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Gravedigger (won't you dig my grave?)

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Alayne Stone dies one rainy night on the Quiet Isle, after getting her maidenhood assessed and proven. And in her place, Sansa Stark is reborn.

 

It’s unnatural, she thinks, to cheat death.

 

But she does it anyways.

 


 

It’s Mya who inadvertently sets everything in motion.

 

“Did you hear?” She whispers to she and Myranda at night, when the three of them are cuddled against the coldness that seeps into the walls.

 

She shifts, moving over to her other side, brown hair falling into her face. She goes to push the strands away and then pauses, her fingers twirling the muddy, plain brown. (She remembers when she used to have vibrant red hair, she remembers her brothers, and even Jon who always treated her like the family she denied he was, she remembers and relishes the cold air the north was known for. She remembers Winterfell. She remembers Arya. She remembers her father, her true noble father, not the farce that Petyr is pretending to be and the lie everyone else believes.)

 

“Alayne?” She feels a poke at her shoulder and she starts, jumping violently and it makes Mya and Myranda laugh. “And what, or should I ask who, are you thinking about?” Even in the dark, she can see Myranda’s face, red and smiling jovially.

 

I’m thinking about who I once was. About everything I once knew. “I’m not thinking about anything. Just…lost in thought.” Just a silly little bird.

 

Oh. Oh. Him. Again. She wants to curl into herself tightly enough to disappear. How many times has he crossed her mind? How many times has she wished and begged and pleaded to the old and new Gods, for just a second chance. If he would ask me again, she thinks to herself, thoughts swirling in her mind, memories of a long forgotten kiss against the backdrop of green flames and a white cloak stained with dirt and blood, hidden in her wardrobe chest, only taken out when her grief and past overwhelms her, if he asked me again, I’d say yes. I wouldn’t deny him. Not again.

 

In the deepest recess of her heart, she knows that she would have been happy. She would have been safe with him than with Petyr. Petyr, with his thin lips and wandering hands trailing where no true father’s hands should wander. She feels the bile form in her stomach and not for the first time, she wishes that she had gone with the Hound that night. Sandor, she thinks, remembering the nights where she would mouth his name in the darkened night, Sandor. Sandor Clegane.

 

“She’s thinking about Harry.” Mya nudges her and laughs, “don’t you worry, dear sweet Alayne, if everything about Harry is true, then you’ll be very happy on your wedding night.” At this she grins wickedly and Alayne’s stomach drops.

 

Harry may be marrying Alayne Stone, (but she knows that there won’t be a wedding night. Petyr, and in her head, she will never call him father, Petyr will make sure of that) but Petyr Baelish will be marrying Sansa Stark.

 

She curls her hand into a fist and presses it to her mouth, teeth breaking the skin of her hand as she bites down to stifle her sobs. She fails and she hears a hitch through the night.

 

“Gods.” Myranda swears, shifting closer towards her, “are you…Alayne, are you crying?” She lays her head in the crook of her neck, “are you afraid of getting your maidenhead assessed?”

 

Mya sighs and runs her fingers through her hair, “if it’s any consolation, I’ve heard the Brothers on the Isle are very…nice.” She finishes lamely.

 

She can feel Myranda rolls her eyes. “Everything will be alright Alayne. You’ll see. Then you’ll be married to Harry and you’ll be happy.”

 

I’ll never be happy.

 

“Anyways, that wasn’t what I wanted to say to you two.” Mya interrupts, her voice rising over her stifled cries.

 

“Then what?”

 

“A lady knight and her squire came to talk to Petyr earlier.” None of them call him Lord Baelish in the privacy of their rooms and she wonders if he knows the dissent among his pupils at his reign. How easy, she thinks, it would be to turn them against him.

 

Alayne frowns, a knot growing in her stomach, “what…what did they want?”

 

“Sansa Stark.”

 

Alayne’s breath catches and she freezes. “Do they know where she is?”

 

She can feel Mya shake her head; “nobody has seen her since the day King Joffrey was murdered. The lady, she implored Petyr for help, but he said all was lost and that if anything, she would have tried to find herself back north. Just like a true Stark and Tully, he said.”

 

There is a fury so fierce that flames in her, telling her, begging her, pleading with her, to march through the gates and kill him where he stands, surrounded by more whores. I won’t let him touch me, she vows, I won’t ever let him touch me. I’ll die before I marry him. Before I marry anyone, I’ll die.

 

Myranda snorts and tightens her grip around Alayne’s waist. “If Sansa Stark is stupid enough to venture north, she’s likely dead.”

 

“That’s what Petyr said. That Sansa Stark is dead.”

 

If only.

 

“Where are they now?” Alayne asks, desperation flooding her voice. “The lady knight and her squire, where are they now?”

 

Mya shrugs in the darkness. “Gone. Petyr sent them away.” She’s silent and then leans forward, “why do you care?”

 

“I don’t.” She answers automatically. “It’s just…I’ve never heard of a lady knight. I think I would have rather like to see her.”

 

“At any rate, they’re likely still chasing a dead girl’s trail. The lady knight was saying how she promised Lady Catelyn that she would bring both her daughters home. An empty promise unfortunately.”

 

Father. Mother. Robb. Jon. Bran. Rickon. Arya. She bites her lip, repeating the names of her family members until she tastes blood.

 

(Wolf’s blood.)

 


 

She helps the Maester with his stock when she frowns at a peculiar bottle, the liquid is clear, no label on it. Curiously, she opens the top and sniffs. It doesn’t smell. It looks and seems like water and for some reason; this makes her even more curious. She puts the top back on and outstretches her hand towards the Maester, “what is this?”

 

She doesn’t miss the brief look of panic on his face, as he snatches the bottle out of the palm of her hand. “Where did you find this?”

 

“Behind the other bottles.” She cocks her head to the side. “Is that…is it…poison?” Tears of Lys, she thinks wildly. In the distance, she can hear her dead aunt’s crazed ramblings, you whispered in my ear and told me to put the tears in Jon’s cup.

 

The Maester sighs and sits down, taking a piece of cloth and wiping his damp forehead. “It is,” he starts, his voice barely above a whisper and Alayne has to strain to hear what he says, “like the Tears of Lys.”

 

Alayne narrows her eyes. “And how is it different?”

 

He gives a chuckle, “unlike the Tears of Lys, you wake up afterwards. Long after everything that needs to be done is done and the dust is settled.”

 

It’s unnatural, she thinks, to cheat death.

 

“I made it a long while back. I was…curious you see. About death.”

 

“But you didn’t want to die.” She murmurs, eyeing the bottle in his hands.

 

“But I didn’t want to die.” He confesses. He closes his grip around it tightly and for one second, she’s fearful it’s going to break in his hand. Instead, he pushes other vials and books away and he buries it deep in a shelf where no one can find it. “But you see, I can’t bear to let it go.”

 

(It’s unnatural, she thinks, to cheat death.)

 


 

She’s curled on her side, knees pulled up to her chest, eyes swollen from silently crying. She winces when her rough spun sleeping gown catches on worn and sensitive skin from where she scrubbed with a dry and rough cloth until she bled.

 

Myranda came across her, hurriedly scrubbing herself and she gasped, flying towards her and ripping the cloth out of her hands. “What are you doing?” She cried.

 

“Get him off me!” Alayne cries (but in that moment, she doesn’t feel like Alayne, she feels like Sansa. Long lost, supposedly dead Sansa Stark and she is terrified.) “Get him off! Get him off!” She keeps repeating, until Myranda wraps her in a towel and gently dries her and clothes her and holds her, whispering to her that everything will be all right. That everything will be okay.

 

Myranda leaves her when she thinks she asleep, but as soon as the door closes, she is awake, body shaking.

 

“Come my sweet daughter.” Petyr says, holding out his arms.

 

She gives him the softest smile she can muster and walks towards him, gulping when he grabs her wrists and pulls her into his lap, her legs folded over his. “What is it, father?” She asks, the words coming forth bitterly.

 

He pushes strands of hair behind her ear and his fingers linger there, trailing down her neck until the heel of his hand is pressed against the top of her breast. She sees him take in a deep breath, brings his face towards her and smells her hair and she shifts away from him instinctively. His eyes flare and he grips her to him tighter. “By now,” he says, his tone neutral; his words anything but, “you would have heard that the lady knight Brienne of Tarth and her squire, Ser Podrick Payne,” her breath catches at the name of her soon to be ex-husband’s squire and friend and she spares a thought to Lord Tyrion who was always nice to her and who protected her and whom she left like a lamb to the slaughter. No, she thinks, he’s a Lannister, he deserves everything that is coming to him, “came looking for Sansa Stark.”

 

“Sansa Stark doesn’t exist anymore, father.”

 

“Not now, she doesn’t.” He looks her over, eyes lingering on her breasts, “but after your maidenhead is assessed and proven, after you marry Harry the Heir and he meets his rather untimely end, I will proclaim that you are indeed Sansa Stark and you, my dear sweet Sansa, will marry me.” He leans in closer, until his mouth encloses around her ear, his tongue tracing its contour and she shivers with disgust and stifles the sobs threatening to break loose. “And I, will finally have my Tully.”

 

She lets out shriek as his hand slips into her dress, caressing her breast, and she leaps off his lap, practically taking him down with her, hearing a slight rip from the force of her move. “Father,” she says, her voice shaking, her body trembling violently.

 

“You must forgive me, my dear. I seem to forget how innocent you truly are.”

 

She stares at him and backs away slowly, “Randa,” she says, “Randa is waiting for me.”

 

“Run along now, daughter, but always know that I will catch you.”

 

She runs as fast as her legs will take her, sobs wracking her small frame and she’s vaguely aware of passing the Maester who calls out to her worriedly and past the kitchen maids and knights, until she slams the door to her room and spies her dirty bath water from the morning. She doesn’t care; she sinks into eagerly and scrubs until she bleeds.

 

But always know that I will catch you.

 

Always know that I will catch you.

 

I will catch you.

 

I was curious about death, but didn’t want to die.

 

But always know that I will catch you.

 

It is like the Tears of Lys but you wake up afterwards, when everything is said and done and the dust has settled.

 

Always know that I will catch you.

 

She sits upright in her bed, hands clutching her chest as she breathes heavily, the voice swarming in her head.

 

As she settles back into bed, her thoughts forming the beginnings of a plan and it’s ludicrous. It’s practically unheard. It’s unnatural. But Sansa Stark is desperate and even the most unnatural of things have their truths.

 

Before sleep overtakes her, there is another voice in her head, one that is always there, buried deep, coming out only when she wills it and needs him, needs the strength she remembers from him. I’ll keep you safe, little bird. No one will hurt you. I’ll kill them. They’re all terrified of me anyways.

 


 

It’s early in the morning when she makes her way down to the Maester’s medicine room and she shuts the door quietly, creeping towards the shelf and she gently extracts vials and books, reaching her hand in the back where she knows the specific vial she’s looking for is hidden.

 

Her heart drops to her stomach when her hand catches nothing but air.

 

No, she thinks wildly, panic gripping her and suddenly, she’s pulling all the vials off the shelf, hurriedly and desperately looking for it, it’s here. It has to be here. Where is it? Where is it?

 

“Looking for something, my lady?” An old, tired and weary voice says from behind her.

 

She lets out a small shriek, twirling around and clapping her hands over mouth as she stares at the Maester, her eyes automatically drawn towards the vial in his hands. Then she gasps, her mouth agape as his words finally settle in her ears.

 

Looking for something, my lady? My lady. My lady. Lady.

 

“What did you say?”

 

He gives her a sad smile as he walks towards her. “I have served the Tully’s my entire life.” He says quietly, “I know a Tully when I see one and you,” he says, tapping a finger on her nose and giving her a small reassuring smile, “are the spitting image of your late mother, Lady Catelyn Stark.”

 

She stammers, wondering if this is a trap, “you are mistaken, I am Lord Baelish’s bastard daughter. My name is Alayne Stone.”

 

“Your name,” the Maester says, his hands on her shoulders, “is Lady Sansa Stark. Littlefinger has had an unnatural obsession with your mother since they were young and I am filled with regret at what he has made you do.”

 

Unbidden, tears sting her eyes and she looks at him, her sight blurring with the tears, “will you help me then?” She whispers. “Please, will…will you help me?”

 

He nods, “but not here.”

 

“Where? When?” She asks desperately, her voice gaining volume.

 

He shushes her softly, gently. “When you get off this blasted rock. The Isle. After your maidenhood is assessed and proven. Then, I will help you.”

 

Relief floods through her and only a little too late, so does suspicion. “Why? Why are you so willing to help me and defy Lord Baelish?”

 

He blinks, “Before my family served the Tully’s, we lived north. Did you know that?” She shakes her head and he continues, “and you of all people, Lady Stark, know, the north remembers.” He pauses and scrunches his nose, “besides, I would give my last breath to see all of that whoreson’s plans come to ruin. Pardon my language, my lady.”

 

And for the first time in years, Sansa Stark laughs.

 


 

It is in the middle of their journey to the Quiet Isle that she learns of the Hound’s (Sandor, she reminds herself, Sandor Clegane) fate.

 

“He raped and pillaged the Saltpans, Killing women and children, bashing their skulls in.” One of the knights who joined them says; wine spilling from his cup to the floor.

 

Her heart is hammering aginst her chest, rattling to be let out. “His brother,” she says, her voice cracking before she clears her throat, “It is said that Gregor is the monster. Not…not the Hound.”

 

The knight gives her a strange look, and Myranda, whom Sansa begged to come along, gives her a warning one, the Maester stays silent. “That is true,” he concedes, “but the Mountain has been long dead and as they say, family is family.”

 

“You know nothing.” She hisses, her eyes stinging as she gets up, nearly turning over the table in her haste.

 

“I know that he deserted his duty. He is a turncloak and you have never even met the Hound. Nor the Mountain. So, don’t presume to know anything. You’re just the bastard daughter of Lord Baelish. You’re nothing but a wench, lucky enough to make a good enough match.”

 

Myranda is indignant but it is the Maester who stands up, his voice echoing in the room. “Despite her birth, she is still a lady and you ser, apologize at once or you will find that the next time you come to me for matters pertaining to your own wenches, you’ll find me suddenly out of medicine.”

 

The knight blanches and though he does apologize, it is far from sincere.

 

Not that she cares.

 

Instead, she turns and flees, barely hearing Myranda’s excuses for her as she reaches her room and slams the door behind her, crumbling to the floor, sobs tearing at her throat.

 

Not long after, Myranda creeps into the room and she gathers her up, pushing her hair back and kissing her temple. “He’s dead,” she weeps, “he’s dead.”

 

“I know, my lady.” Myranda whispers softly. “I know.”

 

(It isn’t until Sansa is dying that she remember Myranda’s soft spoken words and reverent my lady.)

 


 

When she finally steps off the ship, being greeted by a handful of Brother’s, her eyes scan across the Isle, taking in her surroundings.

 

She’s drawn to a hill a little ways off, the cliff overlooking the sea as it laps at the rocks and she frowns when she sees a tall man, broad in shoulders, big everywhere else, digging. She pushes her hair back from her face as she continues studying the man in the distant, a strange feeling fluttering through her very core and settling into her blood.

 

“Who is he and what is he doing?” She asks, drawing the Elder Brother’s attention.

 

He stares at her and then the other Brother and then back at her. “That is our Silent Brother. He is also our gravedigger.” Even more gently, he explains, “he is digging graves for the dead.”

 

“Oh.” She replies, her eyes never leaving the figure in the distance.

 

Idly, she wonders which grave he’s digging for her.


She is reclining against a table, her nerves on end. The Elder Brother is at the other side of the room and she can hear the footsteps of the others, gathering their things.

 

It is the only time she and the Elder Brother have been alone and she knows that if she doesn’t take this time to ask him, she’s afraid she won’t ever have the chance. “I heard that the Hound came through here.”

 

“The Hound,” the Elder Brother says after a moment of silence, “is still here.”

 

She sits up so suddenly she makes herself dizzy. “He’s here? I thought…I had heard that he died.”

 

He turns around and looks at her, his face frowning, eyes crinkling in curiosity. “He is dead.” He says carefully. “I buried the Hound.”

 

She swallows the bitter disappointment and nods, blinking against the stinging in her eyes and laying back on the table, staring at the ceiling. “How did he die?” She asks.

 

“A wound in his leg.”

 

“Where is he buried?”

 

“I beg your pardon, but why would you like to know?”

 

I want to beg for forgiveness. I want him to know that I thought of him every single day. That I dreamt of him. That he kept me alive in the darkest time of my life. “Everyone deserves someone to mourn them.”

 

“Those are kind and wise words.”

 

There is nothing kind about them. They’re just her own truth.


The hem of her dress is muddy as she makes her way up the hill, towards the graves. She follows the path the Elder Brother traced for her until she comes across a lone grave a little ways off from everyone else.

 

“Even in death, you prefer to be alone.” She mutters as she reaches the tombstone. She sinks to her knees, the wet ground soaking her through her dress. She traces her fingertips across the stone, breath catching. “I am sorry. I am so sorry.” She wipes her face with the sleeve of her dress, “I thought of you. Every night. Every day. I thought of you and regretted not going with you that night. You always said I was a stupid little bird and you were right. I should have…if I was there…maybe…”

 

“You’d be just as dead.” A deep, raspy and familiar voice reaches her ears.

 

She whips her head around and she sees the supposed Silent Brother leaning against another tombstone. His cowl covers his face, but her heart quickens, her breath stuck in her throat until she finds it hard to breathe. “You…you’re dead.”

 

He snorts, “I should be.”

 

She scrambles up, slipping once and then twice, his body reaching forward and grabbing her before she hits the ground again. Her hands, small against his large body claw at his cowl until she removes it and sees familiar grey eyes still filled with restrained rage and fury and his half burned face, skin twisted and gnarled. She lets out a laugh and it’s caught between a sob and keen, as her hands grasp his face. “It’s you.” She says. “It’s really you. I saw you. When I got off the ship. I never stopped thinking about you. I…I should have gone with you.”

 

“No.” He snarls, pushing her away until she’s an arm’s length from him and she frowns, feeling a twisting in her gut. “Whatever game this is. Stop it.”

 

“Game?” She says after a moment of silence. “Game. You think this a game? I am sick of games, Ser.”

 

“I’m no fucking Ser. You know that little bird.”

 

“You are ten times the Ser than others.” She looks up at him again, frustrated that all that seems to come out are tears. Haven’t I cried enough? “I should have gone with you.”

 

“No. You were right to stay.”

 

“Yes.” She says bitterly, “and look where that’s gotten me.”

 

“Apparently,” he snaps back, “on your way to marrying a lord fit for your precious stories.”

 

She laughs then, tilts her head back and laughs until her throat hurts. “That lord won’t make it past the wedding night because Petyr Baelish plans on killing him and having me for himself.” She can feel the anger and fury and rage that emit from him and she relishes in it, she feeds off it. She bares her teeth at him, standing to her full height but still so small in comparison to him. “I will die before that happens.”

 

He frowns and stares at her, eyes taking her in and she feels her body flush at his appraising look. “It seems, you finally owe me a story, little bird.”

 

(You owe me a song. Sing, little bird. Sing for your life.)

 

She grins at him, cheeks flushing, “I’ll gladly sing it for you.”

 

He barks out a laugh and shakes his head and for a moment, just a moment, everything is as it should be.


It is well past dark when she finishes her story, the light of the moon illuminating them.

 

He is, quite possibly, the angriest she has ever seen him.

 

“Sandor?” She says softly, his name falling from her lips like it has done a hundred times over, “Sandor, say something.”

 

“I’ll kill him.” He growls.

 

“No.” She says quickly. At his incredulous look, she hastens to explain herself. “When he dies, it will be by the hands of a Stark.”

 

Silence reigns between them and in the distance she can hear the hoot hoot of owls and chirps of crickets and if she concentrates enough she can hear the barking of hounds and howls of wolves and here on this small isle, is where the night and her creatures come alive.

 

“This plan of yours,” he begins hesitantly and she knows he’s against it, knows that there is no guarantee that she will wake up again but it’s the only chance she has to escape from Petyr and ensure he doesn’t try to find her. Run along but always know that I will catch you. “Will it work?”

 

“The Maester seems to think so.” She looks at him from underneath her lids, “I will only appear dead.”

 

“And where will you go? When you are dead and finally free?”

 

“Braavos.” She says suddenly and then she laughs, wrapping her arms around her to ward off the sudden chill. “I don’t know why, but I feel as if I’m being called to Braavos.”

 

He falls silent, his eyes not leaving hers and it occurs to her that he hasn’t taken his eyes off of her since he announced himself amongst the tombstones.

 

She looks around her at the graves and she wonders how many of them he has actually dug. “Sandor, if I ask one thing of you, would you grant me it?”

 

He nods, his eyes staring at her intensely.

 

“I would ask you to dig my grave next to yours.” She says pointing towards the lone tombstone falsely claiming to be the Hound’s. She takes a deep breath and stands up, her knees weak. She gives him a trembling smile. “I should…I need to…the Maester…he’s waiting.” At his nod, she takes a deep breath, if I had a chance to go back, I would say yes. I wouldn’t deny you. Not again. “Will you come with me?” She blurts out, cheeks burning with embarrassment. “To Braavos, I mean. Will you…will you come…with me?” She trails off pathetically and shrinking under his gaze.

 

“You should fucking know by now girl, I’d follow you into the seven bloody hells.”

 

She gives him a smile and she thinks it’s the first true smile in years and it’s only fitting that she grants it to him. “Now,” she chirps softly, “I have a date to cheat the Stranger himself.”

 

(I’d follow you into the seven bloody hells.)


“Drink this when you are ready.” The Maester tells her, his face soft and eyes gentle as he looks down at her.

 

She’s sitting on her bed, her sleeping gown and robe thrown over her body. She nods, the words stuck in her throat as her stomach suddenly erupts in nerves. “…and I shall wake?”

 

His nod comes, but only a second too late and her eyes widen when she sees the glint of steel pressed against the back of the Maester’s neck. “Answer her.”

 

“You should, my lady.”

 

Sandor growls and it echoes throughout the room. “What game is this? Who are you working for? Answer me or I’ll gut your fucking entrails.”

 

“No one.” The Maester cries out. “I work for one.” His eyes turn to Sansa’s and he pleads with her silently. “One can never be certain when it comes to…” He trails off and looks at the ground.

 

Sansa understands immediately. “Death.” She finishes quietly. “One can never be certain when it comes to death.” She gives them a smile and gets up, placing her hand on Sandor’s. “It’s alright. I will be fine. I have faith.”

 

“You have too fucking much of it.” Sandor snaps at her.

 

“Maybe.” She concedes, “but right now, I need it to trust the Maester. We need it to trust the Maester. Let him go.”

 

He laughs and it’s bitter, hollow, dark and it makes her stomach twirl and churn. “Let him go and leave you to die and let me dig your bloody grave.”

 

She bites her lip, eyes never straying from his as the Maester slips from his grip and slides to the wall, watching them with interest. “Have I asked too much of you?” There is fear like she has never known in her stomach and she begs, prays and pleads that she’s wrong, that he won’t leave her, that he won’t fail her. You can’t. Please. You can’t. Not you. Anyone but you.

 

“Little bird.” He says, and she sucks in a deep breath, her body igniting at his nickname for her. He falls silent after that, not saying anything more but Sansa hears what he doesn’t say, you can ask anything of me and I’ll grant it. I’ll follow you into the seven bloody hells.

 

She gives him a watery smile and slips into her bed, mindful of the Maester turning his head in modesty. But not Sandor. No. He stares at her intensely, as if making sure she doesn’t disappear again and if she does, promising that he’ll follow.

 

She drinks the cup the Maester has laid out for her. It’s a cup of cool water and were she anyone else, she wouldn’t think that it held anything else in it.

 

She starts feeling tired minutes after drinking it and she lies down, eyes straining against her heaviness. “Sandor, you’ll be here when I wake?”

 

“I’m not going anywhere, little bird.”

 

And softly, so softly she almost misses it, she hears, no one will hurt you again. I’ll kill them. I’ll kill them all.

 

(She thinks it’s the sweetest proclamation of love she’s ever heard.)


“Randa?” She asks drowsily, her eyelids are heavy but she makes out the familiar silhouette of her friend.

 

“Shh…” she whispers, hands going to her hair. “The potion is working, my lady. You just need to sleep.”

 

My lady. My lady. Lady.

 

“How’d you…” she trails off, body jerking as she slips further into the beckoning darkness and she thinks she hears laughter in the distance, familiar laughter and suddenly all she can smell is the cold and it reminds her of home. Of Winterfell. Wait for me, she wants to call out to the laughter, I’m coming. I’m coming. Wait for me. Don’t leave me alone.

 

“Your hair.” Myranda says, her voice drowning. “When your true shade comes in, it’s Tully red. I know my Tully’s. And you were always too proper to be a bastard.” She presses her lips to her temple. “I will die with your secret, my lady. May we meet again in your next life.”

 

I’d follow you into the bloody seven hells.

 

Sandor, she wants to call out, Sandor, will you be there when I wake?

 

Before she finally slips into the blissful darkness, she thinks she hears; I’m here. I’m not going anywhere, little bird.

 


 

When she wakes, it’s with a gasp, water soaking her face (rain, she realizes, it’s raining) and in the dark (in the distance she can hear the hoot hoot of owls and chirps of crickets and if she concentrates enough she can hear the barking of hounds and howls of wolves and here on this small isle, is where the night and her creatures come alive.)

 

She breathes heavily and almost screams when a hand places itself on her shoulder.

 

“Hush, little bird,” his raspy voice echoes in her ear and she shivers, partly from the shock, partly from having just woken up from death, but mostly she thinks because of the heat from his mouth so close to her ear.

 

He lifts her up and settles her against the tombstone. His, she thinks. The Hound’s, she corrects herself, and staring at the muscles in his back as he shovels dirt back into the hole in the ground and (her hole in the ground, next to his, exactly where she asked him to bury her), she knows the Hound never died. Not truly.

 

He’s breathing harder when he’s done, leaning against the shovel, pushing back wet strands of his hair from his face. “There’s a ship ready to take us to Braavos.” He hesitates. “Is this still what you want?”

 

She has finally tasted freedom and she is not going back to her glided cage. So, she sucks up whatever courage she has and grabs his hand, intertwining her small fingers with his much larger ones. “It is all I want.”

 

(And just like he should have done those years ago, he spirits her away in the middle of the night to the safety she longs for, the rain washing away their footsteps and all that is left is the stillness of the grave, where Alayne Stone and The Hound are buried amongst the nameless, side by side.)

 


 

Alayne Stone dies one rainy night on the Quiet Isle, after her getting her maidenhood assessed and proven. And in her place, Sansa Stark is reborn.

 

It’s unnatural, she thinks, staring at him as he sleeps, the ship rocking back and forth on the water, his face morphed into the only sort of calm she thinks he can find in his dreams and idly, she wonders what he dreams about (does he dream about me? Has he ever dreamt about me?), she reaches out and cups his cheek, running the pads of her fingers across his burnt flesh and she can feel her heart pounding thunderously against her chest, to cheat death.

 

But even the most unnatural of things have their truths.

 

She settles down on the bed that is too small for the both of them and wraps her body around his, not caring about the inappropriateness of it. She buries her head in the crook of his neck and all but stops breathing when his arm wraps around her body, pulling her closer towards him.

 

(Sandor, will you be there when I wake up?

 

I’m not going anywhere, little bird.)