"Will you fucking stop pacing, Clegane?" Arya Stark snarled at her goodbrother who was close to wearing down a hole in the floor with his relentless pacing.
"You, wolf bitch, are the last person who can order me around," he barked back at her but stopped pacing, preferring instead to loom threateningly over the girl. "This is all your damn fault."
As if to emphasize his words, another scream echoed from the room where Sansa Clegane had been taken the moment she had doubled over in pain. She had been seven months pregnant and it was too early for her to give birth or so she had assured him when she had insisted that they travel to Winterfell so she could talk some sense into her younger sister. The said sister was leaning against the wall, spinning a throwing knife on her finger and Sandor almost hoped she would slip and cut her damn hand. If she hadn't punched the King in the face, Sansa would have been safe and sound in their own castle, tended by their own, experienced maester, not the Winterfell's green one.
"I told Sansa and I'm telling you, he was asking for it," Arya shrugged and finally slipped the knife back into its sheath.
"That's not the point!" Sandor bit out, resisting his urge to throttle the girl. He thought she had been annoying years ago when they had travelled the Riverlands together but apparently, he was wrong about that.
"That is precisely the point-" Arya was interrupted as another scream came. And another.
"Is Sansa going to die?" a twelve years old Rickon asked, speaking for the first time since they had all gathered to wait it out. Sandor cursed and started pacing again.
"No," he rasped. "She's not."
"Sansa will be alright," Bran told his younger brother and smiled at him. "I have seen it."
Arya straightened up and looked at Bran with an interest.
"Really? Do you also know what it's going to be? A boy or a girl?"
"I'll let you find out, I think," Bran said as a sudden silence descended over the group. And then there was a piercing wail that sliced through the tension filled room and Arya started laughing.
"Your puppy is howling," she sniggered, pointing at Sandor who merely glared back, his attention fixed on the door. What seemed to be an eternity later - but was in fact only about a quarter of an hour - the door opened and a tired looking Maester Denar walked out.
"Lady Sansa has given birth to a girl," he announced and looking at Sandor, continued, "She asked to see you first, my lord."
"And the child?" Sandor asked.
"Small, but otherwise perfectly healthy. It was an easy birth, all things considered."
Sandor gave a sharp nod and shouldered his way into the room past the maester, his eyes immediately falling on the hunched over figure of his wife. Her hair was still wet with sweat, her face red with exertion and she seemed to be biting her lip in an effort not to cry. The child - their daughter - was in her arms, an impossibly tiny thing swadled in a blanket. Sandor walked over slowly, feeling clumsy all of a sudden. Sansa looked up at him and attempted a smile.
"Your daughter, my lord," she said quietly, holding out the child for his inspection. The baby was red in face like her mother, probably from the screaming she had done. The few wisps of hair on her head were dark in colour but her eyes were closed and so their colour was unknown. Sandor hoped that the girl would grow up favouring her mother in looks but it was still too early to tell. "Are you disappointed?" Sansa asked in a small voice.
Sandor looked at her and frowned. She really looked like she was about to cry.
"Why should I be disappointed?"
"Most men would rather have a son as their firstborn," she explained, glancing aside. Sandor sighed. Trust Sansa to worry about an inconsequential thing like that. How could he explain that the child - any child - by her was already more than he thought he deserved without sounding like a lovesick fool?
"I'm not like most men," he reminded her at last and sat down next to her. The sheets had been already changed, he noticed. "You will be alright and so will be the child. I don't care beyond that right now."
Sansa sniffled lightly and nodded, comforted by his words, terse as they had been.
"Thank you," she whispered, leaning against him tiredly. "I do not even know why I worried about that."
"Because you are a foolish little bird who tends to worry about everything."
Sansa laughed at that.
"I am, aren't I? It is just that I was so sure we would have a son, you know. A son who would grow up strong and brave and kind like you."
"I have been called many things but kind wasn't amongst them," Sandor pointed out wryly, even though he was strangely pleased by her words.
"I know you best, I know you can be kind," Sansa told him decisively before changing the subject. "Would you like to hold her?"
Sandor wondered if the panic he suddenly felt was normal for new fathers. His daughter was small and soft and fragile and so utterly breakable and his hands were used to wielding weapons and they were rough and suddenly felt heavy and inadequate to the simple task.
"I'm not sure if that's a good idea," he spoke and Sansa peered at his face, before glancing down at their daughter, biting her lip. This time, though, Sandor was sure she wasn't about to cry but was instead laughing at his hesitation.
"You will not hurt her, here," she pushed the child, blanket and all into his arms and he scrambled to mimic the hold he had seen her use, one of his hands under the tiny head and the other under her small back and Sansa smiled triumphantly at him. "See, you are good at it."
Sandor was about to retort something back to her but bit back his words at the exhausted expression in her face. It was called a labour for a reason, it seemed.
"She's so small," he said instead and Sansa actually rolled her eyes at him.
"She will grow up soon enough and then you will wish she was a child again," she took the baby back, cradling her carefully. "Our beautiful little girl. I wonder what we should call her."
"Name her whatever you want," Sandor replied. It might have sounded like he could care less about the child's name but the truth was, he had no idea whatsoever what to name his daughter and he was sure Sansa had at least ten names lined up already.
"I was thinking of naming her Catelyn," she said quietly, staring down at the infant.
"After your mother?"
"Yes. Do you mind?"
"Not at all," he told her honestly. It was a good name, after a good woman from all he had been told about her. "Catelyn Clegane sounds good."
Sansa beamed at him, her tiredness melting away with that smile.
"I think so too," she straightened up then, trying to smooth her hair down and become more presentable. "I think you can call the rest of the family in. I am sure they are quite impatient."
He wouldn't go against Sansa's wishes this day and so he stood up and went to let the rest of the Starks in. He came back quickly, though, to hover over his two little birds protectively. And not even Arya's jeers when she noticed didn't force him back.