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Bad Moon Rising

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c.1858

Warriors and men alike scrambled out of his path as he walked up the front steps of the Stark Mansion. Heavy shit-kicking boots moved with surprising grace as he returned from yet another assignment. Missions and assignments seemed to be one after the other these days, the hierarchy of their worlds in turmoil as leadership was continually called into question.

‘A time of flux’ the Pack leader, Eddard Stark would assure him. ‘It will pass.’

Sure, he’d merely grunt in reply, if you say so. Times were always changing, there was nothing new about that.

The gawkers, however, were an unending constant. He paid them all no mind as he moved, knowing that each one of them was scared shitless at the mere sight of him.

They’d been like that his entire adult life; staring, gaping, gasping...all of them terrified of him. He could hardly blame them, he supposed. He didn’t go out of his way for courtesies or manners, didn’t give a fuck about them, truthfully. He didn’t spend his time drinking with the other males of the pack, didn’t try to pretty himself up to impress the females. Any spare time he did have was spent training or running through the woods--those were the only two things that seemed to help him keep his mind from slipping into madness altogether.

But all of those factors fell into the sidelines in the light of the real reason they ran from him; as far as anyone knew, he was the last of his kind. An incomparable weapon. A tool of violence.

In the world of what the humans would call ‘the supernatural’, there were many things that went ‘bump’ in the night. Some were scarier than others, some were more dangerous too. Like everything else in nature, there was a hierarchy and a place for each species. While there was usually a peace between them all, that didn’t stop each group from rebelling and fighting amongst themselves.

Vampires, buggering pale little cunts that they were, could be found in dark alleys or abandoned buildings looking for a quick meal. They’d spent years hammering out their royal houses and destroying any who opposed the tyrannical rule of the ‘Great Lion’, Tywin Lannister. He’d been King for centuries now, earning his nickname through the violent way in which he tore out the throats of those who spoke against him.

Witches, mangy madwomen, the lot of them, were often in the woods of Highgarden or sifting through antique stores for items that had lost souls attached to them. Lost souls gave them power, gave them indentured servants to send to do their bidding. They tended to lean towards poison to handle their dirty work and they were always spinning their next spell.

Like their female counterparts, the Warlocks also always had their noses in spell books, but the difference was that the Warlocks were more mercenary than the Witches. No spell was ever free, they’d assure their customers, there was always a price to pay--monetary or otherwise. They never belonged to any great historical houses and travelled the realm gathering information that could be used to blackmail. They would double-cross you for a penny and he personally did all he could to avoid ever being indebted to one.

And then there were the Wolves--Werewolves if you were being picky, though they had evolved beyond the sway of the moon and were able to change whenever they liked. Shapshifters was perhaps a better term, though he didn’t care much to argue semantics. Sure there were Skinwalkers in the Southwest and feral Werebears in the Far North, but it was the Werewolf packs that were closest to the top of the supernatural hierarchy.

And the Starks were their royalty, as they had been for many centuries.

Nearly a half-century ago, he had been a lone wolf--no pun intended, hunting only to survive and doing everything that he could to avoid the politics of the supernatural and their social gatherings. He had never been a part of a formal Pack, not until the day he bent the knee to Lord Eddard Stark. He’d been asked many times why he’d sworn to House Stark after centuries of living as a ‘free man’, but he’d never shared his motives. His reasons were his and his alone. He promised his services as both a feral male and mercenary, but also as the last known ‘Berserker’ in the realm.

If there was a ‘food chain’ in the Wolf world, the ‘Berserkers’ would be at the very tip-top. There used to be more of them, nearly a dozen at one point in time, but they’d either fallen in battle, been hunted down for some little shit’s bragging rights or they had taken their own lives, unable to bear their burden any longer. They were larger, stronger, faster and more powerful than any other male Wolf, and only a few things in the world were considered more dangerous. Those things were called ‘natural disasters’.

Berserkers were the angriest bastards on the planet for the most part. They felt every emotion, good or bad, more deeply than the normal wolves and because of it they were always restless, ill at ease, walking right along the edge of sanity and madness.

The Clegane males, while not a well-known or well-respected house, were all Berserkers and the day Gregor fell in battle alongside hundreds of Scotsmen in yet another human war, Sandor became the last. Just another burden to bear, he inwardly growled, like his damned scarred face.

Grimacing as he entered the foyer proper, his movements slowed at the sight of nearly everyone in the Pack gathered in the Great Hall. All wore some shade or combination of black and a few of the women were weeping openly.

“Clegane,” the eldest Stark son, Robb, crossed to meet him. Like most of his siblings, Robb was every inch a Stark--dark hair, dark eyes and a large build that was reflected in his wolf form. He was a good strategist, if a bit naive. He was young though, only a few hundred years old, he’d grow out of his idealistic nature. Hopefully.

“Sir” he said simply as Robb spared a glance at the severed head in Sandor’s right hand, one likely dripping acidic vampire blood onto the antique marble.

“I see that Reyne gave you no trouble” Robb chuckled but the sadness in his eyes did not abate.

“None at all” he agreed. “What’s happened?” he glanced around the room.

“Come with me” Robb said, turning to walk towards the private solar at the western edge of the room. Sandor followed without question, tossing the head into the umbrella stand as he went. He’d been carrying it since White Harbor, someone else could deal with the dead bastard now.

Safely ensconced in the solar, Robb poured them each a few fingers of scotch before he leaned against the mantle. Sandor watched the younger man in silence for several minutes, wondering what sort of tragic happening had taken place while he was away.

“By now I am sure you’ve heard of the human epidemic, the one they’re calling ‘Scarlet Fever’,” Robb began. “It’s already killed thousands. Normally we don’t pay much attention to the illness of humans, after all why would we, they don’t affect us?”

Sandor nodded, “Aye.”

“But as the Bolton Pack would never have us forget, my Mother was born a human and turned into a wolf when my Father took her as his mate, she was not born ‘pure of blood’.”

“Buggering cunts” Sandor muttered.

“Myself, Arya, Bran and Rickon all took after Father in look” Robb said softly and Sandor felt his blood run cold. “But Sansa...she is so very Tully.”

“What’s happened?” Sandor asked, his voice all but a feral snarl.

“My sister has taken ill,” Robb said softly.

“Fuck.”

“There has been a steady parade of doctors and any Witch or Warlock that would answer the summons. All of them are desperate to fix her—to cure her” Robb continued. “It would seem that the beauty my Mother has gifted her with has proven to be her weakness. They do not know if she will live.”

“So all those cunts are gathered in the hall to watch their Princess die?” he growled.

“They gathered when High Warlock Petyr Baelish arrived, likely in hopes of seeing him in the flesh” Robb said and in a flash, Sandor threw his crystal tumbler into the fireplace.

“Why him?” Sandor argued. “He can’t be trusted! You know this--”

“We don’t have a choice” Robb cut in, his tone booking no argument and Sandor had no choice but to silence himself. “Whatever price he demands, if he saves her, it will be paid.”

“And if the price is Sansa?” Sandor countered.

“We will cross that bridge when we come to it---Clegane!” Robb called after him as Sandor stormed from the room, but he didn’t stop. Fury coursed through him, firing his every nerve ending and he had to escape—he had to run.

Those gathered scampered from his path as he made his way to the back of the house and out the kitchen door. The forest lay before him, dense and dark, and tonight it would provide his escape—his sanctuary.

Kicking off his boots, he didn’t bother with his clothing and simply shifted, landing on four massive paws in the grass. Pushing forward with all his fury, he ran headlong into the trees.

He was out of sight before the last tatters of his clothing fell back to earth.

 

Lord Eddard briefly looked away from his eldest daughter as a mournful howl tore through the skies beyond the mansion. He knew the cry well, it echoed the one that had torn through his heart this night.

His wife, Catelyn, was crying softly on the chair beside Sansa’s bed, both of them watching as High Warlock Petyr Baelish wove his magic. His disdain for the Warlock who had once tried to steal his wife away was obvious, but there was no other choice, Sansa must be saved.

It was a hard pill to swallow, to know that while he was the leader of the most respected and most dangerous Pack in the world, he was powerless to save his daughter. Several days ago when she’d complained of feeling dizzy, they had all looked at her in confusion. Arya had even mocked her, all of them laughing along. But when Sansa set aside her book and stood to storm from the room, they were barely able to reach her before she collapsed entirely.

Wolves weren’t susceptible to human disease--at least they’d believed that to be true, but Sansa had contracted their ‘Scarlet Fever’ and it had taken a swift and firm hold of her. She had not regained consciousness since she’d collapsed and with each passing hour, her lungs grew more and more burdened until her breathing was labored and her skin felt as if it were on fire.

It was no real secret that Sansa was his favorite child, it was the Stark family’s biggest non-secret. He had doted on her from birth, indulged and spoiled her any chance he could. While his other children were dark of hair, dark of eye and built like powerful Stark warriors, Sansa was the image of his wife, a woman he loved more than anything in this world. Seven Hells, he’d broken a dozen wolf laws just to marry Catelyn and turn her, he’d have broken a hundred more to keep her at his side forever.

Slender, delicate and beautiful, with fiery hair and a vibrant personality, Sansa was his little Princess. He knew early on that on the day he declared her able to accept suitors, every male in the realm would arrive to prove themselves worthy of her. He had once dreaded handing her to the care of another man, now he was praying for that day to arrive at all.

“I have done all that I can,” Baelish announced, turning from the bedside to wipe his hands on a linen cloth before tucking his vials and herbs back into this sleep black leather bag. While not a tall or large man, Baelish was still imposing in that he never looked perturbed. He hardly looked human at all. The only display of emotion Eddard had ever seen the man betray was the stormy night Catelyn had chosen the life of a wolf over an eternity at the Warlock’s side, and even then it had only been a small twitch of an eye.

“Thank you” Catelyn whispered, wiping her eyes. “Will she..?”

“She will live,” Baelish said simply, running his fingers over his ridiculous facial hair. Eddard had little patience for Warlocks and their schemes, but he did find it amusing that they all seemed to ‘dress the part’ of the sinister sorcerer. Though, the Witches took that fashion to the extreme. “However, she will always be weakened,” Baelish continued. “I can only restore so much. Her Stark blood is all that saved her in this.”

“You have my thanks” Eddard extended his hand to Baelish and the man carefully--coldly shook it.

“From what I know of your kind, Sansa’s best hope for a full recovery is to find a mate as strong as she is weak” Baelish closed and locked his bag. “She will be able to draw, from him, any strengths she needs.”

“She is young--” Eddard protested. Too young. Wolves didn’t develop the ability to shift until they reached their majority, approximately two centuries or so. Sansa would have been immune to this fever should it have arrived two years later than it had, the ability to shift would have made her stronger.

As it was, their eldest Robb was still learning the ropes of shifting and his role as Heir. Sansa had been excited at the prospect of finally being able to join a hunt with the rest of the pack.

His heart ached for his Little Princess.

“She has time,” Baelish assured him. “With her Mother’s beauty, I am certain that a suitable suitor will not be hard to find.” Eddard ground his teeth, doing his best to stop himself from tearing the man’s throat out.

“And children?” Catelyn asked. “Will she be able…?”

“That I cannot tell” Petyr bowed his head slightly. “As I said, a strong mate will be her best source of strength. Regardless of species, it is the strength she needs. I removed the fever from her blood, but the damage to her body was extensive.”

“Thank you Petyr, we are in your debt” Catelyn sniffled, moving to take Sansa’s hand, whispering softly to their daughter.

“Yes, I would say that you are” Baelish’s smile was far from comforting and Eddard knew that his current position was one he definitely did not want to be in.

“Your fee, we can pay---”

Baelish raised a slender hand to cut off his words, “We need not worry about it just now,” he assured. “When the time comes, I will call in the debt, but for now I am pleased to have helped such a lovely young woman” he looked to Sansa and the heat in his eyes made Eddard’s hackles rise. “She is the very image of her Mother.”

“Indeed” was all he could choke out.

“For now I will take my leave” Baelish smoothly lifted his bag and moved towards the door. His robes, a deep sinister burgundy moved like a river of blood beside him, nearly as Scarlet as the Fever he had just defeated. “Good evening, Lord Stark. Lady Catelyn.”

“Thank you” Eddard nodded and in the blink of an eye, the Warlock was gone. Silence filled the room, all that could be heard was Sansa’s ragged breaths and Catelyn’s soft whispers of assurance.

“Father” he heard Robb speaking from below the stairs.

“She will live,” Eddard informed his son, though with the supernatural hearing in the mansion, surely everyone knew by now.

“And the cost?” Robb asked.

“I don’t know,” Eddard sighed.

“He will come for her,” Catelyn said softly. “For Sansa.”

Eddard shook his head, “He cannot have her.”

“A debt must be paid” Catelyn frowned.

“I will not let him have her,” Eddard promised. “She deserves better than to be attached to the Mockingbird himself.”

“We must protect her from him,” Catelyn whispered.

“We will.”

“How?”

“I haven’t figured that out yet” Eddard admitted, crossing to his wife’s side to rest his hand on her shoulder. “One step at a time. First step is to get Sansa through this.”

“Alright” Catelyn nodded, lifting Sansa’s pale hand to her lips. “My darling girl…”

“She is a fighter,” Eddard whispered. “Like her Mother.”

“I am so sorry--”

“Stop” Eddard interjected, crouching beside Catelyn’s chair. “This is not your fault, not at all.”

“Another argument that my blood is not pure,” Catelyn whispered.

“Regardless of your birth, you are a wolf now” Eddard told her. “And the Boltons’ opinions have no place here. You have been my wife for centuries, I have loved you just as long, nothing will change that. Am I understood?”

“Yes” Catelyn gave a watery smile.

“First step, we get Sansa through this” Eddard repeated. “The rest we will take as it comes.”

“Alright” she turned back to their sleeping daughter, their fear abating with each breath that came easier to her burdened lungs.

 

“Lord Stark, I am Sandor Clegane” the deep, almost angry voice of the largest man he’d ever seen rumbled through the Great Hall.

“I admit” Eddard approached, offering his hand. The wolf King took in every detail, from the stranger's scars to the bright grey of his eyes--so cold they were almost made of ice. His beard was dark and well kept, his hair long but clean and his clothes were suitable for a man of his station, if worn. “I never thought I would see a Berserker in the flesh.”

“There are not many of us left” he replied, adjusting his shoulders as the stares of all around them settled on him. Their attention and gawking must be a heavy weight to shoulder every day, Eddard mused.

“Your brother?” Eddard prompted.

“He has been dead these two years passed.”

“I am sorry for your—-”

“Gregor was a cunt” he said on a growl. “His addiction to human savagery was his end. The world is better off without him in it.”

“As you say” Eddard agreed. “What brings you to the North?”

“Passing through” Sandor said. “I sought to pay regards and give you the courtesy of letting you know that I would be crossing your lands. Didn’t want any...misunderstandings.”

“That is appreciated” Eddard nodded. “I would insist that you join us for dinner.”

“Lord Stark--” Sandor’s words were cut off as a door opened at the back of the Great Hall and laughter danced through the room. A moment later, Sansa appeared with a book in-hand, and Eddard watched her with an indulgent smile as she gracefully moved to his side.

“Father--oh” she paused, looking up from her book to notice he was not alone. She glanced over Sandor’s form for a brief moment before she smiled at the large man. “Good afternoon!”

“Lemon Cake, this is Sandor Clegane, from the West” Eddard explained. “Clegane this is my eldest daughter, Sansa.”

“Hello, Ser Clegane” she bowed her head in greeting. “My word, you’re a Berserker, are you not?--forgive me, that was rude” Eddard noticed, however, that Sandor seemed unable to form a reply. Interesting.

“I have just invited him to join us for dinner, though I believe he was about to refuse our hospitality,” Eddard said.

“Oh, but you really should stay, Ser Clegane” Sansa smiled up at him. “Perhaps you could share stories of your travels with us, I fear Father’s tales of wars gone by have grown rather stale” she teased and Eddard shook his head as he laughed.

“Aye, I’ll...stay” Sandor replied and Eddard did well to hide his smirk.

“Lovely” Sansa beamed, moving to take the stranger’s arm, careful to set her hands on the cloth of his jacket. “Come, I will show you where you can clean up and prepare to join us” she looked to Eddard and then escorted the Berserker from the Great Hall. He watched the mismatched pair, Clegane’s large form moving with uncertainty beside Sansa’s slender beauty. She was talking happily, regaling him with some tale of their past feasts and he listened intently. It was clear that his Little Princess had tamed the warrior in a single moment.

The instant Sansa had appeared, everything about the Clegane man had seemed to soften, and even his impending refusal of dinner had halted in its tracks. It was just further proof that Sansa could charm anyone she met.

Even a Berserker, who were rumored to feel nothing but violence at all. Interesting indeed.

 

“Clegane” Eddard lay a stack of folded clothing on the cement bench at the edge of the woods. Movement whispered in the trees and a moment later the enormous form of the Berserker appeared in the shadows.

He would readily admit that the Clegane man terrified him. Berserkers were never one to be trifled with and he still was not sure how to handle this unexpected sworn man. No wolf King had ever had the sworn service of a Berserker before, it was unprecedented and something that he knew his enemies sought to use for their own agenda.

In both human and wolf forms, Sandor Clegane was larger than any he’d ever seen. The scars, three perfect claw marks that trailed down the side of his face, from his scalp across his brow and cheek to his collarbone in human form, manifested the same way as a wolf, serving to make him even more intimidating. It was fortunate that he did not lose his right eye completely. Wolves generally did not scar, and many times the question of the wounds would reach the tip of Eddard’s tongue, but he was never brave enough to ask after their origin.

Without Sandor they would not have been able to beat back the Bolton’s the last time they made a power move to take control of the Wolf world. Sandor was the key to keeping everyone safe, and Eddard had done his best to assure the large man’s relative happiness here.

The large wolf looked from the clothes and then up to the windows of the third floor, Eddard understood the unspoken question.

“She will live” he sighed, sitting on the cement bench beside the clothing. “But the price remains unspoken--” Sandor growled and Eddard fixed him with an alpha’s glare. “I did what I had to, I had no other options. You tell me, Clegane, what you would have done to save a most beloved daughter!?” he demanded. Several seconds passed and then Sandor’s muzzle lowered in supplication, a reluctant apology to be certain. “We must keep her safe,” he continued. “She will likely always be weak now, we must keep her safe.”

Sandor shifted on his feet and then emerged from the woods fully, his black pelt melting away into human flesh. His hair, a big shaggy and tangled from his run, covered the scarred half of his face, but still he stood proud, even in nudity. Not that the man had anything to be ashamed of, Eddard looked away, clearing his throat.

“She’ll be safe,” Sandor promised.

Eddard nodded, pushing to his feet, “Dress. Breakfast will be served shortly” he instructed and Sandor nodded. “Afterwards you can tell me about Reyne.”

“Aye” the reticent man grumbled, grabbing the clothing from the bench to cover himself. While Eddard was certain that Sandor didn’t even realize it himself, he watched the man's pale eyes continually return to the third story windows.

Turning back to the house his brain returned to racing around the predicament they found themselves in. Sansa would need to be protected now, and he feared the day Baelish returned for her.

If only, he absently thought, Clegane was a compatible mate for her. Surely a Berserker was strong enough to keep her safe. Sansa was young, she hadn’t shifted or experienced her first fertile heat just yet. Perhaps that would change as she aged.

Footsteps followed behind him and Eddard’s thoughts returned to Sandor. As soft as Clegane seemed around Sansa, he always held himself in reserve and Berserker’s rarely took mates--if ever. Though he’d sworn himself for the Stark Pack, he did not warm to anyone and held them all at a distance.

Eddard was not naive, he saw the way that Sansa had tamed the man. Clegane had intended to pass through the North and never return, but all of that changed the moment Sansa had appeared. A sennight later, Clegane had bent the knee and sworn to House Stark, changing the entire course of their futures.

He knew that Baelish would come for her, it was only a matter of ‘when’, now. He couldn’t have Catelyn and Eddard swore with every fiber of his being, he would never have Sansa.

One step at a time, he reminded himself. One step at a time.

 

Sandor stared at the embroidered fabric in his hands, rough thumbs tracing over the delicate thread. He’d never owned anything so lovely or elegant, but this...

Beyond the room, the party could still be heard, even as it wound down. All of the Stark wolves and their sworn men had enjoyed the feast, the occasion an official welcome for himself, having sworn his fealty to Lord Stark. The last known Berserker had made his allegiances known, for the rest of his days, he was sworn to House Stark. This was a cause for raucous celebration.

Fealty, he scoffed to himself. He was a buggering fool, that’s what he was. He wasn’t here out of some misplaced honor or duty, he was here for a very simple reason, one he’d never admit aloud. Could never admit aloud.

His eyes traced the embroidery, a finger trailing along the silhouette of the black wolf that was howling against a deep blood-red moon--a bad moon. He’d forever remember the soft words of welcome that Princess Sansa Stark had spoken to him as she placed the gift in his hands. He would never forget the way her eyes held such a soulful kindness that it had nearly torn him apart.

Fealty. Vows. Oaths. Bullshit, all of it.

She was a woman he could never hope to have, could never be worthy of, was worth staying for. Even if it was just to steal glances of her beauty, to hear words of kindness and be looked upon without fear. Sansa—Princess Sansa was the only one to ever look beyond the ruin of his face or into his eyes without fear.

She was so strong, so lovely and beautiful, a delicate little bird that flitted from tree to tree, singing a cheerful song for all to hear. She spread happiness wherever she went and she had pulled him from his life of solitude with a few simple words.

And so, he broke his own embargo on attachments and vows. Just to stay close to her.

Buggering fool.

Chapter Text

Sansa watched them go, all of the older pack members running into the woods together for their monthly hunt. Their barking and yipping could barely be heard above the thunder of paws pounding against the earth. They were all more than ready to tear into the forest and allow themselves the freedom from the rules of propriety to enjoy their true forms.

Her older Brother, Robb, was joining them for the first time tonight, finally having reached his majority and passed his training. He was a warrior now and she couldn’t help but envy him. In a few years she hoped to do the same, to join their ranks and truly become a member of the Pack.

Truthfully she didn’t long to fight or to train, but she ached to know what it felt like to be a wolf. What would it be like to run freely through the trees? To feel the mud squish against her paws and have the air burning in her lungs as she ran. What color would her pelt be? Brown like Father’s? Deep auburn like Robb’s? Or a rich sinister black like Ser Clegane?

She felt her cheeks warm and she quickly pushed the thoughts of Sandor Clegane from her mind. It wouldn’t do to think about him in such ways, nothing would ever come of it. After all, Berserkers didn’t often take mates and surely when they did they would want a strong, capable fighter, not some delicate princess like her...

Leaning against the back kitchen door jam with a sigh, she went to pull the shawl tighter around her shoulders when the left side slipped away and fell to her hip.

“Oh” she whispered softly as a massive hand appeared and lifted the knitted wool back into place. “Thank you, Ser Clegane.”

He was careful not to touch the bare skin of her arm as he stepped back, as such an intimate touch was not permitted. For her, a young unmated female who had not yet reached her majority, she was never allowed to be touched by a male outside of her family. To do so would put her at risk of sending her into a mating heat too young, should the male who touched her be a compatible mate. Something she may not survive.

When it came to a male as powerful as Sandor Clegane, she had been lectured a dozen times by her mother to never touch him. So, no matter how much she wished to, she would avoid his touch.

“You’re welcome, Little Bird” he replied and she smiled at the nickname he’d given her during his first moon as a member of the Stark Pack. He only used it when there was no one else close by, and it never ceased to make her stomach flutter.

“You’re going to join them?” she asked as he stepped passed her out of the doorway and into the moonlight.

“Aye” he turned back to face her, his lips twitching slightly.

“You will be safe?” She asked and he chuckled, reaching up to free his shoulder length hair from its queue. The dark inky black held a slight curl and it looked so soft her fingers twitched with the urge to run her hands through it. Sansa briefly looked away, schooling her features and when she looked back to him, he’d shrugged out of his tailored jacket as well. “Oh..” she gasped, pulling her shawl closer to ward off a shiver. He was so broad, so powerful...

“Aye, Little Bird, I’ll be safe” he promised, though he was still smirking as if the idea amused him greatly. The expression always served to soften his features, his scars all but invisible now. He was a remarkably handsome man, Sandor Clegane.

“I’ll see you tomorrow then” she returned to her full height, one that didn’t quite reach his shoulders. He gave a nod of reply and turned away, walking towards the treeline where the others had disappeared. She watched until the material of his linen shirt fell to the grass and then she forced herself to turn away. To look away from the flex and play of the muscles along his shoulders.

It was no use...the sight of his muscular back followed her all the way to her bedroom and kept her awake nearly the entire night.

 

c.1858

“Sir” Sandor said as he stepped into the doorway of Princess Sansa’s chambers, having been requested that he attend an audience there by the Pack Leader.

He’d never been summoned here before, though he was aware that the Starks all slept on the third floor. Sansa’s room seemed to suit her, a mixture of heavy wooden furniture and delicate laces. Even the quilt atop her bed was a mixture of pastel pinks and rich sages, perfect for a beautiful Little Bird like her.

Eddard looked up from the book he’d been reading aloud to Sansa, smoothly bookmarked the page and set it aside.

Sandor couldn’t help but let his eyes remain on Sansa’s pale form, clad in her night clothes and a robe beneath the thick quilts. Her fiery hair had been braided over one shoulder, by her Mother or wild Sister most likely, and tied with a throng. In the nearly two years he’d known her, he’d never seen her hair unbound before and had not realized that it was so long.

“Hello, Ser Clegane” she smiled weakly, her voice breathless and weak. Her eyes, normally vibrant and filled with life, were dull and glossy. The sight of her in such a state threatened to tear the very guts from his body, it looked so inherently wrong.

“Princess,” he said gruffly. “I am glad that you’re…” alive “...well.”

“Thank you, Ser” she sighed, her eyes drifting closed. Eddard stood, leaning over to kiss her forehead before facing Clegane.

“Whatever Baelish did, seems to have worked” Eddard motioned to the attached sitting room and they both moved inside. Eddard crossed to the fireplace but Sandor chose to remain standing, Sansa’s sleeping form in his line of sight beyond the open door.

“And his price?” Sandor inquired.

“Will surely be Sansa” Eddard admitted quietly.

“You’re a fool” Sandor spoke before he could stop himself.

“I had no choice” Eddard countered.

“You blindly entered a debt without asking its cost,” Sandor glared at the smaller man. “The markings of a classic fool.”

“How dare---”

“What will you do when he comes to collect? Offer him your wife instead?”

“You’re out of line” Eddard snarled, stepping closer in a warning. Sandor knew--as Eddard likely did, that the only reason he had this modicum of rule over Sandor, was simply because Sandor allowed it. There was a snowball’s chance in Hell that Eddard Stark could ever best Sandor Clegane in open combat. Should Sandor decide he wanted it, he could take the throne in a heartbeat.

A fact both men were well aware of.

“I will not allow him to take her,” Eddard promised. “We’ll protect her and I believe that with you here, we will succeed.”

“Aye” Sandor agreed, glancing back at Sansa as she sighed and shifted against her pillows.

“You swore vows to me once not long ago” Eddard spoke and Sandor reluctantly looked away from the Princess. “Vows you promised to never speak, yet I fear I must impose on you now and ask you to swear another.”

“What would you ask?” he grumbled. He wasn’t fool enough to enter a bargain without knowing the parameters.

“That she will be safe, no matter what” Eddard said firmly. “If Baelish comes, if somehow I fall or something happens to my mate...Sansa must be kept safe. I want you to swear it, Clegane. You’re the only man who can do this.”

“You’d trust her safety to me?” Sandor chuckled darkly. “I’m an inch from madness. I am no gentleman and most shit themselves when I walk into a room.”

“Yes, precisely” Eddard confirmed. “Sansa is not afraid of you, she never has been. I dare say she trusts you.”

“I already promised you that she’d be safe,” Sandor stated. “Why would I waste my time with words I do not mean...Sir” he belatedly added.

“Clegane,” Eddard nodded, stepping closer to extend his hand. “Thank you.”

“Don’t need your thanks” Sandor took his hand, firmly shaking it. “I’m not doing it for you” he grumbled, turning away and walking out of the room.

He spared a last glance at Sansa’s form, finding her eyes open once more and a serene sort of smile on her lips. She’d likely heard their conversation and it made him feel oddly exposed.

“Thank you, Sandor” she whispered, sadness evident in her eyes.

“Little Bird” he spoke so quietly he was not sure that she heard, and he departed the room with only a small nod of farewell. Long legs carried him easily back to the stairs as he did his best to slow the race of his heart.

Baelish could come, the Tyrells could come, the whole buggering Lannister coven could come for her, he’d kill each and every one of them.

Human. Wolf. Vampire. Witch. He’d destroy them all before they harmed her.

And he didn’t need to swear a vow on that.

 

Eddard sighed, sinking onto the settee to run his hands over his face. He could feel the fury--the judgement that had been rolling off the Berserker in spades. He had deserved them both. Eddard knew that Baelish’s price would be high, he was no fool. But he also knew that the entire Pack would go to war before they let their Princess be taken from them.

And Sandor….

Robb had told him this morning, in the confidence of his private offices, that Sandor had been near-feral at training the last several mornings. He would tear through the guards and warriors, demanding more, but the men were not willing to fight him--not in this near-mad state.

Robb seemed perplexed as to the source of such madness, but Eddard had his immediate suspicions. Suspicions that were proven correct the moment Clegane’s eyes had landed on Sansa.

The family had kept details of her condition hidden, and while they had told everyone that she was healing, they kept the others in relative darkness. This darkness is what had eaten at Sandor’s sanity. The simple act of not knowing.

Eddard knew, should he have found himself in this situation with Catelyn, he would have torn through all in his path to see her--to know that she truly was well. He would have pulled her into his arms and never left her side, snarling and snapping out of a helplessness to cure her.

And so he took a chance, he invited Sandor to an all but unnecessary audience so that the man could see her--even if it broke propriety.

He was right, all the way down to the way Sandor stood in the doorway, stealing glances at Sansa as if to assure himself that she was still alive. Every sigh, movement or shaking breath had his eyes darting back to her bed.

Eddard may have to pay the Devil’s price for Sansa’s health, but he’d gladly pay it over and over, knowing that when it came time to protect her, the very literal Hound of Hell would be at his back to help him.

Pushing to his feet, he returned to Sansa’s side and picked up the novel he’d been reading to her.

“Where were we?” he asked softly, opening to the page he’d marked with one of her lavender hair ribbons.

“Thank you,” Sansa whispered, though her eyes did not open.

“You’re very welcome, Lemon Cake” he replied even though he was not entirely certain what she had thanked him for.

 

Sandor watched the celebration from the outskirts of the room, his eyes carefully drinking in every detail. It was an important survival tactic to learn all that you could about those around you. The more you observed, the more you learned. This was most easily done when others had their guards down—alcohol was the best lubricant for this.

And the pack was well on their way to being very drunk.

“Do you not imbibe, Ser Clegane?” a soft voice spoke and he turned to see the Princess Sansa looking at him with open curiosity.

“Unfortunately, my metabolism means there is no amount of alcohol that will affect me” he explained and she nodded in understanding.

He’d roamed this earth for many years, several centuries by now, and there was no doubt in his mind that Princess Sansa Stark was the most beautiful and lovely woman he’d ever seen. Tonight she wore a gown of soft dove grey, her hair in some intricate style and woven through with pearls that glittered in the lamp light. She wore gloves and long sleeves to protect herself, but over and over again his eyes darted to the slender curve of her throat and the single mole that lay just below her left ear.

Not only was she lovely, she was unfailingly kind. She had immediately welcomed him to the Stark Pack, her eyes bright with happiness and not an ounce of fear. He knew well what he was and it was a very rare thing to meet a being who didn’t reek of fear in his presence. Even the Wolf King couldn’t completely hide that he was afraid of him.

”I am glad you have decided to stay” the Princess pulled something from her pocket, smoothing her gloved hands over it for a moment. He realized as she extended it to him that it was a handkerchief, one rolled in a delicate lavender ribbon tied up in a bow.

“Princess--” he protested, uncrossing his arms.

“Please take it, Ser Clegane” she held it out and he carefully cupped his massive hand under hers. She was so much smaller than him, delicate and entirely feminine in a way he’d never experienced. He feared that if he were to accidentally bump her, he would break her irrevocably.

“Thank you” he said gruffly, her gloved fingers lingering on his for only a brief second. Given that they both wore gloves, the touch was permitted but he couldn’t stop his mind from wondering what her porcelain skin would feel like against his own.

In a few years, she’d reach her majority and some handsome young wolf would offer his suit as her mate. Likely more than one, given her beauty, and so there would be fights—bloody fights where she would watch and hand pick her mate. A man had to prove himself worthy of her hand, that would be no small task.

Until then, she would remain untouched by any outside of her family. The touch of a feral unmated male could force her into a heat that she would very well not survive, and if a male were to try to claim her before she was strong enough, he could kill her--tear her apart in the process. A grim fact he knew all too well.

“You’re welcome” she beamed up at him and he pushed the thoughts of his little Sister away and refocused on Sansa's smile. “It is to welcome you to our Pack, and to thank you for staying. I don’t know why you’ve chosen to join us but I am grateful.”

“Thank you” he repeated and cleared his throat, the action had her pulling her fingers back to her waist. “You’re too kind.”

“Hardly. Goodnight, Ser Clegane” she sank into a perfect curtsey.

“Goodnight, Princess” he watched her go, tracking her fiery hair as she moved through the crowd. His eyes followed her until she vanished into the hallway and when he looked back to the room, he did his best to ignore the cutting, knowing stare of King Eddard Stark.

 

Sansa kept her eyes closed, face turned to the breeze as she sat in the back gardens. She’d spent a sennight in bed and finally she’d escaped to the fresh air outside. Of course, she had done so when her Mother had stepped away and ceased hovering for a brief moment. She was sure that soon she would be ushered back to her rooms for fear of some sort of relapse.

Her senses, once sharp and keen like a wolf, seemed dull now, as if she were experiencing the world as she sat under water. Every sight and sound was muffled and delayed, her limbs felt like each weighed ten stones. Her supernatural strength had left her and simply walking the small distance to the bench at the treeline had exhausted her.

Even now as she sat still upon the bench, her stomach rolled in rebellion and spine curved inward with weakness.

Opening her eyes, she looked down at her hands where they rested in her lap. Her porcelain skin had always been overly pale, but now it was too pale--transparent and grey and her body had suddenly become too thin.

Her Mother had helped her to dress this morning, frowning deeply at the way Sansa’s dress gaped on her frame. Even her corset had been too big when fully laced and so she had foregone it altogether today. Regardless, a fake smile and a brush off later, Catelyn Stark was assuring her that she would regain her strength in no time.

Sansa wasn’t so sure. She was a wolf. She shouldn’t have gotten sick in the first place and she didn’t understand how it had happened at all.

She smartly kept her doubts and fears to herself.

“San?” Aryas voice called out a moment before she emerged from the kitchen door. As always, Arya wore the breeches and shirt of a young boy, rather than the dresses propriety dictated women wear.

“I’m here” Sansa forced a smile to her lips, sitting up as straight as she could. For all her weakness, she would never show it to the pack at large, even to her siblings. They had to believe that she was alright, that she was as she had been before, no matter what.

“Thank the Gods,” Arya slumped onto the bench beside her. “I’m so bored without you.”

“You missed me then?” Sansa smirked.

“Never” Arya pulled two pieces of jerky from her pocket, offering one to Sansa but she refused.

“Not yet” she replied. “Broth seems to be all I can keep down, give me a few days.” Arya shrugged, eating from both pieces at the same time, her lips smacking loudly.

Though they were as different as the sun and the moon, Sansa and Arya had always been close. Perhaps it was the burden of being Stark Daughters, or the pressure of always being on display. Whatever it was, they were not only sisters but best friends as well.

Sansa understood Arya’s desire to join the Pack and fight, and she knew when Arya reached her majority she would be formidable. And in turn, Arya understood that Sansa loved soft, beautiful things and preferred reading and sewing to climbing trees.

Their balance seemed to work, and Sansa would need her Sister’s strength now more than ever.

“I have to say” Arya began. “I’ve never seen facial hair as bad as High Warlock Baelish’s.”

Sansa giggled, “Pity I missed it, then.”

“It was like someone drew it on with paint, too black and too angular” Arya snorted. “Jon and I laughed for hours,” she explained and Sansa wasn’t surprised. Arya was close with their cousin Jon, another wolf who had come to stay with them after his Mother, their Father’s Sister and her mate were murdered by the Targaryens—the vampires. Their murders had been the spark that toppled the Targaryen rule and allowed the Great Lion to take control.

“I am curious to see it, should he return,” Sansa noted. She had heard the gossip about High Warlock Petyr Baelish, both before from her Mother’s dealings with him, and after her sickness when he had come in like some dark knight to save her. He sounded relatively unsavory from all accounts, and Sansa wasn’t looking forward to the day he returned to Winterfell.

“I hope he doesn't,” Arya admitted. “Mother’s done nothing but cry with worry since he left.”

“I am truly sorry” Sansa whispered. “I did not intend for this…”

“Why?” Arya looked genuinely confused. “I should be sorry for poking fun, I thought you were just being a ninny when you said that you felt dizzy.”

“If only” Sansa agreed.

“Well” Arya chewed and swallowed the last bite of jerky. “You’re better now, and at least your being sick saved me from a week of lessons and nagging about my posture.”

“Of course” Sansa smiled as Arya’s hand slipped into hers. “How could I forget, you just want to be a warrior like Father.”

“You’re the pretty princess, not me” Arya scoffed as Sandor Clegane’s wolf form tumbled through the treeline, sliding to a halt beside them. He had time enough to lower his head in deference before three more wolves appeared and dog-piled on top of him.

Arya laughed loudly as Robb, Jon and another wolf named Smalljon Umber wrestled Sandor to the grass for only a brief second before he tossed them away like flour sacks. Each attacking wolf landed on their paws, shaking out their shaggy hair before yipping with laughter.

Sandor’s wolf was a dark, sinister black with bright grey eyes, his scars standing out like a beacon of warning. As a Berserker he was the most dangerous being in existence and while the prospect should terrify her, it was a comfort to know he was always close by.

She briefly met his lupine eyes and she tried her best to give a genuine smile before he turned away. A few seconds later, the wolves were chasing Sandor again, this time darting towards the training yards, leaving the sisters alone once more.

“He watches you, you know” Arya stated smugly, squeezing their joined hands..

“Who?” Sansa felt her cheeks warm.

“Clegane” Arya rolled her eyes.

“He does not,” Sansa countered weakly. “And if he does, it’s because I’m the Pack pariah now.”

“San…”

“The first wolf in history to get sick” Sansa swallowed back tears. “‘Scarlet Fever for the ‘Scarlet Wolf’, I’ve heard the rumors already. I’m afraid that I am never going to be me again.”

“Who said that?” Arya demanded. “I’ll kill them!”

“It doesn’t matter” Sansa shook her head. “I was supposed to reach my majority next year, now they’re not sure if I’ll be able to shift at all and...and children...” she tried to blink away tears, but several ran down her cheeks.

“San” Arya wrapped her arms around her shoulders, an awkward position since Sansa was so much taller than her baby sister. Arya’s hug of comfort ended up with Arya’s head snuggled beneath Sansa’s chin and Sansa idly wondered if Arya had been more worried about her than she let on.

“Who’s going to want me now?” Sansa choked on a sob.

“Men are stupid anyway” Arya assured her with a scoff. “You’ll always have me, we don’t need anyone else.” Sansa gave a watery laugh, holding her sister tightly.

“You can’t leave me” Sansa asked weakly. “You can be a warrior but don’t do anything impulsive like getting yourself killed.”

“Me? Impulsive? Never” Arya snorted with laughter, ending their embrace to produce yet another piece of jerky from her pockets.

“Never” Sansa agreed with a sad smile.

 

“They say you’re a Berserker” the small, arrogant voice pulled him from his unpacking and he turned to the doorway to see the smaller Stark Daughter standing there. She wore tattered breeches and a linen shirt, her hair cut short in a blatant ‘fuck you’ to the demands of society.

“I am” he stood tall, staring her down. To her credit she did not look away for several seconds, then lowered her eyes in submission as she cleared her throat.

“What’s it like?” she asked, bravely looking back up at him.

“Hell” he replied simply.

“Oh” she nodded, looking around the room for several seconds before she squared her shoulders. “I am Arya Stark--”

“I know who you are girl” he assured her.

“Aren’t you going to bow or something?” she snipped.

“No.”

“Oh” she took a few breaths. “Will you teach me?”

“Teach you?” he almost chuckled at the precociousness of this tiny would-be she-wolf. At least his time in the North would be amusing.

“To fight? When I reach my majority” she clarified. “I want to fight with the pack--”

“That’s many years away” he reasoned, mentally calculating her young age. “Your Sister is next, if math proves.”

“Yes but Sansa doesn’t care about fighting” the younger Princess sighed in exasperation. “She wants babies and that gross stuff.”

“Gross stuff?” he repeated.

“Old Nan told Sansa about soul mates and now that’s all she yammers on about,” Arya rolled her eyes dramatically.

“There is nothing wrong with that” Sandor reasoned, feeling suddenly uncomfortable with the direction of the conversation.

“Me, I want to fight” Arya continued. “So will you teach me?”

“Maybe” Sandor replied with a smirk, feeling the scars pull at the corner of his mouth. “You have to promise me something, however.”

“What’s that?”

“Go easy on your Sister” he replied quickly. “There’s a lot of pressure--”

“Pfft” Arya scoffed. “Sansa is my best friend in the whole of the world, and I love her more than anything. But that doesn’t mean that we need to love the same things. I don’t want pups, but she sure does” she laughed as she explained, her dark eyes narrowing on his person. “Why do you care?”

“I don’t” he turned away, returning to his leather bag and small collection of possessions it contained. He was surprised at how nicely appointed the room he had been provided was. He hadn’t slept in such a room for a very, very long time.

“Right” Arya agreed from the doorway, shifting on her feet. “So you’ll teach me?” to her credit she was like a dog with a bone, unwilling to let it go.

“Aye runt, I’ll teach you a thing or two” he agreed, just to get her to leave him be. “In time.”

“Perfect” she bounced on her feet a second before turning on her heels and marching back down the hallway.

Sandor exhaled as he was gratefully alone once more. He sank onto the bed beside his bag and pulled the small painted portrait of his baby Sister from the bag. He glanced at the piece for several seconds before he tucked it away, back into the linen pouch that it had been hidden in for several decades.

 

“What game are you playing now, Mockingbird?” the ancient voice of Olenna Tyell cut into Baelish’s reading and he looked up to watch her move through a portal and into his realm.

“You’re going to have to be a bit more specific, I’m afraid” Baelish closed the heavy tome he’d been using to research several potions using wolfsbane. “There are always a great many games afoot.”

“The Stark Princess” Olenna clarified, sinking into the chair opposite him at the apothecary table.

Olenna Tyrell had to be near a millenia in age now, but her body was frozen in that of a woman in her prime. Rich mahogany hair fell past her hips, the top of her hairstyle woven with roses and thorn riddled vines.

She wore a simple gown of slate blue, each finger donning a ring with a precious gem, her anchors to the natural world. While Petyr and his protege Varys focused on the arcane and darker side of magic, the Tyrells were very connected to the earth and its power.

Of course, that didn’t mean Olenna was ever seen without the metal choker around her neck, a golden oval locket at its center. It was a man-made piece, old and imbued with incredibly dark magic. Inside the locket lay a lost soul, trapped, enslaved forever by its connection to the portrait inside. In turn, the soul was enslaved to Olenna—working now as her bodyguard.

Which meant that simply expelling her from his realm without briefly indulging her was not a wise choice.

“A pity that” Petyr replied, leaning back in his chair. “Scarlet Fever is a terrible thing. She’s on the mend now, in case you cared.”

Olenna scoffed, a very unladylike action and he barely resisted the urge to roll his eyes. He was already irritated that she’d disrupt him in his private realm, a private world conjured through his own magic, and he would rather this conversation be short.

Olenna scoffed. “Tell me, did you do it?”

“Do what?” Petyr asked innocently.

“Baelish—” she glared.

“No” he replied smoothly, pushing to his feet. He paced to the window and took several breaths to sooth his hackles. “She is half-human, a terrible condition, afterall.”

“Catelyn Stark was already a wolf when she whelped Sansa, try again” Olenna reasoned, conjuring herself a goblet of wine as she watched him. The ‘Witch of Thorns’, they called her. Most believed it was because of her penchant for roses but Petyr knew better, it was because her words and observations cut through you like the awful barbs that they were.

“Are you accusing me of infecting her?” he raised a brow.

“Yes.”

“You’re wasting my time, hag” he turned a cold expression on her and before she could argue, he lifted his hand and banished her from his private realm. She vanished on a dance of rose-scented mist, her goblet clamouring to the floor and spilling its content onto the stone. He stared at the liquid as it spread across the floor like blood for several moments and turned back to the window.

Had he infected Sansa Stark?

In simple terms, yes.

It hadn’t been hard. A lovely ribbon here, an ounce of spellwork there, and the young beauty had fallen ill in a matter of hours. She was meant to be a pawn of sorts, a means to an end and such a beautiful one at that.

It was insulting to think that his meddling in the lives of the wolves was some sort of ‘short game’ that was going to be over and done with easily. He was a patient man, this much was known, and he would play this ‘long game’ until it reached a satisfactory ending--for himself of course.

He raised a hand to touch the glass vial that he had strung around his neck, the pads of his fingers tracing the smooth edge as he imagined what the contents would feel like when unleashed. He could feel the strength, the power thrumming through the glass and his lips nearly curved into a smile.

He’d started on this path many years ago with the intention of striking back at Catelyn Tully and her cold rejection of his affection--of his offer of immortality free from the binds of the Wolves. He had planned to stand beside the bed of Eddard’s precious princess as she withered and died. He felt it was sufficient punishment for the slights against him.

But now…

He turned from the window and waved his hand once more, exiting his private realm and returning to the damp castle that he had taken as his residence.

Now things had changed and the game would truly begin.

Chapter Text

c.1859

Sandor was making his way from the training yard to the hot springs that lay beyond the western treeline when familiar laughter caught his ear. His feet had changed direction before his brain registered the action, and soon he was standing beside a willow tree, half hidden by its foliage.

He watched the youngest Stark Son, Rickon, as he ran in circles around his eldest Sister’s legs. Sansa was singing a soft, lilting song and clapping along as the boy danced to the tune, his laughter echoing in the courtyard.

“Rickon!” the second youngest Stark Son, Bran, appeared from the bushes and began to chase his Brother around. Sandor’s eyes, however, kept on Sansa as she moved from the grass to sit on the cement bench. He had seen her here many times over the past several moons, the peace of the woods seemed to have become her escape during her recovery.

While the boys wrestled on the grass, he watched as Sansa tried desperately to catch her breath, her hand trembling as it settled over her stomach. While she would never willingly show it to another, he could see the exhaustion at the corner of her eyes, the high flush in her cheeks and the frown that marred her full lips.

She had recovered much since her illness, but she was far from the vibrant woman she had been before and that notion was a taunting demon, a monster that had pulled the very heart from his chest.

“Boys!” Catelyn emerged from the house and summoned them inside, however when her eyes landed on Sansa her smile fell and her eyes--the same bright blue as Sansa’s, turned worried. “Sansa--?”

“I am fine” Sansa quickly assured her Mother. “Just leave me be, please” she pleaded breathlessly. Catelyn watched her for several seconds before she gave a small, sad nod and returned into the house.

Once she was alone, Sansa’s shoulders sagged and her hands fell to her lap, almost as if she no longer had the strength to hold them up. She took several shaking breaths and as she exhaled the final time, she began to cough. The sound was horrible...

It reached his nose on the change of breeze, the acrid, metallic scent of blood and horror coursed through him. Sansa quickly stood and stumbled to the treeline, coughing up a fair bit of blood and spitting it into the bushes.

He moved to her side as she swayed, steadying her with a careful hand on her lower back. He was careful with his touch, keeping to the fabric but allowing the warmth of her body to sink into his palm.

“Please” she closed her eyes tightly as she whimpered. “Leave me be, Ser Clegane.”

“I will not,” he countered. “Are you well?”

“No” she spat the word and stood tall, whirling away from him as she wiped her mouth with her gloves. “I will never be well again” she shook her head, the lavender ribbon in her hair dancing in the wind. As she stared up at him, her resolve seemed to falter and her expression of anger fell, as did the indignation in her shoulders.

“Little Bird…” he whispered as she wavered on her feet. He stepped closer, placing a hand at her tiny waist to offer support.

“I am well, Ser Clegane” she controlled and smoothed her features, hiding the pain away beneath her careful facade. “Better every day.”

“Do not do that---”

“Do what?”

“You can lie to your Mother, lie to your Sister, Hells you can even lie to your Father, but don’t lie to me” he said plainly, doing his best to control his frustration--his fear. “I can smell it.”

“I lie to everyone” she whispered, the words almost lost on the wind. She looked away from him then, her eyes shadowed as she looked at the forest.

“I know” he replied in kind.

“I will be fine” she assured him, though the words were weak. She looked back to him and he could see the fire, the determination in her eyes and it did much to soothe his soul.

For so long her eyes had been dull, lost and he had feared that she was going to remain that way forever. But here he could see the fight had returned to her spirit and that fight would carry her through this, it had to.

“Little Bird--”

“I will,” she repeated. “I have to be, I have to learn to protect myself. I cannot be this weak forever— I cannot. I will not.”

“You won’t be,” he reasoned.

“Sansa” her Mother called from the house, standing once more in the back door. “Come and help me, please” the request was an order in disguise, they both knew it. “Now.”

“Please. Do not tell anyone, Ser Clegane, please” Sansa whispered the plea to him and turned away, walking back to the house. Sandor watched her go, boldly meeting the glare in Catelyn’s eyes as she attempted to stare him down.

Sandor didn’t budge, but Catelyn did, turning her eyes away in submission, whether she realized it or not. Sansa stepped past her Mother and out of sight, and only then did he resume his walk to the hot springs, unable to push the scent of her blood from his nostrils.

 

“He is just so infuriating” Arya sighed in exasperation once more, flopping back against the pillow in Sansa’s bed.

“I know, so you’ve said,” Sansa laughed softly as she watched her Sister once again complain and bemoan the arrival of a new Wolf in their midst. “Three times already tonight.”

Often, after the entire mansion had slipped into slumber, Arya would sneak across the hall and into Sansa’s bedroom. Together they would light a candle and cover themselves with a bedsheet, sharing their quiet conversations and secrets, hidden away from the world around them.

Tonight was not the first time that the newest Wolf arrival, a young man by the name of Gendry Waters, had been the topic of discussion. Gendry had arrived nearly a moon’s turn ago, carried in by Sandor Clegane and Smalljon Umber. He was shorter than the other Northmen, but just as broad with dark hair and light eyes. He was nearly feral and they’d been forced to use an iron plated silver collar around his neck to hold him in his human form.

He’d been attacked—bitten by a lone wolf and left to die on the Street of Steel in King’s Landing. The Vampires had carefully collected him, recognizing the bite straight away, and sent word to Winterfell of the boy's impending transformation. Father had immediately sent a vanguard to retrieve him before he could terrorize the city. He arrived in time to join the Pack on their hunt, to learn the ins and outs of Wolf life from everyone in Winterwell.

However, the moment he had returned from the hunt, he had taken notice of Arya. Much to her chagrin. While Arya thought that it was Gendry’s goal to mock and tease her until she screamed, Sansa was able to see it for what it was; Gendry simply wanted her Sister’s attention.

“I am going to punch him in that stupid face of his” Arya decided softly. “Maybe then he will stop popping up everywhere.”

“I do not think that is how it works” Sansa smiled. “Remember not to touch him--”

“Yes, Mother” Arya mocked her.

“He could be your soulmate,” Sansa couldn’t help but sigh. Ever since Old Nan had told her about the idea of soul mates, she had thought it was the most romantic notion in the world. Two souls drawn together, two halves of the same whole. It was such a lovely idea, Sansa couldn’t wait to meet hers someday.

“If you sigh one more time, I am going to scream” Arya groaned.

“I cannot help it” Sansa laughed, poking her Sister in the side. Arya laughed and tried to roll away but Sansa moved quickly, tickling her Sister’s sides until they had kicked the sheets away in their struggle. Sansa rolled to her back beside Arya, both of them laughing and breathing heavily.

“I do not want a mate” Arya admitted quietly. “I want to fight.”

“I know” Sansa turned her head to look at her Sister’s profile, seeing her brow was pulled into fierce determination. “But perhaps one day you will have both.”

 

King Tywin Lannister tossed the piece of parchment onto his desk and leaned back in his plush velvet and iron chair. After several seconds he stood and crossed to the balcony, stepping out into the moonlight.

His mind was racing, doing its best to sort out the reason that he would receive such a missive--such a conflicting missive to one he had received two days prior. There was something afoot, and he would get to the bottom of it before it could create any untoward problems.

For several centuries now, he had ruled over the Vampire World with a firm grip. Firm, but fair, he wasn’t about to let sands slip through an iron grip. He was aware, every day, that he had taken the realm from the Targaryen’s only with the help of the Wolves. He knew that his armies did not have the strength to take the throne on their own, but when Eddard Stark had stood beside him on the battlefield, they’d easily won the day.

Of course, the Wolves were not ones to lightly be dragged into the wars of other species--they were far from the mindless beasts that they were thought to be, but the Targaryens had made a fatal error when they ordered the murder of Lyanna Stark--the Wolf King’s most precious Sister.

The Targaryens accused her and her mate of murdering their prized Prince Rhaegar, and while they had no evidence to prove it, they had attacked anyway. She had been with child, unable to take her Wolf form, and they had torn her throat out while her young Son watched, before hunting her mate down as well.

Needless to say, the Wolves had been furious. They’d demanded recompense and they had taken it by toppling their dynasty at his side.

In a single bloody night, Tywin became King and Eddard’s need for revenge was satisfied.

From then onward, he had kept in contact with King Eddard, both of them willing to take the small, if secretive, steps of keeping each other informed of the issues of their respective realms.

Eddard had always kept him informed. He did so when a Berserker by the name of Sandor Clegane had joined their ranks, and also updated him when that same Berserker helped them to quell a rebellion from the Bolton House, a house that decided they wished to rule the Wolves.

Tywin was glad to hear that the Bolton’s were put in their place, as they were too violent and impulsive to rule over a kennel, let alone an entire species. But even moreso, he was glad to hear that there was at least one Berserker left in existence and his ties to the Stark Pack would keep him from doing anything...reckless.

Sandor had even helped Tywin with a little problem nearly a year ago, travelling to House Reyne to put an end to disgusting experiments that Reyne had begun, trying to create a Vampire-Wolf hybrid by taking men and women of both species captive.

The situation had been thoroughly handled by the Berserker. In light of all of this, their alliance and their ongoing partnership to keep the world free of war, made today’s missive all the more strange.

“Father” his eldest son and heir, Jaime entered his office. “You summoned?” Jaime was the image of himself when he was younger, tall, strong and golden--as a Lannister should be.

“I needed to speak with you, yes” Tywin turned away from the balcony and returned to his desk as Jaime poured them each a crystal goblet of blood. “I’ve had a letter.”

“Oh?”

“From High Warlock Baelish” Tywin said and Jaime raised both eyebrows in surprise as he handed him a goblet. “My thoughts precisely.”

“What did he want?” Jaime prompted.

“To tell me that he heard several ‘disturbing’ things when he visited the Stark Mansion recently,” Tywin explained. “Things regarding the Vampiric throne.”

“We already know from King Eddard that that visit was over eight moons ago. Princess Sansa is long since recovered” Jaime reasoned and Tywin nearly preened at his Son’s sharp mind. Jaime would be a formidable ruler someday, that much was undeniable.

“Correct” Tywin absently swirled the blood in his goblet.

“So there is a game afoot” Jaime sank onto the settee with a ‘plop’, his long legs stretching out before him.

“I doubt he realizes that Eddard and I have kept in close contact” Tywin replied. “I am careful with the missives, always sending them myself and they come directly to me upon their reply.”

“Well you’ve only told me that you have, and of course I haven’t told a soul” Jaime added, finishing his blood in a long gulp. “So Baelish seeks to create a conflict.”

“That is very likely” Tywin leaned against the edge of his desk. “If he is going to play both sides, there has to be something in it for him.”

“He’s probably still after Catelyn” Jaime scoffed, shaking his head. “Though I confess, I never saw the appeal. She’s a bit of a cunt, isn’t she?”

“Careful,” Tywin warned. “True as that may be, our alliance with the Starks is important, they stood beside us in our war and they have a Berserker.”

“Clegane, yes, so you’ve said” Jaime nodded. “He’s a terrifying bastard.”

“He’s the last, so until he dies he is the last person in the world we should fuck with” Tywin chuckled. “He popped Reyne’s head off like a champagne cork” he nodded to the iron box on the side table, a present he had received from Lord Stark several moons ago. Though the rest of Reyne’s body had been turned to ash, the head remained frozen in its death state, the terror on his face palpable as he realized a Berserker had come for him.

It was one of Tywin’s prized possessions.

“Stark does send us the best presents” Jaime smirked.

“We need to watch out for Baelish,” Tywin advised. “He has always been untrustworthy, but he has good reason to desire the collapse of the Stark family, and I refuse to be the tool he uses to do his bidding.”

“And the Boltons?” Jaime asked.

“I will write to Stark, bring him into the loop” Tywin replied. “He can worry about the Boltons.”

 

Sansa was relaxing on the window seat in the library, hiding away from the rainy day, when the door to the library opened and a large figure slipped inside. With a hidden smile, she watched the broad shoulders of Sandor Clegane over the top of her book as he looked around the spacious room.

It was an odd juxtaposition, his warrior’s frame walking down the first cluttered aisle, surrounded by books and the ancient wood decor. The library had always been her safe haven, her favorite place to hide away from the chaos of her siblings. Sandor raised a large hand, tracing a few spines on the shelf with a surprisingly delicate touch. Closing her own book, she placed it on her lap to watch him more intently.

“Watching me from your perch, Little Bird?” his deep voice rumbled through the silent library.

“Aye, I am” she teased with a small smile as he paused his wandering to glance over at her. There was mirth in his bright grey eyes, a mischievous tilt to his lips, and it made her heart stutter in her chest. Was there ever a man so handsome as this one, she wondered. No, likely not. There was something soft to the chiseled frame of the Berserker, something kind that always lived in his eyes.

As a little girl, she had always had her head buried in the clouds and in fairy tales. From the moment that Old Nan had told her about Soul Mates, Sansa had tried to imagine what such a man would look like. Golden hair? Red of hair like her? Or would he look different than anything she had ever seen before. Now it seemed she wasn’t able to shake Sandor Clegane from her mind--no matter how futile any thoughts of a future with him may seem. Often she wondered if he tolerated her because she was a Stark, or if he truly did enjoy speaking with her. He was always so reticent, so aloof, she couldn’t quite pin down his thoughts and emotions.

“Penny for your thoughts?” he asked her, pulling her from her musings as he smoothly turned away from the shelf to walk closer. Today he wore all black, as usual, but his cravat was a surprisingly soft white, a stark contrast to his inky black beard and hair. While she’d seen more than a few men in her many years, none had ever worn breeches and polished Hessians like Sandor did. None of them ever managed to look like barely leashed power, locked away in the attire of a gentleman.

“They’re hardly worth a penny” she reasoned, setting her book onto the side table beside her window bench. “Would you like a cup of tea?” she motioned to the tray and he gave a small nod of reply.

“Thank you” he said as she poured him a cup, mixing in the small dollop of milk he knew that he always took.

“You’re welcome” she smiled as she carefully placed the cup and saucer in his hands. “What brings you to the library today?”

“Robb mentioned that you had a copy of ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’,” Sandor replied, taking a long drink before glancing around. “I should like to read it.”

“Of course we do” she smoothly stood, crossing to a large floor-to-ceiling shelf along the wall. “Washington Irving has written several books we’ve managed to procure” she continued as she shifted the ladder closer and locked it in place. With a careful step, she moved up the ladder to the shelf second from the top, scanning over the spines. “Ah-ha, here we are” she grabbed the novel and had turned to step down the ladder when she lost her footing. She tried to grab the railing but she knew beyond a doubt that she would tumble down the rest of the way to the floor.

“Fuck” she barely registered Sandor’s curse and a second later, just when she had braced herself to slam into the floor, she was gathered up in his arms. “Careful, Little Bird” he growled softly, spinning away from the ladder to set her on her feet. He’d moved quicker than her eye could follow, setting aside his tea to help her without spilling a drop.

“Thank you” she tried to catch her breath, taking a mental note of the way his large hands seemed to span her waist entirely, committing it to memory. They were carefully splayed upon the fabric of her dress, just as her hands had found the solid support of his shoulders. Fortunate, considering neither of them wore gloves.

“Of course” he assured her in the same moment his fingers twitched at her waist. She’d only worn demi stays today and so she could feel the warmth of his hands through her dress and shift, the touch doing something unnerving to her heart.

“Sandor” she said quietly, looking up into his eyes. It was then, when she noticed the flecks of pale blue that danced in his irises, that she realized how close they were standing to each other. She’d never stood this close to a man before...inappropriately close...

“Hmm?” he rumbled in response, the sound vibrating through her.

“Y-your book, I’m sorry” she whispered, knowing that the novel had fallen to the floor in her near-tumble.

“It’s alright” he assured her and she could have sworn that his eyes darted to her lips for the briefest moment before meeting her eyes. “As long as you’re safe.”

“I am, thanks to you” she slid her hands from his shoulders to the lapels of his jacket, letting them linger on the muscle there for a moment before she gently pushed away. He immediately released her, her legs slightly weak as he stepped back.

“I am glad to be of service” he crouched quickly to pick up the fallen tome, closing it as he resumed his full height, towering over her. He stepped back before her, one hand holding the book while the other hovered just beyond her bare hand where she held it at her waist.

“Sandor---” Sansa spoke as the door to the library burst open and Arya appeared, laughing wildly only to draw up short as she realized how closely they stood to each other.

“San?” Arya’s brow scrunched in worry, glancing between her and Sandor.

“Thank you for the tea, Princess” Sandor said quietly as he dropped his hand, giving a small bow of his head before stepping passed her and quitting the library entirely.

“What was that?” Arya asked abruptly when they were alone.

“Nothing” Sansa said as lightly as possible, brushing away her sister’s narrowed eyes.

“Uh huh” Arya crossed her arms, looking at the two teacups on the tray. “I do not believe you.”

“Arya” Sansa sighed in exasperation, returning to her padded seat in the window. She picked up her tea and took several soothing drinks. Arya didn’t hesitate to cross the library and crawl onto the bench beside her, grabbing a few sugar cubes along the way, popping them into her mouth like candy.

“It’s raining” Arya sighed, looking out the window. “Again.”

“Soon it will snow” Sansa agreed. “Winter is coming.”

“Perhaps you will have someone to keep you warm this Winter” Arya smirked lasciviously.

“Arya!” Sansa chided, shaking her head as she laughed. One should only be so lucky, Sansa thought to herself, sipping her tea.

 

“What is this?” Sansa asked, looking to the exquisite pale grey gown that lay across her bed. She looked to her Mother who was smiling with unabashed excitement.

“Do you like it? I made it for your name day tomorrow--”

“Mother” Sansa looked away, closing her eyes in frustration.

“I know that you’ve said you do not want a feast” Catelyn reasoned, stepping closer to cup Sansa’s cheek. “But it is such an important name day, your majority at last.”

“It means nothing,” Sansa whispered. “You know this, as does everyone else.”

“Sansa” Catelyn frowned. “You’ve come so far, you’ve recovered and you’re doing so much better. You should celebrate.”

“I have no wish to be paraded in front of the pack or any others” Sansa replied. “Their whispers haven’t stopped; ‘Scarlet Fever for a Scarlet Wolf’, ‘Her Royal Sickness’--”

“They will stop...in time” Catelyn assured her.

“It’s been a year” Sansa shook her head. “I know that you’re determined to pretend that I am not different” she faced her Mother, taking her hands in her own. “I know that you blame yourself for this too---”

“Sansa!” Catelyn protested.

“I hear you” Sansa shook her head. “Arya hears you too. You cry when you think that no one is listening, you pray for forgiveness at the Heart Tree. This isn’t your fault, Mother, and I have never for a second blamed you.”

“It is my blood--” Catelyn whispered, squeezing their joined hands.

“It's my blood” Sansa replied. “You need to accept that this is what I am now. There will be no suitors to fight for my hand--”

“You do not know that!”

“But I do,” Sansa said sadly, shaking her head. “I am weak, frail, and with me there is no guarantee of children. I am a bad bet for a species that demands strength and power. Beauty only goes so far, Mother.”

“My beautiful girl” Catelyn released her hands and cupped Sansa’s cheeks. “You think so little of yourself? You cannot see yourself for what you are. You are not sick---”

“I am not sick, Mother. I am broken” Sansa corrected. “And I will be that way always.”

“I refuse to believe that” Catelyn guided her chin so that Sansa’s eyes met her own, equal shades of stubborn Tully blue colliding. “No, I refuse.”

“I do not have the strength to do this,” Sansa admitted. “I cannot even lift Rickon any more.”

“To be fair, I cannot lift Rickon anymore. That boy eats like a damned pig--the would eat a boiled boot if you put butter on it” Catelyn scoffed and Sansa couldn’t help but smile. “I know that things have been difficult, I know that you’re hiding things from me and I wish that you would tell me, that you would let me in. I am your Mother, Sansa.”

“Please” Sansa pleaded. “No feast, no parties, I do not want to be forced to endure an entire evening of pity.”

“My darling Sansa” Catelyn frowned, pulling her into her arms to hold her close. “Alright, no feast.”

“Thank you” Sansa sagged in relief, holding to her Mother and allowing the peace of being held course through her. “Thank you.”

 

Olenna walked down the aisle of the dusty shop, her eyes roaming over every trinket and bauble that cluttered the tiny space. The shop had everything, from spinning wheels to herbs, everything a Witch could desire, all under one roof.

The next aisle over, her Granddaughter and protege Margaery was walking, her bootsteps even on the hardwood floor as she searched for several other ingredients on their list.

Like herself, Margaery was born under a falling star, gifted with magic from the very start. Olenna’s son hadn’t inherited the gift even remotely, so when Margaery was old enough to leave her Mother’s breast, she came to live with Olenna. She was more Margaery’s Mother than Grandmother, serving also as her teacher and caretaker. Someday Margaery would be even more powerful than Olenna, a day that she looked forward to with the pride of a parent.

Beyond, the shop keeper, an older man by the name of Davos, was busy searching through the boxes to find the bauble he’d promised her. Davos of House Seaworth had been known for many years as the man who could locate anything. On land or in the sea, Davos would get whatever you were seeking, you just had to make sure to negotiate a fair price beforehand. Blue-collar as he seemed, he was a shrewd businessman. She almost admired that about him.

He was muttering to himself as he rifled through boxes and crates, but she paid his words no mind until he let out an exclamation of excitement.

“Did you find it?” She asked, lifting her dress to quickly cross to where he stood near the counter.

“I did—didn’t mean to keep you waiting” he promised, rolling out a piece of dark velvet on the countertop before carefully placing the locket on it.

“It’s quite alright, you do always manage to unearth the best treasures” she smiled as she picked up the golden locket, the power thrumming through it and dancing along her fingertips. The locket itself was warm to the touch, almost too warm but she kept her hold firm.

“It’s about a century old, Baratheon,” Davos explained.

“That I could tell by the engraving” she traced the stag’s antlers. “The flame…”

“R’hllor, so they say,” Davos said softly.

“Oh Grandmother” Margaery whispered from beside her, setting her gathered wares on the counter to get a closer look. “It’s lovely.”

“Divine magic, very rare,” Olenna looked to Margaery. She knew that finding any sort of relic from this line of Baratheons was very rare indeed. While most of the Baratheons had remained in King’s Landing or Storm’s End, after the human ‘War of the Five Mortal Kings’ many years ago, some had ventured to Dragonstone and made it their home. Their sigil became that of a flaming stag, surrounded by the Divine magic of the fire God R’hllor.

She was always hunting for artifacts like this, lockets with magic clinging to the very pores of it. She knew that when the time was right, she would locate one--or rather, it would locate her. Fortunately that the time this one surfaced was now, as she could feel war brewing in the heart of the earth, it’s anxiousness calling out to her at all hours, even in slumber.

Olenna had a great deal of experience with Lost Souls, the locket around her own throat had been one of the first, the locket finding her during her formative magical education and she had been bound to it since. The soul inside was a guardian of sorts, but they were so much more than that.

Refocusing on the warm metal in her fingers, she traced the flame once more and she felt the presence bound to the locket pushing at the back of her mind. He was strong, there was no doubt about that, she closed her eyes to reach out to him--to see him. He was perfect, she decided immediately, powerful and imposing, the scales of justice burning above the crown of antlers atop his head. The tilt of his jaw was stubborn, proud...he would be a handful but he was exactly what she needed.

“Hmm” she muttered, opening her eyes and breaking contact with the spirit bound to the locket.

“My Lady?”

“Wherever did you find it?” she asked.

“I didn’t, ma’am, it found me” he replied, clearing his throat and she looked at the older man in surprise.

“Perfect” Olenna smirked, wrapping her fingers around the locket, the warmth of it nearly burning her hand. “I’ll take it.”

“Are you certain, Grandmother?” Margaery asked. “To take sides at a time like this…”

“Quite certain” Olenna nodded. “There are some things in this world that simply aren’t done.”

“Oh?” Margaery prompted, listening intently as she always did.

“You never begin a spell without settling on a price” Olenna reasoned. “Never cross a Lannister without careful planning” her hands tightened on the locket. “And most importantly my darling, you never, I mean ever, call a Tyrell a ‘hag’.”

“Of course” Margaery smirked, her eyes twinkling in sudden understanding. “Never.”

Chapter Text

c.1859

Sansa tucked the linen-wrapped dress away, carefully placing it in her hope chest where it would be safe. She had never seen a dress so beautiful and she knew that her Mother had put a great deal of work into the beading and embroidery. It nearly broke her heart to place it in the chest without wearing it, but she knew there was no point in celebrating the age majority of a Princess who couldn’t shift forms.

For others, their name days and majorities didn’t always coincide. Those who were stronger reached it before their two centuries. Jon had reached his early, not surprising given his fury and determination to help avenge his parents’ deaths, but Robb’s had come several sennights after his name day. In truth, the moment a young Wolf was able to shift, they were considered in their ‘majority’.

Sansa knew given her strength and inability to shift at all, that she may likely never be able to join the others in the hunt. These days she did not even feel the Wolf buried within her. She was broken, the weakest in the family--in the Pack.

She had tried, oh had she tried this morning in the quiet privacy of her rooms. She had sat in silence for hours, searching within herself for any sign of a Wolf--of any change that her majority could have brought. Her silence turned to pleas and then to bargaining and begging, but still her soul remained unmoved. Her Wolf’s spirit was simply...gone.

It was then that she remembered her Mother’s words, a reminder that there was always hope in finding a mate that was as strong as she was weak--a male who would protect her always. Only one such man existed and she would never have courage enough to offer herself to him--rejection from his lips would destroy the last vestiges of her heart entirely.

So perhaps one day, Old Gods willing, she would be able to wear this lovely gown for another special occasion.

She placed her diary on top of the bundle and closed the chest, locking it with the key she kept on a chain hidden in her desk drawer. She carefully pushed to her feet and soothed her skirts; while she had vastly improved over the last year or so, she still had to be cautious of her strength and conserve it wisely. Transitions between sitting and standing were still especially tricky.

Tonight had been like any other, no one in the Pack mentioning that it was her name day--though it was very likely they had forgotten entirely, and she was able to escape from dinner without any more pity than normal. Her family had given her gifts in their private solar while they shared lemon cakes; a new diary, some feather pens and ribbons and a new fur lined cloak for the coming winter.

They were all lovely and she was looking forward to writing in the diary when she had filled her current one. Which would likely be soon. Writing was her escape, her way to deal with the chaos in her mind and settle herself before bed every evening. Within the world of words, she was strong, she was in command of all around her; in that realm she was a Queen.

Footsteps suddenly sounded in the hallway and she turned to look at her wooden door, expecting a knock to follow the stranger’s arrival. After several moments passed and none came, she cautiously stepped closer to the door. She listened and then the footsteps receded, whoever it was had elected not to knock and was retreating. She tilted her nose towards the door but her dulled senses couldn’t pick up on a lingering scent, not at this distance.

Frowning she closed the distance to the door and unlocked it, looking both ways down the hall to find it empty, not a soul in sight. She was about to turn away and return to her room when a small parcel on the carpet in front of her door caught her eye.

Puzzled, she crouched to pick it up and returned inside, absently closing her door. Carrying the parcel to her writing desk and into the better light, she saw that it had been clumsily wrapped in brown paper tied with a burlap cord and there was no card or indication of who it was from. Sinking to her chair, she untied the cord and unfolded the paper.

Her breath caught in her throat as she realized what was inside. With a trembling hand she touched the white gold and enamel comb, tracing the details of the chubby blue bird perched at the top. It was absolutely beautiful, unlike anything she had ever owned before.

Lifting it, she took in every detail from the vibrant yellow and pink flowers to the lovely little bird…

“Oh” she gasped. “A little bird” her finger traced the top of the bird’s back, the enamel cool and smooth beneath her touch. Tears welled in her eyes and she quickly set the comb back down before she could drop it and covered her face. The smell of the woods, pine, and leather lingered on the paper and comb, tearing at her chest.

She cried softly, her heart racing at the beautiful gift she’d been given. It was the loveliest comb she had ever seen but more importantly, the person--the man who had given it to her had remembered. Through all of the chaos of the day to day, through all of his duties and trips away, he had remembered her name day-- he had remembered her.

Covering her mouth to muffle the sobs, she reached out and held to the edge of her desk, anchoring herself to the solid wooden frame.

Every day, for as long as she had known him, Sandor Clegane had stolen more and more of her, but from the moment she woke from her fever she realized that she could never hope to have his attention. She couldn’t fight, she couldn’t shift, she was unsure she could bear children and there wasn’t a guarantee that her heart wouldn’t give out entirely at some point soon. Wolves value strength and power, of which she had neither.

She had taken so much for granted as a young girl, and now it had all but slipped through her fingers.

She was so lost in her sadness that she didn’t hear the bedroom door open, the scent of her Sister reached her a second before arms wrapped around her shoulders. Sansa could only lean against Arya’s stomach, letting her Sister’s strength seep into her mind and body.

 

Arya stared at the comb as Sansa cried, the faint but unmistakable scent of Sandor Clegane clinging to the brown paper it sat upon. Arya would know the scent of the Berserker anywhere, even if it seemed out of place in Sansa’s bedroom. The significance of the gift was not lost upon Arya, but she could not quite determine why it had upset Sansa so much.

For all her vast intelligence, Sansa seemed to be the only one that had yet to realize that Sandor Clegane’s eyes always seemed to find her in a room. If Sansa needed help, Clegane was there. If she was ill, Clegane was there. If she’d have ever had need to summon, nothing would have gotten in the way of him reaching her side. He was entirely her slave and Sansa had no clue.

But Sansa, Gods, she was so bloody obvious about it---the way she watched him in return. The way her eyes seemed to come alight whenever she spoke with him. The way their bodies moved closer when they believed they were alone. It was obvious to any who chose to look.

Their Father had noticed too, as had their Mother; Arya knew that much from how often Catelyn reminded Sansa not to touch Sandor Clegane. But Sansa had reached her majority name date today, wolf or no, she was truly a woman in the eyes of the Pack and therefore permitted to take a mate. There was nothing stopping them now...

Except Sansa, stubborn and infuriating Sansa, had not permitted a traditional feast, a celebration. While Arya knew it was not likely there would have been many offers for her hand, men were stupid after all, she knew that with minimal encouragement of bravery (or heavy blow to the back of his head to rattle his good senses), Sandor would have spoken up. It wasn’t as if anyone would dare to speak out and try to claim what was clearly the Berserker’s!

They were both fools and it was beginning to drive Arya insane.

She had once thought that she was going to lose Sansa forever, that she would slip away to illness and her best friend would be lost to her forever. But even though she had recovered, the burden around Sansa’s shoulders had never left her. She had changed, grown duller even though she tried to hide it.

Sometimes Arya would wake in the night and cross to her Sister’s room and slip into bed with her. If Sansa woke, they would talk as they always had, sharing secrets and insights, but if she did not, Arya would lay there and listen to Sansa breathe as a reminder that she hadn’t been taken.

They likely thought she didn’t know, but she had been listening at Father’s door lately and she knew that Clegane was trying to find Baelish. The Warlock seemed impossible to locate, but that did not stop them from trying, searching every corner of the world. They wanted to reach Baelish before he arrived here and tried to take Sansa away. Clegane seemed even more determined to save her than Father did.

Arya could only roll her eyes, knowing that the best way to do that was for Sandor to take Sansa as his mate, to give her their combined strength and to protect her, even in the dead of night. Why couldn’t they see it…? They were going to be the death of her, she was sure of it.

When Sansa eventually quieted, her sobs turning to occasional snuffles, Arya moved to kneel in front of her chair, looking up into Sansa’s reddened eyes.

“It's from Clegane” Arya noted and Sansa nodded.

“Yes” Sansa sniffled. “He remembered.”

“Of course he did, you ninny” Arya smiled up at her elder Sister.

“Arya---”

“That is not a gift that a subject gives royalty” Arya explained. “That is a gift a man gives a woman, a woman he cares about. I doubt even Mother would have been able to pick out a comb so perfect for you.”

“Arya please, don't,” Sansa protested. “I cannot--”

“Cannot or will not?” Arya cut in and abruptly Sansa stood, pushing away from her desk.

“You know that I cannot,” Sansa said coldly.

“You can” Arya reasoned. “You grow stronger every day, San. He loves you, just like you love him.” At that, Sansa’s eyes shot to Arya’s, fresh tears building there. “You know that I am right.”

“He deserves better than this” she whispered, motioning to herself.

“If you ever say that again, I will set fire to your books” Arya immediately threatened, standing to emphasize her point.

“You wouldn’t dare” Sansa glared in return.

“Watch me,” Arya challenged, stepping closer to wrap her arms around her. “You cannot let this fever win,” Arya whispered, snuggling beneath Sansa’s chin as she always did. “It no longer lives in your blood, but you’re letting it fester in your heart.”

“A heart that barely beats” Sansa spoke against Arya’s hair, the shade the exact same as their Father’s. “Arya…I am not well” she spoke of the confession she had kept under lock and key for moons.

“San?” Arya pulled back to look up at her.

“Everyday is a challenge,” Sansa explained. “While I push through and smile to the world, I feel no better today than I did three moons ago.”

“How bad?” Arya asked. “Tell me, honestly. No more lies.”

“I do not know how long I can live like this,” Sansa admitted. “How long I will live like this.”

“My majority will be coming soon, I can feel it coming. The Wolf is clawing at the back of my brain, desperate to fight free,” Arya explained. “You will be alive to see it, I swear it, Sansa. Afterwards, I will keep you safe. You are not going to die, promise me. You cannot leave me” she leaned against Sansa’s shoulder, holding her tightly.

“I will do my best,” Sansa promised, though the words sounded weak...hollow.

 

“Oh!” Sansa gasped in the same instant that Arya cheered, this time standing on the wooden bench beside her to ‘whoop’ loudly. It wasn’t very ladylike at all, but there was nothing Sansa could do to stop her Sister from behaving so wildly.

“Did you see that?” Arya laughed as she flopped back to her seat. “He just threw Robb across the arena like he weighed nothing more than an old boot!”

“I saw” Sansa nodded, glancing to where Sandor was pacing along the edge of the practice area. The warriors and guards decided to have an impromptu tourney today to celebrate Robb’s majority, entertaining themselves during a break in the early winter weather. Hence why Sansa found herself seated beside her Sister at the training arena’s side. Their parents and younger siblings were behind them as Arya had insisted they sit in the front row to have the ‘best view’ possible.

“I cannot wait to fight” Arya sighed, sounding almost wistful as Robb and Sandor stood to engage once more.

“You’re a fool if you think you can best Ser Clegane” Sansa muttered. She pulled her shawl tighter around her shoulders, her eyes hardly able to look away from Sandor’s Wolf form as he intently watched Robb.

“Oh, I know I cannot beat him” Arya agreed readily. “But if I train with the best, I will soon be able to beat everyone else with ease!”

“Fair enough” Sansa agreed with a smile, jumping slightly as Robb leapt at Sandor with a snarl. The move, however surprising to her, had been wholly predicted by Sandor. When the timing was right, he struck, his massive jaws wrapping around Robb’s nape, spinning him to the sand and pinning him in place.

Smalljon, who had been serving as the ‘Master of Ceremonies’ immediately called the match in Sandor’s favor, which brought a round of applause from the audience and other participants. Robb returned to where the others were but Sandor leapt out of the arena and strode away as they called for a brief intermission while the next match was arranged, this time between Sandor and Jon.

“I’ll be back” Sansa told her sister. “Do you want anything from the kitchen?”

“Jerky, please!” Arya said on a rush, running to talk with Robb along the arena fence line. Sansa carefully stood, wrapping her shawl tight against the breeze and made her way back towards the house. When she turned the corner from the arena pathway, however, she spotted Sandor’s wolf rolling on the damp grass, presumably to rid himself of Robb’s scent.

“Oh” she laughed as he shuffled to his paws, shaking out his deep black coat. “I congratulate you on your win, Ser Clegane” she smiled and he let out a small bark of thanks. Bravely she stepped closer, his wolf towering over her to the point that she didn’t quite reach his back.

As she moved, Sandor crouched, lowering himself belly-first to the grass, which brought her eye to eye with the reality of the world’s last Berserker. Though his scar marred his face, his pelt was otherwise perfect; as dark as the night and just as dangerous. Even in repose he looked deadly.

“They used to tell stories about Berserkers” she said with a small smile. “Robb and Jon did when we were all children. About wolves larger than any horse and men who could tear others apart with their bare hands. It scared the others--well, not Arya, she wanted to find a way to become one” she laughed. “But I always wondered what the eyes of that Wolf would look like. Old Nan used to say that a person’s truth lay hidden in their eyes” she looked into the grey orbs that were watching her intently. “Would a Berserker’s be filled with madness? Anger?” she carefully raised a gloved hand to trace the scars surrounding his right eye. “I find now that they are neither of those” she whispered as the wind chilled her and she pulled the shawl back into place around her neck and shoulders.

Sandor held impossibly still, eyes watching her as she stepped back. Beyond the path and trees, they were calling the tourney to resume and though his ears twitched, he didn’t look away.

“Good luck, Ser Clegane” she gave a small smile and he huffed as she stepped back, a sound she didn’t quite understand. Perhaps she would one day, when she reached her majority and was able to shift into her own wolf form. But for now, she could only smile and watch as he returned to the arena, pausing at the edge of the trees to look back at her before vanishing from sight.

 

“Clegane” Eddard welcomed him to the private, soundproofed office where he, Robb and Jon had already gathered. Even the King’s brother Benjen had joined the council and he knew in his gut that something was amiss.

“What is it?” he asked.

“We’ve had a letter from Tywin Lannister” Eddard extended the parchment to him and he quickly read it, the words sinking like a lead weight in his stomach.

“Baelish is trying to start a war” Sandor deduced easily.

“My thoughts exactly” Eddard agreed, looking at his brother who crossed his arms in contemplation. Eddard and Benjen looked little alike, but the resemblance in their movements was uncanny.

“Baelish doesn’t know that you’ve kept in touch with King Tywin” Benjen reasoned.

“That was our intention. No one beyond this room knows,” Eddard explained. “And only Tywin and Jaime are aware of it on their end.”

“Smart” Robb sighed, leaning heaving against a bookshelf against the wall. “Why would Baelish start a war? What is in it for him?”

“If he can pit us against the Vampires, what happens?” Eddard started outlining possibilities. “The earth suffers at the hand of battle, weakening the Tyrells. We are too busy fighting each other to see what happens behind our backs. The Boltons can slip into Winterfell and the Targaryens can slip back to their throne.”

“Sansa,” Sandor said simply. “The Princess has been the end game all along.”

“He cannot have her” Eddard repeated words he had often spoken before.

“No,” Jon agreed. “And the Targaryens cannot have their throne. Not while my heart still beats.”

“I know” Eddard clapped his nephew on the shoulder, squeezing it gently in reassurance. “We won’t let that happen. We’ve formed an alliance, however secret, with the Lannisters.”

“What about the Martells?” Benjen asked. “Could they be involved?”

“I doubt it,” Eddard replied. “I have shared only a few letters with King Oberyn, but Tywin assured me that they are loyal. Prince Jaime is rumored likely to marry Elia, do not forget.”

“He’ll go to Roose Bolton,” Benjen added.

“Likely” Eddard agreed.

“Baelish seeks to distract us with war, perhaps make himself the savior once more” Sandor paused, looking back down at the letter. “Fuck…”

“What is it?” Eddard asked, seeing the obvious confusion on Sandor’s features.

“Clegane?” Robb prompted.

“Sansa’s been the endgame all along--or maybe Lady Catelyn was but she isn’t anymore” Sandor whispered, tossing the letter to the King’s desk. “He did this. He did all of it.”

“Did what?”

“He made her sick,” Sandor continued. “Doctors, Witches, Warlocks, they all failed to cure Sansa, but Baelish waltzes in and solves it like that---” he snapped his fingers.

“Fuck” Eddard muttered, running his hands through his hair.

“First he made her sick, then he cured her to ensure that you” Sandor pointed at his King. “Were in his debt!”

“I admit it sounds like him,” Benjen shrugged.

“Then it is more imperative than ever that we protect her” Robb chimed in and Jon nodded in agreement.

“I’ll protect her,” Sandor growled. “I’ll tear his fucking head off the moment I find him.”

“We let him think it’s working,” Eddard said suddenly. “We work with Tywin to lull Baelish into overconfidence.”

Benjen nodded, “And let him spring the trap, not realizing that he’s in it.”

“Yes,” Eddard agreed, looking to Sandor.

“And then I rip his fucking head off” Sandor repeated.

 

“Sansa” looked up from her diary when her Mother appeared at her bedroom door.

“Mother?” she set her feather pen aside and stood. “Something’s wrong, what’s happened?” she immediately deduced.

“You have a visitor” Catelyn moved to her side, smoothing her hair and tucking an errant curl behind her ear.

“Me? Who?” Sansa felt a frisson of fear skate through her blood.

“Lady Olenna Tyrell,” Catelyn said quietly.

“The Witch of Thorns?” Sansa whispered, eyes going wide.

“She’s asked to speak with you directly” Catelyn nodded, unable to hide her own concern.

“Is this about…” Sansa couldn’t finish the sentence and Catelyn could only nod. “I see” Sansa cleared her throat, quickly grabbing her shawl and wrapping it around her shoulders. It was fortunate that she had taken care of her hair and dress this morning, she would look presentable enough to meet with the Matriarch of all Witches.

She followed her Mother’s path downstairs, spotting Sandor near Robb’s office door down the hall as she reached the first level. He looked angry--no, he looked furious, but she couldn’t discern as to why--or at who. She forced herself to look away as her Mother ushered her to the morning room.

Whatever she had expected the Witch of Thorns to look like, it hadn’t been this. Lady Olenna, while centuries old, looked no older than her Lady Mother. She wasn’t overly tall, slightly curvy with beautiful hair that fell past her waist. She wore a lavender dress and crown of thorns and roses in her hair, and a beautiful locket at the base of her neck.

Beside her stood what could have been her twin, but the other woman appeared much younger and much more...eager? That was the only word that Sansa could think that seemed to fit the bright sheen of her chocolate eyes. She also wore a soft purple gown, but hers had cut-outs at each side, showing the bare skin of her torso beneath her ribs to her hips.

Wasn’t she cold? Sansa couldn’t help but think.

“Lady Sansa” Olenna extended her hands and Sansa took them with her own gloved hands. Olenna spared only a brief glance for the kidskin gloves that Sansa wore, gently squeezing her hands before releasing them.

“It is lovely to meet you, Lady Olenna” Sansa smiled, motioning to the chairs. “Please, let us sit” she offered and the two Witches sat on the settee while Sansa and her Mother sat in the facing wingback chairs. Her Father arrived then, clearly having already greeted their visitors, taking a standing position beside her Mother’s chair, listening intently.

“This is my Granddaughter and protege, Margaery” Olenna introduced the younger woman. “She was quite insistent that she be allowed to accompany me today.”

“It is very nice to meet you as well, Lady Margaery” Sansa said politely even though she was unsure as to why they had come to begin with.

“Please, call me Margaery” the younger woman smiled and Sansa gave her one in return.

“You may call me Sansa.”

“I admit, Sansa, rumors of your beauty do not do you justice” Olenna began.

“Thank you, Lady Olenna, though I fear I am much changed in recent moons” Sansa reasoned humbly.

“I have heard as such,” Olenna replied, getting straight to the bottom line. “And that is what brings me here today.”

“Does it?” Sansa asked, allowing the Witch to lead the conversation. She had never been this close to a Tyrell Witch, let alone two, and was curious as to what they wanted. Heavy boot steps sounded in the hall and Sansa knew instinctively that Sandor had taken up post at the door, a fact that had her barely able to keep the smile from her face.

“I understand that High Warlock Baelish is the one who was able to…’cure’ you,” Olenna said simply. “A fact that immediately raised our suspicions” she glanced to Eddard and continued. “As you’re well aware, Baelish is not a man to be taken lightly.”

“No” her Father agreed.

“Or one to be trusted,” Olenna added.

“Never.”

“While I have known him for many centuries, I do my best to never have direct dealings with him. Of late, he seems to be back up to his old tricks and I know that no good will come of them” Olenna continued. “I also have done my best to avoid the petty squabbles of the realm. My first duty is to my family and to Highgarden, as it always has been.”

“And yet you are here today” Sansa said softly, laying her hands in her lap.

“I am” Olenna smirked. “I like you, you do not mince words.”

“Likewise” Sansa replied with a genuine smile.

“I spoke with Baelish several moons ago and something has never sat right with me about the conversation” Olenna pulled a velvet pouch from her reticule, loosening the tie to pour the contents into her hand. Sansa couldn’t help but lean closer, looking over the golden piece she belatedly realized was a locket.

“Lady Olenna--” her Father protested at the sight of the jewelry but the Witch silenced him with a look.

“I spent many moons looking for the perfect piece” Olenna lifted the pendant up by it’s chain. “Divine magic is very rare and this gem found me in perfect time.”

“Divine magic?” Sansa asked, mesmerized by the locket and the flaming stag engraved on the front.

“There are many types of magic, darling” Olenna stood and motioned for Sansa to do the same. “Arcane, Divine, Dark--I could go on but I would hate to bore you. But the purest form of magic is Divine. It is granted by the Old Gods it seeks only to protect and defend, something I believe you will greatly need in the time to come.”

“I am afraid that I do not understand,” Sansa admitted as she stood before Lady Olenna.

“A truly wise woman admits when she does not understand,” Olenna praised. “You need a guardian, my darling Princess” Olenna explained in simpler terms. “More than that hulking Berserker lingering nervously outside the door. Baelish’s magic has touched your blood, it is altered because of it and until such a time that you are safe, you will need this” she lifted the locket.

“It's beautiful,” Sansa said as she looked over the intricate engraving, so much work had gone into this piece, even the chain seemed to have been made of woven antlers.

“This is very old, Baratheon Divine magic” Olenna undid the clasp and stepped behind her, deftly connecting the pieces before moving Sansa’s shawl to cover the back.

“Baratheon?” Sansa marvelled.

“Baratheon” Margeary reached up to touch her own locket that had similar, if simpler details.

The chain on Sansa’s necklace was long enough so that it may be hidden in the neckline of her gowns. Sansa lifted a hand to touch the metal, surprised at how warm it felt against her skin.

“If you are ever in trouble, and that slab of man meat out there cannot reach you, just open it and he will protect you” Olenna explained.

“He?”

“The Guardian” Olenna lifted her fingers to her own locket, telling Sansa that she would not be the only one with a mysterious locket guardian.

“I do not know what to say, I am in your debt” Sansa whispered, tracing the stag with her forefinger. “Thank you--”

“Why are you helping us?” Eddard interrupted and Olenna looked to him with a scowl.

“I have no desire to see this world plunged into another war that ravages the earth, she suffers enough as it is--just as Sansa does” Olenna reasoned. “And Baelish called me a ‘hag’, Wolf King, a slight that I simply cannot abide” she moved back to Margaery’s side.

“We are most grateful,” Catelyn said with a smile. “I would insist that you stay for dinner at the very least, we will arrange for a feast in your honor.”

“That sounds lovely,” Olenna smiled brightly. “I never turn down anything given in my honor” she added and Margaery laughed.

“Perfect” Catelyn stood and smoothed her skirts. “Until then, I would love to show you around, I am certain you would care to see the Heart Tree in particular.”

“I admit I would,” Olenna nodded. “Winterfell’s legendary Heart Tree is something I have wished to see for many years.”

“Then come” Catelyn offered. “Let us visit the Godswood. Sansa, would you join us?”

“Of course,” Sansa agreed, moving to follow the elders from the room. She was surprised when Lady Margaery moved to her own side, taking her arm with surprising familiarity.

“I think we’re going to be great friends” Margaery said as they walked out the door.

Sansa looked up at Sandor who was watching as she walked with Margaery, his grey eyes filled with an emotion that she couldn’t quite place. He followed them out into the garden, her Mother and Father walking arm in arm, Olenna at their side, and her behind them with Margaery.

The others made polite conversation and Sansa did her best to keep up with the small talk, her thoughts kept returning to the locket that now lay warm against her sternum. She knew little of the Baratheon family, but she did know that they were neither Wolf, nor Vampire, nor Mortal. They were ‘gray’ men of sorts, walking between worlds and powerful conduits only when attached to a supernatural being. She promised herself that she would further research the family as soon as she had time.

It wasn’t until they cleared the back garden that she heard the shouting--the furious, angry words that were being hurled between Arya and Gendry. They were standing close, both seething with obvious anger though the arrogant tilt of Gendry’s lips showed he was greatly enjoying this.

“What is the meaning of this?” her Father immediately jumped in between the opponents, stilling their words with his commanding tone.

“Your Grace---” Gendry began to explain but Arya did not let him speak.

“Why can’t you just leave me alone!” she yelled over him, her face unusually ruddy with anger, flushed and wild.

“Arya” Sansa stepped away from Margaery to sooth her sister.

“Leave me alone!” Arya snapped in her direction, then immediately realized who she’d spoken to and stumbled back. “San….? What...” she panted heavily, raising her hands in confusion.

“Arya, what’s wrong?” Sansa tried to take her Sister’s hands but Sandor’s grip on her arm stopped her cold. It was fortunate that he had because in the next instant everything happened so quickly--too quickly. Sansa barely had time to register her Sister’s doubling over and the violent tearing of her clothing because Sandor had pulled her into the cradle of his large body, curling over her, shielding her as her Sister’s feral growls filled the afternoon air.

Shouting and chaos seemed to follow, Sandor grunted briefly but Sansa could only keep her face buried in Sandor’s cravat and pray for it to end. His breathing was heavy in her ear, his scent surrounding her completely. The ends of his hair tickled the side of her face, reminding her that while he was all hard planes and chiseled muscle, there was still a soft side to this man.

Here in this cocoon she was safe from anything and everyone. Nothing could harm her, not in his embrace.

“Are you hurt, Little Bird?” he whispered.

“No” she assured him, her gloved fingers in a white-knuckle grip on his waistcoat as he slowly released her. When she was steady and Sandor had all but released her, she finally forced her eyes open. She gasped in surprise at the slender, if small, chocolate brown Wolf staggering across the lawn only inches away. “A-Arya?” she whispered and the Wolf immediately looked to her, whimpering softly, ears folded back flat against her lupine skull.

Arya.

“Well” Sansa heard her Mother’s smiling voice, even over the din of her own thoughts. “It seems we have many reasons to feast tonight.”

“Welcome to the Pack, My Lady” Gendry smirked, hands on his hips as he watched Arya. His words were only met with a growl and snap of great jaws, the action almost knocking Arya off of her unfamiliar paws.

“Excuse me” Sansa turned away but Sandor’s hand at her elbow gave her pause.

“Little Bird, don’t--” he whispered, his fingers flexing over the material of her long sleeve.

“I am well, Ser Clegane” she spoke the lie as smoothly as she had so many others. “I will see you tonight at my Sister’s majority feast. It is sure to be a grand celebration, as she has reached it over a year early” she pulled her arm away and made her way to the house, absently touching the locket around her neck. It did nothing to warm her, not as she felt a chill on her skin at being out of Sandor’s warm embrace.

In all her years, she had never felt more alone than she did in this moment.

 

Sandor watched her go, turning back to the scene to see Eddard watching him with an odd expression. Buggering King...

“Your back--” Eddard began but Sandor shook his head.

“I am fine,” he quickly assured, feeling the deep claw marks in his back as they rapidly healed. In the heat of her transformation, Arya’s uncontrolled claws had lashed out and had he not been there, Arya’s claws would have cleaved her Sister in two. Something that would have certainly killed her given her compromised state. Given Arya’s whimper and fearful body language, she realized how close she’d come to killing her most beloved Sister.

“Thank you,” Eddard said, glancing at Sandor’s torn clothing.

“No need to thank me” grunted, wiping a hand across his face and cracking the tension from his neck. When he opened his eyes, it was to see the Witch Matriarch, Lady Olenna, watching him closely. He returned her look with a cold glare, surprised when she didn’t flinch away from him.

“My my, what wonderful Berserker instincts” Olenna said with a chuckle. “She is lucky to have such a devoted guardian” she added and before he could reply, Robb, Jon and a few others emerged from the house, whooping and hollering around Arya, welcoming her to the Pack. The subject change was fine with him, that Witch saw far too much--more than was good for her.

“We’ll celebrate tonight,” Eddard announced. “And welcome another fine Stark warrior to the Pack” he said and cheers surrounded them, but Sandor could only glance to the windows of the third floor, longing more than anything to comfort a Little Bird who may never have the chance to fly.

 

High Warlock Baelish crossed to the balcony, smiling to himself as he realized the time was drawing near. The beautiful Princess Sansa Stark would have reached her majority now, she would be ripe for the picking and surely ignored by the other Wolves.

Wolves, he scoffed. Those foolish beasts only valued physical strength, none of them could see that Sansa--Princess Sansa’s true strength was in her sharp mind and incomparable beauty. Still, it worked in his favor, as she would be more than ready to become his when he promised her strength. Power.

He finished his watered wine and set the goblet onto the balustrade, observing the burnt and melted keep beyond.

Little did she know, that strength would have been hers regardless. His hand went, unbidden as it always did, to the glass vial around his neck. Inside he could feel how badly the contents ached to escape, to return to its rightful owner. But he wasn’t taking any chances, the cork was spelled in place and it wouldn’t budge until it was time.

And that time would be coming soon…

Chapter Text

c.1859

“Sandor” his name, softly spoken, sounded behind him and he turned away from the large window to see Sansa standing in the doorway to the library.

“Little Bird” he stepped closer, his eyes drinking in every detail of her person, as they always did. She had changed for dinner, her slender frame clad in a stunning gown of sage green that covered her from her neck to the floor with light tan kidskin gloves covering her slender hands. Her hair was styled in an intricate updo, the familiar golden comb twinkling from the mess of curls. It looked perfect in her fiery tresses, just as he had hoped it would.

At her throat sat the golden locket that the Witch had brought her and he felt his hackles rise at the fear of it being some sort of trap. While they knew beyond a doubt that they couldn’t trust Baelish, he also was not convinced that the sudden appearance of the Tyrell Witches was an entirely altruistic act. True, Olenna had never previously chosen a side during any war, claiming that her allegiance was to the earth alone, but now she was in Winterfell, hanging baubles around Sansa’s slender neck.

It only served to raise his suspicions. When it came to Sansa’s safety, he was not going to take a chance on trusting anyone but himself to protect her.

Still, even with the Baratheon stag at her throat, Sansa was stunning. She looked every inch the perfect Princess. Not even the redness of her eyes and the chafing beneath her nose could take away from her beauty. It was clear that she had been crying for many hours, her grief over her Sister’s transformation well-hidden. She had vanished after the episode in the gardens, and while most did not notice, he felt her loss acutely.

Arya had reached her majority early--earlier than any She-Wolf before now which was a testament to the Runt’s strong-willed nature. The day after Sansa’s name day, Arya had shifted and joined the Pack, a wound that he knew would cut his Little Bird deeply.

“I wanted to thank you” Sansa began, her hands worrying each other at her waist. “I did not realize it earlier today, but my Father spoke with me regarding the gardens and I...I am greatly indebted to you for keeping me safe once more.”

“There is no need to thank me” he assured her softly.

“But there is,” she countered, shifting closer. “And I will make you another coat and waistcoat to make amends for the ones torn today. I trust that your back is healed?”

“It is, there is no need to give it another thought” he replied, glancing at her hands which caused his hair to fall over his shoulders into his face.

Once upon a time he had kept his hair long to cover the claw marks along the side of his face. As angry and jagged that they were, he did his best to hide them from the world at large. While other Wolves would see them as a badge of honor, Mortals and Vampires were not in the same line of thinking.

Now, however, he kept it long because of a silly vain notion--the hope that the way Sansa’s eyes seemed to follow his hair as it moved was evidence of her admiration of it--of him. He was not a handsome man, too large and too bulky to be considered traditionally good looking, heavily scarred with a nose a bit crooked and bumpy from being broken more times than was healthy. Still he knew he was strong and imposing. But in those rare unguarded moments he could see something in Sansa’s eyes as she looked at him that was...

If only he were worthy of such a lovely prize.

“I would thank you again,” Sansa repeated, reaching out to place her hand over his and even through her gloves he could feel the tremors she sought to hide. “Without you, Ser Clegane, I would surely be lost.”

“You’re stronger than you think, Little Bird” he covered her hand with his own as the calls rang out in the halls, signalling the start of the feast. “You always have been.”

“Go on ahead” she whispered, pulling her hand away. “I need a moment.”

“Of course” he could see the unshed tears she did well to battle back and forced himself to step away. She turned away and faced the window, a shuddering breath entering her body and he longed to pull her into his arms--to hold her and protect her from all of the burdens that had settled upon her shoulders.

It was a blessing and a curse, he decided, to have held her in his arms earlier today. To have felt her warmth and be surrounded by her scent, only to have her now seem further away than ever.

He watched her for several stolen moments before he turned away, his polished boots carrying him towards the chaos that awaited in the Great Hall. As he exited the library he noticed the small, slender frame of Arya leaning against the opposite wall, her eyes sharp just like her Father’s.

“Runt” he grumbled an odd sort of greeting as she fell into step beside him.

“Berserker” Arya replied smugly.

“Think you’re high and mighty now?” he smirked down at her.

“No” Arya paused her steps to look up at him. “But I am a Wolf now, and I am going to protect her.”

“Are you?” his lips curved into a smirk, the scars near the corner of his mouth pulling tight.

“Yes,” Arya said confidently. “And you’re going to help me” she added and he watched her for several seconds before he let out a loud guffaw.

“Alright, Runt” he nodded in agreement. “But I get to rip Baelish’s fucking head off.”

“Deal.”

 

“Karstark!” Eddard greeted the visiting vanguard and Sansa watched, her eyes cataloging the proud Northmen that had flooded the great hall. “It is good to see you, welcome to Winterfell.”

“Thank you, Your Grace” Harrion Karstark took her Father’s offered hand with a firm grip, bowing over it. “It is an honor to be welcomed into your home, as always.”

Harrion Karstark and his men had always been loyal bannermen to the Starks, fighting alongside them in the Vampire Rebellion and again against the Bolton Uprising. Behind Harrion stood his Brothers, Torrhen and Harald, all of them large and imposing--well, large until you compared them to Sandor Clegane.

“Of course, what better way to celebrate the start of the Yule” her Father smiled, as did her Mother on his arm. Sansa stood further back, doing her best to blend into her other siblings. She had only recently begun attending formal occasions now that she was recovering, and she still felt the stares of those around her acutely.

“Come, Lord Karstark” her Father ushered them inside. “We’ll get you settled and--” her Father’s words faded away and Sansa’s blood ran cold as the eyes of Torrhen Karstark met hers, then boldly moved over her frame. Her heart began to race as his bold unwanted perusal of her person made her feel sick. He shifted, smirking as he moved to step closer when Sandor stepped in front of her, all but blocking her from sight.

Just passed Sandor’s arm she could see Torrhen’s smirk fall, his eyes going wide in surprise and she almost giggled at the fear that emanated from his once-confident frame. Though she could have imagined it, she thought she heard a low growl rumble from Sandor’s chest, an unmistakable warning to the newcomers to stay away from her.

Arya turned back to look at her, her dark eyes dancing with smug mischief as she raised a single eyebrow. Sansa could only look back at her in confusion, clearly not understanding the reason for Arya’s amusement. It ruffled her hackles, not understanding the inside joke in Arya’s head. What could be so amusing? Sandor was sworn to protect the Starks, he was simply doing his duty...wasn’t he?

 

When Sansa finally crossed over the threshold, it was to find the Great Hall in chaos. As expected, every man, woman and child was here to celebrate Princess Arya’s early majority transformation. Not only that, but there were two Tyrell Witches in attendance tonight, and many were anxious to see the legendary women with their own eyes. Of course, both Witches had been here to witness the life-changing transformation of the Wolf Princess in the gardens earlier today, which was no small honor in return.

Sansa could hardly believe the noise level as she entered the party, it was more than she'd ever heard before. Taking a deep breath and ensuring that her gloves and long sleeves were in place, she squared her shoulders and moved into the party proper, making her way through the crowd to the head table.

Arya, she noticed, was leaning against the table with Robb, Jon, Gendry and a few others, drinks in-hand as they talked and laughed as if they were the oldest friends in the world. She felt a pang in her chest but pushed it aside, now was not the time to become jealous at her Sister’s effortless acceptance into the Pack.

Truly she was happy for Arya. Arya had told her before that she felt the Wolf at the back of her mind, and it seemed her argument with Gendry had been just the trigger to send her over the edge. Fight or flight, her Father had once told her. Fight or flight were easy ways to trigger the inner-Wolf when you were nearing your majority, and for Arya it had served to usher her into her majority over a year ahead of schedule.

She’d always known that her Sister was strong, this just served as further proof.

“Sansa” her Mother’s voice reached her and she turned to see her Lady Mother sitting with the Tyrells, her smile filled with a knowing sadness.

“Mother” Sansa curtsied politely and she felt Lady Olenna’s assessing gaze on her like a magnifying glass.

“You look lovely,” Olenna said with a kind smile. “The locket suits you.”

“Thank you, Lady Olenna” Sansa replied softly. “It is such a beautiful piece, I cannot begin to repay you for such kindness.”

“Unlike my Warlock counterpart, no payment is necessary in this. Had there been one required, I would have asked it before I placed it around your neck” Olenna assured her and Margaery giggled softly. “When the time comes, the look on his face will be payment enough.”

“Of course” Sansa agreed, fear settling in her stomach at the Witch’s cryptic words. To distract herself, she focused on the party at large, her eyes going to her Father as he called everyone’s attention. They all took to their seats, Olenna and Margaery sitting beside Sansa while the others flooded the large wooden tables.

“Welcome everyone!” Eddard greeted, his words met with wild cheers. “Tonight we are here to not only welcome Lady Olenna Tyrell and Lady Margaery Tyrell to Winterfell, but also to celebrate my youngest Daughter’s majority!” he looked pointedly to Arya and Sansa did her best to be invisible. The cheers seemed to rattle the very flatware and Sansa took several deep breaths to control herself.

Feeling oddly exposed, she looked up to see Sandor Clegane watching her, his gaze dark and intense. She forced a small smile to her lips and tipped her head in acknowledgement, assuring him without words that she was alright. He nodded slightly in return and her fingers rose to the locket at the base of her throat, a new nervous habit she’d already developed.

“So I ask that we raise our goblets to Arya” her Father continued. “May she be as fierce a Wolf as she is a Daughter and Sister” he toasted and everyone clinked their goblets and tankards.

“Your Grace!” a booming voice filled the hall and everyone turned to where Gendry Waters now stood at his seat. “I would offer my suit, through trial by combat if necessary, for a chance at the hand of Princess Arya Stark.”

“Absolutely not!” Arya stood abruptly in protest, her chair falling to the floor behind her as she glared at the man who had been trying to get her attention since his arrival in Winterfell. Sansa had known all along that Gendry was infatuated with Arya, now it seemed that he wished to have her as his mate.

“By law all suits must be considered” Eddard looked to Arya who was a half-step away from having smoke coming out of her ears.

“I’ll fight him then!” Arya countered without pause, swinging her glare back to Gendry who was smirking. “You’ll have to beat me if you want me, you idiot!”

“With pleasure, My Lady” he said smoothly, the men gathered around him breaking out into cheers, clapping him heavily on the back.

“Do not call me that!” Arya growled.

“Tomorrow we will take to the arena” Eddard interjected, likely trying to diffuse the tension. “But tonight, tonight we celebrate and welcome our honored guests” he raised his glass to Olenna and Margaery, everyone joining in on the toast.

Sansa watched the room dissolve into chaos and disorder once more, this time as food was devoured and wine flowed freely. She waited until she believed no one was watching and carefully slipped from her chair and strode from the hall.

It wasn’t that she wasn’t happy for her sister, she was. She just couldn’t stop the demon of jealousy that was gnawing at her chest. Arya had joined the pack, Gendry had asked for her hand, both were causes for celebration.

But she had to escape, she had to get away--to be free, if only for a few moments. She couldn’t stay in the hall...

 

“Do you ever wonder what it would be like” Sansa asked, looking at the man sitting across from her in the library. “To be human or to be a vampire?”

Sandor gave a small shrug, “Vampire maybe, they’re fast buggers” he chuckled and Sansa smiled, closing her book and setting it aside. The library, her haven since childhood, had become their haven now. Over the past several moons, when he was not away on whatever mission he’d been sent on, Sandor would often find her here and join her. With the door open, of course. There would be no talk of impropriety if others were to find them together.

They usually spoke little, both simply choosing to read in the others’ company, enjoying a comfortable, companionable silence. He’d helped her to rearrange some of the chairs, he did all of the heavy lifting, and now two heavy velvet wingback chairs were situated near the fireplace. Between them sat a coffee table that served perfectly to hold a tea tray and several books. It was cozy, warm and safe.

“They are? I had no idea” Sansa inquired, placing a ribbon in the book she’d been reading and setting it aside.

“Very” Sandor lowered his book and stretched out his legs, crossing them at the booted ankle. “Took me almost an hour to catch the last one I had to run down. Buggering Jaime Lannister, damned fool.”

“He must be very fast, to give you a run for your money” she giggled, pulling her shawl over her arms.

“He has considerably less bulk than I do” Sandor replied as he stood, crossing to add another log to the fireplace. Sansa watched him closely, wondering if he was cold or if he was quietly responding to the chill that had washed over her. She took the chance to admire his broad frame--what he called ‘bulk’, as he crouched, shifting the burning logs to make room for more. Even in a plain shirt and black waistcoat he was an intimidating man.

His hair had been trimmed, falling to the tops of his shoulders in a very rakish sort of way. She liked it loose, rather than tied back in a queue, liked the way it curled beside his bearded cheek. While other men found beards unfashionable, Sandor always kept his neat and orderly, even around the scars that nearly covered the right side of his face.

“Still” he spoke as he stood, staring at the flames for a few seconds until he was sure that the new log had caught. “Sometimes we have no choice but to give chase.”

“I worry that I shall never know the feeling” she said softly, looking at her gloved hands.

“You will” he assured her, returning to his seat with a small smile. “You will.”

 

Sandor followed at a distance as Sansa all but ran through the gardens and to the waterfalls beyond the treeline. The hot springs lay below, but they would very likely be empty at this hour. The entire Pack was currently inside celebrating the early majority of Princess Arya.

He heard her cries before he entered the clearing, sharp eyes immediately finding her leaning against a large boulder, her body curled in on itself. She had torn off her gloves and let them fall to the grassy ground, her trembling hands covering her mouth and stomach as she sobbed.

“Little Bird” he soothed as he approached, slipping his jacket off to lay it over her slender shoulders, the large piece of material covering her completely in the cool night air.

“Sandor, you shouldn’t be here” she whispered. “Please, return to the party, I will be fine.”

“Bugger the party” Sandor replied, moving to stand before her. “Your sister won’t even notice I’ve gone. Too busy plotting Waters’ death, I dare say.”

“No, she won’t notice” Sansa wiped her eyes, pulling his jacket tighter around herself to ward off the chill. “She has a celebration to see too.”

“You could’ve had one as well,” he noted.

“For what reason, pray tell?”

“You know which one, Little Bird” he replied. She swallowed thickly and turned to look at him.

“Why are you here?” her voice was soft, barely audible, as if she were afraid of the answer.

“Someone has to take care of you, Little Bird.”

“Because you promised Father?” she countered and he frowned. “I heard him ask you to protect me, to vow it” she shook her head. “Is that why you’re here?”

“I would have done it anyway” he admitted. “Without ever being asked to.”

“Sandor…”

“That was the first time you spoke my name, that day...”

“I know. I couldn’t stop myself. I was so tired and then, there you were” she said softly, meeting his eyes. He watched her for several seconds and when she took a deep breath, his eyes were once again drawn to the comb in her intricate hairstyle.

She had worn it every day since he’d left for her on her nameday, the little blue bird dancing above a riot of curls each time he saw her. It had been a stupid impulse, silly and far above his station, but the moment he’d seen the comb in King’s Landing, he knew that it had been made to adorn her fiery hair.

“It’s perfect in your hair” he reached out with a gloved hand to touch the comb and she averted her eyes, turning away, inadvertently baring the column of her throat and that damned distracting mole beneath her ear.

“It is my favorite possession,” she confessed.

“Sansa…” his gums ached as the tendons in her neck flexed— he longed to sink his teeth into the flesh, to mark her forever. “Sansa..” he repeated and she turned to meet his eyes once more.

“You must think me silly,” she whispered. “Crying on a day like today.”

“I admit I have thought many things about you, Little Bird, but none of them had ever been that you’re silly” he whispered.

“Arya has reached her majority years early and Gendry immediately asked for her hand” Sansa whispered, closing her eyes briefly as she took a few deep breaths. “I want so badly to be happy for her, but I am so jealous--and I am so ashamed” she choked on a sob and looked to the ground.

Sandor growled and moved quickly, giving into the urge to hold her once more. He wrapped an arm around Sansa’s minuscule waist and cupped her cheek with a gloved hand. She gasped in surprise, blue eyes wide with shock as she looked up at him. Her bare hands settled on his waistcoat, fingers flexing against his sides. She felt so tiny against him, her slender frame while taller than most, was dwarfed by his Berserker build.

Yet still, she did not pull away, she did not shy from his touch. She never had.

“I know you think you’re broken, Little Bird” he said fiercely. “I can see it in your eyes, in the way you hide from the world. The way you lie and tell others that you’re well” he continued, his thumb absently tracing her cheekbone. He wished more than anything to remove his kidskin gloves and feel her porcelain skin against his own. “I wish there was some way for me to convince you that being different doesn’t make you any lesser.”

She was quiet for several seconds before she replied, “I am not different like you, you’re strong and---”

“I am alone, Little Bird. In this world I am the last of my kind and I think of that every day when I dress” he assured her. “Every man with an ounce of brains is afraid of me--”

“You are not alone...I have never been afraid of you” she gave a weak smile. “I know you’d never hurt me.”

“No, Little Bird, I could never hurt you” he promised. “We’re different, but we are no less than any of those other cunts” she did not flinch at his harsh words, she never had. “You’re no less than your buggering runt of a Sister.”

“Sandor…”

“I promised to protect you, yes” he spoke quietly but with no less emphasis. “And I will always keep you safe, no vow ever needed to be spoken for that.”

“What could I have done to earn such unfailing devotion?” she whispered, one of her hands shifting from his waistcoat to his bicep, slender fingers twitching against the fabric of his shirt.

“You’re you, Little Bird” he whispered, shifting closer. “From that first moment, you were only yourself…”

“I…” she broke off, taking a deep, shuddering breath. “I promised myself that I wouldn’t…”

“Wouldn’t?” he prompted when her words faded into silence.

“That I couldn’t...” her fingers flexed and then her hand lifted from his arm, hovering just beside his neck...then his face. All it would take was for him to turn a half an inch, for her to bend her thumb.... “Sandor?” that single word held a thousand questions--a thousand possibilities, her eyes dark with unnamed emotions and he felt every bit of it reflected in his own.

He knew what she was asking, knew the choice she was giving him. The only issue was that it wasn’t a choice, it never had been. Not since the moment he’d laid eyes on her in the Great Hall.

He moved quickly, working a glove off and letting it fall to the grass. He held her eyes as he raised his bare hand and boldly cupped the back of her own. His large palm engulfed hers, their fingers twining together effortlessly.

He turned his head then, placing a lingering kiss to the center of her palm. Without the barrier of their gloves, her skin was impossibly warm against his lips, her whimper echoing in his ears as he touched his lips to her flesh for the first time.

Gods, it felt so right...

He allowed his tongue to taste her, the silk of her palm briefly meeting the tip of his tongue and he felt her breathing hitch in response. It was everything, salty and sweet, redemption and sin, her delicate sigh was met with an answering growl deep within his chest, his inner Wolf clawing at his cage. He’d known, he’d always known that the demon that lived in his heart could only be sated-- could only be tamed by this woman, by his Little Bird.

“What have we done?” she whispered, her voice laced with awe as he guided her hand to his bearded, scarred cheek, holding it against his flesh. Her fingers cupped his face, her thumb tracing the line of his beard leaving a trail of fire in its wake. He felt the warmth of her touch travel through his body, melting any ice that lingered in his core, lulling his entire being into languid intoxication.

“What we should have done years ago,” he admitted as an errant tear trailed down her cheek.

"Sandor..."

“No more tears” he whispered as he removed his remaining glove. He raised his thumb to brush the hot droplet away, just as he ached to do moments before. In response, Sansa all but purred, turning her face into his touch. Her eyes fluttered closed as she nuzzled against his hand, it was the first time he had seen or heard evidence of the Wolf that lived within Sansa’s heart.

His own heart ached at the simple action, cradling her as delicately as he could. Before this his hands had only known violence--known pain.

“Mmm, Sandor” she purred without opening her eyes.

He closed the last distance between them, their foreheads found the others’ and were resting flesh to flesh, as if they could share thoughts at the touch. Their lips a hairsbreadth apart, he could practically taste her on the air between them.

“My Little Bird, I---” his ears twitched as a branch cracked deeper in the woods and he whirled away, pulling her behind his back. His eyes scanned the trees as as foreign scent reached his nose.

“Sandor?” Sansa’s hands bunched in the back of his waistcoat, clinging to him for safety.

He turned quickly, grabbing her elbows, “Run to the house, now! Do not stop until you’re with your Father. Go, Little Bird. Go now!” She obeyed without question, turning to run up the path towards the house. Sandor faced the woods once more, growling deeply. “I can smell you, you buggering cunt.”

Another branch broke and this time he didn’t bother with his clothes, he simply jumped. Landing in the river on four paws he sprinted into the woods, chasing the scent a few hundred yards before the form of another, smaller wolf came into sight.

Bolton he snarled, howling out a warning to the other Wolves at the mansion, forcing his bulky frame to move faster.

He must hunt.

Kill.

Protect.

 

She ran as fast as she could, stumbling twice--three times as she scrambled up the hill but she managed to keep her footing. By the time Sansa reached the gardens, Sandor’s howl had warned the entire Pack of an intruder. The resulting chaos had the Pack spilling from the house en masse, shedding their clothing as they ran for the forest.

Her brain was hardly able to comprehend what had happened in the woods before Sandor had sent her away. She knew there was danger, or he wouldn’t have immediately given chase, but her mind was stuck on the feel of his lips against her palm, his beard against her hand, his hand on her cheek.

Summoning every last ounce of courage in her heart, she had given him the choice and he hadn’t hesitated to meet her touch. He had kissed her--even if it was only her palm, had held her tightly and spoken such lovely words. He wanted her, hope blossomed in her chest.

He wanted her!

She knew the potential consequences of their actions, she knew what could happen but still she couldn’t stop herself. Her body was broken, was it not? Her majority reached with no sign of her Wolf. Perhaps even now her body would remain dormant and locked into its limbo state of health and sickness.

Perhaps his touch would awaken what she so desperately longed for. Perhaps her body would accept his and his touch would push her dormant body into a mating heat---

“Sansa!” Her Father’s voice reached her as his arms wrapped around her. It wasn’t until then that she realized she could hardly see, hardly breathe. “What’s happened?” he demanded as the others flooded the forest.

“I think there was another Wolf in the woods...” she tried to catch her breath as her lungs refused to cooperate, unable to inhale--but this was different, this wasn’t the illness. “What…what’s happening to me?” she tried to breathe. Unbidden, her hands raised to clutch at her throat, fire consuming her airway then spreading through her every nerve.

“Sansa?” her Father’s face swam before her and she blinked trying to clear her eyes, but fire and pain consumed her body and she didn’t know what was happening.

“I can’t….I can’t breathe” panic began to set in within her mind.

“Oh, Lemon Cake,” her Father’s voice sounded so sad, even as her legs gave out and he was forced to catch her.

He lifted her with ease and she moaned against the pain of his embrace, trying weakly to squirm free as her body went limp with exhaustion. Everything hurt, from the roots of her hair to the soles of her feet, everything hurt---burned. She had never felt this way--was this death? Was this it? The end?

“Breathe” her Father’s voice tried to comfort her, whispering words that soon made no sense to her. She felt the feather mattress at her back, though she’d had no idea they were moving inside at all. “Sansa--Sansa look at me,” she forced her body to obey, her eyes still unable to focus as she looked up into his blurry face. “That’s my good girl,” he said softly. “Sansa, did he touch you?”

“Sandor…?” she tried to breathe, but it felt as if all of the oxygen had been pulled from her body.

“Yes Sandor, did he touch you? Did he touch your skin?” he repeated, the alpha tone in his voice unmistakable as he took her bare hands in his own. Her Father’s touch on her bare skin burned in agony, something that had never happened before, and she tried to pull away from it.

“Yes” the word pulled from her throat on sheer obedience alone. “Sandor…please, I need...”

“When?” Her Father's voice demanded. “When did he touch you? How long ago?”

“In the clearing—“ she choked and coughed, but this time there was no blood, only rebellion of her body as it bowed against the action, spine cracking in defiance.

“What? Tonight? Just now?” the whispered words barely reached her ears.

“Yes!”

“Shit” he cursed and she felt him move away from where she was laying. She could hear footsteps and soon the acrid smell of her vanilla candles flooded the room, burning at her nose.

“No” she groaned, turning her face to the sheets to muffle the scent.

“Yes, we must” he spoke from somewhere in the room. Footsteps echoed in the hall and then her Mother’s voice joined her Father’s. They talked quietly, words that her ears couldn’t quite make out over the blood racing through her brain.

“Please, help me!” she sobbed then screamed, rolling to her side, pulling her legs to her chest as the fire settled in her stomach. “I cannot breathe!”

“Ssh, my darling girl” her Mother’s cool hands cupped her cheeks as a cool cloth was set in her forehead. She barely heard her Father’s footsteps move down the hall, rapidly moving away. “Just breathe, my darling” she felt her Mother tug at Sandor’s jacket around her shoulders and then it settled beside her face. Sansa turned to bury her nose in the wool, the rich scent surrounding her. It simultaneously eased her pain and made it a hundred times worse as her body screamed out in protest.

Beyond the room she heard howls, strange howls that she’d never heard before and it hurt her ears. Every noise hurt her ears, just as the scent of the candles burned her nose...the fever had never been like this.

“Please... Sandor, help” she sobbed in pain and fear, squeezing her eyes closed as the flames, pulled her under, stomach first, into their dark tide.

Chapter Text

c.1859

Sandor’s gait faltered then gradually drew to a halt, paws skidding deep tracks into the mud as a scalding hot blade lanced across his chest in a violent attack. He whined and whimpered, trying to catch his breath but his Wolf form seemed to be torn in two, the non-existent wounds instantly cauterized by fire.

The Pack caught up with him but never paused; instead they surged ahead, chasing down the Bolton Wolf that had dared to intrude upon their territory. He looked after the Pack for several seconds, but a violent howl caught up with his ears and he turned back to the mansion.

He immediately swung his muzzle to the direction of the mansion. He knew that howl well, had run beside it into battle. That was the King’s howl. Sansa was with the King. He took a few ragged steps and forced his body to obey, running back to the house—back to her.

Run.

Protect.

Protect her.

Every primal instinct in his body seemed to be on full alert, pulled tighter than piano wire as his paws desperately ate up the distance back to the house. Something was wrong, he could feel it in his bones and terror coursed through him at the idea that Sansa was in danger. That she was hurt.

No—

He’d told her to run, not to stop until she’d reached her Father and he’d told her that while he knew what a tax that would be upon her body. She wasn’t as strong as the others, no, but still he needed her to be safe, and running was the only way to make that happen.

But before, in the clearing…Gods, he growled to himself as he ran. The touch of her flesh against his own was forever branded into his memory. Her forehead against his own, her fingers cupping his face---fuck, the whimper that had escaped her lips and the purr that rumbled through them both was nearly enough to unman him entirely.

Sansa had reached her majority, there was nothing to stop her from taking a mate if she chose, nothing to stop him from touching her. She’d bravely offered her touch, placed herself at the point of no return and when he met her flesh with his own, he knew there was no going back. His life would be forever divided into two parts; before their touch and afterwards.

His gums had ached, canines burning as his heart raced faster than it ever had before, and her eyes held emotion he’d never experienced--not firsthand. He’d broken every rule imaginable for a sworn man, unable to stop himself from touching her in that moment.

Now, only time would tell if her body—no matter how weak, responded to his touch. If they were remotely compatible, her body would let them know. If his touch was accepted then a heat would present itself and his own body would rise to answer its call. It could be weeks, it could be months. The strength of the mating bond could easily be judged by how long it took for a heat to present itself in the female Wolf and the heat itself could also vary, from ‘normal’ to the uncontrolled fires of mating heat.

Still, if it happened they’d know.

It would be unmistakable.

If the Old Gods willed that Sansa would go into heat, then he’d finally be able to claim her—to take Sansa Stark as his own and hold her at his side forever. He would be able to make love to her, to worship her and imprint himself upon her very being. He’d be lying if he said that wasn’t his hidden dream from the moment she’d arrived in the Great Hall. No matter how distant the wish had seemed, he stayed for her. He fought alongside these bloody Starks for her. Everything was for her.

He could never hurt her. He would never, could never leave her.

He’d give her the strength she needed. He’d give her anything, everything in the world she could dream of. Anything her heart desired for only the promise of a smile in return.

Clearing the tree line his paws slowed as he spotted Eddard Stark standing beside the garden bench. He looked to the stone seat and saw both his and Sansa’s discarded gloves laying there, clearly having been discovered by the King. Eddard was clad only in a pair of worn breeches as he stared him down, his shoulders squared and proud. He had obviously taken Wolf form to summon him and now stood before him looking impossibly...sad? Worried?

“Clegane” Eddard greeted and Sandor forced his body to shift back into his human form. Almost immediately a pair of breeches were tossed into his hands and he pulled them on to cover his nudity.

“What's happened? Where is she?” He asked, buttoning the placket on his breeches.

Instead of replying, Eddard roughly took his elbow, fingers pinching into his bicep muscle as he escorted--no, dragged him down the halls of Winterfell. Sandor felt like a chastised child, like a little boy in trouble and it was highly disconcerting.

Sandor’s chest ached, his teeth hurt and as they reached the top of the stairs he doubled over, breathing heavily. The wound in his chest seemed to tear open, his lungs surely bleeding inwardly, robbing him of his breath. The movement forced Eddard to release him but the King was undeterred and a second later they were moving once more.

“Tell me what’s happened,” Sandor demanded as they reached the third floor. He was surprised to see Catelyn waiting for them at Sansa’s door and then a horrifying sobbing scream reached his ears in the same instant vanilla permeated the air. He made to storm into her room but the King stopped him mid-stride.

“Clegane” Eddard hauled him against the wall beside Sansa’s door, pinning him in place.

“Is she hurt—?”

“I should’ve known it would be you,” Eddard said quietly, his voice laced with an alpha’s warning.

“Ned” Catelyn pleaded. “Please…”

“From the very first, I should have known. I’d hoped, of course I did, I’m not a bloody simpleton….” the Wolf King shook his head in the same moment Sansa’s voice screamed out his name.

“Sandor!” Sansa screamed, her voice rough and drantic. He tried again to pull away but the King stopped him.

“Let me go—” he snarled. He had to get to her, had to help her. Had she been attacked? Was she hurt? The damned King needed to let him go!

“It was hardly minutes from the time you touched her in the clearing to when she reached me” Eddard whispered. “But it was enough. More than enough.”

“Enough?” Sandor felt his stomach drop.

“Sandor—please!!” Sansa’s screams continued beyond the door.

“Be gentle with her” Catelyn spoke when words failed the King. “That’s all a Mother can ask.”

“What the fuck are you yammering on about? You think I’d hurt her? Ever? You’re a daft buggering woman!” Sandor snapped at the Queen who, to her credit, stood tall and unflinching.

“Clegane!” Eddard interjected but his words were cut off by Arya’s arrival.

“She loves you. I’ve known it for a year now,” Arya interrupted, arriving in the hallway wrapped tightly in a dressing gown, having just returned from the woods. She must have turned back when she heard her Father’s howl too, smart runt she was. “She believes you deserve more than what she can offer you.”

“Runt—” he warned.

“And you love her, everyone with eyes can see it---” Arya continued and Eddard snarled at his family then, both women flinching back at the unspoken warning.

“We do not have time for this” Catelyn interjected, concern etched on all of her features.

“Clegane” the Wolf King sighed. “You promised me that you’d protect her.”

“Sandor!” Sansa’s cry caught on a sob and the pain shot through him, his weight sagging heavily against Eddard’s. He needed to get to her. Now!

“She needs your strength and you need her heart” Eddard reasoned quickly. “It’s up to you now to keep her safe. Always.” Then suddenly they were moving, the door beside him opening just enough for the scent of vanilla to overwhelm his nostrils and a second later the door was slamming behind him.

The sound of the lock sliding into place echoed in the quiet room.

“Sandor…?” he looked to the familiar wooden four-poster bed, the sheets a tangled mess from her thrashing and a familiar shock of red hair strewn across the pillows.

He stepped closer and the scent hit him—not just any scent, no, but the scent of her. The scent that the vanilla candles had tried so hard to cover up, to conceal. The scent was purely Sansa, only Sansa could ever smell this wonderful, but now it was something more—something richer, darker.

Something….

Mate! the Wolf within his chest came suddenly awake with manic demand, pushing at the edges of Sandor’s sanity.

He’d experienced violence his entire life. Violent rage. Violent sadness. Violent loneliness. But before her he had never experienced violent love and now, violent passion. Lust settled into his veins, thrumming through him and he knew what had happened. He struggled to stay on his feet as his own blood heated to meet hers.

They’d touched less than ten minutes ago but it had been enough. Enough, Eddard had said. Their bond had been strong enough, deep enough, powerful enough to instantly send her long-dormant body into its first heat—not just any heat, a mating heat.

Mate!

“Fuck” he stumbled closer, leaning against the bed post at her side. Her dress had been discarded, she wore only her thin silken shift and his coat around her bare shoulders, the collar pulled to her cheeks. She was in the full swing of her first heat, her untried body screaming for his touch. They were well beyond the point of no return, nothing could stop him; man, Wolf, Berserker, all of them desperate for her.

There was no mistaking the flush of her skin, the smell of her body, the arch of her spine. He could already smell how soaked her cunt was for him, weeping in desperation for his cock.

Blindly she reached for him, arm extending as she panted for breath and he was powerless to refuse, taking her hand in his own. As before, their bare fingers twined together with ease and her smaller hand was engulfed within his. And as it had before, it felt so incredibly right.

“Sandor,” she exhaled in relief as their fingers entwined. Her grip on his hand was surprisingly strong and he allowed her to lead him closer, guiding him onto the mattress.

“Aye, Little Bird. I’m here,” he spoke softly, crawling closer..

“You’re here,” she whimpered with a soft smile.

“Always.”

“It hurts,” she whimpered, clinging to his hand before bringing it to her heated cheek, nuzzling against his cool touch. She had appeared more like a Wolf in the past half-hour than she had in the years he’d known her.

“Oh, Little Bird” he cupped her cheek, lips twitching in an almost smile as she purred into his touch. “I’m so sorry. I did not know it would happen so quickly—I couldn’t have imagined, couldn’t have hoped…”

“What’s happening to me? They wouldn’t tell me...Am I dying?” she panted.

“No” he assured her, trailing a thumb over her cheekbone. “No Little Bird, far from it” he watched as another wave took her and she cried out in pain.

“Help me…Sandor, I need….”

“I know what you need Little Bird, look at me” he demanded but when she didn’t open her eyes, he leaned closer, pressing his forehead against hers. “Open your eyes, please look at me” he pleaded and she obeyed unfocused eyes opening and trying their best to remain free of panic.

“Sandor…”

“You’re my mate, Little Bird” he whispered but the way her eyes went wide told him she’d heard him perfectly. “This is a mating heat,” he took a deep breath, letting her scent flood his nostrils. “Not fertile yet--soon maybe, but there is no denying a mating heat. I can feel you in my chest. We’re bound by invisible, unbreakable chains already.”

“But I cannot shift--”

“Doesn’t matter” he assured her. “Your body’s instincts know what it needs, and it needs mine.”

“I am yours?” she asked, the weight of his words finally seeping through the fog of lust, fresh tears flooding her eyes.

“Aye.”

“And you are mine?”

“Always” he promised her as her warm hands traveled up his arms to his bare shoulders, digging into the muscles there.

“Forever?” she gasped, arching against him as she began to lose control entirely, his proximity sending her body into overdrive.

“Aye, forever” his own body was screaming at him to push his breeches away, to lift her shift and bury his cock so deeply within her that there was no telling where he ended and she began.

He’d wanted her for so long—fuck he’d simply wanted to touch for so long and now that he was free to do so, he was desperate to claim her. But he knew the moment he gave into his need of her, he’d never be able to stop. And before he began he would have her know everything.

No more secrets.

“Sansa” he cupped her cheek to guide her eyes back to his, feeling the fine beads of sweat on her temple. She obeyed, focusing on his eyes as best she could. “I love you, Little Bird. I have for longer than I’d admit to any, but know that it’s always only been you. Only you.”

“Sandor…” she sobbed, but her smile was unmistakable as her hands tunneled into his hair, pulling him closer. “I love you. I would have loved you in silence forever.”

“No more silence,” he promised on a growl, shifting over her. “Never that.”

“Yes” her body curled against his and he felt every slender inch of her against his frame. She was still thin, but her days of frailty and weakness were over. He’d make damned certain of that. Her long legs parted and wrapped around him, muscles surprisingly strong and he felt a flutter of hope that their bond was already making her stronger.

“When this is over” his voice dropped lower and he leaned closer to speak against the shell of her ear. “You’ll be mine forever, mine forever,” he pulled her ear lobe between his teeth, gently nibbling her flesh.

“Yes!” she whimpered in pleasure as his lips trailed to that damned mole beneath her ear--so many times had he imagined kissing her just below the mole, suckling her flesh in a bruising fashion.

“And someday soon it’ll be my babe growing in your belly—” his words were silenced as she screamed, her body shaking violently as she came apart. He damned near lost control at the sight of her coming beneath him, porcelain skin flushed and eyes glossy. Her fingers tugged at his hair, sending chills down his spine while her heels dug into his ass, her core grinding against him as she rode out her pleasure.

When she finally stilled for the briefest of moments, her breathing came easier than it had since her illness. Her eyes, that perfect crystalline blue, looked up at him for several moments. Wonder, lust and affection all shone back at him, nearly closing his throat with the strength of his emotions. She took a shaky breath and then, in the blink of an eye, she was tearing clumsily at the placket of his breeches.

“Sansa—” he weakly protested but she turned her face to claim his lips, kissing him and swallowing his words along with any last bit of uncertainty he had held.

He returned her kiss without hesitation, shifting closer as his tongue delved past her lips and into the warmth of her mouth. It was no surprise that her lips tasted better than her palm had, the lingering flavor of lemons and something so inherently feminine and intoxicating that he would never forget her unique taste.

Abruptly leaving his breeches, her hands tunneled back into his shoulder length hair, fingernails teasing his scalp and pulling a broken growl from his chest. Tugging his jacket away from her body, he tossed it to the floor before lowering himself to his elbows, pressing their bodies together without a scant inch between them.

He would’ve been content to kiss her forever but soon her body began to twist and writhe against his, her heat rising once more. This time her hips inadvertently bumped the length of his erect cock through his breeches. She mewled in shocked pleasure; his mate was a smart one, now raising her hips deliberately to rock against him again and again.

“Fuck” he ground down against her, drinking in her whimpers.

“I feel…” she panted, rocking against him. “Oh Gods, I feel incredible.”

“That’s it,” he encouraged her, nuzzling against the slender column of her throat as he’d longed to for ages. “You’re bloody perfect.”

“Sandor” her hands slid back to his breeches and her eyes looked shyly to his. “Please…”

“Patience. I’ll give you what you want, Little Bird” he purred, bunching her shift in his hand to tug on the silky fabric. “Off.”

“Off,” Sansa nodded in agreement, lifting her hips and then her shoulders as he pulled the fabric away. She lay before him fully nude save her golden locket, her porcelain skin flushed with desire. Sandor couldn’t hold back his groan at the sight of her, bare before him, for the first time. Though he’d imagined her beneath his hundreds of times, nothing could come close to the reality of her--the sight taking his breath away.

She was pure beauty, untouched milky perfection, the fiery hair at the apex of her thighs a perfect match for the hair on her head that he’d admired for years. From the full swell of her breasts to the dip of her waist, she was more than he ever could have dreamed of. He reached out with a trembling hand, sliding it from her shoulder to cup her breast as she traced her hands over the planes of his back and shoulders.

“Fuck—” he groaned, her gentle fingers sending fire through his body.

“Yes” Sansa sighed, arching into his touch, her jeweled nipple pressing into his palm. He cupped the heavy flesh, his thumb stroking the peak then rolling it between his thumb and forefinger. She whimpered—no, sobbed as her fingers clutched at his back, her blunted nails leaving trails of fire across his shoulder blades.

Unable to stop himself he cupped her breast and lowered his lips to suckle her, her answering cries racing through his bloodstream like lightning. He suckled at her breast until she had all but clawed his back open with her slender fingers, moving to give the other the same attention before he released it with an audible ‘pop’. Her scent had permeated his every sense, thick and heady arousal blanketing them both in a dense fog.

“Sandor please” Sansa panted as her hands returned to his waistband. “I need you, I’m empty—so empty.”

“Soon, Little Bird” he lifted her hand away from his breeches, placing kisses to her palm and inner wrist. “First I’m going to devour that maiden’s cunt of yours. Fuck, I’ve dreamed about tasting your slick” he couldn’t stop the filthy promise from passing his lips as he travelled down her body.

He slid his arms under her thighs and used his large hands to pin her hips to the bed, spreading her wide and diving in without hesitation. Though he’d never done this before, he let instinct and her body’s responses guide him. He was careful not to chafe her delicate skin too badly with his beard, but the feeling of her inner thighs pressed against his face drove him on, drove him wild.

Her taste, a honied ambrosia more divine than anything on earth, flooded his mouth, slick and tangy. Her hands returned to his hair, tangling in the locks and holding tight as she ground her cunt against his face. It seemed that instinct was guiding them both now.

He licked, sucked and lapped at her, pausing occasionally to tease the bundle of nerves that had her screaming every time. Her body had already been keyed up from the onset of her heat and he drank in every one of her sobs and cries as he ate her with abandon.

It didn’t take long, soon she was screaming incoherently, her usually poised voice ragged and broken. When she sobbed his name, it was in the same second her cunt pulsed against his mouth, her juices soaking his beard. He could have howled his smug pleasure to the far corners of the realm. He’d done that, he’d made her scream in pleasure.

Sansa went boneless, sagging against the pillows as her fingers relaxed in his hair, allowing him to remove his face from her folds. He watched as she tried to catch her breath, her lungs free of hindrance as she gasped and laughed in ecstasy.

“Sandor” she whispered, running her hands through his hair. “I need you.”

Greater words had never been spoken.

He quickly shed his breeches, tossing the tattered material aside before crawling back up her body. He settled into the ‘v’ of her thighs, his more-than-ready cock brushing against her soaked cunt. He knew the tip would already be weeping, begging to be inside her depths. Hells, he’d been hard enough to pound nails from the second her scent met his nostrils.

He rocked against her core several times, sliding his shaft through her folds. A growl echoed from his chest at the sensation of her juices coating his length.

“This is real” Sansa whispered, eyes wide and smile genuine as she looked up at him. Her legs had wrapped around his hips, slender muscle flexing against his ribs.

“Very real,” he promised, bracing himself on his elbows over her, hands tangling in her hair.

“I love you. I’ve always loved you” she whispered, cupping his cheeks.

“I love you, Little Bird” he leaned closer, his intention to kiss her lips, but before he could react, Sansa had grabbed a hold of his hair and pulled his head to the side, baring his throat. With a very unladylike snarl, she locked her legs around him and used his strength as leverage to rise up and sink her teeth into his shoulder, just at the base of his neck.

A mating mark…

“Fuck!” he growled and in a single frantic movement, aligned his cock with her drenched opening and shoved home. Sansa’s mouth moved from his shoulder as her back arched from the bed, a soft cry leaving her lips as his own teeth found home in the base of her neck.

Her taste flooded his mouth as her inner muscles clamped around his cock and he felt every last ounce of control leave his body.

 

Sansa’s world exploded around her as Sandor’s cock pushed past her maiden’s gift, filling and stretching her beyond anything she’d felt before. She was impaled, his body so deep within hers that she felt she could choke on him.

She barely had time to breathe before his teeth sank into her shoulder in return.

Bright white seeped into the edges of her vision, her heart racing— beating stronger than it had in years. When he stilled, settled fully inside of her, the pain of his invasion quickly faded, leaving only a delicious feeling of fullness that she never wished to escape. She felt his strength, his warmth seeping into her body, chasing away the exhaustion that had clouded her life since the fever.

Her memory of the moments prior was bits and pieces riddled with need, but the words ‘I love you, Little Bird’ danced in her memory on repeat.

He loved her. He wanted her. He was hers.

“Sandor!” she cried out as he rocked his hips and sharp bolts of pleasure shot through her, his dark hair falling across her face as she arched against him. Power and energy flashed down her nerve endings, firing in rapid sequence and chasing the last of her lingering exhaustion from her veins.

Licking her teeth she savored the metallic stickiness of Sandor’s blood. She bitten him. She hadn’t been able to stop herself. She’d wasted enough time without him in her arms, she didn’t intend to waste any more. Just as she had marked him, he had marked her forever as his mate. She was his, they belonged to each other until the end of their days.

“Fuck” he growled, licking a hot trail from the bite at her shoulder to her ear, nibbling softly on the lobe. “So fucking tight, your little cunt is the perfect fit for my cock.”

“Mmhmm” she wiggled against him, feeling stronger than she had in years. Though her mind had no knowledge of coupling, beyond of course the basics her Mother had once shared, her body was running purely on instinct now. And every instinct within her was desperate for him.

“Mine” he growled against her shoulder, lapping at the healing wound on her shoulder as his hips withdrew just enough to surge back into her waiting body with a snap of his hips.

“Yours—yes, Sandor!” her arms and legs held him tightly, a foreign but shockingly welcome embrace in the near darkness of her room. She’d been dreaming of this moment since the day she’d met him. She wondered what it would be like--how it would feel. Waiting for the moment where control had finally abandoned them both and all that was left was mutual desire.

Mutual love.

What began as the easy, languid movement of hips soon melted into furious, merciless fucking. His body was responding to the demands of her own, plunging in and out of her over and over as her incoherent sobs urged him on.

He held her pinned with his massive frame, large hands cradling her head and holding her in place as he took her. Even though the sinful wet squelch of their frantic coupling filled the room, she felt cherished. Beautiful. Worshipped. Sandor might be claiming her as his mate, teetering on the edge of feral domination, but still he made love to her.

Her hands carded back into his hair, hair she’d admired for so long, guiding his lips back to hers in a deep, sinful kiss. His lips were full and soft, if uncertain, returning her affection eagerly.

In the back of her mind she registered the creak and protest of her ancient wooden bed, the distant howls of the Pack, but all that mattered was here in her embrace.

She felt every flex, every roll of the powerful muscles of his back and thighs, muscles that had haunted her lustful dreams--dreams she never spoke aloud to anyone. Her man—her mate was the strongest being in the known world and she savored every inch of his form as he took her.

“Fuck you feel incredible” he mumbled as he turned to nibble on her lower lip.

“Good, so good” she whimpered, the muscle of her inner thighs shaking violently against his sides.

“So fucking good. Fuck, you’re going to make me come, Little Bird.”

“Please” she begged before she could halt the word from escaping her lips.

“Is that what you want then?” his grey eyes, once bright and aware, were nearly black now. “My cum painting the walls of your pretty little cunt?”

“Yes!”

“Soaking you in my scent—filling you with my seed until it drips from your body” he continued, whispering darkly against the shell of her ear. “They’ll all be able to smell me on you. In you. Everyone will know that you belong to me.”

“Please, I want it!” she pleaded, holding to his inky hair as her heels dug into his ass, urging him to move faster— harder, even as the bedframe slammed against the bedroom wall. She felt the crest coming, building with a fury that bordered on terrifying and she clung to him.

“Come, come for me now” he demanded and her body obeyed without question.

She heard the scream that was torn from her lips as if she were a hundred miles away, her vision briefly going dark as she peaked, her inner muscles seizing around Sandor’s cock. The wet sound of his thrusts turned positively pornographic as she soaked him and the bed. She would have been embarrassed had his answering growl not driven her wild with lust.

His hips stuttered and then he pushed so deeply inside of her that she squirmed in pleasure-pain-- Oh, Gods. His teeth found home in her shoulder, pinning her down as he poured his seed into her waiting body.

She held to his hair, legs locked around him as they both panted for breath. The fire that had torn at her flesh had been momentarily abated, pleasure thrumming through her. He slowly released his hold on her neck and she felt the wet, rough glide of his tongue as he cleaned her mating mark, the sensation settling into her blood like a heady wine.

“My Little Bird” he whispered, turning to kiss her lips.

“My Sandor” she pushed his hair from his face, smiling up into his stormy grey eyes. “I feel incredible.”

“Aye, you do” his lips twitched in amusement as he shifted closer, a small reminder that his cock was still seated firmly within her and showed that her mate had no intention of sleeping anytime soon.

“I’ve loved you for so long,” she whispered, swallowing back a lump of emotion. “I looked for every excuse to speak with you, to be near you, to spend hours with you in the library…and then... I fell ill and I shut myself away.”

“Little Bird” he placed a featherlight kiss on her lips. “I’ve long dreamed of calling you mine, of feeling your flesh against my own” one of his hands left her hair to smooth over her thigh, cupping her hip. “Of fucking you into the mattress until we’re soaked with sweat and then making impossibly slow love to you” he rested his forehead against hers. “Watching you grow round with my child” he whispered and she gasped softly, knowing her eyes must be wide in surprise.

“Sandor—”

“You can, Little Bird. You’re not broken,” he promised. “My strength, my power, all of me is yours now.”

You’re mine” she smirked and he chuckled, the sound deep and sinful.

“Aye” she felt him shift and then he was moving to his knees, sitting back on his heels in the center of the bed to lift her astride his lap. His arms wrapped around her lower back, fingers splayed wide on her flesh in a possessive hold.

She held to his broad shoulders, sighing softly as she felt his cock slide even deeper. The fire in her blood was rising once more, an itch building under her skin that she was desperate to scratch.

“Sandor” she whimpered, resting her forehead against his own.

“That’s it,” he encouraged as she rocked against him, her hips moving without conscious thought. “Ride it, nice and slow, we’ve all the time in the world” he helped her to set a rhythm that had her blood singing in pleasure, the rest of the world around them falling away as they lost themselves to each other.

 

Arya looked to her Father across his office, doing her best not to chuckle at the expression on his face. Poor Father…

She had been running with the pack when she’d heard his howl and she’d instantly known that something was amiss. She wasn’t sure what it was until she’d heard Sansa’s screams—her pleas for Sandor and it all began to click into place.

Earlier they hadn’t been in the dining hall with the others, Sansa and Sandor, so they had likely been somewhere alone together as they often were--usually in the library. But this time had been different, she knew that immediately.

Even her Mother had looked harried and concerned as she stood in the hallway outside of Sansa’s room. The moment her Father shoved Sandor into Sansa’s room and locked the door, there was no escaping the truth; Sansa was in heat. And Sandor was the cause.

Arya would be hard-pressed to forget the way her Sister screamed for him--begged for him to help her. The two had fallen on each other the moment they were locked in, thus beginning the long night of everyone else not speaking about what was happening above stairs. The family’s rooms were soundproofed, for the most part, but there was no avoiding the screams and growls of pleasure that rang out.

Her Mother had fallen asleep in the late hours of the night, stretched out on the sofa in her Father’s office, but Arya was wide awake, body thrumming with nervous energy.

She had sent a prayer of thanks to the Old Gods, grateful that her Sister had found a man—a mate to protect her. Arya knew that Sansa’s strength would return now and her health would improve. Sansa would be safe, that is all that mattered.

Footsteps sounded in the hallway and she looked up to see Gendry leaning against the opposite wall. He wore only wool breeches and a linen shirt, his hair falling over his forehead. There was no denying that he was a handsome man, strong and solid, with dark hair and bright blue eyes. In fact, he was amazing to look upon right up until he opened that stubborn-as-a-bull mouth of his.

Damned idiot.

They watched each other for several seconds before he smirked and tilted his head towards the forest in an unspoken invitation. Seeing that her Father was once again distracted by pressing his fingers to his eyes and pretending that the world didn’t exist, she slipped from the room and into the hall.

They didn’t speak, simply walked through the mansion and into the early morning air. Gendry shucked his shirt and looked, almost shyly, to her before slipping off his breeches to leave himself in his small clothes.

Forcing herself to look away, Arya moved into the trees to shed her own shirt and breeches. Calling her wolf form from the back of her mind, she started the shift, bones and muscles cracking and pulling until she was no longer human.

Landing on four paws, she looked over at Gendry’s wolf as he stepped beside her. Unlike her deep brown, he was a dappled deep grey and black, a combination that oddly suited him. Tonight they would run, escape the confines of the mansion and simply be. With a shared nod, they ran into the forest together.

 

Sandor woke to the soft touch of his mate as she moved a lock of hair from his face. Blinking the slumber from his eyes, he looked across the pillow into her smiling face. She was stunning in the morning light, porcelain skin aglow with satisfaction, hair tangled and spread around her shoulders.

They’d passed the entire night lost in the haze of her mating heat, their bodies finally collapsing into slumber near dawn. He was certain that the entire mansion had heard them—or at least heard Sansa at some point in the night.

His eyes went to the mating mark at the junction of her neck and shoulder. It was fully healed now, a light pink scar that any Wolf would instantly recognize and know that she had been claimed. The scar tissue would always carry a little bit of his scent, just as his own mark would carry hers.

I can hardly believe this is real he heard Sansa’s voice dance through his mind like the notes of a song and his body jerked in surprise.

“Sansa, did you…?” he swallowed, raising a hand to cup her cheek. “I heard you.”

“Heard me?”

“Think of something, anything and speak it aloud to me in your head” he asked and she obeyed. A scant few seconds passed and the most brilliant smile he’d ever seen grew on her kiss-swollen lips. “Lemon cakes. Of course.”

“That means...” she paused, fresh tears building in her eyes.

“It does” he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her flush to his body.

“I want to try” she gently kissed his lips, fingers tracing over the scars on his face. He knew that soon he would have to tell her about them, the awful story of his past, but that could wait for another day.

“Alright” he thought the most precious words in the world and watched as her eyes fluttered shut, tears streaking to the pillow.

“I love you too” she replied without pause. “Sandor, you’re my soulmate” she marveled.

“Aye” he agreed, his heart suddenly lighter than it had ever been before. “The bond will only get deeper from here, Little Bird. Thoughts, emotions, good and bad, we’ll share them all,” and that was true.

Most mated pairs possessed a bond deep enough that allowed them to be able to sense when their partner was in danger or hurt, but with deeper bonds, like that of true soulmates, they would be able to share everything.

While the full bounds of soulmates were known only to those in the bond, he did know some details. For instance, soon they would be able to converse with each other no matter how great a distance lay between them. It would always be as if they were right next to each other.

It also meant that Sansa’s fertility was not tied to any single heat, not like the other female Wolves. While the others were tied to fertile heats every few years, the bodies of soulmates were so compatible, so in tune, that heat and fertile cycles only increased their chances of conception.

Even now his Little Bird could carry their child—their pup, an idea that had his protective instincts kicking into overdrive.

“I didn’t even make it to the house before the heat set in,” she said. “It was almost instant. All it took was one touch and my body knew yours instantly.”

“Little Bird, this—all this means that a fertile heat means nothing…” he rolled her beneath his large frame. “I could give you pups anytime.”

“I cannot wait” she beamed up at him as she wrapped her legs around him. This seemed to be her new favorite habit, holding him prisoner with her thighs. Not that he was complaining...

“You’re beautiful.”

“I’m a woman well-loved.”

“Aye, you are. I will gladly remind you of that anytime.”

“I’d like that reminder now, if you please, Ser Clegane.”

“Fuck” he groaned as she tightened her legs. She was already stronger, stronger even than she had been last night and it was intoxicating. His Little Bird was a demanding Little Wolf in their shared bed. Giving into the need to take her again, he lowered his mouth to hers, parting her lips with his eager tongue. She met his kiss eagerly and soon the tide washed over them both, and they lost themselves to pleasure all over again.

 

The sound echoed in Petyr’s ears, a very distinct sound of diamonds on glass--a cracking that had his blood running cold. With an unsteady hand he lifted the glass vial that he wore around his neck, shock passing through him as his eyes traced the long, slender crack that had appeared down the entire side of the vial.

“Impossible” he muttered, standing quickly and moving to the light of the window. He thought it might have been a trick of the shadows, but when he examined it closer, it was still there. “No, that isn’t possible” he whispered.

But it was….clearly it was. But how?

Crossing to the bookshelves he frantically searched for any title that may conceal a clue to this vial’s mystery.

He had been careful with the contents, searching deep within Sansa Stark’s mind to take possession of it as he ‘cured’ her fever. He hadn’t been able to reach her Wolf, though he certainly tried, but the being was so ingrained in her mind that it wouldn’t be parted from her, so he had settled for this…

Her immortal strength.

The undeniable strength that every Wolf possessed. It made them stronger, faster, deadlier than humans and he had stolen hers away. It had been as easy as taking candy from a babe, easier even, as the Starks had practically handed it to him. Taking the strength from her body left her with the disposition of a human--a human burdened with the heavy immortal soul of a Wolf.

Such a disparity of mind and body would degrade her system little by little over time. But he knew that his plan would come to fruition before any lasting damage could occur.

He was meticulous in his work---so how was it growing stronger? Strong enough to crack enchanted glass.

It wasn’t possible….

Chapter Text

”Tell me the story again, Nan” Sansa pleaded, climbing onto the so far beside her Great Grandmother.

“Again?” she laughed, her eyes crinkling in amusement. “I must have told you two dozen times already, child” she cupped Sansa’s cheek with a papery hand. “But alright.”

”Hooray” Sansa snuggled into the older woman’s side, the fine wool of her shawl forming a sort of cocoon around her as she prepared to listen to her favorite story. She’d begged her Old Nan to tell her the story every chance she’d had since she’d first heard it nearly a year ago. She loved how romantic it was, the concept of soulmates and couldn’t wait to meet her own one day.

“There is a legend that whenever a Wolf is born, their soul is fractured in two” Old Nan began and Sansa held back her sigh. “Their body continues on, a broken soul dwelling within them until they meet their soul’s true mate. When they meet, when they bond, they exchange a half of their soul for a half of the other’s, becoming whole and united with their soulmate for all eternity.”

“It’s so romantic” Sansa whispered.

Old Nan nodded, “And when at last they are connected, they will share everything, and can never be parted.”

“What happens if they’re parted?” Sansa frowned, looking up into Nan’s weathered face.

“They live and die together, my darling girl” Nan explained, absently smoothing Sansa’s hair. “A bonded Wolf cannot live without their true soulmate. If one falls, so does the other. In this life and the next, they walk side by side.”

“Is the legend real?” Sansa asked softly, almost afraid of the answer.

“Of course, my darling, but true soulmates are very rare” Nan explained.

“Do you think I will find mine?”

Nan stared at her for several seconds, her sharp eyes assessing her, “I do” she smiled. “And when he finds you, he is going to love you as you deserve to be loved. With his entire being.”

“I cannot wait” Sansa sighed dramatically. “What do you think he will look like?” She asked and Old Nan laughed, wrapping an arm around her shoulders with a smile.

 

c.1859

By dawn, the whole of Winterfell surely knew what had transpired between their Princess and the Berserker. Whether through gossip or first hand over-hearing experience, they would know that she had been thoroughly claimed and now belonged irrevocably to Sandor Clegane.

So it shouldn’t have come as a shock to those in the kitchens when Sandor all but stumbled below stairs just before dawn.

Still, They looked aghast at the sight of his large frame clad only in tattered breeches and Sansa’s deep navy blue dressing gown that barely covered his shoulders. All it took was a growl to send them scattering to the winds, hiding in the house but surely eavesdropping on his movements.

“Clegane” Eddard said gruffly, both of his hands clasping a tea cup on the distressed kitchen work table. “I trust…fuck” his words trailed off into silence, his eyes shadowed and heavy. It was clear that the King had not slept; Sandor almost felt remorse, as he was certain that there was no escaping Sansa’s cries of pleasure. Once they’d started, his Little Bird became a Wild Wolf and there was nothing stopping her--or him.

“Say it” Sandor paused his gathering of meager breakfast fare to glare at the Wolf King. He should probably take her away for a while, just the two of them lost to whatever whim took them. Yes, he needed to take her away...no, he had to focus on the current situation. Focus!

“I trust she is well?” he asked, his eyes glued to the mating mark that was visible on Sandor’s shoulder, just above the collar of the robe. Of course, the robe far from fit his large frame, and most of his chest was still bared and littered with love bites and bruises...he probably should have rethought his wardrobe before venturing below stairs.

“Of course she’s fucking well” Sandor snapped, placing equal portions of cheese and meat from the larder onto a plate.

“You cannot fault me a Father’s worry,” Eddard countered and Sandor shook his head as he grabbed a glass jar of fresh milk from the icebox.

“I can,” he set the jar on the tray and faced the King. “If you thought for a second that I’d hurt her—”

“You love her,” Eddard said softly. “And she loves you. Arya was right, anyone—everyone can see that. But that does not change the fact that she is my Daughter—”

“Aye, I love her” Sandor admitted, his eyes dropping to the bread as he tore several hanks free and piled them on the plate. “I dare say that I have made no secret—no good secret anyhow, of that. And I would never hurt her.”

“You’ll protect her?”

“That fucking goes without saying, it always has.”

“Give her pups?”

“As many as she desires.”

“And when Baelish comes?”

“I’ll rip his fucking head off. Nothing about that plan has changed,” Sandor said simply, slamming his hands to the counter.

“The Tyrells have gone, for now. The pack caught up with the scout at the edge of the western clearing, by the lake” Eddard switched gears suddenly. “He’s dead.”

“Good” Sandor replied. “Why was he here?”

“I do not know,” Eddard admitted. “But I have already sent word to Tywin Lannister this morning, letting him know that the Boltons are testing the borders.”

“You trust Lannister then?”

“Yes.”

“Alright” Sandor nodded.

“Tomorrow night” Eddard cleared his throat. “Tomorrow night Catelyn and I would like you to join us--the family, for dinner.”

“Why?”

“Because like it or not, Clegane, you’re a Stark now.”

“Great” Sandor scoffed, but he couldn’t push away the smile that tugged at the corner of his mouth.

“And it's time we told her,” Eddard added softly. “Warned her.”

“We’ll be there. Now if this interrogation is over, I’d like to return to my wife—my mate” he lifted the plate, piled high with food, and turned away with the King—his Good Father's words stopped him.

“She’s not your wife, not yet” Eddard countered.

“She is my mate” Sandor growled, turning back to fix his ruler with a withering glare. “Marked and claimed, she is my mate. The bond is unbreakable. Should you require your Old God’s words be spoken, name the time and date and we’ll be there. Until then, I bid you good morning, Sir,” he gave a slight nod and strode from the kitchen.

“Saturday. Noon. You’ll speak the words in Winterfell’s Godswood” Eddard called after him without hesitation and Sandor paused, nodding in consent to his King’s demands. The buggering things he did for love. Though, truthfully the reason he remained in the North at all was for Sansa, this was nothing new. He’d been freezing his balls off every winter just to be close to her, speaking the words wouldn’t be a difficulty at all.

On his way up the stairs he passed Arya, her eyes wide as she took in his state of dress. He chose not to comment on the scent of Gendry clinging to her skin and she chose not to comment on his state of dress. Smart girl.

“Clegane.”

“Runt” he ignored her pointed stare as he continued down the hall and to Sansa’s—to their door, slipping inside with his foraged breakfast.

He tried to remain quiet as he walked to the bedside, lest he wake her, but he’d already been caught. Sansa was awake, laying on her stomach to watch him with an indulgent smile from the pillows. She looked like a goddess, her hair spread out like wildfire and her skin littered with love bruises, beard chafe, and a lingering flush of desire.

“What a lovely robe” she teased.

“I do not think it's my color” he countered with a smile and he could feel the scars pulling at the corner of his mouth. For the first time in his life, he paid them no mind, no longer affected by their presence. Sansa did not mind them, and so neither would he.

“I missed you” she whispered as he set the plate on the night table.

“Did you?” he shucked his trousers and her absurdly small dressing gown before slipping into the bed beside her.

“Mmhmm” she snuggled to his side the instant he was close, nuzzling his bearded cheek. “You’ve brought food.”

“I have” he wrapped his arms around her as she nibbled at his jawline. “You’ve turned me into a hunter-gatherer, Little Bird.”

“Just as you have turned me into a woman starved for your touch” she placed a kiss on one of the scars that cut through his cheek, sending chills through his body.

“Food” he forced the word out, his body already eager to be joined with hers again. “You’ll need your energy.”

“Promise?”

“Aye” he assured her and she pulled away only slightly, smirking up into his eyes.

“I am surprised that you didn’t give my Father a heart attack.”

“You heard that?” he almost blushed, but after their night together there was hardly a thing that could encourage such a response.

“I did” she smiled softly, grabbing the plate from the night table and setting it on the bed. “Open” she lifted a piece of meat and fed it to him, her fingertips brushing his lips as he took it from her. They took turns, languidly feeding each other from the foraged plate until nothing remained. It was his honor as her mate to feed and protect her, so his Wolf was rolling in contentment this morning.

When she set the empty plate and glass aside, he pulled her close to nuzzle his face into the hollow of her neck, trailing kisses across her flesh. Her scent, the sweet aroma that he had always enjoyed, was now liberally mixed with his own and that served to soothe his inner Wolf.

“Sandor” she giggled as he tickled her with his beard.

“You are well?” He asked.

“I am more than well,” she sighed, stretching sore muscles languidly. She had more color in her cheeks, a renewed vibrancy in her eyes, she looked lighter than she had since her fever.

“Your strength is back,” he mused, sliding a hand over the smooth skin of her thigh, possessively gripping the curve of her ass.

She sighed, “It’s like being alive for the first time in years, everything is much brighter, louder, clearer.”

“Good,” he rolled her beneath his larger frame, pinning her against the mattress. Her arms and legs wrapped around him as if they had for centuries. “Because I have a bit of time to make up for.”

“Good” she agreed as he lowered his lips to hers. He was so distracted by her kiss that he didn’t realize her intention until she had rolled him to his back, long legs moving astride his lap.

“Look at you” he admired her lithe form, his cock already hard and ready, resting against the fiery thatch of hair at the apex of her thighs. He couldn’t help but notice how large--how angry his cock looked against her flesh. He’d always known he was a big man, but seeing it against her slender form made him look almost monstrous--not that she’d been complaining last night.

“You can look your fill” she purred, wrapping her hand around his shaft, firmly stroking him from root to tip. “But touching is infinitely better.” Her fingers weren’t quite long enough to wrap around his thick length completely, but still her fingers felt incredible against his sensitive flesh.

“Fuck” he hissed, thrusting up into her hand. Now that propriety had been stripped away, they were able to be themselves, to share everything, and Sansa was free to be bold in her touches and words. Fuck he groaned as she twisted her wrist and her palm brushed the head of his cock.

“All mine” she whispered as she watched him with those damned blue eyes of hers, the ones that had made him her slave from the very first. “To do with as I please” she continued, rising over him to guide his cock to her soaked entrance.

He watched in rapt fascination as she sank onto his cock without preamble, puffy pink lips parting to take him fully. It was amazing how her cunt managed to swallow his cock, sliding him deep within her until he bottomed out at the entrance to her womb.

“Yes” her eyes fluttered closed on a sigh of pleasure, her hands kneading the muscle of his chest, tangling in the dark hair that littered his body.

“My Little Bird, perched on my cock” he cupped her breasts, teasing the sensitive peaks with the pads of his thumb.

“Oh” she whimpered, grinding against him.

“That’s it. Take your pleasure, mate” he growled, his hands moved to her hips, fingers digging into her flesh in a near bruising grip.

“Yes” she sobbed, her back curling her forward over his chest, her hair falling around them like liquid fire. Her breasts rubbed against his chest now as she rode his cock, small hands flexing against his shoulders for leverage. He knew her whimpers and movements well enough by now to know that it wouldn’t be long before she came apart, so he filled his large hands with the globes of her ass and helped her to ride him.

Her pants and moans filled the bedroom, the rhythmic slapping of their flesh pulling deep growls from his chest as her molten core began to flutter around him.

“Sandor—yes!” She cried as her orgasm took her, her body trembling violently as her cunt milked his cock. Her movements slowed and he ground his teeth to stave off his own climax, if only to enjoy their first morning together for a few moments longer.

When she went lax and collapsed across him breathing heavily, he rolled her beneath him, spreading her legs wide to fuck her hard and fast. Her head nearly hung off the side of the bed, breasts bouncing with every moment while her hair created a halo around her as her slender fingers clung to his biceps. The bed creaked and protested, but he never relented. If he had to replace her bed under the King’ watchful eyes, then so be it.

He rutted into her still trembling pussy, one hand gripped at her thigh to hold her wide, while the other stroked that elusive bundle of nerves at the top of her slit. He worked her nub until she screamed out in climax a second time, soaking them both with her cum.

“Mine!” he snarled, his hands digging into her inner thighs, cock slamming deep enough to bottom out as he came with a violent growl, pouring into her in heated jets as she whimpered and writhed against him.

“Mmmhmm” she sighed with her eyes closed as his movements slowed his cock working his seed deeply into her body.

“I love watching your little cunt swallow my cock and my cum” he pushed the words into her mind and watched her mewl in contentment.

“I love having you inside me” she silently replied, her eyes fluttering open to watch him, transfixing him with the bright blue of her irises.

“I love you” he spoke aloud. “And I promise that I will keep you safe, keep our family safe” he leaned down to kiss her lips.

“I know. I’ve always known you’d keep me safe” she returned his kiss. “And I love you too.”

 

High Warlock Baelish pushed his magic through the barrier around Lady Sansa’s mind, pushing past the fever and into her inner thoughts. He was going to have to do this on the fly, to improvise and do all that he could to stay the new course of his plan.

Originally he had intended to stand beside the Wolf King as Lady Sansa died a very slow and agonizing death. Her body would have cooked itself from the inside out, the fever boiling through her blood until every last bit of her was medium rare. He had planned carefully for years, ensuring that every detail had fallen into place correctly but now everything was going to change.

It had to.

Why? Because rumors of Lady Sansa’s beauty had not done her justice. Not even close. She had far surpassed even her Mother’s beauty--she was perfection. Tall, as best he could tell as she lay unmoving on the bed, all porcelain skin and fiery hair with a sharp jaw and full lips. A pure Riverland’s beauty. It would be a shame to let her die. Not when she could be his--no, she would be his.

Pushing his magic further into the depths of her mind, he was able to see her love of reading, hours spent in the library and the expansive knowledge she’d gathered swirling in the back of her mind. Even as her forebrain tried to reason what was happening to her, she took sanctuary in the memories of the library. Moving away from the frantic fever dreams, he pushed deeper and came ‘face to face’ with the warning growls of the powerful Wolf that lay in her soul.

Ah, he mentally paused, this would not be easy, that much was quite obvious. He might have to change his plan a second time if he wanted this to work. So much improvisation for one day, it was quite tiresome. Just then, the spectral form of a Wolf took shape and emerged from her subconscious, staring him down with a sinister growl of warning.

Well now, Petyr examined the wolf closely, aren’t you unique oh my….

 

“You know better than to show up here unannounced,” Roose Bolton said sternly as he closed the door to his offices, ensuring that their conversation would remain private.

“Do I?” High Warlock Baelish said smugly from where he sat in the wingback chair beside the mahogany desk.

“Cut the bullshit,” Roose said plainly. “Why are you here? You know the agreement, we’re only to meet—”

“I have decided to move things forward quicker than planned. I am going to Winterfell,” Baelish interjected. “I thought you should like to know.”

“For what reason?”

“To take what is mine, of course” Baelish said simply and Roose shook his head.

“You’re jumping the gun, acting entitled, and it is going to bite you in the ass” Roose replied. “We agreed to wait for Daenerys, that was the plan.”

“That ignorant chit is as mad as her Father” Baelish countered, smoothly standing from the chair. While he was no physical match for Roose, he still had a certain presence that cautioned all who were around him. Roose knew that Baelish was a powerful man, one who treated everyone as a pawn, manipulating them as he saw fit. But he also knew that Baelish was teetering on the edge of madness, he could smell it boiling in the man’s veins.

He had plenty of experience with madness, of course. He’d spent many years fighting at Aerys Targaryen’s side. He’d watched the Leech King burn down cities, towns and villages. Everyone from the highest nobility to the poorest beggar suffered under his iron rule, it was no surprise when the Lannisters rose up to take the throne. He couldn’t blame them, not after Lyanna….

He frowned deeply, pushing the memories of the She-Wolf away. She had been fierce, beautiful and she had fallen in love with the wrong man. A man who threatened all that Aerys held dear and the Targaryens had cut her down--cut them both down.

He still could not convince himself that she deserved the death they’d given her. But it was too late now, things were in motion that could not be stopped and there was no choice but to go forward.

And forward they would go, and his safeguards for Baelish’s inevitable betrayal were in place. House Bolton would not be another victim to the Warlock’ scheming, had seen to that.

“Baelish—”

“Rumor is they killed your scout” Baelish said with a smirk. “A lone Bolton Wolf that wandered too close to the mansion and lost his throat.”

Roose reluctantly nodded, “Maynard, yes” he stated. “He knew the score, knew how dangerous it was to get near a Berserker.”

“Ah yes, this Berserker I have heard so much about” Baelish nodded. “He seems terrifying enough, but brute strength is no match for intellect.”

“You underestimate the fiber of a Berserker” Roose shook his head. “They are beyond anything that you can comprehend, Warlock. Power, fury and sheer madness encased in a barely-sane shell. The way you speak, you’ve clearly never stood across from one on the battlefield.”

“And you have?” Baelish snarked.

“I have,” Roose nodded. “Gregor Clegane, Sandor’s older brother. Men and wolves alike shit themselves at his very presence, and Sandor is no long shot second. I used to think that Sandor was the only one who could stop Gregor. In the end it took several hundred Celts to do the trick. They’re Gods amongst sheep, and taking them less than seriously is a grave mistake.”

“So what would you suggest?” Baelish asked flippantly, waving his hand in the air to conjure a glass of wine. He retook his seat across from the desk and Roose watched him with a wary eye.

“We follow the plan,” Roose replied. “We wait for Daenerys and that husband of hers to arrive, then we move forward.”

“And how do you suggest we do that? Baratheons aren’t exactly growing on trees these days” Baelish scoffed.

“We will find one,” Roose paused, glaring at the sorcerer. “Another one.”

“How?” Baelish glared. “If you want any of this to work, for any of these armies to be amplified, then we need the blood of Kings.”

“You’re beginning to sound like a Red Witch—”

“How dare you!” Baelish was on his feet in an instant, stalking around the desk in smooth steps, his robes dancing around his legs. While the High Warlock may be able to intimidate others this way, Roose was not cowed. “Those Red Women are nothing but hacks, peddling slights of hand like magic, distracting fools with their sex. I am the High Warlock--”

“You’re blinded by your personal vendetta” Roose glared. “Stick to the fucking plan and it will go accordingly. We have all worked too hard for your entitlement to get in the way.”

“You have no idea of my vendettas, you couldn’t possibly understand what I seek” Baelish sneered.

“Stark killed my son, Domeric, during the rebellion,” Roose said simply. “I know what loss—true loss feels like at the hands of my enemies. Catelyn Tully was never yours to begin with—” his hand shot out reflexively to catch Baelish’s hand before it connected with his cheek. Roose’s Wolf growled in fury, his hand wrapping around the High Warlock’s throat and slamming him to the desktop hard enough to crack the surface. “Only women and children slap at their enemies, Wizard” he hissed down at him.

“Bolton--” Baelish wheezed out through his constricted airway. His eyes, once so confident, were bugging from his skull, turning a delightful red.

“Swing at me again and it’s your throat” Roose seethed in warning, spittle landing on Baelish’s face and robes. “Stick to the fucking plan—” he stumbled forward as Baelish’s body vanished from sight and he was left alone in his offices.

With a roar of fury, he shoved everything from his desk top to the floor, trying to control the anger coursing through him. This plan would not—could not fail. It was simply acceptable to think that it would. He would not allow it. Berserker or not!

And he would continue on, with or without the fucking High Cuntlock Baelish.

 

“Father” Arya knocked at the door to her Father’s offices and when he looked up, she stepped inside.

“Arya? Is something amiss?” He stood, rounding his desk to meet her.

“No, nothing” she shook her head. “I wanted to speak with you about Gendry.”

“Oh?” Edward asked.

“And his suit.”

“I see.”

“Given the changes, the situation with Sansa and Sandor Clegane, it gave me time to think things over. To evaluate everything” Arya continued. “And I have chosen to consider his suit.”

“Have you?” Her Father looked genuinely surprised.

“I have” Arya nodded, shifting nervously on her feet. “Well, I already have.”

“Did he—“

“No. I am still a maid” Arya assured him quickly. “But I suspect we will know soon if...well…”

“I see, you let him touch you?” Eddard leaned against the edge of his desk, watching her intently as she nodded. “You care for him then?”

“I suppose that I do. Though he is infuriating” Arya nodded. “He is strong and smart, he—“

“All I want is your happiness, Arya” he smiled.

“I know that he is a bastard, Father” Arya took a deep breath and quickly exhaled. “But the more time I spend with him, the more I realize that he is much more than that. And he accepts me for who I am and does not seek to change me.”

“Alright” he stood, crossing to pull her into his embrace. “Both of my girls will be safe, protected, that is all I want.”

“I do not need Gendry to protect me—” she protested and he laughed, shaking his head.

“No, you certainly do not” he smiled, kissing her forehead. “But knowing that he will fight at your side is enough assurance for this old Wolf.”

“Thank you, Father” Arya replied, her hackles and worries soothed.

“Of course, my Little Warrior” he released her from their embrace and they lapsed into silence. “You do know...you are aware that the connection between Sansa and Clegane is...unprecedented?”

Arya nodded, “I know.”

“It was only minutes from when he touched her to the--to the mating heat” Eddard explained.

“And normal heats are easier?” Arya asked quietly, remembering the way Sansa’s voice had broken as she screamed--begged for Sandor.

“They are, though perhaps your Mother is better versed to answer that” her Father assured her. “It took almost a fortnight for the heat to appear in your Mother after I had turned her.”

“So it’s” Arya paused, shaking her head. “Sansa will be alright?”

“She has reached her majority,” he nodded. “She will be fine. I know that she is in good hands--not that I wanted to hear it firsthand.”

“And her Wolf? Will it show, do you think?”

“I can only hope. I know how much the burden has weighed on Sansa’s shoulders” he sighed. “On your Mother’s shoulders. Sansa will be well, Clegane will see to that.”

“Have you...have you heard anything from her yet?” She couldn’t help but ask. “I saw Sandor this morning…” she laughed.

“In the dressing gown?” Eddard smirked.

“Yes” she laughed.

“A visual I did not need.”

“Nor I” she nodded in agreement.

“And no, I have not heard but I know that she is being well cared for.”

“Alright” Arya replied. “All we can do is wait then.”

“Exactly. I dare say Clegane is a very thorough man.”

“Ew.”

 

“No, you have to step with your right foot first” Sansa smiled, looking up at his confused expression.

“I am” he argued but Sansa shook her head.

“You’re not, that’s why you’re stepping on my slipper” she replied. “Watch me” she took his hands and mimicked his steps, humming softly.

She had been trying to teach him to dance for almost a fortnight now, both of them hiding away in the library--their location of choice for their quiet assignations. He tried to explain to her that a Berserker had no need to know any dances, but she had been insistent, even citing an unlikely diplomatic visit where the skill would be vital. He’d only laughed and indulged her.

Sandor watched her for several moments, admiring the way she smoothly moved through the dance, her slender limbs moving with surprising grace. Sansa had always possessed grace beyond her years, and he had always admired the way she seemed to float through the world around.

“Step with me now” she encouraged and he did his best to keep up, his clumsy movements no match for hers. “Better” she smiled, her expression causing him to miss a step entirely.

“Time for a break, Little Bird” he said softly, stepping back. “Before I accidentally step on your slipper and break your toes.”

“Hardly” she laughed. “But tea does sound lovely. Will you join me?”

“Of course” he was powerless to refuse her.

 

“Oh! Sansa, my darling girl!” her Mother rushed to take her hands as they joined the family in their private dining room. Sansa and Sandor had spent nearly two days locked away in her room, ignoring the rest of the world until the last of the mating heat had left her system, leaving them both repleate and exhausted.

During that time, Sansa steadily grew stronger. The bone-deep exhaustion and weakness no longer seeped from her every pore and the veil over her senses had thinned until it vanished completely. Everything, sights, sounds, smells, all of them were sharper than they ever had been before.

“I am well, Mother, no need to fret” Sansa quickly assured her as the others stood from their seats.

“You look so lovely, so healthy” Catelyn beamed and Sansa nodded, glancing at Sandor who stood by her side. “I have not seen your blush in ages.”

“I am” Sansa smiled, feeling the large hand of her mate settle at her lower back. No, not her mate, her soulmate. “We are both quite well, Mother.”

“Clegane” her Father spoke as he stepped up beside her Mother, extending his hand to Sandor.

“Sir” Sandor shook her Father’s hand quickly, the men sharing a nod of understanding.

“There is something that you all should know, though obviously this is information for those of us in the room only. Family only” Sansa began and she saw her Mother’s eyes dart to her neck, likely hoping to see the mating mark that was now hidden by Sansa’s high lace collar.

“Is all well?” Eddard asked.

“Yes, of course, but I wanted you to know” she looked to Arya who stood with Gendry, oddly enough, and her other siblings along with Jon. “That we’re true soulmates.”

“Oh” Catelyn’s gasp echoed in the room. “You mean…?”

“Bonded and bound” Sansa nodded. “He is the other half of my soul, my everything.”

“Told you” Bran whispered to Arya who only scoffed rudely in reply.

“That is incredible” Catelyn whispered, her eyes wide with surprise--or disbelief. “And you’re well?” she asked again.

“I feel better than I ever have. There is no need to worry, not anymore” Sansa assured her, knowing how heavily all of this had weighed on her Mother. “No more sadness” she whispered to Catelyn.

“Perhaps now your Wolf will show itself” Eddard reasoned. “I agree that it is vital that we keep this information within the family” Eddard looked to Sandor and Sansa wondered at what unspoken conversation was passing between the two men. “Baelish…” he sighed and Sansa looked to her Father.

“What?” she asked.

“Baelish will come, Sansa,” her Father said. “But you will be safe.”

“Yes, she will be,” Sandor said gruffly.

“What do you mean he is coming?” Sansa asked, looking to her Father who had the decency to look sheepish. “You’ve been keeping secrets” she looked at her siblings who all wore contrite expressions. “You all have.”

“We did what we needed to to protect you” her Father explained. “We have always known that Baelish’s price for helping you was going to be high, but we believe that he is responsible for the sickness in its entirety. Including its origin.”

“You mean...that he is the one who made me ill?” Sansa asked.

“He harbors a grudge--a hatred in his heart for me” Eddard said sadly. “He loved your Mother deeply and, as he sees it, I stole her away.”

“Revenge then” Sansa muttered and she felt Sandor’s fingers flex against her back. "Why wouldn't it be something so petty?" she asked sarcastically.

“Little Bird” Sandor’s deep voice cut into her worries and she looked up at her mate. “I will keep you safe,” he promised.

“But will you also teach me?” she asked her Mate. “Teach me to protect myself?”

“Absolutely” Sandor replied with a soft smile.

“Alright,” Sansa agreed, shifting slightly closer to her mate’s side. His hand flexed at her back and then moved to her opposite hip, wrapping possessively around her and pulling her closer to his side. A feeling of safety, of security washed over her and she molded to his frame. Mate. Strong. Safe.

Sansa had hoped and dreamed to find her soulmate from the moment that Old Nan had told her about their very existence, and now she was in his embrace. Happiness settled into her marrow and she did her best to hold back her sigh as they stepped further into the family’s dining room to join the others.

“San” Arya was at her side the moment conversation struck up in the room, the men talking amongst themselves. Arya’s hand twined with her own, pulling her towards the fireplace. “Are you alright?”

“Of course” Sansa assured her sister, pulling her into a hug only to freeze. “You smell different…”

“About that” Arya laughed nervously as Sansa released her.

“Like...metal and lemons--”

“That would be Gendry” Arya whispered, her eyes darting across the room to where Gendry stood with Robb and Jon.

“Oh” Sansa tried to hide her smile. “It's like that then?”

“He might not be as insufferable as initially believed” Arya shrugged, but it didn’t distract Sansa from the heat in her Sister’s cheeks. “And he does not want me to be...girly.”

“Girly?”

“He likes that I want to fight, said he won’t stop me or…whatever” Arya exhaled. “You’re laughing at me?”

Sansa couldn’t hold her amusement in any longer, laughing as she pulled Arya in for another hug, “I am happy for you, truly.”

“Yeah, well” Arya grimaced. “You smell different too.”

“I would imagine so” Sansa looked back at the others to make sure no one was watching them before she pulled her collar to the side, showing the faded pink scar at the base of her neck.

“Oh wow” Arya marvelled. “Did it...did it hurt?”

“Oh no” Sansa shook her head, her own cheeks now heating in embarrassment. “It was unlike anything in the world.”

“I told you that he loved you,” Arya said smugly. “Maybe now you’ll listen to me more often, huh?”

“I love him too” Sansa took her Sister’s hand. “Sorry that I am such an insufferable ninny.”

“Me too” Arya countered and Sansa laughed.

“Girls?” Catelyn called and they turned to see that dinner was being served, their Mother doing her best to usher the younger boys to the table. They walked together towards the large table, Sandor and Gendry finding their way to their sides and Sansa took the chance to steal a kiss from her Mate.

“You’re beautiful” Sandor muttered against her lips, his eyes darting to the comb in her hair. After their shared bath, which had taken longer than initially planned, Sansa had pinned her hair in place while readying for dinner. When she was almost done, Sandor had lifted the comb from her vanity and carefully placed it in her curls. His large hands, while strong and powerful, had been so gentle with the delicate piece it had made her smile as she watched him in the mirror.

“You’re biased, Mate” she teased, turning away as he pulled her chair out for her, helping her to sit before taking his place beside her.

Dinner passed with pleasant conversation and humorous stories, and once the main course was consumed, Sansa’s hand found home on Sandor’s knee, her thumb smoothing over the fabric of his soft buckskin breeches. It didn’t take long for Sandor’s hand to settle over hers, their fingers twining as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

And truly, it was.

Chapter Text

c.1859

“It says here that the Baratheons are more commonly known as amplificare,” Sansa said softly, her finger trailing over the ancient pages of the tome in her lap. While it was written in a long-dead language, she was able to mentally translate the words as she scanned each page. “That is Latin, I think. It goes on to explain that they--Baratheons, are not powerful by themselves, only when paired with another supernatural being.”

“Interesting” Sandor mumbled against the side of her neck, his lips teasing her.

Outside, beyond the large pane glass windows, rain and sleet were assaulting the earth as a fall storm rolled across the North. In the coming months, the temperatures would drop and snow would find them, but for now it was just a rainstorm.

Because of this, Sandor and Sansa had chosen to hide away in the library, both of them seated sideways on the padded window seat. The library at Winterfell had always been her sanctuary--their sanctuary, and now they could come here to enjoy the peace and quiet it afforded them. Sansa sat in the cradle of his thighs, her back resting against her mate’s powerful chest, their legs entwined and outstretched on the bench. She was surrounded by his strength, his scent, and she had never felt safer, or warmer, than she did in this moment.

It seemed like from the moment they had rejoined the Pack, that they had been constantly bombarded with well-wishers and questions about their sudden relationship. Most seemed curious if their affair had been long-standing, and how they had managed to hide it so well. They evaded the questions as best they could, and when the opportunity presented itself, slipped away altogether.

Tomorrow, weather providing, they would stand beside the Heart Tree and exchange marriage vows, something she was very excited to do. While they were already joined in the eyes of the Pack, after tomorrow Sansa would be able to call Sandor her ‘husband’ at last.

“And given their long standing reign in the human world before the final fall of the monarchies, their blood became known as ‘The Blood of Kings’,” she continued, tracing the ink drawing of a prancing stag at the corner of the page. “They are highly sought as those to join the supernatural--by vampires for their strength once they’re turned and by wolves for their heightened instincts. This blood has been used to fuel and amplify supernatural armies several times in the past. Oh, this section here talks about their blood magic...”

“Mmmhmm” he purred softly, his arms tightening ever so slightly around her, fingers tracing her ribs. Now that Sandor was at liberty to touch her, he was loath to stop. Not that she minded...

“You’re not listening are you?” she laughed softly, feeling his answering chuckle rumble against her back.

“I always listen to you, Little Bird” he assured her, his deep voice rumbling through her as his lips brushed her neck. Though she wore a high collar, as proprietary demanded, she could feel his touch echoing through her lace collar to the mating mark on her neck.

“Even when I talk about something as boring as Baratheon blood?” she countered.

“Even then.”

“I just want to know why Olenna gave me this locket” Sansa reached up to touch the golden locket that lay over her sternum. “And I wonder who it has concealed inside.”

“I still don’t trust her. Buggering Tyrell Witches” Sandor grumbled, the tip of his nose tracing just beneath her ear. A shiver raced across her skin and she couldn’t stop herself from arching back against him. “That’s it” he encouraged, the smug satisfaction in his voice making her smile.

“Sandor---”

“Hmm?” he growled.

“You’re very distracting, did you know that?” she asked.

“Never been called ‘distracting’ before.”

“You’ve always been distracting to me,” she whispered.

“Have I?”

“Sandor--” she moved to close the book, but the pages flipped forward and her eyes went wide. “Sandor! Look!” she tried to sit up but he held her close. “That looks just like Jon! And...and Gendry.”

“Hmm?” she felt him shift. “Fuck, it does” he admitted as they both gaped at the portrait of the most popular and well-loved Baratheon King to date-- Steffon Baratheon.

“Do you think…?”

“Jon is sharp,” Sandor began. “Much sharper than Robb when it comes to fighting and strategy. And Gendry is a strong fucker--almost as strong as a Berserker….”

“Father has never talked much about Aunt Lyanna’s mate,” Sansa frowned. “I do know that he and Lyanna were both killed by the Targaryens after some sort of incident. The details are fuzzy. Jon took the ‘Stark’ name after their deaths when he came to live here as a baby. And Gendry didn’t know his Father at all.”

“He was turned in King’s Landing, left in the street” Sandor replied. “If the Lannister’s hadn’t have found him, there is no telling where he would have ended up.”

“The resemblance is uncanny. If they’re of the blood, then…”

“Then they’d be strong,” Sandor paused. “And potentially valuable.”

“But they’re both wolves. It would stand to reason that the Lannisters would not be able to use them, right?” she asked.

“It’s not the Lannisters I worry about, Little Bird” Sandor admitted. “It's the Boltons and Baelish--and those buggering loons the Targaryens. They’re all fucking mad as hatters.”

“We should speak with Father” Sansa bookmarked the page and closed the ancient book. However, before she could slip from his lap Sandor pulled her closer and returned his lips to the column of her throat. “Sandor…” she sighed.

“You think I’d let you escape that easily, mate?” he growled, taking the book from her hands and setting it on the side table with the forgotten tea tray.

“Never.”

“Never” he repeated, turning her to straddle his lap as he shifted her skirts higher. She settled on his powerful thighs, her hands clinging to his neck for balance.

“Here?” she asked breathlessly, her eyes darting to the closed but not locked library door.

“Here, Little Bird. I’ve imagined having you here in the library” he said, kissing along her jawline as his hands roamed the bare flesh of her thighs above her stockings. His growl deepend as he realized that she had foregone smallclothes today, a sudden burst of wildness causing her to leave them draped beside her vanity. “Fuck…”

“Oh” she sighed as his fingers delved into her folds, easily finding her bundle of nerves, stroking it idly. “That feels good,” she mewled.

“You’re already soaked,” he said a few moments later, sinking a long finger into her channel without preamble.

“Mmm--Sandor,” her head lolled back with pleasure, her grip on his neck helping her to lazily ride his finger.

“Beautiful, absolutely beautiful” he whispered, his thumb circling her clit now. “Your cunt is soaked for me, my little mate. Perhaps you like the idea that someone could walk in--anyone could stumble upon us. Catch us together. They’d see my proper Little Bird, dressed every inch the perfect Princess, wanton in my lap. Begging for my cock.”

“Sandor” her breathing hitched as she felt her peak building deep within her.

“Not yet,” he chided and she whimpered as he removed his finger, raising it to lick it clean with a mischievous glint in his eyes. “When you come apart, I’m going to be buried inside your cunt” he deftly opened the front of his breeches and parted the fabric, his cock immediately springing free. Though she still felt a pinch of maidenly reserve at his size, she knew how lovely he felt inside of her and she could barely wait to be joined with him again. “Up” he instructed and she obeyed, rising enough for him to pull her closer, the angry head of his cock brushing against her nub.

“Mmm” she whimpered, her breath escaping her entirely as she sank onto him.

“Fuck” Sandor groaned, his head lolling back to rest against the wall behind him. Here in the light of the window beside them, she could admire him, feel him throbbing inside of her stretched, sensitive walls. “That’s it” he growled as she began to ride him slowly, deeply. He watched her, eyes impossibly dark and more dangerous than the storm that raged outside.

It was the storm, she would later blame, the storm that made her feel reckless; his dark gaze that made her feel like a goddess. It was her mate’s touch that had the words spilling from her lips.

“I love the way your cock feels” she whimpered, grinding her hips against him as she raised and lowered herself. “So big, so deep…”

“Fuck,” Sandor growled in response, large hands holding tightly to her waist as she moved. Her skirts covered their laps, covered where they were intimately joined, but it only heightened her awareness of how it felt each time he filled her.

“Does it feel good, mate?” she leaned closer, kissing him softly, letting her lips linger against his.

“So fucking good, Little Bird” he said and she whimpered in response, shifting to ride him just a bit faster. Everything felt so wonderful, so electric. “Fuck…”

Sansa felt the familiar build of her peak once more, her cunt fluttering around him gently at first, but as she slammed herself onto his cock over and over, it crested and crashed over her like a tidal wave. Her cries filled the library, echoing off of the shelves as Sandor’s snarls turned feral.

A strong hand on her ass helped her to keep the rhythm a she rode out her peak and when Sandor’s hand threaded into her hair and forced her head back, baring her throat, she felt her cunt spasm deeply in the same moment he closed his teeth over her mating mark. Gentle enough not to break the skin, but firm enough to stake his claim once more.

“Sandor!” she sobbed and his moans joined hers as he pulled her down hard against his lap, bottoming out inside of her as he came in long, heated pulses. He seemed to come forever, trembling beneath her as he coated her insides with his cum.

She felt her strength leave her as she tried to catch her breath and Sandor pulled her against his chest, her head pillowed on his shoulder. The movement had her twitching in pleasure and Sandor purred softly as his hand in her hair relaxed.

In the back of her mind she couldn’t help but wonder if they had done it, if his seed had taken root and they had created life. The thought had been buried in her brain since her heat had receded and she couldn’t shake it. She wanted Sandor’s baby so badly that she could weep. She was strong now, stronger than she had ever been, and while she still wondered when her Wolf would show itself, she wanted to feel Sandor’s pup beneath her heart more.

“I love you,” he whispered, rubbing her back softly.

“I love you” she kissed the side of his neck, fighting the urge to fall asleep against him. Sandor, however, seemed content to stay here in the window seat, his arms around her, keeping her safe.

As always.

 

“Nan” Arya pouted as she plopped unceremoniously onto the sofa beside where Sansa and Old Nan were sitting. “Enough with the soul mates” she sighed in exasperation.

“But it’s a good story” Sansa, now nearly ten years of age, reasoned with a bright smile. “It’s my favorite.”

“I think that everyone knows that story is your favorite, child” Nan laughed, smoothing Sansa’s hair. “But I think your Sister would rather like the story of the White Wolf.”

“White Wolf?” Arya instantly perked up, sitting straighter and watching Nan with wide eyes.

“The White Wolf” Nan nodded. “A warrior said to exist only in legend. Strong, fast and more fierce than any in the realm. But do you know what is most special about the White Wolf?”

“Does he rip the faces off of Vampires? Or maybe he can outrun a Berserker” Arya asked excitedly.

“The most special thing about the White Wolf that she is the ‘Mother of Berserkers’,” Nan continued.

“She?” Arya marvelled. “A She-Wolf?”

“She” Nan assured her. “She-Wolves have always been the most fierce, and the story tells that when the White Wolf runs into battle with her family, that none can stop them. When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives.”

“Is she real?” Arya asked.

“Perhaps, but her legend is well known amongst the Old Ones” Nan replied. “A more fierce Mother Wolf has never been found.”

“Does she have a true soulmate?” Sansa asked and Arya let out a very unladylike groan, flopping back to the cushion.

“She does” Nan replied. “And they are both very fierce.”

“I can’t wait to fight” Arya grumbled. “When I reach my majority I am going to fight all of the Pack, I will be the strongest.”

“Unless there are Berserkers left” Sansa scoffed. “You couldn't be stronger than a Berserker.”

“Then I will have him teach me” Arya shrugged. “Obviously.”

“My little warrior” Nan pat Arya’s cheek with an indulgent smile.

 

“Jaime” Tywin greeted him as he entered the King’s solar. Jaime, to his credit, had always been intuitive when it came to his Father’s moods and he drew up short, looking him over.

“You’re upset. What’s happened?” he shut the door and stepped closer to where Tywin leaned against his great desk.

“The Starks have killed a Bolton Wolf that trespassed and nearly got to Princess Sansa” Tywin explained.

“Testing the borders?”

“Likely. A warning as well, looking for weakness” Tywin sighed. “I doubt the Bolton’s are working alone, and that is what concerns me. Sources say that Viserys Targaryen has succumbed to his wounds and that Daenerys Targaryen is now hunting those of the blood.”

Jaime couldn’t help but chuckle at that, “Viserys took an awful long time to die...sounds horribly painful.”

“His injuries during the rebellion were not mortal,” Tywin explained. “I would suspect magic has played a part in his lack of recovery and sudden death.”

“So Daenerys killed him, or rather, had him killed” Jaime reasoned. “Take him off the playing field and she is free to pursue the throne. Not to mention she has that husband of hers…”

“Savages” Tywin scoffed and Jaime shrugged in agreement. “It is disgusting to think that a Vampire would lower themselves to lay with one of those….savage beasts. The woman must be as mad as her Father if she thinks she can ‘rule’ over them at all.”

“Her woman’s weapon, as the case may be” Jaime countered, unwilling to dwell on the idea of Daenerys’ marriage bed longer than he had to. He shook the thoughts away and refocused on his Father.

“Fair” Tywin nodded. “Between the Boltons and the rumors surrounding Daenerys, I think it is time that we met with Eddard and his council directly. So I want you to get into Winterfell-- unseen, is that clear?”

“Unseen, easy enough. Stealth happens to be my specialty” Jaime smirked, wondering if he would be able to get past the Berserker that guarded the borders. This would prove a lovely test of his stealth skills, and he was dreadfully curious to see Clegane, speak to him rather than watch from a distance as he tore enemies apart.

“It is imperative that Baelish remains ignorant to your movements” Tywin directed. “We discuss things with Stark, and we move forward for the good of the realm.”

“And if I run into any trouble?” Jaime asked.

“If you think trouble is on the horizon, I will send Tarth with you---”

“Good Gods no” Jaime laughed, shaking his head at the absurd notion. “I do not need a babysitter.”

“Cause trouble and you’ll find yourself saddled with one” Tywin’s lips twitched in amusement. Jaime knew the threat was hollow, Tywin would never force him to travel around with the Tarth heir. He would have more fun and companionship carrying a plank of wood with eyes painted on it than he would with Tarth. All that woman did was yammer on about oaths and honor, it was truly exhausting.

“I will leave as soon as possible” Jaime agreed, turning back to the door only to pause. He never could resist leaving his Father exasperated, “Tell me Father, do you think that the Stark Princess is as pretty as they say?”

“Jaime!” Tywin growled.

“I was only asking” he laughed. “There is no harm in asking a simple question is there?”

“Keep your hands to yourself, I swear on the Old Gods, Jaime” Tywin warned and he only laughed harder in response. “Behave!”

“Don’t I always?” Jaime nodded his head in deference and excused himself from the office, making his way to his chambers to pack for the long trip ahead.

He couldn’t wait to run North, unleashing the inner-demon that had been too-long caged within King’s Landing’s walls. He’d stop for a bite to eat along the way, unseen of course, and in less than a sennight he would be tucked away in Eddard’s palatial home.

And, with any luck, the sights inside the house would be as lovely as the Northern mountains, he chuckled. He always did love redheads...

 

Sansa opened her eyes with a gasp, shocked to find that she now stood in the center of a field of green, one that looked strangely familiar but she couldn’t quite place it in her memory. It was beautiful, if eerie, like something out of a dream, and she wondered how she had gotten here. The last thing she remembered was snuggling into Sandor’s arms...

Her skirts brushed the grass as she walked forward, and she reached out with her hands to stroke the flower petals as she passed by. They were soft against her fingertips, the blooms seeming to watch as she moved away. The sun was warm on her skin and she knew that if she lingered much longer she would be horribly pink and earn the scorn of her Mother.

Turning back to return from where she came, she was met with only open fields…

“What?” she looked frantically in all directions now, searching for any sign of life or a building where she could take shelter. “Hello?” she called out, but her voice echoed on the wind and was met with no response. “Sandor?” she reached out with her mind but she couldn’t feel him, couldn’t hear him. She turned to the left and froze, staring straight into the cold, assessing eyes of a stranger.

“Princess Sansa” he spoke, his voice smooth and cultured--too cultured, almost rehearsed. She looked him over, cataloging each detail as she tried to place if she knew him or not.

He wore dark robes that covered him completely from neck to ankle, a glass vial hung around his neck and some sort of bird pin sat on his collar. His hair was shorn short, dark in color with silver threading in at the temples and his facial hair---oh, she gasped in realization. It looked drawn on, just like Arya has said. In truth he did look like the cliche Warlocks that haunted storybooks. Which meant he could only be one man.

“High Warlock Baelish” she replied, silently praying that someone would come to her aid. She reached out to Sandor with her mind once more, her eyes never leaving the Warlock.

“Very clever” he stepped closer, closing the distance between them to only a few feet. He was shorter than her, she realized belatedly, his stature lean and bordering on slight. “Though I already knew that you were a smart girl.”

“Where are we?” she asked. “This isn’t real.”

“No, it is not” he agreed with a crooked smile. “You’re asleep and I took the opportunity to have a word with you.”

“I’m asleep?” she choked out. “You’re in my head?”

“More like I have called your subconscious to another plane of existence, it would take a little more effort to get into that pretty head of yours” he reasoned, clearing his throat dramatically. “I thought it was time that I introduce myself. We are long overdue--”

“Why?”

“Why?” he chuckled darkly, a smirk playing at his lips and her stomach turned. “Because I am the man who saved your life, Sansa. Should I not wish to know you?”

“High Warlock--” she stepped backwards and any amusement in his features fell, now hardened into a mask of barely veiled anger.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you” he warned.

“Do what?” she did her best to keep breathing.

“Running away will do you no good,” he explained. “Here in my world, no one can hear your calls for help, no one can help you. There is no escape, no rest, not until I grant it.”

“Sandor! Sandor, help!” she all but screamed her mate’s name in her mind, praying that he would hear her desperate plea. “Please wake me up! Sandor! Help!”

“I admit” Baelish thankfully remained ignorant to her mental pleas. “You are much more beautiful than memory served. You have come into your own, Princess, and it is without comparison or rival.”

“Why am I here?” she ignored his compliment.

“Because I needed to speak with you, to remind you,” he stepped closer, standing only inches from her now. “Your family owes me. You owe me. You belong to me.”

“High Warlock…” her words escaped her brain as her eyes fell to the vial around his neck. It was an innocuous piece, plain hand blown glass with a cork at the top. The only opulent part of it was the silver wire that wrapped around its neck, holding it attached to a chain. But the wire didn’t hold her attention, it was what was floating inside that drew her eyes.

Dark and swirling, the contents moved round and round, pacing like a caged animal and it tore at her heart. What was it that Baelish had locked away? What prisoner did he keep around his neck like a trophy?

“So lovely” Baelish raised a hand to move her hair from her face and she tried to pull away. Instead, Baelish’s hand locked on her chin and forced her to look at him. His grip was painful, flesh cold against her own--so cold that it felt as if he were burning her skin.

“Sandor!” she screamed over and over while she did her best to keep her face impassive.

“Even lovelier than your Mother” he added, his thumb tracing across her lower lip. “I cannot wait to have you” he licked his lips.

Sansa couldn’t explain why she did it--or even what impulse had struck her to act on it, but she reached out and closed her hand around the glass vial. Tight. The vial was warm to the touch and she felt like it was almost familiar...The awful sound of glass splintering echoed in her ears as pain cut through her hand, racing up her arm.

“No!” Baelish used some sort of magic to push her away. The force of the blow tore through her chest, the air reverberating in a deafening explosion and her body flying backwards on a broken scream. Her hair and skirts billowed around her as she fell--no, floated, her heartbeat pounding in her ears like a rising crescendo.

Her hold on the vial slipped and the entire time she fell away, she couldn’t look away from the glass vial. It was broken, the entire glass surface had shattered completely but was somehow still intact, the contents racing now in panic.

"How?”

Darkness bled into her vision and she heard, at last, Sandor’s voice calling her name.

“Sandor” she mentally whimpered, letting the darkness take her.

 

“He looks just like you” Lyanna spoke softly, admiring the bundle in her arms.

“Devilishly handsome, then?” Robert chuckled, tucking an errant curl behind her ear.

“Of course” Lynna laughed, that light and musical laugh that he loved so much, her rich chocolate eyes alight with happiness. “Jon is a perfect name, don’t you agree?”

“I do” Robert nodded, watching her feed their hours old son. Lyanna had labored hard through the night to bear their first child and he felt pride swelling in his chest for her warrior’s soul.

Idly he wondered what he had ever done to deserve such a life, surely he had never been a good and pious man. He had spent the entirety of his youth sowing wild oats, drinking and whoring to pass the time but everything--all of it had changed the moment he laid eyes on Lyanna Stark.

Tall, strong and stunningly beautiful, she was the sort of Goddess that men went to war for. He had never given credence to the saying ‘love at first sight’ until her. Only, she would not give him the time of day in return.

Beautiful as she was, she was cold and secretive, unwilling to meet him in open conversation. She had even gone as far to say that he was ‘wasting his time’ with her, but he never gave up. He had never met anyone like her and refused to let her slip from his life. She rejected his touch, shied away from it even and he grew frustrated that his charm seemed to be failing him.

Time moved forward and soon it became apparent to him that Lyanna wanted to see him as badly as he did her. It wasn’t until a night beneath a near full moon, that she had whispered her confession. She wasn’t able to stay away from him any longer. It could cost her everything, she’d whispered, reaching out to touch his dark bearded cheek. He’d taken that invitation without pause and kissed her with everything he had.

From that kiss on, everything had changed. His seemling quiet life of human war and hedonism had suddenly expanded to include the supernatural. He went from a man alone to a man with a mate, a man who the Gods had deigned to attach to the Wolf Princess and when she asked him to join the Pack, he never hesitated. He endured the pain of the transformation and joined the ranks of the Wolves, Lyanna at his side every step of the way.

“My darling” Lyanna whispered to the suckling babe in her arms, the little one’s fingers reaching out to wrap around her index finger. “Already so strong, like his Papa.”

“Because my ancestors were said to be Baratheons” Robert teased, knowing that Lyanna would surely roll her eyes at hearing the old wives tale of the Baratheon kings. Again.

“Just because you carried a warhammer, does not make you a Baratheon, mate” Lyanna smiled, relaxing against the pillows. “But go on, I am sure that you’re dying to tell your son about the illustrious blood in his veins” she smirked.

“So there I was,” Robert began, reclining beside her on the bed, their son’s eyes wide as he looked up at him. “On the battlefield, all alone. Just me and my trusty hammer…”

 

Sandor woke as if a tide of cold water had consumed his body, blood running to ice as Sansa’s screams echoed in his head. They’d fallen into an exhausted slumber only hours ago after spending the evening making love. A glance to the fireplace showed that the fire had died some, and though the storm still raged outside, their bodies pressed together was enough to keep them warm. Sitting up, his eyes quickly adjusted to the darkness and he turned to see his mate curled into a fetal position beside him.

“Sansa” he touched her shoulder, shaking it gently but she didn’t respond. Still her calls for him echoed through their joined minds, the force of her cries vibrating through his optic nerves and panic began to take root in his chest. “Little Bird--Sansa, wake up” he knelt on the bed beside her, shaking her shoulder.

“Sandor” she called out aloud this time, though her eyes did not open--she did not wake.

“Fuck” he cursed, pulling her into a sitting position to touch her cheek. “Sansa, open your eyes---open them!” Her head lolled back and arms hung boneless at her side. “Sansa---” Her scream echoed in the room as her body bowed as if it were attacked, shaking violently and then surging awake in a panic, arms and legs flailing. “Sansa!”

“Sandor!” she panted, the fight falling from her limbs. “Oh Gods” she sobbed, climbing into his embrace.

“Shh, Little Bird” he assured her, wrapping his arms around her. “I’ve got you now.”

“I was so afraid--I couldn’t get away, I couldn’t wake up” she said quickly, her voice halting and hoarse as she battled back tears.

“I’ve got you now” he assured her again. “You’re safe.”

“The High Warlock…” she whispered.

“What?” he stilled.

“High Warlock Baelish, he was there and I couldn’t get away” she sobbed then, hot tears meeting his bare shoulder. “He’s horrible…so horrible.”

“Sansa…”

“It was him, I know it was” she reasoned, pulling back to look into his eyes. “He’s coming, he told me that I belong to him. Oh Gods, he’s coming” she tried to breath but he could tell she was close to panic, fear seeping from her pores.

“Sansa…”

“I can’t breathe…”

“Yes you can, you can. Breathe with me” he placed a hand over her heart, skin to skin. “In” he instructed and after a little struggle, she obeyed. “Out.”

“Help…” she pleaded as she began to choke, her body shaking violently, the tremors coming from her core. From her---

Fight or flight...

“Shit” Sandor scooped her into his arms, crossing quickly to the door and carrying her through the dark mansion. The rest of the house had long since gone to sleep, for which he was eternally grateful given they were both as naked as their name day.

“Sandor!” she called out, eyes squeezing tightly shut as her fingers dug into his shoulders. That actually fucking hurt, the heat of his blood trailing from the wounds, down his spine. He bit back a growl as he stormed past Jon, who had been sneaking food in the kitchen, and stepped out into the stormy night.

“Clegane---fuck!” Jon followed. Behind them he could hear others stirring awake, Sansa’s screams serving to rouse the household.

Thunder rumbled in the distance as icy rain pelted his bare skin, shockingly cold against the heat of him. He paid it no mind, instead his entire being was focused on the woman in his arms--his mate. He knew what was happening, even if she didn’t and he was going to get her through this. It was his honor as her mate to do so. While the moment was bittersweet, he felt his heart begin to race in anticipation.

Fight or flight...

“Breathe” he crouched on the back grass, Sansa hyperventilating in his arms. “Stop fighting it.”

“Sandor…”

“Is she---” Jon started but Sandor fixed him with a snarl and glare before refocusing on Sansa.

“Stop fighting it, Sansa! Let it fucking happen!” he growled and her eyes shot open, locking on his. “Fuck” he inhaled roughly, bracing himself as he loosened his arms.

Fight or flight...

And then, the world exploded.

Chapter Text

“What is it like?” Sansa asked, her voice quiet and soft as silk above the crackle of the fireplace.

“What is what like?” Sandor asked, lifting his eyes from the book in his lap to meet her own. They were tucked away in the library as the whole of the Pack prepared for the start of the Yule celebration. Everyone seemed to be eagerly anticipating the holiday celebration, likely anxious to see what gifts were awaiting them.

“Being a Berserker?” her cheeks warmed slightly at the question and Sandor watched the flush trace up her cheek bone for several seconds before he took a deep breath.

“We are much like any other Wolf, I suppose” Sandor replied. “We are stronger, faster and keener, to be certain. However we feel deeply, every emotion and experience, we feel it acutely. At times it can be crippling.”

“It sounds both wonderful and awful” Sansa admitted.

“It can be” he paused for several beats, taking several breaths before he continued. “I’d like to think it was easier when Gregor was alive. At times it was an odd comfort to know that I wasn’t the last. But Gregor, he let his rage consume him, it ruled him and he was never going to stop.”

“Stop?”

“Killing” Sandor said, closing the book in his lap, he set it aside. “Even the innocent were not safe from his rage.”

“Sandor?” Sansa prompted, her expression having fallen into one of deep sadness, almost as if she could feel the sadness in his own chest. A sadness he kept locked away so that no one could ever bear witness to it.

While Gregor had been the true monster, killing men, women and children without discretion, Sandor felt crippled with guilt over not stopping him--over not being able to stop him from killing an innocent who never deserved his wrath.

Unbidden, his thoughts went to the small portrait in his belongings, wrapped tightly in an embroidered cloth and hidden from sight. He gazed upon it once a year, apologizing to the unmoving painting before tucking it back away with his meager belongings.

“Sandor?” Sansa asked again and he almost jumped in surprise at the way her gloved hand settled over his own on the arm of the wingback chair. He had not heard her move, and yet she had risen from her chair and crouched before him without making a sound.

“It’s nothing, Little Bird” he assured her, schooling his expression and pushing the thoughts of his Brother from his mind.

“Perhaps one day you will tell me” Sansa’s kidskin covered thumb traced over his knuckled before she stood and moved to the fireside. The flames illuminated her hair, making the locks glow in the light. She was an angel, surely. An angel of beauty sent to torment him.

“Perhaps” he echoed, the words hollow as he watched her. He hadn’t been able to keep those in his past safe, but he had made a promise to King Eddard that no matter what, Sansa would always be safe.

And without question or hesitation, he would die to keep that vow sacred. To keep her safe.

 

c.1859

Sansa felt as if she were being turned inside out, her innards being torn from her inch by inch as her eyes seemed to explode on white hot bursts of pain. She tried to fight it, tried to breathe with lungs that didn’t want to cooperate, but it was nearly impossible.

In the back of her mind, she heard her mate’s voice calling to her but she couldn’t make out the words. Everything seemed to be overpowered by the firing of nerves and the burning of muscle.

Overwhelmed by pain.

It grew hotter. Sharper. It consumed every last cell of her body and she could only scream----

And then, as suddenly as it had started, it stopped.

Panting for breath, she took stock of what damage had been done to her body. She decided to start with her toes, but when she went to wiggle them, they felt clumsy...large…

“Little Bird” the voice was impossibly deep, like molten chocolate settling on her palette and she purred in response. That was her mate’s voice, deeper and stronger than she’d ever heard it. “Little Bird, open your eyes.”

As always, she obeyed and she felt her entire world tilt. He looked so...small...and so naked! She stumbled backwards on a gasp, eyes locked on her nude mate who stood with wide eyes, staring at her through the rain.

She couldn’t believe it had happened, it had finally happened. She had transformed, her Wolf showing itself in the wake of Baelish’s attack on her subconscious. Fight or flight...It had felt as if her world was ending only moments ago, but now she knew it had only just begun.

Sansa Clegane wasn’t broken anymore.

Sansa Clegane wasn’t a pariah anymore.

Looking at her feet--no, her paws, she stared at them for several seconds, watching the grass and mud push through the individual pads. She raised and lowered a front one several times, staring at the large impression she left on the earth. Every sound and smell was sharper, magnified. The world was alive all around her and she could feel it!

When finally she set the paw to rest, her eyes remained locked on the stark contrast of the mud against her fur. Her bright white fur.

White she whimpered slightly, swallowing the desperate and fearful sound. Not chocolate like Arya and Father, not auburn like Robb and not dappled grey like Jon and Gendry…She was white, why was she white? No one else in the Pack was white….was it because she had been sick? Was it--

The loud clearing of a throat echoed through her panic and her eyes swung to Jon’s human form. He held out a pair of breeches for Sandor to take, seemingly uncomfortable by her mate’s nudity. Sandor, however, was unphased. Not that he had anything to be ashamed of.

“Little Bird” Sandor took them and pulled the material over his groin with a sigh, buttoning only enough to keep them on his hips. He stepped towards her as her family and other members of the Pack began to emerge from the house, all of them chattering wildly. He raised a hand and she stepped forward, placing her muzzle into his open palm.

She sighed out a whimper against his hand. Even in this form, her mate’s touch soothed her instantly. He stroked the silky fur along her snout for several seconds, his fingers sliding to touch just below her left eye.

“They’re almost white, Little Bird” he noted and she whimpered in confusion.

“It cannot be” Eddard gasped as he strode from the house, shoving past the gathering crowd. His clothing had been hastily pulled on, breeches and linen shirt askew, hair amess. He approached cautiously, his steps halting as rain soaked into his hair and clothes.

“Aye, but it is” Sandor replied to her Father, briefly turning to share a glance.

“She’s huge,” Arya beamed, pushing through the crowd to approach.

“And white” Jon muttered.

“And huge!” Arya repeated.

“But it cannot be” Eddard repeated and she looked between her mate and her Father, wondering what unspoken conversation they were keeping from her.

“Just because it has not been documented---” Sandor began but Arya reached them then, cutting him off.

“She’s a Berserker!” Arya chuckled, moving to stand beside Sansa’s leg, comparing her short stature to Sansa’s Wolf. “I mean I do not even reach her shoulder!” Sansa felt her Sister’s hand touch just below her front shoulder, it was odd, she didn’t feel that large. In fact, she felt wonderful.

“Arya” Gendry said cautiously, moving closer. “Be careful.”

“She won’t hurt me, Idiot” Arya laughed and Sansa almost stumbled as Arya walked underneath her stomach and emerged on her other side. The sights and sounds were beginning to get overwhelming and she looked to Sandor. She felt exposed, standing here in the rain as everyone stared at her.

“It’s loud” she pushed the words into her mate’s mind.

“I know. It always is at first but your brain will even it out soon enough” he assured her, his voice calm and laced with pride.

“The ‘White Wolf then’,” Eddard said softly, his eyes squinting in confusion. “But she was said to be the ‘Mother of Berserkers’, not a Berserker herself.”

“White Wolf?” she asked her mate and he gave a very small nod in assurance.

“It is possible that her connection to me has had this effect” Sandor said aloud, keeping his wording vague since they were being watched by most of the Pack now. “We were mated before her Wolf showed itself.”

“It is possible,” Eddard agreed.

“Back inside, all of you. Now,” Catelyn ushered the others away, breaking into their gawking and gossiping to guide them back into the house. When they had gone, albeit reluctantly, Catelyn moved to join the family. “Oh my darling girl” Catelyn smiled up at her and Sansa weakly ‘yipped’ in response.

“We should run!” Arya exclaimed suddenly, bouncing on her feet.

“Arya--”

“I cannot wait to see how fast she is!” Arya continued.

“She’s not a toy” Catelyn chided.

“I’ll take her tonight,” Sandor said and Sansa looked back to her mate. “Alone” he added and Arya gave an exaggerated pout.

“We’ll give you your space then” Eddard nodded. “But tomorrow, we have much to discuss.”

“More than you know” Sandor looked at the King intently before stepping closer to Sansa’s side. Eddard gave an abrupt nod and ushered his family inside, Arya more than a little reluctant to leave now that her closest friend had finally shifted forms.

As Jon stepped away, Sandor gave a sharp whistle and tossed the wrinkled breeches back to him with an easy toss. Jon caught them with ease and vanished into the great house.

Sansa watched her mate step closer to the woods, but when she did not follow he turned back to her and she whimpered.

“You coming, Little Bird?” he chuckled and she watched his body twist and transform until his pure black Wolf form stood a few feet away. It was then that she understood what her Sister had meant earlier, that Sansa was large. Now, standing here before him she could easily look him in the eye. He was still slightly taller and much bulkier, but her Wolf was somehow his equal.

“Am I a freak then?” she asked, speaking the words into his mind as she stepped closer. She felt clumsy, awkward on four legs for the first time, but she managed not to stumble completely.

“No, you’re beautiful” he quickly corrected, bumping his snout into hers in what could only be described as a Wolf’s kiss. “Absolutely perfect, Little Bird.”

“Sandor…” she paused. “I had hoped that I was already pregnant…” she admitted sadly, knowing that if her Wolf had arrived and she was able to shift, there was no doubt that her womb remained empty of their child. If she had carried Sandor’s child, then her body would have been locked in its human form until she gave birth, for the safety of the unborn babe.

The realization that she was not with child, but could now transform, was very bittersweet.

“I had too, but that will come in time” he assured her. “Baelish tried to attack you tonight and you need to be strong in order to fight off whatever is coming. Your Wolf is here now, you’ll be stronger than ever.”

“Old Nan told us of the ‘White Wolf’ once” she admitted.

“Aye?”

“Is that….is that me?”

“Aye, I think so,” he replied with a chuckle.

“Does that make me a Berserker?”

“If you are not, then you are closer to one than anyone else in the world could ever hope to be.”

“Then you’re not alone” she smiled through their mental connection and stepped closer to nuzzle his neck below his ear, knowing instinctively that his mating mark lay beneath the thick fur.

“We’ll never be alone, Little Bird. We’ll always have each other,” he promised, snuggling his face to her fur in return.

“Always,” she agreed.

“Now” he cleared his throat. “Are you ready to stretch those legs of yours and run?”.

“Absolutely,” she agreed and they made their way to the tree line, side by side. Sandor looked back to her and gave a small ‘yip’ before he pushed into a run. Sansa followed, letting instinct take her until she was galloping beside her mate, the forest a blur as they ran through it at full speed.

It was incredible. Cold air burned her eyes, rain pelted her face in stinging barbs. All of the scents nearly overwhelmed her nostrils and her muscles pushed and flexed in ways that they had never done before as they ran. The thunder of the storm rose and mingled with the thunder of their paws beating against the soaked earth.

To their left and right she could hear wildlife, birds and deer alike as they scrambled from their path leaving only the acrid scent of fear behind them. Fear, something that had dwelled in her heart since her illness, had abated. Fear of being less , fear of never experiencing the world as she was meant to, as a Wolf. Fear that she would never be strong enough to take a make, to change forms.

Now it was others who felt fear in her presence. A heady drug, this onslaught of power, the feeling surging through her veins as they pushed faster. All of this was the most incredible feeling she had ever experienced--well, aside from the marriage bed that was.

A chuckle broke into her thoughts and she realized that Sandor must have heard her inner monologue.

“I’d agree, Little Bird” Sandor’s voice replied within her mind and she chortled in laughter. Sandor’s grey eyes briefly met hers and then he darted right, changing direction and she gave chase, hot on his heels as they ran together through the storm.

 

Baelish’s office was a disaster.

Books lay open in various degrees of destruction on every surface, a few even floated in the air near the shelves, suspended and trapped in limbo in their master’s fury. Potion bottles and artifacts were strewn about, cracked, broken, decimated…

And the High Warlock himself stood beside his desk, hands braced on the scarred wooden surface as he tried to catch his breath after his most recent outburst.

“It isn’t possible” he muttered for the hundredth time, eyes screwed tightly shut to avoid looking at the nearly ruined glass vial on the desk.

He had pulled Sansa’s subconscious into his realm to speak with her--he had to speak with her, and everything had gone wrong. She shouldn’t have been able to escape, the vial shouldn’t have cracked, none of this had gone according to plan.

“But why” he shoved away from the desk and grabbed a book that was floating at eye level, flipping through it.

“Because you’re a fool” Olenna Tyrell’s voice intruded on his thoughts and Baelish whirled to the door, hissing at her in anger. “Easy ol’ boy” she chuckled, lifting a pale green skirt to step over several books and shards of broken glass on the floor.

“Now is not the time, Witch” he glared.

“You always were a cocky little shit” Olenna paused near the far window. “And someday soon it is going to get you into trouble.”

“Cut to the chase, I implore you” he closed the thick tome with a snap and tossed it to the desk.

“I came to warn you,” Olenna said smugly.

“Warn me of what?”

“To stop this game of yours” Olenna continued. “Before it's too late.”

“Any game of mine is no business of yours--” Baelish lunged for her, hand reaching her throat only to have her body vanish like mist at his touch.

“Did you really think I would be stupid enough to come in my corporeal form?” Olenna quipped dryly as the astral projection reformed and solidified into her appearance once more. Her eyes roamed the room and she ‘tsked’ her teeth. “You’re already too far gone.”

“I do not have time for this” he waved a hand and banished her from his home, this time speaking the words that would lock her from his realm forever. Never again would the Witch of Thorns intrude upon his solitude.

Returning to his research, he worked tirelessly to find something--anything that would reinforce the vial’s sealing spell. He would fix this and he would never let the power inside escape, because the resulting chaos would only prove deadly…

 

They ran all night, outlasting the fury of the storm as they raced through the woods. Their chase gave way to playful biting, shoving and tackling, both of them having tumbled down their fair share of hills and foothills by the time the sun began to rise on the horizon. She had never felt more free that she had last night. Powerful and free, her mate beside her as they explored the wilderness.

They had turned back towards home as the sun threatened to peek over the hills, her stomach grumbling with a fierce hunger that made Sandor chortle in amusement. When they finally reached the hot springs a short distance from the mansion, she watched Sandor’s wolf fade away until only a mud-caked Sandor stood before her.

“Just relax and imagine your human form” he encouraged her and she did as she was bade, closing her eyes to picture the form she wished to take. It took several moments for it to happen, but as her Wolf melted away, she realized that there was no pain in this transformation. Not like it had been last night.

Opening now her human eyes, she looked up at her mate who stood over her, pride beaming in his light eyes. She was covered in dirt and mud, there was likely some grass in her hair, but the way he was looking at her made her feel like the most beautiful woman in the world.

“Sandor” she whispered, closing the distance between them.

“Come” he took her hand and led her to the stones that formed the entrance to the hot springs. The warm water instantly soothed her aching muscles and chased away the last of the exhaustion that lingered in her limbs. They worked wordlessly to clean each other, dipping under the warm water to wash away grass and leaves, the soft sound of the waterfall creating a soft cocoon around them.

Her senses that had been heightened in her Wolf form, remained now in her human and she felt whole. She had hundreds of questions to ask, too many to delve into now but she knew the dam on her flood of curiosities would only hold so long. Questions, however, could wait a few more moments, she decided as she ran her hands over the hard planes of Sandor’s body. She had more...pressing matters to see to.

“I need you” she whispered, tilting her lips to meet his. He returned the kiss without hesitation, his tongue parting her lips to delve deeper as his arms banded around her. The press of his bare chest against hers felt wonderful, the coarse hair there teasing her nipples and she squirmed in his embrace.

“There is one thing...” he growled deeply as they broke their kiss. His hands roamed her bare flesh, sending lightning through her, all of it settling low in her stomach. “My She-Wolf…” he nuzzled her cheek.

“Show me” she pleaded breathlessly.

“Aye, I will” he promised, hands pausing to kneed her ass before sliding to her waist.

“Sandor--” she whimpered. He took her hands then, guiding her to the side of the pool to a large, smooth rock. She watched him shift behind her, chest snug to her back, lifting her hands to place them on the rock. “Oh” she sighed as his hands fell below the water’s steaming surface to cup her breasts, pinching and rolling the jeweled peaks as he trailed kisses across her shoulder. The rough scrape of his beard and his soft lips were such a lovely contrast…

“My Little Mate” he gently bit her collarbone and she gasped, rubbing her ass against the hard length of his cock.

“Yes…” her fingers tensed on the rock’s smooth surface as one of his hands found her folds, teasing her with an expert touch.

“My perfect She-Wolf” he circled her clit, her breaths coming in hard pants now as her body raced towards its pleasure. “And do you know how She-Wolves get fucked, Little Bird?”

“Sandor---”

“How they are claimed? How they are fucked and bred, taken by their mate until they’re filled with cum” his voice was deep, dark and sinful against the shell of her ear. So sinful that she did not notice his hand tangling in her hair until he tightened his hold and guided her head back, exposing her throat as her spine arched.

“Please” she begged, all but sobbing in anticipation. Her entire body shook as he worked her bundle of nerves, if not for the water she wouldn’t have been able to hold herself upright.

“Beautiful” he growled against the column of her throat in the same moment he sank a long, thick finger into her cunt.

“Sandor!” she sobbed.

“That’s it, Little Mate” he pulled her earlobe between his teeth, biting gently and it sent her over the edge. She screamed out her pleasure, body contracting around his finger as she rode out her peak. But Sandor gave her no quarter, withdrawing his finger and moving smoothly to fill her with his cock in a single, hard thrust.

Her cries echoed in the hot springs and forest beyond, Sandor’s hard form behind her ruthlessly fucking into her. His thrusts were wild, uncontrolled and in the recesses of her mind she realized that Sandor had been, to some degree, holding back his strength when he took her before. But now she was a Wolf, she was for all intents and purposes, a Berserker and he was fucking her with wild abandon.

In their brief marriage bed thus far, she had never been fucked like this. Possessed like this. She could feel his cock in her throat, reaching so deeply inside of her that she sobbed over and over. The hand in her hair looped under her left arm to cup the front of her throat and chin, holding her arched against him as he moved. Her hands rose to cling to his powerful forearm banded across her chest, fingers finding purchase and anchoring her whirling thoughts.

“San--dor, please--” her words were broken, punctuated by the force of his thrusts.

“That’s my good girl” he praised and his words shot straight to her core, burning and raising her desire to impossible degrees. She was certain that she would go up in flames at any moment. “Such a good Little Mate, taking all of my cock” his lips closed around the base of her throat, sucking hard.

“Yes!”

“Are you going to take all of my cum too, like a good girl?” he said as he released her flesh, the cool night air burning against the love bite he’d left behind.

“Yes, please” she begged, his thumb teasing her lower lip. “I need it…”

“You want my cum, hmm?” he brushed a finger across her folds, teasing her briefly before his hand splayed wide and covered her womb. Surely he would be able to feel the way his cock filled her, long and thick she was stretched around him as his balls slapped against her flesh with each thrust. “I’ll fill you, Little Mate” he promised, fingers possessively cupping her womb. “I’ll fill you with my cum--my pups. I’ll fill you until you’re round and full.”

“Sandor!” she screamed, her climax hitting her unexpectedly and she came hard around him. Her inner muscles seized and milked him, begging for what only he could give her.

“Fuck” she heard his muttered curse as his hips stuttered and he shoved deep--so deep, and snarled as his own pleasure took him. His large body curled over hers and she felt the hot flood of his seed inside of her, his cock pulsing as he fulfilled his promise to fill her. His seed coated her walls as his teeth sank into the flesh of her throat, marking her again, leaving mating marks now on both sides of her throat.

The world around her seemed to return slowly, the blood racing in her ears calming and her pulse slowing gradually. Sandor lapped at her fresh mating mark, nuzzling against her throat as he too came down from his high.

“I love you” she whispered with a smile, turning to rest her forehead on his temple.

“I love you,” he replied. His hand twitched where it still cupped her lower stomach and she covered his hand with her own. Even now their bodies trembled with the aftershocks of their pleasure and she could almost swear Sandor was still dripping seed inside of her. Several moments passed and then he spoke, barely above a whisper. “Is it selfish of me to want my seed to take root here, even now when the world is filled with danger and uncertainty?”

Sansa felt her heart melt at his confession, “No” she pushed his hand against her womb. “The world is always dangerous, will always be uncertain, but I am stronger now. I can protect our children now. Properly protect them.”

“To see you, round with my pup” he growled, holding her tightly to his chest. “Everyone would know who you belong to, who had bred you. That you’d been a good Little Mate and taken my seed and given it life.”

“Hmm” she sighed and nuzzled him. “They all know that I belong to you, Sandor. They’re terrified of you.”

“Aye” he agreed. “And soon enough they’ll be terrified of you.”

“Me?”

“There has never been a White Wolf, Sansa” he said, his tone suddenly serious. “There has never been a female Berserker. Even if you’re not a Berserker, you will breed them, the ‘Mother of Berserkers’. They’ll come for you, try to stop you. But us, you and I, we’re unstoppable.”

“Unstoppable” she echoed, awe settling into her blood. Yesterday she had only a vague hope that she would ever transform and now…

“Unstoppable” he repeated, kissing her shoulder as rustling sounded in the forest a few seconds before the small form of Arya appeared. Sandor sank their bodies lower, beneath the water line and she felt his cock half-hard, slip from her body, pulling a whimper from her lips. “Runt” he glared at her little Sister.

“If you two are quite done, since you’ve already woken the rest of the household,” Arya tossed a pair of robes onto the grassy shore and leaned forward to place the golden locket that Olenna Tyrell had gifted Sansa on the largest rock on the shore. It must have fallen off when she transformed, Sansa realized, touching her bare throat. She would have to be mindful of that, fortunately Arya had picked it up for her last night.

“Arya--” Sansa began but her Sister cut her off.

“We have a visitor” Arya nodded to the robes. “Those will get you to your rooms, best make yourselves presentable.”

“Who is it?” Sansa asked.

“Jaime Lannister” Arya replied, eyes bright. “A real Vampire, here! And a royal one at that!”

“Jaime buggering Lannister” Sandor grumbled.

“And he’s already asking after Sansa,” Arya added and Sansa felt her mate’s snarl rumble through his large body.

“Fucking golden cunt” Sandor muttered.

“Get dressed” Arya wrinkled her nose. “Clean up, then get dressed. Everyone will be able to smell what you were up to.”

“Arya!” Sansa gasped.

“Fuck off, Runt” Sandor laughed, ushering her away. “Or I won’t train with you this week” he threatened and Arya vanished like a shot, running back into the woods towards the mansion. “Come, Little Bird” he kissed her shoulder and relaxed his hold on her enough to turn her in his embrace. He kissed her lips and smoothed her damn hair from her face.

Together they slipped from the water and pulled on the robes to cover their nudity. Sansa quickly clasped the locket around her neck and took Sandor’s hand, walking barefoot beside him to the mansion.

 

Jaime had arrived at Winterfell just before the dawn, fortunate to find the house awake, and he was quickly rushed into King Eddard’s private offices. For their first time in their acquaintance, Eddard looked frazzled and out of sorts, as if he had not slept and Jaime wondered what could have perturbed the Wolf King so much.

His curiosities, however, were piqued when a very feminine, very orgasmic scream echoed in the distance and Eddard winced at the sound. Someone was greatly enjoying their morning, much to the detriment of the King. Whoever she was, she was being very well cared for, Jaime would admit. She did not sound remotely unsatisfied.

Pleasantries were shared between him and the Starks, small talk as they waited for the Berserker to arrive. Catelyn, to her credit, had pulled the shades herself, ordering the rest of the house be kept in darkness for their guest’s comfort. While it wasn’t as if he would burst into flames if caught in the sun, Vampires were all very photosensitive and weakened by the bright rays.

It was the moment the large, hulking form entered the King’s office that Jaime realized what had been happening earlier this morning. Sandor Clegane was positively caked in a woman’s scent, saturated in the thick sweet smell of sex. And not just any woman’s scent…

Jaime’s eyes followed the form of the tall, stunning redhead as she moved into the room after him and stayed at Clegane’s side. She was beyond beautiful, moving with smooth yet powerful grace. She was impeccably dressed in a dark grey high waisted skirt and white lace top, the collar dancing just beneath her chin. His eyes traced the curve of her hip, the dip of her waist and the fiery curls atop her head. It was no wonder Stark had hidden her away in the North, she was too beautiful to be unleashed upon the world.

But more than that, she was confident and seemed to exude power, as well as Sandor’s scent. His Vampire instincts did not fail him in his assessment of her; she may look like a porcelain doll, but he could feel the Wolf pacing beneath the surface of her skin, feeling the danger as surely as if it were spoken aloud.

“Princess Sansa” Jaime gave a small nod of his head.

“Prince Jaime” she replied with a smile that nearly struck him dumb. “Welcome to Winterfell.”

“Thank you, I must confess, rumors of your beauty hardly do you justice, Princess.” Clegane growled softly, as his arm wound around her lower back, holding her to his side in obvious possession. Well now, wasn’t this a lovely development. The Berserker had more than just prowess on the field of battle.

“You are too kind, Prince Jaime” she replied smoothly and he looked from her pale eyes and to the sinister grey of Sandor Clegane’s. The man, while horribly scarred on the right side of his face--Gods, did they form the pattern of claws?, he would have been an imposing man on pure size alone. He towered over all in the room, including Jaime, who barely reached his shoulder.

Gods, how did he fuck such a slender woman without tearing her apart? Rather well apparently, he nearly chuckled to himself, judging from her earlier screams.

“Get a good look, Lannister?” Sandor grumbled and Jaime broke his stare to clear his throat.

“I apologize,” he glanced to the younger Stark Daughter who was doing her best no to snicker from her perch on the arm of a chair. In the chair itself sat a young man who had been introduced simply as Gendry, but there was something familiar about the boy that Jaime couldn’t quite pinpoint.

“Jaime is here under strict orders that his presence remain a secret” Eddard interjected, likely trying to break the tension in the room. Of course, judging by the way Catelyn kept looking to Sansa, there was more at play here than he realized. “Jaime?” Eddard motioned to him and he took the unspoken queue.

“Right” Jaime nodded. “We have received word that Viserys Targaryen is dead, in his place Daenerys is now leading her coven” he explained.

“She the one fucking the horse?” Sandor asked without hesitation and Jaime bit back a bark of laughter. Arya, however, did burst out laughing, earning a glare from her Mother.

“She is married to a Dothraki Nightmare, yes” Jaime agreed.

“Nightmare” Sansa asked, looking at the man at her side. “Truly?” she asked and Jaime was awestruck at the way Clegane’s features softened as he looked to her. Even the tension in his shoulders seemed to melt away.

“Aye” he said softly. “Burning pains in the asses they are” he added and Jaime frowned. While most in the supernatural world knew that, in the basest sense the Dothraki were Skinchangers. The way that Clegane spoke sounded more like first hand knowledge. Most who had first hand experience with the Dothraki did not live to tell the tale. They were large, powerful and when they took their baser form, outright terrifying.

Afterall, who wouldn’t want to meet a great stallion, locked in a state of semi-molten decay as they screamed out across the battlefield? Their mane and tails were made of fire, an unholy flame that burned white hot, bodies powerful and laced with magma and coal. They attacked in hordes, overwhelming their enemies and leaving paths of burnt destruction and scorched earth in their wake.

They were terrifying. To this day they had remained across the Narrow Sea, a distant threat that they had never taken seriously before now.

“Have you gone against them on the open field?” Jaime asked, narrowing his eyes at the Berserker.

“A long time ago” Sandor nodded, looking back at Jaime, his features stone once more. “The Nightmares are powerful, aye. Fast and strong, but they’re shit at strategy and even worse at following orders when they’re heated.”

“Interesting” Jaime nodded. “That knowledge will come in handy, since it seems that the best guess is Daenerys will use them to lead a rebellion. To take back, rather, what she believes is hers.”

“It is likely that Bolton is working with her, at the very least in tandem. A two-pronged attack that would cause our armies to split would give them an advantage” Eddard noted. “And Baelish…” he looked to Sansa with a sad smile.

“He can try,” Sansa said, her voice firm and confident. “But I am not going anywhere, Father, I promise.”

“Perhaps” Jaime realized that there was a lot he did not know. “It is time you filled me in on what exactly is going on here…”

“I’ll ring for tea,” Catelyn said immediately, getting to work. “You all get comfortable.”

“I see” Jaime nodded. It appeared his visit here would be very informative. He looked to Sansa as she gracefully sank to the loveseat, her slender form snuggling to Sandor’s side with practiced ease. She truly was beautiful, though he had always been biased towards red hair, but it was her pale blue eyes that kept drawing him back.

“Lannister” Clegane growled and Jaime broke from his staring.

Again.

He smirked at the Berserker, as he sank into his own wingback chair. Goading the mighty beast may just become his new favorite pastime.

Chapter Text

c.1859

“How’d you do it?” Jaime smirked over at him and Sandor wanted nothing more than to punch his pretty golden face in.

“Lannister--”

“She’s...Gods, she’s gorgeous” Jaime ran his tongue over his teeth, lingering on a fang for a brief moment as he watched Sansa where she was standing with her Sister and Mother.

Once they had explained the situation with Baelish, Bolton and current events, the Stark women had commandeered Sansa’s attention and dragged her out to the garden to talk. The storm from last night had moved on, leaving the earth refreshed and glistening in the late afternoon sunset.

Eddard had opened up the blinds to keep an eye on his mate while the men continued their conversations. The Lannister heir had kept mostly to the shade as the sun continued its descent, pulling a pair of rather unique looking sunglasses from his waistcoat pocket, placing them on his nose. He looked unflappable, cool as a cucumber amongst the Pack of Wolves.

Lannister did however seem determined to set Sandor off.

“I would love to sink my teeth into--”

“There is nothing to stop me from ripping your eyes from your head, Leech” he growled at the Vampire Prince but the man only laughed.

“They’d regenerate in a matter of hours,” Jaime remarked flippantly.

“You think I have lived this long and not figured out how to stop you fuckers from repairing yourselves?” Sandor warned, stepping closer to tower over the blonde fucker. “Try me.”

Jaime looked up at Sandor, eyes visible over his sunglasses and tinged with just a hint of fear. Good, a little fear was healthy, Sandor scoffed and stepped away, refilling his whisky glass. While he couldn’t get drunk, he still appreciated the smooth burn of the King’s private reserve.

“I must confess,” Jaime chuckled. “While I am a man who considers himself well-versed in pleasing my partners, I find a begrudging respect for a man who does better.”

“The fuck are you yammering on about?” Sandor glared over at him.

“I think I am going to enjoy my stay here in the North” Jaime chuckled, crossing his arms.

“Clegane!” a sudden voice cut into their conversation and he looked to see Arya standing at the patio doors, bouncing on her feet.

“What do you want, Runt?”

“Is that anyway to talk to a Princess?” Jaime scoffed.

“She look like a fucking Princess to you?” Sandor asked in the same moment Arya protested.

“I am not a Princess” Arya glared, her expression softening as she looked back to Sandor. “You promised.”

“Now?” Sandor couldn’t help but smirk. The girl was tenacious, he’d give her that.

“Is there any better time?” Arya countered.

“Alright” Sandor finished his whisky in a long swallow and set the glass aside. He made to step away when he noticed that Jaime looked unsure as to what was going on, almost like he wanted to follow. Great Sandor sighed internally. He was going to have two shadows now. “You coming?” Sandor nodded to the golden man and continued walking, following Arya onto the veranda and towards the training ground, Jaime on his heels.

As he walked, Sansa moved to his side, her hand slipping between his body and his arm as if it were the most natural thing in the world--and he supposed it was.

“Little Bird” he greeted her with a soft smile as they walked together.

“I’m proud of you” she whispered, her eyes bright with mischief.

“Why?” he scoffed.

“You managed not to rip off his arms” she nodded to the Vampire behind them, assuring him that his mate had heard their conversation inside.

Sandor chuckled, pausing to pull her into his arms. Bugger everyone around them, bugger propriety, he decided, cupping her cheeks to kiss her lips. Sansa melted into his embrace as always, sighing as his hands splayed across her back.

“You’re mine, Little Bird” he promised, feeling the tremor pass through her as the dark promise in his words.

“I am,” she agreed, tilting her head to the side and allowing him to lean closer. He rubbed his cheek to her jaw and the column of her throat exposed by her lace collar. Though her mating marks were concealed, he was sure to rub his scent into her skin, marking her once more as his own.

“Show-off” Lannister quipped as he passed, following Arya to the training grounds.

“Later” Sandor pulled back, stealing another quick kiss. “For now it seems that your Sister is determined to fight.”

“Of course she is” Sansa laughed softly, taking his hand in hers.

“I’d watch myself if I were you” Sandor teased as they resumed their walk, now at the back of the group migrating to the arena.

“Oh?” Sansa looked at her mate.

“She’ll want to fight you next” he squeezed her fingers as she laughed, knowing that he was very likely right.

“I suppose you’ll have to train me,” Sansa teased.

“Not likely” he shook his head.

“Why ever not?”

“You do not need to train, not if you give into your instincts” he continued.

“I suppose that I could ask someone else---Oh!” she gasped as he pulled her off the path and into the tree line, trapping her between his large frame and the tree.

“Not a fucking chance, mate” he growled. “No other male touches you. Ever. And if I get in that arena with you, my Little Mate, I will end up fucking you into submission regardless of who is watching” he slid his hands over her waist to her hips, pulling her against his more than ready cock. It did not take much for him to be ready to take her, even if the timing was inconvenient.

“Oh” she sighed, a breathy little sigh that betrayed how much she desired him in return. It was those small actions, the small stolen moments that served to remind him that this was real, Sansa was his mate and they would pass through life together. Always.

“Would you like that, hmm? For everyone to see how much you beg for your mate?”

“Sandor---” she whimpered.

“Fuck” he closed the distance between their mouths and kissed her. This was no gentle meeting of lips, he pushed past them and delved deep to tangle his tongue with hers. He felt her hands clinging to his lapels, felt her shake with pleasure as she arched against him.

“Are you two seriously doing that? Again? Now?” Arya groaned loudly in exasperation, forcing them apart.

“Runt” Sandor growled in warning, turning to fix her with a glare that would have terrified any other.

“You promised” Arya reminded him and Sandor felt Sansa’s poorly concealed laughter vibrating against him.

“Just wait, Runt” Sandor promised with a dangerous smirk. “You go into heat from that whinging Pup that follows you around, nipping at your heels, I will be right there to make your life miserable.”

“You wouldn’t---” Arya glared.

“Just wait.”

 

Sansa sat primly on the benches beside the arena. Or, at least, she sat as primly as possible given the state that her mate had left her in. She wanted nothing more than to grab Sandor and drag him to the nearest dark alcove, but instead she was sitting between her Mother and Jaime Lannsiter.

In the arena stood Arya in Wolf form, which meant that Gendry was leaning against the fence in rapt fascination. Her Brothers and Father were standing near Arya, all of them talking and Sandor was pacing at the opposite end. His Wolf was massive compared to Arya’s smaller form, Sansa almost badly for her Sister, surely her ego was about to take a thrashing.

“Are all Berserker’s that large?” Lannister chuckled beside her and she turned to look at the golden Prince. He was handsome to be certain, charming in a boyish sort of way but there was something deeply unsettling about the way his sarcastic, bright disposition carefully hid the demon that lived in his soul.

He looked like a proper gentleman, but his scent was sickly sweet and sharp to her nose. She hated it.

Sansa had expected all Vampires to be dark, brooding or even sickly in appearance. Yes he was pale, but not like she expected. Oddly she found that she wondered how Jaime did in battle, for he did not seem as fierce as they said.

“There are no other Berserkers,” Sansa replied to his earlier question.

“Not yet at least” Jaime countered, raising his eyebrows and Sansa felt her cheeks heat.

“That is not appropriate to discuss in such mixed company” she chastised him but he only laughed.

“You Starks are a prolific lot” Jaime reasoned. “So were the Baratheons in their day” his eyes went to Jon for a moment, lingering there before he looked back to Sansa. “I should offer my congratulations on your impending nuptials.”

“Oh?”

“They are to be tomorrow, are they not?” Jaime asked.

“The formal ceremony, yes.”

“And the informal?” he smirked.

“Is not your business” she countered without hesitation, her voice holding the proper tone.

“I look forward to attending--the formal ceremony anyway” his attention turned back to the arena as Arya yipped to let Sandor know she was ready. The others, all in human form, left the arena and stood at Gendry’s side, allowing the two fighters their space.

Many times since Sandor’s arrival, Sansa has sat on these benches to watch him fight. This time, however, he was her mate and she no longer had to conceal her affection for him--or her admiration for his powerful form.

They engaged slowly, Arya’s form was smaller, leaner, which made her fast, but Sandor read her like a book, predicting every attack and movement. It was the tenth time that Sandor tossed Arya back across the arena that Sansa realized he was toying with her. Each failed attack he would lift her at her nape and move her back to try again.

“You’re toying with her” Sansa spoke into her mate’s mind.

“Aye” he replied, tossing her away yet again. “She’ll get there eventually. She’s young yet.

Sansa could see that Arya was getting more and more frustrated, and when she snarled up at Sandor in anger, he replied only by towering over her and returning the sentiment. Arya’s smaller form cowered back, ears pinned back flat to her skull.

Gendry must have sensed Arya’s fear because in an instant he was leaping over the fence, transforming into Wolf form on the fly, immediately stepping between them. Arya snapped at him, but he paid her no mind, obviously more than ready to defend who he saw as his mate.

“No!” Sansa was moving before she could stop herself, giving into the urge to change, jumping over the fence and out of her clothing in a flash, landing on her paws in the sand. In a quick stride she was in front of Gendry’s dappled grey Wolf, snarling down at him.

Protect. Mate.

Whispers and gossip reached her ears, but she didn’t look away from the challenging male, not until he stepped back. She was not going to risk leaving her mate outnumbered.

“Little Bird” Sandor nuzzled her shoulder and she looked to him, rational thought returning to her mind.

“Oh” she whispered.

“Coming to rescue me then?” he chuckled into her mind and she knew that if she were human, she would be blushing profusely. “You’re the White Wolf, not a White Knight” he teased.

“Good Gods” the smooth voice of Jaime Lannister broke into their silent conversation and she turned to watch his approach. “There are no other Berserkers, eh?” he mocked, placing his hands on his hips to stare up at her.

“Lannister,” Eddard warned from the sidelines. “It might not be best---”

“You almost had me fooled” Jaime stepped closer and Sandor growled in warning. “With the prim Princess facade.”

“Lannister---”

“A female Berserker, unbelievable. I did not think it was possible” he continued and this time she growled, lowering her eyes to meet his in a sinister glare. She felt the growl of warning echo from her chest, the sound deep and inhuman. Jaime was looking at her like she was a freak, like she was some oddity to gawk at and she did not like it.

“Lannister, I really think you should step down,” her Father continued.

“I’d like to see what you’re capable of” Jaime shrugged out of his jacket and threw it aside before working his cravat loose.

“I’m going to kill him” Sandor said.

“Me first” Sansa replied.

“Lannister…” Eddard’s words trailed off as Sandor stepped closer.

“Ready when you are?”

“Cocky little shit” Sandor growled, leaping into action.

 

As furious as Arya was at Gendry for intervening, she couldn’t take her eyes away from where Jaime Lannister was fighting with Sandor and Sansa. Sansa had only transformed yesterday, but she moved so in-tune with Sandor that you would never be able to tell she had not been fighting for centuries.

Logically she knew that Sansa and Sandor were able to communicate with each other in any circumstance, the blessing of being a true mate, but this….this was something else. They moved as if they shared the same brain, the same train of thought. When Sandor went right, Sansa went left. High. Low. It was one Wolf fighting in two bodies.

To his credit, Lannister was fast, almost too fast for the eye to track and his strength was awe-inspiring. He had looked every inch a careless rakehell as he had shucked his jacket and offered his challenge, but now Arya could see that he was a warrior, through and through.

“She’s incredible…” Arya turned to see their Father watching the mock fight with wide eyes. Sansa had always been his little Princess while Arya had been the fighter and she felt ashamed at the pang of jealousy that settled in her heart. She was happy for Sansa, truly she was. Sansa had been so sick and so sad for so long, too long--

A soft whine came before Gendry’s snout bumped against hers, almost as if he could read her thoughts. She returned the action, seeing the apology and reassurance in his bright blue eyes. For all his infuriating habits, Gendry was a good man, a kind man, and while it terrified her, she knew by the fire building in her blood someday very soon he would be her mate.

An echoing ‘yelp’ filled the air and she quickly turned to see Sansa picking herself up from the sand. Lannister had landed a blow and while he was laughing in triumph, Sandor stalked closer to land a blow of his own. A powerful swipe of a forepaw and Jaime’s slender form flew across the arena like a cannon shot. He soared through the fence in an explosion of wood, tumbling to a halt on the grass like a ragdoll.

Sandor moved to stand in front of Sansa, standing tall in fierce protection of his mate. Sansa shook out her fur and did not look the worse for wear, standing at Sandor’s side like the Princess she was. Not a sound filled the air for several moments until Jaime pushed to his feet, brushing the bits of grass and broken wood from his clothing.

“Well then” he strode back to the arena, discarding his sunglasses since the sun had now dipped below the mountains. He tossed them into the adjacent grass with more flair than was necessary. “Shall we go again? I’ll warn you, I am stronger in the dark...”

Sandor must have made a biting comment, because Sansa’s Wolf let out an odd chortle of laughter, her bright white-blue eyes briefly glancing to her mate.

“On you, Your Highness” Lannister bowed mockingly to Sansa and Sandor attacked.

 

“Sandor!” Sansa gasped as she felt her body being lifted from her feet the moment they were in the privacy of their rooms. Sandor carried her the short distance to the bed, tumbling them to the mattress with an impatient growl.

They’d spent a few hours in the training arena, Sandor more so than her. However, rather than feeling exhausted, her body seemed to thrum with energy and a newfound awareness of her mates strength.

“Fuck” he muttered, tearing at the robe her Mother had helped her into after she had shifted back to her human form. He tossed the flimsy fabric aside, leaving her clad only in her necklace. It was fortunate--again, that someone had picked up her locket and returned it to her neck. She was going to have to figure out a way to keep it with her when she changed.

“Gods” she whimpered when his lips closed over her collarbone, biting gently before he continued his exploration of her body. His lips and hands seemed to be everywhere at once, sending chills down each nerve ending, settling deep within her core.

“As sexy as it is” Sandor growled against her belly button, kissing a trail to her hip. “If you ever jump into harm’s way again, I am going to redden your ass, Mate” he warned, moving to nuzzle against the thatch of fiery curls at the apex of her thighs.

Her brain ceased being able to formulate a response as he parted her folds to lap at her, a whimper tearing from the back of her throat as he began to devour her. Her body was always desperate for him, aching for his touch and affection. It was no surprise that she came quickly, sobbing his name as she pulsed against his mouth. She could never imagine a greater pleasure than sharing this with him. Only him.

It was as he kissed her inner thigh that her brain resumed function and she slid her hand into his unbound hair, tightening her hold on the locks to guide him back up her body.

“I will protect you, always” she promised him with a smirk, his eyes going impossibly dark, nearly consumed by his pupils. She would do everything within her power to ensure her mate was safe, unharmed. She hadn’t fully realized that until today when he had stood across from Gendry. She hadn’t been in control of herself, she had run to him without thinking.

Protect. Mate.

“Will you now?” his voice rumbled as his hips settled between hers.

“Yes” she wrapped her legs around his waist, locking them tight enough to draw a groan from his lips. “Just as I am yours, you are mine” she used her grip on him to roll him to his back, pinning him to the bed as she sat astride his lap.

She was aware that should Sandor have not allowed it, she wouldn’t have been able to budge him, even with her Wolf’s strength. But as she sank onto the hard length of his cock, her hand sliding from his hair to his shoulder for balance, she could tell that he was simply enjoying the view.

“That’s it” he encouraged, watching her intently. He gripped her hips in his massive hands, helping her to ride him, slow and steady. “Going to fuck yourself on my cock, Little Mate?”

“Yes” she whimpered in pleasure, the way his voice said ‘little mate’ made her inner Wolf purr. “Oh...yes” she rocked her hips against his, the blunt head of his cock bottoming out against her womb.

“Fuck, so tight” he groaned, lifting his hips to push impossibly deep. She gasped in pleasure-pain, back arching until her hair pooled over his thighs. One of his hands moved from her waist to trace down her sternum, settling in the valley of her breasts, just over where her heart raced. “I can hardly believe that you’re mine” his whisper was harsh, husky with emotion and she lowered her face to watch him.

“I am yours” she assured him, raising a hand to cover his where it lay between her breasts. She twined their fingers together, both of them able to feel the steady rhythm of her heart’s beat.

“I never imagined...” he said softly. “Never believed that I could ever be worthy of you” he admitted.

“But you are, Sandor” she leaned down to kiss him, allowing her lips to trail across the scars beside the corner of his mouth. Her actions, however, gave him the advantage and he rolled her to her back, sliding deep to stay there, stretching her to the limits as he throbbed within her.

“I love you” he whispered, sliding his hand over her chest to cup her chin, the other bracing him on his elbow above her. “I have always loved you…”

“It’s always been you” she promised in return, wrapping her legs tightly around him as she smoothed his hair from his face. Absently she traced the claw marks, fingers dancing across his flesh. “I could never love anyone else.”

“My Little Mate” he began to move, making love to her in earnest, slow and deep. She felt him in every inch of her being; their minds connected, their bodies joined, there was no way to tell where one ended and the other began. There was no way one could exist without the other, not now. Never again.

“Please” she pleaded, his thumb beneath her chin keeping her eyes locked on his face.

“Are you going to come for me?” he brushed the tip of his nose against her cheekbone.

“Please…”

“Going to milk my cock with that tight little cunt of yours” he continued. “Mmm. You’re soaked, Little Mate” he withdrew his hips only to slide back in, the sound of their bodies almost obscene. “Begging for my cum, hmm?”

“Yes! Please, please Sandor…”

He moved his hand from her chin, instead he held her captive with a deep, claiming kiss as his hips pistoned against hers. She felt her peak building, clawing its way up her spine with climbing momentum and when he slipped his forearm underneath her ass to tilt her hips just so, she broke. She screamed out against his mouth as every muscle in her body contracted, clamping around him. He groaned, hips stuttering and then holding deep as his seed flooded her.

She could feel her inner muscles fluttering, pulsing from the force of her peak as satisfaction settled in her veins. Though he rocked gently, he made no move to pull away from her. He held his length within her, his forearm tilting her hips at just the right angle to keep every drop inside of her, sending a frisson of warmth through her.

“Mine” he nibbled on her lower lip.

“Mine” she traced his lips with the tip of her tongue, giggling softly up at her mate.

 

Stannis Baratheon stumbled, his Valyrian Steel sword falling to the stones at his feet as he collapsed to his knees in the courtyard of Storm’s End. Around him the world seemed to be alive with pain and destruction. Others raced to put out the fires that still ate at the ancient castle’s walls and structure, shouting filled the air and the cries of the wounded echoed in the light of the approaching dawn.

But he couldn’t take his eyes from her.

“Mother” he discarded his soiled gloves and pulled her unmoving body into his arms, cradling her across his lap. “No..” he closed his eyes against a wave of violent emotion, his heart torn to shreds. They had fought so hard, through the siege and through the unexpected attack in the night, for what?

Her gown, once a fine Baratheon gold was stained with her life’s blood that had poured from the wound in her chest. Her skirts were singed from the fires and cool to the touch, her lips and skin without color.

He was only a man of ten and six, barely a man and all he had ever known is war. Was there ever to be peace in this lifetime? He’d lost his Father to it several moons ago, his Mother’s dearest love cut down in the heat of battle, and shortly after his elder Brother had fallen as well. He was alone now, all alone….

“Your Grace” the voice of one of his commander’s echoed in his head, but he paid the man no mind.

“I am sorry” he repeated over and over, lifting a trembling hand to settle over the curve of his Mother’s stomach. A Brother perhaps, or a Sister, one that would never get the chance to live now.

His hand moved to the locket around her neck, one that she had worn every day without fail. He wrapped his fingers around the warm metal, the warmth it held was the last of the life Cassana Baratheon would ever leave behind in this world.

Because he had failed her.

“The sorcerer” he commanded.

“Your Grace?”

“Bring him to me. Now” he repeated, never taking his eyes from his Mother.

“Yes, Your Grace.”

Stannis was not a man for vows or oaths, but he promised his Mother that he would always protect those who could not protect themselves. He would protect the weak, the young, the old, he would keep them safe in her honor. In her name and the name of the child that would never know life.

He would do this. And nothing in this universe could stop him.

 

Today was the day. At last.

Today they were to meet in person for the first time to finalize their plans of attack. Daenerys and her armies would arrive later this afternoon and Roose found that he was not looking forward to speaking with her.

They had hardly begun to execute their carefully laid plans, and already both Daenerys and Baelish were acting like petulant children, lashing out at those they believed stood in their way. It was sloppy and reckless, he hated it. Impulse is what led to the downfall of dynasties. Everything must be planned, every angle and attack though thoroughly through.

Yesterday he had received word that Daenerys had allowed the Dothraki to lay waste to soldiers and civilians alike in Astapor before they had boarded their ships. They had burned everything to the ground--and for what? A show of strength? Pleasure?

Ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous. This was no way to win a rebellion, no way to win a war. His patience was wearing thin and he found, for the first time, he ached for a shot of whisky.

The doors at the entrance to Dragonstone’s great hall creaked open and footsteps told him that Baelish had arrived. It was fortunate, this time, that the arrogant cunt chose to use a door rather than just ‘pop’ into existence like a bad dream. He glanced to his second in command who gave a nod of agreement, letting him know they were on the same page. Neither of them trusted Baelish, not a single inch.

He turned to greet the Warlock but froze mid-step.

Roose smelled it the moment Baelish entered the hall, the faint scent of another Wolf. But not just any wolf, a Stark Wolf...a female…

“What have you done?” Roose turned on him, growling down at the smaller man.

“What--”

“That is a Wolf, I can smell it” Roose grabbed the man’s robe to haul him closer, and when the vial slipped free of the fabric, he found the source of the scent. “What is that?” Roose grabbed it in the same moment he released Baelish, the vial coming free from his neck.

He had seen the vial before, many times in fact, but today it was different...it was broken, or near enough to it that the scent had begun to seep through the shattered glass.

“That is mine--”

“It's not yours. It’s a Wolf” Roose lifted it, smelling deeply before recoiling. “What are you doing with a Stark’s...whatever this is?”

“That belongs to me, it is mine” Baelish reached for it but Roose held it out of his reach.

“Is this how you ‘cured’ Sansa Stark?” Roose felt inexplicably angry, fury coursing down his spine as his inner Wolf growled. “You maimed her!”

“I cured her!” Baelish argued. “I saved her!”

“Did you get her sick?” Roose asked the moment the words popped into his brain. Suddenly everything made sense.

“How dare---”

“You maimed a Wolf--what is to stop you from doing this to me? To my Pack?” Roose snarled and he felt his second step closer. It was absolutely fucking unheard of for a Warlock--or anyone to maim another like this, not without just cause and Roose could see no cause here. Sansa Stark was just a girl, not even in her majority when she fell ill.

“Return it to me” Baelish’s voice dropped low in warning, his eyes laced with fury. Roose felt pain echo in his body and he knew that the High Warlock was to blame. It appeared that there was nothing to prevent Baelish from harming him or his Pack. This was no alliance, not even close...

“No,” Roose replied, his voice edging on a growl, even as the pain increased. He grit his teeth and fought against the magic’s invasion, trying to force it from his system.

“Now!” Baelish lifted a hand but before he could summon any further punishment, Roose clenched his fist and the vial gave way. He felt the sharp bite of glass as it dug into his fingers, the heat of his blood as it filled his palm, dripping to the floor. Baelish turned ashen, his eyes wide. “What have you done?” he asked, his eyes glued to where the black mist flowed from between Roose’s fingers, floating in the air for several seconds before darting to the open window.

“We’re done” Roose shook his head, opening his palm and allowing the glass to glitter to the floor. “You’re insane.”

“Bolton!”

“I want to rule--I have my reasons for hating the Starks but this…” Roose looked to his second and nodded to the door. He had warned the man once before; attack him and they were done. “I’ll not have any part in whatever twisted game this is.”

“I will kill you!” Baelish threatened.

“You will try,” Roose said as his men opened the door. “But I am no man’s pawn” he turned away and strode from the room, leaving a stunned and frozen Baelish in his wake.

“The Nightmare’s will kill you!” Baelish called after him but their steps never faltered.

They were several feet outside the office when the sounds of smashing and shattering reached his ears. His second in command, a bastard by the name of Ramsay fell into step beside him, his chest rumbling in fury. Ramsay was equal parts mad and brilliant, his mind ruled more by his inner Wolf than any Roose had met before. Ramsay had joined the Pack nearly a decade ago, ready to do anything he had to to climb the ranks.

He’d done well for himself, Roose admired that.

“What now?” Ramsay asked, wiping his mouth with the sleeve of his coat.

“Now” Roose cracked the bones in his neck, stretching the muscles there as they stepped into the sunlight. “Now we go to Winterfell.”

Chapter Text

c.1859

Sandor woke just after dawn had broken, anxious perhaps for their wedding today.

Wedding, Gods, he felt his lips twitch into a small smile as he looked at the curtain of fiery hair that lay across his bare chest. He’d admired this hair from afar for so long, admired the woman it was attached to and everything about her. He’d agreed to stay in the North, he’d sworn for House Stark for her. Only her.

The irony of it now was that she was no longer a Stark.

Sansa Clegane. His Sansa Clegane, he smiled to himself. While he had no particular pride in his family name, the symbolism of his life being forever tied to Sansa made him smile.

After they had gorged themselves on each other, they had collapsed into exhaustion in the late night hours. Something that had become a habit of theirs. His Little Bird was just as ravenous for him as he was for her, and he rather enjoyed making her scream in pleasure. She deserved every ounce of pleasure that he could possibly give her.

He had learned much about her in the past several years. Shared candid conversations and private moments that might have been perceived as ‘courting’ to any mortal human’s eye. He would run his body to exhaustion, collapsing into slumber in an attempt to force the thoughts of her from his mind. Thoughts of what it would be like to touch her, to worship her, to love her openly.

It rarely worked, however, because he would inevitably wake up with her name on his lips and the haze of lustful dreams surrounding him. He had told himself a hundred times that Sansa Stark was not for him. Princess Sansa was meant for something more--someone more.

For so long--for too long, she had been withdrawn, living in a cloud of sadness. He’d seen her cry, watched as she mourned the loss of her Wolf and surrendered herself to a life of being ‘less’. He had watched the beauty of her spirit wilt into nothingness, her pain tearing at his own heart.

But in the span of a few sennights, everything had changed.

Sandor wouldn’t have been able to stop himself from following her out of Arya’s celebration feast, not for all of the power in Westeros. She’d fled and he was right behind her, desperate to sooth away her pain and sadness. He never imagined that their moment in the woods would lead to an instant mating heat--that it would lead them to where they were now.

Soulmates.

Brushing the curls from her shoulder, he revealed her mating mark--one of them anyway. The silvery scar at the juncture of her neck and shoulder carried his scent, just as the mark on his shoulder carried hers. Any who encountered her would know immediately that she was a mated woman, that she was protected by a feral Berserker, and they wouldn’t dare touch her.

Alternatively, he frowned, someone would smell Sansa on him and know that he had a weakness, that he had something in this world too precious to lose. That more than anything cemented his resolve to always keep her safe.

Tracing the curve of her mark, she sighed softly and shifted closer, if that were even possible. Even in sleep they were never parted, limbs always entwined as their bodies pressed together. He had never fancied himself an affectionate man, but he would be content to spend the rest of his days in this very position.

That was not possible, unfortunately, since beyond the walls of their chamber, wedding preparations were already underway. This afternoon they would exchange vows in the Godswood and then there was to be a large feast. Just what he wanted, to be the center of attention when he could simply drag his wife to bed and spend the rest of the night alternating between making love to her and fucking her into madness.

But first they must do their duty. If anything, tonight he would be able to make love to his wife for the first time.

The Tyrells would soon arrive, as would several other diplomatic guests, and Sandor’s oldest friend from the Far North would likely make an appearance. Sandor had sent word to him that he had found his mate and extended the invitation to their wedding. He had not heard a reply, but that buggering ginger usually showed up when there was free food and ale to be had.

Sansa shifted against him, letting out a soft whimper as she lifted her head from where it was pillowed on his chest to smile at him. Her cheeks were flushed and eyes still glossy from slumber, but still it was his favorite way to see her.

“You’re stunning in the early light” he lifted a large hand to carefully tuck her hair behind her ear. She smiled brightly, laughing quietly.

“We’re getting married today” she shifted higher up against him to steal a kiss. “You’re going to be my husband.”

“I am” he agreed, wrapping his arms around her. “And you’ll be my wife, Little Mate.”

“Prince Sandor Cleg--”

“Prince? I fucking think not” he scoffed.

“You’re marrying a Princess, what did you think was going to happen?”

“Fuck” he briefly rolled his head back onto the pillow before meeting her eyes once more. “They’re never going to let me hear the end of it.”

“Who?”

“Everyone” he laughed. “Your Sister.”

“It’s a small price to pay, I suppose.”

“To have you?” he asked and she nodded. “I’d pay any price for that.”

“I never knew that you were such a romantic” she smiled, kissing the tip of his nose.

“Don’t tell anyone. I have a reputation to maintain.”

“And which reputation is that?”

“Scary scarred Berserker.”

“You are hardly scary, your soft heart gives you away,” she teased. “A cuddle monster at best.”

“Am I now?” he quickly pulled her across his body and she settled laying atop him.

“You are. Hardly scary at all” she repeated, resting her chin on his chest, her eyes turning serious. “Will you tell me?” she asked, tracing the tip of the scars on his neck. He watched her in silence for several moments before taking a deep breath.

“A gift from my brother” he began softly, quiet enough that they would likely not be heard beyond the privacy of their rooms.

“Brother?” Sansa frowned.

“Gregor” Sandor continued. “I was close to my majority, but already big enough to know that I would be a Berserker, like him. I think it was when he realized that that I became perceived as a threat” he paused for several moments. “Gregor was a cunt, a right horrible cunt. Murder, rape, anything awful you could imagine, he enjoyed it. Things got worse when he realized that he could get ‘drunk’ if he combined alcohol with laudanum.”

“Oh no” Sansa whispered.

“Her name was Emmeline” Sandor whispered then. “And she was only a girl…”

“Who?”

“Emmeline, my younger sister” Sandor felt Sansa’s breathing hitch and she moved up to the pillow beside him, placing a soft kiss on his lips before laying her head on the pillow beside him. “She was strong, pretty, but compared to Gregor and I she was very small. He came home a mess. He’d been drinking, his clothes were torn and his hands were covered in dried blood. When he saw Emmeline sitting by the fire, he just...snapped.”

“Oh, Sandor.”

“He grabbed her and she screamed, I did not think, I just…” he sighed. “We fought, but I hadn’t shifted yet and he was too fucking strong. He changed forms and clawed my face open, then my stomach. I tried...I tried but I could only lay there as he tore her apart” he broke off, closing his eyes as the memory of that night echoed in his mind. He felt his mate snuggle closer, rubbing her cheek against his to soothe him with her scent. “When it was over, when he was done he turned back to me and realized that my stomach had all but healed. He realized then that I’d likely shift in the next moon or so, and dragged me to the kitchen. It isn’t widely known but if you want a Wolf to scar or to stop a Vampire’s healing regeneration, you mix salt into boiling water, holy water works best.”

“Oh Gods, Sandor” Sansa sobbed quietly, wrapping her arms around him. “I had no idea.”

“He poured it over my face, laughing and smiling the entire time” Sandor whispered, holding her close. “When I was able, I buried what was left of my Sister, stole her portrait from the house, and I left. I shifted a fortnight later, alone in the forest. I did not see my Brother for a century or so, but the second I laid eyes on him, it all came rushing back.”

“He’s a monster.”

“He was,” Sandor agreed. “I wish I could have been the one to kill him. Never got the chance.”

“I am glad he is gone.”

“It isn’t a story of glory or some heroic act. I have never told anyone the origin of my twisted face. It is easier if they’re afraid of me” he cupped her cheeks. “Everytime I look in the mirror I am reminded of the girl I could not save. But I promise you, Sansa, I will always protect you. I will never let anyone hurt you. I will fucking destroy anyone who tries, I promise you that.”

“I know” she smiled, blinking away her tears. “I’ve always known that. And now, I can promise that I will protect you” she added and he chuckled.

“My fierce Little Bird” he smiled. “You just protect our pups, let me worry about the rest.”

“I can do that” she beamed, snuggling close. Silence lapsed between them for several minutes before Sansa spoke once more. “Can I see it? The portrait.”

“Aye” he nodded and slipped from the bed. Crossing to the wardrobe he dug into the drawer that held his cravats to pull the wrapped frame free. Returning to Sansa’s side, he saw she had shifted upright, pulling the sheets over her nudity. He sat against the headboard beside her and handed the parcel to her.

She unwrapped the worn wooden frame with a careful hand, tracing over the bottom as the fabric fell away. It was a small portrait, no larger than the palm of his hand, it was all that his parents could have afforded, but it was well done and looked exactly how he remembered Emmeline. Dark hair, light eyes and soft smile.

“She was beautiful,” Sansa said softly.

“Aye” he agreed.

“Thank you,” Sansa said, surprising him. “For telling me, for sharing her with me. Thank you.”

“There is no need to thank me, Little Bird” he kissed her forehead. “I’ll have no secrets from you.” Belatedly he realized that the cloth he had kept wrapped around the portrait was, in fact, the embroidered kerchief that Sansa had gifted him the night he bent the knee to King Eddard.

“Oh” she picked it up, running her fingers over the embroidered Wolf and moon. “You kept it.”

“Of course I kept it,” he replied with a laugh.

“It was so silly of me” she smiled down at the embroidery. “I started sewing it the day you arrived in Winterfell. That very night.”

“You were the only reason I stayed” he met her confession with his own and her eyes moved to his.

“Me?”

“Little Bird” he shifted closer, resting his forehead against hers. “The moment I laid eyes on you, the very moment you smiled up at me, you owned me.”

“Sandor…”

“That was all it took, it was that easy” he whispered.

“I was a silly girl with silly ideas of capturing your attention. I couldn’t fight, couldn’t shift, but I could sew. I heard Robb talking to Jon about your Wolf, how large and dark...”

“It’s me?” he asked, eyes darting to the kerchief and she nodded vaguely.

“I have loved you for so long, Sandor, my Sandor.”

“Nothing could have dragged me away from you--from Winterfell,” he smiled, touching the tip of his nose to hers. “I would have stayed for the rest of my days with only a promise of seeing you every day.”

“I would have gladly hidden in the library with you forever” she said and he couldn’t stop the smile from consuming his lips, the corner of his mouth tugging at his scars.

“Tonight I will be able to call you my mate and wife” he brushed his lips across hers.

“I cannot wait,” she agreed. “And I cannot wait to carry your pup beneath my heart.”

“Gods, Little Bird” he groaned, unable to stop the image of her heavy with child--with his child, from rising in his mind.

“I think” she carefully set the portrait on the night table beside the bed, placing the kerchief with it, before turning back to him. “That Emmeline would be a wonderful name for a daughter.”

“Would it now?” he felt the sadness lingering in his chest melt away as she pushed the sheet aside and climbed astride his lap.

“Mmhmm” Sansa nodded, sliding her hands into his hair. The feel of her fingers against his scalp sent a tingle down his spine, urging his body into gear. Taking her hips in his hands, he pulled her closer, her breasts brushing against the wall of his chest. “Sandor---” her words cut off when there was a raucous banging on their chamber door.

“Rise and shine!” Arya yelled from the other side of the wood.

“Bugger off, Runt!” Sandor barked back at her.

“Not a chance!” Arya replied, trying the door handle only to find that it was locked. “I am here for Sansa.”

“I’ll drown her,” Sandor grumbled.

“I’m rather occupied!” Sansa laughed then screamed as Sandor rolled her to the bed, burying his face in her neck.

“SANSA!” Arya continued. “It is your wedding day! Mother can not wait to show you your dress!”

“She is daft if she thinks her yelling will stop me from fucking you” Sandor growled.

“Cover up what you do not want seen!” Arya warned and Sandor turned to look at the door, the sound of the lock slipping a second before it opened and Arya stormed in. “Gods, I said cover up!” Arya rolled her eyes.

“And I said bugger off!” Sandor remained atop Sansa, his body hiding most of hers from view. “Where in the Seven Hells did you get a key?”

“Key? How plebeian,” she scoffed. “Come on, ninny” Arya opened the curtains wide, letting in far too much daylight. “Mother wants to help you get ready.”

“So she sent you to interrupt us?” Sansa gaped.

“I volunteered, of course” Arya gave a saccharine sweet smile.

“Arya--!”

“Wanted to see me naked, Runt?” Sandor teased.

“Ew. No. Disgusting” Arya gagged. “Mother gave me 5 minutes before she came herself.”

“Gods” Sandor rolled his eyes. “You know you are going to pay for this, right Runt?”

“Promises, promises” Arya laughed.

“I mean it,” Sandor warned. “You will be trying to fuck that whelp that’s always panting after you---”

“Is she awake?” Catelyn’s voice sounded in the hall as footsteps approached and that forced Sandor to roll away, keeping himself covered as Arya tossed Sansa a robe. By the time the Wolf Queen appeared in the doorway, Sansa was tying the robe around her waist and standing beside the bed.

“I will see you soon,” Sansa promised, leaning over to kiss him. “I love you.”

“Aye, Little Bird. I love you,” he agreed, watching her move away. She grabbed her golden comb from the vanity as she passed, tucking it into her pocket and he was glad to see that she would be wearing it for their wedding. She greeted her Mother with a smile and they vanished into the hall together. Arya walked behind them, turning back to make a face at him before slamming the bedroom door.

 

“Well” Daenerys looked around the darkened throne room at Dragonstone. “It isn’t quite what I expected.”

“Welcome to Westeros, Your Grace” High Warlock Petyr Baelish tipped his head in greeting, smoothly striding into the great room. His eyes lingered on Drogo and his trusted commanders for a brief moment before returning to her.

“Baelish” she replied. “Has Bolton arrived yet?”

“He has departed,” Baelish replied and she frowned.

“Explain.”

“There was a slight...miscommunication and he has decided to go his own way” Baelish continued. “But we do not need the Wolves, Your Grace--”

“You expect me to do all the work then?” she glared at him. Though she was a small woman, she was strong beyond measure and from the purest of bloodlines in Vampiric history, she never let anyone intimidate her.

“The Starks and Lannisters will be easily dealt with” Baelish assured her. “You have the High Warlock on your side” he added smugly.

At this, Drogo scoffed loudly from the steps of the dias. He moved closer and Daenerys watched her husband closely as he approached the Warlock. Baelish was a means to an end, and once that end was reached she had promised Drogo that he could see to the man’s death personally.

While it was widely unheard of for Vampires to take a mate outside of their species, she needed an army and Khal Drogo had the largest army in Essos. It hadn’t been hard to seduce him once she had located the elusive Khal, and when she promised him that his army would be the most powerful in the world when they were done, he’d married her the next day.

She was not a fool. She traded her body for soldiers and damned good ones at that. She would take back the Vampiric throne with fire and blood, even if she had to burn down the world to do so. Mortals, Wolves, Vampires, any who stood in her way would be eliminated. She had command of the man who ruled over the Nightmares and Dothraki alike, she would be victorious.

“I do not trust a man who breaks promises” Drogo glared down at Baelish. It was almost comical how small Baelish looked beside her husband, though to be fair he was the largest man she had ever encountered.

“This was beyond my control” Baelish’s expression hardened. “And we do not need the Wolves---”

“How am I going to find a Baratheon then?” Daenerys interjected. “I needed their noses at the very least. Did he explain his departure?”

“No, Your Grace” Baelish replied. “We will find a Baratheon, of that I am certain” he assured her and Drogo scoffed again. “There are spells---”

“Fine. Do them,” Daenerys commanded. “The remainder of my army will be arriving through the night,Drogo will command them and when we are ready, we will move South. It is imperative that you locate someone of Baratheon blood, Baelish. You’ve already failed me once, I would not recommend you do it a second time.”

“Of course” Baelish agreed, though she could see the fury in his eyes. She knew that he could not be trusted even before now, but his eyes only served to confirm her suspicions.

“You know,” she said as casually as possible. “You never did tell me what is in all this for you.”

“Did I not?” he pasted a smile on his lips.

“No” she crossed to the sideboard where a tray of wine sat. While the Dothraki made their own ale and alcohol, she had missed Arbor Gold Wine. Vampires could eat and drink to their heart's content, but only alcohol burned itself through their system organically. Pouring herself a glass she crossed to the throne, sitting upon the cool stone. “Well?” she prompted the High Warlock.

“I would like to see the Starks and their allies suffer” he said, likely the truth since she sensed no lie in his words.

“Why?”

“You are asking after my motives?” Baelish delayed in replying and she knew that he was working on a plausible lie.

“Yes.”

“Queen Catelyn Stark was once a lover of mine,” he explained. “It did not end on...good terms, to put it delicately.”

“A lover, how quaint” Daenerys looked to Drogo who was returning to his men’s side. He gave her a heated look and she replied with a wink, promising him without words a bit of fun later.

“Yes.”

“I see” she looked back to Baelish. “Do not ever lie to me again” she warned, sipping her wine. “And there is only one Queen in this world, do not ever call another by my title.”

“Of course, Your Grace” he bowed his head in supplication but she could smell his anger.

 

“I suppose they will invite just anyone to a wedding these days” Jaime turned at the familiar accented voice, one he had not heard in years.

“Well, if they invited you, they must have done so out of guilt--or pity,” he laughed, offering his hand. “Oberyn Martell, the Red Viper himself. Gods, how long has it been?”

“Not long enough” Oberyn smirked, taking Jaime’s hand. “You are looking well, old friend.”

“Well enough” Jaime’s eyes focused on the movement behind Oberyn and he smiled a genuine smile. “Gods you are even more beautiful than I remembered.”

“Flatterer” Elia smiled, leaning in to kiss his cheek. As she moved back, Jaime cupped her cheek, allowing his thumb to briefly trace the sun-kissed flesh.

“I speak only the truth” Jaime promised her.

“Since when?” Oberyn snarked.

“Funny” Jaime noted. The Martells were one of the more powerful Vampire families, their blood almost as ancient as the Lannisters and Targaryens. Given their ancestral lands were in the warm and sunny South, they were less affected by the sun’s light, allowing them more freedom of travel and experience.

While Oberyn’s older brother, Doran, acted as Tywin’s eyes in the South, Oberyn had taken on the mantle of command in the Dornish Army. Jaime had had the honor of fighting alongside him on many occasions and the Red Viper was terrifying on the battlefield.

Alternatively, Elia Martell was much more delicate, much more beautiful. She was every inch the perfect Victorian lady, always well-dressed and inherently feminine in a way that few could ever be. She had once been engaged to Rhaegar Targaryen, before his death, though she had held no great love for him. Jaime knew that his Father hoped that Jaime would take Elia as his mate, but he had only felt friendship for the beauty, and couldn’t imagine anything more between them.

“Gods, is that him?” Oberyn’s eyes went wide as Sandor appeared in the hall, adjusting his cravat as he mumbled to himself.

“It is” Jaime waved the large man over.

“He’s huge,” Elia gaped.

“He’s a Berserker, wait until you see him fight” Jaime replied in explanation as Sandor reached them. “Sandor Clegane, I’d like you to meet Oberyn Martell and his lovely sister, Elia. They’ve just arrived from Dorne.”

“Thank you for coming,” Sandor said and Jaime almost smiled. It was apparent the man was not accustomed to polite conversation. He raised his hands to fiddle with the cravat once more and Jaime shook his head.

“Stop” he raised his hands to slap Sandor’s away. He helped to loosen the cravat without untying it, adjusting it to fit better against his neck. “Better?”

“Yes, thank you. I hate these buggering things,” Sandor mumbled.

“Fashion will change again at some point, ideally we will be able to do away with them altogether” Jaime assured him.

“We can hope” Sandor cleared his throat. “I had better get to the Godswood then.”

“Ah yes,” Jaime smirked. “Are you scared she will not show?”

“Well I wasn’t until you fucking said that, Lannister” Sandor glared and with a nod to the Martells, made his way from the house, his polished hessians pounding a steady beat as he retreated.

“I can hardly believe that Princess Sansa is marrying a man so...gruff” Elia stated.

“Just wait” Jaime assured them, motioning towards the Godswood. They had to make their way there as well, otherwise they’d be late. “The moment she appears, he turns into a puppy. It is rather adorable” he offered his arm to Elia and she took it carefully.

“I think I am going to enjoy our visit to the North” Oberyn noted as the front door slammed open and several large, bearded men appeared, all of them wearing huge smiles.

“Good Gods” Elia gasped. “Bears.”

 

They had been running for hours, the entire Bolton Pack moving as one across the distance. Soon they would arrive in Winterfell and Roose suspected that everything would become much more complicated the moment they arrived at Eddard Stark’s door.

While most would argue otherwise, he had morals--albeit loose ones. He was determined to remove the Starks from power, yes, and he had joined forces with others who sought to do the same. But what Baelish did, what he stole from that Stark female--one he presumed was Sansa Stark, was simply going too far.

Beside him Ramsay was keeping pace, careful not to take a step in front of his Alpha. Smart boy. Likely the younger Wolf was anxious to spill blood, to earn his keep as an enforcer within the Pack. He would likely have his chance sooner than he’d think.

Roose, however, wasn’t thinking about blood. He was hardly able to think at all, his brain was too preoccupied with the scent that had been trapped in Baelish’s vial. The rich, intoxicating and heady scent that had burned itself into his nostrils. Had he known that it was possible for a female Wolf to smell so sinful--like the filthiest, depraved sex one could imagine, while still smelling as innocent and untouched as the winter’s first snow, he would have travelled to Winterfell sooner.

Much sooner.

Gods, he couldn’t escape her smell. Roose knew the moment he scented her that he was going about his ‘rebellion’ all wrong. All of it, everything was wrong.

Even the remnants of the scent threatened to throw him into a rut, his cock could be ready in an instant at the chance to sink himself into the woman who emitted such a scent. Even his basest instinct demanded that he find her, possess her and fuck a pup into her immediately. Pushing his legs to move faster, they flew across the North, closing the distance between him and the Stark female he was determined to claim as his own.

 

“Who comes before the Old Gods this day?” her Father spoke, his voice loud and clear.

“Sansa of the House Stark comes here to be wed” Robb replied with confidence. Sansa almost looked to where her oldest Brother stood at her side, but she couldn’t look away from Sandor.

It was clear that while she had spent the morning with her Mother and Sister, Sandor had also taken care to prepare himself. His beard had been neatly trimmed and his inky black hair shone in the sun. He was dressed in all black, as always, and looked incredibly handsome. He was the largest man in the Godswood, the most powerful as well. And he was all hers.

“I love you, Little Bird” the words ran on a loop through her mind in his deep voice, each one a promise to cherish and love her for the rest of their days and beyond.

The dress her Mother had made for her wedding was stunning and she felt like a true Princess as soon as she had slipped it on after her bath was completed and her hair had been styled. It was soft ivory with delicate embroidery across the corseted waist, a small blue bird resting in the center of Weirwood leaves. It perfectly matched the comb in her hair, the first gift Sandor had ever given her and her most cherished possession.

“A Wolf, a warrior and a Princess. A woman grown, trueborn and royal” Robb continued. “She comes to beg the blessing of the Gods. Who comes to claim her?"

“Sandor of House Clegane” his deep voice replied without pause. “Sworn man to House Stark. Bonded Mate to Sansa of House Stark, Berserker and Commander of the Stark armies. Who gives her?”

“Robb of House Stark, heir to the Northern throne and her elder Brother” Robb turned to her then, lifting their joined hands to kiss the back.

“Princess Sansa, do you take this man?” her Father asked and she nodded, taking her hand from Robb’s and stepped to Sandor’s side.

“I take this man” she slipped her hand into his much larger one as her Father pulled the grey ribbon from his pocket.

“Let this ribbon be a symbol of your bond” Eddard said, his voice softer now as he wrapped the ribbon first around her forearm and then wound it around until the other end hung at Sandor’s forearm. “Bonded. Unbroken. Always.”

“Always” her and Sandor repeated together and it was done. They were married in the eyes of the Old Gods. Sandor stepped closer as everyone gathered began to applaud and she looked up to meet his kiss, the fingers of their joined hands twining as his arm wrapped around her waist.

“I love you, Little Wife” he purred into her mind as he pulled back, keeping their kiss more chaste than they would have liked to. They did have an audience, afterall.

“I love you, Husband.”

 

Stannis stood beside the pire, watching as his Mother’s body returned to the ashes, returned to the earth. Others were gathered around to pay their respects to their fallen Queen, everyone here suffering from a loss alongside his own. He did his best to remain stoic, to accept their sympathies and softly spoken apologies, but inside he was a scared little boy, sobbing uncontrollably at the death of his Mother.

In his ungloved hand was her locket--his locket now. The sorcerer had done his work and had done it well. He had helped Stannis in swearing a blood oath to protect those who could not protect themselves. He bound his very soul to the locket and in turn the Sorcerer enchanted the piece so that it would, one day, find its way to the hands of a woman and child who would need his protection. A woman who could offer him redemption from his greatest sin and regret.

Divine magic came at a high cost, and not just in coin. Stannis had bound his immortal soul to his Mother’s locket. He had taken on the mantle of a Guardian and he would, in this, never fail.

He was not a man who believed in Gods, Old or New, and he still found it difficult to wrap his mind around the darker world of the supernatural, but he knew first hand that magic was real. Realer than any sense of honor that there could ever be in waging war.

“Your Grace” his second in command, Yohn Royce, placed his hand on Stannis’ shoulder.

“I failed her” Stannis admitted, his voice a broken whisper.

“The failure does not rest upon your shoulders, Your Grace.”

“It was my duty to protect her, to protect all of my people, and I have failed” his fingers tightened around the warm metal of the locket.

“We will avenge her.”

“I will” Stannis promised. “We go forward, only forward from here. And we will win. They will all fall, beg for mercy, and we will give them none.”

 

“There are so many people. When can I drag you away?” Sandor grumbled several hours later during their wedding feast. The Great Hall was packed with wolves, Vampires and even a few Witches, all of them making merry and celebrating the day.

“Soon, I should hope” Sansa placed her hand on the powerful muscle of his thigh and one of his hands immediately covered it, his warmth sinking into her skin.

She had been overwhelmed at all of the new faces that had arrived in Winterfell for the wedding. Jaime Lannister had introduced her to the Martell’s earlier, both of whom were incredibly kind though Oberyn had an air of danger lingering just beneath the surface. She had made a mental note to ask Sandor about them later when they were alone.

Even the Tyrell’s had returned to Winterfell, Olenna and Margaery both offering their congratulations before striking up a conversation with the Martells and Jaime. Jaime, it seemed, had an admirer in Margaery but Sansa couldn’t help but notice the way Robb’s eyes followed the young Witch around the Great Hall.

Every face in attendance had a smile on it, everyone a part of the celebration that welcomed another member to the royal family. Her prince charming--uncharming as he may seem to the world at large.

Her parents were laughing and talking with several other Wolves including Smalljon Umber. Her Father admitted to being relieved that she and Sandor were finally married before Old Gods, something she knew had weighed heavily on his mind. As King, he had the honor of presiding over the ceremony and she was glad of it, having her Father there with her on the day of her wedding had always been important to her.

“I can think of something else I would like you to put your hands on, Little Mate” Sandor whispered against the shell of her ear and she could barely conceal the shiver that passed over her at his dark, sinful words.

She felt her cheeks heat at the memory of Olenna Tyrell’s wedding gift to them, an enchantment on their chambers, sealing in sound. Something else that had weighed heavily on her Father’s mind. At this news, Sandor had become even more eager to slip away from the celebration. She was fairly certain he was contemplating picking her up and carrying her away entirely.

“Soon” she promised as raucous cheering sounded to the right. The man that Sandor had introduced to her earlier as Tormund Giantsbane, a member of the Bear Clan of the Far North, had his arms raised in triumph, having just beaten Jon in an arm wrestling match.

“I told him it was best to let the bears win,” Sandor chuckled. “They’re piss poor losers. Tear your arms right off--”

“Clegane!” Tormund realized that they were watching and bellowed above everyone else. “Care to try your luck?”

“With you?” Sandor called back. “Always.”

“It is your wedding day, I might just let you win!” Tormund laughed, drinking deeply from his ale.

“Men” Sansa teased as Sandor stood, pausing to kiss her temple before making his way across the room. He made no secret of his affection for her, not even when the entirety of the room was watching them, and it warmed her heart.

She stood from her chair to have a better view of the table across the room. As Sandor sat across from the rowdy ginger, the air around her seemed to come alive...to buzz. She frowned slightly as her ears started to ring and then her heart began to race.

Looking around she realized that no one else was experiencing the same phenomenon. It was only her that seemed to be afflicted. All of the guests were raptly focused on the soon-to-be wrestling match, hushed whispers of the Berserker’s prowess coursing through the room.

Her breathing hitched as panic leached into her brain and a feeling of incredible anxiousness settled into her fingers and toes, both twitching in anticipation. Anticipation...of what? She frantically looked around the Great Hall for any sign of danger or an impending attack, but there was nothing--nothing that wasn’t there a minute ago...

“Sandor” she whimpered into his mind as her vision lost focus, calling out to her mate through their connection. “Sandor…?”

“Sansa!” Sandor was moving as soon as her voice echoed in his mind, she felt him drawing closer, her body screaming out for him to help her. A chorus of yelling broke out, the sounds of tables and chairs upending and--was that her mate’s voice?

“Sandor!”

She lost sight of him as everything started to fade away, her vision down to a pinpoint and her body going numb even as she tried to run away. In a violent crash, one of the hall’s windows shattered into a million pieces, glass spraying across the room as cries echoed across the gathered wedding guests.

“Help…me...” she felt weakness wash over her and then the oddest thing happened; a black mist appeared in front of her, it seemed to float for several seconds before darting into her chest.

She felt the impact of it like a physical blow, fire racing through her blood and then then everything went black.

Chapter Text

c.1859

Sansa woke on a scream, body arching from the cool surface on which it lay as air rushed into her lungs as it would a drowning woman finally breaking the surface. She took several deep breaths, trying to steady the race of her heart, the violent trembling of her body.

It was when her pulse finally leveled that the rich smell and heavy silence of the forest sank into her senses. Forcing her eyes open she realized that she lay on her stomach deep within the woods, but not any forest she had seen before.

Shifting against the gnarled tree roots and moss, she shivered as a chill settled into her naked body…Naked, lovely.

“Sandor?” she whispered, lifting her head. Her words were met with silence and she reached out with her mind, desperate to find her mate. “Sandor?”

Silence.

“Arya?” she bit back a sob. “Daddy?”

Pushing to her feet she once again found herself taking stock of any damage that could have been done to her person, though oddly enough she felt whole. She felt….wonderful.

Raising a hand she traced the tingle over her sternum, the last remnants of whatever had found her in the Great Hall, whatever that black mist had been was now nothing more than a tickle against her fingers.

The resounding snap of a tree branch had her whirling to her right, hair flying around her as she looked up into the pale grey eyes of the largest Wolf she had ever seen---a White Wolf.

“Are you…?” she paused, unsure if she would be able to communicate with the being at all.

“I am you--or at least, I am you in this lifetime. Once I was another” a soft feminine voice spoke into her mind.

“Then the legends are true.”

“Indeed they are, though you, Sansa Stark, have surpassed all expectations” the Wolf sank to its haunches, sitting calmly a few feet away from her. Sansa could see clearly why Arya had been so shocked at Sansa’s size, this Wolf seemed to dominate the forest entirely. Speaking of forest...

“Where are we?” Sansa asked.

“Nowhere. And everywhere” the Wolf replied.

“How is this even possible--”

“We do not have much time Princess, but there are things you must know before it begins.”

“It? You mean the mist? What was that?”

“A stolen piece of your soul, your strength. A fraction surrendered years go as an act of self-preservation against a powerful invasion. It travelled a long way to return to you. To us. To the Berserker.”

“Was it...was it Baelish?” Sansa whispered before she could swallow the word. “He stole a piece of my….oh Gods…” she felt overwhelmed.

The Wolf nodded, “A broken man, one who is dangerous, yes. But emotions make men predictable.”

“I can stop him, I know that I can.”

“You can” the Wolf made a small sound, almost like a laugh. “But when the time comes, you will not have to. There has never been a mated pair like us and our mate...” Sansa nodded and swallowed thickly, finding it only slightly strange that the Wolf spoke of them as if they were two different people. “The bond, now that it is complete, will make him stronger than ever thought possible. And us as well.”

“It was not complete before?” Sansa’s frown deepened, the idea tugging painfully at her heart.

“Your soul was not complete, therefore the bond was not.”

“Oh” Sansa thought for several moments before speaking again. “What happens now?”

“Now you fulfill your destiny in the war to come” the Wolf simply said, rising to its paws. “And so does the Berserker.”

“Wait!” Sansa stepped closer, twigs and moss crunching beneath her bare feet. “If we are here, speaking to one another like this, does that mean I am not a Wolf--not truly, or...?”

“White Wolves only show themselves once in hundreds of generations” it explained. “The spirit of the White Wolf choses the strongest of the Stark blood and bonds with its soul, joining them as one. Beyond this necessary conversation, my sentience is yours.”

“I think I understand,” Sansa whispered.

“Keep your locket close, and never stop fighting, Princess” the Wolf said cryptically.

“I will--and I won't,” Sansa promised.

“Brace yourself” the Wolf stepped back and Sansa felt dizzy as the forest around her swam, losing focus. “Your destiny is here…though I already know you are more than able to take on the challenge—you’ll be good to them. The best, in fact.”

“What---?” she wanted to ask what she was bracing herself for, but the words wouldn’t come. The Wolf turned and ran into the darkness as the ground raced up to meet her.

 

Sandor caught her before she could crumble to the stone floor entirely, he hadn’t seen what had thrown her back but that did not mean she had not been attacked. He crouched to the stone, cradling her across his lap, her body limp and warm to the touch, even through the fabric of her wedding dress.

Chaos had exploded around them in the Great Hall, the King stepping in and working with the guard to usher everyone from the room as quickly as possible. But to Sandor it was as if the world was happening through a veil, everything was muted and blurry.

Behind him he barely registered that Arya stood in protection, Jaime at her side, both ready to take on any foe that would show itself. Sandor promised over and over that whoever had hurt her he would kill--slowly. Very slowly.

“Sansa” he whispered, cupping her cheek. However, the instant his skin touched hers she came awake on a violent scream that echoed in the hall. Her eyes shot wide, the blue somehow lighter than it had been before, filled entirely with panic. “Sansa, look at me? Talk to me…”

“Sandor?” her eyes focused on his and in that moment it was as if something that he hadn’t realized was missing had suddenly clicked into place. A thick tendril, almost palpable in its power, wound around them both and in the span of a breath he felt her in his body, felt her emotions, felt her turmoil, felt...all of her.

He felt her strength, felt it settle into the fibers of his own body, each muscle flexing and spasming with newfound power. His eyes seemed to process both what he was seeing and what she was seeing, he could see his own concerned expression echoed back at him from her mind. Her eyes shared sight with his as he suspected his did with hers.

He had never heard of anything like this, any bond or mating—-anything.

Whatever had happened to her, it had changed everything. That wasn’t to say he had not felt connected to her before, just that their bond had somehow grown to a new level of connection--of attachment.

“Clegane” Eddard’s voice sounded as footsteps rapidly approached. “You have to get her out of here Clegane, before you’re both lost to it…”

“What?” Sandor felt as if he were moving underwater, foggy. Sluggish. The King’s words made no sense, not until Sansa’s whimper pulled him from the fog of panic that had consumed him and her scent reached his nostrils.

Fuck.

“Clegane---”

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck!

“Get him up” Eddard ordered but the moment Jaime’s hand touched his shoulder Sandor snarled, pulling Sansa against his chest in a protective gesture as he turned to growl at the Vampire. Jaime stepped back quickly, raising his hands in supplication.

“Sandor” Sansa whimpered and he turned back to her, rage quieting as he took in her flushed cheeks and glossy eyes.

“It’s alright, Little Bird” he whispered the reassurance as he pushed to his feet, listing her easily to holding her against the wall of his chest. Her arms wrapped around his neck, her nose burrowing against the fabric over the mating mark on his shoulder, scenting him deeply.

The others rapidly cleared away, giving him a wide berth and setting a path from the Great Hall for him. Eddard looked stricken while Catelyn looked paler than he’d ever seen her. Sandor had only taken a few steps when Arya moved in front of him, fear and panic in her eyes.

“Runt” his growl held more than a hint of warning but Arya only had eyes for her Sister.

“Is she--” Arya stopped when Gendry’s hands fell to her shoulders, moving her aside. Reluctantly she moved into her would-be-mate’s embrace, dark eyes following Sansa.

“Let them go, Arry,” Gendry said, his words forced and broken, and Sandor growled in warning. He knew that soon every Wolf in Winterfell would be able to smell his mate--to discern what was occuring. Mated and claimed or not, her scent would cause problems if he didn’t get her out of the Great Hall immediately.

Resuming his stride, he carried her towards their chambers, not stopping for anything or anyone.

 

“Ned” Catelyn said softly, her hand slipping into his own, more for her comfort than his, but he held tightly to her slender fingers.

“Clear the house” Eddard looked to Olenna Tyrell who was watching with unmasked amusement. Clearly each visit to Winterfell brought more and more amusement to the Witch of Thorns. “Their room is…secure?”

“Oh yes,” Olenna replied with a slow smirk. “Might I ask, what was that? It looked positively sinful.”

“Heat—a fertile heat more specifically” Eddard replied softly. “Her first.”

“You mean…?” Arya looked to him and Eddard did his best to ignore the smell of Gendry that clung to his youngest Daughter. He gave only a nod of reply, setting about the necessary business.

“Send Wolves to the perimeters—all perimeters!” Eddard barked the order at Robb who immediately sprang into action. “We will need to have Winterfell protected at all times now, I will not take any chances.”

“What the devil is going on?” Jaime Lannister asked, clearly confused by all that was occuring.

“Send word to your Father” Eddard said to the Vampire Prince. “Whatever last piece Baelish was holding, whatever part of Sansa that was remotely ill or broken, is gone now. There is nothing that can stop this.”

“Which means?” Jaime asked. “Stop what?”

“Sandor isn’t going to let her out of that room until she’s with child” Eddard closed his eyes briefly, settling his nerves. “And the moment she is, she will remain trapped in her human form until the babe is born. She will not be able to call upon her Wolf, not without losing...needless to say, she will not be able to properly protect herself. If Baelish comes---”

“She has the locket, that will protect her. Divine magic is no laughing matter” Olenna spoke, striding closer. “And Baelish will come, there is no mistake in that. I have known for some time that his grip on reality is slipping, his grip on his control.”

“You’ve spoken to him?” Eddard asked, unsure how he felt about having a woman with shifting alliances in his home.

“Briefly, yes” Olenna nodded. “I warned him to stop, after I gave Sansa the locket. He has no intention of stopping.”

“Does he know that you gave her the locket?” Catelyn asked and Eddard could tell that his wife’s patience was growing thin. As was his own.

“No” Olenna scoffed. “I am not stupid, thank you very much. I would never tell that man a joke let alone tell him anything that could be used to hurt a young woman--”

“Forgive me if I question your motives and where your loyalties lie, Witch” Catelyn snipped and he squeezed her hand gently to remind her that she should keep her claws sheathed for the time being. “My Daughter’s safety is at stake--”

“There is more than that” Jaime interjected. “Daenerys Targaryen will make a play for the Vampiric throne and she has pulled the Boltons to her side, from my best guess. The entire realm is at stake and it seems that the wild card here, Baelish, wants nothing more than the woman currently being impregnated above stairs---” his words were silenced when he found himself backed against the stone wall, Eddard’s hand around his throat.

“I’d be careful with how I choose my next words if I were you,” Eddard warned, growling as he leaned closer to the Vampire Prince’s shocked visage.

“King Eddard, I meant no disrespect---”

“Speak of my Daughter or my Good-Son in such a way again, and you will find that my tolerance goes only so far. Even for you, Prince Jaime” Eddard warned, releasing him and stepping back. “Guard the perimeter, I do not want anyone getting close to this house without my knowing or allowing” he called out.

The time for games was over, Eddard felt his inner wolf pacing, uneasy at the untimely expansion of his family. There was nothing he could do, nothing that he was willing to do. He could only wait.

Afterall, he could hardly keep a bonded male from his mate while she was in a fertile heat, to do so would ensure both parties suffered immense pain for days until it passed. There were no chains that could hold him back, keep him away from Sansa.

And his Lemon Cake, his beautiful Princess, he would never deny her the family that she had longed for since she was a girl. Clegane would protect her and their pups. The pack would protect her, and when the time came they would end this war before it truly began.

 

“Sandor” Sansa was out of control, her body burning with a desire that she had no hope or motive to curb. She was lost in the tide, pulled under by the most incredible of feelings. The moment they were behind closed doors, locked away in their bedroom, she was tearing at his clothing.

“Little Mate” Sandor growled, adjusting her in his arms and backing her against the wall.

“Please” she pleaded, shoving his jacket from his shoulders as he ground the hard length of his cock against her through their clothing. It felt incredible but it wasn’t enough—nowhere near enough.

From the moment her eyes had opened, she needed her mate with a ferocity she had never felt before. Her conversation, however cryptic, with the spirit of the White Wolf had been pushed to the back of her mind by the burning lust that consumed her.

“Fuck” Sandor growled, his large hands pawing at the skirts and petticoats of her wedding gown, bunching them at her waist before grabbing her bare thighs. She whimpered against his mouth, his fingers digging into her flesh—nearly hard enough to bruise. He kept her pinned to the wall, grinding against her soaked core over and over until she sobbed in release.

She knew by the sound and feel that she had soaked them both, her body producing slick enough to ruin his breeches. The orgasm, a hollow one without her mate’s body joined with hers, had taken the edge off the madness, providing a brief moment of clarity.

“What’s happened?” she panted as Sandor kissed a trail across her cheek to nibble on her ear lobe.

“Oh Little Mate” he growled, pulling her soft flesh between his teeth. “Can’t you smell it? The rich musk…” he released her ear with a soft ‘pop’. “Your soaked, tight little cunt” he worked the placket of his breeches open to free his cock, the hot heavy flesh coming to rest against her thigh. He held her against the wall with one strong hand at her thigh, the other stroking his cock in idle movements.

“Sandor…”

“Your womb, ripe for the fucking” he aligned himself with her opening, her juices quickly coating his length, and with a shift of his feet he sank home. She sobbed in ecstasy at finally being joined with him, finally having his flesh stretching hers. “You’re fertile, Little Mate. Desperate for my cum.”

“Oh, Gods--” her head lolled back against the wall as he rocked his hips. He felt impossibly large, filling her body to near-bursting, the head of his cock brushing against her cervix with each rocking movement.

“I’m going to fuck a pup into you, mate” Sandor promised. “I am not going to let you leave until your belly is swollen with my seed and it’s taken root.”

“Yes, please,” she sobbed, her body rapidly racing towards its next peak. “I need…” the cloud of lust was rapidly rising once more in the back of her mind, a fog that Sandor was already lost to.

Her body became only a vessel of sensation, of burning lust and whimpering need, and her mate did not disappoint. Not that he ever had before, only now he was driven with singular determination.

Her second release rose out of the fog like a leviathan, eclipsing her vision and pulling a scream from her lips as her cunt seized around him. Her fingernails dug into Sandor’s scalp, holding him to the hollow of her neck as he filled her, throbbing deeply within her and filling her with the warmth of his seed.

In the brief clearing of the heat, they managed to do away with their wedding clothes with minimal tearing and in a flash they were falling to the large mattress together. Sandor’s cock was still buried inside of her, still hard and ready, promising without words to give her everything her body demanded.

“This is…” she whispered, running her hands through his hair.

“Fertile heat, Little Mate.”

“It’s...incredible. I feel incredible.”

“You’ll carry my pup soon, wife,” he gently kissed her. “By morning if not sooner.”

“Sandor…” she felt tears welling in her eyes as another wave of heat boiled in her blood. His grey eyes were soft with understanding, even as he lowered his forehead to hers, her legs wrapping around him. Thoughts, emotions and sight bounced between them, their connection a living, breathing thing now, its power unbound at last.

“I know, Little Bird,” he swallowed. “I know.”

 

“It is always this eventful here?” Oberyn asked Jaime with a smile, the two vampires lounging on the back veranda of Winterfell, a glass of blood in their hands. Hours have passed since the events at the wedding and the household has lapsed into an odd sort of limbo. They were all a part of the waiting game now...

“I am beginning to think it is, yes. I just might stay here a while, ensure that Tywin misses me before I return,” Jaime laughed, raising his glass. “Just be grateful that the Tyrell Witch charmed the bedroom...they can be quite loud.”

“Poor Eddard” Oberyn scoffed, then paused. “You were right, by the way.”

“I usually am,” Jaime replied smugly. “But what are you referring to specifically?”

“Clegane” Oberyn replied. “He orbits the Princess, eyes always on her as if he is debating between destroying any who looks at her or dragging her to the nearest alcove.”

“Ah” Jaime nodded with a smile, taking a short sip of blood. While they were in the North, all of the feeding would be done on animals found in the forest, rather than risk a war with the Wolves. “Yes, it's quite amusing.”

“It would be adorable if I didn’t know he was the most deadly thing in the world” Oberyn replied as a howl echoed in the distance. Both Vampires looked to the forest and while they couldn’t understand what the how was warning of, the wolves around them clearly did.

The previously quiet Winterfell came alive, a bustle of activity around them. Both men stood, watching as members of the Pack in Wolf and human form alike ran to the woods and the back gardens.

“Arya” Jaime called out as the youngest Stark daughter emerged from the house, Gendry at her back. “What’s happened?”

“The Bolton pack is at the southern border” she replied, her eyes glued to the tree line. “They’re demanding to speak with my Father.”

“Boltons?” Jaime swallowed back a swell of unease. “More Wolves.”

“Yes,” Arya finally looked at him, her eyes a mixture of sadness and curiosity. “And Roose is leading them.”

 

“Sandor—I cannot” she sobbed, fingers clutching the counter pane in a white-knuckle grip that soon began to tear at the fabric. There was little she could do to brace herself against the force of Sandor’s thrusts, kneeling behind her on the bed his powerful thighs helping to drive him into her soaked channel over and over.

She had lost track of how many times he’d made her come this night. Everything had passed in a haze of heat, her mate taking her in every position imaginable as she screamed for him.

After this, the sheets and mattress would likely need to be burned, both soaked with sweat and fluids from their long night lost to her fertile heat. It would be humiliating if her brain wasn’t so focused on the way her mate’s cock felt deep within her, filling her, caressing her inner-walls with each thrust.

“That’s it” Sandor encouraged, curling his large body over her back. Bracing himself on one hand beside her head on the mattress, the other found its way to her stomach, sliding lower to cup her womb possessively. “So full of me, Little Mate.

“Please” she sobbed, weakly thrusting back against him as exhaustion tugged at her body. Sandor’s lips traced across her shoulder, teasing her mating mark as he roughly rutted into her. His hand on the mattress slid into her hair, holding her against his large frame. She was completely surrounded by her mate, his scent and his strength. The change of angle had his cock scraping against that most delicious place inside of her that had her screaming in yet another climax.

Sandor’s teeth sank into her shoulder, locking them together as he snarled through his own peak, pouring into her over and over until their fluids were once again making their way down her thighs, a hot sticky mess that was a mixture of both of their scents.

Their room was silent for several long minutes, both breathing heavily, locked together by Sandor’s teeth and cock. The muscles in her entire body were shaking rapidly, the fire in her blood finally cooling to a level where she could catch her breath—could think.

Eventually, Sandor removed his mouth from her flesh, lapping at the wound to heal it, his scent lingering there stronger than ever. Sansa all but purred, arching her back against her mate’s chest. He ran his hands through her hair, calming her as they came down from their highs. She could barely register the world around them, nothing beyond her mate’s cock, still somehow hard inside of her, pulsing in time with her pulse. It was delicious...

“Can you feel it?” Sandor nuzzled against her mark, scenting her deeply as his fingers flexed over her womb, sending chills down her spine. “Feel him?” he added and her eyes shot wide, turning as best she could to meet his.

“You mean…” she swallowed as tears welled in her eyes.

“I told you once, Little Mate” his voice was rough but she could feel his smile against her bare skin. “This is how good little Wolves are claimed,” he pressed a kiss to the nape of her neck. “How they’re fucked” he kissed her shoulder. “How they’re bred.”

“You cannot—“ she choked on a cry. “You cannot know that.”

“I know it, Little Bird,” he replied, his voice growing softer. “As surely as anything else, I know it” at his assurance, the sobs broke free and her body gave out. They collapsed to the mattress together, side by side, her body safe in the curve of her mate’s. He held her tight, whispering soft words of love and affection as his thumb smoothed over the porcelain skin over her womb.

“Please, Gods” she sobbed.

“I promised you pups, Little Bird” he wrapped an arm around her, burrowing his face into her hair. “I would give you the world—the Vampiric throne if you asked for it.”

“I love you” she whispered between her cries, one of her hands covering his where it rested against her stomach. “I love you.”

 

“I love you” Eddard said to his wife, looking down at the tiny bundle in his arms.

“I know. As I love you,” Catelyn sleepily smiled from where she was resting in their shared bed. It had been a long day, long but worthwhile because at the end of it all, he held Sansa Minisa Stark in his arms.

Sansa was smaller than Robb had been and she was every inch a proper Tully, already the image of her Mother. A shock of downy red hair rested atop her head and her eyes had been a familiar bright blue before she had fallen asleep.

“She is going to be a heartbreaker” Eddard chuckled softly, resuming his place in the plush chair between the bed and bassinet. “I do not look forward to the day that suitors come to my door.”

Catelyn laughed, wiping a few stray tears from her cheeks, “She is not quite a day old yet, that time is a long ways off, my love.”

“Perhaps I will refuse them all” Eddard reasoned. “They could hardly be worthy of her.”

“Eddard!”

“You are right” he sighed. “If she is anything like her Mother, in more than just looks, then she will want nothing more than to be surrounded by a family of her own.”

“Is that such a bad thing?”

“Not at all” Eddard briefly frowned, looking to the sleeping bundle. “I just suppose I am not ready to be a Grandfather” he said, Catelyn’s laughter echoing in the bed chamber.

 

“Bolton” Eddard watched the men closely as several members of the Bolton pack were escorted to the Great Hall just after dawn. The rest of the Pack remained in the forest, heavily guarded by the Stark Pack and they would be guarded until whatever motive that brought Bolton to his doorstep was sorted.

It has been a long night, the entire Stark family waiting on pins and needles as they awaited the arrival of some unspoken attacker, doing their best not to think of what was—once again, happening in Sansa’s rooms. He had not expected Sansa to experience a fertile heat so quickly into her majority, especially not after she had just experienced her first mating heat.

But whatever had attacked her, whatever appeared at the wedding feast had unlocked something feral in both her and Sandor. Something no one was brave enough to interrupt.

Or stupid enough to.

“Stark” Roose Bolton replied smoothly, the younger Wolf at his side clearly antsy and anxious. All of the Bolton Wolves were dressed in tattered shirts and breeches, hastily pulled on as they were escorted inside. Though, even standing barefoot before him, Roose Bolton looked no less proud than any King in history.

“I suppose it goes without asking,” Eddard prompted, raising his hand.

“I confess” Roose’s lips twitched in a smirk. “That I did not intend to arrive here at Winterfell without several armies at my back.”

“Targaryens, I am certain” Eddard scoffed.

“Amongst others” Roose continued. “But a man—a Wolf has to have a code. A standard of morals that guides us, even if we are seen as wicked.”

“And these morals brought you here?”

“Tell me about Sansa,” Roose asked and Eddard did all that he could to school his expression. Fortunately Arya’s impulsive nature helped him cover his surprise, her smaller form stepping forward to growl at Bolton.

“Leave my Sister alone!” Arya warned, moving back only when Gendry placed his hands on her shoulders, guiding her to stand beside Jaime and Oberyn.

“Princess Arya, I presume” Roose regarded her coolly but continued. “Recently I have come across something that belonged to Sansa Stark. It was stolen, cruelly, and it carried her scent—her Wolf.”

“You were working with Baelish then” Eddard deduced.

“Was” Roose stated plainly. “But I find that perhaps there is a better way to ally our houses. Her scent, her Wolf...it is beyond anything—”

“Bolton—“ Eddard began to protest, knowing exactly where this was going.

“I would offer my suit, through trial by combat if necessary, for the hand of—“

“You are too fucking late, Bolton” the deep, angry voice of Sandor Clegane rumbled through the Great Hall. Every gaze in the room turned to him, all stifling a collective gasp at his appearance. He was clad in black breeches tucked into polished hessian boots, a loose lawn shirt tucked into the waist, his suspenders hanging at his sides. Eddard watched his Good Son approach, his form larger than ever—deadlier than ever.

Gods, he’s done it. He was not just a Berserker, not anymore.

“Are you the fucking Berserker then?” the younger man beside Roose, his second most likely, spoke with a condescending tone. Clegane did not reply, simply moved further into the room with a silent threat that everyone felt weighing heavily on their shoulders.

Bootsteps echoed as Sandor stopped to stand before Roose, his frame dwarfing the Bolton alpha in a near-comical way. Eddard watched as Roose’s nostrils flared, eyes darkened as he drank in the thick smell of Sansa that clung to Sandor’s skin and lived in the mating mark at his shoulder. Bolton would know now that Sansa had been claimed and taken by a stronger, larger Wolf.

One he had no chance of defeating in any form of combat.

Eddard knew, though he did his best to push the thoughts away, that if Sandor was here in the Great Hall, Sansa lay above stairs—his precious Lemon Cake basking in the afterglow of being bred by her mate. It made his stomach revolt in the same instant that his heart ached for her happiness.

At least the entire household no longer had to hear them.

“She is your mate, then?” Roose looked up at Sandor.

“Aye.”

“I suppose” Roose looked over Sandor’s body. “Trial by combat would be futile.”

“Aye.”

“She smells like pure sex” Roose goaded and Sandor stepped closer, growling deeply.

“Careful” Sandor warned, knowing in spite of his anger that politics were a dangerous ground.

“Alpha—“ the younger man protested, stepping closer and in a flash, faster than even Wolf eyes could see, he was pressed against the stonewall of the hall, Sandor’s hand at his throat, choking the words from him.

“Try it, cunt” Sandor growled in the man’s face. “I would love nothing more than to rip your beating heart from your chest and feed it to you—or better yet, I could rip your eyes from their sockets and let those two leeches there skull fuck you until your eyes have regenerated. Then do it again” he motioned to where Jaime and Oberyn stood along the far wall.

“Clegane” Eddard said simply, his alpha command breaking into the Berserkers haze. A few long seconds passed before Sandor released the smaller man, his frame crumbling to the floor as he rubbed at his bruised throat.

“There was no chance of winning” Bolton watched Sandor closely. “Not with him here.”

“I have no desire to fight another war between Packs” Eddard spoke, addressing everyone in the room. “I have never wished to see the species divided against one another. Not for the sake of the Targaryens, not for the sake of High Warlock Baelish. We—us Wolves, are above this” he continued, surprised to see the arrival of Olenna and Margaret enter the hall, Sansa between them.

Sansa stood tall and proud in a crisp gown of deep hunter green, her hair perfectly styled, a serene smile on her lips. He had never seen his daughter look more beautiful, or happier, and that did much to settle the worries he’d felt all night. She was, in fact, glowing in a way he had only seen before in his own wife and mate.

Sandor shifted back from where he loomed over the Bolton Wolf, moving to Sansa, his mate. As always, the Berserker’s arm went around Sansa’s waist, pulling her close to his side, into the protection of his body.

“We as Wolves should stand united against any and all threats” Eddard continued, hoping to draw attention away from the new arrivals. It did not work.

“You’ve been making friends, Eddard” Roose looked at Olenna, then Jaime and Oberyn, his eyes cold and unreadable. “How unlike you.”

“I am going to set aside small talk” Eddard decided it was best to cut through any bullshit. “If you are not here to swear allegiance then you are here to declare war. Again. I find I have little patience for games or niceties. So, Roose” he stepped closer to the Bolton alpha. “Your move.”

Chapter Text

c.1859

High Warlock Baelish lowered himself to the makeshift desk that he had put together in his private chambers in Dragonstone. Beyond the stone windows he could hear the raucous of the Dothraki, all of the warriors preparing to march North.

Grabbing the necessary parchment and quill, he set about writing his letter to King Tywin Lannister. Thus far, Baelish had managed to play both sides, which did much to fuel his pride. Tywin had replied to his initial letter regarding the Stark’s activities with interest and a promise of help if Baelish could act as a liaison.

So act as liaison he would. Much to his enjoyment and benefit.

Writing quickly, he paused before adding his signature, setting the pen aside to lift the jar on the desk beside the candle. Inside were the remnants of the vial he had long worn around his neck, cork and all.

Running his thumb across the cool glass, he wished that the contents held some scent, some essence of Sansa Stark, but the glass held nothing. Not even a ghost of a memory.

Signing the letter, an entire fabrication of the Starks movements set to delay Tywin long enough for them to conquer the North before taking sights on the Vampiric throne, he set it aside to dry. For as long as Tywin believed him to be his friend, it would keep the Lannister armies at bay.

Turning from the desk he drew up short at the sight of another person sitting on his bed. He wasn’t expecting her tonight, though perhaps she missed him. A smug smile crossed his lips at the thought of her being under his spell, magic or not.

“Well” he looked her over, chuckling softly.

“Surprised to see me then?” she leaned back on her hands on the mattress, the action pushing her breasts higher against the deep ‘v’ of her neckline.

“I knew you couldn’t stay away long” he smoothly stood, crossing to the bedside. He allowed his fingers to trail across her cheek, the porcelain skin soft to the touch. She tilted her head to, baring her throat so he could further explore, her deep burgundy hair falling behind her shoulders.

“You make this sound romantic, I would not do that if I were you” her deep blue eyes opened to glare up at him, filled with warning. Cold, calculated warning. They were not quite the shade of blue that he longed to see—they were too green. Nor was her hair the shade of red that he ached for--it was too dark. For now they would have to suffice in the slaking of his appetite.

Regardless, she was a good substitute, but a substitute nonetheless.

“You’re getting better at projecting, I almost thought this was your physical form” he noted, feeling the curve of her neck, pausing at her pulse before continuing on, her body more substantial than it had been before.

“Soon I will not have to project” she replied. “I leave Essos soon, I am scheduled to arrive with the final group of Dothraki ships.”

“Good” Baelish nodded. “I will need your help in dealing with the Berserker when you arrive. I do not know what he is capable of, but I am not going to risk anything. Not now that I am so close.”

“I know” she stood, forcing him to step back. The movement was worth it, however, as she untied her simple merlot-colored gown and let it fall to the floor. Her nude body seemed to glow in the firelight, breasts perfect and stomach flat before giving way to a thatch of auburn curls.

“Beautiful,” Baelish said, though the words were hollow, hardly true. He spoke more as a man observing at a statue than looking at a woman he admired. Still, the word seemed to please her and she raised her chin in amusement.

“A favor, High Warlock,” she asked. “Try not to call out her name this time, hmm?”

“I will do my best, Melisandre” he assured her, lifting a hand to slide his fingers into her hair and around the back of her neck, pulling her closer to claim her lips.

 

Eddard was sitting at his desk, locked away in his private study as he did his best to ignore everything that had happened in the last several hours. He was fairly certain that had his hair not already started to grey at the temples, then it would have in the last several hours.

Benjen had managed to soothe his frayed nerves, his younger Brother always knowing exactly how to help him through any situation. Even one as unique as this. Benjen had retired now, leaving Eddard to his thoughts.

Upstairs he could hear the rest of the manor coming to life, others waking and going about their duties. There was already gossip spreading like wildfire through the ranks, about Sansa’s collapse during the wedding reception and her subsequent heat, and about Roose Bolton’s arrival and what that could mean for the immediate future.

Soon he would have to address everyone in Winterfell, he would have to assure his people that together—united as wolves, they would be able to conquer anything that came their way. And together, Wolves and Lannisters united, they would triumph.

For now, he had to protect his family. First and foremost. Even if that family included a Berserker that had given his Princess, his Lemon Cake, a pup.

Mercifully he had not had to overhear any of Sandor and Sansa’s night together, Olenna’s charm working quite well to keep the sounds of their...lovemaking to a minimum. Thank the Gods for small favors. At least, a sardonic laugh slipped past his lips, he knew that his eldest Daughter was being cherished...loved as she deserved to be.

A knock at the door broke him from his musings and he looked up to see Robb open the door. His eldest had leapt into action last night, commanding the men of the Pack with a strong hand and confidence that couldn’t be taught, it was just inherent. He was proud of him and made a note to remind him of that later.

“Father” Robb began. “Lord Roose Bolton would like a word with you.”

“Bring him in” Edward stood, watching as Robb escorted Roose Bolton into the study, he now clad in clean clothing befitting a man of his station, ones generously provided by House Stark. In his hands, Roose held a bottle of scotch and two crystal glasses.

Robb gave him a nod and dismissed himself, moving outside the door, standing guard in the hall but leaving the door open for easy access. Eddard kept his focus on Roose who, while he had sworn allegiance to the House Stark only hours ago, he still did not trust.

“Ned” Roose set the glasses on the desk, pulling the cork from the bottle to pour them each several fingers of the amber liquid. It wouldn’t get them drunk, but the gesture was appreciated all the same. Roose pushed a glass towards him, setting the bottle on the mahogany desk before sitting across from him.

“Roose” Eddard took the glass, subtly smelling the alcohol for any contamination, though he somehow knew that Roose was above poison. As ridiculous as that sounded in his own mind.

“You look terrible. I should be grateful, it seems,” Roose lazily smiled. “That I was not ‘blessed’ with daughters. Especially beautiful ones.”

Eddard couldn’t help but laugh at the words, shaking his head, “You’re indeed very lucky, though keep in mind you did arrive here hours ago looking to mate one of them.”

Roose shrugged, “I am an unmated male, Stark, and Sansa is...I will not apologize for my nature.”

“Mmhmm” Eddard sipped his drink. “He’ll tear you to pieces, you know” he warned, not having to explain who he spoke of.

“Oh, I know” Roose leaned back in his chair, draining his glass in a single drink. “It would be worth it, however, she is quite beautiful” he continued and Eddard raised a brow in warning. “You can not fault a man for his attractions.”

“I would warn you to stay away from her” Eddard chuckled, emptying his glass. “But I would rather let Clegane do that himself.”

“Fair enough” Roose refilled both their glasses. “I remember seeing him, you know.”

“Clegane?”

“During the rebellion” Roose elaborated. “It was only at a distance, mind you, but it was enough to see him tear through an entire line of Vampires on his own. Even if I hadn’t been told there was a Berserker, and that Clegane was it, I would have known.”

“Berserker or not, he is a good man” Eddard reasoned.

“Are you saying that because he’s bred your precious Princess?” Roose countered, holding nothing back. Eddard almost admired that about Roose. Almost.

“No,” he answered smoothly, pushing the thought from his mind. Sansa’s marriage was no business of his and it certainly was no business of Roose Bolton’s.

“No” Roose repeated, nodding in agreement. “He is a good ally to have.”

“Why are you here, Bolton?”

“In Winterfell or in your office?”

“Winterfell. Aside from hoping to fuck my daughter, that is.”

“I will take your throne one day, Stark” Roose replied, leaning back in the chair as if he hadn’t a care in the world. Eddard, however, could sense the carefully wound tension in his old enemy’s body. “I promise you that. It belongs to a Wolf of Bolton blood, by right.”

“I am sensing a but…”

“I will not take it back with the help of a man who edges on madness and a woman who fucks a Dothraki Nightmare to control her army” Roose explained. “I will take it on my own merits.”

“Then we go forward, knowing that someday you will run a blade between my ribs?” Eddard scoffed.

“I suppose in your eyes that is better than calling me ‘Good Son’,” Roose countered. “Vaguely better, at least.”

“True.”

“So tell me,” Roose continued. “The Tyrells, Jaime Lannister and Oberyn Martell…”

“I may be stupid, Roose. But I am not bloody stupid” Eddard leaned forward, refilling their glasses this time as Roose’s laugher echoed in the study.

 

Roose knew the moment that the battle—the war was lost. He could sense it in his bones but more than that, he could smell it in the air. They had been fighting for the majority of a sennight, every Wolf on the field was exhausted and none of them had anything left to give.

A mighty roar filled the air and Roose’s eyes swung back to where the great black Wolf was tearing his way through the last of the Targaryen defenses and an entire group of Wolves. A Berserker, and a terrifying one at that. They had no hope to go against him, not after this long.

Never in all his years had he seen a Wolf that large, that violent. Blood and foam dripped from his fangs, coating the thick black fur that covered his face and chest. Mixed with it was vampire venom, the thick, viscous fluid looked similar to blood but ran thicker, on the verge of complete clot, and Roose couldn’t help but compare it to brain matter…or was it actually brain matter?

This Wolf, this Berserker, would not stop until his cause was won. He would never tire, never cease...never surrender.

Swallowing his pride, Roose called out to his men with a mournful howl, urging them all to retreat immediately.

They obeyed, though reluctantly and soon they were running full-tilt toward the Dreadfort. Once they were back in their territory they could regroup and try again. And he would try again. He would find a way to deal with the Berserker and then remove House Stark from their pedestal.

 

“Oh, you’re glowing” Catelyn cupped Sansa’s cheek, smiling up at her with eyes so like her own. “Look at you, my darling beauty.”

“Mother” Sansa smiled, feeling Sandor’s hand settle at her lower back, the powerful form of her mate and husband at her back. She had noticed this morning as she watched Sandor dress, that he was larger now than he had been before. His shirts, once loose, barely fit and the breeches clung to his powerful legs in a way that was almost indecent.

She did not realize, not until she had spoken to him after the scene in the Great Hall, that when a Berserker sired a son he grew more powerful, an alpha in his own right. It was The Old Gods’ way to ensure that his family was safe, that he was able to protect them at all times, even if by sheer intimidation alone. Sandor would keep her safe, keep their son safe. A son, Sansa almost burst into tears once more, her womb sat empty no longer, she finally carried Sandor’s child in the safety of her body.

A smaller body crashed into hers and she looked down at Rickon’s who was hugging her tightly, “I missed you, Sister” Rickon smiled up at her.

“Well I am back now. Have you been good?” she assured him, running her hand through his shaggy hair.

“No!” Rickon laughed wildly as he released her, running back to where he had been playing with Bran on the carpet.

“He’s positively wild, I do not know what to do with him. Come,” Catelyn took her hands, squeezing them briefly before releasing them. “Dinner is almost ready and I dare say it will be one for celebration.” Catelyn moved away, back to Eddard’s side but Sansa remained, turning to look into her mate’s soft grey eyes.

“Little Bird” he smiled, the scars pulling at the corner of his lips, inky hair falling around his face. “You’re stunning” Sandor pulled her into his embrace, fitting her against his chest. The heat in their blood had cooled to a warm affection, a haze of love and contentment.

“I am a woman well-loved,” Sansa snuggled close, resting her head against his cravat.

“This is true,” Sandor agreed, placing a kiss atop the crown of her hair. “You have always been stunning, Little Bird. But you are more than that, Sansa. You are my mate, you are my wife, you are my soul, and you are the Mother of my pup” his hands smoothed up and down her back, pulling a soft whimper from her throat.

“Husband” she purred.

“I cannot wait to watch you grow round, heavy with my pup” he said soft enough that only she could hear him. “Gods you are going to look so incredibly perfect. I should warn you that I will not be able to resist devouring you at every chance” he growled.

“And I shall let you” she whispered, lifting her head to look up at him, a smile on her lips. “I love you.”

“I love you” he replied, cupping her cheek. She sighed and rubbed her face against his warm palm, her inner Wolf unable to resist nuzzling against her mate. “Later, Little Bird, I will show you how much you are loved.”

“I believe that I already know, Husband,” Sansa slid a hand between them, settling it over her womb. “You have given me a Son.”

“Little Mate, I gave you that Son the first chance I had. I told you I’d fuck a pup into you, did I not? The rest of the night was simply riding out the wave of heat together” he whispered, the heat in his eyes enough to make her knees weak. “By the time the dawn approached, your scent was already different, already changing.” The man that others thought so terrifying was a man devoted to his mate, to her happiness, a man who fulfilled his promises in spades.

“Sandor—“

“I promised you a pup, Little Mate” he slid his hands into her hair, thumbs tracing her jaw. Sansa obeyed his unspoken command and rose on her tip-toes to kiss him, letting his full lips graze over his, keeping it brief before they truly pushed the bounds of propriety.

“You two are quite disgusting” Arya called out from near the table, a smile on her face.

“Just you wait, Runt” Sandor replied without looking away from her. “You’ll soon get yours” he added and her mouth immediately snapped shut, eyes nervously darting to where Gendry was laughing with Robb.

“Sandor” Sansa laughed, his arms lowering to her waist so they could join their family together.

 

“Eddard” Sandor approached, handing a glass of wine to his King. Eddard stood beside the fire, having been softly conversing with his Queen before she returned to sitting beside Sansa on the couches in the Stark private solar.

Dinner had been pleasant, surprisingly unawkward as they talked of current events and the approach of winter. Sandor was still getting used to being a part of the Stark’s inner-circle, of being a part of a family that showed affection openly rather than just rage.

“Thank you” Eddard took the glass gratefully. “At least I do not have to check this drink for poison.”

Sandor laughed, “I heard about your conversation with Roose Bolton, thought not about the specific details. I am certain that I do not need to caution you about trusting him?”

“Not at all,” Eddard replied, looking up to meet Sandor’s eyes and extending his hand. “I offer sincere congratulations to you, Clegane. You have made my Daughter very happy, to a Father that is priceless.”

“Thank you” Sandor took the King’s hand, shaking it firmly. “Sansa’s happiness and safety is my primary concern.” At the thought of his mate, he couldn’t help but glance to where Sansa was speaking in hushed tones with her Mother.

Arya was seated on the floor beside Sansa’s legs in a protective stance, ready to attack at the slightest hint of danger. It was an action that Sandor was sure Arya didn’t realize she was doing, it was entirely subconscious. Arya’s Wolf would be able to sense the pup within Sansa, would instinctively seek to protect it, no matter what.

“I have always known on some level that you loved my Daughter” Eddard explained and Sandor pulled his eyes from his mate to look at his King. “In the beginning I assumed that it was purely lust, that you would try to use her and discard her” he shook his head. “Now I am ashamed to have thought of you in such a manner.”

“You did not know me,” Sandor reasoned. “I was a dangerous stranger, a fuck ugly one at that. You’d have been a fool to trust me around your beautiful Daughter.”

“But over time, I came to realize that your affection ran deeper” Eddard elaborated. “That you loved her enough to distance yourself from her. To protect her, even against my own mistakes.”

“I have loved her from the first moment I met her” Sandor admitted quietly. “Over time that love has grown, changed, like I have. And I know that I will love her until there are no more moments left on this planet.”

“She is going to be a wonderful Mother” Eddard mused. “As a little girl she carried around dolls as if they were children of her own and I know when she fell ill…” he shook his head. “I will never forgive Baelish—or myself for her condition.”

“I will kill him,” Sandor assured the King. “I will tear Baelish apart and spread his body to the corners of every dimension possible.”

“I know” Eddard nodded. “Which is why I do not envy any man, or Wolf, who comes to court your Daughters” he laughed then, lightening the mood.

“Nor do I” Sandor raised his glass, clinking it against the King’s as they both drank in silent celebration.

 

Sandor walked down the near-dark streets of King’s Landing, taking this rare chance to enjoy the fresh air and a night in the city before returning to the North at first light.

HIs business with King Tywin Lannister had been completed in remarkable time and now he had more important things to see to...things he would never have mentioned to another being on this earth. Not to mention fresh air free of the stench of leech—Gods it felt good to take a deep breath without gagging.

Turning onto the street of jewels, he looked over the vendors and peddlers, some of them already closing up or pushing their carts back towards their residences for the night. He’d forgotten that when darkness fell in King’s Landing, the whores and thieves ruled the streets while stray leeches sought out their next victim.

Fortunately no one would be stupid enough to cross a Berserker, and if they did, they wouldn’t live to tell the tale.

Walking further up the street, he found that there were still several carts doing business and he hoped that it would be enough. That they would have what he was searching for. He passed by several silk vendors, a few jewelers and a few more risqué dealers before pausing at a wooden cart laden down with golden combs and necklaces.

“Oh” the soft voice of a woman sounded beside him and he turned to see one of the man prostitutes of King’s Landing admiring him. “Good evening, My Lord.”

“No” he said as politely as he could, stepping away as she reached out to touch his arm.

“But I can give you such infinite pleasure” the woman insisted, causing him to turn and snarl at her.

“Fuck off” he snarled at the woman, baring his teeth and she stumbled back, eyes wide with fear. As soon as she had her wits about her, she all but ran from him and the street, returning to whatever whorehouse she had come from allowing Sandor to return his attention to the combs.

From the first moment that he had laid eyes on Sansa Stark, he had loved her. At first with the admiration of a man taken by great beauty, by her porcelain skin and fiery hair. It could have been only a passing fancy, an infatuation. But as time passed, his affection—his love evolved into the unending devotion of a man who would lay down his life for hers in an instant.

He loved her, and no matter how unrequited that love would remain, it did not change the simple fact that she would reach her majority within the next turn of the moon and deserved only the best. She deserved a gift as beautiful as she was—if that were even possible provided her beauty surpassed any in the world.

“Has anything struck your fancy?” the cart’s owner, an old man with silver hair and a beard to match, hobbled around to face him. He paused only a second at Sandor’s size, the chance of coin weighing out over any fear he felt.

Sandor looked over the items for several minutes, eliminating each piece as he went until he reached it. There it was. Gold and enamel, it boasted a wreath of vibrant flowers in an array of colors, and at the top was a little blue bird.

“This one” Sandor picked up the piece, surprised at its substantial weight. He ran a rough, calloused thumb over the flowers, lingering on the back of the bird. “This one is perfect.”

“Ah, you have excellent taste” the old man smiled. “She must be a beautiful woman to be worthy of such a lovely piece.”

“Aye” Sandor said simply, pulling several gold dragons from his pocket. “There are none like her.”

 

Sansa stepped into their bed chamber and set the candle on the vanity, allowing its reflection in the mirror to help illuminate the room. As she stepped out of her slippers she heard Sandor close and bar the door behind her.

Alone at last.

It had been a long day, but in the end it had been an eventful and lovely one. Yesterday afternoon she had married her mate, had taken Sandor Clegane as her Lord Husband and tied herself to him in every possible way. Last night they had celebrated the wedding with her Pack and family until the missing—stolen piece of her soul had returned to her.

From that moment on, the night had passed in a blur of love, lust and the cementing of a connection that could never be broken. Because of that, she woke up this morning beside her mate. She woke up with their child—their son, safely growing beneath her heart.

Just the thought of it had her hand rising to settle over her lower stomach, a movement that had already become a habit in just a few short hours. Her body showed no physical signs of pregnancy, her corset and clothing still fit but soon that would change. Sandor had said that her smell had already changed, more than just hers or a bit of his, it carried the promise of new life.

“Little Mate” Sandor’s arms banded around her from behind, hugging her back to his chest. He had discarded his jacket, the sleeves of his soft shirt brushing against her arms as his hands settled over hers on her stomach.

“Sometimes” she whispered, leaning against his strength. “When I close my eyes I am afraid to open them again because I am scared that this is all a dream” she took a shuddering breath. “And I am so terrified that when I open them I will find myself sitting on the bench alone. To be back in the darkness of my room, alone and doing my best to hide my coughs.”

“Sansa” his voice rumbled against her shoulder.

“To find that I am sick again, that I am broken. Dying.”

“My Little Bird.”

“But most of all, I am terrified to find that you are not mine” she swallowed a sob as tears ran down her cheeks.

“This is real, Little Bird” he kissed just below her ear where she knew a mole lay, one he liked to lavish with attention. “My wife. My mate. My son’s Mother” his fingers flexed over hers and she sniffled back her emotions.

“I love you” she promised, turning in his embrace, raising her hands to cup his face.

“I love you” he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close, muscles like iron bands keeping her safe. He carefully lifted her with an arm under her ass to make up for their height differences. In a flash she was looking down at him, eyes bright with emotion as she pushed his hair from his face.

He carried her towards their bed, setting her on her feet beside it where they slowly removed each others’ clothing, letting the garments fall away until nothing remained. Sandor had always been beautiful, his strength and power awe-inspiring, but now he was larger than life.

Now she barely reached his chest, one that was impossibly broad, and when she raised her arms to his shoulders he lifted her again, closing the distance to the bed and lowering them both to the counterpane. The fabric was cool against the heated flesh of her back, a lovely contrast to the warmth of her mate above her.

“I love you, Little Bird” he whispered over and over, each time punctuated with a kiss. They started soft—almost teasing, and soon they were deep, sloppy and sinful, lips and tongues battling for dominance. She shifted and parted her legs, wrapping them around his waist so that he could rock against her core. However, when she raised her hands to tug at his hair he captured her wrists and pinned them to the mattress.

“I love you, Little Mate” he said, kissing from her lips down her jaw and to her neck before lapping at her mating mark which sent electric chills through her entire body, all of them settling in her core light bottled lightning.

“I love you, wife” he promised, raising her hands to the wooden headboard, wrapping her fingers around the base. ”Leave them,” he ordered directly into her mind and she obeyed, holding onto the wood tightly enough to feel it dent under her fingers.

Her whimpers and soft moans echoed in the room as Sandor’s lips travelled across her bare body. Shoulder, sternum, the top curve of her breast and then finally he was pulling a nipple into the warmth of his mouth. The sensation was incredible, heady and powerful as he suckled her deeply. He gave the other breast the same treatment, alternating between them and not stopping until she was writhing against his frame, the sheets quickly bunching beneath them.

“I love you, Sansa,” he continued down her stomach, tongue dipping into her belly button briefly before he pressed a dozen kisses between her hips, directly over where their child lay.

“Sandor—” her words died on a gasp when strong hands parted her thighs and he nuzzled against the curls guarding her core. Pleasure streaked through her, her brain fogging over as Sandor’s lips and tongue worked in tandem to devour her.

Sansa forced herself to lift her head, committing the sight of her mate’s face buried in her most intimate place to memory. She had been lost to the mating heat the first time he had done this, too distracted by lust to member it well and she did not want to miss that opportunity again.

Their connection, their lust was only heightened—compounded by their shared emotions, their shared sensations and the way she could see both his head between her thighs and her own body writhing against the mattress.

She watched him—watched both of them, their eyes occasionally meeting until he circled her clit and then sucked deeply, pulling her over the edge entirely. Her climax struck her core, her back arched from the mattress but she held to the headboard, legs violently shaking as Sandor lapped up every drop of her moisture he could.

 

“Please” Sansa’s whimper had him pulling back from her pink, puffy sex, pausing to wipe his beard and face on the counterpane before he crawled back up her body. He could have supped on her for hours, but her pleas and whimpers had him instead determined to make love to her until they could no longer move.

He paused to admire her, the way she looked stretched out across the mattress, breasts pulled high with her hands over her head and that stunning flush covering her from cheeks to sternum.

“You’re so beautiful” he gently kissed her lips, lingering long enough for her hands to trace across his beard and into his hair.

“So are you” she assured him, smiling up at him in the way that had him feeling like the most powerful man in the world. Berserker or not. “Make love to me?” she asked, eyes full of love and admiration.

“You need never ask, Little Mate” he rocked his sheath against her once, twice and then he aligned himself with her drenched opening and slowly—ever so slowly, pushed into her.

“Sandor,” she sighed in pleasure, lifting her hips to meet his, tilting them to just the right angle so he could fill her completely. Those damned legs of hers wrapped around him like vines, holding him captive in the most delicious way. Her hands once more sought purchase in his hair but he grabbed them, locking their fingers together before pressing the back of her hands to the mattress above her head.

It was slow, languid—an unhurried pace that was a testament to two people lost entirely to one another. Or two people that had not a care in the world, knowing that they could weather any storm together.

He held her pinned with his hands and cock, rocking in a steady rhythm that had his cock scraping against every inch of flesh within her. Her body was a velvet fist around his, gripping, sucking him deeper and deeper.

He could feel her, her emotions and feelings living in his brain as they made love to each other. It would be an understatement to say that their bodies were merely ‘in tune’ with each other when they were truly moving as one soul, one body.

“Kiss me” Sansa pleaded and he obeyed without question, capturing her lips with his own, never sparing a thought for the way his scars pulled at his lips and the flesh of his cheek. The twisted mess of his face was no longer a concern of his; it did not matter to his mate therefore it did not matter to him.

Their kisses were sloppy, deep and wet as their bodies moved in tandem. Push and pull, back and forth, give and take. Their emotions, lust and love alike, bounced between them, magnifying the small world that their shared bed had become.

It built like a symphony, slowly at first and then the crescendo arrived all at once, crashing over them like a tidal wave. Sandor’s growl was swallowed by Sansa’s kiss, her body shaking as her cunt milked him in hard pulses as he poured into her. Their climax seemed to last forever, draining each of them of their strength until he collapsed over her, nuzzling his face into her fragrant hair.

“I love you” Sansa murmured aloud against his temple, the polished edge to her voice long gone leaving only slurred pleasure that caressed his ears like pure sin.

“I love you, Little Mate” he wrapped her arms around his neck, shifting higher against her body and rolling to her side. She snuggled against him as she always did, their combined scents lingering in the air of their bedroom as she threw a long leg over his thigh.

His arm beneath her settled across her back, the other found its way to her stomach where it rested over their son. He could feel it though he couldn’t explain why, especially provided how early things were, but he could. There, just beneath his mate’s porcelain perfect skin, thrummed the soul of another Berserker.

He swallowed thickly, pushing back his emotions but he should have known better, his mate lived in his head after all, they had no secrets. Were he a duplicitous man he would have reason to worry, but rather he was a only a man that wasn’t sure how to process positive emotions since he wasn’t used to having them at all.

“You’re not alone, my love” Sansa whispered, softly kissing his bearded jaw, her hand smoothing across his scarred cheek. “Not anymore, never anymore” she promised. His hand slid from her stomach to her lower back, hauling her close—close enough to hide the torrent of emotions crossing his face. He surrounded himself in her scent—their combined scent and the newest scent that clung to her core. He let himself get lost in his mate, his wife.

She held him just as tightly in return, seemingly content to be pressed to his side for the rest of eternity. Clasped tightly together, they drifted off into the deep slumber of two peaceful souls bound as one.

 

“Get away from me!” Catelyn spat as she stormed away from Lord Petyr Baelish—no, High Warlock Baelish, yet again. “Just stay away!” she lifted her skirts as she descended the steps of Riverrun, desperate to be away from him. She had found him intolerable when she thought he was merely a Lord, but to find he had been granted the title of ‘High Warlock’ made her stomach roll in disgust.

If only the others knew that a predator he was.

“Lady Catelyn, I beg of you” he gave chase and she hastened her steps, fear rising in her throat like bile. “Just a moment of your time—“ she gasped as the path before her seemed to swim like water and fell away, halting her steps immediately. She heard Baelish’s approach and her stomach dropped. Soon he would be here, standing too close and speaking too intimately. Invading her space.

“Catelyn” Baelish sighed as his fingers brushed hers. Before he could take her hand in his, her body was pulled into the safety of familiar arms, warm arms.

“Eddard” she sighed as his scent surrounded her, her face turning to burrow into his cravat to surround herself with him. His arms handed around her and something in her very soul relaxed. He smelled wonderful, of the forest and a warm fire. He smelled safe. Like home.

“Ah, King Eddard” Baelish’s face fell, his eyes burning with what could only be described as hatred. “I did not realize you would be in attendance tonight.”

“Lord Tully extended the invitation personally,” Eddard’s deep voice vibrated through her, easing her nerves. “I am, after all, Lady Catelyn’s betrothed” he added. She knew what Eddard was, he had told her several moons ago shortly before offering formally for her hand in marriage, and it did not scare her. It had the opposite effect, she felt safe in his embrace.

“I see” Baelish looked to where Catelyn’s hand rested over Eddard’s heart, his expression a wash of disgust.

“I bid you good evening,” Eddard continued. “I will see Lady Catelyn to her carriage from here.”

“Of course, good evening” Baelish gave a small bow, eyes burning through her for several seconds, and returned to the party, if reluctantly. Once he was out of sight, Catelyn’s eyes fluttered shut as Eddard placed a soft kiss to her forehead, lingering there for several moments, soothing her nerves.

“He scares me” Catelyn admitted softly, mumbling against his chest.

“I know, my Cat” Eddard replied. “We’ll be married soon and I promise I will always protect you, my love.” She sighed in relief, knowing that Eddard always kept his word, he could keep her safe. They basked in the moonlight for several moments before he looped her arm over his and escorted her down the gravel drive.

 

Baelish slid from the bed, leaving behind the rumpled, soiled sheets and the dented pillow where his lover previously lay. He pulled on his small clothes, not bothering with the rest of his robes as he crossed to the sideboard and poured himself a glass of fresh water.

There was an itch beneath his skin, one he couldn’t escape and he knew what he needed to do. No matter how many times he fucked the Red Witch, he could never rid himself of the desire to bury himself within the Wolf Princess.

Soon, he assured himself. Soon he would get his heart’s desire.

Casually sipping from the glass, he crossed to the floor length mirror to take in his appearance. Vanity, it seemed, would always be an indulgent sin of his. He had never been a particularly large man, having earned the nickname ‘Littlefinger’ in his childhood near the Riverlands, much to his mortal embarrassment. But what he lacked in physical strength, he more than made up for in sheer raw power.

Within his mind he held the power to destroy physical matter, to control elements and the intelligence to manipulate the most powerful armies in the world. He was always a half-dozen steps ahead, fighting every battle in his mind to discern every possible route and problem. To stay ahead of them and ensure they all danced to his tune.

The only one who had ever refused to dance to his tune was Lady Catelyn Tully—Stark as the current state of affairs may be. She had refused him at every turn, humiliated him on more than one occasion and had, at the last, chosen a dog over himself. He could have—would have given her the world and yet she chose to give herself to King Eddard like a bitch in heat.

With that she had signed Eddard’s death warrant and had unknowingly signed Sansa’s future away.

Finishing his water he set it aside, lifting instead the jar from his desk and focused on Sansa Stark’s consciousness. Silence filled the room as he concentrated, frustration mounting as he found only darkness.

“No” he muttered, standing to move near the window, drawing directly on the power of the moon. Forcing the power from his chest, he channeled everything he could into pulling her into his realm—but there was only silence.

Nothingness.

Panic raced through his chest, hands trembling as he struggled to breathe.

Dead, she could only be—

“No!” he yelled out, louder now. “No!”

Frantically he pulled on his robes, mind desperate to work out what could have possibly gone wrong. The piece of her soul he had managed to steal should never have harmed her—should never have been able to break his connection to her.

There was something wrong. Very, very wrong and he needed to get to Winterfell quickly.

Immediately.

Chapter Text

c.1859

“Going somewhere, High Warlock?” the cold, clipped words spoken from the Vampire Queen’s lips stopped him in his tracks.

“Your Grace---”

“Where are you going?” she interjected, stepping from the shadows of the corridor to fix him with the full weight of her glare. Violet eyes cut through any courage he had and he felt the heady drug of fear swirling through his veins.

However, in the wake of that fear was unmitigated fury--both for her stopping his plan to get to Winterfell and for the fact that he felt fear at all. How dare she make him, High Warlock Petyr Baelish, fear anything!

“Your Grace I was going to take a turn in the fresh air--”

“I warned you once never to lie to me” she stepped closer, her booted feet making no sound as she moved. “I can have another Warlock here in seconds, I have no qualms about killing you.” He felt movement behind him and then the large presence of Drogo was there, towering over him with murder in his dark eyes.

Ah yes, the lap dog. Khal Drogo was almost disappointing. A powerful warlord in his own right, it was surprising to see him so easily led around by his cock.

“Of course” he cleared his throat.

“You owe me a Baratheon” she reminded him. “In fact, you have made several promises to me, none of which you have kept. Is this a normal behavior of yours?” she quipped, her tone cold and acidic.

“I intend to keep all of my promises” he replied smoothly, hoping the lie wasn’t as obvious to her ears as it was to his lips.

“Good” she glanced over his shoulder to her husband and gave a small nod. “Then allow Drogo here to escort you back to your chambers where you will work on delivering me the Baratheon you promised. You have an hour.”

“Of course” he seethed inwardly, hating that his path had been halted. With a flourish of white blonde hair and dark robes, she was retreating down the hall leaving him with her monstrous husband. “Shall we?” he glared up at Drogo who didn’t so much as flinch. With a sigh, Baelish retraced the steps to his rooms, wondering how he would be able to escape this--he must, he had to see her!

The heavy steps of the Nightmare followed behind him without a word, reminding him with each ‘thud’ of the mess he was entangled in.

 

“Oh” Sansa said softly, more of a gasp than anything when she entered the library to find that it had been invaded by an unfamiliar, unwelcome scent. “Excuse me” she turned away, hoping to leave without being engaged in conversation, but her hopes were instantly dashed by loud footsteps.

“Please, stay” the smooth voice of Torrhen Karstark halted her progress. “I confess, I followed your scent here, hoping to speak with you.”

“How bold of you” she stood tall, just a slight bit taller than the Northerman across from her.

“I’m a Northman” he smirked, setting aside the book he had been holding upon her arrival. “We’re all bold.”

“I see” she replied politely, silently praying for someone to arrive. Arya. Sandor--preferably Sandor. He had already intercepted Torrhen once since his arrival, perhaps he would help her once more. Besides, he often found his way to the library when she was reading, he would likely already be en route.

“I take it by your scent that lingers on the books that you spend a great deal of time here, Princess” he continued, clearly unperturbed by her cold tone. “Which is your favorite?”

“I could no sooner pick a favorite rose from the gardens, Lord Karstark” she glanced at the rows of shelves, a smile coming to her lips. “They are all treasures, in their own way. This is what I would imagine Heaven to look like, filled with lovely stories and imaginations that know no bounds.”

“Well said, though I could very easily pick a favorite. Is that simple of me?” he gave a small nod, this time his smile softer, genuine. She supposed, if one were to examine Torrhen objectively, he was a handsome man. Broad of shoulder, dark of hair, like most Northmen, and his eyes were more hazel than the brown of his Father and Brother. He was not entirely without merit, but Sansa couldn’t help but find him lacking.

“No, Lord Karstark” she replied. “Out of curiosity---”

“‘The Canterbury Tales’,” he replied, guessing her question before she could even ask it.

“A good choice” she commended him.

“My brother is the warrior” Torrhen noted. “I was always the introverted scholar, though I--” his words trailed off as his eyes moved over her shoulder to the doorway. Sansa didn’t need to turn, she didn’t even need eyes or ears to know who had arrived behind her. She knew, just as she always did when he was close...

“Karstark” Sandor’s deep voice greeted and she suppressed the shiver that ran across her skin at the tone. Were she in Torrhen’s shoes, she would be terrified at the dark promises and threats that that single word held.

“Clegane” Torrhen replied, nodding to the larger man.

“Am I interrupting?” Clegane moved past her and she could have sworn that his fingers brushed across her elbow in reassurance. Sandor...

“Not at all, we were discussing favorites” Torrhen’s tone became forced, light and breezy. Sansa coughed into her gloved hand to hide her smile. “Tell me Clegane, are you a great reader?”

“A ‘great reader’?” Sandor repeated, his eyes meeting hers briefly before he scoffed and sank into the wingback chair beside the fire, the one facing her. Her chair, she raised a brow in challenge, that was her chair and he had placed himself upon the cushion to watch her--to taunt her. “I can read, that is great enough.”

“Berserkers always were more brawn than brain” Torrhen quipped with a flippant laugh and Sansa felt the room become charged with electricity--with Sandor’s anger. Torrhen was either very smart, or very, very stupid. When several beats passed with no words, Sansa finally summoned her voice. She wasn't about to let anyone speak of Sandor Clegane in such a way. Not in her presence. Not ever.

“That is a highly unfair assessment, Lord Karstark” Sansa reasoned. “And I find your logic without merit.”

“Oh?” Torrhen prompted.

“Indeed” she nodded, feeling Sandor’s eyes on her. She knew what he was doing, ever watchful that he was. He was giving her leave to handle this on her own, as his Princess it was her right as the authority in the room. But he was here to protect her if need be. “A blanket statement such as that is wholly in error. Unless of course you have met every Berserker and know them intimately enough to assess their brawn to brain ratio” she paused, tilting her head slightly. “And have you?”

“No, Princess, in truth I have not,” Torrhen lowered his head in deference. “Well said” he took a deep breath before he continued. “I will excuse myself, as I am certain that my Brother will have gotten into some mischief by now--but if you will allow me this indulgence,” he stepped closer and paused beside her. “You are a rare combination of both brains and beauty, Princess Sansa.”

With that, he strode from the room, leaving her standing at the first shelf and Sandor sitting in the chair--her chair, with a look of amusement and innocence.

“That is my chair,” she said softly, accusingly.

“All the better to see you with” he chuckled, rising from the velvet cushions to cross to the fireplace.

“You are a wicked man, Ser Clegane” she cursed him with a laugh, walking to her chair and brushing off invisible dust with a dramatic flair. “Some guardian you are.”

“I could have sent him away, aye” Sandor smirked back at her from where he was stoking the coals. “But the Little Bird has claws too, they must be used in order to stay sharp.”

“Sharp words are no match for sharp claws” she countered.

“Aye, you’re right” he agreed. “The words are worth far more. Any man can fight, a rare few can win the battle without ever lifting a finger.”

“And have I won the battle?”

“Aye, Little Bird” he moved to his chair, sinking into its comfort. “Aye, you have.”

 

“Tell me, my dear” Olenna Tyrell began, a mysterious smile tugging at her lips. Sansa paused her embroidery to look at the ‘Witch of Thorns’. “However did you manage to tame that man?”

“Grandmother” Margaery gasped, feigning offense at her Matriarch’s question.

“What?” Olenna scoffed. “He’s just so…”

“Terrifying?” Margaery whispered.

“Large” Olenna countered. “And, forgive me for saying such, uncouth.”

“One of his many charms” Sansa said, knowing that her cheeks were surely flushed bright pink by now.

“Charms?” Olenna chuckled. “Darling, when a man is that size he has no need of charms.”

“Grandmother!” Margaery’s protest was real this time and Sansa felt her cheeks flame out of control.

“Rather than talk of my husband and his merits” Sansa gave the older Witch a pointed look. “Perhaps you can explain to me my locket.”

“How do you mean?” Olenna asked, lifting her teacup from the side table to take a sip.

“It has the Baratheon sigil, and after some reading I was curious if the Divine Magic of the locket would be enhanced by his--that is to assume it is a man, his bloodline” Sansa reasoned.

“My, my, you are very intelligent” Olenna mused, more of a statement than accusation or question. “And you are quite right. The Baratheon bloodline is very strong, it always has been. Amplificare they call it. Their blood on its own has no real power, but when it is allied with the supernatural, their power grows beyond all bounds. The Guardian attached to your locket is a man of Baratheon blood, though while I have met him, it was only in passing and I have not been in a position to properly converse with him.”

“Converse?” Sansa prompted. "Such a thing is possible?"

“Indeed” Olenna began. “Since the locket has been gifted to you and entrusted to your care, you can speak with him, should you wish to.”

“And you? Have you spoken to yours?” Sansa looked to the locket around Olenna’s neck, once nestled into the pale lavender lace of her collar.

“I have” the Witch nodded. “On a regular basis, I find him to be one of my closest confidants. Mine, however, is not a Baratheon, though he is great in his own way.”

“I think that I should like to speak with him--my Guardian that is” Sansa paused. “Given my condition I will no longer be able to shift, not until...well” she cleared her throat, feeling her cheeks warm once more. “I find that I should like to be on the same page as the Guardian in my care, an entity that I am meant to trust to protect me.”

“A smart notion” Olenna agreed. “It is easy enough to accomplish once you set your mind to it.”

“Thank you” Sansa replied, picking up her needle to toy with the delicate threads through its eye. “I would do anything necessary to protect my Son.”

“As any good Mother would” Olenna nodded. “Later I will teach you how to speak with him, there should be just enough Magic in your blood to make it possible. But for now” she leaned back in her chair. “How long until we can go marvel at the men in the arena?”

“Grandmother!”

 

Baelish spoke the words, each one rhythmic and flowing, power surging through the room in ebbs and flows as he worked. Moving smoothly, never breaking beat with the words, he unrolled the world map, placing weights at each corner to keep the ancient parchment flat.

Lifting the silver dagger from the scarred wooden table he felt a shift to his right and it reminded him that the Nightmare, Drogo, was still here observing him. Baelish did his best to push his anger away; emotions could not cloud the spell, not now.

Pressing the dagger to the pad of his palm he focused, “Ostende mihi sanguis ab Baratheon” he dragged the tip of the blade across his lifeline, rich burgundy blood immediately spilling from the wound. Fire burned through his veins, the dark magic pulling at his very life force but he continued. He had delayed in using this spell until it was the only option that remained, it required a large chunk of energy and power and would weaken him for some time once it was completed.

And weakness was something that he abhorred.

Closing his hand into a fist, he allowed the blood to drip from his flesh, dribbling it across the map. The life giving liquid pooling on the parchment but not did not soak into the delicate paper. He repeated the words, moving his bleeding hand to drip over the broken, twisted dagger sitting on the table at the top of the map. A Baratheon dagger if the antlers engraved on the hilt and blade were to be believed.

“Ostende mihi faciem regum sanguis” he continued, several droplets of blood falling on the steel and when he was satisfied that there was enough, he pulled a kerchief from his robes and covered his wound. To heal it immediately would break the spell before it could work, so he would be forced to endure the indignity of the wound a bit longer.

The candles and lamps seemed to suddenly burn brighter--hotter, bright illumination spilling into the room now. Drogo shifted nervously beside him, looking around for any imminent threat of attack, Baelish could only smirk at the way powerful magic made even the most savage of killers uncertain.

He watched with feigned disinterest as the blood moved--all of the droplets traveling towards each other to form a glitter pool. The blood seemed to vibrate with raw power, like the eye of a storm. It hesitated at the center of the map for several seconds and then it was moving of its own accord.

“Vos” Drogo muttered but Baelish did not look away from the blood, not as it traveled North.

“Curious” Baelish noted when the blood settled on Winterfell, teeming with satisfaction at having successfully completed its task. “Winterfell.”

“Winterfell. North” Drogo nodded, storming from the room to report to his Queen. Baelish, however, did not follow, let the beast report to the Mad Queen. A smile crossed his lips at the idea that what they sought had been in the North all along, Winterfell was always important--in many ways.

He turned away from the map but a spark had him looking back as a single droplet broke away from the Northern pool. It bobbed and travelled it's way across the continent where it settled over Storm’s End, vibrating in place before it began to flicker.

Storm’s End!

No...

His eyes went wide as the droplet began to steam, sizzle and burn, vanishing with an audible pop and leaving behind only a scorch mark on the parchment.

“Curious indeed, but that should be impossible” he whispered the words that had his hand healing, breaking the spell. The candles dimmed to their previous vibrance as he moved about the room, pulling several books from the shelves. The largest book, an antique gold with a flaming stag engraved on the front held promise and he opened it to flip through the grimoire.

For centuries he had been collecting grimoires, the spell books of other Witches and Warlocks, each one holding intimate details of spells and potions. Knowledge was power, they said, and he had the largest grimoire collection in existence.

Flipping through the pages he found several accounts from Warlock Cressen, the High Warlock during the reign of King Stannis Baratheon the Just. Cressen was known for his creation of magical objects, including the infamous flaming sword that Stannis had used to reunite the realm and lay waste to those who had killed his family. Cressen was a brilliant man to be certain, one that Baelish had admired for some time, but he was uncertain how all of this was connected.

As far as anyone knew, there were no Baratheon’s left in Storm’s End, not since the siege during the War of the Five Kings. He had sent men there before to search the premises, they had even sent Wolves--Bolton Wolves, to inspect the keep and the surrounding properties for any sign of life. They had returned empty handed and so their search had continued…

Unless, Baelish paused, considering the idea that Bolton’s betrayal had begun long before he walked out of the Great Hall. Bolton was smart, but power hungry and he could easily see the man hiding any Baratheon for his own benefit, but then why would the blood still be in Storm’s End? It would make no sense to not hide any Baratheon…

He flipped several pages further into the book and paused, eyes going wide in surprise.

“Divine Magic” he muttered. Cressen was not known to be a man of Divine Magic….but oh he apparently was. Divine Magic was woven at the cost of the human soul, and a human soul trapped could be used by the living--or it could be resurrected. Baelish read through the pages with renewed purpose and enthusiasm, pausing when he reached a drawing of a golden locket. He traced the locket with the tip of his finger, feeling the ridges left behind by the quill's metal tip and the rough lines of the ink on the page.

He’d seen this locket before, but where?

If Cressen had dabbled in Divine Magic, if there was a Baratheon soul attached to Storm’s End, then he needed to find it. To have such power at his disposal would make him more powerful than anything in the known world.

Placing a lavender ribbon--one of Sansa’s that he had ‘borrowed’ during his time in her bed chamber, in the book to mark the page, Baelish returned to his full--if unimpressive, height. The gears in his brain began to turn as a plot took form.

He would go with Daenerys’ army to Winterfell. The Queen would get her Baratheon and Baelish would find the truth of Sansa. Daenerys did not have to know about Storm’s End. Drogo had left before he could see it with his own eyes and in doing so had unintentionally given Baelish more power than Daenerys would have wanted to.

He would ‘assist’ the Vampire Queen in her quest, and then…

If Sansa was dead--it made him sick to even think of such a nightmare, then he would go to Storm’s End. He could conceivably use the locket to bring her back from the beyond. She would spend her life at his side, she would love him. He would see to that beyond all doubt.

 

“You’re too slow,” Sandor barked into the arena, earning yet another glare from Jon’s Wolf form. “Don’t you glare at me, you little cunt, move faster!” he added, shaking his head as Smalljon once again leapt at Jon.

He’d been watching the others spar for hours, having been pulled from his bed and his Mate’s side early this morning to oversee,a s was his duty. No matter how much he wished to be back at Sansa’s side, he had an obligation to the pack, one he wouldn’t falter in.

The benefit, however, was that Sansa was never far--not truly. Their minds were connected at all times, sharing thoughts and occasional spots of their lines of sight. He could feel her within his chest, happy and safe as she passed the morning with her Mother and the Tyrell Witches.

He was surprised to see several of the Bolton wolves had joined in the fray, settling in at Winterfell with relative ease, one that he didn’t trust. Roose was a slippery fuck, living in the gray area of life and playing both sides, he intended to make sure that Roose’s betrayal, however inevitable, never came to fruition.

This afternoon, after the midday meal, he would be joining the others in the King’s offices to discuss whatever the Targaryen bitch was planning, and how they would address it. Once that was done, however, he intended to carry his mate somewhere private for no less than several hours.

“Better!” he called out to Jon who finally managed to evade capture.

“Clegane” he turned at the arrival of Roose Bolton, the man’s pale eyes looking over him carefully.

“Bolton” Sandor greeted coolly.

“You don’t trust me” Roose began without preamble. “That is understandable.”

“I have no reason to trust you” Sandor leaned against the arena fence. “A sennight ago you were allied with the horse fucker, now you’re here sniffing after my Mate. What is there to trust?”

“I suppose it would do little to assure you that, no matter the man, there is always some sort of moral code he must adhere to” Roose rested his forearms atop the wooden fence, bringing his foot to rest on the lowest board in a show of casual relaxation. Sandor wasn’t a fool, however, he could feel the tension rolling through Roose’s form.

“Moral code” Sandor scoffed. “I’ve seen what you’ve done to those who betray you. Flayed thighs to the bone, hanging them like artwork on the walls. Forgive my lack of belief in your fucking code.”

“I am a violent man,” Roose shrugged. “I have never sought to hide that. But I only sought to take back what was stolen from my family many years ago, to lead my people. I have never stolen from another Wolf, I have never harmed a female. Whatever Baelish took, whatever that mist was, it smelled of Sansa.”

“Baelish” Sandor growled, shaking his head.

“It was in a vial around his neck” Roose continued. “I could smell it and when I broke it--”

“You broke it?”

“I did,” he nodded. “It wasn’t right to keep it locked away.”

“I suppose I should thank you for that,” Sandor noted.

“But you won't,” Roose smirked, white eyes alight with amusement. “And I do not expect you to,” he added and Sandor couldn’t help but smirk in return.

“It goes without saying” Sandor began as he felt a tug at the connection to his mate. “But I am going to say it anyway; stay the fuck away from my mate.”

“I may be a violent man, Clegane, but I am not stupid enough to go against a Berserker” Roose paused. “Not without careful planning and a very large army, at least.” Sandor ground his teeth, biting back a growl as Sansa appeared on the pathway from the house, walking arm-in-arm with her Sister. Behind her the two Tyrell Witches walked arm in arm, their identical smiles disconcerting as they approached.

He watched Sansa walk, the skirt of her pale sage green dress dancing around her legs with each step. She had dressed carefully, as she always did, the high collar concealing her mating marks and resting just below her jawline, emphasizing their sharp angle. Her hair was a riot of curls piled atop her head and held in place with her golden comb.

“She is quite beautiful” Roose’s voice intruded on Sandor’s admiration of his wife and without thinking he grabbed the smaller man but the cravat, hauling him closer.

“There are no words to describe the pain I will inflict on you if you ever fucking touch her” he warned and after a pregnant pause, Roose nodded in agreement. At that, Sandor released his hold on Roose’s shirt and stepped away, striding to his Mate’s side.

“What was that?” she teased, whispering as his arm wrapped around her waist. Arya and the Witches continued onward, parting as the Witches sat on the benches and Arya passed by Roose as she ducked into the arena to spar with the others.

“Just making a point, Little Bird” he replied, placing a lingering kiss on her forehead.

“I see” she smiled up at him, that heart-stopping smile that meant more to him than anything else in the world. Her eyes were bright with happiness, skin glowing in the early afternoon light in such a way that made her look like an Angel--no, a Goddess. “Do you think you could take a moment away from making points to luncheon with me?”

“Of course” he agreed without pause.

“Perfect, because---” Sansa stopped as Arya’s scream filled the air, echoing across the trees. “Arya!” Sansa moved quickly, Sandor at her heels as they reached the arena. Arya was doubled over, the force of whatever pain she was experiencing sending her to one knee in the sand. Her back bowed as she dry-heaved several times, her body clearly unwilling to surrender its contents, coughing and choking as she gasped for air.

“Little Bird” Sandor gently wrapped an arm around Sansa’s waist to slow her progress.

“Let me go, I have to help her!” Sansa protested, Sandor chuckled in response.

“Smell the air, Little Bird? There is only one thing that can help her” he whispered against the shell of her ear. He felt her take several deep breaths, her bright eyes going wide as she processed the scent lingering in the air.

“She…?” Sansa looked up at him, a lovely flush across her cheeks. "You mean?"

“She’ll be alright” Sandor promised, eyes going back to the arena as Gendry--now in his human form and clad only in a pair of ill-fitting breeches, shoved past everyone to get to Arya’s side. A few words were exchanged before Gendry lifted Arya into his arms as if she weighed no more than a turnip.

To Sandor’s surprise, Roose opened the gate for them allowing them to pass by on their retreat to the house proper. It was a surprising show of respect that did not quite fit with the vision that Sandor had of Roose in his own mind. As they neared him, Sandor put a hand out to pause Gendry’s movement, the action was met with a threatening growl from Gendry’s chest.

“You hurt her, whelp” Sandor growled down at the smaller man. “And you’ll never find your balls. Understood?” he asked and Gendry nodded, a clipped, short motion that ended abruptly as Arya whimpered, burrowing her face further into Gendry’s neck. “Go” Sandor motioned to the house and then he was gone, moving away with Arya in his arms.

Sandor noticed that his wife’s eyes were following the pair, concern etched on her features and he pulled her into an embrace. It must be disconcerting for her to see her strong, stubborn Sister reduced to such a state.

“She’ll be alright, Little Bird” he promised, kissing the crown of her hair. “It’s part of life, and it's been coming for a while now.”

“I know” Sansa nodded. “She was short-tempered, irritable this morning. I thought something was off…”

“Aye” Sandor released her and looped her arm through his. “She’ll be right as rain, come morning. Speaking of…” he turned and looked to the older Tyrell Witch, one who was smirking as wide as the day was long.

“I am already on it” she cackled--actually cackled, lifting her skirts enough to round the bench and return to the house. Another mated Stark Princess, another silencing charm was needed for the sake of Eddard’s sanity. Sandor did not pity the poor Wolf King. The Witch of Thorns returned indoors but Margaery, however, stayed behind, her eyes on Robb Stark who was talking with the other men. He’d worry about that later, Sandor decided.

“Come” Sandor smiled at his wife. “Let us see to that luncheon.”

Chapter Text

c.1859

Sansa woke to the soft sound of Sandor’s voice, the deep rumble barely above a whisper but it was enough to pull her from slumber. Judging by the soft light coming through the windows, it was just after dawn, a new day rising in the North. They had spent the night as they did the ones previous, lost in each other until exhaustion had claimed them. She never slept as well as she did, sated and safe in her Mate's arms.

Shifting against the cool sheets, she realized that her husband was not laying beside her, but had moved to rest his head on her stomach. The weight and warmth of him against her bare flesh was a comfort, one that had a smile curling her lips.

“Husband” she ran her fingers through his loose hair, drawing his eyes to hers. “What mischief are you getting up to?”

“Talking to my son, Princess” he shifted then moved to her side, wrapping his arms around her, his fingers idly toying with her hair. “Man talk. Secret stuff.”

“Oh, I see” she laughed against the bare skin of his chest. “What time are you needed below stairs?”

“We have time” Sandor assured her, his lips curving into the lecherous smirk she had come to love.

“Oh we do, do we?”

“Aye, Little Mate” he growled, sitting up against the headboard to pull her astride his lap. His large hands splayed wide over her hips, holding her close. “Plenty of time for me to enjoy the view.”

“And are you enjoying the view?” she rocked her core against him, his cock quickly coming to life between them.

“Absolutely” he growled softly, using his hands on her hips to guide her, grinding up against her as she whimpered. Her head lolled back, hair falling behind her and she felt Sandor’s hands travelling upwards, the warmth of his touch spreading through her.

“Sandor” she sighed as his hand ghosted across the column of her throat, lingering over her mating mark he had left there their first night together for just a moment before he cupped her face.

“Beautiful” he muttered, tracing the curve of her jaw. “I could watch you--admire you forever, Little Bird.”

“I’d rather you make love to me, husband” she leaned closer, working a trail of fluttering kisses from his temple to his jawline, the texture of his scars something she rather cherished against her lips.

Her mate, her husband was a survivor. Strong, fierce and yet so incredibly gentle. She had known, she had always known from the moment that she walked into the Great Hall and laid eyes on Sandor Clegane for the very first time, that he was a man unlike any she had ever met before.

And time and time again she had been proven right.

Every time he protected her from harm. Every time he made her smile, made her laugh when all she wanted to do was cry in solitude. Every time he stood by and allowed her to speak for herself. Every time he encouraged her to share an opinion, on everything from books to current events, no matter who was listening. Every time he kissed her. Every time he made love to her, taking time to worship every inch of her body.

And every time he fucked her, taking her and reminding her that they belonged only to each other.

There were a million things that she adored about Sandor Clegane and she was sure that there were a million more she had yet to discover. And she couldn’t wait to discover them all. They had plenty of time for that, she knew all too well. Wolves tended to live for hundreds of years if not longer. Old Nan had been over a millenia in age when she had finally died. Sansa could only pray that she would have that long with Sandor and their children.

“I’d make love to you anytime you ask” Sandor mumbled against her lips at the same moment his fingers dipped between their bodies. “Already wet for me, hmm?” She sighed as he traced her folds, delving just deep enough to wet his fingers--likely with her own slick and a bit of his spend from the night's passion, before tracing them over the head of his cock.

“Always” she promised, nearly boneless as he shifted her and aligned himself at her opening. “Always” she repeated, sinking onto him. Sandor’s deep growl rumbled through them both, his cock filling her in that delicious way and she allowed herself a moment to simply savour the way he felt buried within her.

“Aye, Little Mate” he whispered his agreement, having heard her thoughts echo through their connection. She took a shaking, fluttering breath, raising her fingers to trace over her stomach, dancing across the smooth skin over her belly button and lower.

“I love the way this feels,” she purred. “Having you here, joined with me” her hand settled over her womb.

“There is nothing in the world more incredible than this” Sandor’s voice was tinged with awe, affection flooding their bond, settling in her blood like a heady wine. “Nothing in the world like knowing our child is here” his hand covered hers, rough and warm. “Growing safely, a miracle made from both of us.”

“It’s how I know that you love me” she couldn’t help but tease. “You have given me everything I could desire; including your love.” She turned her hand to twine with his, raising it to the headboard beside his head and holding him in place before giving the same treatment to his free hand. The movement of holding his hands to the wooden frame had her leaning closer, idly rocking her hips as her breasts brushed his chest.

They both knew that Sandor was only ‘trapped’ for as long as he wished to be. He could easily overpower her but she knew from the way his breathing hitched that he was perfectly content to let her hold him captive. You could hardly be a prisoner if you were willing…

Sansa started slowly, grinding their bodies together rather than moving in earnest, using her hold on his hands as leverage. Absently her mind registered the rhythmic smoothing of his thumb against hers, yet another small reminder of how much her husband loved her.

It did not take long for the gentle lust to simmer into a boil, their shared chambers filled with panting breaths and soft mewls, just as Sandor’s eyes were filled with blatant and swirling affection that made her blood race.

“That’s it, Little Mate” he encouraged, his voice tickling across her flesh as his hands flexed in hers. “Take what you need of me. Take all of it, take everything.”

“Yes” she could only force the single syllable from her lips and once it escaped she renewed her focus on her building peak. She hadn’t realized that she had wilted against him, her cheek pressed together as she rode him, not until his voice sounded beside her ear, his warm breath tickling her neck.

“That's it,” her mate purred. “I can feel you, so close, Little Mate. Are you going to be a good girl and come on my cock? Hmm?” he asked and she whimpered, biting her lower lip as she moved her hips faster, slamming onto his with firm, steady strokes.

Her breathing hitched and then her entire world exploded, every nerve firing, every muscle pulling tight as she shook with the power of her climax, sagging heavily against her mate’s chest. Sandor’s growl registered in her ear in the same moment his hands slipped from hers to take her hips, holding her in place as he fucked up into her.

The sounds of his flesh slapping against hers echoed in a sinful symphony until Sandor’s cock had driven her to another peak, this time coming around his cock as he drained into her in heated jets that coated her inner walls.

“Fuck” he whispered, his fingers flexing and releasing the flesh of her hips, sliding them to her back to hold her tight as she burrowed against his bearded jaw.

They sat together, bodies entwined and at peace until their hearts slowed to a normal pace and the sweat on their skins had begun to cool. Only then did they part with a lingering kiss, cleaning themselves up to face the day’s duties.

 

Sandor was nearly to the King’s private offices when a thump in the hall to the kitchen caught his attention. Frowning he stepped around the corner only to draw up short at the sight that awaited him. Once he realized, however, what he was looking at he could barely cover the burst of laughter that escaped from his lips.

There, leaning against the kitchen’s massive wooden table, looking more haggard and exhausted than any other Wolf in history, was Gendry Waters. He wore only breeches and a lawn shirt, his feet bare and hair a mess--as if hands had spent the night pulling at it. That was a fact that Sandor did not wish to dwell on.

“Clegane” Gendry groaned, sagging against the table.

“I can not tell if she’s finished you or brought you to life, Waters” Sandor looked him over as he chuckled, not surprised to see the mating mark--no, mating marks that marred Gendry’s neck and even the one beneath his chin, just curving to his jaw.

“I think she has killed me” Gendry laughed breathlessly. "I am not sure why I expected anything less. She does nothing in half-measure."

“Then you’re lucky” Sandor crossed into the kitchen, working deftly to plate meat, cheese and bread enough for both Gendry and Arya before grabbing a pitcher of milk. His lips twitched at the memory of a time not so long ago that he had done the same for his mate. Though, truthfully Sandor had been in much better shape than Gendry was in this moment. Poor boy had been ‘ridden hard and put up wet’. “Here” he set the plate and pitched in front of Gendry.

“Thank you” Gendry nodded, swallowing thickly, looking up at him. “Aren’t you going to ask after Arya?”

“No” Sandor scoffed. “That little Runt is likely snug and warm in bed while you’re as faint as a mayflower” his eyes went pointedly to the series of marks. “She certainly got the best of you.”

“She did” Gendry laughed then, shaking his head. "Oh Gods she did" he sighed, leaning heavily on the table.

“Do not act like you’re miserable” Sandor patted the smaller Wolf on the back. “Welcome to the family, Good Brother.”

“Thank you, Clegane--Good Brother” Gendry nodded, then paused. “I’ve never had a family before, not a proper one.”

“Then allow me to offer what is sure to be the first of many ‘brotherly’ reminders” Sandor grabbed Gendry’s shoulder, holding it just tight enough to be a warning. “As long as Arya is happy, your life will be easy, painless…” he let the unspoken threat hang in the air for several beats before he continued. “Now take that upstairs, before the rest of the house wakes.”

“I will,” Gendry replied, answering both the threat and instruction. “Thank you” he lifted the plate and pitcher before striding, however unsteadily, from the kitchens.

Sandor stood in the empty room for several minutes before his laughter filled the air, his hand running over his bearded chin in amusement. He resumed his path to the King’s offices, his mind wandering to the not-so-unexpected change in events. The little Runt had a mate now, soon she’d get a taste of her own medicine, a little payback for all her snippy comments and dramatic sighs. Sandor couldn’t want to dish that out.

But more importantly the Stark family was one more Wolf stronger and he knew that, for all his faults, Gendry would protect Arya to his dying breath, as she would protect him. Family ties and fierce loyalty were all that would get them through whatever was coming on the horizon, and he knew without a doubt in his mind that the Stark family’s solidarity would be more than enough to ensure victory.

 

“Where to begin” Olenna sat on the plush window seat beside Sansa, smoothing her pale grey skirts out over her feet. “Ah, yes,” she continued. “Go ahead and take off the locket and hold it with your hands.”

Sansa did as the older Witch instructed, working the clasp to allow the warm metal to pool into her hand. She traced her finger over the flaming stag engraving on the front, unused to seeing it when it wasn’t reflected back at her in a mirror.

“It always surprises me how warm the metal is,” Sansa said quietly without looking up. “As if a great flame lives within it.”

“The flame of righteousness, possibly” Olenna mused. “Divine magic is so rarely used, I was very fortunate to have come across it. The shopkeeper, Davos, always knows to alert me when he has found such rare items as this.”

“And yet…” Sansa paused, carefully considering her words.

“I would encourage you to speak openly with me,” Olenna cupped her hands under Sansa’s. “You have already seen that I am a woman of too much honesty and not enough propriety.”

“And yet you have gifted it to me” Sansa met Olenna’s eyes, holding her gaze. “A woman you had never met before and had no alliance to. Why?”

“I have known Petyr Baelish for many years, not a single day of which I ever trusted him” Olenna explained, carefully cradling Sansa’s hands and therefore the locket. “When your Mother rejected his advances and chose to marry your Father, something within him--some tether to the morals of men, shattered. So when I learned that you had fallen ill and by some miracle it was Baelish who helped…” she raised her eyebrows suggestively and Sansa felt the impact of Olenna’s meaning.

“You knew he had something to do with it--with me falling ill?”

“I strongly suspected and so I went to his realm and asked him” Olenna smugly smiled. “He wasn’t too happy about that little visit and it confirmed my suspicions.”

“And because of this you chose to make an alliance with my family?”

“Because of this I knew that I couldn’t let you be hurt, not by a sniveling shit of a weasel like Baelish” Olenna sighed. “Pardon my language, of course.”

“Of course” Sansa laughed.

“The moment I decided to help you--which could have been the moment that Baelish called me a ‘hag’, the locket set on its path towards me and I knew it was fated to be yours the moment I held it in my hands” Olenna released Sansa’s hands. “And now I am going to teach you how to talk with your Guardian.”

“It would be nice to put a name and face to this invisible, omnipotent protector” Sansa agreed.

“Well,” Olenna clicked her tongue. “Certainly like all other men in this world, he will instantly fall in love and throw himself prostrate at your feet” she laughed wildly, the sound free and uninhibited. At her joke, Sansa could feel Sandor’s bristling scoff in the back of her mind and a smile twitched at her lips as she imagined his grumbling expression.

“That is not an ideal plan” Sansa replied to Olenna who calmed her laughter, clearing her throat.

“Ahem, now then, let’s begin.”

“Alright” Sansa squared her shoulders, preparing herself for whatever lay ahead.

“It is very simple, really” Olenna began. “You press the locket between your palms, holding firmly to ensure the metal is flush with your skin. And, do not say them yet but when I leave, you will speak--with confidence of course, darling, volo loqui cum custos in Spiritu,” she said, repeating them several times while Sansa committed the phrase to memory. “And if he consents, you will be able to speak with him. These things are all about consent, meeting as equals. It's rude to simply ‘pop’ in unannounced, even with magic.”

“And when we are done?” Sansa asked.

“You agree to break the connection, bid each other goodbye, and it is done” Olenna assured her.

“Baelish” Sansa whispered. “The night before I shifted for the first time, he pulled me into this nightmare…”

“Did he?”

“It was a field with flowers and he was there” Sansa shivered at the horrible memory. “I couldn’t escape and the things he said…”

“He invaded your mind, that is a violation not only of trust but also of your person” Olenna said sadly. “He is not a good man, my darling girl. He is dangerous and his grip on his sanity is slipping.”

“He is going to start a war, isn’t he?”

“He already has.”

“All of this scares me,” Sansa admitted and she felt Sandor’s affectionate reassurance passing through their connection. While he could hear all that was being said, and speak to Sansa in return, he was downstairs with the others discussing strategy and the war to come.

“War is terrifying” Olenna agreed. “But you are protected, safe and strong. Being afraid is normal, there is no shame in that. Now, Margaery is likely getting into trouble with that dashing older Brother of yours, so I will leave you to your peace. You remember the words?”

“Yes” Sansa nodded.

“Then I wish you well” Olenna briefly pat Sansa’s cheek before standing, moving silently from the room and pulling the door closed behind her.

Suddenly, the silence in the library felt overwhelming and Sansa had to take several deep breaths to prepare herself.

“You’re alright, Little Bird” Sandor assured her. “I am right here with you.” His words gave her the boost of confidence that she needed and she closed her palms around the locket, holding it tightly.

“Volo loqui cum custos in Spiritu” she spoke with confidence she hardly felt. The world around her was silent for nearly a minute when suddenly she felt the world fall out from under her feet, everything going black.

And then…

“Oh” Sansa gasped, opening her eyes to find herself in the dense fog of morning, directly facing the open door of a massive stone Church. The inside seemed to glow with firelight, warmth emanating from the open door. The warmth reminded her so much of the locket, how it felt...

”Sandor?” she reached out but her connection to him felt muted, as if they were a great distance apart.

”I am here” he assured her. “I will stay with you.”

”Thank you” she focused back on the matter at hand.

A quick glance around revealed terrain she had never seen before, and beyond there was a vast, shimmering ocean though it too was hindered by heavy fog.

Wherever she was, she was far from home.

The sound of footsteps had her looking back to the Church and there in the doorway was the second largest man she had ever seen. The first being Sandor, of course.

She looked him over, just as he was coolly examining her, hoping that the details of his person would give away his identity. Atop his head, one shaved completely bald, sat a golden crown that consisted of intricately entwined antlers. Like other crowns she had seen, there were no jewels in this one, only cold metal and harsh angles.

He looked like a medieval warrior she had seen in picture books and fairy tales, all raw power and honor. He was clad in black leather, the armor plates settled over his breast and shoulders well worn and battle scarred. Even the great sword at his waist seemed to be exhausted. His face was strong, if impassive and his eyes were a shocking shade of midnight blue that she had not, for some reason, expected. But they held such sadness, unspeakable pain and loss that made her heart ache.

The final detail she noticed really should have been the first, since the flaming stag emblazoned over his heart perfectly matched the locket’s engravings. It was him...

“Good morning” he spoke smoothly, his voice deeply accented and strong.

“Good morning” she took a step closer. “My name is Sansa of House Stark.”

“A Wolf then?” he asked and she nodded in return. “I am Stannis of House Baratheon, welcome to Storm’s End” he offered his arm and she carefully took it, his height towering over her as he escorted her into the Church proper.

“It’s beautiful” she marvelled at the stunning murals on the walls and the fixtures and statues along each side. It was more opulent than any ancient Church she had seen before, filled with detailed paintings and metal stag details.

“It is the oldest Church in Westeros, somehow it has survived every war and rebellion. A small mercy of the Gods, I suppose” he explained, leading her down the aisle to the first row of pews. They paused at the base of the dais, the altar looming before them.

“Allow me to begin, before I forget,” she started shyly. “Thank you for agreeing to speak with me.”

“Of course” he gave a small nod. “I would ask that you forgive me if I am ill-practiced in conversation, it has been quite sometime since I have spoken to another.”

“You mean...you are alone here?”

“I am” he nodded. “While technically we are in Storm’s End, my being here is but an echo, a shadow. My heart was always in Storm’s End, so it makes sense that it has become my afterlife.”

“You must be very lonely, I am so sorry.”

“I am well, thank you for your concern. Even in life I was a solitary man” he escorted her to the front pew and helped her to sit before sitting a polite distance away from her on the same bench. They angled towards each other to continue their conversation. “What brings you here today, Princess?”

“I have been given a locket--your locket, though you must have already guessed as much” she began, noticing the sharp flash of pain that swept across his features as she spoke. “And I had hoped to know you--the Guardian.”

“The locket belonged to my Mother,” he looked to the altar for several seconds and when he looked back at her the pain had been schooled away from his features. “She wore it every day until she was killed.”

“I am very sorry” Sansa replied, though she knew words wouldn’t help to soothe the loss of a Mother.

“She was the reason I chose the path of a Guardian” he explained and Sansa listened intently as he spoke. “She was with child, nearly full term when the attack came and she was cut down. I knew that she was gone before I reached her side, but I held her tightly, lost to the realization that I had failed her completely. Her and my younger sibling who would never have a chance to live.”

Sansa quickly wiped the tears from her cheeks, “I am so sorry, Stannis” she used his given name without permission, and while it broke propriety, she felt that there was no space for titles and formality in this candid conversation. “I cannot even imagine how awful it was, and I am so sorry.”

“Thank you” he nodded vaguely, clenching and unclenching his jaw for several moments before he continued. “Divine magic comes at a high cost, but it is one I was willing to pay. I only sought to protect those who could not protect themselves. Which, I suppose, is what brings you here.”

“It is,” she nodded.

“I confess, I am surprised that a Wolf would find itself in possession of the locket” he said, glancing over her person once more. "They were always the strongest, most powerful of the supernatural beings."

“I am not sure how much you know about Wolves, but when a female Wolf is with child she cannot shift” Sansa said softly, placing her hand over her still-flat stomach. “They--we are trapped in our human forms until no longer carrying the child.”

“I see” his jaw clenched several times and she wondered if he was grinding his teeth as well.

“You need to tell him everything” Sandor encouraged, his presence ever-strong at the corner of her mind.

“If you would allow it,” she paused. “I would tell you...well, everything.”

He considered her offer for several seconds and then nodded, “Please do. I am quite interested to hear your story, Princess.”

“Please call me Sansa,” she politely corrected and then began, starting at the beginning she told him everything.

Her parent’s history. Sandor’s arrival in Winterfell. Her sudden illness. Baelish's arrival. Her marriage. All of it.

To his credit, Stannis listened intently, never once looking bored or impatient. He did pause her several times to ask a question or for clarification, but he allowed her to speak until she had revealed it all, laying it out before him like a story.

“I am grateful to have a greater understanding of things” he nodded, crossing his arms across his broad chest as he leaned back against the pew. “It seems that war is coming to Westeros once again, which is unfortunate.”

“It scares me,” she admitted. “The idea of war tearing across the continent and taking away those that I love. Especially now that I have so much to lose” her hand settled on her stomach once more and she did her best to hold back tears.

“There are several constants in the world; war is terrifying, unfortunately that will never change,” Stannis agreed. “You can always trust a Targaryen to be mad as a hare, and one should never trust a Bolton.”

She laughed in spite of herself and she thought a smile might have tugged at the corner of Stannis’ frowning mouth. Had he ever smiled, she thought to herself.

“Man hasn’t had much to smile about, Little Bird” Sandor said softly and she couldn’t help but agree. Stannis’ life had been consumed by war and loss, and his afterlife had been spent in eternal solitude.

Abruptly, Stannis stood, armor clattering as he strode to a large wooden table that was covered in parchments and candles. He shuffled through them for several minutes but he located whatever it was he had been looking for, and returned to sit beside her once again.

“This is a Valyrian blade” he showed her the small leather scabbard in his hands. It was old, very old, and the leather had a lovely patina from wear and tear. At the top, near the blade’s handle was a prancing stag made of metal, it too had a lovely patina.

“It is beautiful,” she noted, watching as he pulled the blade free of its home.

“This blade is connected directly to me. Just as was Lightbringer, my sword, this dagger was affixed to my belt when Cressen wove the spell and bound my soul to the locket” he explained, his eyes intense and jaw tight. “All you have to do is draw blood with it, even if it is your own from a prick of the finger, and I will come.”

“Stannis--”

“The locket, if you open it I will come but there could be a delay” he shook his head. “Divine Magic and its courtesies. But if you use this blade, I will know you’re in immediate danger, and I will come. I will protect you, Sansa, I vow it.”

“I do not know what to say,” she whispered.

“Say you will take it and keep it with you always” he slipped the blade back into its sheath and extended it to her. “You can fasten it to an ankle easily enough.”

“Already giving you gifts, I see” Sandor grumbled, surely remember Olenna's earlier gest. “And thinking about your ankles.”

“Oh hush, do not be absurd” she replied, taking the blade from Stannis, surprised at how light it was.

“Should you feel up to it, I would appreciate updates as things progress” Stannis asked, sitting up straighter.

“I will keep you updated,” Sansa promised. “I should like for us to become friends, if you will allow it.”

“I find that agreeable” he briefly looked away, as if uncomfortable with the shift in relationship. “And do not trust Roose Bolton,” Stannis added, turning back with renewed determination.

“No, I will not,” she agreed. “Thank you, Stannis. For listening and for offering to help, I am very grateful.”

“Of course” he nodded, rising smoothly and offering her a hand to help her stand as well. She slipped her fingers into his and gracefully stood, keeping the blade in her other hand. “For now I shall bid you good evening.”

“Evening?” she looked beyond the open door of the Church to see the sun setting over the ocean. “Oh.”

“We talked for sometime” Stannis gave an odd chortle of a laugh at her surprise.

“And you said you were ill-practiced in conversation” she teased, squeezing his hand before releasing it. “Until we speak again, Stannis.”

“Until we meet again” he agreed, bowing his head slightly. “Keep the blade close.”

“I will” she bid him farewell and the world around her fell away once more, this time returning her to the library. Darkness had all but fallen on Winterfell, but the library was illuminated with candles and a blazing fire, chasing the chill from the room.

Her eyes immediately found Sandor, his large frame enfolded into his chair beside the fire. He had discarded his jacket and held a closed book over one knee, his eyes watching her closely. Ever the protector, she smiled, watching over her while she talked with the Guardian. She knew that, at least for the first part of her discussion with Stannis, Sandor had been in a meeting with her Father and the Others. But once that was done, Sandor had continued to observe her and the Guardian through their connection.

It would, more than anything, make things easier as she wouldn’t have to explain what she had seen and discussed with Stannis Baratheon.

“You’re well?”

“I am” she clasped the locket back around her neck, the familiar warmth making her smile. She now had a face and a name to put to the Guardian, and she felt as if she could now list Stannis Baratheon amongst her circle of friends. Picking up the dagger she stood and crossed to where Sandor sat.

 

Sandor took the blade she extended to him, the light weight of the rare metal settling into his palm before the weight of his mate settled into his lap. Sansa sat across his lap, her legs dangling over the arm of the wingback chair as she snuggled to his chest, the crown of her head beneath his chin. As always, she fitted against him perfectly, her body the missing piece of his own and he sighed in relaxation at being connected to her once more. Setting the blade on the side table, he wrapped his arms around her, holding her close.

“He agreed to help” she said, the words more of a relief than a statement of fact and he ‘hummed’ in response. “He looked so very sad.”

“The men in his time did little but fight and die, Little Bird” he assured her. “He has not seen much joy.”

“I know” she whispered and he could see that the Guardian’s sadness weighed heavily on Sansa’s heart. His wife was a loving and warm woman, it would only make sense that seeing others so unhappy would sadden her. In truth she had seen the pain and unhappiness in his own eyes many times and immediately soothed it away. He could see that the duty of the crown was a heavy burden for Stannis Baratheon to wear, as were the painful memories of his past. The man had taken shelter in a Church on his family’s property, hiding away in the shadow of a world he had died to protect. No, there was little for Stannis to smile about.

Sandor had listened to their conversation through his bond with Sansa. Seeing, hearing, even smelling was possible if he focused, which made him feel better about the odd way she had looked, peaceful and sleeping on the window seat in the library, her mind in another world.

“I am glad that he will help” Sandor admitted. “As your Mate it is my duty to protect you but if things go badly, I will be needed with the armies and I cannot bear the idea of being parted from you.”

“I will be safe” Sansa promised, raising a hand to rest it on the fabric of his waistcoat over his heart. They sat in silence for several moments, the crackling of the fire filling the air, until Sandor spoke.

“There is one thing, Little Bird” Sandor placed a kiss on the crown of her head. He had noticed the smell the moment he had taken a seat in the library. Away from the King’s offices and the other males, he could finally focus on where Sansa was, what surrounded her and it had surprised Sandor entirely.

“What is that?”

“Stannis Baratheon smells familiar” Sandor whispered, leaning closer to bury his nose into her hair. Even her proximity to the man during the length of her stay had his distinct scent lingering in her hair. Sansa, of course, had never been close enough to another male to recognize the familiar scent, but Sandor had trained and fought alongside the males for years, he knew it straight away. While part of him--most of him, bristled at another man's scent on his Mate, he was oddly grateful that it had, as it served to confirm his suspicions.

“He...the Baratheon blood?” Sansa raised her head to look at him, her eyes wide, the pale orbs reflecting the firelight.

Sandor nodded, “He smells like Gendry Waters…”

“Oh. Oh no.”

Amplificare” Sandor spoke the word as a pang of fear settled into his gut.

Chapter Text

c.1859

Sandor’s Meeting Earlier that Day…

Sandor didn’t bother to knock on the King’s door, simply turned the handle and let himself into his ruler’s private offices. The others were already here, Benjen, Jon and Robb, all gathered around the large map table, talking with Eddard. Jaime Lannister and Oberyn Martell had also been invited to join, the two Vampires standing together at the far end of the table. While Gendry should be here, by now he had surely stumbled back to the Runt’s room and was doing his best to keep up with his mate.

They all paused at his arrival, turning to greet him and make space around the table before they continued. Once proper pleasantries were exchanged, they proceeded with their discussion of the current events.

“Like I said, the Targaryen and her Nightmares have landed in Dragonstone” Oberyn repeated, pointing to several areas on the map.

“How did you come by this?” Sandor asked, looking to the olive-skinned man in confusion. Oberyn, however, never faltered, chuckling to himself in the wake of Sandor’s hard glare. “In the wake of so much celebration, you did not notice Elia slip away” Oberyn glanced around dramatically. “My Sister Elia is a very special woman, Clegane. Light as a feather and cunning as a fox. She was able to watch the ships land from a distance and report back without being spotted.”

“Impressive” Sandor said begrudgingly.

“Remind me to teach you the secret of the Dornish, masking your scent in the wind” Oberyn smiled. "You will be all but invisible."

“Elia is back watching their movements now,” Jaime explained. “And within the sennight, Tywin Lannister will be marching towards the North with his Sentinels.”

“Sentinels, Gods” Eddard sighed, bracing his hands against the table and leaning against its solid frame. “There have not been Sentinels in the North for generations.”

“With good cause, I assure you” Jaime reasoned. “We tend not to live long here” he looked to Sandor, the grimace on his golden features making Sandor bite back the need to apologize. Again.

Though the Vampires could never hope to have a true equivalent to a Berserker in their species, they did have Sentinels. They were purebred Vampires, strong, fast, trained from birth to achieve maximum efficiency when it came to killing. Jaime had been amongst their ranks until duty had called him to learn all aspects of ruling from his Father.

Jaime’s grimace, of course, was due to the fact that Sandor had fought against them centuries ago. He had torn through more than his fair share of them, leaving their corpses strewn across the battlefield. It was not a thrilling experience that he would wish to partake in again, but fortunately now and for many years he has fought at their side rather than opposite them.

“How many?” Sandor asked Jaime.

“Some, not all” he smirked, obviously wishing to keep his royal secrets to himself. Giving away the number of Sentinels that the Lannisters had trained wouldn’t be a wise choice in any circumstance.

“And what of the Nightmares?” he asked, looking over to Oberyn. No one questioned the way that Sandor took command when he entered the room, they never had. Stark knew that he could never hope to defend his throne in single combat if Sandor chose to challenge him, but he also knew that Sandor had fought in, and survived many wars. Sandor knew the ins and outs of every region, every species, he had experienced enough bloodshed to make even the strongest second guess themselves.

“From what we could tell there were a dozen ships, give or take” Oberyn noted. “Close to five-hundred Nightmares, most likely.”

“So many,” Benjen noted, shaking his head.

“They breed at a rapid pace. Take the unwilling after each victory and plant seeds they have no right to” Sandor growled. “Buggering rapists, the lot of them.”

“Then we will show them how things are done--and what is not done here across the Narrow Sea” Benjen added grimly, his eyes darker than pitch and filled with fury. In the years that Sandor had been in House Stark, the mysteries of Benjen still remained cloaked to him.

The King, Sandor knew, was the second son, having taken over rule when his elder Brother was killed but Benjen...Sandor knew little of his inner workings and motives. He was honorable, that much he knew, dedicated to his family but a lone Wolf, in the sense that he did not spend much time galavanting with his Nephews and the Pack.

Sandor’s attention wavered momentarily as he focused on the conversation that Sansa was currently finishing with Olenna Tyrell above stairs. With their connection as strong as it was, it was possible for him to exist in two places at once, ensuring that his Little Bird and their Pup was safe at all times.

“Clegane” Eddard’s voice pulled him back to the present and he nodded to his King. “What of the Boltons?” Eddard asked, his obvious distrust for the other Wolves in residence evident in his eyes--and in the fact that they had been purposefully excluded from this meeting.

“He wants something, I do not know what just yet” Sandor replied. “But time will reveal his secrets or I will resort to beating them out of him. I know this much, I do not trust him, no sane man would, but I do trust him slightly more than I do Baelish.”

“Not saying much,” Robb scoffed. “Baelish would sell your body to Lys to get ahead.”

Sandor agreed and continued, “Roose isn’t lying when he says that he has left Baelish’s madness behind, I would be able to smell it on him if he was. But he isn’t being entirely truthful either.”

“Not to mention he came here to fuck Sans--”

“Mention my wife in such a manner again, Martell, and only your ‘Special’ Elia will be able to locate your rotting corpse” Sandor interrupted the Dornish man, glaring at him across the map table. The room was silent for several moments while the two men had a conversation entirely beyond words, this one ending with Martell nodding in deference.

“Understood,” Oberyn said.

“Not long ago we researched Sansa’s locket in the library. Neither of us were sure of what the Tyrell Witch had given her and wanted to know for ourselves” Sandor began, recounting the details that Sansa had read aloud to him regarding Amplificare and what it entailed. He took his time, making sure that not a detail was missed, including Sansa’s mention of her Aunt Lyanna and her Mate. Contrary to what Sansa might have thought, he was listening to her--though he was always partially distracted when she was in his arms.

When he mentioned the name Lyanna (as Sansa had in the library), and then the similar appearance to Gendry, Jon stepped forward, listening intently. Eddard also lifted his head, his interest clearly piqued by the new information.

“Why did you not mention this sooner?” Eddard asked.

“Things have been...complicated, obviously” Sandor reasoned and Robb scoffed loudly, shaking his head. Sandor merely fixed the younger man with a glare that instantly shut down his amusement.

“So Baratheon blood amplifies the power of the supernatural” Jaime pondered aloud. "It would make Vampires or Wolves stronger, faster etcetera?"

“It would” Sandor nodded. “Or so they believe.”

“It is said that their line died out at Storm’s End” Benjen interjected.

“Said but never proven” Eddard replied. “Lyanna told me about how Robert used to boast he had Baratheon blood in his family line.”

“Why did I not know of this?” Jon asked softly, his eyes that of a wounded pup.

“It was never proven” Eddard replied. “You were born a Wolf, that much was evident. Lyanna’s blood ran strong in your veins and there was never any proof that Robert Stone was Robert ‘Baratheon’ by any stretch of the connection.”

“But how does Gendry factor in?” Jaime asked. “You said the image in the book looked like him?”

“It does” Sandor nodded.

“What is the name of this book?” Benjen asked and Sandor replied with the name. “Excuse me” Benjen moved swiftly from the room, presumably to the library to locate the book in question. They took the opportunity then to pour drinks and pause their discussions to process everything.

Sandor turned his attention to Sansa’s conversation with Stannis Baratheon, listening in as she began to relay their story so far. Stannis seemed an honorable, if aloof, sort of man. Sadness seeped from him in such strength that Sandor could feel it through his bone to Sansa. He was tall, broad and imposing, but Sansa was used to dealing with a Berserker every day and didn’t let him intimidate her, his strong Little Bird.

Sandor looked through Sansa’s eyes, taking in a bit of the details of the Church she sat in--especially the murals depicting the War of the Five Kings.

“It's his image” Benjen announced the moment the study door was closed behind him. He crossed to the map table and placed the open book across the surface, all of them moving closer to examine the portrait.

“So Gendry is a Baratheon?” Jaime concluded.

“So it would seem,” Oberyn agreed.

“And Sansa’s locket is Divine Magic…” Sandor trailed off, unsure he wanted to reveal that Sansa was looking directly into the face of King Stannis Baratheon. Which meant that if, by some miracle of Divine Magic, Stannis still had a scent, it would be possible to compare it to Gendry to confirm. Buggering hells, this was going to get messy. He had to trust them, trust that they were all going to help him keep his family safe. For a Berserker, trust did not come easily...

“Clegane?”

“Stannis Baratheon” Sandor said without context, earning several looks of confusion. “The Guardian in Sansa’s locket is King Stannis Baratheon.”

“Gods” Robb inhaled, running his hands over his face. "How is that even possible?"

"Ask your little Witchy friend" Oberyn snarked, earning a glare from the Stark heir.

"She's not--"

“But that isn’t the only problem” Eddard cut in, pointing to the portrait. “You did not have an opportunity to meet him, Clegane, but Robert Stone looked very much like this” Eddard tapped his index finger on the portrait.

“Fatter” Benjen quipped.

“Fatter, but still” Eddard looked to Jon, the two men sharing an unspoken conversation. Though Jon had been raised as Eddard’s son, it was no secret that he was his Nephew by blood. Still, the boy had wanted for nothing and Eddard had done all he could to keep him safe.

“Wait” Jaime shook his head, raising his hands. “The Targaryens murdered Lyanna and her mate, claiming it was for Rhaegar's death but is it possible they did so in the process of trying to turn him or her?”

“You can’t turn a Wolf into a Vampire, it's not done” Eddard informed him. “Creating hybrids has to be done with a Wolf as the base, the beating heart is vital. But it causes the Wolf unbearable pain--a half-death essentially and leaves them mentally unstable before their hearts inevitably give out. House Reyne tried and failed. Your Father and Sandor interceded to end the experiments.”

“Ripped his fucking head off, s’what I did” Sandor chuckled, remembering his visit to House Reyne not so long ago.

“Left it in the umbrella stand, if I remember” Robb added with a smirk.

“Just so” Eddard inclined his head. “If they had tried to turn Robert, it would have killed him and Lyanna would not let an attack go unaddressed, she would have died trying to save him” he added and Jon paced to the window, cradling his face in his hands for several moments as the tension in the room amplified exponentially.

“If this is all true” Oberyn became the voice of reason. “Which, at this point this is all speculation, then every living Baratheon is here in Winterfell.”

“Yes” Benjen frowned deeply, pulling the book closer to read over the text.

“Then they’re--the Nightmares, are coming here” Jaime looked to Oberyn, catching the meaning of his words. “They’re not marching on King’s Landing as we anticipated, they’re marching on Winterfell.”

“Then it is fortunate that Father of yours is bringing Sentinels” Sandor sighed, running his hand through his hair. Seeing that Jon was still staring out the window, he crossed to the younger man's side and placed his hand on his shoulder.

“Clegane” Jon acknowledged softly. “It should be a comfort, knowing that your Mother loved your Father enough to protect him” Sandor said quietly.

“She did,” Eddard said as he joined their private moment. “And Robert would have done anything for her and you, Jon.”

“Is it possible that Gendry is Robert’s bastard?” Jon asked bluntly, surprising them both. “That he is my half-Brother?”

“It is possible but you do not smell alike” Eddard replied with a frown.

“Gendry would have been born to a human woman--a mortal, and then changed” Jon sighed. “I was born of a Wolf--two wolves, given that my Mother changed my Father.”

“The scents would be different,” Sandor agreed. “It could be enough to keep Jon safe.”

“And Gendry?” Eddard asked. “He is my Good-Son now, though Gods above, I do not want to think about what is going on upstairs.”

“We will protect him,” Sandor said simply, not wanting to be the one that tells King Eddard that Gendry had been thoroughly ravaged by the feral Stark daughter. “Or we leave them to Arya to deal with. The Runt is like to kill them all to keep that boy safe” he added and both Jon and Eddard laughed, knowing how fierce Arya was when it came to guarding those she loved.

“We will protect Gendry,” Eddard agreed. “We will send word to Tywin that he may need more than his Sentinels” Eddard spoke loud enough to address the room, looking to the others before meeting Sandor’s eyes. “And should it be necessary to protect Sansa, we will be prepared for that as well.”

“One problem, one enemy at a time. Baelish will come, though I hardly see the weak little shit standing out on the open battlefield” Sandor replied. “Nightmares or not, I am going to kill him.”

“Good” Jaime leaned a cocky hip against the map table, crossing his arms. “I cannot wait to see you tear his head off.”

“If you’re lucky, I’ll toss you the body” Sandor smirked, raising his glass in salute.

“You give me the loveliest gifts, Clegane. Do not tell that wife of yours, she’ll be terribly jealous” Jaime winked, effectively breaking the rising tension in the room.

 

Gendry stumbled, laughing under his breath as he steadied himself against the nearest wall before attempting to walk once more. It was stupid to be this drunk and alone in the middle of the night, especially anywhere near the street of steel which was less than a half-block away.

But alas.

He’d buried his Mother today. With only the Vicar there to bear witness, her body had been interred in the plain pine box, lowered back into the Earth from which she came. She was gone and now Gendry, the poor little bastard boy, was alone.

Not entirely alone, he snickered to himself as he raised the near-empty bottle to his lips, taking another deep drink. The whisky burned a fiery trail down his throat and he smacked his lips loudly as he wheezed.

Crossing in front of a men’s clothing shop, Gendry stopped to stare at the tailored suit in the window for several minutes. His eyes drank in the fine fabric of the cravat, the polish of the buttons on the waistcoat, and the simple lines of the crisp fabric. He had never owned a suit before, hadn’t needed one. He was born on the wrong side of the blanket to a woman who worked far harder than she should have had to just to feed them both. A woman who never even bothered to tell him who his Father was, he drank deeply from the bottle. And now he would never know.

As he lowered the bottle, he caught his reflection in the shop’s window--just barely visible in the gas street lamps. Whose face did he have? He looked nothing like his Mother who had golden hair and deep brown eyes. Whose shoulders did he have? Surely they were his Father’s since his Mother was half his size.

Gendry shook his head, dark locks falling over his forehead as he sighed. He didn’t know who he was, what sort of future did a man like that have?

Movement in the window altered him to the stranger's arrival and he turned to see a broad shouldered man with pale eyes staring at him with open interest.

“What do you want?” Gendry barked at the older man, glaring at him as he raised his hands in frustration. Had the bottle been fuller it might have dripped onto the sidewalk at the gesture. Fortunately no whisky managed to escape in his carelessness.

“Care to share?” the man nodded to the bottle, taking a long drag from the cigarette in his hand, the bud glowing brightly in the dim light.

“Fuck off” Gendry scoffed, turning to resume his path to the street of steel where his cot awaited. However when he turned, the man was already there in front of him. “What---?” Gendry whirled to look behind him, his balance unsteady and he stumbled into the shop window.

“No matter” the man finished his cigarette and dropped it to his feet. Gendry watched the lamplight reflect off of the man’s polished boot as he stamped out the bud, his vision wavering. He was, he realized, very very drunk.

“Drunk” Gendry muttered aloud.

“Indeed” the man agreed and in a flash, his hand was around Gendry’s throat, fingers holding just tight enough to restrict his airway. “Which is perfect for me” the man's fingers suddenly felt like claws, long nails digging into the flesh of Gendry’s neck and he felt the hot trail of blood escaping from the wounds.

If he were sober, Gendry would have been able to fight back. He was strong, he’d worked as a blacksmith for some time and saw the way the tavern maids watched him. But being piss drunk, while making his Mother’s death slightly more bearable, was clearly not helping him here.

Gendry tried to fight but the man pinned him to the shop’s window, glass cool at his back held him prisoner as teeth--sharp and violent, replaced the hand and tore into Gendry's throat. The shattering of glass filled the air as his precious whisky fell to the ground. He screamed out, tried to push the man away but he was built like a brick wall and was just as impossible to budge.

The shrill ringing of police whistles filled the air and hope blossomed in Gendry’s chest, help was coming!

The man, having heard them, pulled back abruptly and released Gendry, who slid to his ass with less grace than a newborn foal. He stared up at the stranger, watching in rapt fascination as he produced two kerchiefs from his pocket, tossing one to Gendry's lap before wiping his face clean with the other.

“It’ll heal soon. Won't even leave a scar” the man said, returning to his impassive facade. “But you’d best clean up.”

“Who are you?” Gendry managed to choke out, raising the snowy white fabric to cover the gaping wound that burned at his neck.

“A friend” the man crouched as the footsteps of approaching police echoed around them, he patted Gendry's cheek and glanced to the moon. “And someday soon, your Alpha.”

“Alpha?” Gendry choked on the word, eyes closing for just a moment as he caught his breath, but when he opened them, the man was gone. “What…” he muttered for the second time in as many minutes. How was that even possible?

“You there!” the cutting voice of a police officer had Gendry looking to the right. “You alright?”

“I…” Gendry paused, wondering what he should say. Surely they wouldn’t believe that some random, suited man had bitten him. It would be Bedlam for certain if he said that much. “Yes, I’m alright” he lied, flexing his neck as he struggled to stand. “I’m alright, Sir.”

 

“Come, let us retire” Sandor’s deep voice rumbled a moment before he rose from the wingback chair, easily keeping her in his arms, one at her back, the other at her knees. He crouched slightly so that she could grab the Valyrian blade from the table before he continued on his way, carrying her from the library.

Sansa wrapped her arms around his neck, resting against his shoulder with a sigh. He could tell that her conversation with Stannis and its following revelations weighed on her, and that was without her knowing the full extent of his meeting with the others.

Surely she had heard bits and pieces through their connection, just as he was able to follow her talk with Stannis. He would tell her everything, fill in the gaps and bring her up to speed tomorrow. Tonight, however, he would push aside the knowledge that war was coming to Winterfell and indulge himself with his Mate’s company. Tonight they could escape, if only for a little while, and get lost in their own world--a world where there was no impending danger or battles that would pull him from her side.

They earned a few second glances as he carried her through the halls, but no one was stupid enough to stop them as he took his Mate to their chambers. A passing maid tried to avert her eyes and get by without incurring the wrath of the Berserker, but he stopped her nonetheless, requesting a bath and dinner tray to be brought to their rooms. She quickly nodded in understanding and scurried away.

Sandor chuckled at her retreat, still finding it somehow impossible to believe that everyone that came across his path was afraid of him, but not his Little Bird. The seemingly delicate, proper Stark Princess was stronger than any warrior out there; she was a marvel, his She Wolf.

He could only endeavor to deserve her, to prove that he was worthy of the gift of Sansa Clegane.

Entering their rooms, he set her on the bench at the foot of their large bed, crouching to remove her shoes. He had just removed the second shoe when he felt her hand up his cheek, guiding his eyes up to hers.

“They’re coming, aren’t they?” she whispered, her thumb smoothing across his scarred cheek.

“Aye, Little Bird” he refused to lie to her, they could look the truth in the face together, as they did all things. He took her free hand in his own, holding it firmly. “Gendry is a Baratheon, just like Jon.”

“Jon” she inhaled, eyes glossing over with sadness.

“I won’t let anyone--least of all that Targaryen cunt, hurt you or your family, Little Bird” he promised her, breaking his decision not to talk of it this night. “I vow it--”

“You must protect yourself as well, for there is nothing in this world as dear to me as you are, Sandor” she pleaded. “Promise me that you will be safe--”

“Little Bird--”

“I mean it, Sandor Clegane” her voice grew stronger, more demanding. “You will not--I will not permit you to leave this world, not while I am still in it. I forbid it. Our Son will know his Father, and he will be our first child, not our only child.”

“Alright, Little Bird” he couldn’t help but smile up at her. “I will keep everyone safe, we shall all be safe.”

“I wish that I could fight alongside you---”

“No, absolutely not” he shook his head but this movement had her hand to slipping from his, holding his cheeks captive.

“Yes” she corrected. “I am not weak, Sandor, not anymore.”

“You were never weak. I tried so many times to tell you that you were never, even in the sickbed, weak” he argued softly. “But you are my Mate, Sansa, and as such it is my honor to protect you” he moved his hands to cup her still-flat stomach, “And your battle is still to come” he added, knowing that birth was not an easy task in any circumstance, and given he was so much larger than Sansa, he feared for her health during her labor.

“We each have our battles, my love” she smiled then, some of the sadness vanishing from her brilliant eyes. “But our enemies grow in number and I just…” she took a ragged breath, her body trembling as her hands on his cheeks faltered.

“I know” he whispered. “But I have a few centuries left in me, Mate, and I intend to spend them at your side.”

“As do I” Sansa agreed as several maids appeared, setting a dinner tray on the sideboard before moving quickly into the ensuite to draw their bath.

“For tonight; a bath, then dinner...then bed” Sandor informed her, shifting her skirts to rest upon her knees so that he could untie her garters. Before Sansa he had not been well-versed in the layers upon layers of proper women’s fashion, but now he knew his way around each tie and button. He slid her stockings away, laying them as gently as he could on the bench beside her, allowing his fingers to linger on the silky skin of her thighs before he stood.

A glance told him that the maids had finished their work, closing the bedroom door behind themselves as they departed. He carefully stood, fingers working at the buttons of his waistcoat so he could slip it and his jacket from his shoulders.

As he tossed his wrinkled cravat aside, he felt Sansa’s slender fingers at the plackett of his breeches, working the buttons free with unpracticed ease. Her hand slipped into his small clothes to pull his half-hard cock free, his flesh leaping at her touch as blood rushed to where she was now stroking him.

While Sandor was intimately acquainted with her body, Sansa was still learning his. He saw no need to ask or pressure her to, they had an eternity to learn each other and he was more than satisfied with their marriage bed--no man in his right mind would complain about being wed to Sansa Stark.

Her touch was, at first, tentative and unsure. Wrapping his hand around hers, he guided her in just the right way to stroke and twist. He held her hand for several seconds, but his Little Mate was a fast learner and soon she was in control. In the past, he had never allowed a woman this intimacy. He didn’t trust anyone with the slight modicum of control it would give them over him, but now...

“Fuck” he was not prepared for the way it felt as her tongue flattened against the underside of his shaft, dragging up the sensitive flesh. A harsh growl tore free from his throat and a hand moved unbidden to her hair. Sliding beneath the heavy locks to cup the back of her head, he silently encouraged her growing confidence. To the side he could see their reflection in Sansa's vanity mirror, could watch as her tongue licked and lapped at him. It was the picture of sin, her sitting before him, his shirt open and breeches splayed wide as she sucked his cock.

She whimpered and he turned his eyes back to his ministrations, swaying on his feet as he felt her own arousal vibrate through their connection. His Little Mate was enjoying this, Sandor smiled. He couldn’t tear his eyes away from the way her lush pink lips parted, sliding against the length of him, sucking deeply and lingering on the head before working him back into the depths of her mouth. For a brief moment, she went too deep and he hit the back of her throat--Gods that felt incredible. She pulled back with a cough, looking up at him with wide, watery eyes.

“Little Mate” he muttered the term of endearment that he used when it was only them alone in their bliss. His thumb moved to trace her lower lip, breaking the strand of saliva that still connected her lips to his cock. Her eyes darted to the weeping tip of him, distracted by the precum that was surely leaking free. Before he could move, she leaned forward to lap him clean, tasting him on her tongue for several seconds before smiling up at him.

“You know what I taste like, Husband” she whispered, her breath skating across his overheated flesh. “Now I know what you taste like.”

“Almost, Little Mate” he purred. “But as much as I’d enjoy coming down your throat--and I would greatly enjoy that, I would much rather take you in the bath. There I can see to both of our pleasures.” And wash away the lingering Baratheon smell, he didn’t need to mention that but she likely heard it in his thoughts regardless.

“Help me with my dress, husband?” she released his cock with a final, sinful stroke and he stepped back, helping her to stand. She turned her back and he loosened the ties of her gown, then corset, helping her to shed them both. When at last she turned back to face him, her clothing had fallen away, pooling at her feet and leaving only brilliant porcelain skin bare to his eyes.

“Beautiful, you’ve always been so bloody beautiful” he traced a fingertip across her collarbone, watching the gooseflesh travel across her breasts, pulling her nipples taut. Wearing only a dangerous smile, Sansa helped divest him of his clothing. The moment he was free of their confies, he lifted his bride back into his arms and made way to the bath.

Sansa held to his shoulders as he stepped into the large copper tub, carefully sinking into the water. In order to accommodate them both, Sansa shifted on his lap, her legs parting to settle astride him, long legs wrapping around his back, chests pressed together. His cock, still more than ready to be sheathed inside of her, sat nestled between them in the hot water.

“Here” Sansa whispered, grabbing the soap to work it into a lather between her hands. They took their time, savouring the warmth of the water as they bathed each other. He couldn’t stop his eyes from fluttering closed as Sansa scrubbed at his hair, the shoulder-length locks consumed by lather before she washed the suds away.

Her hair took considerably longer to clean, but he was determined to care for her as she had him. He had never been one to day dream on moments of shared intimacy or affection, but even before he could call Sansa his own, he had wondered what it would be like to care for her--to physically care for her. Help her to dress, to brush her hair and share these unique private moments together. They were, in reality, more incredible than he could have imagined. Just as she was.

When the last of the soap was rinsed away, Sansa set the pitcher aside and shifted in his lap, grinding against him.

"You've made me wait long enough" she chided him.

“Impatient” he smoothed his hands up her back, tracing the ridges of her spine as she took him in hand, stroking him with confidence now. He didn’t need much preparation and without delay she aligned him with her opening and sank home, not stopping until he bottomed out inside of her.

 

“Fuck” Sansa felt and heard her husband’s growl against her jaw. His body, while still strong and muscular in her arms, was lax and pliant with pleasure. His fingers flexed against her back, holding her tightly to him as they sighed in relief at finally being joined. It had been a long day, trying and emotional for them both and she knew, deep down, that things were going to get worse before they were better. She would weather any storm at Sandor’s side, fully confident that they would get through it as long as they were together.

Nuzzling her forehead against the soft tickle of his beard, she rocked against him. She moved slowly, mindful of the water surrounding them and with the intention of keeping him buried deep inside of her for as long as possible. Here, in this moment she felt whole and complete. Here nothing could harm them, harm their Son, their family.

Sandor’s arms banded around her as if they were made of iron, holding her tightly to the wall of his chest as he moved. Her husband held her like a man drowning, unwilling to be parted with her more than was necessary for them to make love.

It was unhurried, languid in the sense that neither of them wished to leave the bubble they had created for themselves. In their slow and steady pace, Sansa was able to savour and enjoy every sensation and flex of muscle. Her husband’s form was powerful to say the least and with her arms and legs wrapped around him, she could thoroughly enjoy every inch of him.

Turning, she captured his lips with her own, drinking deeply of his mouth. She brushed past the scarring at the corner of his mouth, eager to taste the man himself and she was not disappointed. Her hands clung to his neck and shoulders, leaving moon-shaped indentations with her fingernails from the strength of her grip. She was so lost in her husband’s kiss, the delicious drag of his tongue against her own that she barely registered his fingers as they carded into her hair, holding her snug to him even as his opposite hand encouraged her hips to move harder, faster.

“Sandor” she gasped against his mouth, mewling loudly as he pulled her lower lip between his teeth, gently nibbling on her.

“That’s it” Sandor released her lip but kept her mouth close. “Such a good Little Mate, you take my cock so well” he continued, muttering those filthy, wonderful words that he knew shot through her bloodstream like a drug. With each dark promise and encouragement, his lips brushed against hers, just as the thick hair across his chest brushed against her nipples. Both served to speed her towards the climax she so desperately ached for.

She felt it building, knew it was coming and welcomed it, but when it took her she gasped in surprise, sobbing wildly against his mouth. Her body seized and trembled, fluttering around the velvet-over-steel length of him in wild rhythm. Her hips stuttered but Sandor’s strong grip was there to help. He fucked her through her peak, growls of pleasure rumbling from his chest.

“Please” she managed to plead between gasps and cries. “Please come in me, Sandor, please” she begged, feeling the physical reaction Sandor’s body had to her words. In their wake he adjusted his legs behind her, feet flat on the tub’s bottom as he slammed into her over and over.

“Fuck, Little Mate.”

“Please.”

“I’ll fill you,” he promised. “I’ll give you what you want, such a greedy thing you are, begging for my cum” his fingers flexed then tightened in her hair, guiding her head back until her spine arched. The new angle sent shivers through her body, she felt possessed--wild and uninhibited. Her breasts bounced with each punishing thrust, water splashed over the edges of the tub but there was no stopping them, not as Sandor held her in place, pushing her higher and higher.

“Please” she sobbed, the broken word tearing through the last of her Mate’s control. He came with a roar, pushing his cock as deep as it could go and holding her tight, pulsing against her still-fluttering walls as he filled her. He seemed to come forever, his essence flooding through her, warming her blood.

After several moments, his forehead fell to rest over her sternum, their breathing ragged in the sudden silence of the room. Sansa raised her hands, absently running her fingers through his damp hair. Sandor purred in pleasure, turning to rest his ear over her heart--a heart that he would hear racing, beating out a rhythm of satisfaction. Sandor had been so long deprived of affection and the soft touches of another, it tugged at her heart. It was her honor as his wife and his mate to shower him with affection enough to compensate for the centuries of solitude and war.

“I love you, Little Bird” he spoke in a voice so soft she barely heard him. “I love you and I promise I will protect you.”

“I know” she kissed the crown of his head. “I love you too.”

Chapter Text

c.1859

The next time that Sandor joined the others in the King’s offices was the following day and this time, he had his wife on his arm. Escorting Sansa into the room proper, they took their place beside the others around the large wooden table, ready to share the information they had learned about Stannis. As before, it was still covered in maps and letters, but it was now also covered with any book that could hold information on the Baratheons and any previous record of Amplificare. Benjen had thrown himself into research like a man possessed, Sandor couldn't help but admire his dedication.

“Lemon Cake,” Eddard kissed Sansa’s forehead in greeting and Sandor didn’t miss the way the King’s eyes lingered on the Valyrian blade in his Daughter’s hands. “You’re looking well.”

“Thank you, Father” Sansa smiled. “I am quite well.” And she was, Sandor mentally acknowledged. In truth, she seemed to be glowing with beauty. In the private confines of their bed chamber she would reply to his compliments by simply attributing them to her happiness. 'I am a woman loved, husband, of course it shows’ she would whisper. He could hardly argue with her, able to feel her happiness and contentment through their bond.

“Are we late?” the door to the office opened, Arya and Gendry stepping inside. Sandor was glad to see that Gendry looked much improved from the last time he saw the younger man. He no longer looked gaunt or exhausted, but more at ease than Sandor had ever seen him. Perhaps it was due to the simple fact that he could finally call the woman he’d pined after for decades, his.

Sandor looked at Sansa who was now beaming at seeing her Sister--yes, Sandor certainly knew something about how incredible it felt being able to call the woman you love, your own.

“Arya” Sansa and her Sister shared an embrace. The two talked quietly for a moment, Gendry taking the opportunity to join them. He first crossed to stand before the King, offering his hand.

Sandor noticed, as the two siblings ended their embrace, that while Gendry’s mating mark bisected his jaw, Arya’s cut across the shell of her ear, clearly signifying that she was mated. Whether it was poor aim or spur of the moment, he was certain he hadn’t seen a mark that obvious before. Though, to her credit, Arya didn’t seem to mind its placement--in fact, she wore her hair back just enough to show it off to the world.

“Son” Eddard said with a small smile, taking the man’s hand to pull him into a brief hug, clapping him loudly on the back. “It goes without saying that if you upset Arya in any way, I will let Clegane deal with you?”

Gendry’s nervous laughter bubbled from his throat and he glanced at Sandor, “Of course.”

“I’ll just let the Runt deal with him herself” Sandor scoffed, patting Gendry on the shoulder.

“That’s my Runt, thank you very much,” Gendry squared his shoulders and offered his hand to Sandor, who shook it gladly.

“Good man” Sandor replied, releasing Gendry’s hand when Sansa returned to his side, tucking herself against his side where she fitted perfectly--just as she was meant to. “Runt” he greeted Arya who scoffed out his name in reply. “I’d be nice if I were you, I made you a promise not too long ago.”

“You wouldn’t dare” Arya’s eyes narrowed.

“Oh, I assure you I would” Sandor assured her, not bothering to contain the smirk that tugged at his uneven lips. He’d promised her once that he was going to become something of a nuisance once she was mated, one he fully intended to keep.

“Fine, do your worst. I will be ready” Arya glared, moving to the table. She nodded to the others and then her eyes fell to the open book closest to her, one that was open to the page Sansa had found regarding Baratheon bloodlines. “Wow, this looks like Gendry” she declared, pulling the book closer.

“What?” Gendry moved quickly to her side, taking in the details for himself. “It does?”

“It really does” Arya looked from the portrait to her mate and back several times.

“I suppose anything is possible, I never knew my Father or what he looked like” Gendry frowned, his eyes shadowed with sadness. “My Mother died before I could find out who he was. She refused to talk about him most days.”

“Were you born in King’s Landing?” Benjen asked and Gendry shook his head.

“No. On the way to, though I do not know where we were coming from” he sighed. “Like I said, she was very closed lipped about my Father’s identity. I know he must have had my look, as I look nothing like my blonde Mother.”

“So you were conceived somewhere other than King’s Landing and raised there?” Benjen reasoned.

“And there he was turned” Jaime added, everyone looking to him for an explanation. “You forget it was one of our Sentinels that found him, feral on the streets.”

“Do you remember who bit you?” Eddard asked. Gendry considered the question for several seconds, scrunching his face as he pondered.

“A glimpse, maybe? His voice...” Gendry glanced to Arya. “I was really drunk at the time--I had buried my Mother that afternoon. I was not in my best condition” he explained. Sandor noticed that Arya slid her hand into one of Gendry’s, silently supporting him as he dealt with the painful memories of his past.

“Any little detail would help” Eddard ran a hand through his hair, pacing along the bookshelf. “While you are here now, a member of the pack and mated to my Daughter, it would still be possible for another Alpha to force a sire bond.”

“Is that even possible?” Jaime interjected. “I apologize for the interruption. It’s just, every Vampire has heard rumors of course, but we thought it--the sire bond, just to be rumors.”

“Vampires have compulsion, Wolves have sire bonds” Eddard sighed. “It happens when an Alpha turns another male, his bite binds them in such a way that, if pressed, the Alpha could exhibit control over the male. The male would feel obligated to please the Alpha at any cost. It is very difficult to refuse a command, let alone break.”

“So you’re saying that if there is a bond, it means that Gendry could be used as a weapon against us?” Jon asked.

“Yes” Sandor replied, taking the burden from Eddard’s shoulder. “I can help him break it if need be, but it isn’t an enjoyable experience for any involved.”

“And what about Jon?” Jaime asked, looking to the younger Wolf.

“Jon?” Arya looked to her cousin.

“There is a chance that we--Gendry and I, share the same Father” Jon explained softly.

“What?” Arya’s eyes went wide.

“Gendry is older,” Jon explained. “He could have been conceived before my parents met. Given I was born a Wolf and Gendry was born a human and turned, our scents are different enough to make it hard to tell if we share blood, but it's possible.”

“That would be…” Gendry trailed off, swallowing thickly. “That would mean I would have a family--blood family.”

“Yes” Jon nodded, a smile ghosting at his lips. “And I’d have a Brother.”

“Wait---” Arya shook her head, flipping the pages. “Wait, so you’re implying that Gendry is a Baratheon, that Jon is his Brother, and he somehow is this powerful supernatural magicky... thing?”

“Gendry is strong, Arya,” Sandor said, his tone serious. “Stronger than most Wolves I have met. As a Berserker, I know strength well and that Pup is damned strong. And Jon, Jon is unstoppable on the field of battle. The Wolves that run with him are loyal beyond anything I’ve seen. Even the bears are loyal to him. Their Baratheon blood takes their most powerful trait--Gendry’s strength and Jon’s loyalty, and amplifies it beyond anything imaginable. It would make sense that their Father’s bloodline could be affecting them and those around them. ”

“You believe this?” Arya asked, motioning to the portrait on the books page. Sandor knew that Arya had looked to him for training and guidance for some time now, and in this she would also trust his lead.

“I do” he nodded. “Because I know what Stannis Baratheon smells like, if nothing else, I can trust in that.”

“How?” Gendry asked. “He’s been dead for---Gods, I don’t know how long, how could you know that?” Sandor turned to Sansa who extended the knife to him. He took the blade then briefly raised her knuckles to brush his lips across them before he released her.

“Stannis is my Guardian” Sansa explained as Sandor unsheathed the sinister looking blade and offered the leather scabbard to Gendry.

“This blade belongs to King Stannis of the House Baratheon, the man sworn to protect Sansa. He gave her this when they spoke yesterday, his scent still clings to the leather” Sandor added. Gendry lifted the leather to his nose, inhaling deeply. Sandor could see the second the familiar scent registered in the younger Wolf’s brain because his shoulders fell and eyes went wide.

“Like I said, I trust in that if nothing else” Sandor reiterated.

“We need to find out who sired Gendry” Benjen interjected. “We need to know if there is a possibility of another Wolf threat.”

“Aside from Bolton,” Oberyn remarked flippantly, looking to Jaime expecting a good laugh at his remark. His words, however, were met with heavy silence.

“Aside from….” Benjen looked to his elder Brother, the two of them sharing silent communication for several moments.

“You do not think…?” Robb gaped at his Father and Uncle.

“He was working with Daenerys” Eddard said softly--slowly, as if his mind was stringing together thoughts and revelations. “We determined it was likely that if there was Baratheon blood here, they would march North. Baelish could have located them through magic and Roose could have discovered it that way, or..”

“Or he knew that the Wolf he turned was here” Robb looked to Gendry and then Jon.

“He knows” Sandor deduced, his voice now cold and hard. “Gendry, the man who bit you, tell me something--anything you remember about him.”

“Pale eyes...deep voice” Gendry replied. “He was assured he would be my Alpha, I remember that much.”

“Have you talked with Bolton since his arrival?” Sandor continued and Gendry shook his head.

“I’ve been a bit…busy” Gendry raised a hand to trace the mating mark along his jaw. “I have seen him at a distance, but he seemed cold as a statue.”

“How better to keep the facade” Eddard scoffed.

“Son of a bitch” Benjen hissed, pacing to the window. “Forgive my language, it was not appropriate, there are ladies present” he muttered.

“Ladies swear too, Uncle Benjen” Arya assured him. “Fuck. Shit. Bal--”

“Arya” Eddard sighed and her voice fell silent.

“So what do we do?” Jaime asked the obvious question that was in everyone’s mind.

“What we do is we continue as normal” Sandor was surprised to hear Sansa speak up. He turned to watch her as she moved to Arya’s side and lifted the book. “If there is a sire bond, Sandor can help Gendry break it. But King Tywin is coming and when he does, we will have more than enough strength to take on the Nightmares. Baelish will come with them, I am certain” she frowned. “But if we tip our hand, it could send Roose back to Baelish’s side--or he could force his hand in controlling Gendry.”

“I agree,” Oberyn chimed in, having been silent for most of the conversation. “Elia will be back soon and she may have more information, but until then it would be wise to maintain the status quo.”

“And I believe that we should bring Stannis into the loop, bring him here” Sansa added, looking over at him. “He held Storm’s End during the siege, we would be fools not to use his expertise in these matters.”

“All right, Little Bird” Sandor nodded in agreement, pride swelling in his chest at the insight she had effortlessly presented. While she had never stood on the field of battle, she had learned well how to read others and had ample intelligence to draw conclusions from what she witnessed. It was a highly valuable skill to possess.

“I will send word to my Father,” Jaime added. “He will be able to bring more Sentinels to aid us.”

“Still won’t tell me how many, eh?” Sandor chuckled.

“Never--” Jaime smirked.

“Excuse me” Sansa whispered and Sandor turned to see her--pallor unusually pale, as she fled from the room.

“Little Bird--” he reached out to her only to frown deeply as he felt her body rejecting this morning's breakfast. She wretched, coughing a few times before she caught her breath.

“I am fine” she promised, washing her face and hands. “It is normal, I am well.”

“I will take you to rest” he decided, sensing their meeting had come to its natural conclusion. The King’s next words confirmed that assumption.

“Now that we have some sort of accord” Eddard cleared his throat and fixed Gendry with a hard stare. “When are you going to marry my Daughter?”

Sandor felt Sansa’s amusement through their bond.

 

“Enough!” the thundering roar of Khal Drogo cut through the morning air. Baelish reined his mount to a halt, watching as the Dothraki commander threw one of his commanders to the grass. The two large men held each other’s gaze for the briefest of moments before the commander ceded his aggression. Turning his head away, he bared his throat to Drogo in surrender.

“Drogo” Daenerys turned back, but her words were cut off by the feral snarl of her husband. There was no telling what had set off the Khal this time, but it was likely more talks of dissention amongst the Ko's of the Khalasar.

“There will be no more of this” he growled, glaring at the others around them. Though he had dismounted his horse to attack the insubordinate man, he still held the air of authority as he stood shorter than those still mounted. “No more whispers, no more.”

“Drogo. Husband” Daenerys said again, guiding her white mare to her husband's side. Surely she could feel the aggression rolling off the large man, the acidic waves almost palpable on Baelish’s tongue. “Let them question, they are far from home.”

“A good warrior does not question,” Drogo snapped. “He follows orders, he obeys.”

“Let them question” Daenerys’ violet eyes were full of ice. “I can handle their doubts. I am the rightful Queen of this land, husband. When it is ours, they will be able to run the fields at their whim, be able to destroy any who oppose them--take any who run from them.”

At this, Baelish’s stomach turned and he looked away. The Dothraki were a violent people, on and off the battlefield. He had already seen the way the Nightmares celebrated their victories and it sickened him. Him who had committed horrible things in his own right--well, not truly horrible, he had committed them for his reasons and his alone.

But this….he looked around the camp, this savagery was already at the boiling point, threatening to ignite beyond control at any second. From the moment the Dothraki had begun their journey inland, they had become increasingly irritable and contentious. It was only a few short hours after their departure from Dragonstone that they had begun to squabble between themselves. And hours after that, the gossip started.

They questioned their Khal.

They questioned their Khaleesi.

They hated this green spread of land and the water that freely roamed its surface.

They wanted to burn it all.

They wanted bloodshed.

They wanted some alleviation for their aggression and instead they were only given promises and vague orders.

He couldn’t blame their unrest, he could only hope they held out long enough to get him passed the walls of Winterfell. Beyond that, he had no care for what happened to Daenerys Targaryen or her Dothraki savages. This would have been so much easier with the Boltons at their side, he internally sighed.

“High Warlock!” Daenerys’ call had him refocusing on the conversation at hand.

“Yes, Your Grace?” he bowed his head in forced deference.

“Tell them” Daenerys implored, looking at him expectantly. Swallowing thickly he saw that all Dothraki eyes were now on him, waiting for his lips to spout some sort of magic poultice that would fix the festering wound between them.

“Of course, Your Grace” his brain worked quickly to conjure the believable lie. “At the end of this journey lies Winterfell, the most powerful stronghold in the country. At the heart of Winterfell lay the Stark Wolves and their Pack” he explained. “The Starks have something that belongs to us, something that would make us more powerful than any force known on this land” he added and cheers rang out amongst the men. “We will take it back with the fire and blood that the Khaleesi has promised” he added, figuring that he might as well play to his audience. If the Queen wanted them to rally behind her, he would encourage them.

Whatever it took to get him into Winterfell.

To Sansa.

Drogo’s glare cut through him and Baelish paused his rousing speech, letting the words sink in.

“And?” Daenerys prompted.

“And then we take what remains of Westeros and unite them under their true ruler” he replied. “Regardless if they are human, Wolf or Vampire.” More cheers this time, some even heavily clapped each other on the back, raising their hands in agreement.

Baelish almost pitied them, he mused, looking out over the armies. They celebrated the win before they savoured it's bittersweet symphony. They believed that they were entitled--that their Queen was entitled to all this land, but they did little to understand the rebellions that had come before. The Vampiric throne had changed hands many times over the years, and surely it would do so again in the future, but they didn’t see that.

They only saw the promise of bloodshed--of heinous acts that could be committed in the wake of their victory. Of another land to spoil with their flagrant disregard for life. Another land to burn and decimate.

They didn’t see the bigger picture, he almost smirked to himself but managed to keep the expression at bay. They didn’t see the bigger picture but he did, and he intended to be the victor at the end of this war.

Regardless if his foes were human, Wolf or Vampire.

 

“Are you certain?”

“Of course” Sansa smoothed her hands over her husband’s broad chest, savouring the feel of him through the linen shirt. “It is the full moon, you should go and run.”

“I am not keen on leaving you” he wrapped his arms around her, pulling her flush against him. “Something could happen, I wouldn’t be close by--”

“I will be safe,” she promised. “One of these full moons I will be able to run with you, but not yet.”

“As much as I wish that you could run with me--” Sandor nuzzled his face into the side of her neck. “Your scent, Seven Hells” he purred darkly. “Not only do you smell like me, but I can smell his new scent too.”

“Sandor Clegane, doting husband and harmless pup when it comes to his Son” Sansa teased. “Given I have not been able to eat without his rebellion against it, you must forgive me for being too exhausted to enjoy his scent properly.”

“Take the strength you need from me, Little Bird” he placed a featherlight kiss on her temple. “The sickness will pass soon enough.”

“And how do you know that?” she teased. “Did you speak to my Mother?”

“I might have,” he smirked. “I was worried, Sansa, you cannot fault me that. I have only just found you, I will do everything in my power to keep you healthy and happy. You were busy talking to your Sister, I figured you would have realized what I was up to when I sought out your Mother.”

“If I had known, I am not certain who would have been more surprised, her or I” she slipped her hands under the hem of his shirt, smoothing her hands over the muscled planes of his back. The warmth of his skin against her palms was a balm to her exhaustion, one that made her feel at peace.

“Keep that up and I won’t be running with the Pack after all” his voice dropped lower, deep and thick with lust.

“Go run, Mate” Sansa kissed his chin. “And when you come back to me, I will welcome you home.”

“Or I could stay--”

“And have you pacing the halls until the next full moon?” she scoffed. “I have watched you for many years, Clegane, and the moons you do not run, you are miserable afterwards. I have seen it with my own eyes, do not deny it.”

“I would be content to stay at your side, Sansa” he cut in. “Such restlessness dwells in my chest no longer. Wild man I may be, I am more wild for you than anything” he loudly kissed along her jaw, making her giggle.

“I mean it” she laughed, tugging at his collar. “Run, Husband. Show the rest of the Pack who is the most powerful, show the Boltons who they should fear.” Tonight would be the first night they had parted since their mating, the first time that she would crawl into an empty bed and await his return. Needless to say they were both apprehensive about the idea of being parted, but she knew her mate well, knew that he needed to stretch his legs and re-assert dominance over the rest of the Pack.

“Stay close to your Uncle Benjen, Little Bird,” he instructed, sighing in resignation. “Promise me” he demanded and she felt an affection clench in her chest. When they had discussed the Pack’s running during the full moon, Benjen had volunteered to stay behind with Sansa, allowing newly mated Arya and Gendry to run wild with their Packmates. Her husband held little trust for others beyond himself, but he knew that her Uncle would protect her.

“I will” Sansa readily agreed. “I will be safe. I have my blade, too. Stannis will protect me.”

“Bloody Stannis,” he scoffed, leaning down to leave a lingering kiss on her lips. “All right, I won’t be long.”

“Until then” she stepped out of his embrace and as he moved his arms away, he tucked her shawl back around her shoulders. “I love you.”

“I love you” she promised, letting her hands slip from his body as he turned away. During many moons she had watched Sandor join the pack at the treeline, wishing that she could run with them. For many moons she had admired Sandor’s form as he shed his shirt but tonight it seemed mild compared to the states she had seen him in.

Tonight, however, she could admire her husband as he allowed his true being to spill free. Unbidden her hand moved to settle over her stomach, cupping the flesh there. It was a comforting reminder that while he left, he left a part of himself with her.

He turned to face her, walking backward as he tugged the throng from his hair allowing the locks to spill free. He gave a mischievous smirk as he shucked his shirt and leapt into the air, twisting and transforming mid-air until he landed on four paws on the grass. A gasp caught in her throat as the other Wolves of the Pack stopped to gape. Sandor paused, sensing their keen observation and her surprise.

“What?” he grumbled through their connection. Sansa smiled, even though tears filled her eyes.

“Oh, my love” she stepped out into the night air, closer to his Wolf. He stood stone-still as she raised a hand to trace the scars that bisected the right side of his face. “Look through my eyes” she beckoned, trailing her hand down his silky fur. She felt him nudge at the edge of her mind and then she knew that he was seeing what she was, knew by the hitch in his breathing.

The place where the horrific scars had ruined his lupine face was gone, instead they had been replaced by streaks of pure white fur, a white that matched her Wolf perfectly. The marks trailed down his face, below his snout, down his chest and trailed off in the middle of his right foreleg. There was no more bare, puckered skin, only snowy white perfection nestled amongst the black.

“How?” he asked, just as amazed as she was. The scars remained in his human form, obviously, but in this true form they had been replaced by pieces of Sansa’s wolf.

“How is any of this possible?” she countered, leaning closer to place a kiss over a white streak across his snout. “We are one soul, Sandor, one being completing the other without question” she smiled. “Now go run, your Son and I will be waiting,” she encouraged and, after bumping her stomach affectionately with his nose, he turned and ran into the woods.

Sansa held her shawl tightly around herself, sitting upon the cement bench that had become her haven in the wake of her illness. Now it only brought her peace. She listened to the howls and yips of the pack as they faded, savouring the scent of her husband until the breeze had carried it away entirely. The night was cool and before long a shiver raced across her spine, only then did she turn back to the house, making her way through the door towards her bed chambers.

She had originally intended to spend the evening in the library, but she was worn out from the day’s illness and wanted nothing more than to relax in her rooms. Somewhere in the house Benjen was surely pouring over research or letters, trying to make sense in the war that they found themselves embroiled in. It was surreal to believe that Jon and Gendry held power enough that armies would cross oceans and thousands of miles for a chance to call it their own. Such a power made fear settle in her stomach.

Well, fear was better than nausea, she supposed.

In the distant parts of her mind, she could hear and see what Sandor did; the forest racing by and the rich scent of untamed earth surrounding his senses. She remembered the night that her and Sandor had run together, paws eating up the distance with ease, exhilaration fueling her blood. One day she will run with him again, she smiled to herself, but at this moment her body was occupied with far more important business.

As she made her way up the staircase, a creak beyond the Great Hall gave her pause. Her steps slowed and she looked around, the shiver of cold now a shiver of unease as she tried to discern if someone was watching her. Several seconds passed with no sign of movement and she assumed the noise was Benjen moving around the study. Renewing her steps, she quickly reached the top floor without further interruption. She was humming softly when she rounded the final corner. She opened the door to their bed chambers and stepped inside, laying her shawl over the entry table, however when she turned back to the room she nearly screamed.

“Uncle!” she ran closer, the inhuman groan that escaped his lips making her stomach plummet as she knelt at his side. “Uncle Benjen--”

“R--” he choked eyes bloodshot and skin cold and pale. So many scents clung to him it made her nose itch. Gendry, Arya, her Father and a few she did not recognize assaulted her senses, nearly overwhelming her.

“What’s happened?” she cupped his cheeks. ”Sandor! Help me!” she screamed out to her Mate’s mind.

”Fuck” she heard Sandor’s immediate rapid succession of horrible curse words echo through her mind as he turned back to the house.

“R--” he tried to speak once against but the word still felt silent on his lips, lips now coated with blood. Frowning she leaned closer and breathed deeply of his breath, digging deeper than the scents that clung to his clothing to seek his ailment.

“Wolfsbane” she recoiled, eyes going wide. Poison, someone had poisoned Benjen! By why?

“R--un” Benjen coughed, unintentionally spraying blood across her pale yellow gown.

“No” she shook her head. “I won’t leave you.”

“R--”

“No” she pulled her Uncle’s head into her lap, smoothing back his deep brown-black hair. “Sandor” she whimpered within their connection.

“I am almost there, Little Bird,” Sandor promised and she could feel the exertion he was forcing through his Wolf form, pushing harder and faster than he ever had before.

“Please” she sobbed.

“How strong is the scent?” Sandor asked. ”Can you smell it from a distance or only close at his mouth?”

”His mouth” she answered. "Everything else just smells like this morning's meeting and..." she broke off as panic and nausea assailed her.

”Good, that’s good” Sandor’s eyes could now see Winterfell and Sansa felt a flutter of hope in her stomach. ”That means he ingested it, we need to get him to vomit, Little Bird. He needs to get it out of his system.”

“All right, how? Tell me how, Sandor--”

“Either stick your finger down his throat or make him drink ipecac” he explained. ”Wait--there should be some in the storage pantry, if not I can mix something. I will bring it, just hold on.” She did as instructed, holding her Uncle’s head across her lap, whispering words of comfort as she felt her Mate grow closer and closer. The thundering growl and then echoing footsteps in the great house told her that he had arrived. She choked on a sob as Benjen’s body trembled violently against her hold.

“Move” Sandor barked the moment he entered the room, completely nude with a sinister bottle in his hands. “Bedpan, quickly” he instructed and she went to work immediately, grabbing the ceramic bowl and moving to his side. She watched in horror-filled fascination as Sandor forced the thick syrup down Benjen’s throat.

“Sandor…” she said when nothing seemed to be happening, but her Mate did not respond. He’s done this before, she couldn’t help but think to herself. He has had to do this for another, that is why he is so calm…The silence of the moment was suddenly shattered by the horrible retching sounds that sounded from Benjen’s body, they managed to turn his convulsing body in time that the bile and syrup spilled into the bedpan as intended. The smell and sight had her stomach rolling in response, but she forced back her reaction as quickly as it arose.

“That’s it,” Sandor encouraged and then did it again, forcing more into Benjen’s stomach. Several times over he repeated the process, not stopping until Benjen collapsed in exhaustion on the carpeted floor, his breathing ragged but even. His expulsion had changed dramatically and she could only hope that meant that the poison was no longer in his stomach. “Water” Sandor said softly to her and she pushed to her feet, crossing to the sideboard to pour a large glass.

She turned back in time to see Sandor tear open his own wrist with his teeth, blood pouring freely from the wound.

“What--”

“Drink” Sandor instructed Benjen, who weakly complied. “His Wolf's blood is tainted, it will not be able to heal the damage to his stomach on its own, but mine should be able to.”

“All right” she knelt beside her Uncle, setting the water glass on the floor before taking his hand. “His hands are so cold” she muttered.

“Aye, they will be for a while” Sandor paused. “If not forever. Wolfsbane is a hell of a poison, Little Bird. It has no cure if injected or poured into an open wound. Ingestion is the only hope to recover but the damage is permanent.”

“Who did this?” Sansa whispered the obvious question. "And why Benjen?"

“I have a few guesses,” Sandor pulled his wrist from Benjen’s mouth and motioned for her to help him to drink the water. “The top of which is this wasn't intended for him. But regardless, we're here now. He was dragged here as a message to us, you and I--a threat. When he is able to speak again, Benjen will tell us and then we can fucking kill them.”

“He told me to run,” Sansa said, pulling the half-empty glass from her Uncle’s lips, watching as his eyes fluttered shut in exhaustion.

“I know, Little Bird” Sandor pushed to his feet, grabbing breeches and a linen shirt, dressing quickly. The rest of the Pack would be here soon if she had to guess, it wouldn’t do to have Sandor traipsing about unclothed. “Did you eat or drink anything after I left?”

“No” she shook her head. “I sat on the bench for a while and then I came directly here. If I had only come sooner…”

“No, you cannot place blame on yourself. Given how much he vomited up, it wasn’t in his system long. That's a good thing,” Sandor lifted the bedpan and set it in the hall, the stench of wolfsbane and bile had filled the chamber, making her stomach rebel. Sandor must have felt her unease because he crossed to the windows, throwing them wide open to let in the clean night air.

Footsteps echoed in the hall seconds before the surprisingly naked form of her Father entered the room, “Ben!” he ran to his Brother’s side, carefully touching his pulse point.

“Father--”

“He ingested it?” Eddard reasoned and Sandor nodded.

“I think we got it all up,” Sandor nodded. “He will likely recover, though at what cost remains to be seen.”

“Father--”

“Seven fucking Hells” Eddard cursed under his breath, words Sansa rarely heard him mutter. “Who did this? Why Benjen?”

“Father,” Sansa said a third time.

“What?”

“If you put on breeches, you can help us move Benjen to his rooms to sleep. Then we can discuss whatever matters you would like to,” she said, pointedly not looked at her Father’s bare form.

“Oh, right” Eddard nodded. “I will be right back.”

“Alright, Little Bird” Sandor shifted to her side, crouching to lift Benjen into his arms. It was almost comical how small her Uncle--a large man in his own right, looked in Sandor’s arms. Sansa followed her husband as he carried Benjen down the halls to his own rooms. Once inside, Sansa turned down the covers on the bed so that he could lay comfortably.

“I will get his boots” Sansa said but Sandor stayed her hand.

“I will get his boots, Little Bird, you get him some more water” he assured her, giving her the easier of the two tasks. Her mate was looking out for her condition even in the most trying of times.

“R---” Benjen muttered as his head met the pillow. Sandor worked quickly to remove his boots, tossing them carelessly to the side.

“Here Uncle Benjen, drink” Sansa lifted the glass to his lips in encouragement. As he swallowed, both of her parents, Arya, Gendry, Robb and Jon all spilled into the bedroom, eyes wide with panic.

“R---” Benjen repeated.

“Run, I know Uncle Benjen, but we will not leave you. You are safe now,” Sansa set the glass aside and smoothed his hair from his face. Her Father took to the opposite side of the bed, sitting at his Brother’s side. It was concerning to her how pale and cold her Uncle still looked, in the back of her mind she prayed over and over that he would recover, that he would survive this ordeal unscathed.

“Thank you, Clegane” Eddard looked to Sandor. “I owe you yet another great debt.”

“Put it on my account” Sandor said gruffly.

“What happened? What's happened to Uncle Benjen?” Arya asked Sandor. “We were running and you just turned back, sounding the alarm.”

“Wolfsbane,” Sandor explained. “I had to get back.”

“Wolfsbane” Arya paled.

“Poison?”

“What--”

“How?”

“Who?” the voices of the Stark family became a violent cacophony all at once, each of them demanding information that they didn’t have at this point---

“Roose” Benjen coughed violently, a small trail of blood escaping his lips, and the room fell silent around him.

Chapter Text

c1859

“Roose---”

“Get to Roose!” Benjen managed to choke out the words and in an instant, Sandor was on his feet. His large form tore through halls of Winterfell, shoving aside any who stepped in his way, the footsteps of Arya and Gendry echoing behind him as he ran.

He didn’t hesitate, only threw his shoulder into the already-open door of the bedchamber Roose had been given, drawing up short at the sight of the Bolton Alpha in a heap on the floor.

“Fuck me. Runt, get the ipecac” Sandor ordered and she bolted away as he and Gendry rolled Roose to his side. “Fucking cunts and their fucking poisons” he grumbled as he stuck his finger down Roose’s throat, forcing the barely alive Wolf to surrender the contents of his stomach.

The bile that emerged from Roose was much the same as that from Benjen, a disgusting combination of dark coffee, the remains of dinner and more than enough Wolfsbane to kill a group of full-grown wolves.

“Who did this?” Sansa whimpered, peering through his mind.

“Cunts" Sandor growled in response, focused on emptying the Alpha’s stomach. He was so focused on Roose that he didn’t notice the figure leaning against the doorjamb, not until he spoke.

“My, my” Ramsay clicked his teeth, watching them with aloof, cold eyes. "How unfortunate."

“Not now” Sandor immediately growled at him. "Can't you see we're a bit fucking busy for your games, Snow?"

“I only came to speak with Gendry” Ramsay said with laughter in his voice and Sandor felt his blood run cold.

“Fuck off” Gendry glared, though Sandor heard the uncertainty in the younger man’s voice.

“It is you, isn’t it?” Ramsay pushed away from the door and stepped closer. “The one he turned--the bloody saviour.”

“He said ‘fuck off’,” Sandor growled as Ramsay stepped forward again, this time forcing Gendry to his feet. He could feel the fury pouring off of the Stark’s newest family member, see the tension in his shoulders and Sander knew that their situation was perilously close to exploding into a full blown battle royal in the guests quarters.

“I heard Roose talking about it and I researched it myself” Ramsay continued unphased. “Such a powerful thing to be, don’t you think Gendry. But dangerous if the hands of the wrong Alpha.”

“Fuck. The Fuck. Off” Gendry growled.

Amplificare,” Ramsay hissed lunging for Gendry but his movement was interrupted, held short by Arya’s reappearance in the room. The ballsy little runt jumped directly onto Ramsay’s back and wrapped an arm around his throat, snarling out a warning in his ear.

“One more step towards my mate and I will turn your testicles into a wind chime, Snow” Arya’s warning was spoken with confidence enough to have Ramsay’s steps faltering.

“Get him the fuck out of here. Take him to the King,” Sandor told the mated pair, grabbing the forgotten ipecac from the floor and forcing it into Roose’s throat. He didn’t spare a glance for them as they went, merely kept his grimace locked on Roose Bolton’s ragged form.

It made sense that Benjen and Roose had both been poisoned through their coffee--neither man partook in any alcohol that he knew of and it could explain why Benjen had been caught in the crossfire.

If Roose were to die, that would leave Ramsay as the Alpha of the Bolton Pack, it would give him direct power over Gendry--if, that is, the sire bond transferred from Alpha to Alpha. Which, to be honest, Sandor had no idea if the power would transfer or simply wither away. Still, it meant that Roose had likely been the intended target, he was all but certain of that, that little cunt of a bastard Ramsay had tried to usurp the pack with a woman's weapon…

What a cunt.

Hacking and coughing broke into his mind and he looked to see that Roose had vomited up the last of his stomach contents and was trying his best to catch his breath.

“Here” Sandor bristled as he reopened the wound on his wrist and offered it to the Alpha. The man’s pale eyes watched him warily for several seconds before he latched on, drinking deeply until exhaustion had him rolling onto his back on the hardwood floor.

“Ramsay?” Roose’s voice was harsh, broken.

“Aye.”

“Fuck.”

“Aye.”

“Benjen?”

“Alive.”

“You’ve dealt with Wolfsbane before, I take it, Clegane.”

“A time or two” Sandor sank to his haunches beside Roose, reaching over to grab a glass of water when pain lanced through his cheek and sent him stumbling sideways. “The fuck…” he quickly pressed his hand to the skin, expecting it to come away bloody but it didn’t. He looked to Roose but the man hadn’t moved, which meant--

“Sandor!”

“I see” Roose began pushing to his feet. “She’s not just your mate, she’s your Soulmate.”

“Fuck! Sansa,” Sandor was once again running, this time with Roose’s weak form stumbling and staggering at his back. As he reached the stairs he was met with the sight of Gendry and Arya were beating the living shit out of Ramsay. Well, Gendry was holding and Arya was punching, more like it.

“Gods, Bolton” Eddard circled around the melee and tucked a shoulder under Roose’s arm, helping him to stay on his feet.

“Never a dull moment here, Stark” Roose scoffed and then began coughing wildly, prompting Catelyn and Eddard to call but carrying him into a room down the hall. "What sort of Pack are you commanding" he wheezed.

“What happened?” Sandor hissed. “Where is Sansa?”

“I am here” Sansa emerged from Benjen’s room, a kerchief pressed to the corner of her mouth. He could smell her blood from here, his Little Bird was bleeding. “Ramsay lashed out” she explained silently. “He threw Arya through a wardrobe before he got to me--”

“He struck you?” he asked and Sansa gave a small nod. “Right” he said aloud, long legs taking the steps with ease. He grabbed Arya by the back of her shirt, lifting her easily, even as her arms and legs swung mid-air, struggling to get back to the beating she was doling out. Tossing her aside as if she weighed no more than a flea, she hissed in protest as she landed and rolled to her feet.

“Down, Runt” Sandor fixed her with a hard glare, freezing her midstep. There was no mistaking the Alpha tone that had bled into his voice and Sandor didn’t care to harness it back. He was the last fucking Berserker on this planet, he was more powerful than anything short of a natural disaster and he was going to handle this himself.

Grabbing Ramsay by the throat, he dragged the protesting Wolf down the steps, his protests echoing in the hall. Ramsay’s face was already battered and bruised, one of his eyes swelling shut and blood leaking from his nose, but that didn’t stop his cunt mouth from whinging.

“Clegane!” Eddard emerged, running after. “Clegane you are not his Alpha.”

“No” he paused, turning back to glare at the King. “He just tried to kill his Alpha with Wolfsbane like a little bitch” he shook Ramsay’s body. “He did the same to your Second, and he struck my Mate, he is a traitor and a cunt.”

“Clegane---”

“Fuck off” Sandor threw over his shoulder as he turned away, resuming his exit from the Great Hall proper. Dragging Ramsay into the cool night air, Sandor felt the power of the waning full moon wash over him and he flexed his shoulders in response.

“Fucking let me go---” Ramsay tried to bite the arm that held him captive.

“How do you want to do this, cunt?” Sandor asked the bastard calmly.

“Fuck--”

“I break your neck here and now? Or I let you run and you die tired?” Sandor growled, the smaller Wolf’s eyes going wide in the realization that he didn’t have long to live. There were politics, insurances that no Pack could freely attack another, but as far as Sandor was concerned, tonight Ramsay had signed his own death warrant and no Pack laws could keep him safe.

“Clegane” Arya emerged from the house, eyes wild and shoulders rising heavily in fury. Her knuckles were bloody but healed, locked tight in fists that told him she held nearly as much fury as he did in that tiny body of hers.

“Alright, he dies tired” Sandor released his hold on Ramsay’s throat and in a flash he was a chocolate Wolf, racing towards the words. Sandor turned to Arya and gave her a small smile before they both gave chase.

 

“He is your Soulmate” Roose noted quietly as Sansa helped him to a drink of water. Benjen and Roose had been taken to a large room at the end of the hall, thus vacating the room she shared with Sandor. She was grateful for that small mercy, as she was certain that Sandor wanted their room smelling like other Wolves just about as much as she did---which was not at all.

While Benjen was in the bed, still vomiting up blood, they had propped Roose up in a chaise near the window. Roose was older, stronger, and therefore recovering faster, but having them in the same place made it easier to care for both men at the same time--especially while Roose’s room was being cleaned and ventilated.

“What--” she shook her head, unable to believe that Roose had discovered this. “How--?”

“Ramsay struck you and he felt it as if it were his own wound, I watched it happen with my own eyes” Roose reasoned. “No wonder my arrival--and my intentions here were not welcomed. Such a connection is hardly common, I never expected to witness one in my lifetime.”

“I do not which to discuss it---”

“It would be fascinating to learn its bounds” Roose pressed on. “Its power.”

“Regardless of our bond, I love Sandor and he is my mate and husband” Sansa said softly, turning away with the glass of water. “Knowledge to you would be worthless, as your suit would have been unwelcome if offered in any circumstances.”

“Princess, I did not mean--” Roose’s hand shot out to halt her retreat, fingers wrapping around her wrist in a manner that she did not care for. His touch burned like acid against her skin and anger surged through her veins. She let the glass fall to the floor in a violent crash, quickly twisting his hand away and wrapping her own fingers around the front of his throat, holding just tight enough to restrict his airflow to nearly nothing.

“Touch me again and it's your throat on the line,” she snarled the warning. “Alpha” she added belatedly with a raised brow. A clear challenge. She felt drunk, as if she were seeing herself from beyond her body and she realized that perhaps she was feeling Sandor’s strength bleeding into her grip as she watched through his eyes. Roose’s eyes were wide with surprise, tinged with red from lack of air, and bugging from his head as he nodded frantically in agreement.

Releasing him she stumbled back, adrenaline surging through her veins that felt foreign--powerful. Her eyes fell to the hand that had held him, watching and she flexed and unflexed the muscle of her fingers. She didn’t look any different, but she felt---

“It is the babe” her Mother’s whisper ghosted against her ear as her hand wrapped around hers, guiding her from the room and allowing the Maesters to care for the recovering victims.

“What?” Sansa asked in hushed tones as her Mother led her down the hall to the solar of her parents’ room.

“It’s the babe you carry that makes you strong” Catelyn cupped her cheek once they were safely inside. “It happened to me with Robb and I nearly broke your Father’s ribs when we--well, you probably do not want to know the details but know that your body will draw strength from the new life forming inside of you. I cannot imagine the feeling of carrying a Berserker” Catelyn’s hand fell to cover Sansa’s womb with a loving touch.

“I almost tore his throat out” Sansa muttered, "I was going to..." her cheeks heating in embarrassment. She had always been proper and in-control of her emotions, but she had lost her hold on them moments ago.

“No one would have blamed you” Catelyn scoffed with a smile. “The Bolton’s aren’t exactly endearing themselves to us, are they?”

“Sandor is going to kill Ramsay Snow,” Sansa confessed.

“I know,” Catelyn gave the regal nod of a woman born to be a Queen.

“And I am glad of it,” Sansa admitted, her tongue darting to her lower lip which was already healing.

“You did not choose a temperate man to mate with, my darling” Catelyn laughed and Sansa felt her own lips curve into a smile. “Terrifying as he may be, that man loves you with such unbridled devotion. It is a comfort to this Mother’s heart, for I know you will always be safe.”

“I know” Sansa smiled, covering her Mother’s hand on her stomach with her own. “I think in some way I have always known. Just as I have always loved him. I know he isn’t the man you would have picked...”

“Oh, Sansa,” Catelyn pulled her into her embrace. “Arya has always been strong, that was never in doubt, but you have always been so brave. It takes more bravery than I can say to love a man like Sandor Clegane.”

Sansa rested her cheek on her Mother’s shoulder, letting the familiar and soothing scent calm her nerves and temper. In the back of her mind she could see what Sandor and Arya were doing--hunting down Ramsay, but she pushed it away, allowing them their moment of sibling bonding while she indulged a moment in her Mother’s arms.

Ramsay had made his bed, now he could lay in it for eternity.

“Come,” Catelyn smoothed her hands over Sansa’s back. “Well send for a bath for you, wash away the scents of the other’s while you wait for your Mate to return.”

“All right” Sansa nodded, taking her Mother’s arm as they made their way back to Sansa’s chambers.

 

King Tywin Lannister, immortal being that he was, was still bloody exhausted. They had been running hard for several days, choosing to travel as quickly as possible so that they were not stuck behind the Nightmares and the Targaryen usurper. This meant foregoing horses and enduring long days of running at Vampire speed through forests, Riverlands and the frozen tundra of the North.

In terms of communication, Elia Martell had been invaluable in assisting them in avoiding the Dothraki and because of her they were only a day or so from Winterfell. She was able to spirit messages and updates between Dragonstone, Winterfell and King’s Landing at all hours, hiding her scent and vanishing like the wind.

“Your Grace” the voice of his Sentinel Commander at Arms, Addam Marbrand approached as they slowed to a walk outside Moat Cailin.

“Addam” Tywin clapped his oldest friend on the shoulder.

“Have you ever seen such wild land?” Addam marveled, his breath dancing on the wind as they surveyed the forests. There was something to be said for the bitter cold of the North, Vampires were not known for being ‘warm’ creatures, but even their breath was visible on the wind here.

“Wild as the Wolves who have tamed it and call it home” Tywin agreed with a nod.

“I will say, I am not looking forward to watching the Berserker on the field of battle” Addam confessed with a short bout of laughter.

“No one is” Tywin smirked. “Well, Jaime is, I am certain. But the rest of the world…”

“The Nightmares have no idea what they’re in for,” Addam added.

“Not at all,” Tywin agreed. “But we should not underestimate them. High Warlock Baelish rides with them and we know that he will try to play both sides.”

“Understood” Addam nodded curtly, glancing at their back where the dozens of Sentinels awaited their King’s command.

“Whatever we’re running into,” Tywin said, addressing more than just Addam as he spoke. “The Starks stand at our backs. They stood at ours when we called for aid, now we can return the favor. We cannot trust the Boltons, but the Starks are allies of ours.”

“Yes, Your Grace” the Sentinels echoed.

“And whatever you do,” Tywin smirked. “Stay out of the Berserker’s way.”

“Yes, Your Grace.”

 

Sansa had finished her bath and was standing vigil in the windows, clad only in her dressing gown when Sandor and Arya emerged from the woods. It was almost dawn now, they had spent all night hunting down Ramsay Snow and delivering the punishment that he deserved. His body, what was left of it, lay scattered to the winds at the edge of the Far North.

Arya emerged first, clearly having washed in the hot springs before pulling on the clothes Gendry had left her on the stone bench. Gendry was a good man, Sansa determined, strong enough to handle Arya but confident enough to let her take care of herself when the time called for it. She was happy that her Sister had found such a mate, there were not many men that would stand aside and watch their mate dole out a beating.

Almost a quarter hour later, Sandor emerged from the trees to tug on the breeches that were left for him. He paused, looking up to their window and to her, admiring her in the early morning light. As she watched, he ran a hand through his damp hair, brushing the inky locks back from his face and she admired the flex and twist of muscle as he moved.

“Going to stand there all day or are you going to come up to bed?” she tilted her head as he chuckled.

“Not even the hounds of the Seven Hells could stop me” he promised, renewing his steps, soon vanishing into the shadow of the great house. She turned away from the windows, leaning against the wall in between the gilded frames to await the arrival of her mate.

Mercifully, he did not make her wait long and soon he was stepping through the door, ducking his head to ensure that he did not bump his head into the top of the frame.

“He’s dead,” Sandor explained once he had barred the door. Sansa watched in rapt fascination as water droplets escaped Sandor’s hair and trailed down his shoulder to be lost in the thick hair that coated his chest.

“I know, I watched.”

“I’d kill a thousand Bolton cunts if I had to,” he added.

“I know” she smiled. “You let Arya take him down.”

“Runt needed the practice” Sandor’s lips twitched in amusement. “Besides, we had a deal. I get Baelish, I figure she can have Ramsay. I am certain your Father will have words for me, but I’ll shoulder the blame if there is any fallout; it was done at my order.”

“Thank you” Sansa said sincerely.

“You almost ripped Bolton’s throat out” Sandor’s voice dropped as he stalked closer, breeches dangerously low on his hips as he moved.

“I did.”

“Good.”

“It seems carrying a Berserker is not without its warnings” she stood tall, fingers deftly working the tie on her robe until the fabric parted. She watched Sandor’s grey eyes go infinitely dark, pupils blown wide as they raked over her bared flesh. His blood had been up since the rise of the full moon and his unexpected hunt had only spurred it higher, their mutual desire spilling over and through their bond. She pushed the shoulders of the robe wide, baring herself to him in a bold move that made her feel like a goddess as he observed.

“You carry those warnings like a Queen” he reached out to brush her damp curls from her shoulder, fingers ghosting across her collarbone from her locket chain to the edge of the robe's fabric.

“Do I?” she couldn’t resist teasing him, stepping back so that her spine was flush with the wall between the windows. As she moved, so did Sandor, lips curving into a lecherous smile that he shared only with her. The invitation she presented was clear, there was no mistaking what she wanted, what she needed.

“Little Mate” he purred.

“Husband” she countered, watching him close the gap between their bodies. He didn’t reply, but trailed his fingers from her shoulder to the base of her throat, tracing her pulse point before cupping her chin and jaw. He angled her head back, not painfully so, but just enough to keep her eyes locked on his.

Leaning closer, she expected him to kiss her but instead his tongue darted out to lap over the slightly bruised corner of her mouth. It was almost completely healed, but he likely felt the ache through their bond and sought to ease her pain. Only when he was satisfied that she was well, did he turn and take her lips in a deep, claiming kiss.

With her back braced against the wall, she wrapped her arms around his broad, bare shoulders and tunneled her hands into his hair. She had always loved his hair, the soft-as-silk locks teasing her forearms, leaving a trail of damp droplets across her skin. With a growl, he lifted her by her thighs, her legs locking around his waist and trapping her between him and the stone wall at her back. Pressed together, flesh to flesh, she felt his warmth soak into her body, his touch as heady as any wine.

“Please” she whimpered against his lips, impatient as he shoved his unlaced breeches to his thighs, his cock springing free to rest between them. She was more than ready for him, body dripping with anticipation since the moment she’d barred the door--if not since she watched him drag Ramsay from the hall by his throat.

“Little Mate,” he nibbled gently at her lower lip as he aligned himself with her core and slid home. No matter how often they made love or how often they fucked like the animals that lived in their soul, she was never prepared for the stretch of Sandor’s cock as he filled her. Every time it felt better, deeper and so wonderfully intoxicating.

“Gods” she gasped, her back arched as he filled her completely, strong hands holding her tightly as he growled against her mouth and chin.

“Mine” he promised, rocking his hips against her, pulling a sob of pleasure from her chest. “Mine” he repeated, carding a hand into her hair and renewing their kiss with singular purpose. It was loud, sloppy and the sounds of their grunts were punctuated only by the wet squelch of their bodies coming together as Sandor’s cock surged into her again and again.

The stone of the wall bit into her back, surely snagging the delicate material of her dressing gown but she couldn’t find it in her heart to care. This was exactly what she had been waiting for as she watched from the window--counting down the minutes until her Mate could claim her in the dying light of the full moon.

 

Sandor did his best to be gentle, exceedingly mindful of the babe growing within his wife’s womb, but it proved a difficult task as he all but fucked her into the wall. They had already taken each other on every other surface of their rooms; vaguely his lust-riddled brain remembered memories of taking her against the wooden wall, but the stone outer wall seemed to be the last place for them to christen--though for the life of him he had no idea why they had not done this more often.

Seven Hells, he’d even fucked her with her ass perched on the edge of the night table, unable to break apart in their stumbling from the vanity to the bed. But this, Gods, he could feel everything; every tremor, every clench of her thighs at his waist.

He’d been lost from the moment he spotted her from the grass, but watching her, feeling the lust roll off her in thick waves as she parted her robe in invitation, there was no possible way he would refuse. He’d watched the way she handled Bolton just as she had watched the way they dealt with Ramsay--his proper, once-weak Little Bird was a warrior, the White Wolf made real, and Gods help whoever crossed her.

While he was loath to break their kiss, he wanted to watch her come apart on his cock and he knew her body well enough by now to know that she was close. Holding her head in place with a firm hand in her hair, he savoured each one of her throaty sobs as he rutted into her---over and over, in and out, he could feel her body as it tensed and watched as the rich red flush spread across her porcelain skin.

“That’s it, let go Little Mate” he encouraged, feeling the way her nails dug into his shoulders, knowing they were breaking the skin in little crescent moon shapes that would heal almost instantly.

“I---I’m..Sandor!” she panted wildly. He could feel her tug at the bond, pulling strength from his body as she had done earlier tonight, but this time there was more. Their strength seemed to feed on each other, bouncing between them, compounding until her body bowed in pleasure. Her peak washed over her and she locked her legs so tightly around his waist that he roared in pleasure-pain.

“Fuck” he surged deep, unable to stop himself from pouring into her, filling her to the brim with his essence. His vision dimmed and when it returned it was to find his Wolf had slipped free, his teeth sinking into her collarbone, leaving yet another mating mark on her delicate flesh.

“Hmm” Sansa mewled in utter contentment, her body still trembling around his cock as her peak ebbed. He lapped at the bite, cleaning away the metallic tang of blood until it was clean and nearly healed. He felt a tinge of disappointment at marring her porcelain skin, but he knew that it would not be the last time he’d mark her, not with the way his Wolf ached for her.

Lifting her from the wall, he paid no mind as she pushed her robe to the floor and he hobbled his way to the bed to lay her atop the counterpane. Reluctantly, he slid from her body to shove his breeches away completely, but he crawled into bed beside her the moment he was free of the leather, pulling her close.

As was her habit, Sansa curled against his side, nuzzling her head beneath his chin as she threw one of her legs over his. He kissed her temple, banding his arms around her once he had pulled the sheets over their cooling skin.

“It is a strange feeling” Sansa whispered against his bare shoulder. “Isn’t it?”

“Hmm?”

“Being strong” she elaborated. “Knowing that I could hurt someone if I had to.”

“You’re a far cry from the frail woman you believed you would be forever, Little Bird” he replied. “You’ve always been strong, I tried to tell you.”

“Is this where you tell me that you were right and I was wrong, Husband?” she teased, playfulling nipping at his skin.

“Absolutely” he gripped her ass with a gentle hand and pulled her astride his lap. He shifted to his back to admire her as she sat up over him. Her hair was a curtain of fire around her shoulders, curling as it dried from her bath. “You’re stunning” he ran a hand over her sternum, trailing it to her stomach.

“He’s made me stronger” Sansa’s hand covered his, flattening his palm over her womb. “But he’s also given me a bit of your temper,” she smirked.

“Gods help me,” he laughed, the sound devolving into a groan as Sansa rocked her soaked folds against his cock, bringing it to life once more despite his seed that still slipped from her body.

 

“You are aware that they are Soulmates, your Daughter and the Berserker” Roose said from his seat across from Eddard Stark. He was nearly recovered now, several hours having passed since the poison was purged from his system, and in a few short hours Benjen Stark would be just as recovered. Poor bastard, Roose spared a thought for Eddard's Second, accepting Roose's invitation to drink coffee together had nearly cost him his life. In what Benjen believed were his dying moments he must have stumbled and crawled to Sansa's room to protect her, an admirable feat.

“I am” Eddard said, the cold tone of his voice advising Roose that he was treading on thin ice.

“Such a unique and powerful bond” he continued.

“And not any business of ours” Eddard warned. “We have other things to focus on at present.”

“It has been an eventful night” Roose mused, sipping from the water glass that he had been sure to keep a close eye on.

“Your Second is dead, of that I am certain” Eddard said unapologetically.

“I know,” Roose nodded. “Ramsay always did border on madness, but I didn’t actually think he would poison me.”

“A woman’s weapon.”

“Indeed” Roose stood, crossing to the floor to ceiling windows of Eddard office. With the new dawn had come a light dusting of snow with promise of more throughout the day.

“Winter is coming” Eddard said, suddenly at Roose’s side, though both men kept their eyes on the forest.

“Cryptic words that have never seemed more true.”

“And if you seek to lay a hand on anyone in my family” Eddard turned to face him then. “Blood-born or not, you will not live long enough to regret it.”

“You know about Gendry” Roose saw no need to further tiptoe around the matter at hand. If Eddard knew what the bastard boy was, he knew what a valuable asset he could be. The question remained, did they know about Gendry’s sire?

“I do.”

“Then you know Daenerys will come for him.”

“I do.”

“And High Warlock Baelish with her.”

“I am counting on it.”

“Are you?” Roose paused, clicking his tongue. “You’ve been keeping secrets Eddard.”

“Can you blame me?”

“Not at all, I am almost proud,” Roose chuckled. “You always were too honorable for your own good.”

“That time is at an end” Eddard warned. “I am done with these games and facades.”

“Good.”

“And it is time you and I had an earnest discussion about your loyalties.”

“I couldn’t agree more.”

Chapter Text

Everything was on fire--in chaos. Frantically she looked around for a sign of any familiar face or building, but everything seemed so strange to her, foreign and overwhelming. It was dark as pitch, the only light that covered the land was that of the nearly full moon and the small fires that punctuated the field of battle.

And there was no mistaking that this is what that was, battle. War. Screams, howls and crashing echoed like a horrific symphony, and her ears struggled to make sense of any of them. Women were screaming, begging for mercy. Children were crying for their parents and men...men were dying. The metallic scent of blood burned at her nostrils, making her eyes water.

Stumbling back, she pressed her spine against the brick of a crumbling building, her silk night dress catching and snagging on the urban waste around her.

Suddenly, a howl, deep and mournful echoed across the sky and Sansa whirled to face the source. At first she believed that the darkness would conceal any living being from her, but the darkness gave way to a large form, one that stepped closer and closer still until massive black paws fell to the earth in the light of a small fire.

“Sandor” she whispered but he did not react--could he not hear her? Could he see her? He moved slowly, unhurried on the battlefield as death screamed around him, his eyes focused on something beyond the brick building.

Suddenly, the horizon behind her exploded and there, in the middle of rubble and debris, stood an enormous man covered in blood. His head was shaved clean and his jaw was covered in a thick, dark beard in a shade that looked hauntingly familiar. He wore only a black and gold kilt, but that too was soaked in blood.

From his right hand hung what looked like part of a human skull and spine, sinew clinging to it as it dripped, dripped, dripped its lifesblood onto the dirt. She could hear each droplet as it fell, marking the seconds as man and wolf faced off against each other.

“Little Brother” the man finally laughed, his large shoulders shaking in amusement. The horrible smile on his lips transformed him into something truly evil, truly vile and it made her stomach turn. “You come to join the fun at last?” he lifted his right hand, the vertebrae dangling like fine jewelry.

Sandor did not reply, merely growled low in his throat as his ears went back against his head.

’Little Brother’ the words reverberated in her ears. This was Sandor’s older brother, Gregor? Sansa looked at the large man and she could see a bare family resemblance to the man she loved so dearly, but there was a vacancy in Gregor’s grey eyes, not an ounce of warmth or humanity. She swallowed back a wave of fear at the sight of him. If Sandor was the largest man she had ever seen, Gregor was larger by far and that sent terror and the urge to flee rushing through her.

“You always were a fucking cunt” Gregor scoffed. “I had hoped I’d rid myself of you forever, but you never do stay down long. That’s Father’s blood, I'd wager” he added, striding closer as Sandor’s growl continued. “You know we’re the last, don’t you? The last Berserkers--we’re gods!” he laughed, lifting his arm higher to lick a trail of blood from his own arm. "We can take what we want, do what we want--join me--"

Sandor barked out a warning but it went unheeded, Gregor’s steady movements bringing him to stand before Sandor’s black Wolf.

“Well” Gregor chuckled, the sound holding no mirth. “Shall we end this now? Or when my pack has finished with the women in the village?”

Sandor snarled, paws digging deep into the muck as he leapt at his Brother.

 

c.1859

Sansa came awake quickly, the startled gasp dying in her throat as her eyes shot open. The world around her was peaceful save for the distant howls of the Wolves patrolling the perimeter of the Stark territories, but her heart still raced in her breast. It wasn’t long ago that she couldn’t hear the Wolves as they howled and ran, but now she could and she let the sounds wash over her like a balm.

As the fog of fear in her brain cleared, Sansa knew she had slipped, unbidden, into her Mate’s dreams--his nightmares. How many times had her Husband endured this memory, how many times had he watched his Brother taunt and torment him. Her heart ached for Sandor and the horrors he had endured in his life.

Rolling in his embrace, she shifted closer and carefully placed her hand on his scarred cheek. She could not erase the memory, but she could rescue him from this encore.

“Sandor” she whispered, her thumb stroking over his cheekbone. “Sandor, come back to me” she asked and he grumbled, lips twitching against her palm. “Sandor--”

“What?” his eyes opened wide and he sat up, searching the room for any sign of a threat.

“You were trapped in a nightmare” Sansa explained, soothing her hand over his beard. “All is well, you’re safe now. He’s gone.”

“He’s…” Sandor frowned, running a hand over his face. “You saw?”

Sansa nodded, “He’s a monster.”

“He was” Sandor agreed, relaxing back against the pillows with a rough exhale. “Sometimes--no, every fucking day I wish I had been the one to kill him. Seeing his body wasn’t enough, it will never be enough.”

“I am sorry you were denied that” she said softly, sincerely. “But I am glad that he is gone regardless. He’s…”

“Big fucker, isn’t he?” Sandor chuckled, wrapping his arms around her to pull her close. Though he did his best to brush the nightmare aside, she could see the sadness at the corners of his eyes.

“Ugly” Sansa scrunched her nose, making Sandor’s chuckle turn into a full-fledged laugh.

“Us Cleganes are known for our size, not our beauty” Sandor reasoned.

“I disagree” Sansa kissed his chin. “You are quite handsome.”

“Am I?” his lips pulled into a smirk. “I venture you’d be the only one to say as much.”

“The others do not matter, I am your Wife and Mate,” Sansa replied, her hands now wandering the bare flesh of his torso.

“Aye, you’re damned right you’re mine, Little Bird” he pulled her astride his lap, her core settling over his awakening cock. “Well now” his eyes fell to her stomach, a large hand rising to cover her womb.

“Oh” Sansa smiled, admiring the way the ever so slight swell of her stomach filled her Husband’s hand. “That is new.”

“Aye” Sandor agreed, pride beaming in his eyes. “You are the most beautiful woman in the world, Little Bird. The picture of Motherly beauty” he smiled up at her, all evidence of his nightmare gone now and replaced with adoration.

“Then perhaps the Cleganes are known for their beauty” she teased.

“Only yours” he promised, rocking his hips against hers. Sansa watched his cock come to life, sliding between her folds as she idly met his movements with her own. Even in the dim early light she could see her slick glistening along his thick shaft, evidence of how her body always seemed to ache for his. “You enjoy teasing me,” Sandor mused, watching her intently.

“Perhaps” she ran her hands over his, guiding them to her hips where he could grab a hold of her. “But I never make you wait too long,” she shifted over him, letting the head of his cock brush her opening before sliding away. Sandor’s growl of frustration filled the bedroom and in a flash he rolled her to her back, laying them across the large bed.

“You’re a right tease” he purred, spreading her legs wide. He was careful not to let his weight settle over her, but he lay close enough for their bodies to touch, an elbow braced beside her head.

“Sandor” she whimpered as his hand trailed from her hip to her folds. He worked her with aching slowness, barely brushing against her bundle of nerves before moving away. “You’re horrible” she pleaded as he dipped a finger into her core.

“Horrible?” Sandor’s deep throaty chuckle vibrated through her. “I’m a right bastard,” he promised as he pushed his finger into her, the abundance of juices making it easy to slip inside. “But I’m your horrible bastard, Wife.”

“Please--”

“Please what?” he withdrew his finger, sliding against her inner walls in infuriating perfection.

“I need you.”

“You have me.”

“I need your cock, Husband” she sighed, her words interrupted as Sandor’s lips claimed hers in a deep, lustful kiss. She wrapped her arms around his broad shoulders, clinging to his strength as he devoured her. His large fingers teased her until she was a soaked, pleading mess and only then did he shift closer, settling between her legs.

“You’re fucking drenched” Sandor growled against her lips, taking himself in hand to tease her with the swollen head of his cock.

“For you, always for you” she promised, nearly out of her mind with need. “Please--” her words vanished, back arching from the bed as Sandor slid deep within her, stretching her in the most delicious way. “Yes” the word escaped on a hiss as his hand moved to her thigh, holding her wide.

“There is nothing in this world that is better than this” Sandor ground his hips against hers, so deep it bordered on pain but the ache was so delicious she could only whimper. “Than the feeling of your perfect, tight little cunt wrapped around my cock, my Little Mate.”

“Mmhmm” she could only hum in agreement, her entire being pulled tighter than a bowstring, teetering on the edge of ecstasy. Sandor’s large body dominated hers, his thrusts deep and smooth, shaking the bed frame each time he pushed home.

“Gods, look at you” he roughly exhaled, lowering to press their bodies together as tight as he dared. “My beautiful Little Mate.” His lips wandered from hers to her chin, jaw and ear, then back again, leaving a trail of soft kisses and gentle bites. Every touch sent a shiver through her, all of them settling low in her core, pushing her closer and closer to the edge.

 

Sandor watched her, never taking his eyes away as she writhed and mewled beneath him. By now, he knew her body better than he knew his own and he knew that she was rapidly racing towards her peak. The way her breathing hitched, the way she sobbed his name and the way her flush had spread across her porcelain skin, turning her a rich pink. Every inch of her was perfection.

“Sandor--!” she panted, her fingernails finding purchase in his shoulders a split second before her scream filled their bed chamber. He watched her fall apart, even as her body fluttered and clamped around his in hard, rhythmic pulses.

As she sobbed in pleasure, he pistoned his hips hard and fast, chasing his release with a single-mindedness that had the edges of his vision going dark. Her nails scored his back as she cried out, even as her body milked his with desperation. It was not long before he was lost to his own pleasure. He shoved deep, feeling the edge of her womb against his cock as he poured into her in long, white-hot bursts that had him growling in triumph.

He came for what seemed an eternity, eventually collapsing onto the bed beside her as his strength gave way to the languid heaviness of pleasure. As he lay on his back, Sansa rolled to his side, mewling softly as she snuggled against him. He banded his arms around her, burying his nose in the soft silk of her fiery hair. Surrounding himself with her scent, he felt peace course through him.

This was his favorite place to be in the world. In their bed, his mate beside him, sated and exhausted. It was in the way their bodies would meld together after they’d joined, the way her body sought his and the way his would automatically wrap around hers without pause. In these moments, even the mad Wolf that lived within his breast was at peace, utterly content to lay beside its Mate. Soon the swell of her stomach would be even more prominent and he would be able to feel it against his body as they held each other, and he found he could not wait.

He’d never given much thought to the idea of Fatherhood before, having never believed he would find his Mate in his world so filled with violence. But now, as it loomed on the horizon with certainty, he felt doubt shimmer through his veins.

Not because he did not want children, he wanted them more than anything, but because he could only pray that he was up to the task of being a strong, attentive and loving Father. He hadn’t had a glowing example of parenting in his own youth, Cleganes were known for their size and their brutality, not their fatherly prowess. In truth, the only paternal example he had to learn from, was Eddard Stark himself.

Eddard loved his family with a loyalty that was unmatched. He had gone to war to protect them, he had made the devil’s bargain to save them and every day he showed them all, in some small way, that he loved them. Sandor promised that he would take special care to be the type of Father that Eddard was, to love his children without question or boundary.

“You will be perfect” Sansa whispered her reassurance, her own mind privy to his inner-monologue and secret worries. It was a relief to not have to voice them aloud, to not have to admit to his concerns and have her simply understand them.

“I will do all that I can, Little Bird” he promised, kissing the crown of her hair.

“You will be perfect” she repeated, snuggling tightly to him. "Perfect.”

 

“You’re looking much improved” Sansa smiled as she took a seat beside Uncle Benjen on the cement bench in the backyard. It was the first time Benjen had been out of the house since the incident, but he looked like his old self, clad from head to toe in the usual sinister black, his hair half-back and tied with a leather throng. Sandor had been called away to speak with her Father and she had found herself grabbing a shawl and making her way to Uncle Benjen's side, eager to see how he fared in the light of day.

“I feel like myself again” he nodded in agreement. Sansa watched him as he looked out over the woods, his eyes dark with an indiscernible emotion, jaw tight and proud. Without a word, Sansa slipped her hand into his, holding the cold fingers in her own. The Wolfsbane had not been kind to Benjen and he had come so close to death that she was sure he was rattled to his core. In this, perhaps, she could soothe his mind.

“It’s impossible to go back to how it was before” she began softly, laying their joined hands in her lap to warm them. “It is harder still to put your mind at ease or even comprehend how easily it all could have ended, I know. It will dwell at the edges of everything, tormenting you if you let it” Benjen was quiet for several moments, contemplating her words before he replied.

“You have always been stronger than you let on” he gave her a small smile. “I admit, I never understood why you hid away after you were sick. Your beauty had not faded and surely you would have had suitors lined up to win your favor, but somehow you had dulled. I see now that life had lost its lustre for you, and I am sorry I did not understand.”

“There were many reasons,” Sansa admitted. “For my hiding away, as it were. Wolves value strength and power, I had neither--not even enough to keep my own heart going. Every day was a struggle that I hid from everyone.”

“And you were in love with Clegane.”

“Yes, I have always loved him” Sansa smiled. “Sometimes it is easier to avoid rejection entirely, then have to face life knowing with certainty that you are unwanted.”

“I loved a woman, a she-wolf once,” Benjen admitted in a voice barely above a whisper. Sansa was surprised at his words for Uncle Benjen had always been a bachelor, she could never remember a time when he had a companion.

“I never knew.”

“You wouldn’t, the only one who knows is your Father” Benjen explained. “He was there to pick up the pieces when she chose another, though I had won the trial by combat.”

“I’m so sorry---”

“There is no need, sweet Sansa” he assured her, gently squeezing her hand. “It was a very long time ago and she...she has been gone for many years.”

“Oh” Sansa’s heart ached for her Uncle.

“She chose another as her mate. He was to see her through her heat---” Benjen shook his head. “But something happened and she...he killed her.”

“Oh, Gods” Sansa’s eyes filled with tears, sadness twisting in her stomach. “Uncle…”

“Whether it was an accident or intentional, I do not know” Benjen shook his head. “I never did find out if he knew of my feelings for her, and today as he stays under our family’s roof, I still cannot tell” he said and Sansa’s entire being stilled.

“Roose Bolton?” she whispered and Benjen nodded.

“Ironic that I should nearly die beside him, is it not? She died in his arms and he nearly died in mine” Benjen let out a short bark of dark laughter. “Sometimes rebellions and wars give us a chance to lay waste to those who have wronged us, and sometimes we never find peace in their violence.”

“Say the word, give me the slightest of command, and I will kill him, Uncle” Sansa said firmly, and this time Benjen’s laughter was genuine.

“And I have no doubt that you would, Sweet Sansa” he raised their joined hands to gently kiss her knuckles, absently she noted that even his lips were cool to the touch. “But you had best keep my Great Nephew safe, I would hate to have to watch Clegane lay waste to the entire world in vengeance should you be harmed.”

“I will do my best” Sansa smiled, leaning to her Uncle’s side. They sat in silence for some time, her mind and heart filled with sadness for a could-be Aunt she never knew and the pain her Uncle had long endured in silence.

They sat together until the first signs of afternoon came, then Benjen escorted her into the house to prepare for Arya and Gendry’s wedding in the Godswood. Eddard would not have his daughter mated and unmarried for long, and while Arya was certainly not happy about the pomp and circumstance of a formal ceremony, she would tolerate it for Gendry.

That was how Sansa knew that her Sister was truly in love.

Parting from her Uncle, she moved quickly down the corridors until she reached Arya’s bed chamber, an argument already echoing into the hall. That was no surprise, Catelyn Stark had strict ideas of wedding etiquette and Sansa was sure that Arya was trying to break every rule in the book.

“It’s ugly!” Arya sighed as Sansa entered, closing the door securely behind herself.

“Arya, it is not ugly--”

“All dresses are ugly! Oh! Sansa!” Arya rushed to her side, taking her hands. “Please help me explain to Mother that this is just...awful!” she motioned to the baggy, half-laced dress that Arya was wearing. By most people's standards it was pretty, if plain, but knowing how much Arya hated gowns of any type, Sansa knew she had to tread carefully.

“I think it looks---”

“You say ‘lovely’ and I will scream” Arya sighed.

“Boring” Sansa finished resolutely.

“Boring!?” Catelyn protested with a gasp. "Sansa, darling, please."

“It is rather dull” Sansa moved to the armoire, flipping through the few dresses Arya had on hand.

“We have no other dresses--” Catelyn argued.

“We do though, Mother” Sansa shook her head. “I will be right back” she promised, rushing from the room. She found her own bed chambers easily enough and, upon opening her hope chest at the foot of the bed, pulled a linen wrapped parcel free. She had tucked this gown away with the thought of wearing it someday, but now it was clear that she had kept it safe for exactly this moment. Returning to Arya’s room, she laid her boon upont he counterpane and untied the bindings.

“Sansa…” Arya whispered.

“It would be a shame to see such a beautiful gown go to waste” Sansa began, parting the linen to reveal the stunning pale grey gown. “Mother worked so hard on it and I doubt that it will ever fit me now” Sansa smiled, placing her hand over her stomach. While the swell of her child was nearly hidden beneath her blue velvet gown, she could feel it plain as day with her hands.

“This was for your majority” Arya deduced and Sansa nodded.

“It was,” Sansa nodded. “It is Stark grey,” she explained as she unfolded the dress. “And with a direwolf resting across the bodice, I would say that it is perfect for you.”

“It will be too big,” Catelyn muttered.

“Easily fixed, we have time and I am quick with a needle,” Sansa countered.

“As far as dresses go, it isn’t horrible,” Arya brushed her fingers over the beaded wolf and Sansa knew that while Arya wouldn’t admit it, she loved this dress. It was understated but elegant and absolutely perfect for her wedding to Gendry.

“Then it will be your wedding dress” Sansa nodded. “Go and take all that nonsense off, come back and I will fit it to you and make adjustments” she instructed and Arya rushed behind the dressing screen, clothing falling away as she ran.

“Very diplomatic of you. You, my darling girl” Catelyn approached, kissing Sansa’s forehead. “Will be an incredible Mother.”

“Thank you, Mother” Sansa smiled as Arya yelled out in exasperation.

“I heard that!”

 

Sandor stood tall and proud, Sansa’s arm hooked over his as they watched the wedding celebration in the Great Hall. They had stood together as Arya and Gendry spoke the words that made them Husband and Wife, Arya in a gown that smelled distinctly of Sansa and Gendry looking at her as if he were witnessing a miracle of the Old Gods. Stiff suit and starched collar aside, he was more than content to stay at his Wife's side during the festivities.

He had not seen much of her today once they had departed their chambers. Duty of the realm kept him locked away in Eddard's office as they dealt with Roose Bolton and his loyalties, and once he had finished, Sansa was hard at work adjusting Arya's wedding dress. Arya was built quite a bit different than Sansa and the dress had kept both Sansa and Catelyn busy all afternoon.

But the vows had been spoken, Eddard no longer had to worry about his 'unwed' daughter and the Pack was more than happy to attend another feast. On one side of the hall, Margaery Tyrell was laughing loudly, all but draped over Robb Stark’s lap as she told some bawdy story. And on the other, Arya was sitting beside Gendry and Jon, all of them knee deep into their cups of ale, a drinking game consuming their attention.

“Two weddings in a year” Sansa smiled, resting her free hand on her stomach. Sandor noticed that now that there was evidence of the life that lay there, Sansa’s hand was hard-pressed to leave the spot. He found the action endearing, a subtle reminder that his Mate carried their Pup, that he had given her a child.

“I am sure your Father’s hair will be grey within a moon’s turn” Sandor chuckled. “Gods help us if the Runt has a fertile heat.”

“Just wait” Sansa turned to face him, looking up at him with a mischievous expression. “Soon you will have to worry after all of our children” her hand lifted to run through the dark hair at his temple. “A bit of grey would look handsome on you, I think.”

“Little Bird” he wrapped an arm around her waist, pulling her close. Soon he would drag her back to their chambers where they could be alone once more. She looked good enough to eat and he was determined to do just that.

“All of our little Berserkers, driving you mad” she teased.

“Aye, but they’ll be ours” Sandor assured her. “And I will love every second of it” he leaned closer, stealing a quick kiss without a care for their audience.

“Oi, Clegane!” Jaime yelled out from his seat beside Oberyn and Benjen. “What was that man’s name--the big one with the tits? You ripped his heart clean out, if memory serves--”

“Hardly appropriate conversation for a wedding, don’t you think, Lannister?” Sandor countered, aware that Jaime’s words had drawn Catelyn’s scornful expression. He wasn’t the only Good-Son now, Sandor had to make sure he was Catelyn’s favorite, did he not?

“Er…” Jaime looked around, then back to Sandor, waving his hand expectantly as if to prompt the words.

“Tell us!” Arya laughed wildly, damned Runt.

“Trant, Meryn Trant” Sandor provided with a sigh and Jaime returned to his story. “Buggering cunt” Sandor muttered, turning back to see Sansa watching him with an odd expression.

“Ripped his heart out?” she asked.

“It's not...hard” Sandor couldn’t help but smile at her appalled grimace.

“Just seems messy, that’s all” she replied flippantly.

“Very” Sandor agreed. “But vampires have weak ribs, so--”

A sudden and loud cacophony echoed at the front of the house and then the Great Hall was filled with Lannister soldiers--no, not soldiers, Sentinels. Sandor shifted Sansa behind him, shielding her from view. She went willingly, her hands clutching to the back of his jacket as the elite warriors spilled into the hall. At their back was Elia Martell who didn’t waste time in joining her Brother at his table.

Sandor watched as the tall, lean form of the Great Lion strode into Winterfell as if he owned it, sharp emerald eyes racing over the room and assessing every detail. Sandor had always begrudgingly admired the stone-cold being that was Tywin Lannister. He was the most feared man in the entire Vampire world, having taken the throne and ruled with a fair, if iron, first. Tall, golden and impossible to read, Sandor knew that with his arrival the reality of the impending war was crashing down on every mind in the room.

He quickly counted nearly two score Sentinels, but there were more in the hall and likely more in the front of Winterfell, each awaiting their King’s orders. Roose Bolton was staring with wide eyes, clearly not expecting such an honorable guest to arrive in the North, and not with this display of force. With this many Sentinel warriors, the Nightmares would be child’s play.

“Daddy’s home” Sandor heard Jaime’s whisper, the dry humor not lost on his ears.

“Can we get through one wedding without someone storming in?" Olenna Tyrell grumbled, sipping her wine. "Who knew the North was so exciting?"

“Well then” Tywin sniffed, toying with his gloved fingers in a display of boredom. “Is this how you welcome friends? What’s a man got to do to get a drink around here, Stark?” he looked to Eddard, a smirk spreading across his lips.