheduling.
Bronn went back behind the bar and Arya turned to Pod “well that was easier than I expected, do you think the other shop owners will be as eager?”
“It’s hard to tell, although I think most of them will be excited about being included in a website, most of the shops don’t have them, they really just depend on local business and tourists who wander off the main road. I guess it’s time for the village to come into the 21st century. Are you ready to pull us kicking and screaming into the future, or actually just the present?”
Arya smiled at Pod thinking how glad she was that she navigated that crappy website of his. Maybe there was a mystical reason for her to be here without a job to tie her down (beyond, of course, helping Sansa). This was going to be fun.
A few minutes later Bronn was back with their lunch, and Arya dug in with enthusiasm.
Sandor and Sansa try and sort out what they're feeling.
Sansa and Sandor talk and try and sort out what's going on between them, with questionable results.
AdultOrphan you're safe until the very last sentence of the chapter.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Previously: Sansa hesitantly looked up at Sandor, suddenly they both blurted out “we need to talk.”
Sandor ran his hand through his hair nervously, “Little Bird please let me speak first.” He led her further into the house and directed her to sit on the couch in the front room.
“I’m sorry that I kissed you. I know you’re just getting over a broken engagement, and you’re not ready to jump into anything new, but I couldn’t help myself. You were standing there, so beautiful, with dirt all over your face, and the way you looked up at me…I know it’s no excuse, I shouldn’t have taken advantage of you.”
Sandor had worked himself into a state, pacing back and forth in front of Sansa rubbing the back of his neck. Swirling in his mind were the thoughts that : of course she hadn’t wanted him to kiss her, she was just too polite to stop him, she didn’t want to hurt his feelings.
Sansa watched Sandor in amazement as he became more and more agitated with himself, half amused that he had thought that he alone in wanting those kisses, and that she was in no way culpable.
“Sandor, please stop.” At her soft words Sandor immediately stopped pacing, dropped his arm and stared at her. “Sandor, I wanted you to kiss me, I thought you could tell.”
“But, Little Bird…”
“No, Sandor it’s my turn to talk now. When I saw how you were looking at me in the attic, all I could think of was that I wanted to kiss you. I know that doesn’t make any sense, but that’s how I felt. I know we’ve just met, but I think you’ll agree that it feels like we’ve known each other longer.”
Sansa was pleased to see Sandor nod affirmatively at that statement. “I feel like we have a connection. For the first time in a long time, someone saw me for me, and I liked it. I’ve spent a week feeling sorry for myself, but I realize I’ve also spent months losing myself. Harry wanted me to be a certain type of person, and I did my best to make myself into that person just to please him, but that’s not who I am. You saw me, and were okay with just me.”
At that, Sandor felt he had to interject “Sansa, how could anyone see you as anything but perfect? You’re beautiful, funny, smart; Harry is a complete and utter fool.”
Sansa smiled at him, stood up and cupped his scarred cheek with her hand. While he couldn't feel her touch, Sandor still closed his eyes and leaned into her hand. When was the last time anyone had touched him like this? His mother, his sister? Surely no one since becoming an adult.
Since learning of his inheritance and then later his lordship, he was never sure if women liked him for himself or what he could do for them. With Sansa, he had no feelings of doubt. Unfortunately that didn’t change the fact that she was only her for a few weeks. They probably didn’t even have the luxury of even exploring where this could go, they had to be adults about this and realize that it could never be more than a friendship.
Sandor sighed, he couldn’t believe that he’d waited a lifetime to meet someone like Sansa, and when he did, she lived 3000 miles away.
As if reading his mind, Sansa’s smile faltered, and she dropped her hand from his cheek. This really wasn’t putting them on the same page, this was just making it harder. Trying to restore some normalcy to the situation Sansa commented “I wonder where Arya got to, she can’t still be taking pictures; it’s been hours.”
“Oh, there was a note in the kitchen, Arya and Pod went into the village to run some errands, maybe we’ll see them there when we go to lunch. Do you have everything you need?” At Sansa’s nod, Sandor led her out to the carpark and opened and, once she was inside, closed the passenger side door to his car for her; and then got behind the wheel.
As they set off for the village, Sandor commented “there’s not much there, just the High Street and a few quirky shops, if you don’t mind something casual, I thought we’d go to the Blackwater Pub for lunch. The owner, Bronn, is a mate of mine. It’s quiet, and the food is good. Maybe after we eat, you can look around.”
Sansa smiled at Sandor, commenting that she would enjoy that. Sansa looked out the passenger side window, realizing that she hadn’t really taken notice of the scenery when they arrived just a couple of days ago. It was so beautiful here, how could she have been so self-centered as to not even notice it? Sansa thought back to how she felt when they arrived: how betrayed, how sorry for herself, how pathetic.
Now, in hindsight, perhaps she should have realized how lucky she was to dodge a bullet. If Harry could cheat on her the week before they were due to get married, what else was he capable of doing? Sansa resolved not to give Harry another thought, she was sure he wasn’t thinking about her right now, and to just enjoy the day and the time she had with Sandor.
Sansa smiled again at him. Even with the trauma he had suffered as a child, Sandor had still managed to turn his life around. She couldn’t imagine the strength it took for him to come back to his hometown and face his demons. Even if he was a big grump, as Arya claimed.
Sandor glanced at Sansa and saw her smiling at him. “Why are you smiling, is something funny?”
“Nothing is funny, I’m just smiling because I’m happy to be spending the afternoon with you. I can’t wait to meet your friend Bronn and get him to tell me all of your secrets.”
Sandor barked out a laugh “I’m sure that won’t be hard, Bronn is a bigger gossip than some of the schoolgirls in the village. He’ll probably tell you everything without you even asking. But if he mentions a certain road trip to the Isle of Skye, don’t believe a word he says.”
Sansa laughed merrily at that statement.
They reached the village, and Sandor parked in front of the Pub. Opening the passenger door, he reached in his hand to help Sansa out, she grasped it, and then unconsciously laced their fingers together once they were standing on the sidewalk. Sandor was surprised, but he also wasn’t going to pull away.
For her part, Sansa could not fathom what had made her do that, this was not helping the situation, it was making it harder.
She turned to Sandor, as if to apologize for her actions; he grinned at her, raised her hand to his lips and kissed it and commented “let’s just enjoy the day, we can figure out our feelings later.”
Sansa relaxed and sighed, they weren’t making it easy on themselves but holding Sandor’s hand felt right. She liked how her small hand fit into his big callused one. She liked the way they felt together, that must mean something, right?
Opening the door and entering the Pub, Sansa noticed a few things: a few men at the bar nursing beers, a smiling dark haired man behind the bar laughing with some of the patrons, and most surprisingly, Pod and Arya sitting at a table near the back, lips locked together, seemingly trying to swallow each other whole.
Lunch at Blackwater's and Sansa gets to meet Bronn.
Lunch and conversation at the Blackwater Pub.
Bronn looked up as Sandor and Sansa entered the pub holding hands, and his grin seemed to get even bigger “Sandor, mate; how are you? Who is this pretty lady with you? Does she know what a grumpy bastard you are? Bring her on over here and I will tell her all about you.”
At Bronn’s shout across the Pub, Arya and Pod separated quickly, but not before they noticed Sandor and Sansa smirking at them.
“Bronn, good to see you mate. This is Sansa, Arya’s sister, I guess since Arya’s sitting in here with Pod you’ve met her, yea?”
Bronn swiveled his head to make eye contact with Arya “why yes, we’ve met, she had an interesting proposition for me, she’s going to make me famous on your website. Did you know that?”
Sandor looked at Pod then Arya, narrowing his eyes into a glare “no, that wasn’t one of the things we talked about when we were discussing upgrading my website. How is it that I have to pay, and you get free publicity? I think we’re going to have to have a conversation about what I will get out of this deal; maybe free beer for a year? That seems pretty fair, what do you think?”
Bronn barked out a laugh and commented “we will have to see about that, I’ve seen you drink, but in the meantime I’ll give you a stout as a down payment.
"Sansa, luv, what can I get you?” Sansa requested a glass of red wine, and Bronn handed them menus and ushered them to the table where Pod and Arya were sitting.
Sandor quirked his eyebrow at the duo “fancy seeing you here, your note only said something about seeing Uncle Ilyn and picking up forms, nothing about trysts in dark corners of pubs.”
Naturally Pod flushed bright pink “well we got all the forms we needed and thought we’d get some lunch before going back to the Keep.”
Sansa lightly punched Sandor in the arm “Sandor, leave them alone.”
Arya, not content to just sit back and let Sandor jab at Pod, looked at Sandor, looked at Sandor and Sansa’s clasped hands, looked back at Sandor and quipped “yea, Sandor, leave us alone.”
Sandor grunted, but allowed the subject to drop.
“Do you mind if we join you?” Sansa asked the pair politely, Pod replied that they didn’t and stood up and pulled out a chair for Sansa to sit.
“So what’s good here?” Sansa asked looking at Sandor, then Pod, then Arya. Sandor replied that everything was tasty, it depended how hungry she was; but that he would definitely recommend the meat pies. When Bronn came over with their drinks, both Sansa and Sandor ordered meat pies, Sandor also ordering a side of neeps and tatties. At Sansa’s confused look, Sandor explained that it was just turnips and potatoes.
Sitting back the two couples stared at each other, neither one knowing exactly what to say in this somewhat awkward situation. Finally, Sansa decided to take the bull by the horn “so Arya, did you get a lot of good pictures today?”
Arya quickly whipped out her phone to show the group some of her favorites, including some of the outdoor shots of the cottages; once again lamenting how she felt she was missing an opportunity by not getting shots from different seasons to show off the year-round appeal of the Keep.
“Did you find good stuff in the attic?” Arya asked, after Sansa appropriately oohed and ahhed over the images.
Sansa immediately launched into a long discourse about everything they’d found. As she warmed to the subject, Sansa became more and more animated, waving her hands while describing the various pieces. She talked about the items that Sandor was going to fix and the stuff they had found that could just go into the rooms as is once they were cleaned up.
Sansa also talked about all the clothing that was up there that they ought to think about getting professionally cleaned. Wouldn’t it be fun to have pieces available for visitors to try on? Or make available for the photo shoots they had talked about.
Sansa also told Arya that she should definitely plan on taking both before and after shots of the furniture that Sandor was going to fix. The transformations were going to be impressive.
Sandor and Pod sat back and watched the sisters talk, neither one remembered being so content to just sit and observe.
Bronn arrived with the food, and Sandor and Sansa, realizing how hungry they were after spending hours in the attic, dug right in. Sandor smirked as Sansa groaned with pleasure about how good the pie was.
“Pod, your scones may not be my favorite anymore, any chance you can make pies too?” Pod assured Sansa that he could make meat pies, and promised to make her one in the next couple of days.
Sansa commented to Arya that they might have to add that to the list of cooking classes, that is, if Pod was really telling the truth.
With mock outrage Pod announced that he would make pies for dinner tomorrow, and that Sansa could judge then whether he was exaggerating or not.
Sansa sat back with a grin, her ploy to have Pod cook for them, successful. Arya and Sandor burst out in laughter.
“Pod, my friend, you’ve been had.” Arya said with a smirk “Sansa is a pro at tricking people into doing things for her, looks like you fell for her trap.”
Sansa looked around the table and pouted “I just wanted a good pie, is that too much to ask?”
“No Little Bird, it’s not.”
Sandor and Sansa finished up their lunch and drinks, Sansa coming very close to licking the plate, and announced that they couldn’t eat another bite.
Sandor commented to Pod and Arya that he had promised Sansa that she could visit the shops in the village before they went back to the Keep, did they want to join them?
Arya replied that they had already walked down the High Street on their way here from the town hall, and that she wanted to get back to the Keep and get started working, but could they do her a favor? If they ended up going into any of the shops, could Sansa broach the subject with the owners about being featured on the website?
At Sandor’s look of confusion, Arya explained that she had an idea to show a bunch of different things a visitor could do when they came to Clegane Keep, and that included visiting some of the shops in the village. Pod had told her that most of the businesses didn’t have websites, so this would be a new concept for them.
Seeing the merit of the idea, Sansa replied that she’d be happy to talk to some of the shop owners, and she would only pick the establishments that were the most picturesque, she added with a wink.
After paying their tabs, saying goodbye to Bronn, the foursome separated on the sidewalk; Pod and Arya to go back to the Keep and Sandor and Sansa to wander down the High Street.
Sansa waved to Arya and Pod as they drove by on their way back to the Keep, then grabbed Sandor’s hand and laced her fingers through his. “As you said, we can figure out feelings later.” She said with a grin.
Sandor threw back his head and roared with laughter “that we can, Little Bird.”
Next up: we finally earn the "M" rating. Podrya smut.
Pod and Arya do some work on the website (and do some other things too)
ALL Podrya this chapter, and they get to know each other MUCH better.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Arya glanced at Pod as they made their way back to the Keep, what exactly had happened in the Pub?
They were enjoying their meal, talking about different photos Arya wanted to get in the village, laughing, really just having a fun time then suddenly they were kissing; she couldn’t even really explain how it happened, he just looked at her and she suddenly launched herself at him. Not just casual kissing; but full on, swallow each other whole, luckily there were other people in the room or they’d rip each other’s clothes off, kissing.
This was definitely a complication that she didn’t need, she needed to keep her distance and do what she came here to Scotland to do, fix Sansa.
Pod and his incredibly kissable lips were not going to distract her …kissable lips, oh crap stop thinking about that, Arya internally scolded herself. The fact that they got caught mid-tongue wrestle by Sansa and Sandor just added to her torment.
Of all the people that could have walked in at that point, they were the worst.
She definitely would have preferred Ros catching them, maybe then she’d leave Pod alone. Argh, who cares about Ros' obvious crush on Pod, it was none of her business, she’d be gone in a couple of weeks, and Pod could do whatever he wanted.
Suddenly, Arya sat up straight. But, why were Sandor and Sansa holding hands? That was interesting. Had something happened in the attic? Maybe Sansa had taken Arya’s advice and decided to just have some fun while she was here. But, that wasn’t really like Sansa, she was more of the relationship type, but there was always a first time.
Arya mulled what had happened and what she’d seen over in her mind as they arrived back at the Keep. Once they were parked in the carpark, Pod turned to Arya and asked her what was on her agenda now.
In her mind she had several items she still wanted to accomplish including doing some preliminary work on the website itself, but that didn’t sound like a whole lot of fun.
“How about we see what kind of things Sandor and Sansa found in the attic? I could get started taking some before pictures, that way Sandor can get started on their rehab quicker and I can take the after pictures and post both together on the website. Oh wait, I’ve got an even better idea. Maybe some of the pieces would be appropriate for some of the rooms in the Keep. I could take a picture of the room without the piece, the piece in its current state, then finally the piece all fixed up and in the room. What do you think?”
Pod commented that it sounded like a great idea; why didn’t they go find the pieces, take some pictures, then see where they’d fit into the rooms and take some pictures of the rooms. Then all that would be left to do is take pictures of the items in the rooms when Sandor was done working on them.
Arya ran back to the cottage and got her camera, then joined Pod back at the entrance to the Keep. They entered and quickly discovered the pile left by Sandor which also included the wedding dress that Sansa had found.
“Oh, I can see why Sansa liked this dress, very Downton Abbey, just her cup of tea as they say.”
Pod grinned at her “there’s nothing wrong with Downton Abbey, Sandor and I were obsessed with it when it was on.”
Arya rolled her eyes “of course you were.”
After examining all the pieces, Pod had suggestions about where some of them could go.
Arya realized she’d need to set up some sort of backdrop, such as a white sheet over a table with a white background, to photograph the items. She suggested to Pod that rather than go to all that trouble to set that up now, since it was so late in the day, why didn’t he show her some of the rooms. They would set up the sheets first thing tomorrow morning and take the pictures, then Sandor could get started rehabbing the pieces as soon as tomorrow afternoon.
Pod led her to upper levels of the Keep into one of the bedrooms that hadn’t been included in the tour. It was set up as a typical Victorian bedroom with big dark wood furniture, and a bed with curtains and heavy brocade fabric pushed up against the back wall.
“Ugh, this doesn’t look like my idea of comfortable.” Arya sneered, Pod smiled but commented that the cherry breakfast tray they saw in the pile would fit perfectly in the room.
Arya agreed; but really, this room was so fussy, she couldn’t imagine ever relaxing, much less sleeping here.
Pod observed that maybe they should rearrange all the pillows, so that when the piece was ready they could display it right on the bed. He moved into the room, and started to push the pillows up against the wall, taking the time to plump everything up and make it look nice.
Arya took some photos of the bed, and the room, it looked great, if maybe a bit too perfect. “You know, if someone is getting breakfast in bed, the bed wouldn’t be made, maybe we should pull down the bedspread or something.”
Pod rearranged the bed again, moving the pillows, pulling down the bedspread, and tuned to Arya with a questioning eye.
“It still looks too perfect, I know, get in it and rumple the sheets a little more.” Pod slipped off his shoes and got into the bed pulling the bedspread up, then throwing it off again, and getting back up.
“What do you think?”
“Still not right, get back in there.”
Pod got back in the bed, and Arya slipped off her shoes, took a running leap and landed on top of him. She knew this was a stupid decision, but, at this point, she just didn’t care.
Arya kissed a surprised Pod “we need to make this bed look like it’s been slept in.” she quipped.
Pod grinned, wrapped his arms around her and kissed back.
They rolled around on the bed, messing up Pod’s carefully constructed ‘slept in’ appearance grinding into each other as they had earlier in the day.
“Arya, are you sure about this?”
“No, but keep kissing me.”
Pod kissed down her neck, nipping as he went. Arya groaned and kissed wherever she could reach: his neck, ear, adam’s apple, cheek and then finally back to his lips.
Pod tentatively slid his hands under Arya’s shirt, pushing it up as he went.
Arya suddenly stopped mid kiss, sat up and pulled the shirt over her head and threw it to the floor. Her bra, and Pod’s shirt soon followed.
Pod groaned and continued his exploration with his hands and mouth, eventually closing his lips around her nipple. He licked and sucked gently and Arya arched into him with a sigh. Pod kissed his way to the other nipple, giving it just as much attention. Arya felt as if she was going to burst into flames; all she wanted, RIGHT NOW, was him inside her.
“Is there any chance you have a condom on you?” Arya asked breathlessly.
“I think I have one in my wallet, but are you really sure? I don’t want you to get caught up in the moment and have regrets later.”
All Arya could think at this moment was how perfect Pod was, seriously, she just offered herself to him and he was concerned about her. Why did he live so far away, it wasn’t fair.
“I’m sure, please, I’m dying here.”
Pod laughed, and unbuttoned her jeans and lowered the zipper.
“Okay, but I have something I want to do first.”
Once he had divested Arya of her jeans and panties, he kissed his way up her leg from ankle to thigh on both legs, then pushing her knees flat to the mattress he gently separated her folds with his fingers and licked her from back to front. He then focused his attention solely on her clit; licking and sucking as Arya twisted, arched and groaned.
Oh my god, he was perfect ; Arya tried to hold out as long as she could, but when he gently inserted his finger and rubbed behind her clit she exploded in the hardest, wettest orgasm she could ever remember having. She arched and let out a loud guttural moan, not even caring if the entire village, or all of Scotland for that matter, heard her.
Once Arya came back to reality, she barked orders at Pod. “Pants off, now. Condom on, now.”
Pod moved quickly to shuck his pants and dig the condom out of his wallet, rolling it down over his enormous erection. Once ready he got back on the bed and Arya spread her legs wide to make room for him.
He slid into her with a satisfying groan and immediately set a pace of pumping in and out with vigor.
Arya clung to his shoulders, kissing whatever piece of him was close, eventually tasting herself on him as he bent down to capture her lips with his own.
Pod, realizing he wasn’t going to last long, suddenly blurted out “I’m sorry, this is going to be quick, it's been awhile, you’re too much, I can’t...I can’t slow down.” And with that he squeezed his eyes shut, grunted loudly, stilled, then collapsed on top of her, catching himself at the last moment on his forearms so he didn’t crush her.
They stayed that way for a moment, both breathing heavily, until Pod rolled off and lay down beside Arya.
“Well this is a problem I didn’t need; the most amazing orgasm of my life and it’s 3000 miles away from home.” Arya joked.
Pod turned to face her, kissed her very sweaty brow and commented “How do you think I feel? The best sex of my entire life is with someone who lives 3000 miles away, but the scene of the crime will be a room I’ll have to go into again and again, for probably the rest of my life.
How am I supposed to explain to Sandor that I can’t come in this room anymore? I don’t think he’s going to take it well.”
Arya snorted “yea, I think we have a big, big problem.”
Sansa gets to tour the village and meet some familiar faces.
Sandor shows Sansa the village, and she gets to meet some of the locals.
A whole chapter of Sansan sweetness.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The High Street
Sandor and Sansa, still holding hands, strolled along the High Street. It felt like a dream to Sandor, he could not believe that this beautiful woman was willingly being seen with him, much less clinging to his hand.
He prayed he didn’t do anything to screw this up; but even more, that Sansa did not come to regret opening up to him and spending time with him. Even if she was just using him to get over that tosser, he would gladly take it, if only to see her smile.
As they walked, Sandor pointed out different shops and businesses, commenting about the owners. Who he knew well or just slightly, whose family had lived here for generations, typical village stuff.
“So, which shop would you like to visit first, Little Bird? Which one is charming enough to make the website?”
Sansa peered up and down the street, honing in on the Golden Lion “how about that one?”
Sandor internally groaned, he knew it was inevitable that they’d end up there, but he had wished it would have been later. Hopefully Jamie was working today and not his bitch of a sister, Cersei.
Although, introducing Sansa to handsome Jamie Lannister was another whole set of problems in Sandor’s mind. She might take one look at Jamie, and forget she’d ever even met Sandor.
Gritting his teeth, he pushed open the door to the shop, the bell overhead tinkling as they entered.
Jamie looked up from his crossword, “Hound! How are you? I haven’t seen you in the village in ages. What brings you in? Are you finally going to let me root through your attic?” Noticing Sansa for the first time “Hello, who is this lovely lady? And what are you doing with this old grump?”
Sandor harrumphed “Jamie, this is Sansa, she and her sister are staying in one of the cottages for a few weeks. Sansa, this is one of the biggest pains in my ass, Jamie Lannister.”
“Nice to meet you Jamie.” Looking at Sandor “Hound, is that a nickname?”
“No, Jamie just thinks he’s clever, since my ancestor was his ancestor’s kennel master.”
Sansa took a few moments to look around the shop. It was obviously a mix of items from the village and surrounding area, some very good reproductions, although not as good as Sandor’s, and some pieces that were meant for the tourist trade. Yes, this shop would be a good inclusion on the website.
“So Jamie, does your business have a website?”
Jamie shook his head no and commented “I’d like to get one but my sister, who is my partner in the business, thinks it’s a waste of money.”
Sansa grinned “well, I might have someone that can help you with that, but in the meantime would you be interested in being featured on Sandor’s website? My sister designs them and she’s upgrading his, and wants to feature different activities people can do when they visit Clegane Keep. Visiting the village, and antiquing would be fun, don’t you think?”
Jamie listened with interest “That sounds great, I’d have to run it by Cersei, but I can’t see how she’d be against free publicity, it is free isn’t it?” At Sandor’s affirmative nod he continued “What would you need me to do?”
Sansa smiled widely “we’d have to take some pictures of your shop, you should probably be in some of them. Sign a waiver so we can use them on the website, that’s about it, how does that sound?”
“Sounds like I’m going to be internet famous!” Sansa grinned at Jamie, then at Sandor; this was easy, hopefully the other shop owners in the village were as amenable as Jamie.
After saying their goodbyes and promising to be in touch, Sandor and Sansa walked down the street visiting some of the other businesses, pitching the website and getting overwhelming agreements from the owners.
Tormund surprised Sandor by giving him a huge bear hug and promising him seaweed rice for life while Brienne looked on in amusement; while at the Baratheon Arms: sour faced Stannis, sweet Shireen and manager-in-training Gendry agreed to the idea in theory but they’d have to run it by their majority stockholder Robert before they signed anything.
Sansa was quite pleased with their accomplishments, turning to Sandor with a grin “That was fun, and everyone was so nice. You are so lucky to live here. I can’t imagine the people where I live being so friendly.”
Sandor chuckled “Well it does help that it’s a small village, and everyone knows everyone and has for their entire lives. What do you think about calling it a day Little Bird? I think we’ve talked to most of the people and Arya is going to be very busy for the next several days.”
Sansa squeezed his hand, and commented that he was probably right. Leading her back to his car, Sandor opened the door to allow her to get in, and as she passed by him she commented “this has been a perfect day, thank you Sandor” she leaned up and kissed him on the cheek and got into the car.
As he rounded the back of the car to get to the driver’s side, Sandor silently agreed with Sansa, this had been a perfect day. He wished all his days could be like this: Sansa at his side, holding his hand, smiling at him, kissing his cheek. Why did she have to live so far away? He already knew he was in danger of giving her his heart, but he just couldn’t find it in himself to care. He just wasn’t sure if she would even want it. He had been happier today, with Sansa, then he could remember ever being in his whole life; and if that meant for the rest of his life he would compare every day to today, so be it.
The ride back to the Keep was quiet, Sandor and Sansa each lost in their own thoughts about the day. When they arrived back at the carpark they noticed that Pod’s car was already there.
"I wonder where Pod and Arya got to.” Sansa commented.
“Well, based on what we saw at the Pub, I have some ideas. I would make a bunch of noise before you go into your cottage.”
Sansa mock gasped and smacked Sandor’s arm “don’t be rude.”
Sandor laughed at Sansa’s antics “are you hungry Little Bird? We could dig around my kitchen and make something to eat.”
“you mean like a dinner date?” she asked coyly
“well if you consider a dinner date having to make your own meal, then yea, I guess so. If you want, I can pull out all the stops and we can watch a movie on my television afterwards. Dinner and a movie, how’s that sound?”
“that sounds perfect, lets see what you have in the fridge.”
Hours later Sandor sat quietly on the couch, the movie Sansa had picked out long since over. He glanced down at Sansa who had fallen asleep against his shoulder over an hour ago. He didn’t want to move at all and risk waking her up, he’d be happy if they stayed this way all night.
Dinner had been what Sansa described as leftover tapas. They had gathered up several tupperware containers of food, heating them up and arranging them on plates. There was no rhyme or reason, and the different food definitely shouldn’t go together, but they enjoyed the meal anyway.
Once they’d eaten, Sandor ushered Sansa upstairs to his den, where the large flat screen television was located. Sandor told Sansa to pick out a DVD from his collection, and she selected Rob Roy, reasoning that she needed to learn more about Scotland.
They had started out seated side by side on the couch, but as the movie got more and more serious, Sansa had moved closer to Sandor, even hiding her face in his arm during the battle scenes. Eventually though, the activities of the day had gotten the better of her, and Sansa fell asleep slumped against Sandor.
As much as he wanted to just stay like this forever, Sandor knew he had to wake Sansa up. He didn’t want to risk her being embarrassed about falling asleep and be uncomfortable around him in the future, so he gently moved away from her and shook her “Sansa, time to wake up, the movie is over.”
Sansa’s eyes fluttered open, she stretched and smiled at Sandor. “oh no, I can’t believe I fell asleep, I don’t even know how it ended”
“it's probably better that way Little Bird, it doesn’t end well for Scotland. C'mon I’ll walk you back to your cottage.”
Sansa gathered up her shoes and Sandor got a flashlight for the short walk back to Thistle cottage. They arrived at the front door to discover that Arya had left a couple of lights on for her.
“Sandor I had such a good time today, thank you for spending the day with me.”
“Little Bird, I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a day as much as today, it should be me thanking you.”
Sansa reached up and pulled Sandor into a hug, which he enthusiastically returned. They remained in each other's arms for a few minutes but as they drew back they looked into each other's eyes, and quickly came back together in a kiss. Sansa pulled Sandor closer and licked Sandor’s bottom lip, silently begging him to deepen the kiss. With a groan, Sandor slid his tongue into her mouth and tightened his arms around her.
As the kiss ended Sansa pressed her forehead to Sandor’s “I know we’re going to have to figure out our feelings soon, but not tonight, okay?”
Sandor agreed, bid Sansa good night, watched her enter the cottage and lock the door, then went back to the Keep to try and get some sleep.
The sooner he slept, the sooner it would be morning, and the sooner he would see Sansa again.
Team "Clegane Keep" gets started.
A little Podrya + sister bonding + scones (again)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Meanwhile, upstairs earlier
Arya and Pod lay in the bed, Pod running his hand through her hair, each in their own thoughts, not speaking. They weren’t far off when they had said this was a complication neither one needed, but they also weren’t sure how to broach the subject. Arya knew that in a limited amount of time she needed to fly home, find a job and get on with her career; just as Pod knew that his future was here in Scotland.
Was there a compromise? Some sort of future for them? Were they insane to think this was anything more than a fling, all of these thoughts swirled through both their minds as they lay there.
Suddenly Pod noticed a set of headlights skirting across the room through the window. “Looks like Sandor and Sansa are back, we probably shouldn’t let them find us here.” Arya agreed and they quickly got up, dressed, tidied the room and snuck down the back staircase and out of the Keep.
Pod walked Arya back to her cottage and broached the subject of her spending the night with him. As much as she wanted to, Arya felt she shouldn’t just abandon Sansa for the night. The whole purpose of her being in Scotland was to be with Sansa, not get laid, no matter how great it had been. She regretfully declined, which Pod understood, and he wandered down the path to his own cottage.
Since she wasn’t sure when Sansa would be back, Arya quickly showered and changed into comfortable clothes, and scarfed down some food. Thank you Pod; even though Arya had told him that she’d take care of groceries, he had stocked their pantry and refrigerator with a couple of days’ worth of food. He really was perfect. She opened up her laptop and hooked her camera and IPhone to it, to start reviewing and editing the photos she had taken today.
Hours later Sansa still wasn’t back. Arya stretched and grimaced as her joints popped from being hunched over her laptop for so long, and decided to go to bed. Good for Sansa she thought, as she left a couple of lights on inside the cottage and headed to her bed to get some well-deserved sleep. A little while later, Arya was just about asleep, when she heard Sansa come into the cottage, turn off the lights and close her bedroom door.
The Next Morning
The following morning Arya wandered out of her room to find Sansa sitting at the table with a mug of tea, smiling, with a faraway look on her face.
“Hey Sansy, whatcha thinking about?”
Sansa flinched, and Arya had to chuckle as she had obviously startled her out of a very interesting daydream.
“Nothing. What do we have planned for today? Photoshoot, website, should I start writing some text?”
Arya cocked an eyebrow at Sansa, there was no way she was not going to weasel some information out of her about what had happened between her and Sandor yesterday. Sansa flushed, obviously realizing she’d been caught.
“Nice try Sansy, what’s going on between you and the big guy?”
“I could ask you the same thing. We saw you two kissing yesterday in the Pub, and where were you last night when we got home?”
This was too easy thought Arya “We? Home? What are you saying Sansy?”
Sansa harrumphed “I’m not saying anything, I was just wondering what was going on.”
As much as she wanted to torment her sister just a little more (it was just too much fun) Arya decided to give Sansa a break. “I’m sorry Sansa, I was just picking on you. Besides, you are entitled to do anything you want with Sandor, not only is it none of my business, but if there is something going on, I heartily approve.”
Sansa sat back in the chair and smiled softly “I had so much fun yesterday with Sandor. I have so many ideas for the website. And, wasn’t the village cute? We could really help them promote all of the shops, it wouldn’t be too difficult, there is a lot to work with. Maybe you could set up websites for some of the other businesses, I bet once they see what you can do for Sandor’s they’ll all want to hire you.”
Arya looked wide-eyed at Sansa, what a great idea. The good thing about web design was that she didn’t have to be in an office, she could do it anywhere, she could do it here. Maybe this was something she should look into; maybe this was something they should BOTH look into.
Suddenly there was a knock at the back door, Sansa looked at Arya, then swung around to look at the door then back to Arya “I bet I know who that is.” She chortled, and hopped out of her seat to open it. Pod, pink cheeked as always, stood there with a tray of tea and scones.
“Pod” Arya admonished “you have to stop doing this. We all know that food is NOT included in the stay, it’s says so right there on that crappy website of yours. Besides, you’re spoiling us, and I’m never going to perfect my new scone making skills if you continue to make them for us.”
Pod blushed pinker, but Sansa saved him by commenting “Please come in, and thank you Pod for looking out for me, I don’t know if I trust these new scone making skills anyway.”
Pod came in and set the tray on the table. “I wanted to let you know that Sandor wants to get started this afternoon rehabbing some of the pieces, and I know you wanted to get some before photos, so you should probably eat some breakfast and meet us in his workshop. Oh, and I found some white sheets that we can use as a backdrop for your photos.”
Arya poured herself a cup of tea, and responded to Pod “ask Sandor to give me about an hour, and I’ll be over to take some pictures. Also, let him know that I plan to take some pictures of him working on the pieces, so he should dress appropriately, nothing fancy, but no faded tee-shirt with holes in it."
Arya narrowed her eyes and looked at her sister. "Sansa, maybe you need to go pick out his clothes just to make sure he looks okay.”
Sansa swung around to glare at Arya “what? I just want the website to look its best. Pod, tell Sandor that Sansa will be over in about an hour to pick out his clothes for the pictures.”
Pod left to inform Sandor about Arya’s demands; Sansa, looked at her sister and said “what are you doing? Why are you throwing us together like that? Sandor doesn’t need my help picking out clothes, I’m sure he’ll do just fine.”
Arya cocked her eyebrow “If I left it up to you two to figure out a way to spend time together, neither one of you would. You, because you think it’s too soon after Harry; and Sandor because he would never believe that you want to spend time with him. Why do you think you were on attic duty yesterday? I saw your connection from the first time you met. There’s something there, and I don’t care that you’re just getting over Harry; you need to explore this or you will always regret it. Now go get dressed and figure out Sandor’s wardrobe for this photo shoot.”
Instead of being angry as Arya had thought she’d be, Sansa instead flung her arms around her and hugged her tight “thank you. I actually couldn’t figure out how I was going to get to spend time with Sandor again without seeming needy and pathetic, or worse yet, pushy. So thank you for looking out for me.”
Arya laughed, squeezed back then pushed Sansa into her room to get dressed for the day.
Sandor gets ready for his photo shoot with Sansa's help
Sansa helps Sandor get ready for his "photo shoot"
Sandor stood in the middle of his bedroom, looking at a pile of clothing on his bed, mentally cursing Arya Stark. Now that she had made such a big deal of what he should have on while he was rehabbing the stuff he and Sansa had found in the attic, he didn’t know what to wear.
To make matters worse, Sansa was coming over to help him pick out something. He didn’t want to seem so pathetic that he didn’t even have the right clothes.
His goal was to find and put on something before Sansa got here that would work. That way they would have time to spend together, without rooting through all his clothes. He already had on a pair of jeans (broken in, but no holes) and his work boots (she couldn’t object to them, right?) and for the time being a long sleeve navy blue henley (which he was sure he’d have to change) but what to wear? Sandor harrumphed in disgust, all this for something he really didn’t want to do anyway.
Suddenly he heard a giggle behind him and whirled around to discover Sansa leaning against the doorjamb to his room.
“I know, she’s a pain in the ass, but I’m sure when we see her finished product everything she’s going to put us through will be worth it.”
“Easy for you to say Little Bird, she didn’t imply that you’re not smart enough to pick out your own clothes.”
Sansa flushed, and Sandor wondered what that was all about.
Sansa came into the room, looked at the pile of clothes on his bed, then looked at what he was already wearing and commented “I think you did a good job, you look great. But, so that she doesn’t send us back, let’s pick out some more options for you to wear.”
Sansa pawed through the pile, pulling out different shirts murmuring to herself about which ones would look good on film, in the workshop, with his hair, with his eyes. Finally with four additional shirts, Sansa said there was no need for additional pants, the pair of jeans he had on were fine, they were ready to go.
Sansa looked around the room curiously. “Nothing from the attic in here I see.”
Which was true. Sandor was a big man and when he moved back to the Keep he decided he needed a big bed, not some frail antique that wouldn’t hold a box spring and mattress. So he opted to build a king sized bedframe for himself. It was not as ornate as the furniture Sansa had seen on the tour her first day here, but it was obviously well built, with a sleek head and foot board in a beautiful hardwood.
“This is a beautiful bed, did you make it? What type of wood is this?”
Sandor smiled at the compliment “I did make it, there was nothing in the attic that would have worked for a man my size. It’s actually a type of wood called lime wood, it grows here in Scotland, it’s great for carving, but I just liked it plain.”
Sansa nodded her head at his statement “I can see why, it compliments lots of other shades of wood.”
“Oh Little Bird, I wish I was that clever, I just liked the color.” They grinned at each other with his confession; gradually their smiles faltered though, and they drifted together, Sandor putting his hand on Sansa’s cheek, bending down and kissing her softly.
“Good morning, Little Bird. I’ve been thinking about kissing you since I walked away from your door last night.”
Sansa threaded her arms around Sandor’s neck, anchoring her fingers in his hair and against his mouth said “me too” tilted her head, and kissed him back.
Sansa heard a noise from deep in Sandor’s throat, then quickly he was hauling her up in his arms, sweeping her up bridal style, sitting down on the bed, never breaking the kiss. She tightened her arms around his neck bringing them closer together.
Sandor could not believe this was happening, the most beautiful woman he had ever met was in his arms kissing him. Suddenly reality set in and he panicked. They were headed down a dangerous path, Sandor tried pulling away, doing his best to slow the situation down, but Sansa’s warm open mouthed kisses along his ear and neck was killing him. In all honesty he was hanging by a thread, and if he didn’t get Sansa to stop, he was going to flip her over and have her right here on top of all his clean clothes.
“Sansa, stop, we can’t do this, you just got out of a relationship. We’ve only known each other for a few days. We haven’t even had the conversation about feelings yet.”
Finally, Sansa seemed to come to her senses, she pulled back and looked at him; her face pink, her lips swollen, and her pupils dilated to the point where if he hadn’t known better he would have sworn her eyes were black not blue.
Sansa rested her forehead against Sandor’s “I know, I’m sorry, I just got carried away. Forgive me?”
Sandor groaned “Little Bird, you never have to apologize for kissing me, I just don’t want you to do something you’ll regret. And if I’m being honest, as much as I want to lay you down on the bed right now and have my way with you, what I want even more is to get to know you better, so that when or if this does go farther, it’ll mean something to both of us. Is that okay?”
Sansa flushed and nodded her head, climbing off Sandor’s lap, and standing up, looking embarrassed by her actions.
Sandor stood up, smiled and tilted Sansa’s chin up with his index finger, kissed her nose, then gathered up the shirts she had picked out “c’mon lets get this photo shoot over with before I change my mind about this .”
Sansa, relieved, grinned up at him, laced her fingers with his “lead the way.”
The group gets started building the website
After leaving Sansa at the bottom of the staircase in the Keep, with specific instructions about the type of clothing Arya would need Sandor to wear for the photo shoot, Arya and Pod gathered up the sheets and the pile of projects and made their way down to the workshop.
“I want to try and get as many ‘before’ pictures as I can before Sandor gets down here and makes a complete mess of the place” Arya told Pod with a smirk.
They worked for about 30 minutes: cleaning the piece, setting it on the backdrop, shooting it, moving it and shooting it at another angle, and moving on to the next piece.
They’d worked their way through a few pieces when Sandor and Sansa wandered in. Arya noticed, with amusement, that they were holding hands again; and Sansa looked much less put together than she had earlier this morning.
“Nice of you to join us” she quipped to the couple.
Sansa flushed, but Sandor smirked at her “piss off, what do you need me to do?” Arya showed Sandor what piece she wanted him to work on first, then snapped a couple of photos of him working on it, declaring that was all she needed for that one, and that once he was done rehabbing it she’d take photos of the piece in one of the rooms in the Keep.
The group worked their way through the pile, at different times having Sandor change his shirt to look like they weren’t doing this all at one time, until Arya declared that she had enough to work with. After Arya packed up her equipment, Sansa asked what were the next steps.
Arya considered the question “well, I need to start rebuilding the website, so I need to figure out how many different links it’s going to need, once I have a handle on that, I’m going to need you to write some text, are you okay with that?”
“of course” Sansa replied “ maybe we should go back to our cottage and get started so Sandor can work on the pieces without us being in the way.”
Waiving Pod and Sandor off, Sansa and Arya lugged the equipment back to the cottage themselves. Arya hooked her camera up to her laptop and started reviewing her photos.
Sansa peered over Arya’s shoulder at the images, “ooh, these look great.”
Arya smirked “they’re okay, I think you just like the subject”
Sansa smacked Arya’s shoulder “shut up”
“hey, I’m not the one who was holding the big man’s hand, so what gives Sansy?”
Sansa suddenly seemed very focused on her feet “we just kissed, that’s all, I swear. But I wanted it to be more, if Sandor hadn’t been a gentleman about it, it would have been more. I don’t feel bad about it either.”
Arya grinned at her sister “No reason why you should. Now let's get to work, start writing some text about what a great place this is to stay. But I’d leave out the part about the owner being so kissable, he may not want that as a selling point. I think he only wants to kiss you.”
Sansa lightly smacked Arya’s shoulder again, snorted, booted up her own laptop and got to work.
Sansa and Arya worked side by side for the next couple of hours, every once in a while, comparing screens, commenting on the other’s work, but for the most part concentrating on their own product. Arya, working in a photo editing program, doing her best to produce eye catching images of: the area, rooms in the Keep, antiques, Sandor refurbishing, the cottages, Pod’s scones.
For her part, Sansa couldn’t remember the last time that words came so easily to her. Describing the area, the Keep, the experience just flowed from her fingers to the computer screen.
Working for Harry’s family firm had never given her such freedom of expression. Normally she was given a brief or a product, or an event and told to come up with 500-1000 words that would work for a press release or a media blast or an audio clip. The most creative she ever got to be, was when she was improving Harry’s work. She knew she was being too effusive in her descriptions, and Arya would edit her later, but right now she was really enjoying herself.
By lunchtime they both felt they’d done enough work on their computers for the day, and decided to go into the village, get some lunch and set up some photo shoots with some of the local businesses.
Arya had a list of photos that she still needed to take at the Keep. “I’m just going to run up to the workshop and give this list to Pod so he and Sandor can decide when would be the best time for me to set up these shots. I can’t wait for Pod to realize I want to take pictures of him making scones, his cheeks may burst into flames.”
Sansa laughed at her sister’s statement, and commented that she was just going to freshen up and she’d be ready once Arya got back.
Sansa stood in the bathroom, brushing her teeth, thinking about her morning, and actually thinking about the last several months of her life. She was beginning to wonder what she had ever seen in Harry, and why she had been in such a rush to get married.
If she and Arya hadn’t come home early that night and caught Harry and Myranda in the act, she’d be married to that ass right now. What would the rest of her life be like? Harry definitely wasn’t smart enough to never get caught, eventually she would have caught on, thank god it was now rather than later.
With a giggle, Sansa thought that maybe she should send a fruit basket to Myranda to thank her for saving her from a life of misery.
Turning her thoughts to this morning, she thought about her interaction with Sandor. If Sandor hadn’t stopped them, she definitely would have pushed to go much further with him. She liked him, alot, and now she was so glad that he had been clear headed this morning, because she definitely had not been.
This wasn’t like her, at all. Sansa was never the pursuer, she was always pursued. Harry, Joffrey, even Theon; they all chased her, not the other way around, but it was definitely different with Sandor. There were no games with Sandor.
But, Sansa wasn’t going to sit by and let him slip between her fingers, Sandor was definitely worth getting to know better. She realized, with a start, that she wanted this to be more than just a fling.
Behind her Sansa heard the front door bang open, and voices coming from the common room. She spit, rinsed and wiped her mouth and exited the bathroom to find Arya and Pod looking at photos.
“Hey, Pod is going to come with us to help smooth over things with the shop owners if needed, and Sandor said he’d meet us at Blackwater’s for happy hour. You ready to go?”
With a smile and a nod, Sansa gathered up her bag, and followed them to the car.
Sandor second guesses himself.
From chapter 19:
By late afternoon he was tired, sweaty, pissed off and in no mood to be around people. Sandor decided that contrary to what he had told Arya and Pod this morning he wasn’t going into the village; instead he’d just stay at the Keep, take a shower, and make some dinner. Then he'd spend the evening as he’d probably end up spending all his evenings for the rest of his life:
After shooing Pod and Arya out of the workshop with the assurance that he would meet them at Blackwater’s for happy hour, Sandor got down to work. He and Sansa had collected several items in the attic and he was anxious to bring them back to life, and maybe, if he was honest with himself, also anxious to show off his skills to the Little Bird.
Sandor found woodworking therapeutic: working with his hands, creating, fixing, problem-solving; it made all of the thoughts that normally swirled through his mind calm. Today was different though, he couldn’t get the kiss he shared with Sansa this morning out of his mind. Even more than that, the way she looked at him; it was almost too much for him to bear. ALL he could think about was having her look at him like that for the rest of his life. Sandor shook his head ruefully, this wasn’t going to get him anywhere, wanting something that he was never going to have.
He knew that as soon as they had the talk about feelings she would have come to her senses and realize that this couldn’t go anywhere; and in a couple of weeks Sansa would go back to the States and her regular life and she would forget about the time she spent here with him. This was just a fling, it had to be, all it could be was a way for Sansa to get over Harry.
Having mentally berated himself, Sandor settled into working on the various projects, sinking more and more into a foul mood.
Hours later he’d worked through the entire pile: stripping old varnish off and refinishing a breakfast tray, taking apart and regluing several small tables and chairs, pulling old stuffing out of a Victorian era chair to get it ready to reupholster, carving a new rocker for a rocking chair; if it had been any other day, Sandor would be pretty please with himself.
But not today, today he only got so much done so he didn’t have to dwell on the fact that somehow in the past two days he’d managed to lose a piece of his heart to Sansa. All he could do now was try and shield what was left of it.
By late afternoon he was tired, sweaty, pissed off and in no mood to be around people. Sandor decided that contrary to what he had told Arya and Pod this morning he wasn’t going into the village; instead he’d just stay at the Keep, take a shower, and make some dinner. Then he'd spend the evening as he’d probably end up spending all his evenings for the rest of his life:
The Village Photoshoot
Pod had called ahead to several of the people that had agreed to be photographed for the website, to find out if they were available to be photographed. Fortunately a few were okay with the short notice. Their first stop was at Jamie’s shop.
Pod, Arya and Sansa worked as a very effective team: setting up lights, picking through the shop to find interesting items to photograph, setting up vignettes, and posing Jamie as the congenial shop owner. It had all gone very well, in fact Jamie had commented that he wanted to have a separate conversation with Arya about the idea of her building a website for the shop.
An hour or so later, after promising to be in touch soon, the trio waved goodbye to Jamie and moved onto Wilding Organic and Tormund and Brienne. Arya took some photos of the shelves with various organic tea and sundries while Pod and Sansa decided which items on the lunch menu would photograph the best and asked the couple to produce them.
Pod and Sansa posed as customers, while Arya photographed the dishes, barking orders to the two “smile when you bite into that sandwich. Take smaller bites. Don’t look at the camera. Use a napkin.”
By the end Tormund and Brienne were laughing hysterically at the antics while Pod was trying to shove the food in his mouth as Sansa scowled at her sister.
“How are we supposed to look like we’re enjoying ourselves, if you’re yelling at us the entire time?”
Tormund went back into the kitchen to make more sandwiches while Arya tried to calmly explain to Pod and Sansa what she needed for a successful image.
“Well it’ll be easier now, because we’re not hungry anymore.” Pod said with a smirk.
Finally, Arya was satisfied with the new set of ‘eating’ images she took of Pod and Sansa and they bid Tormund and Brienne goodbye.
“Come back anytime, I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time.” Brienne quipped
“see you at happy hour” Tormund called after them.
“Does everyone go to happy hour?” Sansa asked Pod
“Aye, what else is there to do in a small village?”
The group arrived at Blackwater’s in the early afternoon. Arya wanted to get some ‘establishing’ shots before it began to fill with people plus she wanted to figure out the best angles once the pub was filled with patrons.
Bronn grinned widely when they entered the Pub “where have you been? I’ve been waiting for you for hours.”
Pod snorted “It took hours at Tormund and Brienne’s for Arya to get a picture she liked of me eating a sandwich, I must have eaten four sandwiches before she was satisfied.”
Bronn threw back his head and laughed “how many beers are you going to have to drink before she gets the perfect shot? You’re not going to drink all my profits are you?”
“Hmmm, I hadn’t thought of that. We’ll see.”
Arya got several shots of the interior and exterior of the pub, the taps, the booths, pints of beer, Bronn, and some of the wall art. By the time some of the locals started wandering in for happy hour she was very pleased with what she had captured. She thought she’d just need some crowd shots then she would definitely have enough to work with, Bronn and the early birds were happy to oblige.
Later, Arya and Pod were packing up Arya’s equipment, and Sansa was sitting at the bar nursing a red wine as Bronn wiped down the bar “Is the big man coming by tonight?”
“He told Pod and Arya he’d come by for happy hour.”
“Good, he doesn’t get out as much as he should, I’m glad to see him be more sociable, maybe you can convince him to smile more too.” Bronn said with a wink.
Sansa raised an eyebrow but didn’t comment, she hoped she could get him to smile more too.
Over the next hour the door to the pub continuously opened as more and more of the locals showed up, including Tormund and Brienne, who insisted on buying a round of drinks for the group.
Each time the door opened, Sansa thought for sure that this time it would be Sandor, but it never was. Pod and Arya exchanged concerned glances as Bronn kept Sansa’s glass full and her smile slipped further and further off her face.
“He did say he was coming, right?” Arya whispered to Pod.
“aye, I wonder if something came up at the Keep”
“maybe we should take her back to the cottage before she says or does something she regrets”
“aye, she’s looking a little shaky.” Pod and Arya quickly began to gather up their stuff, and Arya grabbed Sansa by the arm
“c’mon, Sansy, time for us to pack it in, it’s been a long day.” Sansa allowed herself to be guided out to the car after hugging Bronn, Tormund, and Brienne goodbye.
The ride back to the Keep was uncomfortably quiet, with Pod and Arya shooting concerned glances to the back seat at Sansa, and Sansa getting more and more irritated at the fact that Sandor had not bothered to show up, even though he had promised that he would.
Finally she burst out (to no one in particular ) “why didn’t he come? He knew we were waiting for him.”
“I don’t know Sansy, maybe he had an emergency at the Keep.”
“wouldn’t he have called Bronn to get Pod to come back then?” She had them there, neither Pod or Arya had a rebuttal to that.
As the car came to a stop in the carpark, and before they could stop her, Sansa jumped out of the backseat and called over her shoulder to Pod and Arya “I’m going to find Sandor and find out what happened.” She entered the front door of the Keep banging the door closed behind her.
Arya turned to Pod “why don’t we go to your cottage, this is either going to go badly, and she’s going to come back to our cottage and throw things; or, it’ll go okay and she won’t be back at all.”
“For all our sakes, let's hope it goes well.” Pod replied.
Sandor and Sansa talk and work some things out.
It's time for Sansa and Sandor to talk about exactly what's going on between them.
Preview for chapter 20
"Sansa, Little Bird, here sit down. We need to talk.” Sandor took her arm and led her to the couch to sit down. “I’m concerned that we’re moving too fast, and maybe we’re moving in a direction you’re not prepared for.”
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The “Feelings” Talk
From his spot on the couch “watching” television (really just brooding) Sandor heard the front door to the Keep bang shut, and Sansa’s voice calling him.
“Sandor, where are you? Is everything okay?” He heard her run up the stairs and down the hallway to his wing of the Keep and fling open the door. He stood up as she skidded to a halt in front of him.
“Sansa what the fuck? Did something happen? Why are you yelling? Why are you here?”
Sansa looked at him with wide eyes, mouth open and a flush starting to form on her cheeks. “Why didn’t you show up at Bronn’s? We waited for you for hours, you said you’d meet us there. When you didn’t call to say you weren’t coming, we were worried something had happened to you.”
Sandor sighed and rubbed his hand down his beard, he wasn’t sure that he was prepared to have this conversation right now with Sansa, but it looked like she wasn’t going to leave without an explanation.
“Sansa, Little Bird, here sit down. We need to talk.” Sandor took her arm and led her to the couch to sit down. “I’m concerned that we’re moving too fast, and maybe we’re moving in a direction you’re not prepared for.”
Sansa opened her mouth as if to interrupt.
“Let me finish Little Bird. I just don’t want you to rush into anything you’re not ready for, Harry hurt you badly, and as much as I like you, and I really do like you, I don’t want you to take things too fast."
"The other thing that concerns me is that you’re only here for another couple of weeks, should we be starting something when you’ll be leaving soon? Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take whatever you want to give me. If I only had two weeks with you, it would still be the best two weeks of my entire fucking life. But honestly Little Bird, you’re not a fling kind of woman, you’re more of a ‘for the rest of my life’ kind of woman.”
Sansa stared at him, her eyes as wide as saucers “But Sandor you kissed…I mean, I kissed...I mean, we kissed. I don’t just go around kissing men, it meant something to me. You told me things, I told you things, this isn’t a fling for me; this means something. If you’re not ready for that you need to tell me because I’m not going to give my heart away to you if you’re just going to stomp on it.”
Sandor was stunned at her statement and moved quickly to fold Sansa into a hug. “Sansa, you’ve already stolen a piece of my heart, I thought…I thought I was the only one. You’re going to have to be patient with me, I’ve never felt like this before, ever; and I don’t know what I’m doing. I want to get this right, I want to be the man you deserve, but even more I want to do the right thing, so you need to tell me what that is because I don’t want to screw this up.”
Sansa smiled up at him and looped her arms around his neck and crawled into his lap. “Well, you can start by kissing me.” She said with a smile.
Sandor lowered his head and captured her lips with his own. Sansa deepened the kiss, moaning a little as Sandor swept his tongue into her mouth. Eventually the kiss ended, and they drew back and smiled at each other.
“So what happens next?”
“Well Sandor, we get to know each other better. We hang out, we go places, you show me places and things that are important to you, we talk; we talk a lot. Then we figure out what happens after the two weeks are over. How does that sound?”
“That sounds perfect.”
Sandor stood up suddenly, lifting Sansa bridal style, and chuckling as she squealed in surprise “C’mon Little Bird let’s go down to the kitchen and get something to eat. I’ve been sitting up here for hours feeling sorry for myself, and I’m starving.”
Sansa laughed “I’m hungry too, all I’ve had since lunch is red wine, lots of red wine, because I was feeling sorry for myself too.”
Sandor dropped her feet to the ground and grabbed her hand “well let’s see what we can dig up.”
“So another dinner date where I have to make my own dinner?”
“Aye, Little Bird, maybe we’ll watch another DVD afterwards? I’m quite the big spender you know.”
Sansa smiled up at him “I’d rather do this then have to share you with other people.”
Hours later, after another eclectic dinner of leftover tapas, Sandor and Sansa were again seated on the couch, but tonight instead of side by side, Sansa was seated on his lap head against his neck. Tonight’s DVD, Braveheart, long forgotten. Sansa's goal of learning more about Scotland, neglected in favor of kissing Sandor.
Between long open-mouth kisses they quietly talked, getting to know each other better. Favorite foods, childhood pets, books, movies, color; whatever popped into their minds they told each other.
Sandor told Sansa about some of the places on the estate he wanted to show her; the trails, the waterfall, and the lake. They agreed to hike to the waterfall in the morning, Sansa rationalizing that she’d be able to write a better description for the website if he took her there.
Eventually the kissing and the conversation slowed as Sansa succumbed to sleep. Between the wine and the emotions of today she was exhausted. Like the night before, Sandor watched her sleep; tonight though, deciding that he wasn’t going to wake her up. If they both spent the night on the couch, so be it.
He marveled how everything had changed today, he’d gone from the depths of self loathing to hoping, no thinking, no knowing that he and Sansa really did have something special; it wasn’t just in his mind.
Carefully, as not to wake her, Sandor turned off the television, lowered the lights, slowly scooted them both down so they were reclining and pulled the blanket from the back of the couch over to cover them both.
Sandor tightened his hold on Sansa, closed his eyes and went to sleep.
Sandor shows Sansa some of the estate grounds.
A little alone time for Sandor and Sansa.
Early the next morning, Sansa woke to discover she’d fallen asleep on Sandor’s couch again! However, unlike the previous evening he hadn’t woken her up and the two of them had slept there all night. She shifted slightly to peer down at Sandor. He was still fast asleep, all the laugh and worry lines had disappeared and he looked peaceful and content.
Sansa stretched to kiss him softly on his cheek, and her movement woke Sandor, who looked at her and smiled.
“Good morning, Little Bird. How did you sleep?”
“I slept very well, thank you. You make a very comfortable pillow.” She added with a grin.
Sandor chuckled and leaned in to kiss her, but Sansa flinched away “don’t kiss me I have morning breath!”
Sandor laughed out loud at that statement “Little Bird, part of getting to know each other better, is finding out each other’s flaws and shortcomings. I have morning breath too, but I still want to kiss you.” Sandor leaned in again, this time Sansa tilted her head and met his lips with her own. Sansa opened her mouth slightly to deepen the kiss, and Sandor enthusiastically breached it with his tongue.
After a few minutes, they pulled back, Sansa wrinkled her nose and commented “we both taste terrible, let’s not do that anymore.”
“Little Bird, I am always going to want to kiss you, no matter what, so I’m not promising you anything.”
Carefully Sansa rolled off Sandor, stood-up and wandered into the bathroom where she washed her face and using her finger as a toothbrush rubbed toothpaste into her teeth. Looking at herself in the mirror, she attempted to fix her bed head before reentering the den.
Sandor had abandoned the room to put the kettle on for tea in the kitchen. “Do you have time for a cup?”
“No, if we’re going to hike to the waterfalls today I need to get back to the cottage, change my clothes and put on my hiking boots, I’ll get something there. Plus, if I don’t get back soon I’ll never hear the end of it from Arya.”
Sandor nodded with a smirk “Let’s see who gets back to the cottage first.”
Sansa looked at him curiously, then realizing his meaning, puffed out a giggle. “I guess we’ll see.”
Several long open mouth kisses later, Sansa exited the front door of the Keep and followed the path back to the cottage. As Sansa was entering the front door, she noticed that Arya was quietly coming in the kitchen door.
“Good morning Arya, where’ve you been all night?”
Arya startled, then smirked “I could ask you the same thing… If you must know, I didn’t know when or if you’d come back to the cottage last night when you took off to talk to Sandor. Rather than spend the rest of the evening by myself, I spent it with Pod. I assume you and Sandor worked things out?”
Sansa smiled “yes, we talked, and we’re going to get to know each other better, much better. That is going to involve us spending lots of time together, I hope you don’t mind, you might have to spend time with Pod so you don’t get bored. Is that okay?
Arya laughed “I think I can handle that. What’s on the agenda for today?”
“Sandor is going to show me the waterfalls, so I’m just here to change my clothes and put on my hiking boots. Do you want me to take a camera and get some pictures, or would my phone be good enough?”
“Your phone will work for now, if I think I need something better, I’ll have Pod take me there later this week.” Arya said as she wiggled her eyebrows suggestively.
Sansa quickly changed her clothes and gulped down some orange juice and a piece of toast; she was just finishing up stuffing bottles of water and snacks in her day pack when Sandor knocked on the front door. She flung the door open and pulled him inside with a smile and a peck on the mouth.
Arya looked up from the kitchen table where she was nursing a cup of tea, smirked and commented “try and get some good photos today, so we can upload them by the end of the week, and Sansa, you’ll need to add text, so pay attention to what you’re seeing today, don’t just ogle Sandor."
Sansa blushed while Sandor gave her a rude hand gesture; they collected Sansa’s day pack and exited the cottage.
The hike to the waterfalls was about an hour long; it was only about a couple of miles away, but Sansa was enchanted and made numerous stops along the way to snap pictures of flowers and trees, birds and small animals.
Sandor led the way, but allowed Sansa as much time as she needed to get the perfect shots; enjoying the freedom of no deadlines and spending the entire day (after spending the night) with Sansa.
Sansa heard the waterfall before she actually saw it, the roar of water was audible a good quarter mile before they got there. When the falls were finally in sight, Sansa turned and grinned at Sandor, dropped his hand and ran to the edge of the water “this is so beautiful!”
Sansa spent the next hour taking dozens of photos of the falls from every angle, including several selfies with Sandor, one of which she immediately set as the wallpaper on her phone.
Sandor watched her in amusement from his spot seated on a tree stump, eventually coaxing her to sit and have some of the picnic lunch he’d packed.
Once they’d finished, Sandor repacked the trash back into his day pack and stretched out on the blanket he’d brought, leaning back on his elbows, crossing his ankles.
Sansa took a few more photos, then collapsed next to him.
“Tired, Little Bird?”
“Not at all, it's just so peaceful here, I could lie here for hours and listen to the water.” They reclined there for several minutes just looking at the falls; suddenly Sansa turned towards Sandor, stretched up and kissed him on the hollow of his neck. Sandor groaned, turned towards Sansa, and kissed her on the mouth. Sansa wrapped her arms around Sandor’s shoulders, laid down and pulled Sandor over her, never breaking the kiss.
“Careful Little Bird, I don’t want to crush you.”
Sansa giggled “you won’t”
Sandor pressed into Sansa; kissing her lips, sweeping his tongue into her mouth, moving down her throat, kissing her collarbone, nipping and licking as he went. Sansa squirmed, and eventually wrapped her legs around his hips bringing her throbbing core closer to him. Sandor was hard as a rock, restraining himself from grinding into Sansa, but she wasn’t helping the situation.
“Sansa, please. You’re not making this whole ‘getting to know each other’ very easy”
Sansa giggled, then groaned as she came into firm contact with Sandor’s erection.
Still concerned about crushing her, Sandor rolled, pulling Sansa on top of him; once flipped, Sansa sat up and ground down on Sandor, then leaned down and pressed a hot open mouth kiss pushing her tongue into his mouth. She sat back up and pulled her t-shirt up and over her head, then pulling Sandor up into a sitting position and pulling at the hem of his shirt indicating, no demanding, that he take his off too.
“Sansa” Sandor said questionably,
“Sandor, part of us getting to know each other is physically, it’s so perfect here, we should enjoy our time alone.”
Skin to skin, with only her cotton bra covering her, Sandor tentatively explored her torso and stomach with his mouth. He kissed a necklace across her collar then nipped down to her breasts, latching onto her nipple through her bra, licking and sucking until the nipple came to a hard point. Once accomplished he moved to the other one licking and sucking that one too.
Sansa had flung her head back enjoying the sensation of Sandor’s mouth combined with his cock pressed against her core; she rubbed against him trying to get enough friction to ease her arousal.
Sandor’s hands came up and gripped her hips, stopping her motion “Sansa I want to fuck you so badly, and as beautiful as it is here, our first time shouldn’t be on the ground in the middle of the woods.”
Sansa blinked, slowly regaining some composure. “You’re right Sandor, but I want you...I want this so much, I’m aching for you.”
Sandor smiled “let me see if I can help you out.” Sandor rearranged them so that Sansa was seated between Sandor’s legs with her back to his chest, both of them facing the waterfall. Sandor brought his hands around to pinch and roll Sansa’s nipples between his fingers, all the while kissing, licking and nibbling on her neck and ear.
“Do you want more, Little Bird?” At her affirmative nod, he unbuttoned and unzipped her jeans. He slowly moved his hand down her belly, into her sensible cotton panties and slid his fingers through her sopping wet slit. Concentrating on her hard, inflamed bundle of nerves he rubbed her clit, gathering her wetness as he went.
Sansa groaned, panted, and writhed under his attention “Sandor, please, I’m so close” suddenly throwing her head against his shoulder, arching her back and shouting “Sandor” as he felt her whole lower half throb in orgasm.
The walk back from the waterfalls was quiet, introspective. Each marveling at the turn the day had taken.
Sandor hoped he hadn't moved too fast, or taken advantage of Sansa; he didn't think he had, but he didn't have a lot of experience trusting his instincts.
Sansa, for her part, was dazed by Sandor; not only had he given her the most mind-blowing orgasm, but he hadn't expected anything in return. Once she had come back to her senses, which admittedly took some time, Sansa had reached for the button on Sandor's jeans, planning to return the favor; but was surprised when Sandor stilled her hand.
"Little Bird, I didn’t do that to get something in return, I did that because I wanted to. I wanted to give you some relief. I wanted to watch you fall apart. I wanted to hear you scream my name. Believe me, THAT was enough.”
Sansa giggled in embarrassment but stopped when Sandor lifted her chin with his finger, looked into her eyes, kissed her and commented “If I have my way there is going to be lots of opportunities for you to get the same reaction out of me, but for today, kissing is enough.” He smiled and kissed her again.
They gathered up their day packs, the remainder of their picnic lunch, and after another few minutes of Sansa taking pictures of the waterfalls, Sandor wove their fingers together and they set off back to Clegane Keep. As they walked down the trail, Sansa would drop Sandor's hand every once in a while, snap another picture with her phone, then quickly re-grasp it when she was done.
An hour or so later they arrived back at the front door of the Keep to discover Arya and Pod carrying some of the pieces Sandor had worked on from the workshop into the Keep.
“What are you doing?” Sandor asked the pair
Eyeing their clasped hands, Arya replied “We’ve been taking pictures of some of the finished pieces in the rooms, they look great! We just have a few more to stage, then we're done. You got alot done yesterday while we were out, didn't you? I think your classes are going to be very popular”
Sandor flushed remembering how his pissed off state had fueled his work the day before.
"Do you want to see where we put the stuff?" Pod asked. Sandor grunted affirmatively and he and Sansa followed them into the Keep.
Sandor had to admit, the pieces fit right into the rooms that Pod and Arya had selected. The cherry breakfast tray looked like it had always been in the room with the big, dark Victorian furniture; although he did wonder why the bed wasn’t made but decided that we wouldn’t ask because he was sure Arya would just give him some artsy explanation that he wouldn’t understand.
Sansa too, was impressed with how appropriate everything looked. Some of the pieces ended up being placed in rooms she hadn’t seen on the tour with Pod, and she was pleased to see there was a room where the wedding gown would fit right in. She decided that she would need to ask Sandor or Pod later where she could take the dress to get professionally cleaned.
“You’ve all done an amazing job!” gushed Sansa. “Pod and Arya, you found the perfect pieces to highlight Sandor’s talent. And you Sandor, I can’t believe you were able to rehabilitate all these pieces so beautifully in just one day, it’s incredible!”
Sandor and Pod both flushed and smiled embarrassedly at Sansa’s compliment, while Arya just rolled her eyes. “Don’t rest on your laurels boys, we still have a ton of work to get this website up and running” Arya commented with a smirk.
The group trooped back to the main level of the house, where Arya and Sansa compared photos they had taken. Arya explained to Sansa how they had taken photos of the rooms without the object, taken photos of the object in the workshop both before and after they had been worked on by Sandor, and finally took photos of the object in the room.
For her part, Sansa showed Arya the photos she had taken on the hike to and at the waterfalls. “Arya, it’s so beautiful there, even if I managed to take a picture you think is okay for the website, you should really go and see it.”
Arya nodded in agreement, then laughed at the dozens of selfies Sansa had taken of she and Sandor at the waterfalls. “are these for the website too?” Arya asked.
Sandor and Sansa both flushed and shot each other secret smiles at that remark.
“No of course not.” Sansa retorted, then softened and smiled “we were having such a good time, I wanted to remember it. Besides, I’m sure if I looked at your phone right now, there would be some selfies of you and Pod, right?”
Sensing it was time to change the subject, Pod interrupted with the comment “Sansa, I was going to make us meat pies for dinner tonight, would you like to learn how to make them? I still need to practice teaching, and since Arya still has pictures to take and Sandor has never wanted to learn to make anything no matter how often I offer, you’re my only option. Besides I need to prove to you that I can make them.” he concluded with a smile
Sansa squealed “I would love to, let's go!”
Pod and Sansa made their way into the kitchen without a backward glance, started pulling pots and pans out of the cabinets, and talking a mile a minute to each other about pastry, types of meat, spices and cooking times.
Sandor and Arya looked at each other and shrugged “well, Sandor, I guess that means you’re my photographer’s assistant for the rest of the day, let’s leave them to it, and we can get a few more pieces photographed before we lose the light.”
Sandor nodded in assent and followed Arya out of the Keep to the workshop. When they arrived, Sandor noticed that things had been rearranged so that Arya could take pictures of the pieces with a white background. The pieces he had finished working on were lined up ready to be photographed. “So, what do you want me to do?” he asked her.
Arya whirled around to look at Sandor “well first of all, I know what Sansa thinks is going on, but I want you to tell me what exactly YOU think is going on between you and my sister, AND I need you to promise me you’re not going to break her heart, because if you do, you’ll have me, then my four brothers then my father to answer to.”
Sandor stood with his hands on his hips, looking down bemusedly at Arya. "What makes you think I'm going to tell you anything? What's going on between us is our business, not yours."
Arya scowled up at him "look, Sansa has been through a lot, if this goes badly, I don't know how she'll come back from it. Up until last week she had the rest of her life all planned out, even if I thought Harry was a complete dick, she seemed to love him, and his betrayal was like a punch to her gut. Can you imagine what it was like for her to walk into her apartment and see him having sex with someone else? Can you understand how that made her feel?"
Sandor's eyes softened, he got it, Arya was only trying to protect Sansa. Their relationship was so different then his and Gregor's, and his sister Nell had died when he was so young; he just wasn't used to any sort of supportive sibling relationship.
"I promise you, I would never do anything to hurt Sansa. This isn't a fling to me, but if she decides that's all she wants I'll accept her decision. I won't be happy about it, but I won't make her feel guilty either. We talked and we want to get to know each other and see where this thing leads. And let me tell you I'm already nervous about that, I could fall in love with her tomorrow, I'm halfway there already and I've only known her for a few days. I'm trying to not come on too strong or scare her."
Arya nodded, as if agreeing with everything Sandor told her. "Okay, since we seem to understand each other, let's get to work. I want to get this done so that I can have a meat pie."
Sandor threw his head back and laughed "Aye, let's get started."
Arya and Sandor worked together for the next few hours, Arya barking orders and Sandor surprisingly following without complaint. They were able to photograph the last few items, both in the workshop and in the Keep, before Sansa found them to let them know that they only had about 30 minutes before it was time to eat.
Arya went back to her cottage to freshen up, and Sandor decided to take a quick shower before dinner. Everyone reconvened in the large kitchen of the Keep to see how well Sansa had done in her first cooking class with Pod.
Arya and Sandor entered the kitchen to find both Pod and Sansa smiling and pink cheeked. Obviously pleased with her work, Sansa grabbed Sandor's hand and tried to pull him further into the room.
"Sandor and Arya, come and taste, Pod is such a good teacher, I can't wait for you to see how I've done."
Sandor chuckled and willingly allowed her to pull him into the room. "It looks delicious Little Bird, should I just shove one in my mouth now, or is it okay if I sit down first?" Sansa flushed redder and laughed merrily.
Pod interjected "Sansa did a great job, sit down before they get cold." Arya and Sandor quickly sat at the kitchen table and Sansa brought over a platter of meat pies, while Pod pulled a variety of drinks out of the refrigerator.
Sandor and Arya felt like insects as Pod and Sansa intently watched them as they served themselves then each took a bite. "Well?" Sansa asked anxiously.
"Little Bird, this is delicious, it may be better than Pod's." Sansa blushed to her roots, while Pod feigned outrage, then laughed when Sansa murmured an apology to him.
"Don't worry Sansa, I'm not upset that he likes yours better than mine. I'm sure Arya will like mine better anyway."
Arya looked at him askance "I don't know Pod, these are pretty good. Maybe Sansa will have to teach the cooking classes instead of you."
Everyone laughed as Pod fake pouted. The meal was a raucous affair as Pod, Arya and Sandor all took turns telling Sansa about the different photo shoots, both Pod and Sandor waving their arms about and grousing about what a harsh taskmaster Arya was. Arya, for her part, complaining about the lack of professionalism on the part of her two assistants. This was said with a smile since both Sandor and Pod had done everything she'd asked without question.
After finishing dinner and washing and putting away all the dishes, pots and pans; Arya announced that she and Pod were going back to his cottage to edit photos. Also, saying that Sansa shouldn't wait up, since Arya wasn't sure when or if she'd be back to their cottage. Pod, whose face was now bright pink with embarrassment, allowed Arya to pull him out of the kitchen and out of the Keep, leaving Sandor and Sansa staring after them.
"Well, that was, umm, I don't know, what was that?" Sandor asked, quirking his eyebrow at Sansa.
"I think that was Arya letting us know the status of her relationship, or whatever they're calling it, with Pod." Sansa replied with a giggle.
"So Little Bird, we've already had the dinner portion of the evening, which you ended up making, again; should we continue our Scotland through movies trend, or did you want to see something else?"
Sansa stared at her feet for a moment and bit her lip. Looking up at Sandor and smiling "well, we can put a movie on if you'd like, but I thought we'd talk and... other stuff" she concluded as a blush infused her cheeks.
Sandor stared at her dumbfounded. "Sansa, what are you saying?"
Sansa looked at him, then realizing what he thought she'd implied, her eyes widened "Oh, not that. Not yet. But you wouldn't be against some kissing would you?" She added with a smile.
Sandor barked out a laugh "no Little Bird, I definitely would NOT be against some kissing." He swooped in and picked up Sansa bridal style and bounded up the steps to the den. Sansa squealed, then wrapped her arms around his neck, and peppered his neck, cheek and ear with kisses.
Sandor deposited Sansa on the couch, she laid down and scooted over against the back of the couch to make room for him. Sandor slowly lowered himself down next to her, careful not to crush her. As they lay facing each other, Sansa smiled and looped her arms around Sandor's neck and leaned her face closer to his "hi" she said then tilted her head and kissed him.
Sandor groaned and deepened the kiss, slipping his tongue into her mouth. With one arm around her waist, he placed the other on the back of her thigh and pulled her flush against him.
Sansa suddenly shifted, pushing Sandor on his back, then pulling herself up and on top of him. Humming, she pressed herself against Sandor's rock hard erection. Had he not been so turned on, Sandor might have been embarrassed.
They continued to kiss, eventually, Sandor's hand drifted from her thigh, up over her ass and under her shirt, marveling at how soft her skin felt under his rough fingertips. Sansa reached back and unhooked her bra, then wove her arms back around his neck, digging her fingers into his hair, her mouth never leaving his.
Sandor rubbed his fingers along Sansa's spine, then drifted to the front, cupped her breast then tweaked her nipple. Sansa groaned, pulled away from Sandor and sat up and pulled her shirt and bra up and over her head and threw them on the floor. As she had done earlier in the day, Sansa pulled at his shirt, obviously indicated she wanted it off, and Sandor sat up and quickly complied.
Still sitting up, Sandor wrapped his lips around her nipple; sucking and licking and nibbling until Sansa arched and begged him for more. He flipped them so Sansa was beneath him on the couch.
“Little Bird, promise me that if you want to stop, you’ll tell me, I promise I won’t be mad.” Sansa nodded in agreement and Sandor placed hot wet open mouth kisses on her stomach, neck, then finally lips.
Sansa was completely aroused by how the hair on Sandor’s chest felt against her, she rubbed against him bringing her nipples to hard pebbles.
Sandor moved back down Sansa’s torso, equally dividing his efforts between her two breasts. Kissing, licking, sucking and whichever breast was not in his mouth, he fondled and pinched with his fingers.
Sansa squirmed beneath him, groaning and arching at the attention. "Sandor, would it be okay if I stayed here with you tonight?" She asked breathlessly.
Sandor pulled back to look Sansa in the eyes "are you sure Little Bird?" At her affirmative nod, Sandor lifted himself off Sansa and the couch, and held his hand out to her "why don't we move somewhere more comfortable. I know we slept here last night, but I think a bed might be better for our backs, what do you think?"
Sansa picked their clothes up off of the floor, pulled her sweatshirt over her head and smoothed it down over her hips and shoved her bra in the center pouch, smiled up at him and grabbed his hand "you WERE a good pillow last night, but maybe we should try using an actual pillow tonight."
I did mention slow burn, right?
Some Podrya and Sansa fluff.
Thank you to everyone that has stuck with this. I know its been a sloooooow burn, but falling in love takes time. We're getting there, I promise.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Previously: Arya announced that she and Pod were going back to his cottage to edit photos. Also, saying that Sansa shouldn't wait up, since Arya wasn't sure when or if she'd be back to their cottage. Pod, whose face was now bright pink with embarrassment, allowed Arya to pull him out of the kitchen and out of the Keep.
Arya burst into laughter as soon as she and Pod exited the Keep.
"What's so funny?"
"Well first of all, the expression on your face when I announced we were leaving was priceless."
Pod grimaced "Well, having you announce to my boss that we were having sex tonight was a little disconcerting."
"I did not announce that we were having sex. All I did was give Sansa a reason NOT to come back to the cottage tonight. You saw how they were with each other. Besides I had a conversation with Sandor about what was going on between them, and I am all for them spending time together."
"Are you editing photos tonight?"
"Are you staying in my cottage tonight?"
"Are we having sex tonight?"
Wiggling her eyebrows, Arya responded "Oh hell yes"
"That's why I looked the way I did, Sandor knows I'm having sex tonight."
Arya burst into laughter again. "Okay, you have a point, why don't I go get my stuff and I'll meet you in your cottage in a few minutes."
After stopping to get her laptop, camera, toothbrush and a change of clothing, Arya headed down the path outside the kitchen door to Pod's blue door, which she found ajar. Pushing it open she saw Pod gathering up the papers scattered across his dining room table and snapping his laptop closed.
Hearing the door open, Pod swung around to look at her. "Hey, I was just making some room for you to work. What else do you need?"
"Umm, maybe just a power strip."
Pod nodded and cleared space for her, commenting "I'll just get started on some of those forms we got from Ros, while you work on your computer."
They each worked on their individual projects for about an hour. Arya, every so often swinging her laptop around to show Pod a draft of the webpage she was working on, but other than muttering to themselves about something, the room was silent.
Eventually Arya felt she'd exhausted all her creativity for the evening; she began to disconnect her camera and smartphone from her laptop and power down the device.
Pod, noticing Arya's movement, raised an eyebrow at her "all done for the night?"
A smile spread over Arya's face "well I'm done editing photos anyway."
Pod smiled back at her "well I guess we have to have sex now, since that's what my boss thinks we're doing anyway."
Arya threw back her head and laughed "well I guess we do."
Meanwhile back at the Keep
Previously: "Sandor, would it be okay if I stayed here with you tonight?"
Arriving at Sandor's bedroom, Sansa suddenly found herself unsure. More than anything, she wanted to spend the night in Sandor's arms, but she wasn't quite ready for the next step. The whole situation was so odd, Sansa honestly felt as though she'd known Sandor for much longer than just a few days; but, she didn't want to make any missteps. Whatever this was with Sandor was too important to screw up by going too fast. She felt it was too soon for them to make love, no matter how much they both may want to.
Noticing her uncertainty, Sandor determined to set her mind at ease. "Little Bird, I can't wait to sleep with you in my arms, but I think you need something other than your sweatshirt and jeans to sleep in, do you want a t-shirt?"
Sansa smiled gratefully at Sandor. "That would be great, thank you."
Sandor reached in his chest of drawers, pulled out a t-shirt and tossed it to her. "I'm going to go brush my teeth Little Bird, I'll be right back." He grabbed a pair of track pants and headed into the bathroom.
Sansa stripped down to just her underpants and looked at the t-shirt before putting it on. It was black almost faded to gray, impossibly soft and obviously an old concert shirt. Thundersoup? She'd never heard of them, maybe they were a band that was only popular in Scotland, she'd have to ask Sandor about it later.
Sansa had climbed up into the bed and slipped between sheets when Sandor came back into the room. He was shirtless, with his track pants sitting low on his hips. Looking at the expanse of his chest and shoulders, Sansa felt her resolve slipping.
Breaking the tension Sandor looked at Sansa and quipped "now Little Bird, be careful with that t-shirt, it's one of my favorites and the band broke up years ago, so I can't get another one."
Sansa lifted the sheet up for Sandor to slip into the bed next to her and replied "you don't have to worry about me ruining it, you should be more worried about me stealing it."
They settled in the bed, Sansa tucked up under Sandor's arm with her head on his chest. She raked her fingers through his chest hair, stopping to feel the scars that littered his front. She was curious, she guessed it had something to do with his brother; but she knew that Sandor would tell her about them in his own good time.
Sansa placed warm open mouth kisses on his scars, working her way from his chest to his neck and eventually looping her arms around Sandor's neck and tilting her head up to look him in the eyes.
Sandor groaned out her name, leaned down and kissed her hard, pushing his tongue inside her mouth.
They kissed for several minutes, Sandor rolling them so that Sansa was flat on her back and he hovered over her, being careful not to crush her. Eventually coming up for air, Sandor slowly pulled away from Sansa's lips, finally kissing her on the nose as he pulled back to look at her.
"Little Bird, I could honestly kiss you all night, but I think we need to try to go to sleep. Who knows what your sister is going to make us do tomorrow. I'm afraid she'll want us to plan a Ceilidh so she can get photos for the website."
"It's a scottish dance where people leap around doing jigs and reels. Frankly it's bloody exhausting."
"That sounds like fun. Do the men wear kilts at these things?" Sansa asked as her eyes slid over to him.
Sandor snorted "they do."
Sansa giggled "I don't know that even Arya thought of that, I may have to mention your idea to her." Sandor rolled his eyes. "Besides, I am very anxious to see you in that Clegane tartan kilt you told me about."
Sandor puffed out a sigh "I need to keep my big mouth shut, don't I? Come here Little Bird, let's get comfortable." Sansa made herself comfortable, draped in the crook of Sandor's neck, with her arm around his torso. Sandor wrapped his arm around her shoulder and dropped a kiss on the crown of her hair.
"I hope you don't snore Little Bird, I need to get a good night's sleep."
Sansa lightly smacked Sandor in mock outrage "I don't snore...much."
Sandor barked out a laugh, turned and switched off the light, kissed the top of Sansa's head again, and squeezed her to him "sweet dreams, Little Bird."
I don't know anything about Thundersoup, other than what we all know about their former lead singer. I've seen the blurry performance on youtube; but, that's it. In my mind, Thundersoup is a band that still has a huge cult following in the Glasgow area. I don't know if they have/had t-shirts or even a logo, but in my world they do.
This is also a little bit of an homage to all those bands out there that didn't make it huge, but we're beloved in their hometowns. I'm still mad that somewhere, in my many moves over the years, I lost my Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers t-shirt! Don't know who they are? They were huge! (At least in Philly, back in the day).
Up next: the following morning and the next step in putting together a website. More photo shoots and field trips.
The group makes a plan
The Next Morning
Sansa woke up the next morning feeling as if she was pressed against a car engine. Not only was it warm, but it was rumbling.
When she finally cracked an eye open she discovered that somehow overnight she and Sandor had shifted in their sleep. Instead of cradled in his arms as she was when she fell asleep, now she was the big spoon, or more accurately a backpack clinging to Sandor's back.
Additionally she couldn't move. In his sleep, Sandor had trapped her arm that was wrapped around his torso, by holding her hand in his and pressing it against his heart. As endearing as Sansa found this, he still needed to let go, she had to pee!
"Sandor, wake up, let go of my hand, I need to get up."
"Sandor, I'm serious, let go of me, I NEED to get up."
Sandor mumbled something in his sleep, snorted then pulled Sansa's arm tighter around him. Exasperated, and a little desperate, Sansa finally poked Sandor hard in the back.
"Sandor, let go!"
Sandor, shifted in alarm, releasing Sansa's hand. "What the fuck?"
Sansa giggled "sorry, but I have to pee, and you wouldn't let go of me." She slid out of the bed, making sure the t-shirt she was wearing covered everything and went into the bathroom to do her business.
After using the toilet, finger combing her hair and using her finger (again) as a toothbrush, Sansa returned to the bedroom only to discover Sandor was no longer there,
She entered the kitchen to find that Sandor had already put the kettle on for tea and was rummaging through the refrigerator looking for something to eat. She took a moment to admire Sandor's naked back, pleased that he hadn't taken the time to cover up.
She liked how domestic this felt, she could definitely get used to waking up next to Sandor, and having him make breakfast for them. "Good morning, anything to eat in there?"
Sandor swung around to look at her, smiling at how adorable she looked dressed in his favorite t-shirt. He could definitely get used to waking up next to Sansa, and making breakfast for them.
Before Sandor had the chance to respond to her, the kitchen door banged open and Arya and Pod entered. Taking in the scene, Pod immediately averted his eyes, whereas Arya rolled hers and quipped "Jesus Christ, put some clothes on, I don't need to see all that."
Sandor grunted and Sansa shot back "Arya, you're the one that barged in, besides everything is covered. Don't be such a prude." She concluded with a smirk.
Arya rolled her eyes again. Looking at Sansa's attire "Thundersoup, what the fuck is that?"
At that Pod joined the conversation "hey, don't mock Thundersoup, they were an awesome band, I still can't believe they broke up. I have that same t-shirt in my cottage, it's one of my favorites."
Realizing she was outnumbered, Arya made a derisive noise in the back of her throat "whatever" and sat down at the kitchen table. "So Pod and I had some time in between other activities to talk about what we needed to do to finish the website, and I have a list of tasks that we need to split up between the four of us."
Sansa wrinkled her nose "I don't even want to KNOW what those other activities were."
Arya chuckled while Pod looked mortified "get your mind out of the gutter Sansy, I was talking about editing photos." Arya wiggled her eyebrows "but the other activities were fun too. Anyway, there are a bunch of places I want to get some pictures of, and we need to decide who is going where."
"Yea, places that could be a day trip from here. I think a really good selling point is Clegane Keep as a jumping off point to see Scotland. I want to highlight the village, of course, but there are lots of other things to do and see."
Sandor was impressed by the thought Arya had put into this, "what places did you have in mind?"
"Well, obviously Loch Ness, I know it's far, but if you're marketing to tourists, it is a big draw and doable in a day. Stirling Castle, Loch Loman, the Pipers Museum in Glasgow, some of the nearby distilleries, and isn't the Monty Python Castle around here somewhere?"
Sandor let out an exasperated sigh "Yes, Doune Castle; Christ on the cross, 600 years of history and you call it the Monty Python castle. What about the Antonine Wall? Shouldn't that be on the list? It's the northernmost point of the Roman Empire? Everyone should want to see that."
"Calm down Braveheart, isn't that just a ditch?" Arya asked mischievously,
"It doesn't matter that it's just a turf fortification, the Romans never got further north…" Sandor stopped speaking as he noticed that Arya, Pod and even Sansa were struggling to hold back laughs at his impassioned speech. "Oh, piss off." He bit out grumpily.
Arya turned to her sister "so Sansy, I thought the 4 of us could go to Loch Ness together, you know make a day of it, but is there anything on the list you really, really want to see?"
"Well obviously the Antonine Wall" Sansa said with a grin. Her eyes sliding over to Sandor..
"Oh, piss off" Sandor said with a fake pout
Sansa laughed "I dunno, I really hadn't thought I'd be up to sightseeing when we got here, but I think definitely Stirling Castle. It's too bad Culloden is so far away, I'd really like to see that while I'm here."
" While I'm here " hearing Sansa say that was like a knife to Sandor's heart. He didn't want to be reminded that in a few weeks this would all be over. Rather than spiral down into a self loathing, and 'why me' depression, Sandor determined to make the best of the situation.
Ever practical, Pod piped up "why don't we put together a chart and figure out what days to do what, and who should visit where. That way nothing falls between the cracks."
Sansa smiled at Pod "at least one of us is organized; if you can find me a pad of paper and a pen, I'll write everything down."
Thirty minutes later the group had a plan. Today was reserved for Pod's scone making photo shoot, which Pod was definitely not excited about; while that was happening, Sansa and Sandor would go to Glasgow and visit some of the local sites, including the Piper's Museum.
Sansa got up out of the chair and started upstairs.
"Where are you going, Little Bird?"
"I have to get my clothes upstairs and then go back to my cottage and take a shower. I should have brought clean clothes with me last night. Give me 45 minutes and I'll be ready."
Sandor thoughtfully watched Sansa go and turned to Pod, "can we talk a little business while I'm waiting for Sansa?"
They both turned to look at Arya who waved them off "Don't worry about me, I'll just sit here and finish up my tea"
Pod followed Sandor into the next room. "I assume Arya stayed at your cottage last night?" At Pod's affirmative nod, Sandor commented "we need to refund whatever money they've paid to stay here. I know they didn't prepay, but they probably paid a deposit, right? Besides the obvious reasons , it's just not right that we're charging them, especially when neither one of them has been staying in their cottage, I just didn't even think about it until right now"
Pod nodded again, and with a tortured look replied "I'll get right on it as soon as my photo shoot is done"
Sandor barked out a laugh "I'd feel bad for you if I hadn't had my own torture yesterday. Off you go, Arya probably wants you to go through hair and makeup, and pick out your wardrobe."
Sandor waved Pod off as he headed back to the kitchen for his less than fun day. He wondered if there was a chance that Sansa would consider moving all her stuff from her cottage to the Keep for the remainder of her stay. Maybe he could broach the topic today.
Sandor and Sansa take a field trip to Glasgow
Pod and Arya turned to look at him “I’m trying to create some atmosphere here, but Pod is insisting that the place look pristine. I want people to think they can make a mess, and not get in trouble. When you bake at home you make a mess, this should look like home.”
Changing the topic, Sandor questioned Arya about what he and Sansa should be looking for while they are in Glasgow. “Don’t worry too much, Sansa has an excellent eye, I know she’ll take good pictures. I really want stuff that is unique to Glasgow, something that will intrigue people to want to go there, and want to stay here when they do.”
Hours later Sandor had to admit that Sansa did have an excellent eye. He'd grown up in the area and it would have never occurred to him to take some of the photos that she had. They’d gone all over the city seeing as much as they could. Sansa had never been to Glasgow before, but it was obvious she’d done some research and she insisted on seeing several places that Sandor had never even heard of before.
They’d gone to the Piper's Museum, but also the botanical gardens, farmers market, some rehabbed into multi-use old factory buildings and Sansa even took pictures of some of the murals that had sprung up in the years Sandor had been away from Scotland.
They’d also shopped. Sansa commented that this was the perfect opportunity to get gifts for her family; a beautiful tartan wrap for her mother, a tweed hat for her father, scotch whiskey for Rob and Jon, an antique book on the works of Robert Burns for Bran and beginner bagpipes for Rickon. Sandor quipped that her mother wouldn’t thank her for that last purchase. Sansa giggled and agreed.
Driving back to the Keep that night, Sandor marveled at how Sansa had shown him so many things in his hometown that he had never bothered to see before. He’d never enjoyed Glasgow as much as he did today.
Sansa hummed to herself as they sped down the road, “Maybe we’ll have time to go back there again, I would love to visit some of the vintage and thrift shops in town; maybe I could even find my own Thundersoup shirt so I won’t have to steal yours.”
Sandor laughed and glanced over at her affectionately “You can steal whatever you want Little Bird, I won’t stop you.” Remembering what he wanted to ask her today, he cleared his throat nervously, "uhh, Little Bird?”
“yes, I thought it might be more convenient for you, I mean you’re spending so much time there, and if your clothes and stuff were in the Keep you wouldn’t have to leave to go to the cottage to shower and change every morning. You could have your own room, hell, you could have your pick of rooms, any one that you want.” Sandor could tell that he was babbling, but he just couldn’t stop himself, whatever he could say to get her to agree, he’d say.
Sansa smiled up at him “that sounds like a great idea. I’m pretty sure that Arya is eventually going to move her stuff into Pod’s cottage, and I wasn’t looking forward to staying by myself, but I didn’t want to be too forward with you.”
Sandor could feel all the oxygen leaving his body, she wanted to stay with him, in his bed? Try as he might to be cool about the situation, he found himself grinning like a fool at Sansa. “well if you want to stay there, you can.”
Sandor explained the argument that Pod and Arya were having about how the kitchen should look, and Sansa replied that while the idea of making a mess sounded like a good idea, she had to agree with Pod and the health codes.
Pod and Arya were nowhere to be seen, but fortunately whatever compromise they’d come to in regards to the kitchen, it was clean now and everything was put away except a plate of scones that were on the counter.
She was completely okay with Sansa moving out of the cottage, in fact she had planned to have the same conversation with her tonight because she and Pod had talked about her moving her stuff into his cottage.
“I’m not surprised, are you?” Sansa shook her head no. “Well Little Bird, how about I clear some drawers in my bureau for you, and you go start packing your suitcase. I'll be down to the cottage in a few minutes and we can bring everything back. Does that sound okay?” Sandor was relieved to see Sansa nod in agreement.
Later that night Sandor was in the bathroom brushing his teeth. They'd made quick work of moving Sansa's stuff to the Keep. Sandor had happily given up space in his closet and his bureau, and Sansa had carefully put everything away.
Now, she was fast asleep; in his bed, in his Thundersoup t-shirt. Looking around the room, he was surprised how different it now looked. Sure, all his stuff was still there, but now there were brushes and hair do-dads and makeup and most heartwarming (in Sandor's mind) a second toothbrush in the holder.
He liked the changes to this room, but he liked the changes to his bedroom even better. Sandor finished up in the bathroom, slipped into bed and wrapped an arm around Sansa and pulled her closer to his chest. He could definitely get used to this. Now all he had to do was figure out a way to make it permanent.
The group visits Loch Ness and Loch Lomond, and someone from Sansa's past shows up at the Keep.
The group visit more of the surrounding area.
Some references to violence.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The next several days were incredibly busy for the two couples.
Every morning Arya and Pod and Sansa and Sandor would gather in the Keep's kitchen for breakfast and a discussion about what needed to be accomplished. The two couples would then separate for the day to their individual tasks.
Sansa loved learning more about Scotland. When they had divided up the activities, she had jumped on the idea of seeing the historic sites. She knew Arya wouldn't be interested, but she definitely was.
Sansa took hundreds of photos at both Stirling Castle and Doune Castle; and scribbled dozens of pages of notes based on what the docents had said during the tours.
She'd even convinced Sandor to show her where the Antonine Wall was located. Sansa took photos and did some covert independent research so she could surprise him with an image and description on the website.
While Sandor and Sansa were immersed in the history of the area, Pod and Arya took charge of the natural sites. Backpacking through beautiful meadows and forests; and while Sansa didn't accompany them there, she was able to write compelling descriptions based solely on Arya's breathtaking images.
The group's field trip to Loch Ness was a resounding success. Starting off early in the morning the group arrived before the tour buses showed up. They were able to tour the museum, view the lake and even get their photos taken with a costumed 'Nessie' all before lunch.
Sitting on a blanket eating the sandwiches that Pod packed, it was agreed that the area was lovely and well worth a visit, even though it was a huge tourist trap. Pod commented that it was nice to get this far out of the city, but he still preferred Loch Lomond to here. The sunsets were beautiful there, and it was a perfect spot to watch the northern lights in the late autumn. Sansa and Arya swung around and looked at Pod accusingly.
"Why would you tell us that when you know we won't be able to see them?" Arya snapped, while Sansa made a whining noise in the back of her throat.
Hoping to diffuse the situation, Sandor came to Pod's rescue with the comment "I guess you'll have to come back later this year."
Somewhat appeased. Sansa and Arya settled back on the blanket to finish their lunch, although Sansa grumbled that Sandor and Pod were going to have to buy them huge ice cream cones and maybe one of those deep fried candy bars that she'd heard about as an apology.
The ride back towards Glasgow was quiet, although Arya did request that they stop from time to time so she could take photos of the landscape.
At one roadside pull off they encountered a man dressed in full highland regalia playing the bagpipes. When Sansa asked if this was unusual, Pod replied that he was there for the tour buses; the group still stayed and listened for a while, then dropped some money in his tip bin before they got back in the car to return to Clegane Keep.
'Control central' for the entire operation was the dining room in the Keep. Arya and Sansa set up their laptops on the huge table and spent hours each day editing photos and writing text.
Both felt they were doing some of their best work; Sansa was excited to write again, not just fix Harry's work or write a press release for some event she cared nothing about. While Arya didn't have any professional experience before this, she already knew that nothing she would do in the future would mean as much to her as this.
They would usually work late into the evenings, getting as much done as they could while the experiences were still fresh in their minds. Eventually Arya would leave to spend the night with Pod while Sansa would go upstairs to get ready for bed.
Sansa knew that Pod and Arya were having sex, lots of it. But Sandor and Sansa hadn't gone any further physically than they had that day at the waterfall, not that Sansa didn't want to, she did. But they had agreed to get to know each other and not rush into anything, so she would try and be patient.
Every night as she slipped into bed, and Sandor pulled her tight against his chest and pressed his face into her hair Sansa felt a longing in her chest to blurt out to Sandor that she was falling in love with him. Logically it was too soon, but in her heart Sansa knew that Sandor was meant for her, and that everything both of them had gone through in their lives led them to be here together. They just needed to figure out how to make it work permanently.
One evening Pod packed a basket of food, and blankets and the quartet went to Loch Lomond for a picnic dinner to watch the sun set. It was the perfect way to end a day. Arya took dozens of pictures of their picnic set up on a tartan blanket with the lake in the background and the sun just beginning to dip.
The group enjoyed a delicious dinner that Pod had made and reclined on the blankets just soaking up the final minutes of daylight. As the sun finally set it was well after 9:00 pm; Arya tried her best to capture it on film as Sansa scribbled notes to herself. She wanted to remember how she felt right at that moment when she was trying to craft the description for the website.
Suddenly, in a beautiful tenor voice, Pod began to sing Loch Lomond. Sansa immediately stopped writing, and snuggled closer into Sandor's chest to listen. Arya too stopped what she was doing; and while she started out cynical at the cheesiness of it all, by the second verse when Sandor joined in with his raspy baritone Arya felt a lump in her throat. That however was nothing compared to Sansa, who had tears streaming down her face. It was perfect, this was perfect. Both Sansa and Arya longed for this to be permanent.
Another quiet ride back to the Keep, Pod driving with Arya next to him in the front seat, while Sandor and Sansa snuggled in the back dozing. They arrived at the gates to the Keep to find a car parked in front blocking the entrance.
Pod and Sandor exited the car, and Pod tapped on the driver's side window to wake up the occupant.
"Can I help you mate?" Pod asked as a tall blond man got out of the car and stretched.
"Yea, I was told I could find Sansa Stark here, do you know where she is? I've been waiting here for hours for someone to show up, is that anyway to run a business?" He added snidely.
Sandor narrowed his eyes at the man; tall, good looking, pompous, privileged, faded bruises on his face. If he had to guess he'd bet this was that tosser Harry. "Who are you, and what do you want with Sansa?" He asked.
Before he reply, Sansa and Arya tumbled out of the car, glaring at the man and Sansa bit out "what the fuck are you doing here Harry?"
"Sansa, I've been looking for you for almost two weeks, if it hadn't been for those charges in your credit card in Glasgow, I'd still be looking."
Sansa narrowed her eyes, "how do you know about my credit card charges? And how did you find me out here, we're 45 minutes outside the city? Did you hire someone to find me?"
Harry flushed at being caught "it's not important how I found you. Only that I did. Is there somewhere private we can go to talk?"
"No, anything you have to say to me, they can hear."
Harry looked pissed, but pressed on "Sansa, I'm sorry about what happened, I panicked about getting married and Myranda took advantage of me."
"You have GOT to be kidding me, from what I saw that night, it didn't look like you were being taken advantage of at all, it looked like you were being ridden like there was no tomorrow, and you looked like you were enjoying it"
Sandor, Arya and Pod watched cautiously; not sure if they should stay or go. Waiting for Sansa to tell them what to do; but secretly enjoying watching Harry squirm.
"Sansa, please, I know I've screwed up, but you have to give me another chance, I'll do anything to make it up to you."
Sansa snorted. "Let me guess, there have been some complaints that you're not producing as much as usual, that your writing isn't as good. Am I close?"
Harry grunted non-commitedly. "I'm not sure what you mean by that."
"You don't miss me, you miss what I did for you. You probably only proposed so that you'd have a built in copy editor for life. You didn't love me, you loved that I could fix your shitty writing."
"Sansa, that's not true, I…"
"What happened to your eye?"
"What do you mean?"
"Looks like you had a black eye."
"Oh, and your nose?"
"Hmmm, well I guess I have to get them both better presents than what I bought them in Glasgow; you know, with my credit card" she added snarkily.
"No Harry, you listen. We're done, we should have been done a lot sooner than we were, but now we are. Now, I would appreciate it if you'd get your cheating ass back in that car and get the fuck out of here. I have a life to live and it definitely does NOT include you."
Sandor stepped in at that point "you heard her fuckwit, piss off. If you don't leave right now, I'd be well within my rights to beat the shit out of you for trespassing."
Harry looked as though he might retort, but in the end he got back in his rental, slammed the door shut and peeled out of the driveway headed back to Glasgow.
Pod grinned at the other three, "well that was unexpected. Should we go inside and…"
Sansa interrupted "Pod, I don't mean to be rude, but Sandor and I have some things that we need to talk about, alone, in the bedroom. You two will be okay until tomorrow, won't you?"
Pod and Arya might have replied, but neither Sandor or Sansa bothered to wait for their response before Sandor swept Sansa up into his arms and carried her into the Keep.
Arya looked at Pod with a grin "looks like I won't be working on the website tonight, any ideas about what we might do to pass the time?"
"Oh I have some thoughts." He replied with an eyebrow wiggle.
So, true story; during my only trip to Scotland my friends and I were in a pub north of Glasgow one night, and had the most amazing experience. It was just a regular pub, not touristy or anything, in fact we were the only non locals there. At the end of the night, everyone in the pub started singing Loch Lomond. My reaction was a combination of Arya and Sansa. I scoffed, then got a lump in my throat, and by the end of the song I was crying. I've never seen anything like it before or since; It is my fondest memory of that trip (even better then getting my picture taken with the costumed Nessie or encountering the piper on the side of the road; both of which also happened).
Up next: Sansan lemony goodness.
Sansa interrupted "Pod, I don't mean to be rude, but Sandor and I have some things that we need to talk about, alone, in the bedroom. You two will be okay until tomorrow, won't you?"
Pod and Arya might have replied, but neither Sandor or Sansa bothered to wait for their response before Sandor swept Sansa up into his arms and carried her into the Keep.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Sandor carried Sansa bridal style all the way through the Keep to his bedroom. When he tried to put her down by releasing her legs, Sansa continued to cling to his neck, refusing to be let go.
"What are you doing Little Bird?"
"Oh, I'm kissing you" she said with a huge smile as she brought her mouth to his. Sandor wrapped his arms around her waist and held her in place kissing her back.
Sandor groaned as Sansa plundered his mouth with her tongue, it was as if she could not get enough of him. Not that he minded, Sandor would happily kiss Sansa for the rest of his life if she'd let him, but he wanted to make sure she wasn't just reacting to what had just happened. Reluctantly he broke the kiss.
"Sansa, you were badass out there with Harry. But, before this goes too far, maybe we need to talk about where we go from here. I don't want you to do something just because you're worked up from yelling at that tosser."
Sansa smiled up at him and moved her hands from around his neck to both cheeks.
"Sandor, I'm worked up, but not because of that asshole. I'm worked up because I'm looking at the man I'm falling in love with and all he wants to do is talk, talk, talk. All I want to do is make love."
Sandor's eyes widened, then he smiled "I can do other things besides talk, talk, talk."
"Oh no, me first." Sansa said with a smirk. "Clothes off, on the bed." She ordered.
"So bossy." Sandor smirked as he quickly complied, shucking everything off, and quickly pulling back the covers and centering himself on the bed.
Sansa slowly removed her own clothes, climbed on the bed and crawled on top of Sandor. Starting at his scars, Sansa open-mouth kissed Sandor all over his face and neck, ignoring his mouth entirely.
Moving to his chest she licked and sucked his nipples, moving lower as Sandor began to squirm and groan. Moving past his rock hard leaking penis, Sansa placed soft loving kisses on the scars on his thighs, then moved back up and licked both hip bones, then moving on to his scrotum, licked each testicle and gently sucked them in her mouth,
"Sansa, please, I'm going to blow."
"Well, let's do something about that." She purred then wrapped her mouth around his cock.
Using all his will power to NOT thrust into her mouth, Sandor grabbed the sheets with his fists and squeezed his eyes shut, willing himself to not end this prematurely.
But Sansa wasn't making it easy. She ran her tongue around the tip, licking off the pre-cum. Working her way down, Sansa licked, sucked and nibbled the entire length, then once she came back up to the tip, she took as much as she could in her mouth and sucked.
"Sansa…" Sandor managed to groan out, Sansa hummed in response. "I'm close." Sansa hummed acknowledging that she heard him, but did not move. With a roar, Sandor shot a stream of hot semen into Sansa's mouth which she swallowed without missing a beat.
With a 'pop' Sansa let go of Sandor's penis, and joined him on the pillow."I've been wanting to do that since our picnic at the waterfall." Sansa said, kissing Sandor on the cheek, and snuggling into his shoulder.
"Sansa, we really have to talk. You said you're falling in love with me? I am already in love with you, and the fact that you're supposed to leave in less than a week is killing me. I can't imagine my life without you. What can we do to make this work? What do I say to make you stay? Move in with me, work with me, marry me, be with me."
Sansa turned to stare at Sandor, her eyebrows drawn together "marry you?"
"I know, I know, it's too soon. But this, us, is forever, you know that right?" At her nod he continued. "Whatever we call it, whatever we do, it's you and me for the rest of our days. No matter where we are; here, the States, as long as we're together, we'll be fine."
"You're right Sandor, this IS forever."
Sandor let out a huge sigh at her response, "Well, now that we've got that settled, I'm done talk, talk, talking." Sandor said with a wicked grin as he rose up over Sansa and leaned in and kissed her hard, pushing his tongue inside her mouth.
He kissed down her neck and nibbled on her collarbone, then moved on to her breasts, giving each nipple attention, swirling them with his tongue and sucking them to sharp points, before moving lower. She lay there, completely bare, her pubic hair soaked with desire.
Sandor settled between her legs and inhaled her scent; it was heaven. Sansa whined “Sandor, please” and Sandor realized he’d been ruminating over her mound rather than getting down to business. Flattening his tongue and throwing her legs over his shoulders, Sandor licked and sucked the length and width of her, initially spending equal time on her clit and opening. But as Sansa began to thrash, frantically rubbing into his face, Sandor focused his attention on her clit.
From the noises she was making, Sandor could tell she was close, and carefully inserted two fingers into her vagina, pumping in and out. Suddenly, Sansa arched, squeezed his head between her thighs and screamed out her orgasm.
Collapsing in a boneless heap, Sansa eventually commented "I've never experienced ANYTHING like that before, I'm not sure I can move."
"What can I say, I was inspired."
"Come up here and kiss me, I don't have the strength to pull you up here, but I do need you to kiss me RIGHT NOW."
"Bossy, bossy, bossy; I'm coming."
Sandor moved back up to the pillow, gathered Sansa in his arms and kissed her hard and long.
Sansa abruptly broke away from his mouth, "Sandor, I need you to make love to me, RIGHT NOW, in fact you should be inside me ALREADY."
"Still bossy, let me get a condom, and your wish is my command."
Sandor pulled a condom out of the bedside table, rolled it on, and immediately slid into Sansa. They both groaned and Sansa arched at the contact. They set a slow pace, forehead to forehead, wanting to savour their first time together.
As he moved in and out of her, Sandor looked deep into Sansa's eyes, seeing the love there, he felt a sting of tears in his own eyes. He never thought he'd find someone like Sansa; he thought that after what his brother had done to him all those years ago, he would be alone forever.
But here was Sansa, in his bed, making love to him; the answer to all the prayers that he would never admit to saying. His best friend, his partner, his muse, his yin, his love, his soulmate, his life, his everything.
Just one more, thanks for sticking with me.
Chapter 29: Epilogue
"Sansa, we really have to talk. You said you're falling in love with me? I am already in love with you, and the fact that you're supposed to leave in less than a week is killing me. I can't imagine my life without you. What can we do to make this work? What do I say to make you stay? Move in with me, work with me, marry me, be with me."
Sansa turned to stare at Sandor, her eyebrows drawn together "marry you?"
"I know, I know, it's too soon. But this, us, is forever, you know that right?" At her nod he continued. "Whatever we call it, whatever we do, it's you and me for the rest of our days. No matter where we are; here, the States, as long as we're together, we'll be fine."
"You're right Sandor, this IS forever."
Sansan and Podrya get their happily ever afters.
A final shout out to Swimmingfox whose amazing "Potential" series first introduced me to the possibility of Podrya.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
5 years later
"Pod, Sansa I'm back. Where are you?" Arya bellowed as she stumbled into the Keep dropping her bag and jacket in the entryway.
It had been an exhausting trip to the Faroe Islands to research for the new project. Arya knew that eventually she and Sansa were going to have to hire a photographer to take pictures for the websites they created, but right now she still enjoyed that part of the process. Sansa hadn't gone with her this trip, and Arya had done double duty and taken extra detailed notes so Sansa could write the text.
"Quit yelling, I can hear you."
Arya whirled around to see Sandor standing in the doorway. "How was the trip?" He asked.
"Great, beautiful, exhausting. I hope Sansy can decipher my notes to write the text. Where is she anyway?"
"She and Pod went into Glasgow, they were saying something about needing new muffin tins or cupcake tins, or something like that. You know how they are."
Arya rolled her eyes. "Yea I know how they are." Arya regarded Sandor fondly. Who would have thought this big scarred man would have such an effect on the life of her sister.
Five years ago, Sansa thought her life was over, but this cranky giant had brought her back from the abyss, and today Sansa could not be happier, and for that Arya would always be Sandor's biggest fan.
If she was honest though, Sandor had changed her life too. Arya would never forget that day when Sansa announced that she was not going back to the United States, instead she was staying here, in Scotland, with Sandor.
In the next breath, Sansa suggested that Arya consider staying too. After all, she could develop websites anywhere, including here. Pod looked at her hopefully, and Arya had to admit that was just what she wanted to do.
The first year had been a challenge. Establishing residency, setting up a business, cold calling for jobs, and millions of little details that neither of them had thought of when they were working for someone else. Now that they were the owners, they had to figure it out. Every step of the way Pod and Sandor were there to support them; whether it be carrying equipment, driving them to a job or just listening to them rant and rave about something, they were truly the best boyfriends ever.
The turning point came after the launching of Sandor's, then Jamie's, then Bronn's websites. Pod received a phone call from the village's mayor. Mayor Daenerys Targaryen requested a meeting with 'Direwolf Web' to discuss the possibility of them creating a website to raise the profile of the village with tourists and other residents of Scotland.
The village website was an overwhelming success. It brought increased business to the village AND the fledgling company and resulted in Sansa and Arya being featured on a local Glasgow TV station. Today they had the luxury of picking and choosing their projects. There was more work than the two of them could keep up with, Arya knew that the time was coming for them to hire help.
"We're home, is anyone here?" Arya heard Sansa shout from the entryway. She turned to see a visibly pregnant Sansa and Pod enter the room, followed by a toddler with a huge smile and grey eyes.
"Aunt Arya you're back, I missed you."
Arya squatted down with her arms outstretched "Oh Nell I missed you too, were you good for Mummy and Uncle Pod?"
"She was an angel." Pod replied, walking over and kissing Arya quickly on the lips. "I missed you too."
"Sansa, I can't believe you wore that shirt to the city, it's positively indecent," Arya quipped.
Sansa looked down at Sandor's favorite Thundersoup t-shirt that was stretched to bursting over her belly and grinned. "What? You know it's my favorite, besides nothing else fits me at this point."
Arya smiled back at her sister, marveling at how joyous and content she looked, then slid her eyes to look at Sandor and Sansa's wedding portrait that hung over the fireplace. She looked just as joyous and content that day too.
Sansa and Sandor hadn't planned to get married so quickly. As soon as they'd made the decision to be together, everything snowballed, and within just a few months Sansa was the new Lady Clegane.
Sansa and Arya had used their original plane tickets to return to the States, but it was only to pack up everything they needed to move to Scotland. Their plan was to spend about 3 weeks at home with their family, saying goodbye and deciding what they would need for their new lives.
Sansa had it much easier than Arya, most of her life was still in boxes from being moved out of the apartment she shared with Harry. Arya spent weeks deciding what she would need to bring with her on the plane, and what could be shipped.
One of the last things Sansa did, before she returned to Scotland, was schedule an appointment with her gynecologist. Her explanation to Arya was that she needed to be absolutely sure that she was clean, since Harry hadn't exactly been monogamous. She and Sandor were using condoms faithfully, but they really didn't want to bother with that step anymore. Besides they were going through boxes pretty quickly, Sansa added with a wink. Arya responded that she really didn't want or need to know that much about their sex life.
The appointment went fine, fortunately for all his faults, Harry had managed to use protection and stay disease free. But, to Sansa's amazement, the doctor announced that she was about 3 weeks pregnant.
Sansa argued that it wasn't possible, they'd used protection, she was on the shot, how could this happen? The doctor merely shrugged and replied that nothing, except abstinence, was 100% effective, and passed Sansa some prenatal care information.
When they did return to Scotland and Sansa broke the news to Sandor, he wanted to drive to the town hall immediately to get married. Relieved, since she didn't know how he would react, Sansa managed to convince Sandor to wait a few weeks so her family could come over and meet him and witness the ceremony.
The portrait on the wall had been Arya's gift to the couple. Sandor had begrudgingly worn his Clegane tartan kilt, with fitted black jacket, and doc martens (instead of those poncy shiny shoes, he sneered). And Sansa had, of course, worn the dress she'd found when she was in the attic that first time with Sandor. It had taken some doing to get it cleaned and altered for the ceremony, but Pod had miraculously found a seamstress to work with Sansa (and her constantly changing body) to have it ready in time.
Once the date was set, and the Stark's plane tickets to Scotland booked, the entire village got involved in planning the wedding. Bronn offered up the Pub for the rehearsal dinner the night before the ceremony, and the Baratheon's insisted that they host the reception. Uncle Ilyn surprised the couple by getting his license to perform the ceremony, which took place in the small unused stone church in the village.
The Starks arrived several days before the wedding, and immediately fit right into life in the village. Jon and Rob spent evenings at the Blackwater, while Ned and Robert Baratheon became fast friends; playing rounds of golf and discussing the latest Brexit debacle.
Pod took charge of making sure Catelyn, Bran and Rickon enjoyed themselves as well. Pod and Rickon went for long rambling hikes through the forests and streams, and Bran was given free access to the massive library at the Keep. Pod and Catelyn bonded over baking. Every morning, everyone would gather in the Keep's kitchen to see what wonderful pastries Pod and Catelyn had made for them. It was as if they'd all been family for years.
On the day of the ceremony, the church was beautiful, having been thoroughly cleaned and decorated by the women of the village. In a centuries old tradition the local women, organized by Brienne and Ros (who surprisingly held no ill will towards the Stark sisters, especially after meeting Arya's older brothers at The Blackwater), swept out years of dust, cobwebs and grime. The pew ends were swagged with lengths of the Clegane tartan and the altar was a riot of heather and thistle; chaotic but glorious.
The entire church was crammed full of villagers and Starks. As Ned walked Sansa down the aisle there wasn't a dry eye in the entire building; including the groom and his best man Pod. Tears streamed down Sandor's face as he promised to love, honor and cherish Sansa for all the days of his life. A loud sob, which turned out to be Bronn, could be heard when Sansa wiped the tears from the scarred side of Sandor's face as she clearly and loudly said her own vows.
"I'm sorry, what did you say?" Arya asked, realizing she'd missed what her sister had said to her while she was looking at the wedding photo.
"I asked if you and Pod wanted to stay here tonight instead of driving back to the village."
While Pod still worked with Sandor and managed the Keep and the other daily activities, he and Arya no longer lived on site. A year or so ago they'd purchased a small house in the village, so they could be closer to an aging Uncle Ilyn. The house was cosy, but big enough for Arya to have a room dedicated to her computer equipment.
Most of the work of Direwolf Web was still done at the Keep, with Sansa and Arya sitting side by side at laptops. But Arya liked having the flexibility to work whatever time of the day or night she wanted, without disturbing Sansa's sleep.
"Nah, we can just go home, I want to sleep in my own bed."
"Are you sure I can't tempt you? I just changed the sheets in your favorite Victorian love shack upstairs." Sansa said with a smirk.
"As tempting as that sounds, I think we'll just go home." Arya replied snarkily.
After prying Nell off Aunt Arya's legs "but I don't want you to go" Nell wailed. Pod and Arya collected her bag, and started back to the village.
"Pod, we'll really have to go to the Faroe's sometime, they're just beautiful. There's lots of hiking trails, you would just love it."
"Aye, if business ever slows down, maybe we can take a vacation there."
Arya grinned "Yea I'm almost sorry we came up with all those ideas to make Clegane Keep THE place to visit in the greater Glasgow area."
Pod glanced at Arya, picked up her hand and kissed her knuckles "it's okay. I'll take being overworked as long as I get to spend all my free time with you."
Hours later, after eating dinner, and putting Nell to bed, Sandor sat on one of the stools in the kitchen, watching Sansa put away the new pans she and Pod had purchased.
"Did you have fun in the city today?"
"Sure, it's nice to go every once in a while. I dragged Pod to a bunch of children's clothing stores, Nell is growing out of everything, and this one will be here sooner than we think." Sansa said, patting her stomach. "By the way, did you think anymore about boys names?"
"I dunno; Jamie, Rory, Cameron, Podrick?"
Sansa considered his suggestions. "I was thinking, since someday he's going to be Lord Clegane, what do you think of Alistair? after the first Lord Clegane"
"I'm thinking I shouldn't have let you research the Clegane family tree."
Sansa lightly smacked Sandor on the shoulder. "Oh, shut up, what do you really think?"
"I think that, whatever you want to do is fine with me. There would never be ANY of this if it wasn't for you, so Alistair sounds like a perfect name."
Sansa smiled up at Sandor, and cupped his cheek with her hand. "Ready for bed, Lord Clegane?"
"Wherever you go Lady Clegane, I will happily follow."
Sansa's grin widened, and she led Sandor up the stairs and to the rest of their lives.
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