Actions

Work Header

Serpentine

Chapter Text

Come to the godswood tonight, if you want to go home. Sansa had read it at least ten times and was still clutching the note. It was like something she had read out of her storybooks when she was a child. Come to the godswood tonight, if you want to go home. Was it a joke? Who wrote such things, except in songs and childish tales? It was probably a cruel jape. She could not for the life of her guess who would have left her such a note. She had no friends to speak of in King’s Landing. No one spoke to her kindly, and she might as well have been a ghost, for wherever she went, no one would look at her or speak to her.

Except for the Hound… Sometimes they crossed paths during her wandering throughout the grounds of the Red Keep. He mocked her as she rode her horse round and round the bailey, until she finally stopped for fear of looking more a fool than everyone already thought she was. She was afraid of him, and she was terribly aware of trying to keep her dignity as much as possible under the awful circumstances of being the daughter of a traitor and the sister of a traitor and betrothed to the King who held her in utter contempt and made no attempt to hide it.

But the memory of Joffrey’s name day tournament still fluttered at the edge of her memory. She had protested His Grace’s command to drown the drunken old silly, useless knight that had run out to the tourney grounds half-naked after his horse, and then sat down in the dirt and yielded, asking for more wine. Ser Dontos. Sansa had tried to cover her recklessness, saying it was ill luck for a king to kill someone on his name day, and the Hound had agreed with her. She realized later that he had LIED for her. And towards the end of the “tourney of gnats” (as the Hound had called it), when Tommen was supposed to joust the straw man, Joffrey had been so hateful towards his sweet younger brother.  Sansa had found the courage to rebuke him, gently, even as she wondered where her mad behavior was coming from, and the Hound had, incredibly, taken her lead and responded in kind. 

Could it have been… Could it? Had the Hound left her the note? She didn’t know his writing. She didn’t even know if he could read. But he was strong and fearsome and… and… He spoke to her harshly, as did Joff and Ser Meryn and Ser Boros and so many others she could not keep track. But alone of all Joffrey Baratheon’s Kingsguard, the Hound was the only one who had never lifted a finger to hurt her. In fact, he had always treated her in an oddly gentle manner.

Still, even though being in his presence scared her, there was something about the Hound that… She couldn’t put a finger on it. Just as she was about to tuck those thoughts away for the night, she realized what it was. He served Joffrey and the Lannisters dutifully, but he didn’t care what anyone said or thought about him, or the consequences thereof. And Sansa could see it. Nothing he said to her was motivated by what she or Joff or his “brothers” of the Kingsguard could say or think or do. He was huge, and fierce, and strong, and skilled, and everyone was afraid of him. Joff doted on him. He wasn’t going to tell everyone to bugger off, but he also didn’t need to seek the favor of His Grace or his court. So, that being the case, if he wanted to slip her a note under her pillow, it almost certainly wasn’t in answer to some trick that the cruel King and his protectors (her tormentors) had thought up. If it was the Hound that had slipped the note under her pillow, he had done it for his own reasons.

This is madness.

The Hound belonged to the Lannisters. Why did she think he would help her? Why would he want to help her? It would mean risking everything he had, including his life. Sansa assumed it was a good life, too, with many comforts and the freedom to do anything he wanted when he wasn’t on duty. He was even wealthy, after winning the Hand’s Tourney. His life would be much better than hers was under the Lannister’s control. He wouldn’t risk it. This isn’t a song, stop being foolish, just go to sleep.

And yet… Who else would have left her the note?

Sansa heard a sudden commotion outside, growing louder and more urgent with each passing second. She looked out her window, heart pounding. Men were in the yard arming themselves to put down another skirmish in the restless city.

The drawbridge was unguarded.

A recklessness took hold of her. Without thinking, she pulled on a dark cloak and soft slippers, feeling as if she were in a dream. Before she knew it, she was flying across the drawbridge and up the serpentine to the godswood. No one even noticed her. Gods be good.

It was dark in the godswood, and quiet. She wondered if the Hound was still there, or if he had gotten tired of waiting and left. She drifted among the trees, thinking about the Hound, and escape, and Winterfell. She was suddenly grateful that the Red Keep had a godswood. A godswood was the perfect place for secret meetings—dark, quiet, private, with hiding places where secret plans of escape could be hatched. She imagined the Hound stepping out of the trees and pulling her close to whisper his plans of escape, and to pledge his sword to protect her from her enemies. Her throat was dry with anticipation, and she was breathing quickly with excitement. No one else could save her from the Lannisters and take her home. Only the Hound was strong and fearsome enough. She would be safe with him. He could protect her. Everyone was afraid of him.

Sansa heard a rustling from the trees to her right and turned eagerly to greet her rescuer. A fleshy, unkempt man emerged from the shelter of the trees and swayed as he moved towards her. “Ser Dontos?!?” she exclaimed. Her disappointment was so acute, she felt as if Ser Meryn had just punched her in the stomach with a mailed fist. Her head reeled and her heart fell. Distantly, she realized that part of her was surprised at how bereft she felt at the Hound’s absence. She had gotten too carried away in the excitement of the moment. She would have to try and control her imagination better. It was too painful to hope that someone might want to help her.

“My lady, I was afraid you would not come,” he murmured, slurring his words slightly. She could smell the wine on his breath even though he was more than an arm’s length away from her. 

Sansa’s disappointment was starting to turn to anger. “It was you who left the note?”

“Yes my lady, it was poor, humble old Dontos. I would be a knight again for you,” Ser Dontos said weepily.

“I prayed and prayed to the gods for a knight to save me and take me home! Why would they send me a drunken old fool?!” She was angry, at herself as much as at him. The gods wouldn’t have even sent her the Hound. When had they ever helped her? If there were gods, they would have protected her father and struck Joffrey down. She really was a stupid little bird, just like the Hound said.

“I deserve that,” he said, humbly. “Yet I beg you to listen to me. You saved my life; I would save yours too. My life is worth nothing. If I lose it to save you, it will be worth it.”

Sansa remembered her courtesies. “My lord is too kind. But you are mistaken. I am loyal to my beloved Joffrey. I am to be his Queen and have his babies.” A wisp of fear now tickled her spine. What if the Lannisters had put him up to this after all? Ser Dontos would report immediately to Cersei after they parted. Sansa felt panic rising in her throat. She was now quite convinced that she would be brought before the Queen on the morrow, to pay for her treason. She had to find a way out of this trap. “I will say nothing of this folly to His Grace or the Queen, and accept your gratitude for saving your life once again,” she said, her voice wavering only a little. She hated to be so cold to Ser Dontos, but she must protect herself against his accusations. He must not be allowed to believe that she sought to escape King’s Landing.

She left the godswood as quickly as her dignity would allow, and then flew down the serpentine, desperate to get back to her rooms, hoping the drawbridge was still unguarded. Head down, watching her feet so she wouldn’t fall and break her neck, she never saw the huge dark figure lurch out of a shadowed alcove along the stairs until she caromed into him at full speed.

She put her hands out to break her fall. Strong arms wrapped around her, breaking her momentum. She kept her head down hoping she wouldn’t be recognized, but it was too late. “It’s a long roll down the serpentine, little bird. Want to kill us both?” he rasped, and then laughed. “Maybe you do.” The Hound.

“No, my lord, pardons. I would never…” Sansa was finding it hard to catch her breath. Had he been on his way to the godswood to meet her, after all? The Hound was holding her as close as a lover, his breath hot against her neck and smelling of wine. How many drunken non-knights will I encounter before this night is through? she thought wildly. He forced her chin up so that she had to look at him.

“Where were you?” he growled, bending down so his face was inches from hers. She couldn’t answer. She couldn’t think pressed up against him so firmly, the heat radiating from his body so that it seemed to soak into her, warming her to the core. He smelled of wine and sweat and leather, masculine smells that overwhelmed her senses. She had never been this close to a man before. Her father had never hugged her so tightly, nor her brothers, nor even Joffrey. She was intensely aware of how big the Hound was. His roughspun tunic was scratchy, and the feel of his heavily muscled chest under her hands was a distraction, as was his hand around her waist. She could feel every one of his fingers digging into her side. His hands were so large… All he had to do was move his fingers just the littlest bit higher, and he would be touching—

Where were you?” he asked again, squeezing her even tighter as if he could squeeze the answer from her. But if she thought it was hard to breathe before, it was nearly impossible now.

“In the g-g-godswood, praying, my lord,” she gasped. She wriggled to try and loosen his hold, give herself room to breathe, but that only made her even more aware of other places their bodies were touching. She could feel the hilt of his sword digging into her belly. His hips were right there and her own hips were pressing into his, a bit more than she realized they would when she started squirming to get away from him. To her shock, she realized that she enjoyed the feeling, and the realization that she was being embraced by a man, a true man, grown and hardened and seasoned in battle, feared by all…

An image of their bodies joined together there, both of them writhing and panting like she was doing right now, suddenly flashed in her mind’s eye. The heat that had begun pooling in her belly flooded up into her chest and face and neck, and she blushed furiously and lowered her eyes.

No, she mustn’t think like this. This was the Hound. She shouldn’t be excited about his embrace. If it was Ser Loras or Ser Waymar Royce in his place, she thought she would very much enjoy being his captive. But this was the Hound, he was lowborn and ugly and cruel, she told herself, and more than that, he was the Lannister’s dog. It was wrong of her to feel this way. She tried to remember all the times he mocked her, but instead she remembered him gently wiping the blood off of her lip after Ser Meryn struck her.

“Think I’m so drunk I’d believe that?” the Hound said, releasing her. He kept a grip on her arm, though. His gaze dropped from her face to take in her body. She hadn’t had a new gown made in ages, and she had grown in the last year. She was suddenly mindful of the fact that the fabric of her bodice stretched tight across her chest, pushing her full breasts together and causing her bosom to heave wantonly as she tried to calm her breathing. As if that wasn’t unseemly enough, the cool night air made her nipples stand out. Sansa tried to will them to go back down. The Hound couldn’t look away. “You look almost a woman now,” he said, with a hungry, surprised look.

And you are most certainly a man. The thought came to her unbidden. Now that there was space between them, Sansa realized with a shock that the Hound wasn’t wearing his swordbelt.

“Face, teats… You’re taller too,” he mused, swaying slightly. “Almost a…” His words trailed off and he looked her in the eyes again, intense.

The hardness that she had felt pressing into her belly was… Was his… His… His manhood. Which, judging from the strained bulge in his breeches, was every bit as big as the rest of him. Sansa trembled. She had never actually seen anyone’s manhood before, but she desperately wanted to now. She could only imagine what his looked like. A dull ache had begun to build between her thighs. She kept her gaze lowered modestly and hoped he didn’t realize she was actually staring at his groin, trying to picture what his erect… cock… (even thinking the word made her want to die of embarrassment) would look like.

A lady doesn’t think such things! Had she forgotten all of Septa Mordane’s lessons, all of her training? This was not seemly. She had no idea how to make sense of the feelings that were suddenly flooding through her. She licked her lower lip without realizing it, and looked back at the Hound’s face.

He reeled, almost falling down the serpentine, and staggered back to lean against the wall. “Gods,” he laughed. “Too much wine.”

 

 

Chapter Text

The look on her face sent him reeling. Sandor tried to believe it was something else, but there was no mistaking what it meant… Eyes darkened with desire, her lips parted and—Gods. She had been staring at his fucking cock, and then looked at him and licked her fucking lips.

Sansa Stark wanted him.

Bloody hell! It was so unreal, he almost wanted to laugh. Almost. Because he wanted Sansa Stark too, with a fierce, hopeless passion, and there she stood, all but fucking him with her eyes. Seven bloody buggering hells. All the years he had spent fantasizing about the little bird and he had never for one second let himself believe any of it had a chance of becoming real. She’ll come to her senses in the morning. He hoped not.

His cock was straining against his breeches and tormenting him for release. He tried to will it to go down, but it wasn’t working. He had to get control of himself or she might see how badly he was lusting for her and get scared. He suddenly remembered the flagon of wine he’d left in the alcove when he had gone there to take a piss, before the little bird flew right into his arms out of nowhere. He fetched it and sat down on the steps, hoping that would help calm his whirling thoughts, and more importantly, ease his agonizing erection. At the very least, maybe a bit of wine would make the little bird more bold, although that would only make his current situation even more unbearable.

“Here girl, sit.” Sansa smoothed her skirts and sat down next to him, so close they were almost touching. Gods, he wanted to grab her around her waist and pull her onto his lap and wrap her legs around him, moving their hips together and kissing her so she was breathless. He could feel her trembling. She smelled of delicate summer flowers and a faint touch of lemon. Sansa was still blushing furiously, and couldn’t seem to look him in the face. She was staring at his hands, instead.  “Do you like wine, little bird?” he asked, taking a healthy swallow from the flagon. Sansa watched him avidly as he drank it down, as if watching him gulp wine was the most fascinating thing in the world. He passed the flagon to her, and she brushed her fingers along his as she took it from him, finally looking him in the face, her expression one of shyness mixed with desire. Sandor cursed inwardly. She was not making this easy. Sansa took a sip of the wine and wrinkled up her face in distaste. “Not to your liking, eh? I’ll drink it myself, then.” Sandor tipped his head back as he drained the last of the wine. “A flagon of sour red, dark as blood, all a man needs.”

He leaned in close, “Or a woman.” 

The little bird was still looking at him. The corner of her mouth lifted in a slight smile and he wanted to taste her lips and feel her tongue sliding over his own. Fuck, they were so close he could kiss her right now. She wouldn’t mind, he knew it. But he also knew he should wait, and let her get used to the idea that she wanted him. Best stop now before I do something stupid. He would have to ply the little bird with wine some other day. Trying to seem drunker than he actually was, he laughed and shook his head. “Drunk as a dog, damn me. You come now. I’ll take you back to your cage, keep you safe for the king.”

They descended the steps in silence, Sandor’s head spinning with thoughts of Sansa Stark, and the way she had looked at him. She fucking WANTS me. He had fantasized about her for so long, he could almost feel her perfect, milky white teats, how soft they would be in his hands, her tender pink nipples turning hard in his mouth and under his fingers, the heat between her legs, how wet she would be after he slid his fingers between her silky folds and drew circles around her nub, so that he could slide his cock deep inside of her when she spread her legs wide to let him in, and moaned and sighed and sang beneath him. Gods, he couldn’t get to his rooms soon enough. His cock was throbbing with the need for release. He needed a fuck like a drunk needs wine, but he didn’t think he could wait long enough to find a whore. He would have to take his own pleasure and be glad of it because he was going out of his fucking mind with lust.

They reached the door of her rooms. “Thank you, my lord,” she said.

That fucking look again… “Little bird...” He stepped close, and she didn’t back away.  He pulled her closer, pressing her body tight against his like he had on the serpentine. Her breasts were so fucking perfect. Sansa’s breathing quickened as he stroked his finger along the top edge of her bodice, coming so close, so close… almost… But never quite touching her skin, no matter how she heaved her bosom at him. He grasped her chin in his fingers, even though she was already looking him in the face, and bent so close that their lips were almost touching. “Little bird, don’t think I didn’t know what you were doing back there.”

She swallowed. “My lord?”

Sandor thrust his hips hard against hers. “Wondering how big it is?” he growled.

She gasped and her eyes half-closed, yielding to the sensation for half a heartbeat as she pushed her hips back at his. Sandor let her go of a sudden and gently pushed her towards her door. His limits had been reached and he was about to break. He was dangerously close to losing control. Sansa seemed to sense this, and she hurriedly opened the door to her rooms, looking him in the eyes as she closed the door. He couldn’t wait any longer. He strode down the hall a few steps to a dark corner, frantically unlacing his breeches as he went. He groaned as he took his aching cock in hand. Gods, he wanted her so badly. In only a few strokes, he was done.

Afterwards, he leaned against the wall, panting. His thoughts were still in turmoil, but one thing had become clear to him. Sansa Stark wanted his cock. Bugger that. He was more than just what was between his legs. He didn’t care that other women wanted only that. He was glad to give it to them when he felt like it. But he wanted to be more than that to Sansa. He was a man and she had to want the man, or she would never get his cock.

*********************

Sansa leaned back against her door. She was shaking. She took deep breaths to try and calm herself, and began pacing her room, running her fingers through her hair in frustration. She could not BELIEVE how much she desired Sandor Clegane. She could not forget the huge bulge between his legs where his manhood was straining against the fabric of his breeches, and how she’d had to struggle with herself not to reach her hand out and touch it. And oh, gods, when he had thrust his stiff… cock… against her hips outside her door, pressing it between her legs, the pleasure had been more intense than anything she ever knew before and she wished he could have kept going, rubbing her harder and harder until she cried out again and again in utterly shameless abandon.

She needed release. She shimmied out of her small clothes, threw herself into the big cushioned chair where she normally did her embroidery, and pulled up her skirts. She hooked one leg over the arm of the chair and left the other on the floor, imagining that she was spreading her legs wide for the Hound. She was wetter than she had ever been, and whimpered a sigh as she began stroking her fingers up and down the cleft between her legs, between the soft folds that hid her woman’s place, and finally, began to stroke her nub. She moaned and rocked her hips, but she did not want to finish too quickly. She wanted to draw this intense pleasure out as long as she could. She imagined the Hound’s stiff cock in her hands. It would be huge and heavy and hot, craving her touch. She could still feel where he had pressed his stiffness against her and thrust his hips. She was bucking her hips now, her nub swollen with arousal, her lower lips slick and exquisitely sensitive. Those soft folds would embrace the Hound’s cock when he fucked her. She cried out again and again as she found her release at last, her fingers still between her legs, stroking gently as she came down from her peak, the walls of her lady’s place squeezing rhythmically in the aftermath of her climax.

For a long while, she didn’t move, still too worked up to go to sleep. She let her head fall back against the chair, and she breathed quietly, finally finding the calm she sought. Eventually she stripped off her gown, climbed into bed, and slept.

In the morning, Sansa sat at her dressing table, brushing her long, auburn locks while looking in the mirror. She was surprised to see that she still looked the same. She felt different, changed. It was as if she had gone up the serpentine a girl, and come down a woman. Something powerful had been at work last night, an irresistible force that had drawn Sansa and the Hound together.

She wanted him so badly. She couldn’t imagine not having him. But my maidenhead… Sansa thought about that for a long time. Ladies were supposed to save their maidenhead for their betrothed. Joffrey. Thinking of Joffrey made her ill. Besides, Tyrion Lannister had said he had no intention of wedding her to Joffrey after all that had happened. It might be another Lannister lie, but she felt that it was probably true. What good could joining their houses be, when she was the daughter of a traitor and the sister of a traitor and was not even the heir to Winterfell. Also, some maids didn’t have a maidenhead at all to show for their purity. Septa Mordane had said it was just a thin veil of skin at the opening to her lady parts, and that it could easily be stretched to breaking simply by riding horseback. If Sansa gave herself to the Hound, she could explain the loss of her maidenhead that way, couldn’t she? And lack of a maidenhead wasn’t enough to prevent any marriage that she had ever heard of. Highborn lords and ladies married to secure alliances and lands and wealth. Most men would be more interested in a lady’s claim than in her maidenhead, she thought. Maidenhead was probably more important among the smallfolk.

If she offered herself to the Hound, he would take her. She was certain of it. She just had to find the courage to… to seduce him. She blushed.

Sansa had no opportunity to speak with the Hound for several days after their encounter on the serpentine. But she had no lack of opportunity to watch him. As Joffrey’s sworn sword, he was always present when Sansa was called to attend upon His Grace, as well as at mealtimes when she dined with the royal family. She had looked upon his face many times in the years since she had arrived at King’s Landing, always noticing his eyes, his burn scars, and his mouth twitching. But now she found herself longing to run her fingers through the long, silky black hair that fell about his shoulders. And his shoulders… How had she never noticed his magnificent body until now? The Hound’s wide shoulders and broad back were muscled like a bull, as were his strong arms and chest. She wondered what it would be like to lay her head on his chest and listen to his heart beat, when they were exhausted by lovemaking. His hips… She blushed and heat pooled in her belly, remembering how he had thrust them against her. Wondering how big it is? She hoped she would find out soon.

He watched her as much as she watched him. His gaze was so intense that she couldn’t hold it for long, but she glanced at him as often as she could without drawing unwanted attention to them both. She often felt like he stole her breath away when he looked at her, and she would feel her heart pounding in her throat. Sometimes he gave her a tiny nod, and she knew he still thought of their secret, maybe as often as she did. She shivered with anticipation at the thought.

Now that she was so powerfully drawn to the Hound, it seemed like she heard his name everywhere. Men would boast of taking his winnings at the gambling tables, or complain that he had left them for broke. They would talk about the bruises he gave them in the training yard. She knew from snippets of conversations around the yard that he spent much of his time in wine sinks when he wasn’t guarding Joffrey. That upset her. She thought he would want to seek her out when he wasn’t on duty. One day, she heard the women at the washing wells talking about the Hound and Osney Kettleblack. They said Kettleblack was just as strong as the Hound, only younger and quicker. Sansa flared with jealousy. The bawdy way the women were talking and laughing told Sansa that they weren’t really talking about the mens’ prowess in battle or the training yard. They meant something else, and she wondered, with tears pricking beneath her eyelids, if maybe the Hound had sought his pleasure with them before.

So the days since their encounter on the serpentine passed , and Sansa waited and fretted and watched the Hound, wondering when she would ever get a chance to be near him again, and wondering if he felt the same way. He had to. She was 15, nearly a woman grown, beautiful and highborn, and his manhood had been… erect… that night on the serpentine. How could he not want her the same way she wanted him? She refused to entertain the thought.

Finally she thought of a good pretense to be alone again with the Hound.

 

Chapter Text

Sansa knew that if she and the Hound were seen speaking to each other for more than a word or two, it would cause problems. She had to find a reason for him to be with her, alone, as part of his duty to Joffrey. His Grace often sent the Hound when he wanted her summoned. If she could think of some way to make the king order the Hound to watch her, surely there would come a time when they would be alone together… Perhaps in the godswood. She would be able to… to kiss him and touch him and feel his hands on her waist and her breasts and feel his hips thrusting against hers… She felt the blush rising in her face as she remembered their night on the serpentine, and how she had taken her pleasure thinking about him once she was safely back in her rooms.

The longer she thought on it, the more she realized that, somehow, she had to get back to the godswood with the Hound. It was the only place they could be alone. The godswood was a forgotten relic of the Red Keep. No one ever went there but her, and that was because she was from the north, where the old gods were still worshipped. In Winterfell, she had favored the Seven, her mother’s gods. But since her family had been torn apart after she came to King’s Landing, she found herself drawn to both the new gods and the old equally. She found peace in the godswood, and had never seen anyone besides herself there except for the day she answered the note Ser Dontos had left under her pillow. She had not seen him there since. When she saw him at court, he avoided looking at her and never attempted to speak to her again. She was glad of it. The godswood was the one place she had to herself in all of Westeros.

It was no secret to anyone in the castle that Sansa visited the godswood daily. Most people paid her no mind, but surely some of the inhabitants of the Red Keep might have wondered if she was really going there to pray, or if she was in truth meeting a lover… If Joffrey ever heard such whisperings, he would make her bleed. But if she could find a way to plant rumors in court so that Joffrey could not ignore them… And if the Hound was with him when he heard the gossip… Perhaps the Hound could suggest that Joff set him to guarding her on her trips to the godswood, to ensure her loyalty and enforce her fear of him. Could she convince the Hound to lie for her? It was a risk, but she’d endured so many beatings, she thought she would bravely face one more if it meant she could spend time alone with the Hound.

That evening, Sansa went to the godswood to pray for guidance. As she stood in front of the heart tree, a sudden vivid image of the Hound stepping out from the shadows to take her in a hard embrace, his mouth hungrily seeking out hers, came to her unbidden, and she suddenly wanted him so powerfully that she sank to her knees. Gods, please, let me talk to him soon, let me be near him soon, she prayed. Let him kiss me and touch me and want me. Please. Let him want me as much as I want him. Help us… Help us to be together without anyone knowing, so long as we meet in the godswood. She stayed there for a long while, letting the rich smells of the earth and grass and trees and the soft song of the crickets wash over her until she no longer felt so feverish with longing for the Hound.

When she stood and turned to leave, she saw him.

“My lord!” she cried out, not sounding nearly as composed as she should have been. Could the gods have answered my prayers? “My lord, pardons, I did not hear you enter the godswood.” He had long since stopped correcting her when she called him that. He was standing with his feet shoulder-width apart, arms crossed over his broad, muscular chest, and was wearing an olive green cloak over a brown roughspun tunic instead of his white Kingsguard cloak.

“Seems Queen Cersei has had reports about your trips to the godswood. She thinks people might talk if you were to continue walking about unattended. Her Grace has commanded me to escort you on your visits to the godswood from now on, that no one may question your honor and bring disgrace upon yourself or the royal family.”  His face was shadowed, and she wished she could see his eyes.

Sansa realized she was gaping and quickly regained her poise. It’s all coming true, and I never had to do anything. “I thank you, and the Queen, for seeing to it that my person and my honor are kept safe. I am ever loyal to my beloved Joffrey.”

The Hound snorted. “Aye, and she means to see that you stay that way.”

Sansa’s heart was like to beat out of her chest. She couldn’t think of how to proceed. They were finally alone together, and she suddenly realized it would not be an easy thing to seduce a man such as the Hound. She was a lady, she could not simply throw herself at him like an inn keeper’s wench, but neither would he fall for the teasing and the charming conversation in which she had been trained. Besides, she had to make sure he wanted her too.

She also couldn’t stand here gaping at him wordlessly all night. Use your lady’s weapons. Courtesy, yes, she must remember her courtesies.

“Have you been to the godswood before, my lord? It’s ever so beautiful. A hidden pool lies some ways from here in the deeper parts of the wood, where the moonflowers grow thickly. They bloom at night and smell like the seven heavens. It would please me to show it to you.” Good, very good, she thought, proud of herself.

They walked side by side along a narrow path, forcing Sansa to walk so close to the Hound they were almost touching. She could feel the heat radiating from his powerful body. It surprised her—she had never realized that a man’s body could warm the air around him. She glanced up at him through her eyelashes. He was looking at her. She was having trouble thinking. All of her excitement and nervousness and lust and fear were pooling in her belly and chest, and now it felt as if her heart were beating in her throat so that she could hardly breathe.

They reached the lovely pool in the godswood in what seemed like no time at all. Sansa looked into the mirror-like waters, staring at the reflection of the few stars that showed through a thick canopy of trees. The air felt charged between herself and the Hound, and she felt gooseprickles on her arms. She knew she would have to say something, do something, begin things, before the moment drifted away and the spell was broken, and they walked back to the Red Keep in silence and were never, ever caught again in that power that had swept them together on the serpentine. The gods have already helped me. I must not throw away their favor. She swallowed, took a deep breath, and looked him in the face.

“I am glad you are here, my lord. I have wanted to meet you again… alone… since the serpentine.”

“Why?”

His response surprised her. “I… I have felt so drawn to you since that night.”

The Hound made a sound that might have been a laugh. “Why?”

Now she was flustered. How could she possibly answer his question without embarrassing herself or sounding like a… a whore? “When… When you held me, I…” She lost heart. This was not how she imagined their first meeting alone after the serpentine. Her voice trailed off and she turned her face away from his, pressing her lips together and willing the hot tears stinging her eyes not to fall. I am a fool. He is mocking me, she thought, defeated.

The Hound grasped her chin and turned her to look at him again, his other hand heavy on her shoulder, holding her still. “When I held you?” he growled.

She was breathing as quickly as if she had run up the serpentine just a moment ago. Calm yourself. “Yes,” she whispered.

He seized her in a rough embrace, pressing her hard into his heavily muscled body, one hand tangled in her hair, the other wrapped around her waist, and he brought his face so close to hers that she could no longer see his eyes.

“Like this?” he whispered hoarsely, his lips brushing hers, breath hot and smelling faintly of wine. He is not drunk, she realized.

“Oh, yes,” she sighed. She was breathless with expectation. They were so close. Sansa could feel the Hound’s heart beating hard in his chest. Their lips were touching, and his hand on the back of her head kept her from pulling away from him. Not that she wanted to. She licked her lips, and her tongue brushed the Hound’s mouth.

“Ah…” She sucked in her breath, and felt a rush of wetness between her legs. The Hound began to kiss her. She clutched at his tunic as he grazed his mouth softly against her own, his tongue almost lazily stroking her lips, coaxing her to follow his lead. Sansa shyly parted her lips to touch her own tongue to his and he groaned in approval and tightened his arm around her waist. She felt awkward and self-conscious, but soon she was kissing him like she’d been doing it all her life. He kissed her more urgently, and she pressed her lips into his fervently. She swept her tongue along his lips as her mouth moved against his, tasting, feeling, melting into him.

When he slipped his tongue into her mouth, Sansa welcomed him with an urgency that astonished her. She moaned and wrapped her arms around his neck and Sandor growled as they thrust their hips hard against each other, mouths hungry and fingers tangled in each other’s hair in a desperate need to get closer. Sansa could feel his manhood pressed into her lower belly and she wanted it so badly. The ache between her legs was unbearable and she needed to ease it. She stood higher on her toes so she could try to rub his cock between her legs but it was no good, he was too tall. She whimpered in frustration.

The Hound finally broke their kiss, and they stood there, panting in arousal. Sansa still clung to his neck and ground her hips against his. He thrust against her once more.

“Touch it,” he commanded. “You know you want to.”

Sansa held her breath. I couldn’t… Could I? She could not imagine any lady she had ever known actually touching a man’s… cock… with her hand. The idea shocked her even as it inflamed her desire for him. She had only hesitated for a second, but it was a second too long. The Hound grabbed her hand and thrust it between his legs, rubbing it forcefully against the huge bulge in his breeches. Sansa cried out in surprise.

“Isn’t that what you wanted? Isn’t that what you were drawn to?” he asked roughly.

Sansa’s face was hot with both lust and shame. She was suddenly horrified at her behavior, though her body was still begging for his touch. This is not ladylike. I am behaving like a harlot. I must try to salvage my dignity. Her first instinct was to pull her hand away, as if she had touched a hot kettle, but he held it in an iron grip. “My lord, that’s…” She was going to say “unkind,” but then she remembered how the gods had helped her and how much she wanted the Hound, and wanted him to want her, and so she looked up at him and softly answered, “Yes.”

The Hound let go of her hand but she kept it there, pressed hard between his legs. His eyes were dark with desire and his whole body was tense with the effort of restraining his passion. Sansa could feel it. She stepped closer and softly ran her hand down the length of him, imagining how it would feel without the fabric of his breeches coming between them. She felt an even bigger bulge when she reached the end, and traced it with her fingertips, running over the tip, circling the ridge that separated it from the rest of his… cock. What does it look like? She drew in her breath. It almost seemed like it moved, all on its own. She stroked his bulge again, where his manhood ended, and now there was no doubt, his cock actually jumped as if it was trying to touch her.

Sansa was trembling with excitement and her insides felt like wildfire. The heat between her legs was aching and throbbing, and she knew her smallclothes were soaked with the wetness of her desire. She slowly moved her palm up and down the Hound’s erect cock, marveling at how big it was. It’s as long as a dagger. She increased the pressure of her grip and the Hound started moving his hips rhythmically, rubbing himself against her hand. His breathing was ragged. Hers was too, she realized. With her fingertips, she stroked the bulge at the end of his manhood once more, and then squeezed it lightly.

Gods.” The Hound tore off his cloak and wrapped it around her, then swept her up and laid her on the ground before she could even catch her breath. He loomed over her in the darkness. “Sansa…” He kissed her hard as his hand skimmed over her breast. Her nipples were already stiff, and she arched her back, demanding his touch.

“My lord, I cannot reach you…” she gasped, squirming as her hand fumbled for his manhood.

“Good,” he rumbled. He was struggling with the laces on her bodice. She reached up to help him, but her fingers were only in his way so she clutched his shoulders and pulled him down to kiss her again. Her body was on fire and she knew she was about to lose control. She wanted to be close to him so desperately, wanted to feel the weight of his body on top of her, wanted to feel his hips between her legs, bucking and thrusting against her own as he drove his cock deeply inside her, filling her completely. She could not get enough of him.

The Hound gave a sharp tug and her laces finally gave way and her breasts spilled free. Sansa hoped they were pretty enough for him. She thrust her bosom towards him impatiently, her pink nipples hard with arousal. “Such an eager little bird,” he murmured. She closed her eyes and felt his rough fingers tracing the edge of a breast before he cupped it in his hand and ran his thumb over her nipple, over and over. She wriggled and arched her back and thought she had never felt anything so good in her life. Until he put his mouth on her other breast and rolled her nipple between his tongue and teeth, sending a stab of pleasure through her belly so sharp it took her breath away, and she cried out to him as she felt another flood of wetness soak her small clothes.

“My lord, please, please… I need… I need you, please,” she begged. She could not breathe properly.

“Need me for what, little bird?” said the Hound as he drew his tongue slowly over her nipple. He was watching her intently, and when she met his eyes she found she could not look away. He held her gaze and started pushing his hips against her thigh as he rolled her nipple between his fingers. She could feel his hot, heavy cock and she wanted it, wanted it so badly it drove all other thoughts from her mind.

“I need you to… I need…” She tried to work up the courage to say the words. She wasn’t embarrassed anymore, how could she be? It was just that she had never said anything like what she was about to say, even to herself in private.

He stopped moving. “Say it.”

Her fevered need was so strong she didn’t think twice about her dignity. “I need you to… to… f-fuck me,” she pleaded. “Please.” She always remembered her courtesies.

The Hound brought his face close to hers. “With what?” he said in a low, dangerous voice.

‘With what?’ What does he mean? There was only one way a man could… fuck a woman, wasn’t there?

“With your manhood, my lord. With your …c-cock,” she blurted. “Please, please, take me…” she insisted, and strained against him, feeling near tears with impatience.

Sandor Clegane stroked her hair away from her face and kissed her gently. “Hush, little bird, calm yourself,” he said. “I’ll give you what you need.” The Hound cupped her breast again with his huge, calloused hand and slowly moved it down to her belly, over her waist and up her side again. He caressed the edge of her breast, and then brushed his fingers across her nipples. “But I’ll not fuck you.”

“My lord, take me, please!” Sansa implored him. She was panting with her need.

“Say my name.”

“My lord…” she protested. Sansa had never, ever called a grown man by his first name before. It was so familiar, she had only ever expected to call her lord husband by his first name. But then again, she had only ever expected to give her maidenhead to her lord husband, and here she was begging the Hound to take it from her, even though she knew she would never marry him.

“Say my name or I’ll go no further,” he warned, even as he slid his hand lower. Sansa could feel the heat of his touch burning her even through her clothes and she spread her legs in anticipation, tilting her hips wantonly in her eagerness for his touch.

“Sandor. Sandor!” He growled and kissed her fiercely, and finally slipped his hand between her legs, rubbing his fingers along her cleft, the fabric of her gown magnifying the sensation of his touch so she thought she would find her release right then and there. Her cry of pleasure was muffled by the Hound’s mouth, intent upon her own, kissing her as if tonight was their last night on earth. She rocked her hips against his hand, and squirmed shamelessly underneath him, pushing her breasts towards him and throwing her head back. He bent to take a nipple into his mouth and started circling her nub with his thumb as she… as she fucked his hand. Her breath was coming in shuddering gasps. She was almost there, almost there… But it wasn’t enough. “Sandor please, I need… I need more. Please.” She didn’t know how else to say it.

*****

Sandor knew what she needed, even if she didn’t know how to tell him, and he was more than ready to give it to her. His cock was so hard, he didn’t think his breeches could contain it much longer. She was driving him out of his fucking mind as she thrust her breasts at him and rocked her hips under his hand, saying his name so sweetly as she gasped for breath and clung to his neck and kissed him.

He hooked his leg over hers and pulled her legs open wider. Sansa moaned in anticipation as he began to push her skirts up, running his hand slowly along her bare thigh and stroking her along the way. She squirmed and gasped and thrust her hips beneath him. He could have spent hours there touching her and tasting her and looking at every inch of her beautiful body… But she was in too much need, and it wouldn’t be very gallant of him to make her wait much longer.

He gently put his hand over her mound, and then slid his fingers between the folds of her sex and almost lost himself. He exhaled sharply. She was so fucking wet, he had never felt anything like it. His fingers moved smoothly up and down her cleft, between her folds, over her swollen nub again and again, and she cried out wordlessly as the touch of his hand brought her to the edge of release. She thrust her hips against his hand in wild abandon, and looked him straight in his face, into his eyes, and when she reached her peak she closed her eyes and threw her head back for just a moment, and then she looked at him again and he could see her soul in that beautiful blue gaze just then, as her body shuddered with release, and he knew he had to have her.

Sandor Clegane’s breathing was ragged. “Unlace my breeches, Sansa. Hurry,” he whispered hoarsely. She moved with an intensity that matched his own, even though she was still trying to catch her breath. Her fingers, so used to coping with the laces of her own gowns, deftly loosened his laces.

“Take me out. Hold me, not too tight.” he said, as she wrapped her hands around his straining cock. Oh gods, her fingers were so soft and smooth and he couldn’t wait any longer. He moved fully between her legs, nudging them wide apart and throwing her skirts above her waist so that he even in the moonlight, he could see that she was still wet and eager. He started to pump his cock into her hands in hard thrusts. She was writhing beneath him again, breathing excitedly and trying to bring her hips up to his.

“Sansa… Sansa.” His release came upon him so fiercely he had to fight himself not to shout, and he buried his face in the crook of her neck and whispered her name as his seed spilled out into her hands and onto her belly, and she softly murmured his name and stroked his hair as he collapsed on top of her.

 

Chapter Text

The Hound rolled to her side and put his arm around her. Sansa lay her head on his broad chest as her breathing slowly returned to normal and she waited for his seed to dry on her belly and on her thighs, where she had wiped her palms after he… after he found his release in her hands. Her skirts were still hiked around her waist, but she felt little shame. She could not risk anything staining her gown, otherwise her maids and the washerwomen would know, and she could not bear to think of what might happen to her then.

The night was so tranquil. Sansa wondered how late it was. She felt as if she were in a dream. I am lying in the Hound’s arms, and I held his manhood in my own hands. It had all happened so fast. Her desire had been so strong it had overwhelmed all her other senses, and now she found that she could not exactly remember what his… cock had felt like. But she would never forget how it had throbbed in her hands as he spilled his hot seed onto her belly and he collapsed on top of her, or the way his big, rough fingers felt as they stroked the slick, sensitive folds and swollen nub of her lady’s place while she shuddered to her peak beneath him. She blushed, even as she shivered in delight thinking of it all.

Sandor Clegane stirred beside her and raised himself onto an elbow to look down at her. Sansa looked deep into his eyes, searching for any sign that what happened between them this night had meant as much to him as it had to her. His expression was startlingly soft, unlike anything she had ever seen in the years she’d known him, and her heart swelled. She felt so alive, and the whole world seemed different. She was overwhelmed with joy and excitement and lust and passion and longing, even a trace of grief, and she didn’t know what to make of it all. But right now at this moment, she was looking at the Hound, and he was looking at her, and they had just made love to each other. She smiled at him, and he kissed her gently and drew down her skirts. Then he turned his back and stood to lace his breeches. Sansa realized that she still didn’t know what his manhood looked like; it had been too dark to see when she was unlacing him.

He reached a hand down to help her to her feet. She stood, a bit unsteadily, and shook out her hair and smoothed her clothing. The Hound draped his cloak about his shoulders once more. “Ready?” he asked. She nodded. He cupped her cheek and stroked her bottom lip with his thumb, and she reached up to place her hand over his. “Outside of the godswood, we play our roles. You’re still frightened of me, and I’m still Joffrey’s dog.” She nodded again. He kissed her once more, and they left the godswood.

Sansa’s thoughts were whirling as they made their way back to the Red Keep in silence. She wished the Hound was walking in front of her so that she could gaze upon his powerful shoulders in the torchlight and watch the breeze stir his long black hair, and admire his bold, masculine stride. But they had their roles to play, and he was supposed to be guarding her, so she must walk in front of him.

Ser Meryn Trant held the bridge to Maegor’s Holdfast. Sansa had long since mastered the expressionless mask that hid her thoughts and kept unwanted attention at bay, but she was suddenly deathly afraid that Ser Meryn would somehow know that she had been kissing the Hound in the godswood and stroking his erect cock and spreading her legs for him, begging for his touch. She caught her breath, feeling a fresh wave of arousal. Don’t look at the Hound, don’t, don’t.

The ill-tempered knight squinted at her suspiciously. “Where have you been, lady? Why are you not in your rooms?”

“I was in the godswood, my lord, praying for the safety of the king.”

“You should not be out at this late hour.” He turned to the Hound. “The king was looking for you, ser.”

“Fuck your ser,” the Hound rasped in his deep voice. “The Queen commanded me to guard the Lady Sansa on her visits to the godswood.” He rudely shouldered his way past Ser Meryn and it seemed in no time at all they had reached the door of her rooms.

“Thank you, my lord,” Sansa said meekly. She was not ready to leave his company, but there was nothing she could do about it. The Hound bowed stiffly and walked away without another word.

When she entered her chambers, she was surprised to realize how early it still was. Her maids had lit a fire in the hearth not long before she returned. On any other night, she would have welcomed the warm comfort of the flames, but right now she wanted nothing more than to relive every delicious, tantalizing, marvelous moment of her night with the Hound, in the darkness with only the moonlight by which to see, as it had been in the godswood.

She splashed water on her face and sat down at her dressing table to comb out her hair as she waited for the fire to die down. The Hound! She wanted to sing his name out loud to everyone she saw. His name alone was a song in itself, she decided, one that she would never tire of, and she wanted to memorize it and sing it to herself every day so that she would never forget it. She wanted to spend days wrapped in his warm embrace, feeling his hands on her body, his tongue on her nipples and his fingers stroking between her legs, his cruel mouth pressing down on hers as he spread her legs wide and fucked her while she gasped his name, climbing the peak to her release until she lost control.

Suddenly, she couldn’t breathe. She pulled off her gown and hastily threw it to the floor, and climbed into bed, her hand reaching to ease the ache between her legs even as she covered herself with her blankets. She needed relief, quickly. She rubbed her wetness over the sweet spot at the top of her cleft, and her pleasure came upon her powerfully as she imagined the Hound’s huge cock throbbing and spilling his seed deep inside her, as it had done in her hands this very night. As she came down from her climax, Sansa drifted into a deep sleep, and finally found a few hours peace from her fevered emotions.

***********

The Queen sent for her after she broke her fast. Sansa tried to keep from trembling as her maids bathed and dressed her. The last time Her Grace commanded a private audience with her was the morning she’d had her moon blood, after she had tried to burn her bedding to keep anyone from finding out. Sansa’s face blushed hotly at the memory, but her shame was quickly replaced with dread as she wondered if her maids had found stains on her gowns that betrayed what she had been doing in the godswood the night before. Gods be good. She had taken such pains to make sure that… that she was dry before she covered herself.

She decided to put her worry to good use, and began to create a different memory of last night. She had been praying for a long time, and when she turned to leave, she saw the Hound waiting for her. He had promptly escorted her back to her rooms, and that was the end of it. Sansa knew she had to believe the lie, if only for a little while, so that she could convince the Queen of her innocence if need be. She swallowed her guilt and let herself be escorted to Her Grace’s solar.

“Your Grace, it is so kind of you to receive me,” She curtsied deeply and the Queen beckoned her to sit.

“I trust things are well with you, Sansa.” Cersei studied her critically. “You have grown much in the last year. Your gowns scarcely cover your bosom. I will not have you wandering the Red Keep looking like a kitchen wench. I shall have new gowns made for you straightaway. You should be dressed more suitably for a highborn maid nearly a woman grown.”

Sansa blushed. “Thank you, Your Grace. You are too kind.”

The Queen took a sip of wine, never taking her eyes off of Sansa’s. “I have had reports that you visit the godswood every night, after dark.”

“Yes, Your Grace. I pray to the old gods, for the health and safety of the King,” she said, willing her voice not to quaver. Her heart thudded in her chest as she waited for the Queen to continue.

“Always at night… Why? Do not lie to me.” The softness in the Queen’s voice was frightening.

“Your Grace, all those who pray to the old gods do so at night. There is more power in a godswood at night than at any other time."

The Queen tilted her head as she looked at Sansa. “A beautiful, young, highborn girl, almost a woman grown, making trips to the godswood alone late at night… According to Varys, there is talk that you are meeting a lover.”

“No, Your Grace, I would never!”

Cersei Lannister considered her in silence for a few moments longer. “You are no longer free to go unaccompanied to the godswood. I have commanded the Hound to escort you on all of your visits from this day forward. He was my sworn sword before he was Joffrey’s, and is the most loyal man at court. He will see to it that no one has reason to spread filthy gossip about you.”

Sansa blushed and lowered her gaze.

“You are to go only when he is not otherwise on duty. He is not your personal guard.”

“Yes, Your Grace. Thank you, for your concern for my safety and my honor,” Sansa replied. “How… How will I know when the Hound can take me to the godswood?”

“He will come to your chambers, I suppose. If you are elsewhere when he comes to fetch you, I doubt he will wait. So you had best make sure that you stay where he can find you, if you want to pray to the old gods. That is all, Sansa. You may leave.”

Sansa curtsied deeply and was ushered out of Cersei’s solar. The interview with the Queen had left her feeling drained. When she was back in her rooms, she sat in the window seat for a long while, looking down at King’s Landing. She was too tired to even think of the Hound for the time being, which was a welcome relief. The tension slowly left her body and until she felt more calm. The rest of the day was spent on her embroidery. As she worked the tiny, repetitive stitches, she finally let her mind wander back to the Hound. She hoped he would come for her tonight. 

When the evening meal was brought for her, she set aside her embroidery but found she could scarcely swallow a bite. Instead, she sipped at her wine, hoping it would steady her. She could no longer distract herself from thoughts of Sandor Clegane. She felt sure he would come for her soon. She was wild with excitement and wanted to make herself beautiful for him, but she was afraid that if she put on a prettier gown or jewels, or even perfume, people would notice and wonder, so she settled for buffing her fingernails and brushing her hair until it shone.

She sat back in her window seat and watched as night fell across King’s Landing. It wouldn’t be long now before the Hound came for her. A tiny voice inside her head whispered that he might be on duty tonight, but she brushed it away impatiently. She wanted the Hound, she needed the Hound, and a night all alone in her chambers without seeing him even once would be unbearable.

Her anxiety mounted as one hour passed, and then two. It is still early. She started pacing the room, which helped a little. She would have preferred to be walking up the serpentine to the godswood right now—even without the Hound, she told herself, and almost believed it. She hated being caged in her room like this, but she had to stay here or else she might miss him.

The knock on her door startled her so much her heart almost stopped. She rushed to open it, but she needn’t have bothered. One of her bed maids was already entering the room. Sansa’s heart sank and she had to swallow back the tears. The Hound will not come tonight. The maid laid the fire in her fireplace but did not light it, at Sansa’s request. When she was alone again, she blew out the candles, undressed, and climbed into bed and lay there in the darkness with a heavy heart, throat choked with the effort of suppressing her emotions. Tomorrow. He will come tomorrow. She missed him.

But the Hound did not come for her the next night, or the next. On the third night, Sansa cried for hours before she could sleep. When she awoke the next day, her eyes were so swollen she could barely open them. She placed a cloth soaked in icy cold water to her face to bring down the swelling, but the tears started again. Her longing for the Hound was painful. How stupid I was to believe the Queen, she thought. The Queen had tricked her into staying in her rooms instead of wandering the Red Keep. The Hound would not be coming for her, at all. He must have truly been following orders when he met her in the godswood the last time she saw him. And she had thrown herself at him wantonly, so of course he had responded. Why would he not? He was a man. A man like the Hound, with his magnificent body and his prowess as a warrior, must have very strong… needs, and had simply been taking care of those needs with Sansa that night in the godswood, instead of with a… a whore in a winesink.

I have needs, too. But she was too consumed by sadness to take care of them. Sansa knew she must compose herself or Maester Pycelle might be called to examine her, and she could not bear that. It took everything in her to concentrate on her embroidery that day and push thoughts of the Hound out of her mind every time they tried to sneak in. She forced herself to eat a little during her noonday and evening meals, and by the time the last dishes had been cleared away for the day, she was feeling much better.

She was brushing her hair at her dressing table when her maid knocked at the door. “Come in,” she called. It was useless to hope that it would be the Hound. Sansa could not act like a lovesick girl; she was almost a woman grown and must act like one, even when she was alone. The knock came again, louder. Sansa put her brush down in annoyance, marched over to the door, and yanked it open… And found herself staring at the Hound. At his broad, muscular chest, actually, since she had been expecting to see a serving maid. She looked up, looked at the face she had been longing to see for days—the burned side he tried to cover with his fine black hair, and the hooked nose and the gaunt cheekbones and the eyes dark as slate—and thought she had never seen anything so beautiful. She could not help it; a smile as bright as the sun lit her face with joy. He stood stiffly, but something warm flickered in those impassive grey eyes for just a moment before he said, “Little bird, I’m to take you to the godswood if you want to go.”

 

Chapter Text

No woman had ever smiled at him like that. Sandor’s heart lurched. She was so fucking beautiful. He wanted to wrap her in his cloak and hold her close and tell her he would keep her safe from anyone or anything that ever tried to hurt her again. He wanted to push her back into her room, kick the door shut, and make her his, fuck her on her silk sheets and feather pillows and hear her cry out his name in sweet release.

He wanted her to realize, right now, that she loved him.

Sandor Clegane was no fool, and had learned at a very early age how to read people. When Sansa smiled at him just now, he knew she was probably in love with him, but she had to come to that understanding by herself. He hoped it wouldn’t take long, because both of their lives were going to be vastly changed in the next few weeks.

At the turn of the next moon, he was going to become Lord of the Crossing and marry Sansa Stark. House Clegane would no longer be in the Westerlands. He was being given the Twins.

There had been trouble in the Riverlands since Walder Frey had orchestrated the murder of Lady Stark and Robb Stark at the Red Wedding. House Lannister could deny their part in the travesty all they wanted, but everyone in Westeros knew better. The Riverlords refused to pledge loyalty to Riverrun since it had been given to a Frey and his Lannister wife. The North was still unsettled as well. Roose Bolton lost his allies in the North after he married the false Arya Stark to his bastard and allowed that abomination to take Winterfell. The Hound had heard talk around the Red Keep that the Riverlords would join with Stark’s bannermen to help Stannis take King’s Landing. And the Battle of the Blackwater took out most of the King’s Landing forces along with those of Stannis—but he would be getting thousands more men for his army if the Riverlands united with the North.

The Queen had called him into her solar three days ago to announce that the King was dismissing him from the Kingsguard. “He intends to reward you with a lordship and lands for your brave and loyal service.”

Sandor’s face was hard to read. The Queen slowly turned her wine goblet in her hands, watching as the gems on her fingers glittered in the firelight. When he didn’t respond, she looked at him and raised an eyebrow. “I want you to take the Twins.”

“The Twins?” he rasped, astonished.

“I had a raven yesterday. Jamie infiltrated the castle from within and rid it of all those wretched Freys. We need someone to rule it, and we need a way to make peace. As Lord of the Crossing, you will have the status necessary to marry Sansa Stark. The Riverlords and the Northmen will bend the knee to the crown if the girl is returned to them… The Tullys and the Starks were the heart of the Riverlands and the North. Sansa is both.”

The Hound’s laughter was a harsh bark. “High lords won’t swear fealty to a dog, Your Grace.”

“They will, for the sake of Sansa Stark. These are men who value honor more than power. They will abandon their plans of alliance to Lord Stannis when the daughter of Ned Stark & Catelyn Tully brings her household to the Twins. Sansa is everything a lady should be—beautiful, sweet, courteous, and personable. She will make them love her… and you. There are no other suitable lords in the Riverlands or the North, Sandor. And your loyalty to the crown has been proven.”

Sandor could see the sense in it. But he couldn’t do it. He couldn’t be the bloody Lord of the Crossing when all he’d been his whole life was a sworn sword to the Lannisters. He knew how to be a warrior, not a lord. He could be Sansa’s sworn shield… But that would mean letting her marry someone else. His blood boiled at the thought. Seven bloody buggering hells, he thought desperately. He should have left King’s Landing during the Blackwater, as he had originally planned. But in the end, he couldn’t find it in himself to abandon Sansa. Fool. Now is your chance to take her away from here. If he married Sansa, he could damn well make sure that no one ever, ever hurt her again. He really had no choice.

His face was a hard mask. “As you command, Your Grace.”

He spent the next three days in a blur of training, guard duty, and meetings late into the night with the Small Council before he finally found a chance to escape. He’d barely had time to drink a flagon of wine each night lately, but if somebody offered him a cask right now, he would have told them to bugger off. He wanted Sansa.

*****************

Sansa schooled her face into the mask she wore outside of her rooms and timidly thanked him. “I will fetch my cloak.” He stood aside as she left her rooms and fell in behind her as they crossed the drawbridge and climbed the serpentine, all in silence. Sansa walked with her head down so that if her mask slipped, her face wouldn’t be visible to give away the slightest hint of the elation she felt.

When they entered the godswood, Sansa stood awkwardly beside the Hound. Like the last time she met him here, she was not quite sure what to do. She instinctively sensed that he would not be the one to start things. He seemed to be… waiting? Waiting for something. Perhaps. She wasn’t sure if that made sense, but it felt like it did. Perhaps he thought she might not really want him to take her maidenhead after all, but she had never been more sure of anything in her life. She wanted to have at least some happiness to remember when she was married off to some high lord who only wanted her for her claim.

As much as she wanted to start kissing the Hound, it felt wrong for her to be in the godswood and not pray, so Sansa went to the heart tree and knelt. Please gods, please make the Hound still want me. Help me to please him as much as he pleases me. Please let me see him again on the morrow, please don’t make me wait again for so long, I could not bear it. And please, let him take my maiden’s gift when I offer it to him again. He is the only one who doesn’t want me for my claim; he is the only one who deserves it. She thought for a moment about that. About what would happen when she was betrothed. She would be married to some high lord that she didn’t care about and could never love, because Joffrey had made it so that she was no longer capable of loving a man who was not of her own choosing. She would move to her lord husband’s home… and she would never see the Hound again. All she would have were her memories of him. The thought made her want to weep. No, I will shed no tears in the godswood when I am with the Hound. The gods have helped me, I will not waste it.

Sansa finally stood and looked at the Hound. After a moment, he joined her at the heart tree. She took his hand lightly in her own and lifted her other hand to his face and cupped his cheek. The burned side. “I have missed you so, my lord,” she whispered.

“Little bird…” Sandor drew his fingers through her auburn locks before softly kissing her, and then gathered her into his arms and buried his face in her hair, inhaling deeply. She wrapped her arms around his waist and lost herself in the smell of leather and sweat and wine. She was acutely aware of how big he was, how strong and fierce, the muscles of his entire body hardened by past battles and daily training in the practice yard. And yet here he was, holding her as if she was the most precious thing in the world. She felt a possessive sort of pride in knowing that she was the only woman in all of King’s Landing to be in the Hound’s arms tonight.

Sansa leaned her forehead against his heavily muscled chest and exhaled slowly. His manhood was already hard, and she felt a low, sweet ache building between her legs and knew she was getting wet. Suddenly, she couldn’t wait another moment. She pressed her body firmly against him and reached up to pull his face to hers, and then they were kissing each other, fiercely, desperately, trying to make up for lost time. With her hands tangled in his hair, Sansa thrust her hips against the Hound’s, and he wrapped an arm around her waist to pull her closer. He cupped her breast and squeezed and then moved his hand lower and began stroking her between the legs. A sharp stab of lust pierced Sansa’s belly. She broke the kiss with a gasp and a soft cry, and then swept her tongue over the Hound’s bottom lip before claiming his mouth again with a hard kiss. He groaned and placed his hands under her thighs and lifted her up. She eagerly wrapped her legs around his waist and bucked her hips, feeling the hard muscles of his belly shift underneath her.

The Hound was tearing at the laces of her bodice, knotting them in his haste. He cursed, and Sansa pushed his hands away and deftly undid them. Her breasts spilled free and he took one in hand, cupping the soft flesh and stroking his thumb over the hard pink bud of her nipple. She arched her back and pushed his head lower to take the other one fully in his mouth. He sucked hard and flicked the tip of his tongue over the sensitive flesh, and then grazed it with his teeth, and Sansa cried out as she rocked her hips wantonly against him.

***********

Sansa.” Sandor gasped her name and cradled her head in his hand and kissed her hard, and then more softly, and then lowered her to the ground, panting. He was fighting to control himself. Her body… Gods. Her body was so utterly feminine; slim and supple, long legs, full breasts, and nipples that would drive any man wild just by the sight of them, round and pink and hard as they were right now. And the feel of her firm, round arse squirming in his arms with her legs wrapped tightly around his waist… His cock was so hard and Sansa was so eager, every one of his instincts as a man was shouting at him to just flip her skirts up and fuck her hard, and he knew she would let him, knew she wanted him to. He could hear her breath shudder as she tried to calm herself.

“The pool, Sansa,” he rasped breathlessly. “We need to go to the pool. We’re too exposed here.” They were still standing in front of the heart tree.

“Yes, my lord,” she said. She smoothed her skirts and covered her breasts with her cloak.

The Hound gripped her chin in his fingers and looked her in the eyes. “I have a name, Sansa. Say my name,” he growled. 

“Sandor, my lord, pardons,” she said, blushing.

“I’m no lord, either. Especially when you’re shoving your teats into my face,” he said irritably. “Remember that.”

He let go of her chin, and she licked her lips nervously. “I am truly sorry, my lord. I must remember that my courtesy isn’t needed when we’re… together, here in the godswood.”

Sandor grunted his acceptance and they made their way to the pool in silence. He had hoped that the walk would ease his erection, but his cock was already so sensitive that just the fabric of his breeches rubbing against it kept him hard as a rock. By the time they arrived at the pool, he thought he had grown even stiffer, if that was possible. He spread his cloak on the ground and quickly adjusted himself while his back was turned so that his cock was resting flat against his belly. The head of it showed over the waistband of his breeches, but there was nothing he could do about it. It was that, or have it straining painfully against his laces. Besides, his tunic covered it.

Sansa sat and waited shyly as he removed his sword belt and sank down next to her. Sandor could tell she was nervous. He reached out and gently stroked her cheek, brushing her hair behind her ear. She blushed and quickly looked away, but when she looked up again, her eyes were deep with desire. She licked her lips and put her hand on the back of his neck and whispered, “Sandor…” before moving in to kiss him, slowly and deeply. He pictured her soft lips and warm tongue teasing his cock instead of his mouth, and groaned. Her arms were around his shoulders now, and she was leaning into him so insistently as they kissed that she was almost in his lap. He gently pressed her backwards until she was lying down.

She smiled softly and touched his hair. “Will you take my maiden’s gift now, Sandor?”

He kissed her again. “Not yet, little bird.”

Sandor supported himself on an elbow and unfastened the brooch on her cloak and pushed the fabric aside. In the moonlight, her nipples stood out hard and dark against the fair skin of her breasts, and he almost, almost changed his mind about taking Sansa’s maidenhead. She was gazing at him in excitement, her naked breasts heaving wantonly in time with her ragged breathing. His muscles were tense with the effort of holding himself back. He placed a heavy hand on the curve of her waist and slid it slowly up and over her breast, watching as her flesh yielded under his touch. Sansa exhaled sharply when he brushed his thumb over her nipple. He explored every inch of her breast with his fingertips as he dipped his head to close his mouth over the other nipple, sucking and flicking his tongue over the sensitive tip, rolling it between tongue and lips and teeth as he’d done earlier, vaguely aware of Sansa’s soft, fast cries of pleasure. He realized he had thrown his leg over hers and was thrusting his hips against her, desperately seeking relief for his aching cock.

He pulled her hand away from where she was clutching his shoulders and put it between his legs, rubbing her palm against the heavy bulge in his breeches. When he let go, Sansa continued to stroke him. After a moment, she parted her legs and arched her hips, whimpering impatiently as he kissed her. Sandor slid his fingers between her legs and groaned. The fine cloth of her gown grew damp as soon as he pressed his fingers into her cleft, and he thought about how it would feel to slide his cock into her hot, wet-- 

He tore his mouth away from hers abruptly and rolled to the side, breathing heavily.

***********************

Sansa felt like she couldn’t catch her breath. She was trembling with desire. The ache between her legs was unbearable and her lower belly felt tight with the need for release. She wanted the Hound’s touch, she needed it. But when she reached for him, he gently rebuffed her.

“Be still for a moment, Sansa, or I won’t last much longer.”

“Sandor, please… I want to see you. I want to please you,” she pleaded. When he had placed her hand on his manhood, she felt a flood of arousal soak her smallclothes. She wanted so badly to see what it looked like. She’d rubbed him as firmly as she could with her fingers and hand to try and picture it, but she still didn’t know any more than she did the last time they saw each other. Maybe even less—this time, she didn’t even felt the bulge at the end of his manhood.

The Hound made a sound that might have been a laugh. “You are seeing me and pleasing me.”

She blushed fiercely. “That’s not what I meant…”

“Then say what you mean,” he said, his voice harsh.

Sansa swallowed and felt a flash of guilt for how easy it was to disregard all those years of training with Septa Mordane when she was with the Hound. But she wasn’t a child anymore. She would be a woman grown at the turn of the next moon, and she wanted the Hound badly, so if she must say… womanly things to seduce him, then she would. The last time they were together, she actually told him she wanted him to fuck her with his cock, and what was worse, she had actually almost enjoyed saying it.

“I want to see your… your manhood, my l--  Sandor. Your... c-cock. I want to touch it. Please,” she said, her voice trembling. She felt as if his eyes were looking into her soul.

After a long moment, he propped himself up on his elbows. “Go ahead, then,” he growled. “Take your look.”

With shaking hands, she reached out and gingerly pushed the edge of his tunic out of the way so she could get to the laces on his breeches. She moved closer and tried to steady herself as she fumbled at the waistband, looking for a loose end. Her fingers brushed against something and she froze, heart pounding in excitement. She pushed his tunic higher, and then she saw it. It was the bulge at the end of his manhood. The reason she hadn’t felt it earlier is because it wasn’t even contained within his breeches. She licked her lips in fascination as she traced her fingers over it. There was a dent in the middle of it, and it was… it was leaking a clear, slippery fluid, and she wondered if the Hound was about to have his release. She touched the liquid again and spread it around with her fingertips, and he moaned.

“Sansa…” he warned her.  “Take it out. Now.”

She anxiously pulled at his laces. He sounded so urgent, almost as if he was in pain. His cock was straining to be free, and when the last lace came loose, Sandor gave a groan of relief. Sansa sucked in her breath and stared at his manhood in fascination. It was huge. She knew it would be big, but… She touched it with her fingertips and it twitched. The skin was hot, and so silky. She had always thought a man’s… cock would be rough, like his hands. She’d never dreamed it could be so hard, and yet the skin be so soft at the same time. Sansa couldn’t stop stroking it; she had never felt anything like it. When she wrapped a hand around the base of it, her fingertips barely touched. She added the other above the first. I would need three hands to hold all of it. She was awestruck. She had nothing to compare it to, but somehow she couldn’t imagine a man of smaller stature having such a large…

The Hound thrust his hips. “Stroke me Sansa, with your hand, just like that. Faster. Oh, gods,” he moaned, panting.

Sansa wanted to peel off her smallclothes. They were soaked, and she could feel her wetness trickling onto her thighs. She wanted to crawl on top of him and rock her hips against his with his manhood buried deep inside her. The Hound sat up abruptly, tore off his tunic, and flipped her on her back. She pulled her skirts high up around her waist and spread her legs.

Please… F-fuck me, Sandor! I promise I won’t ever regret it. Please!” she begged him, shamelessly.

Sandor pulled off her smallclothes and positioned himself between her legs. “No, Sansa,” he said. “But I won’t disappoint you.” He lowered his hips, and suddenly she felt his hot, hard cock sliding along the folds of her lady’s place, and she wrapped her legs around him so she could buck her hips hard against it. It felt so good, better than anything she had ever imagined. Waves of pleasure radiated from deep in her lower belly and built and swelled until she thought she couldn’t take it anymore, even though she never wanted it to stop. The bulge on the Hound’s manhood slid against her swollen nub, and she cried out, cried out again, and then finally the waves crashed and she shook with her release, arching her back and calling his name. “Sandor, Sandor!” He whispered her name desperately and then she felt the hot, sticky liquid of his release pooling on her lower belly, still blooming with her pleasure.

***********************

Sandor lay on his back with Sansa in his arms. His future wife was resting her head on his massive shoulder and languidly tracing the scars on his chest with her fingertips. The seed on her belly had long since dried. Gods, just thinking about it made his cock start going hard. He tried to think of something else because if he did this with Sansa again, he knew he wouldn’t be able to hold himself back.

“Sansa. Why do you want me to fuck you?” He suspected he knew the reason, but he wanted to hear it from her.

Sansa lifted her head and looked at him.

“So I can have something happy to remember, after I’m married off to some high lord who only wants me for my claim,” she said softly. “Besides, you’re the only man who wants me for myself. You deserve it.”

He knew it. He looked at her, smiling softly at him. He could tell she truly thought she would be doing something noble and romantic, just like in one of those bloody songs she loved so well.

“Throw the old dog a bone, is that the way of it?” he asked roughly.

“That’s not how I meant it!”

“Yes, it is. That’s exactly how you meant it. Think about it later, when you’re alone and not trying to ride my cock.”

“That’s unkind, Sandor,” she said. She actually sounded almost angry. Bugger that. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d provoked her.

“You want me to fuck you. Do you even know what that means?” he mocked. He was having a hard time controlling his temper.

Sansa blushed furiously. Sandor could see her face redden, even in the moonlight.

“Of course!” She sounded uncertain.

“No, you don’t, not if you think I’m going to take your maidenhead and then hand you off to some other man. If I fuck you, Sansa, you’re mine. And I won’t let anyone take what’s mine.” His breath was coming fast and hard, as if he’d just finished beating some buggering knight to a pulp in the practice yard. He wished it was daylight right now so he could do just that. He knew he was going to marry Sansa, and he knew she would be happy about it, but he needed her to see that he was a man, not some slavering dog waiting eagerly for a juicy bone.

Sansa was quiet.

 “I’m more than my cock, Sansa. I’m a man. Understand that.”

“Yes, my lord. Sandor,” she whispered.

Anger was surging inside of him. He needed wine, a lot of it. He stood abruptly and turned his back on Sansa as he dressed. She put her hand on his arm.

“Sandor…” she said timidly, but he shook her off.

“Best head back to the Red Keep. It’s getting late,” he said, not even looking at her.

They walked back in silence. He didn’t speak again until they were standing in front of the door to her rooms.

“You’ll not be seeing me again so soon. I have duties to attend to.” Sansa gasped and covered her mouth. Her eyes were wet with tears. He hated to hurt her feelings, but he would fix it later. Right now, he needed wine or blood, and it would be easier to get the wine. He nodded stiffly at her and walked away. The little bird never said a word.

Chapter Text

The Hound stormed off, cloak billowing behind him. Even in his anger, he looked magnificent, with his massive shoulders and long black hair, his entire body muscled like a bull. Sansa waited until she could no longer hear his footsteps, and then waited a while longer, hoping he would come back and crush her in his embrace and let her show him how sorry she was for somehow making him angry. But after a long time alone in the corridor, she finally had to admit to herself that he wasn’t coming back, at least not tonight.

She entered her chambers and was grateful for the fire her maids had lit while she was in the godswood. Staring at the flames for a few moments helped calm her frayed nerves. Sansa could not for the life of her understand why the Hound had gotten so angry. She’d thought he would be happy that she wanted to give him her maidenhead. There was no doubt that he liked her and wanted her…

“I’m more than my cock, Sansa. I’m a man. Understand that.” Of course she understood. Couldn’t he see how much it meant for her to choose him instead of waiting until she was wed? She cared about him, not some stranger who would be chosen for her. As far as she was concerned, her future lord husband would only be a cock. He would treat her like a brood mare to give him heirs, and if she died giving him one of those heirs, well he would simply get another wife. He would already have Winterfell, what would it matter to him if she died after giving him children?  Sandor, on the other hand, was… was Sandor. The Hound. The fiercest warrior in Westeros. The man who would never lie to her, but who had lied for her many times to save her from Joffrey’s wrath. The man whose rough words had helped her to understand the reality of court life, so that she could endure it without breaking. The man who saved her life during the bread riots. The man who had offered to take her away from King’s Landing the night of the Blackwater, and then for some reason stayed when she was too scared to go with him. The man who had transformed her from a girl to a woman, in all ways but one.

“Throw the old dog a bone, is that the way of it?” She flared with sudden anger, remembering what he’d said, and whirled away from the fire to pace the room, her fury building with each step. How dare he accuse her of such a thing? How dare he think of her maiden’s gift that way? As if she was just some lusty kitchen wench who didn’t care who she bedded down with and could… could fuck whoever she wanted because she wasn’t highborn and had nothing to gain or lose either way. Did he really have such a low opinion of her? I am Sansa Stark of Winterfell, and I CHOSE you. He acted as if he was better than her, as if she was not good enough for him, when really she had meant to honor him with her choice. She wanted to give him what she should be saving for a husband. What greater compliment could there be? How could he not see that she held him in greater esteem than any high lord?

By now she was fuming. She marched to her window seat, yanked open the curtains, and threw herself down on the cushions, then jumped to her feet again, not wanting to be still. She wanted to write the Hound a long, angry letter telling him how… how unchivalrous he was. She wanted to yell at him to his face. She wanted him to beg her for forgiveness, just so she could give him the cold shoulder like he’d done to her tonight.

Sansa sighed loudly and ran her fingers through her hair in frustration, knowing she would never be able to sleep in such a state. Wine, I need wine. A few sips of Arbor Gold always calmed her when she was feeling nervous. A full flagon sat on the little table she dined at when she wasn’t called on to sup with the royal family.  She poured a full cup and drank it quickly, then poured another and went back to the window seat.

She stared out the window, unseeing, brooding as she sipped her wine. Will it be like this for the rest of my life? To always be denied what I want? She was sick of the Red Keep, sick of King’s Landing, sick of her gilded cage, sick of having to wear her lady’s armor at every moment. She had to calculate every facial expression and every word that came out of her mouth. The only person she had ever let her guard down with was the Hound, even before they became lovers, and now she had to be careful around him too. When she and Sandor became lovers, she had known happiness for the first time in years. It wasn’t just from the pleasure of his touch. For the first time since her father died, she didn’t feel alone.

When her cup was empty, she got up to pour a third one and tripped on her skirts. Her cup went rolling across the floor. Sansa giggled. I am getting drunk. She wanted more wine, so she made her way unsteadily to the table and then remembered she didn’t have anything to pour it into. She studied the flagon and shrugged, lifting it to her lips like she had done the night she and the Hound had been brought together. Thinking about it made her long for him again, so she took another healthy swallow. She didn’t want to want him right now, he had been too unkind to her this evening and she wasn’t prepared to forget it just yet. One more swallow of wine, and she set the flagon down heavily, swaying where she stood. Bugger the Hound. She stumbled to her bed and dragged her gown over her head, letting it drop to the floor, and then climbed under the sheets and immediately fell asleep.

***********

Two flagons of wine hadn’t been enough. Take her maidenhead and then give her to some other man. What kind of bloody fool did she think he was? Did she think he had no pride? He’d fuck a kitchen maid and not give two shits about who she ended up marrying, but not Sansa Stark. He needed more wine. And a woman. He hadn’t had a good fuck since he’d started carrying on with Sansa, and he needed more than his hand tonight. His cock was hard again just thinking about the little bird. He’d been in an almost constant state of arousal since his first night in the godswood with her, and he’d reached a breaking point.

Sandor cursed and shoved his door open, heading to the kitchen keep for another flagon. Or two. He thought about going to his favorite winesink but he was in no mood for company. He’d find wine in the kitchens and maybe even a lusty wench. He didn’t fuck the women of the castle staff very often—though the gods knew he had plenty of invitations—because they couldn’t keep it to themselves. They’d talk about it to anyone who would listen, and the gossip would spread, and before long every detail would be known throughout the Red Keep. But right now his need was so great that he didn’t give a fuck if the wench wanted to announce it on every street corner in Fleabottom afterwards.

The kitchen keep was always bustling with activity, even at this late hour. One of the cook’s girls was making her way towards the storehouse, and stopped in her tracks when she saw him.

“What’s Joffrey’s dog sniffing around the kitchens for at this time of night?” she called out.

“The dog is looking for wine.”  He looked at her, his eyes moving from her face to her breasts to her hips, back to her eyes where he could see that look that women got when they were sizing him up. She was taller than most women, blond, large-boned and voluptuous, with a sly grin on her face.

“Wine’s in the storehouse,” she said, her eyes fixed on his groin. His cock twitched, and she looked up, eyes glittering. “I can give m’lord a little something extra, if he wants.” 

“Aye,” he agreed. She led him into the house, towards a dark corner in the back. There was a table with baskets, cloth sacks, wooden bowls and scoops and the like, and she swept them all aside and hopped up onto the table. She grasped the waist of his breeches and pulled him closer, between her legs, untying his laces with the other hand. Her bodice was already half unlaced. Sandor pulled it lower to expose her breasts and took them in his hands, kneading and squeezing them roughly. The girl pulled out his cock and stroked it with both hands, moving smoothly, up and down. The Hound growled and pushed her onto her back, dragging her hips closer to him so her arse was off the table, and she squealed with delight as she lifted her skirts and spread her legs.

“I like it hard and deep, m’lord,” she said breathlessly. “Do it like that and I’ll come for you quicker than you’d believe.”

Sandor rubbed the head of his cock along her slit. She was wet enough. He thrust into her forcefully and felt his primal instincts begin to take over at the feel of her hot, wet cunt wrapped around his cock. She gasped each time he slammed into her, hard and deep like she’d wanted. Her legs were wrapped tightly around his waist and he held her hips in an iron grip. She cried out, and arched her back, gasping quickly as she rocked her hips against his, and he could feel her walls clenching his cock. With one last hard thrust he groaned and filled her with his seed.

He leaned on the table and tried to catch his breath. He couldn’t wait till he could fuck Sansa like this. The girl beneath him giggled. “I’ve never had no one so big as you, m’lord. I’d let you ride me all day long if you wanted.”

His cock was still inside her, and he was still hard. He needed more to take the edge off of his pent up lust. “I’ll fuck you again, then. Turn over,” he ordered.

“Oooh,” she giggled again, sliding off the table. “Joffrey’s dog is going to take me like a bitch in heat.” She bent over and braced her hands on the edge of the table. Sandor stepped behind her and nudged her feet further apart as he pushed up her skirts. He stroked his cock a few times, and then placed it at her entrance. She stood on her toes and wriggled her arse to position herself better, and then pushed her hips back to take him in and moaned as he buried himself in her cunt. She moaned again when he slid his hands underneath to cup her breasts. Sandor’s need was intense, and he took her hard and fast squeezing her breasts and tugging at her nipples while she pushed her arse against him and made little sounds of pleasure, until at last he grunted loudly and found his release for the third time that night.

He pulled out after a moment and tucked himself back in his breeches while she brought him his wine. “I’ll fetch wine for m’lord anytime he wants,” she said mischievously, and gave his cock one last squeeze through his breeches before getting back to her work. He never knew what to say to women when he was finished with them, so he left without another word and made his way back to his room. He’d had what he needed and could finally bloody well get some sleep. 

***********

As Sansa’s maids bathed and dressed her, she decided to spend the morning walking about the castle. She’d been cooped up in her room mooning over the Hound for days, and she wanted fresh air to clear her thoughts after last night. Besides, her maids were acting strangely and she thought she might overhear something by the wells and find out what was happening. Nobody ever told her anything. There was something in the way they’d look at her, and then look away, that Sansa didn’t like, but she didn’t dare ask them. She almost didn’t want to know. Almost. She threw a plain brown cloak over her shoulders before she left, so that she could pass more freely among the castle staff.

She headed for the kitchen keep first, but it was too busy. She hardly ever saw groups of people gossiping at the kitchens, but she had gone there anyway because she had nothing else to do all day. The stables would be a nice place to visit next. The horses were kept so beautifully, and once she had found a nest of tiny kittens in a dark, empty stall. They were too young to take from their mother, so Sansa visited them as often as she could, hoping to one day be able to hold one, but they were too wild and would never let her catch them. Eventually, they disappeared. Maybe she would see Sandor’s fierce black war horse. The massive courser scared her, but she liked to look at it and picture how impressive the Hound looked while riding him. She stopped a boy hauling a sack full of apples and begged a few from him.

At the stables, she walked up and down the rows admiring the animals, but she never saw the Hound’s horse. She hadn’t brought her knife with her, so she could only give her apples to a few of the horses. She chose a gentle, pale gold mare with a white mane and tail, a spirited grey filly that reminded her of Arya, and a proud blue roan stallion that made her think of her father. Her throat was suddenly tight with grief, and she could feel tears prickling under her eyelids. She immediately blinked them away and pushed thoughts of her family out of her mind, and walked briskly to the wells. That’s where all the best gossip was, because it was mostly women that spent time there.

The place was buzzing with excitement. Sansa walked slowly through the crowds, listening carefully, catching snippets of conversation.

“Who’s to take his place in the Kingsguard?”

“…lands and a lordship…”

“…leaving within a fortnight. The Twins...”

Who were they talking about? Someone was apparently being dismissed from the Kingsguard. That wasn’t so unusual though. The Queen was always appointing someone to the Kingsguard and then removing them later for other purposes. A thought came to her so abruptly, she felt as if she’d been punched in the stomach. Gods be good. What if the Queen had found out about her trysts with the Hound and was dismissing him because of it? Who was leaving in a fortnight? Oh gods... She wondered with horror if it was her, if she was to be married to a Frey. Someone in the crowd had mentioned the Twins. The Queen might have decided it was time for Sansa to be wed before she dishonored herself and the royal family.

A woman’s loud laughter broke her train of thought and she turned toward the sound, straining to hear what they were saying.

“…fucked me twice last night.”

Her friend said something Sansa couldn’t hear.

“…call him the Horse instead of the Hound, if you know what I mean!” The women collapsed in laughter.

Sansa went pale. Did they really mean… Were they saying he fucked the tall girl with the blond hair, or did someone else fuck her and then they started talking about the Hound?

Another girl joined them and asked what was so funny.

“Anna made a jest about the Hound’s cock,” said the blond girl’s friend.

“He fucked me twice last night, and I said his cock is so big he should be called the Horse, not the Hound! And it’s no jest, I assure you!” They all laughed anew at the joke, but the newest girl looked jealous.

Sansa spun away from them and walked back to the Red Keep as quickly as she could, shaking from head to toe. She had never felt such fury in her life, and she was only capable of thinking one thing. He fucked a kitchen wench and refused to fuck me. He refused to fuck ME, and then fucked a KITCHEN WENCH. She was glad she wasn’t going to see him again tonight, because if she did, she would gladly throw a full wine flagon at his unchivalrous face, followed by the heavy silver cup she drank from. Once she was in her rooms, she sat at her windowseat seething, able to do nothing but stare out at the city. I am just as stupid as everyone says I am. She should never have let herself become fond of the Hound. Should never have dared to think he felt the same about her. A memory of the night she ran into the Hound on the serpentine, and all the feelings it had awoken in her, flickered in her memory. The gods brought us together that night, and answered my prayers. Surely it can’t all be for nothing.

A sharp knock at her door made her jump. Her heart was pounding wildly, and she could hear the blood rushing in her ears. “Just a moment,” she called, and quickly tried to compose herself. She took deep breaths. Gods, please don’t let it be the Queen, please don’t let me find out I’m to be married to a Frey. She slowly crossed the room and opened the door. It was the Hound.

***********

“Come to the godswood with me, Sansa,” he said, without any preamble at all. He didn’t have much time. He shouldn’t even be here, but he wanted her to know about it from him first.

“I don’t care to go to the godswood right now, Hound,” she answered coldly.

Sandor squinted at her suspiciously. What in seven hells…? He had expected a warmer welcome from the little bird.

“Or maybe I should call you Horse instead!” she spat.

He frowned and gave her a hard look. Something was definitely bothering her. And it seemed to have to do with him. Horse? A day ago, he could have predicted how she would take what he was soon going to tell her, but now he wasn’t so sure.

“I don’t know what you’re on about, Sansa, but you are coming to the godswood with me, whether you will it or no. We need to talk.” He struggled to control his temper.

“Yes, we most certainly do need to talk,” she said, her tone icy. “Let me fetch my cloak.”

They left her rooms and crossed the drawbridge. She walked up the serpentine with her head held high while Sandor walked stiffly behind her. Too soon, they reached the godswood. Sandor had never seen it in the daylight. It really was a beautiful place. He could well understand why Sansa was so drawn to it, and was glad he had decided to tell her the news here. He looked at her. Her face was a mask, but not the mild, expressionless one she used at court. He had never seen her like this. It was the ice-cold fury in her eyes that surprised him the most.

“Sansa, what in the seven hells is bothering you?” he asked, carefully.

“What’s bothering me?” She laughed. “I’ve been begging you to take my maidenhead for weeks, I’ve chosen you to give it to, and you won’t fuck me. You think of my maiden’s gift as throwing you a bone! And you tell me you’re more than your cock, you’re a man, as if I was so small-minded as to only want you for what’s between your fucking legs!” She stopped for a moment, breathing heavily.

“Sansa,” he started, but she cut him off.

“And at the wells today I heard some girl boasting about how you fucked her twice, just last night, and she called you the Horse because your cock is so big!”

“I swore no vows to you,” he snarled. “I’m a man, I have needs.”

“Needs!” she cried. She lashed out and struck him full in the face, hard. “Fuck your needs!” She slapped him again, putting all her strength behind the blow. His face stung and suddenly his anger died within him. He saw himself from her eyes, saw how he’d belittled her last night when she tried to explain why she wanted to give him her maiden’s gift and he all but accused her of being like the kitchen maid he’d fucked later. He realized what a fucking dog he’d been, but there was nothing he could have done at that moment to stop her rage.

“You could have fucked me!” Sansa’s voice was thick with contempt. “But I thank the gods now that you didn’t. How could I have ever thought so highly of you that I would want to give you what a maiden should only give to her lord husband? I hardly even remember why I thought you were so worthy of my… my affections.”

Without another word, she started walking back towards the entrance to the godswood, as if she couldn’t get away from him fast enough. Fuck.

“Sansa, listen to me,” he tried. “I—“

“Thank you, my lord. I shall be quite safe returning to my rooms alone,” she said, neither looking at him nor slowing her stride.

Sandor recognized her court voice, and he felt a stab of… of shame at what he’d done. He hated it, hated how powerless and small and angry it made him feel, but he had to own it. He’d spoken to her roughly before, but never wronged her, until last night, when she was resting peacefully on his chest after they had found their pleasure in each other. And to make it worse, he had gone too far just now and hurt her in the worst possible way. She expected Joffrey and the Queen and the Kingsguard and the gods knew who else to hurt her. But not him. And he had taken her trust and her fondness for him and thrown it in her face, disgraced her. It was a betrayal, and he knew it.

“Sansa…” he tried once more, but she would not respond. His words might as well have been wind. He followed her all the way down the serpentine and across the drawbridge, and when they reached her rooms she went through her door and closed it carefully behind her without a word. She never even looked at him.

 

 

Chapter Text

Sansa closed the door carefully, wishing she could slam it. She’d thought she was angry when she overheard the women at the wells, but that was nothing compared to how she felt now. She had never known she was capable of feeling such deep, overwhelming rage. She wasn’t even horrified about slapping the Hound, twice, even though she knew she should be. A lady should always maintain her composure. Only little children resorted to hitting people when they were upset. Until now she would have been aghast at even thinking about striking anyone, but at this very moment she didn’t care. She paced about the room angrily, picking things up and putting them down again, and imagined how satisfying it would be to hurl them at the walls. Or at the Hound. I must have been mad to have wanted him. What kind of lady threw herself at someone like the Hound? Her mother and Septa Mordane would have been so ashamed if they’d known how wantonly she’d behaved in these past few weeks. Let him have his kitchen maids. He probably had whores, too.

When she passed by her dressing table, Sansa caught her reflection in the mirror and stopped dead in her tracks, startled by what she saw. Her eyes flashed with anger and were a deep, dark, stormy blue. With her cheeks flushed and hair tousled from the wind, bosom heaving with the effort of containing her wrath, she looked as if she had just been with a lover. She looked magnificent, and she studied her reflection with pride. He could have had me, but he chose a kitchen wench instead. He would be feeling the loss much more painfully than she would, that was for certain. Thank the gods he showed me his true nature now, before I gave him my maidenhead. The Hound had no honor at all. She couldn’t understand why she had ever believed otherwise. She had prayed to the old gods to help her win the Hound’s heart, but she should thank the Seven for rescuing her from her folly. I will go to the sept and light candles to the Mother and the Maiden. And from this day forward, she resolved never more to let herself care about who the Queen finally betrothed her to. It was useless to fret over it. The most she could do was to accept her lot in life. Sandor Clegane was the only man she had ever wanted, and he had betrayed her. There would be no one else, and there was no use hoping for something she would never have.

Sansa was deep in thought and didn’t hear the footsteps approaching her rooms. She poured a cup of wine and began brushing her hair, and nearly jumped out of her skin when a heavy mailed fist pounded at her door. Had the Hound come back to beg her forgiveness? She wanted nothing to do with him. It might be a summons. She sighed and knew she could not ignore it. As she crossed the room, she prayed that Joffrey was not calling for her. Her hands shook a little as they always did when someone came to her door, and she reached out to open it.

It was Ser Meryn. Gods be good.

“I’m to bring you to the Queen,” he announced, giving her a look of pure loathing. Sansa asked leave for a moment to tidy her appearance and change her gown before resigning herself to the cruel knight’s escort. All of her defiance had drained away. She felt a small relief knowing she wouldn’t have to face a beating. Perhaps the Queen wanted to show her the gowns she’d been measured for recently. She focused on thoughts of her new wardrobe to distract herself from her mounting anxiety. And then she realized they weren’t going in the direction of the Queen’s solar at all. Ser Meryn was taking her to the room where the small council met. Cersei wouldn’t be calling her before the small council to discuss her clothing. If it was something involving the small council, it could only be… Sansa’s heart slowly began to fill with dread. She is going to tell me I must marry, I know it.

By the time they reached the council chamber, fear had overwhelmed her so she could scarcely breathe. Her throat was so dry she couldn’t even swallow, and her fingers felt cold and bloodless. I am Sansa Stark of Winterfell. I am a wolf. I can be brave. Several guards flanked the opening to the room, and Sansa walked past them with quiet dignity, Ser Meryn at her back. But when she heard the hinges creaking as the heavy doors were closed behind her, it was all she could do not to run away as fast as she could.

***********************

Sandor walked angrily along the battlements, hating himself with every step. He would be on duty for the next four hours, which gave him plenty of time to think about his fight with Sansa when he would much rather be drinking to forget it. She would know by now that she was to marry him. He wondered how she’d taken the news. Bloody fool, how do you think? The pain in her eyes when he told her he’d sworn no vows—before she found her rage and slapped him—haunted him worse than her blows or her iciness afterwards. Stupid fucking dog. This wasn’t the first time a woman had been angry at him, but it was the first time he felt like it was his fault. He thought he was being so gallant to try and tell her the news of their impending marriage first, so that the small council wouldn’t have the pleasure of seeing the shock on her face. He’d come to her door like some fat lord all puffed up with honors, assuming she would be happy to see him. The cold greeting he’d gotten instead had irritated him, but he didn’t pay it much mind because he imagined that she would soon be crying tears of joy when he told her they were to be husband and wife. He’d never gotten that chance though. She’d torn into him with a fury he never imagined she possessed, and he’d lashed back at her like he always did when he was provoked, when he should have been trying to calm her down and comfort her.

It was unthinkable to him that she would be jealous of a kitchen wench. He almost never even fucked the same woman twice. Sometimes one or another of them would make more of it than there was and become jealous. It was no hair off his arse. But Sansa Stark? She was the only woman he’d ever cared about. He’d never given any of the others reason to believe he wanted them for more than a fuck; if they wanted to pretend he did, that was their foolishness. On the rare occasion one of them bothered him about it, he would laugh in her face and tell her to bugger off. Surely Sansa could see that it was different with her. He’d mocked her when they met in the godswood that first night after they collided on the serpentine, when she said that she’d felt drawn to him, but the truth was, he had been feeling the same way about her… for years. Fucking a kitchen wench had nothing to do with how he felt about Sansa.

He could tell that it had upset her deeply, but it was so fucking absurd, he’d lost his patience and said the worst possible thing. I swore no vows to you. If he’d been nicer about it, she might have forgiven him for fucking the other woman. But it was about more than that. The root of it all seemed to be his refusal to fuck Sansa because he thought she only wanted him for his cock. He groaned inwardly. Bloody buggering fool. He didn’t know how he’d gotten such a notion in his useless head. She’d always been so courteous, treating him the same as any high lord from the day he’d met her. She had even cupped his cheek and prayed for him when he came to her after he’d abandoned the Battle of the Blackwater… while he was holding a dagger to her throat. There was another night, when she was even younger, when he’d terrified her on the way back from the tourney grounds, then told her how he got his scars. He’d thought she would start to cry, but she had instead reached out and laid her soft hand on his shoulder and whispered words of comfort. Walking the battlements, he realized that she was the only person in his life who had ever treated him like the man he was. Everyone else treated him like a dog. And after this afternoon, he wouldn’t blame Sansa if she started to also. He had denied her the same respect he’d demanded she give him.

Seven bloody buggering hells.

******************************

Septa Mordane had a saying. More tears are shed over answered prayers than unanswered ones. When Sansa was little, she refused to believe it. It was beyond comprehension. How could anyone be sad if the gods gave them something they wanted? She understood it now. She couldn’t remember if she had ever prayed to the gods to let her stay in King’s Landing with Joffrey, when her father wanted to send her and Arya back to Winterfell. She probably had. She had experienced no end of grief as a result. And now. She had prayed to the gods to help her with Sandor, and they had. She had also prayed to them not to let her be married to some high lord she didn’t know, or worse, a Frey. She laughed bitterly. They had certainly answered that prayer. The small council had informed her that she was to be married… to a high lord that she did know.

Her heart had been pounding so hard in her chest as the Queen said the words, the blood rushing in her ears as she knelt in a curtsey, head bowed low, so she could scarcely hear. It had taken several moments for her to comprehend what she’d just been told.

“The Lord of the Crossing, whose seat is at The Twins on the Green Fork of the Trident, formerly held by House Frey, now held by House Clegane.”

Not a Frey.

Sandor Clegane.

It was all just a blur now. Sansa had been so shocked, she couldn’t remember exactly what was said, except for those words. And Joffrey. His Grace had cackled with laughter after the announcement was made. “Marry a wolf to a dog, how do you like that, Sansa?” She was sure she’d been gaping at them stupidly.

Sansa shook her head with a sigh. She wouldn’t have to fear beatings from Sandor, but she would never be happy with him either. Not after today. She could still hear the women’s raucous laughter as they gossiped about him. “He fucked me twice last night, and I said his cock is so big he should be called the Horse.” She wanted to hate them, but now that her anger had burned away, she couldn’t. She, too, had wanted the Hound. “I swore no vows to you.” She winced. That hurt more than anything, even more than finding out he had gone looking for another woman after he’d taken her back to her rooms. He’d probably been fucking the blond girl while Sansa was sitting in her window seat, thinking about him. An image came to her, of Sandor lying on top of the kitchen wench, sweating and grunting, hips bucking as he thrust his cock into her, the girl’s legs wrapped tightly around his waist. Her face burned with the humiliation of it all. But if he hadn’t been so hateful to her when she confronted him about it, she probably could have forgiven him. He could see how upset I was. He should have tried to comfort me, but instead he hurt me even more. If he loved her, he would never have been so cruel. He’d made her feel foolish, and used. Had it all really happened only just this afternoon?

It was late, and Sansa was utterly exhausted. She would get little rest between now and the wedding. The Queen’s seamstresses were coming in the morning to deliver her new wardrobe, and she must needs decide what to bring with her from the Red Keep to her new household at the Twins. She had little enough to call her own, having been the Lannister’s ward for years, but it would still take some time to go through it all. Yawning, she rose from her dressing table to strip off her gown, then blew out her candles and tumbled into bed. She tossed and turned, trying in vain to stop her mind from flitting uselessly from one thought to the next. Too much had happened all in one day. Finally, she threw her covers back and put on a warm robe, taking the remainder of her flagon of Arbor Gold with her to the window seat. There she sat, sipping straight from the flagon as she watched moonlit clouds flitting across the sky ahead of a storm. Lightning flashed on the horizon. The faint rumble of thunder grew louder as she nursed her wine, and brief gusts of wind teased her hair. Rain began to fall just as she finished the last of it, and she closed her shutters reluctantly when the wind began to bring too much of it in through the window. She was asleep almost as soon as her head touched her pillows.

The next day dawned dark and dreary. Rain was still coming down in sheets. Sansa struggled with the urge to stay in her warm bed, but she knew it would be better for her spirits if she got up and kept busy. She felt so listless. Her maids brought up a bath and washed her hair and scrubbed her until she was pink. They were brushing her hair by the fire when the seamstresses were ushered into her room, with several chests full of gowns, smallclothes, cloaks, and even jewels. As the women fussed over her, Sansa began to feel better. Her new wardrobe really was lovely to behold. The Queen had spared no expense, she thought, as she stroked the fine soft wools, delicate silks, and richly patterned brocades. The jewels were beautifully wrought. There was a necklace of rose gold and amethysts in all different shades of purple, each stone set in rows of filigree, jade bracelets and earrings set in yellow gold, and another necklace of silver with the most beautiful sapphires she had ever seen. As blue as my lady mother’s eyes once were. It had earrings to match. There were also silver and gold chains unadorned with jewels, and she liked those just as much as the more showy pieces. Her maids dressed her in each gown for the dressmakers’ inspection. Sansa looked at herself in the mirror in wonder. Her old gowns had been so ill-fitting, but the new ones revealed her willowy figure, and she could see that her breasts were ample for her age, although not so large as to seem brazen. Her torso narrowed to a tiny waist, and her hips swelled enticingly. I truly am a woman now.

She chose to wear a soft wool gown in a rich shade of brown with flowers and vines embroidered in gold thread along the neck, sleeves, and hem. Her maids drew back the curtains, and she sat beside the fire working on her embroidery while the rain beat against the stained glass of the window. It was wonderfully soothing after the events of the previous day, and Sansa felt herself relax for the first time in weeks. The weather was too foul even for the short walk to the sept, giving her an excuse to stay shut up in her rooms so she wouldn’t have to go anywhere and risk running into Sandor Clegane. She wondered what it would be like to have him as her lord husband, especially now that… Well, she would find out soon enough.

Truth be told, she was more concerned about making a life for herself at the Twins, in the very castle where her lady mother and brother Robb were murdered. Would their souls haunt her? Would her grief be overwhelming? Could she ever feel at home there? Perhaps she could take up residence in the other castle. But if Robb’s and her mother’s spirits still dwelled in the castle, would they not be offended if she shunned the place of their death? She decided to honor their memory, and that of all of her family, even Jon Snow, by having grand tapestries made of their likenesses and hung in the great hall where all the important events took place. It would bring her comfort to look on their faces and remember how happy they had all been before King Robert and the Lannisters had come to Winterfell.

Sansa went to bed early and slept peacefully the whole night through, for the first time in days. The morning dawned bright and cold, and she decided to visit both the sept and the godswood. As distasteful as the idea of marrying the Hound was to her now, she could not deny that she had been extremely fortunate. She knew he would never physically hurt her, and she was going to be leaving King’s Landing at last. She owed both the old gods and the new her thanks. She broke her fast, and her maids bathed her and dressed her in one of her new gowns, a beautiful sea-foam green damask. She declined to wear any jewels for fear of seeming above herself, choosing a simple gold chain instead. She threw a deep green cloak over her shoulders too keep off the chill. She enjoyed her new finery, but when she left her rooms she felt a bit conspicuous and was even more glad of the cloak.

She would visit the godswood first. It felt like ages since she had been there. As she crossed the drawbridge and made her way up the serpentine stairs, she found herself remembering the night she and the Hound had been brought together. How their chance meeting had awoken something inside of her that she’d hardly been aware of. How excited she’d been, so that the moment she was alone again she had taken her pleasure just thinking about what it would feel like to lie naked beneath him and feel his huge cock inside her. A sweet ache begin to build between her legs and a flood of wetness soaked her smallclothes, the memory was so vivid. She shook her head to clear her thoughts. I swore no vows to you. She would not let herself forget how he had wronged her.

The godswood was so different in the bright light of day. She hadn’t noticed the last time she was here because she’d been so angry with the Hound. She strolled its grounds, perhaps for the last time, and felt sad knowing that once she was gone, no one would visit the trees that had given her so much comfort over the years. She found herself standing in front of the pool in the glade deep in the woods, where the Hound had first given her release and spilled his seed on her belly while she held him in her hands. Her throat felt tight with sorrow. What is wrong with me? The Hound has no honor, but at least he will take me away from King’s Landing. I will soon start a life of my own, as a woman grown. These trees will not grieve for me! She walked back to the heart tree, blinking back tears, and knelt in front of it. I am leaving soon, and may not ever come back. I would give thanks to you gods for listening to me and watching over me all these years. I know you could not always help. But you helped me with the Hound. He is no true knight, but he will never beat me or let anyone hurt me again. And he is at least known to me. She couldn’t think of what else to say, so she rose and dusted off her dress, and returned to the Red Keep.

******************

Sandor was crossing the drawbridge when he saw the little bird walking towards him with her head down, lost in thought. He couldn’t look away from her. She was wearing a new gown, one that left no doubt that she was a woman now. His eyes traced the line of her cleavage and followed the soft curve of her breasts, remembering how perfectly they filled his hands when he cupped them. He felt his cock growing hard and could almost taste her hard pink nipples in his mouth. He stood in her path and said nothing, waiting for her to bump into him, but she raised her head just in time and saw him. Her pace faltered for a moment, but she soon regained her composure. “My lord,” she said coolly, and moved to pass him.

“Sansa.”

She stopped and turned to face him. “Yes, my lord?”

“Walk with me,” he said, and then as she took a breath to answer, “Please.”

She looked at him in silence for half a heartbeat, and then nodded.

He led her in silence past her rooms and up the stairs to the roof of Maegor’s Holdfast, and watched her while she gazed out over the city, across the river to the Kingswood. It was windy this high up, and Sansa wrapped her cloak tightly about herself. Sandor wasn’t quite sure what to say. He cleared his throat and asked, “They told you?”

Sansa finally looked up at him. “How long have you known?”

Sandor considered lying and telling her that they’d told him just before he came to her. But if she somehow found out about the lie, it would make everything worse. “A sennight,” he admitted.

She jerked back as if he’d struck her. “A sennight? Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Sansa, I…” Fuck. He should have thought this out better. He didn’t know how to tell her he’d been waiting for her to... Prove her love for you, you great bloody fool? Waiting until he knew she wanted him for more than his cock. But he couldn’t say it. It sounded bad, there was no denying it. He cursed.

“Perhaps you were hoping to fuck all of the kitchen maids before I found out! Perhaps I should ask leave of the Queen to bring them to the Twins, so you won’t be lonely!” she said, almost shouting.

He could feel his anger beginning to boil but this time he didn’t let it get out of hand. His face darkened, but he took a deep breath before he spoke. “Sansa,” he said calmly, “I hardly ever fuck the kitchen wenches.”

“But you fucked her and you KNEW we were to be married!” Gods, she looked beautiful when she was angry. He tried again.

“Sansa, what I did was wrong, but—“

“Speak to me no more, my lord. And I will thank you not to follow me back to my rooms,” she said haughtily, and whirled away from him. He knew he should try to stop her, but he had fucked up enough for now. Her wounds were still too fresh, and he needed to give them more time to heal.

********************

Sansa folded another gown into her cedar chest. It had been four days since she last saw the Hound. She had seen him once or twice about the castle, but they never came close enough to exchange words. She was thankful for that. The last time she saw him, he had destroyed the little peace she had managed to find within herself. As her wedding day drew near, she was finding it more and more difficult to hide her feelings. She would snap at her maids for the smallest things, such as tugging her hair when they brushed it, and was increasingly prone to weeping spells at night. She wished she could be happy, she did. Sandor was trying to woo her, and it should have gladdened her heart to know that he wanted to show her how much he cared for her. That evening after their last fight, a dozen lemon cakes had been brought up with her supper. There was no note, but Sansa knew they had to have been from him. She hadn’t asked for lemon cakes in ages. The next day, when she came back from the sept, she found on her table a beautiful pair of gold-handled embroidery scissors cleverly fashioned to look like a long-legged water bird. After that, an embroidered sash of yellow silk, with black dogs intertwined like vines, and tiny white birds and flowers here and there in their midst. Yesterday, a page boy brought her a heavy package wrapped in linen. When she opened it, she saw it was a book of songs, all of her old favorites, and many new ones too. It was gorgeously illuminated. Nothing had come yet today.

But as much as she wanted them to, Sandor Clegane’s gifts did nothing to soften her heart. She felt empty inside. It is easy enough to send gifts. Harder to admit fault. Harder still to beg forgiveness. Her seething anger had grown cold, and a feeling of heavy sadness had taken its place. They would be departing the Red Keep for the Twins in two days. Not very long ago at all, she would have been giddy with excitement, and she wished she had never gone to the wells that awful day.

A knock at the door brought her back to the task at hand. She stood and smoothed her skirts. What did he send me this time? she wondered, and opened the door. But the Hound himself stood outside. Sansa’s heart skipped a beat. I almost feel glad to see him, she thought, wonderingly.

“Sansa,” he rasped. “Will you come to the godswood with me? Please.”

She almost refused, but that would have been rude, so she threw on her cloak and stepped into the hall. Sandor offered his arm, to her surprise. She took it. One of the guards on the drawbridge sniggered as they walked past and Sansa braced herself for the Hound’s anger, but he ignored the man, so she did, too. Together they climbed the serpentine steps, side by side. She found herself enjoying their closeness in spite of herself. Being so near the Hound, knowing they were to marry, made her feel safe in a way that she had not felt in many years. Even though she no longer cared for him, she felt a twinge of pride when she glanced up at him and took in the silhouette of his strong features against the brilliant blue sky, the long black hair stirring in the breeze, and his magnificent physique. But an image flashed in her mind’s eye, of him fucking the kitchen wench in some dark corner while she sat in her room thinking about him. And just as quickly, that vision was replaced by the look on his face and the rage in his eyes as he’d snarled and told her he’d sworn no vows to her. She looked away. I mustn’t grow fond of him again.

They entered the godswood, and Sandor led her to the heart tree. For long moments, they simply stood and looked at each other. The Hound seemed different somehow. He looked the same, but something was off… Sansa could smell the smoky scent of his soap. Normally he smelled of sweat and leather and wine. She studied him more closely and saw that his boots and leather jerkin had been buffed to a soft sheen, and the lank hair that fell about his shoulders had been washed and brushed. He wore a cloak of thick, dark wool, finely woven, not the drab roughspun cloak he normally wore. It was fastened with a jeweled brooch that she had only seen him wear once before, during Joffrey’s name day tourney. She suddenly realized that he had taken great care in his appearance this morning. He wanted to look his best when he came to see me, she thought, feeling a stab of tenderness towards him in spite of her misgivings. She was deeply touched that he would make such an effort to make her see him favorably.

Neither had said a word since leaving her rooms. Sansa wondered if he was expecting her to say something, when he spoke.

“Seven hells, Sansa, I’m a damned, bloody fool,” he said. “I shouldn’t have fucked the kitchen maid. You were right to be angry. I should have been faithful, especially knowing I was to take you to wife. Even if we weren’t to be married... I acted like a dog, not a man.” He took a deep breath. “It’s not just about the wench, I know that. I shouldn’t have made little of your feelings for me, either. I’ve wanted you for years. I never thought you would want me. I should have given you anything you asked for. I dishonored you in that, too.”

Sansa’s throat was tight. She knew what it meant for a man like the Hound to admit he’d wronged her and make an apology. He’d had to… to be brave, even though it was a different sort of courage than one he’d need on the battlefield. She knew and understood this kind of courage; it was something she had discovered within herself that day so many years ago when she had walked alone into the throne room and begged Joffrey for her father’s life.

He went on. “We’re to wed in a week. I want to be a good husband to you. I want you to be happy as my lady wife. A fortnight ago… I wish I could… I never wanted to hurt you, and I am truly sorry for what I did to cause you so much pain.”

As Sandor struggled to find the words, Sansa’s heart began to melt. She struggled to stay aloof, but she wanted so much to be able to love him again, and to believe that he truly cared for her too. He was trying so hard. He sounded so sincere. She looked deep into his eyes and wanted to believe him.

“Sansa, I’ve been unfaithful to you only the once, since I started meeting you in the godswood. I’ll not touch another woman again, besides you. You have my word. I only want you. I’d promise never again to make you cry, but I’m a bloody fool and I’m bound to fuck up again, more than once. But I’ll do my best not to.”

Sansa hadn’t realized she was holding her breath until she let it out. He’d told her what she needed to hear. He’d made a mistake, and he knew it, that was plain to see. It was a big one, but hadn’t she made her own mistakes? She didn’t want to think about what some of them had cost her. And she realized that she didn’t want Sandor Clegane to be one of those mistakes. Now was the time to forgive him; he had too much pride to keep after her about it if she didn’t, when he’d done so much to try and make things up to her. And he might come to resent her, as she had resented him in the last week. It had been awful. She didn’t want to feel that way anymore. She reached out and took his hand.

“We’ve both suffered enough over this,” she said, slowly. “I thank you for… for trying to make things better. On our wedding day, I want us to declare our love for each other before the gods and not have it be a lie. I… I will put all this behind me.” She smiled at him, shyly.

“Sansa…” He gathered her into his arms and held her close. “I’ve bloody well missed you. We’re not like to meet again until the day we wed.”

“Then you must give me something to look forward to,” she teased, but she caught her breath at the hunger that flared in his eyes. He kissed her hard, twining his fingers in her hair, and Sansa threw her arms around his neck, suddenly bursting with need, her mouth devouring his. Gods, but she had missed him, too. He’s mine, she thought, triumphantly. A thrill went through her knowing that no other woman could ever have him again, much as they might want him. The thought of it was incredibly arousing. She moaned, kissing him deeply, and reached down to rub his manhood through his breeches, parting her legs so she could grind her hips against his muscular thigh. Sandor cupped her breast in his hand and squeezed as he stroked her nipple with his thumb. She gasped as his other hand cupped her arse and pressed her hard against him while he thrust his hips against her hand. She was blazing with desire and whimpered as her smallclothes became soaked with her wetness. Sandor abruptly tore his mouth away from hers and stopped her hand. He stepped back, breathing hard.

“Little bird, we keep going like this, you’ll not come to me a maid on our wedding day,” he said hoarsely.

Sansa lowered her gaze, struggling to calm herself. Sandor was right, of course. But after all they’d been through, she felt an almost overpowering need to be close to him, like they’d been before their fight, to feel his hands on her and to touch him, stroke him, kiss him and feel his tongue sliding against hers, to wrap her arms around his powerful shoulders and feel him thrusting his manhood against her, for him to stroke her between her legs and bring her to release and as he spilled his seed on her belly. She licked her lips and tried to focus on what he’d said, even as her eyes lingered on the bulge between his legs.

“I know what you’re thinking, Sansa, and I want it too. But I won’t be able to stop myself this time,” he warned.

In just a few days, she would be his wife and he would finally take her maidenhead. It almost didn’t seem real. She took deep breaths, and found her composure. Sandor let go of her hand and Sansa looked up at him again, smiling. He brushed a strand of hair away from her face, and she reached up to cup his cheek in her hand.

“I’m glad it’s you,” she said, softly.

Sandor took her hand and gave it a squeeze before releasing it. “Little bird…” he murmured. Then he turned her back towards the entrance to the godswood and gave her a gentle push. “We’d best get back to the Keep.”

Chapter Text

Sansa stood in the balcony with the other highborn ladies, nervously clutching the rail as she looked down upon the scene below. The throne room buzzed with anticipation. Joffrey, making a show of his power, had decided to hear cases, but the lords and most of the smallfolk who crowded the hall were present for another reason. Today, the King would bestow the lordship of the Twins on one of his loyal subjects, and every nobleman in the room hoped it would be him. The herald dismissed the petitioners remaining to be heard when His Grace grew weary of passing judgments, and the throne room grew quiet. Joffrey stood and smiled. “It is a king’s duty to reward loyalty and service to the Realm. Today, I wish to reward my most faithful and loyal subject with a fine gift, long past due.”

Lord Sandor Clegane,” the herald called out. From where she stood, Sansa could see the crowd stir as the contenders glanced about in surprise. The confused murmuring that began at the herald’s announcement grew louder as Sandor crossed the room to kneel in front of the throne. Sansa’s heart swelled with pride. He was the very image of what a noble warrior should look like, and she marveled at the thought that not so very long ago, she had desired the Knight of Flowers more than any other man in Westeros. She looked upon Sandor’s face, at his sharp cheekbones and burn scars, his heavy brow and large, hooked nose, and knew that he would never be considered comely in the eyes of most women. Only a short time ago, she could hardly bear to look at his face herself because his burns and angry eyes frightened her so. But now she thought his strong, harsh features made him even more beautiful and pleasing to look at than Loras Tyrell. And his roughspun cloaks and drab, faded tunics had been replaced with garments made of the finest wool, richly dyed in the plain, dark colors he’d always favored. Cersei had probably made him do it so he would look more the part of a high lord, but Sansa approved of the change nonetheless. She leaned over the balcony rail to watch.

“Grand Maester Pycelle, I command you to read my decrees.” Joffrey sounded every inch the king today.

Pycelle stood a bit unsteadily and cleared his throat. “It is the wish of His Grace that his loyal servant, Sandor Clegane, be released from the Kingsguard and his honored place as the King’s own sworn shield, and be at once raised to the rank of lord and granted the ancient seat of the Twins with all its attendant lands and incomes, and that his sons and grandsons shall hold these honors after him until the end of time. So the king has decreed. The small council consents.”

The announcement resulted in an uproar, as Sansa had expected. Westeros had been ravaged by the war that started almost four years ago with the execution of her father. Many of the lords and ladies from old, rich houses had seen their lands all but ruined. Harvests had been burned, grain confiscated, livestock stolen or killed. The smallfolk who’d tended the estates had been killed in great numbers or driven off all throughout the Riverlands, so that these lords were gaining precious little income from their holdings. The Twins, however, still had its holdings largely intact, due to the treachery of Walder Frey. No doubt many of the highborn lords who had suffered great losses felt they had a better claim to the lordship and the riches of the Twins. They would have no hope of restoring their properties until the war was over. Even though no battles had been fought in the last year, the war dragged on. Stannis was still pressing his claim to the throne, and the Riverlords and Northmen had never bent the knee. They’d caused no trouble outright, but the threat that they would throw in with Stannis was always present.

But old names and ruined villages and the troubles of lords and smallfolk would never move Joffrey. And he was very fond of Sandor Clegane, in his own way. Sandor had served the realm as a warrior and as Joff’s sworn shield for years. No one could deny that he had proved his worth to the kingdom during the Battle of the Blackwater, when he led his men out three times into the wildfire and smoke and blood to push back Stannis’ army. He’d pulled his men out of the fighting before the battle was over, but even so, he had done more to slow the invasion than any of the other heroes Joffrey had rewarded when the fighting was done, and yet the King had never offered him so much as an empty title for his valor. Until now. Sansa felt sorry for the other lords who’d hoped to get the Twins, but she knew Sandor would be a just lord, and if anyone could defend the Crossing against possible rebellions, it would be him. The old houses might hate him for being low-born, but she felt that others surely must respect him for his fierceness as a warrior, his loyalty, his blunt honesty. She couldn’t be the only one who could see past his rough exterior to admire his better qualities. I will make them love him, she vowed.

Joffrey raised a hand, and the noise died down. He turned to Sandor. “Rise, dog. I’ve another little treat for you,” he smirked.

Pycelle stood again. “His Grace the King has decreed that Sansa Stark be released from her betrothal to his own person, and in so doing, the King will accept the fealty of the Riverlords and—“

“I’ll give them their wolf!” Joffrey interrupted, quivering with excitement. He’d clearly been waiting for this moment for days. “But she’ll go to them as my dog’s b—“

“Your Grace!” Cersei called sharply. When Joffrey turned to her with an angry look, she softened her voice. “Your Grace, all who are present must surely be inspired by your generosity, and the great joy it brings you to present such honors to your most loyal servant.” She turned to face the bewildered crowd. “Sansa Stark will return to her mother’s homeland as Sandor Clegane’s wife, and in return, the lords of the Riverlands and the North will swear their fealty to King Joffrey, their true and rightful king. It will mean the end of the war. Though the King is loathe to part with his beloved Sansa, his greatest wish is to see peace restored to the seven kingdoms.”

Sansa let out her breath. It was real now, wasn’t it? The King couldn’t take it back after it had been announced to the whole court. Could he? The ladies in the balcony made sympathetic noises, but Sansa also heard their whispers and tittering, and she could feel their eyes on her. Let them laugh. She didn’t care what they thought. She knew she was the luckiest woman in all of Westeros.

Their betrothal was greeted with surprise and ill-concealed amusement. The people of King’s Landing had little love for her, and maybe even less for Sandor Clegane. She could guess what they were all thinking. ‘It’s no more than she deserves. The Starks of Winterfell are traitors, and she has traitor’s blood in her veins.’ Who better to wed her to than the Hound, who was known for his loyalty to the Lannisters and King Joffrey? The court and all of King’s Landing, who held her in contempt because of her family’s treasons, would see it as a delicious sort of comeuppance. ‘The girl who would have been Queen of the Seven Kingdoms ends up married to the King’s dog.’ She wanted to laugh at them all. She wanted to show them all how much she and Sandor loved each other. But it was their secret for now. Though Sansa suspected the match had been the Queen’s idea, Joffrey would take it all away if he knew he was giving them exactly what they wanted.

Joffrey’s face was reddening. He hated being interrupted. He held his hand up for silence once again. “No, mother. I want my dog and his bride to have a homecoming fit for a king.” He forced a smile and a laugh. “What better way for the Riverlords to greet their new liege lord than a grand celebration and a feast? It is more fitting that the wedding take place at the Twins.” Now it was Cersei’s turn to look angry. Joff grinned maliciously at his mother, then turned to Sandor. “Dog, we will give you a royal escort as our wedding gift. Besides, I want to see the traitors’ faces as they bend the knee to me.” And with that, he stormed out of the room with the Kingsguard in his wake. The herald dismissed the court.

Oh, no! Sansa’s heart fell, and she didn’t bother to hide her dismay. Anyone seeing her would think she was distressed at being cast aside to marry the Hound. How could she possibly wait that long? She was madly in love with Sandor, it was too cruel to have to wait so long for her wedding night! But there was no changing Joffrey’s mind once he’d given a royal command. Not even the Queen had influence over him then. She stared despondently at Sandor. His face was tight with anger, but whether it was because of Joffrey’s insults or the postponement of their wedding, she couldn’t tell.

The crowd was streaming out of the throne room, buzzing with excited chatter. The ladies left the balcony in pairs and small groups, giving Sansa smug glances as they passed, until only her maids remained. Finally, Sansa moved away from the railing and made her way down the stairs to find Sandor waiting for her. His eyes flashed with anger, and his mouth twitched.

“My lady,” he said, nodding his head stiffly. He offered her his arm, and she took it. Her maids trailed after them as they walked down the corridors to her rooms. She thought about asking him to take her to the godswood, but wasn’t sure if she should. Shouldn’t a lady distraught at being cast aside—by the King no less—take to her rooms in anguish? But why shouldn’t she pray for comfort instead? She suspected her maids would report it to Cersei, but Sansa decided that surely the Queen wouldn’t think it amiss.

“My lord, I wish to go to the godswood. Please,” she said, meekly.

“If it please you,” Sandor rasped in his deep voice. “My lady.”

Her maids followed them all the way up the serpentine. Sansa stopped short of the godswood and turned to them crossly. “Why are you still following me?” she demanded.

“Her Grace the Queen commanded us to attend you at all times, as it would be improper for you to be alone with your betrothed.” The girl blushed.

An older maid wasn’t so shy. “So that you come to your wedding with your maiden’s gift intact,” she said bluntly. The maids smirked at each other, scarcely bothering to hide it.

Sansa’s face was hot with fury. “I cannot pray with a crowd gaping at my every move,” she snapped, even though she often prayed in the sept amongst far more people. But was angry, and she wanted her anger known, even though her maids probably didn’t even care and she wouldn’t achieve anything by scolding them.

She turned to Sandor. “My lord, I would return to my rooms, please.” She glared at her maids and moved to take a step, but he stopped her, his strong fingers wrapped around her arm in an iron grip. She glanced at him over her shoulder in surprise, and he roughly pulled her around to face him again. One arm encircled her waist and the other was wrapped around her shoulders, pressing her body so tightly against his she could hardly breathe, and it all happened so fast she’d had no time at all to react. He wrapped his hand in her hair so that she couldn’t turn away from him, and then he was kissing her, in front of her maids, moving his mouth firmly against hers, urging her to part her lips and touch her tongue to his own as if they were alone together in the godswood under the cover of darkness instead of standing there on the steps of the serpentine, with the sun shining down and half a dozen maids gaping at them in disbelief. She whimpered when she felt the hardness of his manhood pressing into her belly and yielded to his kiss for half a heartbeat, and just as quickly wrenched herself away from him, before she forgot herself and wrapped her arms around his neck or reached for his manhood. They shared a quick look before Sansa lowered her eyes in feigned embarrassment.

“As you wish, my lady,” Sandor said, his voice like steel scraping against stone. He looked at the maids, each one of them in turn, his eyes daring them to say something, but they all shied away from his hard gaze and they descended the serpentine in silence. Sansa wanted desperately to talk to him, to ease her disappointment in the comfort of his arms, but she couldn’t say anything where her maids could hear. The unspoken words lodged in her throat so that she hardly managed to thank Sandor when he left her at the door to her rooms.

They departed King’s Landing eight days later, after giving the supply wagons a head start to make things ready for their arrival at the Twins. The High Septon himself was to travel with the company and perform the marriage rites, at the King’s command. It was a great honor, of course, but truth be told, they could be married by a wandering septon instead and it would all be the same to Sansa; she was leaving King’s Landing, she would be free of the Lannisters, and she was to marry Sandor. That was all that mattered to her.

Sansa stood still as a statue amidst the bustle and noise of the yard on the morning of their departure. Men and women were shouting and laughing, horses stamped their feet and snorted, and wagonloads were being tied down even while someone was begging to add just one more thing. The noise echoed off the walls and washed over her as she watched Sandor and his men make their final preparations. Sandor had his back to her. He had just checked his saddlebags and was now tying on his bedroll. When he finished, he slapped Stranger’s shoulder and gave the reins to his squire while he scanned the yard. Looking for her, she hoped. When he saw her, their eyes locked, and she couldn’t look away, even if she wanted to.

***************

Sandor crossed the yard towards Sansa, glancing neither left nor right, never once breaking their gaze. She stared at him intensely, and he drank in the sight of her. When he reached her, he wished he could touch her face, her hair, hold her and kiss her, but he couldn’t. He was the Hound, King Joffrey’s dog. If he acted like some bloody gallant knight, all eyes would be on them in an instant and the fucking gossips would start whispering.

He bowed stiffly. “My lady,” he said. He wanted to say more. And so did she. He could see it in her eyes. That was some comfort, to know that she was struggling as much as he was.

“I pray that you will have a pleasant journey, my lord,” she said. “May the gods keep you safe.” He snorted at that, and the little bird risked a hint of a smile. He didn’t believe in the gods and she knew it; he had often mocked her for her piety.

“You also, my lady.” Without thinking, he reached to touch her, but he remembered just in time and stopped the motion abruptly. Seven bloody buggering hells. It made his blood boil to have to be so careful all the time. Why should he be? He was the Hound, to everyone but Sansa, a mean, bad-tempered, half-wild dog, someone had once said of him. Everyone was afraid of him. If I’m half wild… Sansa’s beautiful eyes were still fixed on his, a deep blue gaze smoldering with desire, and he could feel his cock growing hard just from the nearness of her… and that look in her eyes. It was loud in the yard. No one would overhear what he was about to say to her.

“Sansa,” he said in a low voice, “I’m going to kiss you. Pretend you don’t like it.” Her eyes widened in astonishment, and then he had her in his arms and was kissing her hard as the driving force of his pent up lust surged through him. Sansa shoved her hands against his chest and tried to step back, away from him, grinding her hips against his as she struggled. He bent lower, forcing her to lean back, and tightened his arm around her waist to adjust the angle of their hips. His cock was hard as iron, pressing against her cleft now, and he could feel the heat between her legs. It was all he could do not to thrust against her as she wriggled and pushed and squirmed against his cock just like he’d hoped she would. Gods. It felt so bloody good, too fucking good, and it had been so long since he’d had her, or any woman… If he didn’t let her go now he’d probably have his release standing right there in the middle of the fucking yard. He loosened his arms and the little bird pushed him away, staggering back a step. She covered her face with her hands, looking horrified as the crowd in the yard hooted and laughed, but the sparkle in her eyes told him everything he needed to know. Dogs will be dogs. He gave her a nod and strode back to his men, almost wishing he hadn’t pulled that little trick. He needed a fuck now more than ever.

They were all ready now and mounted on their horses. Sandor swung into his saddle. He was flanked by two squires, each carrying a Clegane banner, and followed by the men-at-arms he had chosen to head up the garrison at the Twins. Many of them were men who’d fought with him at the Battle of the Blackwater, and not one of them was a bloody knight. A handful of freeriders had also joined his group in the days since he had been announced as Lord of the Crossing. He shouted at his men to fall in and led the procession out of the castle yard on his huge black stallion, knowing this was likely the last time he would see Sansa until they reached their destination.

***********

She stood there shaking, trying to catch her breath as she watched Sandor ride away. Gods be good. She’d been on the very edge of her release when he let her go; her lady’s place was aching and throbbing with her unquenched desire, and she was still so wet she could feel the moisture trickling down her thighs. The sudden heat that had flared in her belly when Sandor told her he was going to kiss her had turned to wildfire the instant he touched her, and it was still blazing and swirling inside her. She was trying to think of an excuse to run back to her rooms so she could bring herself to release when Cersei’s maids summoned her.

Sansa was to travel with the Queen in her wheelhouse and share her pavilion. She’d wanted to ride with Sandor at least on this first day of their journey, but it would have been unseemly for her to be amongst so many men with none of her ladies about her. She hid her reluctance and thanked the Queen for the pleasure of accompanying her, and settled back against the cushions, trying to ignore the exquisite feeling that shot through her when her thighs rubbed against the sensitive nub between her legs. It was a very comfortable way to travel, she had to admit. The day was cold and windy, and the sky threatened rain. Inside the wheelhouse, a short flight of stairs led to the top level, where a brazier and silk pillows and soft throws kept them warm, and they had wine and lemon cakes and other delectable fare that Sansa was too nervous to eat. There was even a small closet with a chamber pot, so the Queen need never suffer the indignity of answering nature’s call in front of her court. Sansa’s maid and a few of the Queen’s handmaids rode in the lower level, to fetch wine or food as Her Grace commanded.

All but one of her maids, along with everyone else who would be a part of her new household until she could find suitable replacements of her own choosing, had been sent ahead with the baggage trains to make the Twins ready for herself and Sandor and all of their noble guests. Sandor would no longer ride with the royal family, at the Queen’s command. When Sansa asked why, Cersei had snapped at her. “Do you think the Riverlords and the Northmen will pledge their banners to you if they think their liege lord is still ‘King Joffrey’s dog’? What do you think it will look like if he rides triumphantly into the Riverlands at Joffrey’s side? As much as I loathe that prickly lot, they are the key to making peace in the realm, so we must cater to their pride.”

They left the city behind and traveled in silence for some time. Sansa knew she should try making conversation with the Queen and struggled to think of what she might say.

“Have you ever been to the Twins, Your Grace?” she asked, politely, and then cursed herself for being stupid. Of course she has, she was the Queen!

“Of course I have, Sansa,” Cersei snapped in reply, echoing her thoughts. “I was Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. Robert loved nothing more than to parade about the Realm every few years, making a show of being king and basking in the adulation of his subjects. I hated every moment of it.”

“It must have been dreadfully tiring, Your Grace,” Sansa said, and lowered her eyes. She could well believe it, if Cersei’s travels with King Robert had been as strained as these first moments. She wondered if it would be rude for her to work on her sewing so soon into their excursion. Before departing King’s Landing, Sansa had convinced the Queen that she would need a gown in the colors of her father’s house for when she met with the bannermen. She wasn’t quite sure what was going to happen, but felt that it might help them to accept her more readily if she wore the grey and white of House Stark, however she met them. She had cut out all the pieces before they left, and would have plenty of time to finish it during the long trip to the Twins.

Sansa decided not to work on the gown just yet. Cersei was in an irritable mood, and seeing the Stark colors might make it worse. She thought about reading the book of songs that Sandor had given her, tucked inside the little chest with her sewing. But she was afraid that Cersei would ask her where she’d gotten it, and the thought of telling her made her squirm uncomfortably; she couldn’t let the Queen know that she and Sandor had already grown fond of each other, considering she’d been betrothed to Joffrey when it had happened. She glanced up. Cersei was drinking wine and staring off into space, brooding. Sansa thought if she could open the curtains, she would at least have something to look at besides her hands folded in her lap, but when she asked, the Queen declared she would not have the servants looking in and gawking at her like she was a fish in a bowl. Defeated, Sansa decided to pour herself a goblet of wine. Sipping on it would at least give her something to do.

The Queen gave her a sly look. “Are you pleased with your match, Sansa?”

Sansa’s heart skipped a beat, but her voice betrayed none of her anxiety. “Yes, Your Grace. I am grateful to the King for making such an honorable match for me.”

“Grateful? Honorable?” Cersei sounded amused. “Truly?”

“Yes, Your Grace. I am overcome with joy that I am to be married to… to Lord Clegane.” Sansa’s mouth was dry. She took another sip of wine.

“Is that why your maids have reported you crying yourself to sleep at night?”

Sansa flinched. That had happened when she and Sandor had quarreled, though she didn’t think the Queen knew that much of it. “Tears of joy, Your Grace.” Does it give you joy to think me miserable?

Cersei laughed. “You’ve learned to lie so prettily, but don’t think I can’t see right through you. Ser Loras would have been more to your tastes, I’m certain of that. But you’ll do your duty, won’t you?”

“Yes, Your Grace.” Sansa fought hard to keep her face and voice expressionless.

“Sansa, listen to me. You should know why we are sending you to the Twins betrothed to Sandor. Jaime took the Twins, you know that. But it was the Riverlords and the Northmen who helped him. They’ve been shouting for revenge against Walder Frey for years, and as you know, they have never bent the knee to Joffrey. Of late, there have been rumors that they planned to throw in with Stannis to take King’s Landing. So Jaime bought their loyalty by promising to help them take the Twins and destroy the Freys, all under the King’s protection, if they would only bend the knee. But even then, they wouldn’t agree until we also promised to release you.” The Queen paused to take a sip of wine.

Sansa was stunned. She hadn’t thought that anyone, except for Sandor, might care about her now that her family was dead, much less people she had never met. But where would I have gone? Winterfell is… Oh.

Cersei resumed speaking. “They wanted a marriage, of course, and fought over who would get you. Lord Clement Piper had the best claim. He organized the force that infiltrated the castle and opened the gates to Jaime and the others. He wanted you for his son, Marq, who’d been held prisoner there since… Well. It would have been a good match, if only I could trust any of the bannermen to be good, obedient subjects after the marriage was consummated. As things stand, it couldn’t be allowed. The risks are too great.” Sansa kept her eyes lowered. She was afraid to say anything.

“Do you understand what I’m telling you, Sansa?” Cersei asked sharply.

“It is my claim they want, Your Grace. If… If one of the Riverlords or the Northmen could have married me, they’d have Winterfell. They share a grievance, and they could have joined forces to take it back. And then…” She didn’t have to finish the rest.

“A wolf in Winterfell has sharper teeth than one in the Riverlands, especially with Stannis plotting and planning his war at the Wall. We negotiated the surrender, but neither the Northmen nor the Riverlords had the courage to push too hard for the betrothal. It would have been too transparent. So we will wed you to Sandor, who only cares about drinking and fucking and killing, and finally have peace in the realm.” Cersei seemed to be searching her face for something, but Sansa couldn’t tell what it was.

She swallowed and lowered her eyes again. It made her sad to think of how so many people only wanted her for her claim, even though she loved Sandor and wanted to marry him more than anything. She was lucky, she knew. Other highborn girls wouldn’t be so fortunate, and would never know the kind of happiness that Sansa knew was waiting for her.

“Allow me to give you a word of advice, Sansa.” The Queen sounded very serious now. “You may never love Sandor Clegane, but you’ll love the children you give him. I admit, you are stronger than I thought at first. I expect you can endure marriage to the Hound, however humiliating it may be for you.”

Sansa’s face grew hot, and she was surprised at the sudden stab of arousal she felt at the thought of Sandor getting her with child, of his seed growing into a baby inside her. It made her feel so womanly. He would be so careful and gentle and protective of her, she was sure of it. She wondered what their children would look like, if they would have his fine, straight black hair or her thick auburn waves, her Tully blue eyes or eyes as grey as slate, like his? Sandor had so much of the look of the First Men, she could well believe their children would have the Stark looks. She imagined him holding a baby and how tiny it would look in the arms of such a huge, fierce man, and would have smiled and laughed out loud if she hadn’t been with the Queen. She was once again giddy with anticipation about her wedding night, when she would finally feel Sandor’s manhood deep inside her and know that they truly belonged to each other. She wondered if they would make a baby that night.

The rest of the day passed largely in silence. The Queen drank another cup of wine and fell asleep. Sansa finally brought out her sewing and fell into the pleasant tedium of her favorite pastime, making the tiny, perfect stitches that Septa Mordane had been so proud of. The wheelhouse creaked and gently swayed as it rolled down the rutted road. When the sun came out at midday, Sansa longed to get out and stretch her legs and breathe deeply of the fresh, clean air after so many years of the stink of King’s Landing, but there would be no stopping until nightfall, not even for meals. There were hundreds of people and wagons and horses and livestock in their traveling party, and it would take ages for the train to start moving again if they all stopped.

The Queen didn’t leave the wheelhouse until after dark, when the royal pavilions had been set up. Sansa had hoped for a glimpse of Sandor, but she supposed he would be camping with his men, far ahead of them. In any case, he could no longer pay visits to the royal family without a summons, given that he was no longer Joffrey’s sworn shield. She sighed and resigned herself to a lonely excursion, comforting herself with dreams of the wedding and her new life at the Twins, and Sandor.

The journey took much longer than Sansa expected. She thought it would only take a fortnight to reach the Twins, but when she’d counted 16 days of travel, she asked the Queen if they were almost there. Cersei laughed in her face, and told her they were at least another month away from their destination. Sansa soon came to loathe the close-quarters of the wheelhouse. It took everything inside of her to smile prettily and be courteous when all she wanted to do was scream. She was used to hiding her feelings behind a placid, ladylike mask, but now she couldn’t let down her guard for a single moment, not even at night, because she must share the Queen’s pavilion, too. Being so close to the freedom she had prayed for, for so long, made her days even more of a trial, and the forced inactivity was driving her mad. At King’s Landing, she had become accustomed to wandering the Red Keep, picking flowers in Myrcella’s garden, visiting the wells and the stables, riding her horse in the bailey, and walking to the sept or the godswood whenever she pleased. Even when she chose to stay in her rooms all day working on her embroidery, she was never so sedentary as this. There was nothing to do in the wheelhouse but eat and drink and sew and sleep.

And oh, gods, she missed Sandor. She couldn’t stop herself from thinking about him, about the times they had given each other pleasure in the godswood. She wanted to feel his mouth on hers, his fingers caressing her nipples, his manhood hard between her legs. She longed to unlace his breeches and slide her hand up and down the length of him like he’d taught her, savoring the feel of her fingers wrapped around his… his huge cock… while he moaned and thrust his hips beneath her.

She wanted to do other things too. The thought of giving him pleasure excited her as much as receiving it from him. She imagined all the different ways she could touch him and… and gods be good, taste him… and was quite scandalized at her ability to dream up such wickedly unladylike things. Sansa wished she knew if other ladies had such thoughts, or if she was depraved. She was wet all the time, and the delicious, torturous ache of her desire never seemed to go away. Sometimes she wanted to cry in frustration. She couldn’t even give herself release, because she was never left alone long enough. She didn’t dare touch herself even when she lay awake at night, listening to the deep, even breathing of the Queen and all the maids, in case she made too much noise or any of them was lying in the dark, unable to sleep, as she was.

They finally crossed the Trident just over a month into their travels and would reach the Twins in less than ten days. Sansa’s tummy fluttered with anticipation every time she thought of her wedding, which was constantly. She was so jittery that even the Queen noticed. One day, Cersei, irritated by her fidgeting, ordered Sansa to drink a cup of wine, and when she was finished with that, threatened to make her drink another. “If you cannot stay still, Sansa, I will make you drink until you fall asleep in your cups.” Sansa was extra careful after that, and when she wasn’t able to focus on her sewing, she would simply sit, willing herself to keep her hands still and breathing deeply to try and slow her racing heart.

Time passed more slowly than she ever thought possible, and she counted down the days. Five more days. Four more days. Three more days. Her world had shrunk down to the wheelhouse and the pavilion they slept in at night. She wished she had news of the world outside of the royal procession. No one told her anything, and she wasn’t even allowed outside the wheelhouse or the Queen’s pavilion, so she had no opportunity to overhear any gossip. Two more days. Did Sandor miss her? Did he think of her as much as she thought of him? She thanked the gods they were so close to the Twins. She thought she would go mad if she didn’t see Sandor again soon.

Tomorrow. Sansa was wildly excited about her wedding day, but no one would have ever known. She sat in the wheelhouse, quietly absorbed in sewing the final bit of trim onto her Stark gown, and daydreaming about her husband-to-be. It was late afternoon, and the Queen had spoken hardly a word to her since they broke their fast in the pavilion, before resigning themselves to one more long, dull day of travel. I feel almost like a ghost. Her body was here with the Queen, but her spirit was with her betrothed. She pictured him as she had seen him the day they left King’s Landing, at the head of the column, looking so strong and noble astride his fierce black war horse, with his squires proudly bearing the yellow and black banners of House Clegane on either side of him.

Just thinking about him brought a fresh wave of arousal. Sansa’s breath quickened. She longed for Sandor’s touch and squirmed, remembering the first time she had felt his strong, rough fingers between her legs, how astonished she’d been at the powerful, driving force of her desire when he’d stroked the slick folds of her lady’s place and circled her nub, until she was utterly at his mercy and begged him to take her. He’d often touched her with a delicacy surprising for such a big man, but until they’d become lovers she’d never dreamed of how intoxicating that deft touch would feel on the most sensitive parts of her body. She could feel the wetness between her legs soaking into her smallclothes. She squeezed her thighs together and squirmed again, her breath quickening as the pleasure between her legs deepened. If only she could have a few moments alone, she could touch herself there and—

“Sansa, are you quite well?” Cersei suddenly asked.

Sansa’s head snapped up and she blushed furiously. How long had the Queen been watching her? “Yes, Your Grace. You are kind to ask.”

“You are flushed and restless. Do you feel feverish? Shall I call a maester to examine you?”

“No, Your Grace! I am not ill, I swear to you.” Sansa remembered when Maester Pycelle had examined her after her father died, and shuddered.

“I am glad to hear it. Yet you’ve been as quiet as a mouse for days, and scarcely eat or drink. Is aught amiss?” Cersei spoke gently, but Sansa thought she saw a faint glimmer of amusement in her eyes. She is toying with me again. The Queen took great pleasure in needling Sansa about things—her sewing, her manners—but the subject of Sandor and her wedding seemed to entertain her most of all.

“I… I am only longing to see my betrothed.” Sansa silently thanked the gods that this day, and this journey, was nearly at an end.

“Ah, yes. I’m certain Sandor Clegane has quite enchanted you. I can see that you are utterly lovesick over him,” Cersei said with a slight roll of her eyes. “You are quite good at saying what people want to hear, Sansa, but you don’t fool me. Nevertheless, I shall grant you leave to see your betrothed on the morrow. You will ride to the Twins together, in the sight of all your future loyal bannermen. It should make a good show for that lot. Wear your Stark dress.”

Sansa lowered her eyes and thanked the Queen meekly, but her heart soared with happiness. She yearned to look upon Sandor’s face even more than she craved his touch. It was his eyes she loved the most. She once thought his eyes were the most frightening thing about him, always so harsh and full of anger. They still were, except when he looked at her. Then she would see the anger give way to a softness that made her feel safe and loved… and desired. When he pleasured her, that softness grew into an intense, smoldering possessiveness that aroused her as much as his touch. And when he found his release, looking deep into her eyes and whispering her name, his face would be for a moment transformed. Sansa knew she was the only person in the world who ever saw him like that, and it made her love him even more.

The evening passed surprisingly quickly. Messages were sent to Sandor and arrangements made for her to be escorted to him after the Queen’s party had broken their fast. Sansa carefully laid out her new gown and chose a plain silver necklace to wear with it. When the cooks brought in the evening meal, she was too excited to eat more than a few bites, but did so resolutely, knowing that it would be impossible to swallow anything when she broke her fast the next day. She did her best to engage in interesting conversation with the Queen, but was too distracted by thoughts of Sandor to do a very good job of it. Cersei finally dismissed her, and she gratefully retired to her corner of the grand pavilion. It was late, but the Queen would be up for hours writing letters and reading reports. Sansa wished she had someone to write letters to, or a friend to talk to about Sandor and her happiness about their upcoming marriage. Her maids undressed her and wrapped her in a warm robe. She requested a small cup of wine and sipped it while they brushed her hair, hoping it would make her drowsy enough to overcome her excitement. It helped, but it was still hours before she was finally able to sleep.

Sansa was so tightly wound the next morning, she could not even manage to sip a cup of milk as she broke her fast with the Queen. She trembled with excitement and anxiety. She hoped Sandor would be happy to see her. What if he was indifferent? She remembered the look in his eyes the day they left King’s Landing, and knew she was being a fool to have such doubts, but she couldn’t help it. Cersei gave her leave to dress when she could see that Sansa would not eat, and she hurried to her corner of the tent to begin preparing for her reunion with her betrothed. Her maid bathed her quickly, and then brushed her hair until it was smooth and glossy, and gathered it back from her face with two small braids that met at the back of her head while the rest of her hair hung loose to her waist. Cersei lent her another handmaid, who dabbed perfume behind her ears and on her wrists and breasts, and buffed her nails to a lustrous shine with a soft sheepskin.

The women’s attentions did little to calm Sansa’s frayed nerves. She stood in a daze as they began to dress her in the gown she had sewn during the long weeks of travel. It was made of white wool so finely woven she could almost see through it, lined with white silk and worn over a dove-grey silk underskirt that she had brought with her from Winterfell, quilted for warmth. The neck was cut in a deep V down to her waist, and a panel of embroidered silk covered the gap for modesty. Grey fox fur trimmed the neck, sleeves, and hem of the dress, and she wore a black silk sash around her waist. She would wear her soft leather riding boots instead of slippers.

Her maid finished lacing her gown and held up a mirror. Sansa studied her reflection in wonder. Is this really me? She was shocked at how much she had changed since leaving King’s Landing. She looked more a woman now than a girl. She had her mother’s fine, high cheekbones. They seemed more accentuated now, and her deep blue eyes glowed softly, as if lit from within. Her cheeks were flushed with excitement, and her lips seemed fuller and more sensuous. She blushed at the memory of Sandor’s mouth pressing hard against her own during their trysts in the godswood of the Red Keep.

Her daydreams were interrupted just then, when a page announced Ser Meryn’s arrival. Sansa swallowed and licked her lips nervously, then took a deep breath, threw her cloak over her shoulders, and followed him out of the tent. The camp was bursting with activity. People and animals were milling about like bees in a hive as servants packed chests and loaded horses and wagons and struck tents. Curious glances were thrown her way as she passed, but Sansa scarcely noticed. She felt nervous and shy. It had been well over a month since she and Sandor had seen each other. That was longer than all the time they’d spent as lovers in King’s Landing. She hoped he still loved her, as she loved him.

*********************

Sandor brushed and watered Stranger while his men made camp. Tomorrow would be the last day of riding. He was bloody ready for this journey to be at an end. The party had been beset by very few problems, his men got along well enough with each other and never gave him any trouble, but the travel had been grueling nonetheless. He was an accomplished horseman, but it still took some getting used to, to be in the saddle from sunrise to sunset every day. Stranger was a damned good horse, but Sandor would be glad to not even look at the beast for a month after this. In fact he would be happy not to see a single fucking living thing for half a year after this trip was over, except for Sansa. The only time he was by himself was at night, alone in his tent, and even then he could hear his men talking, gambling, snoring, fucking. He was sick of being surrounded by people.

The worst thing was not being able to see his little bird. Sandor wanted Sansa, badly. His cock was hard at sunrise, midday, and night from thinking about her. He couldn’t leave his tent in the mornings until he had stroked himself to release, and couldn’t wait to duck inside it when they’d set up camp at night so he could take himself into hand again. And gods, the camp followers… The camp followers were eager for his attentions, and he would have given a golden dragon to be able to fuck any one of them, his needs were so strong. But he’d sworn to Sansa that he’d touch no other woman but her, and he meant to keep his vow. So he fucked his hand instead, and drank wine to take the edge off of his hunger for her, and counted the days until they reached the Twins.

Sandor took Stranger’s rope and walked him back to the camp, tethering the horse outside his tent. He stepped inside, tied the flap shut, and tore off his swordbelt with one hand as he began unlacing his breeches with the other. Thoughts of Sansa’s soft lips, warm tongue, and full breasts had been torturing him all bloody day long, and he was so hard he knew he would need more than one release tonight. He groaned as he wrapped his hand around his cock and used his thumb to spread the moisture around at the tip, imagining it was Sansa’s tongue instead. He sat in his chair and leaned back, stroking his cock slowly as his pleasure built. Sansa. Memories from the godswood played out behind his closed eyes... Sansa wrapping her legs around his waist when he held her in his arms to kiss her… the feel of her sweet, firm arse wriggling in his arms as she ground her cunt against his belly... the way she’d push her breasts at him when he took a nipple into his mouth… He began stroking himself faster as he rushed to his peak. The last time, when he’d finally laid her down and flipped her skirts up, she’d been so wet for him, begging him to fuck her, and he’d slid his cock along her warm, slick folds, so close to plunging himself inside her, it would have been so easy… Sandor grunted and spilled his seed into a rag, breathing heavily. He wished for the thousandth time that they’d been married before this godsforsaken journey to the Twins. He was so ready for her, he’d likely spend himself on their wedding night quicker than a green boy having his first fuck.

He was lacing up his breeches when one of his squires called urgently from outside the tent. “Milord, there’s a messenger come from the Queen.”

He paused. The Queen hadn’t sent any messages at all to him this whole time. Sansa was traveling with her. Had something happened to the little bird? Sandor cursed and hurriedly stepped out of the tent, fastening his swordbelt around his hips. His squire stood next to a page in Lannister crimson, with the King’s sigil on his breast. Both were looking at him anxiously. He scowled at them and turned to the page. “What is it, boy?” he demanded.

“Her Grace Queen Cersei wishes for Lady Sansa to ride with you to the Twins tomorrow, in sight of all the lords bannermen. Ser Meryn Trant will bring her to you, m’lord. You’re not to start out without her,” the page said nervously.

Sandor felt a rush of relief. Sansa, he thought again. It was past fucking time he laid his eyes on the little bird again. Sunrise couldn’t come soon enough. “Give the Queen my thanks. Tell her I’ll wait.”

His men called out and waved him over, inviting him to sup with them. More often than not he did, even when all they had to eat was dried meat and stale bread. But they’d gone hunting earlier in the day and brought back several rabbits, which they’d roasted on spits above the large fire at the center of the camp. They’d just been taken off the flames. Sandor took one and tore it in half, tossing the other half to his squire; he suddenly felt ravenously hungry. As he ate, he thought about the bannermen, who had begun to arrive a few days ago. The only ones to speak to him, though, were Marq Piper and his father, Clement, of Pinkmaiden Castle, far to the south of the Twins. Their house was sworn to Riverrun before it was given to Emmon Frey and his Lannister wife. They had asked leave of Sandor to accompany him on the way to the Twins, had said it would be a great honor to be the first among the bannermen to welcome Sansa Stark home. Now, great lords and small were encamped along the banks of the Green Fork, come to attend the wedding and pay their respects to Sansa. The Pipers hadn’t seemed particularly put out about Sandor being their new liege lord. He hoped the rest of them were as easy.

Just then, his other squire came running up. This one was a few years older than the other one, and missed supper half the time in favor of fucking one or another of the camp followers. “Milord, there’s someone to see you. He’s waiting at your pavilion. A lord, and two other men,” he said breathlessly.

Night had fallen quickly. Sandor rose and lit a torch in the fire before striding back to his tent to meet the party. The man waiting to speak to Sandor was huge, as tall as he himself was, but bulkier. One of his companions was holding a banner showing a giant holding broken chains against a red background. One of the northern lords. Umber. The Greatjon stood stiffly with his arms crossed over his chest as Sandor approached and looked him over.

“Jon Umber. Most loyal bannerman to Eddard Stark of Winterfell, so I’ve heard,” he stated.

“Aye, that’s true, Sandor Clegane,” Umber said, with thinly veiled contempt. “Lord Clegane of the Crossing.“ He spoke slowly, as if tasting every word. “Most loyal servant to King Joffrey and House Lannister, so I’ve heard.”

Sandor’s face darkened. Bloody bastard. “We’ll talk in private,” he said, nodding towards his tent. “Your men will stay outside.”

Inside the pavilion, Sandor slammed a flagon of wine and two cups on his table. The Greatjon poured for himself and drank it down straightaway, then poured again and pushed the flagon towards Sandor, glaring.

Sandor filled his cup and took a healthy swallow. “State your bloody business, Umber,” he growled.

“I never thought I’d see the day that Sansa Stark, daughter of Eddard Stark and last surviving member of a line 8,000 years old, would marry the Lannister’s dog. Joffrey’s dog.” The Greatjon’s voice rose angrily as he spoke.

“My own dog now. You think Sansa had any say in the matter? You think the Lannisters give two shits about what Sansa wants?” Sandor’s face was tight with fury.

Jon Umber downed another cup of wine. “The Lannisters are all as bad as Walder Frey and his lot. I’ve heard tales of how gently the Lannisters treated Sansa. Why should I think you’re any better than them?”

“I don’t give a rat’s arse what you think of me. Sansa Stark is safe with me. You don’t know half of what you think you do,” Sandor said, pushing himself to his feet. The Greatjon was standing in an instant.

Lord Jon Umber’s face turned darker, his eyes burning with anger. “I’ll not let Ned Stark’s daughter down, Clegane. But the North remembers. Know that.”

Sandor snorted contemptuously and clenched his fists at his sides. “Fuck your threats, Umber. Tomorrow we reach the Twins. Sansa’s to ride with me. If you want to be part of the escort, be here an hour after first light. If not, it’s no hair off my arse. It will mean a good deal more to Sansa, though.”

The Greatjon stalked out of his tent without another word. Before Sandor tied the flap shut behind him, he ordered his squires to bugger off and not bother him again until the morning so he could drink his wine in peace. He fetched another flagon from his supplies, sat back down at the table, and drank until he was no longer brooding. It was very late when he finally shuttered the lantern and lay down on his pallet, but still, he couldn’t stop thinking. Tomorrow we reach the Twins. Sansa would be riding with him. He’d never thought he could have a beauty like her, even to fuck, much less to take to wife. She was so soft spoken and courteous, a proper little lady. And she always smelled so sweet. Not like him. He hadn’t had a proper bath in days, aside from splashing water on his face and washing his cock and balls. He stank of wood smoke, sweat, horse, dirt, and probably worse. He ought to bathe in the river when he watered Stranger in the morning. He tried to picture himself riding into the Twins with Sansa Stark by his side and the bannermen of the Riverlands and the North escorting them. He’d have to dress the part, as he had done when his lordship was announced. His cock had grown hard again thinking of his little bird, so he stroked himself to release one more time before sleep claimed him.

The morning dawned bright and clear. Sandor bathed in the river while Stranger drank his fill and tore mouthfuls of grass from the lush floodplain of the Green Fork. The water was bloody fucking cold, and Sandor cursed, but he didn’t want to smell like one of the begging brothers when he saw Sansa. He lathered up and scrubbed himself down three times and washed his hair twice just to be sure. When he returned to his pavilion, his squires crowded him, bringing wine and a bit of the roasted rabbit leftover from the night before. He took the wine and waved them away. As soon as he was in his tent, he poured a cup and gulped it down. He hated to admit it, but he was nervous. He pulled on his breeches and boots. What if Sansa didn’t want him anymore? It had been so long since they had seen each other. He donned his tunic and ringmail next. What if the time apart had cooled her passion, even as it had inflamed his? He shook out his surcoat. The surcoat, yellow silk with the three black dogs of his house, had been given to him by Cersei. He hadn’t worn it yet. Now seemed a good time to do so. He buckled his swordbelt over it, combed his hair and fastened his cloak about his shoulders, and went outside to wait for the little bird. His squires immediately began dismantling his tent.

Marq Piper and his father had already arrived and were standing with the Greatjon. The camps along the procession buzzed with anticipation. Stranger tossed his head and stamped impatiently, the excitement of the camp making him restless. Sandor hooked his thumbs on his sword belt and tried to clear his mind of all thoughts, to keep his doubts at bay. The camp bustled and hummed around him, but the noise faded into the distance when his eyes caught the figure of Meryn Trant heading his way with Sansa behind him. He could see her skirts swirling about her feet and her auburn hair stirring in the breeze. Ser Meryn’s squire followed, leading the horse Sansa was to ride.

Sandor leaned to the side, trying to see more of her, to see her face. A few more steps, and Sansa edged away from Trant just enough to be able to see over his shoulder, her eyes scanning the encampment ahead of her. Looking for me. Just then she saw him, and all at once she’d brushed past Ser Meryn and hitched up her skirts and was walking quickly toward him. He strode to meet her, blind to everything else happening around him; none of that mattered because his little bird was here, finally, and she was all but running to him, laughing and smiling with tears in her eyes.

Sandor swept her up in a hard embrace, not giving a shit who saw. She threw her arms around his neck and clung to him, and he buried his face in her hair while she leaned her head against his. “Sansa,” he said in a hoarse whisper, and she turned her head and whispered something in return. “My lord,” it sounded like, but Sansa knew better by now than to call him that. She whispered it again. My love was what she’d said. He pressed his mouth to hers, and all the fires in the seven hells couldn’t have stopped him. She brushed her tongue against his lips, just the slightest touch, and he squeezed her more closely against his body and touched his tongue to hers, too, wishing he could do more, wishing that all the peasants and lords alike who stood there gaping at them like fools would just go bugger off.

He let her down reluctantly and led her to where Piper and Umber were waiting. The look on the Greatjon’s face was worth more than 100 golden dragons. Sandor wanted to laugh, even as he swelled with pride, as he explained that the men were riding as their escorts to the Twins.

Marq Piper bowed deeply. “My lady, it is good to have a Tully back in the Riverlands. I was, and still am, a great friend of your uncle, Edmure. My father and I are honored to be among the lords bannermen come to welcome you home. House Piper will ever be loyal to yours,” he said, nodding to Sandor as well.

The Greatjon put a hand on Sansa’s shoulder. “Truly, the gods are good to let me look upon the face of a Stark of Winterfell once more. Your father is still well loved among the northern lords and clansmen. The North remembers, Lady Sansa. I served your lord father faithfully, and your brother Robb as well. I would give my life to help the cause of any child of Lord Eddard Stark. The swords of House Umber will always be at your service.” He gave Sandor a hard look. “And yours, Lord Clegane.”

“You do me great honor, my lords,” Sansa said. “My lord father and lady mother would have been so pleased to know that their most loyal bannermen traveled so far to welcome me home.”

“It is as it should be, my lady,” said the elder Piper.

Her horse was brought around just then. “Are you ready, my lady?” Sandor asked.

“Yes, my lord.” Their words were formal, but the looks they gave each other were afire with all the love and desire they were holding back for the sake of decorum. He gently lifted her into the saddle, never taking his eyes from hers, and when she was seated he gave her a small nod of understanding and then swung onto Stranger’s back. When the bannermen had mounted their horses, he nodded at Sansa again, and his men fell in behind them as they led the procession on its last day of riding towards their new home.

Chapter Text

Sansa shifted in her saddle. They’d been riding all morning. She was sore and hungry and her bladder was becoming uncomfortably full, and yet she was the happiest she had ever been. It was wonderful to be out in the fresh air and sunshine, the cool breeze mussing her hair, with lords who had served both sides of her family so faithfully and who had now come to serve her and Sandor.

 

Sandor… She looked at him, smiling. They’d left the camp at a trot, but Sandor had slowed their pace to a walk out of consideration for her when they were out of sight of all the spectators. The most riding she had done in years had been at the Red Keep, circling the bailey, and it was a very long time since she’d done that. She’d secretly been worried that she wouldn’t be able to keep pace with the men, but didn’t dare say anything lest she shame herself in front of her betrothed. She wasn’t sure if Sandor had remembered how little she’d ridden at the Red Keep, but it still pleased her greatly that he had anticipated her discomfort and tried to make the riding less strenuous for her.

 

Sandor was staring intently at something ahead of them and didn’t notice her looking at him. She followed his gaze, holding a hand up to block the glare of the sun, but couldn’t see anything. When she lowered her hand, Sandor finally glanced at her.

 

“Looking for the outriders,” he explained.

 

Several moments passed in companionable silence. Sandor shaded his eyes and scanned the horizon again, and then raised himself from the saddle. She saw the movement a second later. His outriders had finally returned. He’d sent them out at first light to scout the distance to the Twins.

 

“How far?” he asked when they joined the group.

 

“Half an hour at a gallop, maybe,” the man said, flicking a glance at Sansa. She blushed, wishing she was a more experienced equestrian. She’d never really liked riding.

 

“If we’re that close, there’s little need to hurry. My lady needs to rest, and I need to take a piss.” Sandor’s crude language made Sansa cringe, but she was glad he’d mentioned it. Her need to pass water was becoming rather urgent, but Septa Mordane had always said only ill-bred women spoke of anything involving a chamber pot when they were in mixed company.

 

Sandor turned to Sansa with a questioning look, and she nodded. They rode to a small thicket of trees a short distance from the Kingsroad.

 

“This is the only cover I’ve seen for some time now, little bird,” he said when they were far enough away from the other men. “I’ll turn my back and wait here.”

 

She murmured her thanks and held her skirts well above her ankles as she waded into the woods, embarrassed but extremely pleased that Sandor had understood her needs so that she hadn’t had to ask.

The young squire was pulling provisions from his and Ser Meryn’s saddlebags when they returned to camp. The Queen had sent them with enough food for twice their number, so that even Sandor’s men, who sat apart from the group of nobles, could help themselves generously and no one would go hungry. Sansa hadn’t been on a picnic in years. There was cold roasted chicken and wild boar, sausages, bread and butter, sharp white cheese, apples, lemon cakes, and half a dozen flagons of wine. The sight of all that plain food—the best type of food to satisfy the hunger brought on by fresh air and time spent outdoors— took her back to her childhood in Winterfell and filled her with the joy of a hundred happy memories.

 

Sandor spread his cloak on the ground for Sansa, and she poured wine for the men. Ser Meryn had seated himself near the group, and she hesitated when she saw him. He was staring at her contemptuously, almost challenging her. I won’t serve him wine, except to dump it over his fat head. But in the end, she served him as well, consoling herself by pouring him only a very small cup, such as she and her siblings were allowed when they were little. She kept her eyes lowered, and returned to Sandor’s side.

 

When all their cups were full, the Greatjon held his aloft. “To the Starks and the Tullys, may their names and deeds never be forgotten.”

 

Marq Piper raised his cup, too. “And to Lady Sansa and the new Lord of the Crossing. Let many wrongs be made right by their claiming of the Twins.” 

 

“The Starks and Tullys were traitors, every last one of them, and so are you until you bend the knee to King Joffrey,” Ser Meryn said loudly.

 

Sansa paled. He’ll tell Joffrey and ruin everything. His face was twisted with loathing as he glared at them, yet he emptied his cup all the same and seemed to find the wine easy enough to swallow. I hope he chokes on it, she thought, hating him more than ever.

 

Sandor snarled at the man. “Go fuck yourself, Ser Meryn. Your duty was to escort Lady Sansa to me, not to make noise at a council of high lords. Bugger off and bother someone else with your ugly face.”

 

“I’m here by King Joffrey’s royal command, dog. I answer only to the King. So you’d best get used to looking at my face, because I’m not leaving.”

 

Sandor stood. The other lords rose with him.

 

“Get behind me, Sansa,” he warned. She scrambled to her feet and backed away. His face was frightening to look upon, and Sansa remembered how scared she’d been of him when she’d only known him as the Hound.

 

He drew his sword, and Lords Piper and Greatjon loosened their swords in their scabbards.

 

“Leave. Or draw your sword and face my blade,” Sandor snarled. “Your choice.”

 

Trant hesitated, red-faced and quivering with rage, and then stormed off, spewing curses. His squire followed after him reluctantly.

 

Sandor sheathed his sword and turned to Sansa. “It’s all right, lit--  my lady.”

 

Sansa sank back down on his cloak, feeling something she couldn’t put into words, only that… these were her people. People who would support her and defend her. She finally knew what that meant, what it felt like, what it would be like for her after she and Sandor were married. Her people. Her bannermen. Sandor, who would soon be her husband. The men he had chosen to protect their new lands and holdings so that she—and soon, gods willing, their children—would be safe. My freedom. She smiled at Sandor, feeling drunk on the enormity of the moment, and apologized to the other lords as they seated themselves again.

 

“No need to make excuses for that scum, Lady Sansa,” said the Greatjon. “I’d have given your Lord Clegane ten golden dragons to be able to slay the man myself for threatening you like that. I’ll be damned if I let another Stark be harmed by a Lannister lickspittle while I’m close enough to have a say about it.”

 

“My lords, were you with my brother Robb when…” No one had ever spoken to her of what had happened at her Uncle Edmure’s wedding, save for Tyrion Lannister, who simply told her that her mother and brother had been killed. He’d offered to tell her all she wanted to know, but she couldn’t bear it. For a long time afterwards, she had avoided going to the kitchens and the wells for news and gossip, for fear that she might hear talk of it. But now she wanted to honor these men who were so loyal to her family, and if they’d been at the Red Wedding she owed it to them to know of their bravery. 

 

Marq Piper and the Greatjon exchanged a look. Lord Umber looked away first, to stare past Sansa with hard, unseeing eyes. She noticed how he tightened his jaw, and thought it was because of the grief he felt over her brother’s death.

 

The elder Lord Piper spoke up. “I was not there, my lady, but my son Marq was. He was imprisoned as a hostage by Lord Frey after the killing was done. The old bastard promised his release if I bent the knee to Joffrey, and I did, but Marq wasn’t freed until Jaime Lannister took the castles.”

 

“Your uncle Edmure was my closest friend, Lady Sansa. He is alive, still, but gave up his freedom when he surrendered Riverrun to Jaime Lannister to prevent the bloodshed that would have resulted had he resisted. He now resides at Casterly Rock as an honored guest until the end of his days.”

 

Finally, the Greatjon spoke. “Aye, I was there. As was my son. He threw a table down to shield your brother from the--“ He stopped himself and cleared his throat. “My son lost his head trying to save King Robb.”

 

Sansa had covered her face with her hands so that only her eyes showed, wide with horror at what the men told her.

 

“Did you have no word of this, my lady?” Lord Clement asked her, gently.

 

“No,” she whispered. “I was only told that my mother and brother had been murdered. I did not wish to know more. It was too painful already to know that they were dead.” She wiped tears from her eyes. “I never knew what you had suffered, my lords. And for you to come back, to bring me home with my Lord Clegane… How terrible it must be for you to see the Twins again, after all you have suffered. You are the most honorable of men, and prove yourselves to be true knights.”

 

“The honor belongs to us, Lady Sansa.”

 

“And I’m a Northman, not a knight,” Lord Umber reminded her gently.

 

Sansa wanted somehow to make up for their pain and loss but knew there was nothing she could do. She was quiet for a long moment.

 

“My lady,” began Marq Piper, “is there aught we can do to make your homecoming more welcome? The Twins will surely hold little joy for you.”

 

“You are too kind, my lord. My marriage to Lord Sandor will make me happier than anything else in the world, whether we live in a peasant’s cottage or the great castles of the Twins,” she said, smiling softly. “It will not be easy to look upon the place of my lady mother and brother Robb’s deaths, but I hope their spirits will be gladdened to know that I look forward to such happiness in my marriage.”

 

Something occurred to her. “Are there many among the bannermen of the Riverlands and the North who… who are as loyal to my family as the three of you?”

 

The Greatjon answered that one. “A fair few of them from both lands are come to attend your wedding. But whether they’ll swear their banners to you, I do not know. I spoke with some of the lords when we set up our camp by the Twins. They’re leery of swearing fealty to the-- to your Lord Clegane, whose loyalty to the Lannisters is well known to all who know of the Hound.”

 

“Bugger that. Bugger them. Joffrey named me Lord of the Crossing, but what in the seven hells do they think that means for the Riverlands, other than there’s a new lord at the Twins?” Sandor said angrily. “I’ve lost count of how many of the bloody houses in these parts have been given to new lords—most of them Lannisters or Lannister bootlickers—since this war started, including Riverrun. They may think I’m a Lannister dog, but the Twins will be the only house in the Riverlands—in all of Westeros—with a Stark in it.”

 

“My lords, please,” Sansa interjected. “You asked if there was anything you could do to make my homecoming easier. I would ask that you stand with Lord Sandor at the wedding, if it please you. He has no family of his own to attend him. The King and Queen must needs stand for me, as a ward of the crown, of course. But if you could stand with my lord to witness his vows… It might ease the other lords’ misgivings.”

 

Lord Clement Piper smiled. “My lady is wise, as well as beautiful. We three have sworn our banners to you and the new Lord of the Crossing. If it helps to bring the other bannermen to your side, we would be amiss not to make a show of our faith in our new liege lord.”

 

“Thank you,” Sansa said, with relief. Turning to Sandor, she asked, “My lord, will this please you?” She couldn’t read his face.

 

“It will please me well enough, li--  My lady.” Sandor drained the rest of his wine and stood. “We need to ride. Leave the provisions for Ser Meryn and his squire to pack up.”

 

He reached a hand down and helped Sansa to her feet. When he lifted her into her saddle once again, she had to bite her lip to keep from letting out a groan of pain. Her legs were stiff, and her muscles burned and ached, unaccustomed as she was to sitting astride a horse for so many hours. Sansa remembered the hours and days and weeks of sitting in the Queen’s wheelhouse, how dreadful it had been, and how she had longed to see Sandor again. If this was the price of her freedom, she would gladly pay it as long as she had to.

 

They started off again at a walk. After some moments, Sansa began to feel restless. It was almost as if she could sense the men’s impatience now, whereas she hadn’t felt anything before. She had the disquieting feeling that she was holding everyone back. It is only in my head. But she didn’t like the feeling. She turned to Sandor.

 

“My lord, it would please me to ride faster,” she ventured.

 

Sandor looked at her. “I have been riding from sunrise to sunset every day for weeks on end, my lady. The pace makes no difference to me. Or my men. I do not wish to tire you.”

 

Sansa tried again. “You are too kind, my lord. But I have ridden this far, and will feel much the same in the morning if I had come this last bit in a litter or ridden at a gallop the whole way.” She smiled brightly.

 

Sandor threw a glance over his shoulder. “You’re sure?”

 

“Yes, my lord.”

 

“A canter then,” he agreed.

 

***********************

 

They kicked their horses into a gallop when they saw the Twins, eager to close the distance quickly. Cheers went up from the hundreds of men camped on the grounds around the western castle flying the banners of the North and the Riverlands as soon as they saw the new Lord and Lady of the Crossing. Sandor knew it was Sansa they were welcoming, not himself, but he’d never expected them to shower him with honors while he was still thought of as King Joffrey’s dog. Soldiers and knights and servants shouted for Sansa and the Tullys and the Starks, and a few reckless bastards even shouted “the North remembers!” Sansa smiled in delight, looking more beautiful than he’d ever seen her, with her tousled hair, flushed face, and bright eyes.

 

The drawbridge was not more than a quarter of a mile away. A dozen men broke away from the crowd at its foot and galloped toward them, led by a tall, fair-haired man wearing the white armor of the kingsguard. Jaime fucking Lannister. Sandor respected Jaime’s skill with a sword and had enjoyed sparring with him in the training yard, but he had never liked the man, personally. He wondered how much of a swordsman the Queen’s brother had been since losing his right hand to the Bloody Mummers.

 

Jaime brought his horse to a halt a few paces away from them and bowed his head to Sansa. “Lady Sansa. There is truly no one I would rather see as Lady of the Crossing than the daughter of Catelyn Tully and Eddard Stark.”

 

“Thank you, Ser Jaime. You are too kind. And thank you for...” Sansa swallowed and looked up at the castle, then back at Jaime. “Thank you for bringing justice upon the Freys for the deaths of my lady mother and my brother Robb… I am indebted to you.”

 

Jaime responded solemnly. “You owe me nothing, Lady Stark. A Lannister always pays his debts.”

 

Sansa’s eyes widened, and Sandor wanted to laugh as Jaime tried to smooth his blunder. “All of Westeros grieved when your father met his death at King Joffrey’s command. The king is a Lannister as much as a Baratheon, and since Robert was never one for paying his debts, I took it upon myself.”

 

“As you say, my lord,” Sansa murmured.

 

“In this, I fulfill a vow I made to your lady mother as well, Lady Sansa,” he informed her. “Lady Catelyn freed me when I was your brother’s prisoner, and in return, bade me promise to never again take up arms against Stark nor Tully, and to return her daughters to her safe and unharmed.”

 

Sansa’s eyes grew wet with tears, but she did not look away from Jaime Lannister.

 

“You are the only Stark left in Westeros, and Lady Catelyn’s only living daughter,” he continued. “Would that she were alive and could look upon your face again. As it is, the best I can do is return you to her homelands.”

 

“Thank you for honoring your vow to my lady mother, Ser Jaime.”

 

Jaime bowed his head to her once more and then turned to Sandor, grinning. “Well done, Clegane. You’re just the sort of man I would have matched Lady Stark with if I’d been given the task of finding her a husband.”

 

Sandor ignored the comment. “My lady is tired from the long journey and this day’s riding. She needs her rooms, not your bloody wit.”

 

“As you wish, Lord Clegane,” he replied with a casual shrug.

 

Jaime Lannister wheeled his horse and they followed him across the drawbridge at a canter, clattering to a stop in the bailey of the west castle. Sandor lifted Sansa off her horse and they stood for a moment together, simply looking at each other while the other men dismounted and horses tossed their heads and servants hurried about offering refreshments.

 

I am lord of this castle now, he thought, and in just a few more days he would take Sansa Stark as his wife.

Chapter Text

Gods, it was late. Sansa had been lying awake for hours. She hadn’t even been to sleep yet, though she’d tried everything she could think of to calm her body and mind, knowing she had a long day ahead of her on the morrow. But the exhaustion she knew she must be feeling would not claim her. She’d drunk wine, attempted her embroidery, paced, prayed, stared out her window, and finally given up, blowing out her candles to lie in bed in the darkness.

 

It was like the night before the Harvest Day festival at Winterfell when she was a little girl, when she’d spend hours dreaming of the singers and all the gallant knights who would be visiting her father, and of handsome Lord Waymar Royce, son of Lord Yohn Royce, one of her father’s oldest friends.

 

It was like the day her lady mother told her she would be going to King’s Landing, to live in the Red Keep with the King and the Queen, and later to marry Joffrey and be Queen herself.

 

It was like the first day of the Hand’s Tourney, when everything had been so exciting and magical and beautiful. The feast that night had been the perfect ending to the most wonderful day of her whole life.

 

It was like the first time she and Sandor had made love to each other in the godswood.

 

She imagined all of these things put together into one gorgeous, unbearably meaningful experience, and knew that tomorrow would be even bigger and more beautiful than that.

 

Tomorrow was her wedding day. But if it was true what the maesters said about the days starting in the darkness, hours before dawn, then… Then today is my wedding day, she thought, with a shiver of anticipation. Surely no maid had ever been as happy as she was, lying in the darkness, smiling like a fool at nothing at all, wishing these last few hours would pass more quickly.

 

Sansa finally managed to sleep somewhat and dozed restlessly on and off before waking again after a few hours. Her tummy immediately began fluttering again, and she knew she wouldn’t be able to drift back to sleep. This is the last time I will ever awaken as a maiden. It almost didn’t seem real, even though she had waited and counted the days and dreamed about it for weeks on end.

 

A great wave of excitement rolled through her, and she threw back the covers of her bed, shrugged into her robe, and walked over to her window seat. The sky was beginning to fade from black to gray, she saw, as she pulled open the stained glass shutters. She sat there for a long while, watching the swift-moving clouds turn pale shades of pink and blue as the sun rose over the river and the encampments of the bannermen below began stirring to life.  

 

She tried to comprehend the magnitude of the occasion. In only a few hours, her whole life would change. She had passed her sixteenth name day during the journey from King’s Landing, but today, she would truly be leaving her girlhood behind to begin life anew as a woman grown, wedded and bedded, fit to run her own household and to bear children for her husband. Sandor, my lord husband, she thought, delighting in the novelty of the words. My husband, Lord Sandor Clegane.

 

Happiness bubbled inside her, and she instinctively moved to cover her mouth to hide her smile before realizing that after today, she need never hide her joy from anyone ever again. She would only have to be cautious for a few more hours. She still worried that Cersei and Joffrey would end the marriage before it had begun if they knew how happy she was about it. But afterwards, she could smile and laugh as she liked, and then even the King would be powerless to change things.

 

By now, the sun had cleared the horizon and was shining brightly over the pavilions crowding the floodplain. Sansa wondered where her maids were. She was impatient for things to begin. Her wedding gown had been laid out the night before, a dream of ivory samite, Myrish lace, and cloth of silver. Her day dress had been set out as well. Sansa had chosen the deep blue silk with a rope of garnets to wear when she broke her fast with the Queen. Tully colors for my lady mother. She’d worn her father’s colors to the Twins, and wished to honor her mother on the morning of her wedding. Sandor would break his fast with Joffrey.

 

Sansa needed something to do. She walked briskly over to her dressing table and began brushing her hair, rather than wait for her maids. If only there was some way she could hasten things along.

 

Her maids knocked and entered the room just as she’d worked the brush through the last of the tangles. After tomorrow, they will have to wait until I give them leave to enter.

 

“Pardons, m’lady. If I’d have known you were awake, I would have come to you sooner,” said Brella. She was one of two maids who had come with her from King’s Landing. “It’s not your way to be up and about so bright and early.”

 

“It is my wedding day. I could not sleep.”

 

Jenny, her other maid from King’s Landing, smiled knowingly. “Aye, that’s how it always is. You’ll be wed soon enough, m’lady, although I don’t doubt it’s the bedding that has you worried the most,” she said with a wink. “A man the size of the Hound—“

 

“Please, speak no more of it!” Sansa said sharply, her face burning. Gods be good, the girl was bold!

 

“As you wish, m’lady,” she said sullenly. The women stripped her and pulled the gown over her head but left off bathing her until after her visit with the Queen. Her summons came as they were tightening her laces, Ser Meryn pounding rudely on the door as he always did.

 

Sansa had never in her life been happy to see the ill-tempered knight, but she was almost glad to see his face now. He was accompanied by Osmund Kettleblack. The better to catch me if I try to run away. The men flanked her as they walked her through the corridors to the Queen’s rooms. Cersei’s handmaids met her at the door and ushered her inside, leaving quietly as Sansa curtsied to the Queen.

 

“I thank you for inviting me to join you, Your Grace.”

 

“Sansa, sweetling. Come here, sit close to me,” the Queen said. Her voice was kind and she beamed at Sansa as if she was her own daughter, but Sansa knew better than to let down her guard. She obediently took the chair next to Cersei, and a servant poured her a cup of wine. Cersei’s cup was already being refilled.

 

“You do look lovely this morning, Sansa. You will be a vision of the Maiden herself in your wedding gown.”

 

“Thank you, Your Grace,” Sansa said. Cersei always made her uneasy, and never more so than when she was playing the gracious lady. Sansa disliked drinking wine so early in the morning, but she took a sip to be polite, longing to be back in her rooms, preparing for the ceremony, and wondered how Sandor was faring with Joffrey.

 

The Queen urged her to eat, and the food did look delicious. There were bowls of berries and clotted cream, honey on the comb, and platters piled high with fruit and cakes. Sansa was certain she wouldn’t be able to eat any of it, but she nibbled on a berry to oblige Her Grace, and then surprised herself by eating a few more, with some cream and even a lemon cake.

 

Cersei reminisced about her own wedding day while Sansa ate. “Every highborn maiden in Westeros wanted to be Robert’s bride. Even me, fool that I was. Robert wasn’t always a fat, drunken beast.” She frowned. “I thought myself so lucky the day we were wed. I even fancied that I was in love with him.”

 

Sansa smiled politely. “You were surelyl the most beautiful woman in all the world that day.”

 

Cersei didn’t disagree. “I was lovely indeed. Not that it meant anything to Robert. It was always Lyanna, Lyanna, Lyanna… Your father’s wretched sister was all Robert could think about. He called me Lyanna in our marriage bed, as he took my maidenhead.”

 

Sansa was mortified. She couldn’t think of a single thing to say to that, except, “I’m sorry, Your Grace. I never knew my Aunt Lyanna.”

 

The Queen held her cup out for more wine. “Of course you didn’t, she died before you were even a lusty glint in Ned Stark’s eyes.” She was apparently done being motherly. “But we will not speak of it again. I have a wedding gift for you, Sansa,” she said, changing the subject.

A servant set a large, polished weirwood box on the table between them, beautifully inlaid with flowers, hearts, trees, and animals—symbols of fertility for the couple soon to wed. Inside was a heavy gold chalice on a crimson velvet cushion. Sansa carefully took it out of the box and held it up to the light. The handles were made in the form of leaping dogs. Elaborate scrollwork decorated the rim, and the three dogs of House Clegane were set in onyx in the bottom of the cup, with yellow sapphires for eyes. Yellow sapphires and onyx were also set into the base and stem of the vessel, with pearls in between. It was large enough to hold several cups of wine.

 

“It is magnificently wrought, Your Grace. I will treasure it always.”

 

The Queen’s face was hard to read. “The chalice, your gowns and jewels, the wedding…” she spoke softly. “Let it never be said that a Lannister did not pay his debts.”

 

Sansa was suddenly uncomfortable. “Yes, Your Grace. I am most grateful for the care you and King Joffrey have shown me.”

 

Cersei waved her hand at Sansa impatiently. “You and your sweet little lies... If you aren’t going to eat, you might as well return to your rooms,” she said, even though Sansa had been eating. “You have a wedding to prepare for. Leave the chalice here. It will be in place for you at the banquet.”

 

*********

 

Sandor endured his morning with Joffrey with the stoicism he had perfected in the years since he’d become the King’s sworn shield. And with wine. He’d had three cups already, but he was far from drunk. It would take a lot more wine than that, and he had no intention of being drunk for any part of this day. The King was in high form.

 

“Do you like your new kennels, dog?” Joffrey asked.

 

“Aye, Your Grace,” Sandor said absentmindedly, hardly registering the King’s chattering. He’d scarcely slept the night before for thinking about Sansa and could hardly form a coherent thought at the moment. He’d woken before dawn, as was his habit, but it had been too early to go to the training yard before breaking his fast with Joffrey. He hoped there would be time enough to go before the wedding. His wedding. He lifted his cup to swallow another mouthful of wine and noticed a slight tremor in his hand. You’re not going into battle, you bloody fool.

 

Joffrey laughed, and Sandor focused his attention again on the King. “My Hound got a new kennel and a pretty bitch to mount whenever he likes. I expect you’ll be overrun with puppies soon. Maybe I’ll take the pick of the litter for my own, to replace the one I had to give away.”

 

Sandor forced a laugh. Over my dead body.

The King’s smile faded. “You should thank me, especially for Sansa Stark. I know what dogs like to do to wolves. You should be grateful to your King. I never even made you beg for your table scraps, like a good dog should. Maybe I will now.”

 

This dog doesn’t beg. Sandor clenched his fist under the table. “As you say, Your Grace,” he rasped. “You do me great honor. I’m just a dog; I was trained for barking and biting, not for pretty words and shows of thanks. But a dog is always grateful for a treat.”

 

Joffrey scowled, but accepted his words. “I’ve another little gift for you.” A servant approached the table holding a heavy bundle loosely wrapped in crimson velvet and lay it on the table between them. “Take it.”

 

Sandor unwrapped the object to reveal a dagger fit for a king. A thick layer of gold plate covered the scabbard and the hilt, decorated with an intricate geometric pattern filled with yellow and black enamel. He picked it up and drew the dagger. Valyrian steel. Three running, snarling hounds were inlaid in gold on both sides of the blade. Sandor looked at Joffrey.

 

“How do you like that, dog?”

 

“A handsome dagger, Your Grace. I have never seen its like.”

 

Joffrey shrugged. “It belonged to my father. I had no need of it. I only had it changed a bit to suit you.” He sounded bored. “Besides, my grandfather promised me a Valyrian steel sword when I marry.”

 

“It is a fine gift, Your Grace. Perhaps Sansa will teach me how to give my thanks more gallantly.”

 

“No need for that, dog. I’ll tear the she-wolf’s gown off at the bedding and save you the trouble of doing it yourself. The sight of her naked will be your gift to me,” the King leered. “Even better if I manage to grab her pretty teats while I’m doing it!”

 

No. You’ll not touch her, not if you ever want to fuck your future Queen with anything other than a wooden prick. It took every ounce of Sandor’s will not to grab Joffrey by the throat and smash his fist into the bloody tyrant’s face. He’d geld the King with the Valyrian steel dagger he’d just given him if he so much as laid a finger on Sansa. He had no idea if the little bird would want the bedding ceremony after the feast, but he decided not to allow it. Joffrey would take it too far, and Sansa could hardly abide to be near the King as it was.

 

Joffrey must have seen something in Sandor’s face. His expression grew sullen. “Away with you, dog. I’m tired of looking at your ugly face.”

 

Sandor stood and bowed stiffly before the King, and left the room without another word.  

 

***************************

 

Sansa thanked Ser Meryn and Ser Osmund politely for their escort and stepped into her rooms. Her two maids, Jenny and Brella, were pouring hot water into a huge tub, and one she didn’t know was laying out brushes, combs, and pins on her dressing table. Two of Cersei’s maids, whose names she also did not know, were fussing with her wedding gown.

 

Jenny and Brella immediately took charge, undressing her while one of Cersei’s maids offered her an array of fragrant oils to add to the steaming water in the tub, to soften her skin and make it glow. Sansa’s favorite had the scent of delicate spring flowers and the sharp, clean scent of lemons. It was the same one she had worn the night she’d encountered Sandor on the serpentine back in King’s Landing.

 

She sank into the tub with a sigh, feeling her tense muscles relax as the women bathed her. What is Sandor doing right now? Doubtless he was readying himself as well, although his preparations wouldn’t take as long as hers. She hoped he wouldn’t have maids attending to him as she did, even though she trusted him to be true to her as he’d promised. Her mouth twitched in a faint smile when she imagined how the women would fight over themselves to get that duty, and found that she almost liked the idea of other women wanting him, knowing that she was the only one who would ever have him.

 

Sansa wanted to remember every moment of this day. Nothing in my life will ever feel as momentous as this. She felt so… so new, as if the mantle of her girlhood had been stripped from her when the women undressed her for the bath, and all that remained of it were smudges being duly scrubbed away by the maids. It was her last bath as a maiden, and she would rise from it transformed, a woman grown.

 

A memory came to her from a long-ago visit to the godswood, when she’d discovered a butterfly hatching from its cocoon. She watched for what seemed like hours as the frail creature clung to the shell of its old self, slowly fanning its crinkled wings until they stood as tall and proud and gaily painted as the sails of the Lysene trading galleys she’d see in the harbor when she stood on the roof of Maegor’s Holdfast. She’d felt ridiculously proud of it when it finally flew off, and at the same time was so sad to see it go that tears had sprung into her eyes.

 

She felt much the same way now, as if she was smiling fondly at her old self, wishing her well and watching her with a kind of sadness as her old self began to walk away, growing smaller and smaller until she finally disappeared.

 

Jenny and Brella wrung out her hair and she stood for them to pat her dry. They wrapped her in her robe and offered her a cup of wine to sip while they took turns brushing her hair by the fire, but she declined it. Sansa loved having her hair brushed. It was more relaxing than wine. She closed her eyes, absorbed in the wonderfully comforting feeling of the brush running through her hair, the gentle tugs on her scalp, one stroke after another, burnishing her hair to a glossy sheen as the fire warmed her. She realized that she had a smile on her face, and didn’t care. A maid took her hand and began to buff her fingernails, and then another joined her on the other side.

 

Lost in her reveries, it seemed like no time at all had passed before Sansa was being handed off to the hair dresser, though normally it took her hair so long to dry. She’d been so impatient this morning, and now everything was happening so fast she could hardly take it all in. Her lack of sleep was catching up to her, and the euphoria she’d felt earlier began to give way to fatigue. Sansa’s nerves started to fray. She wanted things to slow down a bit so she could feel every moment of this day, the happiest day of her life, not have it fly right past her.

 

The hair dresser’s name was Janna. She toyed with Sansa’s hair, lifting sections and arranging them this way and that. She cocked her head and pursed her lips as she looked at it, and then apparently made a decision and started braiding. “You are so solemn, my lady. A bride should be happy on her wedding day,” she said.

 

Sansa glanced in the mirror. She did look solemn. Sad, even. Her musings had made her feel a bit wistful, but certainly not sad, and the feeling was already passing. She stifled a giggle. She might be tired, but she was also the happiest she had ever been. And she looked so sad. Her years in King’s Landing had stamped her face with sorrow, it would seem. My true happiness will shine for all to see after the wedding. Her maid was looking at her expectantly.

 

“I… I…” Suddenly it was as if every courtesy she had ever been taught and every word she’d ever spoken had fled from her mind. She was happy. She wanted Sandor and she was gloriously happy that she would be marrying him soon, but she couldn’t let them know that. She could not for the life of her have put two words together in a sentence at that moment, but she still tried. “I…”

 

It was too much. Sansa started to giggle. She couldn’t stop herself. Her hands flew up to cover her face in embarrassment, but still she laughed until tears ran down her cheeks. Her maids, all five of them, had stopped what they were doing and were gaping at her. That made Sansa laugh even harder.

 

And then, to her horror, she started to cry. Gods be good, this is so unseemly, she scolded herself, but her sobs were as impossible to stop as her laughter. Suddenly, she wanted her mother and Septa Mordane and her father and Jeyne Poole and her brothers and Arya. She wanted to be able to talk about how happy she was, and it was so sad that she had to hide it when she so desperately wanted to let it show, to share it with people who cared about her. She squeezed her eyes shut to try and stop the tears, but that just made her cry even more.

 

Her maids crept closer to her, but it was Brella who pushed forward and put her arms around Sansa. “There, there, m’lady,” she said, pressing Sansa’s head against her ample bosom. “There’s no need to cry. All maids are a little bit frightened on their wedding day, ‘tis true, but you’ve no more to fear than any other lass. You must be brave, m’lady.”

 

Sansa sniffed and wiped her face with a handkerchief. Her tears stopped just as quickly as they had started. “I’m not frightened. I only… I only want to say my vows soon.”

 

“Aye, it’s the waiting that’s almost the hardest part, isn’t it?” Brella soaked a cloth in cold water from her washbasin and handed it to her. “Hold this to your face, m’lady, to make the redness go away, and Janna will finish braiding your hair. Then we’ll lace you up in your pretty gown, march you off to the sept, and before you know it, your wish will be coming true.” She grinned, and Sansa smiled back. More than anyone knows.

 

Janna twisted the hair around Sansa’s face into elaborate braids, which she artfully arranged at the back of her head using dozens of pins. It was a lengthy process, for which Sansa was grateful, as it always took a long time for her complexion to return to normal when she’d been crying. Brella refreshed her face cloth twice before Janna pronounced her ready.

 

A knock came at the door and Sansa had a sudden feeling of dread when she realized how much time had passed since she’d come back from the Queen’s rooms. Am I late for the wedding? Oh, gods be good… Jenny rushed to answer it and immediately stepped back in a curtsy as the Queen swept into the rooms. She was resplendent in a deep rose velvet gown trimmed with cloth of gold and rubies. The other women dropped what they were doing and bent the knee, but Cersei didn’t even glance at them.

 

“I expected you would be dressed by now, Sansa. Why are you dawdling?” she demanded.

 

“I am sorry, Your Grace. I—“

 

Cersei cut her off sharply, addressing the maids she’d sent to help dress her. “The wedding dress. Now.” She stood with her arms crossed over her chest, watching impatiently.

 

The gown was absolutely the most gorgeous thing Sansa had ever seen. It was made of ivory samite, with long sleeves lined with cloth of silver. The full skirt was split down the middle and cleverly draped to fall in soft folds that revealed yards and yards of costly Myrish lace worn over a cloth-of-silver underskirt. Lavish embroidery in silver thread adorned the bodice, sleeves, and edges of the skirt along the split in the middle and the hem.

 

Her maids fetched the pearl earrings and hairnet Sansa had chosen to complete the ensemble, but the Queen demanded she wear the moonstones Joffrey had given her. Sansa hid her distaste as the hairnet was arranged and the gems hung from her ears. I will give them to Brella after the wedding. Those moonstones, like many of Joffrey’s gifts, were poisoned with his hate and the painful beatings she had endured while wearing them, and she never wanted to touch them again.

 

Jenny and Brella put soft slippers on her feet, and Sansa lifted her eyes to look in her standing mirror while Cersei’s maids fetched the maiden’s cloak. She had truly shed her girlhood. She would be leaving this room a young woman, poised and luminous and beautiful.

 

“You are lovely, Sansa. Truly, the gods have blessed you,” Cersei said. Sansa was surprised at how sincere the Queen sounded. It was the nicest thing she’d ever said to her.

 

“Thank you, Your Grace. You are so kind to say so.” The maiden’s cloak was hung about her shoulders and fastened with a heavy silver chain. Sansa took one last look in the mirror, sent a silent prayer to the gods, and left with the Queen to be escorted to the sept by Ser Meryn, Osmund Kettleblack, and Jaime Lannister.

 

The sept was housed in the Water Tower. She walked down the corridors and descended the steps to the first level of the east tower, feeling as if she was in a dream. It was all happening now, at last, and in only a little while she and Sandor would be joined in wedlock in front of the gods and men, and no one would be able to come between them. The gods are good. Sandor doesn’t believe in the gods, but they answered my prayers, they helped me.

 

When they passed the Great Hall, where the wedding feast would be held and where her mother and her brother Robb had died, she prayed silently for their souls. She tried to imagine that they were there with her, watching and smiling.

 

A great cheer went up from the camps below as she crossed the drawbridge, and then they were at the entrance of the sept, and Joffrey was waiting by the closed doors, grinning.

 

“I’m your father today,” he announced.

 

“No, you’re not,” she spat back. “You’ll never be.”

 

His face darkened. “Yes, I am! Your father’s dead. As King, I’m the father of the land. I can marry you to the pig boy if I like, even now, and have you bed down with him in the sty!”

 

Sansa was appalled by her recklessness. She’d been so careful for so long, she must hold herself together for just a little longer. She lowered her eyes and forced herself to apologize meekly. The King gave her a blistering look and offered his arm. She had no choice but to take it, though his touch made her skin crawl.

 

The guards opened the doors to the sept and the singing swelled all around them as she crossed the threshold with the King. The room was filled from wall to wall with the lords and ladies of the Riverlands and the North, resplendent in silks and furs and jewels, as well as their noble guests from King’s Landing. Sandor stood at the altar, where the High Septon waited between the statues of the Mother and the Father to join their lives together until the end of time.

 

Once she saw him, she could not look away. He towered over the High Septon and the other lords and was muscled like a maiden’s dream. His hair had grown long during the journey to the Twins, and now hung well below his shoulders. He was dressed plainly compared to those who’d come to witness their vows, but there was nothing common about the quality of the cloth and workmanship of his clothing. His tunic was made of thick black silk velvet and his breeches were of the finest wool from sheep bred in the Reach, prized for their exceptionally soft undercoat. His boots were Dornish leather. From his shoulders hung a heavy silk cloak, a deep yellow-gold with the three black dogs of House Clegane worked upon the back in silk and velvet. The wife’s cloak. She realized she was smiling, and she felt certain that every person in the room could feel the power of the long and longing and joy that filled her heart and soul at this very moment.

 

He hadn’t taken his eyes off of hers, either. The weight of his gaze was like a cloak about her shoulders, warm and reassuring, as Joffrey slowly walked her down the aisle at the center of the crowded sept to the wedding altar. It seemed to take an eternity to cover the little bit of ground between the entrance of the sept and the altar, but when she finally stood in front of Sandor, it was like no time at all had passed.

 

It wasn’t until he bent the knee, startling her out of the spell she’d been in, that Sansa remembered Joffrey. She tore her eyes away from her betrothed long enough to curtsy deeply for the King, and then turned back to him when His Grace left them to stand with his mother. Sandor’s slate grey eyes burned into hers and they stared deeply at each other until the High Septon cleared his throat, signaling them to face him as the ceremony began.

 

*************************

 

After leaving the King, Sandor had gone to inspect the master’s suite, which he and Sansa would share after they were married. One of his first acts as Lord of the Crossing had been to order the woodworkers to replace the bed. He’d be damned if he’d take Sansa’s maidenhead in the same bed old Walder Frey had fucked eight or nine wives in over the span of several decades. The castle staff had also stripped the room at his command and replaced carpets, furs, window coverings, and furnishings with items brought in from scarcely used guest quarters. The new bed was plainly made and filled the room with the fresh scent of newly cut wood. He hoped the little bird would like it. He’d also had them replace the lord’s high seat in the great hall with two new ones; if Sansa wished to help rule their new house and lands, he’d be proud to have her by his side.

 

Afterwards, he spent a good hour in the training yard before returning to his rooms. The grueling physical exertion had helped to clear his mind and calm his body, but it didn’t take him long to prepare for the ceremony, so he was stuck waiting again. Inactivity always drove him mad, unless he was drinking. He’d been pacing the room in his wedding finery for what seemed like hours, trying to calm the pounding of his heart. His skin tingled and his senses were keyed to their highest pitch; he’d only ever felt this way before in tourneys and in battle. He cursed himself for a fool. I’ve only to walk to the sept and say a few words, not face axes and swords and men trying to kill me, he thought, disgusted at his weakness.

 

A page announced the arrival of his honor guard. Sandor yanked his door open and glared at Lords Clement and Marq Piper and Lord Umber.

 

“You took your sweet time getting here,” he growled.

 

“Some of us had more pressing duties to attend to, Lord Clegane,” said the Greatjon, bristling.

 

Sandor grunted. “Well, what are you waiting for? You don’t mean to stand here looking at my face all day long, do you?” he said, rudely. “Let’s go.”

 

He strode off in the direction of the sept. He’d located it soon after taking up residence at the Twins and made sure he could find it from his rooms, walking the course every night after the little bird retired. It wouldn’t do to get lost in the corridors of his own castle on the way to his wedding. His nerves wound themselves a little tighter. The other men trailed him closely as he crossed the bridge to the Water Tower. Sandor felt crowded, but he couldn’t bark at them again. Sansa would have been mortified if she’d known how ill-mannered he’d just been to the men who’d pledged their banners to her.

 

They were almost there. The great wooden doors stood before them, flanked by Lannister guardsmen. The King was waiting for him.

 

Sandor bent the knee. “Your Grace.”

 

“Rise, dog. I see you’re wearing the dagger I gave you. Perhaps you’ll loan it to me for the bedding ceremony, so I can save you the bother of undressing Sansa yourself.” Turning to the Greatjon and the lords Piper, he sneered. “You’re traitors, all of you. The three of you will be the first to bend the knee, and you’ll stay on your knees until everyone has pledged their loyalty to me. Though it would please me more to have your heads on spikes,” he said, almost spitting in his contempt. “Go on dog, you’ve a bride to wait for,” he said, commanding the guards to open the doors. 

 

Sandor walked down the central aisle to where the High Septon was waiting between the statues of the Mother and the Father, his honor guard standing behind him and a little to his left. The whispers and low voices rose and fell around him, and the air smelled of incense and scented candles.

 

He never thought he would have a wife. Not after his bloody brother had shoved his face in a brazier and burned him so badly that for years afterwards, people shunned him, looking away when they saw him or going out of their way to avoid him in the village. His life ruined, all for playing with Gregor’s bloody wooden knight. Sandor had hated himself for years afterwards for taking the toy because he’d known at the time that he’d have hell to pay if Gregor found out and had taken it anyway. And he’d hated the toymaker who’d made the knight even more.

 

The hatred had gone away over time, to be replaced with rage. Anger was easy to deal with. He could beat knights bloody in the training yard, or in fights at the winesinks. He could kill men during battle. He could drown himself in a sea of wine. He’d embraced the anger, killed the boy inside of him who had dreamed about becoming a knight, and became the Hound instead. Long hours in the training yard had honed his skills and built his strength so that he’d become the strongest, fiercest, deadliest warrior in Westeros.

 

Everyone was afraid of him. Even so, men respected him for his reputation and women wanted him, especially once he became sworn shield to the Queen, and later to Joffrey. But he’d shut off the part of himself that had wanted a home and a family of his own, so he gave them his cock, and that was all.

 

He had a sudden, vivid memory of himself as a child, before Gregor burned him. He’d loved knights when he was a boy, and had spent many hours dashing through the thick forests surrounding his father’s keep with his head full of stories, brandishing his wooden stick sword and dreaming that one day he would rescue a fair maiden and she would fall in love with him. He’d thought those dreams had been burned out of him, but somehow, the presence of the little bird in his life had breathed life back into them. He hadn’t been pleased by the development. It made him angrier than ever, especially since being the Hound couldn’t help him save her in King’s Landing, though he did what little he could to protect her.

 

The doors swung open just then, and Sandor turned to see Sansa in the doorway, silhouetted against the bright light streaming through the Water Tower windows behind her. Then she and Joffrey stepped into the sept, the doors were shut behind them, and he could see her.

 

Sansa made her way towards the marriage altar, her hand resting lightly on Joffrey’s arm, looking at Sandor as if he was the only man in the room. She moved so gracefully, and the light seemed to shine more brightly on her than anywhere else in the room. She was radiantly beautiful. It almost hurt to look at her. And she will leave this place as my wife.

 

She was smiling as she approached, her face lit with joy, smiling at him and no one else, though the lords and ladies in attendance bowed their heads and murmured appreciatively as she passed them. She was only a few steps away. Joffrey was playing the gallant, beaming at his loyal subjects as if he, not Sandor, was the one about to say his marriage vows to the most beautiful woman in Westeros. Not on your bloody life, he thought, remembering all the times he’d stood helplessly by while Joffrey’s Kingsguard beat Sansa at his royal command. Back in King’s Landing, he’d been so afraid that the little bird would break, but she never did. He couldn’t protect her then, but he could keep her safe now. No one would ever hurt her again, or he’d kill them.

 

She stood in front of him now, her eyes searching his, reaching deep into his soul. Sandor felt a tightness in his throat and the hot prickle of tears beneath his eyelids. Seven bloody buggering hells. He blinked several times, and then became aware of Joffrey, still standing there between him and Sansa, looking displeased. Sandor quickly bent the knee, and Sansa roused from her reverie to curtsey. They stood and looked at one another again, then turned to face the High Septon. And the ceremony began.

 

**************

 

Sansa recited the vows with Sandor, and they exchanged the seven promises. As the Septon invoked the seven blessings and the marriage song was sung, it seemed to her almost as if she was in a dream. Flickering candlelight and sparkling jewels swam at the edges of her vision. The scent of incense and perfume comforted her, and she basked in the warmth of Sandor’s massive presence beside her. Her fear that something would go awry to ruin the wedding no longer loomed over her. She felt utterly at peace.

 

Finally, the challenge was called out. Sansa felt that all the guests who were assembled held their breath with her in the hushed silence of the crowded sept.

 

The challenge remained unanswered.

 

At the High Septon’s prompt, Sandor and Sansa together lit candles to the Mother and the Father. Joffrey stepped behind her to unfasten her maiden’s cloak, no doubt hoping that his fumbling hid his grasping hands. He squeezed her breast just before he removed the cloak with a flourish. Sansa’s face burned with indignation, and she could feel Sandor’s rage beside her. When Joffrey stepped away, Sandor wasted no time in sweeping his cloak off of his shoulders and laying it over hers. She looked up at him as he fastened it, and he brushed her cheek with a soft kiss.

 

All that remained was for the final words to be spoken, binding Sansa and Sandor as husband and wife in front of all the gods and men.

 

The High Septon bade them face each other. Sansa knew what was next. Tears of joy sprang to her eyes as she stood there, enveloped in the cloak that was still warm from the heat of Sandor’s body. She smiled at her husband.

 

“With this kiss I pledge my love, and take you for my lord and husband,” she said, her voice ringing loud enough for all to hear.

 

“With this kiss I pledge my love,” Sandor said hoarsely, and faltered. His eyes glittered wetly. He swallowed hard and cleared his throat before continuing. “And take you for my lady and wife.”

 

He bent down and Sansa raised her face to meet his, and he pressed a kiss firmly onto her lips. She realized she had raised her hands to cup his face as she kissed him back.

 

The High Septon raised his crystal high and light from the candles scattered rainbows throughout the sept. “I do solemnly proclaim Sandor of House Clegane and Sansa of House Stark to be man and wife, one flesh, one heart, one soul, now and forever, and cursed be the one who comes between them.”

 

The sept erupted in cheering and laughter, and Sansa was flooded with a joy more intense than anything she had ever felt before. She looked at Sandor with exhilaration and smiled. Tears spilled from her eyes, and he wiped them away as they fell. She laughed and caught hold of his hand and held tightly to it as he kissed her again. Then he offered her his arm, and they followed the High Septon out of the sept and crossed the drawbridge to the shouting and whistles and cheering of the crowds gathered on the floodplain below. It was the happiest day of Sansa’s life.

 

******************************

 

Sandor looked down at Sansa wearing his cloak of protection and thought he’d never seen such a beautiful sight. She looked so happy, so honored to be his wife. He was her lord husband now, and she was his lady wife. It could not be undone. He swelled with pride as he escorted her to the Great Hall of the eastern castle to begin the feast. There, they stood to accept congratulations and well wishes as the guests filed in, and then took their places at the high table. There was a golden chalice sitting on the table between them. Sansa murmured that it was her bride’s gift from the Queen, and pointed out the three dogs of his house engraved at the bottom of the cup, as well as the jewels that proclaimed his house colors.

 

A servant appeared to fill the cup, and he took his eyes away from his bride for a moment to look around the room. An army of servants were hurrying all along the tables to fill cups for the toasting and set down the first of many dishes to come. Joffrey gave the wedding toast. Sandor and Sansa politely listened, but when the King was finished, Sandor couldn’t remember a thing he’d said. He lifted the chalice and held it to Sansa’s lips, as was the custom, and she sipped from it delicately, then held it to his mouth. As the evening wore on, the hall grew loud with laughter and talking. Plate after plate of food was put in front of Sandor and Sansa, and later whisked away, largely untouched. They listened, nodded, and smiled when they were toasted, but otherwise, they gave each other their undivided attention. Sandor encouraged the little bird to eat, but she only managed to nibble a bite or two from a few dishes. Her cheeks were flushed from the wine and her eyes danced.

 

When the dancing began, Sansa touched his arm and looked at him hopefully, but he shook his head. “No, little bird. I was not made for dancing.” He consented when Ser Marq Piper asked Lady Sansa to honor him with a dance, and marveled at how lightfooted she was. She twirled and dipped with her partners as if she danced on air. Then Joffrey entered the dance, and when she came to him, she stumbled and from then on, moved stiffly and without grace. When the music ended, she fled back to her place by Sandor’s side and politely declined all other invitations to dance.

 

Joffrey was drinking heavily, Sandor noted. He could hear the King’s crude jests and cruel barbs loudly above the noise of the hall. Cersei’s smile seemed forced. Suddenly, Sansa leaned over to whisper in his ear. “Sandor, please don’t let me have the bedding. I couldn’t bear it if Joffrey touched me.”

 

“He’ll not touch you, little bird. You have my word,” he said grimly, his mouth in a hard line. He summoned Brella, who was standing discretely behind Sansa’s seat at the table. “Take my lady to the marriage chamber,” he ordered.

 

Sansa rose and Brella put her arm around her protectively. They made their way towards a small door at the back of the Great Hall, behind the dais. Sandor saw several of the guests follow them with their eyes, but nothing was said and he hoped to the seven hells that Joffrey wouldn’t notice.

 

The King’s head whipped around just as Sansa and her maid reached the door. “Lady Sansa! Where are you going?” he shouted drunkenly.

 

Sandor seethed with rage. “My lady goes to attend her needs, Your Grace. She will return shortly.”

 

“No! I command her to stay. This feast has gone on too long. It’s time for the bedding! Let’s get those clothes off her and see what the she-wolf’s got to give to my dog!”

 

“As you say, Your Grace. The bedding when my lady returns.” He shot a look at Sansa and her maid and they fled through the door without a backwards glance.

 

“She can’t leave! I commanded her to stay!” Joffrey was furious. “Kingsguard, bring her back now!”

 

The guests were becoming anxious. An uneasy muttering swept through the room. No doubt they were remembering what had happened at the last wedding to take place in this hall, Sandor thought, and was readying himself for a bad situation when the Queen stood.

 

“Your Grace, no doubt many of our guests have already attended certain needs this night, as Lady Sansa does now. When nature calls, it has no regard for royal commands.” Cersei chuckled, and the hall laughed with her dutifully. “While we wait for Lady Sansa’s return, let us all drink to King Joffrey for gracing the Riverlands with his royal presence and his bounty. For it is His Grace’s desire that all celebrate with him the marriage of his most loyal subjects, Lord Sandor and Lady Sansa.”

 

Servants filled cups at the high table while the guests helped themselves from flagons set amongst them. Joffrey emptied his at once.

 

The Greatjon filled his cup and stood, raising it in a toast. “All hail King Joffrey! May his name and deeds never be forgotten!” he boomed.

 

Sandor groaned. The Queen narrowed her eyes at Umber, but the guests in the hall drank again. Joffrey snatched the wine flagon from the servant come to fill his cup and tipped it to his mouth, downing it quickly in huge gulps. When it was emptied, he slammed it down on the table and swayed in his seat. He wiped his sleeve across his chin where the wine had spilled, and Cersei leaned over to whisper something to him. He pushed her away and shook his head. 

 

“Where… Where’s S-sansa?” he demanded. The King was so drunk, he had trouble forming his words. Good, Sandor thought. If the King didn’t pass out in his wine soon, Sandor would call for another toast. “Someone bring her ba…back for the… bedding,” his voice trailed off. Then he gathered himself upright. “She-wolf. I’ll cut off her dress m-myself,” he said, slowly and with great concentration. “See wha’ she has for m’dog.”

 

Sandor decided not to leave anything to chance. He filled the wedding chalice with wine and stood. Cersei looked like she wanted to murder him. “Your Grace, King Joffrey,” he called out, and bowed when Joffrey tried to focus on him. He should have thought this out better; words escaped him. “Your Grace…” Fuck. “To peace in Westeros and the end of the war.” He started to sweat, but he needn’t have worried. A servant had filled Joffrey’s cup again, and the King drank it down without answering the toast. The rest of the hall cheered and followed suit.

 

“Dog,” Joffrey slurred. “You… you… I…” The King could scarcely keep his seat. Servants flanked him to try to hold him upright, and one was savvy enough to snatch his plate away as the others struggled. No sooner had he done so than the King passed out face-down on the table, before all the guests in the Great Hall. The Kingsguard hastily stepped in to carry him from the table.

 

Sandor didn’t waste a moment. He stood and descended the dais to address the hall. “I’ve had my fill of food and wine. The feast can go on without me. Eat and drink as you please. My bride is waiting for me.”

 

Lords and ladies and servants looked at one another. The Queen took her seat and forced a smile at those gathered. She nodded at a servant to fill her cup, and the music and eating and drinking started up again.

 

Sandor had taken only a few steps towards the exit Sansa had taken when a woman’s voice called out.

 

“There’s to be no bedding for the Lady Sansa, but what of Lord Sandor? Come lasses and ladies, we must prepare Lord Sandor for his bride!”

 

Sandor cursed out loud and turned around. The woman who’d spoken was one of the servants, a small, dark-haired wench, slim but with full breasts and hips. She approached him brazenly and he stood his ground as she clutched at his sword belt.

 

“M’lord, let me kiss your sword before you go into battle,” she said, laughing. Her nimble fingers unbuckled the heavy belt and suddenly she was holding it in both hands. He reached for it, but another girl darted in and grabbed it from the first.

 

“I’d rather hold your sword, but I’ll settle for your swordbelt, if it please you m’lord,” she said.

 

Sandor scowled. All he wanted was to get out of the Great Hall as soon as possible and be with his little bird. The longer they delayed here, the greater the risk that Joffrey would rouse from his drunken stupor. But women were crowding around him now, highborn ladies and smallfolk alike. There’d be no stopping them until they’d had their bedding. “Be sure it follows me to my bedchamber,” he growled, and strode out of the room.

 

Several hands grabbed at his tunic as he walked, and he finally pulled it off and flung it away to get them off his back. Someone stood behind him and ran her hands over his chest and belly. More tugged at his breeches. He ignored them and started walking again, but the small, dark-haired lass was having none of that. She was stronger than she looked and as tenacious as a terrier dog. She shoved him against the wall and grabbed hold of his waistband. Ladies and serving women swarmed around him, but she gave way to no one. She unlaced him while two highborn ladies in silks and jewels tugged the boots off his feet.

 

“Oooh,” she sucked her breath in, and then began to stroke him. “A sword should be well polished before it goes into its sheath,” she cooed.

 

He pushed her away and eager hands tugged his breeches down so that he had to step out of them if he was to be able to walk at all. He continued on his way, naked as the day he was born, while the women streamed behind him.

 

“The Hound has a bigger bone than all the other dogs in the kennels!” someone hooted.

 

“I’d beg for that bone!”

 

“Aye, you beg for every bone that comes your way!” Raucous laughter followed that comment.

 

“I know where you can bury that bone, Hound!”

 

And on it went until he was finally at the door to the marriage chamber. He turned to face the lusty crowd still clamoring for a chance to touch him and make rowdy jests. The timid young girl who’d carried his swordbelt placed it into his hands.

 

“You’ve had your bedding,” he told them. “Now, bugger off.” Then he slung the belt over his shoulder and turned his back on them to enter the room where Sansa waited for him.

 

********************

 

Sansa followed Brella back to the marriage chamber, praying that Sandor would be able to hold Joffrey off. She didn’t want anyone to lose their head over the bedding and would do it if she absolutely had to, but the thought made her sick so she pushed it from her mind to focus on the moment.

 

Brella led her into the room, where they were met by the same maids who had attended her before the wedding. Brella handed her off to Cersei’s maids, who guided her to the sitting room so they could undress her by the warmth of the fire that blazed in the hearth. Brella herself turned down the covers of the marriage bed and fluffed the pillows, and made sure there was both wine and fresh water on the bedside tables. Sansa’s heart began to pound with a nervous excitement when she saw the older maid’s preparations.

 

Cersei’s maids helped her step out of her gown and replaced her silky chemise with a warm robe. Then she sat at the dressing table while Janna removed the pins and jewels from her hair and brushed it till it was smooth and shining.

 

By then Sansa was shaking with anticipation and she thought her maids could surely hear her heart beating from across the room. Brella slipped a cup of wine into her hands and ordered her to drink it. Sansa sipped at it obediently until she’d finished half of it, and then shook her head and handed the cup back.

 

Finally, Brella dismissed the other maids, then turned to Sansa with a motherly smile.

 

“There’s a basin of warm water and some soft cloths right there by fire, m’lady, if you’d like to freshen up before your lord husband comes to you. Not that you’ve a need to, of course. You smell as sweet as a spring flower on a sunny day. But it’s there if you want it.”

 

Sansa could only shake her head mutely. Brella looked at her sympathetically.

 

“Well, then, m’lady, there’s only one thing left to do, and that’s to settle you into bed to wait for your lord husband,” the woman said brightly.

 

She took Sansa’s hand and led her to the great bed that had been hastily built at Sandor’s order after they’d arrived at the Twins, and then removed her robe so that Sansa could slip under the sheets. Brella tucked the sheets and blankets up to cover Sansa’s breasts so she wouldn’t grow cold, and then sat at the edge of the bed and stroked her hair away from her face, like Sansa’s own lady mother used to do.

 

“You do know what goes on in a marriage bed, don’t you?” Brella asked.

 

Sansa thought of the times when she’d met Sandor in the godswood at the Red Keep and blushed. “Of course.”

 

“Ah, forgive an old woman’s meddling! Of course your lady mother would have told you, or the Queen. Well, my dear, just think loving thoughts of your lord husband so that when he comes to you, you’ll be ready to receive him. The first time is often painful, I won’t lie, but don’t you worry, that goes away and soon enough you’ll wonder that it ever hurt at all.” She nodded and smiled, then patted Sansa’s hand again.

 

“Thank you, Brella. I won’t forget your kindness to me,” Sansa said, touched at the woman’s concern.

 

“’Tis nothing, m’lady, and you being so sweet to everyone, you deserve more kindness than has come your way. I hope you’ll get it now, with Lord Sandor being so strong and fearsome. No one will dare say a cross word to you after this day, and that’s as it should be.” She squeezed Sansa’s hand and stood up. “And I’ve said too much just now, always talking too much for my own good! I’ll just bid you good night, now.”

 

Brella rose and made one more quick round of the room to make sure everything was in order, and then quietly left.

 

Sansa lay propped up on the mound of pillows and hoped Sandor would come to her soon. She closed her eyes and listened to the crackling of the fire in the hearth. The wind blustering against the shutters brought her faint sounds of revelry from those camped on the plain. After a while, she realized that the sounds of laughter and celebration were growing louder. She sat up straighter as she strained to listen, and suddenly realized she was hearing what could only be a bedding ceremony for Sandor. She giggled. She wasn’t sure if Sandor would be enjoying it, but she had no doubt the ladies involved were.

 

And then his muffled voice was just outside the door. She heard him tell the women to bugger off, and then she jumped as the door flew open. She caught a quick glimpse of him framed against the light in the hallway before he slammed and barred the door.

 

Sansa caught her breath as she sat up to look at him, vaguely aware of her nipples tightening in the cool air of the bedchamber when the sheets slipped and left her bared to the waist. Sandor stood motionless for what seemed like an eternity, staring at her like a hawk that had just spotted its prey.

 

She silently thanked the gods that she had never seen him completely naked until now, because she would have never been able to keep her composure in the months that had passed since they’d first met in the godswood.

 

He was simply magnificent. The Warrior himself would have been proud to have such a physique. There was nothing soft about him. Every inch of his body showed the hard muscle of a man who’d spent his life perfecting his skills as a fighter. He emanated such vigorous masculinity, power, and grace all at the same time, Sansa’s knees would have gone weak if she hadn’t been lying in bed.

 

“Sandor,” she breathed, and held her arms out to him.

 

He dropped his swordbelt and came to her, the firelight tracing the muscles of his thighs. His manhood was stiff, and as he came closer, she saw that the tip of it was moist with the sticky fluid she’d felt when she’d touched him for the first time in the godswood. She licked her lips and suddenly longed to touch her tongue to it. What would it taste like? Would he like that? Or would he be horrified? Did other ladies think of doing such things?

 

She smiled shyly as Sandor climbed into bed. He took her in his arms and looked at her for a moment, stroking her hair. She reached up and gently cupped the burned side of his face in her hand, brushing the scars gently with her thumb, marveling that she had ever been so terrified of him and that such a man was now her husband.

 

He bent his head and brushed his tongue against her mouth, and when she parted her lips, he kissed her deeply. She closed her eyes and wrapped her arms around his neck as he pressed her back against the pillows, never taking his mouth from hers. It had been ages since they’d kissed each other like this. The heat of his lips on hers was intoxicating; her tongue sought his eagerly and she felt bereft when his mouth left hers for even a second, to skim her neck or breasts. She thought she’d never get her fill of him. She tangled her fingers in his hair and pressed her mouth hard against his, shuddering with desire.

 

She could already feel the wetness between her thighs. She wanted him so badly. She squirmed against him, wondering when he would take her. Their legs were tangled together, and she could feel his stiff manhood as he shifted his weight on top of her. She spread her legs, hoping he would move between them, and he trailed his hand down her belly to stroke the sensitive skin of her inner thighs, his fingers delicately tracing the soft lower lips of her lady’s place, only barely skimming the slick, warm folds between.

 

Her muscles were tight with her need for him, and she thought she would go mad if Sandor didn’t take her soon. She squirmed and writhed against him, and tried to touch him everywhere all at once. She wanted him all, everything, now. Why didn’t he take her? Was she supposed to tell him when she was ready? She didn’t think so. She’d always been taught that a wife was supposed to accept her husband when he wanted her. The woman was always supposed to be willing. Surely Sandor could see how much she wanted him.

 

Sandor took his mouth from hers and she found she could scarcely breathe, so great was her anticipation of what was to come. She looked into his eyes, trembling with excitement.

 

“You are shaking, little bird,” he murmured. “Are you so frightened of me now?”

 

Sansa gasped with surprise. “No, my love! I want you. I’m ready for you to take me, please! After all this time I can’t bear to wait any longer!”

 

He kissed her again, gently this time. “Slow down, little bird. You’re as tense as a drawn bowstring.” She made a noise of protest, and he silenced her with another kiss. “I know you want me, but I won’t take you until you’re ready.”

 

“But I am ready!” she protested.

 

Sandor rolled onto his back, taking her with him so that she was sprawled on top of him. He cupped her arse and drew her up, positioning her legs on either side of his hips as if he wanted her sitting astride him. Sansa was confused and tried to lie back down next to him, but he kept her where she was. She felt exposed and unsure of what he expected of her. He was supposed to be on top, showing her what to do, as he’d done before.

 

“Kiss me, Sansa.” His warm hands were still on her bottom, and as she leaned down to kiss him, her nub rubbed against his manhood and sent a shock of pleasure through her. His fingers stroked the backs of her thighs and the curve of her buttocks. She moaned and wriggled her hips involuntarily, feeling the heat growing in her belly.

 

“That’s right, little bird,” he said, and he grasped her arse again and pulled her forward a few inches, then thrust his hips to slide his cock against the warm folds of her lady’s place.

 

“Oh,” Sansa breathed. She looked down and felt a surge of arousal at the sight of Sandor’s cock underneath her. She braced her hands on his shoulders and rocked her hips to slide her nub against the head of his cock and let out a strangled cry of pleasure. “Oh, Sandor.”

 

“When you are ready, Sansa,” he said in a hoarse voice, and pushed her down against his cock as he thrust it against her again.

 

She understood what he meant now. She kissed him again and shivered as her nub rubbed along his stiff manhood, flooding her with desire and making her greedy for more.  She arched her back and slid up and down along his cock while Sandor caressed her breasts, cupping them, stroking and squeezing them gently, tracing their rosy tips until she finally put a hand on the back of his head and pushed his mouth towards her breasts. He took a nipple into his mouth and rolled it gently between his teeth and lips, flicking his tongue, then released it to suck on the other while his hands stroked Sansa’s back and traced the line from her buttocks to her thighs and back again.

 

Sansa rode him shamelessly. Her wetness had soaked them both. Sandor was cupping her buttocks again and as she slid her nub against the head of his manhood. His fingers stroked and teased her lower lips from behind. He pressed lightly on the entrance to her lady’s place. It felt exquisite. She had never known how sensitive it could be there. She rolled and circled and thrust her hips, feeling Sandor’s huge, hard cock sliding along the cleft between her legs, and lost herself in the sensuality of the moment. She was so sensitive. She knew she could find her release any second now if she wanted to, but every little movement was a world of indescribably blissful sensation that she wanted to last forever. When Sandor had first taken her in his arms, her passion had blazed like a torch. Now she felt it as a heat building and growing like the fire in a blacksmith’s furnace. She tried to draw it out a little longer before letting it consume her.

 

She was panting like a wild animal. She had never been less ladylike, and she didn’t care. Sandor didn’t seem to mind. He was bucking his hips, and his ragged breathing matched hers. She became aware that his hands had stopped moving and now gripped her waist, pressing her hard against his manhood while she moved and he thrust against her. She started moving faster, almost frantically, as she climbed the peak to her release. Sandor groaned.

 

“Sansa,” Sandor panted desperately. “Tell me when you are ready, Sansa.”

 

She heard herself gasping, and she looked at Sandor with unfocused eyes. All of her awareness was centered on the exquisite feeling between her legs. She rolled her nub on the tip of his cock once more and then bore down hard as pleasure slammed through her. She threw her head back and cried out as her whole body shook with the force of her release. Her movements slowed, and then another wave of pleasure crashed through her and she cried out again. She came to herself long enough to lean forward and rest her forehead against Sandor’s.

 

“I’m ready,” she managed to whisper.

 

She was still shuddering from her climax as he rolled her on to her back and spread her legs. He kissed her and she gave him a shaky smile, and then he loomed above her as he positioned his manhood at her entrance. She wrapped her arms around his chest and tilted her head back.

 

“I won’t be able to go slow, Sansa,” he explained. “I’ve waited so long, I’m like to spend myself before I take your maidenhead if I don’t take you now.”

 

He looked in her eyes, and all she could do was nod encouragingly. Then he pushed into her. She shrieked as the sharp pain of his penetration shocked her out of her hazy bliss.

 

“Oh gods,” he moaned as he buried his cock inside her. “I know it hurts, Sansa. But it won’t take long. I’ve waited so long. Oh gods…”

 

“Yes, my love. I know. Please, please,” she babbled. It hurt so much as he thrust in and out, but she knew he was probably being as gentle as he could. She bit her lip to keep from crying out again.

 

After a few heartbeats, she realized that she actually welcomed the pain, for it meant that she was finally, truly Sandor’s wife. She was so happy. She was beyond happy. She giddily wondered if there was a word for that. The intensity of her release combined with the pain of losing her maidenhead made her feel more keenly alive at this moment than she’d ever felt before.

 

“I love you, Sandor, I love you. I want to feel your—” she gasped at a particularly hard thrust, “your release inside me!”

 

Sandor drove his cock inside her one more time, and then let out a guttural cry as he stiffened and found his release, breathing like a blown horse.

 

“Sansa, Sansa,” he said, gathering her to his chest. She could actually feel him having his release. His cock twitched inside her, and she wrapped her legs around his hips to hold him close.

 

Sandor put a hand under her chin and tilted her face up to kiss her. She moaned softly as his seed spilled out of her. He was softening now, and she found that she didn’t hurt much anymore. She tightened her legs as he kissed her.

 

“Stay inside me,” she whispered. He wrapped his arm around her lower back to hold her steady as she wriggled and shifted in tiny movements to take him in, all of him, until they were finally joined, flesh to flesh, with no space between them. He felt so good inside her. Her feeling of oneness with him was more beautiful than she’d ever imagined. She kissed him and clutched his shoulders as she snugged her hips closer to his and felt desire sparking within her again. She surged and strained gently against him, and his manhood filled her so completely it seemed to touch pleasure points inside of her that she never even knew existed.

 

Her thighs were sticky with his seed and the wetness of her renewed arousal. She hadn’t thought she’d be able to ready herself for him again so soon, especially after the pain of losing her maidenhead. But she scarcely remembered it now, in the warmth of her husband’s arms, with his manhood slowly stiffening again inside her. He was whispering her name and calling her his little bird and telling her to sing for him again. The low, sweet pleasure was building, starting from where she and Sandor were joined together and growing and swirling inside her until her belly grew tight with the need for release. Sandor moved with her now, gently, just enough to help her climb her peak. She was almost there. She wrapped her arms around Sandor and buried her face in his neck, uttering soft, quick cries of pleasure, and she was almost there.

 

“Come, Sansa, come,” Sandor whispered urgently. “That’s right, sing your pretty song to me, my love.”

 

“Sandor, Sandor!” she cried, heart bursting with love and joy as she gave herself over to her release. Her second climax took her more gently than the first; the surge of floodwaters instead of crashing waves. Sandor’s cry was a hoarse rasp as he spilled his seed in her again. Time passed. Sansa didn’t know how long they laid there, tangled together, touching each other in wonder, brushing one another’s hair back from damp brows, exchanging kisses and whispered words of love. Pleasure continued to ripple through her as their breathing changed from the ragged, shuddering gasps of spent lovers to the slower, measured breaths of blissful exhaustion.

 

“Little bird,” Sandor said, rousing himself to pull the blankets up. He made sure they were tucked warmly around Sansa before taking her in his arms again.

 

Sansa nestled against him. The rise and fall of his chest under her hand was like a cradlesong.

 

“I love you, Sandor,” she said softly.

 

He raised himself up and looked down into her eyes. “I love you too, Sansa.”

 

It wasn’t a mistake. He hadn’t called her my love only in the heat of the moment, as she had heard some men did. Sandor loved her, as she loved him. She smiled at him, and then burrowed down in her husband’s arms and went to sleep.