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She felt a bit bad for her husband...but just a bit. She knew that half the Red Keep was sniggering behind his back, because somehow - the gods only knew how - everyone seemed to know that Sansa Stark Lannister was still a maiden. She'd not told anyone, but mayhaps Tyrion Lannister trusted where she did not, and had mentioned his fit of gallantry - or his disappointment - to someone.

Though in a way she was safer married to Tyrion than she'd been on her own, Sansa could not help but feel miserable. Her husband had insisted that she wear a nightshift in bed, yet still she cringed when she lay down beside him, still she woke up in the middle of the night worrying that he would touch her. It seemed that he wanted to make her happy, but he'd never truly understood her. Even when he'd stopped Ser Boros from beating her after the battle at Oxcross, she'd known that for all his kind words he was still a Lannister, still a lion. And lions do not understand wolves. If Tyrion had truly wanted to do her good, Lannister would have refused to marry her and then refused to allow them to pass her off on Lancel; he would have sent her home to her family..

And the more Sansa brooded on these things, the angrier she became. Not to mention the fact that she'd thought having the Hound around would make things better, when truly it hadn't made much difference at all...unless...perhaps his presence did discourage Tyrion from finally...

Sansa shuddered at the mere thought of it. If the gods were with her she would never have to lie with Tyrion Lannister, not truly. She still met with Ser Dontos in the godswood whenever possible, and though he tried to give her sloppy kisses and was often messily drunk, he was still promising to take her away from here. It was something to live for, really, when nothing else seemed worthwhile.

Until one night her husband offered to accompany her, so that she may 'enlighten him' in regards to the old gods. For a moment panic gripped at Sansa, and for some reason she found herself searching out Sandor Clegane, who stood against the wall with Tyrion's squire Podrick Payne. When their eyes met the Hound cocked an eyebrow at Sansa and forced her to be the one to break the contact, as she thanked Tyrion for his offer but did her best to discourage his coming with her.

Surely he will see through me, she thought desperately - but no, her husband actually smiled, agreed that he would probably find the godswood boring, and told her to dress warmly.

All the while, she could feel the Hound's heavy stare.

***

Sansa hadn't been able to get away from the dinner table - and from Tyrion - fast enough. In her rush to escape she did not hear the sound of footsteps behind her, and she had almost reached the godswood when she felt a large, heavy hand on her shoulder.

"Off to the godswood again, little bird?" the Hound rasped. Sansa trembled in his grip, but forced herself to nod. "And in a mighty hurry," he mused as he looked down at her. "You shouldn't be wandering the Red Keep by yourself, you know. Your Imp may not think twice about it, but I think I'll come with you while you pray. Just in case."

No, he musn't, he mustn't...if he finds out about Ser Dontos... Sansa couldn't stop her eyes from flicking toward the godswood, wondering if the fool was already waiting for her, wondering why, after weeks of silence, Sandor Clegane was insisting on confronting her now. "I...I'd rather go alone," she whispered.

He scoffed at her. "I'm sure you would, girl, but as I've been ordered to keep an eye on you and your husband by the king himself, I'm going with you. Whether you like it or no."

At this point Sansa could only hope that Ser Dontos would either hear them coming and leave, or catch sight of the Hound upon his arrival and not come to her at all. Wishful thinking, she knew.

Somehow, though, things worked out in her favor. When they entered the godswood and Sansa approached the spot where she usually met with Ser Dontos, the man himself was sitting on the ground with his back to a tree, nearly-empty wineskin in hand and drool pooling at the corners of his lips. Sandor kicked the fool right in the ribs, startling Dontos awake, and as the former knight spluttered and struggled to rise to his feet, casting his eyes about until they settled on Sansa, the Hound ordered, "Get out of here, you damned fool. The Lady Sansa has come to pray."

Ser Dontos looked panicked and unsure as Sandor wrapped one of his huge hands in the other man's cloak and lifted him bodily to his feet. Sansa could only give him a quick nod, staring at him with wide eyes and praying that he would listen.

He did, and soon she and Sandor Clegane were alone again. "You didn't have to be so rough with him," she said, avoiding the Hound’s eyes. Gods, why does it always feel as if he is looking right through me...

The Hound laughed at her. "Still so courteous, little bird. I would have thought the Imp would fuck some of that out of you, but if I hear the truth of it he hasn't fucked you at all. Yet."

Yet. That word frightened Sansa more than Sandor Clegane ever had, for he had the right of it, of course. Tyrion Lannister had been kind to her so far, but how long would - or could - that truly last? He'd said he'd not touch her until she wanted him to, but the look in his eyes when she'd asked, "And if I never want you to, my lord?" had scared her near as much as his nakedness, that night.

"Tyrion has treated me with honor," Sansa heard herself drone.

"Still saying what others want to hear, rather than what you truly mean," the Hound snarled. "But for whatever reason, it's the truth. Though I'm as surprised as anyone else. Tyrion Lannister is not known for his fits of gallantry."

"All the same," she shrugged. Please stop speaking to me of Tyrion, please, please...

"Go about your prayers, girl." With that Sandor Clegane found himself a place to sit, and did so silently, apparently waiting for her to begin her prayers...but as Sansa hadn't truly come here for those, she didn't even know where to start just now. She knelt on the ground, closed her eyes, and decided to silently thank the gods that she and Ser Dontos hadn't been discovered, that her maidenhead was still intact, that -

Sansa opened her eyes and whipped her head around. She could feel him watching her; it made her uncomfortable. Sure enough, when she faced the Hound he was staring at her, the scarred corner of his mouth twitching. She wanted to look away - his scars still frightened her a bit, and Sansa had to remind herself of his tears, remind herself that he'd never harmed her. "You do not have to wait for me," she finally murmured.

"What, and leave you here in case Dontos or some other arse comes around?

"Ser Dontos is harmless."

Sandor Clegane leveled his gaze on her, and in his eyes was pity, and even something like concern. "Have you learned nothing, little bird?"

I've learned plenty, she wanted to scream. I trust no one. You told me that they were all liars yourself, or don't you remember? But you've done nothing for me, and Ser Dontos...Ser Dontos is my only hope.

Instead she stood and brushed off her skirts. "I'm done here." Sansa focused her eyes on the ground and made to move past the Hound - but then his hand was on her shoulder again, stopping her. When she looked up at him, though, he obviously didn't know what to say. "Yes, Ser?" she inquired. His hand pinched her, almost painfully, for a moment.

"I stayed for you," he finally admitted.

Sansa reached up and covered his hand with hers. "I know," she sighed. For a long moment they stood there, and when he tried to remove his hand she pressed down on it, remembering her dreams of him kissing her, dreams that she'd had so many times she'd lost track of whether his lips on hers was something she'd imagined. During her wedding to the Imp, when she'd had to kneel to kiss him, she'd recalled the Hound and his face close to hers...and the realization had come to her that Tyrion Lannister was even uglier than Sandor Clegane. Her wedding kiss had been brief, a mere brush of Tyrion's lips against hers, yet when it had happened Sansa had recalled the kiss in her dreams, the kiss from the night of the battle, and for a moment, one short moment of insanity, she'd nearly wished it was the Hound there at the altar with her.

Maybe...if it happens again...

As if she is dreaming right now, she turns toward Sandor Clegane then, turns so that her body faces his - entirely, completely, so that she is standing in his shadow...and yet she has never felt so safe, never felt so warm, as she wraps her fingers around his hand and takes it gently from her shoulder. He looks as if he might say something, wants to say something, but Sansa doesn't let him. She presses her free hand to the back of his neck, drawing his head down toward hers, and though there is no logical reason for it he yields to the little strength that she has.

Their lips meet, and it is nothing like she remembered it...and everything. The pressure is firm, because he is strong, but it is not cruel. The unscarred side of his mouth is curiously smooth and soft, while the ruined side is rough and scratchy. Sansa thinks about a day so long ago, when Jeyne Poole came giggling to her rooms, talking of kissing Theon Greyjoy. At the time Sansa had wondered why, thought she shouldn't have done that, but now she's glad to recall that conversation, as she tentatively runs her tongue across the part of Sandor Clegane's lips in the way Jeyne once described to her.

And he opens for her; not only that, he reaches around and presses his hands into her shoulder blades, bringing their bodies flush against each other - and within moments of the kiss becoming...more...she feels his manhood stiffen in his breeches, feels it against her stomach...but instead of doing the right thing Sansa arches herself into him, a sigh escaping from her, unbidden, flowing into his mouth and apparently giving him all the encouragement he needs to continue. For he fairly lifts her feet off the ground, kissing her with renewed vigor...

Abruptly, he lets her go, practically shoving her away from him as he sets her back on the ground. "We can't do this, little bird," he rasps, and then she is back in King's Landing, back in the Red Keep, back in the godswood, married to Tyrion Lannister and kissing the Hound.

"No...we...we shouldn't..." Sansa stuttered, all the while knowing that even if they shouldn't, she wanted to, gods, she wanted to, though she had no idea why.

 

"Come," Sandor Clegane rasped, his voice for some reason sounding far more hoarse than usual. "I'll take you back to your chambers." He placed a hand on the small of her back to propel her forward, and though she wanted to lean into his touch, wanted to tell him to stop, tell him that she wanted to stay here, instead Sansa allowed him to return her to the rooms she shared with Tyrion Lannister. My husband, she thought with disgust, glancing up at the Hound and musing over how his hideously scarred face and hulking form were somehow less fearsome to her than the Imp's stunted body, mismatched eyes, and lack of a proper nose.

What does it matter? Ser Dontos will take me away from here and hopefully I will never have to see Tyrion Lannister again. Nor am I like to see the Hound again, either, if I leave.

But suddenly that thought didn't seem quite so captivating as it once had.