Baby, don't understand
Why we can't just hold on to each other's hands?
This time might be the last I fear unless
I make it all too clear I need you so, oh
Take these broken wings
And learn to fly again, learn to live so free
When we hear the voices sing
The book of love will open up and let us in
Take these broken wings
Baby, I think tonight
We can take what was wrong and make it right
Baby, it's all I know that you're half of the flesh
And blood that makes me whole, I need you so.
So take these broken wings
And learn to fly again, learn to live so free
When we hear the voices sing
The book of love will open up
And let us in
Mr. Mister - Broken Wings
Sandor approaches the door to the little bird's cage and knocks soundly. "Lady Sansa I am here on the King's business." Sansa puts her needlepoint down, smooths her skirts and checks her hair in the looking glass, before she heads to the door. She unbolts the door and opens it for Clegane. She asks, "Am I expected in court Ser? No one told me."
"No little bird. I'm to take you to Maester Pycelle's. He is to have a Septa examine you."
"Oh, no one told me. What is the reason for this?"
"Since you were being attacked before I got there, King Joffrey, well actually Queen Cersei, wanted to make sure you had not been harm, and are still a- still untouched."
She sigh, "Will these indignities to my being ever end. Don't they believe you?"
"They do, but as we both reported, I was not there the entire time. It will be quick little bird, and then I will bring you back to your rooms."
Sandor steps aside to allow her out of the door and closes it behind her. He offers her his arm, for the first time ever, like the knight he refuses to be. She looks up at him with puzzled wide eyes, but accepts his arm. He leads the way through the Keep, taking infrequently used corridors to keep prying eyes off of them.
When they arrived at Maester Pycelle's work rooms, Sandor knocks on the door. "It's Clegane. I have the Lady Sansa Stark here on the King's business." The door is opened by a woman who takes Sansa's hand and leads her in. She bars the way to The Hound and gives him a look that says, 'Do Not Enter'. He nodded his acknowledgement and closes the door, standing guard outside of it. He has no real desire to go in.
After ten minutes the door opens and he steps aside to allow the little bird to fly free. She looks pale and lost, wounded. "Everything alright little bird?"
"I just want to go back to my room, please."
"Certainly." He starts walking and offers her his arm, but she ignores it and just falls in line behind him, as she used to always do.
"Something's wrong girl. Spit it out." He demands without turning back.
"No. I am just tired of people I do not know and do not want touching me, touching me. I do not even have the right to my own skin."
"I just want to get back to my room and sleep until next year."
"It's still morning little bird. You could take a walk through the gardens. That may lift your spirits."
"What are you doing today, Ser?"
He lets that slip of title pass again, since he can see she is wounded.
"Just running some errand for the King."
"Like dropping you off at your room, then training with the Kingsguards; or guarding you for the day if you are going to be out of your room."
"Oh. You are to keep me from running away."
"You are not a runner like your she-wolf sister. You would last half a day on your own. You are too kind. The King looks weak letting his prized 'guest' get taken by the crowd. I am guarding you as a show of force. You won't have to put up with me for long. In a couple of days the King'll go back to business as usual."
"What do you do when you are off during the day?"
"Train, sleep, drink, ride, women...
"If you want to train AND guard me, I can sit in the stands." Sansa catches up to Sandor and takes his previously offered arm. "I am not a good rider, but I could accompany you on a ride."
"Little bird, I though you wanted to hide in your rooms and sleep for the year."
"I just want to hide from everyone who hates me and wants to hurt me. No one will hurt me when I am with you, and you hate everyone, so it doesn't hurt so much that you hate me."
"Don't hate you little bird."
"Then that makes you the perfect companion. You are the only one in the city who does not hate me. Well, you and Tyrion; and you can keep me safe."
"You and Joffery would be the only ones to think of The Hound is a 'perfect companion'." He shakes his head in disbelief.
"His company scares me, more than yours. Why has he never asked you to hit me like all the others?"
"Because he knows I won't. You're just little thing. I would break you. Not fit fodder for the vicious Hound. Then he would have to figure out who could live through trying to arrest me for insolence. It is just easier to have Trant or Blount do it. They enjoy abusing you, and I enjoy abusing them on the training field." He rumbles his evil laugh. Sansa smiles for the first time in a long time.
"Would you take me riding with you today?"
"As you wish."
"Where am I allowed to go?"
"Anywhere I will take you. My white cloak is an all access key to the city."
"Where shall we go?"
"Well, my original plan after training was a wine sink and brot...never mind. With you in tow, that plan will not work."
"Don't change your plans on my account. You have more than earned a respite from duty."
"Aye, as have you. I can do that later. Let's fly from here little bird. At least for a few hours. First, to your room. We need to get you in riding boots and a cloak. Do you have a dress you can ride in?"
"Yes. Where are we going?"
"You will see as soon as I figure it out." Sandor escorts her back to her room and opens the door for her, closing it behind her. He hears a bit of wrestling noises after a few moments, and then the door creaks open.
"I cannot unlace my dress past the middle of my back, and my maid will not come until lunch. Can we wait? Or you could do it?"
"Me! Do I look like a chambermaid?"
"A little", she teases. Sandor just shakes his head and enters the room after checking the hallways.
"You will be the death of me little bird."
"Not today, if we are lucky. Just take the middle loose. I did the top and I can reach the bottom." He pushes her hair aside, focuses on the task at hand and listens for anyone who might approach. Undressing the king's betrothed is risky business, so he gets it done quickly. "There you go. You should be able to reach the rest for yourself." He heads to the door to leave and hears a 'thank you', but does not respond.
A few minutes later she emerges from the room in a basic dress that must be from her days at Winterfell. It is a bit too tight through the bust, and his eyes are drawn there immediately with a scowl on his face. She sees where he is looking and pulls her cloak closed, and defends the choice, "It is the only riding dress I have that laces up the front."
"Let's fly free little bird, before I have to put you back in your cage."
They arrive at the Kingsguards' stable in short order, and Sandor begins to saddle Stranger. "We'll both ride him. You will be safer that way. I have seen you ride. Gods girl, I thought you northerners were trained on horseback before you could walk."
"It was not lady-like, so my mother did not make me do it more than was necessary."
"It is necessary that you learn to ride to survive here. I will see to it that Lord Hand Tyrion provides you with a proper riding instructor. A future queen should be able to handle herself on a horse."
"As you say, Ser."
"Not a ser little bird. Not a lord either. Before you start running down a list of titles, just call me Hound or Clegane. Come." He holds his hands out to her. As she approaches he grabs her by the waist, not ungently, and lifts he into the saddle. "Pull your hood up." In one smooth movement he settles behind her in the saddle and leads Stranger out the door. They stop just outside the stable and Sandor looks right and left and right again, and lets out a deep breath. Sansa looks up at Sandor, puzzled. He glances down at her. Decision made. "Hold on tight little bird and keep that hood up girl." Sandor kicks Stranger into a fast trot. Slow enough to navigate around people, fast enough that no one can make out the girl.
When they are out of the gate and away from people, Sandor starts to pull Sansa's hood down. Her hands go up for what she thinks is the accidental slip of her hood. When she finds his hand there, she does not stop him. He wraps his left arm around her waist and kicks Stranger into a full gallop, though not at top speed. Sansa gasps in a combination of fear and exhilaration. Sandor barks out a laugh. Nothing else could be heard above the thundering of Stranger's hooves. Sandor slows Stranger after a few minutes, and after a few more minutes brings him to a halt. He jumps down and leads Stranger to a tree to tie him up. He reaches up to Sansa and lifts her off the horse and sets her down.
Sansa spins around to take in her surroundings and get her bearings. She is in the middle of nowhere with the most ferocious warrior in all Westeros. Yet, she is the safest she has felt since she left Winterfell and Lady was killed. "Where are we?", she wonders out loud.
"Kingswood. We are going just over to this valley. He removes his gauntlets and folds them over his sword belt. "Follow me little bird." Sansa does as she is bid. After a few minutes, Sandor stops and she steps out from behind him and gasps. The field is full of wild flowers and flowering vines growing on trees. Sandor puts his hand on her shoulder to get her attention and points her to a small white tree with red leaves. She looks at him with her mouth agape and started to sob. Sandor ask, "Do you not like it? Do you want to leave?"
"NEVER!!! It is the most beautiful place I have seen in King's Landing. Thank you." She wipes her tears and walks toward the weirwood tree and Sandor follows behind her. Sansa kneels in front of it and Sandor stands guard behind the future queen, arms folded across his massive chest, feet a shoulder's width apart, frozen like a statue. The only sounds that can be heard are the wind, and the chirps of the non-red headed little birds. Sandor was not a praying man, but he looks down at Sansa, and prays to the old gods and the new that everyday could be this peaceful for the little bird. Like his childhood prayers, he knows this one will not be answered. "I wish it had a face," Sansa states. Sandor steps forward as he removes his dagger and carves eyes and a mouth into the trunk. The red sap begins to flow from the wounds. He sits down in the shade of the small weirwood and cleans the sap off his blade with a fallen leaf and pulls out is whetstone to sharpen the blade. He does this for several minutes, when he realizes that Sansa is studying him with a curious look on her face.
"WHAT?!", a but rougher then he intended.
"Sorry. You remind me of someone from back in Winterfell, in the Godswood." Sansa moves from her knees and sits next to Sandor. Before she can even think about it, and as a reflex from her past, she rests her head on his arm, like she used to do with her Lord father as a kid under their heart tree. She can feel Sandor go completely stiff, but he does not move away from her.
Sansa wakes up with the words 'brave and gentle and strong' echoing through her mind. She lost sense of place and time. The pillow she is hugging is warmer and harder then usual, and her mother must be in her room stroking her hair. She slowly comes to her senses, and the present. She sits up when she realizes she was holding onto Sandor Clegane's thigh and her head rested there. "My Lord, please forgive me. I did not mean to misuse you so improperly."
"No harm little bird, but we had better be headed back and get you and Stranger properly feed."
"Thank you for today. It was the best day I have had since arriving from Winterfell." Sandor nods to acknowledge her statement, fighting his reflex to reject her kind words.
"It was good to see the little bird fly again. One day in the future, maybe I will have a song from you."
"I can sing for you today as we ride back."
"No little bird, today is not the day for those songs. I just wanted to see you spread your broken wings and learn to fly again."