Arya spurred her horse harder than necessary, trying to put some distance between herself and her unwanted companion.
How had she gotten stuck travelling with Sandor Clegane again?
She was a ruthless, efficient killing machine. He was not, and would never be a great killer.
She could walk into the bed chamber of her enemy without anyone noticing. One look at his face and anyone in the Seven Kingdoms could identify him.
She was stealthy and fluid. He was strong and unyielding.
She was fast and nimble. He was big, and that fucking limp made him slow. The limp he got fighting to protect her. She shook her head, as if she could physically dispel that thought from her mind.
She looked over her shoulder. He wasn't galloping desperately to try to catch up with her. He fucking expected her to wait for him. And she did because Jon made her promise.
He looked a lot more serene than she'd ever seen him when they travelled together, all those years ago. The Hound hadn't been afraid of dying. He had survived because he was too good at killing people. She swallowed the knot that rose unbidden into her throat. She had been… happy to find out he was alive.
She tried to shove that aside, unwilling to accept what came with it. One side of the coin was being happy he was alive. The other… She couldn't afford to think what it would feel like if she got him killed. She had nearly cost him his life once.
"Did you fall asleep in the fucking saddle?" she shouted at him when he was close enough to hear her.
"The little lady needs to brush up her manners," he drawled.
"What are you, my Septa? The fuck you know about manners?"
"Enough to know that the King's sister shouldn't have such a filthy mouth."
She rolled her eyes and spurred her horse again, less aggressively than before. She had to put up with him for a while. Until she could think of a way to ditch him without breaking her promise. In the meantime, she needed to hit someone.
They ran into trouble not long after that. The men who attacked them we shit at stealth. Arya had noticed them miles before they attacked.
She danced like Syrio had taught her. She killed like Jaqen had showed her. She dispatched of the men with graceful movements. She cut them down, one by one, relishing the poetry of her movements. That was how Sansa probably felt when she was dancing.
Her routine was cut short when the last two men fell under the heavy blows of an axe. She had to admire his precision, even if he had stolen two kills from her. Her eyes sparkled and her whole body felt alive. If she expected a similar elation from him, she was disappointed.
"If you do that again, I'll put you over my knee, I don't care you're a fucking Stark."
He barked the words to her and walked back to his horse.
"What in the seven hells is your problem?" she shouted after him. "I was handling it just fine. I didn't need your help with these…"
"People. They were people," he said, still not looking at her.
"They were shits who tried to rob us, and probably kill us as well."
"I thought I was the worst shit in the Seven Kingdoms."
"Plenty worse than you," she said, her voice breaking.
He froze, and Arya turned on her heels before she could see the expression on his face when he looked at her again. She mounted her horse and rode on.
For all the horrible things they had flung at each other when she was his captive, they didn't find anything to say to each other any more.
Arya tried insulting him a few times, but she got no satisfaction from his silence. If she could only believe he was sullen, and held his tongue for some stupid reason like her being Jon's sister or a highborn lady, it would be worth taunting him. But he was genuinely not bothered by anything she said. Fighting an army of undead probably put things into perspective.
They were attacked again the very next evening. Not a moment too soon for her taste. She needed to vent.
She threw herself into the deadly dance again. He must have been ready for her recklessness because he managed to kill with his axe more people than she killed with Needle and the Valyrian dagger from Bran.
"That was aweso-"
He caught her by the scruff of her neck and forced her belly down onto his knees, knocking the air out of her. Before she could be outraged by his behavior, he pulled down her breeches and smacked her bottom hard.
Her skin burned where his palm made contact with her flesh. She tried to wriggle out of his grasp but he pressed her down against his knees while his other hand kept hitting her ass harder and faster, making her dizzy and...
The loud moan shocked both of them. His hand froze in the air and Arya stopped squirming.
What the fuck had just happened?
She tried to breathe normally, but despite her efforts, she was panting. He hesitated to hit her again, and she hesitated to make a run for it. He snapped out of the trance first. The next slap sounded like cracking a whip, but felt like nothing Arya had ever experienced before. Pain that was not pain.
She tensed, preparing for the next one. Longing for it. The expectation became unbearable. He wasn't holding her any more. She should be moving. She could get away.
When the next slap landed on her ass cheeks, she let out a breath she hadn't realized she was holding. It came out as a whimper. He caressed her buttocks and Arya pushed her ass up in the air to get more. His hand slid accidentally lower. His fingertips brushed between her thighs.
She bit the inside of her cheek to hold back the moan.
His hand rested on her ass, covering the very same skin he had reddened. She desperately wished he'd go on, spanking her some more or exploring further, deeper. But he wasn't, and Arya jumped out of his lap, pulled up her trousers and walked away.
She thought he would make fun of her, but when morning came, they fell back into the uncomfortable silence of the day before. That was probably the best she could hope for from then on. Pretend that nothing weird had just happened.
They were lucky to find an abandoned shed in the middle of nowhere right before night fell. She settled in the corner farthest from him and focused on the loaf of bread, willing that taste to occupy all of her senses.
"Come here," he said.
She was next to him before it occurred to her to refuse. He pulled her down across his lap. She tried to stand up as soon as she sat down but the strong arms wrapped around her waist prevented any such movement.
"You're pretty antsy," he said. "I can do something about that."
"Oh, please. What can you possibly-"
He bent his head and put his mouth on her breast. He bit it lightly. Arya lost her voice under the torrent of confusing sensations. How could his mouth feel so good on top of her clothes? How good would it feel without the shirt?
His hand found her free breast and kneaded it gently. She squealed when he pinched her nipple.
"If you promise to behave, I'll let you finish," he said.
Finish? What did he mean by that?
The questions melted from her mind when he reached under her shirt.
"Promise me," he demanded, trailing his fingertips lazily on her skin.