Sandor wasn’t accustomed to second guessing himself. If there was the slightest fucking tendency to think twice in the Clegane genes, his father and brother wouldn’t be enjoying the free meals and entertainment in prison.
However. Telling Sansa to go away had not been his finest moment.
On the other hand, he was fucked, wasn’t he? He had no choice but to get on his knees to Jaime Lannister and suck his dick, figuratively speaking. Once Sansa had her court hearing, she’d know it was his own investigation making her out to be the guilty party. Lannister had been clear as glass: make the case against Sansa or give up his career.
He could do something else for a living. He had skills. He knew all the street-level drug dealers and informants in Flea Bottom. That had to be worth … something? Fuck. He couldn’t even try to make himself into a private investigator, not with Tyrion Lannister and Petyr Baelish blacklisting him. Fuck. Alright, he had other skills. He just couldn’t think of what they were right now.
He could starve. Not like he’d never been poor and hungry before. But he knew from experience how fucking hard it was to climb out of that hole, and he wasn’t 20 years old and bulletproof anymore.
Sansa had thought he’d been joking when he’d said he could either be a cop or a criminal. She thought he had all sorts of valuable skills, like dog wrangling and poetry writing and making out in elevators.
She was better off without him. There wasn’t a single person in Westeros who wouldn’t swear to the Seven that Sansa Stark could do a hell of a lot better than him. He’d never been worth anything to anyone. A few short days as her knight in shining armor shouldn’t be enough to ruin him. Someday, in a future decade, it was bound to stop feeling like he’d replaced his fucking useless heart with a ravenous black hole. At least the romantic part of his brain had shut up for good. He’d always wanted that, right?
All there was left to do was make the call to Lannister and kiss his ass. Which he’d be doing any time now. It could wait one more day, though, at least. He couldn’t feel this damn miserable forever.
Soulmate. Why did she have to use that word? What kind of sick joke were the gods playing on him? If only he could stop that word from echoing in the air around him.
He was dozing off in front of a nature documentary – lions this time because he really fucking hated himself – when his phone dinged with an incoming text. Ding. He chose to ignore it. He didn’t want to hear from anyone, not a fucking syllable.
Ding. What if it was Sansa? He didn’t want to hear from her either. Shit, he did, but he shouldn’t. So, no reading his phone.
Ding. But what if it was her? It could be the last text she ever sent him. Nah, fuck it, he was not going to look at his phone. She’d given up on him. She had. She would.
Ding. Dammit, he had to fucking know.
It was not Sansa. It was the Blackwater Brewery claiming they had his credit card. See, he’d moved for nothing. He may have been there piss drunk the night he decided he was a fucking poet, but he’d checked his wallet since then. Wrong guy, he texted back.
You’re Sandor Clegane, right? There was a photo attached to the text, and he’d be damned if that wasn’t his credit card with his name on it. What the fuck?
I’m only going to be here between two and four this afternoon. Can you come get your card then?
OK but who is this? He texted back.
He got no answer. He had a feeling it was the kraken lady, Sansa’s friend who worked at the restaurant. He knew he had his credit card in his wallet, but he wouldn’t put it past her to have taken a picture of it when he was blitzed. She probably wanted to tell him he was a fucking asshole, as if he didn’t already know. Might as well get it over with. It was either that or lie here in front of the TV, where the lioness was grooming the cute little cubs with her tongue, and it was making him all teary eyed because he was a pussy. He didn’t need to make that worse by cowering at home, scared of a barista. If Sansa was at the restaurant, he’d walk out.
Just in case, he changed his clothes into something less slept in. Not that he’d stay there long enough for Sansa to notice. She had a pretty sharp eye, though. Hard to get things past her. He didn’t want her to think he’d spent the last 16 hours curled in a fucking ball sobbing at baby animals.
When he walked into the pub, the first, most obvious thing he noticed was no sign of Sansa. A complete absence of the smell of her perfume and of the sensuous electricity she sparked around her. For the rest of his life, the first thing he’d notice about every room he entered was that she wasn’t there.
Tarth was there instead, sitting at the bar with a garden salad and an ice water, which was probably all she consumed. Maybe ethically sourced tofu, too, because she must eat a lot of protein. She wasn’t a small woman, that was for sure. Tarth gave him the once over, and he felt himself blushing under her scrutiny. For fuck’s sake, what did he have to be embarrassed about?
Everything. His entire life. Right, he’d almost forgotten for second there.
Kraken Lady waved at him from behind the bar. He knew her name was Yara Greyjoy, but he didn’t feel obligated to use it.
“Where’s my card?” he asked.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” She had a grin like she’d blackmailed a dentist into making her teeth look pointy.
Suddenly, a blur of feral energy was rushing toward him, making him flash back to the TV carnivores on the savannah. The she-wolf had come out of nowhere, and he realized too late that he’d walked into an ambush.
“You.” Arya Stark pointed at him, a vicious jab. She wore fingerless gloves, and what kind of cunt wore fingerless gloves in public? He’d have to set her straight one of these days.
He looked at Kraken Lady behind the bar. “You got me. Happy? Now I’m leaving.”
Arya’s jaw dropped. “I can’t believe you. Here my sister is in all sorts of trouble, being harassed by a stalker, and you don’t have time to hear it.”
His central nervous system uncoupled from his brain, stopping him from leaving and making his hands want to curl around something hard and wreck the shit out of it. “What did you just say?”
“I know that tone of voice,” Tarth said blandly. “Sit down and we’ll approach this rationally.”
“Oh, please, Brienne.” Arya hoisted herself up on a barstool. “The last thing we need is rationality.”
“That’s why I texted him,” Kraken Lady said.
“Well, what the fuck does Sansa have to say?” he said.
Arya rolled her eyes. “I don’t know. While we were figuring it out, Sansa left to go talk to some jackass who blamed her for getting him suspended.”
“That’s not—” Fuck it, trying to address that was pointless. He could ignore the internal bleeding. “So you’re going to, what, come up with something behind her back? Not even consult her?”
“You don’t get to complain about that,” Arya said, not even denying it. She swiveled her chair, knocking Tarth’s elbow. Tarth either chose not to point it out or was zen enough not to care.
“Sit down and let me get you a burger,” Kraken Lady said. “Don’t worry about paying, I got your credit card number already.”
“Clegane, you know what the problem is,” Tarth said. “He’s not somebody she knows, and she doesn’t have a protection order.”
He grabbed a cocktail stirrer from the bar and put it in his mouth so he’d stop grinding his back teeth. He knew what the problem was alright. The police couldn’t do much without a restraining order. And when someone was stalked by a stranger, they didn’t have enough information on the perp to get a restraining order.
“She thinks he’s been lurking in his car in front of our apartment.” Arya spun her barstool as she spoke. “I’m going to stake him out tonight and get a license plate number.”
Tarth locked gazes with him before he could say anything. “I am not condoning anything illegal. Having said that, if this creep does show up, a strong warning might be enough to scare him off.”
“A strong warning,” he repeated.
Why hadn’t Sansa told him this? He was supposed to be her knight … oh, right. He’d never saved her from shit. He kept failing her. It may have taken her a while to figure it out, but she was smart. It must’ve clicked eventually.
The Greyjoy woman handed him a soda water with a lemon wedge. “I’m working tonight, and so is Brienne. But we don’t think Arya should wait for this asshole on her own.”
“I could totally scare him off myself.” Arya grimaced at him. “I’ll never look as scary as you, though.”
“You’re fucking annoying me, she-wolf.”
But Arya knew he was going with her tonight. He could make this dickweasel piss himself in fear and get his name and license number at the same time. Then Tarth could run the number at the station, and he could look forward to fucking up someone’s life very badly. Somebody’s else’s life for once, not his own.
Sansa should’ve told him. Didn’t she know he’d do anything she needed, anything she asked? Of course, all she’d asked him was to spend time with her, and he’d kicked her out of his house. Goddamn it, adjusting to life after Sansa would be much easier if this motley crew had tricked him into coming so they could call him a dick instead of bringing him lunch and a mission. They knew he was a dick, right? They’d met him, so yeah, they must know.
“I know you have a truck because Sansa keeps looking for it,” Arya said, making him feel even worse, “so here’s the plan. You pick me up outside of my apartment complex right after sunset. We drive around the block until this scumbag shows up.”
“You know what kind of car he drives?” he asked.
“No, but I’ll recognize the bitch boy on sight. I should’ve kicked him in the fork when I had the chance.”
Yara put two plates of cheeseburgers and fries on the counter, one for him and one for Arya. “If you’re not careful, life will keep presenting you with missed opportunities, chances you’ll wish you’d taken. Right, detective?”
He shoved the burger in his mouth so he didn’t have to answer. It was a good burger, he hadn’t eaten all day, and, lost job or not, he was sure he was paying for both plates. He should really stop indulging Arya one of these days. He wasn’t sure why he’d started, although he could take a good fucking guess.
“Again, I’m not condoning violence,” Tarth said.
“Noooo,” Arya said. “We get it. No worries.”
He wasn’t thrilled about staking out Sansa’s apartment without her knowledge, but the alternative was to call her and warn her. Except if he heard the sound of her voice, he’d throw himself at her feet and beg for her forgiveness. He didn’t have the willpower to push her away a second time. The only way he could remain noble and give her up for her own sake was to never speak to her again.
He consulted the romantic part of his brain for its take on the situation, but he’d finally killed that part of him. The soup that remained of his thought processes informed him he’d fucked up enough and he should let someone else tell him what to do for once. Arya, though? Seemed a stretch, but what the hell did he have to lose?
Nothing. He had nothing. That was the whole point. It was the reason to give up Sansa. It was the reason he was desperate to hang onto a few more hours in her orbit, even if she wasn’t actually there. It was the reason Sansa’s friends knew they could rope him into being the Scary Asshole, the only role he ever seemed suited to play.
“I don’t expect you to be suspended forever,” Tarth said in an almost friendly voice. “If I were you, I wouldn’t do anything tonight that could jeopardize your return.”
“I know what I’m doing,” he replied.
He wasn’t sure when he’d lost his Scary Asshole reputation, but the three women didn’t hesitate to laugh in his face.
Right before it got dark, he parked on the side of the road in front of Sansa’s apartment complex. There were only a few trees, spaced far apart from each other, lining the curb in the parking lot, and he didn’t want to idle the engine where there was no cover. He’d be too easy for Sansa to spot. Arya jumped in the truck’s cab after only a minute or two. She was hauling a gray Wintertown Wolves backpack, which she threw on top of his duffel bag.
“What’s in the backpack?” he asked as he merged into traffic for a swing around the block.
“Flashlight. Binoculars. Extra battery and charging cord for my phone. A water bottle. Pair of gloves.”
That was about what he carried in his duffel bag. He had some experience with stakeouts despite suspects finding him noticeable. It turned out that he was good at focusing on his surroundings without losing interest and getting distracted, even at night. Yeah, there were some more skills to add to his resume: sitting still and staying awake.
He wasn’t going to say anything to Arya about Sansa. He’d had a stern talk with himself about that on the drive over. He circled the block before doing a drive through of the apartment complex’s parking lot, all the while keeping quiet. Arya would not be helpful when it came to relaying Sansa’s state of mind. In countless ways, she was the worst fucking possible person he could discuss Sansa with.
“Why didn’t she tell me about this asshole?” he asked.
“Ugghh, it’s so obvious.” Arya lolled in the seat as if he was torturing her. “You already forgot how you met her?”
He found a secluded spot across the street from the apartments to park the truck and killed the engine. He’d been right. There was no point in talking to Arya about this.
“No, I didn’t forget,” he said. “What does that have to do with anything?”
Arya shook her head. “I swear to the Mother, I don’t know which one of you is worse. She’s embarrassed. She’s been trying to impress you.”
He narrowed his eyes and studied her closely. She didn’t look like she was joking.
“Think about it from her point of view.” Arya undid her seatbelt and sat cross-legged. “Every time she sees you, she’s drunk or in court or getting you suspended or being tortured for dating that douchecanoe Joffrey. She doesn’t want you to think she’s a walking disaster.”
“I wouldn’t think that,” he said slowly.
“Good, because she’s not a walking disaster, not entirely.” Arya peered out the side window, studying parked cars. “You obviously care about her, so I’m not sure why you’re working so hard to make her miserable.”
“I’m making her miserable?” But Arya wouldn’t look at him. He couldn’t be the one making her miserable. That was everyone else in Sansa’s life. He couldn’t be that important to her already when she had so many people who cared about her. “Hmmph. She worries about you, too.”
“Hey, I never said I worry about her.” She dug around in her backpack and fished out a pack of gum. “Wait, what did she tell you about me?”
“You don’t know why you’re going to school.”
“Pfft,” Arya said, and nothing more. The sound of her chewing gum was going to be mighty annoying in a very short time, especially since she kept blowing little bubbles and cracking them.
He didn’t expect Sansa to be perfect. Yeah, she’d gotten arrested, but who didn’t have a drunken misunderstanding with the law in their past? Sure, the Joffrey thing showed she didn’t have the best taste in men, but that was a point in his favor, or it would’ve been if he hadn’t fucked it all up.
Arya, fortunately, got bored with the gum cracking and was quiet for a good 40 minutes before she picked up the conversation where she’d dropped it. “I don’t know why I’m going to school. It feels so pointless. Everyone in my classes annoys me, I never have any money, and I haven’t learned anything practical.”
“So take an accounting class,” he said.
“I said practical, Hound. Would you trust me with your money?”
“Where the hell did you pick up that name?” he growled at her.
She shrugged, which seemed to be Arya-speak for an apology. “It kind of suits you.”
“Got that from douchecanoe Joffrey.”
“I didn’t, I swear! Damn, you’re sensitive.” She put her feet on his dashboard, and he opened his mouth to tell her to stop, but she was back to pouring out her problems to him. “I wish I could go fishing for a living. Or roller derby. Something useful, you know? And the people I go to school with are constantly whining about the stupidest shit. I don’t know, maybe I hate people.”
“Why did you leave the North to come to Kings Landing then?”
She raised her eyebrows. “Did Sansa tell you we grew up in an igloo? There are people in the North.”
“Get your shoes off my truck,” he said.
“Bossy,” she complained, but she put her feet down. “I’m guessing you think you hate people. What are you doing in Kings Landing?”
“Babysitting you, apparently.”
She grinned at him. “You’re not doing this for me, you’re doing it for my sister. Anyway, you don’t fool me. You don’t go to the police academy unless you want to help people. Otherwise, you’d find that magically deserted northern tundra and collect animal pelts for a living.”
It may have crossed his mind while he was binging Animal Planet documentaries that it would be a nice life, setting up cameras in the wilderness and never talking to anyone but the more intelligent predators. But, as Arya noted, he was still here in Kings Landing.
When he was young like her, hard as it was to imagine, he’d believed in all that shit that ran through his mind in City Hall. Principles of the law. Defending the powerless. Protecting women like Sansa, who got noticed by the wrong people through no fault of their own. Watching out for abandoned kids whose parents were too drunk or high to give a shit. Even then, he’d been bullheaded about it. His father and brother were bad guys, so he’d prove everyone wrong and be a good guy. Ha. Joke was on him.
“I should do that, go into law enforcement,” Arya said, somewhat predictably.
“You wouldn’t like it,” he said. “People suck, and you gotta deal with them every day being assholes to each other. Even if you meet good people, it’s because bad shit happened to them, and you’re all alone trying to fix it, and you can’t.”
“Well, duh, not all alone. Everything’s too hard alone. Why do you think I live with Sansa?” She snorted. “Shit, I can’t even get a decent meal on my own. College is the worst.”
“The city’s too corrupt,” he said. “Go back home if you want to be a cop. Nobody can fix anything here.”
“That sounds like a challenge.”
Fuck, had he ever been that young? He didn’t remember wanting to take on the criminal element of Kings Landing by himself. Of course, he’d already been facing it on his own, his whole life. He’d joined the police thinking he wouldn’t be on his own anymore.
Oh, shit, had he really? That was a fucking thing to realize. Between his face and his personality, he should’ve known better.
“What I think is—” He never got to hear what Arya thought. She bolted upright and popped open the passenger door. A dark-colored, tricked-out Honda drove very slowly into the apartment’s parking lot. Arya darted across the street and disappeared behind an apartment building. This must be the perp, and it proved his longtime personal rule to never trust anyone who put a spoiler and fins on a Civic.
He maneuvered the truck across the street and got right on the suspect’s tail, reading the plate. It was personalized: DONTOS. There was only one entrance to the parking area, so after the perp inched past Sansa’s building, he had to make a three-point turn. Sandor threw his gearshift into Park, blocking the way out.
As soon as the scumbag got his souped-up Civic turned around, Arya burst out from behind a row of parked vehicles and flew to the driver’s window, which she pounded with her fist. Sandor got out of his truck while the suspect rolled down his window. He couldn’t hear what he had to say to Arya, but the she-wolf’s voice was loud and clear.
“No, what the hell are you doing here? If you go looking for my sister again, you’ll be lucky if the police find you before I do.”
Arya couldn’t weigh more than 100 pounds with her boots on, but she was damn convincing. He wondered if he was needed here after all. Just in case, though, he stood behind Arya and peered inside the Civic. The perp was much older than he’d suspected, with a round face and burgeoning beer gut, and he was giving Arya his best attempt at indifference.
“I don’t know what you mean. It’s an open lot. Lots of reasons I could be here.” His voice was unsurprisingly smug.
“We have your plate number now, asshole,” Arya said. “I know what you drive. Consider this your last warning.”
The perp actually smiled. “Last warning of what?”
“I’m not above revenge,” Arya said faux-casually. She looked at Sandor. “What about you, are you above revenge?”
The perp’s eyes widened. “Who is that?”
“This is Sansa’s boyfriend, so you better cut the crap,” Arya said.
Sansa’s boyfriend. He didn’t have time to analyze how he felt about that. The perp laughed nervously. “Like that monster is Sansa Stark’s boyfriend.”
That was more the kind of thing he was used to hearing. Arya looked up at him. “I can see why you think people suck. This guy sucks.”
He was very calm when leaned down to capture the assgibbon’s gaze. “I’m invited here. You’re not. Sansa’s got a lot of people around her who aren’t going to let you scare her.”
“Oh, yeah, I’m the one scaring her.” The perp was muttering, though, looking at his dashboard uncertainly.
“He’s the cop we were looking for downtown, moron,” Arya said. “And now he knows who you are."
Sandor tapped the roof of the Civic. “Have fun being scrutinized by every patrol car from here to the Trident.”
The guy pouted stupidly. “This is not what you think it is.”
“Yeah, you’re innocent as a newborn,” he said. “This is your warning to leave Sansa alone. Next time, you don’t get a warning. Understood?”
When the bum didn’t say anything immediately, Arya jumped in. “He asked you if you understood. Also, apologize to him.”
Oh, for fuck’s sake, the idiot wasn’t going to—
“Gods above, I’m sorry, alright?” It was sullen and snotty, but Sandor would be damned if it wasn’t an apology.
“Now get out here and don’t come back,” Arya said.
Now that the maggot was warned and pacified, Sandor walked to his truck to move it out of the way. Tarth would run the plate, and nothing scared an entitled bitch like this one more than the horror of being watched and having to behave like the normies. As soon as he put the truck in reverse, the Civic roared around him, dangerously fast for the cramped space.
Arya had gotten out of the way, though. In fact, she was skipping over the curb and running up to an elm. And then she leaped up and grabbed a branch. Why the fuck was she climbing a tree?
The Civic’s tires squealed as it left the parking lot and hit the open road. Sandor got out of the truck yet again, this time carrying Arya’s backpack, and approached her tree. He watched her hoist herself up from limb to limb until she was on the same level as the roof of the nearest building.
“What are you doing up there?” he called.
“I’m gonna see if our douchebag pulls into a driveway,” she called back.
“Why? We got his personalized plate.”
“I just want to see if he lives nearby. Fuck, I can’t see him anymore. He’s gone.” She stepped down onto a shaky branch. “Huh. Help me down.”
He shook his head. “You climbed a tree without knowing how to get down? I thought you were a wolf, not a kitten.”
“Shut up, I’ve done this before.” She hugged the trunk and reached her foot down before chickening out. “Just stand under me and let me jump on your back.”
“I thought you’ve done this before.”
“Duh, I’ve never done it by myself. Wolves are supposed to run in packs, remember. Hounds too, I think.”
“You’re awful mouthy for someone stuck in a tree.”
“Argh, if you’re going to be stubborn about it …” She stepped down, slipped, squealed loudly, and wrapped her arms around the trunk with a death grip.
He was tempted to leave her there for a while, but Arya could find a way to make trouble up there, he was sure. She’d find something to throw at Sansa’s window. He sighed so she could hear him, dropped her backpack, and stood next to the trunk, balancing the balls of his feet on a tree root. Then he hunched over and bent his neck. “Alright, see if you can get on my back.”
He heard the leaves rustle, and a dead weight collapsed painfully on the back of his neck. Fuck, she wasn’t heavy, but all her weight was concentrated on the top of his spine, pushing his head down. She flung her arms around his windpipe, choking him, and instinctually, he tried to shake her off. His hair covered his eyes, not that he could see the feral girl anyway. At least the pressure around his neck loosened as she shimmied down until her hands were on his shoulders before jumping to the ground.
He straightened up and pushed his hair back so he could see. Sansa was glaring at him from the parking lot, her arms crossed in front of her. The wind streamed her hair behind her. “Why are you putting my sister in a tree?”
On seeing her there, so beautiful and so, so angry at him, all he could feel was the blood course through his ears and his fingers. His palms got sweaty, and his mouth dried up as he struggled to talk. “I was getting her out of a tree.”
“Oh, would you look at the time?” Arya was never going to cut it as an actor. “If I don’t call Brienne right now, she’ll be worried sick.” She scooped up her backpack and scrambled away, probably. Sandor couldn’t take his eyes off Sansa to check.
“What are you doing here?” Sansa demanded, her eyes flashing. She looked like a classical avenging angel, ethereal and heavenly.
He’d never seen her furious before, despite all the shit he’d seen her go through. That made him special, that he could rile her up more than an asshole ex-boyfriend, a stalker, a bullshit criminal charge, her supposed girlfriend selling her down the river, her lecherous lawyer, and whatever Arya was, all combined. Maybe he was making her miserable. He couldn’t just stand here fucking gaping at her. He had to answer the question. He wasn’t going to lie to her. He was going to stop the deceitful crap right now, just ignore the thumping in his chest and tell her the truth.
“Will you marry me?” he blurted out. Fuck, what the hell was wrong with him? The romantic part of his brain wasn’t dead – it had coiled up underground in readiness for a fatal strike.
It did not go over well, which … of course it didn’t. Her face paled except for red spots that bloomed over her perfect cheekbones. “Are you making fun of me? I’m trying to resign myself to never seeing you again, by your choice, not mine, yours.” She sucked in a breath. “And you come out with that?”
Nothing to do but double down. “Run away with me,” he said. “I’ll take you back to your family up North. We can trap animals, sell the pelts.” The fuck? He was never listening to Arya again, that girl had screwed up his head.
“Pelts?” She scrubbed her forehead. “Well, now I think you’re making fun of my family.”
“I’m not. I want to run away with you. We can get the hell out of Kings Landing, leave all this shit behind us.”
Her jaw dropped, and she stared at him wordlessly. Was she considering it? Holy crap, she was. It suddenly seemed like a genius idea and not a stupid act of desperation and despair. He’d take her North, it would just be the two of them, and they’d never speak to a Lannister or a Baratheon again. He edged closer to her and tried to take her hand.
But when his fingers touched hers, she yanked them back as if she’d been scalded. “No. That’s not … no, you can’t keep doing this to me. You and your romantic ideas. I have to go to my hearing and go to my job and, and, and I don’t even know what you’re doing here with Arya, but she’s my responsibility. And you have responsibilities, too. We don’t just get to run away.”
He knew she was right. Worse than that, he knew he wasn’t getting her back. Already, the future felt like a gaping, yawning chasm of blackness and emptiness. What did it matter where he was if he wasn’t with Sansa?
“Alright,” he said slowly, “if you change your mind—”
“Don’t you dare pin this on me,” she said, furious again. “I told you how I felt, I told you I thought you were my soulmate. You said, ‘well, that’s fucking stupid’.”
He couldn’t stop himself from cringing. No, there wouldn’t be any coming back from something that fucking cruel. “I’m sorry, I’ll go now.”
“Thank you.” Her eyes were dry.
He held his breath as if that might stop his eyes from overflowing. He stumbled to his truck, head down, just in case any traitorous tears escaped and made her feel guilty. But she didn’t move, and he was compelled to look back at her before he left her forever.
“I don’t regret proposing,” he said. “Just so you know.”
She didn’t answer him, probably because that had been the worst fucking proposal that any lobotomized piece of shit had ever come up with. It was insulting to her, that’s what it was. He doubted he’d be able to face himself again. Pelts, for fuck’s sake. It wouldn’t get any better after Arya confessed what they’d been doing behind Sansa’s back.
Responsibilities. Sansa had them, but he didn’t, not really. He could disappear entirely, and nobody would miss him. All he had to do was wrap up one or two loose ends first.