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if i lay here (would you just forget the world)

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"I'll be safe here."

"Do you really believe that?

She does not, she truly does not, but she nods anyways. With a finger, he lifts her chin so her eyes meet his.

"You're a liar," the Hound says with a knowing glint in his eyes.

She suddenly understands that this may be her only chance to escape King's Landing with her head still intact. As this thought crosses her mind, she thinks of her father's head on that spike, of her septa's head.

"I'm scared."

"No need to be scared anymore, little bird."

~*~*~*~

They escape with a horse and maybe a week's worth of food. On their way out of King's Landing they steal some clothes that were laid outside to dry. The frock she wears is scratchy but still manages to be more comfortable than the gowns she wears on the daily, though they are made of silk and other such fine materials.

He dresses in simple breeches and a tunic. She has never seen him without his armor before and it's strange because she always thought it was the armor that made him so very bulky, but here he is, as big as usual and it's all him. She suddenly feels safer than she's ever felt while simultaneously feeling so completely vulnerable.

~*~*~*~

When they make it to the inn in the next safest town, their stomachs are groaning from running out of food two days before, and they are exhausted beyond belief. There's only one room left, it's a small inn, you see, ser, but neither of them have the energy to care.

After they've had their fill of potato stew and ale, they head upstairs to the room. When passing the bar, a patron stops Sandor.

"Give 'er to me when you're done."

Sansa's stomach clenches as Sandor's arm flies out and snatches the man by the front of his shirt and presses his sword to his throat. She fights to keep the bile down.

"She's not a whore," Sandor growls. "You'll do well to remember that."

"S-sorry, ser. Honest mistake." There is a quiver in the man's voice and he looks seconds away from pissing himself.

After a long moment, the Hound puts the man down. He grabs Sansa's arm and quickly drags her upstairs. Once safely in their room, she empties the contents of her stomach into the chamber pot, unable to keep it down any longer, and sobs until she's too weak to move.

He moves her from the ground to the bed, once it seems apparent she won't do it herself. She looks up at his with sleepy eyes and smiles an exhausted smile.

He ignores the slight tightness in his chest and makes himself comfortable on the dirty wooden floor.

~*~*~*~

After three towns and many men trying to get her to sleep with them, Sansa decides to take the initiative.

"We should pose as husband and wife."

Sandor glances at her from over his spoonful of soup with a look of disbelief.

"Men don't usually try to get to married women. At least not when their husbands are as intimidating as you."

He scoffs around another swallow of soup. "When it comes to getting to spend a night with you, men wouldn't care. Wouldn't matter how intimidating I was, they'd still chase after you."

Sansa frowns. "No, they wo--"

"Believe me, girl," Sandor says, his voice a low growl, warning her to drop the subject. "They would."

Nevertheless, in the next town, Sansa asks the innkeeper loudly for a room for her and her husband, making a show to point to Sandor.

No one bothers her the entirety of their stay.

~*~*~*~

They settle for a while in a place called Wintfield. They need time to relax after constantly being on the move for the past three months.

For three gold dragons they buy a house from a man. It's more of a shack than anything else, but Sansa falls in love with it. There are two beds, one of them on the main floor and one in the rafters. He allows her to take the one up top so she can have her privacy.

And then she begins to have nightmares.

For the first few days, he leaves her be. He stays away from her as she tosses and turns and whimpers herself awake and then cries herself back to sleep. But after the first week, he grows tired of her mewling.

As he goes to wake her, all he does is rest his hand on her wrist lightly and instantly her brow relaxes. Her soft cries turn into sharp breaths and then fade into soft, even breaths. He decides he must stay there, at least until she's heavily asleep.

He wakes to find her already up and making breakfast in the morning, and he does not remember falling asleep.

He does, however, wake the next morning in his bed, her face in the crook of his neck and her auburn hair tickling his nose.

Through the nights that follow, they make a silent pact. She sleeps next to him. They don't complain, and they certainly don't talk about it. They both get the best sleep of their lives.

~*~*~*~

"You 'spect me to believe that an ugly ol' bastard like you got that nice, tight little girl to marry you?"

She overhears the whole thing, though she suspects he does not know it. Her gut clenches for some reason. What reason she does not know, whether it be fear that Sandor might lash out, fear that the man might lash out, or something else entirely that she is not yet ready to address.

All she does know in that moment is that he does, in fact, punch the man in the jaw, and she cannot help the small smile and swell of pride that graces her.

~*~*~*~

She knows they are not a believable couple. He still does not allow her to touch him, not even to assist cleaning his wounds he gets trying to defend her from the men who cannot seem to take the hint. And she still shies away from his gaze, though it's no longer his scars that frighten her but the intensity of his eyes.

More and more people start to question their relationship. She is not surprised when he tells her they must leave.

They leave in the middle of this night. She does not look back, she never much liked that town anyway.

~*~*~*~

She is hanging their clothes out to dry when she blurts it.

"Thank you."

Sandor almost doesn't hear her, her voice is so soft. It trembles and he is reminded again of how delicate she is.

"I don't see what you're thanking me for, girl."

It's the only way he knows how to say it, really. He hopes she can interpret the meaning of his words. He hopes she knows how he meant it.

She looks up and smiles at him, a twinkling in her eyes and, thank the gods, she understands what he means.

You're welcome.

~*~*~*~

He doesn't know how it has gotten to this. He remembers small hands on his cheeks, his nose, his lips.

But it doesn't matter because there are her beautiful blue eyes and they're bright and getting closer to his face . . .

And then there are her lips and they brush his gently, so very delicately, and then that's it.

Her fingers begin to trace his scars. He wants to cry, but no tears come because he cannot cry. He is the Hound.

"Little bird," he rasps.

But she shushes him with her lips. They are laced with beautiful secrets and heart-clenching promises and he cannot seem to remember his existence with her clouding every single one of his senses.

~*~*~*~

A man--the first man in a while--tries to grab at her. She twists out of his grip and spins to face him.

"Touch me again and I swear to the old gods and the new that I will watch my husband disembowel you and leave you to the vermin. There will be no mercy from me."

The brash words startle her, she has no idea where they come from. But they are effective so she doesn't bother to care.

Sandor curses himself after enjoying the show, not being able to restrain his arousal. He cannot look at her in the eye for the rest of the night.

~*~*~*~

It is hard to believe that it has been a year since they escaped King's Landing. They have heard no word of anything. Not of Robb and his army, not of Joffrey and the fate of King's Landing, not of Stannis Baratheon and whether or not his attack was successful. Nothing.

And some nights, this is worrisome. Some nights she wakes in the middle of the night, voice hoarse from screaming in her sleep, sweat drenching her body. And she'll lie there, clutching Sandor's chest and sobbing. After a while, she'll kiss the hand that strokes her hair to let him know she is alright, and then they fall into a dreamless sleep.

~*~*~*~

They finally hear some news of Winterfell, of what Theon Greyjoy did to her home, to her brothers. She does not cry, she does not collapse. She does nothing. Because she cannot do anything. She cannot feel anything except a numbness in her chest. She briefly wonders if anything is wrong with her.

"Little bird," Sandor whispers some hours later.

Suddenly she attacks his mouth with hers. He is powerless to stop her soft lips crushing his, to escape the small hands that are pulling, pulling him down. He feels the saltiness of her tears as they finally stream down her face tangle in with their tongues.

"Why don't I feel?" she gasps against his lips. Sobs wrack her body. "I just want to feel."

His breath stutters. Another sob from her.

"Make me feel, Sandor."

~*~*~*~

They don't speak about it. Just like they don't speak about the first time she slept next to him, or when she kissed him. Communicating is a foreign concept to both of them.

Which he is fine with. He cannot deal with women, does not know how. He can't even imagine where to begin. Especially with a woman as complex as Sansa.

He welcomes the silence with open arms.

~*~*~*~

He tends to her body whenever she needs to feel again, and he does so with his mouth closed and his whole body humming.

Make me feel, Sandor.

He does. He makes her feel absolute wholeness when he slides into her. He makes her feel pure ecstasy when he hits exactly the right spot. He makes her feel utter joy when he brings them to the peak, when they ride the waves of their release.

He makes her feel because who is he to deny her anything?

~*~*~*~

Her moonblood does not come. They are not surprised. Months later, she gives birth to a little baby girl. She names her Arya Catelyn after her mother and sister whose fates she does not know, nor wishes to know.

When she holds the little girl in her arms, she cries for the first time in over a year.

She feels. He feels.

They feel.