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There's Gold In 'Dem Hills

Chapter Text

Dawson City, Yukon 1898


Church bells rang ominously.


Sansa’s hands shook violently as she buttoned the front of her vest. Fiddlesticks. She had chosen a dark green travelling skirt and matching jacket trimmed in black velvet. Her hands fumbled over the small, round, black buttons and she pulled a black fur scarf around her neck letting the ends fall down the front of her. She stood in front of her mirror. She wiped the small beads of sweat that shone on her brow, the room warm from the sun beating through the large bay window. At almost eighteen years old she looked and felt much older than her age. Her hair was pulled away from her pale face and sat in a neat bun on the top of her head. The dark hair made her look more sickly than she would have liked, and her eyes were red-rimmed and tired from the lack of sleep. The trial had gone on for weeks, and the verdict had been reached just the day before.


A man of such crimes deserves more than life in jail. He will hang at sunrise.


Sansa could not believe he had been found, hiding here of all places, though it really should not have surprised her. Dawson City was booming. Men of all sorts were here to strike it rich or die trying. Just over a year before, Petyr had brought her along with him to set up shop. Sansa was good with numbers, Petyr had noticed. Her job was to learn matters of accounts and payables, and in the early days of their arrangement, he had her by his side at all times to teach her the rest. 'Where there are lonely men, there is money to be made,' he had told her, and the money flowed like the whiskey bottles that never stayed full.


Within that first year, Petyr had opened three brothels and two more had already began construction. Sansa never went in them at night, and usually did her work from their shared Parisian style two-bedroom hotel room on the top floor of the Bodega Hotel. He had taken her and hidden her away from the Lannisters, told her he would protect her; keep her safe, but there was always that nagging feeling inside that he wanted something more. Posing as his bastard daughter, Alayne, was easy enough though, especially here. She kept to herself mostly, although she had befriended a chatty woman, Myranda Royce, whose father managed the hotel, and Lothor Brune, who was her escort. When Petyr was away on business, and after the first year in Dawson City had passed without her cover being revealed, she had felt safe enough to begin lowering her guard.


Till the day they caught him hiding in Karin’s room.


That day would never leave her mind and had haunted her dreams every night.


Karin was the new girl. Not much was known about her, only that she came to Dawson straight off the boat from Japan, and could hardly string a whole sentence together in English, but she was beautiful, sweet and ready to please. Sansa had been working in the back room tallying up the books when she heard the confrontation at the top of the stairs. She ran to the main parlor and froze when she saw his towering form struggling to get away. It took six men to hold him down before he was hauled down the stairs. Word got around quickly that he had beat and killed the young whore and she had not been the first. A bounty was out for his head with over a dozen charges against him.


As the trial went on and witness were called, Petyr had ordered her to stay hidden away in a cheap brothel room across town, saying no chances should be taken in case the Lannisters were called to stand witness or anyone else that had ties to them. Luckily no was called. The witnesses that had found the dead girls were enough to sentence him.

 

'Clegane Will Hang.'  That’s what the Klondike News front page said.


Since seeing his face, she had been plagued with memories and nightmares that had been absent for a long time, leaving her hollow-eyed and exhausted. She had learned how to cope with the past, with the deaths of her parents and siblings. She buried it all inside of her, distracting herself in day-to-day activities, learning from Petyr, living as someone else.  


Sansa shook her head.  I hope Petyr is right. I don’t want to see a man hang today, but maybe if I see with my own eyes that he's gone, it will help with the nightmares. She walked towards the door and opened it. The tall, stocky man standing in front turned around, smiling gently.


Lothor Brune was a godsend. He was a quiet man, but always kind to her. Even when she went to church either to pray or just sit there in the quiet, he never minded. He would stand in the background and let her have her space. He knew who she was, she was sure of it, but he never let on. Once when she was being bothered by an aggressive singer, Lothor pulled his knife on him and he was never heard from again. She felt safe with him and she was thankful Petyr assigned him to her.


Sansa knew Petyr was a man not to cross. He had always been kind to her, of sorts. He would caress her sometimes when they were alone and pull her onto his lap and kiss her. She did not like it, but after a while she put away the feeling, for who else would keep her safe. There was one who said he would. A different man and different time. She felt her eyes well up with tears. Lothor took her arm and patted her back gently.


“Don’t worry, Miss, I’ll stay by your side out there,” he said kindly.


Sansa nodded. “Thank you, Mr. Brune. I'm not sure why I'm worked up like I am. That man deserves what's coming to him.”


“Men like him don’t deserve a hanging,” Lothor retorted bitterly clenching his square jaw. “They ought to tie him to a tree and let the grizzlies stalk him. Let him die as he shits himself waiting.”


Sansa smiled wanly. He has such a way with words. Almost like…no. Don’t think of him. He is gone.


The sun was shining bright already and a crowd was gathered around the gallows. The noose was high up, the drop at least six feet to compensate for the largeness of the man about to die.The streets were thick with mud and Sansa had to hold her skirts up to prevent them from getting dirty. Lothor Brune steered her to the steps of the wooden boardwalk where Petyr stood. He turned and looked up at her with a sly smile when she reached his side.


“Hello, sweetling. Are you ready to watch the man die? If I was to place a wager today, I say he will be decapitated,” he stated matter of factly, stroking his pointed beard. “Such a large man to hang and the weight of the fall will make it so.”


Sansa shuddered and looked away. I just want this to be over. She clenched her jaw, thinking of the day her father and family drowned, and clutched Lothor's arm. She felt a prickle of goosebumps on her arms. She surveyed the crowd. It's as if someone is watching me. Familiar.


She was soon distracted by the loud shouts of the crowd.


“Let him hang!” They chanted eagerly, over and over.


She felt a strange sense of adrenaline course through her. Again, her skin prickled. Don’t be such a ninny, no one knows you here.


She stepped aside and watched as the crowd began to part, and a large, lumbering figure emerged and was ushered up the steps of the gallows. He was crying like a baby, begging.


A split-second of pity came over her before she swallowed it down. He is a monster. Father Meribald stood in front of him, and she could see his lips moving, but his words were drowned out by the restless crowd.


"Let him hang! Let him hang!"


She watched on as the giant of a man wept like a child. An embarrassment for him came over her, and she looked away. She had to look away - past Petyr, past the maddening crowds, anywhere but there. A slight cool breeze caressed across her and gave her a shiver as her train of sight froze.


A large, broad man stepped out of the shadow of the Bodega Hotel. His eyes were locked on hers, never looking away, not even at the sound of Gregor Clegane's neck cracking, his body crumpling to the ground, nor at his bloodied head rolling out of the noose, landing with a thud.



Chapter Text

 

“Ha! I told you!” Petyr exclaimed jovially, shaking Sansa out of her trance. She quickly turned to him and then back towards the hotel. I could have sworn it was him. He's alive. After all this time... and he is here! Her heart fluttered and she could not understand why.

 

“Come, sweetling. I'm sure you have not had breakfast yet. You need to eat. You're looking rather ill and I will not be accused of neglecting my own daughter,” he said with a wink.

 

Sansa nodded reluctantly.

 

I will have to look for him later. He recognized me, I am sure of it. He never took his eyes off of me! He must have known of his brothers crimes. He hated him. He told me he wanted to kill him... I am glad he did not. Even though his brother was a monster, he should not have that on his hands.

 

As they left for the hotel, Sansa scanned the disappearing crowd. Maybe he went inside. She followed Petyr, with Lothor Brune right behind her.

 

The Bodega Hotel dining room was bustling with people, but there was always a spot reserved for Petyr Baelish. The one thing Sansa could always count on was that she never had to wait in this town. People would see Lothor and Petyr and move aside to make way. Money brings status here. They had been part of the first wave of the gold rush, people clamboring into town to seek their fortunes, though Peter always said that digging for gold was the hard way. 'Let them go work for themselves,' he had told her, 'then they will come here to Dawson City and give me their gold.'

 

His words rang with truth. Men would come to town with gold dust practically falling out of their pockets, then throw it all away on dancing girls and whiskey. She had even heard a rumor once that a gambling man bought all the eggs in town because his lover like them, and then fed them to his dogs. The eggs were a dollar each. She still could not believe someone would do that.

 

When the waiter brought them their food, Sansa stared down at the runny eggs in front of her and her stomach churned. She tried to convince herself that she was just still worked up from the hanging and not because she saw her past staring straight back at her while his brother was executed. He is not here, maybe in the Saloon...

 

“Alayne, darling..."

 

Her thoughts were interrupted by Petyr’s smooth voice.

 

"Is everything okay?” He asked, his eyebrow slightly cocked.

 

Sansa looked up and faked a smile. “I am fine. The hanging and the excitement of the crowd must have ruined my appetite,” she replied, pushing her eggs around her plate with her fork.

 

“Such things are not meant to be seen by ladies such as yourself," he said as he unfolded the daily newspaper."But perhaps with that man gone, your mind will be at ease. Don’t fret my dear, your father will take good care of you.”

 

You will never be my father.

 

She gave him a thin smile and stood up. Lothor Brune stood up quickly beside her. “I think I would like to collect my belongings and go upstairs. I would like to have some time alone” she stated as she looked down at Petyr.

 

“Yes, of course, my dear. Mr. Brune, take my daughter up to our suite and make sure someone collects her things. I will be along later this afternoon, though tonight I must step out. There are some important men I have to meet and entertain," he said as he stood up, placing the newspaper beside his plate and walked to Sansa's side. "You will forgive me if I cannot spend the evening with you, sweetling?"

 

He rose up on his toes and kissed her forehead. Sansa held herself back from cringing. I don’t want this anymore. I don’t want to pretend to be his daughter. It is not right.

 

“I shall see you later, father,” she said simply, and turned and walked out the door.


* * * * *


Later that evening Sansa retired to her bedroom. Dressed in only her thin, white-laced nightgown, she settled herself in the comfortable Victorian chair near the fireplace with Emily Dickinson's Poems, a book Petyr had given her for her sixteenth birthday.

 

On occasion, Petyr had surprised her with moments where he seemed almost thoughtful, but Sansa could not help but wonder if he was only using these small things as a way to keep her from noticing who he really was. He brought up the subject of marriage several times since her birthday, and she had always tried to changed the subject as quickly as possible. He had offered to marry her, to offer her protection, but Sansa knew it was her fortune he wanted to protect.

 

After her family and Robert Baratheon drowned at sea, she was set to inherit the Stark half of the Iron Fleet, a shipping company her father and Robert were partners in. The clause in the will stated that she could not receive the inheritance till she was eighteen. She was sent to live with Robert Baratheon's widow, Cersei, and his son, Joffrey. That is when matters became complicated and Petyr took her away. After a while, rumors spread that Sansa had died. Since it could not be proven, no one was able to claim the inheritance or dispute it for five years. That five years was coming to a close and Sansa knew Petyr had some sort of plan to get it. Though she did not like it, deep inside she knew that if she married him, he could protect her and prove that she had nothing to do with Joffrey's death. She shook her head to rid herself of these thoughts.

 

I should have been on that ship. I was a fool to insist that I stay in New Orleans with Joffrey and his horrible mother. I thought I was in love. He never loved me, not even a little.

 

Sansa closed her book, unable to concentrate, and set it on the lace tablecloth before walking over to her mirror to brush her hair. She loosed the bun out of her hair and began to brush it, wishing she had her rich, auburn color back. She placed the brush down on the mahogany chest of drawers and pulled the bell sleeves over her elbows. She shivered. Though it was already May, and the days were getting longer,  the nights were still cold. She slipped on her midnight-blue dressing gown and tied the cord around her waist, before making her way to the hallway that separated her bedroom from Petyr's.

 

She and Petyr lived on the top floor, and besides their own suite, there was only one other that shared their level. It was usually empty, the tenant only occupying it once a year. Petyr had told her it belonged to a man that had come up here before anyone else. E.B. Holdings was the richest claim in the north, and the owner was a solitary man who did not associate with Petyr and his brothels, or anyone else in Dawson for that matter. It was said he was man of God and refrained from the goings-on that took place in the city, a fact that made Petyr scoff whenever they walked past the man's door.

 

Sansa opened her bedroom door slightly and peeked out into the hallway, but she did not see the usual sliver of light shining out from below Petyr's door. He is still out. The evening is still early, he will be awhile. She sighed, a bit of happiness came over her as she knew the evening was hers to enjoy.

 

Sansa went back inside. She walked through the kitchen doors, toward the stove, and stoked a small fire, setting a kettle of water to boil. She opened the silver tin of tea, and sighed when she saw it was empty. She had forgotten to ask Myranda to pick some up when she went shopping today, and knew she had the night off. Myranda Royce and her father lived downstairs and took care of Sansa and Petyr’s day-to-day things such as cooking, cleaning, and laundry. She didn’t actually do the work herself, but arranged it all to be done for them.

 

I wonder if she is downstairs.

 

She checked the kettle. It was nowhere near a boil, and Sansa thought to leave it sitting on the hot stove, but something made her move it off the heat. I’ll just run down quickly and see if she has any I can borrow. It is so chilly tonight.

 

Sansa unbolted the door and peeked back out into the main hall, the lingering daylight dimly shone through the window at the end of the hall. She glanced across to the other suite and noticed a light under the door. The man must be here. I have never met him. I wonder what he is like. Securing her dressing gown, she quietly closed the door behind her and ran quickly towards the door that led to the stairwell.

 

Usually, Lothor Brune could be found hovering around there, but she had met him earlier and suggested he see his girl, Mya, for a while. Sansa told him she had no plans to go out and she was only going to settle for the night with a good book. He smiled and tried to protest, but in the end he said he would go for just a bit.

 

Sansa grinned as she flew down the stairs. Maybe with my help, a wedding will take place. I wonder where they would live? Perhaps I could convince Petyr to give them a nice room here in this building….

 

Her thoughts were interrupted as she lurched into a thick moving wall, the force making her fall backwards. She tried to brace her herself, but cried out in pain as her wrist gave out, and she found herself lying back against the heavily carpeted steps looking up to the twisted face of Sandor Clegane.

 

He grabbed her good arm and hauled her up, his face just as gruesome as she remembered, inches away from hers.

 

“Little bird,” he rasped, "Where do you think you’re flying to?"


Chapter Text

Sansa sat nervously on a high back wooden chair and watched as Sandor went through a black leather bag.



When she crashed into Sandor, she had been at a loss of words when he asked where she was going. Instead, she cried out when he had roughly pulled her up from the floor, but let her go when he saw that she was cradling her hand. It had really hurt and she felt tears pooling in her eyes. Without another word said, Sandor had taken her by her good arm and escorted her up the stairs as she stumbled every now and then, and into the suite across from hers.



His room was a simple one, she noticed, and despite the richly printed wall paper and heavy, red, velvet curtains, it was in no way as large or as elaborately furnished as the flat she and Petyr were sharing. The kitchen was a sit-in, softly lit by a double-rodded Jolin Arc lamp that hung above the simple kitchen table, and in the adjoining sitting room sat but a single black chaise.



I can’t believe I am in here with him!  He must've heard that his brother was to be hanged... of course... and came to see… but... how long has he been here?



A shadow fell over her as Sandor walked towards her, a small jar in his hand.



“Give me your hand,” he muttered, reaching towards her.



Sansa looked up at him. Though she noticed he looked leaner and his a hair looked thinner, Sandor was just as she remembered. His face was terrible and the same twitch still moved his lips. He had been wearing a wide-brimmed hat that had been tossed on the table in front of her and his hair, lank as ever, still covered his burns. As she looked him over, she realized she was staring, and his hand was still held open towards her.



"Are you going to stare all night? No, my face hasn't gotten any prettier," he rasped, his voice had a slight clip of annoyance to it. "Take your time, I’ve nothing to do. But the sooner you get this camphor liniment on your wrist, the sooner it’ll feel better."



Sansa straightened up, “Sorry, sir, I...you surprised me,” she answered, a bit lost for words.



He snorted loudly and pulled up a chair, turned it around, and sat down right in front of her. He took her arm and rested it against the top of his chair, slipping his fingers under her hand and softly pressing his thumb against the inside of her wrist, across it and up to the middle of her palm. Sansa winced at that and he stopped promptly.



Sansa sat primly, so close he was to her that she didn't really know where to look, so she looked at his hand supporting hers. She noticed how her hand stood out against his, small and pale compared to his large and tanned. His thumb rested in her palm, went straight across and covered her thumb and the nail was black. He must have hit it with a hammer. His hand is so warm. She sniffed and smelt the whiskey on his breath. Is he drunk? She then noticed the empty bottle of whisky laying on its side beside his hat.



She heard him clear his throat and she looked up at him quickly.



“It’s not broke, just a sprain most like,” he said curtly, breaking the silence. “This ointment should take the sting out of it. Smells bad, though.”



He let go of her hand and grabbed the small jar. He opened it and Sansa wrinkled her nose slightly at the strong smell of camphor. Once again, he took her hand in his, almost too gently. The silence stretched as he rubbed the ointment on her wrist. Suddenly she remembered what she was wearing and combined with feeling of him touching her wrist, a layer of goosebumps broke out over her. Sandor stopped and looked down at her.



“Cold, little bird?”



Sansa looked down and noticed her dressing gown had opened slightly, exposing the flimsy lace of her nightgown. She clutched the dressing gown closed, a blush heating up her cheeks.



“No, I suppose you're not. You look pretty warm to me,” he said as he ogled at her.

 

A shiver ran through her as she met his eyes. He looks almost ravenous.

 

“What are doing here?” Sansa asked timidly trying to distract herself from his intense stare. His eyes are bloodshot...he is drunk!

 

“Just came to town on business," he said as he quickly stood to grab a small glass from the cupboard, and set it on the table beside Sansa. He then pulled a bottle of Canadian Club out from under his jacket and cracked it open. "It was a nice treat to see my brother hang. I was celebrating and I ran out of whiskey, so I went and got more.” Sitting down in the chair again, his legs spread wide open, Sandor took a long swig from the bottle and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. He then leaned on his elbows against the back of his chair and pushed himself towards her. “Here girl, let me fill your glass. Help me celebrate the death of my brother.”

 

Sansa's hand shook slightly as she took the glass and held it in front of her, and when he filled it, a splash of whiskey landed on her dressing gown.

 

“Sorry, little bird. You can take it off if you want.”

 

She furrowed her brow at him and he laughed loudly.

 

“Ah, still a proper lady. Nevermind.” He held the bottle up to her and clinked her glass. “Here’s to my brother. May he burn in hell.” He threw his head back and took another swallow.

 

I don’t want to be rude. He is clearly upset. Sansa nervously took a tiny sip and cringed at the taste.

 

“Not a drinker, little bird?" He asked, clearly amused.

 

Sansa grimaced and took another sip, this time nearly choking from the burn. Sandor started to laugh at her and she almost dropped the glass.

 

"Do I still frighten you, girl?" Sandor leaned in closer, causing Sansa to shrink back. "I could ask you what you're doing here in Dawson City. I think I already know the answer,” he said, a sneer on his face. “Didn’t want to go with me long ago. But I see that sad excuse for a human got you wrapped around his little finger. Do you sing prettily for him?” He looked her up and down and took another drink. “I bet you sing real pretty. You’ve grown up, girl. A right little lady you are. Though I don’t like the look of your hair.”

 

Sansa could feel her face start to burn, it was not from the whiskey she was choking down. How dare he! She thought angrily. “I don’t know what you are getting at, but I think it’s time for me to leave.” She stood up quickly, placing the half empty glass on the table. “No matter what you think, I am a lady and I can clearly see that you are not yourself at the moment.”

 

Sandor stood up fast and towered over her. “Not myself? And how do you know that I’m not myself? It’s been a long time, little bird. You didn’t know me back then, don’t assume to know me now,” he said through gritted teeth.

 

Sansa raised her chin up in defiance. “You are still awful, that’s plain to see.” She yelped when he suddenly grabbed her waist and pulled her tight against him, his arms like a vice.

 

“Awful? Did you hear what my darling brother did to those girls? There’s awful for you, little bird." He growled as he pulled her tightly against him, forcing her to tilt her head way back to peer up at him. "I never got to kill him, that's awful too.”

 

He looked down at her, his eyes had a glaze over them. His mouth hung open as his eyes raked over her face and down the front of dressing gown that was slightly open. She gasped as he brought his other hand to her throat and traced a line down to the middle of her chest, then up, and wrapped it around her neck, his thumb roughly tracing her lips. Sansa felt a strange shiver go through her. She parted her lips slightly against his touch as she inhaled deeply. It was a feeling she never experienced before with any man. It was a need, not a want, a need to have him against her. It shocked her to the core, as he was a man who she never imagined could stir these kinds of feelings within.

 

“Fuck, little bird. You’re beautiful,” Sandor rasped.

 

Sansa suddenly felt that he might kiss her. Her eyes widened at the thought. What would it be like? What is happening?

 

With eyes heavy-lidded, he stared down at her, looking like a half-starved dog gone rabid. He shifted his eyes down her again as he gently caressed her cheek. “I’d take you right now if you were willing,” he murmured, his whiskey breath snapping Sansa to reality.

 

Sansa pushed against him, crying out as her wrist reminded her of her injury. He slackened his grip, but never let her go. “Sandor, let me go,” she demanded breathlessly. “You are drunk, please let me go.”

 

Suddenly his head snapped up and quickly released her. Wordlessly, he sank back down in his chair and buried his face in his hands.

 

Sansa’s breath shuddered and her heart beat wildly. What just happened?

 

"I should go," she said as she clutched her dressing gown tightly around herself, and went to leave the room. She nearly reached the doorway, but some feeling made her stop. I don’t understand... She stood there staring at the dark oak for a moment, contemplating on what she should do. She sighed heavily and reached for the handle again, but she froze when she heard a strange sound.

 

She turned towards him and swallowed hard. Wringing her hands, she took tentative steps till she was standing in front of him, the back of the chair between them. How can a large man suddenly seem so small. Her hand trembled slightly as she placed it on his shoulder. They were shaking and the sight of it was suddenly heartbreaking.

 

He is crying...

 

Sansa stood there, one hand on his shoulder, while she brought her other hand up and gently smoothed his hair, the unease she felt earlier suddenly gone. He won’t hurt me.

 

Sandor wrapped his arms around Sansa's waist and buried his face in her chest, his shoulders heaving. As she looked down at him, a sadness filled her and she could not stop the tears from falling for him. Sansa lay her head on his shoulder and let him hold her while they both cried silently. She knew his story, how his brother had shoved his face into the burning coals when he was just a boy. She felt such empathy for him. He wanted to kill him for what he did. Now he is gone. What is he do with that?

 

She continued gently stroking his lank hair, and soon Sandor's shoulders stopped shaking and he loosened his embrace and rested his hands upon her waist, avoiding her eyes. Sansa rubbed his arms slowly before giving his hands a squeeze, and gently guided them off as she stepped away slightly, wiping her eyes quickly.

 

“Sandor,” she whispered. “Sandor you need to go to bed, let me help you,” she said reassuringly.

 

He nodded with a grunt, and stood up swaying slightly as he looked at her. “Made the little bird cry. Fucking fool I am,” he stated, as he wiped his face with the back of his arm. “What a man I am, crying on your shoulder. Might as well swaddle me up and shove my thumb in my mouth,” he muttered, looking away.

 

“Come, Sandor, it’s alright. Lie down, everything will be fine, ” Sansa said, trying to be cheerful as she motioned to the chaise.

 

She grabbed his arm and almost fell trying to support him as they staggered to the chaise where Sandor stumbled once more, falling hard into it face first, cursing.

 

"I have to go before Petyr gets back,” she whispered gently. “I’ll see you in the morning, Sandor." All she heard was loud snore. She looked around and saw a horsehair blanket on the arm of the chaise, and used it to cover him. His face was resting on its side, his scars fully exposed, and for some reasoning she could not explain, Sansa bent down and softly kissed them before dimming the lamp and walking out the door.






Chapter Text

When Sansa awoke the next morning, she was tired. Her wrist still hurt, but not too much if she was careful. She was expected to meet Petyr for breakfast soon, and hoped he would not notice her nursing it, nor her exhaustion.




After she had left Sandor, she went back to her own suite, changing out of the stained gown into a clean one, and tried to clean the whiskey that had spilt on it, dabbing carefully at the stain. She remembered the smell of that whiskey. The way his hands were around her waist as he cried were all too familiar. She clutched her nightgown to her face and crumpled to the floor, suddenly overwhelmed with emotion.




She had thought of him many times, often wondering what had happened after he had left all those years ago. Sandor had been Joffrey's man when Sansa had first met him. He was never kind to her really; he was mainly quiet, but when he talked to her she had thought at first, it was his scars that scared her, and he had always had an edge of quiet rage in his eyes that she could not meet, but he had given her gruff advice; to keep her mouth shut and to do what Joffrey wanted. He had even saved her once when they all had gone to the theater.  




Sansa was fourteen then, and in the excitement, had lost Joffrey in the crowd and ended up outside. That night, four dissolute men saw to comment her on her 'fancy clothes' as she looked for her carriage. Sansa had lowered her head and walked on, but they began to follow her. She panicked and in her distress had become disoriented and found herself running down an ally. They were too fast and caught up to her when she tripped and fell. In a matter of moments, they had her pinned down, ripping at her dress. She had kicked and thrashed around, screaming wildly but they were too strong. She had been on her back when Sandor came upon them. He had pulled one by the back of his hair, tossing the man into the wall of a building without a thought. When he grabbed the two that were holding her arms down, all she had heard were the sounds of bones cracking and cries of pain. She never forgotten the sound of the Hound's voice, grisly and full of malice, as he had turned his attention to the one that was on top of her, slowly warning him of the things he would do if he ever seen him again before knocking him out with the handle of his pistol.




Afterward, he draped his coat over her, carried her to Joffrey's carriage, and had taken her back to the manor. She had been crying so immensely as Sandor, never saying a word, had held her close to him in the darkness the whole way, gently rubbing her back. She did not know what to make of it at the time, but she did not fear him anymore. When she had seen him several days later, she tried to reach out to thank him, but he just scoffed at her and walked away.




Some weeks later, he had come to her in the dark of night. She had been in a deep sleep but awoke when she sensed someone in the room with her. She bolted upright and out of the darkness he grabbed her and pushed her back down onto her bed. He had been drunker than she had ever seen him, sour whiskey on his breath and she could feel the weight of him on her. There was gash on his forehead and blood dripped down onto the front of her nightgown. She could feel nothing but rage emanating from him as she struggled against him.




He wanted her to leave with him and she had suddenly become frightened as she did not know why he was leaving or if it was a trick. When she had stammered her refusal, she thought he had meant to kill her. She had felt his breath upon her face. 'Please, you are not like Joffrey,' was all Sansa had managed to say. Sandor sat up slowly and released her before he put his head in his hands and cried. She had been frightened, but something made her sit up behind him and gently place her hand on his shoulder. They had sat like that for several moments. He then stood up and stared at her, whispering 'little bird' as he bent down and gently brushed the tears off her face before he headed towards the door and left. It wasn't until Gregor's hanging that she saw him again.




As Sansa dressed and brushed her hair, thinking about what she would say to Sandor should she run into him again. Should I tell him the whole story? He would want the truth after all. He could always see right through me. I hope he is feeling better. I can’t believe he almost kissed me last night and then cried.




A knock at the bedroom door startled her from her thoughts.




“Alayne, sweetling," Petyr's clever voice rang out, "Are you to join me in the dining room for breakfast? I have some things I need to discuss with you.”




Sansa sighed. “Yes, I will be out in a moment,” she replied. She straightened her black vest and smoothed the skirts of her deep red dress before she headed toward the door.




Petyr was reading the morning paper, a feast laid out on the table. Sansa instantly spotted the lemon cakes that were sitting on a silver tray beside her square burgundy and gold Royal Stafford place setting. Petyr always makes sure we have the best of everything. She sat down in her cushioned chair and picked a lemon cake off the platter, and set it on her plate. Petyr placed his paper on the chair beside him and poured her a cup of tea.




Petyr's hands were vastly different than Sandor's, she couldn't help but notice. His fingers were long and thin, with smooth nails, and not one callous to marr his soft palms. Sandor could crush him with one fist. Sansa blushed suddenly. Why am I even thinking this?




“Are you sure everything is fine with you, my dear?” Petyr questioned her. "You look tired again."




With her fork, Sansa sliced through her lemon cake and quickly took a bite, hoping to distract Petyr from her blush. I don’t want him thinking I am blushing because of him!




“I think the excitement of yesterday's events stayed with me all night is all," she replied as she took the cup of steaming tea from him. "I am sure it will be fine.” She placed a small spoonful of sugar in and some cream, stirred it, and took a sip. Delicious.




“Alayne," Petyr started, "I'm afraid I have some bad news to share with you.”




Sansa set her cup down quickly, tea splashing over the side. She grabbed the napkin that was folded neatly by her plate and started dabbing at the mess. “What is it?" She tried to keep the panic out of her voice.



Please don't tell me there is someone here to take me back to the Lannisters…




She had put Joffrey out of her mind as much as she could; there were days when she didn’t think of him and how he had treated her at all, but she never forgot that his mother had a put out a threat on her life. When she had seen Gregor Clegane that night, being wrestled down the stairs, she had thought for sure he had been sent to find her.




"I will be going away for a few weeks, to New York. I have been corresponding with a lawyer there about you. He has told me that because no one has heard of your whereabouts for the last five years, that you are assumed dead," he explained matter of factly. “As your last living relative, though it is only through marriage, I must meet with him and see what can be done in order for your share to be kept away from the Lannisters. Don’t worry, my sweet, he doesn't know you are here with me or that I helped you. As far as he is concerned, you are dead.”




Sansa reluctantly nodded her head. There is only Alayne...




After his father, Robert Baratheon, and her own family drowned at sea, Sansa had stayed with Joffrey and his mother's family, the Lannisters, and she had even thought thinking that one day, she would marry him. It did not take long to discover that she had nothing in common with him, and soon after, he had some of his men beat her, he never touched her, just watched with a smirk as she lain defenceless under their blows. She once tried to talk to his mother about it, but was ignored. Sansa was devastated and had never suspected that the Lannister family also meant to use her for her inheritance. They had taken her in, let her grieve, and over time, Sansa realized it had been just a ploy to keep the Stark name attached to the shipping companies, a way to control her wealth.




That was when Petyr Baelish had come along that fateful New Year's night. Sansa was on her way back to the party after she had holed herself up in a bathroom, crying after she had seen Joffrey kissing another woman. Petyr stepped out into the hallway before she made it back to the banquet room and had introduced himself to her. She knew her aunt had married  him, though she had only seen him once at the wedding, but soon after they were wed, Aunt Lysa, along with her son, had died in a terrible tram crash in the Swiss Alps. He said kind words to her, wiped her tears and gently told her that he only had her best interests at heart and he would protect her at all costs. She would never have to worry about being hit again. Petyr convinced her to come with him and she did. He said he would make sure all her family affairs would be taken care of. Soon after, it had been reported that Joffrey had been found strangled on the deck of his private quarters. Petyr convinced her to go to Paris with him disguised as his daughter.

 

 

 

"When I return, we can discuss what our next move will be.” Petyr stood up and tugged on the sleeves of his shirt before picking up the pair of gold, whale-back cuff links. He walked over and stood beside her chair.




Sansa turned and looked up at him, a sort of sly smile upon his face as he handed her the cuff links and held his arms out to her. Dutifully, just as she did every morning, she quietly pulled the bottom of the french cuffs and folded them into a neat straight line. She held the cuffs together, lining up the holes, slipped the links in, biting the inside of her cheek to ignore the pain from her wrist.




Petyr bent down and kissed her on the cheek, and lingered, as if he was waiting for her to turn her mouth towards his.  He sighed deeply. “Don't be cross, sweetling, I won’t be leaving till next week," he said before pulling on his coat.  “Alayne, you have to make up your mind soon, to marry me or not. I can keep you safe always, and you will never have a want for anything.”




Sansa looked up at him and forced a smile. “Like you said, no one knows I am alive. I will think on all this.” she said trying to keep her voice agreeable.Though there is one that knows who I am and where I am.

 



“We will talk about it all when the time comes. Until then, try and get some rest and think about my offer,” he stated and put his top on and grabbed his cane and went out the door.




Sansa stared straight ahead. His offer. She could feel the tears brimming up in her eyes. I am trapped. He is going to have my money signed to him, then he will force me to marry him. I can’t fight him, I could be found out even though I did not kill Joffrey. I will pay the price for whomever did.




She pushed the plate of lemon cake away and, wiping the tears away, stood up and walked to the front door. Maybe if I try and talk to Sandor he could give me some advice.




She opened the door and peeked out. Lothor must have walked Petyr out. I’ll just go quickly and ask Sandor to meet later this evening. She walked over to Sandor's door, tapped quietly, and waited. She knocked once again and the door opened.




“Alayne! What are you doing out here!” Myranda Royce's voice sang out. Her brown eyes danced and her ample bosom was bursting out of the top of her dress. She brushed a loose curl off her cheek. “Come in, I am just arranging for this room to be cleaned  and then we can sit down for tea." She gasped. "Do I have some juicy tidbits to share with you!" She said excitedly. "I saw Lothor and Mya out last night and- ”




“The man that was here," Sansa asked incredulously, cutting her off as she peered over Myranda's head, "He's gone?”




“Well, yes. He just came to town for supplies and then left. I have never see him before, but I heard a rumor downstairs that he was the Clegane’s brother, the one that got hanged. I heard that he wanted to kill the man himself. What an awful thing, to want to kill your own kin.”




If you only knew the whole story. Sansa shuddered.




“Alayne, are you quite alright?” Myranda asked with concern. “Oh, before I forget, there was a letter left on the kitchen table addressed to ‘little bird.’ I wonder who that could be?”



He knew I would come here. Why did he leave again? I need to talk to him.




Myranda kept chatting on. “I am just going to leave it there. Maybe it is for the next person who will stay here. E.B Holdings has many employees and this is where the important ones stay when they come to town. Could you do me a favour and wait for Claire to come and clean the room? She just ran down with the wash and I have to go across the street and let father know that the apartment is empty,” she asked, already walking down the hall talking over her shoulder.




Sansa smiled wanly at her retreating figure, her wide hips swaying. Once she went through the stairway door, Sansa went back into the flat and took the letter off the kitchen table and tucked inside her vest.

 

Chapter Text




After exchanging pleasantries with Claire after she came back upstairs, Sansa locked herself in her bedroom and pulled out the letter. It was in a simple white envelope that was self addressed - E.B Holdings, Quite Isle Claim. ‘Little bird’ was scrawled across the front.


She opened it quickly and read it, her brow slightly furrowed at the messy writing.


Little bird,

 

If I know you, and make no mistake, I do, you’ll be knocking on my door this morning to check in on me. Hopefully, you'll get this. Don’t worry your pretty little head. I’m fine. My head is right ready to explode, but I’ll live. Damn me to hell, but I deserve it. I hurt you again. I don’t know what else to say. Might be I should have stayed and let you plow me one in the face. I deserve that. I don’t know why you’re up here in the north. Truth be told, I'm pretty impressed that you made it up here. Not many do. Don’t like that you’re with him. Don’t trust the bugger. He better treat you good. What do you do to me? It was like someone shot me in the gut. I didn’t even see my brothers head come off yesterday. Just saw you and your blue eyes.

 

Like I said, don’t worry about me. I’m going back to work. I’ll be back to town soon, there is a good reason, now.

 

And I’ll tell it true, haven’t had drink like I did last night for over four years now. I’m sorry, little bird. Take care of that wrist. Your kindness won’t be forgotten.


Sandor Clegane


Sansa stood in front of her window, trying to stop the tears from falling. He is gone. What did he mean he just saw me and my blue eyes? She read the letter over several times before tucking it under her corset. He will come back. I don’t want Petyr to read this. She needed to know more about E.B. Holdings. Maybe Myranda or Lothor will know... She dried her eyes, determined to find out. She put a kettle on and waited for Myranda.


I know he never meant to hurt me. Will I ever see him again?


Soon, Myranda was filling the room with all her latest gossip. Sansa listened with half an ear as her thoughts kept drifting to Sandor. She was in the middle of telling a story of how a young dance hall girl had been proposed to thirteen times and finally settled on the highest bidder when Sansa interrupted her.


“What do you know of Quiet Isle Claim?"


With her lips still forming her last word, Myranda frowned in thought. “Well, not much is known about the founder of E.B. Holdings. Bit of a religious man, I heard," she said as she adjusted herself in her seat before taking a sip.  "He is the richest miner up here, one of the very first before the boom hit." Myranda leaned in, wide-eyed. "There are stories of how he brings mule trains into town, with their saddle bags spilling out gold dust and all. It's true! I seen it with my own eyes. I know your father tried to convince him to go into business with him, too. But," she continued with an exaggerated sigh, "the man refused, of course, on account he doesn't condone all the whoring and drinking and whatnot. His workers aren't allowed to bring either into camp. Women are allowed, but only if they are married to one of the workers.” She took a deep sip of tea.


“What about that man?" Sansa inquired casually. "The one that was staying across the hall?”


“Who, Clegane? I don’t know much about him. That was the first time I had ever seen him. Though, I have heard rumors about him,” she replied, slyly.


“What sort of rumors?” Sansa asked trying not to sound cautious.


“I heard he made a living killing people. Down south. He was like a sort of a thug for a rich family. My father said smart men stay clear of him, the stupid ones, he won’t think twice of putting a bullet in his head,” Myranda said matter a factly.


This is not so. I know he did some awful things but to just kill a man...though he did say once that killing is the sweetest thing there is.


“He is a big man,” Myranda commented thoughtfully. “I tried to have a conversation with him last evening, but he was not interested. Kept mumbling about someone called ‘little bird’. And then he just stood up and left when I tried to sit on his lap! He didn’t even pay for my drink. I wanted to see how big he really is,” she said with a with a bit of a pout on her face. “Maybe next time.”


Sansa felt annoyed with her, though she could not understand why. It would not matter what went on between them, if something ever did. He is allowed to do as he pleases. She tried to convince herself that she was not jealous. I haven’t seen him in over five years and he was terrible to boot. I must be tired.



* * * * *



Summer, which did not last very long in the north, was fast approaching. Petyr would be gone for the the length of it, but that meant travel would be quick as long as the weather was favourable. Sansa knew that by the second week of September, winter would be making its presence known.


As the week went on, Sansa saw to packing Petyr's bags along with her daily bookkeeping. He had told her he was confident in her abilities. She figured he must trust her on some level, and it made her feel good that she was given this responsibility. They usually made lots of money in the winter months. The miners who decided to stay in town mostly spent their gold out of boredom. The dance halls will soon boom all day and all night, while casinos will continue to spin their wheels and deal their cards.


Lothor Brune was to go with Petyr as well. In the morning as they made ready to leave, Lothor told her he was sorry that he had to leave and if he had his way he wouldn't leave her alone. Sansa protested against this when she found out, but Petyr had been firm and said the Royces would watch over her, and if she stayed close, she would have no reason to worry. It was the first time she had ever seen Lothor argue with Petyr.


Mr. Brune had not looked happy about it, and he confirmed it the night before when he gave her a small, loaded, Iver Johnson revolver and a small knife that she was to keep under her vest or jacket. He showed her how to load and fire the gun and had made her swear that she would carry it with her at all times. She was not sure how she was going to be able to, but she had promised, nevertheless.


"Mya Stone is going to watch over you,” his voice raspy when he whispered in her ear as they said their farewells. Sansa hugged him tightly and thanked him.


When she handed Petyr the last of his luggage and he reassured her again that once the inheritance was settled, they would discuss how to go about breaking away from the Lannisters, as part of her inheritance was to have part-ownership of the Iron Fleet, which had been bought years ago from the Greyjoy family.  


"You know that I only have your best interests at heart, sweetling," Petyr said with a sly smile. "Come, let father give you a kiss goodbye.”


Sansa felt sick, remembering how, just the night before, he had kissed her deeply and said she should marry him when he got back. She had pushed him away, but he gripped her arms still and took another kiss. Now, just a simple kiss on her forehead and a caution to be careful was all she had to endure before they rode off. She knew she could not go anywhere. It was up to her and he knew it, to be careful and watch out. Dawson City was her prison.



* * * * *



Two weeks after Petyr left, Sansa ducked outside, when Myranda left to do the daily banking, to walk on the boardwalk alone. Though the winter had been wicked, the summer heat was equally punishing, and she figured time alone might do her some good. She was a bit nervous from the previous evening, when man tried to coax her to have dinner with him and had become overly persistent, which in turn, had him flat on his back in the mud with a knife at his throat and threat from Mya that he would be gagging on his bowels if he ever approached the lady again. Sansa smiled at the image of her being her protector. Though she was small, Mya was as fierce as any man, and had proved to be an even more effective protector than Lothor.



As she walked she started thinking of Sandor Clegane. Lately she had been having recurring dreams of the man and she was puzzled as to why. Over and over she thought on them, he had been part of her life long ago, for a brief time. She blushed and tried to look impassive as she thought of the dream she had the evening before. He was naked, I was naked, and he was on top of me and looked as he would devour me whole...



Lost in thought, she glanced over to the train of mules heading down the main street, a group of dirty miners riding horses alongside of them. The sun was shining bright and she shielded her eyes with her hand. As they got closer, Sansa’s heart pounded as she saw a black, surly horse cantering to the front; on it, a familiar, broad-shouldered man dressed in black, a thick dusting of dirt covered him. He was barking orders over his shoulder when he caught sight of her and reared his horse around. Sansa stood there and watched them ride closer, her eyes widened and her mouth opened as he stopped right in front of her.


Sandor Clegane! He came back!


He leaned down towards her, and gently pinched her chin. “Your mouth is hanging open, little bird,” he rasped, his voice like steel on stone. He swept his eyes up and down her slowly.


She felt a rush of goosebumps down her arms and thighs and she glanced away, blushing deeply. His finger lingered for a split second, his thumb just brushing the curve of her chin before letting go. Why is my heart fluttering all of a sudden? She licked her bottom lip. She looked up at him and caught him staring at her mouth. Just as quick, he adverted his eyes and met hers.


He then touched the brim of his hat, clicked his tongue, and turned his horse away to follow the passing mule train towards the corrals.