But suddenly, an angel has smiled at me
And touched my face without a trace of fright
I dare to dream that she might even care for me
And as I’m sitting here tonight, oh how the darkness seems so bright
I swear this must be heaven’s light.
- Hunchback of Note Dame
The thought came to him so late at night it was almost morning, soaked in wine and twisted by loneliness. When Sandor was a child, he had hoped for his own lady - but with a face like his, who would have him? He had accepted, grimly, to live his life alone. But then, that day - nearly a fortnight ago - had happened. There she had stood, as lovely as spring itself, the careless sunshine reflected in her eyes.
He had wanted her of course. No man with eyes in his head could not want her. Surely she would sing the loveliest song he had ever heard. She would tremble under his hands, her eyes wide, her hands soft and curious against his skin, and more importantly, she would be his. He had never really thought of the possibility of a woman being his; not with a face like his, a voice like his. He could recite no poems, and he had no charms. His way was coarse and unrefined, and he had for so long been so sure that no woman would let him near her for more than a tumble.
But then, she had smiled at him. He looked down at the ribbon he was idly letting loop over and around his fingers. It was white as angel’s raiments, and he thought of how her hair had fallen around her shoulders when she had pulled it out and given it to him.
“You shall wear my favor” she had said, her eyes twinkling in a way that made his breath grow short. A slip of a girl, and already he found herself wrapped around her little finger as easy as breathing. He had bowed his head, offering his arm.
“I shall honor the token I have been given.” He had promised solemnly, trying his best to keep his voice from grating.
“See that you do.” She had looked rather pleased with herself as she tied a white ribbon around his arm. Then, she looked up at him again and he was caught in her eyes.
“Come back a victor… or not at all.” Her voice had been stern, giving him an order he could not refuse.
“I shall return victorious.” He promised. “And when I do, I expect a token from my lady.”
Her eyes widened in surprise, and perhaps slight alarm.
“And what is it you expect, noble warrior?”
She bit her lip, and he could not tear his eyes away. But when her gaze turned expectant, he forced himself to speak.
“I shall have a kiss from the loveliest lady in King’s Landing.” Clearly hesitating, she glanced over at her father. Ned’s brows were furrowed, but he said nothing. Sansa looked back at him, wetting her lips. Then she nodded her head, having made up her mind.
That day, he had fought with all his might. He had been promised a kiss, and he was going to win it. If he was honest, a large part of his willpower had been used to keep from looking over to where she sat, to not seek her gaze or admire the way her hair turned to copper in the sun. He had her favor, and he was going to prove to them all that he was worthy of it.
To be fair, he did not remember much of the tournament. But what he did remember, was that night. He remembered how her eyes had been wide and curious, and how the drink had made his tongue loosen. He had wanted to tell her all his secrets, share his burdens with her, hoping that she would lighten them as she lit his world. And she had listened, and she had been kind. He had expected horror or revulsion, but though she had admittedly been frightened at first, he had not seen either of those things in her sweet face. Only understanding and compassion.
A slip of a girl, silly and rather ignorant, had looked at him in a way no one else had before. As if he was worth something more than just his sword. And then - wonder of all wonders. She had touched his face, let her fingers run over the scars. He would never forget her touch, how impossibly soft her fingers had been.
He thought of all those things as he drank the wine he knew he should not drink, and of her. She was most likely asleep at this time of night, her sweet face still and peaceful as she dreamed the dreams of the innocent. He imagined her, soft and warm under the covers, and he wanted to join her there. He wanted to hold her as she slept and knew that in the morning, she was going to smile at him.
Then, that wicked thought came to him again, and the drink made him too weak to resist it. The thought that he could make Sansa his, but not at King’s Landing. But - he had a place where he could hide her away, where he could teach her to love him. Make her his bride, his lady, the mother of his children. He liked the idea of having children with Sansa. If she bore his child, no one could ever take her away from him. She would truly be his, and he would never be made to let her go. And she would love him, he was sure of it. She would need time, but he could be patient with her. And with time, she would learn to be his and to love him as he loved her. But first, he must take her away from the Keep - hide her, where no one would find them. So that he could teach her to love him. She would never love him at King’s Landing. But if he took her away…
He put down his goblet with more force than necessary and stood up. He was a little unsteady, but not too bad. He could still walk and think.
As he walked slowly through the keep, he thought. First, he must arrange for an escape route. That was easy; he had money and knew where to find carriages with drivers that did not ask questions if they were paid enough.
No, the difficulty would be getting to Sansa herself. Once he was with her, he was sure she would see how well he loved her and go with him. Then, all that was needed was time.
And she would be his. All he had to do was be patient.
Sansa slept fitfully, as she had for many nights now. Her dreams made little sense, but would not leave her alone. There was a strange mixture of memory and dream, so entwined she could not ascertain which was which. Even in her waking hours, she was at times unsure what had been a dream and what had been real.
But she remembered that day clearly. She remembered being awoken early in the morning, and how disgruntled she had been at Septa Mordane for not letting her sleep. But risen she had, and bathed and dressed in a lovely dress that made her skin glow. She had felt very pleased with her appearance that day and had looked forward to everyone admiring her. She was beautiful, and she knew it.
She remembered the sun, how it had shone hot and made her uncomfortable in the heavy cloth of the dress. But she had not let on, remembering what Mother had said about how to behave like a lady. Instead, she had smiled and curtsied to the Queen and the Prince and thought of little but the fighting, which she was looking forward to seeing.
And then he had approached her. She had been upset at first; what right did a man like he have to approach her, who was to be a queen?
But he had been courteous, which she had not expected from him. He had looked at her with those eyes, grey as a winter’s morning, and she had felt very silly and young. It was not a feeling she liked. But he had brazenly asked for her favor, and she had given it without thought.
“I shall honor the token I have been given.” He had said as she tied it around his arm, and her voice had grated like a knife on a whetstone, but somehow she had not found it off putting.
She had felt a little embarrassed as she tied hair bow around his arm, mostly because she realized belatedly that she had just ruined her elegant hairstyle that had taken nigh on an hour to make. But the deed was done, and there was no undoing it.
“See that you do.” She had said instead, trying her best to sound as calm as she was not. Then she had remembered something that Mother had said to Father once, and how she had liked it. So she said it to him.
“Come back a victor… or not at all.”
And he had laughed, his voice once more like a sword on a whetstone. But his smile, crooked and twisted as it was, had made something warm grow inside her.
“I shall return victorious.” He said, proud and confident. “And when I do, I expect a token from my lady.”
Wondering briefly if she had made a mistake, she gazed at him curiously.
“And what is you expect, noble warrior?” There, that was the proper thing to say, she was sure.
“I shall have a kiss from the loveliest lady in King’s Landing.”
A kiss? Surely she must have heard that wrong. But his gaze was expectant, and she knew they were being watched. She could feel father’s gaze bore into her as she adjusted the ribbon, attempting to buy time.
Then she made a decision she was still not sure if she regretted or not.
“Agreed,” she said, her voice low but still clearly heard.
That night - surely it was that night? - she had spoken to him, a proper conversation for the first time. She would never know what had made him be so open with her; telling her the tale of his scars, she felt as if he was sharing a great secret with her. It was both a source of pride and a source of humbleness to be given his confidence. And as she looked at his face, she thought that without them, he would have been handsome.And there was something about his features that was, somehow, appealing. He was not handsome, no not at all, but yet something drew her in.
The next day, he had named her the Queen of Beauty and Song, and even father had been pleased as a wreath of lovely flowers was placed in her hair. It had slipped down over her eye almost immediately, but Sandor had pushed it back with a hand that was surprisingly gentle.
Then, he had kissed her for all to see. And she had not been able to breathe properly for a whole day.
It was a pity he was not handsome, truly. If he had been, he could have been her knight in shining armor. She had always wanted one, to come to sweep her off her feet and give her everything she had ever wanted.
And yet, he haunted her dreams. His eyes, his half-smile, his hand briefly touching her face. And the feel of his lips against hers. It had been her first kiss, and it had made her heart beat madly in her chest. Not even father’s scowl had changed that.
Father had lectured her for half an hour that night, mostly about how her behavior was inappropriate and how she should not have given him her favor and most definitely not have allowed him to kiss her. She hadn’t really listened, but then she usually did not listen when father lectured her. What did he know, anyway? He was married. And old. And he had called Sandor a brute! Claimed he had no honor!
Then she remembered that Sandor was about father’s age, and felt slightly ashamed. Surely he could not possibly be her champion at that age, even if he had been handsome. He was simply too old for her!
But he had smiled. And crowned her. And kissed her. And she could not stop thinking about it, dreaming about it.
She thought she was still dreaming when a rough voice spoke her name, close to her ear, but when she blinked her eyes open she was met with his face.
Her heart jumped in alarm - what was he doing in her bedroom?
“You!” she squeaked as she sat up, “what are you doing here?”
He smiled, but it was not the smile she remembered from the tournament. This smile had something dangerous in it, something wicked she did not want to know about.
“You will come away with me,” he said, completely ignoring her question.
“What?” She cried, scrambling back from the look on his face.
“You will come away with me,” he repeated, his tone impatient. “And you will be mine.”
The audacity of it!
“Come any closer and I shall scream.” she tried for threatening but her voice shook too much.
“For whom?” He asked, momentarily looked pleased with himself.
“Septa! Mordane!” Sansa wailed as he reached out for her.
“She cannot hear you, my little bird. Now come, the night will not last for much longer.”
“I will not go anywhere with you!” Sansa cried, slapping away his hand. His smile turned to a scowl.
“But you will,” he said, his tone now threatening. “You are mine, and you will love me.”
“Have you gone mad?” Love him? With a face like that? He simply must be mad.
As quick as a snake, his hand was suddenly around her arm and he dragged her towards him.
“Let me go!” she cried desperately, but he was too strong to struggle against. He pulled her from the bed, and she panicked about how she was only in her shift, and what was he going to do with her?
“Don’t scream,” he told her, as his grip hardened. “Or the guards will come, and take you from me.”
Sansa, wanting just that, screamed. Or she tried, for his hand was over her mouth and her cry was muffled. She didn’t think anyone had heard.
“Don’t scream, my love.” He said quietly, even as he started dragging her towards the door. “We must hurry, or they will catch us.”
She struggled vainly in his grip, bruises forming on her arm, as she fought not to cry.
“Please,” she pleaded as she stumbled on the cold stone floor, “just let me go. I will never tell anyone about this.”
“My sweet bird,” he crooned, “we shall be so happy together.”
Sansa tried again to break free, but his grip was too strong and a jab of pain shot through her shoulder. Fearing injury, she stopped struggling and let him lead her through the halls, down the stairs, frantically looking around for someone, anyone, who could help her. But there wasn’t anyone, and in her desperation, she started to cry.
“Please let me go” she sobbed, “I will do anything. Sing any song you like. I promise, anything you want, just let me go.”
He stopped, turned, looked at her. Smiled that smile again, the one that made her blood run cold.
“Yes, you will sing for me. In time. Have no fear, I can wait.”
The words made no sense, but before she had time to question him he started dragging her along again. The pain in her arm, and the fear coursing through her, made her obedient. It was not until he pulled her out a backdoor into the cold night and she saw the coach, that she truly began to get frightened.
“Please let me go,” she pleaded, but her pleas fell on deaf ears. Instead, he pushed her towards the coach, and she heard more than saw him draw his sword.
“I will protect you,” he said as if that was to comfort her. “No one will take you from me.”
He will run me through , Sansa thought desperately. He will kill me where I stand if I do not do as I am told. Oh father, help me!
But father wasn’t there, only Sandor and a man with an impassive face, waiting to take her away into the night.
And Sandor had a sword, and she was all alone.
Sobbing, Sansa climbed into the coach.