As Sandor stood up from the bed he immediately regretted the fact that he would have to confront real life. Somehow dealing with the King Slayer wasn’t as appealing as staying with his little bird. ‘Bloody Lannisters’
Reluctantly he pulled on his boots and exited the front door, pausing in the afternoon sun to stretch. It was hard to imagine that the world was falling to pieces in a place this serene. He had always liked the solitude of this cabin. He had half a mind to stay. He shook his head; dispelling the already forming fantasy of life here with his little bird. “Lannister!” he called gruffly, “What in the seven bloody hells is so important?”
A little ways off Jaime and Brienne were hunched over what looked like a map spread out on the camp table Sandor used to clean fish from the nearby stream.
“Nice of you to join us,” Jaime responded without looking up. “What a luxury it is to lay around all day feasting on our masters scraps.”
Jaime Lannister was not one to be underestimated in a fight but Sandor took him by surprise, wrapping his hand around his neck and lifting him off the ground.
Growling he brought the Lannister twats face within inches of his own. “Not my master and Sansa Stark has never been scraps.”
The Hound was uncharacteristically fast for a man of his size. Brienne was only half shocked when the King Slayers remarks got him a foot off the ground, face slowly turning purple. She was about to intervene when Sandor dropped Jaime in a heap and stalked off toward to tree line.
“Youre a real charmer you know.” She stated as she eyed Jaime still rubbing his neck on the ground.
“We both know you find me irresistible wench.”
Brienne fixed him with an icy glare; she did not appreciate being mocked. Her whole life she had been the butt of one joke or another. Always taller and more athletic than the boys in her class and lacking the femininity of the girls she had never been popular. In high school the meaner set had taken to calling her “Brienne the Beauty”.
“As usual you manage to be completely useless. Map your own route it seems like most people don’t care where you end up.” With that she turned on her heels and headed towards the cabin. The Hound still hadn’t reappeared and she had some questions for Sansa.
A real, warm shower was decadent. Sansa was so glad when she turned the handle and felt the water heating up. As she scrubbed her pale skin to pinkness she glanced happily at the razor on the ledge next to the very manly all in one body wash, shampoo, and conditioner. She had found a package of them in the medicine cabinet and been practically giddy. As she let it glide over her legs she thought about how important the little things would be in this new world. She would have to rely on little happinesses or be swallowed by the harshness of it all. ‘You have him’ the voice in her head was almost automatic, the thought of his kisses and embrace causing her to blush.
Brienne knocked on the bedroom door remembering the commotion behind it the night before. If it had not been for the boy stopping her she would have barged in right then. As it was she had not liked the thought of Sandor alone with Sansa but she had resolved to ask Sansa privately. ‘Don’t need to give the brute another reason to rage about like an oversized toddler’.
She heard Sansa’s faint invitation and opened the door a crack. The girl was on her hands and knees using an old tee shirt to mop up glass and amber liquid. ‘Well that explains the noise’ As she turned to appraise her visitor at the door she winced. A shard of glass revealing itself in her palm as the bloom of red spread over the tee shirt. Quickly, Brienne stepped to her side, careful to avoid the mess. She helped Sansa to stand and followed her to the bathroom, searching the cabinet for bandaids.
“It’s not deep.” Sansa informed her, gingerly pulling the shard from the cut. She reached past Brienne to run her hand under the water of the faucet.
Brienne could not find bandaids but settled for a strip of gauze and some tape. “Won’t do to risk infection” she informed. Sansa held out her palm, allowing the woman to bandage her wound. When she was done, Sansa tested her hand, opening and closing her fingers around the wrapping. “Thanks” the girl smiled warmly as she looked up.
“Sansa… I wanted to talk to you. I mean.. about Sandor. You know, you don’t have to… if he is making you…” Flustered, Brienne’s diatribe was brought to a halt when Sansa cut in.
“No. It’s not like that! He is kind to me…” Sansa must have noticed the dubious look on her face because she pressed on, “Really… he has protected me and I… I feel safe with him.”
The furious blush that crept up the girl’s cheeks only added to Brienne’s confusion about what was happening between the beauty and the beast.
“He isn’t your only option anymore. I know that once this all started you needed him to help you make it but I promised your mother that I would deliver you to her safely.”
“I told you, it’s not like that. He promised to keep my safe too and I don’t want to be separated from him. He’s never forced me into anything, all he has done is protect me.”
Brienne caught the girl’s eye and saw the conviction in her words. Silently she resolved to keep any eye on the situation, not waiting to step in next time she heard something that raised her suspicion. Gods help him if she ever saw him raise a hand to the girl.
“Jaime plans to move today. He wants to start heading east as soon as possible in hope that we can put some ground behind us before winter comes. The change in weather will slow us down and make finding shelter more important.”
Sansa nodded adding only that she would talk to Sandor about it. ‘Great’
Brienne hovered, suddenly aware that she was much too large for the cramped space of the bathroom. Sansa waited, expecting her to say something more but Brienne was at a loss. She wanted to gain the girls trust but socializing with other women had never been her strong suit. Duty, that was what she was good at. Absently she thumbed at the knuckle duster attached to her belt. Sansa noticed her fidgeting and drew her eyes down to the blade.
“Oathkeeper” Brienne blurted, “Jaime gave it to me, I think he meant to mock me by naming the blasted thing but I plan to use it to keep my promise to your mother.”
“You think my mother is safe? Do you think the farm was safe?”
“Your mother is a strong woman, I have no doubt she can handle herself.”
Sansa looked past Brienne, her face sad. “I hope so.” The conversation was over, Brienne backed form the bathroom, allowing Sansa passage to exit.
“Well I think Sandor and Jaime should have sorted out their squabble by now, Ill find them and help make the preparations to move.”
When Sansa appeared at the front door, Sandor had to fight the urge to trot to her side like a lost puppy. He and Jamie had been bickering over the route they would take for the last fifteen minutes and Sandor was finding himself wholly disinterested. ‘Bugger the Slayer, the little bird is the only thing that matters’. Sandor accepted the reality that safety lay in numbers but was equally comfortable with the reality that should he have to chose he and the little bird would go it on their own. For the time being, as much as he irked him, Sandor was well aware of Jaime’s ability and if her size was any indication, the woman he toted with him would be an asset as well. Jon had already proved himself to be skilled with the bow and quiet enough not to annoy Sandor too badly.
As he watched, Brienne appeared behind Sansa in the doorway. A frown knit Sandor’s brow. ‘If that beast of a woman thinks she will be taking over the little bird’s care she is sorely mistaken’ Vows to her mother be damned, he had taken over the role of protector just fine and he did not relish sharing. As if reading his thoughts, Brienne cast Sandor a sour look. He grinned crookedly at the wench as Sansa appeared at his side, lacing her fingers through his and leaning into his arm.
“What are we doing?”
“We are packing up little bird.” Sandor noticed Sansa shook Jaime a glance at the sound of her nickname. If the man noticed he had the good sense not to comment. “For now we will all travel together, it will be safer to have more people around.”
“Lucky for you I have more social skills than your dog…” Jaime added with quirked eyebrows and a lopsided smile.
Sansa merely nuzzled closer to Sandor, casting a glance around the yard. “Is Jon around?”
“Went to hunt. We will stay here tonight and move in the morning.”
‘Mine’ the word kept echoing in his head as he felt the warmth of Sansa affection spread through his body. ‘Bugger what the wench and the King Slayer think… she chose me.’
Jon returned in the late afternoon, three rabbits hanging from his belt. Brienne helped to clean the animals and Sansa helped to collect wood to build a fire. Preparations to move were easily made. The cabin was well stocked and Jaime had been luckier with gas then Sandor, having stolen several extra canisters from The Bloody Mummers. As night fell the SUV Jaime and Brienne had been travelling in was packed and ready. The group ate in relative silence, each appraising the others around the fire. Even the King Slayer seemed resigned, forgoing his regular sarcastic banter in favor of eying Jon. If he knew who the boy was, he didn’t let on, not yet. As the meal ended Sandor stroked Sansa’s arms absent mindedly, appreciative that the girl did not shy away from showing the group her affinity for him. It took everything he had not to throw the girl over his shoulder and carry her off to his bed. Filling as the rabbit had been he found himself consumed by another type of hunger. As if reading the need that rolled off of him, Sansa leaned into his neck, whispering, “I think it’s time for bed.”