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The Thief and the Hound

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The most embarrassing night of Sansa’s life was caused, naturally, by alcohol. She was the most basic white girl who ever walked the earth, as her sister Arya constantly reminded her, so of course her complete humiliation had started with raspberry cider and shots of something fruity and sweet with a sexually suggestive name. And drinking buddies Margaery and Loras Tyrell to egg her on as she trash-talked her ex in one of King’s Landing’s loudest night clubs.

“He’s an absolute jerk,” Margaery kept yelling over the music, which turned out to be ironic when Joff and Margaery became Instagram’s hottest couple only a week later.

Margaery’s brother Loras handed Sansa a full shot glass. “And he’s a terrible kisser.”

Sansa was too far gone to ask Loras how he knew. By then, it was after 1 in the morning, and Sansa was not a night person. She was drunk and overtired, and as drunk and overtired people are prone to do, she was obsessing. Not over Joffrey Baratheon, absolute jerk and terrible kisser. That would be pathetic. No, she was obsessing over a wall hanging, specifically the handmade reproduction tapestry depicting direwolves that hung in a hallway of Joff’s mother’s estate.

“They don’t appreciate the work that went into it,” Sansa grumbled. “Some of those thread colors are very rare. And the texture of the wolves’ fur! That’s a special technique, you know.”

Margaery and Loras were not listening attentively enough to her very important points, so she stood on her chair. It wobbled a bit, but she kept her balance, even while hanging on to the death to her pint of cider. “That tapestry,” she announced, “is rightfully mine.”

“You go, Sansie!” Loras called out. Sansa felt affirmed, although she was getting vertigo from the unfamiliar vantage point. A little dizzy, actually.

Fortunately, Margaery helped her down. “We should go get that tapestry right now,” she said in Sansa’s ear.

Sansa gasped. What a wonderful idea! Margaery always knew what to do, didn’t she? That was why she was so much more confident than Sansa. Margaery was smart. “We should. We should!” Sansa said. “Let’s do it!”

Loras called an Uber to take them to the Baratheon mansion, Storm’s End. Joff’s father had moved out a few years ago to chase scantily clad women somewhere that sounded Mediterranean, like Cyprus or Crete. Sansa was unclear on the details. Joff’s younger siblings were away at school, so the only people who lived at Storm’s End were Joff and his mother, Cersei.

“She’s a real b-i-t-c-h, you know,” she confided to Margaery. “And not in the good way.”

Margaery sighed. “Did you really spell that out instead of saying it?”

But Sansa’s mind was racing ahead. She wanted that tapestry. It didn’t belong with Joff, that was for certain. He wouldn’t take care of it properly. And he wouldn’t be home, not on a Saturday night.

Joff had recently gained notoriety as an EDM DJ, although Sansa wasn’t quite sure what he actually did. As far as she could tell, he showed up at nightclubs that paid him to stand in the DJ booth in designer clothes and announce a few tracks. She’d done the rounds with him, wearing what he told her to wear and drinking the vodka he told her to drink while he assured her that her obedience would pay off some day. And it had, for Joff. He was now advertising that vodka and spending the money on his retinue of hangers on. The bigger the retinue, and the more trouble they caused for the tabloids to gobble up, the more night spots contacted “the King” DJ Joff. It was a miracle his entourage of bully boys hadn’t all been arrested for fighting, drug use, and seducing underage girls, but Joff was untouchable – his uncle Jaime was Kings Landing’s police commissioner.

Sansa was well out of it. No, really, she was. She hated EDM, she hated vodka, and if she’d been thinking clearly, she would’ve broken up with Joff months ago. But she’d had way too much going on after barely graduating university, namely getting settled into an apartment with her sister and finding a job. She hated the graphic design job, too, which basically came down to scanning old pictures and making them into usable electronic files, but that was a worry for another time. Tonight, she knew her every problem could be righted by her possession of the direwolf tapestry.

Loras packed them into the backseat of the Uber. “One of the direwolves on the tapestry looks just like Lady,” Sansa said. “Have I told you that?”

“Yes, several times,” Margaery said. Margaery pretended to be afraid of Sansa’s wolfhound, Lady, but Sansa suspected that Margaery wasn’t really afraid of anything. She was a true role model. Sansa folded her best friend into a sloppy hug.

“So,” Loras said, stifling a laugh, “we’re really breaking into Storm’s End?”

“No, not us,” Margaery said. “This is a job for sneaking around quietly, and we don’t know where the tapestry is. Sansa will have to do it on her own.”

Sansa gasped, and Margaery squeezed her hand. “Don’t worry, sweetling, we’ll be waiting outside for moral support. But you’re the only one who can get past the dogs.”

This was true. The Dobermans at Storm’s End were darlings, but they didn’t get the love and attention they deserved. They adored Sansa, but other people, not so much.

“I suppose they are guard dogs,” Sansa said, “but really, who could be afraid of a sweet, mushy dog?”

“I can,” Margaery said. “But since you’re so brave, go and get that tapestry like you deserve.”

Loras took out his phone to capture Sansa in the Uber. “Go get it, Wolf Princess,” he said.

“I will do that. I will go and get it.” She rather liked being called Wolf Princess. Maybe that could be her new nickname. She’d always wanted a better nickname than “Joff’s arm candy.”

While Margaery and Loras stayed in the car, telling the Uber driver only the gods knew what, Sansa moved like a shadow through the grounds of Storm’s End. She stuck to the darkest parts of the expansive yard, although she suspected nobody was home but the Dobermans, Osmund and Balon. With any luck, Joff would’ve forgotten to change the security code after their breakup. He probably didn’t think Sansa was smart enough to have it memorized.

In her drunken state, she imagined that she moved past the dogs with style and grace, only stopping for the absolute minimum amount of cuddles. She typed the 6-digit code on the keypad near the employee entrance by the kitchen, unsurprised when it beeped once, demurely, and the door unlocked. Style and grace. Move like a shadow. She knew exactly where the tapestry was, just beyond the library. Even if anyone was home, Sansa would bet Joff and Cersei wouldn’t spend time near a library. She giggled to herself. She was being catty for a Wolf Princess, but that had been clever. Not that she could ever let anyone in on the joke without coming across as unspeakably rude.

And there it was! The metallic silver threads in the direwolves’ fur sparkled in the dimmed lighting. Her tapestry!

“Baby, I’m taking you home tonight,” she purred to the wall hanging.

Quietly, like a graceful shadow, she removed the tapestry from the wall hooks and folded it ever so carefully so that it fit under her sweater. She had to tuck it into her skinny jeans on bottom and her bra on top, and really, she was fortunate she wasn’t with Joffrey anymore and wasn’t wearing the crushingly tight minidress he liked her to wear. With her chunky, cable-knit sweater, nobody would be able to tell she was smuggling a work of art over her stomach.

She tiptoed back to the kitchen, mentally patting herself on the head for a job well done. Ozzy and Balon flanked her silently. What good doggos they were! They hadn’t made a sound. She couldn’t have pulled this off without their help, and they deserved all the treats. Sansa didn’t have any dog treats with her – an oversight she should’ve rectified after Loras called the Uber – but there were probably cold cuts or sliced cheese in the refrigerator.

As soon as she opened the fridge, the alarm sounded, wailing through the empty house like a high-pitched screaming ghoul. Sansa shrieked in surprise and teetered on her espadrilles. Ozzy tried to settle her, but his wet tongue on her hand surprised her, and she tripped over the leg of a kitchen chair and crashed to the floor, twisting her ankle because of course she would, that was so typical Sansa. And who the H-E-double-hockey-sticks would put an alarm on a refrigerator? What kind of maniac would guard leftovers from the staff—oh, right, the Cersei Baratheon kind.

She scooted on her butt over the slick floor tiles to the chair and pulled herself upright, then hopped to the fridge to see if shutting the door would cut off the awful alarm. Thank the gods nobody was—

“Who’s there?” someone called. The voice was unfamiliar and male.

With the fridge alarm silenced, every hop Sansa took toward the door sounded like a falling boulder. Why oh why hadn’t she taken her shoes off before she came indoors? Tears sprang to her eyes as she struggled with the doorknob. She’d made so many mistakes, and not just in this burglary attempt. Her whole life was a series of stupid choices that had seemed like the path of least resistance at the time. Dating Joffrey. Staying in King’s Landing after graduation on Joff’s suggestion. Neglecting to apply for graduate school. Applying to office jobs despite her art degree because art was hard. Letting Margaery and Loras get her drunk and talk her into a life of crime – that had been the biggest mistake of all.

The mystery man grabbed her arm above the elbow and pulled her away from the door. He wore a velvet robe, and his obvious annoyance at her made her thankful Ozzy and Balon wouldn’t leave her side. Then Cersei appeared in the doorway, also wearing a robe. Great, she’d interrupted a romantic tryst. That wouldn’t make Cersei feel charitable.

“Sansa Stark?” Cersei said. “Is that you? Did you break into my house?”

Some girls were pretty when they cried, with gentle tears that rolled down their cheeks one by one. Not Sansa. She burst into sobs like a broken pipe, snot dripping from her nose, and she just knew that her face was blotching up red and ugly. Joff always told her she was too emotional, as did Arya, and her brothers, and Margaery and Loras, and pretty much everyone. She struggled to get her breath back so she could invent an explanation, but she’d never been a good liar, and now she was going to be in so much trouble, and this was the most embarrassing thing that had ever happened, she was sure.

“Who is this?” The heavyset man shook her arm without releasing his grip.

Cersei’s face twisted. “That’s my son’s former girlfriend. It looks like she doesn’t understand that Joffrey wants nothing more to do with her.”

“Damn, she’s tall for a girl. What is she, six feet tall?”

Five foot nine and a half, she thought desperately, but she couldn’t make herself stop crying long enough to get any words out.

“Stop whining, girl,” the man said impatiently.

She gasped in a huge lungful of oxygen and managed to croak, “I’m so sorry.”

“Poor thing,” the man said, and Sansa felt a little better. Maybe an apology would be enough. But he didn’t let go of her arm despite Balon’s growls.

“What do we do with the girl?” he asked.

“Call the police, of course,” Cersei said.

Sansa hugged her arms around her stomach, securing the tapestry. If she played her cards right, Cersei would never figure out that she’d stolen it. Then again, Sansa wasn’t exactly a poker ace. Her life in Kings Landing had started with a royal flush, and she’d managed to toss all her good cards away without realizing she’d left herself with nothing.

 

 

There were a thousand sordid stories in this corrupt cesspool of a city, and Detective Sandor Clegane had heard every one of them twice. And they were all fucked up beyond belief. Every day that passed him by as a member of the Kings Landing police department was a testament to the stupidity and greed of mankind. People knifed each other for a few gold dragons or for their next high. Young girls and boys were forced out on the streets, brutalized, and prison broke them into pieces that could never be put back together. That had been the way of the world his entire life, the only world he’d ever known, and often he wondered why he’d bothered with the police academy when he could’ve taken the path of least resistance and joined the profitable Clegane family business of meth production. But that would’ve meant dealing with his brother Gregor. Fuck that.

Anyway, he was good at police work. When it came to busting heads, the criminal element of Kings Landing lived in fear of Sandor Clegane’s steel-tipped motorcycle boots. It had taken him a while to make detective because he wasn’t friendly with any of his fellow officers. Half of them were on the take, and the other half too dumb to find their asses with GPS coordinates. They all assumed he was on the take since the Lannisters had sponsored his police academy education after his first failed attempt at college, and that little wanker Joffrey Baratheon, Commissioner Lannister’s nephew, was constantly getting let off the hook. Well, what choice did he have? Making charges stick to an overprivileged trust fund baby was well above his pay grade.

Maybe there was more honor in cooking meth. It felt like it, most days. That was why he mainly worked nights. No, that wasn’t right, he could be honest with himself – nobody else would be. He worked nights because the other detectives didn’t want to see his ugly face in the daylight.

On this night, a crummy Saturday night at 2:30 am, that time of night when the scum of the city rose to the top and the rats came out to feast on the vomit-covered streets, not that he was brooding over anything, he stared at the tiny keys on the keyboard on his desk, wondering yet again how the hell anyone was supposed to type on keys that small, when one of his friendly and helpful coworkers grunted the name “Joff Baratheon” and threw a folder on his desk. Sandor growled in response. What did he have to bail the cunt out of this time?

He looked away from his keyboard and met the eyes of the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen.

He’d seen hundreds of women rotate through the police station, many of them desperate and hungry, although not desperate or hungry enough to give him the time of day, but never, never had he seen a woman who carried herself with this much grace. She sat in the chair next to his desk as if it were a throne and she was the queen of love and beauty. Her luminous auburn hair fell in long waves over perfectly formed shoulders. A faint spray of freckles highlighted cheekbones that had been shaped by the gods. She’d been crying; he could tell by the red rims around her eyes, which he now noticed were blue. No, not just blue. They were the blue of the summer sky in the Westerlands, high in the mountains where the creeks ran clear. They were cerulean, they were—

“Am I in a lot of trouble?” she asked timidly, and he gave up trying to think of another word for blue.

“What did he do to you?” He sounded rougher than he intended, but just the thought of that Baratheon douchebag touching this woman filled him with even more rage than the usual amount of rage. If that asswipe had hurt this girl, he was not going to sweep that under the carpet for the damned Lannisters.

She studied his face, and he watched her cringe. Dammit, what had he expected?

“What happened to your face?” she said.

“It was a long time ago,” he said through gritted teeth. “That the kind of thing you usually ask people?”

Her hand flew to her soft, pink-tinted lips, not that he was paying attention to her appearance anymore because he was not. “I’m so sorry, that was incredibly impolite,” she said. Her voice was like warmed honey, sweet and melty, and this was fucking pathetic, he needed to stop. “I don’t know what could have come over me. Will you please forgive me?”

He snorted. “What, are you drunk?”

“Duh. Obviously.” She rubbed at her eyes. “Can we start again? I’m Sansa Stark, and I believe I’m being arrested. And you are?”

Oh, this one thought she was royalty, sure enough. “I’m your arresting officer,” he said, a little rougher than was strictly necessary.

She reached across his desk, and damn, did she have a reach. She had to be one of the tallest girls he’d ever seen. She turned his nameplate around and read it out loud.

“Detective Sandor Clegane. Oh, what a nice name. Sandor.” The way she rolled those two syllables on her tongue should’ve been a crime. “It sounds like my name.”

He breathed in and out, getting control of himself. When was the last time anyone had used his first name? It could’ve been a year. “What am I arresting you for?” he barked.

She scrunched up her perfect nose. “I kind of broke into my ex-boyfriend’s house. Well, I didn’t really break anything. Is it still considered breaking and entering if you’re friends with the guard dogs?”

“The hell you talking about, girl?”

“It’s just that Balon and Osmund are super sweet dogs.” She leaned closer to him, and her arm rested on his desk, right next to his. He could feel heat being generated in the fraction of an inch between them. “The Baratheons don’t know how to treat dogs right.”

His breath caught in his throat, and a neglected part of his brain begged him to get down on one knee and tell his woman that he’d follow her forever. Fortunately, the more intelligent part of his brain, the detective part, put two and two together. “Your ex-boyfriend is Joffrey Baratheon.” Of course he was. Why would the world work any other way?

She sighed. “I hope you won’t hold that against me.”

“Hold that against—” The long-neglected romantic part of his brain, which wouldn’t shut up all of a sudden, had several ideas of what could be held against Sansa Stark. He shook it off. “So you broke into the Baratheon’s house. Is this a confession?”

“Is it?” she asked. Her eyes were so innocent and trusting, like she believed that he’d never mislead her. “I only wanted to get back what was mine.”

Well, that was likely. He couldn’t picture the Baratheon boy giving anything back willingly, no matter whose it was. He sighed. “Alright, you’re here, the uniforms picked you up. Now I gotta fill out the paperwork.”

“I understand,” she said. “You seem very responsible.”

The part of his brain that really needed to die pointed out that she no longer had any trouble looking him full in the face. It was rare to meet a woman tall enough to look him directly in the eye.

“How tall are you?” he asked, like the idiot he was.

“Is that on the paperwork?” she said, twisting to try to read his monitor.

“Yes,” he lied, and what the fuck was that? He didn’t lie to people, especially not about things that stupidly trivial. How had that been worth it?

She scooted her chair closer to him and leaned in to whisper in his ear. “Can I tell you a secret?”

The whispering tickled against his earlobe and drove a hot trail down the side of his body to rest in his lap. Before he was able respond with anything rational – which might not have been for a week in any case – she giggled. Also in his ear. “I’m actually five foot ten.”

He stared at her, completely gobsmacked. “You’re five foot ten,” he said stupidly.

“Yes!” She put a finger to her lips. “Shh. Joffrey told everyone we were both five foot nine and a half because he didn’t want anyone to know that I’m taller than him. But I am! Also, he told me not to wear high heels.” She looked at her feet. “He might’ve been right about that.”

“Fuck that. A lady as short as you should wear high heels whenever she wants,” he said, and the most beautiful smile broke out on her face. She was beaming at him and how clever he was, and he realized he was never going to see a smile that gorgeous aimed at him ever again.

“Oh! Am I supposed to get a phone call?” she asked.

“Are you?” he said, his cleverness apparently depleted for the night. “Do you have a phone? Anyone you can call to take you home?”

Her smile was a little shyer now, but no less attractive. “Thank you for your concern, Detective. My friends are waiting for me in the lobby.”

“Call me Sandor, since you like the name.” Was he flirting? Were they flirting with each other? What the hell was going on?

“Okay, Sandor.”

It was absolutely criminal how she pronounced his name. He’d be trying to recreate that sound in his head for many nights to come.

“So,” she said, after what he belatedly realized was an awkward pause, “am I supposed to call a lawyer?”

“Uh, I have to fingerprint you first. Have you ever been arrested before?” If she’d ever come in with any of Baratheon’s gang, he damn sure would’ve noticed. He couldn’t picture her hanging out with the usual gaggle of goons and flunkies the trust fund baby surrounded himself with, doing the stupid shit they did.

“This is my first time,” she said, and then she blushed, and goddamn if watching her get flustered over such an innocent innuendo wasn’t a turn on. He’d better stand up while he still could.

“Fingerprints are done over here,” he said, motioning her to the high table with the inkpads and blotters.

She tried to stand, but she collapsed back into the chair, wincing in pain, and how the fuck did she manage to make that look enticing? “I’m sorry, I twisted my ankle.”

“Why are you apologizing to me for that?”

“I’m sorry,” she said again. “It’s just that I think you’ll have to help me over to the fingerprinting station.”

“I think I can manage a little thing like you,” he said, as if that wasn’t the most inappropriate thing to say to someone he was arresting, for fuck’s sake.

Her eyes roamed over his arms and shoulders, and he could feel the weight of her appraisal. “Hmmm,” she said, “it does look like you can manage, doesn’t it?” And then she turned completely red, and it brought out the fire in her incredible hair. “I’m sorry, that was …”

“Don’t worry about it,” he said, his voice now rough for a very different reason than earlier.

He reached out his arm, and she stood, balancing her weight on her left leg. He took her right arm in his, and her skin was warm, and her sweater was soft, and the smell of her! By all rights, she should smell like booze and the back of a police cruiser, but instead she smelled like fresh cut grass in a sunny meadow. What he wouldn’t give to bury his face in her neck and sniff her hair like the hound he was.

Alright, maybe, maybe, he could assist her over to the fingerprinting area and not fuck it up. It only felt like every set of eyes in the station was watching him. Most likely, they were staring at Sansa Stark, because who wouldn’t? She draped herself over him, pressing the length of her long, supple body next to his, and she stretched her perfect neck up to speak into his ear again.

“I forgot to tell you the other part of the story,” she said. “Joffrey isn’t five foot nine and a half. He lies about it. He’s five foot eight.”

“Ah,” he said, “obviously too short, even for a little girl like you.”

She laughed, and it sounded like a bubbling brook. No, no it didn’t, what the fuck was wrong with him. He was beginning to think the girl had poisoned him somehow.

“So you broke into his house,” he said, trying to get back on track.

“I didn’t break anything,” she said. “That makes me sound like a hardened criminal.”

Something was hardening, that was for sure. “So you just flew in and out the window like a bird.”

Her laugh was musical and breathy. “That’s right, Detective Sandor. Although I was aided and abetted by the dogs. Do you have a dog?”

“Of course,” he said without thinking, too distracted trying to sit her down in a chair without touching her glorious ass.

“Of course!” She did that beaming thing again where her whole face lit up from the inside just because of something that had come out of his mouth. “I knew you sounded like a dog person. What kind of dog is it? Something big, I’ll bet.”

She untangled her arm from his, and he tried not to grieve over it. “Yeah, uh, he’s a rescue, so I’m not sure. I think maybe he has some Newfie in him.”

“A Newfoundland!” She clapped her hands together in glee, which he didn’t think people actually did. He’d never met anyone before who was angelic enough to pull it off. “Dog owners sort of resemble their doggos, don’t you think? I can see you as a Newfie. Big. Floppy, long hair.” Her smile got a little wistful. “Soulful eyes. The heart of a teddy bear.”

His heart stopped in his chest. He was struck dead. “You’re still drunk, I see,” he managed to say despite being a corpse.

“Oh! Right. Yes. Maybe.” She frowned, and it created a little line between her eyes. He curled his hand into a fist so that he wouldn’t touch it, which was of no help whatsoever in getting her prints taken. And he could already see where that was going. He’d have to lift her aristocratic hands to press each finger into the inkpad, and he’d have to do that ten times, and then there would be nothing left of him. The cynical detective part of his brain came to his rescue and told him to get a fucking grip.

“Right, so I’m gonna ink your fingers and then put the prints on this sheet of paper,” he told her.

He leaned over her, and his eyes wandered to the neck of her sweater, but she caught him and startled, crossing her arms over her chest.

“I kind of need your hand to do this,” he said, hoping she didn’t hate him for staring.

“Right, right.” She adjusted her bra straps before holding out a dainty hand to him, as if she were a medieval princess and he was her supplicant knight, and where the hell did his mind keep getting this bullshit? He obviously hadn’t killed enough brain cells over the years, as unlikely as that fucking seemed.

He took her hand carefully. It was soft as satin.

“Guess what kind of dog I have?” she said.

He almost asked her what the most beautiful breed of dog in the world was, but come on, the poor girl shouldn’t have to suffer through any more of his pathetic attempts at flirting. “I don’t know.” But he had to guess, didn’t he? “Something red, to match your hair.”

“Yes!” she exclaimed. He’d never met a girl who did so much exclaiming. “She’s a Northern wolfhound.”

He was a little surprised – he thought she’d have a toy dog, but no. Miss Sansa Stark liked the big dogs. That was … that was freaking hot, actually.

“I need your other hand,” he said, and when had his voice gotten so low and throaty?

She gave him a flirty smile, and even he had to admit she was flirting with him, mercilessly. Maybe she flirted with everyone, although she didn’t seem the type. He forced himself to remember how her face had looked when she’d first seen his burn scars.

“So, Detective Sandor, I told you a secret about me. Tell me a secret about you.”

“I don’t have any secrets.” All of Kings Landing knew everything they needed to know about him, from the burns on his face due to his brother’s exploding meth lab to his washout at Kings Landing University after he lost his football scholarship to the Lannisters having to bail his sorry ass out every time.

“What’s your favorite breakfast food?” she asked.

“Strawberries,” he said. Who the fuck said strawberries? How was that a breakfast food? Something about the girl reminded him of ripe fruit. Maybe it was her lips.

“Strawberries!” She couldn’t start a sentence without an exclamation. He was undecided whether it was annoying or adorable. “Good, now I know a secret about you.”

“That’s not a secret.”

He gently tugged her hand to press her finger into the inkpad. She moved her entire body forward, resting her chin on his bicep.

“Does anyone else know you like strawberries?” she purred.

“No,” he said, mentally congratulating himself on getting the syllable out.

Her eyes glittered as she stared directly into his soul. “Then it’s our secret, isn’t it?”

Seven. Fucking. Hells. What was he supposed to do next?

“So, uh, I think we’re done here, Ms. Stark. You’ll get a court date, and maybe you should call a lawyer.” That wasn’t what he was supposed to do, but he couldn’t think straight.

She grabbed his arm again, and he hoisted her up easily. She hardly weighed a thing, but he liked how her head reached to his shoulder, like she was meant to lean on him forever.

“Please, call me Sansa,” she said.

“Okay, Sansa.” The long-starved romantic in him protested. He shouldn’t have said her name. It burned into him, and now he was hers forever. He consulted the cynical part of his brain, but unfortunately, it agreed. Damn.

He walked her to the lobby, arm in arm, where her friends were waiting. A silly looking girl was waving her hands, all excited, while an equally silly looking boy had his phone out.

“Thank you very much, Detective Sandor,” she said.

“You don’t have to thank me for arresting you,” he said.

She licked her bottom lip. Probably thirsty. “Well, you made sure it wasn’t an unpleasant experience.”

He smiled at her, and she smiled at him, and he became aware that this was another one of those prolonged, awkward silences.

“Don’t fly in any more windows now,” he said.

“I won’t. Maybe I’ll see you again sometime.”

“You hang around the police station much?”

She shrugged. Her friends were coming to take her back, but he didn’t want to let go of her. Still, there wasn’t much he could do when her excitable girlfriend tugged Sansa’s arm out of his.

“You poor girl, I’m sure this has been an ordeal,” her friend said, ignoring him as if he wasn’t even in the room. Well, that was typical. What had he expected?

He watched them leave, her friends helping her hop along. At the door, Sansa turned and gave him a little wave. He gave her a little wave back and stood there for a minute more, letting his thoughts run away from him. Just for a minute.

Someone clapped him on the back, and he snarled under his breath. Fortunately for everyone else on duty, it was his captain, Barristan Selmy, the one man he couldn’t chew out for disturbing his train of thought.

“So,” Selmy said, “one thing I love about this job is that you never know what to expect to come through the door.”

“Sure,” he said. An hour ago, he would’ve argued the point, explained that it was the same load of shit every night. But right now, he didn’t feel like it.

“Still,” Selmy said, “I never thought I’d live to see one of my detectives miss a clue as large as ‘what do you want for breakfast?’.”

He whirled around. “No, that was … “ What was that? Fuck. Fuck. “That was Joffrey Baratheon’s girl.”

Selmy frowned. “Whatever you say, Clegane.”

The captain didn’t understand, that was all. It wasn’t every day you met your soulmate, fell in love, realized she was so far above you she might as well live on the fucking Moon, and watched her leave knowing you were never going to see her again. But if, by some unbelievable quirk of fate, he had another chance to talk to Sansa Stark, he wouldn’t fuck it up again.

Who was he kidding? That wasn’t how his life worked. Lady Luck wasn’t going to deal him a better hand, and the sooner he remembered that, the better.