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Broken Wings

Chapter Text

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 see."

"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 what?"

"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."

Chapter Text

As Sansa sits alone in her room, it seems to her that the entire Red Keep now knows that she has flowered, thanks to her ridiculous antics this morning to hide it, AND THE HOUND!!!! Stupid Hound!!! She thought they were friends; well, on friendly terms; or at least not enemies. She would slap him, if she could reach him, and if he would not break her in two with one massive hand and a more massive temper. Her life has just changed for the worse. Her wounds from the Bread Riot are still healing. Now her body is betraying her. She turned from a late bloomer into a fully flowered woman. She will soon be wedded and bedded to King Joffery. She will never be returned to her family, at least not alive, once that happens. Her only escape may be death. That would mean she SHOULD smack The Hound, and he will put her out of everyone's misery, and in rapid order.

He had found her while she was trying to hid the evidence of her red flower blooming. As Shae chased down the other witness, she tried to cut away the blood from her bedding and burn the evidence. Her entire world caved in on her in the moment when he showed up in her doorway. He ordered her handmaid to make her presentable for the Queen, as he went to notify the Queen of Sansa's changed status. On his way there he encountered her other handmaid that witness Sansa's efforts to hide her flowering. He motivated her to forget what she witnessed.

----------

After enough time for them to bathe and dress Sansa has passed, he arrives and knocks on the door. "Lady Sansa, it's Clegane on the Queen's business." She sighs deeply and wipes her tear tracks from her cheeks as she slowly rises from her new feather bed and walks to the door. She cracks the door open. "Yes?"

"I'm here to take you to the Queen."

"I don't want to go. Tell her I am nauseous."

"I don't want to take you, but you are going. Do I need to carry you?"

"No."

"Come girl, do as you're bid."

"Aye Clegane." She hisses at him. If she is testing him, she is the one who will fail. He shoots her a look to not push him any further. She then falls in line behind him. They walk in silence to the Queen's solar. When they arrive, Meryn Trant opens the door and lets her in. She holds her head high and walks in like the future queen she is. He and Trant stand there waiting without ever exchanging a word. Sandor has no words to waste on him, and Trant does not want to wake the evil giant. Half an hour later Lady Sansa glides out of the room and past Sandor. Her face frozen in an impassive mask. He falls in line behind her. Once they turn down an empty hallway Sansa leans against a wall and starts to sob.

"Get yourself under control girl, until you are in your rooms. This cannot happen here," Sandor hisses. She shakes her head 'no' and starts to slide down the wall. For the second time in a fortnight, he picks her up and carries her to safety. He deposits her in her room. As he turns to walk out, he tells her he will send her maid to attend to her.

"Wait, please." He stops but does not turn. "You saved me from death just so I can die here. It is not right." Sandor turns to look at her. He looks like he wants to say something, but does not. He walks over to her small dining table and picks up the jug of wine and a clean glass. He pours the wine and hands it to her. "I guess I have been demoted from warrior, to handmaid and now a serving wench. I will send in your maid."

"Are you busy today?" He heads back to the door.

"Yes...I will have time in about five days to take you out riding again. Bolt the door and get some rest. I'll find your maid" He walks out without turning back to look at her. She walks to the door and bolts it. She puts her ear to it and listens to his retreating steps and starts to cry again, body racking sobs.
__________________________________________________Five Days Later___________________________________________

Boros Blount escorts Lady Sansa back to her rooms after court lets out for lunch. She walks in and bolts the door behind her. She did not like the lingering looks Ser Boros had given her on the walk back. She is about to retrieve her needlepoint and sit on the balcony, when she sees a package on her bed. It has a note on it, "Be dressed and ready for a ride after lunch. Hound" She rips the package open and removes the contents. It is a new dress. It is a dark wheat color. She runs to the looking glass and holds the dress up to her body and admires it. She has never worn this color, but it looks good against her pale skin and red hair. She works to remove her dress. Thanking the gods that she was dressed in a southern style wrap dress. She can get out of it unassisted. However, the new dress ties in the back. All she can do is lace it up loosely and put it on over her head. She puts on her riding boots and pulls her cloak out and sits it on a chair. She starts to tightens the bottom laces of her dress and works her way up as far as she can go. She sits down at her vanity, and sees her hair has lost the fight with the dress. She removes the braids and pins holding the architecture of her hair together, and brushes it to a shine and just does her simple two braids at the temple and pulls them to the center back of her head and knots them together. This style reminds her of home. She looks more like her mother today than she has ever looked. That makes her smile. There is a knock at the door. "Lady Sansa, it's Clegane. Here to escort you for your ride."

Sansa grabs her cloak and checks herself in the mirror before running to the door. She smooths her hands down her skirt and takes a deep calming breath before she slides the bolt open. She greets Clegane, no, Sandor with a shy smile.

"Thank you for the invitation to ride with you, and the new dress. I love the color and style."

He appraises her with his dress on her small frame. "Are you ready, little bird."

"Yes." She steps out and he closes her door behind her.

"Pull your cloak on, and hood up, girl." She does as she is bid and, falls in line behind him. They are once again in the Kingsguard stable and Stranger is already saddled. Sandor goes into another stall and retrieves a small gray horse, not really small, just small compared to Stranger. "Her name is Maiden. She's gentle. You will be riding her."

"Is she yours?"

"Aye. Stranger will tolerate her, so I keep her for my squires."

"Would it not be easier for us to take just one horse? As you said, I am not a good rider."

"You will only get better with practice. This is practice. How are the lessons coming?"

"I have only had a couple. The last five days I have been...I was confined to my rooms."

He clears his throat, "Well, now you aren't and you will ride. Did you eat lunch?"

"No, but I am not really hungry."

"You look pale. You'll eat once we get there. I have some provisions packed."

"Where? Back to the field we were at before?"

"No."

He comes around to her with Maiden and lifts her by the waist onto the horse. Then he pulls Stranger out and mounts him. "Follow behind me little bird. Maiden will do a lot of the work for you. She is trained to follow Stranger." She stays close behind them as they head out a different gate then their previous excursion. She thinks it is the Mud Gate.

There is no chance to talk, separated as they are on two different horses. She wants to know why he is nice to her on one hand, but turns her secret over to the Queen on the other. As they slow from a cantor to a walk she moves her horse to the side of his. "I can smell the sea."

"We are headed that way."

"What have you been up to, since I have not seen you for a time."

"When I am not carrying you to safety, I am doing what I always do; guard, train, wine, women, gamble, sleep, eat."

"Do you have a special woman?"

"No."

"I made you something while I was confined to my rooms. I hope you like it."

"You made something for me? You didn't have to."

"I know, and you did not have to give me a new dress and your protection, but you did. I wanted to give you something I made." She reaches into her sleeve to remove a white handkerchief and hands it to him.

He takes it from her and strokes the stitching with his thumb. There are black dogs on three corners and a gray wolf on the fourth; a broad sword in the middle that looks like Ice, with a red bird sitting on the top of the hilt. He looks at her, and she looks down at her hands. He nods a thank you to her once she looks at him. Her cheeks were flushed and she looks down again. What the fuck is she on about, he wonders. If he did not know better, he would think the girl, now a woman, was flirting with him. He pushes that thought out of his mind. He takes in one last look at her and then the handkerchief, and then he tucks the gift in his tunic. His sword belt will keep if from falling out.

"Let's move on little bird. Time and tide wait for no man. We're almost there." She nods and follows him. After ten more minutes of riding they arrive at a beach. "Here we are." He leads Stranger to a grassy area, and Sansa and Maiden follow. Sandor dismounts and ties Stanger's lead to a wooden post in he ground. He grabs Maiden's leads from Sansa and ties her next to Stranger. He then approaches Sansa, as he places his hands around her waist, she places her hands on his shoulders. He lowers her and they lock eyes as she reaches the ground.

"Thank you."

"No need to chirp curtsies out here little bird. The horses and this Hound do not care."

"Sor-"

"And no apologies." She nods and he lowers her hood and moves a curl away from her face. He turns back to Maiden to remove her saddle and takes her saddle blanket and sets it on the ground away from the horses in a dry shady area. They can see the water, and not get wet, and not get too much sun for the pale little bird. He then goes to Stranger and removes his saddle and bags, and removes wine and water skins and drops a couple of apples for each horse.

"Can I help?"

"Not with Stranger. He is likely to kick or bite."

"Oh."

He hands her the skins and directs he over to the blanket. He then brings out a canvas bag from the saddle bag, and walks over to the blanket. There is fresh bread, hard cheese, cold smoked meats and assorted fruits. Sansa removes her cloak and her sleeves slip down her shoulders, reminding her that her dress needs to be tied properly.

"Could you help me with my dress. I could not tie it properly." Her mother would have her skinned alive like a Bolton, if she saw her letting not only a grown man, but The Hound tie her dress.

He puts the food bag down. "So today I am both handmaid and serving wench." He barks out a rough laugh. He moves her hair over her right shoulder. He works the ties tighter as he works his way up. He ties a tight bow at the top and tucks it into her dress at the neckline. The back of his fingers brushing against the base of her neck. He places his hand on her hair and moves it back in place. Then squeezes her shoulders and tells her, "You are all set little bird. Sit." She does as she is bid.

"Well, let me take on one of your new jobs and be your serving wench."

"Careful girl. Some things you cannot say to a grown man... and don't say sorry either. Eat!"

She nods, "The bread smells wonderful."

"They were pulling it out the ovens when I arrived to raid the kitchen." He then joined her on the blanket, and they ate in relative silence. Sandor hands her the Arbor Gold wine skin and water skin. He keeps the Dornish Red for himself. "Little bird, I wanted to tell you that I had no choice but to let the Queen know last week. If she found out you had hidden this from her, she would have put you in the black cells. With your physical changes and your handmaids spying on you, and the Spider and Littlefinger sniffing around, you would have been found out in days, unless you gave up bathing.

"I don't look any different."

"Your face is more angular, your teats are spilling out of your old dresses, and you no longer have the hips of a boy. The Kingsguard makes it a topic of conversation nightly in the White Sword Tower." Her face now matches her hair.

"Ser Boros escorted me today, and he was too attentive. He made me more uncomfortable then usual."

"See, there was no way to hind you are a woman now. The King would notice, if he were more interested in bedding women, and less in killing Tommen's cats."

"I cannot marry him. He will eventually kill me. Better he do it before we marry."

Sandor lays back on the blanket, hands behind his head, and looks at the sky. "That cloud looks like a ship."

Sansa lays back on the blanket to examine the cloud. She would like to sail away on a ship back to her home. She hears the waves lapping in the background. Her mind carries her away to Winterfell. She dreams of snow and Lady, 'Get her a dog, she'll be happier for it.'

Sandor wakes first and finds the little bird nesting up against him. He moves away before she wakes her, and packs up their things. He kneels beside her and shakes her shoulder and calls out her given name to rouse her when 'little bird' does not work. She whispers in her sleep 'Brave and gentle and strong' as she opens her eyes.

"Little bird, you even chirp in your sleep. What is 'Brave and gentle and strong'?" He stands and offers her his hands to pull her upright.

"What is 'Brave and gentle and strong'?", she repeats.

"You cannot answer a question with a question," he smirks.

"You are Sandor Clegane."

"You must still be half sleep. I will ride you back on Stranger. I don't trust you not to fall asleep. Maiden will follow without a tether."

"You are the only safe place I have here. You won't hurt me."

"No little bird, I won't hurt you."

Chapter Text

Sandor has been summoned to the Tower of the Hand. He arrives to a small room quickly filling up with other warriors. The head of the City Watch follows him in and Ser Meryn closes the doors behind them, standing guard on the outside of the door.

Lord Tywin had recently arrived in the city and is seated at the far end of the room, at the head of the table. Lord Tyrion was seated on his right. Interesting thinks Sandor. There is an empty seat on Tywin's left, while many are standing around the small counsel room. Lord Hand points to Sandor and silently demands he sit in that only remaining seat. A seat of honor and privilege. After a lifetime of standing in the shadows of the court, and only being upfront for battles, Sandor is not sure he wants this privilege. He moves at his usual unhurried, but purposeful pace, and sits in the too small, too uncomfortable seat.

Lord Tywin starts now that everyone has arrived, "Stannis is two to three weeks away from our Blackwater Bay shores depending on weather, per our scouts. We have basic battle plans draw up and they were given to you as you entered. The Tyrell army is joining with my army about a four day's ride from here, to add to our strength. I will be heading out to return to them today. Queen Cersei and Lord Tryion have been stockpiling a weapon of mass annihilation, which we will use as a last resort, due to the destruction that will result to our infrastruction. That damage will be too costly in time and coin to remedy, and leaves us open to the Young Wolf's forces until repairs can be made." Murmurs start to circle the room as speculation abounds.

A bead of sweat travels down Sandor's spine. He was close enough to the all the previous important talks to know that weapon is wild fire. He sits stoically, until he hears the next statement from Lord Tywin. "Due to Ser Jaime being held by the wolves, and one of our other kingsguards being sent away soon, we are bringing in Ser Gregor Clegane and his men from the Riverlands to shore up the Keep." All eyes travel to Sandor, not a word was spoken. The only sign that Sandor registered the weight of this new information was the added fury now radiating from his eyes, and the clenching of both fists on the table. Any man Sandor's eyes lands on quickly looks away to avoid the burn they seem capable of generating. Lord Tywin presses on, ignoring the heaviness that has entered the room, "Each of you who command troops, have been handed written instructions. They are specific to your command, to ready your men based on what we know about our enemy so far. My brother Lord Kevan will be arriving tomorrow to take over for me with the troops here, and Lord Tyrion will remain as the acting Hand, until after the battle. I will-" at that, the doors to the room burst open and that gets Lord Tywin's attention, since everyone he requested was already present.

"What's this grandfather, a meeting going on without me?" whines King Joffery. His mother at his side for reinforcements.

"No my King. It is a meeting that just ended without you. I did not want to bore you with details. If you would take your seat, I will brief you."

"Well, that is as it should be," interjects King Joffrey.

"Everyone, return to your stations. Prepare your troops. Lord Kevan knows my mind and will answer any questions, or relay revisions as they come up," Lord Tywin orders. Sandor and Tyrion stand to leave, but are grabbed by their arms by Lord Tywin. "You two stay." As he takes his seat, Joffrey shoots a look at Tyrion to relay his repulsion at the Imp being allowed to stay at his briefing, but he says nothing. Lord Tywin gives King Joffrey and Queen Regent Cersei a shorter version of the short meeting, with added details not disclosed in that meeting, but hatched between he and his daughter and son.

Lord Tywin starts, "My King no matter what happens in this city we will ensure that we as a family will continue. I wished to send Prince Tommen away, but your mother will not hear or it. He will not leave her side and she will not leave your side. With that, I must take steps to ensure that we can still get your Uncle Jaime returned." He takes a long pause having not briefed all the parties involved, and not wanting to deal with his grandson's anticipated fit of rage.

"Yes, continue," Joffrey demands.

"It has been decided that no matter what happens, we cannot allow Stannis' forces to get control over the Stark girl. She is the key to getting Jaime back."

"AND!" Joffrey interject.

"And, she will be taken out of the city and stashed away by Sandor Clegane." Sandor turns to face Lord Tywin, not sure he heard him correctly. He looks to Joffrey and deduces that he must have heard it correctly, as all of a sudden the little shit loses his mind and dares to yell at his lordly grandfather.

"SHE IS MINE! TO DO WITH AS I PLEASE!" Joffrey jumps out of his seat and delivers it while visibly shaking. His mother places a hand on his arm, which is rudely knocks away. Lord Tywin raises to his full height and slowly walks over to King Joffrey. He looks down on him. As Joffrey begins to back down under is grandfather's heavy gaze, Tywin shifts that gaze to look at his daughter. Abject disappointment pours from him.

Tywin turns back to Joffrey and reminds him that NONE of them would be in this spot had he not taken Ned's head. They would have three hostages, not one, to hold off the advancing armies. He reminds Joffrey that without his support as The Lord of Casterly Rock, Warden of the West, the King's troop would be less than half of its current strength, and even smaller if he took the Tyrells with him. The icing on the cake was the reminder that The Hound is Lord Tywin's man from birth, on loan to the crown. "Lady Sansa is not a pregnant cat you can dissect and discard when you are done playing with her. If her brother finds out you stripped her half naked and beat her in the middle of the court, what do you think he will do to my son? If not for Clegane and Tyrion putting an end to your temper tantrum....You and your mother are dismissed. NOW!", he delivers the last part through gritted teeth. Joffrey stands and heads to the door without another word. His mother the Queen Regent follows in his wake. This may be the first meeting in which Cersei has never uttered a single word, but she knows when the battle is lost, retreat and live to fight another day. It seems Joffrey just learned that lesson today.

Once the door is again closed, he turns to Sandor and Tyrion. "As I was saying, Lady Sansa will be removed from the city, and kept safe to be exchanged for my son. Once we beat Stannis, we will recall her to the city, unless we can broker a deal with Stark. If we lose the city, we still have her to trade for my son."

Sandor opens his mouth for the first time, "That is a wise plan my lord? Am I to gather the forces needed for this mission."

Lord Tyrion enters the fray, "Clegane you are the forces needed for this mission. We could send the five remaining kingsguard and septa to keep them honest, or we can send one Hound."

Lord Tywin adds, "We ran through all the options. We may be using wild fire, and we have previously heard your opinion on that. Having you and your brother in the city together could be like letting lose a storm on a city already underwater. He is too unpredictable and we could lose you both. The only thing you accomplished the last time you were together was to almost kill each other. The two of you are worth any 20 men I have."

"As you say my lord. I am yours to command," was Sandor's only response.

"Well, I have to prepare to leave for my troops. I leave the fine details to Tyrion. That is his one strength. Well, that and getting the sewers to run better." That was Lord Tywin's parting shot over the head of his "other" son.

Lord Tyrion absorbs that blow, as he has taken ever other one from his father. "Clegane, you are literally the one man for this job. Sending you saves bodies for the battle to come and will accomplish our goal to keep Lady Sansa safe."

"Then I should receive the pay of five men. When and how will we leave?"

"The sooner you go, the better. Can you be ready in a couple of days?

"Yes."

"We have written options for you based on friendly allies, resources and less dangerous routes." Tyrion slides several pages over to him. "Look these over and decide for yourself." The less we know the better. In case, you know, things do not go so well here, you can still contact the Starks and bring Jaime home."

"I see. I also see that each destination has several methods of travel as options. Is this the work of the Spider?"

"Absolutely."

"Is there anything else I need to know?" Sandor asks.

"Just keep her safe. She is a sweet child Once you return her in one piece, with all her pieces intact, you will be richly rewarded. Much more than the pay of five men."

"Just don't make me a knight. I don't do meaningless vows."

"I know you think my brother is a shit talker, but he is my only brother."

After a pause, "I respect Ser Jaime as a swordsman. He is one of the few who could possible best me, on a good day, if I were hobbled or blindfolded."

"Speaking of brothers, yours is due in the next couple of days. It is only fair to give you the heads up, so you can steer clear of each other."

"Thanks Imp, I plan to be gone before that disaster gets here. He and his men could wreck your pretty Keep all by themselves."

"Thank you Hound for helping keep Jaime safe." Sandor nods his head to Tyrion and stands to leave.

Turning around he asks, "Has anyone told Lady Sansa she will be traveling with her worst nightmare."

"Joffrey is her worst nightmare. Everything else is a distant second. My sister will be telling her before dinner. She wanted to give her those motherly speeches young maids get before they fly the coop."

"That could not possible go badly," Sandor shakes his head.

"Truly. After that damage is done, her handmaiden will actually help prepare her to leave," Tyrion adds.

"I will seek you out before we depart to make sure we have everything covered."

"I will have some traveling coin and additional information to give you then, Clegane."

"Aye." Was Sandor's parting word.

Chapter Text

Sansa's handmaid has just left after preparing her for dinner in the hall. She will not be allowed to hide in her room tonight. She sits trying to develop her will to bare a full evening of King Joffrey. She prays to the old gods and new that he will leave her in peace. She has no part in the approaching war with Stannis. That traitor is the King's family, not hers. Maybe Joffrey should have Ser Meryn and Ser Boros beat him in front of his own court, since he is related to a traitor; two if you count the dead King Renly. She starts to smile to herself at her silly thoughts, and her mood lightens up.

As she steels herself to head out the door, there is a resounding knock at her door. "The Queen Regent is here to see you Lady Sansa," a male voice commands. She rushes to the door and opens it to a Lannister guard and the Queen.

"Please do come in, Your Grace. I am honored by your visit," as she curtsies low and slow to the Queen.

"Rise little dove. Please have a seat." They both walk over to the small dining table and sit. Cersei turns to the guard and tells him to shut the door on his way out. Sansa wonders what kind of conversation that this could be that the Queen turns her guard out in the presence of a traitor's daughter and a traitor's sister.

"Sweetling, as you know there is a battle coming, and we only wish to keep you safe while the city is under attack."

"Thank you, Your Grace, it is more than I deserve."

"Nonsense, you are the betrothed of the King. You are a very important guess."

"Yes. Thank you, Your Grace."

"My father, brother and I have gone over how best to keep you safe, until we can unite you with your family." Sansa looks up at her hopeful. They could just send her home and be done with her. "It will be for the best if you leave the city, as soon as things can be made ready, and head to safety. To that end you will be escorted by our most trusted and capable man," Sansa runs through her mind what could this mean. Who are they sending? Will he take her home?

"Thank you again Your Grace, for taking care of my safety." Cersei keeps herself from rolling her eyes and gives a smile that attempts to reach her eyes, but fails. "Who will be escorting me?"

"Sandor Clegane. Without him it would be a five man job. With five men, I could not ensure your virtue for your King, with Clegane, this will not be a problem. He will keep you safe for your King and your family. Your handmaid has been instructed to start packing your supplies for travel, and you will also receive some new provisions to aid in your travel."

"Yes, Your Grace. When do I leave?

"In the next few days, Clegane will see to those details and communicate them to you directly. I know from your handmaiden that you just had your moon blood, so you will not have to travel with that hanging over your head, but all the supplies you need will be provided and packed to ensure your comfort." Sansa blushes at the direction of the conversation, and also wonders why the Queen seems to really care.

"As you say your Grace. Thank you for seeing to my needs."

"Well, little dove, I will see you at dinner. Your handmaiden has additional information to share with you. I have already discussed with her what you will need. She will share the details with you after diner, since we do not know when Clegane plans to leave."

"Thank you, Your Grace," with that Cersei leaves and Sansa is left to ponder all these swift changes, and her change of fate. It is too much for her to absorb in the time she has before dinner. As she is about to sit again, there is another knock at the door. Ser Whatever of today will escort her to the Great Hall. She acknowledges him without seeing him, and heads to what may be the most interesting dinner of her life.

Chapter Text

Sansa walks into the Great Hall with her head held high and with all the grace of a future queen, which she is. She discretely scans the room for friends, well, friend; and foes, of which there are many. As she approaches the dais, King Joffrey exclaims, "Lady Sansa! Welcome, you are beautiful tonight. Please take the seat of honor at my side." The low hum of whispers could be heard throughout the hall.

"Thank you, Your Grace. I am honored." As she steps up to the dais, she continues to scan the area. Sandor Clegane is not in the hall. Ser Meryn Trant has the King's back. She schools her face, so as not to make a face of disapproval. Once on the dais she curtsies to both the Queen Regent and the King, and pulls out her seat. As she sits, she is shocked that Ser Meryn grabs the back of her seat and pushes it in for her as she sits. She looks at him briefly and gives him a curt, 'Thank you Ser'. She is actually hungry for a change. The news she will be leaving the city with her only real friend has buoyed her spirits. Since she is not sure what her access to good food will be, she has her fill of the succulent duck and baked ham and roasted vegetables and warm crusty bread with sweet wine and fruit tarts. She is drunk on food for the first time since arriving in King's Landing.

King Joffrey whispers to her, "My lady, I have never seen you eat so well. Flowering has agreed with your appetite. Once we win this war, I will have you brought back to me and we will marry. I will give you plenty of reasons for a good appetite." He giggles like a little girl and Sansa is glad she has already finished eating, for he would have killed her appetite. She clears his words from her mind, so that the food she already ate would not sour in her stomach.

"That is my wish too Your Grace." She focuses her attention on staring at the middle of the room and seeing nothing. She runs over Queen Cersei's words in her mind. She said they would send her home to her family after the battle, didn't she. Why does Joffrey think that she will come back to be his queen? She cannot ask him or the Queen. She can only ask Sandor, whenever she sees him. He will tell her true.

"My lady, I see you staring at the dance floor. Let us take a final spin around the floor before we are parted. Band! Play me something happy for my lady and I to dance." Joffrey rises and takes Sansa's hand and leads her to the center of the floor. The band plays and he spins her around the floor with the skill a king of a grand court should possess. To anyone watching them, they were beautiful, and could have seemed in love. When the song ends, he escorts her back to the dais.

Sansa turns to the Queen and asks if she may be excused to start packing. The Queen nods her approval. Sansa bids her goodbyes to the King, and he simply waves her off. He has already shown the public she is "valued" and "well treated" as his grandfather instructed him. He is DONE with "nice" for the day, another one of his grandfather's words, not his own.

"Ser Meryn, escort my lady back to her room."

"Thank you Your Grace. I do not want to deprive you of your guard."

"I insist my lady."

"Thank you, Your Grace." She bids the King good night, and heads out the nearest exit before someone can call her back. Ser Meryn is trailing behind her like a shadow she cannot shed.

As they approach Sansa's door she moves to put her hand her handle and Ser Meryn places his hand on it to prevent her from entering. "Lady Sansa, I could talk to the King, and ask to replace The Hound as your escort. You don't have to put up with his temper on such a long trip. He is very unpredictable."

"Thank you, but no Ser. The Queen told me a lot of planning went into this, and led to this decision. I do not want to make any trouble. The King was not part of the planning from what I was told." She moves again to open the door. He still holds it shut from her.

"I am willing to talk with the Queen and the Imp. You would be better off with me, than The Hound." At that moment the door opens from the inside and Shae is standing there with a hand on her hip, looking like she is at the end of her rope. She grabs Sansa by the arm and drags her into the room.

"My lady, we have much work to do. The Hound tells me you are leaving in two days." Ser Meryn follows her in and shuts the door behind him. Sansa turns in shock. She is about to say something to Ser Meryn, when The Hound steps out of the corner. All three of them turn to him, two of them are shocked. "My lady The Hound was going through my selections for your packing. He wants to travel light, but make sure you have what you need."

Ser Meryn attempts to extract himself from the room, "Well, since you have everything handled here, I'll take me leave. Have a safe trip my lady. If you want me to follow up on that matter, let me know tomorrow." Sansa looks from him to The Hound, as Ser Meryn opens the door. Before she can say anything The Hound steps menacingly forward toward Ser Meryn.

"The lady will not need you to speak to the Queen about my temper. Everyone knows about my temper. She can take my temper better than she can take your mailed fist to her face and stomach, or the flat of your blade to her back or thighs. Isn't she a bit old for you SER, since she has already flowered?" He backs Ser Meryn out the door and shuts it soundly.

"We were listening at door," Shae says with a shrug of her shoulders.

"Joffrey sent him to escort me from dinner. I could not get away from him, but I tried. I was surprised he tried to take over as my escort. He has always been so horrible to me."

"He is a knight, so, there you have it. He thinks his shit don't stink, and that you're stupid. Be happy we were here, or he would still be in your room, and it would not be to help you pack. Believe that." Sandor warned her.

"He would be trying to pack something, but not your bags, that's for sure," Shae adds. Shae and The Hound share a knowing look. From her friends on the Street of Silk, Shae knows of Trant's reputation for taking and beating very young whores. Shae shudders and gets back to the subject at hand, "We have all the useful things pulled out that should go with you. Over there on the table are the things I though you might want to keep with you, but THIS ONE does not think they are useful. That white cloak, I found in your summer silks, he says is his.

Sansa walks over to the table and fondles the cloak. "Can we take your cloak. It is warm, and the doll?" Sansa asks Sandor.

"You have a dark cloak, white is bad for travel." Sandor joins her at the table and picks up the doll. It must be from her family. "Add the doll. I have a list of supplies to gather tomorrow. You need to leave some room for those items. We leave after we break our fasts on the morning after tomorrow." He puts the doll on the bed with the items to be packed, and walks out of the room with no further fanfare.

"My lady, he said he will be bring back squire clothing for your travels. He feels you may be more comfortable for long periods on the horse and will draw less attention as you travel."

"Did he say where I am headed?"

"No, he just wants to get out before his brother shows up. He doesn't want him to know where you are headed."

"The Mountain is headed here."

"Yes, I heard that today from a friend that would know. Lord Tywin wants The Hound gone before those two kill each other. Who's got time to dig graves that large? Then you would end up traveling with someone like Trant."

"I would jump off the balcony first." They both burst into laughter.

"My lady, are you afraid to be traveling alone with a man like The Hound?"

"If one has to travel alone, it is best to be a man like The Hound. No one will hurt me."

Shae sits down on the bed and pulls Sansa down with her. "Sansa, the Queen asked me to have a talk with you."

"About what?"

"Men."

"Why?"

"You will be alone for a long time, with a man who does not have the best temper, disposition, or reputation. He also frequents brothels."

"He frequents brothels?"

"Yes, most of the soldiers and noble men do, especially if they are not married?"

"My father didn't, but that turncloak Theon Greyjoy did. He spent a lot of time with Ros. She followed us from Winter Town and is now friends with Lord Baelish."

"So when you travel, he may need to seek out an establishment, AND keep you safely locked away somewhere."

"You are telling me that he may leave me alone to seek out another woman."

"Seek out a woman, yes, not another woman."

"That's what I meant. What kind of women does he seek out?"

"Why does that matter?"

"I'm just wondering what his is like when is not guarding, or fighting is all."

"He is like all men, horny." Sansa gives her a look that says, 'just cooperate with me'. "Fine, it is talked about that he likes redheads." Sansa face now matches her hair and the room is too warm.

"Does he only like redheads?"

"That is why there was talk. He did not used to care and now he does. That is part of the reason why the Queen wanted me to talk to you. The Hound is very loyal to the Lannister, but he is still a man, a very large man. If he wants something there is no way to stop him. The Queen, wants me to remind you that what you have between your legs is a weapon. Use it to survive. If you come back without your maidenhead, the King will never know. It can all be covered up. Just do not come back with child."

"What, no. He is my friend. He would not hurt me."

"He is The Hound, he could hurt anyone. We are sending you with moon tea, have you heard of it?"

"Yes. I know what it is for, but we will not need it."

"It is the Queen's orders and you do not have to tell him you have it. The Queen is not giving you or him permission, she is preventing a disaster. What you need to know is that she will work to keep you safe, even from her son, to get her brother back."

"I see."

"The Hound did check to make sure you had your feminine supplies, and he has seen the bag I will be packing them in. Being a man, he will never go near that bag again, even with a dagger at his throat. I will add the tea supplies there, with the instructions on how and when to use it. I am also to give you instructions on how to handle a man in bed."

"You can fulfil your duty to the Queen, but I will not need these instructions, until I am married."

"Fine, use it then. Your groom will be quite happy with you." Shae spent the next hour explaining the basics of the marriage bed. She describes what a naked man would look like. She stresses things she could do that would satisfy most men, and preserve her maidenhead. She has given her lady all the information she felt she could handle for the night, and answers her questions. She helps Sansa pack away the supplies and Hound approved clothing. She helps Sansa into her bed clothes, and for the first time, hugs her goodnight. Sansa walks her out and locks the door behind her. She goes over to the table and grabs the white cloak to cover herself and crawls into bed. Protecting her in sleep, as it protected when it covered her naked shaking body in the throne room.

Chapter Text

Sansa wakes up before dawn still covered in her cloak, his cloak, the white cloak. Her mind is swimming with the knowledge Shae bestowed upon her, excitement about leaving her gilded cage, and new apprehension about being alone for so long with a man like The Hound. Actually any man who is not part of her family would frighten her, in these circumstances. In the company of The Hound, she feels a mixture of fear, excitement, friendship and warmth she could not identify. It is like that feeling of falling from a great high in a dream, and waking before you land; with that flutter left behind to remind you of the fall.

She slides out of bed and folds the white cloak as small as she can, to pack it away. She will add it to the bag with her women's supplies. Shae said he would not look there again, knowing it is a no man's land. The sack is bulging, but she is sure it will flatten by the time she needs the supplies for her moon blood. The moon tea is on the bottom. She swears by the old gods and the new, she will NOT be using it. She was raised properly, not like the Queen, with her bastard children.

She goes through all her belongings she will leave behind. A double checks that she leave nothing she cannot live without, if she never makes it back. Only one thing remains, the dress The Hound gave her. They must have left it out for her to wear tomorrow. She did not want to be seen leaving King's Landing wearing pants. Sandor and Shae must have known that. She puts away the things they left out on the table, that Sandor would not allow.

She was debating on going back to bed or sitting on the balcony and waiting for Shae, but there was a light knocking at the door. "Lady Sansa, it's Shae. Rise and greet the day." Sansa walks to the door and unbolts it, letting Shae in with a tray laden with food. There are servants behind her bringing in her morning bath and hot water. After they leave Shae helps her bathe and wash her hair. Shae asks how she slept. "Like the dead," Sansa replies. "Any good gossip going around?"

"Just about you, my lady," Shae responds with a knowing smile.

"What could be interesting about me? It is not commonly known that I am even leaving the city."

"You and the King caused a sensation with your little dance at dinner. The serving girls are all talking about it. I missed it while dutifully spending the evening with The Hound, packing your belongings."

"Joffrey was just making a show of being nice to me, to undo some of the stories that will get to my family about my treatment. He still hates me." Sansa finishes bathing and dressing and Shae brushes her hair until is shines like liquid metal. She braids the top half in a pony tail and pins it into a bun at the crown of her head. They both sat down at the table and eat. Sansa asks more questions about their illicit conversation from the night before. She knows her face is bright red to match her hair. There was a knock at the door, they assume it was the servents to remove the water and tub, but it was Sandor. Shae opens the door and he thirsts a package into Shae hands, and says it is clothing to be packed for Sansa.

"Lady Sansa, you are to meet with Lord Hand Tyrion, I will escort you there," Sandor says to Sansa.

"Thank you Sandor." When did he become Sandor? Sansa leaves the room. Upon entering the hall, she grabs Sandor's elbow. He treats it like it is ordinary for her to reach for him, but it is not. He is not sure what to feel about this, so he just lets it be, for now.

They arrive at Lord Hand Tyrion's solar and Sandor knocks soundly. "It's Clegane with the Lady Sansa." He hears a muffled "Come in." Sandor opens the door for her, and leads her toward a seat. She curtsies and adds a "Lord Tyrion," toward him, before taking the offered seat.

"My dear Lady Sansa, I am both glad and sorry we are losing your company. This place will miss your presence, but Clegane will keep you safe. Safer than you have been in quite a while."

"Thank you, my lord. I will be as little trouble to him as possible. I am glad my beloved King Joffrey thought of my safety, and has given me leave of the capital with his own sworn shield." Sandor mentally rolls his eyes as the little bird chirps her usual studied courtesies.

"As you say Lady Sansa. We have taken every precaution to ensure your safety and comfort for your travels, and your stay while out of the war zone. Is there anything else you require of us before you leave?"

Sansa looks at Sandor with a blank look. She has no idea what she needs, so she has no idea what may be missing. "Ser Sandor, is there anything else we need that we do not have?"

"You to not call me Ser for one, I need another broad sword as a back up, and Lord Tyrion still owes me the coin for the expenses."

"AH! Yes. You mentioned those things before, and I have them here. Excuse me." Tyrion goes into his inner chamber and there are muffled bumps and thuds coming from the room. Sansa looks at Sandor, he looks at her. They are searching each other for what, they do not know. That moment ends by Tyrion reemerging, dragging a sword in a leather and wolf fur scabbard behind him. "Clegane, would you be so kind as to help me with this, it is rather heavy and taller than me." Sandor stands and walks over to Imp and relieves him of his burden. He extracts the blade halfway to examine it. Sansa gasps and turns completely white, like she has seen a ghost. Sandor sheaths the sword and returns to his seat. He puts the sword aside, out of view. Sansa's mind is a thousand leagues away, only her body remains. Both Sandor and Tyrion look at her. Her mind returns to the room under their heavy stares.

"Does anyone know you are giving this to me to protect Lady Sansa?"

"Giving you what exactly? The only things I have given you are the coin for the trip." He digs in his desk draw for a heavy bag of coins and two letters. "This letter instructs how you can get more, if you run out of coin, and this sealed letter is from my father Lord Tywin." He hands over both letters. "I was temped to read it, but what I don't know cannot kill me."

"Thank you for everything Lord Tyrion. You have been most kind to me during my stay here as an honored guest." Sandor snorts at that.

"Lady Sansa, I wish I could have done more; could do more now. I am sure you have much to do, so I will not keep you any longer. I pray for your safety and health on your travels." Tyrion comes around his desk and takes her hand and kisses the back of it. "Let me bid you farewell, as this may be the last time we meet."

Sansa stands and smiles a tight smile at Lord Tyrion. Her training tells her to curtsey to him, her heart makes her kiss him on his cheek instead, for returning Ice to her. "Why Lady Sansa, I can die a happy man now." She blushes and heads toward the door. Sandor retrieves Ice and stands to attach the scabbard to the back of his sword belt, hiding it under his white cloak. Looking Tyrion in the eye, he gives him a nod of respect and ties the coin purse to his belt and pulls his tunic over it. Tyrion gives Sandor a "Be well." As Sandor heads to the door. He give Tyrion a "Lord Tyrion," for mayhaps the first time ever.

As Sandor approaches the door there is the unmistakably distressed, "Oh Gods, no, please...!" uttered in Sansa voice. Now the fuck what?! Sandor thinks. He heads to her in the hallway.

Tyrion has made it out the doorway to see the cause of the disturbance. Sandor's hand is on the hilt of his sword as he slowly advances. His worse nightmare is holding Sansa by the upper arms. Her toes are barely touching the ground. Before things can escalate Tyrion steps between the two oversized, warring brothers. "Ser Gregor, you made it here in record time. I do need you to put King Joffery's betrothed back on the ground, and let the poor, little, delicate girl pass."

"So this is Lady Sansa Stark of Winterfell. The rumors are true. She is the most beautiful woman in Westeros." He smiles down on her as he lowers her back to the ground. He releases one finger at a time to prolong the contact. She has been staring into his eyes the entire time. They are so like Sandor's, but instead of blind rage and pain, she finds cold death, like he has no soul. "Lord Tywin commanded me to report to you, Lord Tyrion, upon my arrival." He is talking to Tyrion, but he is eyeing Sansa up and down like a starving man looking at a lamb chop.

Sansa looks down at the ground, "Thank you Ser, I am late. I must run." Sansa steps around him, raises her head high and calmly walks away.

"Clegane." Tyrion starts, but when both brothers answer, he is more specific. "Sandor Clegane, accompany the King's betrothed to her next appointment, then return here to discuss battle preparations." Sandor takes off and brushes past Gregor without another word. "Ser Gregor Clegane, in my solar."

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Sandor walks with Sansa, her hand in his elbow, his large hand covering her small hand. As they walk as if nothing has happened, he is whispering for her ears only. His lips barely moving, "Summon your handmaid to your room. I need her to go to get laundry bags and take your bags out in them and leave them in the kingsguard stables near Maiden. Remind her not to get close to Stranger. She is to have the stable boy saddle both horses, and have him find my squire to start packing Maiden. He is to used those bags and get my provision order from the kitchens and add that to Maiden's packs, return the laundry bags and meet me in my room. We are leaving after sunset, little bird." She says nothing. Just keeps walking.

Sansa starts to falter as they approach her door. He holds her up under her arm. "We are almost there little bird. Hold together just a moment longer. We will be alright. Nothing has change except our departure time. Take a deep breath....now let I out. Again." They reach her door and he opens it and pulls her in after checking the hallway. She melts into him as he bolts the door and silently starts to sob. It has all become to real for her, the danger, the urgency, the fear. She holds him by the waist with more strength than he thought she had. He whispers soothing sounds to her and strokes her back and reminds her to breath deeply. She tries to listen. He then starts stroking the back of her head down her loose hanging hair. She is finally calming. He will have to remember this for the future. He is used to soothing Stranger, not a maiden.

He grabs her hands from around his waist and holds them,"Do you remember my instructions." She nods her head and returns the grip on his hands. "Once Shae leaves bolt the door and only open it for her or me, and make sure it is me, not the other Clegane. I will used my first name when I come back. He will seek you out tonight, now that he is onto your scent, but we will already be gone." He drops his grip on her hands, but she is still holding his. The look in her face tells him he was too honest with her about his brother. "I am headed back to meet with Gregor and Tyrion. We will keep him busy while Shae runs those errands." He pulls his hand from hers and reaches behind his belt to remove Ice. He drops down on one knee, unsheathes Ice and lays it at her feet. "I am not a man who has ever made a vow, not even to the King. I swear on my life to you, on this ancient sword Ice, of House Stark of Winterfell. My sword, my shield, my body and my life are yours. I will use all that I have and all that I am to keep you from harm. Only my death will end my promise to you, and if there are seven hells, I will go through all of them to continue to protect you after my death." He sheaths Ice and hands it to her. "Hide this in your bed until I get back. I would hate for Gregor to see it and try to get his hands on it. We don't need to give him another reason to seek us out." She nods and long held tears start to run down her cheeks. He takes her face in his hands and soothes away the tears with his thumbs. He seals his vow to her with a chaste kiss on the lips. "Summon your maid and lock your door behind her. Change into your riding clothes before dark and eat something. I will be back by sunset."

"You promise?" He looks at her with an unreadable look, and walks out the door into the abyss.

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Sandor arrives at Tyron's solar to the boisterous laughter of his brother. He takes a seat in the chair beside him.

"I was about to send out my men to find you little brother."

"Well, no need now, I 'm here. Let's get on with it." After three hours of planning tedious strategy and tactics, they break while the late lunch Tryion has ordered for them is being prepared and delivered. Sandor runs to his room austensively to use the privy, wash up and put on fresh clothes. When he gets to his room, his squire is there going through his things, and has laid out the last of them to be packed. Sandor does in fact use the privy, wash up and changes to more comfortable clothes, since that is what he claimed he was going to do.

"I need you to pack for a two month trip. You will head out with me tonight, just after sunset. Meet me in the stable with your bags. Gregor arrived, and I don't want him to have access to you. I have someone that can keep you for that time, or you can go visit your family out of town. Best be out of the city for the wars to come anyway." His squire nods and packs the last of Sandor's things before heading to his own room to pack for himself.

Sandor heads back to have lunch with Tyrion and Gregor. Gregor must have settled into his room. He has also changed out of his riding clothes. They stick to bawdy stories and jokes as they eat their lunch. Tyrion casually mentions the letter from Lord Tywin to Sandor, of which neither of them have actually read the content, and asks when did his father want Sandor to head out on the scouting mission.

"As soon as I am ready. I will be leaving midday on the morrow. After I leave here, I have to pack up things and prepare my squire to depart.

"Little brother, always doing the important jobs any foot soldier can do. I guess they brought me here to do the heavy lifting." Sandor looks at him with his usual unreadable face. The face that was in part, a 'gift' from Gregor.

"Well, let's finish this so I can prepare for my scouting mission, and find a whore to hold me over for the next few days and some good Dornish Red." After another hour they wrap up and Gregor heads out first. Once they are sure Gregor is gone Sandor closes the door, and tells Tyrion that he needs a redheaded girl that looks like Sansa.

"Clegane - Sandor, since there are now two of you Cleganes in the Keep; there are no girls that look like our Lady Sansa, except her mother to hear Lord Baelish say it."

"True, then get me a tall thin redhead. That will have to do. I just need her for the night, and the room will be dark.

"Can we put your new whore preference on hold while we deal with this crisis?"

"I am dealing with this crisis. Have the girl in the kingsguard stables at sunset with a dark gray cloak on. Make sure all the kingsguards are busy elsewhere. They should be either guarding or at dinner, but not anywhere near the stables."

"I see where you are going with this Clegane - Sandor. You will have what you need." Sandor stands and leaves. He heads back to his room and surveys that nothing he ever wants to see again is left behind. Satisfied he goes to the corner and moves his nightstand. He pulls up a loose floorboard and reaches inside, retrieving a heavy bag of coins. He adds this to one of his bag and takes his things to the stables. He adds his saddle bags to Stranger and looks around the stable for anything else he might need. He grabs two appropriately sized horse shoes for each horse, and adds them to Maiden's burdens. He grabs the shoe stripping wedge and nails and slides them into Stranger's bag. He runs over everything to make sure he has forgotten nothing, bags, sleeping mats, blankets, food, weapons all packed. He takes several minutes to reflect on his tasks, and he heads back to Sansa's room to wait for sunset.

Chapter Text

Sandor knocks on Sansa's door as he steels his backbone to be her anchor in this storm. Shae asks who's there. "It's Sandor." She opens the door for him. He steps in and she bolts the door behind him. He takes in Sansa quickly. She is smiling at him like his is a gift from the gods. She is sitting at her small dining table, in the dress he gave her, riding boots on, hair pulled away from her face, braided and pinned up. Her cloak thrown across the back of the chair. She looks much calmer than she was when he left, but she looks exhausted. She cannot ride through the night. Shae sits back at the table with her. Sandor pulls up the 'oversized' arm chair that Sansa usually sews in.

"We will be heading to the stables soon. Everything is going as planned little bird. Shae, there will be a girl coming up to sleep in the room until after my brother visits tonight."

Both Sansa and Shae say at the same time, "Your brother?!"

"Aye. Now that he's seen her, he will be by tonight. He road hard to get here so quickly and we kept him in four hours of detailed talks. He is exhausted, but he will be here. Not too late."

"What does he think he can get by visiting the King's betrothed?" Sansa asks. He looks at her and does not give her that answer. He cannot lie, so he will not say anything.

"Shae have the girl lay in Sansa's bed facing away from the door. Have one candle lit, so that her red hair and sleeping form can be seen, but not her face." He looks around the room and points, "He has already studied her face closely. Place the candle there, on the dresser."

Shae asks, "How is her sleeping going to stop him?"

"It won't. You will tell him she went to bed early, sick with the start of her moon blood. She will be confined for the next five days. You are staying with her for the night because she is vomiting."

"That will work?" Shea asks.

"Even monsters have codes." Sansa looks at Shae as conformation that the moon tea will be safely hidden with her moon blood supplies. "Get the girl out around the hour of the wolf. The keep is quiet then. I don't want anyone to see it is not Lady Sansa. It is easier to explain she is elsewhere, with the Queen, with the Maester, moved to a higher tower; than it is to try to explain an imposter. Attend to the room like she is here, but keep the other servants out. Bring in food and eat it. Bring in hot water for her to wash up since she cannot bathe. Lord Tyrion can help with this, and to make sure she is not summoned to court. Some of the Kingsguard knows she is leaving, but not when."

Sandor stands and retrieves Ice from under the covers of Sansa's bed. He leaves the bed rumpled, since the redhead will be taking her place shortly. He once again attaches it to the back of his sword belt and hides it with his cloak. He walks over toward the balcony and looks out without exposing himself to other. "It's time to fly away little bird." She stands and he grabs her cloak and places it over her shoulders. She fastens it at the neck and pulls up the hood. She knows from their previous outings, he requires this. He gives the room one last look and heads to the door and stand behind it. "You two head to the stables. I will be right behind you." Shae opens the door looks out. She grabs Sansa's hand and they both step out of the door and head down the hall. Sandor gives them a short headstart and steps into the hall, closing the door behind him. He keeps them at a respectable distance to react to danger and not look like they are together. As they get to the courtyard, he scans for trouble and spies. Nothing out of the ordinary. He sees the two ladies enter the stables. He enters shortly after him. He takes inventory of the scene. All the pieces to his puzzle are present.

"Lord Tyrion, if you will escort Shae and Lady Sansa back to the keep. I will take the little bird out of the capital. Shae will explain the rest."

Tyrion responds, "Safe travels Clegane-Sandor, little bird." Shae walks over to her give Sansa a motherly hung. They separate and go about their duties for the night.

Sandor turns to Sansa, "Take your cloak off." She looks at him puzzled, but complies. She passes it to his waiting hand. He hands it to his squire. "Put this on but leave the hood down." The squire and Sansa look at each other and then him as he puts the cloak on. "Just creating confusion. Was I seen with a man or a woman in a gray cloak? No one will think twice of a woman in a gray cloak leaving the Keep for the stables and returning to the keep. If anyone ask about me I will be seen with my squire in a gray cloak leaving to scout the coast."

"Sandor, without a cloak how will I cover myself?" Sansa enquires.

"Because my brother is sniffing around, I cannot be seen leaving out any gate with a woman. You will hide under my cloak until we are out of the gate and out of view of the guards." With that, he grabs Sansa by the waist and puts her on Stranger. She moves her right leg to the other side to ride how she has recently been trained. He takes his cloak off and climbs in front of her. His squire climbs up on Maiden, and moves near the exit to keep an eye out. Sandor flips his cloak over his back, which also covers her. He ties it loosely so she can get air and pulls up the hood to keep her head covered. "Hold tight to my waist and make sure your legs stay under the cloak." He looks down to make sure she is not showing. Satisfied, he tucks edges of the cloak under the inside of his thighs to keep her legs covered and heads out the exit ahead of his squire.

They head out the Mud Gate to appear that they are traveling up the coast to scout for Stannis's advance scouts. When Sandor is comfortable with the distance in the darkness, he removes his cloak, and dismounts from Stranger. His squire dismounts and removes Sansa gray cape and hands it to Sansa. "We are going to circle around and head south. We will get you a horse and tack so you can continue on. When the war is over send a raven to Lord Tyrion. He or whoever lives in his stead will get it to me." His squire nods his understanding and they move to mount their horses. This time Sandor has Sansa move forward and he mounts behind her, so they can continue on through the night.

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When Sansa wakes she is sitting in a fresh hay stack in a stable. The squire, whose name she never learned, and voice she has never heard is watching over her. Sandor was nowhere to seen. When she starts to rise in a panicked search for Sandor, the squire speaks for the first time. "Stay calm Lady Sansa, The Hound is just finalizing a horse for me."

"Oh. How did I get in a haystack?"

"You were sound asleep when we arrived, Hound placed you there and told me to keep an eye on you under pain of...well, I cannot repeat it in the presence of a high lady, or really any lady."

"Sandor does have a gift for colorful language. He actually put me in a nest like a bird. Ser-?"

"Pete, just Pete."

"Well, just Pete how long have you squired for him."

"Over a year."

"That is quite long in dog years," she giggles at her own joke. She knows she is so tired, that she is silly.

"I was just a stable boy hanging around the training yard. I admired how hard he worked. His squire at the time talked too much and waited to be told what to do, which required The Hound to talk too much for his liking. I figure out what he needs before he needs it, and keep my mouth closed and my eye open."

"Do you know where he it taking me?"

"No, but if you ask him, you have a better change of living than I do."

"Where are you headed?"

"Hound does not want to know. He gave me instructions on how to get in touch after the war to come." They both here heavy footfalls.

Sandor enters the stables leading a fully equipped brown gelding. Stranger registers his disapproval to this new horse in close proximity to his Hound. Sandor hands him off to Pete and hands Pete a sack of coins to get him safely where he is going and back after the war, and to carry him over for several months.

Pete thanks his boss and Sandor approaches the littler bird and extracts her from the hay nest, and sets her feet on the ground. He then heads over to sooth Stranger's hurt feeling and remove his saddle and the bags.

"It's been a long night. We can all use some rest while no one is looking for us. We are staying in the inn tonight. I took the last two rooms." With that news Pete leads the new horse to an empty stall, far from Stranger and removes his saddle and tack.

Sandor and Pete move their equipment to Strangers oversized stall. They pity the fool that tries to steal them. They grab the bags and sleeping mats and carry them to the rooms. They drop their things in one. Sandor takes Sansa's bags to the other and bids her a good night.

"What if someone comes?" she asks.

"Then I will hear them. My room is closest to the stairs and we are at the end of the hall. Lock your door and only open it for me. And I will only use my first name."

"What if I need something?"

"Knock on the wall. The beds back up to the same wall. Sleep well, we will travel hard tomorrow, and you will ride your own horse."

"I cannot sleep in the saddle, if I ride my own horse."

"Aye. Good night little bird, we leave late morning. Bolt the door." He turns and leaves.

Chapter Text

Ser Gregor is beyond tired after his long, hard ride, but he still takes his evening meal in the Great Hall. It will help him get his bearings in the Keep; size up who knows what, get inside information. Instead of sitting with his men, who know less than him, he joins the kingsguard's table. Ser Boros is guarding the King, Ser Jaime is with the wolves, his little brother is whoring. Plenty of room for him to spread out. He knows he would make a much better kingsguard than his little brother, but he has to admit his brother is better than the rest of them. Gregor likes having wives to fear him and lands to command, with small folk to terrorize. There is also the knowledge that he would run Joff through the first time the child got smart with him. His little brother makes a better babysitter than he would.

"Ser Meryn, what task have you been given for the war?" Gregor asks.

"Nothing as good as your brother. I'll be on the battlements with the King.

"You think scouting is a good assignment?"

"Know nothing about that. All I know is that he to escort Lady Sansa out of the war zone and keep her hidden."

"How do you know this?"

"I was guarding the door to the small council room when Lord Hand Tywin told him, and King Joffery. The King lost his shit."

"I saw the little redhead this afternoon. She is a looker. How did he get that assignment?"

Meryn shrugs, "He saved her life during the Bread Riot. Covered her with his cloak in the throne room when the King had me rip her dress off."

"When do they leave?" he asks Trant as he finishes his dinner.

"Don't know. I guess after this scouting trip you mentioned."

"See you tomorrow in the training yard. I have to get some sleep," Gregor raises from his seat, and leaves the Great Hall.

As he walks the Keep, no where near his room, he asks a page where the Lady Sansa's room is. The page does not know, and Gregor is too consumed with finding her to take the time to abuse the boy. He will ask a handmaid. They keep up with the comings and goings in keeps. He knows this from his own keep.

He sees two carrying meals to some unknown highborns. "You two, can you tell me where Lady Sansa's room is. I have business from the King." Not exactly a lie. He wants that assignment and will go to the King to get it. The two woman look at each other and figure Shae is less scary than The Mountain. Shae will never know who it was anyway that gave up the girl. They tell him where the room is and says that The Hound frequently guards it. Two birds, one stone. He could make it so The Hound cannot ride for a few days and take his plum assignment. They may make him take the scouting mission, if he injuries his little brother. After all the riding to get here, he was looking forward to a few days of rest and a few whores, maybe redheaded whores, he chuckles to himself.

He arrives at the room the handmaids identified as belonging to Lady Sansa. No guard at the door. Little brother is out whoring and drinking before his scouting mission. He will not have to choose what to do with his brother, and risk replacing him on the wrong mission. He knocks on the door. After a few moments he hears rustling and tries to put a pleasant smile on his face as the door opens.

A very sleepy, dark haired beauty cracks the door open. "Yes?"

"I was told that this was the Lady Sansa Stark's room."

"Yes, she is sleep."

"Wake her. I have something important to discuss with her," he is as sugary sweet as he knows how to be.

"No." She hisses. "You know she is betrothed to the King. She is sleep."

He wonders if this woman knows who he is. Everyone knows who he is, and knows to give him a wide birth. Then the door starts to close in his face. He puts his right hand up and stops the forward progress. "What are you doing wench? Do you know who I am?" through gritted teeth. All sugared smiles and polite words swallowed.

"The Mountain who needs to ride away from my lady's door." There is a pained groan from the bed. Shae leaves the door with Gregor holding it open, and runs to sit on the bed, her back to him, blocking his view. She strokes her red hair, visible in the faint candle light. "Go back to sleep my lady, I promise you will feel better soon."

He takes one step in. "What's wrong with her, she was fine when I saw her this afternoon?"

"Her moon blood started this evening. She is weak, dizzy. Cannot keep food or water down. I have to sleep in her rooms when she is like this, to keep her safe from chocking in her sleep."

He takes a step backwards toward the door. "How long will she be like this?"

"She will be confined for five days. Even the King leaves her in peace during her confinement."

Gregor makes his way to the door, "Someone should put a babe in her. That will put an end to this unsavory business. I'll be back in a few days." He takes a last look at that red hair and ducks to walks out the door, leaving it wide open. Shae gets up to close and bolt the door. Her back collapses against it.

The tall red head sits up in the bed, looking at Shae. Shae approaches the bed with her finger to her lips to remind the girl to stay quiet. She sits on the bed and whispers to the girl. "I have your coin for this. He will never know who you are, because I do not even know who you are. Braid your hair. We will leave here once the Keep is quit. You were never here."

"What about you? He saw you."

"I am fucked, but it won't be the first time."

"I will say a prayer for you to the Mother in the sept. I am headed there from here."

"I'll go with you. I need to say a prayer to the Warrior, and I do not even hold the seven."

When all is quiet and the Keep is asleep, the two ladies don their cloaks, both gray, with the hoods pulled up. Shae locks the door behind her with a key. They calmly head to the sept, and say their respective prayers before they go their separate ways. Shae sleeps in Lady Sansa's room to keep up the lie as long as possible. The next morning, after bringing food and hot water to Sansa's room and enjoying it herself, she meets with Tyrion and updates him on her visit from the Mountain. Tyrion needs to keep Shae safe from the ire of the Mountain. If he was more like the loyal Hound, there would be no problem, but he is not.

Chapter Text

Sansa wakes up under her/his/the white cloak for a second day in a row. She is not quite sure where she is when she wakes, but the sun is fully up. She takes a good look around and finds she is in an inn. She remembers now, she really is out of King's Landing and safe. She did not even have her usual nightmares. She feels like she is floating out in the world, unrestrained. She stretches and gets out of bed to look out the window. While she is up, she uses the privy. When she crawls back in bed, her mind starts to wonder. She had no idea where they are headed. Feeling her anxiety raise again. She takes a deep breath in and breathes out and does it again. She catches the faint smell of Sandor Clegane, and lets herself be bathed in the safety of his scent. She lays there and drifts back to sleep under their white cloak.

She is awakened by a knock at her door. "Little bird, it's Sandor. I ordered a bath for you. The maids are here."

"One moment, I just have to put on my robe." She rushes to hide their forbidden white cloak under the covers and grabs her grey cloak to cover her nightgown. She opens the door and steps aside to let them in. Sandor oversees them as they swiftly work and he quickly surveys the room. He notices that the bed looks lumpy. She follows his eyes and says, "I was wondering where I left my robe." Once the bath is prepared, they all leave Sansa to her privacy. The first thing she does is pack the white cloak away, then she steps into the bath.

She feels brand new and bright pink after her hot bath. She dresses herself and is brushing her wet hair when their is another knock at the door. "It's Sandor. They've come to remove the tub." She rises to let them in. She has not packed her few things yet, but Sandor notices the lump in the bed is gone, but he does not see a robe laying out with her unpacked belongings. "Little bird, we will eat downstairs in the common room to break our fasts, once you have finished packing."

"Certainly. Thank you." He nods and closes the door behind the exiting tub. She sits on the bed and brushes her hair back and braids it into a ponytail down to the middle of her back. She packs up everything and opens the door to her room. Sandor is standing to the side of the door. He comes in without another word and grabs her bags. He leads her down the stairs to the common room. Pete is waiting there and grabs the bags from Sandor and takes them out to the stable. Sandor and Sansa take a seat and Sandor orders for the three of them, plus he orders food to pack and take with them to save their preserved foods for another day. Sansa asks Sandor while they have a few minutes alone where they are going.

"We are headed home with Pete, then we head out from there. His sister's place is only a half day's ride from here and there are no inns between here and our next stop. Better than setting you in another nest made of hay," he smirks at her. She smiles at the memory of waking in her big, little bird nest searching for Sandor. It was like she was in one of her recent random dreams involving Sandor.

"How long will we stay there?"

"Just the night. Pete will stay and we move on."

"To where?"

"Can't tell you."

"I can keep a secret." He just looks at her with unreadable steel eye. Pete returns from the stable. Sandor looks at her never answering. Pete takes a seat at an open side of the table and the three sit in a companionable silence through their meal. Sandor settles their inn tab and the small group heads out to he stable. Pete had already saddled the three horses and he pulls them out of their stalls and packs their lunch on Maiden. Sandor leads Sansa over to Maiden and wraps his hands around her waist and lifts her on the horse. She is about to say something. Sandor pauses in his progress to lend her his ear. "Need something little bird?

"How long will we ride before we break."

"Tired before we start, girl?"

"No, just wondering."

"We will stop when we need, but we will travel most of the day. We eat in the saddle to make sure we get there before dark."

"I see," she sighs. Sandor shakes his head and chuckles under his breath as he strides over to Stranger to mount in one fluid, effortless motion. The little bird is trying to get out of riding by herself. Fat chance of that. He was not going to spend another day with her wedged between his thighs, her firm round arse rubbing against his crotch with each of Stranger's steps. There is only so much a man can take, and he knows his limits with her. He nods for Pete to head out and he follows behind with the little bird pulling up the rear, to join by his side once they are out of the stable.

They travel in silence for an hour before Sansa cannot stand the quiet any longer. "Sandor, how long do you think we will be traveling?"

"A while. I would think the little bird would be happy to be free of her gilded cage, using her riding lessons. Already sorry about your traveling company?"

"Not at all. I just want to understand what we are doing, so I can help where I can. I am not a little girl anymore."

"Is that so little bird?"

"Aye, Clegane," she smirks. He has to laugh at her more carefree attitude. So unlike her usual self, when she was a "valued guest" in King's Landing.

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From early afternoon on, Pete leads the way to his home. As they approached a small, isolated farm just nigh on dusk, he dismounts and heads to the front door and knocks on it soundly. After a few moments a small woman answers the door. She throws herself into Pete's arms, and he lifts her off the ground, giving her a solid hug. A little girl tottles into the doorway, and Pete sets the woman down and picks up the babe and gives her a kiss on the cheek. He has a few brief words with the lady and points over to Sansa and Sandor sitting atop Stranger.

"Pete, is that really The Hound?"

"Aye, and the Lady Sansa Stark of Winterfell."

"Isn't a Stark betrothed to the King."

"Aye. That's her, the future queen."

"Why are they here, in the middle of nowhere, and both on the same horse?"

"She was sent out of the city for her safety. There is another war coming. Being a high lady, she does not ride well, and feels safer riding with him. Can they spend the night? Otherwise, they have to sleep outside tonight" She adjusts her clothes and hair and walks past Pete to the pair on the big black horse. Sandor holds his hand up to stop her progress two horse lengths away.

"Don't come any closer. My horse will bite." He gets down for the horse in one fluid movement and lifts Sansa by the waist to set her on the ground. He leads her with a hand on her back clear of Stranger and to the woman in the yard. This woman gives a deep curtsy to them both with her head bowed.

"Ser, milady, it is an honor to have you in our home. Petey was just telling me you are his employer Sandor of House Clegane and The Lady Sansa Stark of Winterfell. We have never had any nobility here. We are unworthy."

Sansa steps forward to the bowed woman and bows her head to her. "Please stand. Call me Sansa and him Sandor. We cannot rest on formality while you are so kind as to open up your home to us. We are sorry to put you out. May I ask your name?"

"Annalisa, milady, everyone calls me Lisa. Whatever I have is yours, milady.

"Sansa, please Lisa."

"Yes, milady...Sansa, Sandor, please come in and we can all break bread."

"Thank you," Sansa chirps and Sandor simple nods his head and walks Stranger into the fenced in yard and Maiden follows behind them. Pete rushes to the horses and begins to unload the bags and food and brings them into the house behind his sister and Sansa. Sandor stays behind to take the saddles off the horses and brush them down to allow them to roam the fenced in yard. Pete comes back to the yard and grabs the saddles to store them in the back of the house under a covered overhang. He comes back with buckets of well water for the troth. Stranger is the first to the water and Maiden follows behind him. They hold the new horse back until Stranger has his fill. He best learn his place in the pecking order, as Stranger is a harsh teacher.

Sansa is inside the house. As Lisa is showing her around and picks up her daughter to keep her out of they way. "What is this little one's name?" Sansa asks.

"We weren't very original Alisa. We call her Ali. With he blond hair and blue eyes, she looks just like her Da."

"Hello Ali." Ali does the hand grabbing signal that means she wants Sansa to hold her. "May I?", she asks.

"Certainly," Lisa hand over the reaching Ali, to the object of her little desire. "Careful milady. Holding one will make you want one."\

"That would not be so bad. I am of an age for it."

"Your children will be future kings and queens." That hit Sansa like a mailed fist to the gut. 'Not if I can help it', she thinks. She holds the babe even tighter. How could she raise children with King Joffrey. What if they are like him? She stokes the babe's head and kisses the crown of her head. As she is doing this Sandor and Pete walk into the house. Pete looks at the scene and smiles. Sandor looks on with unreadable eyes. Taking all in, but letting nothing out. Lisa springs into action, setting the table with fresh bread and soft butter. They will be eating the food they bought from the inn for tonight. "I have set you two up in one room. Pete, Ali and I will sleep in the other room. I figured the two royals should have the best room and there are two beds in there. It even has a curtain wall to separate the beds. My husband and I figured at some point we would have girls and boys to separate."

"I can sleep out here on the bedrolls. That way Lady Sansa can have her privacy," Sandor casually throws out.

"I would feel safer if you are closer. We will both be fine in one room that is separated."

"Is there somewhere I can wash?" Is all Sandor has to add to the conversation.

"Yes, I set up fresh water and towels in your room." He nods and heads there. When he returns his shirt is damp around the neck, his sleeves are rolled up revealing his thickly muscled forearms. The others are seated in the kitchen. Sansa excuses herself to wash up. Pete has already cleaned himself up. As Sandor sits at the table, the babe walks over to him and balances herself with her hand on his leg. Pete is about to retrieve her when Sandor pics her up and sits her on his lap. She grabs onto his long hair and gives him a wet, mostly gummy smile as she twists around and climbs up to stand in his lap. She smacks both hands to either side of his face and says "Da."

"No sweetling. He is San-dor." Ali turns to see her mother, then turns back to address him as "San-DA".

"I can take her from you, if she is bothering you," Lisa says.

"No bother. Princess Mycella used to climb on me when she was of this age."

"Children and dogs know who they can trust."

"...and wolves," Sansa adds in as she enters the room. "My house sigil is the direwolf. We know who we can trust."

"Is that so little bird." She just smiles at him and sits demurely next to him at the table. They begin eating and Lisa moves to take the babe, but Ali protests loudly enough to be heard back in King's Landing, and Sandor keeps her in his lap and feeds her from his plate. Lisa gives him an extra helping, since he is large and her babe is sharing.

"Lisa tell us about your husband. Pete has told us nothing of his family." Sansa mentions.

"Well, we grew up living near each other. So I knew him all my life. We were married 3 years ago." At this point the loudest burp emanates from The Hound's seat. All heads turn to him. He nods down at the true guilty party. Everyone including him laughs at the biggest sound coming from the smallest person. Little Ali follows that up with a yawn and throwing her head back against Sandor's chest, while rubbing her eyes. "Someone is sleepy. I better put her to bed. She gets silly when she is sleepy." As Lisa removes Ali, she whines 'no' and tries to reach for Sandor. "Shhhhh my love, you will see him in the morning." Lisa throws her over her shoulder and Ali waves bye to Sandor with her tiny reaching hands. Sansa is smiling up at him.

"What?"

"You with Ali."

"Keep this secret little bird. I have a reputation."

"Your secret is safe with me, until I need you to mind my children."

He rolls his eyes at that. "Demoted from Hound to handmaid, handmaid to serving wench, and now to nursemaid. Little bird I don't see a career in this."

"Well, you cannot stay the most feared warrior in Westeros forever. You need a plan for when you get old. You can marry and retire to a farm and have lots of kids, and dogs." Sandor just shakes his head and takes a sip of wine from the supplies they bought in from the inn. "I think it is a solid idea."

"As you say little bird. I just need to find a woman who is blind and deaf, and has not heard of my reputation."

"You are not as hard to love as you think." Sandor shoots Pete a look and he silently takes his leave to join his sister in the bedroom.

"Little bird, I am a warrior; a rough man and I live a rough life, and it will be a short life. Nothing to bring a wife and children into. No woman worth having would have me. I am going to check on the horses." He stands and leaves taking the wineskin with him.

Sansa decides to slip into her sleeping gown before he comes back, since they are sharing a room. She takes the bed on the far side of the room, leaving him the one closest to the bedroom door. The sun had set while they were eating, and she sits on the bed waiting up for Sandor. The next thing she is aware of is the faint light from the dawn breaking, and that someone has covered her with a blanket. She did not hear Sandor come in. How could someone so large and wearing so much metal be so quiet.

Chapter Text

Ser Gregor shows up at Lord Tyrion salon unexpectedly and uninvited. He knocks heavily on the door. "Lord Tyrion, it's Ser Gregor."

"Come in." The door opens and the full frame of the door is filled with the knight. Lord Varys is already seated in the room.

He ducks his head to steps fully into the room and starts his speech. "I understand from Ser Meryn that my brother is to be the sole escort to take the Lady Sansa to safety."

"I am not at liberty to discuss that, and neither was Ser Meryn."

"I want to be considered to that position. If any one person was to protect a high valued hostage, there is no one better for that defense them me."

"If such a role did exist, young maidens do not seem your specialty, Ser."

"And they are my brother's?"

"Lady Sansa knows your brother. He has protected her well in the past. If such a role existed, she would be most confident in his efforts for her, I am sure."

"What if we gave the lady the choice of my little brother or me to shield her from the war."

"Her 'honored guest' status does not give her any choices. We tell her where she goes, and we tell her when. Lord Tywin hand picked Sandor for this role, and only he can change it."

"But you are acting Hand of the King, and my brother is gone on a scouting mission. What if he does not make it back in time?"

"He always does. From what I hear Lady Sansa will not be able to travel for almost a week. She has been moved to the high tower nearer the maester's quarters as of late last night."

"Seems rather delicate for a northerner."

"She is a young girl without the aid of a mother. Every young maid could use the strong hand of her mother to make her pains less.

"Maybe she just needs strong hands."

"Well, too bad she gets the dainty hands of the King."

"Does he really mean to marry a traitor's daughter."

"She is the key to the North. More than half of our kingdom. Why are you Cleganes so interested in her."

"My little brother's interested in her?"

"He means to keep her safe, at the cost of his own life, though he is not known to be a selfless man. That is as far as his interest goes. What of yours Ser Gregor?"

"I don't answer to you Imp."

"Now there, you sound like your little brother."

"Maybe my little brother sounds like me."

"Despite your size and tempers, you and The Hound have very little else in common Ser."

"I'll take that as a compliment." Tyrion just looks at him, but makes no other statement on that matter.

"Well, Ser Gregor we all have war preparations to tend. If there is nothing else, I am sure you have training to do with your men."

"I'll be back tomorrow for an update."

"I look forward to your visit, though nothing will change."

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Ser Gregor takes out his frustrations on the high knights and kingsguards in the training yard. "I guess without my little brother and Ser Jaime to train with, I have to take on two of you at a time." All the knights look down and around, but not at Ser Gregor. "You two will do." He grabs the largest two-handed blunted broad sword in the area, and tests the weight with a few test swings. He lines up against Ser Who-Gives-A-Fuck and Ser No-One-Will-Miss-You-If-I-Kill-You. This should be fun. The threesome take their positions and the two-on-one meelee begins. It takes two strokes to disarm the first knight and three for the second knight to yield, which did not stay Gregor's final blow. He felt a bit of his tension flag, and his head aches less than after his frustrations from talking with the Imp.

Gregor's blood is still raised. He indulges in the hot waters or the bathhouse to try to relax. Then he heads out to one of the whorehouses on the Street of Silk. He has the madam bring him her best redheaded whores. He picks a tall thin one with big teats. As they walk to her room, he runs his fingers through her waist length hair and fists it. Once he pulls her to him he tells her he will pay her for the entire night. She smiles up at him and opens her door and enters her lair. She start to remove his soft armor and clothing down to his small clothes. She slips out of her sheer wrap dress and allows him to look her over. He motions for her to spin around. She slowly turns her back to him and looks over her shoulder at him. He signals for her to turn back around.

He looks down at her mound and can see from her ginger hair there that she is a natural redhead. He looks at her like he will devour her whole. She walks to him, drops to her knees to untie his small clothes and lowers them to the floor. He steps out of them and his cock in now mere inches away from her face. She understands the short hand of her trade and takes him in her mouth. He goes from semi-hard to fully hard in moments. She has now experienced both Clegane brothers, since The Hound has tried every redhead on the Street of Silk. Despite the Mountain being a head taller than The Hound and much heavier, The Hound's body is better proportioned and defined and his cock is just as large with bigger balls. All the girls talk about him once they have experienced him. None enjoy his face, but the rest of him is out of a maiden's fairytale.

Gregor winds his fingers in her hair and starts trusting into her mouth. Her fingers dig into the thighs to keep her balance and to keep him from gagging her. He pulls her away to keep from spending himself in one place. "Girl, I want to lick you. Go wash." He withdraws from her mouth and sits on the bed while he watches her clean herself with soap and water. He slowly strokes himself to stay hard. She comes to lay down on the bed. He climbs between her legs and strokes his hands down her thighs and spreads her legs open, exposing her pink and ginger minge. He inserts his tongue in her opening and licks up to her clit. She releases a real sigh. He usually does not put this kind of effort into a woman, especially whores, but he needs to lure and seduce a certain redhead, and that is a skill he needs to practice. He could just take her against her will, but that will start another war. BUGGER THIS!!

The whore grabs his hair and holds him to her mound as she grinds into him. He can tell she is close to her peak, as he stops. He climbs between her parted thighs and slides his cock into her wet heat. He thrusts into her until he feels himself near his peak. He pulls out of her and spends himself onto her stomach. He tells her to wash as he climbs into her too small bed, after making sure the sheets are clean, to rest a short time before he takes her again, and again. He leaves just before the first light of dawn. He has had all the attempts of cuddling he could stand for one night.

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Later during the morning he decides that the Imp is giving him the run around. He could try to see the girl again, or go directly to the queen. He has no real relationship with the snot-nose King. Joff always preferred the younger Clegane brother. Piss on that. Can't come right out and demand the King hand over his betrothed. He decides Cersei is his best option. Asking for an audience through her handmaid. He is before her immediately.

"Ser Gregor, it has been a while. To what do I owe this privilege?"

"I'll get right to it Your Grace. I hear Sandor is to escort the Lady Sansa out of the Capital until the war is over. I would like to offer my services for that job."

"I'm surprised Ser Gregor. You don't seem the maid sitting type."

"If you are sending one man out to do the job of an army. I am the best man."

"That would be true, if we were not guarding not only a young maid, but also the King's betrothed. Your skills and reputation are better suited for other war tasks. My father and I did consider you. However, we do need Sansa safe and her reputation intact to trade for my brother. You have known me long enough to know I will do anything for my family. Your brother is the best person for this job. He has been keeping her safe for years. You have not even met her."

"Thank you for hearing my request Your Grace." He bows and takes his leave without another word. Well, that seals the decision. He will have to have the lady herself request him. He heads to the maesters' quarters.

No, first, he needs to find some things to beat and kill to take his edge off his desire to gut the Queen Regent. He will spend some time in the training yard before attempting to see Lady Sansa again. If that handmaid stops him again. He will kill the cunt, then fuck her bloody corpse. Now, off to hobble some knights.

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After training and bathing, his blood is still up. He decides to find Lady Sansa and make her choose him. They will talk face-to-face, actually face-to-chest, despite her being very tall for a girl. She may be from a house too high a reach for him, but he takes what he wants and everyone is too afraid to stop him. His little brother is the only one to ever get in his way. He thinks back to Sandor saving the Flower Knight cunt; but he is no longer here. It would take an army to stop him when his blood is up. The King does have an army, plus, a spare army with the Tyrell fuckers coming. He logics he cannot just take her against her will. FUCK!!! How did he little brother win over this girl's trust? Bloody hells, who could I ask? The girl has all the answers. He heads to the maesters' quarters, ostensibly to get the sweetsleep and milk of the poppy he needs for his headaches. While he is there, he will watch and listen.

Once he gets there Maester Pycell is not there, which works best for him. He would not talk so openly as the younger maesters. He is examined and given a week's worth of his dosages for both potions. "I just came from the Queen. She wanted me to deliver a message to Lady Sansa."

The young maester replied, "From what I hear she is in an induced sleep for a few days until the worst of her symptoms can pass."

"Where is she kept?"

"That I do not know. Is there anything else I can do for you, Ser?"

"No." He leaves, but hangs around the area looking for a page or handmaid from whom he can squeeze information. He never spent much time in the Red Keep, unlike his little brother. He does not know the people and secrete places in a way that would help him. Just then he sees a young chambermaid. "You there, girl."

The young girl freezes in fright, "Yes, Ser?"

"Do you know the Lady Sansa Stark?"

"The King's betrothed, Ser? No."

"How can you not know her."

"I am no one here Ser. I am not allowed in court."

"Do you clean the maesters' rooms?"

"Yes."

"Is there a room you have not been allowed in?"

"Yes."

"Show me where." The young girl leads him to a room towards the back of the wing."

"This is it Ser. May I be allowed to go before I'm missed, milord." He waves her off and she scampers away. He turns to the door and tries the knob. It's locked. He could break it down with just his fists, but that will not instill confidence in him with the Stark girl. This may not even be the room they have her in. He needs food and wine to puzzle this out. He will deal with it after lunch.

Chapter Text

Once Sandor gets back from tending to the three horses, which really means keeping Stranger separated from Pete's new horse and killing it, he returns to the house with two bedrolls and lays them on the floor outside the little bird's bedroom. He goes in the room to check on her. She is sleeping with her head at the foot of the bed and facing the door, as if she was waiting for him. He pulls the covers back and lifts her and turns her around in the bed. Pulling the covers over her. She is so exhausted that she did not even stir. He looks at her for a few moments, then he goes on the other side of the divide and takes off his cloak and overtunic. He leaves on his undershirt and breeches, and grabs the covers from the bed near the door and exits the room and shuts the door behind him. He immediately fall asleep on the bedrolls outside the bedroom.

Before the sun is up he feels a small dog climb on his chest. He pets its head and goes back to sleep. When he wakes again the sun is starting to rise and the dog has turned into a small blond girl, sleeping splayed out on his chest. He looks over to her mother's bedroom and the door is cracked open. So the little pup is an escape artist. He holds onto her as he sits up and clears his head. He stands, careful not to wake her. He knocks lightly on the door. Pete being a light sleeper answers the knock. He sees the issue immediately. "Sorry Hound. She likes you." Sandor shrugs and passes him the sleeping babe. He goes back towards his bedrolls and stretches his arms up. His fingers brush the ceiling. He then stretches out his back, and bends down to roll up the two bedrolls and takes them out as he checks on the horses. He waters them and brings their two saddles out front. Pete shows up and puts the saddle blankets on Stranger and Maiden and then puts the saddle on Maiden, while Sandor prepares Stranger.

Sandor goes inside to use the privy and washes up. He steel himself and knocks on the little bird's door. When he hears nothing he goes in. He puts back on his tunic and walks to the other side of the divider. She is still sound asleep. Poor, pampered, pretty little bird. Two more days of travel and she can sleep in as long as she likes. "Little bird. Little bird," he rasps. Nothing but a snore. She will never believe she did that. He walks over to shake her shoulder. "Little bird." She grabs his hand and tucks it under her as she turns away from the noise. She captures his entire arm under her chest as she rotates. He has to sit on the bed, otherwise he would have to pull her out of bed. His places he free hand on her back and shakes her awake. "Sansa, wake up." She starts to roll further and unless he wants to be pulled under her soon, he has to extract his hand. He pulls away quickly and she is spun from face down, to face up and wakes up with a start.

"What! What's wrong?"

"Time to wake up." He gets his bags and cloak and leaves the room and shuts the door behind him.

Ali is sitting at the table and Lisa is fussing in the kitchen with cutting bread and cheese and fruit. "Good morning Sandor."

"Morning."

"Petey tells me we had an escape this morning."

"Aye, I thought you had a pet when she climbed on my chest and went to sleep. Apparently, I was more tired than I thought. I need to thank you for allowing us to stay. On behalf of the crown, we will pay you for your services to the lady." He pulls out a small coin pouch and holds it out to her.

"Thank you. I was glad to host you." She does not reach for it.

"Take it. The Lannisters always pay their debts. They are paying for this trip. My coin is safe in the Iron Bank." She puts her hand out and accepts the coins and encircles his large hand with both of hers, thanking him. At that moment Sansa emerges from the bedroom and looks at them. She heads to the privy without a word to either of them.

Sandor takes a seat and Lisa starts to put food out for them all. Ali leaves her seat and walks over to Sandor, signaling she wants to be picked up. He obliges her and sets her on his lap. Lisa moves the girl's plate over next to his. Pete joins them after washing up. Sansa is last to join. Sandor can tell her King's Landing mask is back on as she looks at Lisa smiling at her daughter sitting in The Hound's lap. What is Sansa on about now Sandor wonders.

After they eat, they all say their farewells, with Ali waving bye. She whines to be allowed to follow him. He puts the bags on the horses and puts Sansa on Maiden before swinging up on Stranger and heading out. Sansa is more reserved than she has been since leaving King's Landing. She does not give him the usual song to try to get out of riding her own horse. Fine, less effort for him.

After an hour of riding in complete silence, Sansa picks up speed to ride beside Sandor. "So what happened to Lisa's husband?"

"Their lord called him up to his holdfast to defend against the coming war."

"Then why was she holding YOUR hand?" Her ears have turned red and it is spreading to her entire face. He turns to look at her with narrowed eyes.

"Because I was handing her payment for taking us in for the night, and I left her the food, just taking enough for our lunch."

"Oh." Her face is now bright pink and looks like a painful sunburn.

"Anything else?"

"Did she tell you about her husband?"

"No, Pete did."

"Do you like blonds better the redheads...or brunettes?"

"Depends on the blond. Your King Joffrey is blond."

"Do you have a preference?"

"Yes. My wine Dornish red, and my woman quiet."

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Sandor resisted all the little bird's efforts to sweet talk her way onto his horse for the day. When they arrive at the inn, well after dark, she is exhausted. He almost feels guilty for not letting her sleep against him atop Stranger. She will toughen up during their time together. She will not have dozens of people doing everything for her like she had in the Keep. As they are headed into the inn, Sansa insists on sharing one room. She claims it makes her feel safer and she will sleep better and she is too tired not to sleep and then she will get sick and then he will have to be her nursemaid and then he will hate her. He gives in because he is too tried to listen any more, and he still has to haul the bags up. They will both sleep like the dead. After a few hours his oversized arse is struggling not to fall off the edge of the bed, as he scoots away from Sansa's endless movement toward him as the night progresses. He wonders how someone so small can take up so much of the bed. By early morning he was teetering on he edge with her practically wedged under his turned back. He could almost understand this, if they were sleeping under the open sky and she needed his warmth. His left arm is asleep from hanging over the edge of the bed. He gets out of bed and uses the privy. When he returns to the bed, he takes over her abandoned side of the bed.

Sandor crawls back under the covers and settles in on the wrong side of the bed. Sansa once again starts her slow but steady dance toward him. He turns on his left side, away from her and wills himself to go back to sleep. When he wakes again he is sleeping on his stomach, his right arm hanging over the edge of the bed and is numb. He turns his head towards the little bird. There is a curtain of red hair blanketing them. Sansa's head is resting on his left arm and her knee is digging into his thigh. He is in the seven heavens and the seven hells, laying covered in this perfect girl. He is aching with desire for her, but does not want to leave her side and tend to his need and miss this closeness. She starts moving and he knew she was waking and would jump away from him as she woke. He steadies his breathing to fain sleep. He feels the little bird lift her head off his arm, but she moves it to his back. He could feel her rubbing her cheek against his back. She places her hand lightly on his back and fists his shirt, inhaling deeply. His mind is racing, what the fuck is the little bird doing. FUCK!! He is not only hard, but leaking. THIS HAS TO STOP! He moves slightly with a 'sleepy' groan. The little bird rolls back to her side of the bed like nothing happened and pretends she was just waking.

"I am going to order a bath," she chips, and Sandor grumbles an acknowledgement into his pillow as Sansa puts on a cloak and shoes and leaves the room. He roles over on his back and he can still smell the little bird's scent in his bed. He is still painfully hard, but he is not willing to do anything about it. Tying her to his release would make sharing moments like they just shared impossible. He resolves to get a whore soon to ease the temptation; a non-redheaded whore. The combination of his new plans and the absence of the little bird allow his blood to cool and his cock to settle. He gets up once the bath is brought to his room. He reminds the little bird to lock the door behind him as he heads to the stables to see that the stable boys prep the horses and warns them about Stranger.

When he returns to the room the little bird is dressed and packing both their things. He sends her down to the common room to order their meals to break their fasts and food for travel. He gets in the still warm water. He once again feels covered in her. He resists the urge to take himself in hand. He is stronger than his needs. He swallows his need down and releases The Hound. That will shield him from this wisp of a girl. He brings their bags down and joins her at the table. The food arrives shortly thereafter. She smiles at him and looks him in the eyes. She is chilled to the bone. His eyes have gone cold and unreachable. They eat in an uncomfortable silence. They are both ready for the day of travel to the estate house the crown maintains for traveling nobles. It was not on Varys' list, but Sandor had stayed here before and let the caretaker know he would be there up to two months and no other visitors were allowed. They will wait out the war in rustic luxury. After this morning he is worried about playing house with the little bird. However, ending the constant travel would help give her some stability for the first time since leaving Winterfell. He could give her that and suffer the want of her, until he brings her back in one piece, or takes her to her family, also in one piece. He reminds himself that all her pieces must be intact with both options.

They leave the inn in the late morning. Sansa tries to chip away at the ice that has formed between them by singing for him. He always says one day he will have a song from her. Today is that day. He does not ask her to stop, so she moves from song to song. Once he is more receptive to her, she peppers Sandor with endless questions. He surprisingly answers. He figures he might as well make the best of their time together. This time was all he would ever have from her. "Do you think you will ever get married?"

"I'm kingsguard, little bird. We don't take wives or hold lands or father children."

"But, you never said the vows. I remember. I was in the thrown room when you refused."

"True. Even if I was not kingsguard, I would not take a wife or have children."

"Don't you get lonely? I'm lonely all the time. I'll be even lonelier once I have to marry Joffrey." She makes a face of distaste at the thought.

"When I get lonely, I buy company for the night."

"NO!!! Why would you say something like that?"

"Because you asked and I am honest," she sighs at his response. "You may not always like my answers, but they will be honest."

"No, that's fine. I like that you have always been honest with me, and protective. Is there anything you like about me?"

He takes a deep breath and lets it out before starting his answer, "You are the most beautiful girl I have ever seen. Your hair haunts me. You are brave when most people would give up, and you can't lie for shit." Sansa's face now matches her hair.

In a small voice, "You think I am pretty?"

"I think you're beautiful."

"Oh. What's the house like, where we will be staying?"

"It is close enough to town to get supplies and send and receive ravens easily, but not too close. There is a guesthouse for the servants to keep them out of our business. You will have your own rooms and a housekeeper. She can teach you to cook to pass time."

"Ladies do not cook."

"Every person should know how to cook. You don't want to be dependent on other's for basic survival. Even the big bad Hound can cook. It will give you something to do. If I did ever marry, she would have to be a good cook. Men find that shit important. We like to eat almost as much as we like to fu...fish."

"What will you do while we are here?"

"Keep you safe. Fish, hunt, chop wood, train, get supplies, keep track of what's going on in the capital without giving away our location."

"Do you think your brother will look for us?"

"Once the war is over."

"No. Why?"

"Gregor takes what Gregor wants. I'll keep you safe. No one will ever hurt you again or I'll kill them."

"I know. How do we know when to go back?"

"I will know."

"Do we have to go back? We could go anywhere."

"A little hard for me to hide as a fugitive. I am probably them most recognizable person in Westeros. And you will be the second most recognizable. Once the ravens are released, you would be hunted down in two days, unless I shave you head."

"No! You wouldn't!", she gasps.

"No. I would dye it and hide it under a hat."

"Can I ride with you?"

"No!"

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Several hours later they arrive is a small town, on the Stranger's back. He whispers into her ear, "Pull up your hood and cover that hair. We are going through town to pick up supplies before we get to the estate, and I have to send a raven. Let me know if you need anything. Now's the time to get it."

"I will need a housedress and apron, since you think I should learn to cook."

"That will be a site to behold. The Hound taken down by food poisoning." She smacks him on his hand. "We will tell people you are my wife to keep curious people from buzzing around you. Think of a name that we can use for you."

"Alayne Clegane. It has a nice ring to it. It reminds me of Pete's family."

"Alayne Clegane it is." They pull into the town and Sandor pulls Stranger up in front of the largest of the buildings and dismounts. He ties both horses to the post. He grabs Alayne around the waist and lowers her from Stranger. She smiles up to him and chirps a happy, "Thank you, my lord husband." He rolls his eyes and releases her and heads into the store. She quickly walks behind him. She has never been in a big general store. People always brought her whatever she needed. This was almost overwhelming as she breaks off from being her 'husband's' shadow to take it all in. A young clerk hands her a shack with which to shop. She smiles a thank you at the young girl and starts roaming the shelves, wide eyed and in awe. She sees some soft as butter, cream colored cotton fabric and grabs it. She can make her 'husband' a tunic and night shifts for herself. She asks the clerk if she has hair dye, and adds that to the bag. She sees jars that contain candied lemon and candied figs. She has the girl wrap some for her. After ten minutes Sandor joins her, having tended to his business.

"We will need food for a week little bird. Candy may be food fit for little birds, but not for hounds."

"Yes, my lord. What should I get?"

"Eggs, bread, butter, cheese and smoked meats, flour, a few fresh chickens, dried not candied fruit, root vegetables, salt, pepper." He looks to the clerk, "Could you help my bride with basic food stuff for setting up a house; and double wrap the eggs."

"Certainly milord." Sandor does not admonish the girl for the loathed titled. He walks away from them to see if there is anything else they need for the next week. He knows the house is furnished and should have the basic equipment to run it. He spies a blue dress that would look lovely on the little bird. As her 'husband' he should probably buy her a gift. He takes it up to a clerk and has it wrapped up before the other shopping is done. He goes back to his browsing, while his 'wife' finishes with their provisions for the week. She and the clerk come to the counter to have the items added to his tally and wrapped so he can pay.

He hands the eggs to the little bird. She hits him for the second time today. He ties the tops of the bags together and drapes them over his broad shoulders. He slings one arm around his 'wife', to keep up the pretense and heads out of the store. Alayne smiles and waves to the young clerk. Sandor hangs the sacks over Maiden's saddle and ties the egg bag on top of the sacks. He lifts Sansa onto Stranger and they head out to their new home.

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As they approach the main home two hours later, people start to come out of the guest house. An older lady greats them, "Milord, welcome. We have prepared the house for your arrival." He dismounts from Stranger and removes a very triumphant Sansa from Strangers saddle. How does she keep getting out of riding her own horse. He is not sure, she must be using magic to just transport herself there. He has no memory of how it keeps happening.

After exchanging introductions, they all walk into the main house with all their bags. The groceries are unpacked into the partially stocked larder, Sansa discreatly removes the hair dye. Their personal bags are set in the largest of the three bedrooms on the second floor, which has a large bathroom attached, with a dressing area, an oversized tub and a walled off privy. Sansa thinks it feels like a home, and Sandor feels like he could be her husband. That thought comforts her. "Would milady like me to unpack and put away her clothes?"

"No, I can do that. Could you help me with hot water for a bath. I am sore from so many days in the saddle."

"Certainly milady. It will take me half an hour to get the water."

"Thank you. I will unpack while you do that." She is afraid something within her things could give her identity away. She finds nothing but her direwolf necklace. She puts all her jewelry away in the back of a bottom dresser drawer and adds the bag that hides hair dye and puts the bag with her moon blood, moon tea supplies and their white cloak in front of it. The housekeeper comes back with several servants and buckets of hot water and takes them to the tub.

"Milady, may I help you removed your cloak."

"Oh, no. I just put it back on. I am just heading out to find my husband." A lie. She left her cloak on and hood up to hide her red hair.

"He said he was headed to the stables to see after the horses, and then checking the equipment on the grounds."

"Thank you. I am sure I will have no trouble finding him. He is only one of the largest man in Westeros. Well, since the water is hot, I should just take my bath now."

"I can help you undress and bathe milady."

"No, I will be fine, thank you. If you would prepare a nice dinner, that would be wonderful. We only ate a light lunch in the saddle. My lord must be starving and he gets irritable when he is hungry." With that everyone bows and runs to the kitchen to begin preparing a couple of chickens for dinner and Sansa is smiling at herself for getting her way, again.

She locks the door and removes her cloak and dress and small clothes and heads to the bath with the hair dye. She reads the instructions and puts it on her hair and eyebrows while in the looking glass and pins her hair up on her head. She needs to do her eyelashes too, but cannot leave it on so long there, per the instructions. After her bath she dyes her lashes and waits a few minutes. She then rinses her face, careful not to get dye in her eyes. She uses the bath water and a separate vessel to wash the dye out of her hair, while standing over the waste drain that takes the water out of the house. Once the rinse water runs clear she has half emptied the tub. She gets back in the tub to rinse the drips off her body in the sallow water. She uses a wash cloth to clean any evidence of her actions, and will have to remember to dispose of this rag. She will hide it with her dirty clothes for the time being. She puts on clean small clothes and sits at the vanity in the bedroom to brush out her wet hair. She does not even recognize herself. She braids her still damp hair into a high ponytail and pins it in a bun on top of her head. Someone looking years older stares back at her in the glass. She loves the black eyelashes. They draw the focus to her eyes, which is probably her best feature. She puts on her dress and cloak, pulls up the hood, and goes out to find her 'husband'.

He is in the stables tending to Stranger. She just stands in the doorway watching the two together. He treats Stranger like he treated Ali. Is she the only one who get to see The Hound like this. She clears her throat to get his attention. He turns to her and she ask him how much longer will be he. He tells her half an hour. She heads back to the house to have a bath made ready for him. The water is drawn and put on the fire. He comes in shortly after and hauls the water up himself. The chambermaid had already cleaned out the tub and mopped floor from Sansa's bath. Sansa is in the guest room organizing her needle point, fabric and sewing supplies there, that way Sandor can have his privacy. When she hears him go down stairs she goes back to 'their' room. She gathers up their dirty clothes and puts them in the hamper she found when she unpacked their things. She is not sure why, but she deeply inhales the scent of Sandor's discarded shirt. She wants to hold onto it, but there is no way to hid it from him. She reluctantly lets it drop into the hamper. She washes her hands and heads down for dinner.

As she descends the stairs all eyes turn to her. The staff all greet her as milady. Sandor just looks at her with wide eyes that quickly narrow and take on their usual unreadable quality. He moves to the bottom of the steps and escorts her the rest of the way. He whispers to her, "What did you do to your hair?" She smiles up at him. She places her hand on his shoulder and whispers in his ear, "You said if we were going to hid, I would need hair dye or wear a hat." He looks up at the ceiling and realizes he caused this changed. He has to be more careful with what he says to her. She is so innocent and willing to please.

As they sit down at opposite ends of the table, the housekeeper dishes out portions on their plates. "Please give my lord a double portion of everything and a whole chicken." Sansa smiles at him. He nods a thank you at her. After tasting everything, "The food is the best I have had in years. It taste like home. Would you be willing to teach me how to cook?"

"Certainly milady. It would be my pleasure. We can start tomorrow for the midday meal if that pleases you."

"Very much, thank you," Sansa chirps, while Sandor continues eating, but is listening intently to the exchange. What has he started. He has turned a high lady into a housewife. HIS housewife. His head would not look so good on a spike on the battlements.

They finish dinner in companionable silence. The staff is in the kitchen eating their meals also. As he pushes his chair out the housekeeper magically reappears.

"Milord, we will clear and clean and then we well get out of your way and leave you and your bride to your privacy." He looks at Sansa, her face goes as red as her hair used to be.

"Thank you. We do need to get to sleep. We've been traveling for too many days."

"Then we will not come back until late morning to give you time to sleep in and catch up on your rest. Does milady need help undressing for bed"

"No, thank you. I have only travel clothes with me. So I can handle it myself. Goodnight"

"Goodnight to milady, milord." Sandor approaches Sansa and pulls out her chair and offers her his elbow, like the knight he refuses to be. They ascend the stairs and he allows her to pass into the room first. He closes the door behind him and bolts it. She looks back at him.

"Once the staff leaves, I will sleep in the other room, little bird."

"What? You cannot!"

"Why?"

"The bed is too small. It is half the size of this one." She points to 'their' bed.

Sighing, "Then you can sleep in that room once the staff leaves."

"When they see both beds have been slept in. They will know we are lying."

"This is why I hate lying. It causes future complications that no one wants. You can make up the bed like it was never touched."

"You know I don't know how to do that."

"I will make up your bed for your."

"You get up early, but I don't."

"Little bird, you will be the death of me."

"Let us hope not. I would miss you," she says with a smile and a blush. Sandor rolls his eyes. Knowing he will give into the temptress. Where did his will go. His inner Hound refuses to surface. She has made him soft as a green boy.

"I will have the chambermaid teach you how to make a proper bed and other basics to keep a house." She smiles like she has won. His inner Hound wakes up at her gloating and he starts to undress right then and there, loosening the ties to hi breeches.

"What are you doing?"

"Going to bed."

"We have a bathroom with a dressing area, you can undress in there."

He sits on the bed to remove his boots. "You can undress in there, while I undress in here."

"Fine!" She grabs a night gown from the top dresser draw and her slippers from under the bed and goes into the dressing area. By the time she comes out he is already under the covers with his back to her. "You are on my side of the bed."

"Since when do you have a side? You sleep alone."

"I have always favored the left side."

"I was just sleeping closest to the door. It's what men do."

"Oh!" She crawls in the right side of the bed, content with his answer. Goodnight Sandor."

"Goodnight little bird."

They went to bed back-to-back with enough room to put another person between them. When Sandor wakes, he is teetering on the edge of the bed and is wearing the little bird across his back like a cloak. Her face is between his shoulder blades, her breath ghosting over his skin. Her leg is thrown across the back of his thighs. Her arm is thrown across his back and her hand is on his chest. He sighs deeply and swallows hard. She moans in her sleep and moves against him. He could feel the weigh of her teats against his back. She is mumbling in her sleep. All he can make out is his name. She must be dreaming of their travels. He tries to go back to sleep. A feat now impossible due to her straightening her leg down his; but thank the gods she now rolls back to her side of the bed. He thinks about taking himself in hand in the bathroom. If he gets out of bed, he may wake her, and she could hear him. He did tell the staff they were newly wedded. They would expect some evidence on the sheets. If she had slept in the other room it would not be a problem. The room is still dark and she is a sound sleeper. He is in agony and he figures he is doing her a favor. She will not have to deal with his bad mood all day. He unties his small clothes and turns toward her, only to make sure she stays asleep the entire time. He will not need long. He has been denying himself since they left King's Landing. What was that five days ago. He cannot think straight.

Decision made. He slowly starts stroking his leaking cock while looking at the back of her head. This was EXACTLY what he wanted to avoid; tying his release to her. With that black hair he can pretend she is someone else. If he still observed the Seven, he would have to go and confess this sin. He imagines her always pouting mouth sliding up and down his cock. He is almost there. He hears her say his name again in her sleep, and he buries his face in his pillow as he grunts out his release and spills onto the linens. Well, he should feel bad, but all he feels is relieved and the chambermaid will think he did is husbandly duty. NOW he can sleep.

Chapter Text

Tyrion and Bronn are the first to arrive in the small counsel room. Tyrion does not want to have the leaders of various defense and military branches to see him waddle across the floor and wiggle to get into his seat. That would not instill confidence in his military leadership, on top of his lack of experience. As the room fills up, he both dreads and is excited by leading the defense of the capital against Stannis' impending attack. The page hands out the revised orders to the various men as they walk in. Ser Gregor ducks his way through the door and suddenly the room seems way too small. The page hands him his written orders without looking Ser Gregor in the eye. Tyrion calls the page over. He grabs the papers from the page to see who is missing. He still has the details for the King, the leader of the city watch and the lead archer. He will give them a bit more time by having the page pass out wine to all the men.

Two of the missing three show up. Tyrion waves them over and hands them their instructions. Only the King is missing. Since he has nothing substantive to add and no real military role in the war to come, Tyrion starts the meeting. He sends Bronn to guard the door. Ser Meryn Trant proved Tyrion can not trust the kingsguard. "Let us get this meeting started, so we can get you back to the preparations. Is there anything you need for your divisions that you do not have. I can get you almost anything, but more men. So let me know now so we know where to put more efforts."

The lead archer pipes up, "We can use as many more arrows as we can get that both pierce and can be set to blaze." At that moment the door opens and the lone missing member of their party joins them. He takes the only available seat, which is at the head of the table.

"My good man, that is exactly the input I need. You shall have it." As Tyrion grants that wish, requests come in from all corners of the room. Tryion makes the commitments and the page makes the notes. Tyrion turns his attention to The Mountain that Scares, "Ser Gregor, you will be taking up the most important last defense for the Red Keep, the Mud Gate. If it falls, the city falls."

"Then it is my honor to protect the Mud Gate. It will not fall. Who would have done this job, if I were not brought in?" His voice can not only be heard, but the reverberation of his deep voice can also be felt.

King Joffery chimes in, "My dog would have the gate. Now you are my dog."

Ser Gregor glares at King Joffrey. Joffrey feels a chill run down his spine and shifts uncomfortable in his seat. Gregor knows they rewarded Sandor with the job that he himself deserves. Instead they punish him with his little brother's discarded job in the mud trenches. Someone will die today. He snatches the wine from the page and refills his cup. Then he turns his glare to Lord Tyrion. Cold dead gray eyes meeting mismatched eyes. The rest of the meeting passes without Gregor hearing anything, but the pounding of blood in his ears and his circling thoughts. Once the meeting ends, Gregor marches toward the door and everyone gives him a wide birth and allows him to exit first.

He still has the flagon of wine in his hand. He drinks the contents as he storms through the keep. He stands before a wooden door he has stood in front of once before without remembering walking there. His instincts lead him here. He kicks the door in without a second thought. The metal lock snaps and gives way. He stalks in and looks around. There was something not right with the room. He walks to the dresser and goes through the drawers. They are almost empty. Further examination of the lack of content in the room and under the bed indicates his little brother has packed for more than a simple scouting trip. Gregor wakes up in his own room the next morning. He has no memory past being in his little brother's room. He bathes and dresses for lunch. In the great hall everyone is talking about a young handmaid found dead at the bottom of the service stairs in the knights' quarters. Gregor's curiosity is mildly piqued. *They cannot identify the girl, she was beaten so badly, and her head was facing the wrong way.*

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Tyrion is summoned to Queen Cersei's solar. Maester Pycell is already there. Queen Cersei starts, "The entire Keep is talking about a girl found dead in the stairwell near the knights' rooms in the White Sword Tower. She was a tall redhead wearing a handmaiden dress. Do we know who she is yet? No one has seen Lady Sansa in five days."

Tyrion chimes in, "It's not her."

Cersei asks, "How do we know?"

"She left for safety with The Hound five days ago. The less people to know the better. Ser Gregor wanted to be her sole escort. Ser Meryn told him about the assignment.

"Ser Gregor came to me too for the assignment. If Jaime's life did not hang on Sansa's survival, I would have given her to him. Maester Pycell, what do we know?"

He details his findings, * "The girls face was beaten so badly that we are not sure of who she was. She was wearing a handmaiden dress. She was a tall, slender redhead. Her neck was broken and internally decapitated. Only the skin kept it attached. I have only seen this happen when a horse rider comes in contact with a low hanging heavy tree branch. The force it would take to do this is such that no ordinary man could generate it.

"Could she have fallen down the stairs?" Tyrion inquires.

"That would have been a possibility, if there was not so much facial damage; and there had been more stairs, perhaps. There was not enough blood on any one step to account for the damage. All the blood was on the landing between floors and there was a giant foot print left in the blood.* There are only two men with access to the knight's quarters in White Sword that are large and strong enough to have done this and left the footprint, and apparently one has not been here for five days," the maester adds.

"Well, as long as it was only a handmaiden, it is of no matter. We will find out who she was when she is missing from duty. Then we can let her family bury her...at our cost," Cersei throws in as an afterthought.

"We will need to deal with this crime," Tryion interjects.

"We need to deal with the war to come. This crime is of no matter to anyone of consequence. Maester Pycell, I say she fell down the stairs. What do you say?"

"She was not sexually violated. She must be one of the few handmaidens that was still an actual maiden."

"There see! It must not have been Ser Gregor. He would have raped her. Find out who she is and notify the family. She tripped on her gown and fell down a long flight of stairs end of discussion. We did nothing when Ser Gregor's wives all died. Why do we suddenly care about a handmaiden? All his wives were of middle birth. Their families never brought claims against him, and they had some access to local power."

"Well, these people trust us to keep them safe within these walls, and father brought in a monster. He may start turning on us next. You should see the way he looked at me in the war council meeting."

"Puh," with a dismissive wave of her hand.

"He gave Joffrey the same look."

"He looks at everyone with dead eyes. He is who he is. That is why father retains him. He is more valuable for our war efforts than all the handmaidens in the Keep. Once the war is over, he will go back to his usual haunts and he can rape and pillage in the Riverlands, and maybe the North."

"If he survives," Tyrion adds.

"If any of us survive."

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Tyrion is back in the Hand's solar when Ser Gregor walks in without knocking. He looms over the desk without saying a word, massive arms crossed over an even more massive chest. If The Hound was built like bull, the Mountain was built like an ox. Just big. Tyrion continued to work waiting for Gregor to explain his presence, and Gregor stood like the Titan of Bravos waiting for Tyrion to acknowledge him. Tyrion gives first, "To what do I owe this unexpected visit?"

"You lied to me."

"About what?"

"The Stark girl has already left the city with my little brother."

"I told you all along that the girl will leave when your brother got back and she was able to travel. Both those things happened, and now they are both gone. Before you ask where they are, I have no idea. My father planned it that way. If the city falls he wanted to make sure Stannis could not get hold of our only way to get Ser Jaime back."

'When did they leave."

"Don't know. For a large man, your brother is very quiet; but you probably know that better than me. I had not even known he had returned until Lady Sansa was gone. Why do you care? You are a warrior, not a septa."

"This has been pointless." Changing the subject, "I could use a second two handed broad sword while you are handing out supplies. I hear Payne has the Stark's Ice. I could take that."

"I will see about that request and do what I can. While I have you here, where did you go after the meeting yesterday?

"To my brother's room. Almost all his things, including extra knives were gone. Not something you pack for a scouting mission."

"What did you do after that?"

"Went to my room and slept off a headache with the help of milk of the poppy. Why?"

"Just curious." Ser Gregor turns on his heels after Tyrion's obvious lie. He walks out with no further parting words. He realizes Tyrion suspect him of that girl; the dead redhead. While he has no memory of doing it, he thinks it was probably him. Two of his wives died the same way, necks broken in 'falls' down stairs. He doesn't remember those either. His first blackout rage was when he held his little brother's face to the brazier. If he could ever feel bad about something in his life, it might be that. It was the beginning of the end of his family, and that fault lies at his feet, as if he had killed them all that day. Well, he did kill his sister and father, but that was more out of mercy than rage. They were as scarred as his little brother's face from their family dynamic. Sandor got away, and into the protection of The Rock. Maybe it was time for him to put little brother out of his misery too.

Chapter Text

The first morning in her new home Sansa wakes and Sandor is missing from THEIR bed. She calls out his name. He appears from the bathroom with a, "What?"

She looks up at him shyly, "I was not sure if you were still here." He has on no shirt and his face and neck is covered in lather. There is a small blade in his hand.

"I'm still here, little bird. Suns been up for hours. Got to look for something to keep me occupied and in fighting shape."

"What will we do today."

He laughs, "We? You are learning to cook. I will cut wood and take a ride around the grounds to familiarize myself with the lay of the land. I want to know all the trails in and out, should we need them."

"Can I ride with you after my lesson?"

"You don't like to ride."

"I like being ridden."

With an audible groan, "Another thing you cannot say to a grown man."

"Why, what did I say?"

"If you do not understand, it is not my place to explain."

"Who else do I have to teach me the things I don't understand."

"I have to eat before I can deal with this."

"So can I ride with you later?"

"Sure, little bird." He turns back to the bathroom with a roll of his eyes and a shaking of his head.

She is up and running to the wardrobe to grab her autumn wheat riding dress, her cloak and riding boots to lay them out. She grabs clean small clothes and a sheath and decides to use the bathroom down the hall that serves the other two bedrooms, rather than rushing Sandor. When she opens the bedroom door the chambermaid is coming up the stairs. She asks if she may grab the linens and towels, and put fresh sheets on the bed. Sansa tells her to go in the bedroom, but her 'husband' is still in the bathroom.

"Thank you milady."

"Thank you....Mallory is it?"

"Yes, milady, everyone calls me Mal." Sansa heads down the hall with fresh small clothes and Mal heads into the bedroom. She grabs the clothes from the hamper and puts them in the laundry bag. She strips the blanket off the bed and folds it, then puts it aside on a chair. She takes the top linen off and has to smile at the large stain evidencing their bedding. She removes the bottom sheet.

Sandor comes out of the bathroom, "Little bird?"

"Excuse me, milord?"

"I thought you were my wife." He still has on no shirt and his small clothes are damp and clinging in places from washing up.

"She's down the hall. Mayhaps I can help you." The way she is looking at him, only from the chest down, tells him all he needs to know.

"Sure, the dirty towels are in the bathroom." She gives a smile that does not reach her eyes. While she is in the bathroom, he puts on black leather pants and was just putting on a black tunic. She returns and lingers in the bedroom after retrieving the towels, pretending to be assessing the room for more cleaning."Tell my wife I left." She nods and actually starts cleaning the room.

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Sansa learns how to clean and prepare several different vegetables for meals. She tells the cook things Sandor likes to eat, since they have almost eaten together hundreds of times in the Great Hall. Tomorrow she will learn how to cut and prepare meats. She lets the housekeeper know they will need a packed lunch to take with them today. Jan then shows Alayne how to choose foods that will travel well and how to prepare and pack them. They add a few apples for the horses. In Sansa's mind, there will only be one horse, but Alayne smiles and just agrees to take apples for the 'horses'. Sandor spends the morning working with the horses and checks their legs and hooves. He brushes out their coats and gives them fresh oats and hay. He walks the immediate grounds with the groundskeeper and sees to the work being done. The groundskeeper points out areas of the property he might find interesting, including the river that feeds the well and the forest where they hunt deer and pheasants. Sandor heads back to the house to wash for lunch. When he gets there, the little bird is in the kitchen flitting around like a little bird. She stops and smiles when she sees him. He takes her in from head to toe. She is wearing the dress he gave her a while ago and her new apron. The fabric of the dress is now stretched over her bust.

"Milord, your wife is a very fast learner. She will be able to cook all your favorite meals by the time you leave."

"Well, I guess I'll keep her then. I need to wash." He runs upstairs and takes off all his clothes and puts on a blue tunic and tan suede pants after he washes up. He grabs his cloak and heads back downstairs. The little bird is perched at the bottom of the stairs in her cloak and holding a sack.

"I helped prepare the lunch for our ride." He gets to the bottom of the stairs and kisses the black crown of her head, which he is still trying to get use to. "We'll be late for dinner," he announces to the housekeeper

"I will start it an hour later than usual milord. Have a good ride." After they both leave, Jan turns to Mal who is washing the dishes from the lesson. "You know he will be riding her hard under a tree."

"From what I saw this morning when I cleaned their room, she will be walking hobbled. His body more than makes up for that face."

"He cuts quite the figure of a man. Built like the Warrior himself that one is. Alayne is quite young and beautiful. I have only seen eyes like that when I worked in the Riverlands. She is taller than most men. Their children will be very tall, that's for sure."

"She's pretty I guess. I doubt that she knows how to satisfy a man."

"Well, he looks like he can teach her a thing or ten."

"That he does," Mal smirks.

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Sandor saddles Stranger and starts to saddle Maiden, with the little bird looking on. "We should just take one horse."

"Maiden needs to be exercised too, little bird."

"Fine," she pouts and looks disappointed. He takes her in for a moment. Then he leads Maiden to her and puts her in the saddle. He pulls Stranger out and packs the food in the saddle bag before he mounts. He leads the way out. They ride at a leisurely pace for half an hour, taking in the scenery.

"Do you think Mal is pretty, Sandor?" His head drops, again with the questions. He has to remind himself his is not really married. Why does she even care?

"Which one is Mal?"

"The pretty one. The housekeeper is Jan."

"I haven't noticed."

"She keeps looking at you."

"She looks at you more often. Some people just like to keep busy in other people's lives."

"I think she is pretty."

"If you say so little bird." 'Get me out of this conversation. I now miss the days when she only chirped courtesies. She can even call me Ser again if she will stop with this', flashes through his mind. "So what will you do tomorrow?"

"I have some sewing I want to start."

"What are you making?"

"Night gowns. Does Mal remind you of Cersei? I think she even has green eyes."

"I didn't notice. Do you want me to pay more attention to her?" 'How did we end up back to Mal? Do I have to kill this maid to have some peace?' As that thought invaded his mind her realized Sansa was jealous for whatever reason. "You are a man grown. Do whatever you want to do." "Good, I want an annulment." She reaches across and slaps him, The Hound, across the shoulder. "You would hit your lord husband, my lady?" At that he pulls Stranger closer to Maiden and lifts Sansa under the arms and removes her from Maiden and settles her on Stranger as she shrieks, in surprise. He kicks Stranger into a gallop and the little bird gasps in surprise and giggles in excitement. After a short time he slows down to a trot. "You enjoyed taking flight little bird?"

"It was quite exciting. Can he go faster?"

"Yes, but I will not push him after our lengthy travel. He is too valuable. Maiden would not be able to keep up if he went at full speed." She smiles up at him and nods.

"You hear that?"

"Hear what?

"Running water. We're arrived."

"I hear it."

"In the wilderness, running water is always your most important landmark. It will lead you to people or help you avoid them." She looks up at him and nods her understanding. He rides through a grouping in trees and they can now see the river. He rides to a nice area under the protection of a tree and stops. He dismounts from Stranger and lifts the little bird down from his saddle. He takes the saddle off of Maiden and takes her saddle blanket and spreads in on the ground. He takes the saddle and saddle bags off of Stranger. He sets the saddle bags down on the blanket, then leads the horses to an open grassy area. Sansa starts unpacking the food and when she gets to the apples, she yells out "Sandor!" and throws the apples one at a time to him. He feeds the first one to Stranger, then Maiden, and drops the others in separate areas of the fields so a fight does not break out. If you can call a Stranger attack a fight.

He returns to the blanket and says to Sansa, "You know you throw like a boy."

"Lots of practice throwing snowballs at Arya."

"What's for lunch?"

"The chicken from yesterday, fruit salad that I prepared, slices of bread, cheese and wine. Jan showed me how to make a spread of eggs, oil salt and pepper to add to the chicken with diced celery. Then we spread it on the bread. Here, first you have to wash your hands." She pours water onto a small towel and hands it to Sandor. They both clean their hands. He takes two of the pieces of chicken covered bread and mashes them together and takes a huge bite out of it. His eyes register surprise.

"My little bird can cook for me anytime."

She takes a bite out of her slice of chicken covered bread. "This is really good. I am such a good wife. What more can a man want?"

"I can think of a thing or two," he says under his breath, as he takes a deep drink from a wine skin. "Where is this fruit salad wife?"

"Would you like me to feed it to you, husband?"

"Whatever you like little bird." She removes the cloth tied on the top of the horn cup that has salad and picks out pieces of fruit to feed Sandor. His lips close over the tips of her fingers. "Very good. How did you make this?

"Jan had me clean and cut everything. Then she had me pour a clear liquid over everything." He grabs the cup from her hand and smells it.

"Liqueur." He pulls out a piece of fruit and feeds it to her. She bits his finger playfully and giggles after releasing her hold his finger and thumb. "You just bit the hand that feeds you."

"Sorry my lord," she blushes.

"Do you know what we do to dogs who do that? I will have to punish you."

"It's a good thing I am a wolf."

"Same principle."

"No, I am just a silly little bird." He looks at her with mock revenge in his eyes. She stands and backs away and feigns fear. She turns to run and hears his barking laugh behind her.

"I'll give you a running start, girl. You better run as fast as you can." He hears her little steps running away, but not very fast. He takes a piece of the fruit and eats it before getting up to chase her.

He takes off at a fast walk, stalking her. He already sees her hiding behind a tree, but he will let her think she is well hidden. He walks past her, and she thinks she has gotten away. Then he turns on her. She runs back toward the tree with there blanket. He catches her in three steps and grabs her by the waist. He picks her up and throws her over his shoulder. "Are you sorry for biting me little bird?"

"No." He wraps his arm round her hip and begins spinning with her.

"Sorry now?"

"YES!!! You are making me dizzy. Put me down you brute!" But she is giggling.

He stops spinning, because he is making himself dizzy. "Then apologize and stop laughing girl."

"You hate when I apologize."

"Then I will take my revenge." He turns his head to the only part of her he can reach. He bites her hip, since it is draped over his his left shoulder.

"OUCH!!! You know I bruise easily." She hits him out of reflex and sadly, her hand was at a level with his arse. He responds by smacking her on the arse. "I apologize my lord. Please forgive me. I will never bite you again." He picks her up off his shoulder and sets her down on the blanket. "Well?"

"Well what little bird?"

"An apology and a promise not to bite me again."

"Not sorry, and what would The Hound be without his bite. Now finish feeding me girl."

After they finish enjoying the first meal she has ever helped prepare, they both lay back on the blanket and relax. When he wakes up she is nestled up against him with her head on his chest. He wraps his arms around her and pulls her closer. Sandor has dozes off again. They must have laid like this for another hour. He wakes when he feels pressure on his face. When he opens his eyes, the little bird has her eyes closed and is kissing his scarred cheek. "You know we are not really married, little bird."

"I was just trying to wake you before it gets too late."

"Kissing me is one way to wake up a lot to things you don't need to know about. What would you do if I kissed you back."

"I did not think that far."

"Next time just call my name or shake me. If you kiss me again, I will kiss you back, and it will be long and hard and wet and deep."

"Oh," she gasps. His eyes look darker than before.

"Pack up everything. I'll saddle the horses." As he walks back leading the two large beasts on either side of him, silhouetted by the low sun, with his cape bellowing behind him; he looks like the Warrior himself. It takes Sansa's breath away. When he approaches she still has not packed, but she watches him intently. "Little bird what are you doing. I need Maiden's blanket." She FINALLY starts packing, while he saddles Stranger.

She folds the blanket and places it on Maiden's back. When he starts to saddle Maiden, he appreciates her extra effort, but refrains from saying so. She has already shown she no longer fears him, and since they have to share a bed, she should.

He approaches her and puts her on Maiden. He can tell that she wants to ride with him, but she will ride her own horse back home. Period.

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They both approach the house on Stranger. How the fuck does that keep happening? He shakes his head. She will have him completely unmanned in less than a week. As they pull into the stables, the stable hand takes the reigns from him. He dismounts and grabs the little bird. He grabs the bag from his saddle bag and walks with Sansa into the house. Her head is held high and she has a knowing smile on her face. He drops off the sack that held the food in the kitchen, and they both head up to their bedroom to clean up. She uses the bathroom down the hall, while he is in the one in their bedroom. She returns to the bedroom to take off her riding boots and put on her slippers. Sandor has already removed his ridding boots.

She is sitting on the bed with one leg held up toward him. "Sandor, would you take off my boot for me, please?"

"Really, little bird. I learned how to remove my boots when I was four."

"My feet are swollen." He gives her the side eye and approaches her. He grabs the heel of her boot and pulls up and off freeing the first foot. He pulls her stocking off and examines her foot to see if it is really swollen. It does look a bit puffy. He massages her foot to improve the circulation. She lays back on the bed and relaxes.

"Your toenails need to be trimmed, before you flay me like a Bolton. Give me your other foot." He removes the boot and massages that foot too. "Did you bring a nail kit?"

"No, you did not approve it for packing. I do have my sewing scissors. My hair and nails grow fast."

"I will trim them tomorrow after your bath. Your shoes will fit better." He drops her foot and goes to wash his hands. They both then head down for dinner. He notices that the table is set at adjacent seats instead of opposite ends, like the night before. He gives her a look and she shrugs her shoulders in innocents. He pulls her chair out for her and sits next to her at the head of the table. She takes the serving platter from Jan and servers Sandor a large helping of the lamb chops. She smiles at him. As much as he loves chicken, he could make lamb chops his final meal and die happy. She takes two for herself. Jan brings over the serving platter for the vegetables and hands it to Alayne. She then serves her 'husband', then herself and hands the platter back to Jan. She takes the tankard of wine and pours him a horn of wine.

"Thank you for taking me out today. It was one of the three best days of my life since leaving Wint-, since leaving my home."

"Well, I'm jealous of the other two days that are competing."

"I do not know why. You took my out for the other days too." She smiles up as him. He closes his eyes for a moment longer than a blink, and nods at her once he is looking at her again.

They finish their meal in a comfortable silence. He is not much for sugar so he gives her his dessert. Since he took the lion's share of the lamb, or as he thinks of it, the hound's share; it is more than fair. She smiles at him and enjoys their happy dividing of the meal.

"What are you doing for the rest of the evening?" Sandor inquires of his 'wife'.

"I was going to start cutting my sewing projects. What are you going to do?"

"Going back to my regular schedule. So I will be heading to bed early. I'll go to town first thing in morning. Let me know if you need anything. Get a list from the help for anything the household needs." She nods. She likes being treated like the lady of her own home. He stands and stretches, his fingers brush the ceiling. He steps over to her and kisses the top of her head. "Good night little bird."

"Good night Sandor." She goes in the kitchen to talk with Jan and gets her supply needs and writes them down. "Does Mal need anything?"

"I'll get her items and give them to your husband in the morning. Thank you, milady."

Alyane heads up to her sewing room. She grabs the sack with the fabric and unfolds it. She took one of Sandor's tunics while he was tending to the horses earlier. She starts cutting a new one for him. She keeps wondering if he is sleep yet. She decides to finish cutting the fabric tomorrow, while he is gone. She will sleep while he sleeps. When she gets to their room he is tossing and turning to get comfortable.

"Not sleep yet." More of a statement then a question.

"No," in his raspy voice.

"Would you unlace my dress."

"Come here." She moves her hair to the side and turns her back to him. He unlaces the dress completely and she steps into the dressing area of their bathroom and emerges in her night gown with her hair braided. She hangs up her beloved autumn wheat colored dress. She gets in her new side of the bed. Instead of turning his back to her and rolling away to the edge of the bed, he is facing the middle. As she adjust toward him, he gives up no ground in a retreat. She turns her back to him and he reaches his arm over her waist and his chin on top of her head. He is sleep in a matter of moments. Once she is sure he is sleep, she threads her fingers through his and falls into a restful sleep.

Chapter Text

Per the latest scouts to return, Stannis' ships were a day away. The buzz around the Keep was like the electricity in the air during a thunderstorm. Queen Cersei called for a private meeting with Ser Gregor. He arrives in his own sweet time, which irritates the Queen, but as with Sandor, their talents make up for their temperaments.

"You called for me my Queen?" His voice booms deeply as he bows shallowly.

"Yes, Ser Gregor. My brother is quite concerned about the dead handmaiden. After the battle is won, he plans to look into the matter more seriously. I personally think it a minor thing, but my little brother has always been a friend of the small folk. I will try to shield whoever it is that may have harmed the girl, but even a Queen Regent must yield to the Hand of the King, as long as his lives or is the Hand, in my father's absence."

"A lot happens in war. Nothing will come of it. He may not even survive the war," Ser Gregor says casually.

"Very true. Who is to say what may befall him, or any of us during a hard battle. Time will tell. I am also sorry he had you chasing after Lady Sansa all this time. He told me yesterday she has been gone for five day hence. He should have told you sooner. All your wasted efforts and maneuverings. He made you look the love sick fool. That is all. You may return to your duties." Cersei smiles to herself at the short fuse she just lit. One lifelong problem may be coming to an end on the morrow. She takes a satisfying sip of wine.

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The city's alarm bells have been tolling for the last hour. The King and Ser Gregor, Lord Tryion and Bronn are on the battlements, waiting to release the signal to start the attack once Stannis' ships were in position. Gregor is pissed that he is stuck with the lying Lannister Imp, and the double Lannister inbred bastard of a shit heeled snot nosed limp cock boy king. His little brother is probably buried to the hilt in that she-wolf's warm, wet, tight, red cunt; while he is doing his brother's shit duties, with his even shittier charge. If there was a bigger insult, he could not think of it. FUCK HIM BACKWARDS THOUGH THE SEVEN HELLS!!! What pisses him off even more is that his clever little brother once again showed him who is smarter, just like when he was a kid. LITTLE FUCKER!!! Gregor was seven years older, but little brother could always solve problems better, always successfully hiding from him until that day he found Sandor playing with his toy wooden knight. Not so smart then little brother, were you. That day set his family on a path of destruction. Gregor was the tool to deliver that destruction, just as he will be tonight.

Tonight he welcomes the carnage he will wrought. There is nothing that will withstand him. Once the war is won, he would find the King's dog and redheaded wolf-bitch. He let his mind imagine long slender legs wrapped around his waist, as he rips off her small clothes and takes her up against a wall. His attention is draw back to the battlement, as Stannis' ships made their way into the Blackwater Bay. There is a silence within the Keep that chills to the bones. Stannis' war drums and the distant raising of the hidden heavy chain in the bay are the only sounds to be heard. Stannis will not have any retreat once the chain is in place. All of King Joffrey's men take up their fighting positions and prepare for all out war. Ser Gregor joins his men and Sandor's former chargers in position at the Mud Gate. He stands as the last barrior to the Keep. If he falls, the city falls.

The boat carrying the deadly cargo is released and sails out amongst Stannis' ships, leaving a floating green trail in its wake. Once the cry of "WILDFIRE!' is heard coming from someone on one of Stannis' boats, Bronn releases a fire tipped arrow into the air at the ship carrying liquid fire and molten death. The arrow makes contact. Wildfire has not been used in a massive attack since the time of the Mad King, therefore no on knows exactly what to expect. They collectively are holding their breaths. For long moments there is nothing; and then all the seven hells breaks loose at once. Tyyion's death ship explodes apart in every direction. Anything that comes into contact with the flaming pieces of the explosion is consumed by green flames. As wood and bodies and sails fall into the bay, they continue to burn an eerie green that illuminates the water from below, giving it an other worldly quality.

Ser Gregor leads the first sorte out the Mud Gate to greet any man who survived the fires and makes it to his shore. “Any man runs, I’ll cut him down myself,” as his men pour out the gate. By the third sorte he is down half his mean and needs reinforcements to man the gate. Having to ask the Imp for anything, after being denied by him at every turn, only make Gregor more angry. Before he heads out for the forth sorte, he sees the Imp hobble down the stairs from the battlement, the King is behind him.

"Aren't you on the wrong side of the gate Ser Gregor."

"I need more men to hold the gate. I lost half my numbers."

"There are no more men. Just the city guards and kingsguards protecting the King. All I can do is join you with my man Bronn."

"Send him to his mother's skirts for protection and give me his men." Tyrion cannot argue with that since Joffrey adds no military value. His presence only takes needed resources.

Tyrion sends Podrick to escort the King to Maegor's Holdfast with the women and other children. That will make Cersei happy, and if they survive, they can spin a tall tell that Joffrey was protecting the queen regent and the other defenseless nobles. He gives the King's men to Ser Gregor and he and Bronn join them. Back into the breach they go. Bronn firing fire tipped arrows at the oncoming elder Baratheon men. Gregor cutting down any men who get past his men. Bodies three deep surround him. Looking toward Tyrion sends a surge of blind rage through Gregor, and Tyron is in striking distance of is massive wingspan and sword length. He tries to force himself to focus on the fight, but he starts to give himself over to the blackness in his soul. Almost of its own accord, his sword swings toward Tyrion's head. He sees Tyrion fall forward, then he realizes he himself is falling backwards. He is brought back to the present by the searing pain of something on fire falling on top of him. As he topples over he sees Bronn standing on a hill pointing a flaming arrow towards him. Then there is nothing, but a blinding pain, a prayer to the Stranger and a black void.

Chapter Text

Sandor wakes early, as he normally would in King's Landing. It is still completely dark outside. He gets his bearings and realizes they were still sleeping in the same positions as when they went to bed the night before, except the little bird has captured his hand within her own. He has been granted the most peaceful night of sleep that he can ever remember. The little bird has been like a balm to soothe his soul. Before she joined him in bed, he was unable to sleep; wondering when she would come to bed, should he wait up for her, should he go retrieve her and put her in their nest. He wonders if he were missing from their bed, would she wait up for him. To his relief she came in during his musings and joined him in bed. That was the last thing he remembers before waking this morning. He sighs into her hair and takes in the scent of her hair and her neck, reluctant to get up. Knowing days like this will not last, because he knows what his instructions are, and he knows what is best for her. He is a man divided. He cannot serve two masters, the King and his little bird.

He had sent two ravens out the day they passed through town. One to Lord Hand Tyrion to let him know there were safe and the little bird was secure. It gave Lord Tyrion a way to send the same raven back to them with news or updates, when he had any. He paid extra to have the second leg bands removed from the birds. The receivers no longer had a away of knowing from where the birds were coming. The extra coin covering the higher likelihood of the bird never being returned. Tyrion could have a second King's Landing band added to send longer messages back to him. The second raven went to White Harbor, to forward onto wherever the King in the North is with his troops. Included with his own missive, was the small scroll Lord Tyrion had given him from Lord Tywin Lannister, with Tywin's own personal seal, ink stamped in miniature, offering the exchange to get Ser Jaime back. He was sure White Harbor would get his massive onto the King in the North, allowing for time to find his marching army. That message may have just arrived at its first stop, and would take many more days or even weeks to find the King; who would then have to respond back to White Harbor for them to use the same unbanded raven to get back to him with a response. If they did not make an agreement, he would have to repeat the process again. He cautioned them that time was short because he could be called back to King's Landing before the matter was settled, and Lady Sansa Stark would go back with him. They would wait in 'their home' until he heard one way or the other what was their next step. Sandor has not had a home since his mother died. Now his duty was to tear the home they had built apart as soon as he could, and return to his old life. Damn him to the seven hells.

It is still dark with just a hint of 'little bird' red peaking over the horizon as he rides Stranger to town. It has been a while since it was just he and his best friend. Stranger had almost gotten used to Sansa, almost. He quickly reaches town, but has no messages waiting for him. He gather's the things on the list, and gets more hair dye, a nail kit some sapphire blue fabric and a few other things not on the list. He double checks the list and settles his tab with the clerk. As he heads back home his mind wonders to things he can do to occupy his time while he is here, and stem his rising frustrations. The idea of a whore leaves him empty. He decides today will be a good day to visit the woods and hunt something. Use his energy to provide food for the house.

He arrives back at the house a few hours after sunrise. The little bird comes down the stairs at hearing his voice. He gives the supplies to the housekeeper and keeps a separate sack to give to his 'wife'. He has a surprise in the bag for her, in addition to her hair dye and nail kit; fine cotton fabric for he to make herself a dress. He heads up to their bedroom to change clothes, and Sansa follows him up to put the things away. She opens the bag and starts to sort out the contents. More hair dye to hide, nail scissors, more small clothes for both of them, which makes her blush, blue fabric. She smiles as she lifts the fabric and strokes its softness. She holds it up against her cheek and snuggles in the softness and takes in the fresh smell of it. She will make a dress for herself and another tunic for Sandor. If there is any fabric left, then she will make something small that recently came to her mind.

Sandor is in the dressing area while she unpacks the purchases. He emerges in his worn brown work pants and no shirt. He heads to the dresser to pull out an old tunic. "I'm going hunting this afternoon. I need something to keep me occupied."

"I can go with you to keep you company."

"No little bird. Ladies do not hunt. And talking and hunting don't work together."

"I won't talk. I promise."

"You might as well say you won't breath."

"I really can be quiet. Observe, I am being quiet." She looks him in the eye doing her best example of quiet. He looks at her amused and stands with his arms folded over his naked chest. Her eyes wonders down to his broad chest and hard abdomen. When she hears his raspy chuckle, she averts her eyes and blushes. She moves to occupy the awkward space she created, taking up the task of getting a tunic for him suitable for hunting. He accepts it from her and puts it on.

"I'll be back by dinner time. You can work on your sewing and your cooking lessons while I'm gone." She draws her mouth into a straight line and nods her head, because she is still showing him she can be quiet. He is headed out the bedroom door, when he hears a huff at his back. The little bird is glaring at him. He gives her a stern look of his own. She will not always get her way with him. He does try to soften the blow by stepping back toward her and kissing her on the forehead. Her glare softens into acceptance and she gives him a small smile as he leaves. He smiles inwardly finally standing up to those big sad blue eyes and shy smiles. He's finally found his balls again.+ He gets to the stable to see that Stranger is outfitted with all the gear he needs as he had asked of the stable boy. His quill is full of arrows and he has a large bow. He has rope to hang and bleed the deer, a gurney to carry the deer behind Stranger, butchering tools to skin and cut up the animal, if he has time.

Three hours later Sandor has killed two deer with only five arrows. He is not as proficient with the bow as he is with the sword, but he has impressed himself, and may start practicing more with other weapons, while he has the time to kill and the energy to burn. He has both deer hanging and draining. He gets splattered with blood while he is handling the deer. One was shot through the heart and removing the arrow caused some gore to blowback on him. Since the day is warm he strips and scrub his clothes in the nearby stream before the blood sets in. With the heat and the breeze they should be dry enough to wear in an hour. He hangs his clean clothes on a sunny branch. He bathes in the stream while he waits, since he did not get the chance to bathe before he left for town at dawn. The warm water is flowing over him and the sun is shining down on his skin in this beautiful peaceful place, and the little bird is waiting at home. It makes him want to thank the gods for the first time since he was six.

He falls asleep in the grass laying face down on his cloak, sunning himself. Enjoying the warm sun on his naked skin. He rolls over from tanning his pale arse and lays face up with his arm over his eyes. He makes a mental note not to stay this way too long. Some things you don't want to burn. He almost dozes off again when the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. He quickly grabs and unsheathes his sword and is on his feet in the flash of a moment. His intruder gasps and turns to run. He starts to take off after them, but after a few steps, he is not only reminded he has on no boots, but his cock is swinging in he breeze. "Little bird wait!"

"I'm sorry, my lord, you asked me not to come and I came anyway." She sits heavily on the ground, her back to him. He heads back to retrieve his clothes and puts them on as quickly as he can. He hears her sniffling.

"Did something happen little bird?"

"No. I had not really seen you all day, so I came to find you. The groundskeeper told me how to find you and gave me another thing to carry deer home. Then I saw the deer hanging from the tree and then I saw you sleeping facedown. Do you always sleep in the nude?"

"Sometimes. Wait how long were you watching me little bird? I've been resting face up for more than ten minutes."

"What. I wasn't watching you."

"Liar."

"I didn't want to wake you. You had a busy day."

"So instead you watch my naked arse."

"NO!" but it does look like two smooth round boulders, she smirks inwardly. She remembers it being hard as a rock when she smacked him for throwing her over his shoulder. She hopes these thoughts do not show on her face. She picks a flower and throws it at him. "I brought lunch."

"What did you bring me, 'wife'?"

"Lamb and a bean salad. Jan just cooked the lamb so it should still be a little warm."

"I think I love you, little bird."

"Let me know when you are certain," she smiles at him. He grabs Stranger's saddle blanket and spreads it near where he was napping. He puts part of it in the shade to keep her from burning. She retrieves the food from her saddle bag and starts to lay it out.

"Did you help prepare the food."

"Of course. Per your request, I am working hard at learning to cook and manage our home." Those words send a shiver through his spine. If only his little bird knew how much he wished this could be real. He will enjoy what he has, while he has it. A dream he never dared dream come true, until the real world comes crashing in on him, as it always does. He takes a seat and they spend the next hour enjoying their food and the fresh air. He lays back and sighs completely satisfied. Sansa continues, "I gave the staff the night off. I figured since we are eating a late lunch we would not eat dinner and could go to bed early. If you get hungry, I can bring you bread, cold meats, cheese and wine."

Sandor adds, "I could go to bed right here and sleep under the stars."

"It is warm enough for it. What about the deer?"

"Fuck. Well, there will be other warm nights were we can camp out. Once we leave here, we may be forced to, whether it is warm or not. I'll keep you warm though, little bird." He grabs her and pulls her close. She rests her head on his chest.

"I know," as she snuggles against him.

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They get back home with a deer strapped to each horse, and Sansa actually rides her own horse for a change. Sandor thinks seeing his cock in the flesh scared the little bird away from being wedged up between his thighs. At least she's getting riding practice. He carries the two deer into the cold larder and will butcher them in the morning.

He heads up to the bedroom. The little bird is already in there. He grabs fresh small clothes from the dresser. He goes in the bathroom to use the privy and wash up properly after handling the deer. He strips out of his clothes and is forced to used the fragment soap to wash. He cannot find his usual soap. He returns to the bedroom fresh as a daisy and smelling like a dozen of them. Sansa turns to face him. She looks a little disappointed and he is not sure why. "If you are more comfortable sleeping without small clothes, you can."

"I think we are both better off with me sleeping in something."

"I only want you to be comfortable."

"I think you have seen more than enough of my bare arse. Go to sleep."

"I will. When do you think we will have to go back?"

"I've been meaning to talk to you about that. I am still missing a lot of information. So as soon as I get news that Stannis' attack is over, I should know what to do next. Until then, we just play our roles and have a vacation on the King."

"Do men usually sleep with no clothes on when they are married?"

"I don't know the sleeping habits of many married men little bird. King Robert's fat arse slept without clothes."

"If you were really married would you sleep without clothes?"

"Probably."

"I don't mind so much if you do. You will be covered with the linens and furs."

"I mind. Small clothes are not going to kill me for a month or two. Sleep." He turns his back to her tries to go to sleep. He feels her roll away from him to turns her back to him. After a quarter hour he hears are huffing and sighing, and he too cannot fall to sleep. He rolls over to face her back and pulls her to his chest, with her head tucked under his chin. They both fall into a peaceful sleep.

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Sansa wakes up first. Sandor holds her loosely against his chest in sleep. She slowly turned to face him. She let her eyes adjust to the darkness. She examines his face in a way she cannot do while he is awake. His black eyelashes are longer than hers. He has a very masculine bone structure that looks of the north. His jawline is squared off and she can see a cleft in his chin through his beard. The unburnt part of his lips are full. She is tempted to kiss him, but she fears he will wake and he will be mad at her. He did say if she kissed him he would kiss her back. She just has to make sure not to wake him. She slowly approaches him and holds her breath so as not to stir his hair. She closes his eyes and prepares for contact. In that moment she is rolled on her back and Sandor is above her looking down. His knees on either side of her thighs to keep his weight off her. "What are you doing girl?"

"Nothing. I was-"

"You were what, little bird?"

"I was wondering what we are doing today?"

"Me, dressing the deer and chopping wood. You, answering my question."

"I think I will work on my sewing and my cooking lessons, unless you find something we can do together." She smiles up at him. He is sure that smile is not entirely innocent, but it is distracting, and he is getting hard. He rolls off of her.

"I'm going back to sleep. I have not forgotten that you just tried to kiss me again." She gasps and moves to her side of the bed. He chuckles and rolls over with his back to her to go back to sleep. When he really wakes up at sunrise, the little bird has him caged under he right leg and arm.

He wonders when she went from fearing him, to wanting constant contact with him. If she was not the King's betrothed, he would wake her and take her. He would try to marry her if he was not kingsguard and she was willing. Fuck her family. They left her with the lions far too long. He knows her better than anyone right now. He knows he is the only one with whom she feels safe. He moves her arm and leg off of him and gets up to use the privy. When he returns she has moved back to her side of the bed and she is softly snoring. He decides to enjoy her sleeping by his side a little longer and gets back in their bed. 'Take these moments while they last, dog.' He has no set schedule, but he is wide awake. He has been half hard since he woke with her draped over him. He might as well give the chambermaid something to talk about when she changes the linens. He falls back to sleep after quietly tending to himself.

He wakes to the sound of light knocking, Sandor gets out of bed and unbolts the door. The chambermaid has brought them a tray of bread with honey, hard cheese, fruit and fruit juice to break their fasts. Sansa starts to stir and feels for her 'husband'. She sits up after not finding him there. She sees Mal setting the food on a side table while eyeing Sandor shirtless and in his small clothes. "Good morning milord, milady. Jan sent up food for you. We have water already heating for your baths."

"Thank you Mal," Alayne chirps with a tight smile.

"Let me know if you need anything else. I will come back up shortly with the water. I can help milady bathe and dress, if you wish."

"No, I will be fine. My husband always helps me." Sandor shoots her a look like she has lost her mind. She just smiles at him like a cat with bowl of fresh cream. Good thing him took himself in hand this morning, he thinks. Just the thought of her naked and wet is messing with his head; both of them. Mal gives a shallow curtsey and leaves them.

"Why did you say that little bird. Now I am trapped in the room until you are dressed. I would think you'd want some privacy."

"You promised to trim my nails yesterday after my bath, but you were already gone. I am holding you to it today." He gives her a side-eye glance again, but then just gets up to head to the bathroom to use the privy again and wash his hands and face. Sansa runs in after he is done, and closes both the main door and the separate privy door. Once she returns to the bedroom, a few minutes later, she smells of that damned floral soap, but on her it's fitting. On him, it is like putting silk skirts on an oversized bull. He makes a note to find the real soap to bathe after his chores for the day. He moves their food tray to the middle of the bed for both of them to share.

She holds the honeyed bread up for him to bite. She eats the piece that he left. She picks up another piece and holds it for him to bite. He takes the entire piece and her finger and thumb into his mouth. He licks the honey from her fingers as she slowly slides them out of his mouth. They are looking each other in the eye the entire time. Her pupils become enlarged and the blue is almost missing from her eye. FUCK!!! He is getting hard again, and he is sure from the way she is looking at him that she is wet. How he would love to lick that honey from her hair. He will refocus on eating. He should stick with feeding himself. He takes some of the cut up fruit. She watches him while he eats. She starts to eat some of the fruit and lays on her side with her head propped up with her arm. As she slides down on the bed her gown slides above her knees. Sandor's eyes roam down the length of her. Another note for himself, no more eating in bed. He lays down and mirrors her position on his side of the bed, but he pulls the sheet up to drape over his hips. Nothing she needs to see there. His cock should relax down by the time they finish eating. "So it looks like today, you will learn how to prepare and cook venison."

"Yes, my lord. What is your favorite cut of meat?"

"The rump roast."

"What is your favorite part of a woman?"

"Depends on the woman."

"If I were your woman in truth, what would you like most about me?"

Cock still hard. His eyes take her in, from head to toe. "Your sword-like toenails." She hits him on the chest and keeps her hand there. He places his hand on hers and they share in the laugh.

"Then I guess I should keep them and grow them longer."

"I change my answer then." He takes more bread without the honey and adds a slice of cheese. "Your hair."

"Red or black."

"Well right now you have both." She blushes as he smirks.

"Your awful."

"I'm not awful, the world is."

"It was awful in King's Landing. That is not true of this place. I love being hear with you. It feels like home." He hands her the fruit drink and they toast to being home. "What is this. It is lemony and sweet and cold?"

"It's not Dornish red, but it is satisfying. Since they have them for your lemon cakes, they found another use for lemons." As they finish the meal there is a knock at the door. It is Mal and the other helpers with water. Sandor reaches over to move the tray to the night stand and then he pulls Sansa's gown down over her legs and puts the linens over her. She smiles up at him like he is her knight in shining armor. "Come in." As they enter, Mal is about to say something, but the way they are looking at each other did not invite intrusion into that intimacy. Sandor sighs and breaks off that contact before he loses himself in her eyes, in her soul.

Once the spell is broken, Sansa focuses on the staff leaving with empty water buckets. Mal handed her buckets to one of the others and grabs the food tray with a curtsey. She glances at the bed and sees that Sandor is hard under the linen and trying to cover it with his hand. "Thank you," his little bird chirps to send Mal away. The last of the staff all scurry out as quickly as possible. She rises out of bed and heads to the bathroom as she absentmindedly starts to remove her gown and it drops on the floor with Sandor catching just a glimpse of her bare arse. He has never been so grateful to have her leave the room. He's been half hard for the entire meal and beyond hard for the last few minutes. He expertly unties his small clothes and takes himself in hand for the second time this morning. With sigh of relief he spreads the fluid leaking from his tip over his palm, and grips his shaft tightly. He is imagining it is her hands touching him, stroking him. That thought causes his balls to tighten up and he begins thrusting up into his hand. He cups his balls with his other hand and squeezes them. FUCK that feels good. If her mouth was sucking his cock, he would believe in the gods. The thought that she was awake in the next room made his cock drip even more than usual. He wants this girl more than he wants to live. He thrusts even harder, until he felt himself falling over the edge. He rolls face down and comes on the bottom linen, again, as he buried his face in her pillow to muffle his primal grunts. He lost his sense of place for a few moments. She has completely unmanned him. He was wrong. It took far less than a week to happen. He would not have it any other way.

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Sansa is out of her nightgown before she realizes that she has probably just given Sandor a view of her unclothed backside. Ordinarily it would bother her, but she has grown comfortable with him and she enjoys his attentions. They are much more restrained than Shae had warned her about men. She said the Queen thought The Hound would take what he wanted from her, and nothing could withstand him, so do not try to fight him. So far he done nothing untoward. She did see how he covered his manhood with his hand to hide his arousal from her. She also noticed that Mal was too interested in looking at him and his manhood.

After finding him naked under the sun yesterday, Sansa had the most inappropriate dreams about him. Her mind replayed the vision of him completely relaxed in his repose, she had watched him for more than half an hour. He is magnificent in every way. She wanted to let her eyes wonder over ever inch of him, but she was to shy to get closer and take her fill. She knows from sleeping against him how broad and strong him feels. She had felts a wetness between her legs, which Shae said was arousal. She had never been so willfully wanton in her life. She knew she should have left, then approached him again making more noise, but she did not, could not. She was rewarded with him rolling onto his back. She admired his broad shoulders and thick arms. Even his hands exuded strength. She can image his long finger tangled in her hair. With that thought his sword hand had moved down from its resting place on his chest and slid down his tapered and muscled abdomen. It brushed over his manhood. Sansa had sucked in a shuddering breath. The next thing she knew, his hand moved to the grass. Then he is standing. With a flick of his wrist, his sword is unsheathed, and all she can do was look at his manhood, on full display. It did not matter that the most deadly warrior on the continent had just drawn a sword on her. For the first time in her life, she was seeing a fully grown man, fully naked. She was breathlessly dumbstruck and in awe. He is beyond magnificent, but what words are beyond magnificent? There are no others like him. She was brought out of her shock when he took a step toward her. She turned and ran. She heard steps behind her then. "Little bird wait!" She did as she was bid, as she always does. Now, he is visiting her naked in her dreams.

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As Sansa sits in the tub, she thinks of yesterday's encounter, her right hand mirrors what his had done. It moves down her chest, across her flat stomach and down to her woman's place to sooth out an ach she has there. Her middle finger slides between her slit and she touches something that makes her gasp. She strokes it again and feels her pulse race, her breath quicken. She speeds up the stroking and her mind goes to his stiff manhood under the sheet. She tries to keep quiet and listen to make sure she does not alert him. She faintly hears their bed squeaking. What is he doing? Whatever it is will cover her sounds. She strokes herself rapidly and her hips start to draw little circles, careful not to splash water out of the tub. She feels something rising, but does not know what it is. She should move her hand away, but can not. She hears a muffled groan from the bedroom. Sandor must be moving things around in there. That is why the bed is squeaking. His voice however is just the thing that sends her over the edge on which she was balancing. Her lady's place clinches repeatedly and she lets out a moan that she swears could never have come from her. It is so raw and deep from her soul. She relaxes into the bath and let herself float in that state, she knows not for how long. She comes back to her senses and rushes to finish her bath, since he has to wait on her. In her haste to start her bath, she forgot to grab clothes so she has no choice but to go back into the bedroom in a towel.

Sandor is already dressed in work clothes. Leaning against the headboard. She asks him, "Where you moving furniture around?"

"No."

"Do you want to cut my nails now?"

"Aye." Why does his rough voice sound even rougher, and why does it make her stomach flip?

She retrieves the nail kit and hands it to him. She sits on the bed and reclines so she can put her feet on his thighs. He focuses his full attention on her feet, not the fact that he could move her legs just inches apart and he would know for sure that she did not dye everything. He makes quick work of trimming all ten toenails and filing them smooth.

"All declawed little bird."

"Thank you from the bottom of my feet. Do you want me to do yours after your bath?"

"I think mine are under control. A soldier lives and dies on his feet, so I keep mine trimmed."

"I can trim them when they need trimming, your hands too."

"I'll let you know when I need help, little bird. Now, I'll get to work so you can get dressed in privacy." With that Sandor takes his leave and Sansa lays back on the bed and daydreams about what her life could be like if this were real. She has a smile on her face when Mal comes back into the room.

"Your husband asked me to help you dress."

"Thank you. My small clothes are in the top drawer and I'll put on the blue dress with the embroidered neckline."

"Very good milady."

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Sandor has already skinned one deer and is moving onto the other one when the little bird arrives in the kitchen. He is in the larder and is wearing a leather apron and had a knife in his hand. "Are you not cold in there?"

"Too much work breaking down these animals to get cold." He spends the next 3 hours working on butchering the deer. Jan pulls out the rump roast he had already sectioned off and a couple of chickens.

"While he finishes that, we will start lunch and diner, milady. I will let you clean and season the birds while I clean and cut up the vegitables. Sansa rinses the chickens in the bowl provided, pouring well water over them. She throws the water out the kitchen door into the garden. She then puts the two chickens in a heavy pan and starts to work from memory to season the birds. She smells the seasoning as she goes to make sure she uses the correct ones. The cinnimin looks like nutmeg and paprika looks like hot pepper. She smells the black pepper wondering how it differs from the white pepper. That was a mistake. She starts sneezing uncontrollably. Sandor comes out to see what is happening. Jan tells her to blow her nose and wash her face in cold water.

"Your wife got a good wiff of the black peper milord." He smirks at that. I guess she now knows hold your breath when working with pepper. He goes back to his task and his 'wife' returns to her work in the kitchen. She rubs the spices into the chicken with her palms and then slathers them in butter. She shoved the vegetables Jan has prepared into the cavities of the bird and slides them into the oven. "While those cook we can start preparing the rump roast for dinner." Jan walks Alayne through the steps in preparing the meat and which seasonings to add. How long to let it marinate, how long to cook it and how to know when it was ready. Sansa did not need to write this down. She always remembered things like songs lyrics and poems and now recipes. If there was anyone she cared for she memorialized their name day by heart. As she took the venison back to the larder, she saw Sandor and realized she did not know his name day, despite knowing him for years. The King never made anyone's name day important, but his own. How could she never have asked him? Did he know hers? She would have to ask him when no one was round. A real wife would know that already. Also, they need to decide on the day they were married. Someone may ask them. These things are smacking her in the face as her short comings as a wife.

"I can feel you staring at me little bird. What is it?"

"Nothing. I just have some questions for you, later."

"You can ask me now."

"It's private. When you take your bath. Are you almost done, we can start your water?"

"While you have peaked my curiosity, I still need to cut wood before I bathe. Have them make a bath ready for me in an hour." Sansa nods and returns to the kitchen. She asks Jan about the lemon drink they had this morning. It is just lemons and honey melted in hot water then cooled in the larder. She follows her instructions and makes enough for lunch and dinner. She decides to make a lemon cake, since they have the lemon juice and rinds. This is one of the things she already knows how to make. Actually, it is the only thing she knew how to make, until now. Her mother had the cook teach her, since she loved lemon cake more than almost anything. She actually shows Jan how to make this recipe. Just as they are starting Sandor comes out and watches the ladies as they prepare the cake. Sandor washes his hands and walk over to Alayne to tell her they can start his bath water. He kisses the top of her head and turns to head out. She loves when he does that. She genuinely feels cherished in those moments, actually in a lot of moments with him. She grabs his arm and he turns back. She gets on her toes and places a kiss on his burnt cheek, and then his good cheek.

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He removes his shirt while he is chopping the word. The sweat is running down him back. He enjoys the feel of swinging the ax, and the resulting solid thud of it meeting the wood. In the half an hour he dedicated to the task, he has amassed a nice pile of wood for the stove. Tomorrow he will fell a few trees to get a supple for more wood to chop up later. When he goes to the shed to put the ax away Mal is in there putting the water buckets away. "Milord, I can help you with your bath. Wash your back for you."

"My wife has my back."

"Well, if she ever needs help tending to your needs, you know were to find me."

"I'll keep that in mind, but my wife tends to me just fine."

"The offer stands, milord. Your bath is waiting for you." She flashes him a smile that make him fell like more clothing than his shirt is missing. I'll wash your clothes after your bath. He exits the shed and heads to the stable to check on Stranger and Maiden. They have already been brushed, feed and watered. He will run them after lunch. He just throws his shirt over his shoulder and heads back the house. As he walks in the three women all follow him with their eyes. The little bird proceeds to actually follow him up the stairs.

Jan turns to Mal, "I see what you mean. Truly the Warrior himself. She is one lucky lass."

"Maybe she will share the luck."

"Don't test that one Mal. She looks quiet and sweet, but in order to bring The Hound to heel, she has a backbone of steel and claws of ivory."

"I was just talking. Don't mind me."

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Sandor sits in a chair and removes his boots. He starts to unlace his pants and looks up at the little bird, "Better turn around, unless you want a second look at my cock."

Sansa gasps and turns around. "Must you really use that language?"

"What other word would you like me to use, prick?

"Manhood, member, um, those are the only proper words I was taught for it; and they are not really proper for a lady to say, my lord."

He walks up behind her and whispers in ear, "When you marry in truth, don't use either of those words while he's fucking, pardon my lady, bedding you. You will make him happy if you say 'cock'." She turns around and looks at him. Her cheeks are bright pink. She is biting her bottom lip. He is moving to kiss her when there is a knock at the door. Sansa goes to open it and it is Mal.

"Sorry to intrude. I have come to gather milord's clothes for the wash."

"One moment, I will hand them out to you." She closes the door and turns back to the room and Sandor is gone. His clothes come flying at her from the bathroom. She picks them up, along with the tunic he had already left on the floor and inhales it. She should be disgusted by the scent of his sweat, but the perfume of it wakes up every part of her body. She opens the door and hands the soiled clothes to Mal, who takes them and leaves with a shallow curtsey.

Sansa looks around the room and sees that Mal has cleaned it well enough. She goes through his clothes to get him something to wear after his bath. She does not know his plans, but assumes he will go riding. She will join him. She has to change clothes too. She enjoys seeing him in his green tunic and brown cotton pants. She chooses that and grabs fresh small clothes for him and stockings. She lays them out on the bed. She then knocks on the bathroom door. "May I come in my lord."

"Enter at your own risk little bird." She hears his laughter behind the door. She slowly opens the door. He is facing her, whereas she always faces the other way.

"Oh, I thought your back would be to me."

"I am a sworn shield. My back is never to the door. What did you want to talk about little bird?" She ignores the fact that she can see him through the water. He did cover his manhood with the wash cloth, but his leg are resting over the back of the tub. He is so tall. She follows his legs to where they go under the water eyeing his muscular thighs. "Do I get to watch you bathe too little bird?"

"Sorry. Do you want my to wash your back?"

"Sure." He pulls his legs into the tub and rest he arms on his knees as he sits forward. "What did you want to talk about?"

"We are supposed to be husband and wife to keep me hidden."

"Aye."

"I don't know your name day. Do you know mine, and when were we married and where?" She gets a fresh wash cloth since the other one is keeping his modesty; really her modesty. He hands her the soap and she lathers it up. She starts to clean his back. Enjoying the feel of his broad muscular back. She suppressed the urge to kiss every scar she comes across.

Sandor tells her, "My name day is on Maiden's Day of Sevenmas."

"NO!!!! Mine is on Warriors Day of Sevenmas. We were born days apart."

"Well, also years apart, little bird."

"Details. Details. How old will you be on your name day? You already know my age."

"I will be nine and twenty. What was the date we left the capital?"

"Six and twentieth."

"Then that is the day we were married in the capital. A small sept outside the Red Keep. Any more questions?"

"Yes, may I wash your hair my lord?"

"Aye."

She grabs the water bowl off the counter and pushes his shoulder to get him to lean forward even further. She pours water over his hair to wet it. She gets the musky smelling shampoo, and pours it on the crown of her head. She massages it in and he lays back with his eyes closed. He looks as it he is sleeping. She takes advantage of his inattentiveness and looks down at his chest, then below the waterline to his rippled abdomen, covered with thickening black hair. She wonders if it is as soft as the hair on his head. She looks down to the wash cloth between his legs. She reverses her tour back up his torso. When she reaches his face, she has greeted with dark grey eyes with completely dilated pupils. She sucks in a breath and her face is flooded with the hottest blush she has ever felt. She is burning like the seven hells. "I need to rinse your hair." He sits forward again and she uses the bowl to clear the soap out of his hair. "Can we go riding today. I will even stay on my own horse."

"Liar."

"I intend to stay on my own horse."

"Well, guess that is a bit more honest. We'll ride after lunch. Tell the staff to saddle both horses and to be careful around-"

"Stranger. I will change into my riding dress and tell the staff." She leaves him to finish his bath.

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They enjoy the chicken lunch she prepared. He looks her over in the autumn wheat colored dress he bought her after the Bread Riot. She has already grown out of it. If he were a better man, he would not keep looking. "You have gown since I gave you this dress. I bought you a new one when we arrived in town. I forgot to give it to you. You may need to retire this one."

"I thank you for my new dress, but I love this one. I will let the bust out." He nods and is satisfied with that answer. "I unpacked your things, I did not see a new dress. He just smiles at her."

"A man can keep secrets too. I will dig it out tonight. The dress you were wearing earlier. Is that the one you wore the first time I saw you."

"You remember that."

"I remember everything. I'm surprised it still fits."

"My lady mo- my mother has us make everything with lots of allowance for growth. It came in handy since leaving home and being on my own. No one ever gave me any money, even at Win-at home. I cannot even buy you a gift."

"You presence is present enough. If you want some coin, just ask little bird. I will give you all you need." They finish lunch and take a long ride in the opposite direction they went on their first ride. They end up on an old untended trail and slowly proceed through the underbrush. He stops Stranger and looks up at the sky and takes a deep inhale of the air. He turns and looks at her with a sly grin on his face. The groundskeeper told him of something that was in this area that she would love. He can smell the rotted wood and knows they are near. One hundred lengths to the north he spies what he was searching for. It was an ancient weirwood forest. Some of the decaying trunks still bared the red faces of the gods. He moves to a clearing and gets off Stranger. He moves to Sansa and takes her from Maiden. He leads both horses to water and comes back to the little bird. She is in awe. He take her by the hand and leads her forward. She points toward the heart tree, and he takes her there.

"Did you know that if a couple says their marriage vows in front of a heart tree, then it is binding in all of Westeros ?"

"Good to know. I will just keep my mouth shut before you are accidently tied to the King's dog."

"It would be an honor."

"Not once both our heads sit above the battlements of the Red Keep. I have sworn to keep you safe, not cost you your pretty little head. I will wait here, if you want to pray before we head back for dinner. We have an hour's ride back."

"Yes my lord."

"You can use my name."

"Yes Sandor."

She kneels in the grass before the heart tree and silently prays for the health and well being of her family; with emphasis on her missing sister and young brothers. She would love to argue with Arya again. She prays for Sandor, that he finds peace and happiness. She prays her father is at peace and will help her marry a man who is brave and gentle and strong. She adds in a few more prayers, after half an hour she is ready to leave. She turns around and Sandor is stoically guarding her, his arms crossed over his chest. He steps over to her and offers her his hand and helps her up. He leads her to the horses and sets her atop Stranger, without her even asking. She smiles down on him and he nods at her. He gets on his horse behind her. She leans against him and he leads Strange back on the path, Maiden follows. They say nothing on the ride home. They simply enjoy their current state of being, and the warmth of each other's presence. He really enjoys the dinner that she helped prepare and they retire to their separate evening activities.

Once it's bedtime he undresses and gets under the covers on his side of the bed. She is still in the other bedroom sewing. He is convinced he can sleep without her. He has slept a lifetime without her. After what fells like a lifetime of tossing and turning, he gets out of bed to look for something to do. He could go downstairs and get wine, but wine and the little bird sharing his bed is a bad combination. He could grab food, but he is not much of a bedtime eater. Fuck it. He will just get his little bird and settle her into their nest. What is he going to do once he has to return her back to the King, or the other King? He is knocking on the door before he can stop himself. She opens the door and peaks out. "Are you coming to bed soon little bird?"

"I just need half an hour to finish."

He sighs and rubs his hands down his face. "Do you want anything from the kitchen?"

"If we have more of the lemon drink. OHH! Better yet lemon cake. What are you getting for yourself?

"Wine."

"Do we have any sweet wine?"

"Most likely." She just smile at him and closes the door. He heads downstairs to raid the larder. He can see how King Robert got so fat. Hanging around woman instead of men, creates a whole new set of bad habits. If he got as fat as King Robert there would be no horse to hold him. He would have to ride in a wagon like Lord 'Too Fat to Sit a Horse' Manderly. No food, just wine. When he gets to the larder Mal enters behind him from the kitchen.

"Can I get something for you milord?"

"No. Why are you here so late."

"I was just setting up water for Jan for tomorrow. That way I don't have to be up early with her. I can stay up late with you." She takes a step closer. He takes a step closer to her.

"Do you know who I am?

"Sandor Clegane, The Hound."

"Aye. Do you know about my reputation?"

"Everyone in Westeros knows about you Ser."

"Not a ser and not a lord, but I am Alayne's lord. What else do you know about me?"

"You're the fiercest warrior on the continent."

"What you missed is that I am also the most loyal man on the continent. I will kill anything that gets in my way; man, woman, child, dragon. You should set your hours earlier." He continues on his mission in the larder, while Mal runs out the house through the kitchen door. He comes out with red sour wine and summer sweet arbor gold, lemon cake, and lemon drink. He thinks milk will work better with the cake so he brings a horn of that. As he emerges with the tray of food he is facing his 'wife'.

He looks at her with a question in his eyes. She is happy to provide the answer, "I finished my project early. I heard most of it." He sighs. "Come to bed." She flashes him a smile that tells him he did something right. They finish the food and drink in bed, and he sets the tray on the night table. He unties her dress and she slips out of it in front of him, instead of heading to the dressing room. Now he remembers why he was not going to drink wine. He hopes wine does not get her blood up like it does his. If so, both their heads will become legendary decorations for the city gates.

"What are we doing tomorrow my lord?" She asks as she gets into her side of the bed.

"Well, I'm cutting more wood, running Mal off, ducking from your little fists. You, cooking, sewing, learning new bird calls." She gives him the same side look he has been giving her. "We can go for a ride in another direction. Explore the area, learn the terrain." Now she smiles and kisses him on both cheeks. She pulls back and smiles at him. He strokes her soft cheek and turns away to blow out the candle. When he turns back to lay down, she is still facing him instead of turned away so that he can fit against her, as they usually sleep. She puts her hands behind his neck and pulls him towards her. This little slip of a girl has rendered all his physical strength ineffective. He cannot form the mind-body connection to pull away from her. He is like a rabbit in a snare, stuck. FUCK!!! He has no way out. Her lips collide with his, inexpertly, but earnestly. His head falls back onto the pillow, and she follows him. She is starting to pull back, but his resolve is broken. His hands reach into her hair and pulls her back. Damned wine. He licks her lips. They are sweet and plump, as he always knew they would be. She gasps. His tongue moves forward into the breach. She moans into his mouth. His left hand slides through her hair and down to the middle of her back. She moves to lay her chest on top of his. He can feel her hard nipples against his chest through the fabric of her shift. She tries to climb further on top of him. He wraps his left hand around her waist to still her progress. Her frustration with being stilled adds intensity to her kiss. She chases his tongue's retreat back into his month. He moans into her mouth. He pulls away from her lips and buries his face in her neck. Kissing the skin there. He is drinking in her scent. He hears her sigh his name and his mind clears.

Sandor confesses, "I should sleep in the other room."

"No, I will stop. I am sorry. Please stay."

"I need a few minutes." He goes into the bathroom to take himself in hand for the third time in one day. He may just have to apologize for threatening Mal, and take her up on her offer. Fuck him sideways.

Chapter Text

Lord Tryion wakes from a drug induced sleep. A head-splitting headache and disorientation greet his swirling head. He opens one eye and sees a fuzzy room he does not recognize. "What happened, where am I?

A maester comes into view, holding open his one eye, then the other with his finger and thumb, holding candle near to examine him. "Lord Tyrion follow the candle with your eyes only. You were injured at the Mud Gate during the battle. From what we gathered from witnesses, you were standing too close to Ser Gregor's sword as he was fell upon by one of Stannis' men, who was on fire."

"I assume since I am still alive and not in a black cell, we wound the battle. Did Ser Gregor survive?"

"That he did, by sheer force of will. Apparently, you cannot kill a Clegane with fire. He is lucky it as regular fire, and not your wildfire. He would have been consumed. His pain is so intense that we maintain him on a near lethal level of milk of the poppy. He built up some resistance to the drug, since he has used it for years for sever headaches. He is in the bunk just there." Tyrion turns his head slowly to see the slumbering giant and is horrified at what he sees. A giant naked Mountain who looks like a volcano spit him out. Ser Gregor is burnt in places a man simply does not want to ever get a burn. Tyrion's head is now swimming. He checks to see that he has on clothing. "Why is he naked? Gods, his body looks like the Stranger."

"Fabric will adhere to the healing skin prolonging the healing time. We have a metal plate under him to keep him from the linen sheet. He is healing nicely considering the entire lower half of his body is affected. His great height kept his chest and face unaffected. His sword arm is unaffected, but his left arm is burned from the elbow down."

"He IS left handed, Sandor Clegane, who has the body of the Warrior and the face of the Stranger, is right handed. How long have we been here?"

"Well, Lord Tyrion, I need to discuss your injuries with you. Ser Gregor's sword left a gash down your forehead and nose."

"So, now my face looks like the Stranger too."

"I would not say that, but there is some damage. We were able to stitch up the gash and cover the opening in your nose.

"What happened to my nose?"

"Ser Gregor's sword cleaved just the tip off. We closed the opening and reshaped it while it healed."

"Ah, 'just the tip' I have used that line on a few woman. Wine, I need wine...and a looking glass."

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After settling into his new diminutive, dingy, dank, dreary, dark room, Tryion walks the battlements from which he lead the wildfire attack. He looks over the damage to the capital, which is already being repaired with Tyrell money. Now that his father has returned with the joint powers of the Lannister and Tyrell forces to end the battle, Tyrion has not only lost his rooms, but also has lost his temporary job as Hand of the King. His father takes the glory for winning the war and Tyrion gets only blame for any and all destruction in the city. No credit for destroying the bulk of Stannis' forces and handing his father an easy victory. He was brought the raven message from The Hound earlier that day, and had just sent back the unbanded raven with messages to Sandor Clegane with updates of the battle and news of the Mountain's injuries and current condition. He held back the information he just received from his father. If a deal could not be made for Sansa to be exchanged with Jaime, Tyrion would be forced marry Lady Sansa. Thus, giving the Lannister a solid foothold in the north. He was not sure how that would work to his father's advantage with her kingly brother still marching on the city, albeit slowly.

He has no desire to marry Sansa. He is almost old enough to be her father. That was a lie, he is old enough to be her father. He has no desire to deal with a tall, beautiful, highborn wife making him feel like an ugly troll. He does not want Sansa, as lovely as she is. He wants his brother back. The only one in his family who loves him. Jaime would have visited him, while he laid injured on a cot next to the Mountain, who had injured him. That was adding insult to injury. In his drug aided sleep Tyion had to listen to the Mountain grumble in his own drug aided sleep about Sandor and Sansa, as if that was the only thing onto which Gregor held highly in his life.

Tyrion suspects the Mountain took a swipe at him on purpose. According to Bronn, had it not been for the burning man falling on Gregor, and knocking him out of Tyrion's range, Tyrion would defiantly be the half man; split from head to hip, instead of forehead to lip. What is it with fire and Cleganes?

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"Qyburn, can you fix him. We still have great need of him. There needs to be a Clegane with us at all times. They do strike fear in the hearts of men. The Young Wolf has his direwolf. We have them?"

"My Queen. We can make him almost as good as new. He may never have sexual function again. As you can see the damage there is extensive. He may never have children even if he regains function. Any future Cleganes will be dependent on the younger Clegane brother, but while he is kingsguard he can produce no legitimate heirs."

"Is there more that you need for his care."

"He is using all of my available funds for his care, but we are using every trick we have for his care, maggots to eat away the dying skin, leeches to speed healing. We only lighten his sleep to give him a thin broth. He keeps talking about his brother and Lady Sansa. I get the feeling neither of them would be safe in his presence."

"I would like to be here the next time you wake him. He must be taken in hand."

"As you wish your grace. We will wake him again in two hours and send for you."

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"Ser Gregor, you were most brave. Thank you for your service at the Mud Gates."

"My Queen, has my brother returned with the girl."

"Not yet, but soon. We will wake you when they arrive. Please rest and heal. Is there anything else you need Ser Gregor?"

"My brother, here." His eyes go unfocused again and his head rolls to the side. Qyburn nods his head and a helper brings milk of the poppy in a cup of honeyed milk to him to put him back under while also nourishing him.

"That is all he talks about when he wakes. His brother and a red headed Stark girl."

"I see. This is a bit disturbing. Of all the things to think about when visiting the Stranger's doorstep, The Hound and a red wolf would not be my choices. Has his pain improved?"

"It has my Queen. He is reporting more itching than pain when we wake him. That is a result of the skin healing. We will continue the protocol, since it is working. Mayhaps his brother being here will help him heal faster. He will be less restless when awake."

"I doubt that. They hate each other. It makes his over concern for his brother puzzling and a bit troubling."

"We wake him every few hours to feed him. We can continue to assess what is on his mind. It does seem a dark land in there, from what I have experienced thus far, based on his drug addled ramblings."

"Thank you Qyburn. Keeping a lid on his fury is all we can manage. If we ever lost complete control of this one, even The Hound may not be able to withstand his fury."

"I did get that sense my Queen. He mumbled about a tourney. I asked one of the guards and they told me about the Tourney of the Hand, and his beheading of his own horse before he took after the Knight of Flowers. Only The Hound's sword kept the boy alive. Now that knight is your betrothed. Funny how fate works."

"Funny indeed. Lovely memory," the false smile does not even try to approach her eyes.

"I will mold his mind as much as one can with the power of suggestive reasoning. He is most malleable while sleeping. We may make a better Mountain and quiet the volcano within him."

"Do what you can, but his strength must be maintained."

"Yes, my Queen, I will continue the daily reports to you." With that, she walks out of the maester's lab, happy one of her best weapons will be functional again.

Chapter Text

The next few days they settled into a pattern. They would do their separate tasks, chores and training activities in the morning. They had lunch together everyday and spent the afternoons riding and exploring the grounds. They always started out on both horses and ALWAYS came back on Stranger, with Maiden bringing up the lonely rear. He no longer thinks it was just because she didn't like riding, for she was actually getting good at it. He enjoys seeing her sit the saddle bouncing up and down as they cantered along on their horses. Her hair bouncing and shining in the sun, wind blown; her hips moving forward and back in her saddle, it holds his attention. Their excursions always end up under a tree relaxing, talking about nothing and everything, and napping, while the horses graze on grasses and flowers. They hold each other at night until they slip into peaceful dreams. In the mornings Sandor wakes up in his old pattern, just before dawn. Now he wakes up in his new position, wrapped around his little bird, her fingers woven together with his across her belly, her head tucked under his chin. His body was getting used to the warmth and closeness, as he was not waking with his manhood hard, aching and dripping every morning. If would give a sword hand to have a lifetime of this, not his sword hand, maybe Ser Jaime's. Cuddling was not fucking. 'Don't think of fucking, it will only drive you crazy.'

Shortly after he wakes in the mornings, Sansa starts to stir and turns toward him. Yep, there she goes. First her right arm goes across him, then her right leg cages him in. Her face rest over his heart, sometimes she drools on his chest. He would never tell her, else she would try to hold herself away from him, mortified. He holds her like that until the sun is fully up. He can tell time by their sleeping positions on their bed. Once the sun is up she starts to really wake, and slowly extracts herself from him, so he can use the privy and wash up for his morning work. She bathes while he is gone. He bathes before lunch and puts on his riding clothes.

This particular morning he plans to head back to town to pick up the supplies from a shopping list the household has put together, and to check for raven messages. He never takes Sansa back to town for fear of increasing the likelihood that someone seeing them together may identify her from King's Landing. She probably shares the same fear, because she never asks to accompany him to town. When he gets there he has a message from Lord Tyrion. The Baratheons and Lannisters, with the help of the Tyrells, have won the battle against Stannis. To gain the turncoat-Tyrell support, along with money and supplies to carry the capital through the long winter to come, they 'have formally terminated the betrothal of the Lady Sansa of House Stark of Winterfell to King Joffrey of House Baratheon of King's Landing and House Lannister of Casterly Rock; in favor of the Lady Margaery of House Tyrell of Highgarden'. So the little bird can fly free of the King. A second band added to the raven in King's Landing contained the formal sealed decree, in miniature form, freeing her from King Joffrey. If he was a smiling man, it would be grinning from ear to ear, like a motley fool. Now they could just wait there in comfort for the King of the North to be willing to exchange Ser Jaime for Lady Sansa. That thought made him sigh. But he was a soldier, a warrior with marching orders. Lord Tywin's instructions will override any other's at this point, now that the King was no longer betrothed to Lady Sansa.

He continues onto the second page of the first scroll. There is news that his brother Gregor was wounded in the battle and was burned on the lower half of his body and his left arm. Sandor realizes that Gregor is left handed. He is warned that in his stupor Ser Gregor only talks of Sandor and Lady Sansa. Sandor's mood darkens at the thought of his brother. As much as he wants to kill his brother by his own hand, he wants it to be a clean death. He does not even wish the pain of being burned on his worst enemy, and Gregor WAS his worst enemy. He is haunted by his past on the ride back home. The memory of the fire that took half his face, the memory of the smell and the pain surrounded him, flooded his senses. It took him to that dark place that he had not been in since leaving King's Landing under the cover of night. He is glad he picked up several skins of wine while in town. He gulps down the first one as he rides back home.

When he arrives at the courtyard, the little bird was sitting outside on a sun drenched bench sewing. She sits her work down and runs to him, smiling up at him like he is the second coming of Azor Ahai. As he gets closer he sees the smile drop off the little bird's pretty little face. She sees the shift in him that lets her know that while her Sandor left their bed this morning, The Hound has returned in his place. She can see wine spots on his tunic. Once he dismount she can smell the wine on his breath. He does not greet her or even acknowledge her existence. She starts to back away from him and heads into the house, as he tends to Stranger and pulls the supplies from his saddle bags and hands the reigns to the stable boy. He wordlessly hands the supplies to the housekeeper when he enter the house. He turns without another word and ascends the stairs to get away from everyone.

"Jan if you and the other house staff would take the rest of the day off, I will be able to manage myself."

"Is something wrong milady? The master has not had his bath yet. Should we at least prepare the water?"

"Yes, I cannot do that by myself. Thank you. After that you and the others may leave. I'll finish the lunch and dinner."

"I'll get started on drawing and heating the water, milady."

"I will go see why my husband has been replaced by The Hound." Sansa heads up to the bedroom, steeling herself not only for The Hound, but for whatever had brought him back." She knocks on the door, when she hears nothing she enters. Sandor is sprawled diagonally across the bed with his head on her pillow, his feet on the ground, staring up at the ceiling. "We are getting water ready for your bath, my lord."

"Don't call me that."

"My Hound...big dog...big bird?" She gives him a smile, that he does not return. "Sandor, let me take off your boots." She moves to grab his boot and struggles to get it off of his foot. "Could your relax your foot, please? Do not make this as hard as peeling the silver skin from back of the venison ribs." He changes the angle of his foot and the boot slips off easily. She picks up the other foot and begins to wrestle with the boot. "A little cooperation Sandor." His idea of cooperating is placing is stockinged foot on her backside and pushing her away, along with his boot. She turns to look at him with reproach, but seeing his mood lifting and a glint in his eyes, she lets his boorish behavior pass.

"Will you wash my back, little bird."

"Yes."

"And my hair."

"Of coarse."

"I need to use the privy." He gets up and goes into the bathroom. While he is gone she selects fresh clothing and small clothes for him. He comes out a few minutes later with his shirt off and his breeches still untied. He lays back on the bed diagonally and she sits down near his legs toward the foot of the bed. He reaches up and grabs a lock of her hair and strokes it between his index finger and thumb. "Get your brush little bird." She turns and looks at him, then nods once. She retrieves her hair brush from the top of the dresser. Her mother used to brush her hair every night with it. She hands it to him where he lays and sits facing towards him. He sits up in the blink of an eye. He places his hand on her shoulder and guides her to face away from him. He starts brushing her hair. After a time he is lulled into a more relaxed state and Sansa is close to sleep. Then there is a knock on the door. She becomes more present and bids them to enter. The help make quick work of the bath water and leave without a word, just a quick curtsey from Jan as she backs out the bedroom door and shuts it behind her.

Sandor had put down the hair brush when the knocking on the door started, but he never removed his other hand from her hair. He runs his large rough hand down the length of her hair. "I like your hair down like this, rather then how you wore it in the capital." When his hand reached the edge of her hair, he fists it then wraps it around and around his hand like it were a length of rope. He pulls her head back towards him, not ungently. He is now looking down into her eyes as she looks up into his, upside down. He can tell she is smiling at him from the way her eyes crinkle in the corners. That look lingers for a moment beyond what should be comfortable. He brings his lips down to her forehead and places a lingering kiss there. He rights her head, releases her hair and gets up without a word. He heads to the bathroom and finishes undressing. As he is lowering himself into the tub, she materializes in the doorway. He does not even have time to cover himself to protect his modesty, actually her modesty. He has none. Rather he stretches out to place himself on full display for her. Long muscular legs stretched out over the edge of the tub, head lulling back over the tub. She pulls up the stool and sits near his head.

"Sandor, please tell me what troubles you."

"Nothing little bird. All is well."

"That is not what I saw when you returned. I could see The Hound dogging your steps. I gave the staff the rest of the day off. I know you sometimes like your privacy."

"I miss your girlish ignorance. Sing me a song of knights of fair maidens little bird."

"You hate those songs and stories. I shall sing you something better for your soul." She proceeds with her song,

"Gentle Mother, font of mercy,
Save our sons from war, we pray.
Stay the swords and stay the arrows,
Let them know a better day.
Gentle Mother, strength of women,
Help our daughters through this fray.
Soothe the wrath and tame the fury,
Teach us all a kinder way.
Gentle Mother, font of mercy,
Save our sons from war, we pray.
Stay the swords and stay the arrows,
Let them know a better day."

"That was beautiful little bird. Maybe you can sing more for me a little later."

"All you need do is ask."

"I may just take you up on that offer today."

"Maybe you will tell me what is bothering you, while I wash your back and hair. Sit forward." He obliges her, pulling his legs into the tub and sitting forward. She wets his hair and washes it and his back. She rinses him off and then sits still, waiting for him to start telling her his tale of woes. "I will not leave until you tell me."

"If you wanted to watch me bathe, you just needed to ask. I could have obliged you a while ago. Hand me my wash cloth and soap and get comfortable, 'wife'." He takes the soap and wash cloth from her delicate hands and starts cleaning his face, neck, and arms and then moves on to his chest. He rinses those body parts, then he skips to his legs.

"I am not going to let you chase me out." He gives her a warning look and is preparing to stand to finish the more sensitive areas. With that the little bird abandons her perch and flies back to their bedroom. She waits there for him to finish. He comes out in just a towel when his is done. He has the clothes he was wearing before he bathed in his hand and drops them on the floor as he lays in the bed and once again stares up at the ceiling. Sansa picks up his pants and starts to go through the pockets and finds two small scrolls. She examines the seals. "You got raven messages."

"Aye. Hand them to me." She pauses a few moments then does as she is bid. She sorts out his work clothes between the laundry and closet; folding his pants and putting them in the wardrobe. She goes into the bathroom to soak the wine on his shirt in the basin with cold water.

She returns to the bedroom, "Is it bad news from King's Landing? Do you have to take me back?"

"No, no bad news little bird, all good news."

"They why are you acting so differently. You are scaring me." Her voice breaks as she walks to the bed. Long held, fat tears start to roll down her face.

"Don't cry girl, it is all good news." He sits up and pull her to the bed and scoots over to her side of the bed to make room for her.

"Then why are you angry. You never tell me anything. I did not know where we were going. I do not know how long we will stay. I don't know when you will take me back to the King to be beaten and humiliated daily. Now Joffrey will have your brother beat me too. He's going to kill me with one punch. At least Joffrey will not let him hit me in my face."

"My brother will never touch you again little bird. I would die before I let that happen."

"I don't want you to die." She buries her face in his chest and sobs in earnest.

"Shhhh, little bird, my life is not a loss if I die protecting you. That would be an honorable death."

"I will not have you die for me. I can poison your brother before it comes to that."

"The battle with Stannis is over. The raven from Lord Tyrion says that we won and that my brother was badly burned taking up my post in the fight."

"No, that could have been you, my lord."

"As much as I hate my evil brother, no man deserved to be burned alive, not even Gregor. The thought haunts me still."

"That is why you were The Hound today instead of my Sandor. I sent the staff away, because I knew I was the only one you would never hurt."

"Yes, little bird, that's why; and I could never hurt you."

"NO!!! Do we have to go back?" She bolts up to a sitting position. "I would prefer a clean death to a life with Joffrey. We could take some of the money and buy sweet sleep. If I drink too much I could just slip to the Stranger and be free. You can just write them that I got a fever and died a slow painful death. Joffrey would love that."

"You will not die little bird. I will not be taking you back to Joffrey." She looks up at him with fresh tears in her eyes. He hands her the Raven message. "This is the sealed Royal decree for you. Open it."

She looks at it like it is a vile of poison. She looks to him and he nods his approval to open it. She slowly does. She reads it once, and then again. Looking to him, but his face gives her nothing. She examines the tiny scroll as if it could not be real and in her possession. "Is this for true? Am I truly free of Joffrey."

"You are free from your betrothal, and we will stay here until I can safely move you."

"Were are we going?"

"I do not know yet, but I am working on it." He cannot tell her he is negotiating with her family. If they refuse once again to exchange her for Ser Jaime, it would crush her spirit, and he would be required to take her back to King's Landing to once again be a pawn in the game of thrones. She has no allies to help her win, so she will die. She is also correct that whatever version of Gregor is left, he would be used to add to her torment. Knowing Gregor, he would enjoy using her pain to hurt him, more than he would enjoy Sansa's actual pain.

"Gods be good. I will not have to wed the King." She lets out a shaky breath and the dam of tears she has been holding back for years breaks free. She is cold and shivering despite the warm air in their bedroom. As he strokes her cheeks to smooth her tears away, he realizes how cold her skin it. He runs his hands up and down her arms to get the blood moving. He has seen people die like this. He loosens the top of her laces and pulls her dress over her head as he calls her name. She does not respond and is shivering more. He carries her to the bathroom to put her in the still warm bath. He is not conscious of having lost his towel along the way. He sits her in the water spilling her hair over the back of the tub to keep it dry. She is pinking up, but still looks a thousand leagues away.

"Little bird.....little bird......Sansa...." He lifts her slightly to remove her soaked shift. He puts his hands on her face and turns her to meet his eyes. Finally, she looks more present and there is color returning to her face. She is more aware of her surroundings. "You're alright now little bird, you're alright." He grabs a towel and holds it up for her to stand and wrap herself in, but she makes no move. He drapes the ends of the towel over his shoulders and lifts her out of the tub under her arm like she is a small child and wraps her in the towel. He carries her back to the bedroom and dries her off completely and puts her small naked form in their bed. He climbs in behind her and wraps her up in his naked warmth.

She turns in his arms to face him and buries herself against him. She breaths in his scent and places her left hand over his heart. "Thank you Sandor. I was lost and you found me." He just held her tighter. She drifts off into a restful, dreamless sleep. He follows her into that dreamless world. When she stirs awake, it is dark and he is still holding her to him. She is now wearing a fresh, dry shift and he has on small clothes. Did she dream they were naked. She turns back into his chest and placed he lips there, over his heart. The sound, the warmth, the feel reminds her that while he lives, she is safe. She reaches up and strokes his face. His eyes flutter open and he kisses her forehead.

"You hungry little bird."

"A little, let me fix us something. You did not eat lunch or dinner."

"Are you safe to walk?

"I feel well, now."

"We will go to the kitchen together." She smiles up at him and nods an approval of that idea. He gets out of bed and helps her up. He does not want to chance her on the stairs, so he puts one arm at her back and the other behind her knees and carries he down the stairs to the kitchen. He sets her down in a chair and heads into the larder.

"I'm the 'wife', I should be doing this."

"Too cold in here for delicate little birds tonight." He sifts through the options and brings out cold smoked meats and cheeses and a bottle of red wine to keep her warm. He sets it down and gets bread, plates, cups and a knife from the kitchen.

He sets that down and take his usual seat next to her. He pours the wine while she cuts up the bread and cheese. He cuts the meat and places some on her plate and some on his. She serves him some bread slices and some of the cheese. They eat in a companionable silence. He remembers the lessons of no eating in bed and no feeding each other. He cannot bring her to her family or King's Landing with his bastard in her belly. He cannot marry her without lowering her status. He would not care, but she would and she is still so young. Just becoming a woman. She hints that she wants him, but before him, it was the pretty Knight of Flowers, and before that it was the handsome, blond Prince Joffrey. Who knows what will take her fancy tomorrow.

"I did not realize how hungry I was Sandor."

"Me either. Here drink some wine it will get your blood moving and keep you warm." She takes the wine he hands her. She drinks it while looking him in the eyes.

"Have you ever met Margaery Tyrell?"

"No."

"I feel bad for her."

"She has a family and an army at her back to keep her safe, and your pretty Knight of Flowers.

"He is not my Knight of Flowers. You saved his life, which makes him more yours than mine."

"I'm also more his taste than you are."

"What do you mean?"

"Nothing for you to hear little bird, eat, so I can get you back to bed."

"You never just say empty words."

"They are not empty, just beyond what you would need to hear."

"I will defer to your better judgment."

"Little bird. You will make some man a good wife."

"I already do." He has no words for that.

"Do you want anything else to eat or drink before we go back to bed."

"Do we have grapes?" He gets up from the table and goes back to the larder. He brings back a bowl of grapes and sets them down in front of her. She picks up the bowl and stands with it. "We can eat these in bed my lord." Gods give him strength. This breaks one of the only rules he had set to keep him out of trouble with the little bird. He will have to just make sure they do not feed each other. 'Fuck, just thinking about it starts to make me hard.'

He picks up the little bird as she cradles her bowl of grapes and carries her back to bed. He walks around to the far side of the bed and sets her down on her side and pulls the linens and furs up around her. He lays on his side of the bed and pulls just the linen up over his lower body. He turns toward her in the dim moonlight and she is already on her side with her head propped up and the bowl of grapes between them. "Do you want some of my grapes Sandor?"

"They are all yours little bird. I get my grapes in liquid form."

"They are really plump and sweet and juicy. Here take one." He groans as she holds a grape up to his lips. He opens his mouth to receive it. No resolve left to fight her after all the events of the day. The Hound is still barely contained under the surface, he is using a lot of his energy to keep his darker side away from Sansa. Her fingers linger on his lips. "Want more?"

"Just one more." Moments later her lips are in front of him with the offered grape between them. FUCK!!! He takes the grape and her lips come with it. This girl will be the death of him. He will have to throw himself on his broad sword to protect her honor... 'Bugger that. She tasted better than any wine I have ever had.' She pushes the bowl to her far side of the bed and moves under him and pulls him on top of her. He moves with her like a trained dog on a lead. 'Get up Hound. She is less than half your size.' Her arms lock around his naked back and she spreads her legs apart by instinct to make room for him. "We can't, I'll crush you." He tries to roll back to his side.

"No, stay. Keep me warm."

How does she always know what to chirp to bring him to heel? As they kiss she opens her mouth to him and moans into his mouth. She will not allow him to retreat. He deepens the kiss and his tongue finds hers. His hands roam down her sides to her silky thighs, where he finds the end of her shift. His hands start to roam up her body as he pushes the shift up. 'Please let me have put small clothes on her. Why can't I remember it.' The shift and his hands reach her arse. He thanks the gods he does not believe in that she does have on small clothes. "Little bird, we have to stop this. I am not a man with a lot of control. If you come back without your maidenhead, your brother will have my head."

"We can stop shortly. Gods this feel like the seven heavens." She locks her ankles around his thighs, which causes her thighs to spread even more for him. His mouth leaves hers and he kisses her face then her neck. He bites her ear and she moans again for him as her hips come up and rub against his. The long fingers from his left hand slid further under her arse to brush against her womanhood. Her small clothes are soaked. He is at a loss to stop.

"You are so wet little bird. Let me have you." He starts to grind against her and she whimpers a shaky, 'Yes'. He unties his small clothes and pushes them down.

"I will die a happy man." He begins to untie her small clothes.

"NO!" Her hand reaches to still his.

"Don't make me beg Sansa. I need you."

"We cannot. I don't want you to die for this."

"Fuck Sansa, I'm dying already. The pain in balls is going to kill me."

"I'm aching too, but I cannot get you killed. Can we satisfy each other like this?"

Sandor gives a groan of dissatisfaction. "You are making me into a green boy again." With that he captures her lips again and lines his hips up between hers again. His hands are back on her arse. Her hands go into his hair. He pulls back to look at her. "Look at me little bird." She focuses on his eyes in the dim light. He start to slide his hard member against her small clothes covered ginger minge. "I want to be inside your wet cunt. Fuck you 'til you cry out my name as you release around my cock." He thrusts hard and fast against her as they look into each other's eyes. Their breathing speeds up. Sansa is whimpering and having trouble keeping her eyes open with the flood of feelings hitting her body. Her eyes drift close and Sandor buries his face in her neck, where he places kisses. He speeds up even more, and then gives her a few very hard thrusts as he feels his balls drawing up, he is moments away from coming. He finally explodes on her stomach with a deep groan that can probably be heard to the guest house. He had left three thick white ribbons of his seed on her lower stomach. Despite the fact that his cock never got wet, it is the best non-sex he has ever had.

He rolls off of her and pulls her back against his chest. He sides his left hand down her belly and into the waist of her small clothes. He dips his middle finger just inside her womanhood to get it wet and slides it up to her pearl. He starts stoking he there is small fast circles. She starts to moan and thrusts her hips against his finger. His lips are against her ears whispering to her, "Come for me little bird. Sing out for me Sansa. She arches her back and reaches behind her to grabs onto Sandor's hair with her left hand. "I want to slide inside you and give you what we both want. You are the only woman I have ever wanted."

"Oh gods. UH! SAN-DOR!" He feels her womanhood start to contract and he spreads his entire hand across her wet heat.

"That was a beautiful song little bird. Will you sing for me again tomorrow?" She says nothing for several moments as she comes back to herself for the second time today.

"Is it tomorrow yet?"

He laughs into her ear. "Not for you little bird. Sleep." He reaches down to finish pulling down his small clothes and uses them to clean his seed off her stomach before it dries. He also cleans her honey from his hand to keep from licking it off and getting his blood up again. He throws them on the floor, then moves back to her and wraps around her. She tucks her head under his chin and weaves her fingers through his and places them on her lower belly as they usually would. They are both satisfied and sleep before they can exchange another word.

Chapter Text

The messenger from the city near their camp rides in on a lather covered horse. He is helped from his horse and held up by two soldiers. "I have a message for the King from White Harbor."

"Is that worth almost killing your horse over. We are in short supply of horses in the north," Brynden "The Blackfish" Tully admonishes. The messenger is almost as bad off as the horse and stable boys run to aid the horse and try to lead the messenger to the medical tent.

"I must see the King immediately."

"Do you really think a message from Lord Manderly requires hand delivery to the King. What is it a recipe for rum cake?"

"This one does. It is from The Hand of the King of the South and The Hound, for the King of the North."

"You should have said that to begin with. Give it to me."

"I have orders to give it only to our King or die trying."

"Fine." The Blackfish leads the way to the King's private tent and rings the bell that is outside. He and Cat learned the hard way, you cannot be too careful when dealing with newlyweds living in a stressful situation and seeking comfort in each other.

Catelyn Stark comes to address them. "Uncle, what is it? King Robb is busy."

"Make him unbusy. We have a message from Tywin Lannister and The Hound via White Harbor. It must be weeks old to find us this far from White Harbor. It must be hand delivered."

"Come in." Once they are in, Cat takes the King aside and bids him to send everyone from the counsel meeting out. Once they are gone the Blackfish has the soldiers seat the messenger and then guard the tent entrance, from the outside. Robb takes the leather envelop and opens it as he asks the messenger if he knows of the content of the message. He nods in the affirmative. Robb will allow him to stay, in case he has questions. "Lord Manderly has written a larger message to explain the background of the smaller raven message." Robb however skips over it and jumps to the smaller message, and reads it aloud.

'I, Sandor of House Clegane, am duly appointed by Lord Hand Tywin Lannister to offer the exchange of Princess Sansa of House Stark for Ser Jaime or House Lannister. I have her secreted in a secure location, not known even to the King. Will be here until we are called back to KL. Time is of the essence. Once I am ordered to return, Princess Sansa must return with me to face her wedding. Use the same raven to respond.'

"It has the Hand's seal," King Robb continues.

"What of Arya?" Cat chimes in.

"It does not say." He reads Lord Manderly's message to himself very quickly. "Lord Manderly says that it arrived on the tenth. That was three weeks ago." Cat's knees go weak and the Blackfish supports her and moves her to a chair. "He does not know where the raven originated, so he does not know how long the message took to get to him. There was no date include and the return band was removed from the raven. They are holding the raven for a return message, but there is no way to trace an unbanded raven without the help of a warg. He wanted to send a message back to buy time, but this raven was their only chance for me to respond to The Hound about Sansa."

"Robb we have to get Sansa away from that Lannister rabid dog and find out from her where Arya is."

Robb walks to the tent entrance and summons the two guards, "Take the messenger to the maester and see to it he has food and drink and his horse is well tended." The two men support the messenger out of the tent. "I will make a decision tonight and send a raven to White Harbor on the morrow."

Lady Stark stands to ask, "Robb what decision is there to be made?"

"I did not make the deal when the exchange was the Kingslayer for Sansa AND Arya. Why would I make a worse deal now?"

"Because my girls have been gone from us for years! We do not know where Arya is or why she is not with Sansa! Now we do know that our sweet innocent Sansa is with the most frightening man in the continent, excluding his vile inhuman brother! We have been dragging the Kingslayer around for almost a year Robb. What has it gotten us but strife with the Karstarks, and brought the Mountain that Rides from the seven hells down on my father's lands to burn and pillage. Send the Kingslayer away with The Hound, and give me my child back. If you do not, her fate is on you, not the Lannisters." King Robb stands red faced as he is dressed down by his Lady mother like the small misbehaving child. Sadly, his mother is correct in her assessment of the situation. Arya is lost, Sansa is in grave danger and the Kingslayer is a cost, not a benefit. She cannot blame the Kingslayer's capture for the Mountain. Her kidnapping of Lord Tyrion brought the Mountain crashing on them, but mentioning that will only get his ears boxed, and he cannot execute is own mother for insurrection and treason.

"I will make the trade. The raven will leave for White Harbor tonight." With that decree he walks out of his tent and seeks out his wife. Lady Stark collapses into a puddle of her skirts, sobbing sadness for all she lost, and the tepid joy for what she may gain. The Blackfish with a steadying hand, pulls her up from the ground and bank to a chair.

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"Your Grace, now that you are getting your sister back, maybe we can discuss an alliance between our families," Lord Roose Bolton suggests to King Robb, as the news of Sansa spreads through the camp.

"Lord Bolton, we do not even have her back yet. She is alone with the Lannister Hound. Quite honestly, she may not be able to ever leave her family after what she has been through."

"That may be the case, but I think my son would be happy to have her all the same."

"I will not be making any commitments and decision until we have Sansa back, and she can speak her mind."

"Since when do our Northern women get a say in alliance betrothals. We can both benefit from tying our houses closer together."

"She was already in an alliance betrothal with a man that killed our lord father and held a prisoner for years. I will not add any more trauma to a beloved sister by forcing her hand. I do not know what she needs to make her feel safe once she returns home. Her Lady Mother still has a major say in what happens to Lady Sansa. Or Princess Sansa now. I will not make a decision without her approval; and she just wants her daughter home."

"As you say, Your Grace. In the interim, perhaps we can consider legitimizing my son Ramsay. You can make him a lord and my heir to the Dreadfort."

"I would have to meet him first to make a final decision."

"I will send for him, posthaste."

"I look forward to meeting Ramsay Snow. Perhaps we can find a fit for him in our war efforts."

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"Your Grace, may I talk with you privately?"

"Certainly Greatjon. Come into my tent."

They both have a seat, "Now that our Northern Princess is coming home, we need to consider a further alliance between our two houses."

"Greatjon I cannot even think to discuss this without having my sister safely back home and a part of the decision. We do not know what condition she will be in once she arrives from The Hound's custody. We do not know when or if she will arrive, and we have no way to intercept her safely with The Hound holding her. The only one that could be a worse choice as her gaoler is the Mountain."

"Well, depending on her circumstances, she could be a match with one of my younger sons. They have little prospect of high marriages and would settle on damaged goods." King Robb and Gray Wind slowly stalk towards him. Grey Wind's head is low and his ears are pinned back.

"Whatever my sister is, whatever condition she arrives in, she is not damaged goods. Good day Lord Umber."

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"Robb, I have had four of your banner men approach me about matching Sansa with either them or one of their son's."

"I have had seven approach me, mother. I hope in a week or two she will be here and we can put these questions of he safety and status to an end."

"I don't care what her status is. I want my child back. If she comes back with child, we will raise it as your father raised Jon Snow. I swear on the Seven I will love this child, if there is one, as I love Sansa. On my life I swear it."

"If The Hound has left her with child, I will personally kill him."

"Did you not see that man when he was at Winterfell? There is a reason they sent him to do the work of a small army through a war zone. No one man can withstand him. We just need to give him the Kingslayer in exchange for Sansa and send him on his way as quickly as possible. We will then take care of our own, whatever she brings with her. If you take on The Hound, you will just bring the Mountain directly to us. We do not need another problem right now, so far away from home when winter is coming."

"Everyone knows the Clegane brothers hate each other. The Mountain may thank us for caging The Hound and putting him down."

"They may hate each other, but the Lannisters, and especially the Mountain, will not stand to look weak against us. Whether they hate each other or not, they are the only family each of them has. They will literally move a Mountain to take revenge on us. Everything the Lannisters have will be thrown at us. They do not have to worry about the heir to Casterly Rock's safety once the exchange is made. They only have to destroy everything, even if they never get the Hound back. You may condemn us all, if that is the choice you make. I am just thankful they do not have dragons, because they would throw those at us too, if you force their hands."

"I should have made the deal last year when we first captured the Kingslayer. Now we still won't get Arya and we lose the Kingslayer. FUCK!!!"

"Robb!"

"MOTHER!!! I fucked up. There is no other way to put it. They found the only person to escort a beloved sister that could force my hand, and extort the Kingslayer from me; all while still holding onto Arya. Being honorable has gotten us nowhere. Honor cost my Lord Father his life. I will not play by THE rules. I will get Sansa back and I will play by THEIR rules. WHICH ARE NO FUCKING RULES!"

"Robb...Robb...please don't do anything rash. This is Sansa's and Arya's lives."

"I will give Tywin his son back, but I am keeping his dog. I made no promises about that."

Chapter Text

For EVERY rule he sets for himself to keep some distance between himself and Sansa, she finds a crack in that shield and keeps pecking away at it. She squeezes right through the breaches she creates. He is powerless to stop her. This newly minted woman has weapons at the ready, against which his strength and size could provide no defenses. His field cunning is addled just by her presence. He is not skilled to deal effectively with the endless charms of this little bird. He studies her when she is not looking and even when she is. Seeking her weaknesses, her soft spots. His studies confirm what he already suspects, her big open heart would be her downfall, his downfall.

He vows that he would not initiate any new intimacies, but what if she initiates. Maybe she will be too scared to do more than kiss him and he will be able to resist turning a simple kiss into more. Wait, he almost took her maidenhead over a kiss and a grape. He is fucked. This non-plan will not work. She craves being close to him, sleeping and awake. He thinks only her life long training to be a high lady and the presence of the staff, kept her out of his lap at the dinner table. Sometimes her hand seeks out his arm or thigh when they talk over dinner, if the staff are busy elsewhere.

She has him brush her hair every night, and he finds it almost as relaxing as brushing Stranger and Maiden, or sharpening his sword. He wonders which one of them enjoys these moments more. They must be reminiscent of a life she had with her family, and a life his brother took from him when he was seven. She recently got it in her mind that he needs to learn to dance. Why the King's dog needed to dance, he had no idea. She sings for him as she guides him through the various steps in their bedroom. Not exactly his favorite song or dance from his little bird in their bedroom, but he tolerates it. He is a fast learner and he enjoys most physical activities; fighting, fucking, riding and now dancing. It hardly left time for drinking, but he now preferred his grapes in fruit form, served up from the little bird's lips.

Sandor starts back to another old habit of his from King's Landing, sleeping completely sans clothing. Just the top linen covering him from the waist down. He finds that Sansa enjoys him naked. He keeps catching her examining him when she thinks he is not looking. She enjoys the extra warmth his exposed skin provides. She enjoys touching him when she thinks he is in a deep sleep. Deep sleep or not, he can feel a warm hand stroking his chest and abdomen, no matter how light those strokes are. One day she ran her hands across his back. He could feel her eyes on him as she strokes over his exposed skin, tracing long forgotten battle scars that read like the road map of his life. This pre-dawn morning she has her hand on his right arse cheek for the first time. His back was rarely to her when they slept. Her fingers run along the muscles there, then continues to stroke down his thigh. "Do I get to examine you the same way little bird?"

She rolls over so her back is to him and pretends to has been tossing in her sleep. "What did you say my lord? I was sleep." His response is to roll over to face her back and to grab the edge of her shift and slide it up past her hip. He plays with the edge of her small clothes once his hands reaches there.

"I'm glad at least one of us is wearing small clothes." He moves his hand to her shoulder and slides it down her arm stopping at her hand. He moves her hand to his left arse cheek. "Please, my lady, continue your examination. I will not interfere with you." He nuzzles his face into her hair and she can feel his warm breath on her neck. His hand again reaches under her shift to rest on her belly only his thumb stroking her skin there. She slides her hand over his flank and down his thigh. She uses her fingernails as she scratches lightly back up his muscular thigh and digs her talons in his arse to get purchase. Did he just whimper? She could feel his breath become more shallow and rapid. She moves her bottom against him leaving no space between their hips. He moans into her hair, but still makes no move, but his thumb continuing to stroke her belly. His hard manhood is now pressed against her lovely firm backside. He fights his instinct to thrust into her as he takes a shuttering breath. Just enjoying the physical closeness created by her growing boldness. Suddenly, her thigh opens up and her foot and leg moves behind his legs and she moves her hand to his and slides both their hands down to her womanhood. Then she moves her hand back to his arse and rubs her bottom against him, with a sigh.

He can feel her heat through her small clothes. He slides his hand down further and her small clothes are wet and clinging to he folds. He wants to rip them off and slip his cock into her; to claim her in truth; to spill his seed inside her and mark her as his. He grabs the top linen and throw it off both of them. He wanted to see as much of her wrapped around him as the dimly lit room can afford him. His right arm reaches under her and wraps around her pulling her to his chest. His forearm rests across her right breast and his palm finds her left breast. She sighs out a breathless "Sandor", as he squeezes her breast, no ungently. She starts sliding her backside up his manhood and back down. With that his rolls on top of her and supports his weight on her knees, which surround her thighs, and on his right forearm; his right hands still holding her breast. His left goes back to her mound, fingers push her small clothes to the side between her thighs. His left thumb starts stroking her hard swollen pearl at the top of her lips; his right thumb stroking over her hard nipple. Sansa frees her right hand and moves her hair away from her face and neck. Sandor takes the invitation and his lips and tongue play over the skin of her neck and shoulder. He whispers something in her ear. She does not understand his words, but the timber of his voice sends a rush of her wetness over his hand. She arches up against him at the shock of the fluid flooding out of her. He is then compelled to start thrusting against her bottom. At first they are long slow strokes, then he speeds up and he moans against her neck. She pushes back against him, making room for her hand to join his between her legs.

"Little bird, I want you. This is going to kill me."

"What...no....Don't die...but don't stop"

"You command, I obey." His hand strokes faster between her thighs. He wants her to take her pleasure first. He wants to watch her come for him. He kisses the side of her face and puts his lips against her ear. She moans again for him. He loves how wanton she gets in their bed, when he is on top of her. He releases her and pushes himself up behind her. He moves his knees to between her legs, and uses them to spread her legs apart. He takes a moment to just look at her laying face down beneath him. He strokes himself a few times, just savoring the sight, in case he never sees it again. He releases himself and wraps her arms under her waist to pull her up to her knees with her back against his chest. He stokes his hand up her shoulder and winds his fingers through her hair and fists it. "You are the most beautiful woman I have ever known." She turns her face to him and their lips meet and they kiss deeply. He slides his other hand between her legs and resumes stroking her. She moans into his mouth. He swallows his name from her lips. She starts to collapse against him. Her peak coming over her. He lowers her back to the bed and watches her in the throes of passion. He takes himself in hand and is mesmerized by her exposed sex, as it glistens in the faint light with her wetness. He can feel his balls draw up as he continues to stroke himself and thrust into his hands. As he comes he allows his ribbons of seed to fall on her back, her arse and between her thighs. He feels he should not spill on her, but he cannot help himself. The entire scene does not feel real. He does not have control over himself with her. It is playing with fire, and he hates fire. He will get burned. She will consume him. He gets off the bed to get a wash cloth to clean his seed off her back, her mound. When he gets back she is sleep. He wipes off her back and continues down her arse, mound and thighs. He then cleans his seed and her moisture off his member and discards the soiled cloth in the hamper. He takes a long last look at her before he pulls her small clothes back into place. He does not pull her sift back down. He is not sure if it is because he does not want to wake her, or he want to feel more of her against him as wraps himself around her body and joins her in a peaceful sleep.

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When they wake in the morning, she averts her eyes and blushes at him with a shy smile. He wonders if he pushed her into what he wants, instead of what she wants. He prepares to get out of bed, when she grabs his upper arm and pulls him back for a chaste kiss with an unchaste smile. "Good morning, Sandor."

"Good morning little bird." He kisses her again and there was nothing chaste about it. When he breaks the kiss she tries to pull away. "Where do you think you are going little bird?"

"To start my day, my lord."

"Consider it started." He starts to roll on top of her.

"We cannot. It is daytime, and the maids will be here any minute."

"I'll be fast, little bird."

"I don't want fast. I want last night."

"As my lady demands." As he settles between her legs, there is a knock at the door. "Fuck."

"Give us a minute," she chirps. "Go away," he barks at the same time. She gives him the look and whispers to him "Get your breeches on."

"Don't have any," he shrugs. There is that chastising look again. She gets out of bed and grabs his breeches from last night from the closet, and throws them to him.

"Put them on!" She mouths when he does not move. She heads to the door to wait to unbolt it. He stands to put on his breeches and Sansa's eyes drop to his manhood, which stood out proud and strong from is thighs. He looks up at her as he pulls the breeches up his thighs and smirks at her stunned expression. He tucks him member in and ties up loosely to accommodate his erection. He points to the door, but she does not take the hint and continues staring at his bulge. He sighs and walks to the door to unbolt it, then stands behind her to hide his sizable bulge as the maids speed to the bathroom with buckets of hot water and quickly leave with just a quick curtsey from Jan and a wink of her eye at Alayne. Sansa bolts the door, "They know what we were doing."

"We didn't get the chance to do anything." Sandor reminds her. Sansa turns around to look at him, and her eyes are drawn back down to his bulge. "We can do something now." He unties his breeches and slings them low on his hips

"No! We cannot. The staff is here. They will hear us."

"Aye, they will." He throws her back on the bed, and they let the bath water get cool.
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He leaves for town a lot later than he had planned. It is closer to lunchtime than time to break their fasts when he heads out. He has no set schedule, but they do have a routine he likes to keep. He is a creature of habit and so much of his life has changed since leaving King's Landing. They did, however, find an entertaining way to ruin his new schedule. He is fine with a lukewarm bath every now and again. He should just ask the staff to start attending to them an hour later each morning. That would give them more time to continue their nighttime activities into the morning.

As he is on the road to town, a man on a horse approaches going the other way. In such a secluded area he has never encountered anyone on his twice weekly runs to town in the weeks since they arrived. As they are several horse lengths apart, the other man calls out, "Ser Sandor Clegane, I was just coming out to see you." Sandor stops Stranger and puts his hand on the hilt of is sword. "No, need for that. Ser."

"Not a Ser. Why are you looking for me in the middle of nowhere."

"I am your castellan, Eddison Selmy. I was coming to see if the house needed anything, more staff, different staff, more supplies."

"Any relation to Barriston Selmy?"

"A distant cousin."

"I'm headed town to pick up some supplies. You can head to the house and ask my wife, Alayne, and the staff if we need anything. I'll be there shortly."

"I thought you had replaced my cousin as Kingsguard. I did not know you could marry."

"I did, and I am, I said no vows. I don't do vows."

"But you have a wife."

"She is the exception. I did give her my vow."

"Well, I will not keep you, so you can get done in town. See you shortly. Good day."

"Aye."

Sandor proceeded onto the town. He gets his supplies and he picks up his messages. There are two. An update from Lord Tyrion on happenings in King's Landing and his brother's improving status, with the caveat that his ability to ever have children is in doubt. With that he also sent a royal decree releasing him from the Kingsguard and granting him a lordship and lands, if he gets Ser Jaime Lannister released and returned.

He is not sure how he feels about this. He likes his job, he hates his charge. If he cannot keep Sansa as his wife, he has no need to ever be able to marry, and therefore would not have kids. The second message is from King Robb. He is willing to accept the exchange and he also wants information on Arya. That is a long story. He gives Sandor three options to meet him for the exchange. He considers all three options from where they are and where the war is and picks the safest place. He decides that once he gets Ser Jaime back to King's Landing and gets his lands and title, he will return to his little bird with a marriage offer to her family. There is one thing that he can give them in exchange that will guarantee his request is granted. His new lordship will not be enough. It may even be an almost impossible feat. If he believed in the gods, old or new, he would pray for this long-shot.

He writes King Robb the short story of Arya and offers to try to locate her for a reward. He adds his brother was the last person to see her alive; although his brother never realized it. During the long private war meeting with Lord Hand Tyrion, Gregor relayed the story of the escape of the Weasel of Harrenhal. A girl that looked like a boy to all, chopped up black hair and old gray northern eyes. Lord Tywin discovered Ary was a girl and made her his cup bearer. They had taken a thin castle forged sword off her. Gregor's man laughed that he could have used it as a toothpick. Sandor thought there was a good chance that this was the long lost wild she-wolf. Since he was not sure anyone would ever find Arya, or if she was still alive, he never told Sansa. If the little bird's gods want this to be, he will make it happen. His chosen route will take them closest to Arya's last known location.

He drafted the message for Lord Tyrion to inform him that the exchange had been accepted and he thanked him for the reward he would receive once Ser Jaime is returned. Sandor decides that if King Robb will not accede to his offer to marry Sansa, then he would reject the lordship and keep his Kingsguard position. They can give him a cash reward instead. He did not need the headaches that come with a lordship, and he cares nothing for the title, except it may make him more tolerable to the little bird's family. After overseeing the correct messages went with the correct ravens and that the ravens went out unbanded, he finishes his purchases and heads back home. A lot had transpired in the last twelve hours. He needs wine and food and his 'wife' and grapes. So he ran Stranger at a fast chip to get home to her quickly.

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When he pulls into the yard, Sansa is not sitting outside waiting for him as usual. He hands Stranger off to the stable boy and takes the supplies into the house. He is greeted by a whirlwind or activity in the kitchen and his wife's voice carrying on a lively conversation with Selmy. Sandor approaches the kitchen and everyone turns to him. "SANDOR! Eddison Selmy says that you met on the road. He is staying for dinner and will break his fast with us."

"Really? So he is staying the night?"

"Yes. Isn't that wonderful. Our first guest. And he is Ser Barristan's cousin. I offered him the third bedroom, but he insists on staying in the guest house with the staff. He says he has a room there."

"Aye. Wonderful." She is so excited, she did not catch the sarcasm in his voice.

"Dinner will be early. Since you weren't here for lunch, we didn't cook." He nods and heads upstairs to lay down, since he was up late and up early and up often with his little bird. He has too much on his mind to deal with young Selmy. The next thing he knows, the little bird is perched on the bed in front of him. Kissing his cheek and forehead.

"Dinner is ready. Why are you so tired?"

"You kept me busy all night and morning."

"Well, if you want to rest tonight, I will keep my hands and legs to myself."

"Those are fighting words."

"Well, I guess I have already lost, since you are the best warrior in Westeros."

"I'll be right down. Let me wash up first." She gives him a peck on the lips and heads back out.

Five minutes later Sandor descends to the dinning room. He greets Alayne and Selmy. His 'wife' is fully engaged in a conversation with Selmy. "Sandor, we were just talking about Ser Barristan. I told him I knew him slightly from the capital. He was almost as good a swordsmen as you."

"Better. He bested me and Ser Jaime in ever tourney."

"And yet you replaced him as kingsguard."

"Aye. He is no match for me on a horse or with a hammer or mace. He can have his job back, when I return to the capital. The King has decided to make me a Lord."

"What, where? When did this happen?"

"Got the orders today."

"Where will we live?" He gives her a look that says nothing and everything.

"It did not say which lands will be granted. I would have to successfully make it back to King's Landing to find out."

"I will have to run over my knowledge of Southron noble houses and see which lands are available, but I prefer a colder climate."

"Are you from the north, Lady Clegane."

"She is from the Capital. She just hates too much sun. She burns easily." Jan comes in with the food and serves the guest at the end of the table first. Then she hands the serving tray to Alayne serve to Sandor, as she does in every meal. Alayne hands the tray back to Jan so she can be served.

"Well, I thank you both for this wonderful dinner and hospitality. Your Lady has the manners of a high lady, plus she can cook. You are a very lucky man." Sandor sits back and slowly takes the little bird. His eyes glittering with something that she's only just started recognizing. Her face turns bright red and she clears her throat and redirects the conversation.

"Thank you, my lord. Jan has been kind enough to teach me how to cook all of my husband's favorite meals. Where will you be headed on the morrow?"

"I have one more property to check on, then I can go home to my own lovely wife. Though she cannot cook nearly as well as you, Lady Clegane.

"Then you should have her spend time with Jan, after we leave you should take her to your home for a week to give lessons. She is wonderful. Sandor loves her."

"I love no one."

"What about your wife, Lord Clegane," Sandor looks at him and then at 'Alayne'.

"She is the exception, always."

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After dinner they say their goodnights to their guest and return to their bedroom early. Sandor needs to talk with his little bird in private.

"You are to be made a lord, Sandor?"

"Aye, if I can return the Kingslayer."

"How will you get my brother to agree with the trade? He has rejected all trade offers in the past. My family abandoned me to my fate." Her eyes tear up. Sandor sits on the bed and pull Sansa into his lap. He kisses her forehead and reaches in his pocket and hands her both sets of tiny scrolls. She reads the one from Tyrion first, just by chance.

"Ser Gregor? How do they know he cannot have children." Sandor sighs. These are the things her mother should be telling her, not The Hound.

"You know how this morning you asked about the swollen state of my - member and how it did not look like it normally did."

"Yes, it was no longer laying against your thigh. It looked so much more substantial than I had seen it before; like a weapon. A battering ram came to mind." He has to chuckle at that and imagines it breaking through her maiden's veil. He groans and thinks to himself, 'down dog' and moves the little bird to perch more towards his knees to allow him to stay on topic.

"Well, when a man is sexually aroused, his manhood gets hard and expands to allow him to enter a woman. If that does not happen then he cannot enter her and deposit his seed inside her. So the fire must have damaged him there." With that thought Sandor shudders and it feels like his balls have drawn up to hide.

"What happens to me after you become a lord? Will I go with you?" He sighs and places his forehead against hers.

"Read the other scroll." She unrolls it and there is something familiar about it. She turns it over and looks at the seal. It is a tiny direwolf. She looks up into Sandor's eyes and he nods. She flips the scroll back over to read it. He can see tears rolling down her cheeks. She hands the scroll back to him. He places it on the bed and stroke her back. "I will get you safely to your family."

"I know. Then you go back to King's Landing?"

"Aye."

"What about me?"

"You will have your family."

"What about us, this?"

"What do you want, little bird? Tell me."

"I want you. I want to be with you." He closes his eyes and lets out a breath he did know he was holding. He grabs her and pulls her closer to him and gives her the deepest most passionate kiss he has ever given. He sends her his strength and his longing and his hopes in this kiss.

Chapter Text

Cripples

A maester brings Lord Tyrion a raven message. He opens it up and reads it greedily. He runs to his lord father's solar, well more like a fast, ungainly waddle. He is stopped by Ser Meryn Trant, who is guarding the door with another member of the kingsguard. Sadly, this means his idiot nephew, King Joffrey, is also here. The spoiled brat will make an issue of him heading to inform his father of this news first. There is an easy fix for that. "Ser Meryn, could you please go and bring the Queen here. We have important news for her and the King."

"I take my orders from the King."

"Fine, Ser Boros, would you please be so kind as to bring our Queen here, so that she may receive news of your Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, Ser Jaime. Please let her know that Ser Meryn refused to retriever her." With that Lord Tyrion let himself into the Hand of the King's solar and shuts the door on Trant, who is left glaring at his back.

"Tyrion, what are you doing here. We are having a meeting," Lord Hand Tywin chastises him.

"Lord Father, I was searching for our King. I have news from Sandor Clegane."

"Sit. What is it?"

"The Traitor Pretender King Robb," he thinks this is the official name Joffrey requires, "has agreed to trade Ser Jaime for Sansa Stark." Tyrion hands the message to his father to read for himself. The King does not seem to care one way or the other. He does not realize how much he owes to Jaime. He should at least pretend to care for Lord Tywin's and his mother's sake.

"I'm getting my son back."

"Yes, you are getting your oldest son back." Lord Tywin gives him a look that is colder than an Other's teat.

Ignoring Tyrion, Lord Tywin directs his request to Joffrey, "My King, I wish to not only remove Sandor Clegane from the Kingsguard, as we have already approved, but also Ser Jaime. He has served the crown for half his life. I need him to take his place as my rightful heir at Lord of Casterly Rock."

"You are not only trying to take my dog, but my uncle from my guard. What am I to get for this sacrifice?"

"We will offer the positions to the other Clegane and Ser Loros Tyrell."

"You betrothed Ser Loros to my mother."

"Betrothals are made to be broken. We have more to gain by Ser Jaime holding the Rock and producing heirs, than another marriage with the flowers. One will be enough."

"Clegane I will take, though I am rather fond of my dog, and they are nothing alike. At least my dog will be able to give us a litter of oversized Cleganes; if we can find a woman to bed him with that face, and live through childbirth. I need someone better than the Knight of Flowers. He is not going to scare even a little girl. His face is too pretty. He is almost prettier than his sister, though not as pretty as the traitor's daughter you made me give up. Find someone better and I will release my uncle." Lord Tywin looks at Tyrion and Tyrion knows this is now one of his new jobs, wish fulfillment. Tyrion nods to acknowledge the silent request of getting Ser Jaime freed from service. "How is it that my dog succeeded in getting my uncle with just one Stark girl, when you both have failed for over a year with an entire army behind you, and letting them think we had both Stark girls.

"Well, apparently having your maiden sister at the sole mercy of a Clegane is all the motivation they needed. This is why we must allow Sandor Clegane to have a family. He is the last of his line and we don't have dragons. We would encourage lots of mistresses and bastards, but the man has a code." Cersei burst into the room without knocking.

"What is this about Jaime?" Tywin holds the message out to his daughter. She reads it and looks up to her father. "Sandor Clegane is getting Jaime back." Tears are running down her cheeks, and that is her only sign of emotions.

"He has struck a deal with the wolves. We have underestimated him all these years," Lord Tywin adds.

"I never did. I could always tell he was thinking and judging behind that stone façade. He will serve you well as a banner man. I hope we reward him properly," Lord Tyrion interjects.

"We will see to it that he gets the choice of the best of what is available to give, if Jaime comes home," the Queen states definitively.

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Bastards

As soon as Lord Roose Bolton heard that Princess Sansa is being exchanged for the Kingslayer, and is escorted by The Hound, he thought to force the Kings hand to match her with his bastard. Being the beautiful, betrothed of King Joffrey made her he most eligible woman on the continent. Being the oldest daughter of Lord Eddard Stark, with the blood of the first men in a line that goes back eight thousand years, she is a most powerful piece in the game. The fact that she may be The Hound's concubine made her within the reach of his bastard, Ramsay Snow.

He immediately sent a raven out to demand Ramsay join King Robb's war camp as quickly as he can. It took him a few weeks to arrive, since the camp was a moving target, and Ramsey was in no personal hurry. Once he arrived, Roose played dutiful father and schooled his bastard on proper lordly behavior for his first meeting with King Robb. From the talk in the camp, more than ten Lords have approached King Robb about alliances possibilities with Princess Sansa. He also knows that King Robb bristles at such talk. Roose's first goal is to have Robb legitimize Ramsay. After spending so much time alone with The Hound, Ramsay may seem like a prince to Princess Sansa, in comparison.

Roose knows his son well enough to know that he can only hold the appearance of normality together for short periods of time. He will have to keep his interactions with King Robb short, until Ramsay becomes a Bolton. Ramsay has been sharing his tent for more than a week to help monitor his behavior and educate him on proper lordly manners. King Robb is frequently with Lady Stark, therefore it is not the King whose inspection Ramsay must pass, but Lady Stark's. He has never met a more formal woman in his life. He will also have to convince her that he has given up the custom of first night, so she would not suspect that Sansa may be bedding both father and son periodically. Ramsay would not have to know this either. He could send Ramsey on campaigns to protect their lands and try to get Sansa with child with his own seed.

When he has Ramsay as ready as he will ever be able to get him, he asks King Robb for an introduction of Ramsey to him and his mother. How badly could it go really? They are to meet for lunch with the royal family on the morrow, and he gives Ramsey one of his finer outfits to wear. Roose went over everything again and again. Do this, don't do that; cater to Lady Stark, the King would respect that; don't mention Princess Sansa, it upsets Lady Stark to talk of her daughter going off with a husband before she is safely back; don't mention The Hound; keep your elbows off the table; don't talk with food in your mouth; don't mention Princess Sansa; let them lead the conversation; speak only when spoken to; keep your elbows off the table, don't eat with your hands; don't forget, do not mention Princess Sansa or The Hound.

As they spend the morning preparing for the lunch with the royal family, Lord Roose looks over his bastard. He is a fine looking boy, if he did think so himself. He was the image of his younger self. He has my eyes, Roose thinks. He grabs his son by the shoulders and smiles at him. "The only thing we are trying to do today is to assure the King that you can stand in my place as a loyal and proud northern banner man, and are capable of heading up the Dreadfort after I passes on."

As they approach the King's tent, Roose takes a deep breath and lets it out, and affixes his face in as friendly an expression as he possesses. He places his hand on his son's shoulder and supports him through the flaps that are held open by the guards.

"My King, my Queen, Lady Stark, please let me introduce you to my son, Ramsay Snow." Ramsay bows to each of them and presents a winning smile and shinning eyes. The ladies nod to them both.

King Robb states, "Please Lord Bolton, Ramsay Snow take your seats at the table. We are pleased to make your acquaintance. Will you be joining my campaign?"

"It is my honor to serve you and your cause as part of my father's entourage."

"Well, we are happy to have you. Where are you coming from Snow?"

"I was at the Dreadfort leading a hunting party."

"What do you hunt?"

"This last hunt, a bitch that went bad." Lady Stark coughs into her napkin. The Queen's eyes look as big as saucers.

"What my son means is one of our hunting dogs went rabid and had to be found and put down."

The King tries to continue the conversation to further assess the nature of his new guest. "What type of dogs do you hunt with?"

"Hounds. Maybe my experience in hunting rabid hounds may serve the crown." Lord Bolton held his breath, Lady Stark rolls her eyes, the King and Queen looked at each other, Ramsay smiles like the cat who brought home the rat and drops it at his master's feet.

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Broken Things

"Lord Hand, Your Grace he is awake more now. We are weaning him off milk of the poppy."

"Is he lucid? We needs talk with him," Lord Tywin asks.

"Well, yes, but he does not have a breadth of topics he is willing to discuss, currently. He only talks about his brother and the redheaded Stark girl. Let me get him properly covered first and announce you." He disappears behind a door. Moments later he opens the door to allow them in. Ser Gregor is awake and covered only with a sheet. Angry healing scabs on his sword arm. Above the sheet, he looks like himself. The gods only know what is going on below the sheet.

"My King, Lord Hand, to what do I owe this visit?" he barks with a rough groggy voice.

"We come to offer you a highly coveted position. A position on the Kingsguard, once you have healed," Lord Tywin offers.

"Who is leaving?"

"Your brother has secured the return of Ser Jaime. We are looking to release my son to take his place as the Lord of Casterly Rock in my stead."

"So who will be the new lord commander?"

"We could consider you for the role, once we fill out the roster.

"Who else has left?" The King and Hand look at each other. Lord Tywin realizes that talking with Gregor was more like talking with Sandor, than talking with a Trant or a Blount. There was more going on behind their eyes than they gave away. He has to be more careful of what he says to these two.

"We are releasing your brother. You two cannot share the same arena. We cannot risk you both."

"My lands, I cannot loose them."

"They would stay in your family."

"So what you are saying is that my little brother, a second son would get my lands."

"Actually, he is being given other lands once Ser Jaime is returned to us," the Hand deflects.

"And my lands? As a kingsguard I would not be able to own lands." The King and the Hand look at each other.

"They would go to one of your brother's younger sons. His new lands would go to his first son."

"He will be keeping Sansa Stark, just so you know. He is always taking things that belong to other people. So he may also end up with Winterfell as well. That one is too smart for all of our goods. He can make Lord Tyrion look stupid, if he put his mind to it. I should have killed him when I had the chance. He gets my lands and I get nothing. Maybe I'll just pass on the kingsguard and pass my lands to my sons." The King looks at his grandfather and the Hand looks down at the floor then back at the King. The Hand steps out for a second to seek out Qyburn. He wonders what Ser Gregor has been told of his status. He talks to Qyburn who confirms that unless some major change happens, Ser Gregor would never be with a woman again, in the traditional sense, and would never father children. They should have brought Tyrion with them to break the news. Someone could die in this effort, it may as well be him. He will take Qyburn back in to do it.

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Gregor was seething thinking of Sandor getting the Clegane lands and his own additional lands and the Winterfell lands and the most beautiful woman in the continent and her tight pink cunt whenever he wants it and fathering her children. All Gregor gets is another one of Sandor's abandoned jobs and stripped of his lands, in favor of his little brother; IF he accepts that job. FUCK THEM!!! He will keep his lands and get a forth wife, one that will not annoy him, one to finally give him his own sons. Maybe she will have red hair and give him access to the lordship of Winterfell.

While his grandfather is gone, King Joffrey cuts into the tense air, as if giving a comment on the weather, "My other dog, didn't anyone tell you?"

"Tell me what? My brother gets everything and I get his leavings, again."

"Not that, dog. Did anyone tell you that you cannot have children - because of the damage from the fire."

"What the fuck are you talking about boy!" King Joffrey wisely chooses to ignore the slight as no guards are with him.

"You still have the equipment, but you are as functional as Varys the eunuch. I'm really sorry to be the one to tell you, it will not go up anymore. You know, your manhood. You were burned too badly." Gregor sits up in the blink of an eye and is reaching for Joffrey, king or not, in a murderous rage. The sheet falls down and exposes some of the burns. Joffrey takes one look and is mesmerized. Gregor is screaming in pain as the fast movement has sent all his pain nerves firing as the strength of the formed scabs are pulled and tested. The Hand and Qyburn run into the room, as do the two kingsguard. It takes all of them to hold Gregor down so that more milk of the poppy can be given.

"What happened Your Grace? He was doing fine," Qyburn asks.

"He thought he could still have kids. I cleared that up for him," with a shrug of his shoulders.

Lord Tywin chastises, "Do you know how much we have invested in him over all these years? He is not one of Tommen's pregnant cats you can cut open to see what is inside. Qyburn, look him over and see if there is any new damage. Maybe if you dose him enough he will not remember we were here." To Joffrey, "We cannot make him kingsguard now, he will kill you the first chance he gets. No one would be able to stop him, not even me."

"I am his king grandfather. He will do with I tell him to do."

"There is a reason why Gregor is out burning the Riverlands, while we keep Sandor in court. Even I cannot completely control Gregor, and I have been his lord his entire life. I know his weakness, and I put him in the middle of our enemies where he can destroy anything and everything in his path. You just put yourself in his path. We will let him keep his lands and reward him for Blackwater. Sometimes it is hard for me to believe you are my grandson." Tywin turns on his heels and walks away. "Qyburn, report back to him in my office as soon as you are finished examining Ser Gregor."

Chapter Text

Sandor resists taking his pleasure with the little bird tonight. His body is always willing, but his mind is tied into endless knots from running through various battle plans. With all the turmoil of emotions from the news in the ravens' messages, and with having a houseguest, even if he is in the nearby guesthouse; his mind, body and soul are weary. His little bird is frightened by the unknown of going back to a family that does not value her and her missing sister more than they prized having the Kingslayer as a captive. He holds her and comforts her and talks reassurances to her into the middle of the night, when they both fall asleep, holding onto each other as if one could keep the other afloat in a sea of worries.

In the faint early morning light Sandor wakes with Sansa still clinging to him. He kisses her forehead and her cheeks with feather light kisses to not wake her, but he does need her to relax her grip on him so he can go take a piss. He slowly pulls away and edges out of bed. When he returns to the bed, Sansa is sitting up and looking around to get her bearings. She sees him and smiles. He is not giving this up. He has a plan, a plan he realizes he may have accidently started two week ago while in a lust filled haze. He hopes she forgives him for making life altering decision for the both of them, and he can keep his head in the end. If he cannot, then he hopes she is not the one calling for his head.

She gets up to use the privy next. While she is in the bathroom, he opens their bedroom door and hears no activity below. He goes to look out the window and even the groundskeeper is not yet about. He has a good hour before the household staff is about their duties. Sansa finally returns from the bathroom. "I thought you had fallen in little bird," still looking out the window.

"No, I washed up a bit." She smiles at his back and crawls back into their bed, the middle of their bed.

"So it will be like I put my face in a bouquet of flowers when I kiss you."

"What is wrong with flowers...but no. I switched soaps. It will be more like putting your face in a bowl of lemons and honey." She hears Sandor growl in the back of his throat.

He is still looking out the window when he says to her, "I can deal with that." He turns to her and asks, "Do you trust me little bird?"

"Aye Clegane. I have trusted only you with my life for years." She is looking at him with a certainty in her eyes that stirs something in his soul. Her eyes roaming over his naked body. She pulls the covers open for him. He takes note again that she is in the middle of their bed, and not on her side. He takes that invitation and climbs into her side of the bed, since it is closer to the window. She places her hand on his scarred cheek.

"Good. I am going to keep you. What say you to that Sansa Stark?"

"I am already yours, as your are mine, from this day until the end of our days, Sandor Clegane." She pulls him into a kiss and locks her fists into his hair. He pulls away to look into her eyes. He sees no lies there. He reaches down her legs and slips his hands under the hem of her gown and slides it up. He pulls it off over her head and drops it on the bed. His eyes go to her teats immediately. He has never undressed her before. He sits back on his heels and just looks at her. She starts to turn red from the tops of her lovely heaving creamy breasts to her hairline. In the faint first light of dawn, he can see the muted shade of red matches her hair. He knows she wants to cover herself. He wills her not to. He insures it by grabbing her hands and place them on his shoulders. He lays her down on the bed and begins by kissing her forehead, leaving a lingering kiss on her lips, tasting the mint she must have chew while washing up. For the first time his lips reach the swell of her breast. His tongue tastes the skin there. He moves to the other breast and kisses his way down to her nipple. When his mouth encircles it, he hums in satisfaction and he hears his little bird suck in a stuttering breath. He begins sucking on her nipple, as he is about to move on, her hands fist his hair and hold him there. It elicits a little chuckle from him. He continues to lave her right breast with attention and then moves to her left one without more objections from her, her fingers still tangled in his hair.

He moves down to her belly and rests his head there and sighs out a deep breath. "Little bird, I'm not sure what love is, but I think I love you."

"Hound, let me know when you are sure."

He closes his eyes and takes several moments, allow one hundred different feelings to wash over him, "Sansa--I'm sure." He kisses her stomach and pulls himself away from her. She starts to sit up to chase him. He lays her back down with a kiss on her lips and the weight of his body. He runs his hands down her sides, when he gets to her small clothes he unties both sides. He sits back again. He can feel her looking at him. When he looks up at her there is a shy smile on her lips, then she lifts her hips slightly to give him permission to remove the last piece of clothing that separates them. He grabs the top edge and slides it out from under he arse and from between her legs. He can smell her arousal, above the scent of lemons and honey. He drops he wet small clothes on the bed and admires the moist treasure between her legs. He tells himself he is doing the right thing by her with his plan. She has already told him in no uncertain terms that she wants to stay with him. His actions will tie them to each other for a lifetime.

He bends down and kisses her belly again. Praying on her old gods, since his new ones have never answered any of his prayers; to make his plans fertile and quicken in their execution. He travels down to her thighs and kisses her inner thighs, taking in musky aroma. He kisses her mound and she sits up in surprise. "Relax little bird, I am going to give you a new verse for your song of completion. He moves his left hand from her thigh and places it on her breast and pushes her back down, not ungently. He then uses his hands to spread her thighs apart further and she opens up to him like a flower. Being this close to her womanhood, smelling her, tasting her, is making him close to spilling his seed. He strokes his manhood as he licks her pearl and her thighs snap closed around his head. He continues licking and sucking on her there, and her talons dig into his hair. He thought she might try to remove him, but she is holding him in place. He feels a sudden gush of wetness running down her slit and licks her opening. She tastes sweet and salty. She is now starting to shake. He slides up her body to watch her as she approaches her pleasure. He can tell she is almost there. He is ready to spill out his completion as soon as she starts her song. "Sing for me little bird," He whispers into her ear. He can hear her breath catch. He uses the tip of his cock to strokes her pearl while he squeezes himself to hold on just another minute. She starts to jerk away from him and bites into his shoulder to keep from screaming out her pleasure. He pulls way to force her to sing out loud for him. He takes two final long strokes of his manhood before he sets the tip at her entrance and spills into her as her womanhood clenches beneath him.

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He gets up, washes and dresses for his morning routine. He wants to catch the castellan before he leaves. He knew the castellan will report back to someone in King's Landing; to whomever controls the land estates for the crown. Whether that information would end up with Lords Tyrion, Varys or Petyr, he does not know. He will make sure whatever he reports, it is not that he was sharing a bedroom, and a marriage bed with his tall, beautiful, fair skinned 'wife', with sapphire blue eyes of the Riverlands.

He finds Selmy in the kitchen. When he strolls in Mallory scurries out the back door of the kitchen. Sandor chuckles about this every time it happens since he 'kindly' told her to fuck off or die. She has found a way to get her work done while being nothing more than a faded shadow in their presence.

"Hound, good morning. Glad to catch you before I leave."

"Where are you headed to from here?" His morning voice more of a steel on stone than usual, after being up a good part of it with his little bird, moaning out their pleasures.

"I am headed to Tumblton next, then home to Hayford Castle."

"You live a half day's ride from King's Landing?"

"Yes, though I almost never get to the capital."

"When was the last time you were in court?"

"It was before I married and became a castellan. I have only seen my cousin Ser Barristan there once. You Kingsguards looks so impressive lined up in full armor."

"I only wear full armor for formal ceremonies. Hard to kill a room full of people with heavy armor limiting mobility; and killing is the sweetest thing," Selmy looks visibly nervous, as the Hound flashes his more sinister grin. Selmy decides it is smart on his part to not admit that he has seen The Hound in court in full regalia for King Joffrey's coronation and that his wife looks remarkably like the King's betrothed. A beauty that tall and striking is rare and memorable. Some things need to die with a man, if he is to live in dangerous times, with even more dangerous people; correct that, with the most dangerous human he could have possibly met. He can see that The Hound and his wife share an affection for each other. He would never have believed this legendary fighter was capable of this level of tenderness with a woman. The Hound continues, "I am here on the King's business. No one knows where I am, by design; and few know what I am doing, by order of the Lord Hand of the King. Keep it that way. My older brother has replaced me for the time being in the capital, a half day's ride from you. Am I understood?

"Completely. I have not seen you, nor your wife."

"Good. Let us break our fasts before you depart. We will be an additional four weeks, before we head back to the capital."

"I will keep all other visitors away until then." The Hound nods at him as he takes a satisfying bite into his morning bread.

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In truth they were going to leave their home in a week or less. He knew that Sansa's moon blood had ended right before they left King's Landing almost five weeks ago. He expected it to start again any day. Actually, it should have started by now. Moon blood, doesn't that follow the lunar cycle, so that is, what, eight and twenty days? But it's been more than forty days. Fuck! Since when did he let a woman's moon blood cycle dictate his schedule and affect his mood? He wanted to leave after it ended, if it ever stated, for her comfort and to reduce the risk of attracting predators if they traveled through the forest for the exchange point. He was never a man to worry about a woman's comfort. If it did not come in the next two days, they would need to leave. Selmy now knows where they were and he let him live, and he let him leave. The only advantage is that if anyone came to look for them, they would be long gone, ahead of the schedule he gave Selmy. He still needs to get used to the idea of losing this, losing her to her family. He used his one hope of keeping her, but they would be separated for up to five moons. By then, her kingly brother could have married her off to some lord to secure an alliance. If that happened he would run that husband through and claim his little bird. What if this lord gets her with child? Maybe he himself had already succeeded in putting his child in her belly today. By the time he can get back to her, she would be showing. She should not have to raise a child labeled a bastard, but then both the little bird and the babe would be his. He could just get on a boat and leave with her, never to be seen again on this side of the Narrow Sea. With his tourney winnings in the Iron Bank, he could keep her safe and happy. He realized in time she would resent him for depriving her of her family. There were no simple solutions. He will enjoy today. Nothing is guaranteed for tomorrow.

The little bird had never been given a detailed talk about her flowering, or the marriage bed. He was not sure if he was the right person to tell her about female issues. He was missing a lot of the details himself. The details you get from soldiers in the baths is not going to help him. He had to breakdown and ask Jeyne, no Jan some questions. "Jan, can I speak with you?"

"Certainly m'lord."

"My wife is past due for her moon cycle. Is that usual?"

"How much past due, m'lord?"

"It's been over forty days since it last started."

"She is still young. It is not always regular in the beginning. Forty days is rather long though. If you don't mind my saying so, you two are very amorous. She may be with child, m'lord."

"How would we know?"

"The earliest signs start at about two weeks, sleeping more. Then the stomach turns sour in the mornings, and sometimes in the afternoons and the evenings and nights, but mainly mornings. Strong smell can start it, or even normal smells. She will get very hungry and eat things she never ate before. He teats will get larger and more sensitive to the touch." As if on cue, Mallory returns from attending to her lady.

"Excuse me m'lord, I'll be getting out of your way, but your wife is not feeling well."

"She was fine when I saw her an hour ago."

"She wants to sleep in, she is very tired, and she lost her stomach. She said the smell of the food cooking was turning her stomach;" which explains the covered chamber pot in Mal's hands. He turns to look at Jan and she nods at him. He wipes his hand down his face to wake himself from his stupor. He moves into action and takes the stairs two by two. He pauses for a few seconds outside the door before he opens it. Once he finally enters, he sees the little bird sleeping on his side of the bed, hugging his pillow. She looks so beautiful and peaceful. He takes off his boots and tunic and climbs into her side of the bed. Like a magnet attracted to steel, she rolls over to him and nests against him. He wraps her in his warmth and strength. He wakes to her looking at him with a pained look on her face. By the sun and shadows in the room, he guesses they were sleep for a couple of hours.

"What's wrong little bird?"

"I'm hungry, I skipped the first meal." As she start to get up, he places his hand over her belly to settle her back in bed.

"I will bring you something. Rest. What do you want?"

"Um, milk," He starts to get out of bed, but she grabs him, "and salted cold meats and hard salty cheeses, with bread." She is still holding him. "Do we have pickled vegetables? That sounds wonderful. That lemon drink, and most importantly grapes. I really want grapes." His mind goes back to just over two weeks ago. That's how this entire thing started, over the exchange of grapes; his hand covered in his seed stroking her wetness. That mistake brings them to what he tried to do on purpose this morning. He now pauses in his recollections to fondly stroke her cheek and move a stray curl behind her ear. "The food is not going to get itself Sandor," she snaps at him. With that he jumps to it. No time to put on shirt and shoes. She may stab him with his own dagger.

When he gets to the kitchen Jan, at least he remembered her name this time, was preparing the meats and vegetables for lunch and dinner. She gives his naked chest the once over and he shrugs. "She says she's starving. Do we have milk and picked vegetables?"

"We do, but you have never requested them before, so they are in the back of the shelves." She smiles at him.

"My wife is also asking for salty cold meats, hard salty cheese, bread, that lemon drink and grapes."

She gives him a bright smile, "Congratulations m'lord, it sounds like a boy."

"We are not even sure if she is with child."

"Of course not, but she suddenly wants new foods, for no reason. Foods and drinks that do not naturally go together. If she starts forgetting he courtesies, you will know for sure.

"She did snap that I was not moving fast enough. She is never peckish like this. Not in the two years I have known her."

"Well m'lord, you are in luck. We have all of those items. I'll put a tray together and bring it up."

"I'll take it up. If you could start the bath water after you help with the food, I would appreciate it." Sansa forgets her courtesies and he picks them up.

"Certainly m'lord." With that done he heads back up to the bedroom with all of her requests. Once he opens the door she is sleep again. This time with her back to the door, and on her side of the bed. Still hugging his pillow. He sets the tray down, and she turns to face him, her eyes blinking open.

"How did you know I was hungry?"

"Don't you remember asking for food, not even a quarter hour ago?"

"No, but I'm glad I did, I'm starving." He sits down on the bed and moves the tray to the bed in front of him. He starts to assemble the bread and meat and cheese for her. He feeds it to her as she reclines against the headboard on his pillow. He helps himself to a portion too. She picks up the milk and drinks down the entire glass before setting it down. She moves onto the vegetables, and drinks down the leftover pickling brine straight from the bowl in a most un-little bird like fashion. The wolf in her showing through, or maybe it was the dog. She moves onto the lemon drink. He eats the last of the meat, bread and cheese she has abandoned. When just the grapes are left she lays her head back against the headboard smiling at him. "Well?"

"Well what, little bird?"

"We feed each other grapes. That is our thing."

"I didn't realize we had a 'thing'."

"Well, now you know. We have fed each other fruit since the picnic in the field." She plucks off a grape and holds it to his lips and he takes it into him mouth. Then he returns the favor. She lays down very satisfied after a few grapes, and rests her head on his thigh, just like all those many many moons ago when he first took her out to the flowering field with the weirwood sapling.

"They are preparing bathwater for you. Do you want me to help you bathe?"

"Um, that sounds lovely. Wake me when it is ready." Just like that she is asleep again. He is looking down on this perfect maiden made flesh, who may now be the mother made his. She sleeps through the water brigade filling the tub, but when she wakes she asks about lunch.

"First we get you bathed, then we get you lunch."

Chapter Text

Make It Reign

"Ser Loras steps forward and introduces his only sister to the King in open court, "Your Grace, it is my pleasure to introduce to you my lady sister and your betrothed, the Lady Margaery Tyrell."

"Lady Margaery, step forward. Let me get a closer look at you." She and Ser Loras walk to the bottom of the stairs to the throne. "Welcome to the court of your King and future husband. You are hopefully far more intelligent then the traitor's daughter. It may make up for the fact that you are not as pretty as she is." Ser Loras and Lady Margaery look at each other. Ser Loras is about to speak, but Lady Margaery intervenes to prevent him from losing his head.

"Your Grace, I may not be as fair of face as a legendary beauty, such as, Lady Sansa Stark; but I have charms that will more than make up for it. My only wish is to satisfy Your Grace." She lowers her head and curtsies deeply.

"You must have special charms to have lured the my traitorous Uncle Renly away from your brother." King Joffrey looks at his mother seated next to him, and they both smirk at his joke at the expense of both their Tyrell betroths.

"Then my charms shall be very easily and well received by Your Grace, as you are the most virile man in the seven kingdoms."

"That I am. Is that not right mother? We shall see if your charms are a match for me. Take your place in the court. We will dine together in my private dining room."

Ser Loras interjects, "Your Grace, someone from my family will need to accompany Lady Margaery until the wedding. We must protect her honor for Your Grace."

"Fine come to dinner, my mother will be there too. I shall be the Queen's chaperone, Ser Loras."

"Thank you my King." Lady Margaery gives the King her most winning lopsided smile, and allows her brother to lead her away. Once they are away from everyone, the Lady Margaery says to her brother, "We cannot let this pass."

"No, we cannot. Grandmother will know what to do."

"Yes, she will brother. Is Lady Sansa really that much more beautiful?"

"You know I am the wrong man to ask. She is certainly taller. By now, she is probably taller than me."

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Lady Margaery and Ser Loras arrive at the King's private dining room later that day. Ser Meryn and Ser Blount have the guard. Ser Meryn opens the door to announce their arrival and ushers them in. "Ser Loras, so nice to see you in the capital again. It has been since the big tourney that we were last graced with you presence. Lady Margaery, it is a pleasure to meet my son's new betrothed," Queen Cersei effuses with a saccharin sweet smile that does not try to reach her deep emerald eyes.

"My Queen," Ser Loras greets his future wife with a bow of his head. "My King," he greets with a deeper bow. King Joffrey barely acknowledges him.

"My Queen," Lady Margaery curtsies. "My King and future husband," she curtsies deeply and leans forward slightly, so that the King can see more of her cleavage.

"Lady Margaery, please have a seat. You may sit at my right hand." The Queen purses her lips at being moved out of her usual seat of honor. "What a lovely dress. What is the style?"

"It is the Highgarden style. It very hot and humid there, which is why our roses are so beautiful."

"With the breeze off the Blackwater Bay, you may catch your death here, sweetling," the Queen states, her wishful thought out loud.

"Thank you for your concern Queen Cersei, but my blood runs warmer than most woman. I am always hot."

"I can imagine you are. Please, Ser Loras, let us take our seats and start dinner." The sooner we get this over, the better, flashes through her mind. They take their seats and exchange safe small talk for the rest of the even. Once the dishes are cleared, talk turns to discussions about who will marry first and when the marriages should take place. Lady Margaery's hand rests on King Joffrey's arm as she talks. Once the servants clear the table and leave the room, Margaery starts placing her hand on his thigh periodically, instead of his arm. "As King, I should marry first and lead by example. Sansa was so unacceptable that I could have delay the marriage until the sun rises in the west and sets in the east. Mother, is two moons enough time to arrange a royal wedding fit for a king?

"No."

"Fine, two and one half moons then." With that Margaery's hand moves a bit higher on King Joffrey's thigh under the table, and gives the man she has just met hours earlier a firm squeeze.



Let it Snow

"Robb, you cannot seriously be considering legitimizing Ramsay Snow. The Bolton's are already a blight on the Northern houses, your father knew that. What I have heard about Ramsay Snow is that he is an abomination, born out of rape. There is something not right about him. If he is not legitimized, then Lord Bolton cannot possible expect us to consider a match between the Bastard of Bolton and our poor delicate little Sansa." Lady Stark stresses after the dreaded lunch with the Dreadfort lord and his dreadful son.

"I agree with your mother Robb. As uncomfortable as Lord Bolton makes me when he looks at me with those cold, dead eyes; there is a darkness in Ramsay that made my skin chill and my spine tingle in a bad way," his queen, Jeyne adds.

"I will avoid giving him an answer one way or the other. I can let him know after we get back to Riverrun. Everyone will be in a better mood once we have Sansa back, and feather beds for the lords and ladies traveling with us."

"Your father had as much trust for the Bolton's and their outlawed ways, as my father had for the 'Late' Walder Frey. He is not the man you want too close, but close enough to keep your eyes on. Never have him watching your back. Maybe you can broker a deal with Lord Frey and he can marry one of his many daughters to the Bastard of Bolton; then you can legitimize him before the wedding."

"This is doing my head in. Let us forget about the Boltons for now, and consider the Freys."

"They are doing my head in," Lady Stark adds, shaking her head for emphasis.

"Now that I have informed them I have broken our promise to make one of them my queen, and we also do not have Ayra; we have to consider a betrothal with Sansa."

"No, you will have to offer anyone else, but not my Sansa. She is to delicate for the likes of the Freys."

"There are so many of them. I am sure one must be acceptable mother."

"That was true for you too, yet you made a different decision," she gives him a disapproving look. "I was there. YOU were not. There is nothing acceptable about the Twins for Sansa. At least you would not have to have lived there. She would. I forbid it."

"You forbid it."

"I forbid it. I have lost everything, but you and Sansa. I will not allow it. You may be her king, but I am her mother. There is nothing further to discuss on this matter. You will not put the full weight of your decision to break your marriage pact on Sansa's narrow shoulders." She briefly looks at Jeyne and walks away, mumbling to herself as she leaves the King's tent.

"Well, that went well," Jeyne adds shaking her head. "She must hate me for risking Sansa, by taking you from a Frey."

"No, she hates me for not getting Sansa and Arya back when we first took the Kingslayer. She has nightmares thinking of the Hound abusing Sansa. I need to find lords and ladies willing to marry Freys. They have to be high lords and ladies."

"Maybe Ramsay, if you legitimize him, and your uncles Edmure and Brynden Tully."

"Great, a bastard, an idiot and an ancient devout bachelor. They certainly will not see that as on insult," Robb shakes his head.

"Since they are already insulted, we cannot add to it. My family is no longer considered high lords. Who else do we have?"

"Sansa."

"We don't know how long she's been out of the capital. She may not even know about Bran and Rickon being killed. They may never have told her."

He takes a seat and drops his head into his hands. "Mother will be best to tell her."

"Sansa cannot find out about your brothers and that she is to become a Frey, to be abandoned at the Twins. It is too much, too cruel.

"She should not have to make up for my broken promise, but what other choice do I have."

"She is your sister and you are her sovereign; but more importantly, she is your mother's child. It is not your choice to make."

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Dinner with the Stark family is tense. Lady Start is not speaking to King Robb and visa versa. They both take turns speaking to Jeyne "Lady Stark, Robb and I were talking. We thought that maybe your brother and uncle might be willing to marry Frey women. My family house has not been considered highly for several generations."

"Well, you are certainly correct about that, but my uncle has never wanted to marry and I will not ask that sacrifice of him. I will ask my brother. He is well past an age where he should have married and insure the future of our family house. Some of the Lord Frey's daughters were not as hopeless as the sons."

"Thank you mother. We also thought that if we can tie Ramsay Snow to one of the Frey daughters or granddaughters or even great-granddaughters, I could then legitimize him and make both families happy."

"It would keep Ramsay away from my Sansa. It would also benefit Lord Bolton in legitimizing his bastard. However, he has already married into House Frey. You are offering him an alliance that he already has. You have to make it worth his effort. You needs offer him something in addition to turning a Snow into a Bolton. Lord Frey may be happy to get another girl out from under his roof. You should also ask Lords Umber and Glover and Lady Mormont. Her oldest daughter is unmarried with children. She has few options available to her. A Frey may fill the bill."

"Too bad we cannot marry Ser Jamie Lannister to a Frey, before we send him back. The Lannister heir would certainly fill the bill, but he is sworn to the kingsguard and he is leaving. If we operated like the Lannisters, we would keep him and The Hound and get Sansa back."

"We are nothing like the Lannisters, Robb. They have no honor. I hope you rethink your plan to keep The Lannister Hound."

"Father had honor. It got him killed and a war started."

"How dare you lay this war at your Lord father's feet," Lady Stark stands to leave.

"Sit down mother!"

"Are you ordering me as my King?" She shifts her attention to address Robb's wife, "Queen Jeyne, I owe you an apology. It is not my son who married down, but you." King Robb's head drops with that statement.

"It is not an order. I am asking you as your son, mother, please," King Robb begs, looking back up at her. Lady Stark sits and faces him. "I was not blaming father for the war. I was saying his honor and need for truth and justice...exposed him to risks in a place where the truth can and will get you killed. The Lannisters started this war to hide their incestuous born bastards from the world, and pass them off as decent."

"I have lost my appetite. Excuse me, my King, Queen Jeyne." Lady Stark calmly gets up to walks out with her chin up and her head held high. "I have a high lady your can add to the list for the Freys.

"Who mother?"

"Your lady mother. I am of an age where I can still give them a prince or a princess, but they still will not have a queen." She exits without another word. Robb shudders at the thought and his stomach starts to churn.

"Robb, you need to just outlaw family meals. I think your lady mother now dislikes me less than you after this one."

He cuts his eyes in her, "Sadly, that is not a very high standard to meet. The Hound, Theon and Joffrey may be the only people she dislikes more than us at this moment."

Chapter Text

They wake for the last time in the bed they have shared for four weeks. They both hold onto each other. Neither yielding their grip first. His lips are resting on the crown of her head. He can feel a wetness on his naked chest. He knows his little bird is silently crying, both happy and sad tears. She kisses his chest and looks up at him pleading; for what he doesn't know. She probably doesn't know either. If it was in his power, he would give it to her. He would steal it, if it was not his to give. His code be damned.

"I want to stay here with you."

"I have to take the Kingslayer back to King's Landing to complete the deal."

"Then I should go with you."

"If you went back with me, you will be trapped with our king again. Besides, once your family have you, they will hold you closely."

"Then you can stay with me."

"Your mother will not even allow me to be your sworn shield, let alone anything closer. I have to get back and you have to go home."

"Will I see you again?"

"Nothing will keep me away from you little bird. I will free myself of the kingsguard and claim my new lands and find you, and claim you. But I cannot make any promises. Your family may not allow you to see me."

"They will not control me. No one will ever control me again."

"What of your lord husband."

"If you were married in truth, would you control your lady wife?

"I am a leader of troops, those around me. It is in my nature."

"Well, I can make that exception, I suppose."

"Your family has probably already picked out a ferret faced Frey for you."

"I will not marry. I swear that to you. I will wait for you to return."

"Don't make promises you can't keep little bird."

"It was not a promise. It was a vow."

"Then I'll have to make it back to you."

"Is that a promise or a vow?"

"Neither. It is my reason to live." She starts to cry anew with that. He just holds her to himself and comforts her. He kisses her tears away, then pulls her even closer. She falls back to sleep in the security of his love and warmth and strength.

When she wakes again, she has to make water like never before in her life. She wonders if she forget to use the privy before bed. She thanks the old gods and the new that Sandor is holding her loosely, with his hand resting on her belly. She has never felt such relief in her life as when she makes it into the water closet, outside of the relief she feels when Sandor makes her sing out for him, that is. That thought make her feels that tingle she feels when Sandor touches her. She finishes cleaning up and heads back to the bedroom. Sandor is now sleeping on his back. His arm thrown across his eyes blocking out the first morning sun. She tiptoes to the bedroom door and opens it slowly and quietly. No one is downstairs yet. She smiles to herself and closes and bars the door. She sneaks back to the bed and crawls under the covers. She places her hand on his heart and slides it down to his firm, rippled abdomen. She stokes him there, enjoying the feeling of his warm skin, pulled taut over hardened muscles. The trail of hair grows thicker there. He releases a sigh. She must be doing something right to make The Hound purr like a kitten, actually more like she imagined a large shadow cat would sound.

Her need for him is building, but he is still sound asleep. She did not put her small clothed back on after she washed. It seemed pointless, other than for the pleasure of him taking them off of her. If he does not wake soon, she will have to wake him before the staff arrives. This emboldens her. She reaches further down his hard abdomen, and her fingers find where the hair becomes even thicker. She continues until she meets his hardening member. Her hand encircles the swollen base of him. She feels it jump in her hand and she squeezes harder. He moans in his sleep and rolls over towards her. She rest her forehead against his and begins to stroke him up and down his length. His hips start to follow her hand and his eyes blink open. "Little bird, what a wonderful way to wake up." He closes his eyes and enjoys the feelings.

"I need you Sandor."

"What do you need Sansa?"

"I want you." He pulls back from her and sits back against the headboard, she sits back on her heels. He slides her gown up her legs. She lifts her hips for him.

"No small clothes little bird." He bows down and kisses her stomach as he pushes the gown up her body; revealing her silky skin, inch by inch, to the pale morning light. She sits up to allow him to remove the gown completely. As she lays down she wraps her arms around his neck and pulls him down with her; on top of her.

"I washed up. It seemed wrong to put on the same small clothes."

"UMMMM, I see." He runs his hands up sides and wraps them under her to support his weight. "That sounds like an invitation." He just hovers over her and they just stare into each other eyes. He cocks his head to the side, "To what are you inviting me, Sansa?"

"You know what I need better than I do."

"No, tell me Sansa. I'll give you whatever you ask."

"Do not make me say it. It is not proper."

"If it's proper my lady wants, I better just get up and start packing Stranger and Maiden." He sits back and hands her her gown and starts to leave the bed. She throws the gown in his face. While he is detangling himself from her nightgown, she firmly grabs him by his stiff manhood. "Little bird, throwing things is not proper, but grabbing my cock is a call to action. What do you expect me to do about it?"

"Tell me Sandor. I'll give you whatever you ask." She smiles at him, half vixen, half maiden, wholly intoxicating. He cannot tell her the depraved thoughts that cross his mind. She will be the mother of his child, not his whore.

"I want you to be safe and happy."

"I am safe and happy with you. What else can I give you?" She raises up on her knees and wraps one hand around Sandor's neck, keeping the other firmly around his member. She buries her face in his neck. He wraps his arms around her waist; one hand travels up to her hair, the other slides down and gently cups her arse. He is envisioning her waist disappearing as her belly grows, her teats swelling, her angles and curves rounding out. The thought almost makes him dizzy. He moves his hand over her hip, then places it on top of hers and tightens her grip around his member. He slowly starts moving her hand and up and down, then he lets go. He places his hand on her breast, his eyes going from there to her face. She is looking down at her hand stroking him.

"Sansa, look at me." Her lust filled eyes leisurely stroll up his body, lingering on his chest. She finally reaches his equally lust filled eyes, hooded and heavy. She squeezes his member harder, eliciting a deep moan from him and his eyes blink shut. "You have unmanned me."

"Look at me Sandor." His eyes open, unfocused and black with lust. "There is nothing unmanly about you or this," she presses herself up against him and brings her lips up to his ear, "your cock."

"Fuck, me sideways," he growls low and deep in the back of his throat. Sansa can feel a rumble down to his manhood, now pressed between her hand and belly. It throbs and jumps there. He start to trust his hips and slide his cock against them.

"That is physically impossible for me to do so, from the way it was explained to me. There is something else I was instructed I can do for you. If you wish my lord."

"Please," His eyes slowly close again. The next thing he realizes is both familiar in its feel, but unfamiliar in its unexpectedness. He feels her tongue touch the head of his cock. He eyes shoot open in shock. "Little bird, what are you doing?"

"Touching you."

"That was more than a touch."

"I wanted to taste you. Shae explained it to me the night before we left. She said men enjoy it, especially since we cannot do other things. You did not like it?"

"Whether I like it or not, you should not be doing it. What else did Shae tell you."

"It would be better to show you."

She starts to lower herself again, when he stops her with his massive hands on her shoulders. She looks up at him, definitely more vixen than maiden in that look. He lets her go. She wraps her lips around the head of his manhood. Her tongue circles around the head. She can taste the salty-sweet fluid Shae told her about. Sandor does not pull her away, so she goes to the next step Shae gave her. She starts to suck on the head. She hears him suck in air. She looks up at him while his "cock" is still in her mouth. She can see the rapid rise and fall of his chest, one of his hands is resting on his abdomen, the other resting at his side. She can feel her moisture running down her inner thighs and a steady throbbing between her legs. "Little bird, I can smell your musk. Let me taste you." His husky voice brings a rising heat to her loins. It causes her to do something she did not understand from Shae's instructions until now. She makes sure to cover her teeth with her lips the way Shae demonstrated and slides her mouth further down on him, then back up.

One of Sandor's hands joins Sansa's on the base of his cock and the other winds through the hair at the back of her head. He holds her head steady and begins shallowly thrusting into her mouth. He is going to hate himself later for crossing yet another line from which he will not be able to back away. For now, for this moment, he is in the seven heavens; living out a fantasy. He feels himself reaching his peak, so he pulls her away, not ungently.

"I was not done."

"We have a good hour before the staff arrives. I mean to use all of it. It's my turn to taste you, little bird." He lays her back on the bed and unfolds her legs to place them on either side of his him. He strokes his hands up her legs, over her knees to her inner thighs, feeling her wetness there. He then licks and kisses his way up to this fountain of life. "Every inch of you is beautiful. I am the luckiest man in not only Westeros, but beyond the Narrow Sea, and past the wall."

"You are the strongest, bravest most gentle man the gods could have given me. I am the lucky one."

"Not sure how gentle you will think me once we are done," he chuckles as he lowers his mouth to her wet cunt. His tongue laves her from her still veiled opening to her swollen pearl. He does it a second time and she sobs out his name. "Singing for me little bird?" He takes her pearl into his mouth and sucks on it gently. She grips onto his hair with both hands. He grabs her arse as she writhes in pleasure. He can tell she is almost ready to sing out. He lets out a deep moan and she feels it through her core. There is another flood of moisture pouring from her center and Sandor licks her from the source back up to her pearl. He fights the urge to slid his fingers into her by sliding his hand over her belly and up to her breast and rolls her nipple in his fingers. She is starting to stiffen and sing out to him. "Um, my favorite song little bird."

He wipes his mouth off on his forearm and lays a series of lingering kisses around her belly; and continues up to take her breast into him mouth and sucks on her nipple and flicks it with his tongue. He places his hips between her spread thighs. He moves his mouth to the other breast and once again her hands lock onto his hair. Fuck, he loves when she does that. He moves up to her neck and starts kissing her there and sucking on her pulse point. He knows it will leave a mark, but she is his and he is hers. Besides, it will fade before they reach her family, as will the next ones he will give her. He moves one hand to his cock to lay it between them; its base touching the apex of her mound, but it is away from her entrance. He starts thrusting against her. He can feel how much is cock is leaking between them. He moves his hand under her arse, and speeds up his thrusting. She starts moving her hips in conjunction with his. He cannot tell where her moans end and his begin. He knows she is already carrying his child, but he loves the idea of putting his seed inside her again; marking her as his. She is starting to stiffen up again, her pacing becomes erratic. He knows he will have her song again. He gives her a few final hard trusts when she sings out to him. He strokes himself until his feels is balls draw up and tense. He positions the tip of his cock at her entrance as he releases into her.

"Gods little bird. That was almost perfect." They are both trying to catch their breaths. Sandor does not even have the energy left to roll off of her. He settles down between her thighs. She wraps her arms and legs around him to pull him closer to her. When he become more aware and functional, he tries to lift his weight off of the little bird and his babe.

"No. Stay. Hold me." He snakes his arms under her and she moves one of her hands from his back to his soot black hair and strokes his scalp. He is almost asleep. "What do you need to consider it 'perfect'?"

Half asleep he tells her, "To be buried to the hilt in your wet cunt and spill my seed deep inside you, daily."

"I would like that too. Is twice a day too wanton? I feel like once we are done, I want you again."

"Not wanton at all, but a requirement. Twice a day is perfect for me too, little bird. I wouldn't withhold a third time from you, if you ask as nicely as you did this morning."

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After they help each other bathe and break their fasts, Sandor moves the packed bags and supplies to the saddled horses. He double checks all the rooms and both privies and the bathroom that nothing is forgotten. The little bird has already checked the drawers and closets. He reaches far under the feather bed to retrieve their most important possession, Ice. He straps it to his back for their travels. You never know when you will have to cut through armor.

He grabs the little bird and they head out to the courtyard to take their leave. The staff is gathered there, with Mal hiding behind the groundskeeper and stable boy. Sansa gives Jan a long hug, she did not care if it was not proper. Sandor looks over the scene with his usual detached manner. He has already had his conversations with the staff, 'Don't tell anyone we were there. If they knew we were there, don't tell them when we left or what direction we went in.' With Jan it was a much longer talk about his little bird and how to properly care for her, what to expect and when. When might the babe start to show? He may have four more months, because she is so tall. She will probably just look like she is gaining weight, until one day it is clear for all to see she is with child. That gives him time to get back to her and claim her before anyone knows.

As they get underway in the late morning, as usual, Sansa is riding in front of him on Stranger. Their bags and supplies are all on Maiden. Her head against his chest and his chin resting on her crown enjoying the smell of her lemon scented hair. As they travel he can feel when she falls asleep against him. His right hand is on the reigns and his left is securely around her waist his hand protectively splayed over her belly. She wakes after an hour and needs to make water AGAIN!!! They have only been on the road for two hours. He wonders how she can put out more water than she takes in. Is that even possible? They stop in a clearing and have lunch. He made sure they had extra servings of the foods she has been requesting lately. He marvels at watching her indelicately devour the food. He will remind her to mind her manners once they are near her family, until then, he will enjoy how much she loves to eat with abandon.

She is asleep in the saddle again shortly after they start back on their way. Since she is not used to being in the saddle all day after a month of leisurely living, he decides to stop in an inn for the night a few hours before dusk. He does not want her physically over stressed or overly tired. At this rate he will need to add an extra day onto their schedule. He's glad he decided to travel by boat. His little bird can sleep all she wants on the ride over.

They arrive at a small town with a small inn. The towns people milling around stop their activities to look on as the infamous Lannister Hound on his massive black beast passes through with a beautiful woman sleeping at peace like the Maiden made flesh in his arms. He pulls into the stable of the inn and pulls Stranger into the furthest stall. He throws a coin to he stable boy and warns him to be careful of Stanger and gives the boy an apple from his bag to bribe his war horse to cooperate. He wakes his little bird so he can get down from Stranger and pulls her down after him. "We will dine and bed in an inn tonight and get an early start on the morrow."

"Where are we?"

"A stable."

"A stable, where, my lord?

"In Westeros."

"I would hit you, if your armor would not hurt my hand."

"Feel free to hit me once I get out of my armor, little bird."

Sandor brings all their bags in, like the aurochs he is, but gives the lightest bag to the little bird. She likes to feel useful, and it has her favorite foods in it, so she is doubly happy. He checks them into the largest room they have and request three meals to be brought up to them, and a hot bath for the morning. The little bird adds in a request for grapes.

They each eat one of the meals and share the third one. He eats the chicken and she eats the vegetables and bread. When they have just grapes left, he knows she is going to eat them in bed. They are both exhausted so he is sure she will sleep as soon as she gets into bed. He sets the trays outside the room and then bars the door. He hooks his sword on the bed post, at the ready. He washes up a bit and climbs into bed while Sansa is in the privy. She comes out in her night gown. Her teats are spilling over the top. He wonders if they are bigger than last week or is he just focusing too hard. He needs to remember to buy her larger clothing so attention is not drawn to her bust or belly for a few months. She grabs the grapes as he suspected and brings the bowl to bed. As she settles in she notices something does not feel right. She lifts the covers up and looks under them. Then she looks at Sandor confused. He looks at her and shrugs his massive shoulders. "We are in an inn instead of home. If I need to fight, I prefer my cock not swinging in the breeze."

"Fine." Why does that sound like the opposite of 'fine' to his ears. He kisses he cheek and bids her good night, before the little bird can claw at his eyes, he is asleep. She eat her grapes and stews. As she looks down on his sleeping form, she forgets what she is mad about, if she ever even knew. She puts the grapes on the nightstand and lays down beside Sandor and studies him until she too is lost to her dreams.

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When Sandor wakes in the morning, he studies Sansa as she sleeps. He wants to memorize the slopes and planes of her face; the exact shade peaking through her long, wavy hair; her long lashes that are becoming red again, the short scar on her lip; the point of her chin. If he didn't have to piss like a war horse, he could stay there for hours watching her sleep. He goes to use the privy and when his returns Sansa is awake and heading to use the privy herself. She does not even greet him. While she is gone the bath and three meals and food supplies he requested and paid for last night arrive. He lays back in bed and starts working on one of the meals. When the little bird returns she heads straight for the food. He redirects her to the bath. "Bathe first while the water is hot."

"I'm hungry."

"Get in the tub and I'll feed you little bird." He continues to eat as she undresses, which she is doing more slowly than usual. He all but stops chewing, eagle eyes on her. More curiosity than lust. Her waist show no signs of extra weight, but he confirms his suspicion that her teats are more ample than just a week ago. That could have happened anyway, just because she is a young woman. She lost her boyish shape last year, but she is fuller still through the hips. She steps into he bath and sinks down into the warm embrace of the water. He tears off pieces of sweetbread and feeds them to her. She takes his finger and thumb into his mouth. "Fuck, little bird. You have no idea what that does to a man."

"That was true until I started sharing your bed. More please."

"Food or something else?"

"Do we have grapes," she smiles at him.

"We don't have time for that," he grumbles . "Finish your bath so you can eat properly." She does as she is bid and gets out of the water once she is done to dry off. Sandor strips his small clothes off and gets into the tub and bathes while she dresses. It is her turn to watch him as she eats. She finishes one tray then eats several grapes. She then take a small bunch with her as she approaches the tub. She plucks one off and holds it up to his mouth. He cooperates and takes it. She feeds him a second one and a third. She puts a forth between her lips and approaches him. "Little bird, we need to get -," her lips cover his mouth and her tongue pushes the grape into his mouth. Her tongue continues on, into his parted lips. He pulls his head back to chew and swallow the grape. He hands her the wash cloth. She hands him the grapes and she scrubs his back. He eats the grapes and enjoys the feeling of this woman caring for him. He loves the feeling of caring for her, protecting her, keeping her close at night, allowing her to spread her wings and fly free. She finishes his back and hands him back the wash cloth. "I will clip your toenails before we get back on the road." She rolls her stockings down slowly, and she watches him watch her as she pulls them off. His eyes are black with heat. She turns her attention back to the second tray food. She lays on her stomach and eats leisurely her feet pointing up to the ceiling. Her skirts falling to the bed exposing her legs to the knee. She hears the water splashing as Sandor quickens his washing and stands out of the tub. She continues eating until the tray is snatched from in front of her and is moved to the table under the window. She looks affronted until she see Sandor approach her. He has not covered himself with a towel.

"I though you said we did not have time."

"We don't, but I have a great need of you, 'wife'."

She jumps off the bed on the opposite side from him. "What is the magic word?"

"Undress."

"No."

"Please?" She smiles as he gets it correct.

"As your wish my lord."

Chapter Text

With Sandor leaving for his own lordship and lands once Jaime is returned to the capital, the only Clegane warrior Queen Cersei has left for her son is Ser Gregor. Her father had schooled her on his volatility, which was quite different from Sandor's ill-tempered intensity with a purpose. She saw this first hand at the famous Tourney of the Hand. The Hound won a king's ransom of forty thousand gold dragons. A handsome sum that makes him richer than most wealthy families. Yet he stayed and served her son. She admired him for that loyalty and his strength and the fear he puts in their enemies with just his name.

Ser Gregor, however, cut off his own horse's head to the absolute horror of all seated, except her Joff. He then tried to kill the Knight of Flowers after loosing the tilt to him. Now she is stuck with that frilly flower as her betrothed, because The Hound saved him by redirecting Gregor's fury to himself. How noble for an ignoble man. She would have been better off if Ser Loros were killed then and not tied to her now. Well, that can be fixed later. If she had her choice they would send the Mountain back to his home and keep The Hound. She has to have another talk with her father and see if she can fix this problem. They could offer The Hound a high born wife, if that will help him stay.

Cersei knows Gregor likely killed the redheaded handmaiden. Before she did not care, but now having Gregor in their midst daily brings a new weight of reality to his actions. She needs better control over him; to be able to direct his actions toward causes she finds beneficial. To help assess his current mental state, she decides to visit Ser Gregor with Qyburn, and talk with him for herself.

She heads directly to the maester's suite. "Ser Gregor, I hear you are doing better." He glares at her. She then glares at Qyburn.

"Has anyone heard from my little brother? Does he know I was burned doing his job?"

"I am not sure. My little brother is the only one who communicates with your little brother, to keep Lady Sansa's location secure."

"Then I want to see the Imp." He slowly and carefully turns his back on the Queen, to prevent tearing his healing skin. He is done with this conversation, until he gets something in exchange.

"We will let you sleep Ser Gregor. I will pass your request onto Lord Tyrion." She and Qyburn walk out and shut the door behind them.

"He is very short tempered."

"His temper is much improved."

"This impertinence is an improvement?"

"He has moved from excruciating pain to extreme discomfort. He will not be in his right mind until we can give him more comfort and better assess his ability to function more fully as a man. These Clegane men have iron wills and the constitutions of bulls. I will continue to work with Ser Gregor while he is impressionable, and see if I can make him more amenable."

"So it may be possible for him to be with women again?"

"It is possible, but not probably. We have more than a moon's turn before the tight scabs release. We will know more then."

"Keep me updated of any changes."

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"Little brother, I just came from visiting our Ser Gregor. What are your thoughts on him?"

"He may well be the scariest man in Westeros, unless the snarks and grumpkins are real. Without having a more specific topic, I can say I would rather be me than him. Given his impairments, I would rather be The Hound than him. From what I hear, if you can get past the younger Clegane's face, you are in for quite an enjoyable ride."

"How would you hear that?"

"Whores talk. They compare notes. He also pays well and is oddly gentle, given his fierce reputation. But you asked about Ser Gregor. Not known for his bedroom prowess, but he runs through wives like The Hound runs through wine."

"Do we know where he is now?"

"Who, The Hound? Yes and no. He is in route to meet the Starks to drop off Lady Sansa and retrieving our brother. I don't know from where he is starting, or what route or mode of transportation he is taking."

"Once he receives his lordship, do you think he would stay here and serve my son."

"Well, that is not how a lordship works. He will be our bannerman, which has its own value with the fear his name will carry."

"Can we offer him something else to keep him here and still reward him?"

"The Stark girl, but we already have her in play to exchange for our dear brother."

"The Hound wants the Stark girl?"

"My lovely sister, I know your former sworn shield better than you. Tsk tsk tsk." He shakes his head for emphasis.

"How do we know he will not rape her and risk Jaime?"

"There is no love lost between me and your dog, but she is safe with him. He has never raped a woman, that we are aware; while his brother has raped many. Even when father paid the entire garrison at the Rock to rape my Tysha, The Hound walked away, and refused to take part. That is more than I can say for even myself. Plus, when your son had Sansa striped in the middle of court he averted his eyes and gave her his cape.

"Is there someone else we can offer him to lure him back? I do not think Ser Gregor will serve our best interests while trapped in court. We need him on a battle field, or wrecking the Riverlands."

"If I can think of someone, I will let you know, but Lady Sansa is the only thing, the only woman to even turn Sandor's head. Plus, our father has already signed, sealed and delivered the paperwork for his lordship in the Iron Bank, to be executed upon Jaime's return. It is irrevocable, if he is successful."

"Fuck."

"Dear sweet sister, the language, my virgin ears." She gives him a look that frosts his spine.

"Is the land close to the capital at least?"

"Not at all. It's on the edge of the Riverlands and the Crownlands, in a disputed area. It is vast and rich, but requires an iron hand to reign it in. He or Gregor are about the only ones for this job, but Gregor has his own lands and a reputation for killing his small folk. So there is that. Our Hound was really the only choice that made sense to father. We could not back out now, even if we wanted to, unless we burn down the Iron Bank. As you know a Lannister always pays their debts. Getting our heir back is a debt that can never be satisfied. Sandor is giving us something that none of us have accomplished in a year."

Her head is now resting in her hands in defeat. "I guess I have to learn how to manage Ser Gregor. I almost forgot, he wants to talk with you."

"He thinks it my fault he is burned. Not going to put myself in the path of those rough seas."

"You may want to smooth out those waters, while his is still medicated and trapped in bed."

"Or just stay away from choppy waters near a Mountain."

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"Father, do you have time for a discussion?"

"Not now Cersei."

"I will be brief." She barges in and sits down. He puts his quill back in the inkwell. "Is there anyway we can keep Sandor in the capital instead of Gregor. I met with Gregor earlier and his temperament is not right for court."

"You have to find something Sandor wants more then lands, riches and a lordship. That is not easy, since he is a very practical man."

"The only thing Tyron and I came up with is Lady Sansa."

"What about Lady Sansa?"

"Sandor wants her. Am I telling you something you did not know?" She has a self satisfied grin on her face despite the fact that it was really Tyrion's revelation.

"Yes, but it will not mater, since she is going back to the Starks in exchange for my son. We have some men that may work for you. Three brothers named Kettleblack. They are almost Hound sized without the temper.

"Also without the infamous reputation. Their names are not renowned throughout the lands. We seem to have no equals for the Cleganes."

He grabs his quill again signaling an end to their exchange. "None. Now if you will let me get back to work."

"Certainly father. If you think of something to lure him back, let me know." He nods and waves her off. She obeys and leaves without another word, not even a goodbye.

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"Ser Gregor, I hear from my queenly sister that you have requested a conversation with me."

"Aye. Did your man Bronn shoot me with a flaming arrow."

"Certainly not. He was aiming a flaming arrow at the flaming Stannis man that fell on you, but his focus was taken by you slicing through my face with your massive wing span as you swung. You took off the tip of my nose as you fell. I can assure you the only shots he got off after that where to provide cover for your men to carry you back to the Keep for help."

"Where is my brother? Does he know I was burned?"

"I don't know were he is, but I did tell him you were injured in the battle."

"How can you communicate with him, if you don't know where he is?"

"He sends ravens with the return band removed. We send the same ones back, without knowing where they are going and with no way to follow them."

"He was always too smart for his own good, that one. I bet you never knew that."

"No, I think we always underestimated him. He seems to have always been watching and learning behind a mask of indifference."

"What is the last word you have from him?"

"He has arranged to exchange Ser Jaime for the Stark girl."

"I am surprised he did not run away with her. I saw how they were with each other."

"Well, he will not run with her. The reward it too great."

"A king's ransom, I can imagine."

"A Lord of Casterly Rock's ransom to be sure. Is there anything we can get you, to make you more comfortable, Ser Gregor?

"My little brother."

"I will communicate to him that you are seeking his presence. If you would like, I will send in a scribe to take down a brief massage from you. We can send it back with the next Raven we get from him. Anything more immediate we can get you."

"Aye. Send in a maester. I need milk of the poppy to sleep."

"Certainly Ser Gregor. Sleep well." Lord Tyrion waddles quickly out with what is left of his face still intact. He tells the young maester to provide more milk of the poppy and to give Ser Gregor anything else that is needed. He wonders what Gregor could really want with Sandor, other than to take his place, inherit his wealth and lands once he dies; and speed up that death. He is glad Lord Tywin added in the covenant to the deed that stipulates only Sandor's true born children, and their children into perpetuity, could inherit his title and lands, as he is the one who is getting Jaime's freedom. Plus, Lord Tywin wants more Cleganes. Today was not the day to tell this to Ser Gregor. Let father tell him. He is the one who added this language to the deed, and he is the only one who has any control over Ser Gregor; however little that may be.

Chapter Text

Sandor and Sansa leave the inn two hours later than he had planned, but it was an enjoyable two hour delay. He did manage to clip her toenails, eventually. They need to make up the time to make it to the boat he planned. They will eat in the saddle. He will ride faster and will adjust his stirrups to raise his legs and hold Sansa tighter and higher in his lap to cushion her from the saddle. He has no control over the increasing frequency of her need to make water, but he can compensate for it. Six hours and four breaks for her needs later, they arrive at the dock at the fork between the Blackwater Rush and the Gods Eye River. Since they are going upstream they are taking a mid sized sailing ship to catch the wind and fight the pull of the current.

Sandor gets Sansa on board first with their bags, and secures her in the largest of the five guest rooms on the ship. They continue their story of a married Hound and commoner little bird. They will once again be able to share a bed, albeit a small one. He goes back to land and guides Maiden up the plank and down into the largest of the animal stalls below deck. Maybe Stranger seeing how well the filly does will stall his stubborn protests. He then leads Stranger up to the boarding plank. Stranger pulls back against Sandor. One of the deck hands tells Sandor to walk horse away from the plank, put a blanket over his head and walk him around for a few minutes to get him used to it before taking him up the plank again. It works. Sandor will reward the man once he sees him again.

He gets them settled in the large stall together, and tends to both horses. They will rest easier together. He gives them both an apple to reward them for what he hopes is good behavior. He heads back up to his room. Sansa is laying on the bed staring at the door, waiting for him to return. She already unpacked their bags and put their belongings in the chests provided. Her stash of food is by the bed. Gods forbid she should be without her grapes and pickled vegetables. "How do you feel?"

"Hungry. I could eat a horse."

"Well, Stranger will put up a fight, and you seem to be fond of Maiden. All I have to offer you is pieces of me, but you sated your appetite for me earlier." She throws the pillow at him and he catches it with one hand. "There is food packed in the bag there."

"I know, but I was waiting to eat with you, and now you are here. Join me." He hands her the pillow back kisses the top of her head.

"Go ahead without me. I needs speak to the captain and I will find out when the next meal will be served."

"I shall save the grapes until you return." He has to smile inwardly at that and takes his leave before he gets distracted for another two hours.

He finds the captain and inquires about making a brief stop before they reach their final destination. He gets the meal schedule and adds the preference for grapes and pickled vegetables. He pays for the extra consideration and finds the deck hand who give him the tip for getting Stranger on the boat and slips him a silver stag.

When he returns to the room he has a food tray pile high. His little bird beams like a sunny days. "Well, being on a ship, we can have all the pickle vegetables we want. Just about everything is pickled, and they did in fact have grapes. Two different kinds. He sets it on the bed and closes and bars the door.

"You are the best non-husband, non-ser a woman could have."

"Do you say that to all your husbands."

"I certainly do," gives him her most innocent smile, as she starts to enjoy the food. "How long do we have before we get there?"

"Five days if the winds hold up. Longer if it blows against us and we have to anchor to hold our progress."

"Will my family be there when we arrive?"

"No. In a hurry to be rid of me, 'wife'?"

"No. I just need to prepare myself for when we cannot be as thus."

Sandor starts to take his armor off, while Sansa continues eating. She sets down her food to help him. "No, little bird. I have it. You, eat."

"The sooner it is done, the sooner we can both eat and get to bed."

"Fine. Get the back buckles." He works the front buckles loose. It only takes a few minutes to get him out of his light armor and chainmail with both of them helping. To her he looks just as massive with the armor off as with it on.

"Have you ever been on a ship?"

"Aye, several. Soldiers get to the battle the fastest way possible."

"Do you ever get sea sick."

"No."

"What if I get sea sick?

"I will hold your hair. Will hold mine?"

"I promise to hold your hair Sandor Clegane, if you get sea sick."

"More likely to get wine sick, but I'm glad my hair is safe in either case. I'll hold your red plumage, even if you don't get sick." He runs his fingers through her hair and pulls her head to the side, exposing her neck, to which he bares his teeth and his mouth descends on her pulse.

"We still have to eat dinner Sandor."

"I'm planning to dine on very rare bird on a bed of fresh hay, stewed in her own juices. First, I needs fatten her up." He pulls away. "Eat."

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Sandor wakes to the sound of retching from the privy. He gets up to help his little bird. He holds her hair. She is just dry heaving now and tears are running down her face. "You should have woken me little bird."

"I did not want you -" she vomits again. Only acid from her stomach comes up. "-to see me thus." He twisted her hair and knots it around itself to contain it. He runs back to their bedroom to get a cool wet rag for her. He wipes the sweat and spittle from her face.

"It's my job to take care of you. Don't you remember making me your nursemaid and chambermaid." She nods slightly, while he stroke her sweat covered back. After ten minutes she seems to have stopped. He lifts her up and carries her to one of the two chairs in their room. He gets a fresh wash rag and dips it in cool water. He wipes her down from head to toe and puts her in a fresh night gown and puts her back in bed. He kisses her forehead and puts on his pants, tunic and boots. "I'll be right back little bird."

She sits up in a panic, "Where are you going?"

"Kitchen to get you something to settle your stomach. Lay down." He takes last night's empty tray with him.

"Thank you." She does as she is bid and he takes his leave. He brings back dry toast and mint and ginger tea with honey added to keep her energy up, both the ship cook and Jan recommended this for a sour stomach. The little bird is sound. He leaves the tray on the bedside table and heads down to the holding area to tend to Stranger and Maiden. They are both happy for his attentions. He moves them to a fresh stall on the opposite side so the deck hands can clean out the stall. He gives them fresh hay, oats and water and heads back up to check on his little red and white bird. He sees a steward as he heads back and orders a hot bath to be brought to their cabin. When he gets back the little bird is sitting at the table eating the toast and drinking the tea.

"Sorry, I woke up hungry, I ate your food and mine."

"That was all for you. How is your stomach?"

"Rumbling in hunger."

"There is a warm bath coming. I will grab a proper breakfast for us after I help you bathe."

"You are my most favorite handmaiden."

"Far from a maiden, but I am good with my hands." She blushes red from chest to ears.

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Sansa wants to leave their room, but Sandor is not happy with the prospect of parading his beautiful little bird around these rough men. He takes several apples from his saddle bag and grabs her cloak. "Put this on and pull the hood up."

"Aye my lord. Where are we going?"

"To visit the horses." Once they get to the stall Stranger stares her down. "Here, give him an apple."

"No, I like my fingers attached, thank you very much."

"Do you trust me?"

"Usually, but I do not trust him."

"Give me your hand." He puts an apple in her hand and then places his hands above and below hers and leads their hands to Stranger's mouth and removes his top hand. "Keep your hand flat." Stranger takes the apple and Sansa giggles from his lips brushing against her palm. Sandor gives one of the apples to Maidens while Stranger is still chewing and distracted by his treat. Once Strange is done with the apple, he grab Sansa's hand in his and they both stroke Stranger's head between his eyes. Sandor then holds their hands still and removes his hands from Sansa's. "Continue to stroke him." Stranger moves further into her touch. She smiles up at Sandor, but he admonishes her, "Keep your eyes on him, not me. I'm not the one like to bite you."

"Really, then how did I get the marks on my neck and chest and hip?"

"Don't know little bird. What have you been doing?"

"Me! I am innocent."

"Hum."

"What?"

"After what we have been to each other. You are still a maiden, but not quite the innocent little bird."

"I may not be such an innocent little bird, but I'm your little bird."

"Do you regret sharing your bed - your body with me?"

"Yes." She continues to stroke Stranger. Soothing him keeps her calm as she navigates these uncharted waters.

"I never meant to take your innocence. I have never wanted anything more than I want for you to be safe and happy."

"My regret is I cannot give you more. I want to be yours in truth, but not on the pain of your death."

Sandor takes a long pause, "Princess Sansa Stark, of House Stark of Winterfell. Will you take me the future Lord Sandor Clegane of House Clegane, as your lord husband."

She freezes until Stranger protests and nudges her hand to action. She strokes his nose for want of something to do until her head stops spinning. "Are you truly asking me to marry you Sandor? This is not a jape?"

"I would never joke about the rest of our lives, at the risk of my head. I want to take you as my lady wife."

"When? Where? You said my family will give me to a lord for an allegiance."

"They will try, but you will already belong to me, and I will be your dog for life."

"You are not a dog."

"I'll always be your Hound, little bird."

"My family. They will hurt you if you marry me."

"No one can know we are married until I have worked through some things. Tomorrow the ship is making a stop. I have a plan. I'm going to have to ask you to trust me again."

She turns to face him completely, "Then I am going to trust you." She seals that promise with a chaste kiss. He pulls away to prevent it from turning into something that will scare even his hardened warhorse. 'Fuck, don't think of hardening,' flashes through his mind. "You have not answered my question Sansa Stark," his keen eyes bore into her soul. "The answer is yes. Can we go to the room and have some grapes?" He has trouble resisting her and those fucking grapes.

Chapter Text

King Robb and his army have been back at Riverrun for one week. He has had time to plan for his next few steps in the war and in his efforts to make amends to Lord Walder Frey for breaking his promise to marry one of his many daughters; thus failing to make a Frey a queen. He sends a rider with a message to Lord Frey offering a number of options his council has put together, all wrapped in a pretty bow; ten different high lords and ladies to marry into the lowly revered, ferret-faced House Frey. The lords mostly offered up second and lower sons and assorted older daughters, bordering on spinsters, but it was far better than the Freys would do on their own. His best offerings being the son and daughter the late Lord Hoster Tully, the Frey's liege lord. Edmure Tully, being the current liege lord to the Freys and Lady Catelyn Tully Stark are far above the Frey's station, but neither of them were a queen maker.

The offerings of potential marriages are from lords hoping to gain favor with King Robb in vying for Princess Sansa's hand, though they never overtly mentioned it as part of to the 'transactions'. It would be a week before they could possible hear an answer from Lord Frey. During that time he had to get his small honor guard prepared and forward scouts moved to where they may observe Clegane's approach with his sister. None are to engage him, as they are not sending enough men to coral him, and an attempt would risk his sister. He wants to see how she is being treated by him, whether or not The Hound is abusing her. Robb would dispatch justice against him if he has harmed Sansa, but he will wait until she is safe with her family.

The scouts head out today to stake out various points from where the Hound may enter for the rendezvous and exchange. The Kingslayer will remain at Riverrun to lure The Hound in safely. He is giving himself three days to make the day and a half trip. This is to accommodate taking his lady mother with them. He rather not bring her along, but she will not be denied seeing her daughter as soon as possible, after so much time and so much loss. Waiting extra days for her daughter's arrival with The Hound was not a option for her. A promise of a raven's message was not enough to appease her.

Robb meets with his five best scouts. Each is to fan out to likely points they plotted on a map that The Hound could pass to get to the exchange point. They are each given a vantage point to approach and keep watch and send word back via a raven they each take with them, if they spot them. Most importantly, they were to stay undetected, do not risk Princess Sansa. With their departure, Robb prepares for his own on the morrow.

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At dawn everyone who was leaving is in the Riverrun courtyard checking that all is ready, except King Robb. The King is in the prison cells of the holdfast. The guard opens the door and steps aside to allow the King to step in. "Lannister, we have some news for you."

"Stark, has my father won the war?"

"King Stark to you, Kingslayer."

"Ser Kingslayer to you, King Stark."

Not taking the bait in this pissing contest, Robb continues on with his speech. "Well, SER, today is your lucky day. Your Hound is en route with my sister, to be exchanged for you. Once we have her back, you will be given back to your family."

"The Hound is baby sitting your sister in exchange for me. Well, that is good news, for me at least."

"What do you mean? Are you implying he will hurt my sister."

"No, he has been trusted with my niece and nephews their entire lives. He is not a patient or a personable man, but he is not cruel. Gregor is the monster of the Clegane family. Sandor is honest to a fault, and drinks like a Braavosi sailor, but he would not hurt your sister. Unless she tries to run, of course. Then she had better be faster than the butcher's boy.

"The butcher boy?"

"Long story short, The Hound road him down after he struck Joffrey and ran away on the way from Winterfell."

"Tywin sends a man like this to escort my young sister?"

"My father is probably thinking sending him saves him a lot of men."

"Is that the only reason you think the Hound was chosen?"

"Most likely. He is a choice I would have made. No nonsense, a man of economy and a code."

"I hope for all our stakes that is true. If he has harms my sister, I'll be shipping your sword hand to your father ahead of your release."

"...and then there is that."

To the guards, "Move the Kingslayer to a guarded room in the high tower. Get him a hot bath and fresh clothes and slowly increase his meal portions."

"Honored guest status. I am - honored, Your Grace."

"Preparing you for a long journey home." With that, the King turns on his heels and heads out of the cell and joins his traveling entourage. He approaches his men with a brief speech. "Whatever you do, keep Princess Sansa's safety first. From everything we know about the Lannister Hound, he is not cruel like his brother. No one talks to The Hound, except me." All the men acknowledge with affirmatives, and then there is Lady Stark.

As an aside Lady Starks whispers to her son, "Let me speak to Clegane when we get there. I think I can keep Sansa safest. It is the only thing I will ask of you, Your Grace."

"Mother, you never call me 'Your Grace' unless we are in court. I will take your wishes into consideration. It is hard to make a final decision until we see the situation. I promise you I will do what is best for Sansa."

They ride for a full day with few stops, and get a few cities further than they expected on the first day. They rest in Lord Lyman's rundown Castle Lychester. It beats the forest, but not by much. In another generation, the forest will reclaimed it, if nothing intervenes. After losing his six son's in Roberts Rebellion, Lord Lyman just gave up and seems to be waiting to die. Maybe he is already dead and they have not told the ghost that inhabits his body yet. He should have remarried and replenished his line and left an heir. Maybe there is a Frey that could be offered to restore this house's line with an heir; or the estate could be given to the Freys after the Lord's actual physical death. He will have to discuss this with his Tully uncles, since it is part of their Riverlands lordship.

They leave Castle Lychester at dawn and head to the exchange point. As they get closer, the tension of the situation can be felt by them all. Even the horse are twitching like there is a coming storm. Everyone is quiet, even the air is still and heavy. An hour after sunset they arrive at High Heart. They will meet The Hound here for the exchange. It is sacred place for the old gods, and the high vantage point will allow them to see The Hound's approach from any angle. If he is being followed by men to challenge the King's men, and try to capture King Robb, they will be seen. It is the exchange point the Lannister dog accepted of the ones offered. Now, all Robb has to do is wait for raven messages to arrive with more details from the scouts or The Hound, and manage a civil war and run his Northern kingdom, all from a remote location.

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Cersei has talked to everyone of whom she thought could give her information to get Joffrey's dog back to heel. How can you give a man the world, and then get him to settle with just a corner of a room, standing in the shadows? She is working on that puzzle, but the only leverage she has is Sansa, and she no longer has Sansa. She did get some hope from her father. He is working on a plan to destabilize the North, and they maybe able to get hold of Sansa again. He told her to leave the details to him.

She does not like being left out of the planning. SHE has been the queen for nearly two decades, not her father. He was only a high lord and a warden all that time; only the Hand of the King for the second time shy on a year. She will fix what her father has broken. He is the one who set her Hound free, but the Hound was no longer his. He belonged to her, and then her son. Her father had given Sandor to her when she moved to King's Landing. Her father never even asked her IF he could free Sandor from his sworn shield duties. He TOLD her he was doing it. She did nothing then. She will do something now. She will use the contacts her father just shared with her minutes earlier to fix everything. She will have Jaime back and her son will have his feared Hound.

She drafts notes on parchment and an outline of the people in play in the Game of Thrones, per her father. This is something for which Tyrion would be helpful, but she could not tell him. He would tip their father off to gain his favor and ruin her chances. She revises her plans and cuts it down to the least common denominator, Lord Roose Bolton. The lord is already dealing with her father behind the Young Wolf's back. She could use that to her advantage without ruining her father's plans.

She finalizes her initial communications for the outgoing raven that she will send to Lord Roose Bolton at Harrenhal. His men now hold it, since the Mountain and his men had to return to King's Landing. Bolton's men can hand deliver it to him, wherever he is. She double checks her notes to make sure she has considered her best options, and every eventuality, and that the outgoing message conveys her meaning without tipping her hand. Satisfied, she heads up to the rookery herself to prevent the message from being redirected to Varys' or Littlefinger's or her father's little spiders, birds or spies. As she watches the raven fly north she smiles at how smart she is compared to how little credit her father gives her.

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Roose Bolton's personal page arrives at his room with a message from Harrenhal. "Does any one know this arrived?"

"No Lord Bolton. The rider road in and gave the message directly to me. The seal is intact."

"You may leave for now. I will have a message ready to go out in an hour. See to it that the messenger has a fresh horse, a solid meal and supplies. Be discrete."

"As you say my lord." The page quickly takes his leave and Lord Bolton breaks the unmarked seal and reads the unsigned letter from Lord Hand Tywin Lannister. He reads it a second time. He sticks the corner in the flame of the candle on a table and watches it become half consumed, before he throws it in the fireplace and witnesses the last of it turn into ash and smoke.

He carefully composes his response to Lord Tywin. He will place a blank seal on it without his house sigil and he will not us his house colors. He has already 'borrowed' the Stark's gray wax. He smirks at that thought. He looks forward to being Warden of the North and having his bastard legitimized. No more begging to King Robb for common considerations. In exchange for this, he will agree to bend the knee to the inbred shit, King Joffrey, as the one true king, and agree to never claim the title of 'King of the North'. Thus, ending the War of the Five Kings with all but the squids and the fire worshipers.

He composes a second letter for the vengeful Lord Frey. He will need the lord's help in taking the north from the wolves. He hands the two letters unsigned, blank sealed over to his page to hand off to the messenger, and out of Riverrun proper within the hour. He will soon be able to breathe a sigh of relief. He should be able to get at least one more message exchange completed before King Robb returns. In reward for his aid, Lord Bolton will give Princess Sansa Stark to Lord Frey to marry off to one of his sons. Ramsey would only waste the opportunity and kill the princess without leaving an heir. His future bannerman would have another reason to turn against him if Ramsay harmed the Stark princess. He needs to alley his son with a house that will not come with the power to take revenge on the things his son will do to a future wife.

Chapter Text

 

His little bird is nauseous again this morning when she wakes, then she is fine in time to break her fast. He helps her bathe and then takes a bath himself. He pulls a wrapped package out of his bag and gives it to her. She unwraps it and holds up the peacock blue dress. "This is beautiful. When did you get this?"

"I got it when we first arrived in town, before we got to the house. I told you about it before, but you preferred the too small, autumn wheat riding dress I gave you ages ago."

"Am I to wear this today?"

"We are making special stop shortly. Wear whatever you think is your best dress, and NOT the autumn wheat." She pokes out her lower lip at that and all he wants to do is bite it. She turns and opens the chest her clothes are stored in and pulls out a bundle. She hands it to Sandor.

"I made you something. I never got to give it to you. I thought you could wear it when we meet my family." He takes the bundle from her and unrolls it. It is a new tunic. He looks at her with an unreadable look. "If you do not like it I can-". He stops her midsentence when he finally pulls her bottom lip between his mouth and starts to remove her shift. Before he can complete the task, he hears the commotion on the deck that lets him know that they are about to drop anchor. He releases her hem and kisses her shoulder as he puts the shift shoulder back up. He backs away from her and takes a few calming breaths with his eyes closed.

"Thank you little bird, for the tunic. I'll wear it today." She tries to approach him again for another kiss, but he moves away. "Get dressed. I'll brush out your hair." Once they are both dressed they look at each other as if for the first time. Sandor in the butter soft cream colored tunic, made especially for him with love in every stitch. The Clegane dog sigil sewn onto the chest, a little red bird above that. He puts on her favorite black leather breeches that he owns. They pull tight across his thighs. The extra time spent horseback riding, instead of standing guard all day, has increased their mass. Sansa's eyes lingered there. He could see the lust swelling in her eyes. No time for that now. They were due on deck. She places her hand on his chest and stokes it across the soft fabric pulled over hard muscle, and then across the Clegane sigil. He places a kiss on her cheek and turns her around, not ungently, and grabs her hair brush and does the only thing he finds more relaxing than sharpening his sword. He loves how the circles of curls order themselves into silky waves in his hands. He misses the copper, but a dark auburn burnish has started to show through the dye. He hears the call go out for 'land ho' and releases her. He uses her brush to control his own hair and cover as much of his face as possible.

"No, let me do your hair." She grabs the brush from him and has him sit on the bed. She steps behind him and starts brushing his hair. "Do you have a black leather hair tie?"

"Yes, but-."

"I want see you."

"I remember when you couldn't look at my face."

"I was young a young girl. It was your eyes that scared me most then. The fury there was something I have never seen matched in any other. Now, I see a passion there that I could have never imagined, and it is all for me." Her face flushes with that. "I do not want it hidden behind a black curtain." He sighs at that and gets up to grab the leather tie. Retuning with it in hand. She grabs his hand and squeezes it for a few heartbeats to assure him that exposing himself to her is safe. She runs the brush through my hair again and gathers it with the tie. The boat is anchored soon after for the unscheduled stop Sandor arranged with the captain. Being the King's sworn shield has its privileges.

"Get your cloak, cover your hair." They go on deck and wait for the plank to be extended now that the anchor has dropped.

He carries her off the boat and through the snarled pathway of the isle. He does not want her snagging and dirtying her new dress, or tripping on a root. She is looking over his shoulder as she holds onto his back, chin resting on his shoulder. He can feel her breath, hot on his neck. Then his steps cease. She pulls her head from his shoulder and looks him in the eye. Then she turns around to see why they have stopped. She gasps and he sets her down on her feet. "Are we where I think we are?"

"Aye, little bird. The Isle of Faces in the God's Eye River. This is your last chance to back out."

"I have no desire to back out. Do you?"

"Never little bird. I want you for my wife; for the mother of the children I never knew I wanted. Once you are mine, nothing will keep me from you. Not your kingly brother, not your mother, not King Joffrey, not the old gods or the new."

"Then let us find the heart tree. It should be in the center."

"I'll carry you." He picks her up again and kisses her forehead. He walks amongst the last known full sized living weirwood trees in the southron lands. They both were in awe of the size and number of the ancient trees growing on the isle. Sansa points to one that is set slightly apart from the others, and that is where he takes her.

"Once you tie yourself to me, it is for life little bird. Once you are mine, I will never let you go."

"Am I not already yours, as you are mine?"

"Aye. Then it will be done." He sets he down in front of the massive heart tree. Its eyes welcoming them. Sandor takes the lead in the ceremony. He is more familiar with the weddings of the seven. He has stood guard over his royal charges at dozens of wedding, and knows the words by heart. He pulls a length of blue ribbon from the pocket of is breeches and winds it around they joined right hands. He then grabs her left hand with his left hand. "In the sight of the old gods, we hereby seal our souls, binding them as one, for eternity." Then almost in unison they repeat the words, Sansa follows a beat behind, not being as familiar with the words, "Father, Smith, Warrior, Mother, Maiden, Crone, Stranger, I am his/hers and she/he is mine from this day until the end of my days."

“With this kiss I pledge my love, and take you for my lady and wife. I pledge this on the old gods and the new.” He unties their hands and removes his cloak.

Then Sansa repeats, "With this kiss I pledge my love, and take you for my lord and husband. I pledge this on the old gods and the new.” She removes her cloak and lets it drop to the ground. Sandor wraps his large cloak around he narrow shoulders and leans down and captures her lips with his. His right hand on the back of her neck. He steps back and looks her in the eyes. She is tearing up, but they do not fall down her serene face. He attempts to put the ribbon back in his pocket, but she grabs it from him before he can. His sentimental little bird, let her keep her favor. He picks up her cloak from the ground and drapes it over his arm. He pulls his hood up over her hair and lifts her effortlessly. He pulls her to his chest and whisper in her ear, "Lady Clegane, I will make sure we keep plenty of grapes in our future home." She blushes from chest to head.

Sandor carries his wife in truth back to the ship. It is almost time for lunch and she will be starving. He helps her change into her favorite, too small, autumn wheat dress as the ship is back underway headed north. Thank the old gods and new she added fabric to the bust line, which matches the tunic she made for him; otherwise her teats would be spilling out and his mouth would be on her exposed nipples. He also changes clothes to his everyday clothing, before going to get their lunch. She reminds him to brings more grapes. Gods give him strength.

When he returns with their lunch, they sit at their small table, but instead of sitting across from each other, Sansa chooses to sit in her husband's lap. They eat and occasionally feed each other with her back pressed to his chest. His left hand is spread possessively across the expanse of her stomach. He is hard underneath her firm, round arse, but neither of them mind it. They kiss between bites and lunch takes a bit longer then usual. She feeds him a grape and he willingly accepts it. She can feel his contented murmurs rumble through his chest and up her spine causing her to shiver. She leans further back into him, and he buries his face in her hair falling over the back of her neck. His right hand slides over her leg, on top of the dress and down to the hem of her skirt. He starts to slide the dress up her legs as his hand smooths over her skin. He is whispering into her ear how much he loves her, how much he wants her; that they will feed each other grapes for the rest of their lives; and that they will have strong sons and beautiful daughters. His hand sides between her thighs and stops at the apex. She is hot and swollen and so wet for him. The Hound in him wants to bend Sansa over the table, hoist her dress above her hips and take her to places she has never been. Bury his sword to the hilt, drawing maiden blood. Sandor Clegane the tactician wants to preserve her maidenhead until she is examined after the exchange, to preserve her reputation and his life. Sandor, Sansa's lord husband, wants to slowly and gently take her; unquestioningly, irrevocably make her his wife. He wants to scream out his claim of her, loud enough for the old gods and the new as his spills his seed into her; as the clinching of her cunt milks him dry. The complex man, Sandor "The Hound" Clegane, was not sure which version of himself would win today. He will find out in mere moments as he removes his hand from her dress and lets it fall back over her long legs. He takes a deep breath to calm his raging desires. He starts to untie her much loved autumn wheat colored dress, and pushes it off of her shoulders. He can feel she is shaking, and he knows it is not because she is cold. He stands her up,, still facing away from him, and pulls the dress down her body, while she is looking back at him. He stands and removes his tunic as he walks to the door to lock and bar it. He walks back to her and sits her on their bed. They look into each other's eyes for gods knows how long, and then he makes his move to join her on the bed. The Sandor that won out was the one that loved Sansa more than his own life, and could only do what was best for her, and they unborn babe.

Chapter Text

The ship that has been their home away from home away from the home they hope to recreate, is pulling into the port town. He has Sansa wait in their room with the door locked until he can get Stranger and Maiden on solid land. He removes Maiden first, then he takes extra time to sooth Strange so that he will, hopefully, calmly walk down the gangplank without taking them both into the cold water. His best solution it to again use the trust the fierce beast has in him and cover his head with a cloth and lead him off the ship. He completes this dreaded task while every deckhand who had encountered Stranger below deck, and had bet on the success or failure of the feat, were keeping an amused watch on the process. Stranger is tied to a post and his head covering removed. Stranger is rewarded with an apple for braving this arduous task. Sandor goes back to retrieve Sansa. She is sitting on their bed holding herself and rocking.

"You well little bird? How is your stomach?"

"My stomach has a swarm of butterflies. I'm nervous about seeing my family."

"We need to talk about that?"

"What, what's wrong? What have you heard?"

"Nothing. I just needed to remind you that you are still considered a Lannister hostage, and I am still the Lannister's loyal Hound. We must play our rolls. Your family cannot see more from us than that; or it may be my head and your reputation."

"I will play my roll, Ser."

"Not a Ser, little bird."

"Not a little bird, Hound. Lady Sansa to you."

"Up North you are actually Princess Sansa. No matter what I say or how I act for them, I love you. Know that. I need you to keep chirping your courtesies, as you did in the capital. I will take the Kingslayer back to King's Landing, claim my lordship and lands and be back for you as soon as I can. Try not to get married again while I am gone."

"Yes, Ser."

"Quit your chirping."

"You just told me to chirp courtesies."

"I meant in front of them, little bird."

"Well, I need to get used to it now. Would you rather I call you Hound, Lord or Ser."

"I prefer Sandor or husband, but I will settle on Hound or Clegane, but it can wait for a day or two."

"As your wish husband." He walks to her and pulls her up from the bed and kisses her soundly."

"It is a good thing you left me so satisfied this morning, or my blood would be up from hearing you say that," he whispers into her ear.

"I can say it again tonight when we settle into an inn." Sansa can feel the deep growl start in his chest before she hears it. The butterflies in her stomach now feel like little birds. How fitting. "The sooner we leave the sooner we can get to an inn, husband."

"We won't be traveling long since it's already late morning and I have an errand to run once I get you secured. So we are staying in the next town over."

"Where are you going?"

"Harrenhal to check for messages and any news we may need as we travel. After that we have two to three days of travel before we get to your family."

"I have always wanted to see Harrenhal and the melted stones from dragon fire. Can we stay their?"

"I'm not taking you there-."

"What? No! You are going to leave me at an inn alone? What if someone steals me."

"I'd find you and kill them. You will only be locked in the room for a couple of hours, little bird." Her bottom lip pokes out and her chin starts to quiver. He is reminded that she is still just a young woman.

"I cannot take you with me there. It is a contested area." She starts to cry outright. "Please don't cry. I cannot take your tears."

"Good. Then keep me with you," spoken through sobs.

"Now that you are my wife in truth, you need to understand that you will not always get your way with me. Tears will only make you red and blotchy, they will not make you right." Sandor sits on the bed and pulls her into his lap. "Take a deep breath. Calm yourself. I don't like seeing your feathers ruffled, little bird." He strokes her hair to sooth her. "You will most likely sleep while I am gone. I will be back before you even wake."

"What if something happens to you?"

"Everyone is afraid of me, except you. No one has a reason to approach me. I am here for the benefit of both kings. I will always return to you."

"Is that a promise."

"Yes. Now wash your face and braid your hair. We need to head out. I will move our bags to the horses."

"Do not leave me yet. Just give me a minute. I will help with the bags."

"I'll wait for you. You can carry your food bag. I grabbed grapes from the kitchen this morning and put them in there." He does not even need to see her face to know she is now smiling. Once she is done washing her face, they grab all their things and head off the boat to the horses.

"Can I ride Stranger with you."

"From this point on, we have to assume we are being observed by your brother's men. You have to ride Maiden unless you are too tired, then you can ride with me.

"Observing us. Why?"

"Your brother has proven to be smart in this war, and information is power. He will want to know if I came alone. If it is really you, and if you are treated well."

"How will we know if they are watching us?"

"I will know. I also have to get two rooms for us in inns."

"NO!"

"I will get adjoining rooms where I can. We will have to be less enthusiastic."

"I don't think that is possible."

"Then we will have to sleep apart."

"Fine, we can be 'less enthusiastic'."

They exit the boat and pack the horses. Sandor places Sansa atop Maiden. He then mounts Stranger and leads them off to the a small inn he has stayed in before. It is close enough to Harrenhal to get back to her quickly, but far enough away to protect her from all the dangerous changing parties of the melted hall.

They make good time and he secures the best adjoining rooms for them. He gets Sansa settled and makes sure she has plenty of food and water and locks both of their doors. He rushes back out to mount Stranger and runs him hard to Harrenhal. They make it there in less than an hour. He asks the stable master to wipe down Stranger with cool water, brush him and give him fresh water and oats. Sandor exits the stable to seek out the castellan. The castellan had already heard of The Hound's arrival from the guards and was in the rookery gathering the messages that had accumulated for him.

"Welcome to Harrenhal Ser. We were told you may pass through." Sandor scowls at the misnomer from the guard, but gets straight down to business since he needs to rush back to his wife.

"I need the rookery."

"Certainly Ser. Follow me. The castellan is headed there to meet us." Both men move quickly down several passage ways and up several flights of stairs to get to the maester's rookery. The guard leads Sandor Clegane through an entryway that opens onto the melted remains of the rookery. He can still smell the dragon fire in the melted stone that had been roughly patched up piecemeal by the various lords who have held this castle, only to have their family lines die out.

"Sandor Clegane, the crown told us to expect you. l have gathered several messages for you."

"If anything comes for me after today, send it onto Riverrun. I am headed there next."

"Riverrun you say? I have two new messages to go their, but the page is not returned and they are marked urgent. Would you be willing to take them there with you and pass them along to the intended party."

"I can do that." He knows that knowledge is power and reading private, urgent messages is knowledge. The Hound of old would be indifferent to the intrigues going on around him. As Sansa's lord husband, he will use any advantage he can to keep her safe. He is double sworn to her as her sworn shield and as her sworn husband. He takes the messages to forwarded on and tucks them into his bag. He reads his own messages. He asks about any troubles in the area; and whether or not any of those in Harrenhal where there when his brother held the castle. Those few men are summoned as he composes his responses to go out to Lord Tyrion, and duplicate messages to go to King Robb at both Riverrun and High Heart. He also composes a message to go to the Iron Bank to document his marriage to the former Lady Sansa Stark of Winterfell, and that he is the father of her as of yet unborn child. All his worldly goods are to go to her in the event of his death, and the title to the lands he will be granted are to go to his child.

He watches the ravens leave for their destination without the subterfuge of removing the bands. There is no way to hide the presences of the burnt giant Hound in the burnt giant Harrenhal. He will not be staying long enough for trouble to find him there. The three men who survived his brother's time in the keep arrive one-by-one. He takes them aside as they arrive and asks them about a boy or girl of ten and three with his hair and eye color named Arry or Weasel. He lets them know if they hear anything that could lead to the whereabouts he will give five golden dragons as a reward.

Once he has gleamed all the information he can from this first circle of hell, he heads out to rejoin his wife. He was uneasy having to leave her alone, so he wants to get back to her before she starts to worry. He is hoping she is not sitting there staring at the door waiting for him to come back. When he pulls up to the stable and quickly dismounts, he hands Stranger off to the stable hand. He grabs his bag and walks quickly inside, taking the stairs two at a time; only because three at a time would make too much noise and startle his little bird.

He goes into his designated room and closes the door. Then he knocks lightly on their adjoining door, so as not to startle her. He pulls out the key and slides it into the lock. As he suspected she is sound asleep, but her head is at the foot of the bed. She fell asleep facing the main door waiting for him to walk in. He will let her sleep until she wakes on her own, her body needs the rest. They have long days on horseback ahead of them for the next few days. He leaves their adjoining door open and goes back to his room to read the third party messages. Both are going to Lord Roose Bolton, one is sealed in blank with gold wax and one is sealed with Queen Cersei's personal red seal. He opens that one first. He has to read it twice to absorb the depth of the implications of Cersei writing to Bolton. The letter with the blank wax seal is just as shocking for both the sender, and the content.

He quietly goes to retrieve their dinner. While he is down there, the serving wench taking his order offers him a "dessert" that is off the menu, knowing he has his own room, separate from the woman in his company. He just looks at her, and he sees her shiver in fear. She goes off to get his food order and presents him with a serving tray and a poorly executed curtsey.

When he returns to the rooms and sets the tray down on her table. He sits on the bed and bends down to place a light kiss on his wife's cheek. She is very tired from her unsettled stomach, their ship ride and having to ride on her horse by herself. Her eyes flutter open and she sees him sitting beside her. She sits up and throws herself around her husband, smothering him with kisses.

"If you are going to treat me like a conquering hero everytime I am gone for a few hours, I may have to leave you more often."

"You would not dare. I will tie you to the bed post when you sleep, if you do such."

"I'd like to see that. I have broken my share of beds in my lifetime."

"How can you break a bed?"

"I'll show you soon enough little bird."

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They leave the inn by mid morning. He will not short his little bird, his little wife on her rest or a solid meal, as she quite exerted herself last night as she welcomed him back. He once again has her ride on her own horse until she gets sleepy, then they break for lunch. She is useless to ride after eating and he puts her on Stranger and she almost immediately falls asleep against him. When she wakes she is hungry again. He gives her an apple and then a pear. He will save the grapes for their stop in the next inn. Some things simply dare not happen where the Stark scouts may witness it. The way they eat grapes is high on that list.

The newlyweds take adjoining rooms in the inn at Pennytree and eat their fill and enjoy a hot bath. Sansa chirps about the lore of Pennytree from her fairytales and songs of old. "Pennytree is in a disputed border in the Riverlands. It was named for a huge old oak tree that grows by a duck pond. It has hundreds of copper pennies nailed into it by newly wedded couples praying for many healthy children. Can we see it and nailed pennies?"

"You want children with me, little bird?

"Certainly, we are married. It is my duty and provide Lord Clegane with many healthy heirs, and your job to provide for us and protect us and love us."

"...and take you to see a tree laden with pennies. How many do you want?

"Pennies or Cleganes? How many pennies do you have?"

He digs in the small coin pouch he keeps attached to his sword belt and dumps it in his hand. "Six-no seven pennies little bird. Looks like we are going to be busy doing our duties," he says with a suggestive lifting of his eyebrow. "After we find this fertility tree, I'm going to find the two grassy hills near it known as the Teats." She just glares at him then starts laughing.

"Gods, Sandor seven is a lot. My mother had five and she had her hands full once Rickon was born."

"I can just put up one."

"No, you have seven pennies. It is a sign from the seven gods. We need nails."

"I don't need nails to get a penny into a tree." He chuckles and starts to undress for bed. This will be the last day he will share a bed with his new wife for a while. They are getting too close to the exchange point. He wants to just hold her close tonight. He mentally runs over plans to make it back to her after dropping off Lannister and claiming his lands. The key to her family allowing them to be together is him finding his good-sister. He falls asleep praying to the gods he thought had abandoned him that he would be bless with seven strong healthy children and a long happy and peaceful life with his wife.

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After enjoying feeding each other grapes before breaking their fasts, they head out to find the pennytree with instructions from the innkeeper. As they ride there Sandor points out the Teats. "Yours are much better little bird," he whispers. "At least they are not green." She swats at him futilely from her horse, which only causes him to laugh loudly.

They arrive at the pennytree in Pennytree three quarters of an hour after leaving the inn. He dismounts and lowers the little bird from Maiden. He hands the seven pennies to Sansa and picks up a heavy stone. She gives him one at a time after kissing them, his superstitious little bird. He drives in the last of the pennies and they stand back and look at the tree. She smiles up at him and his heart skips a beat, before it speeds up. Gods in the seven heavens he loves her, and wants to kiss her right then and there, but there could be eyes on them and this side trip was already too personal. He leads her back to her horse and she bravely rides her own horse without complaining or pouting.

They arrive at Lord Goodbrook's village before the sun completely sets on them. It is the last inn they will stay in before they see her family and there are no adjoining rooms with a connecting door. He almost considers breakings down the wall to be with her. He sees her to her room and then talks to the innkeeper to arrange for dinner for both of them to be brought to her room and baths for each room for the morrow.

While he was in the common room, he talked to the staff about his black haired, gray eyed 'son' Arry or Weasel. They tell him the boy had been with several men from Brotherhood Without Banners a fortnight ago. They did not sleep at the inn, and only ate there, then refused to pay their tab. The boy apologized for them, and offered a coin from Braavos, which is why they remembered him. They show him the coin. He swaps it out for a silver stag and he leaves an extra golden dragon with the promise of more to anyone who can give him more information before they leave in the morning.

The dinners are brought up and the serving wench asks if he was the guest asking about his son. He confirms, while seeing the little bird eyes burning through him. "Ser, everyone kept saying he was a boy, yet I clearly saw and heard a girl. I talked with her and she said she was working her way to Riverrun. She knew people there that could help her." He gives a golden dragon to the girl. She stares at it like it cannot be real. This is probably more money than she makes in a turn of the moon. "Thank you Ser. If I can remember anything else, I will find you before you leave on the morrow."

"Aye," and a nod was all she got from him. He could feel the heat rising off his wife's stare.

"You have a son!"

"No."

"A daughter?"

"No."

"Then why did she say you are looking for your son and that this boy may be girl?"

"I'm actually looking for a girl that is traveling as a boy."

"For what? Why does she think a girl is yours?"

"I need to find her for her family, but since she has black hair and gray eye, it raises no question to claim her as my child."

"So you have no sons - or daughters?"

"Not yet." She smiles satisfied for now, without more questions. He hopes it remains that way. He does not wish to get her hopes up about her sister, if he can't find the little wolf. They talk over what could happen after the exchange. He hates to leave her alone for the night, knowing he will soon leave her for several moon's turns, but he has no choice. Too many eyes could be upon them. He must now keep her at arms length.

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They eat after they have bathed and dressed in there better clothing. Him in all black under his light armor, her is that damned wheat colored dress he bought her. Had they been in the same room, he would have made her wear something else. He just tightens the back laces for his sentimental little bird. "Let's head out little bird. You will see your family, before the sun sets, if we make good time." The last leg of their long journey is a quiet one. She says almost nothing, which is rare for his little bird. He knows she is anxious about seeing her family and about his leaving to return the Kingslayer. Plus, he had reminded her of the forward scouts before they left. This leaves them both time to think and allows somber moods to set in. They make a quick stop past midday to tend to their and the horses needs, and eat the lunch from the inn. They quietly talk more of his plans for the future and how she will fit in. He reassures her that he wants children with her, even seven, and he will hurry back to claim her. He keeps a careful watch despite picking a place where no one could lay in hiding to overhear them.

They get back on the path and travel without any stops other the for the little bird to make water. Both their masks are back up by the time they reach the gates of High Heart. The gates are drawn open and they ride in as Sandor "The Hound" Clegane and Princess Sansa Stark. He quickly surveys the area takes in nothing but Stark soldiers. He takes hold of Sansa's reigns from his horse, to remain in control of the situation. Once the gates close behind them, the doors to the keep open and more Starks soldiers pour out. At the vanguard is a king. Sandor hears the little bird say 'Robb' under her breath. He dismounts and walks over to her and lifts her off of Maiden. She lowers her cloak and smoothes her hair still darkened hair down and adjusts her skirts. Behind Robb she can see her mother. Sansa gaps and sobs at the same time, her hand to her mouth and looks up at Sandor for reassurance. He nods to her, his hand pushes her forward, not ungently.

She walks toward her family and her mother breaks from the group and runs to her with abandon. Sansa continues to walk toward her with Sandor behind her. He mother engulfs her in a tight embrace, and Sandor looks down on the scene as both woman dissolve into puddles of blue and gray and wheat fabric on the ground crying in each other's arms. When King Robb arrives he helps his mother up while Sandor offers his hand to Sansa. He resists the urge to brush her skirts and cloak off. She then hugs Robb and he kisses her forehead.

He does a shallow bow to King Robb and a deeper one to his good mother. "Where is the Kingslayer?"

"We did not want to risk you bringing the Lannister army or your brother with you, so we will do the handoff at Riverrun. It also gives Ser Jaime time to recover from a year as a war prisoner," King Robb

Since this gave him more time with his wife, he did not bark too loudly at this change, but he still had a role to play. "As long as this is not a trick. I have honored my side of the bargain by safely returning Princess Sansa. Not a hair out of place. I'm betting you cannot say the same of the Kingslayer."

"My sister was the betrothed of the bastard king of the south. Lannister is a prisoner of a war started by that bastard king. We were gracious to let him keep his head."

"How many days until Riverrun?"

"Three days to sleep in castles. Two if we can take a direct route, but we will have to sleep rough. We have one tent for the ladies."

"Let's do the shorter route. Your sister has been traveling for too long. She is still in my custody until you hand over the Kingslayer. She will ride with me."

Lady Stark yells 'No!' Stark soldiers hands start to move to their swords.

Sansa stands in between her husband and everyone else and starts to chirps her courtesies, but a bit of the wolf comes out in her. "Stop! - He is correct. He made an honest deal to bring me home and he honored the terms of the deal. You have not. I will continue to ride with Clegane until Ser Jaime Lannister is released to him."

"Sansa, no!" Lady Stark sobs.

"It is settled and I am very tired. Could we please be shown to our rooms." One of the soldiers comes to retrieve their horses, but Stranger roars a ground shaking trumpet at him, sending him stumbling backwards.

"I'll handle my own horse. Don't want to be responsible for starting a new war." He hands Sansa her food and personal bags from his pack and he hands the rest of her things from Maiden to the Stark men to carry. The soldier grabs Maiden's lead and Sandor follow him to the stables with Stranger. Two more Stark soldiers follow him. What do they think he is going to do, kill all the horses? But then again, his brother did behead his own horse. Fuck it. Just get a room and go to bed and stop thinking for one night. Good luck with that now that he will be without his wife for several moons. He hopes at least she will sleep well, now that she is back within the reach of her family.

Chapter Text

The travel party breaks their fasts in their respective rooms. With a pre-dawn departure this saves them time over gathering in a dining hall, which allows time to bathe. A warm bath is a luxury they will not get the next day, since they will be sleeping rough overnight. Camping at Lady of the Leaves is a half day shorter route than the way the King's party came. The little bird did want to camp before the weather turned, for Winter is Coming. She is getting her wish. Everyone agreed that the sooner the exchange is done, the better. When the horses are readied Sandor moves with lightening speed to Sansa and has her on Maiden before anyone else has a chance to stop him. He internally smirks at their lacking.

Lady Stark keeps a watchful eye on her daughter. The look on her face is one he recognizes from his own expanding range of expressions, 'Is Sansa really here? Is this a dream? When will I wake and find her form was a shimmering evanescence?'

Three Stark Guards take up the vanguard, the royal family is in the middle with Sansa between her mother and the King of the North. Sandor is bringing up the rear, with a Stark guard on either side of him. He occupies his mind those first hours with watching his little bird's red feathers fly in the wind as she rides. There has been no talking between the family. Probably a combination of his presence and a lack of privacy with five guards flanking them. Whatever story she had to tell, they did not want it for public consumption; passed around Riverrun like a summer cold. He sees the little bird start to fidget in the saddle and knows she needs to make water, but is too embarrassed to say. "Halt!" he calls out and everyone turns to look at him. The Stark guards look none too pleased with him. "I need to take a break and water my horse."

King Robb calls out a resounding "Halt!"

Sandor is off his horse and heads straight to Maiden. Sansa is on the ground before anyone else has the chance to reach the ground, let alone reach her. He escorts her into the tree line as a Stark guard and Lady Stark follow them. "She needs her privacy," he barks. The guard glares at him, while Lady Stark gives him a blank stare. Lady Stark and the rest of the party proceed to separate areas of the trail, behind various shrubs as one guard stays with him. "Turn your back. Give the princess her privacy."

"I cannot turn my back on the Lannister Hound." Sandor's response is to walk in an arc around the soldier forcing him to mirror his movement and turn his back to the little bird and give her privacy she deserves. He stares the man down until the soldier averts his eyes to the ground. Once the little bird emerges they escort her to the nearby stream to wash for a light meal as they water the horses. Sandor steps away to grab his two horses and to tend to his own needs. They travel on in this for manner until they reach a clearing in Lady of the Leaves, and set up camp for the night. The guards do their work while he continues to 'guard' Princess Sansa. Lady Stark approaches them while the guards and her son are busy. "Clegane, how was your journey to the riverlands?"

"It was long, but fairly uneventful Lady Stark. Your daughter did not complain once. You would be proud of how she handled her 'guest of the crown' status. The boat ride was hard on her. It did not agree with her stomach."

"How were you chosen for this mission?"

"It was either me, my brother or a small army."

"Your brother?!"

"Aye. He tried to volunteer for the task, but Lord Twyin does actually want his son back. Which means keeping your princess safe from all harm."

"Is that what you did, keep her safe?

"Aye."

"Thank you. She looks well cared for."

"She is. We should join the others before I have six swords pointed at my neck. I'll help set up the tent, your daughter is asleep on her feet." He turns and leads them to the center of camp. He picks up the tent parts that are still laying near the horses that carried them. He hoist them onto his shoulders and walks them over to the erection site. The other men look up at him as he carries a load it should have taken two men to handle, and sets them down to return for the last of the supports. Once the tent is completed King Robb escorts his mother and sister to the tent. The rest of the men set up their camp and start the cooking fire. Sandor takes care of both his horses and sets them out to pasture away from the Stark horses.

Lady Stark comes to join the men at the campfire to check on the food. "Sansa fell asleep without eating. I could not even wake her to get her properly under the covers."

"I can lift her if you need." Lady Stark stills Clegane as he begins to stand, but gives him an accessing look.

"No, that won't be necessary. I gave her my furs. I will sleep under my cloak. I feel bad that she will miss dinner."

"She has food with her if she wakes in the middle of the night." Lady Stark nods at him for easing her mind.

They all eat under the rising moon around the fire. Sandor Clegane sits away from the group on his bedroll. He wants to avoid answering questions from Sansa's family for as long as possible, until he gets the lay of the land. So he just listens to the chatter from behind the scene, as they let their guards down while eating around the fire and giving in to exhaustion.

Mostly he hears them saying that they did not "believe this was real'. 'Sansa is so beautiful.' 'Where could Arya be? She has her father's strength and spirit.' 'They sent away a girl and got back a woman.' A good thing they don't know the truth of it. His tired mind wonders over calculations of how many extra days this round trip excursion to Riverrun will cost him; the shortest route to get to King's Landing and back. The best modes of transportation. He catches himself drifting to sleep, and cannot decide to if he should sleep in an enemy camp; but sleep he must and he allows himself to drift away under the tree.

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The group once again starts out before dawn. Sandor has been awake for a while preparing his two horses and packing his belongings. He breaks his fast with the Stark soldiers. The King and Lady Stark eat in the tent with Sansa, then the soldiers break down the tent and Sandor carries the bulk of the supports in two trips to the Stark horses. The Stark soldiers not hiding their awe at his brute strength. They murmur among themselves that he must have giant's blood in his family. Once everything is packed and made ready, Sansa approaches where Sandor stands with the two horses. He takes the food bag from her and bids her a good morning. "Did you sleep well Princess?"

"I slept quite well, and you my lord?

"I was so tired I did not even dream. Ready to go home?"

"Yes. The sooner we get to Riverrun, the sooner you can get to your new lands and you can take a wife."

"Aye, 'tis true Princess Sansa. I will do just that, if I can find a good woman who can stand me for a lifetime." He lifts her onto Maiden.

"I am sure you shall find her my lord." Sandor nods to her and leaves her and mounts Stranger. The other members of their party are ready to leave minutes later, and they are off for a long day's ride. An hour past sunset, they can hear horns blowing, followed by chains groaning to life as the drawbridge is lowered with a solid thud. As the horses cross the drawbridge, the shout goes out to open the gates, for the 'Young Wolf'. As they pull into the courtyard, the castle empties out into the yard and a welcome line forms. Stable hands run up to collect the horses. Sandor holds up his hand to back them away from Stranger and to punctuate the point, Stranger rears up on his hind legs as a show of force. He lands with a solid thud and begins to paw the ground. Anyone near moves away from the two most ferocious creatures at Riverrun, and that includes Grey Wolf.

He allows the King to remove Sansa from Maiden as he leads Stranger into the stable, following the other horses. He sets Stranger in the largest stall in the back, which he knows is probably reserved for the King's horse. The other horses will do better with separation from Stranger so he ignores the stable boys' panicked looks. They stand a better chance with the King's ire at loosing his stall, than with the legendary Hound's. He removes Stranger's saddle and tack and brushes him down. He gives him fresh water and oats and hay, and gives him a several strokes down his head and reassuring words. When he turns Lady Stark is standing in the stable looking on the scene.

"Clegane, we have staff that will do that. They will put your second horse near your giant horse. Let me show you to your room."

"You are the lady of the house. You do not have to tend to me." He picks up his bags and follows Lady Stark out with several guards waiting at the entrance picking up the rear.

"Please give your bags and your weapons to the guards." As a man used to following orders and knowing this is his good mother, he passes the bags over without argument or even questions.

"As you say, I am the lady of the house. It is my formal role, and as Sansa's mother I would not pass it to anyone else. The guards will take you to visit with Ser Jaime Lannister. A bath and dinner will be brought to you." They continue onto his guest room and she leaves him there to rejoin her daughter. She knocks on the door to Sansa's room and enters when there is no answer. She has once again fallen asleep on top of the bed covers, with her clothing still on. Catelyn blows out her candles then thinks to unties the laces of Sansa's dress and loosens them enough for her to get out of the dress, if she wakes in the middle of the night. She sits and watches her until there is a knock at the door. Sansa did not stir an inch with the noise. Catelyn opens it to a page handing her a note. She takes a last look at Sansa and runs out to greet an unexpected guest.

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After a resounding knock on his door, he stands from his bed and opens the door expecting his dinner. Instead he is looking into a doorframe full of Sandor Clegane. "Gods I have never been so happy to see your face in my life. I could kiss you."

"It would be a shame if I traveled this far just to kill you." Jaime hurls himself at Clegane and gives him a heartfelt hug.

"You are the last person I thought would get me freed."

"Well, that is why your arse sat with the wolves and fish so long. My reputation has its uses. Pack, we leave tomorrow, after I have rested. Do you have your horse and armor?"

"The Young Wolf took both."

"If he still has them, I will get them back for you, Lord Commander."

"I really could kiss you."

Clegane growls low and deep at the threat. "I really would kill you, if it wouldn't cost me lands and a lordship."

"Lord Clegane! You, a self-made lord. Impressive, but I heard you are kingsguard. You cannot owe lands or hold titles."

"I swore no oaths. I have been removed by your father. I will leave you to your preparations. See you late in the morning."

"Be prepared for that kiss in the morning Lord Clegane." Sandor turns on his heels and walks out realizing how he will be spending the next two fortnights. Fuck him sideways.

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Sansa can tell that there is light coming into her room through her closed eyelids. She rolls away from the window and reaches for Sandor on his side of the bed. She is greeted with cold sheets and startles awake from his absences and sits up.

She focuses on a sound coming from next to her bed. She realizes that her mother is sitting in a chair near the bed, watching her sleep.

"Mother? How long have you been there?"

"A while, I cannot believe that I am looking at you and it is not a dream. Is everything alright, Sansa? How are you feeling, sweetling? Did you lose something?"

"Yes. No. I thought I lost my direwolf necklace, but I just remembered Sandor would not let me wear it, for fear someone might recognize me. It is in my bag."

"I can get it for you. Where is your bag?"

"No. I will get it after my bath," because it is in the bag with the moon tea that she forgot to toss overboard before leaving the boat.

"Sandor?" Sansa knew exactly what her mother was saying with the tone of her voice. She then realizes she is still wrapped under his distinctive and exclusive kingsguard cloak she grabbed in the middle of the night, and tries to slide it aside with the rest of her covers.

"He is not a ser or a lord, and he is certainly not a dog."

"He is Clegane to you from now on."

Sansa narrows her eyes to her mother in a challenge "Does it really matter?"

"Yes Sansa. It matters to me, and it will matter gravely to you. Being alone in the company of such a man for so long has started people to talk. We will have a Septa examine you tomorrow to quiet it, but if people hear you call him by a familiar name, then the talk will never stop."

"He saved my life at least five times since father was murdered. He kept me alive, safe and feed during our travels. You may not feel like you owe him respect, but I do."

"Sansa you were never this willful."

"I had never had my father beheaded before my eyes, then shown his head displayed on a pike next to Septa Mordane's and the others from our household. Mayhaps it is because I was beaten after Robb's Ox-something victory - in front of the court by various members of the kingsguard."

"They could not have done something so horrible in open court."

"No, they certainly could not have. Nor could they have ripped my dress off my back in open court and stripped me naked to the waist; to beat me with the flat of a sword. San-dor yelled 'ENOUGH!' in front of everyone, then Lord Tyrion showed up and made them stop, and San-DOR gave me his kingsguard cloak to cover my shame."

"Sansa, no." Her mother begins to cry. "I did not know."

"Now you do. He is the bravest man I have ever known. He is brave and gentle and strong."

"Sansa, he is The Hound. There is nothing gentle nor brave about the things the Clegane brothers do."

"He cut his away through a mob during a riot, before they could drag me away to some dark alley to suffer Lady Lollys Stockworth's fate. She was raped by more than fifty men, while I am still a maid. She now carries the bastard of some unknown monster."

"Sansa, my gods-"

"When they discovered I was separated front the group, the King ordered the kingsguards to let the crowd have me. It was Sandor alone who came back for me. He cut the arm off of the man pulling me from my horse and pushed me back up. He scared the crowd away from us, because he is The Hound; and road us to safety. So when you think of what Sandor has done, think on that. I would like a bath now, please. Thank you." She remembers her courtesies.

"I will never forgive myself for not being there for you and your sister."

"It took The Hound to make you trade Ser Jaime for me, more than a year later. I completely understand that feeling."

Lady Catelyn stands to leave, "I will order your bath for you and have a food tray brought up. Is there anything special you want, Sansa? Lemon cakes?"

"Whatever everyone else is having. If we have pickled vegetables, that too; and grapes, most importantly grapes. Where is Sandor?"

"He is with your brother. I will get your bath and food ordered." Catelyn leaves the room and softly closes the door behind her. She walks away with her head held high until her legs betray her. She sways against the wall, and sobs like she has never cried before. A year's worth of trapped pain spills out into that hallway. It takes her ten minutes to pull herself together. She smoothes out her skirts, arranges her hair back in place and clears the tears from her face. She has never had a greater moment of shame, than she just experienced talking with her daughter. A scar left on her heart that will never completely heel. To add to her woes, she now fears having the Septa examine her daughter. She herself ate pickled vegetables when she was carrying Robb. With the all consuming attention that Sansa's return and The Hound's presents generated, she almost forgot they still needed to tell Sansa about her lost brothers, before she heard it from someone else. Gods give her the strength.

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Sandor Clegane is escorted to the King of the North's salon after he broke his fast in his 'guest room'. As nice as the room is, it is still a cell, since he is not free to leave at will. He will not fight his current situation, since it allows him to keep watch his little bird. No, his little wife. He has already identified people around this King who would mean her no good. He would not fight his confinement, but bide his time and watch her back.

"Have a seat, Clegane." Sandor sits in a too small seat in front of a desk, facing this King. "Never in my life did I expect to host The Hound in my family's home, during a war with your liege lord and king."

"Well, you could have met me with Ser Jaime, as I expected with our bargain, and sent me on my way days ago. Now you are wasting extra men guarding me, when they should be guarding the princess. I will cause you no trouble. You have my word."

"Glad to hear that, Clegane. I heard you have a reputation for honesty, among other things." Robb turns to his kingsguards and sends them to guard from the outside of the room. They look at him with doubt, but follow his direct order. First one, than the other two unsheath their swords to be ready all the faster, if trouble is heard from outside the door. Once the door is closed he resumes the conversation.

"I promised Ser Jaimie his horse and armor, if you still have them."

"We have the armor in storage and his horse is in one of the stables. One of our men has been riding him. We do appreciated you bringing Princess Sansa back to us. I can return his property to him. I do however require that you to stay a bit longer."

"We have an agreement. Are you breaking it over a horse and Lannister armor?"

"No. We are willing to send Ser Jaime back today. My mother's sworn shield arrived while we were gone. She volunteered to escort Ser Jaime to King's Landing."

"She? A lady knight?"

"She is a lady, but not a knight. Lady Brianne of Tarth is almost as tall as you and she bested Ser Loras in a match with live steel."

"Why are you keeping me here."

"After you have rested I want to send you out with some of my most trusted men from Houses Umber and Mormont and of course Stark."

"Not House Bolton I notice. Not planning on trying to kill me away from prying eyes I hope?"

"No. We Northerners have a code too. You wrote that your brother had encountered Arya after she disappeared. I want you to help us find her. You have the only details ever heard since she we found out she is missing."

"When Gregor held Harrenhal, she was their dressed as a boy. Her hair was cut off, but she had her Needle. My brother's men took it from her."

"Her needle?"

"A castle forged bastard sword from your bastard brother.The she-wolf named it 'Needle'. She took dancing lessons in the capital."

"Arya would never take dancing lessons."

"Braavosi water dancing."

"Ah, that makes more since. Actual dancing is more Sansa."

"True. The last dinner we had in the Great Hall before we left, the King of the South had Princess Sansa dance with him after the meal. To look at them in that moment, you could see what might had been. Like one of her fairytales, had King Joffrey been a kinder person."

"I am surprised to hear you say that."

"It's the truth. Your sister even tried to teach this old dog how to dance." The King looks at him with untelling eyes.

"Did your brother say anything else that will help you find Arya?"

"A few things may come back to me, if I retrace her last known steps. Lord Tywin did recognize that she was a girl, when my brother did not. She was made Lord Twyin's cut bearer at Harrenhal. From what Gregor said, she was unharmed and untouched before she escaped."

"Well that is some good news onto which to hold."

"I need to speak with Ser Jaime to see if he accepts Lady Brienne as an escort, and I will see them off past Riverrun proper."

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After pulling herself together, Lady Stark orders the food and bath for Sansa. She runs to her son, while they are being prepared. When she arrives she sees the guards have their swords drawn. "Is there a problem?"

"The King is meeting with The Lannister Hound. Alone."

"Alone!" She steps between the guards and opens the door. He may be the King, but she is his mother. She shuts the door behind her and both men turn their focus to her and stand.

"Clegane, I just left my daughter and she has told me of your interactions."

"Did she now," a statement, not a question. His eyes giving no hint, as his stomach clinches. A number of 'interactions' flash through his mind that would get him killed and leave Sansa alone with his pup to raise. He let none of those thoughts of the myriad of things which Sansa might have shared with her mother show.

"Did you in fact save her life?"

"Aye. The King ordered her to the battlements after Lord Hand Stark's, well... The King asked her how would she like him to bring her King Robb's head to add to the pikes. She said maybe her brother would bring her King Joffery's head instead. The King had Ser Meryn Trant backhanded her across her face. Once Trant stepped away, the King went back to admiring his - handiwork. She headed towards the King to pull him over the edge of the battlement with herself. I grabbed her before she reached him and covered it up by whipping the blood off her split lip."

"I saw the small scar on her lip while she was sleeping."

"She is a strong girl. She never complains about any of her scars."

"Scars!" The King exclaims.

"Robb, she just told me when you won the Battle of Oxcross, she was stripped naked in open court and beaten with the flat of a blade across her back. I have not seen those scars yet."

"Did you beat her Clegane," the King seethes.

"Never. It was Blout who stripped her and beat that time. I tried to stop the King. I could only slowed the knights down until Lord Tyrion showed up and stopped it outright. She was not beaten after that." He scrubbed his hand over his face to wipe the images away.

"The white cloak she sleeps under, is that yours?" He flashes her a sincere shocked look, before his face goes back to his neutral mask.

"I didn't know she slept under a white cloak, but it's mine. It covered her when she was stripped in court. I instructed her to leave it in the capital, so we could travel light. She must have hid it in her bags. - Speaking of bags, I am missing some. The King gets up and walks to the door to speaks to the guards. He returns and updates his mother on the details Clegane shared with him about Arya. Several minutes later there was a knocking at the door. Lady Stark opens it and allows the guard in. He hands the two bags to Clegane and leaves, drawing his sword again as he walks out. "Lord Tyrion gave me something to used in my travels with Princess Sansa." He goes through his larger bag and produces a great sword still in a wolf skin scabbard. Robb unsheathes his own sword in answer to the perceived threat.

"Hound, put the sword down."

"As you command." He lays the sword at Lady Stark's feet, the hilt nearest her. Once he stands Robb sheathes his sword and his mother picks up the sword in awe. She knows exactly what it is, Ice. She pulls it out and shows it to Robb.

"Here is your father's sword my King." She passes the sword to Robb and lays the scabbard on the desk. Robb turns his back on the room and sits on the desk, taking a moment to pull himself together. Lady Stark picks up the scabbard and walks around the desk to comfort Robb. She takes Ice from him and sheathes it. "Clegane, we owe you more than we can ever repay. If you can find our Arya, I will give you anything that is in my control." Robb looks at her in disbelief. He fears for what he may ask. "My three children are all I have left"

"Three? You have five." Robb and Catelyn look at each other.

Realization hits Catelyn, "If you do not know, then Sansa does not know. I wasn't certain."

"She has no idea that there is a problem with anyone other than Arya." Catelyn sobs with this confirmation. She walks over to Clegane.

"Is she strong enough to hear the news."

"Depends on the news?"

"Several moons ago Theon Greyjoy brought the Ironborn to Winterfell and seized it. He killed Rickon and Bran and burned their bodies and hung them from an archway," King Robb replies.

"I would say she is in no condition to hear this, but you would have to keep outsiders away from her. Otherwise, she will hear it from them by mistake." Catelyn narrows her eyes at Clegane.

"What do you mean by 'in no condition'."

"When I informed her that King Joffrey had formally released her from their betrothal, she went into shock and had to be put in a warm bath to raise her body temperature. She was unsteady on her feet for the rest of the day and I had to carry her."

"Was she upset to have her betrothal ended? She could not have still wanted to be Queen that much?" Robb questions, doubting his sister's honor.

"She had been holding everything in for a year in the face of unending abuse and insult. She had to smile pretty and say thank you for every insult hurled at her and your family. Being able to let it all go for the first time overwhelmed her. She shattered."

"My poor girl," Catelyn says in a shaky voice. "Can you be with her when we tell her?" Robb looks at her like she has sprouted horns and a tail.

"Aye." She nods relieved.

"Mother, I am going to have Clegane go out with some of our men to find Arya. He has the only information, and something he sees may trigger a memory of something he heard from the Mountain or Lord Tywin. Plus, having news of The Hound about may draw her to him and the search party. She smiles weakly at her son and then and Clegane.

"Robb, may I have a word with Sandor, alone?

"Why?"

"Because I am your mother, and I ask this of you."

"I will step out, but I will be right outside the door." He makes a point of grabbing Ice as he walks out, but he leaves it sheathed. Once he closes the door Lady Stark turned to Sandor Clegane.

"Please, shall we sit." After they take their seats, "Clegane...Sandor, I want to thank you for taking care of my Sansa. I get the sense you were the only friend she had."

"No need to thank me. Lord Tyrion also cared for her well being, as did her handmaiden Shae."

"Yet it is your cloak that comforts her in her sleep. I must ask an indelicate question. She is to be examined tomorrow to quiet the talk among the bannermen. Is this going to cause a problem we need to head off?"

"No, Lady Stark, your daughter remains a maid, but it will disturb her to be examined."

"How do you know that?"

"The King of the South had me escort her to an examine after the Bread Riot. Afterwards, she snapped at me, back when she still thought it could get her killed."

"What did you do in response?"

"I took her out for horseback riding practice. We ended up in a flowering field where there was a weirwood sapling. She prayed and fell asleep, while I guarded her."

"Thank you for telling me. I think she is still too angry at me to share something like that. It helps my soul to know that throughout all the horror, she had some beautiful moments."

"Aye. Anything else?"

"Yes. Please bring back Arya to us." Lady Stark reaches out and grabs Sandor's hand and squeezes it, then she rises and leaves.

The King returns to the room and dismisses Sandor. "You will have dinner in the hall with my other men and eat at our table. I think Sansa may like that."

"Thank you Your Grace. I think you should go through the scabbard to make sure I did not accidently leave anything in it. If I did, you can give them to me before dinner." He unsheathes Ice and turns the scabbard upside down and shakes it. When a leather pouch falls out. The King holds it out to him. He shakes his head rejecting ownership and nods his head indicating he should open it. The King upends it and two letters falls out. He picks them up and holds them out to Sandor. Sandor stands and looks at them, "My mistake. They are not mine, Your Grace. You can still give them back before dinner. Just reheat the seals to close them." He then turns and walks away. The King sits and start to examines them. When he realizes who they are from and to whom they are directed, his head immediately starts pounding.

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Lady Catelyn heads back to Sansa's room to help her bathe and dress and to brush her hair to a shine, like when she was a child. When she gets there the tub and water have been brought in, and the food tray has been ravaged. Sansa was back in bed and was fast asleep. Sandor's white cloak is back over her like a shield against the world. "Sansa...Sansa." She moves to sit on the bed. She starts shaking Sansa's shoulder. "Sansa wake up. Your bath is here."

"Mother. I forgot where I was. Where is Sandor?"

"He is still with your brother."

"Oh. Can I see him after that?"

"Yes, but firsts, we have to get you cleaned up. Do you want me to help you?"

"Is there no handmaiden?"

"Do you want one?"

"Yes, please," she looks down at the bed to avoid her mother's eyes and the hurt she knows must be there. "I have scars that I am not ready for you to see."

"I love you, with or without scars, but I will send in a handmaiden to bathe you and wash your hair. I will brush it out for you, if you want."

Sansa gives her an earnest smile. "Thank you. You may help me dress too, if you wish."

Chapter Text

King Robb sits alone in his solar with the two letters addressed to Lord Bolton open on his desk. He read them both over and over in the hour since Clegane walked out. He decides to copy the letters word for word and reseal the originals. One letter is signed, sealed and delivered from Queen Cersei, the other unsigned and blank sealed. Robb knows Lord Tywin Lannister's handwriting and superior tone from having in his possession dozens of letters from him trying to reach terms to get his son back. Letters offering Sansa AND Arya, when he knew he did not have Arya to exchange.

The fact that both Lannisters felt free to send letters to Bolton, and from both letter he knows this is not the first of them from Lord Tywin, is proof of covert acts of treason. Bolton has said nothing to him about corresponding with the Lannisters. His mother was correct in counseling him not to trust Bolton, with his uncivilized customs and bastard non-heir. He runs over his options and does not know if he should confront Bolton, or let him snare himself and all who aided him. One way is safe, the other is the best, most thorough course of action. Why would the Lannister Hound hand over these Lannister letters to him. Is he setting a trap for his overlord's benefit? His head falls on the desk and he prays to the old gods of his father to give him guidance and direction. Minutes later he decides to tie up some loose ends and sends for a page after tucking the letters and their copies away.

The page returns to the to the King's salon with Sandor Clegane behind him. He leads him in and then scurries away as quickly as he can. "I have some letters for you to deliver onto their intended recipient." King Robb holds up the two perfectly resealed letters to Clegane."

"You sure? This could get away from you."

"Yes, I am sure. Bolton is in the east wing of the estate, not far from your room. Seeing how Bolton is, he will probably find your room on his own. I trust you will not tell him I saw them. The Lannisters would have a bigger issues with you than me. The guards will be pulled from that area of the castle for dinner the hour before we have the formal dinner in the hall. You, by the way, will be seated above the salts Lord Clegane, as an emissary from the crownlands and westerlands. My mother has also left word that my sister has requested your presents in her solar. One of my guards will escort you." Clegane nods and turns to leave.

When he arrives at Sansa's door, the guard returns to the King. A handmaid opens the door. "Yes?"

"Lord Clegane to see Princess Sansa." He hears a muffled 'Let him in.' He steps into her solar and gives his best bow, "Princess Sansa. You requested my presences?"

Sansa stands and gives her best and deepest curtsy. "Yes, my lord. Would you please have lunch with me here. My mother does not want me out until I am presented at dinner, which is fine with me. There are too many people here. It reminds me of King's Landing."

"Aye Princess."

"Excuse me, would you please bring Lord Clegane and I three meals. And grapes."

He coughs at that, "No grapes!"

"Fine, no grapes, but extra pickled vegetables for me and extra meat for the lord, and lemon cakes and a flagon of Dornish red." The handmaid leaves and runs to get the laundry list of foods. Sansa runs and bolts the door and attacks her husband and installs herself around him. "Gods I need you."

"This is a dangerous game you are playing girl. I'm weak for you, little bird." He picks her up and sits her on his lap as he sits in one of the chairs. "Just let me hold you. I miss just holding you." He holds her tight and rests his lips on her neck, more of a caress than a kiss. He resists the urge to fist her hair. It would be hard to explain to the maid finding her looking like she was in a sparing match.

"Mother told me you are not leaving for King's Landing. They are sending a lady knight with Ser Jaime."

"A giant lady non-knight. I am heading out in a day or two, but I will be back in no more than a week or two to claim you, whether your family wills it or not. You are mine." She digs her hands into his hair and pulls him tighter go her. She curls up against him and he strokes her back. It feels like it's been forever. He can smell the honey and lemon sent of her, and underneath that, just the beauty of her essences. Sansa unties the neck of his tunic and nuzzles against him there and just lets him hold her. He can hear her breathing in deeply. "Are you sniffing me."

"Mayhaps, my lord."

"You cannot go around smelling your husband and then use your courtesies."

"Fine." She retaliates by licking his neck.

"Fuck me."

"After I am examined."

"They told you about that."

"Yes, when mother helped me dress and brushed out my hair."

"Are you fine with this?

"No, but once it is done, they will know you left me untouched -"

"- I'm touching you now," he chuckles.

"I mean you did not touch me there."

"I did, often and I'd do it again if the handmaiden wasn't due back. FUCK! Talking about this is getting my blood up."

"You should have let me order grapes."

"Seven hells girl. No grapes until I get back. Up woman. Fix your dress."

"Tie your tunic." Her eyes wonder down and sees a bulge in his pants. Her mind wonders as she stares at it. He places his hand on his bulge and adjusts it.

"If you keep staring, it is only going to get worse."

"I can make it better."

He groans like he is mortally wounded. "No you can't. Unlock the door. There is no way to explain me on the wrong side of your locked door that does not end with your reputation on the ground and my head decorating on the gate." Sansa finishes straightening her clothes and hair, then unbolts the door. Moments later there is a light kicking at the door. Sandor sits up straight and pulls the table cloth over his legs. Sansa opens the door to the handmaiden carrying a tray laden with food and her mother follows her in. The sudden presences of his good mother causes his cock to shrivel up like a dried date, and he is able to stands to bow to her properly.

"Maery, please set the food on the table; and you may leave. Clegane, please join us for lunch before you return to your room. I shall update you on our preparations for Ser Jaime's departure with Lady Brianne." Both Sansa and Catelyn sit down and join Sandor at the table.

"Thank you, Lady Stark."

"First, dinner is at sunset and we are sitting you above the salts. We have cleaned both of your clothing and you are to wear your best. Ser Jaime's property has been returned to him at your request and his horse is being made ready for his departure after lunch. I have already introduced him with Lady Brienne and he has accepted her as an escort back to King's Landing.

"We have sent a raven to Lord Tywin letting him know that you have arrived and his son departs today. You will be leaving tomorrow with our men."

"Mother, why is he being sent out with our men. I don't understand." Sandor and Lady Stark look at each other, while she looks between her mother and husband. Her mother takes the lead, since he has no disclosed formal role in her life.

"Sansa, we have come to believe that your sister is alive and making her way here. Clegane has the most updated information on her and the rumors that he is about may draw her home."

"You have news on my sister and you did not tell me."

"I did not want to get your hopes up on suspecting a boy named Arry was your sister Arya, especially if I could not find her."

"The son you were asking the serving girl about was my sister?"

"Aye."

"I see," as happy and sad tear run down her face. "You should have told me my lord. I am a wolf, I can be brave." Sandor looks from her to Lady Stark and back. He needs to comfort his wife, without offending his secret good mother.

"You are the bravest woman I know. I just wanted to get you home safely with your family, before I gave you any upsetting news."

"Is there anything else I need to know that is being held from me." Sandor looks to Lady Stark.

"Sansa, your father's ward Theon Greyjoy, who we raised as a member of our family, betrayed your brother three moons ago. He joined the Ironborn, when he was sent to seek their alliance.

"No! Theon turned his cloak against us?...but there is more?"

"Yes, the Ironborn attacked Torrhen's Square, to lure the troops left at Winterfell away. He then seized our home and burned it down."

"But, but Bran and Rickon are at Winterfell." Her mother closes her eyes and hugs herself. Tears roll down her face. Propriety be dammed, Sandor grabs his wife's tiny pale, shaky hand.

"We have no proof, but he claims to have killed your little helpless brothers." Her eyes still closed her head slowly shaking back and forth as if to shake the knowledge free of her conscious mind.

"It is not true. I would have felt their loss like when father died. I would have known. Wolves can tell. We can feel our pack" She rips her hand from of Sandor's. "Did you know of this?"

"Your brother just told me. Your mother wanted to tell you herself."

"I am suddenly very tired. I need to sleep. Please, eat without me. My lord, mother."

"You have to eat to keep your strength up, little bird." Not noticing the slip of his pet name for her as she stands on unsteady legs. She heads to her bedroom until her legs give out and once again Sandor is her only tether to time and place. He catches her before she falls and lifts her and carries her to her bed. Lady Stark follows and pulls back the covers. He places her in the bed and tries to pull away. She will not let go of him. To cover the spectacle, he takes the time to pull the covers around her and tuck her in. He again tries to stand, but Sansa comes with him. He resigns himself to no way to get away clean, when he needs to stay by her side. He leans over and whispers in her ear. "I will stay until you sleep." She lessons her death grip on him and he grabs a chair and sits by her bed. He looks up at Lady Stark. She seems resigned to his tending to her daughter and also resigned to joining him in sitting vigil over her. She grabs a dining chair and sits on the other side of the bed. Within ten minutes she has silently cried herself to sleep.

"I know you cannot cancel the welcome dinner, but she is not fit to attend. I will sit by her side while you host the dinner. A handmaid can chaperone us. I would not have the Princess's honor called into question. I just need to see Ser Jaime off the property and deliver a message for your kingly son while she sleeps."

Lady Stark nods, "I think we need to talk again, privately, before you leave tomorrow." He stands and leaves without a response. FUCK! He has never heard a sentence that included that phrase where a man was not handed his ballocks by the woman saying it. He first heads to Ser Jaime's room to check on his preparations and look at this proper escort.

He knocks on his door. "Kingslayer, it's Clegane." He is greeted by a more masculine face than the Kingslayer, short blond hair and deep blue eyes, just a few inches below his own. "Tarth?"

"Yes, Clegane. I was trying to help Ser Jaime into his Lannister armor."

"Come in Hound. Take over for the wench. We leave within the hour and she will take two hours to finish at this rate."

"The fuck, I look like a squire?"

Jaime sizes him up, "You look like two and a half squires, that should make it two and a half times faster." Sandor steps up to fasten hooks and buckles he knows like the back of his hand from his own abandon heavy armor. In less than five minutes he is done and orders Jaime to put on his cloak so all eye will not be on him. He has plenty of enemies among the northerners. They grab Ser Jaime's belongings, and head to the stables. The guards assigned to Ser Jaime follow them.

"I will ride out with you past the castle line. I have to hurry back. Lady Sansa is not well."

"Princess Sansa. You are her nursemaid now?"

"I am her everything."

"Really?!" from both Brienne and Jaime at the same time. They then look at each other and then at Sandor again with owlish looks on both handsome faces, for the Lady Brienne could not be call pretty or fair by any standards, even The Hound's.

"Since you are not yet free of Riverrun, she is still a ward of the crown. I represent the crown."

"What is wrong with Lady-Princess Sansa?" Lady Brienne asks with genuine concern.

"News of her brothers."

"Brothers, I only crippled the one."

"You're the one who pushed the boy out the window?"

"Isn't that what you are talking of?" Sandor jaw clenches so hard, he could bend iron.

"Let's go before you cost me not only my lordship and lands, but my head." They head out to the stables

"Ser Jaime, you pushed little Lord Brandon out the window at Winterfell?" Brienne looks horrified.

"Like Clegane said let's get out of here. The guards could hear us. They already hate me" Brienne has her horse packed. She helps Jaime pack his horse, while Clegane saddles his beast, stowed in the King of the North's stall. Sandor mounts Stranger and moves to the stable door. The other two soon join him and he takes off at a near gallop, they two struggle to keep up with him. The guards have to rush to open the gates and lower the draw bridge. The thunder of the large horse with his heavy master sounds like an entire brigade on the draw bridge. In half on hour they are past the castle grounds. Sandor pulls to a stop and leads Stranger around.

"The best way to get to King's Landing quickly is to ride to the lake at Harrenhal and take the boat down God's River. From there you can catch another boat down the Blackwater to King's Landing. You should be home in just over two fortnights, depending on the boats' available. Here is enough coin to get you home. Inside are instruction from your father to get more funds if you need them. Steer clear of Harrenhal. There is an inn less than an hour's ride northwest of there."

"Clegane. Sincerely, thank you for getting me away from the wolves."

"When you get home, have the deed to my lands sent here. By then I will be freed to go."

"You are free now. No Stark guards are with us. Just leave with us."

"I gave my word to finish something that your father was bargaining for. Just stay out of trouble and get home in one piece. Once on the boat lose the armor and just travel as a very blond of hair married couple. Either of you cost me my title or lands, and your titles and castle walls will not protect you from me."

"Fine, but you hate titles and will gut a man for calling you by one. Someone has gotten hold of you. A tall redhead? Did you travel as Hound and Wife?"

"I'm too fucking tall, too fucking big and too fucking ugly to not be recognized in all the Seven Kingdoms. Fair thee well Kingslayer, Lady Tarth." He kicks Stranger into a full gallop this time, back to Riverrun, back to his too tall, too beautiful wife.

"Fair thee well Lord Clegane," Jaime shouts after him.

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Once he is back at Riverrun he runs to his room. The house guards had already left early, as the King promised, but he has no one to point him to Lord Bolton's room. While he is packing to leave on the retrieval mission tomorrow, there is a knock at his door. He opens it without asking who it is, which he would never do in King's Landing, and is greeted with the pale eyes and pasty visage of a man who could be mistaken for no other than Lord Bolton.

"Sandor Clegane, I am Lord Roose Bolton. May I come in."

"Make it quick. I'm busy. I leave tomorrow." He goes back to folding and packing.

"Yes, I heard you are retuning Ser Jaime Lannister to his family."

"Something like that. What do you want?"

"I just wanted to make the acquaintance of the infamous Lannister Hound." Sandor stands to his full height and breadth.

"And now you have. Anything else."

"Did you bring anything for me, perhaps from your travels."

"Now that you bring it up." He digs in his pants pockets and pulls out the letters and looks at the addressee on them, like he had not paid attention before, then he hands them over. "I'm not sure when kingsguards got demoted to northern pages. All I needed was for your King of the North to find these on me." Not a lie he thinks, since he had needed the King to find them.

"No, that would not do, would it. Well, I will leave you to your preparations, and see you in the Great Hall."

"I'm eating dinner in my room. The beauty of this assignment was the vacation from hanging around high lords and low sers."

"I will catch up with you after dinner."

"What do we have to catch up on?"

"I need you to take a response back for me."

"Bring it during the changing of the guard. Whenever that is."

"The start of the hour of the wolf."

"I'll be sleep then. Just slide it under my door." He is done with this conversation and turns back to his packing.

Roose responds, "I shall leave before the guards return." Sandor continues to pack, only concerned with finishing and getting back to Sansa before she wakes. When he does get back, her mother is still sitting by her bed, but his old white cloak is covering his little bird.

"Her sleep was restless after you left. I found the cloak, it seemed to ease her sleep. If you would sit with her, I will tend to somethings and send in her maid with a fresh plate for you." She stands and he just nods his head and sits back in his chair. He looks to Sansa who looks so pale and helpless, dried tears on her cheeks. Everything in him wants to crawl in bed with her and hold her. He suddenly realizes that Lady Stark is still watching him watch Sansa. He looks up at her and sees she is appraising the situation. He can do nothing but sigh and assume his normal mask of indifference, a bit too late. She turns and leaves the room reluctantly.

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Lord Bolton bolts his door and sits at the desk to read the letter from Lord Twyin first.

"Glad you will take me up on the offer. We knew you were the right man for this task. We can meet your request for the position. We will hand over control to you in exchange for proving your loyalty. The old man will agreed to accept new terms from the young boy and arrange for an eventful wedding at his home. The walls will be painted red. Once the hour of the wolf has ended, we will share the spoils with you."

The letter from Queen Cersei surprises him. He has never corresponded with her before. He unseals it and shakes his head that she actually used her official seal and signed her name.

"Lord Bolton,

My father is freeing Sandor Clegane from his sworn shield duties against my wishes. He has irrevocably granted him lands and title for gaining my brother's freedom. Lady Sansa is the only thing we have to offer that he values enough to bring him back to our daily service. If you can get her back to us unharmed, you will be rewarded in addition to my father making you Warden of the North and giving you Winterfell. We can also offer you a high lady from our court for your son, once we legitimize him. Clegane has already killed men in the capital protecting Sansa's virtue. No one is to touch her.

Queen Cersei of House Lannister"

Stupid, reckless woman. If anyone but her Hound had gotten these letters, his head would already be on a pike. He writes a short letter to both. He cannot give both the Freys and the Queen Lady Sansa. After seeing her arrive home, he wishes he was not tied to Fat Walda Frey. She could always meet with an 'accident' or 'illness'. Given Lady Stark's need for propriety and the length of a proper mourning period, there is no time for that option.

To Tywin he writes, "You daughter wrote me with full name and raised seal. She wants to throw her dog a juicy red bone to bring him back home for keeps. That bone belongs to another dinner. Only write to the old lord, or address my letters to Lord Snow at Harrenhal. They will hold it until I get there."

To Queen Cersei he writes, "I have no way to get her back for your dog. She is guarded. I can only try, but I cannot promise." He cannot cross Lord Tywin and Lord Frey. He can only keep her at bay and let her father deal with her. He blank seals both letters and tucks them away under his mattress so he can walk the castle before dinner. He has a lot of nervous energy to work off and hours before he can give the letters safely to the Lannister Hound. Hours more after that, until the Hound leaves Riverrun. He needs to find a chambermaid to take the edge off.

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After checking the progress in the kitchen and ordering a hot plate for Clegane and cold plate for Sansa for when she wakes, she sends a chambermaid to bring the plates and chaperon her daughter while she sleeps. Catelyn heads to the King's solar to update him on the feast preparations and Sansa.

"Neither Sansa nor Clegane will be at the feast tonight. And your princess sister is in love with Clegane." The King drops his quill and looks at his mother.

"As shocking as that should be, I can match that and beat it by a thousand leagues."

"Do I dare ask?"

"I have it on good authority that Clegane is in love with your princess daughter."

"Who else knows this?"

"Queen Cersei... What do you mean by 'who else knows'?

"A mother knows. I told Sansa about Bran and Rickon and what we now know about Arya."

"How did she take it?

"She passed out and Clegane caught her and we put her in bed. She clung to him like he was the entirety of her world. Even with me standing an arm's length away, she turned to him for comfort. Once he left to escort Ser Jaime off the property she slept restlessly. When he returned, he forgets I am watching, he looks at her like she is the only thing in the world. Wait, how do you know Queen Cersei knows." He hands her the copied letters. "These are in your handwriting."

"I copied them so that the originals could be delivered." She reads Lord Tywin's letter first then Queen Cersei's, then Lord Tywin's again, now that Cersei has filled in the blanks.

"Both House Bolton and House Frey have turned their cloaks on us. They are no better than Theon. They plan to kill us all at the Twins and take Sansa prisoner again. All because of a broken promise." She shake her head in disbelief. "Your folly and broken promise exposed their lack of honor and loyalty. How did you get these?"

"It would seem that Sansa has gotten Clegane to not only turn his head, but turn his cloak. He left them in Ice's sheath for me to find. Then he took them back to deliver onto Bolton, that bastard. I have someone keeping an eye on him from a distance. Once he delivers his responses, we will arrest him."

"Speaking of bastards, where is his? He needs to be corralled."

"You can ask him during diner. It will just seem like polite dinner conversation coming from Lady Stark."

Chapter Text

Sansa finally wakes and she finds her husband sitting by her bedside looking down on her. She smiles up at him.

He asks her, "Are you hungry? You missed lunch and dinner's already started.

"I am and need to use the privy."

"Let's get you up." The chambermaid/chaperon pulls back the covers and puts slippers on the Princess's stocked feet. Sandor stands her up and checks her steadiness. "Do you want me to carry you?" She thinks on it, but with the maid there thinks better of it.

"If I may have your arm for support, I can manage Lord Clegane." He offers his arm as a knight would, and lends her his strength.

While Sansa tends to her needs, he tells the maid, "Bring Princess Sansa a fresh dinner and tell Lady Stark that she's awake."

"Milord, I am not to leave her alone."

"She won't be alone."

"She cannot be left alone with a man not her betrothed or family. She is a princess, milord."

"Do you expect me to fetch her food and you to carry her safely back to bed."

Looking at the ground, "No milord."

"You have my word of honor that I will do nothing inappropriate in my capacity to Princess Sansa. Please go inform her mother and bring dinner."

The maid curtsies and rushes out to fetch Lady Stark and dinner. Then she will see if someone can relieve her for the night. She hopes she will not be punished for leaving the Princess alone with the 'Infamous Lannister Hound', as everyone refers to him.

Sandor walks over to privy and knocks on the door. "Are you alright little bird?"

"I am fine my love. Just washing for dinner."

"Did you call me my lord or something else."

"Something else, my lord. I heard you chase the maid away."

"Could you call me that something else again?"

"Yes."

"-well?"

"You said 'could' not 'would', my lord."

"True enough, Princess Sansa." She emerges from the privy at his use of her new title, giving him a look of reproach on her freshly washed face, now smelling like spring flowers. Sandor makes a mental note to switch out that soap before he leaves tomorrow. He enjoys thinking of her while he is gone smelling of lemons and honey, with a bowl of grapes sitting on the bedside table. He walks to her and supports her around her waist, and leads her to the bed and sits her down. "How are you feeling?"

"I feel well rested. I want to dress in clothing I have not slept in, and make an appearance at the dinner being held in my honor."

"No, you passed out several hours ago."

"News of my brothers and Arya was a shock to my system. I am fine now. I know they are all alive. I can feel it. I dreamt the boys were-"

Sandor chimes in, "-north of the Wall."

"How did you know?"

"You talked in your sleep."

"No!"

"You also asked for grapes. I told the maid not to bring any." She gives him a disapproving look. He was not sure if it was because of the denial of grapes, or finding out she talks in her sleep.

"I do not talk in my sleep."

"You never have with me, but you did today. I will escort you to dinner. Keep all those hungry lords from trying to feast from my plate. I will leave to dress once the maid its back. Do not wear the autumn wheat dress."

She scowls at him, "I am going to wear the new blue one. If it pleases you, my lord. After you bring Arya home, we can travel north and find my little brothers."

"This is why I was reluctant to tell you about Arya. I do not want to hurt you if I fail, and now you have your hopes up about your brothers. 'North of the Wall' covers a lot of territory. I will send a raven to your bastard brother before I leave. The rangers can start looking for them while they are out." He realizes his already blue balls could freeze off up north before he ever gets to be buried up to them in his wife. Absolutely the wrong thing to think of with his good mother storming this way any minute.

"You will not fail. If you were to bring both of the daughters of Lord Eddard Stark home, we can openly be together and I can start giving you our seven sons and daughters, and we can fight over names."

Great, a distraction from his tightening, blue balls, "No fight there little bird, as long as none are Clegane names, or Jonquil or Florian, or fucking Galladon the Perfect Knight."

"Then I guess we will fight, but the making up can be very sweet, Shae told me."

Balls tightening again,"We need to explore these things Shae told you later. Your mother will be here shortly."

"You could kiss me before they come back. I will not be able to kiss you tomorrow before you leave." He is bending down to capture her lips in a kiss when he hears the solar door opening. With a groan he sits in his seat, unsatisfied.

The maid enters the bedroom after setting a food tray down in the solar, "Lady Stark will be here as soon as she can break away."

"Do you know what course they were on? I would like to make an appearance."

"I believe they were just finishing the third of seven courses."

"Would you help me dress for dinner, please Maery? I shall wear the royal blue gown and my hair in the northern style, since we have no time."

"Yes, Princess"

"I'll leave so that you can get dressed, Princess. I will be back in less than ten minutes. Be quick about it. Lock the door after I leave and only open it for me or family."

"Yes, my lord"-"Yes milord," are echoing at him. He strides out the room and waits to hear the door lock behind him before he speeds off to his room to grab his best clothes, which he did not pack for his upcoming 'hunting' trip, his wedding clothes. He quickly washes up and dresses in his good black leather pants, which he is once again reminded are a bit tighter than he would like from all the horseback riding, but the little bird likes him in them. He also puts on the new tunic she made for him. Once he is ready, he heads back to Sansa's room and knocks on the door.

"Yes?"

"It's Clegane." The maid opens the door. She looks him over as he enters the room. He stops short when he sees his little bird in the dress he gifted her, which became her wedding dress. Seven hells he wants to kick the girl out and ravish his beautiful wife. Well, that is not be an option for the time being. Sansa looks back at him with a shy smile, then there is a change in her face as her attention shifts. He has seen that look from her before, and it leads to nowhere good.

In her most princess-like manner, she coldly states, "You are dismissed Maery. Lord Clegane will escort me to the Great Hall. I would not be needing your services the rest of the night; and you may cancel your replacement. Thank you."

"But, Princess, your mother-

"Is not here right now. I am. Good night." She starts to walk toward the girl with eyes narrowed, which causes the girl to stop her protests and hasten her exit.

Maery has never been chastised while working at Riverrun. She does not know what she has done to the Princess. She was less than professional by gazing at the Infamous Lannister Hound's backside, in his gloriously tight leather pants. She has never witnessed a man built like the Warrior made flesh. She hopes the Princess does not tell Lady Stark. She does not want to get a reputation like some of the kitchen wenches and a few of the chambermaids. The Princess almost seemed the jealous wife. She will apologize when the Princess is calmer.

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"Are you well, what transpire that I missed?"

"You did not see that?", gesturing towards the door.

"I saw nothing but my beautiful wife in her wedding attire."

"She was watching you like a cat eyeing a mouse that was dipped in cream."

"You are the only woman that looks at me with desire.

"A hound never lies? What about Mallory? And she knew we were together."

"She's a loose woman. This meek maid was probably looking at the floor."

"Your arse is well above the floor."

"Your jealously is very enticing, but we must leave before your mother finds us here alone. But I do owe you something from earlier."

"An apology for-", he steps in and kisses her lovingly, just short of passionately.

"Let's get you fed, little bird." He escorts her to dinner. Used to wearing their King's Landing masks since joining her family to travel to Riverrun, they cease talking in case anyone is prowling the halls. When they get to the grand hall door, Sansa takes a deep breath and Sandor pulls the heavy door open for her before the guards can. She steps through with her head held high and her strides long and elegant. As she enters the room there is rolling wave of silence as she passes rows of tables to reach the dais. Her brother and mother look up from their food and conversations to see her below on the floor. She gives an extended curtsey and Sandor is behind her and to her left. He performs his own deep bow. The seat that would have been reserved for her between her mother and Robb has a man with pail gray eyes and sickly white skin. From her memories she knows this must be Lord Bolton in her seat of honor.

Sandor moves to offer his arm and assists her up to the stairs, to the empty seats above the salts. As she passes below the head table, her brother stands and offers his hand. He introduces her and Clegane to his wife Jeyne, who Sansa has not formally met after arriving late yesterday, and they all went straight to their separate rooms. Next they are introduced to Lord Bolton.

"It is a pleasure to see you Princess Sansa. I have not seen you since you were a little redheaded child."

"Yes, it has been quite a long time Lord Bolton. Have you met my protector from King's Landing, Lord Sandor Clegane?"

"No, I have not met the famous Sandor Clegane. Congratulation on the lordship." Sandor simply nods at him.

Not knowing whether or not Clegane will contradict Bolton on never having met, King Robb interposes himself by asking Sansa if she would be willing to make a statement to their bannermen, their guests. She agrees. King Robb stands and the room quiets, "I would like to thank you all in attendance today. I will keep this short. It has been a long and hard fought war, which we still wage. We have all lost family, friends, lords, lands; but today we have gained Princess Sansa, returned to one of her family seats. We thank Lord Clegane for bringing our Sansa safely and honorably home. I introduce you all to my beautiful sister, Princess Sansa Stark of Winterfell."

She bows her head to all sides of the room as they applaud. Once the noise dies down, she addresses the gathered diners. In her clear, unwavering voice. "I thank you for the warm welcome, and for being here to honor my home coming at this dinner. I am beyond glad to be with my family and in the north again. I am forever indebted to you for remembering me; for fighting for House Stark in the memory of my lord father. I am also forever indebted to Lord Sandor Clegane. He saved my life during a riot in the city. He not only protected me in the capital, but also in route from the south during wartime." She stops and applauds him and forces those gathered to applaud him also, due to her enthusiasm. Looking at him while she has a flashback to his well earned applause after his victory in the Tourney of the Hand. He just looks down on her and nods, then moves to an empty seat. "I will miss his protection when he leaves tomorrow. I will not delay your dinner any further. Please enjoy." Various shouts go out 'To Princess Sansa', 'The North will protect you'. She takes the seat next to Sandor.

The next course is brought out and everyone is looking over at the beautiful Princess, raising toasts in her direction and she can hear the 'Infamous Lannister Hound' intermixed with her name. She decides to start laying the groundwork for his acceptance in the north and by her side. She engages in a conversation with him to demonstrate her comfort with him. She keeps to water to maintain a clear head, and wine has not agreed with her stomach since before they left their 'home'.

"Lord Clegane, what are your plans for your departure?"

"I will leave in the late morning Princess Sansa, after you are examined."

"Will you guard me as before. I would appreciate that."

"How would that look to your family Princess?" By the time the previous course is cleaned and her favorite dessert is brought around, it is quit late and she is exhausted. The thought of lemon cake does not sit well with her stomach. She passes the dessert to Sandor. The kitchen maid sees that she has not touched her cake and sets down a bowl of assorted fruits for her. She eyes the grapes and then she eyes Sandor. He looks around and sees that they are not currently the center of attention as more wine is being brought in for the dessert course. She wants to leave before the dancing starts, and unmarried lords and knights start vying for her attention. She is a married woman, and besides, the energy from her nap has waned.

She grabs the kitchen maid's attention, "Could you let Lady Stark know that I am going to my room to rest. Thank you." The maid nods her head and walks to the head table while Sansa asks Sandor to escort her to her room. She grabs the napkin from her lap, and he notices she brings it with her. His walking behind her is a scene that played out hundreds of times in King's Landing, at the command of the bastard King, as Sansa thinks of him; but now it is her wish, to be escorted to her bedroom by her husband.

She glides out as if it is the most normal thing in the world to be guarded by the 'Infamous Lannister Hound'. She can feel eyes on her and the room grows to an unnatural hush. The King sees this and is about to send a Stark guard with them, but his mother stills him with, "Let us not draw more attention."

Sandor walks into Sansa's rooms ahead of her, in case someone had entered while she was gone. He would guard her until the feast is over and a replacement maid, or her mother shows up. She places the napkin on the table and asks him to sit at the dining table with her. The food the maid had brought earlier is now cold. Since, they missed the first few courses, he picks at the food.

"My lord, let me heat that up for you in the fireplace." She takes the stone plate and places on top of the wide mouth of the metal pot from the mantle kept for boiling water for tea and washing. She uses the poker to hang it from its handle from the hook in the fireplace. "While that is heating up, I have something I can feed you."

"Do you now?"

"Aye Clegane." She walks to him and delicately perches in his lap. She opens up the napkin on the table and she pops a grape between her lips.

"Sansa, someone could walk in any second. Get up."

She places the grape against his lips and uses her tongue to push it into his mouth. Her tongue continues its forward movement into his mouth, causing him to moan at the welcomed intrusion. He gives her arse a squeeze and pulls away from her lips to chew.

"You will be the death of me."

"My lord, I stand by my previous position, I am the life of you." She reaches for another grape and places it in his lips. She kisses him and takes the grape from his lips and chews it slowly then swallows. "One day I will give you strong sons and beautiful daughters." She nuzzles against his neck and washes herself in his scent, letting it flood her with the memories of their recent past. He holds her like this as long as he dares.

"Get my food woman." He gives her arse a final squeeze accompanied by a growl emanating from deep in his chest. Gods be damned he misses having her all to himself. He has to bring an end this mummer's farce as soon as he returns. "Be careful near that fire."

"You know I am well trained to do this, my love. I am a properly trained wife for my lord husband." As she brings the plate to the table the door swings open and Lady Stark walks in without knocking.

"Sansa, I meant to make it back sooner, but I was grabbed by every young lord, and a few old ones, asking after you." Sansa continues serving Sandor his reheated plate of food under her mother's heavy scrutiny. She is glad her mother was not even one minute earlier. She sits down to keep Sandor company while he eats and she shyly eats some of the grapes while Sandor starts to eat. "Lady Marge Mormont was inquiring about Lord Clegane for one of her daughters, as was The Great Jon." Sansa chocks on her grape. She holds her hands up to signal she does not need help, and works to clear her throat.

"Tell them he leaves tomorrow and is not available."

"Sansa I did tell them that, but he will be returning in a week or two. If he brings back our Arya, then at the least, we could certainly introduce him to eligible ladies in your brother's court."

"I thank you for your concern Lady Stark, but after I bring Arya back, I may have a new mission to complete before I can settle down and head to my lands."

"Where will they be, your lands that is?"

"On the border of the crownlands and the riverlands. The deed will be sent here once Ser Jaime makes it back to King's Landing. I shall find out the exact estate then."

"You will have many prospects for marriage amongst the ladies of the area. Your fierce reputation will serve you well in the near north."

"I doubt it, but it will be my own man. That is worth something."

"Well, thank you for watching over Sansa today. I will relieve you now. I will send a maid to your room to remove the plate once you are finished eating."

"Mother, he can just finish it here."

"It has been a stressful day for you. I need to get you back in bed. Your examination with the septa is before we break our fasts. So you should get to bed immediately. The expedition party will leave after that."

With that veiled threat of keeping him around long enough to see if he left Sansa a maid, he grabs his plate of food and Sansa's napkin full of grapes and takes his leave.

When he arrives in his room, someone has already lit the fireplace. He sets his plate down and eats as he thinks on how Sansa brazenly sat on his lap in the midst of her family's comings and goings. He muses about when and how she got so bold; how much he misses her and how after she is examined on the morrow, she can be his in truth once he gets back, whether he finds the wolf girl or not. Sansa is his wife, until death parts them. He looks down on the folded napkin and opens it revealing the grapes Sansa smuggled from her dessert, when he was not looking. He has to smile at her love of grapes.

He sets the empty plate outside his door for a maid to retrieve, and closes and locks the door before striping down to his small clothes. He folds his good clothes as his wife would expect of him and sets them in a spare chair. He grabs the grapes and heads to bed. Just as he settles under the covers there is a knock at his door. He sets the grapes down on the bed side table and stomps to the door yanking it open expecting it to be Lord Bolton with the reply letters. "What!"

A young red headed chambermaid winces at his greeting, "Lady Stark sent me to retrieve you plate milord." He nods down at the plate on the floor. "I can help with any other needs you might have, milord."

"Aye, there is something."

"Certainly milord." She starts to step into his room, but he puts his arm across the doorframe blocking her.

"Bring me a flagon of Dornish red. Just leave it at the door. Don't knock on my door again, unless the castle is burning." He slams the door in her face and bolts it. Exhaustion now hits him like a mace to the back. He gets back in bed, succumbing to a dreamless sleep.

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Sandor wakes with the first light of dawn. He wants to take a long hot bath before he heads out to sleep rough for days on end. He decides to go to the bathhouse to soak completely, and takes his clothes with him. He sees the two letters from Bolton were slid under his door as he retrieves the forgotten wine skin. He will see the King on his way to the baths and suggest that they make a show of searching his room, especially his bedside table, where he hides the letters.

When he gets back to his room and sees that all the drawers are open and he bags have been emptied and searched. He repacks his bags and double checks the room to confirm that only the letters are missing. Once that task is done, he sets about sharpening swords and daggers.

A maid brings him food to break his fast and leaves him a note from Sansa. He is not happy that his wife would be so careless, but she is young and trusting. Her mother and brother probably read this before it got to him.

"Lord Clegane,

Thank you for keeping me safe all these years. I would not be alive, nor would I have made it home safely without your care. I thank you, my family thanks you and the north is now indebted to you. Once you return from a successful mission, we will owe you a king's ransom and you may name your price, my 'lord'. I will see you off this morning with the rest of the royal family. Please accept our thank you in advance for retrieving our wolf Princess, and we look forward to your return.

Your Princess Sansa of House 'Stark' "

He has to laugh at her use of quotes. He knows her well enough that she is telling him to replace the words with my 'love' and "Clegane'. He takes the letter and wraps it in the embroidered handkerchief she gifted him during a long past ride in King's Landing. He places it back in the pouch on his belt that holds his flint and whet stone, things that also mean survival for him. Shortly after he finishes his meal there is a knock at the door. "Lord Clegane, the King request your presences." He opens the door and follows the guard to the King's solar. Lord Bolton is already seated before the King.

"Please have a seat Lord Clegane." The King nods his head toward the empty chair next to Bolton. Once Sandor is seated, "We searched your room while you were out this morning Lord Clegane. We found two letters that cause us great concern of your interactions here."

"Not my letters."

"Then whose are they."

"Who signed them?"

"No one, but they were in your room."

"You should ask the last person who was in the room before me." The King hands him the letters. "It's not my writing and they are not address to me. I am heading out in the next hour and need to ready for travel, if there is nothing else, Your Grace."

"Go." Sandor stands and bows then turns and leaves, knowing Lord Bolton is not long for this world. His wife is that much safer with him in a cell, with no chance for a second wedding to a Frey for her. He hopes that Sansa's exam by the septa is done by now. He decides to stop by her room to check on her, and take his last moments with his wife before he leaves to find her little sister. He arrives and knocks on the door. The maid opens it and he asks to see Princess Sansa. Instead her mother comes to the door.

"Laena, would you go get the maester quickly, please. Lord Clegane come in. Sansa is asking for you." He rushes past her and goes directly to Sansa, who he can hear sobbing in the bedroom. She sees him and jumps up from the bed and hugs him around the waist. He starts stroking her back as they rock back and forth, and he whispers calming words in her ear.

"Do you want me to delay my trip for your sister?"

"No. I will be fine. I just don't like being touched."

"I know. It's over. Get back in bed. I will sit with you until you fall asleep." He leads her to the bed and her mother appreciates his progress with getting her to stop crying. Lady Stark helps get her settled into bed and sits down in the same chair from yesterday. Sansa removes her arm from under the covers and holds her hand towards Sandor to take. He does so without a second thought of her mother watching. After a few minutes Sansa falls to sleep. There is a knock at the door. Lady Stark goes to let the maester in. When she gets back Sandor has released Sansa's hand and had placed it back under the covers. He is standing at the foot of the bed as if he is guarding her, to save her from the court gossip of them being overly familiar. Catelyn looks at him and gives him a slight smile. He gives her a discrete nod.

"Thank you for coming Maester. Sansa was very upset after her examination from the septa. She has since calmed down and fallen asleep."

"Was she upset by the results?"

"No, all was as it should be, but the process itself was quite trying for her. She was having trouble catching her breath and came close to passing out again."

"Do you want me to examine her while she sleeps or come back after she wakes."

Sandor interjects, "After being beaten and attacked in the capital, she does not like to be touched."

The maester adds, "I can wake her and give her something to make her sleep through the day."

Lady Stark looks to Sandor. He shakes his had 'no'. So lady Stark tells the maester, "Since she is already sleeping peacefully, let us let her be."

"I can come back with a dram to keep her calm when she wakes." Lady Stark once again looks to Sandor for guidance. He chimes in.

"She will be fine as long as she is not touched again and allowed to rest peacefully. She is still tired from the stress of travels through warring lands, and the news of her brothers and sister. Let her sleep naturally. Don't make her dependent on potions and notions. My Lady, would you bid the Princess my wishes for her good health, in case I do not see her before I leave?

"Certainly Lord Clegane. I will at the least be sure to see you and the others off in the yard. Send a guard for me before you depart."

"Aye." He leaves his good mother and the maester to look over his wife while he goes to finalize his preparations and meet his men. It is what the little bird wants, for him to find her nest mates.

He heads to the rookery to send a raven to Sansa's crow brother Jon Snow;

"I have returned your sister Sansa to Riverrun in exchange for the Kingslayer. She has visions your little brothers are alive and are traveling north of the wall. Find them. I am now in search of Arya on good information.

Lord Sandor Clegane"

As is his habit, he watches the raven leave through the window. His adult life spent in courts has taught him some things.

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He waits in his room to be summoned to leave. He is anxious to get going, but worried about leaving his wife's side. No one knows she is with child, including her. He cannot tell her, and then leave her with that weight on her shoulders without his support. He tempers his worry with the reality that every eye is on her and the maester is in easy reach. He will simply hurry back to her.

He is finally summoned to the yard, which means the rest of the castle is being kept busy in other areas. People still think he is escorting the Kingslayer back to King's landing. He is introduced by the master-at-arms to the Stark men and Lady Dacey Mormont, who will be accompanying him to give the princess in female escort. He goes to the stables with his supplies to outfit and pack Stranger. When he returns to the yard with Strange, the King and Lady Stark are there with Princess Sansa. Gods, he wants to grab her and take her with him. They have been around each other everyday for years. The King gives him final instructions and funds. He reminds his people that for this mission Lord Clegane is in charge of the search efforts and will give them full details once they are away from Riverrun.

Lady Stark walks toward Lord Clegane and hands him two letters. He thinks these northerners must have too much time on their hands for all this writing. "Lord Clegane, when you find Arya, give her the top letter. The second letter is for you. Please read it later." He nods and she squeezes his hand. He finds it an odd gesture for a woman as stoic as Lady Stark. She steps aside and Sansa comes forward. He reaches into his bag and grabs a small package to hand to her.

"Your soap ended up in my bag. I wanted to make sure I got it back to you before I depart. No, floral soap for your, Princess." He hands her the soap and she reaches for it and lingers with their hands joined with the soap between them.

Sansa curtsies a 'thank you', purposely loses her balance knowing he will catch her and steady her. She whispers, 'I will miss you, my love' for his ears only. As other people approach them, she tells everyone she is fine. Her heel got caught on the hem of her dress. It's a good thing that a bad liar among honest people is believable.

Her mother approaches, "Sansa, we should get you back in bed." Sansa nods her agreement. With that, Sandor walks away from his wife and The Hound mounts Stranger. It is The Hound who is expected to lead these wolves on this mission. He speeds off towards the castle gates, quickly outpacing the others on their much smaller horses. He pulls up short and Stranger rears up with a thunderous roar and front legs dance against the air. Stanger lands with a small quaking of the ground and a cloud of earth kicked up. Upon Strange landing, he immediately takes off again at a cantor, the others on his tail; let the hunt begin.

Chapter Text

Sansa heads straight to her room as soon as Sandor it out of sight. Actually she had stared at the space he had just vacated for a few minutes, until she is broken from her stupor by people talking to her. She has to ask them to repeat themselves. It is like she is listening to someone while you are underwater. She blinks several times to clear her vision, for she refuses to cry anymore today. She knows Sandor bringing her sister back will allow them to live openly as Lord and Lady Clegane. She nods to whatever it is they are saying and lets them lead her back to her room. The first thing she does is strip her bed and neatly folds the sheets and pillow cover as small as she can. She tucks them all under her cloak and heads out to find Sandor's guest room. She could kick herself for not finding out where his room was before he left?

She is not familiar with the layout of the estate and heads towards the only part she knows, the great hall. Sansa is sure she will find a chambermaid that can direct her. Instead she finds her way to the kitchen by the wonderful smell of baked bread. A kitchen maid sees her and curtsies to her. Sansa tells her she needs a food tray to be brought to Lord Clegane's room. Of course she requests pickled vegetables. She smiles at her own ingenuity as she follows a maid who takes the food to the room. "You may just leave it on the table. Thank you." She walks out after the maid and walks the other way. After the maid turns the corner, Sansa doubles back and enters his room and bolts the door.

She drops the sheets on the bedside table and strips Sandor's used sheets, folds them and places them on top of his clothes in a chair. She quickly makes his bed with her sheets. Once she has put his bed back to right, she eats the food from the tray, since she slept through the morning meal. She unbolts the door and sits the empty tray outside the door. She grabs the sheets and his tunic and tucks them under her cloak and heads out into the empty hall, closing the door behind her.

She gets turned around trying to find her room and ends up in another wing of the guest area. She hears footsteps and looks for a place to hid. Nothing. She starts to turn and walk the way she came. Before she can get to the turn in the hall, a voice calls her name from behind her, "Princess Sansa, are you lost?"

She turns to the voice and is greeted by the sickly visage of Lord Bolton. "Lord Bolton! Yes, a little lost. I was trying to find my room again after checking on a guest room.

"Lord Clegane's? What would your mother, your brother for that matter, say to you being in his room?"

"Nothing, I am sure. He left in the last hour. I was checking to see if the room was properly secured. Please, pardon me my lord, as I continue to explore my family's estate."

"Let me escort you back to the family wing."

"Oh, I do not want to put you out. If you would just point me in the right direction, it would be greatly appreciate."

"I can certainly be put out for my King's sister." He offers his arm, giving her no choice. She holds the cloth bundles under her cloak tighter against her body and accepts his arm with the other hand. He takes her on an unfamiliar winding path back to the family wing of the estate. She feels the hairs on the back of her neck stand up, and she knows their must be a more direct path.

"I am surprised that you found the way to the Lannister Hound's room, yet cannot find your own."

"I was accompanied by a maid, because I did not know where his room was. She left while I checked that the room was in order. What makes you think that I don't know my way to my room?"

"You looked lost when I found you."

"I want to help run the household while we are here. I need to learn where things are, so I was exploring the keep like I used to do in the Red Keep. Thank you very much Lord Bolton for your assistance. I will be fine from here." She removes her hand from Bolton's arm and quickly distances herself from him, before he can protest. After a few false turns, since Bolton had taken her further away from her room, instead of closer, she finally makes it back.

The first thing she does after bolting the door is remake her bed with Sandor's used sheets. Then she hides his tunic with his/her/their white cloak. After sitting for a few minutes to calm down from her odd encounter with Lord Bolton and her fear of discovery, she sets out to find her mother. She locates her in short order, so she can shadow her for the day.

"Sansa, I appreciate your help, but I would prefer you to rest."

"Mother, I am well rested. I need something to do while Sandor is gone-looking for Arya I mean. I have faith in the old gods and new that he will find her and bring her home."

Cat give her a wistful look and a sigh, "Certainly, in that case, help me plan for tomorrow's meals by visiting the food stores. Why all the interest in this drudgery?" as they head off towards the kitchen.

"I will leave to set up my own home one day soon, and I want to know how to run a proper estate. I did practice in the house we hid in. I ran the small house staff and learned how to cook. Sandor feels that ladies should know how to cook."

Her mother give her a critical eye, "And just what did Clegane do while you run this house?"

"He ran the grounds, and hunted and butchered venison, tended our horses, chopped firewood, picked up provisions from town."

They spent half an hour looking at the perishables that had to be used soon, and discussed how they could include the selected supplies in meals and instruct the cooks on the preparations. Sansa gave her suggestions based on the dishes she had learned to cook. They then head off to speak to the castellan about the rooms available in the family wing. One more must be prepared for Arya, and Sansa requests that Sandor's room is locked. When they leave she asks her mother how long Lord Bolton will be with them.

"Now that the feast is done, he will be leaving anytime now. Why?

"I find him off putting."

"We all do, but you only just saw him the once at dinner, correct?"

"I ran into him before I found you. He claimed that since I was lost, he would lead me back to the family wing. Instead, he lead me further away, so I excused myself and got away from him."

"I will have your brother talk to him."

"Thank you."

"If, Clegane does bring him back Arya, he will expect a bigger reward than we even owe him now," Catelyn introduces the subject.

"We should give him whatever he asks. He did what no other could or would," Sansa gives her mother a guilt inducing side-eye.

"He may ask for more lands or even be bold enough to ask to marry above his station."

"He is the greatest warrior in the lands. I would think that transcends stations during war."

"You seem to always champion his cause Sansa. What is it I need to know?"

"He makes me feel safe."

"Your brother can keep you safe."

"The last two years begs to differ. Sandor protected me when his duty to the King required otherwise. I love him."

"What? Has he taken liberties with you."

"No, mother, but he loves me too. You have to allow us to stay together. I need him. I will die without him."

"You absolutely will not die without him. Your brother is more than capable of keeping you safe, now that you are with us."

"If Sandor brings Arya back and asks to marry, you cannot refuse him. The gods will be angry." She uses guilt against her mother, and feels no guilt for doing so. "Perhaps the gods will be angry if we do not properly reward him for his service to our family. We should grant him anything reasonable he request, including allowing him marry, to marry me."

"Impossible."

"The fact that I am here now shows nothing is impossible. I need to take a nap. It has been a long morning," Sansa speeds off before her mother could respond. She bolts her doors and struggles to remove her dress. Wrestling her shoulders and arm out of the partially loosened dress felt like a job. Her breasts are tender from squeezing them out through the neckline. She thinks the her moon blood may start soon. It was blessedly missing since she started traveling with Sandor. She would prefer that it come while Sandor is gone. He should not be exposed to such. As least not while they were still so new to intimacies.

She strips off her shift and puts on Sandor's tunic to sleep in and climbs into his sheets. She is lulled into a peaceful sleep surrounded by him. She dreams of a small babe with black hair and grey eyes, a gummy smile at her over Sandor's shoulder. When she wakes, it is with the complete feeling of bliss. Her hand resting on he belly. Memories of a chubby faced babe receding from her as wakefulness takes over. She settles her face into her pillow and takes in her husband's sent. It sends a tingle through her body and her nipples harden and rub against the butter soft fabric of his tunic as she stretches and takes deep breaths. She emits a little sigh, at the memories the feeling brings her. She misses Sandor. The strength of him, the warmth of him, the hardness and safety of him.

She realizes nothing will take the place of him, so she gets out of bed to get her bearings. She dresses and gets back to the work of learning to turn a large estate. She makes her own bed to hide the tunic within, and keep the chambermaid from taking her/his/their sheets.

She decided to watch how the kitchen runs in dinner preparations. It seems like a good place to avoid another fight with her mother. She walks almost unnoticed in the buzz of activity of he kitchen and sits in a corner watching how a castle sized kitchen runs. She does not know what estate is being granted to Sandor, but she will be prepared to run it, and have his favorite foods prepared. She gets distracted by the rumbling of her empty stomach. She slept through lunch after eating Sandor's lunch to make up for her missed first meal. Every fiber of her being screamed exhaustion over hunger then. Now the smells in the kitchen wake her appetite. She smells baked bread and follows her nose to a walk-in food pantry, holding the completed parts for the dinner. She grabs a small loaf of bread and dips it into the butter, since she has no knife. It is so good and crusty on the outside and fluffy on the inside, that it tastes like two more. She moves onto the beef that is resting before being cut. She needs a knife but only finds a clean fork, unless she can just, success... she rolls it on its side and pulls a hunk from the bottom that no one will see.

She then moves onto the stores of pickled vegetables, and takes a jug down to take back to her rooms until dinner is completely ready. Her energy and desire for helping prepare the meal is gone to dust. Her bed once again are calling her name. She takes the jug and fork with her as she glides out of the kitchen, unnoticed in the busy dinner rush preparation.

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Sansa again falls fast asleep in Sansor's tunic after she finished the entire jug of picked and deliciously salted vegetables, and also drinking the brining juice there after. She is dead to the known world and thrown into a dance with wood fairies, swimming fish, barking dogs and howling wolves. She slides into a dream of Sandor holding her in bed. His body curved around her back, his hand cupping her breast, his hot manhood pressed between her thighs. He fades into the recesses of her mind as she wakes with a knock at her door. She is not sure how long she has slept, but a chambermaid arrives to help Sansa dress for dinner, which is perfect since she is starving again. The food she ate did not completely satisfied her hunger. Her dream now leaves her hungry for Sandor. She takes off Sandor's tunic and hides it before quickly puts on her shift before she lets the maid in.

Her brother escorts her to dinner and cautions her on her feelings towards Lord Clegane. "He will still be a Lannister man, and is still the brother of the Terror of the Riverlands, and is vicious in his own right. You could not possibly love him. You are still so young and are simply being thankful he kept her safe. You feel indebted to him, but like the Lannisters, the Starks will pay their debts."

"Robb, you cannot offer him gold. He has more gold than most. More even than the Starks from the whispers in court. He will be insulted at that offer. An insult is poor payment on a debt."

"We can try to form an alliance with him and another northern house. Lord Umber and Lady Mormont have made inquiries about this."

"You will do no such thing."

"What, you cannot order me?"

"Because you are my king."

"Because I am your older brother, and head of your house."

Sansa tries to tamp down her jealousy before she speaks out of turn again. "Clegane has never taken vows with the Lannister, because he holds vows sacred. He will honor his marriage vows. He will be loyal to the house to which his wife belongs. In addition to being wealthy, he will be a lord and is soon to be landed."

Robb stops walking and turns to Sansa, "This is true."

"He will die for you, but never lie to you."

"Then if all of this is true, a marriage alliance may be possible..." Sansa launches herself at her kingly brother with a shocked 'umph' from him from the sudden impact and embrace. The kingsguard all turn their backs and take a step away to give them a little privacy. He hugs Sansa in return, but adds, "...for another northern lady, not my little sister."

Sansa pulls away from her brother and proceeds to walk past the guards and swiftly walks ahead to the great hall alone. She rounds a corner just before the hall and bumps into a young man.

"You must be the Princess Sansa. May I escort you to dinner?" Seeing this as an acceptable way to distance herself from her brother, she accepts the offered arm. "May I join you at your table Princess?"

"Certainly, are you permitted to sit above the salts?"

"Yes, I believe so. My father is one of our King's bannermen."

"Let us take our seats, my lord. There is something familiar about your eyes. Have we met previously?"

"Perhaps it was my father you met. Please call me Ramsey, Princess."

"I have not heard your name before. I cannot address you so informally. May I ask your family name?"

"Lord Bolton is my father, but Snow is my name. For now."

"I met your father last night at dinner." Sansa could kick herself for tying herself to Lord Bolton's bastard for the evening. One Bolton was bad enough, but at least he is not the lord himself. She can show her brother Sandor is a good choice in comparison, as he helplessly watches on.

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Sansa carries herself off as engaged and inviting, flirty and shy. Quite a mummer's farce for a bastard of Bolton. She is giving King Robb Stark, First of His Name, King of Winter and the King of the North quite a show of options he would consider worse than Sandor. Her husband is true born and wealthy and soon is a landed lord. He is the best warrior in Westeros and he is already hers, as she is his. She looks back at her mother and brother at the high table. They do not look happy in the least. Good, her point is made. As they finish their meals, Sansa bids her thank you to Ramsey Snow for joining her for dinner and she tries make a hasty exit. She finds the way he looks at her with those dead eyes, that match his father's, quite unsettling. She heads back to her room, but is grabbed my the arm and turns to face her accoster.

"Your Grace?"

"Sansa, let me accompany you to your rooms."

"Thank you Your Grace." They arrive at her door and he walks in with her and closes the door and leaves his guards on the outside.

"Sansa what are you doing."

"Nothing Your Grace," a placid false smile gracing her innocent looking face.

"Is this the wall you put up in the capital, the façade you wore? Talk to me like your older brother, not your king.

"Fine. What are we talking about-Robb?"

"What were you trying to accomplish at dinner?"

"Getting to know your bannermen."

"Do me and our mother a favor and stay away from the Boltons and the Freys."

"What is it I do not know?"

"Lord Bolton wants me to legitimize his bastard to make him more acceptable as a marriage option for you. You sitting with him instead of your family gave them false hope."

"I am sorry. I did not know."

"We had Ramsey for dinner and he gave mother chills and made Jeyne nauseous. There is something off about him. He showed up unexpectedly today; and now I have a new problem to deal with."

"Sandor Clegane is a lord and is trueborn. No one would ever hurt me again if I am his wife. That means the world to me. I will stay in my room until Sandor gets back with Arya."

"I am capable of keeping you safe, Sansa."

"As you say your grace."

"Please, don't start with the court mask again. Sansa, trust me. Let me in." She looks and him and decides to test him. Really test him.

"If Sandor Clegane brings back Arya, you will allow me to accept his cloak of protection."

"Why him?"

"I need him to feel safe," She releases a heavy sigh. "I-I love him."

"What is this?"

"The truth. I do not think I can survive without him, and if I could, I do not want to try."

"What kind of hold does he have on you. Did he trap you in some magic?"

"Yes."

"What is it?

"He gives without expecting anything in return. He stood between me and King Joffrey to keep me safe. When Joffrey made me look at father's head on a pike, I almost pushed Joff off the battlement, and I would have gone over with him. Sandor stopped me and covered my attempted regicide up with tending to my cut lip."

Robb falls hard into the nearest seat. "I owe you much Sansa, but you ask for the impossible."

"It is only impossible if you make it so."

"Let me talk with mother. She has the final say."

Tears are freely running down her face, "Thank you Robb. It means everything to me."

He looks at her through exhausted eyes and gives her a week smile. "Wash your face and go to sleep. You look as tired as I feel."

"I will and thank you."

"Lock the door behind me. I will leave a guard outside your door." He stands and leaves, closing the door behind him. Once he hears the lock engage, he heads to his mother's rooms.

Chapter Text

Rocking the Boat

Ser Jaime is beyond relieved to finally be free from the wolves and en route home to his Queen, his sister, his love. It took them six days of hard riding to reach the port near Harrenhal. The first ship heading to the capital only had one open room. He refused to wait three days for a boat where they could reserve a second room. Something could go wrong and he would be stuck in the North with its fucking winter coming.

"My lady, if you are not willing to share a room, you may stay behind. I am going home."

"I have promised Lady Stark to deliver you safely to the capital. I will see that the trade is properly completed."

"Then get used to my naked hairy arse, wench."

"Hairy, really?"

"Fine blond peach fuzz."

"I may never be able to enjoy a peach again."

"I can turn you off eggs, too."

"You are impossible."

"I am about to be naked and get comfortable in my bed. You may have changed feelings about sausages too.”

"I am going below deck. I shall sleep with the horses."

"Well, then you shall get a vision of what you are missing."

"Seven hells. How long is this boat trip?" She grabs her bedroll and furs and heads out the door.

"Wait, Lady Brienne of Tarth. Don't sleep with the livestock. In short order you will smell like I did, after being a prisoner for a year. I promise to keep my small clothes on while I sleep and only get naked after sufficient warning for you to safely leave the room."

She closes the door and asks him, "How bad did you smell?"

"Like the Stranger himself and lingering fried onions. Then my sense of smell quit. I am just getting it back, but I imagine you smell like fall."

"What does fall smell like Ser Jaime?"

"Brisk and crisp and clean. Nothing hot and sticky about you, my lady."

She eyes him suspiciously, "I will stay and sleep on the other side of the room, on my bedroll."

"I will not even be offended if you sleep without small clothes. You may even share my bed, but after a year of sleeping rough, I cannot give it to you outright."

"I will be fine on the bedroll, but thank you, ser. The bed is yours."

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A Thorn in the Lion's Paws

"Father, you summoned me here like I am a servant."

"No. Servants follow my orders. My children do not."

"I am your daughter and your queen."

"Queen regent. Sit." Cersei displays a sour look, but sits none the less. "I received a letter from Lord Bolton that you contacted him. You signed your name and affixed your royal seal to the outside."

"What of it?"

"He received the letter while amongst the so called 'King in the North' and his men. You exposed him and the Freys to discovery as turncloaks. We run the risk of my plans being ruined, if we lose their cooperation. You got nothing for all the risks you took with my people."

"They are all my people. I am the queen."

"Then you handle the war your son started, and I will take my troops back to Casterly Rock. Send a raven when you have a winning plan and need my forces. Here is the Hand's necklace. Give it back to Tyrion." Lord Tywin drops the necklace on the desk, grabs a few personal items and walks out.

"Don't walk out on me. I am your queen." He continues his march out of his former solar, not missing a stride. He leaves the door gaping open and his daughter's lips sealed in a tight straight line. After seething for a few minutes, she leaves the Tower of the Hand and heads to the maester's rooms.

She arrives to find the Mountain has moved. "Qyburn, where is Ser Gregor? I need him."

"He is healed enough to move back to his room.”

“Send him to me. I have work for him.”

“Yes my Queen, but he is still not of a mind to be completely cooperative and his strength has not fully returned.”

“What of his mind?”

“That is much improved. He has stopped talking about his brother and Lady Sansa. Actually, he has stopped talking unless prompted.”

“Does this concern you?”

“I do not know what is normal for him. His younger brother is not very talkative from what I hear from others.”

“Send him to me.”

Several hours later Qyburn arrives at the Queen's rooms alone, eyes downcast. “No one has located Ser Gregor. His room has been cleared of his things. His horse is gone and his men have all left the Keep.”

“What! How is this possible?”

“He was not under any orders to stay. It’s possible he has returned home to the Westerlands.”

“No. Ser Gregor is most likely headed toward the Riverlands to intercept his brother. My beloved brother will be in between those two, and one of them cannot be controlled.”

“Sorry, Your Grace. I was never able to make Ser Gregor more susceptible to following directions, past his own willingness to do so. Mayhaps your father can tell us how he keeps Ser Gregor reined in.”

“My father is no longer here, but I already asked. He does not rein him in. There is no reining him in. He sends him out away from allies as best he can and lets him do his worst.”

“Perhaps Ser Gregor rode out with Lord Hand Tywin.”

“Have a raven sent to the best inns on the Gold Road between here and Lannisport. I want to know where they both are.”

Three day later a raven arrives from her father, ‘Headed home to Casterly Rock with my troops. Not in the company of Ser Gregor Clegane. When he is healed, send him back to the Westerlands, where he belongs.’

“Your Grace, I will send a message to Harrenhal for your brother and Sandor Clegane, warning them that the Mountain may be moving on them.”

“Do that. I want both Cleganes returned to the capital. I have to undo what my father has done.”

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The Mountain that Rides, But Not Very Fast

Ser Gregor was never so happy to not be flat on his back, but riding on his horse is another matter entirely. His scars have healed, but the thinned skin is tender, itchy, flaking, and peeling. He can only ride a couple of hours before he must rest and take the pressure off his arse. He sends his men ahead to keep an eye out for his brother heading toward the capital with Ser Jaime fucking Lannister. Gregor needs to travel more slowly. He wears only his lighter boiled leather armor, because the heavy armor further chafes his hide.

He instructs his men to escort Ser Jaime into the capital and hold his little brother until he can get there, if they find them. Now one is to harm them or the girl, or they will have answer to him, and he would have to answer to the Queen. The answer in both cases is a slow, painful, certain death.

He looks at the time of day and the irritation of his skin and decides to spend the night at Hayford Castle. He asks for the castellan and is greeted by an Eddison Selmy.

"Ser Gregor Clegane, it is an honor to meet you. I will show you to a guest room, and you may stay as long as you need."

"I need to see your maester."

"Certainly. I will show you to your room and send the maester to you."

"My horse, have someone see to my horse?"

"I trust he is not as unruly as your brother's horse. He had to tend to his courser himself. The staff were afraid of him, and the horse," the jape falls on deaf ears.

"My brother was here recently?"

"No, he was near Tumbleton when I encountered him and his wife."

"His wife?"

"Yes, a very tall, very beautiful brunette. Skin like cream it was. A very good cook too. I brought the cook here to teach my wife and our cooks some of her recipes and methods. Your brother's wife became a wonderful cook under her tutelage."

"You sure it was not a redhead with him?"

"My first mind told me she favored the King's betrothed. Yet her hair, eyebrows and eyelashes were all black, so I think she was black of hair."

"What of the hair on her arms?"

"I did not notice it. I am sure the sleeves covered her. Besides looking too admiringly at your brother's wife would not have been wise. The staff did say they were quite taken with each other. You Cleganes don't have a reputation for brooking trespasses."

"Did he say where they were going?"

"Not to me, and they left sooner than he said they would, without much notice."

They finally arrive at the guest room. "I have given you the one with our largest bed. The men will be up with your saddlebags and the maester will be here shortly. Is there anything else I can get you?"

"The kitchen maid who saw my brother."

"She is busy for two more hours overseeing dinner for the castle. I can send her up once the maester is through with you and you are settled. Would you like us to send up a bath?"

"Yes, cool water only and a jug of boiled red wine."

"Immediately, Ser." Selmy leaves the large warrior and finally starts to breath normally. In his job he has hosted all types, but the Clegane brothers are the two most intimidating men he has ever entertained. Their sharp gray eyes make him feel like prey on the wrong end of a crossbow. Selmy speeds away to find the maester and order enough cool water for their largest tub, and boiled wine. He has a newfound respect for his cousin Barristan the Bold for commanding the respect of these ruffians. May the Father, Smith and Warrior give him strength to survive this second stay with a Clegane.

The maester arrives before the bath water to look Gregor over and he then retrieves some elixirs to add to the bath and balms to apply to his skin to keep it soft. He gives him drams of milk of the poppy and sweetsleep to keep his pain at bay and let him sleep without thrashing about and harming his thin new skin. One of the balms is the rendered fat of executed men. It seems to provide the most relief for Ser Gregor. The maester has a seamstress come to measure the giant for a thin layer of cotton small clothes cut on the diagonal grain to hug against his skin and prevent chaffing from his outer clothing. He instructs her to place the seams on the outside to keep them away from his skin and make sure the fit is snug and add extra layers of padding in the seat for added comfort during horseback riding. She lets them know she will need three days to make three sets of small clothes.

After his bath he stretches out his sore, tired body, flexing his muscles and bending all lower joints to keep the flexibility he as recovered. While he is waiting for his tailoring to be completed, he will continue his training in the yard. As he is finishing there is a knock at the door. He snatches it open and sees an older kitchen wench.

"Ser Gregor. Lord Selmy informed me you wanted to see me before dinner."

"Yes." He steps aside without wasting more words, a silent command for her to come into his domain. She swallows down her discomfort and steps into the room.

"Selmy says you took care of my brother and his wife."

"I did, ser. A lovely young lady she was. I turned her into a right proper cook and helped her run the house."

"I last saw my brother right before I took his post at the Battle of Blackwater. He had no wife."

"If the chambermaid's accounts were correct, they were newly wedded and regularly bedded. The foolish maid even made the mistake of offering herself to your brother."

"Did he fuck her bloody?"

"Certainly not, Ser. He threatened to kill her if she gave his wife reason for concern again. I had to switch the girl's schedule to keep her away from his disapproval. Ser, do you prefer to eat in the hall, or have us bring your meal to your room?"

"Send it up with a redheaded kitchen wench." With no further words to spare, they were awkwardly done, and she curtsies and makes a hasty retreat. She will send a maid up with food, but she has no redheads. She has endured enough stress for the day, and her shift has ended. She has earned a strong drink and some lemon cake.

The next morning Gregor wakes early and heads to the training yard. After being idle for so long, he needs to get back in full fighting form. You never know who you may run across; who you will have to kill to get to your next wife. He actually laughs for the first time in a long time at that thought. He finally gets to the field and finds some unwilling victims to spar against. He is careful to draw no blood, since he wants to spar again while here. He takes another cool bath after and laves his skin with the ointments the maester gave him.

Gregor decides to break his fast in the great hall. Always the best place to get news, and he has been out of circulation for more than two moons. He examines the tables to decide where to sit. He decides a table with a load of gossiping women would serve better than listening to men talk about the Blackwater. He lived it once and that was once too much.

"Ser Gregor, may I prepare a plate for you?" one of the women asks.

"Yes."

"Certainly, Ser. Will your wife be joining us?"

"Let's hope not. She's been dead this past year."

"Sorry, Ser."

"Keep your sorries. You didn't kill her." They all go back to eating. The women start to talk about news of the day, which is why he is sitting with these court hens in the first place. He hears the Kingslayer is being returned to the capital. This means his brother did return the girl intact. Then who is this new black of hair wife and where was he hiding the Stark girl? Fuck if he knows. "Any news of my brother?"

"The Hound, Ser? No. Just the Kingslayer. He was seen with a tall woman near Harrenhal, but no word on them since. We did get a raven from the Queen that when we see her brother, or the Hound, we are to send her word immediately."

With that, Gregor decides to stay put until he has more news and a direction to go. Mayhaps he finds where his brother's lands will be and takes them first. He is the older brother after all. He should be made a lord first.

Chapter Text

After several days of picking up and losing trails, they finally have a fresh lead. The Hound and the Stark troops come across the tracks of a group of ten on the forest floor. They follow the trail until they encounter the small band at a distance. He halts the men silently, with a raised right fist. He proceeds forward, leaving Stranger behind, but away from his group to keep the other horses at peace. There is a group of men making camp for the night. He observes them for a while from his hidden vantage point, to see if they are who he has been chasing for four days. He stands like a stone sentinel against the darkening forest near Lord Lychester's Keep. He finally sees a small boy, dressed as a squire. This boy, looks like the Arry the Mountain laughed about. It is definitely Arya. She has his hair and eyes, or rather those of Lord Hand Eddard Stark. At this distance he can see his 'son' is sitting with a boy he's seen before. The boy is from King's Landing, what if he goes back to the Crownlands and tells the story of The Lannister Hound riding with Stark men. He had better kill the boy, if he sees too much.

A little over an hour later the Brotherhood's men, and Arya settle down to sleep. It looks like the boy from King's Landing gets the first watch, over the sleeping men from his higher vantage point. Once it is completely dark, Arya suddenly gets up and is headed into the forest towards Sandor. She must be tending to nature's business, away from prying eyes. It will be a good time to take her quietly. She is angled to walk right past him, by a gap in the trees.

As Arya walks past he puts his hands over her mouth and plucks her from the ground. She starts twisting and kicking. It is like he is wrestling a shadow cat. "Stop kicking girl, before I drop you", he rasps in his attempt at a whisper. She freezes. He uses that moment to move towards the men. She starts fighting against him again. "Recognize the voice wolf girl. Stop kicking. I'm taking you to your family at Riverrun. See these soldiers down there?" She nods. "They are Stark bannermen. If I take my hand down and you scream, I will have to knock you out and roll you in my bedroll. Then we will have to kill all your friends. Do you understand?" She nods in agreement. "Do not test me Princess Arya?" He stops in front of the Stark troops and sets her feet upon the forest loam. He lowers his hand and she turn around to face him with an unspoken question. "Your brother is King of the North. That makes you a princess. We are headed to Riverrun."

"Why are you with my brother's men?"

"I will owe a debt to your family. Let's fall back to the horses."

"No! We can't. They'll kill Gendry for letting me get away. He has to come with us."

"Gendry? I know that name. Is he a smith?

"How do you know him?"

"Agree to go to the horses with Dacey Mormont and I'll retrieve him and tell you what I know?" She looks at him with narrowed eyes, assessing whether or not she will cooperate. "Or, we can just leave him here to his own fate. Whichever you choose wolf girl, you are coming with us." She gives him a huff and walks to the sole woman there. Sandor turns to Dacey, "Let me use your battle axe."

Arya turns in shock and loudly whispers, "No, don't hurt him!"

"Quiet girl, I am going to use the flat of the axe. Go. Mormont keep her with the horses until I return. Everyone else, stay here in case he alerts his men." He moves quietly forward, to where he saw the boy sitting guard. He finds the boy sitting on a rock looking over the camp below. Sandor circles around behind Gendry. Before the boy even knows what is happening, he is knocked unconscious. Sandor puts the axe in his sword belt and hoists the boy over his shoulder and carries him like a sack of potatoes, very heavy potatoes.

By the time he makes it to the horses, he has sweat pouring down the groove of his back. The men take the boy from him. They approach their horses and Sandor returns Dacey's axe to her. "Happy wolf girl. Now what I know about the boy is that he is one of King Robert’s bastards."

"No. Are you sure?"

"Aye, Queen Cersei wants him dead. Let's get back to Riverrun, before her gold cloaks turn up. If your friends back there knew who they had between the two of you, they would have ransomed you both back to the Queen."

"Well, it's a good thing they thought I was a boy. They sold off Hot Pie off to an inn as a cook. Only Gendry knew I am a girl."

Sandor scowls towards the unconscious boy, "Oh did he now. And how is that?" in a low and menacing tone.

"I told him when we traveled with the crow, Yoren. Gold cloaks showed up and I thought they wanted me. They were looking for him, but they didn't know what he looks like."

"He looks like his dead father and uncle. Well, let's get some distance. Put the boy on my horse." He holds Stranger steady while they put Gendry in the saddle. He climbs up behind him and secures the boy to himself with ropes around their waists. "Can your ride well girl?"

"Yes, of course."

"You can ride Maiden by yourself. Stay in the middle of the group. I'll be right behind you with your friend, until he wakes. Then you switch."

"I don't want to ride with you."

"We're short a horse. You wanted us to bring him along. He can't walk to Riverrun from here. Move." The Stark soldiers head out first then Arya joins in the middle, with The Hound bringing up the rear. They hear men starting to shout in the background, but with their head start and the Brotherhood short on horses, they have no chance of saddling up and catching them in the dark.

The group rides for over three hours before they take a break. Sandor pulls the boy down from his horse and lays him on the grass. Arya shakes Gendry to try wake him. She looks up at Sandor, "How hard did you hit him, Hound?"

"Hard enough to do the job. Ask one of the men for their water skin." Sandor takes the borrowed skin from her and opens it. He begins pouring it over the boy’s face. He starts to sputter and turns his head away, then his eyes blink open and he bolts upright gasping. He sees Arya standing next to the famous Lannister Hound, and thinks the gold cloaks have finally caught them. He tries to stand, but falls back down. Sandor walks away and allows Arya to explain Gendry's fate to him, as he leads Stranger to water and to refill the water skin.

Arya reassures Gendry that the men are sent by her kingly brother and that they are safe. She tells him what The Hound said about why the gold cloaks were searching for him and where they are headed. He sits with his head in his hands, until he turns away to lose his stomach.

Arya grunts out a "Seven hells!" She finds a water skin to give him. Gendry rinses out his mouth and finally get to his feet and stumbles to the tree line to make water. Once he is done he slowly walks over toward the sound of running water. While his is washing up to clear his head, the Lannister Hound approaches him. He hands him a piece of dried bark.

"Chew on this boy. For your headache."

"What is it?"

"Willow bark. It'll help."

"What are you doing in the Riverlands. Your brother already held us captive at Harrenhal."

"I heard that from him, and you lived to tell the tale. He must be slipping." Sandor reaches in his pocket and holds his hand out to the boy, who flinches away. "I am not my brother. Soak this in the river and hold it to the bump on the back of your head." Gendry does as he is bid and The Hound returns to Arya, with his horse trailing him.

"I have a letter for you from your lady mother." He reaches in his tunic and pulls it out. She takes it by the corner as if it was dipped in manure. "I just retrieved it from my bag. There is minimal sweat on it." He has to laugh at the snarled look on her face; much like the wolf she is. He steps away to talk to the men and Dacey.

Arya reads the letter from her mother.

'My Dearest Arya,

I have prayed every day to the old gods and the new for your safe return. We have sent Lord Sandor Clegane, with some of your brother's most loyal soldiers, to find you and bring you home safely. Please follow his instructions, he has safely brought your beloved sister home to us from King’s Landing, and we are all waiting for you at Riverrun. We will have a feast upon your arrival, and you may wear whatever you like, under a dress.

Your loving Lady Mother'

"Hound, you brought my sister home?"

"What?- Yes. She's at Riverrun."

"Why didn't you tell me."

"Your mother's letter just did. It's her place, not mine."

"You're awful!"

"Your sister said that about me once."

"Only once?"

"Aye, only once."

"You are the worst person ever. She probably though it more often."

"Likely she did," he laughs.

"You may have rescued me, but I still hate you for what you did."

"I've done a lot of things."

"You killed Mycah."

"Who the fuck is Mycah?"

"The butcher's boy on King's Road."

"The one that attacked Joffrey?"

"Joffrey attacked him."

"I was not there, I took the word of my liege. Your sister did not contradict it."

"I hate you both." Sandor turns and looks and her. It is a look so cold that it could chill one to the bones. Goosebumps actually rise on Arya's skin. She simply lowers her eyes and looks at his feet, which are suddenly approaching her. She is suddenly lifted, not ungently, and is placed atop the giant war horse and Sandor silently, effortlessly sits behind her.

They ride in silence for an hour, when Sandor announces to everyone, "We'll ride to the next inn and call it a night." To Arya he says "You and your sister can talk about how horrible the Hound is in a few days." Never one to tolerate long stretches of silence, Arya peppers him with questions as they ride. 'Why did they release Sansa...What's in it for you...Did you hurt Sansa...Where is my brother...Where is your brother...Did you spend all your Tourney of the Hand winnings or are you still one of the richest non-lords in the land...Why did my mother call you 'Lord'...Will I get my own room in the inn, I am fine with sharing...What will my brother do with Gendry, since he is late King Robert's bastard?' He liked it better when she hated him. She had found his least favorite form of torture, unending questions from Stark women. This also reminds him that he has avoided reading Lady Stark's letter to him. He fears she is more observant than she reveals. He must read her letter before he returns, to know what traps he must avoid.

They finally arrive at the inn in the hour of the owl. It will be easier to defend from an inn then sleeping out in the open. It will also give him a chance to send a raven to Riverrun. Plus, the wolf girl has done his head in. It is ready to split open by the time they make it to their rooms. Asking too many questions may be the only thing the little bird and the little wolf have in common, besides parents. He deposits her and Gendry in the same room and locks them in while the others are getting situated, and he orders food for the two to be brought up to them.

Everyone gets a turn at a bath and Gendry is brought into the Hound's room to share. Arya is locked in the adjoining room with her only way out being through him. He takes the bed and gives Gendry his pallet for the floor. A distant storm can be heard rolling in from the west. They might as well sleep in and wait it out. The idea of being cold and wet only adds to his misery of riding with his good sister.

Before he climbs in bed, he double checks that the wolf's hallway door is double locked, and the other men know they will leave several hours after the sun is up to let the paths dry. He checks on his ward and closes the adjoining door on her sleeping form. The boy is asleep on the floor, the knock on the head and pain drams taking a toll on him. Sandor climbs into his own bed and is sleep before he remembers his head hitting the pillow.

Something wakes him and he thinks it is the storm right over them. Then his bed shifts and he is not the one who has moved. He turns to see the little she-wolf had burrowed under the furs at the foot of his bed. The fuck. What is it with these Stark girls? Once he gets back to Riverrun, he better bar his door before he finds Lady Stark in there, and has to explain to Sansa what he does not understand himself.

He gets out of bed and scoops up his good sister and his furs and moves her back to her room. This time he locks the adjoining door, so she cannot simply walk in again.

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They all sleep late and then grab food from the common hall and eat together. Sandor has already been out to tend to Stranger and check on the quality of the roads after the rains. Another hour and they should be dry enough to travel upon safely. He sees Arya looking at him when she thinks he is not looking. He better not turn his back on this one, lest he find a knife at it.

He talks over travel plans with the troops to get back to Riverrun as quickly as possible. He orders and pays for supplies for the rest of the trip. No horses are for sale, so he has to keep the she wolf on Stranger with him. If they push hard, he can get back to Sansa in two maybe three days. Their marriage vows need to be made in the open, before Sansa's condition becomes known. The decent thing he must do is to let Sansa know of her condition the next time they are alone.

They all load up their horses to head out on the road to Riverrun. The she wolf is standing to the side, out of Stranger's biting range. Sandor lifts her and places her on his war horse. He is hoping she is talked out. As soon as he is situated behind her and the group is moving the talking starts. Gods be good he needs wine.

"I will try to find you your own horse today."

"Where?"

"I'll kill one of our men if I have to." He laughs at that thought. She crosses her arms over her lack of a chest and broods...but only for mere moments, then the endless questions start again.

"I can ride with Gendry. He's shite at riding, and I could take over."

"Maiden is used to carrying half the weight she carries now; and no cursing. Your lady mother will blame me."

"What a stupid name. It sounds like something Sansa would give her."

"She's your sister's horse."

"I want a horse too. Sansa does not even like riding."

"She-wolf wants a pony."

"She-wolf wants away from your stench."

"Let's see how good of a rider you are. Take the reins. I'll give you some coin for a pretty pony." He gives her the reins and pulls out his coin pouch and searches through it. He hands her a single coin. He can see she is about to complain about the lack of sufficiency for a horse. Then she stills and he can see her examine the coin as he looks down over her shoulder.

"I had a coin like this. I lost it."

"You tried to pay at the inn your Brotherhood stole from. I paid your tab in exchange for your Braavosi coin."

"Thank you." She rides quietly for the next hour, which is 'thank you' enough for him. When she comes out of her thoughts, she starts a new and deeper conversation with him. "When did you become a lord?"

"When I exchanged your pretty sister for the pretty Kingslayer. Once he arrives in King's Landing, I find out where my lands are."

"But you are Joffrey's dog."

"I swore no vows to him, the Lannisters or the Kingsguard. I am my own dog."

"Kingsguard?"

"I replaced Ser Barristan after King Robert died."

"Did he die too?"

"Dismissed. Cersei laid two dead kings at his feet and stripped him of his position. Gave his spot to me; his title to her brother. Selmy was the only one of those toads worth the position."

Sandor calls for a halt to rest the horses, and take a break for food and for everyone to relieve themselves. He takes care of Stranger and Maiden, since the Baratheon bastard does not know horses. He removes a small bag from his saddle bag. He pulls out the favor Sansa gave him forever ago, when they both were still in golden cages. He sniffs the handkerchief with his eyes closed, and opens it to admire the delicately stitched hounds and direwolf. While he is resting he decides to read the letter Lady Stark gave him. He has avoided reading it to avoid losing his focus. He breaks the seal and takes a deep breath.

'I know, and I know she does not know. What have you two done?'

No preamble, no signature. FUCK! She knows. Outwardly, he is stone. Inwardly, he is molten lava. His head goes blank and he closes his eyes to steady himself. Then he feels something is ripped from his hand. His eyes shoot open to see the wolf-bitch with his handkerchief in her hands. He folds the letter and puts it safely in his tunic.

"Give that back! When did you become a thief?"

"The direwolf and three black hounds I get, but why are they together; and what does the red bird mean?"

"You sister has red hair and she sings like a little bird. She was practicing her stitches and gave this to me for saving her life in a riot." Arya hands him back the handkerchief and he tucks in back in his bag.

"Riot! I want the full story."

"I'll tell you once we are back on the road. Let a man take a piss and rest his arse in peace?"

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They ride towards another inn they will arrive at long past the end of the day. They encounter no resistance. None of the Mountain's pets, no Greyjoy reavers are about; just endless miles of road to travel to get back to his wife.

"So you truly saved my sister in a riot?"

"Aye. Cut my way to her as they were dragging her from her horse. They would have lain her on her back right there in the streets and taken turns with her, like the Stokeworth girl. Fifty men took her in the streets. Left her with a bastard in her belly."

In an attempt to change the uncomfortable subject, Arya says, "I heard from the Brotherhood that my brother was supposed to marry a weasel faced Frey, but married a woman from the Westerlands instead.

"Queen Jeyne Westerling. It's a good thing he backed out of that promise. You were to marry a weasel faced Frey too." She mock vomits and turns to look at him.

"Why didn't they give them Sansa?"

"She was already betrothed to an inbred, spineless weasel."

"If I have to marry a Frey, I am not going home to my family. Now that I have my coin back, I can go to Braavos and become a Faceless Man."

"Once I return you to your family and collect my prize, you are free to become a Faceless Man, or an armless chair for that matter. The Stark relationships with the Freys have ended. Maybe they will marry you off to the Bastard of Bolton."

"That may be the only thing that is worse than a Frey. So what do you want for returning us, land."

"I am already getting that, and when my brother dies, and he will, I will get my family lands in the west."

"You can't live in two places. Why do you need more than one estate?"

"So none of my sons will have to go to the Wall and freeze their balls off."

"What stupid girl would give you sons?", he just barks a laugh at that and they continue on with idle conversation until they reach the inn. This is the last inn they will need to stay in before they reach Riverrun, if they keep up this hard pace. However, the inn is short one room of what they need. The ladies will have to share a room with Sandor and Gendry, and he will have to sleep on the floor with King Robert's bastard.

A thunderstorm passes overhead, full of sound and fury, but thank the gods, old and new, that it passes with little rain. He wakes up and again finds the she wolf under his bedding, despite him now being on the floor. He moves her back to the bed and covers her with his furs. She must like his wolf pelts. That is what the wolf girl seeks, a kinship with her own kind. Best get her home as soon as possible, no more inns after tonight.

After a short night's sleep, they leave at dawn and break their fasts on horseback. Sandor sets them on a punishing pace, when he takes the lead on Stranger. They do have to break more often to rest the horses. They are making good time, but will not arrive at Riverrun at a decent hour. He allows an half hour’s break midday to rest the horses, eat and check the best route to Riverrun. He then lets a Stark man take the lead, since they are used to travel in these parts. He falls back to the rear with Arya.

"I'm afraid of storms."

"What?"

"The thunder that rolled over us in the inns- I sought you out for protection, like I used to do my father during thunderstorms. I used to think nothing bad could ever happen as long as he was there to protect me."

"No one will hurt you again."

"You can't know that."

"No one will hurt you again, while I am present. You have my promise."

"What if I tell you I am going to kill your brother? He is on my list."

"He's been on my list for twenty years, little wolf."

Chapter Text

The castle turrets are in sight, just over the horizon. Sandor has never been so happy to see a structure come into view in his life. The Stark soldiers are keeping pace with him until he hears the draw bridge being lowered. "Hold tight wolf girl!" He kicks Stranger into a full gallop with Arya in tow. As they thunder over the drawbridge. The noise brings all activity in the yard to a halt, and all eyes are on the opening gates. He slows up enough to ensure they do not run over anyone. "You're back among your wolves and fish Princess Arya."

As he pulls Stanger to a complete halt, he searches the dark courtyard for the Starks, and specifically for his wife. Sandor can and will always find his wife no matter what crowd of people are around her. He can feel her, for she is part of him. Sansa and her mother are just now exiting the castle doors. He points them out for Arya, as her attention is overwhelmed by all the movement starting to swarm around them, and by a massive castle she does not remember ever visiting. He dismounts from Stranger and then removes Arya. She runs toward her sister and mother, as soon as her feet hit the ground. He follows more slowly behind her, not to interrupt their moment in the moonlight. He watches over them and keeps the others back. He turns his back on the scene to give them privacy. Others are forced to follow his lead, for fear of the 'Infamous Lannister Hound'.

As he stands there patiently, like a marble statue in a sept, a small warm hand grabs his. He turns to look her in the eye, "Little bi-", the next thing he knows is there are thin arms around his waist and a face buried in his chest, and auburn hair fluttering in the wind. The head comes too low on his chest and the hair is the wrong shade. "Lady Stark? Not only was I successful in my search for your daughter, but I also found someone I need to bring to the King." Sansa comes over with Arya to rejoin their mother. She also hugs Sandor, keeping one hand in Arya. He thinks how beautiful his wife is. She is more beautiful than ever. How is that possible? He has to fight to keep from carrying her off, and locking her away in his bedroom.

"Sansa, take Lord Clegane inside to have his room unlocked. I will take our beloved Arya and find Robb in his meeting with his bannermen." The Stark traveling party has just arrived behind them. They are all dismounting and unloading their horses. Sandor tells Dacey to show Gendry to an empty guest room near his.

Sandor turns to Sansa, "I need to get Stranger settled." He strokes the beast's nose lovingly, since he cannot touch his wife in an open yard with affection.

"I shall accompany you. Mother is distracted." They both walk to the stables. He begins to tend to Stranger as the courtyard continues buzzing with excited talk.

"Lord Clegane, you were missed."

"Was I now? Who all missed me?

"My lady mother most certainly missed you. She mentioned you daily." He has to laugh at that.

"I’m sure it was my fine diner talk your lady mother missed." He has to laugh at the thought of his next conversation with Lady Catelyn Stark.

"Will you not kiss your lady wife ‘hello’ after such a long journey? We have never been separated for more than a day, even in King’s Landing."

"The other horses will be arriving any moment. Let me finish with this beast, then I will tend to my other beast," tipping his chin towards her. She slowly approaches Stranger and strokes the side of his neck and runs her fingers through his soft flowing mane. The horse seems too tired to put up much of a fight.

The others start to come in and Sansa moves away from Stranger. She announces, "I want to thank you all for bringing my beloved sister Princess Arya back to her loving family. On behalf of the King in the North and my lady mother, you have our heartfelt gratitude, and there will be a celebratory feast on the morrow, after you have had the chance to rest. Your King will be issuing each of you a reward." They group murmurs out various shouts of 'thank you’ and 'It was our duty to the North'. "I will have baths and warm meals brought to each of your rooms, and I bid you good night, my lords, my lady." She takes her leave and gracefully exits the stables, like a mist retreating out to sea.

When Sandor finally gets Stranger settled and arrives at his room, it is unlocked and there is a steaming tub of hot water and a freshly started fire. His little bird made sure they did not put the tub too close to the fireplace. How did the little bird get it here this fast. He needs to bathe before he offends his wife. He is glad the meal has not arrived yet. He is so hungry, he would eat first, and he knows a full stomach would only put him to sleep in moments. He completely undresses and lowers himself into the steaming tub. Gods he needed this. He needs his wife more, but he will take what he can get. She is probably with the rest of her family. He cannot begrudge her spending time with them, but his patience is nigh on lost, and a man has needs. His needs have waited for longer than their leaving King's Landing. If he weren't so saddle wary, he might take himself in hand.

He is awakened with a knock at the door. His bath is lukewarm, so he knows he's been asleep for about thirty minutes. "Come in." He had not barred his door. In walks the men to remove the tub.

"We can come back for the tub Lord Clegane."

"I fell asleep after washing. Take it. I am sure the other men will get to bathe faster with an extra tub. Sandor stands from the tub just as a kitchen maid walks in the open door with his tray of food. He grabs a towel to wrap around himself. He catches the kitchen maid staring at him. "Just sit the food down on the table." She does as she is bid, and then helps the men separate the nested empty buckets to take out the bath water, so they can remove the tub. When they all exit, he closes the door and bolts it. He dries off completely, and wraps the towel back around his waist to sit and eat. Gods he missed the food his wife oversees. He can taste her hand in this diner. She somehow got a whole chicken freshly prepared for him, with finger sized seasoned root vegetables and greens. Gods he loves that woman. As he eats the succulent chicken, it reminds him of savoring the taste of his little bird. Her warm mouth tasting like grapes, or lately pickling brine. He finishes the food and sits back relaxing for a few moments. He is about to place the tray in the hall, when there is a light knocking on his door. Sandor opens it, hoping it is his little bird, but it is the kitchen maid again.

"Back for the tray. I was about to set it out in the hall." As he walks to retrieve the tray, the door closes behind him. He turns and sees the girl on the wrong side of a closed door. Doesn't anyone fear 'The Hound' anymore? "What are you doing girl?"

"Lya, my name is Lya. I thought that since you are freshly back and freshly bathed, you may want additional tending."

"Just take the tray and leave. I need sleep, not cunt."

"Mayhaps tomorrow, my lord"

"Not a lo-, fuck. Get back to your duties, before your ladies finds out you are trying to sell your mouth and cunt to the 'Infamous Lannister Hound'."

"Sorry my lord. I won't bother you again, but you are welcome to seek me out. I know how to handle a man of your size." She turns to leave.

"Wait girl." She smiles and turns toward him, untying her apron. "You forget the tray." She releases her apron ties and grabs the tray from the table and quickly leaves, after a poorly executed curtsey. With that he closes and double locks the door, then engages the bolt. He never had this problem in King's Landing, woman randomly showing up at his room or in his bed and under his furs. These Northrons are just a different sort.

Sandor drapes the wet towel over the chair and climbs naked into the bed. He blows out the candle on his bed side table and sinks into the soft sheets. They are softer than he remembers, but he has just spent the better part of a week and a half on rough, worn, inn sheets or his bedroll. When he lays his head on his pillow, he can smell they are not the sheets he left. He can smell, lemon, and lavender and little bird. His wife has given him her sheets. He images that she has his. Rather than getting his blood up, it lulls him into a peaceful sleep.

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His eyes shoot open with a start. THE FUCK!!! Now what!? He senses that someone is crawling into his bed. He may be so tired that he could be imagining it, but chances are it is a Stark woman. He remembers locking and bolting the door. 'Sandor', is all that comes in the complete darkness.

"Little bird? How did you get in? What if someone catches you?"

"I have a set of castellan keys. It has a long steal pin to slide bolts up. I have learned that small children like to lock their parents out of rooms, once they can reach the locks."

"So you can break into my room at will?"

"If I had my will, we would be in the same room. I had to kiss you hello, and goodnight. Arya is sleeping with Mother, and Robb went to bed an hour ago. I can stay for a few hours. I must leave before the castle wakes. "

Sandor springs out of the bed, and finds the candle to relight it.

"Where are you going? You owe me a kiss."

"I need to see my little bird." He locates the candle now that his eyes are adjusted to the dark.

"Come back to bed Sandor. You can see me in the morning."

He lights the candle on the dying fireplace embers and sets it on his bedside table. "That's not enough for these tired eyes." He returns to bed and cups her face in both hands, just to make sure she is real. "Then take your kiss." He gives her an almost chaste kiss on the lips.

"Come here woman." He scoops her up and pulls her to him, leaving no space between them. "My little bird. Gods, I missed seeing your face smiling at me. Did you miss me?

"Enough to steal your sheets and sleep on them since you left. They lost your scent, so I came to reacquire it for myself."

"Let me get you out of this dress." He quickly removes her slippers and stockings, then unties her laces and removes the dress from her shoulders. She climbs out of bed to slip the dress off and lays it over the foot of the bed. "Did you bolt the door?"

"I most certainly did. I do not want us disturbed. I heard the kitchen maid talking about you while I was in the pantry."

"What were you doing in the pantry Princess?"

"That is where they store the pickled vegetables."

"I see, still eating those." That brings the babe back to the forefront of his mind. "What did the kitchen maid say about me?"

"She saw you naked as your name day. If I didn't want them to know I was eating in the pantry, I would have come out and clawed her eyes out.

"She came in with a food tray behind the men who were collecting the tub. She's probably seen half the people in the castle getting in or out of a tub. You know the kitchen prepares the bath water,"

"She was not talking about any of the others."

"She dropped off the tray, she picked up the tray. Nothing more. Lay down, it's been a long night, get some rest." He pulls her back with him to lay on the bed.

"I cannot sleep. You are finally home and you brought Arya, and the rightful king of the south. In the morning you may ask my brother to marry me. Then we can be properly bedded. Until then..." She reaches down and grabs a hold of his semi-hard manhood and strokes him.

"Sansa, no. Sleep."

"I need to be close to you. Let me have you." She uses his past words against him. She kisses him deeply, her tongue seeking his out. She pulls away and kisses her way down his beautiful, warrior-made-flesh body. She wastes no time taking his cock in her mouth. He hisses and she smiles. Her mouth taking possession of him. 'MINE!' her mind screams. Her tongue slides over the head of him, licking him, kissing him. She opens her lips and takes him in, sucking on the head of him. She moves to kneel between his legs and speeds up her ministrations, while taking him deeper. Using her left hand to cup and squeeze his balls, and the right hand to stroke the base of his shaft that will not fit in her mouth. She is quickly rewarded by her efforts. She feels his balls constricting and his shaft pulsing. She remotely feels Sandor's hand in her hair to pull her away. She swats him away and speeds up yet again. He explodes in her mouth, and she greedily swallows his seed, as Sandor lets out a muffled moan.

"God's little bird. You have unmanned me."

"One of the benefits you get when I hide in the food pantry. The kitchen girls exchange stories and tips." With that he pulls her back up and lays her on her back and climbs over her. He begins kissing her neck and moving her shift down her shoulder and pushing the bodice down to expose her left breast. He kisses it and sucks her nipple into his mouth. Her teats are slightly bigger. Gods she is beautiful and she is carrying his child and she is his wife, his; and she is his.

He slips down her body, laying kisses as he goes. He lingers with his lips on her still flat belly, then moves onto her other secret treasure. He slips his fingers in her small clothes between her legs and moves them to the side, exposing her cunt to his mouth. He flicks his tongue over her pearl. 'HIS!' No other man will ever see this, except the maesters bringing his babes into the world. He licks her from her still veiled entrance to her pearl. Nothing ever tasted sweeter on his tongue as he sucks on her and licks up all her honey. No song was ever sweeter to his ears than her moans and keens and whimpers as he sucks on her womanhood.

She finally releases her song and he does not even try to muffle the sound. If anyone hears her, they will assume he is having a kitchen maid to warm his bed, not a princess. He moves back up the bed to watch her enjoy the fruits of his labor. He discretely wipes his mouth on his pillow, not to rid himself of her, but to save her scent in his bed; to sleep with her essence, once she leaves him again.

"Sleep little bird. I will wake you in a few hours to return to your rooms." She nods and nestles into him and immediately succumbs to a satisfied sleep. He watches the little bird sleep until his sated, wary body betrays him, and he follows her lead. He wakes with sun shining in his eyes, and casting a halo around the little bird's shinning crown of hair. She is perched on his chest. The reality of the sun being up hits him like a war mace. Bugger him with a hot poker! He failed to sneak her out of his room in the dark of the night.

"Sansa, wake up."

"No." She turns away from him and curls up in his furs." He kisses her neck and shoulder to wake her without startling her.

"Little bird you have to get up. You will be the death of me, wife."

"I am the life of you." He smacks he firmly on the arse and finally gets her attention, although the wrong kind. She reaches for his manhood again and he moves his hips out of her reach at the first contact.

"Sansa you have to wake up and get dressed. The castle is awake."

"Tell Jan we will break our fasts in bed, and bring grapes." Talk of those fucking grapes makes him half hard.

He pulls her back to his chest and whispers in her ear, "Little bird, we are at Riverrun, your family is here. They will be looking for you soon. Arya is back."

"Arya! Riverrun?" She sits up in bed and smiles at him. She is about to pull him into a kiss, but then she really takes in the surroundings and gets her bearings. She realizes they are at Riverrun, in Sandor's room and the sun is up. She jumps out of bed and straightens her small clothes to properly cover her womanhood and smooths out her shift. She quickly gets into her dress and looks for her stockings. "Help me Sandor. I cannot find my stockings." He pulls the furs off the bed and finds one, handing it to her. He looks under the bed.

"It's under the bed on your side." She dips under the bed to retrieve it, and there is a knock on his door. Her head shoots back up and she gives him a look of pure panic. He holds his index finger to his lips and signals her to stay quiet and she hided under the bed. "Who's there?"

"King Robb's page."

"Hold on. I need to find my fucking pants." He hears Sansa gasp at his language. He checks that she is hidden to every angle exposed to the door as he puts his pant on. "I'm coming." He hears a giggle from under the bed. The fuck.

He snatches the door open and looks down at the page, who comes to his belly button. The boy hands him a note. "King Robb has requested your presents in an hour, ser."

"Great. Who is that other note for?"

"Princess Sansa Stark. I am headed to her room next."

"Isn't it a little early to wake a princess. The family was up late celebrating. I will bring it to her lad. Go break your fast."

"Thank you ser."

"Not a ser."

"Yes, my lord." The page scurries off and Sandor bolts the door and walks the notes over to the bed, where Sansa is putting on her stockings. He watches her rather than reading the missives. Focus Hound, he tells himself. He fails on that effort, as Sansa ends up ripping the notes from him. She breaks the seals on both and hands his back to him as she reads hers. When she sees he is through with his, she exchanges with him. They have identical instructions, meet the king in an hour.

"Little bird, it's going to take you an hour just to tame what we did to your hair last night. I will brush it out, so you can just braid it. Then we will get you to your rooms." He proceeds to brush the snarls out of her hair as they talk about the command to see the king.

"Why would he command to see us both at the same time?" not really expecting him to know the answer.

"I don't know little bird. Maybe others will be there also. I will deliver the King's message to your room. This way I can see if they are searching of you."

"and I will deliver this to you." She holds up the command from Robb. "This way I only have to get to the other side of your door safely."

"We must live openly soon, or I may take you in the great hall in front of everyone."

"Then the kitchen maids will really fight me for you."

"I'll gut anyone that gives you a cross look. I better dress then head to your room." He washes up with Sansa watching him, and puts on fresh clothes.

"If someone catches me leaving the room, I will use removing your travel clothing for washing as an excuse."

"That sounds like something a wife would do, not princess."

"I am your wife."

"And you are their princess. I will have a maid tend to my dirty clothes. Just be careful leaving my room." Sansa thinks, 'Like seven fucking hells you will give your laundry to the maids.' She just smiles her most agreeable smile at him and helps him dress. "I'll head to your room to deliver this missive. If I don't come back right away, you follow behind. Make sure the hallway is clear and no one sees you, little bird." Sandor heads out the door and closes it behind him. Sansa goes through his travel bags and removes his dirty clothes. She takes his pillow case and folds everything soiled she finds into it. She leaves the clothes in the room and sneaks in the hallway to knock on his door. When no one answers, as she knew, she grabs his laundry and marches out of the room and straight to the laundry room off the kitchen, like it was her sole purpose in life.

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Sansa washes and gets dressed as quickly as she can without a maid. She quickly styles her hair in the northern style that Sandor loves. She checks in the mirror that all looks proper. She does notice that more of her is spilling over the top of her bodice, but she does not have time to change and simply pushes her breast down and ties the front ties tighter. When she arrives in her brothers solar, her mother, brother and Sandor are already seated. Arya is missing and there is one open seat between her mother and Sandor, so she takes it. "Where is Arya?"

"She is still sleep," her mother informs her. "We were up long past your retiring. She is exhausted from the days of hard travel. My poor Arya."

Robb chimes in, "I called you both here today because Mother, I mean Lady Stark has informed me that she has a request from Lord Clegane for a reward for returning you Sansa, I mean Princess Sansa and Princess Arya. Let me just pose this plainly Lord Clegane, would you be willing to take a substantial monetary reward for returning both my sisters?

Before he could answer both his mother and sister shout "No!" King Robb looks at the both of them owlishly.

Sandor chimes in, "With the forty thousand gold dragons I won in my last tourney, plus my savings from my salary and other winnings, I am wealthier than most. I am granted lands once the Kingslayer reaches King's Landing. More money and lands will not tempt me."

My mother has suggested that we offer you a marriage alliance."

"Honestly, as a sworn shield and a lifelong soldier, I never planned to marry. I turned down knighthood and swore no vows to the Lannisters. It wasn’t until I had something substantial to offer, that it even became a consideration."

Robb answers with, "Lady Dacey Mormont wanted you to consider one of her daughters."

"Mother!" Sansa pleads for help.

"Robb, this is not what we just discussed."

"Lord Clegane, my mother would like for you to consider Princess Sansa as a possible alliance."

"I will definitely give that serious consideration. I may not even request a dowry." Sansa looks at him as though she could rip his head off, and he is not sure, which one she would detach. "I actually would prefer no dowry. The Princess' agreement would be reward enough; or I could even pay a dowry for the honor and privilege of such a fine wife."

Lady Stark chimes in when it looks as it Robb is considering the offer, "Lord Clegane, you have brought both our princesses back. WE owe you. YOU do not owe us. The Lannisters are not the only ones that pay their debts. If Sansa wills it and King Robb allows it, you have my permission to marry Princess Sansa. - Robb?

"What will my loyal bannermen say? They have been vying for Sansa's pledge since we struck the exchange."

"Sansa was betrothed to the King of the South, that did not make him loyal to us, or save your father. Three of our bannermen have turned on us, two of them most grievously, and we still allow them to walk amongst us."

"Only until I can safely capture them all, Mother."

"None of us are safe with them in our mist. Sansa will be safest with Lord Clegane. No one here can withstand him. This all needs to be settled today." Sandor cannot believe his secret good mother is supporting him against her son. Wait, did she say that the Boltons still walk among them, among his wife? The fuck! All eyes are now on Robb.

"Sansa, I know you have been through a lot, but if you do not wish to marry, I promised our lady mother that I would not force you. I can find another way to reward Clegane."

"It's Lord Clegane, Robb-King Robb. I would never marry for duty, or for the false ideal love of the stories, which filled my head with empty songs as a young girls. I will only marry for love, and respect, and friendship, and the inability to live without that person for the rest of my life."

"Well, LORD Clegane. You have your answer directly from Princess Sansa. My sister will only marry for love. I am still willing speak with Lady Mormont about her daughters and-"

"King Robb, I accept Lord Sandor Clegane's offer of marriage. The sooner the better, before he realizes what he has gotten into, being a hound among wolves."

"Sansa, are you saying that you truly love him? You are willing to spend your life with him?"

"Yes. It is the one thing of which I am certain." She looks at Sandor and locks eyes with him. Sandor smiles as much as he can with his heart pounding in his ears and his shallow breathing making him lightheaded. He clutches his tunic over his heart, willing the foolish thing not to give him away, and his lungs to start breathing properly.

"Mother, I will honor your decision to allow Sansa to choose,” Robb concludes. He had counted on her to be a fire wall against this madness. Their fire wall seems to be made of dry leaves and straw.

Lady Stark responds, "Thank your Robb. Sansa can we wait two week to pull together a proper wedding ceremony and make capes, or do you want to marry today?"

"Today," Sandor interjects.

"Two weeks," Sansa answers. They look at each other and turn to Lady Stark and jointly say, 'One week.'

Robb and Catelyn look at each other. Robb wonders how they accomplished this silent communication, like an old married couple; like he had seen his mother and father do over the years. So unlike he and Jeyne, since they are so new to each other and still getting it wrong, and tripping over their words.

Lady Stark summarizes the agreement, "Lord Clegane, you and Princess Sansa shall marry at midday one week from this day in my family sept. We will have a modest feast with our closest bannermen, to not expose either of you two to danger from the Freys or the Boltons. The Karstarks are no longer amongst us. There is no way we can keep the capital from learning of this, unless you secretly marry, and we keep it quiet, but you will have to live separately for a time after the bedding. Think about it, and let us know in a few days. We will make no disclosures until you two decide. With this much settled, I must check on my Arya. Now that you are betrothed, she will have to accompany Sansa when you two are together, if I cannot attend to it myself. I really miss our Septa, we never replaced her, since all my children were scattered to the four winds. Robb, we will need to hire a septa for Arya."

Lady Catelyn stands to leave and Sandor stands and bows to her out of respect. Robb follows suit and Sansa jumps up and hugs her mother to thank her, console her, comfort her, reassure her. Sansa, for a moment, feels like the mother, instead of the daughter. Sansa releases her and watches her walk away, head held high, back stiff with resolve. She glides away to her other daughter.

Robb turns to Sansa, "How long has this been going on?"

"Excuse me?" questions Sansa.

"You two."

"Oh." She looks down at her fidgeting hands, and then over to her betrothed husband. "It did not happen all at once, but gradually with every firm word paired with a kind act. When I realized it could not profit him in any way to be kind to me, I fell in love with him."

Turning to Sandor, "And for you Lord Clegane."

"Not sure. She needed protection and had none. I was all that stood between her and her betrothed. I stayed as close to her as I could to keep her safe, without drawing the King's attention. He does not like to share."

"I promised my lady mother she would have the final say on whom Sansa could marry. I have no choice but to come to accept this and therefore, I will allow it. My bannermen will not accept this as easily. I almost wish you two had secretly married before arriving. It is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission."

Sandor can tell that Sansa is about to confess that they are already married. He grabs her hand and interjects, "Is there a godswood on the property?"

"In the gardens surrounded by tall redwoods. Follow the small streams and the chirping of hundreds of birds. There is a weirwood heart tree there, with a sad face. Are you seriously doing this?"

"As Your Grace said, it is better to ask for forgiveness. Please forgive us." He stands and bows to the King and grabs Sansa by the elbow to help her from her seat. She curtsies lowly and slowly to her brother. Together the pair makes a hasty exit.

Chapter Text

Sandor and Sansa return from the godswood after sharing a long, heated kiss. They attempt to get to his room to consummate their marriage. They simply need her family, the Boltons, Mormonts, Tullys, house guards and every other person with eyes and who speaks the common tongue, to miss seeing them both enter his room; in broad daylight no less. They think they have succeeded, but as Sansa unlocks his door and they walk in, they are greeted by Lady Stark sitting at the table in his room. Sandor wonders what is it with his rooms and Stark women?

"Mother, what are you doing in my hu-Hound-The Hound's room?"

"More importantly, what are you doing in his room, Sansa?"

"I needed to unlock the door for him."

"I have already done that. Sansa, go to Arya's room and help her dress. In a dress. I have laid one out for her. Then oversee the kitchen staff for the preparations of tonight's feast. I need to speak to Lord Clegane. One of us will chaperon you the rest of the week."

"Yes, mother." She shoots Sandor a worried look that does not escape her mother. He gives her a slight nod of his chin to tell her to 'go on'. Once she is gone, he closes the door. Sandor turns to Lady Stark, arms folded over his impressive chest, staining the fabric of his tunic, and waits for the inquisition.

"Please have a seat, my lord." When he pauses she adds, "Looking up this far is straining my neck." He sighs and obliges her by sitting at his table with her.

"The letter?"

"Yes, the letter. How far along is Sansa?"

"Two moons, a little less."

"You left her a maid, but got her with child, and she is unaware."

"Aye. I wanted to tell her, but I wanted her reputation to remain intact for her sake. She is a shi- a horrible liar."

"She does turn bright red from the stress of it."

"And then the hand ringing and skirt fussing starts," Sandor adds, shaking his head.

"Got her with child and left her a maiden. That is quite a trick. I have seen it happen a few times in my years."

"If it helps any, we married on the Isle of Faces in front of the old gods, and still I left her a maiden. Your King said we should have married on the road. It is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. We just married again in your family's godswood for his benefit."

"So you are telling me the child she carries is not a bastard."

Sandor thinks, timing be damned, "The child is not a bastard. It is a Clegane; for all that's worth. Now that you know, I would like to start sharing a room with my wife."

"The formal wedding is in one week. Sansa will remain a maid until then. She will be chaperoned by myself, Arya or the Queen."

"There is no need to keep up this mummer's farce."

"It punishes you both. No high lady should marry without the permission and the blessing of her parents. Now you have done it twice." Sandor had been moments away from making Sansa is wife in truth; moments away from her warm, wet cunt. Now he is a week away and his blood is up. Fuck him sideways. The mother wolf is feeding on his misery. "Why didn't you just tell him about the Isle of Faces."

"That was private and just for us. Not to save face, like the one today. It didn't seem right to use it as an excuse."

"She seems healthy so far. How had she been during the trip?"

"She was sick on the river boat, but she doesn't have sea legs."

"No, she has never been on a boat."

"She also eats a lot of pickled vegetables."

"We have noticed our stores are depleting. I will have more made. Do you have a copy of your sigil? We need it for the groom's cloak."

"I do have a banner with me." He goes through his bag and produces the three black dogs that were lost on an autumn field.

She stands and takes it from him. She looks at it in judgment. "Dog and wolves are similar, you know."

"Aye. I will keep her safe for all of my life. She is part of me."

"We know you are definitely part of her for the next eight moons." He at least has the decency to look a little guilty as he nods. Lady Stark saying that out loud makes it more real than ever; a secret he alone no longer holds. It makes his head spin. He grabs onto a chair for support. Lady Stark leads him to sit, and his head drops between his hands and his breath is coming up short.

"Are you ill?"

"I just-need-air." She grabs the tankard of wine and pours him a cup. She bends down to where he is holding his head to peel one hand away to place the cup in it. He takes the cup, but does not drink. Catelyn opens the windows to allow fresh air in. Once he has recovered a bit, "I am not a handsome man; not a good man, but I'm honest and loyal. She deserves much better than me. Why did she settle on me? Now I have this little-little bird to keep safe and another little thing to keep safe-and the world is so fucking horrible. Why did she pick me? She was meant for a king."

Walking back to him, "I have honestly asked myself that for a fortnight now. This moment is the first time I understand why. You will both figure it out. Just treat her well and keep them safe." Lady Catelyn walks to him and places her hands on the crown of his head and gives him a motherly kiss. At that same moment, the door opens. One of the kitchen maids is there looking at them.

"I'm sorry milady. I was just checking to see if the lord needed anything from the kitchen."

"Since when do kitchen maids visit guest rooms to take lunch orders?"

"Milady, Ser requested extra services."

"Lying whore! And I am not a fucking ser!" He stands, knocking the chair over and takes a threatening step towards the maid.

"Stop Clegane! I will handle this. You go back to the kitchen. I will talk to you there." The maid runs out without another word, not even bothering to curtsey.

"I requested no such service. She threw herself at me yesterday. I threw her back. Sansa even knows about this."

"I am familiar with the lies of kitchen maids. Since you thought you would be finally celebrating your wedding, bringing a kitchen maid to your room is the last thing you would do.

"I have never dealt with kitchen maids. You don't sh-do your business where you eat."

"Nothing more to settle with that. I have scheduled a tailor to come measure you today. I am sure Sansa will want to pick out the fabrics and colors."

"Black."

"Oh, my lord, you think you get a voice in the look of your wedding. Pity." She walks out feeling a bit lighter.

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Sansa is almost done helping Arya dress. She informs her she is to be married next week.

"A Glover, an Umber, or a Karstark?"

"Neither, and the Karstarks left Robb's army."

"Why?"

"Ask Robb, I don't know. Something to do with the Kingslayer."

"Not the Boltons. Roose was at Harrenhal with Tywin Lannister."

"What! No! You must tell mother or Robb. His son is horrible. Actually, they are both horrible."

"It's definitely not a Mormont. Tell me."

"Sandor Clegane."

"Funny. Really, who are you to marry?"

"Lord Sandor 'The Hound' Clegane. I love him."

"What. Is he a mage or a red priest? Did he cast a spell on you?"

"No and yes. He is not generally a kind man, but he is always gentle with me, and protective."

Sansa, until three days ago, was on my list."

"List? What list?"

"He killed Mycah. I was going to kill him, and his brother, and Cersei, Joffrey, Ilyn Payne, Polliver."

"Who's Polliver?

"One of the Mountain's men. He killed Lommy?"

"Lommy, was that your horse?"

"No. A boy. A friend. Lommy couldn't walk after they captured us. Polliver stole Needle and stabbed Lommy with it."

"That is horrible. I am very sorry Arya. Oh! Sandor brought Ice back with us. Robb has it. Go ask Robb to see it; and don't forget to tell him about Bolton. I have to go to the kitchen to oversee dinner preparations."

"Mother said I have to stay with you, unless she is with you. Now I know why. You're marrying The Hound."

"You really don't have to. I shall just be in the kitchen."

"And where will your betrothed be, under your skirts in a pantry?"

"Arya! What would you know about such things." She blushes, but she does not deny the accusation.

"I was a cupbearer at Harrenhal. That's what the kitchen maids there did."

"Fine, let's go to the kitchen. I am so sorry you were exposed to things so far below your station, and beyond your years. You get your favorite meal tonight. What is your favorite meal?"

"Anything but rabbit or squirrel or weasel."

"Weasel? I don't want to know."

"No, you don't."

They discuss meal options as they make their way to the kitchen. By the time they get there, they are both practically drooling. Sansa has them sneak in the back way to the pantry. They pick at the various stores, as they discuss the meal for Arya's homecoming feast. A commotion brings them to the kitchen-side door of the pantry. A kitchen maid is sitting at the table crying. "The lady it going to kill me. I walked I on her and the Lannister Hound." Arya and Sansa look at each other. Arya is about to lunge out and disclose their presences in a fit of rage. Sansa hushes her. She has learned that the truth always eventually comes out, if you can hold down your rage long enough to listen.

"Not our lady. You are mistaken," another maid chimes in.

"No, she had her hands on his head and kissed him on the crown of his head." A collective groan goes out.

"You daft girl. That's a kiss every mother gives. He has reunited her with both her daughters," as they all go back to their tasks, Lady Stark show up to address the kitchen staff.

"Everyone, Princess Sansa will be overseeing the feast for tonight. Therefore, you will show her the utmost respect and obedience. We are having another feast on a week from today. Allow Lady Sansa to pick that menu. Anything she wants. If we don't have, order it." Lady Stark turns to the maid turned whore, "You will stay out of guest rooms. If I find you near Lord Clegane again, I will not come between you and his rage. Go clean your face and get back to your work. We have a feast to prepare."

Lady Stark has already checked both her daughters' rooms, and knows where Sansa most likely is. She goes into the pantry and is rewarded with both her daughters. "I am assuming chicken and lamb for the wedding feast. And of course pickled vegetables."

"And lemon cakes."

Catelyn Stark agrees, "Certainly. Since we are having chicken and lamb next week, is pork and fish acceptable to you today Arya, as the guest of honor."

"Sure, Gendry likes pork. Mother can Sansa and I visit with him."

"Sansa has to finish with the feast preparations. You both can have lunch with him and Lord Clegane."

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Gendry, Sandor and the Stark princesses are gathered into a small dining room for their lunch. Lady Stark accompanies the kitchen maids, including the frightened kitchen maid from this morning, in with food trays. Lady Stark examines the scene. Robb has filled her in on Gendry's parentage, but she does not think anyone has told the poor bastard. She has a flash of anger as Jon Snow flashes through her mind. She hides it behind her lady's armor of curtesy.

"As it happens, since I also have to eat lunch, I am free to join you." She gives her most benign smile. The maid serves them all and Lady Stark bids them to take their leave. The girl from the morning almost runs out. Lady Stark turns to Sansa, "Have you made your final selections of fabrics for your betrothed."

"Yes, mother. Charcoal grey and black."

"What about your dress?"

"It is a surprise. Sandor cannot know until the wedding.

"I shall be sure to be there for the fittings."

"Fine, mother."

"Waters, Lord Clegane tells us you originate from the Crownlands."

"Yes, milady. I was a blacksmith apprentice there."

"That is quite impressive. I know how hard it is to get a spot without a sponsor."

"I was lucky, milady. Someone sponsored me at a smithy near the Keep. We served many of the knights of the castle. I even had the honor of meeting your lord husband. He was very concerned for my wellbeing."

Lady Stark is knocked back a bit by the mention of her Ned, but keeps it to herself, "As are we Waters. Arya told me that when she thought that gold cloaks came for her, they were actually looking for you. Do you have any idea why?"

"No milady."

"Lord Clegane, Sandor, please share with him what you know."

"What? Me? Now?" His mercurial eyes turn on her and narrow. She is continuing to punish him for secretly take the little bird to wife and getting a babe on her. Fuck him. She gives him one curt nod and continues to eat her lunch, with a self-satisfied, barely contained smile .

"Gendry, the reason Jon Arryn had the crown paid your apprenticeship, and kept watch over you, is because of your father."

"I don't have a father."

"Everyone has a father. Yours happened to be dead King Robert Baratheon. You look the spitting image of his youngest brother Renly."

"Is this a jape?"

"The Gold Cloaks were sent out to kill all of King Robert Baratheon's bastard children, since he had no true born children, in truth. You are one of the last ones left, from what I knew from the meetings. There is also a girl in the Vale. She is your oldest half-sibling."

Gendry Waters is looking a little green. Sansa turns to him, "You do not look well, my lord."

"Princess, I'm no lord, but I'm not well. Beg pardon. I need to sit down."

"You are sitting boy," Sandor chimes in.

"Then I had better lay down. My head and stomach are-", he gets up to leave without a further word. Arya gets up to follow him, her mother immediately places her hand on her arm to settle her back in her seat and gives her a disapproving head shake.

"Lord Clegane, could you see Waters safely back to his room? Thank you." Sandor gets up and follows behind the bastard of Baratheon, with his arm on the boys' shoulder.

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After the Stark women finish lunch, Sansa steers Arya towards Gendry’s room. It will distract her for a couple of hours so she may steal time with her new again husband. Sansa knocks on the door and it opens a crack. "We are checking to see if Gendry is feeling better. If so Arya wanted to visit with him and relieve you."

Sandor whispers, "He's fine. Your kingly brother is here. Fly away you two."

"Sandor, Arya needs to tell Robb something, since he is here."

"Can it wait?"

"Perhaps." She leans closer to him and whispers, "It's about Roose Bolton." He closes his eyes and sighs. "Wait here." He closes the door and a minute later he opens it and lets them in.

Robb inquires, "Arya, what is it you know about Lord Bolton?"

"He was at Harrenhal with Lord Tywin when me and Gendry were prisoner there."

"Gendry and I," Sansa interjects.

"Sansa, you were there too?"

"No, never mind."

Robb interjects, "Are you sure that Roose was there at the same time as Tywin."

"I was Lord Tywin's cupbearer. They not only were there at the same time, but they met with each other. I saw it with mine own eyes."

"Gendry did you witness this?"

"No, Your Grace. I was kept out of the castle. Mostly kept to the yard or foundry."

"Lord Tywin and the Mountain left, and Bolton took over. We escaped from his men."

Robb commands, "No one in this room is to mention this again. I am dealing with Bolton."

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Arya enters the Great Hall for her feast on her kingly brother’s left arm, while her lady mother is on his right. The entire hall stands and applauds the return of their second Stark princess. While most people were not in the courtyard to witness the return of The Hound with Arya, everyone had heard about the momentous event while they broke their fasts.

Sansa enters right behind them on the arm of Lord Sandor Clegane. He is also considered an honored guest and will be allowed to again sit next to Sansa, but this time they will both sit at the high table with family only. No disloyal lords mixed in.

As they pass to the dais, the gathered audience starts to quiet down and take their seats. The royal family all stand behind their seats until King Robb tells them to please be seated. He remains standing to open the feast, “We are once again gathered in celebration, to feast the return of our second princess. Once again we have Lord Sandor Clegane to thank for her safe turn. On behalf of your King, Queen and our lady mother, we thank him, our men and Lady Dacey for finding Princess Arya and returning her to one of her ancestral seats.

“Please raise your glasses to toast my beloved sister, Princess Arya Stark of Winterfell.” Everyone stands and hoists their drinks shouting 'to Princess Arya’ or 'to Winterfell’, or ‘to the North’ in a cacophony of noise raising and lowering like the swell of summer cicadas. “Please take your seats and enjoy your well-deserved feast.”

One by one, delicious courses are brought out, and ale and wine is refilled before the cups are even empty. Men stop by the high table to talk directly with Princess Arya and catch glances of Princess Sansa. A few wine brave men even tried to openly court Princess Sansa with her lady mother and kingly brother looking on. Sansa saw Sandor inwardly seething, though little showed on the outside that anyone, save her could read. Once the current man pursuing Sansa returns to his table, Sansa whispers to her brother. He argues back with her. They both withdraw from the conversation unhappy.

Towards the end of the evening, King Robb stands to quiet the crowd and gets their happy, drunken attention. He steals himself to make this announcement. It runs counter to the conclusion of the thoughts he weighed all day. However, he want to give Sansa the peace she has just requested. He stands to make an announcement. “My lords and ladies, as your king, I have to make decisions all the time that are best for the kingdom. Sometimes, I have to take off my crown, and do what is hard; what is right. I have decided to accept the request of one of the lords present, to take Princess Sansa to wife.” The hall breaks into murmurs with lords asking their neighbor if is it is their house that is winning the lady’s love. "The Lannisters are not the only ones who pay their debts. The North remembers."

Sandor and Sansa exchange a quick look knowing the hall is about to erupt into pandemonium. Sansa grabs Sandor's left hand as his right hand moves under the table for the hilt of his sword; only to be reminded he did not bring one. Next time he would appreciate it if his good brother gave him a little warning, so that he and his wife are not thrown under a speeding wheelhouse.

With none of King Robb’s lords coming forward claiming Princess Sansa as their betrothed, all eyes turn to Sansa. A bright red Sansa turns to Sandor and now everyone can see that she is holding his hand.

King Robb sees the situation slipping away from him, and he raises his voice over the growing clamor. “There is one among us who has saved two members of my family and returned them to us. In the spirit of our Northmen's honor, and with an insurmountable debt to pay; I present to you my beloved sister, Princess Sansa Stark and my future good brother, Lord Sandor Clegane. Please stand and congratulate them on their impending marriage.”

Those assembled are now standing, but the congratulating did not quite happen. Random shouts were heard, ‘What about House…’, insert any of ten different northern and river lords’ houses, ‘What about the other princess?’

Robb responds, “Princess Arya has just been return to us less than a day ago. There is plenty of time to discuss her future after she is rested and better reacquainted with her family.”

“Then why the rush with Princess Sansa? She has only been returned a fortnight,” Lord Bolton chimes in. He sees his chances to legitimize and elevate his only living son slipping away.

“Princess Sansa is older and knows her own mind. She has suffered the indignity of being betrothed to Joffrey, the bastard king. I am doing what makes her safest. Let us end this questioning of your king’s decisions. Please, eat, drink, be merry, for tomorrow is a promised only the gods know. The ale and wine are free flowing, and the food is delicious, thanks to Princess Sansa, who oversaw the dinner preparations. Everyone continue your feast.”

Once the bones on otherwise cleaned plates are taken away, the tables are moved back and the dancing commences. King Robb opens up the dance with Arya. For the second dance Sansa convinces Sandor to dance with her to quiet the rumblings of their announced betrothal. Sandor runs through their well practiced steps, and for moments, it is as if they were alone in their farmhouse bedroom, dancing like no one was watching. At some point they realize that every one is watching, and no one else is dancing, because the music had ceased. Sandor simply bows to his princess and the King in the North, and escorts Sansa back to their seats. All eyes are on them as a quiet murmur spreads through the hall.

Dacey stands and walks over to Sandor. She half drags him back onto the dance floor. He has always moved well for a very large man. Thanks to his wife, he knows the steps, and no lady will have to suffer a broken foot. King Robb dances with Sansa, and then his queen. Sandor dances with his good mother. He then sits and watches as the few women take turns dancing with a number of lords. Robb also returns to the high table. He gets Clegane's attention, "Lord Clegane, I need your help with something after the feast winds down." Sandor simply nods and looks back over the dance floor, locating his wife below and keeping a watchful eye on her.

As the merriment dies down and the ale and wine and warmth of the room take their toll on the wakefulness of the guests, the Great Hall empties out. The Stark women are escorted to their rooms and extra guards are assigned by Robb. Sandor assumes in part due to the announcement of his betrothal to a Stark princess. Sansa looks back at him as she exists out the main door with her mother, sister and good sister. King Robb leads Sandor and Maege Mormont out the back door to his solar, followed by Stark house guards.

King Robb is exhausted. He was up late with his sister's arrival; then up early with his wife not feeling well, she even arrived to the feast late; then busy all day dealing with traitors' moves. When they reach his solar, the Stark guards man the the doors and Sandor and Maege follow Robb in. Robb offers them seats in front of his desk and he sits behind it.

Robb takes a few quiet moments to pull his thoughts together. "I will not keep you long. It has been a long day for us all. I had the maesters switch all the ravens out for the last week, with ravens that do not leave the grounds. Within half an hour, they circle around and return. This allowed me to personally read all the messages before they were actually sent out, as well as the ones that arrived before they were distributed." He reaches down to unlocked a drawer and pulls out a handful of scrolls. "These are the ones that peaked my interest. They are mostly from Bolton. This one came in for you from the Iron Bank." He hands the scroll over to Clegane.

"Thank you Your Grace." He bites back his irritation at having his missives read by others. He is sure it also happened in the Red Keep, for the few he received there. The note confirms that they have received his instructions for a new beneficiary for his assets, and that they hold a deed for him to be delivered on confirmation of Ser Jaime Lannister's return to King's Landing. No wonder the King allowed the marriage. He saw the confirmation that Sandor is wealthier than most in the North, possibly including the King, with the heavy costs of war.

"Lord Clegane, Maege, I now have enough proof to rule Lord Roose Bolton a traitor to the realm. I will capture him in the early morning and execute him shortly thereafter. In one of the scrolls to Lord Frey, he confirmed a plan to lure me, my queen and my men to the Twins to carry out a plan and keep Sansa as a reward for either House Bolton or Frey." Clegane grips the arm of the chair to the point of almost cracking the arm.

"I will kill him tonight," Sandor bites out.

"He is a Northern lord, you are a Westerman. My men will openly revolt. Sansa was my sister before she was your betrothed."

"Wife, she is my wife. We married today in the godswoods. I am the protector of her honor."

Rodd raises his eyebrows at that admission, "Lord Clegane, you now outrank me in Sansa's life, but I outrank you in the North. The man that passes the sentence swings the sword. In the morning we will place Bolton in a cell and any Freys in 'honored guests' rooms in the highest tower. I have them being watched now."

"What of the bastard of Bolton?"

"We are tracking him north. He is up to something."

"Mayhaps he's headed to The Dreadfort," Sandor interjects.

"No need to steal away like a thief in the night, if one is going home. We let him slip out under cover of night while you were gone, to see where he would lead us."

"Judging by Roose Bolton, all roads lead to the seven hells, or The Twins," Sandor adds.

Chapter Text

As the King is finishing up his meeting with Maege and Sandor, there is a knock at the door. One of the guards opens the door a crack to announce that Lord Bolton is asking for an audience with the King.

King Robb slides the scrolls back into his drawer and shuts it. He commands, "Send him in." He looks to Sandor and Maege and nods for them to be on guard. As Bolton steps in, Sandor stands and makes his seat available to Bolton. He takes a position behind the lord, in his blind spot.

"Your Grace, I am sorry to bother you so late, but I am glad you are still at work. I am surprised I was not invited to this meeting."

Thinking on her feet Lady Mormont chimes it, "We are planning for the wedding. Why would you be?"

"What do you seek at the late hour, Lord Bolton?" King Robb asks in a measured voice as he leans back in his chair.

"It is also about the wedding. May I speak with you alone, for a moment?"

"Not tonight. This is my last meeting for tonight. My Queen misses me."

Bolton continues, "I am just concerned for Clegane here. He has done the North a great service, but if he continues on with this wedding, he will never be able to return home."

Robb adds in, "Hear that Lord Clegane? You can never go home again."

"Haven't truly been home for more than half my life."

"Do you still want to marry my sister?"

"Aye."

"Well, there you have it Lord Bolton. Anything else?"

"Your Grace, I have served you, and your lord father before you, long and loyally. I just wish you would consider my son for-." Robb is busy fidgeting with his drawer, as if he cannot get it open.

"Lord Bolton, do you have a dagger I may use. My drawer is stuck." Lord Bolton removes his dress dagger from his belt, and hands it to his king. Robb examines the knife. "Valyrian steel. Impressive." He jiggles the lock and makes a show it not working. "Do you have a flaying knife? That may work better." Robb takes the now offered flaying knife, but keeps Bolton's dagger. He 'uses' the knife to open the drawer. "Your bastard son, born of rape?"

"It was not rape. It was first night."

"First nights were outlawed by the Kings of Winter. That makes it rape. Where is this son, Lord Bolton? Why have I not seen him in over a sennight? Did he defect from your men?"

"No, I sent him north."

"Without my leave."

"He gets into trouble if left with nothing to do. He is hunting for our winter meats."

"Well, thank you Lord Bolton. We can never have enough meat. Winter is Coming. When might we expect his return?"

"Once he and his men are loaded down with game."

"Very good. When he returns I can address with him a petition that just arrived. It is from Lord Wyman Manderly about his cousin, the late Donella Snow, before that Hornwood. Also, I have some messages for you." Robb again removes the scrolls from his drawer and places them on his desk. "Or, mayhaps, it is more accurate to say they are from you." Roose sifts through the raven scrolls and picks up one to confirm his fears.

"What is this?"

"Missives you sent out, by your own hands. Also, my sister confirmed that you met with Lord Tywin Lannister while she was at Harrenhal."

"Sansa was never at Harrenhal. I have no idea with you are talking about."

"Correct, Sansa was not there, but Arya was. She was the cupbearer. Tell me again how you got Harrenhal away from the Mountain and his men."

"Your future good brother's brother, and most of his men had left for the capital to prepare for Stannis. We simply moved in and took it."

"Then when you encountered Lord Tywin, it would have been easy to capture him and bring him to me?"

"I did not see him. I did not meet with him. I barely remember even having a cupbearer. Why wouldn't Arya tell me who she was? I could have brought her home."

"You gave her reason to not trust you, by your actions, and your consorting with our enemy."

"I am betting she had me confused with another."

"So you are a betting man Lord Bolton? I am betting you have an entire story you can weave to excuse all this. Mayhaps my sister was confused. What do you think Lord Clegane?"

"The she wolf seemed clear to me, Your Grace."

"Let's say she was not confused. Lord Clegane, why do you think Lord Bolton would meet with Lord Tywin Lannister, never mention it to me, nor turn Lord Tywin over to me?"

"Well, given my situation before the exchange, I would have done the same. But I worked for the Lannisters."

"That is my conclusion. Lord Bolton, anything to say in your defense?"

"You believe the Lannister Hound over me? I am loyal to my king, that is the truth."

"King Joffrey seems to be your king in your alternative truth. I agree with Clegane's logic, my sister's eyewitness, and your missives, written in your own hand." King Robb waves his hand over the scrolls on his desk. Roose reaches for his dagger. Then King Robb shakes his head at him. He opens his drawer again, and pulls out the two knives he tricked out of Roose, and hid while he was distracted by his own scrolls coming back to testify against him. King Robb drops them back in and slams the drawer shut. I need you to write a letter turning your troops over to Lady Maege Mormont and Lord Sandor Clegane."

"I will not."

"Lord Clegane, do you know how to uses a flaying knife?"

"If it's like flaying a deer, aye."

"Since it is a lengthy process, you can start after a good night's rest. Leave his writing hand intact."

"This will not stand!" Bolton exclaims.

"Lady Mormont let the guards in." Then King Robb turns to Lord Bolton. "Can I trust you not to cause a scene." Bolton looks ready to bolt. Sandor reads his threatening movements and knocks him over the head with his closed fist. Bolton slumps back in the chair from which he was about to spring.

Maege opens the door, "Lord Bolton is not well. We needs move him."

"Aye milady, to the maester?"

She turns to the King in the North, "Your Grace?" Robb takes out parchment, quill and ink.

"Take him to the cells. Lady Mormont find his wax seal in his rooms. Bring it to him there, along with these. Guards take Bolton the backway. Watch out for his men." He hands the writing implements to Dacey, and Sandor follows the men to the cells.

Sandor leaves an unconscious Bolton well guarded in the Riverrun cells. Only Stark and Mormont guards will due. He heads back to the family wing. He walks past the little bird's room to make sure all is well. He also checks on the she wolf's door. Stark guards are stationed at both. He asked both sets to be extra diligent tonight and wake him if anything is out of the ordinary. He makes his way to his own room, and let's himself in with the key his good mother gave him before the feast. The only reason he never wanted a key was to give him an excuse to have Sansa at his door. Now that his good mother is onto him, it is pointless not to have his own key.

He enters and bolts his door. No reason to get killed in his sleep, before he can make the little bird his wife in truth. He starts to remove his good clothes and folds them neatly, as Sansa would expect. He puts on a loose pair of pants and climbs into bed. He grabs his spare bastard sword from where it hangs on his bed, and unsheathes it to keep it at his side on the bed.

Sandor is having trouble sleeping, but cannot allow his soldier senses to be dulled by more wine to help him sleep. He thinks of brushing his wife's soft hair. It soothes his mind and causes his muscles to slack. He finally drifts away to dream of holding his wife in an unknown godswood, sitting under the sentinel tree. She is heavy with child and nestled against his chest. His chin rests on the crown her head. His large hand is dwarfed by her swollen belly. His sleeping mind tells him this is a dream, but it is the best dream he's every had. His dreams of fire and Gregor have mercifully faded away in his moons of living with Sansa. Sadly, his dreams of his sister have also faded, but her name is sometimes in his waking thoughts.

Sandor wakes while it is still dark. His first thought is in fact of Laenor. He turns on his side to look out the window. He guesses it is a few hour before the castle will wake. He forces himself back to sleep, knowing the day will be trying. He does not wake again until there is knocking at his door. He was so tired he didn't even remember going back to sleep. He springs out of bed and gets to the door in two steps with his sword in hand, for no castle is without dangers.

"Who's there?" He barks out.

"Princess Sansa sent a bath for you. You are to meet with the King this morning." He unbolts his door, places his sword behind him and he swings the door open. "The Princess also included this note for you." He takes it with his free hand and looks forward to reading it once he is bathing. Once he is alone, he strips naked and sinks into the tub. He picks up the note from the nearby table he had set it on. Instead of a note of endearments, with soft words, it is an itinerary of his day planned out for him in detail, starting with breaking his fast with King Robb, then clothing fitting, then troop meeting...When did she wake to organize this. He sets it aside to bathe while the water is hot. He just woke and he is already irritated with his day. He remembers it could have been worse. He could still be in King's Landing, keeping Joff from killing things and setting fires.

He makes it to King Robb's private dining room. He is greeted with a seat by his wife, and a glorious smile from her. He wishes she would choose to sit on his right, but she always sits on his left, despite his scars. She says that is her rightful place as his lady wife. In times when no one else can hear, he sometimes adds, her place is sitting on his lap, riding his cock. She no longer smacks him for this, but now offers a pretty blush and heated looks. He now places his hand on her shoulder to keep her from rising to curtesy to him, as he sits. He must have kept his hand there a few moments too long, for he can feel Tully blue eyes on him, and they do not belong to his little bird. He moves his hand to his seat and pulls it out to sit. As he looks up he sees three sets of Stark eyes looking at him with various levels of annoyance, and one set looking at him with worship.

He decides to distract from the awkwardness of the situation by asking a question. "Your Grace, do you wish me to finalize last night's matter." He is still itching to dispatch away with the man who plotted to steal his wife and unborn babe from him.

"We shall talk on it after we break our fasts. We don't want to hold my mother and sister up from discussing your wedding plans. They were just asking me questions better suited for you."

"Princess Sansa has my permission to plan whatever she sees fit," Sandor attests.

Sansa chimes in, "Mother thought we could marry in the godswood, and then the sept. I told her that just the sept would be fine, but she insists." Sandor looks to his good mother. She has a self-satisfied smile on her face. He realizes she was hoping to further punish him for getting a babe on Sansa and forcing her hand in allowing the marriage.

He cuts Lady Stark off at the pass with one comment, "Princess Sansa, I think your mother has the right of it. Two weddings it is." So he and his little bird will be married four time before he ever beds her, properly beds her at least. He looks to Lady Catelyn and nods to her. She looks mildly let down that he is not more chaffed. Little does she know he could marry Sansa all day, everyday, as long as she stays his, and he gets to finally have her, completely. His mind drifts to her under him, wet, her thighs hugging him; then he hears his name. It is not the breathless way he wants to hear it. He comes back to the present with, "Yes?"

Sansa chimes in, "My brother was asking you a question."

"Your Grace?"

"I was asking what are your intentions after the wedding?"

"Once the Kingsla-Ser Jaime Lannister reaches King's Landing, I will receive instructions on which lands I was granted. If it is safe, I will head there with Sansa and wait out the war."

"If it is war-torn?"

"Make a better plan."

"You and Sansa could head north with us. I think my mother would like Sansa and Arya with her a little while longer."

Sandor thinks on it, "I may like that too." Sansa will need her mother to help her as she carries their first child. He may have to be away from her for a time depending on were his lands are, and to review their security and reinforce them. As they all finish their meals they continue with small talk about the wedding plans.

After the meal Lady Stark ask as she is leaving, "Your Grace, may I borrow Lord Clegane very briefly. After your meeting of course."

"Certainly mother. I will direct him to you once we are done."

The woman begin to exit to tend to more detailed wedding planning and other household matters. Sandor hands his good mother his coin pouch stating, "For the wedding costs." She looks him in the eye debating, then accepts it with a nod and leaves. Sandor shuts the door and turns back to his meeting with the King in the north.

"Lord Clegane, please sit. I am in need of your counsel. Now that some of my men have proven false, how did the Lannisters keep your loyalties all these years?"

"I have a personal code. The things I am committed to, I give my best, or in the case of Joffrey, my worst."

"Where are your loyalties now?"

"With my wife."

"Sansa will always be a Stark." Sandor just looks at him, reading his intentions.

"Aye, I will always respect that."

"I had the maester write out the orders for Lord Bolton to turnover his men to you and Lady Mormont, while he is indisposed. The threat of unleashing the Infamous Lannister Dog on him this morning motivated him to sign the order himself. We have affixed his seal to it. I have already presented them to his second in command."

"I take it they did not know he had turned his cloak?"

"No. I also suspect his bastard is headed to Winterfell to infiltrate it while I am tied up with this war, and it is in disrepair from the Ironborn. Bolton and Frey were not planning to ambush us at the Twins to just gain Sansa and revenge for a major slight. They want Winterfell and Riverrun. After the wedding I want you and Maege to travel north with us to the Twins."

"I do not want to risk Sansa at the Twins."

"We can send my sisters, my Queen and lady mother further north to Greywater Watch. My late father's best friend is there. No one can find the castle, unless the Crannogmen want it found. It could be for the best. They can wait out the war there. The babe would be born in safety."

"What?" Sandor can feel his heart start to race. Did Lady Stark tell her son of Sansa's condition?

"We just found out my Queen is with child. She has been bedridden most of the week until late in the day. Only my mother and wife know, and now you. I want to keep them safe. You cannot even tell Sansa. She is the worst liar in the family."

"She's the worst liar I've ever met; and I knew a city full them."

"Let me get to the point, since my mother is waiting for you. Someone has to hold The Dreadfort, now that Bolton is incapacitated."

"Give it to the Bears."

"Do you know where your lands will be?"

"No. Strategically it would make sense for Lord Tywin to put me near the boarder of the Crownlands and Riverlands. Close enough to the capital to be used as a threat."

"That makes sense. I do, need to determine where the boundaries of your loyalties will lay, as my sister's husband and a Lannister man."

"I understand Your Grace. Know this, I will always do right by Sansa. Always."

"I am trusting our lives and my kingdom on that. Some of the lords grumble that I have let an enemy not only into my gates, but also into my family."

"Alliances between people on opposite sides are how peace is won. I will never take a position against your family or your holdings. I owe the Lannister no debt, and no further loyalties."

"If Tywin calls the banners?"

"He will not put me in the Westerlands. My brother and I cannot occupy the same area."

Another matter I need to deal with is Gendry. Are you sure he is King Robert's bastard?"

"It was a widely known secret. Queen Cersei was certain he was."

"I need to reach out to Lord Stannis to possibly form an alliance, now that I have lost the Karstarks, Freys and possibly the Boltons. Gendry could be the bridge to that. I would appreciate it if you would tell me what you know about him that could help me treat with him." They spend the next hour going over Stannis' quirks, one of which is not being called by his proper title. Once they reach the end of Sandor's knowledge, Sandor turns the conversation back to Bolton.

"Everyday he's sitting in the cells, is a day he is working his way out of it," Sandor warns.

"I may need him to deal with his bastard, or his men."

"You know my position on it. I fear this will not end well," Sandor laments.

"I will take that under advisement. Now, before we both end up sleeping in the kennels, you best see what our lady mother wants of you. Being king will not keep her from boxing my ears."

The way the King includes him in 'our lady mother' takes enough wind from Sandor's lungs, that he can only nod his acknowledgement. He stands to leave to find his good mother. When he does find her, she is alone sewing on a large piece of rich black wool.

"Lady Stark." He gives her his court-trained bow.

"No need for such formalities in my solar. Please have a seat my lord."

"No need for formalities with me anywhere." He takes a seat opposite her.

"I just wanted to talk to you to get a better sense of you. You have a reputation for extreme loyalty to the Lannisters, and yet, you put my daughter above them." The King in the North and his mother must have been talking about where his loyalties will lay, when the war is at his doorstep.

"I made them no vows.

"You and your brother have quite a reputation for violence." Sandor's jaw clenches at being viewed like his brother. He considers his answer, before he kills their tentative truce.

"My reputation is that I follow orders with unmatched ferocity. Gregor does what Gregor wants. He simply found someone to pay him for it. I am not my brother."

"There are also rumors that you hate him."

"Until I was charged with Sansa's care, my only purpose in life was to kill my brother with my own hands, and watch him slowly die."

"I will not ask for your reasons, for one day you may want to share them with me of your own accord. What is your position on this now?"

"I only want Sansa and our children to be safe and happy. I am not sure when the changed happen, but my motivations have all switched to her care and comfort. She deserves to he honored with everything I can ever give her, and I fear that will still fall short."

"Would you mind standing for me?" Sandor does as he is bid, without a delay. "Please face away." He gives her a questioning look. In King's Landing, turning your back on someone could be certain death. He's hoping Bolton's Valyrian steel digger did not find its way into her skirts. She could cut through hardened muscles like warm butter with that.

He decides to trust his good mother, despite past harms from members of his own family, and he turns his back to her. She drapes the black fabric over his shoulders, and walks around to face him. She pins the cape closed, and adjusts it to lay properly. She steps back and examines the lay of the groom's cloak. "I was going to have The Great Jon try it on as a stand in, but it might give him the wrong idea, and Sansa forbid it. She thinks he smells of hard labor."

"I frequently smelled of hard labor. It never bothered Sansa." She moves around to smooth out the back, and he feels a sharp prick in his lower back. His head jerk around to glare at her.

"Pardon my lord I must mark the placement of your sigil. That could not have hurt. I must have stuck Sansa three times in her fitting."

"You stuck my wife?"

"She now fidgets, thanks to you."

"How am I to blame if she fidgets?"

"She needed to make-to use the..."

"I see. Well, I promise to stand as still as the Warrior."

"More like the Father." He jerks again after another pin prick.

"Sansa is half your size, and as delicate as a flower. She does not jump from a pin prick.

"No one has ever dared stick me with a pin. I do have a reputation." Despite his implied threat through gritted teeth, Lady Stark sticks him a third time. He realizes she is testing his temperament. She is a mother wolf, despite being born a fish and a bat. Every Stark woman tests him, and he fails every test in their favor.

She puts the fourth boarder pin into the cape so that the three that died on an autumn field will be properly centered on the black cape. She unpins the cape at his neck and drapes it carefully over her arm.

"Sansa says you have a jeweled broach that she would like to use to fasten your cloak."

"It belonged to my mother. It would have gone to my sister, if she had lived. I would prefer we use it for Sansa's cloak." Lady Stark nods her head to this and gives his hand a squeeze.

"I didn't know you had a sister. What was her name? Was she lost during Robert's Rebellion?"

"Her name was Laenor. I was small, but believe Gregor killed her and my father covered it up for his anointed knight." She looks up to him with a mother's tenderness, and he turns and walks away before a forming tear can fall.

Chapter Text

Jaime is dressed in is his full Lannister amour. It is in need of the attention of the Keep's best smiths. He spent much of the boat ride shining it as best he could and honing his blades to a fine edge, like he was back in his old squire days at Crakehall. He has not been able to dress in his armor for over a year. He is to out of practice, that he might as well be working one handed. So he has Brienne help him into his armor as the boat is docking.

"Wench, get my bags."

"You have two hands. Why can you not grab them yourself?" She grabs his bags none the less, and her own besides, but she gives him a look that could curdle fresh milk.

"What? I am going down to outfit our horses. I will meet you on deck once we dock." Brienne simple rolls her eyes and heads out of their cabin door. Ser Jaime trails behind her. She heads up on deck, he turns down into the livestock hold. Jaime regrets not having sent the wench instead, now that his sense of smell has returned.

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Finally, on solid ground after a five days on a ship traveling down the God's Eye River, they unceremoniously take the short trip to the Red Keep. As he and Brienne near the Keep, the Gold Cloaks recognize Ser Jaime, and give him an honor guard to the White Sword Tower. He sees to it that Brienne is accommodated with proper guest quarters in Maegor's Holdfast, befitting her station, and the service she paid to him.

Once in his old room, Jaime takes advantage of the endless hot water and takes two baths; one to get clean, after only being able to wash up from a basin in their cabin on the boat; and one to soak in and relax. Someone brought him his kingsguard armor, shined and waiting for him after a year of neglect from disuse. They take away his abused Lannister armor to recondition it. He puts on a clean set of his kingsguard leather doublet and white wool pants. He wants to dress properly to seek out his sister. He has been a year without her love and presences. Once he is dressed in full kingsguard plate, he heads to the royal suites in the Keep.

As he approaches his Queen's door the Lannister guards greets him with surprise, and bow to him as their better. They, however, do not move aside to allow him to enter the Queen Regent's private rooms.

"Tell my sister that I have returned? She will demand to see me."

"We will inform her Lord Commander." When neither moves, Jaime steps toward to door. The two Lannister men cross their pikes over the door to prevent his entry and their deaths. "None can disturb her right now, on order of death. It has been such since before King Robert died." Jaime knew that she instituted this order so that the two of them could be together without fear of discovery. 'Cersei is laying with another man', is Jaime's only thought.

"I shall return when she is receiving."

"As you say Lord Commander." They move their pikes back to neutral and return to attention.

Within an hour of his arrival, and several minutes of his retreat from the Queen's chamber door, Jaime descends into the secret chamber that leads to and from his sister's rooms. He can hear the city's bells beginning to ring. With the overbearing sounds of the bells, Jaime cannot hear himself think. He can feel the heat and fury rising from his gut. He positions himself in a dark corner of this hidden bowel under the Queen's chamber as his cousin Lancel emerges from his sister's hidden door; probably in more ways than one. From where he is hidden in the shadows, Jaime cannot be seen, but he can see all. His sister has replaced him with a poor substitute. He has already killed one cousin, while chained up like a dog by the wolves. Killing another is not a problem, especially one that has cuckolded him. He follows the not quite a man and catches him by surprise.

He grabs the boy from behind and gets him in a chokehold. As they are press front to back, he can smell his sisters sex in Lancel's hair. He places his sword hand firmly over his cousin's mouth, and whispers in his ear, "I hope you enjoyed fucking my sister. It will have to last you an eternity." He snaps Lancel Lannister's neck like a lion snatching its prey; and he drops the body where they stand. It will be weeks before the smell of rot causes his body to be discovered, unless Cersei has another paramour using the tunnels. Jamie heads back to his room to consume enough wine to drink a Clegane under the table.

An hour after the tolling of the bells announcing the return of Lord Commander Jaime Lannister of the Kingsguard, ravens are emptying out of the rookery announcing his return. Cersei instructs the maester not to send one to her father. She plans to also intercept Clegane, before her father can finalize his discharge from the Kingsguard and his duties as her Joffrey's sworn shield.

Unbeknownst to Cersei, a King's Landing representative of the ever efficient Iron Bank has spiders whispering in his ears, and he sends a raven onto the main bank in Braavos. Based on instructions from Lord Tywin Lannister, in a file belonging to one Sandor Clegane, a Lordship will be irrevocably granted to him, from this day forward. It can only be passed down to his natural born sons, to prevent Ser Gregor from putting it asunder by declaring war on his own brother. Lord Tywin knows that his mad dog needs a strong leash, and a Lannister always pays his debts.

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One guard has gone to tell Lord Hand Tyrion of Ser Jaime's return. Once Cersei emerges from her room, the one remaining guard informs her that Lord Commander Jaime has returned to the capital. "Where is he?" she demands.

"He left when we would not let him enter your private chambers. I sent Ser Kent to inform Lord Tyrion. They are ringing the bells for his return."

"That is what woke me. Did my brother say where he was going?"

"No my Queen. But he was angry we would not grant him access."

"Find my maids. Send them to me immediately."

"With Ser Kent gone, I cannot leave my post."

"Go now," she seethes through her teeth. The guard nods and hurries off. Cersei runs back into the room and strips her bedding, then drops wine on the stains she and Lancel had made. She runs through her clothing options as she waits, and selects one of her new dresses made for the upcoming wedding celebrations. The maids arrive quickly. She sets some to cleaning her rooms, others to drawing her bath and laying out her clothing and jewelry. Her most trusted maid she sends to the kitchens to ask for several of Jaime's favorite meals to be prepared for an impromptu feast, and to return with strong moon tea.

Once she is ready she has her guards escort her to the White Sword Tower to find Jaime, and to talk with Sandor to fix the mess her father had made. Jaime is not in his room, but his things are there. No one has seen Sandor, and his room is empty, except for his formal armor. Clegane's discarded armor causes her to seethe. It confirms to her that Sandor Clegane had not planed to come back. The duties to her son sloughed off like an outgrown snake skin. They then head over the Tower of the Hand, to see if Jaime is with the Imp. Tyrion's foreign handmaid, who is shite with her wobbly curtsey, tells them the lions headed towards Maegor's. Cersei storms away with her small group to continue her search as she circles back from once she came. She is mad at herself for missing a reunion with her twin, by having her cousin in her bed. She needs to send him away, to keep Jaime from finding out any sorted details.

She finally tracks Tyrion down in a main hallway as he hobbles along in a hurry. Cersei moves into his path. “Where is my brother?”

He does an exaggerated bow with a flourish. “Standing before you dear sister. I think this is the first time you have referred to me as your ‘brother’.”

“Where is Jaime? I’ve been looking for him for the last hour.”

“He was headed to the guest suites to drink with his overly large traveling companion.”

“Great. I can welcome Jaime and Clegane back.” She is happy that she was wrong about Clegane.

“But he is not-“ Cersei turns on her heels to head to the guest wing of Maegor's, a swish of gold silks. She leaves Tyrion standing in her wake, with his mouth still open to finish his sentence. Her men follow behind, a swish of red wool capes. Tyrion continues on to the rookery to send his father word that the golden son has been returned. How in the world did The Hound manage this one? May he spend the rest of his life buried sword deep in his little bird.

Cersei marches over to the guest suites just short of a panic, and uses her men to enquire of his location. They are finally hot on his trail in a room where a somber Rains of Castamere are leaking through the doors. The door is opened after a resounding knock from the Queen herself, and a very tall man with slightly feminine features and brilliant sapphire eyes looks down on her. He gracefully bows with a “Your Grace.”

“I am looking for my brother, Ser Jaime. Is he here Ser-?"

“Brienne- Brienne of Tarth.”

“Ah- your lord father has been long absent from our court, yet his lands are so close. My brother and Clegane?”

“Ser Jaime is out on the balcony, but-” Cersei sweeps past her like she is but dust. She rushes to the balcony to greet him, in that relative privacy. As she rushes to hug him, he bows to her with a slurred, “Your Grace.”

“What is it, what’s wrong? Are you well?”

“Well, enough. And you my Queen, how was your day?” He glares at her.

“Let’s go where we may talk in private.”

“And where is that, my Queen?”

“Stop this!” She hisses under her breath?”

Jaime shouts “Wench, come! Let me introduce you to my sister, our queen.”

Brienne slowly and begrudgingly approaches the two. “I just introduced myself to our Queen, Ser.” I will leave you two to my rooms to properly great each other. I shall find my way to the kitchens.”

“My sister is very busy, and we are now reacquainted. I’ll join you in your quest for food, wench. I am a man with a year's long appetite to satisfy.” Jaime pulls his wine loosened joints together to saunter past his beloved sister, his other self; and exits with his head held high. Lady Brienne of Tarth looks at the seething monarch, and begs pardon before taking her stilted leave.

Once the mismatched pair arrives in the kitchens, they raid the panty for the foods already waiting the impromptu feast preparations for his return celebrations, or so he is informed by kitchen staff. They share an entire roasted peacock and a pigeon pie. “Will you resume your position in the kingsguard?”

“It is a life position, but I no longer have a true place here. Anyone can replace me. Another Lannister mayhaps.”

“I think it best I leave on the marrow. Tonight shall be your welcome, and my fare thee well. I must go attend to my father. As our queen said, he has not attended court in a while. I must see how he is.”

“Why don’t I escort you there? I owe you a retinue for your service to me.”

“After the last year, you have earned your rest here. I shall be fine, Ser Jaime.”

“After being held captive, I do have a bit of wanderlust. I will rest in Tarth. Do you have roasted peacock and pigeon pie there?”

“It can most certainly be arranged.” Brienne tries to suppress a smile, but fails wonderfully.

“Then consider it a firm date, we leave on the morrow.” Brienne looks at him quietly stunned and surprisingly happy to not be rid of his snide presence. After eating their fill of delicacies, while risking their appetites for the feast, the two head to the rookery to send a message to Brienne’s lord father. They run into Tyrion leaving the Maester’s rookery as they are ascending. Brienne lets her lord father know to expect her and an honored guest in a few days.


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The royal family sits the high table on the dais. Ser Jaime sits in the seat of honor, on Joffrey’s right. The King’s new betrothed, Lady Margaery, sits on Joffrey’s left and Queen Cersei sits next to her, as if cast off to Essos. Prince Tommen is at her other side. Jaime insisted that his brother sit on his right, and Lady Brienne sit next to Tyrion, as an honored guest.

Cersei sulks knowing now that she failed to prevent her father from finding out about Jaime’s return, because of the Imp. Clegane would get his lordship. Her options are slim, but she might still find some red meat to offer The Hound to entice him to return to duty. She had stewed about this and Jaime’s rebuff all afternoon. Jaime would not give her a change to speak to him in private. She considered getting ideas from the Imp, but he was the current source of her escalating failure.

Cersei had thought she could use the technicality of Lady Brienne escorting Jaime back to keep a hold on her Hound’s leash. Alas, just before the feast, Tyrion delivered to her a copy of Clegane’s official release from the kingsguard, and his duty as the King’s sworn shield. Tyrion backed away from her with a, “Look sister, I know you blame me for this, but I am only the messenger. Father executed this before he left for home. The only contingency was Jaime’s safe return. He is safe and returned.”

“Well, I won’t release him from our service.” She grabs the large scroll and tears it.

“Cersei, that is not the only copy. It will not work like it did with ripping Robert’s will from Ned.”

“I’ll burn every copy.”

“The other problem is how will you get the man to come back here. We sent him out by himself because he is an army onto himself.”

Hours later Cersei sits at the feast simmering in the memory of this conversation, and her powerless situation in this matter. She also wallows in the loss of her Jaime’s attention after being so long separated. She has not even been able to have a private moment with him. He is only three people away from him, but he might as well still be in the Riverlands.

As the feast winds down, King Joffrey stands to make a toast, and the room quiets. He is well into his cups and takes a moment to steady himself. “Your King would like to thank you all for partaking of the feast I have provided. We are celebrating my uncle’s safe return to us. We would reward him with a notation in the White Book of the Kingsguard, but being captured is not something we want to reward. We will add a notation on Clegane’s page for brokering his safe return. It only cost me one very beautiful betrothed, but I have replaced her with someone almost as beautiful, but much more worthy of being my queen, your queen. Raise your glasses to your King, my Lady and Lord Commander, Ser Jaime Lannister.”

The room is still near silent and people reluctantly drink to that toast. Margaery looks to her grandmother, her grandmother looks to Cersei. Cersei is looking in her glass of wine, as if all the answers to her questions are in that cup. The Queen of Thrones thinks perhaps they could be.

After the feast Cersei seeks out Jaime again in his rooms in the White Sword. She has left all her guards behind. He opens the door and allows her in.

She takes note of his cold, detached demeanor. She will not stand for it. She closes the door behind her, and drops to her knees in front of him. She clasps her arms around his thighs and places her cheek on his abdomen. “Why do you hate me?”

He places his sword hand on her head and tells her, “I don’t hate you. I love you more than myself. You are the only woman I ever loved, besides our mother.” Cersei tightens her grip on him. “And that is my problem. It was never right. You were never truly mine.”

“I was yours. I am yours.”

“I’ve always shared you. I want something of my own. Father’s always wanted me released from the Kingsguard. I think I am going to accept and take over the Rock.

“What? No! I need you.”

“You were fine without me all this time. It’s time we are what we should have always been; brother and sister.” He pries her arms away from his legs. “I am escorting Lady Brienne to Tarth late in the morning. I need to get to bed.”

He walks away from Cersei and climbs into his bed and pulls the covers up, to tell her in no uncertain terms she is not invited. “Close the door on your way out.”

Cersei lingers in the room for a few moments, then she takes her leave, with her head swimming in drink, disappointment, anger and grief; but mostly grief.

Jaime feels like he is lost and floating free from his body, no longer grounded in his past reality.

When Jaime wakes in the morning, he has the maids pack up his room and move everything to storage, until transport can be arranged to Casterly Rock. He looks around the room and thinks he may never set foot in the Keep again. That actually brings a smile to his face. He feels free of a tie that had forever bound him to his twin since birth. He finally let go of the grip he had on her, since he was born holding her foot.

Suddenly, Cersei arrives at his door with Tommen in tow. “Mother tells me you are leaving again Uncle Jaime. Will you come home soon?”

“Tommen, I am going home for the first time in a long time. You can visit me there. Maybe the Queen will let you squire for me.”

“Can I mother, and take Ser Pounce with me?” Cersei places her hands on his shoulders to hold him a little closer to her. She seems to be losing more pieces of her family, instead of uniting them.

“Jaime, won’t you wait for our- for Joffrey’s wedding. It is a major event in our family, and father may not be there.”

“I won’t say yes, but I am not saying no either. Is the date set?”

“Not yet.”

“Mayhaps I will visit Myrcella in Dorne, and escort her to the wedding. We shall see.” Cersei smiles at this and there is a glimmer of hope in her eyes of having her family together, for the first time, really since the days of the Mad King. “I best be leaving. Prince Tommen, would you do me the honor of escorting me to the courtyard.” Jaime offers the Prince a flourish of a bow, then takes his son by his small, chubby hand, and leads him past Cersei.

Chapter Text

“My King, I now see wolves and dogs…and weirwoods in the fires. Before, I only saw snow at the Wall, and dead things walking towards it. It is right that we head north. We must meet with Lord Robb Stark and turn him north, for the night is dark and full of terrors. We will find the answers we need at the Wall.”

“I sent the so-called King in the North a response to his message. My new ships and men were already preparing to head north to East Watch from Essos. We will send the rest of our standing army North on our big ships, and we shall take a few smaller ships up river to Riverrun. We should be there in just over a sennight. What else do you see?

“A marriage. A joining of forces that may bring on the new dawn.”

“Who’s wedding?”

“I cannot see this clearly. Since you are the prince who was promised, it may be you. I need more blood, my King.”

“I already have a wife, but take what you need from me.”

“But you do not have an heir. A true king must have an heir, and she cannot give you one.” Stannis pulls out his dagger to prick his finger, and the red woman stops him. “I have taken all the secrets you can give me. The fires tell me the same things, fire and ice. I need the blood of ice to see through the flames.”

“Lord Stark says he has my brother’s bastard, a smith’s apprentice, Gendry Waters. Cersei tried to have him killed, along with the other royal bastards."

"His blood may do us well enough. Maybe we can even get to the King in the North.”

“We are not taking enough men on our detour. I do not want to fight a war on three fronts. Two is risky enough.”

“Had you brought me to King’s Landing, my king, we would have the Iron Throne. Now however, only the Great War to come truly matters.” He just looks at her, torn between shutting her up and conceding the mistake.


 

The day after Gendry's arrival, King Robb Stark had sent out a missive by raven to King Stannis Baratheon at Dragonstone. He let Stannis know a bastard son of dead King Robert Baratheon is under Robb’s protection. It is not Robb’s preferred method of communicating critical news, but the time is short, and the distance is great. He is seeking a meeting with King Stannis, and exploring the possibility of legitimizing Gendry Waters, to stab at the heart of the inbred, double Lannister, bastard king. Let the Baratheons fight for the Iron Throne. King Robb only wants an independent North and revenge on the bastard for his lord father's death.

Robb got a response that not only will Stannis meet with him and Gendry, but also he was already preparing to travel North by sea. Somehow he has secured a new fleet, since the battle for King's Landing. The majority of the new fleet was headed North to Eastwatch by the Sea, Stark lands, while also neutral territory. Stannis is diverting some of his smaller ships around Crackclaw Point, through the Bay of Crabs, to the Red Fork, directly to Riverrun to meet. He also estimated that he would be well in route, before the letter arrived; and would send a raven when they were two days away.

Robb immediately sends out raven to Riverland and Northern houses on the water’s edge to send scouts along the expected routes, to follow King Stannis' and his ships’ progress north to the Wall and west to Riverrun. This will ensure they pose no threat. He also sends a raven to his dear brother at the Wall, to advise him of Baratheon men headed his way.

As he prepares for their arrival, he consults with his small council. He also privately meets with Lord Clegane, since he is not on his small council. The Hound is the only one in his camp that has had extensive experience with Stannis. The young king also has hard news for Clegane about his upcoming marriage to Sansa.

Once Sandor is situated, Robb starts, "Lord Clegane, I have already briefed the other lords, King Stannis is headed here, and is due in less than a sennight, based on my scouts. The bulk of his men are traveling to the Wall via Eastwatch. I have need to send men there with his men, which will prevent Stannis from an overreach in Stark lands."

"Sounds like a job for the Greatjon, and the Bears."

"It is, but we agreed that it is not enough.”

Sandor's head drops and his hands form fists, knowing where this is going. They want the Hound to run north with the stags, wolves, bears and giants. He turns cold eyes back to the King in the North. "Where ever my lands are, North is the opposite direction."

"There's another thing. A scroll arrived earlier today. I will not lie to you, I have read it," Robb looks down at the scroll on his desk, more to get away from those deadly eyes, than anything else.

"If you don't trust me, why send me North."

Robb schools his face to look his good brother in the eye. "I trust you to tell me true. Otherwise, Sansa would become an Umber or Glover, not a Clegane. It's the Lannisters and Baratheons I don't trust. This is the deed to your lands, Lord Clegane." Robb picks it up and offers it to Sandor. He slowly reaches for it, for fear it will vanish before his eyes. He looks at the large scroll wrapped in Lannister red pig skin, but after several heartbeats, does not open it. "Will you not open it?"

"I need to open it with my wife. Otherwise, she may peck my eyes out."

"Understood. You smartly fear your wife. I have to admit, thinking of my little sister as a wife to anyone does my head in."

"I had a sister. I do understand that.”

"I didn't know you have a sister."

"Had."

"Seven hells, sorry." Sandor just looks at Robb and gives a single nod of acceptance. He does not trust his voice. The little bird's fresh grief at her lost little brothers made tender his old wounds. The two men share a solemn moment, to let their separate losses wash over them. Robb quickly wants to changes the subject. He clears his throat, but the first words fail him, and come out as a small squeak. He coughs to regain his voice and takes a solid breath. "The group will head out shortly after the wedding."

"How long?"

"Two, maybe three days. I can only hold Stannis here so long."

"Fuck me sideways. Sansa will not be happy with either of us. This is one reason why I never thought I would marry; long campaigns from home."

"I can tell you from personal experience, the welcome home almost makes up for the loss." Sandor remembers he was saved from a round trip to return the Kingslayer. His deed in hand is proof of the completion of his Lannister duties. Except for his trip to retrieve the wolf girl, he and Sansa have been near each other since King Robert's retinue descended on Winterfell like a swarm of locusts.

Sansa did sneak into his room to welcome him back upon his return with her sister. It was the sweetest gift he has ever received. That welcome home was from the seventh heaven. However, he is not sure which of them will suffer more at the impending loss of the other.

Sandor finally gets out of his head and contributed to their conversation. "Why is Stannis going to the Wall?"

"He didn't say, but we will keep an eye on him. We are gathering the provisions together. Get me a list of your specific needs." Sandor just nods. "I will leave it to you to tell Sansa."

"Mayhaps your mother would be best to tell her. She would never stab her own mother."

"True, but you will have to ask our mother yourself." Sandor just nods and stands to leave. He turns on his heels and makes a solemn exit. As he is closing the door he wonders at the phrase 'our mother'. The king must have meant 'our', as in Robb's and Sansa's mother, not Sandor's. He heads to Lady Stark's solar, since the ladies are always there working on wedding preparations.

He is allowed into the bastion of women and finds a number of women and fabrics everywhere, but no Sansa. His good mother suggests the kitchen, because that is where she spends most of her waking hours due to 'the stress of planning a wedding'. Sandor takes the servants' hallway into the kitchen and the back door into the larder. He is rewarded with his lovely maiden wife, licking her fingers, and he loves her all the more in this unguarded moment. He sneaks up on her, as she is completely distracted with her pickled vegetable brine.

"Little bird, let me help you with that." He takes first her index finger, and then her thumb, and sucks them clean. She looks on in awe, not quite sure how to process the sensation. He takes a linen napkin from the stack and dips the corner in a bowl of water. He cleans off her hand properly and dries it with another corner, before discarding the linen.

"I have a surprise for you." That announcement brings her out of stupefaction. A glorious smile replaces her former shocked expression. Sandor continues to hold onto her hand with his left hand, while removing his right hand to reach into his tunic. He pulls out the red leather covered scroll, and lays it in her hand.

"What is this?"

"A deed to my lands...our lands, Lady Clegane. I fucking love the sound that, little bird."

"I love being Lady Clegane, and soon everyone must call me that."

"You don't mind giving up your princess title." She is preoccupied with the rolled up scroll in her hand. He grabs a lock of hair, and runs his fingers down the length of it. He is completely transfixed by the color and softness. He wants a daughter with her hair. Actually, he wants all his children to have her everything.

She looks up at him at him. "I prefer the title of lady wife to princess. I learned a fancy title cannot make me happy. Where are your lands, my lord?" The irony of her using his title in this conversation is not lost on him.

"You tell me little bird. I have not looked yet. I wanted to read it with you."

"Then how did you know what it was?"

"Your brother read it first." Her face turns red and her eyes narrow."

"How dare he? This is our business."

"Not a battle worth fighting, little bird. He didn't know what it was. He just knew it came from the Lannisters. There are bigger wars to come." She gives him a look, as she is weighting his words. The balance falls on the side of finding their lands and planning their lives.

"Fine, but if this continues, I will have words with our lady mother." She unrolls the scroll and looks at it. Sandor again realizes the 'our' and 'mother' used together. He wonders if it means something. Sansa begins reading, "On behalf of the Realm, I, Lord Hand Tywin Lannister, Hand of the King, hereby bestows upon Sandor of House Clegane, the lands, assets and incomes of..- I fail to understand this. There are a lot of letters, numbers and symbols. I don't know what this means."

He places his hands on her shoulders, and examines the scroll over her shoulder for a name. It lacks the holdfast’s name. He informs her, "Map coordinates, longitude, latitude, total area, a plat of survey. It might not have a formal name. We can name it whatever we want, little bird."

"Let us see the maester, my lord. He can tell us what this means and where it is." Sansa returns the cover to the jar she had raided, and Sandor takes it from her and places it back on the shelf. They leave the larder via the kitchen access door. They were so involved in deciphering the deed, that they didn't realize that Lady Stark had been watching them interact through the slightly ajar door to their backs, in the service hallway. Lady Stark saw how he lovingly stoked Sansa’s hair, and the ease of their interactions. Thank all the gods, old and new, she missed him cleaning her fingers. A mother wolf will cuff a bad Hound, not matter his reputation as a warrior.

Sandor and Sansa arrive in the maester's suite at the top of a high tower of Riverrun. They encounter Maester Vyman, who they have not seen since Sansa lost consciousness at finding out of the loss of her little brothers. The man's ability to handle the many stairs belies his age; the wrinkles on his hands do not. He greets the lord and lady formerly and offers his services.

"Maester Vyman, I- we, most urgently need your assistance; provided you are not otherwise predisposed, of course." Sandor listens to his little bird chirp her courtesies, and rolls his eye. At least in his mind he rolls his eyes. He will not openly show dissent now that his little bird is his little wife.

“Certainly, my lady. How may I serve you?”

“We have a deed to my lord’s lands, and are wonder where they are on a map.” She hands over the red pig skin scroll. The maester rolls it out on a table to read it. He then goes to retrieve a map and unrolls that next to the scroll. He grabs a bundled tool from a high shelf, and then unwraps it. He deftly bends segments into angles and slides moveable notched segments to change the lengths. Sansa looks to Sandor for understanding. He simply shrugs his muscular shoulders and looks back to the working hands of the maester.

The maester passes his index fingers over the numbers on the deed and checks the setting on his instrument. Then he sets the odd shape down on the map and hands Sandor back the deed. “Here are your lands Lord Clegane. They are quite substantial. The Lannister’s definitely have rewarded you well. If you give me a few days, I can draw out a map for you and have my assistant paint it.

“Thank you ever so much Maester Vyman,” Sansa answers for Sandor. She knows Sandor is not a man of many words for anyone, save her. “Do the lands have a name and a pedigree?”

“Well, yes.” He moves to a wooden box and removes a form from it. “It is has been called many things over the centuries,” he places the form down on the edge of their lands. “It is currently known as Harrenhal.” The melted model replica Vyman has placed is now unmistakable.

Vyman continues, “There are small crofts and out building scattered, throughout the large estate. Also, quite a few large farm houses, many now vacant with the war, but I am afraid... the castle itself is quite a shambles, as I am sure you are aware.”

Sansa chin starts to quiver. Their boon has turned into a curse, and fears of a barren womb now crowd her mind. “As Princess Sansa said, thank you. I would appreciate the map?” Sandor tries to stem the flow of tear by ushering Sansa out of the room where they may talk in private, to calm her mind, talk over plans and dream of their future, after the wars to come.

Sandor finds a small alcove that leads to another service hallway. He pulls Sansa within, not ungently. “Don’t cry little bird. All will be well, if I have to rebuild that burnt mess with mine own hands. We don’t even have to live in that wreck of a place. We can live in one of the large farm houses.”

Sansa looks to her husband with watery eyes, “I quite like the idea of a farm house.”

“I do also, but as a princess, you deserve a castle.”

“I just escaped a castle, and found my life in a farm house. It suits me just fine. It will suit us.”

“As you say little bird.”

“But what about the curse?”

“You know I don’t hold any gods. I certainly won’t hold to a curse.” Sansa bites her bottom lip. Sandor takes advantage of no chaperone, and little light in their hiding place, and takes her bottom lip with his own hungry mouth. He kisses her long and deep. He pulls away, before his blood gets too heated, then lowers his forehead to hers. “I can promise you on your gods, old and new, you will be with child on our wedding night.” He knows he should tall her all, but what he did tell her it a truth.

He pulls away and leads her out of their hiding place. Sandor grabs Sansa’s hand and places it in the crook of his arm, like the knight he refused to be, and escorts his lady wife back to her mother to work on the wedding preparations.


Two days before the wedding every task going on in the castle comes to a screeching halt with the blowing of a horn. All of the lords and ladies of Houses Tully, Stark, Clegane, Umber, Glover, Mormont and lesser houses empty out of the castle, from wherever they were and form a receiving line.

As Stannis and his men arrive from the docks by foot, the various lords and ladies are lined up in rank and Sandor tries to move to the back, but his little lady has a death grip on him that he will not shake. So he stands by her side, feeling out of place in this royal family, despite a lifetime and standing amongst a queen and kings. Now he stands as his own man, with his own lady wife.

As the approaching hoard nears, Sandor sees Stannis scan the gathered rows, and then he locks eyes with Sandor. Stannis’s head tilts to the side, as he tries to understand this enigma. Sandor knows he is trying to understand why there is a southron rabid dog among the dignified northorn wolves.

Stannis and his wife first approach their equals, King Robb, and the rarely seen Queen Jeyne. Sandor has scarcely seen Robb’s wife since his arrival. It must be her bad stomach that keeps her indisposed. There is an odd woman trailing behind them, dressed all in red, but not properly dressed for the cool wet winds off the river today.

She moves directly to Sansa and looks her over from head to toe, and back again, but stalls at her belly during her visual return trek. Then she looks at Sandor and moves toward him.

The red woman speaks to him. “You…you are the one I have been seeking.” Stannis’ attention turns to where the red woman stands, and all the yard now focuses on The Hound.