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Sorry I'm Late

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Sandor hated hospitals. He'd spent his fair share in one back when he'd been burned and on and off again during his years boxing. They made him uncomfortable, brought back memories he'd rather not have. His boxing injuries were always treated in the ER and he'd always declined staying even if it was recommended. Something about the sterile smell, the clinical walls. The shitty attempts at art on the walls. The vague sense of sickness and death that permeated the air.

That day he'd come willingly, without injury or sickness. He'd put aside his personal issues with medical facilities because some things were more important.

The waiting room was actually pretty big. There wasn't just hard plastic chairs, but nice comfy recliners and even a couple of big overstuffed sofas. There was a bookshelf full of books and a huge flat screen TV that was currently being used by Jon and Rickon to play some video game that involved car jacking's. Catelyn Stark was sitting close to her husband on one of the sofas reading a book she'd brought herself while Ned flipped through a magazine Sandor was sure he wasn't actually looking at. Robb sat in one of the recliners, foot tapping restlessly as he scrolled through his phone. Arya was laying sideways across another recliner, a tablet laying on her stomach as she lay there with her eyes closed, but not sleeping. Bran was sitting his wheelchair near Rickon, occasionally voicing tips and instructions on what was the best move for his younger brother to make.

Over the morning and day, others had trickled in and out, giving their support and encouragement and condolences before leaving again. Some of the girls Sansa worked with had come and stayed a while. Aunts and uncles and cousins that Sandor had met a few times before, at Elias' first and second birthday parties. Sansa had smiled and thanked them, despite her puffy eyes and scratchy voice. She had cried on and off for the last three days. Last night had been rough, and neither of them had gotten much sleep while she used his shirt as a tear sponge.

As the day wore on, the visitors had stopped coming and Sansa had given up her pacing and any attempt at pretending to read a book. Sandor had watched her the entire time from his spot on the sofa, only getting up to piss or to make sure she at least attempted to eat a muffin and get her a bottle of water from the vending machine. He hadn't been surprised when she wore herself out with all of that and slumped on the sofa next to him. Neither was any of her family surprised when she curled up into the nook of his shoulder and stayed there while they waited for the doctor to come out. It wasn't a new sight.

Over the last few years, Sansa had come to mean something incredibly important to him. At first she'd just been Rickon's older sister, and during one of his training sessions, Rickon had informed him with all the grace and decorum of a thirteen year old that her boyfriend had cheated on her and she was now looking for a place to live. He'd informed him about the house next to him coming up, and within a week, Sansa Stark was his neighbor.

With every half off large Thursdays at the local pizza parlor, Sansa weaseled her way into his life. He'd been one of the first she'd informed of her unplanned pregnancy, worried about the decisions she faced. He'd told her to do what was right for her, and so she'd kept it.

It eventually became a him and they spent weeks arguing over names. Sandor informed her that Florian wasn't an acceptable name for a boy that would one day be a man and Sansa had told him neither was Balerion the Black Dread. Sandor had run off the unfaithful Prince Charming when he'd shown up and demanded Sansa abort the pregnancy and they could start over. When he hadn't left at Sansa's insistence, Sandor moseyed his way over and told the big cunt that he could leave with his jaw intact or Sandor could ruin his fucking night. Harry had left, a bravado show of bravery when he flipped the bird as he sped away.

Sandor hadn't wanted a friend. He didn't have many and that was fine with him, but Sansa really didn't seem to care about what he wanted in that scenario. So he started picking up the pizza without her just showing up at his door. He forced his love of cheesy sci fi movies on her. He started mowing her lawn when her belly was the size of a melon and her doctor said she should probably delegate. He also came over every few days to empty out her washer when she could no longer bend over the top load because of her stomach.

It was an early Sunday morning that he watched with a grin as a grumbling Sansa waddled out to pick up her newspaper. He'd mocked her gently, telling her to be careful or she'd topple over and end up stuck, like a turtle on it's back. She'd opened her mouth to scold him, when a gush of fluid down her legs stopped her. Sandor had forced a calm as he drove her to the hospital.

Elias looked just like Harry. Had since that very first day. Sandy blonde hair, aquiline nose, and a little dimple in his chin. That hadn't mattered to Sansa. Elias was her son, and hers alone. Her family helped, and Sandor helped, but the kid was hers.

Despite his brashness and his usual personal reserve, Sandor had been a goner the second a two month old Elias wrapped his little hand around his big finger and fell asleep while he was keeping an eye on him so Sansa could grab a shower. The kid had him hooked from then on out. He loved Elias, which was pretty damn easy to do when the kid adored him, even more so than his actual uncles and aunt. A fact Sandor rubbed in the Stark siblings faces any time he could. Which made all this really fucking messy now. Sandor hated emotional extremes, unless it was anger. Anger he understood. Anger he could control and wield to his whim. But this...this was terrible and uncomfortable. Sandor couldn't control what was happening now. He felt useless and inept in the face of this.

Beside him, Sansa shifted and Sandor glanced down at her. She was leaned into his side, using his shoulder as a cushion for her head, legs folded up beside her. She was chewing on the tip of her thumbnail, an anxious tick she had that he had never noticed until Elias started getting sick. There was still something beautiful about her at the moment, like there was beauty in grief. He ached to take on her pain, but knew he couldn't, didn't even understand the level of her pain. As much as he loved Elias, he wasn't a parent. He didn't know the type of fear that now consumed Sansa. No words would make her feel better right now, none that he could give her at least. Instead, he let his arm slip off the back of the sofa and curl around her shoulders.

Physical affection had been something he had to learn to deal with when he became friends with Sansa. She was a tactile thing, always touching him casually or throwing her arms around him in an unexpected hug. He tried to avoid it as much as he could because Sansa was his friend. He hadn't wanted to do anything to mess that up. Because as much as she touched him, he wanted more. It was hard not to with a girl as gorgeous as her. But Sansa was off limits, always had been. At first because she was carrying another mans child, and then because she was a new mother. Eventually it turned into her being too close of a friend and Sandor didn't want to disrupt the thing they had going on and possibly lose not only her but Elias as well.

Wanting Sansa wasn't enough. A quick fuck, a casual fling. That wasn't Sansa's style. And as much as he physically wanted her, he wasn't sure he could do anything more. Or even if he wanted to. So he pushed those stirrings to the side and focused on being her friend and playing around with Elias.

It was that friendship that she had leaned on so much lately. Elias had started getting sick on and off starting a few months back. At first it seemed like nothing too serious. Low fever, upset stomach, unwillingness to eat. It was Sansa's years being a nurse, or possibly mothers intuition, but she knew something more was wrong. After the first few doctors ignored her worries, Sandor had gone with her to the ER one night when Elias had been inconsolable with pain and a fever. He'd let his anger get the better of him when they were told yet again it was nothing. He'd cussed out the doctor, a few of the nurses, and even a lab tech for good measure. Security had been called, but before they'd kicked him out, Sansa had gotten her referral to a specialist.

The answers she found there weren't exactly what she'd been looking for, even if they were finally answers.

At two years old, Elias was found to have a tumor in his abdomen which testing revealed to be neuroblastoma. Sansa had been amazing when the doctor explained in detail her sons situation, and the needed surgery. She had firmed her wobbling chin, cradled Elias to her chest a little tighter, and listened intently as the doctor spoke. She had held herself together so as not to scare Elias. Sandor had driven her back home in silence and the second she came back out of the bedroom from laying Elias down for a nap, she'd crumbled. That was three days ago. Sandor hadn't left her side for much of that time. He'd scooped her up off the hallway floor and carried her into her bedroom and laid on the bed with her as she cried herself to sleep. He'd been there with her when she put on a brave face for Elias and her family, and been there for her when she needed to take the time and fall apart.

"Ms. Stark?" a doctor interrupted his musings and everyone in the room (minus Bran) jumped to their feet. Jon clicked off the TV as Sansa stood up quickly, grabbing Sandor's forearm tightly in her hands.

"Yes." she sniffed. "How is everything?"

The doctor smiled softly, motioning for her to sit back down as he grabbed folding chair from the corner and sat it in front of her.

"Elias handled the surgery wonderfully." he said as soon as he sat down. Sansa's grip tightened for a moment on his arm before relaxing some. "Everything went as good as could be hoped for. He's in recovery right now, waking up from anesthetic, and you'll be able to see him very soon."

"Thank the Gods." Catelyn breathed from her seat nearby.

"Yes." the doctor agreed. "We were able to remove the tumor in it's entirety. We'd been concerned about the cancer being in surrounding organs, but everything looks good. Nothing to indicate there might be cancer elsewhere."

"That's good, right?" Sansa asked.

"Very good." the doctor smiled. "Ms. Stark, that's wonderful. It means we've likely removed the cancer from your sons body. It means, if later tests verify this, Elias won't have to have anymore treatment. No chemo or radiation. It's very likely your son is now cancer free."

Sandor felt the breath leave him in a rush as a weight he hadn't realized was pressing down on his chest eased. One of Sansa's hands left his arm, flying up to cover her mouth as a sob slipped out.

"Thank you." she said after a moment, releasing Sandor completely to stand up and throw her arms around the doctor. He chuckled and hugged her back. "Thank you so much. So very much."

"You are very welcome, Ms. Stark."

It was about twenty minutes later that a nurse came in to get Sansa and take her back to see Elias. The rest of them would have to wait until he was moved to his own room. Sandor briefly considered leaving, heading back home and getting some decent sleep in his own bed, but quickly dismissed that. He wouldn't be able to rest, let alone sleep, until he was able to see Elias again. To hear Sansa assure him things really were going to be okay.

It felt like for fucking ever before the rest of them were allowed back, one by one, to see Elias. Catelyn went first, of course. Then Ned. After them, the siblings all took turns, going in age order, before Jon went after Rickon. Once Jon came back out, Sandor slowly made his way down the dark corridor to the room indicated.

Elias looked tiny in his hospital bed, his face half covered by the tape holding the tubes of his oxygen in place. He was wearing a hospital gown, wires curling out of the top and an IV in one arm that was being stabilized. He was asleep, Sansa sitting in a chair as close as she could get it to the side of his bed. She had his tiny hand in hers, the one without the IV tubes, and was rubbing her fingers over his knuckles as she sang softly.

Sandor froze just inside the door, unable to announce his presence at the moment. It dawned on him that he was looking at the two best things in his life. It occurred to him just how easily Elias' situation could have been much worse. He'd Googled enough about neuroblastoma in the last few days to know it wasn't always a happy ending. The fact that life was fleeting wasn't a new concept to him. It was a fact Sandor had normally embraced in life, knowing that things didn't last forever. Usually it was a reason to not give a shit about the awful things that happened. There was a flip side to that as well, he acknowledged as he listened to Sansa's sweet voice. It also meant that all the good things ended, too.

Elias was his good. Sansa was his good. That wasn't just a want. That was a need. That was something far deeper than Sandor had ever considered being for him.

Fuck.

Sandor gulped silently but must have made some sort of noise because Sansa stopped singing and looked over at him. A sleepy smile spread across her face and his stomach turned over, causing his heart to skip a beat.

"Hey." she whispered, oblivious to his world rocking revelation.

"Hey." he whispered back. Maybe it wasn't so world rocking. It had, after all, been the same as it was before he walked in. His feelings hadn't changed. He was just aware of them now.

Things hadn't changed. Sansa was still off limits. Even if he wanted to push it. Elias was going to be okay, but things were far from over. She still had a sick child to care for and Sandor really needed to get his shit in order if this was really something he was thinking of pursuing.

Sansa Stark was an It girl. The type of girl that was it for a man. Sandor needed to make damn sure he was ready for that, for Sansa and Elias. And for himself.

Chapter Text

A month had passed since Elias' surgery. And it had been such a long month. Elias had recovered wonderfully, and all further testing showed that the surgery did indeed get all of the cancer, thank the Gods. Sansa had to go back to work shortly after the surgery. Bills still needed to be paid and unfortunately, being a single mom, it was up to Sansa to pay them. Her parents helped a ton. Catelyn came over and kept Elias at the house so he didn't need to be moved and always showed up with a bag of groceries. Sandor covered the weekends Sansa had to work to allow her mom a break and always had dinner ready when she did get home, like tonight. He was actually a pretty good cook, which she assumed came from having to fend for himself ever since he was a small child. Elias even had a second helping of the chicken tacos.

"I think we found a new favorite meal." Sansa grinned as she watched Elias dig into his second taco.

"Little shit has good taste." Sandor stood up, picking up his empty plate and reaching for hers. Sansa shot him a narrowed eyed look, but handed him the plate. He'd been referring to Elias as 'little shit' since she was pregnant with him. It'd become something of a teasing joke but Sansa still put in the effort to show her disapproval.

"The little angel now needs a bath." Sansa started wiping off the mess around Elias' plate into his now empty plate.

"You get him and I'll get the dishes." Sandor offered from the sink and Sansa scooped Elias out of his booster seat and held him at arms length.

"Are you wearing more than you ate, darling?" she teased.

"Take a bath!" Elias shouted with a smile.

Leaving Sandor to the kitchen, Sansa carried Elias to the bathroom and started the water before undressing him. The sight of the scars on his little belly always made her stomach do an uncomfortable churn. Sansa had honestly never been so terrified in her life. When she first found out she was pregnant with Elias, newly singled from a cheating boyfriend that she'd found with his head between the thighs of a girl sitting on their kitchen table, she'd been scared. She knew Harry wouldn't have anything to do with a baby. He already had a daughter, that she knew of, that he had nothing to do with. At the time, she felt alone and afraid, but it was nothing compared to how she felt when the doctor told her that her son had cancer. The only thing better was she wasn't alone then.

Sandor had been with her in that doctors office that day, just as he had been with her at the ER the week before and fighting for her son. Sansa hadn't wanted to frighten Elias, so she'd forced herself to hold it all in until he went down for his nap. After that, she'd shattered, fallen into a million tiny pieces on the hallway floor. Sandor had gathered her up and carried her to bed. He hadn't said anything to her, but he also didn't leave her. He'd just done what he'd been doing; giving her support and strength, and a shoulder to lean on when she couldn't take it any longer.

After washing Elias and getting him out, she wrapped him in a towel and carried him to his bedroom. Dressing him in his favorite pair of footy pajamas with the monster trucks that Sandor had bought him when he was sick, Sansa brushed out his curling blonde hair before sitting him back on the floor. He immediately took off back towards the kitchen and attached himself to Sandor's leg with a squeal.

"Sandy!" he shouted, hands reaching up for him to pick him up. "Up, Sandy!" Sandor finished off the last dish and grabbed Elias by his arms and picked him up, a scowl on his face.

"What have I said?" he mock scolded the little boy. "It's San-Door. Not San-Dee. Is that clear?"

"Clear." Elias nodded with a grin. "Sandy."

Sandor gave him a growl, which only had him giggling, then pinched his nose. "Should have let your mom name you Florian."

"No, I Elias." Elias quickly corrected.

"And you're welcome for that." Sandor grabbed his sippy cup of milk out of the fridge and carried him into the living room.

"You wanted Balerion." Sansa reminded him, sitting on the sofa with Elias between them.

"It's a good name." he defended. "Dragons are better then love struck cun...uh, fools."

"Dragons!" Elias let the sippy cup fall from his mouth. "Raaaarrrrr!"

"Very scary." Sandor gave the boy a high five and Sansa turned back to the TV with a roll of her eyes, where Elias was watching one last cartoon before bedtime. They spent many evenings like this one, more often during Elias' recovery. Sansa wouldn't trade these moments for anything. Small moments of peace, time spent with Elias and Sandor.

Resting her head on the back of the sofa, she relaxed into the cushions and half watched the cartoon, half paid attention to the soft movement of her sons breathing against her side. The exhaustion of her day at the hospital quickly caught up to her and the next thing she knew, her body was being moved and she jolted awake.

"It's alright." Sandor tightened his grip on her as he moved easily down the darkened hall towards her bedroom.

"What are you doing?" she asked with a half smile, rubbing her eye sleepily.

"Taking your sleepy ass to bed." he nudged the door to her bedroom open with his foot. "You fell asleep on the sofa. Mouth wide and drooling." he teased, sitting her on her feet next to the bed.

"I do not drool." she argued, then sucked in a breath when Sandor's hand came up to cup the side of her cheek, his thumb stroking the corner of her mouth. She froze, not daring to move, and just stared at him. As often as they were together, and as much as Sansa touched him, he rarely touched her first. Never so intimately. Sansa was suddenly aware of just how much she wanted him to touch her this way. How long it had been since anyone had touched her this way.

Heart in her throat, Sansa swayed forward but stopped when Sandor pulled his hand away and rubbed the tip of her nose with his thumb. It was damp. She scrunched her nose against it.

"See." he chuckled. "Drool."

"Hush." she blushed brightly, her stomach dropping in a surprising amount of disappointment as she wiped her nose with the side of her hand. But...but this was Sandor. Her best friend. She didn't...she couldn't want him like that. It was probably the unexpectedness of it, or that she was just starved for intimate affection since she hadn't had any in so long. It had nothing to do with how she sometimes would just sit and stare at him, or how he could make her smile after a long shift. The fact that he loved her son better than his own father did had nothing to do with it, or that sometimes her stomach would curl with heat when he came over to her house directly after he'd been at the gym and he was still all sweaty. Or how that one time she brought Elias to the gym to bring Sandor lunch and he'd been in the ring, shirtless and in action and she dropped the container of soup and made a big mess on the floor. She'd had to go home and change her underwear after that.

But that was just...she wasn't blind. That was all. She could appreciate that Sandor was an achingly masculine man without wanting him...couldn't she?

"Don't get your panties in a bunch." Sandor pulled her out of her thoughts and Sansa blushed all over again at the mention of her panties after thoughts like she'd been having. "Everyone drools."

"Right." she cleared her throat. "You should hear you snore. I can't imagine how you sleep with yourself."

"Used to it." he shrugged and started back towards the door.

"Elias and I are going to the zoo tomorrow." she informed him as she turned on the lamp and started digging in a drawer for her pajamas. "We're leaving around ten if you want to come with us."

"I'll be here then." he called over his shoulder with a wave goodnight.

After a fairly restless night, with dreams she really shouldn't be having, Sansa and Sandor made their way to the zoo with Elias in tow. She always liked it best when Sandor came with them to places like this because she never had to bring a stroller since Elias preferred the perch of Sandor's shoulders.

"Look!" Elias shouted from Sandor's shoulders, pointing inside the glass enclosure. "Monkey!"

"Gorilla." Sandor informed him, swinging him off his shoulders and sitting him down right in front of where the gorilla was sitting near the glass.

"Can you say hi to the gorilla?" Sansa asked, crouching down beside Elias.

"Hi gorilla." Elias waved but when the gorilla just looked at him he pouted. "Say hi gorilla!"

"He can't hear you, kid." Sandor told him, squatting down behind him, his thigh brushing up against Sansa's and causing her skin to flush. Man, she really needed some TLC if accidental thigh brushing was turning her on.

"Look." Elias pointed at the gorilla. "Hairy." then he turned to Sandor and touched his cheek. "Hairy." he grinned and Sandor narrowed his eyes and growled, which sent Elias into a fit of laughter.

"Don't you love kids and their lack of a filter?" An older woman who was standing next to them asked with a smile. "My grandson says the same thing about his dad, except its the big belly."

It wasn't the first time that Sandor had been mistaken for Elias' father, even though they looked nothing alike, and with as much time as the three of them were together, it wouldn't be the last. But every time Sansa felt a little pang in her chest at the thought of how much easier life would have been if Sandor actually was Elias' father.

"Big belly." Elias stuck out his stomach and rubbed it, causing the older woman to laugh again.

"How about some food for that big belly?" Sandor asked, standing back up and lifting Elias to his hip.

"I hungry." Elias agreed, then giggled emphatically when Sandor swung him up onto his shoulders again. They were on their way to the food court when Sansa asked him a question she'd been asking herself for a long time now.

"Does it bother you?" she asked and Sandor looked down at her with his brow raised. "When people think you're his dad?"

He looked confused for a second, then shook his head. "No it doesn't bother me."

"Why don't you ever correct anyone?"

"Why does it matter?" he asked in return. "Do you want me to correct them?"

"No! It's just...I thought maybe it might make you uncomfortable."

Sandor huffed a laugh and gave her a look. "It doesn't. If it did I wouldn't do so many things that people mistake as being things a dad would do with his kid. Elias is a cool dude. It's Harry's idiot fucking fault for not realizing that."

"Hey." she glanced up at Elias, but he was too busy taking in the sights around them to listen to them. "I agree, but watch what you say around him."

"I know." Getting in line at one of the food windows, Sandor looked down at her with a carefully blank expression on his face. "You know when people think I'm his dad, then by connection they think you and I are together."

"Oh." she cocked her head to the side and gave that some thought. "I hadn't really thought about that, but I guess you're right. They probably do."

"Is that why you want me to correct them?"

"What?!" she nearly shouted, then laughed. "No. It doesn't bother me either way. It's not like that would be an embarrassing thing." she grinned and bumped his shoulder with hers. "You're a pretty awesome guy."

She considered for a second, then looked back up at him. "Does that bother you?"

"What? People assuming that the hot redhead with the nice ass is with me?" he smirked at her and Sansa fought a grin as she shook her head. So much for him being serious about this.

"What do you think, Eli?" Sandor shifted Elias off his shoulders and held him at his chest. "You think your mom's pretty?"

Elias looked over at her, dark blue eyes searching her face in detail like he had never in his close to three years considered if she were pretty or not. Which likely he hadn't.

"Yes." he finally concluded, then looked at Sandor. "Finch fies, please."

"Gotta work on that R sound, kid." Sandor chuckled.

"Rrrrr." Elias growled at him and Sansa laughed. It was like a tiny imitation of Sandor's growl. Only adorable instead of intimidating...or at times oddly arousing.

No. Good grief. With all the stress of Elias' sickness and surgery obviously she was strung tight. It just wouldn't due to turn that onto Sandor. Not when Sandor had made it abundantly clear over the years he was not a relationship and monogamy type of person. Which was fine, really. If that's what he wanted and he was clear and honest with the people he became involved with, it was his business. Sansa understood all that stuff wasn't for everyone, but it was for her. And she wanted so badly to be loved and cherished and to love and cherish.

Suddenly, it seemed to matter a lot that Sandor wasn't that person.

Her sullen and completely uncalled for mood followed them out of the zoo and back to Sandor's house where he'd been smoking brisket in his backyard and invited Bronn and Margaery over. Elias was snoozing in the spare room while Bronn and Sandor were outside tending to the meat and Sansa and Margaery were making a salad and cutting up some fruit in the kitchen.

"You okay?" Margaery asked after a couple of minutes.

"Yeah." Sansa sighed. "Just...off today." she shrugged. "I don't know."

"Well, suck it up buttercup." Marg teased. "You've had a full day off work. Zoo time with the itty and Sandy. And now you get to enjoy my presence while we drink wine and prepare for a yummy dinner."

Sansa smiled as she finished chopping carrots and tossed them into the salad. "Don't let Sandor hear you call him that. Elias is the only one that gets away with it."

"Hey, Red?" Bronn interrupted, sticking his head in the back door with a grin on his face. "You mind finding Sandor another shirt?"

"What?" Sansa turned around to face him. "Why?" Bronn chuckled and she heard Sandor saying some curse words.

"Oh, just a fight with a barbeque bottle. He lost."

Sansa snorted and nodded. "I'll get one."

Leaving Margaery in the kitchen, she made her way back to Sandor's bedroom. He only had one dresser and she started from the top drawer looking for a t shirt. Pulling it open, she moved around the socks and underwear for a second before deciding there were no shirts there. She started to close the drawer when something glinted and caught her eye. Pulling it back open, she reached in and pulled out a pair of handcuffs. Holding them on one finger, she stared at them with her brow furrowed.

"Snooping?" Sansa jumped guiltily at Sandor's voice, almost dropping the cuffs as she spun around to find him watching her with an amused look in his eye.

"No." she shook her head, the cuffs rattling from her finger. "I was looking for you a shirt."

"Well, you won't find one in there." he moved to stand next to her, snatching the cuffs and tossing them back in the drawer before closing it.

"Why do you have handcuffs in your sock drawer?" she questioned.

"For company." he smirked, pulling the third drawer open and grabbing a shirt from the top.

"Company?" she shook her head in confusion. "You handcuff your visitors...oh." she flushed brightly at his leer and cocked brow.

Oh.

Oh.

"You mean you handcuff women to your bed?" she whispered in disbelief.

"If they want." he shrugged, then stripped off his sauce covered shirt and quickly pulled on the clean one.

"Why would they want that, though?" she glanced at his bed and flushed all over again at the wrought iron rails of his headboard.

"Not all girls are like you, princess." he did this oddly hot thing with his tongue by rolling it against his upper teeth. "Some like it rough." Sansa's stomach tightened as heat pooled low even as anger flared at his assumptions.

"What the heck is that supposed to mean?" she asked, hands on her hips.

"Rough? It means hard, dirty. Handcuffs or blindfolds, maybe a little spank..."

"No!" she waved a hand to stop him. "I know that. I mean what do you mean not all girls are like me?"

Smirking again, Sandor leaned against his dresser with his arms crossed. "It means you are completely scandalized by cuffs in my drawer and if you get any redder you'll burst into flames. Judging from those things, little miss Sansa doesn't like it rough."

"That's quite the assumption." she snapped, irritated, even if he might have been right. "I don't see what you would know about it."

"I'm the one that keeps cuffs in my drawer, so I'm gonna say I know about it."

"That isn't what I meant." she huffed. "I meant you don't know what I...like in...in bed. Maybe I do like it...rough." she knew the fact that her blush running down her neck wasn't lending credence to her words, but she couldn't help it. Not that she knew about the type of sex Sandor was talking about.

"That's not information you have knowledge of now is it?" she finally finished with a sniff, lifting her chin. Sandor eyed her and for a second Sansa thought he might just throw her on the bed and find out that knowledge himself. The fact that her knees went weak at the prospect told her she probably wouldn't argue. Instead, Sandor looked away for a moment, then looked back with a shrug.

"You're right. I don't know." pushing off the dresser he motioned towards his bedroom door. "Come on. Dinners ready."

Stiffening her spine and refusing to feel rejected, Sansa headed back out into the kitchen to help serve dinner. And maybe have another glass or four of wine to douse the heat flaming through her veins.

Chapter Text

Insomnia was an old friend of Sandor's. Growing up in the same house as Gregor meant that sleep was never safe so he learned to sleep little and light. After the house fire that had burned his face, pain made it difficult to sleep. As did the nightmares. His parents and baby sister had died in the fire, Gregor had made it out unscathed, and so they were put into foster care. Though neither of them had asked it, the system tried to keep all siblings together. With Gregor's temper and Sandor's face, not many families wanted them so they bounced around a lot before finally being put into a group home. Fights were a regular occurrence with so many troubled boys shoved off into one room at night. Sleeping didn't happen often. The drinking that started at too young of an age also didn't help. Riddled with anxiety and no outlet for his anger, Sandor fought constantly, learning to lash out with his fists before the other boys could say anything about his face. The routine stuck until he aged out of the home and started boxing. It helped, but sleep still didn't come easily, not when he was drinking so much. He met Dr. B at a match one night, the older man retired from fighting but still enjoyed the sport. Once he started talking with him regularly, things got better.

There were still nights when sleep was difficult to find and tonight was one of them. It had nothing to do with fire or alcohol. It had do to with the fact that every time he closed his eyes, he saw Sansa. Not just Sansa, though. No, he saw Sansa laid out on his bed, gloriously naked with her wrists bound to his headboard by the cuffs she'd found nearly a week ago.

Most of what he said to her that evening was just to rile her up. Seeing her flushed and off kilter was always amusing. Truth of the matter was, he had only used those cuffs on one woman, the only woman he'd slept with more than once, and that had been a long time ago. They both understood the nature of the relationship and that it was fucking for the pleasure of fucking. That sort of bed play, the sort that involved binding or blindfolding, required trust between partners and Sandor never spent enough time with any of his to develop any sort of trust. Rough and dirty, sure, but even that hadn't been for a long time. Hells, the last time he'd been with a woman, he'd had to bite his tongue so hard he drew blood when he came because it was Sansa's name at the tip of it and not the girls under him. It had shaken him enough that he hadn't been with anyone since. Being with Sansa made it easy to be celibate.

Or it had been, at least. Sure, he'd entertained a few fantasies about her over the years but now he was flooded with them. So much so that he'd been avoiding her as much as he could, which made him feel like a prick, but he didn't know what else to do. They'd never really talked about their sex lives together. There had been some unspoken agreement made early on that neither of them wanted to know. Sure, he knew she'd slept with Joff and Harry, but as far as he knew she hadn't been with anyone since getting pregnant. Sansa knew, in general terms, his stance on casual relationships. But they'd never really talked about sex. Not until the other night.

Talk about Pandora's fucking box. No wonder they never had before.

Bronn had said before that a straight guy and a straight girl could never stay just friends. They'd always eventually hit the 'sex wall', as Bronn called it. Apparently the handcuffs in his drawer had been that wall.

When Elias had gotten sick, Sandor had finally admitted to himself that there might be more to his feelings for Sansa than just casual lust. But, godsdamnit, she was his best friend. His best friend that he couldn't stop thinking about fucking until neither of them could walk, and then falling asleep in a tangled mess of sated limbs. His best friend that he imagined running his tongue across every inch of her skin just to see what she tasted like. His best friend that he ached to find out what made her moan and writhe and then wake up to every morning just so she was the first thing he saw every morning.

"Fuck." he ran his hand over his face and glanced up at his alarm clock. It was nearly six in the morning. And the gym was closed today. He had nowhere he needed to be. Normally he'd go over to Sansa's, but she was working today. Would likely be leaving soon. Arya was keeping Elias, he knew. She and Gendry were going to take him to some birthday party of one of their friends nephews or some shit like that.

Giving up on any pretense of sleep, he got out of bed and was heading to the bathroom when someone knocked on his door. He knew before he'd even opened the door that it would be Sansa. No one else would be there that early in the morning. He considered ignoring it, but worried something might have come up with Arya and she needed his help with Elias. Pulling the door open showed Sansa standing there in the early morning light in blue scrubs and her hair pulled back into a braid. She had her hands on her hips and Elias was nowhere to be seen. A glance over to her drive showed Arya's car.

"What's going on?" Sansa asked, pulling his attention back to her.

"It's six in the fucking morning, little bird." he glared at her. "What the fuck do you think is going on? Not a damn thing."

"You've been ignoring me for the last week." she stated, her voice sharp but a single look into her eyes showed just how much that hurt her. And he felt like a complete prick because of it. "So I ask again, what is going on?"

"I talked to you two days ago." he lamely pointed out.

"You called 'hey' across the yard before going inside." she sighed and let her hands fall from her hips. "Did I do something? Are you mad at me over something?"

"No." he rubbed at his face with both hands. "I'm not mad at you. I've just been...I've got shit I'm trying to handle."

Sansa was silent for a second before nodding her understanding. "Is it something I can help you with?" She asked the question so sweetly, Sandor briefly wondered if she were teasing him. Because, hell fucking yeah she could help him. But Sansa wasn't a coy type of person.

"I'll deal with it." he finally said, leaning against the door frame.

"Okay." she nodded again and straightened her shoulders. "Just don't shut me out. You're my best friend, Sandor. I want to be there for you."

A strong wind rustled around them at that moment, heralding a storm that was predicted to hit this afternoon, and it blew loose hairs around Sansa's face. Before Sandor could even consider what he was doing, he reached out a hand and smoothed the hair back away from her face, his pinky finger tracing the shell of her ear before letting his hand drop. She stared at him for a long moment and it almost seemed like she was breathing harder. He considered the fact that maybe he shouldn't have done that, but quickly decided he didn't care. Sansa touched him all the time, he could touch her, too.

"I have to go to work." she finally said, glancing down at the watch he'd bought her last year for her birthday. "Tomorrow's Monday and I'm off work. Maybe Elias and I could bring you lunch at the gym."

"Sure." he nodded. "None of that avocado bullshit you brought the last time."

Sansa laughed, the tension from a moment ago broken. "No avocado. Should we bring Bronn something?"

"Fuck Bronn." Sandor waved her off. "Let Margaery take care of him." Sansa hesitated in her turn towards his porch steps and gave him an odd look before smiling and nodding. It didn't occur to him until she was gone what he'd said and what that could have meant. Margaery was Bronn's girlfriend, and he'd basically compared what they were to himself and Sansa.

Monday morning rolled around and Sandor was sitting at his desk going through the gyms mail when he found the invitation. Every thought he'd been having about Sansa or handcuffs promptly flew out of his head with a rush of cold quickly chased by burning anger. Generally speaking, ever since Sandor had opened Mad Dog Fighting, he didn't fight anymore. Sure, he still worked out and kept up on his skills, but he focused more on training his fighters and running the gym now. There were times when he needed the fight, though. When things were happening with Elias, he'd fought, needing the control it gave him. And today he needed it.

The heavy weight prospect he was fighting was good. Damn good, actually. But Sandor had years on him, experience and at the moment, rage. Not to mention a couple of stone and a half foot longer of a reach. It was good to fight like this. To get lost in the combinations and the dance. Here, it was hard to think of anything outside of his opponents next move or his. Every punch he landed felt good, and every blow the kid landed felt even better. The burn of his muscles, the sting of torn skin, the weight of the gloves on his hands. Sandor had elected not to wear the headgear, other than his mouth piece, but the kid he was fighting had worn it. Regardless of this, when Bronn's voice eventually broke through his fighting haze, the kids eye was swelling shut and his lip was bleeding.

"For fucks sake, dog." Bronn pushed him further away from the kid. "Don't ruin him before he even gets a goddamn fight."

Sandor, still bouncing in place with the adrenaline still coursing through him, just nodded as he watched Bronn push the kid to his corner to remove his gear.

"Red's waiting for you." Bronn said over his shoulder, waving a hand towards the side of the ring. Sandor glanced ringside and found Sansa standing there with a sack in her hand and a look of concerned awe on her face.

Popping the mouth piece out of his mouth, he crawled through the ropes and hopped down to where his shirt and water were next to her. He let one of the guys that had been watching the fight remove his gloves, but waved him away from his wrappings. He'd take care of them himself. Grabbing his shirt and water, he motioned for Sansa to follow him to his office.

"Where's Eli?" Sandor asked, kicking the door shut behind her and wiping his chest down with his shirt before tossing it onto his desk and drinking half his water in one go.

"Mom took him to see my uncle Edmure and aunt Roslin." Sansa sat the bag down in the chair seat in front of his desk before sitting on the arm of it. "Did you forget about lunch?"

"No." he snapped, leaning back onto the edge of his desk. "In case you missed it, I was a little busy."

"No, I saw." she raised her brow. "You beating the crap out of that kid in there."

"It's boxing, little bird." he sneered at her. "Beating is sort of the point."

She cocked her head to the side and searched his face for a second. "Yeah, but you weren't in the ring with that boy. You were fighting something, or someone, else."

"I doubt he'll agree with you." Sandor downed the rest of his water, then grabbed his shirt again to wipe the water that had ran down his chest off. Sansa watched his movements, and her eyes stayed on his chest once he threw the shirt back onto his desk. His boiling anger quickly morphed into lust at her flushed cheeks and he put his wrapped hands on his hips, the action pulling his shorts down just a little further. Sansa swallowed hard, then looked back up at him.

"Like what you see?" he asked with raise of his brow. Sansa quickly looked away from his face before slowly looking back.

"What's up? Please, just talk to me?"

Sandor stood up from the corner of the desk at the same time she stood from the arm of the chair and he slowly started walking towards her. He thought she'd move away from him, but she held her ground so when he reached her, he leaned down so he was in her face with a hand braced on the chair back behind her.

"You sure it's talking you wanna do?" he started to reach for her hip with his other hand, but she slapped his hand away and pushed him back to standing with a hand on his chest.

"Stop it." she glared up at him, her voice a little unsteady. "I'll be your whipping boy if you need it, but you are not going to treat me like some easy woman just because something is wrong. You can talk to me."

Knowing she was right, Sandor turned from her and rounded his desk. Grabbing the invitation from the top, he handed it over to her. She gave him one last long look before looking down at the paper in her hands. Slowly the hardness in her expression faded and she let out a sigh.

"Gregor's getting married again." she handed him back the invite.

"In town." Sandor tossed the invite aside without looking at it again. "Next week."

"You went to the last two." she said softly. "Are you going to go to this one?"

Sandor looked away from her, not wanting to see her face at the moment. He'd talked to Dr. B about it before, about his obsessive need to stay in contact with his brother even though it caused nothing but harm. Dr. B told him that the connection kept the wounds of his childhood alive and when Sandor was ready for them to heal completely, he would sever his connection with Gregor.

Apparently he wasn't ready for that yet.

"Yeah." he finally answered, but still didn't look at her. She moved, coming closer to him, and he finally looked at her when she was right in front of him, her hands coming up to hold his biceps, uncaring that they were still damp with sweat.

"Do you want me to come with you?" she almost whispered the question.

There were a million and one reasons why she shouldn't. Reasons he should tell her no, things that made damn good sense and that she could hardly argue with. Legitimate reasons. But when he looked down into her eyes and opened his mouth, it was to say yes.

That was how he found himself sitting on her sofa a week later, wearing his one and only suit. Elias was in his lap, undoing the knot he'd managed in the midnight blue tie Sansa had bought for him yesterday.

"Look at you all spiffy and shit." Arya mocked him, sitting on the recliner across from him.

"Piss off." Sandor mumbled.

"Piss!" Elias repeated happily and Sandor swallowed back a laugh even as Arya burst out with hers.

"Don't say that." he fixed Elias with a hard look. "Your mom'll kill me."

"No." Elias shook his head. "Momma 'oves you."

Sandor swallowed hard at the boys casual statement and glanced over to see Arya smirking at him and he wanted nothing more than to slap it off her face.

"Where're you taking him?" Sandor asked quickly before she could say anything.

"When Gendry gets off work we're taking him to the movies. Then he's staying at our place so I expect you to be on your most gentlemanly like behavior."

Before Sandor could manage a response, Sansa came in, hands still fixing an earing into place. Now, Sandor knew jack shit about womens fashion, but the dress she wore he thought was what was called a cocktail dress. It was the same color as his tie, the skirt loose and flowing to her knees. The top part fit to her torso, the neckline modest enough to be respectful while still showing the alluring curve and dip of her collarbones. Little sleeves hugged the rounded part of her shoulders and her hair was pinned up. She had on more makeup than he'd seen her wear in a long time and he felt like his jaw was somewhere in the vicinity of his lap.

"Momma petty!" Elias declared, scrambling out of Sandor's lap and running to his mom. Sansa picked him up with a laugh.

"Thank you." she kissed his cheek, then wiped away the lipstick mark she'd left behind. "You be good for aunt Arya and uncle Gendry, okay?"

"'K." Elias assured her, then wiggled until Sansa put him down. Arya grabbed his hand and picked up his bags.

"I'll call you tomorrow morning when we all wake up." she lead Elias to the door. "You two have fun and behave yourselves."

Sandor gave Elias one last wave before the door shut and he turned back to Sansa. She was smiling at him, then giggled at the state of his tie.

"Come here." she started walking towards him. "Let me fix this."

Sandor held still while she straightened and tightened his tie, trying to keep his breathing regular when she was done and ran her hands down the lapels of his suit jacket.

"You look very handsome."

"So do you." he winced when she lifted her brow. "I mean, you look nice. Pretty. Uh, good." he shook his head. "Fuck, I'm bad at this."

"It's alright." Sansa laughed. "This is the first date I've been on in over three years so you're going to be more practiced at it than me."

Sandor snorted. "I don't date, Sansa. So technically this is my first." he swallowed when he realized he just agreed that this was a date, then cringed when he realized what it was they were going to go do.

"Come on." he motioned to the door. "Let's go before I realize what a bad fucking idea this is."

The wedding venue was on the other side of town and Sansa filled the trip with inane chatter that he knew was meant to distract him so he didn't complain. Sandor never actually said anything until they reached the doors to the venue and he grabbed her arm and pulled her to a stop.

"When we get in there, don't leave me."

She looked confused for a moment, then her features softened and she took a step closer to him. "Oh, Sandor, I wouldn't..."

"No." he cut off her assumption he didn't want to be left alone. "You've heard me talk about Gregor and I don't trust the guys he calls friends. I don't want you by yourself in there."

Sansa swallowed, then smiled at him "I hadn't planned on leaving your side anyway."

Looping her arm through his, Sansa let him lead her inside and to one of the back rows of the ceremony. He felt her hand spasm on his forearm when Gregor made his way down the aisle, not that he could blame her. Other than her dads friend Umber, Gregor was likely the only person that she'd ever seen that was bigger than Sandor. Not to mention he just radiated vileness. When the bride made her way down the aisle, Sansa sucked in a shallow breath and turned to give him a horrified look. One he probably wore himself for a moment before masking it. The girl didn't even look old enough to be legal, let alone getting married. Not that Sandor expected anything else from Gregor. He always had a thing for younger girls.

Thankfully the ceremony was fairly short and Sandor nearly drug Sansa to the bar so he could get a drink before they found their table. He downed two shots before starting on his beer when the DJ started announcing the bride and grooms arrival. While the rest of the guests at their table were busy cheering for the new couple, Sandor leaned in close to Sansa's ear so only she could hear him.

"When he comes over here, don't cower to him. He gets off on that."

Turning in her seat, Sansa pulled back just enough to look at him. "Is that girl in danger?" she whispered and Sandor growled in frustration as he looked down for a second.

"I would have said something, done something if I had known, Sansa. I would have."

Surprising him a little, he felt the pressure of her hand on his scarred cheek as she pulled his face back up to look at hers.

"I know." she smiled at him and he got lost in it for a second, at their nearness. It would be so easy just to lean in, a tilt of his head was all it would take for their lips to touch. Before he could decide on that, though, movement over her shoulder tore his attention away and he went ridged and ground his teeth before looking back at Sansa. Putting a hand over hers, he pressed it harder into his skin for a moment.

"Don't leave my side." he whispered again before standing up and tugging her along with him, pulling her gently to his side as Gregor approached.

"Pup." Gregor sneered. "I just knew you'd come."

"Gregor." Sandor nodded at him in greeting. "I just knew you'd invite me."

Gregor's eyes went flinty for a moment, then he smirked and tugged the girl that was next to him even tighter to his side.

"This is my wife, Amy. Amy, my baby brother Sandor and..." Gregor glanced over at Sansa, his eyes roaming slowly down her figure before making the same trail up just as slow. He seemed impressed, but not overly interested. Likely Sansa was too old for his tastes but she was still a stunning woman. Sandor felt his blood start to heat, but also felt Sansa's hand slip into his. He glanced over at her to see her chin held high and her eyes holding Gregor's firmly once he reached her face.

"Sansa." she smiled at him. Gregor chuckled, then looked back at Sandor.

"You spent for an escort this time around, baby brother? Not like the ladies are lining up for a face like that."

Beside him, Amy gasped. "Gregor!" she scolded, then immediately cowered when Gregor glared down at her.

"Listen here, you mother fu..." Sandor saw red at his implication that Sansa was a whore and he started to more towards him.

"No." Sansa firmed her grip on Sandor's hand, reaching around with her other arm to hold onto his bicep and hold him tighter to her side. "I'm not an escort, Gregor. Sandor is my neighbor and my best friend. And I'm actually very fond of his face."

She said the words so calmly, so coolly, that it left Gregor seething, but with nothing to say.

"Come on." Gregor grabbed Amy's wrist harder than needed and started pulling her away. She gave them an apologetic look over her shoulder and Sansa gave her a reassuring smile.

"He's an animal." Sansa said under her breath once they were gone.

Gregor reminded him so much of their dad, both in looks and in action. Every time that they were around each other, Sandor couldn't help but remember the type of family he had come from. They were all animals.

"He's a Clegane." Sandor shrugged, like that explained it away and was surprised when Sansa spun him around to face her, her eyes looking right up into his.

"You are nothing like him." she said so fiercely that he almost laughed. "Do you hear me, Sandor Clegane? You are a good man. The best man I know."

The urge to laugh evaporated as his chest tightened even as a rush of warmth spread throughout it. Suddenly he didn't want Sansa anywhere near his brother. He didn't want to be there anymore, and had a feeling he wouldn't ever want to again.

Lifting a hand to the side of her neck, he caught the little diamond stud in her ear between his thumb and forefinger and rubbed it gently. "Let's go."

A huge smile spread across her face and she tightened her grip on his hand that she had yet to release, and together they all but ran out of the reception and out into the parking lot.

Chapter Text

Sansa could feel the tension rolling off of Sandor as they walked through the parking lot towards his truck. It was hard to imagine the type of relationship he had with his brother. Robb was always there for her, being a typical big brother, and had always indulged her as a child, playing knight to her damsel. When Bran was younger, Sansa would scold him for his mischievous behavior, but would make up covers for him so he didn't get in trouble with their mom. Rickon was her little baby and she treated him as such, spoiling him and indulging his every whim. Even now, though Rickon would never admit to it, she still occasionally babied him and he loved it. Even Arya, with all of their squabbling and arguing, was one of her closest friends. It just seemed unfathomable that she could actually hate one of them, or be hated by one of them.

To be fair, though, Sansa and her siblings all grew up in a loving home with two parents who gave them a great upbringing. Sandor didn't have that. All he had was Gregor, who had so many mental instabilities he could keep the psychiatric field open all by himself.

Wanting to take Sandor's mind off of what had happened, she cast about for something to say.

"I think that's the first wedding I've ever been to that I didn't dance at." she said the first thing that came into her mind. Sandor grunted in response so Sansa figured he hadn't been really listening to her, off in his own head. It surprised her, then, when they got to the truck and he reached through the cab and clicked on the battery before turning up the radio. When he stood back up, he held out a hand towards her, clearly uncomfortable.

"So let's dance."

They did. So long, in fact, that Sansa lost track of time. Her hair and long since came down and Sandor's jacket had been tossed into the truck. Sandor wasn't exactly a Fred Astaire or anything, but he kept the beat with the slower songs with her and simply held her hands or just stood and watched as she danced to the faster paced songs. Sansa couldn't remember the last time she had laughed so much, and it was indescribably nice when he held her close and swayed to whatever song was on.

Another fast song ended and Sandor spun Sansa into him when a slower song came on. Sansa smiled up at him as she lifted a hand onto his shoulder and Sandor's free hand slid around to the small of her back.

"Who would have guessed?" she grinned up at him.

"Guessed what?" his fingers danced lightly up her spine before coming to rest between her shoulders. Sansa shivered, liquid heat following the path of his fingers.

"That deep down you're a romantic at heart."

Sandor scowled, but didn't so much as loosen his hold on her. "I am not a bloody romantic."

"Oh, come on." she giggled, letting her fingers move over the top of the collar of his shirt and touch the back of his neck. "A dramatic exit from a wedding. Dancing under the stars to the radio. You have to admit it's pretty romantic."

"I don't have to admit shit." he countered. "And you can't even see the stars past that blinding street lamp. That's just your overly romantic mindset wanting it to be."

"Alright." she let it slide for now. "But let's just remember I'm not the only romantic between the two of us."

Stepping into him further, Sansa lay her head on his chest. A second later, she felt his chin come to rest on top of her head and let her eyes fall closed as they moved slowly to the music. She hardly heard the music, lost in his warmth and smell and the steady rhythm of his heart. She could have happily stayed like that for hours longer, but the loud rumble of Sandor's stomach told her he wouldn't be open to that.

"Hungry?" she asked, pulling back to look up at him.

"Starving." he corrected. "We skipped out before they served dinner. We should probably head out anyway. People are starting to come out."

Sansa reluctantly let him go and climbed into the truck. When Sandor pulled out of the parking lot, Sansa turned towards him.

"Can I ask you something?"

"No." he grinned without looking at her so Sansa reached over and poked his side.

"Stop it." she complained. "How come you've never been on a date before?"

Sandor rolled his eyes and gave her a long look before turning back to the road. "I never wanted a date. And as big of a douche as Gregor is, he wasn't wrong. Girls aren't exactly lining up at my door. Not with this face."

"Hush." Sansa poked him again. "Your scars aren't that bad. I've seen much worse. And you have plenty of other physical attributes that make up for them in any case."

"Oh, yeah?" he glanced at her with a raise of his brow. "And what are those attributes?"

"I'm not going inflate your ego." But, really, Sandor didn't have an ego. Not one that wasn't severely bruised when it came to his appearance. "But...As you well know, you're incredibly fit. I mean, seriously, you're huge. In a good way. The best kind of way. And you're all tall and strong and you've got that dark and dangerous aura that girls swoon over. Long hair is totally in for guys right now, even if you don't wear a manbun. And your eyes are this gorgeous steel grey that's more like warm pewter when you're happy."

Sansa abruptly stopped, not having meant to go on for that long. At least she hadn't said anything about how nice his bum was. Or that, considering the bulge in those low slung gym shorts the other day, he was very well proportioned.

"So, yeah." she cleared her throat. "Other things you've got going on for you." Looking down into her lap, Sansa worked really hard not to pick at the fabric of her dress.

"Fucking hell." Sandor finally laughed. "You've gotta get out more, little bird."

"Hey!" she poked him again. "I have wonderful tastes, I'll have you know."

"I know if you poke me one more time, little girl, I'm going to pull this truck over."

Sansa smiled sweetly at him. "Oh, really? And what will you do then, big boy?"

"Do it and you'll find out."

"Okay, fine." she let out a dramatic sigh, then quickly poked him in the side again. He let out a low growl and rolled his head on his shoulders and Sansa immediately started giggling like a school girl.

"I'm sorry." she laughed. "I didn't mean to."

"Bullshit." he jerked the truck into a parking lot of someplace Sansa was laughing too hard to take notice of.

"Alright, alright, alright." she threw up her hands, still giggling as she slid further away from him, pressing her back against the passenger door. "No need to for violence."

"Oh, I'm not gonna hurt you, little bird." he rumbled, shifting out from behind the steering wheel. Her laughter completely faded as he moved close enough that he was looming over her. Her heart skipped a few beats, her head tipping back against the cold window behind her. One of his arms braced himself on the back of the seat beside her, and his other hand gently landed on her hip before slowly sliding up her ribcage. She sucked in a breath as her skin lit up. Sandor was watching his hand, not looking at her, so Sansa let her eyes close.

"Sand...ah!" she squealed when he suddenly started tickling her side.

"Are you going to poke me again?" he asked, still tickling her mercilessly. "Huh?"

"No!" she giggled, tears starting to come out with the force of her laughter.

"Was that a no?" he questioned, moving his other hand from the seatback to join in on the torture. Sansa was a laughing mass of tears and snorts as she fought against him uselessly.

"NO!" she screamed. "No, I give! I give!"

"That's better." he stopped his assault, hands smoothing up and down her still tingling sides. His hands were big enough that it nearly covered all of her stomach and sides.

"Jerk." she whispered, a little unsteadily, laying completely still so he didn't stop.

"Mhm." he rolled his tongue against his teeth again and Sansa thought about just jerking her dress up over her head and asking him to do that...other places. But Sandor pulled away and sat back in his seat. "A hungry jerk. Let's go."

"Go?" Sansa forced her liquid spine to straighten up into a more dignified position. Sandor chuckled as he shut the truck off and pointed out the window. Sansa looked around them and noticed they were in the parking lot of a café.

"Oh." she let out a shaky breath and smoothed her hair down once Sandor had gotten out. Once she felt more composed, she followed him out.

-

"So, you danced?" Robb asked, the two of them sitting on their parents back patio, watching Elias running around the back yard with Grey Wind. Elias was trying to catch the dog to get his ball, but would turn and run away giggling once he got it and Grey Wind would take over the chase.

"Yeah." Sansa sighed. "He just...confuses me sometimes."

"I don't know, Sans." Robb looked at her. "Sandor seems like a pretty straight forward dude. Like, what you see is what you get. Besides, isn't a dance just a dance?"

Sansa decided not to say anything about what happened in the truck afterwards, but she was desperate for a guys opinion on things.

"I guess."

"Look, sis, maybe you should figure out your own feelings before you start trying to figure out his feelings."

"Who's feelings are we figuring out?" Jon asked as he came out onto the patio and Sansa sat up straighter and looked pointedly at Robb. She did not want what they had been talking about to be public knowledge.

"Uh, yours." Sansa quickly said. "When are you going to ask out that bartender?"

"Hey!" Jon blushed, then pouted a little. "I wouldn't have come out here if I'd known you guys were going to harp on me."

"Not harping, Jonny." Sansa smiled at him. "Just the concern of your family."

"A little less with the concern of my personal life, okay? You're just doing it to embarrass me, anyway."

"Me?" Sansa gasped. "I would never do that."

"The hell she wouldn't." An all too familiar rasp came from the doorway and they all looked back to see Sandor and her dad standing there. "She plays all sweet and innocent but she'll find your weak points."

"How could you say such things?" She sniffed and turned her nose up. "I am an angel."

"Sure you are, darling." Ned patted her head before going and sitting in the chair next to Jon. Sandor snorted, dropping onto the lounge next to Sansa and stretching out his long legs.

"See?" Sansa pointed towards her dad. "Father knows best." She gave his knee a pat and stood up as he called her a kiss ass under his breath.

"I'm going to help mom and Jeyne in the kitchen." she announced. "Keep an eye on Elias, please."

It was her parents anniversary and they had invited all their kids over for a dinner. They were all encouraged to bring their plus ones. Robb's wife, Jeyne, had been in the kitchen with Catelyn all afternoon. Jojen, Bran's boyfriend, had shown up about an hour ago and they were in the den with Rickon playing some new video game that Sansa just knew Jon was itching to play as well. He would put in about an hour of 'adult time' before caving. Arya and Gendry were running late, as usual, and didn't show up until everyone had sat down at the table to eat.

"Thirty two years." Jeyne said after they made a toast. "That's quite impressive, especially in this day and age. How do you guys make it work?"

Sansa glanced at her parents as they exchanged a look and she sighed. That was what she wanted one day. A partnership where so much love could be conveyed with a single glance.

"It's just that." Catelyn answered. "Work. It isn't always easy, but it is always worth it."

"Gah." Arya made a gagging noise. "Please don't start on all the mushy emotional crap."

"Shut up, Arya!" Sansa glared at her sister. "Just because your emotional capabilities couldn't fill a teaspoon doesn't make emotions nauseating."

"Oh, I beg to differ." Arya sneered. "You very much make me nauseated."

Sansa bit her tongue against another retort. She was an adult now, and wouldn't go arguing with her sister over the dinner table. No matter how Arya could still get under her skin.

"That's enough." Catelyn said firmly. "Both of you."

Sansa huffed, but under the table, Sandor placed his hand on her knee and gave it a squeeze. She figured he meant it to be comforting, a show of support on her side, but it sent a wave of sensation throughout her body. Placing a hand over his, she gave it a squeeze in return.

"Friendship." Her mom said once everyone went back to their meals and Sansa looked up from her plate to look at her. "I think that's the key. The foundation of any lasting relationship needs to be friendship. All the heat and butterflies of new love eventually fade. So does looks and lust. When all that's gone, you'll want to be with someone that you can have fun with, someone you can just be with. The person you spend the rest of your life with will be your friend far more often than they'll be your lover."

Unthinkingly, Sansa's fingers tightened against Sandor's hand as it shifted so his fingers curled under the bend of her knee and gripped her leg. Her mothers words struck her as insightful and completely sensible. Sansa had never thought of love in that way, but she also knew grand gestures and overtures were fleeting. It made sense that friendship would be the thing that lasted. And she felt like her mom was speaking directly to her even though she hadn't even been looking at her.

Lip caught firmly between her teeth, Sansa glanced over at Sandor to find him already looking at her. He wasn't smiling, but he was doing that thing where his jaw was working while he chewed on the side of tongue. Something he did when he was thinking hard about something.

"Is that why Bran and Jojen pretended to be friends for so long?" Rickon, on the other side of Sandor, asked, ruining the moment.

"Rickon." Catelyn nearly groaned.

"No." Bran just laughed, looking over at Jojen with a grin. "Jojen and I were friends. We're still friends. It was never pretend."

"Uh huh." Rickon rolled his eyes, then jabbed Sandor in the side with his elbow. "Does that mean you and Sans are going to start dating next?"

Sandor's jaw tightened as his body went tense, his hand pulling free from her leg.

"Rickon!" Sansa sat forward to glare at her youngest brother. "Honestly!"

"That's enough, Rickon." Ned agreed calmly, eyes flitting across Sandor's face.

"You know, Sansa, it has been quite some time." Catelyn said casually. "Elias is nearly three now. Don't you think it might be time to start dating again?"

"Mom!" Sansa gaped at her mother.

"I know you had a rough go of it before, but don't you want Elias to eventually have a father figure in his life?"

"He does!" she nearly shouted. "Between the three boys, Jon, Gendry, Dad, and Sandor, he has more fatherly figures than he knows what to do with."

"Yes, I know that. But parenting requires a certain amount of emotional support that they can't offer you. Now, an old family friend of mine, her son is around your age. Brynden Blackwood. He seems like a very nice young man. I could set something up between the two of you."

"I am not going to be set up on a blind date by my mother." Sansa groused, rubbing at her forehead before shooting Arya a death glare when she laughed.

"It doesn't have to be a date." Catelyn tried to argue. "It could just be a meeting so the two of you could decide if you'd like to go on a date."

"No." Sansa shook her head.

"But, Sansa, darling, if you..."

"Enough!" Sandor barked, causing everyone to jump. "She said no. Back off, woman."

Catelyn looked utterly surprised at being talked to as such, but also like she was about to blow a fuse. Luckily, Jon, bless his little heart, quickly changed the subject and started talking about something that happened at the ranger station with their uncle Benjen.

"Sansa, I'm sorry." her mom said later in the kitchen. Sansa was leaning against the counter, holding Elias while he ate a cookie. "I didn't mean to pressure you so hard, I'm just worried about you is all."

"I'm fine, mom." Sansa assured her. "I don't know what you're so worried about. We're doing fine."

"I know that." She tossed down a dish towel with a sigh. "I'm just concerned that maybe you and Sandor are using your friendship as a sort of crutch and that it's maybe getting in the way of you finding something deeper with someone else. The same for him."

"Mom." Sansa shook her head.

"No, just hear me out. I'm afraid that the both of you have become so dependent on your friendship with each other that when one of you do find someone else, it will leave the other lost. I'm just worried, Sansa."

Sansa looked down at Elias and shrugged her shoulders. "Well, don't. Everything's fine."

As much as Sansa tried to convince her mom otherwise, Sansa couldn't stop thinking about what she had said and wondering if maybe she was right. So the next Thursday when Sandor brought over a pizza, she brought it up to him.

"Do you think we're hindering each other?" Sansa asked after putting a plate down in front of Elias with a slice of pizza and some grapes.

"Hindering?" Sandor asked around a bite and Sansa had to try very hard not to tell him not to talk with food in his mouth.

"Yes. Emotionally, or rather, in our dating lives."

Sandor stopped mid-chew and stared at her for beat. Swallowing, he said, "Is this about that Blackwood guy? Because if you want to go out with him, don't let me stand in the fucking way."

"Sandor." Sansa glanced at Elias. Sandor was normally very good about toning his language down around Elias so it was surprising to hear him say that. "No. I don't want to go out with Brynden. I'm just...you haven't been on a single date since I've lived next to you. I'm worried that you might resent Elias and me for standing in your way one day."

Sandor dropped his pizza back onto his plate before pushing it out of the way. Leaning forward across the table, he leveled her with a steady gaze.

"If I wanted to go out, I'd go out. But I don't want to. You and Eli aren't standing in the way of anything. I want to be here. Understand?"

Sansa blinked a few times, then smiled a little. "Understood."

"Besides, I just went on a date the other night." he sat back in his chair and smirked at her. "Or did you forget already?"

"No." she blushed a little. "I just feel bad that your brothers wedding was your first date. Ugh, it still makes me sick. That poor girl."

"That poor girl willingly married the bastard." Sandor grumbled, pulling his plate back to him.

"She is just a kid, Sandor." Sansa reminded him.

"I know." he blew out a breath. "And not a very bright one. She doesn't have any family to speak of, either."

Confused, Sansa gave him a questioning look. "How do you know that?"

"Found out where she worked." Sandor shrugged. "Went to see her. Tried to talk some reason into her, but she wasn't having any of it. I gave her a number to a shelter Dr. B told me about just in case, but the stupid chit probably threw it away."

Sansa was caught up in awe at the man before her. He really had no clue how amazing he was. "That's...thank you."

"She didn't appreciate it." he scoffed as he tore at the crust of his pizza.

"No, maybe not. She might one day, though. But even if she doesn't, I appreciate it." she smiled at him. "You're just...you are one awesome dude, Sandor Clegane."

Sandor scoffed again, shaking his head a little but Sansa saw the shine her saying that brought to his eyes.

"Awesome dude!" Elias repeated with a pizza sauce grin and both of them started laughing.

Sansa shook her head with a wide smile. Sandor was an awesome dude, and it had been seconded and certified by her son. She had a feeling none of the Brynden Blackwood's of the world could ever measure up.

Chapter Text

Catelyn Stark was a cunt. There was really no way around that. Sure, she was all courtesy and manners, but beneath that all she was just a bitch. The only saving grace the woman had was her love for her children. And she did love them all, fiercely so, but it also tended to hinder her view of their personal happiness. She couldn't look beyond her wants and desires for them to see what they actually wanted. She had always treated Sandor with tolerance, but he always felt like she really didn't like him. After what she had said at dinner a week ago, he felt like that question was finally answered. He'd snapped at her, which he hadn't really meant to do, but for fucks sake. She just wouldn't drop it and the idea of Sansa caving and going out with that Blackwood dick pissed him off.

Not nearly as pissed as he was at this moment, though. It was Elias' third birthday party and Sansa had booked a pavilion at a local park to have it. There was tons of people there, friends of Sansa's from work with their kids. All of her aunts and uncles and their kids. Obviously her brothers and sister. All the kids were at the play place while Sansa arranged the massive amount of presents for Elias on one table and Sandor got the cake out of the box. He had noticed a car pulling up, but hadn't thought much of it until a couple around Ned and Catelyn's age got out and a man that looked to be around Sansa's age got out of the backseat. With a hot wave of anger, Sandor just knew it was the Blackwood's.

"Beth!" Catelyn beamed. "I'm so glad you could make it."

"It was our pleasure, Cat." Beth returned the woman's hug. "I'm so glad you invited us. I've been wanting to meet this grandson of yours you keep going on about."

"He's over at the playground right now. Let me introduce you to my daughter first." Catelyn turned to the men that had come with the woman. "Tytos. Brynden. It's good to see you both. Come with me, I'll introduce you to Sansa."

Sandor had froze where he stood, candles clutched into a fist as he watched Catelyn lead the people to where Sansa was busy with a few of her friends stacking the presents in some sort of order. Beside him, Ned sighed loudly.

"Oh, Cat." he shook his head, then put a hand on Sandor's shoulder. "Take a breath, son. It's Elias' birthday. Let's not make a scene."

Sandor tried to relax as he looked back at the cake. "I'm fine." he said between his teeth, glancing back as Catelyn was introducing the Blackwood's. He couldn't hear any of them, but he saw how Sansa's jaw dropped and the glare she shot her mother before collecting herself and greeting the people with a smile.

"Take care of the cake." Ned said. "I'll be back."

Brynden was tall, like his father, and thin. He had close cropped black hair and sharp facial features. His nose was a bit too big for his face, but he wasn't all that unattractive. Not nearly enough for Sandor's peace of mind. It made him feel a little better that Sansa only shook his hand and quickly excused herself before making a beeline straight for him.

"Can you believe her?" she whispered in outrage, turning her back on her mom. "I can't believe her."

Sandor didn't know what to say without breaking out in rage, so he just shook his head while he shoved the candles into the cake with a little more force than strictly necessary.

"How am I supposed to act around him?" she asked and Sandor finally looked at her, no longer having the excuse of the candles any more.

"How do you want to act around him?" he asked with a little more bite than he'd intended. "He's a decent looking bloke. You know how to flirt, don't you?"

"Don't you dare sneer at me right now, Sandor." she pointed a finger at him with a glare. "We've already talked about this. I do not want to go out with Brynden Blackwood. Are you going to be a jerk, or are you going to help me deal with this?"

Sandor sighed and forced himself to relax. "Yeah. Ignore him. The cakes ready, so are the presents. Call the kids over and get the party started. You're here for your sons birthday, not to entertain cunts that want to take you out. Do what you're here to do."

"Please watch your language." she thumped his chest. "There's too many kids around for that right now."

Sandor looked over her shoulder, saw Catelyn watching them with narrowed eyes and Brynden trying to look like he wasn't looking at them. Sandor grinned, then looked back at Sansa, catching her wrist before she could pull her hand all the way back. He used it to tug her closer to him.

"Or...we could show him you aren't interested." he said in a low voice, bending his knees to he was closer to her face. His free arm he wrapped loosely around her waist.

"Sandor." Sansa scolded him, but made no attempt to pull away. "This is a children's birthday party."

Sandor chuckled, letting go of her wrist to wrap that arm about her waist as well. "You've a dirty mind, little bird. What were you thinking of? Me bending you over this picnic table and having at you right here?"

"Sandor!" she yelped his name, her cheeks blushing so prettily. "I was not thinking that!"

"Sure you weren't." he laughed. "But that might be overkill." he leaned in to put his mouth at her ear. "I think this was enough for him to get the picture."

She shivered against him, hands clenching into the fabric of his shirt before he dropped his arms and stepped away from her completely. A quick glance behind her showed Catelyn was near fuming but Brynden had lost all interest and was now engaged in conversation with Robb and Jon.

"What?" Sansa's slightly dazed voice brought his attention back to her. She swallowed and shook her head a little. "That was...oh. Okay. Yeah." she smiled awkwardly then laughed. "Thanks for putting on the show. I appreciate it."

She turned away from him and hurried over to the playground, yelling that it was time for cake and gifts. She had thanked him, but Sandor got the impression he'd somehow hurt her feelings. It was an impression that grew when she seemed to avoid him the rest of the party. The only time she talked to him was when she had to because Elias wanted to sit on his lap to open his presents. When their hands would brush as she passed him a gift or took the torn up wrappings from him, she would quickly pull away and never made eye contact with him.

The Blackwood's left before the cake was cut and when most of the guests started leaving, Sansa pulled her mother off to the side. Sandor could tell the two were heatedly talking, but decided it was probably best to stay out of it.

"They'll get over it." Ned sat on the bench next to him. "Cat...Cat is only thinking of Sansa's happiness."

"She's fucking about in Sansa's personal life." Sandor countered.

"True." Ned nodded. "Catelyn just can't fathom the idea of someone being happy while being alone."

"Lots of people are happier single."

"Yes, but Cat can't see that because she never was. She also can't see that Sansa isn't alone." Sandor looked over as Ned stood up and the older man looked down at him with a serious expression. "Sansa may need that pointed out to her as well."

With his truck loaded down with toys and gifts, Sandor followed Sansa's car back to her house and carried in everything. Elias, exhausted from a full day playing at the park and the excitement of his party, had passed out on the ride home so Sansa was laid him down before coming out to help him carry in the last of the gifts.

"Thank you for helping today." Sansa said once everything was inside. "I appreciate it."

Sandor nodded, watching her as she started emptying a bag of new clothes onto the sofa and folding them. "Are you pissed at me for something?"

She stopped what she was doing and glanced at him. "No. Why would you think that?"

"You haven't looked at me once since we hugged at the party." he reminded her.

With a heavy sigh, Sansa tossed down the shirt in her hands and turned to fully face him. "I'm not mad. I just don't really...if a man is going to touch me the way you were touching me, I'd rather it be because he wanted to. Not for the benefit of another man. And not to prove some sort of point."

Sandor nodded, chewing on the side of his tongue for a moment before speaking. "You want me to touch you like that?" he took a step towards her. "You want me to put my hands on you because I want to, because I want you?"

Sansa swallowed, her chest rising and falling a little faster than just a moment before. "I...do you want me? Because that's the only..."

"Yes." Sandor cut her off. "I do."

For a brief second, Sansa looked like she was going to cry and Sandor stopped in his slow pursuit of her.

"No." she shook her head. "You can't. You might, but I'm not like you, Sandor."

"What's that supposed to mean?" he lifted his brow at her.

"You have made it clear over the years that you aren't interested in relationships and monogamy. You sleep around. You aren't the settling down type, you've said that. And I am. I'm not built for one night stands. I can't have sex and it mean nothing."

"You think sex between us would mean nothing?" he nearly growled.

"No." she smiled a little sadly. "I think it would, and that's the problem. It would mean so much to me and I couldn't just go back to being friends with you after. Not when you..."

"Momma?" Elias stumbled into the living room, little hands rubbing at his eyes sleepily. "I wet."

Sandor looked down at the boy. The front of his jeans and bottom of his shirt were soaking wet. He must have had an accident when he was asleep. Sansa normally put him in a pull-up when he was sleeping, but obviously hadn't when he'd fallen asleep in the car.

"Alright, baby." Sansa smiled at him. "Let's get you cleaned up."

"Hi, Sandy." Elias just noticed him now, eyes still heavy with sleep.

Sandor couldn't help but grin at the boy. "Hey, Eli."

"I got a dragon." he seemed to remember at that moment, smiling happily. "Wanna play?"

"You go get changed." he jerked his chin in the direction of the bathroom. "We can play dragons later."

Sansa grabbed Elias' hand but stopped to look back at him. "Are you leaving?"

"I should." he ran a hand through his hair.

"Please don't." she said softly. "We really need to finish talking about this."

Sandor knew she was right. They did need to talk about this and now that he'd said something, it wasn't like they could just pretend he never had. Apparently he was really fucking good at opening boxes that couldn't stay closed. Not that he really wanted this one to close.

"I'll stay." he finally said and Sansa gave him a relieved look before tugging Elias back towards his room to change.

While they were gone, Sandor went to the kitchen and poured himself a glass of water. He was nervous. Really fucking nervous, but there was also this flare of excitement. He was finally going to say his piece and see where the chips fell. He was also putting a lot on the line with this. Whatever her reaction to what he had to say was, things between them were going to change.

Before he'd even gotten a drink in, someone was knocking at the door. Sitting the glass down, he went to answer it. Nothing, not a damn thing, could have prepared him for who would be on the other side of the door. Judging by the other mans face, he wasn't prepared for Sandor being on this side.

"What the fuck do you want?" Sandor spat.

The other man looked about ready to run, wrapped present and all, but quickly pulled his shoulders back and lifted his chin. "I'm here to see Sansa. Is she home?"

"Yeah, she's fucking home. It's her kids birthday. Where else would she be other than with her son?"

"Our...our son." Harry hesitantly corrected.

Sandor saw complete red, his vision turning hazy with the hot rage. Harry must have seen it in his expression because he stumbled a step back.

"Who the fuck do you think you are?" Sandor followed him out onto the porch. "You think you can come here after three fucking years and call that boy your son? Fuck you and the goddamn horse you rode in on."

"What gives you the right to tell me if I can be here or not?" Harry demanded. "You're nothing to him."

"I'm everything to him." Sandor growled. "I'm the one who warmed up his bottles. I'm the one who sat through doctor after doctor. I'm the one who held him in the emergency room when he was screaming in pain. I'm the one who changed the fucking bandages after his surgery. I'm bloody well the one that's been here!"

"Sandor?" Sansa rushed through the door. "Oh my gods, Harry? What are you doing here?"

"I came to see you." Harry stepped down off the final step where Sandor had backed him up to. "I'd like to talk to you."

"About what?" Sansa put her hand on Sandor's arm and he relaxed some.

"I wanted to see if I could maybe see Elias." he lifted the box in his arms. "And give him a birthday present."

"No." Sansa said quickly. "You signed the papers, Harry. You gave up your rights to just show up. I won't confuse my son because you're suffering from guilt."

"It's not guilt." he argued. "I...I made a mistake. I'm only asking for a chance here."

"Right now is not the time."

"Please, Sansa." Harry begged. "Just...let me say hi. Let me give him this. Then we can talk. Surely it's close to his bedtime?"

"Like you would know." Sandor snapped.

"I don't know, Harry." Sansa shook her head. "This is a lot without any warning. You should have called."

"I can call." he nodded. "If you want me to call, I can call."

"That's supposed to happen before you just show up." Sansa reminded him. "I need you to leave. Call me in a few days and we can talk, but we're not doing this right now."

"Alright." Harry set the gift down on the step. "I'll call you, Sansa. I promise."

"Sure, Harry. Just go."

After making a few more assurances that he would call, Harry finally got back into his Jeep and left.

"Who's that?" Elias asked once they got back inside.

"No one." Sansa handed him the gift. "Here, this is for you."

"Are you actually going to talk to that asshole?" Sandor demanded in a low voice once Elias was distracted.

"I don't know." Sansa grabbed the sides of her head. "I don't know. I've had so much dropped on me in the last hour."

Sandor nodded, knowing he had dropped half of that on her. And it wasn't even all of it. "Look, I'm gonna go. You think about what you're going to do about Harry. We can talk about us later."

"Yeah." Sansa gave him a smile. "That would probably be best. I've got a lot going through my mind right now."

"Right." unable to stop himself, and not really willing to try, Sandor grasped the back of her head gently and pressed his lips to her forehead for a brief second. "Call me later."

"I will." she whispered.

"Bye, Eli." Sandor ruffled the boys hair. "I'll see you around. We can play dragons soon."

"Bye, Sandy."

Sandor walked slowly to his house, mind in a whirl. Of course all this shit would happen just as he got the balls to say something. He supposed that's what he got for wanting to be with a woman who was also a mother. Not that he would trade that for the world. It was one of the things he loved most about her.

Chapter Text

Sansa felt drained. Emotionally and physically drained. All she wanted to do was go home and sleep but Arya was waiting at her house with Elias and she still had to be a mom. Besides, it was the middle of the afternoon. Hopefully she could catch a nap with Elias.

Harry had waited exactly one day before he called her. She agreed to meet him for brunch on her next day off so they could talk. What she hadn't told him was that she intended to bring Sandor along with her. She didn't want to face Harry alone, not that she thought he would physically hurt her in anyway. She just wanted someone there for the emotional support, and to help remind her of what she'd made her mind up about.

It had gone alright. Or as alright as these things could go. Harry had been mad that Sandor was there, questioned their relationship and asked him to leave. Sansa told him it was none of his business what was between her and Sandor and no he wouldn't be leaving. Sandor agreed that he would do what Sansa wanted him to do, and not Harry. She listened to him wax poetic about how dumb he had been and how much he regretted it. How he had been spending time with his daughter and it made him realize he wanted to spend time with his son as well. He didn't want his rights reinstated (probably because he didn't want to have to pay child support) but he did want permission to visit on occasion. It was something Sansa had spent a lot of thought on.

On one hand, she didn't want Harry to have anything to do with Elias. She was angry that he even thought he had the right to ask such a thing after signing away his rights and then not even calling when Elias was sick. She didn't want a revolving door dad for her son, who was there to confuse him and hurt him when he didn't show. But, on the other hand, she didn't want Elias to grow up and resent her for not allowing his real father to have a chance. She was worried that he would hate her because she prevented him from knowing his dad. And Elias did have a sister. How could she keep him from that?

"Here's the deal, Harry." Sansa had laid it out for him. "The answer is no. You will not show up when it's convenient for you. You will not get to cherry pick your dad moments. When Elias is old enough to make that decision for himself, he can have the option of meeting you and starting a relationship. But as of right now, no. I won't allow it."

That had pissed Harry off. He'd tossed down his fork and started to raise his voice until Sandor leveled him with a stare. He'd settled back down after that and did some begging, but Sansa didn't relent. Not even when he called her a horrible mother for denying his son the right to know his real dad. It had struck Sansa hard, even if she didn't put much credence into what Harry said. Sandor had gathered her shaking hands up in his and told Harry that if he ever so much as questioned her parenting again, he'd make sure Harry wouldn't be able to father any more children. They'd left shortly after that. Sansa was certain she'd made the right decision. And she had the number of Harry's ex, Cissy. She would call the other woman soon and see if she would be willing to set up playdates with the children so they could know their sibling.

"Did you put the asshole in his place?" Arya asked as soon as they came through the door and Sansa rolled her eyes. Arya was standing at the open patio doors, Elias outside playing on the playset her parents had bought for his birthday.

"Yes." Sansa kicked off her shoes and went to the door to watch her son playing.

"Did Sandor have to kick his ass?" Arya sounded hopeful. "Please tell me you at least hit him once?"

"No." Sandor chuckled. "No violence was needed. Your sister handled it just fine."

"Good." Arya nodded. "That ass, though. Thinking he can just waltz in and be Elias' dad all the sudden."

"Who's dad?" Elias, having saw Sansa and Sandor at the door, had ran up just then. Sansa gave Arya a glare.

"No ones, sweetie." she smiled down at him. "Are you having fun?"

"Fun!" he nodded. "Come play, Sandy." Sandor agreed, following Elias out to the playset and lifting the boy into one of the swings.

"Thanks for watching him today." Sansa said once they were gone.

"No problem." Arya shrugged. "How'd Sandor handle it there?"

"What do you mean?" Sansa turned to look at her sister. Arya rolled her eyes.

"Come on. Sandor is basically Elias' dad. Always has been. It couldn't have been easy for him, listening to some shit try and claim the title. And, no offense, but it had to have been a bit of a slap that you were even considering it."

"I had to think of what was best for Elias." Sansa argued.

"No, I know." Arya said quickly. "You had to consider it, I get that. And you were thinking of Elias, as you should have been. Sandor gets that, too, but I'm sure it still wasn't easy."

Not knowing what to say, Sansa looked outside and watched Sandor push Elias in the swing. She supposed it made sense.

Arya left shortly after and Sandor hauled in an unwilling Elias for his lunch. After he finished eating, Sansa laid him down for his nap.

"Are you leaving?" Sansa asked. Sandor was sitting on the sofa pulling his boots back on. He looked up as she entered, giving her a shrug.

"I need to hit the grocery store. And my laundry is taking over my bathroom." Sansa laughed lightly at that, then thought about what Arya had said.

"I didn't mean to hurt your feelings with this thing with Harry." she said gently. "I don't know if it did, but I can see how it might have and that was never my intention."

Sandor didn't say anything, just sat staring at her with a carefully blank expression.

"You've been more like a father to Elias than anyone else. Considering Harry's request wasn't meant to diminish what you are to him. What you said to Harry was right, Sandor. You are everything to him. Harry can never compare to that."

Sandor was silent for another minute before he stood up. "I never felt threatened by Harry when it comes to Elias. I'm fucking pissed that he's putting this shit on you and that he thinks he can just use Eli like that. I'm pissed at his timing, but it's done now." he reached forward and gently touched her jaw with the tips of his fingers.

"I don't think I've ever thanked you for everything you've done." she said softly. "For both Elias and me."

Sandor scowled, dropping his hand away from her face. "Come off that shit right now. I don't do it for thanks. I don't want it or need it."

"But I need to. I need you to know how much everything has meant to me." She swallowed hard and looked into his eyes. "How much you mean to me."

"Careful, little bird." he warned her. "That's sounding very much like a goodbye."

"No!" she said quickly, shaking her head. "No. It's not, Sandor. But now that this Harry thing is over, we should really talk."

"Not now." he shook his head. "I got shit to do. Eli is in there. You've had a rough go of things today. Go take a nap with him. I'll call you after I get home from the store. You need anything?"

"No, thank you." she looked down at the floor, kicking absently at the carpet.

"Look at me." he grabbed her chin and lifted her head so she had no other choice. "We'll talk. This isn't any sort of brush off or some shit."

"Okay." she nodded, trying to smile for him.

His hand shifted from her chin to her cheek, his thumb rubbing over her cheekbone. "I really want to kiss you right now."

Sansa's breath hitched, mouth parting in surprise as her stomach did a little flip. Still, Sandor made no attempt to lean down and do so.

"But you're not going to." she whispered.

"No." he shook his head. "I'm not. Not when you still think it won't mean anything."

"Would it?" she asked. Sandor shook his head with a grin before pinching her chin lightly.

"I'm going." he pressed his lips to her forehead. Sansa closed her eyes and tried to focus on how his lips felt on her skin but then he was pulling away.

After he left, Sansa went to lay down. She tried to take a nap while Elias slept, but couldn't fall asleep. Now that her mind was occupied by Harry and what to do about that, she could focus back on Sandor. Ever since she had left Harry she hadn't been interested in dating or guys. She'd had to focus on Elias. That was easy, actually. Sansa knew herself well enough to know casual flings weren't her style. She just wasn't built for it. She couldn't imagine giving her body to a man when there was no emotional attachment of some sort.

Sandor was the exact opposite. He didn't do attachments at all. He might have been attracted to her and wanted her, but it wouldn't be for long. To him that would be simple. Slake his lust and then move back into the casualness of their friendship. There was no way Sansa could do that. She was already on the verge of falling for him. Taking it that final step would ensure it and then he'd be done and she'd be heartbroken.

But she really, really wanted him. More so than she'd ever wanted anyone. And technically there was an emotional connection between them, even if it was just friendship. Maybe she could, just this once. Maybe he had the right of it. After all, she'd been hurt both times she'd tried a relationship and Sandor was completely happy and at ease with his dalliances. If he could move past the sex once it was over, why couldn't she?

Before she gave it too much thought, the phone on her nightstand rang and she rolled over to grab it.

"Hello?"

"Sansa, it's Brienne."

At the tightness and quickness of Brienne's words, Sansa sat up in bed. "Hi, Brie. Is everything okay?"

"No." a sniff. "My father...my father has had a stroke."

"Oh, goodness. Brienne, I'm so sorry. Is he okay?"

"I'm not certain. The hospital on Tarth called just a few minutes ago. Jaime...uh, Mr. Lannister has offered his personal jet to fly me there. I can leave in half an hour, but I need someone to cover my shift at the hospital."

"Of course." Sansa was out of bed before she even finished talking. "I'll be there in twenty."

Getting off the phone, she quickly called Sandor. Thankfully he was still at his house working on laundry before going to the store. He agreed to come over and keep Elias.

"It's only a half shift." Sansa told him, having changed into her scrubs already and was tying her hair up in a braid. "I'll be home in a few hours."

"Don't worry about it." Sandor walked her to the door. "Shopping can wait. Tomorrows Sunday anyway. It's not like I have to work."

"Great, I'll see you soon then."

Sansa made it to the hospital in fifteen minutes. Jaime Lannister was waiting at the back entrance that employees used, car running.

"Are you here to cover for Brienne?" he asked, his normal flippant attitude gone in the wake of anxiousness.

"Yes." Sansa moved past him. "I'll send her right out."

Rushing through the back, Sansa found Brienne sitting at the nurses station, chewing nervously at the end of a pen. The second she saw Sansa, she jumped to her feet.

"Thank you so much, Sansa."

"Hush." she waved her off. "Just go. Jaime's waiting outside. Take care of your dad and keep us informed. We love you." she kissed the tall woman's cheek before shoving her towards the back exit.

Sansa should have known this shift would be hellish. They always were when they weren't yours. Sansa didn't regret taking it on. She felt awful for Brienne and would do it a million times over so her friend could be there for her father. They were still understaffed, though. As winter was kicking in, so was the flu season. She was ran ragged, starting IV lines, taking blood, being puked on, peed on, possibly even pooped on. There were two code blues which Sansa helped run. By the end of her shift, she was filthy, exhausted, her back was aching and so were her feet. She couldn't wait to get home, take a shower, and go to bed. She was also hungry, but that could wait until she woke up tomorrow.

Just as she was sitting down to do report with the oncoming nurse, a call came in. A tractor trailer had lost control and jackknifed in the middle of the highway, causing three other cars to wreck. They had seven patients in route. So instead of leaving the hospital to go home to a hot shower and her comfy bed, she was elbow deep in blood and death. Her bed would have to wait another few hours.

Chapter Text

Sandor got a text from Sansa saying that she was going to have to work late, so he gave Elias his bath and put him in his pajamas. It was past his bed time, but he begged Sandor to let him stay up a little while longer and because Sandor was a sucker for the kid, he let him. They ate popcorn and watched the cartoon of singing cats that Elias loved. Eventually, after a belly full of popcorn and the end credits of the movie were starting to roll, Elias passed out on Sandor's chest. As comfortable as he was, Sandor kicked a leg over the arm of the sofa and settled back into the cushions instead of carrying Elias to his bed. He would eventually. He just wanted to catch the end of the two headed shark movie that was on the sci fi channel. Sansa would probably be mad at him for watching something like that with Elias in the room, but the kid was out. Sandor could feel the vibrations of his snoring against his chest. He could always change it when he heard Sansa's car pulling up.

Having seen this movie more than a handful of times before, Sandor kept getting distracted by his own thoughts. Unsurprisingly, most of them revolved around Sansa as they had so often lately. He could see why she thought he might be offended about the Harry shit, but in all honesty he wasn't. He got it. Sansa was a mother, and that meant what was best for Elias came before everything else, including herself and Sandor. She had to think about it and she was right in her worries. It was very possible that once Elias hit the angsty preteen and teen ages that he might hold it against her that she didn't let him meet his biological dad. Sandor had been the one to offer up the idea of letting Elias decide once he was older and could understand the situation.

Harrold fucking Hardying did not make Sandor feel threatened. Not when it came to Sansa and not when it came to Elias. At the risk of sounding egotistical, Sandor knew what he meant to Elias. The kid adored him, hells the kid basically worshiped him! Sandor was his favorite person and it was pretty fucking adorable how he always imitated him. It made Sandor want to be a better man.

Harry could fuck off, because nothing was going to change between Sandor and Elias.

Sandor also understood Sansa's hesitancy where he was concerned. She was only going off of what he had said, and how he had lived, over the years of their friendship. It hurt, though, that she thought he wasn't capable of something meaningful. He tried not to let it, because really it was his own damn fault. He wasn't the 'meaningful' type of guy. Hells, he wasn't even a 'love them and leave them' type guy. He was a nothing type guy because that's what he wanted in the past. Nothing. Until he met and fell for Sansa.

In the pursuit of being honest with himself, Sandor could admit that it scared the shit out of him. Starting a relationship with Sansa wouldn't be like starting one with some other girl. A relationship with her was a relationship with Elias. They already had a relationship, yes, but it would change. It would have to. Sandor knew that if things went south between him and Sansa and ended up not working out, he'd lose both Sansa and Elias. And Elias would lose him. That would confuse and hurt him, and Sandor didn't want to do that. It would be worse than what Harry had done because Elias never even knew Harry.

It was a risk. One he was willing to take. Sansa was worth it, and so was Elias. And Sandor honestly couldn't see himself ever not wanting to be with Sansa.

Lost as he was in the idle watching of the movie and his thoughts, Sandor slowly started drifting off. The comfort of the cushions under him and the warmth of Elias on his chest helped lull him until he was completely asleep. He didn't hear Sansa's car pulling up, and neither did he hear the front door open and close as she came in. He didn't even feel her approach them on the sofa until the remote was being slipped from his hand. Jolting awake, Sandor automatically wrapped an arm around Elias. A hand gently pressed into his shoulder to keep him from bolting upright.

"Sh." Sansa whispered from beside the sofa. "It's just me."

Relaxing again, Sandor blinked several times to clear his blurry vision. Glancing down to make sure Elias was still asleep, he then looked up to find Sansa smiling down at them. She was still in her scrubs, hair frizzing out of her braid. There were dark circles under her eyes and if he wasn't missing his guess, she looked like she'd been crying at some point.

"Hey." he cleared his throat. "You okay?"

"Yeah." she sighed, standing up straight to rub at her forehead. "Just a rough night. Sorry I'm late."

Sandor watched her for another second. The girl looked dead on her feet. Tightening his grip on Elias, Sandor quickly stood up from the sofa. Shifting the still sleeping boy in his arms to a more comfortable position, he started down the hall towards his bedroom. Sandor felt Sansa following them and his heart skipped a beat when he realized they would be alone once Elias was in bed. With as late as it was, they were unlikely to be interrupted like they had been every other time he went to talk to her. But was right now really the time? She was obviously exhausted, in every sense of the word, and likely wanted nothing more than to shower and sleep. He didn't know what had happened at work tonight, but he knew that there were times that he emotional demands of her job caught up to her and she just had to cry. She told him once that the day she no longer cried was the day she needed to quit because that would mean she didn't care anymore.

She impressed the shit out of him sometimes.

Going to a knee next to the little twin bed, Sandor carefully laid Elias down and pulled the dinosaur sheets up around his shoulders. He made a sighing noise in his sleep, shifting around for a moment, then went still again. Sandor took a moment, just looking at him. Pushing the feather fine blond hair off his forehead, Sandor got back to his feet and turned around to leave. Sansa was standing in the door, the light from the hall behind her illuminating the otherwise dark room. She was smiling at him, and maybe it was only for Elias, but Sandor could literally feel the love and adoration pouring out of her.

Fuck the right time. There was never going to be a right time. He couldn't keep making up excuses to put it off. It wouldn't be Harry, Sandor was sure of that, but eventually there would be another guy. Sansa had too much love inside of her to stay single forever. He'd make the right time, and right now, he wasn't going to leave here without her knowing where he stood.

Holding her gaze, he moved purposefully across the room. Sansa's eyes went a little wide and he thought he heard her breath hitch when he grasped her arm and walked her back out into the hall. Still looking down at her, he silently pushed the door shut behind him, then continued backing her up until she gently hit the wall behind her.

"Sandor?" she whispered his name as a question and Sandor let go of her upper arm to run his hand over her shoulder and cup the side of her neck.

"Rough night?" he repeated what she had said earlier and she licked her lips before nodding, still not looking away from him. Sandor nodded, bringing his other hand up to the other side of her face. He tried to pretend he didn't notice that they were shaking a little. He also swallowed down the nerves flaring up in his gut.

"I can make it better." he offered in a low whisper. "If you'll let me, I can."

Sansa's mouth opened on a ragged indrawn breath. He could see her questioning it, could see all of her insecurities about his intentions rising up in those pretty blue eyes of hers.

"Because I want to." he assured her, hands tightening on her face, one slipping further back to cup the back of her head. "I have for so fucking long."

"Sandor." her voice was a little shaky and her eyes closed for a brief second. "I'm disgusting. I need a shower and I'm so tired I'm likely to fall asleep on my feet."

Sandor understood what she was thinking and he grinned for a second. "I'm not asking you to fuck me, little bird. You're tired, I get that. I'm just asking you to let me try and make the rest of your night better." gripping her pony tail, he tilted her head up so he could look down at her better. "And you aren't disgusting. You're gorgeous. There's not a fucking thing in this world that could change that."

With wide eyes, Sansa stared up at him for a moment, searching his face.

"What if I want more than one better night?" she whispered the question and he knew what she was getting at. Sandor gentled his hold on her hair, taking hold of each side of her face as he leaned in closer.

"I'll give you as many as you want."

A sleepy smile ghosted across her face and Sandor said fuck it all and leaned down to kiss her. Keeping in mind what he'd said about not fucking her that night, he kept his mouth gentle, restrained. Or at least he tried to until Sansa pushed up on her toes and wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him back. Her lips were just as soft as he'd always imagined and he thought for a brief second that the burn scars on the corner of his mouth might be too rough against her softness. Her response, however, soon shut down any thoughts. Her mouth opened willingly when his tongue touched her lips and she met it with hers and together they explored each other, testing out what the other liked. Sandor nipped her bottom lip and she shivered against him when he ran the tip of his tongue across the roof of her mouth. She responded by sucking gently on the tip of his tongue and he growled low in his throat before pulling back and dropping a few more small kisses to her upturned mouth.

Sansa laughed lightly, grabbing the back of his head to hold his forehead to hers. "I've been waiting for a very long time."

Sandor chuckled too, running his nose down the length of her jawline to kiss under her ear.

"Sorry I'm late." he nipped the lobe of her ear and Sansa yelped softly. With an amount of restraint he hadn't known he possessed, Sandor pushed away from her. She stayed leaned back against the wall, limbs looking boneless and her cheeks flushed. Her eyes were heavy lidded and Sandor figured that was only half his doing. The poor girl really was exhausted.

"Come on." he took her hand and pulled her down the hall and into her bathroom.

"Sandor." she stopped him when he reached for the bottom of her scrub top. "I don't..."

"I know." he kissed her again. "Just...trust me."

Sansa smiled, letting her hands fall from his wrists. "Of course."

That hit him a lot harder than he thought it would. It felt like a well placed punch, but without any of the pain.

"Good." he cleared his throat. "Then I'm going to help you."

She didn't argue with him again as he lifted her soiled scrub top up and off. She didn't try and stop him when he undid the drawstring of her bottoms. With a hand on his shoulder to steady herself, she stepped out of the pants and kicked them to the side. Trying not to get distracted by the fact he had Sansa Stark in her underwear before him, he gently took her shoulders and turned her around. After removing the tie from the bottom of her braid, he worked the tangled mess free. Sansa let out a small moan, her head falling back as he worked his fingers into her scalp. Pushing her hair over one shoulder, he dropped a kiss to the back of her neck. He'd planned on unhooking her bra also, but noticed then she was wearing a sports bra. Instead, he let his fingers trace down her spine until he reached the band of her panties.

"Take the rest off." he instructed into her ear.

While she did what he asked, Sandor turned away from her to start the shower and let the water heat up. Without looking back at her, he stripped off his shirt and jeans. Down to his own underwear, he finally turned to find Sansa had done what he'd asked and now stood naked in front of him. She had her chin lifted proudly, but the hands at her sides were shaking a little.

Over the years Sandor had seen her in various states of undress. He'd gone to the beach and pool with her and Elias countless times. He'd seen her in nothing but a bikini. He knew the perfection of her bare skin. He had even seen her nipple a few times when she had been breastfeeding Elias as a baby. It was hard to find that erotic when it had been to feed her child, and Sandor hadn't lingered. But now, now he lingered. She was better than he had ever imagined. Long and lean with wonderful curves and hollows. Her breasts, not overly large but Sandor figured would fit perfectly into his palms, shook a little with her quick breaths. His eyes caught and lingered at the apex of her thighs, on the tempting thatch of auburn hair that was a shade darker than that on her head.

"Sandor." Sansa called his name, pulling his attention back to her face. There was a half smile on her lips, amusement in her eyes. "I think the waters warm enough now."

Shucking his underwear, Sandor grasped her hand and pulled her into the shower stall with him, shutting the frosted glass door behind them. Stepping her back under the spray, he ran his hands through her hair until it was soaked through. Grabbing her shampoo bottle, he pumped some into his hand then changed places with her so he could scrub the gel into her hair. With a moan, Sansa let her head fall back on her neck, wrapping her arms around his waist as she closed her eyes. He focused past the feel of her breasts pushing just under his chest, her nipples brushing against the hair there. He ignored his erection that was pressed against her stomach. Instead, he focused on massaging the suds of the honey scented shampoo into Sansa's scalp. Tonight, right now, wasn't about sex. It was about making Sansa's night better. He wanted to show her he could do that.

Without moving her away from him, he turned so she was under the spray again and worked the suds from her hair. Repeating the process with the conditioner, Sansa's head came back up to lay heavily against his shoulder as he rinsed it from her hair. For a long time, Sandor simply ran his fingers through the now silky softness of her hair, letting her rest her head on him. He followed the wet strands down her back and then back up, pushing his thumbs into the base of her neck and rubbing. She would moan or sigh until she stopped making any noise at all, only breathed heavily against his neck.

"Come on, little bird." he urged her head away from him. "You can't fall asleep in the shower."

Sansa smiled without opening her eyes, hands running up and down the wet skin of his sides. "Why not?"

"Let's wash your body and then you can go to sleep." he dropped a kiss to her cheek, then grabbed the shower gel and quickly washed her body down, trying not to linger. Trying, but failing several times when he cupped both of her breasts, which did fit perfectly into his palms, and rubbing her nipples with his thumbs until they beaded tightly and Sansa bit her lip and whimpered. He lingered again when he reached behind her and palmed her ass, kneading and rubbing her cheeks until Sansa giggled and swatted his hands away. He didn't even dare try and put his hand between her legs.

"What about you?" she asked once she was rinsed off.

"I took a shower earlier today." he assured her. "Don't need another one and don't really fancy smelling like honey and flowers either."

Sansa laughed at that, letting him wrap her in a fluffy towel before taking one and drying himself off.

"Too late." she grinned. "You already smell like me."

Once dried, Sandor pulled back on his boxer briefs but left the rest of his clothes on the floor before scooping a still naked, though wrapped in a towel, Sansa up and carrying her to her bedroom.

"I do have legs, you know." she protested, but didn't attempt to remove herself from his arms.

"I know." he gave her thigh a squeeze. "Damn sexy legs at that. Legs that have driven me to fucking distraction more times than I can count."

"You never said." Sansa said softly as he sat her on her feet next to her dresser. "Why didn't you ever say anything?"

"You were my friend." he shrugged. "My best friend. I don't have many of those and I didn't want to fuck it up. Not until I was sure there was more to it than the desire to get between those legs."

"And now you're sure?" she whispered hesitantly. Sandor took her chin in his hand and lifted her face to his.

"I still want between those legs, Sansa. I want inside you so bad I can't fucking think. But I want more than that, too. I want it all. Every fucking bit of it."

For a long second, Sansa just blinked up at him. Then a slow smile pulled at the corners of her mouth. "You silver tongued devil, you." she teased.

"I'm honest." he countered. "I'm always honest. Especially with you."

Leaning down, he caught her lips once again, this time taking his time to kiss her until they needed air again, letting his tongue dip inside and taste her again. Sansa wrapped her fingers in his hair and held him to her as she kissed him back, her other hand holding the towel on her body.

"Now, get dressed." he rasped, pulling back after a few minutes. Again, Sansa just blinked at him and he chuckled. "Pajamas, little bird. I'll be back in a second."

Leaving her to dress, Sandor went back to the living room to make sure the doors were locked and the TV was off. With one last look to make sure Elias was still asleep, Sandor grabbed the brush off the bathroom counter and went back to Sansa. She was sitting at the foot of the bed, wearing a white and cream floral print nightshirt, using the towel in her hands to rub her hair dry.

"Here." he took the towel from her, then sat behind her on the bed to run the brush through her hair. Once all the tangles were free, he kept gliding the brush through her hair until her head suddenly dropped to the side, causing her to startle awake.

"I think you're done." Sandor chuckled, tossing the brush onto her nightstand. "Let's get you to bed."

Sansa went willingly, crawling up to the head of the bed and burrowing under the covers before patting the empty space next to her. "Sleep with me."

That having been his plan anyway, Sandor got under the covers next to her. She instantly scooted up against his side and curled herself around him. "I don't think I've ever been this tired." she mumbled into his chest hair.

"Then sleep." he kissed the top of her head.

"Please don't leave." she whispered and Sandor tightened his hold on her.

"I've got nowhere I'd rather be, little bird."

Chapter Text

Sansa had never really been a morning person. Even after all the early morning shifts and the erratic hours of being a mother, she still found it hard to drag herself out of bed. There were three alarms set just to wake her up in time for work. Sleeping was fun, and she hated to interrupt it.

This morning she found it easier than normal to wake up, although she still had no urge to get out of bed. Not with the warmth enclosing her, the solidness of a heavy arm wrapped around her waist. Even without opening her eyes the memory of last night filtered through her sleep fogged mind and a smile tugged at her mouth. Keeping her eyes closed, she snuggled in closer to the warmth in front of her, burying her nose into coarse chest hair. Her arm slipped over his side, fingers gliding over smooth skin stretched across hard muscles. Just above her head, Sandor let out a deep breath, the air stirring the hair at the crown of her head. At first he flinched away from the light touching of her fingers, like it tickled, but then his hand flattened at the small of her back and pulled her closer to him.

"Good morning." she whispered into his chest, nosing the skin there before kissing it. How often had she thought about touching him like this? How often had she pictured being able to run her hands over the muscles she'd drooled over?

"Morning." his voice rasped. His hand slid over her hip, down her thigh and then hooked around her knee before tugging it up and over his own hip. Sansa tightened her leg, drawing herself closer to him and lifted her head from his chest. His eyes were still closed but he tipped his head down towards her until his nose brushed along hers. She giggled when his mouth moved further down and kissed at her jaw and then her neck.

"What time is it?" his voice rumbled against her pulse point before he nipped at it.

"Mm." Sansa hummed, dragging her eyes open to look at the clock on the nightstand behind him. "It's coming up on seven."

Sandor grunted in acknowledgement, shifting his body further down so he could reach her collarbone. His hand left her thigh to come back up to tug the neck of her nightshirt out of the way so he could get to more of her.

"Eli will be up soon." he bit her collarbone, causing her to jump and gasp, then she let out a shaky breath when he soothed it with his tongue.

"Yeah." she clutched at the back of his hair, holding his head to her chest as his breath warmed the cotton covering her breast. The heat of it spread out through her lower stomach causing her to rock against the hardness of his stomach.

"I want you." he rubbed his lips over her tightened nipple while his hand went back to her thigh and slipped under her nightshirt and slid upwards to skim his knuckles over the front of her panties. Every single part of her body screamed at her to say yes, to ask him to rip her panties off and take her right now. Her mind, however, was struggling to remind her of why they didn't have time. Elias would be up soon. He would scramble out of his bed and come directly to hers. Having Sandor deep inside of her wasn't exactly how she wanted her son to find her at any point in time.

"I want you, too." she whispered, bending her head to press her lips to his forehead. "But Elias..." she cut off on a gasp when his lips enclosed her nipple and his tongue flicked the tip through her shirt.

"There's plenty of time." he argued, fingers pressing more firmly into her center, rubbing delicious little circles. Her hips started canting into his touch without her permission.

"But...oh, that feels good." she arched her head backwards when Sandor shifted the panel of panties to the side and touched bare skin.

"Fuck me." he growled under his breath, rolling further over quickly and forcing her onto her back. He sat up on his knees, chest billowing as his fingers continued to torment her.

"Sandor." she groaned his name, unquestioningly lifting her hips when he started tugging her underwear down and off.

"Damnit, Sansa." he rasped, hands pushing slowly up her thighs and taking her nightshirt with it until it rested above her hips and Sandor could see her. All of her. "So fucking pretty."

Sansa swallowed hard, shivering with the rush of heat that went through her. Sandor was so focused on what his hands were doing, pushing her legs further apart, fingers brushing across the hair on her mound, that he didn't notice her perusal of him. With his position on his knees above her, straddling one of her legs, Sansa had a perfect view of his body. Not that she'd never seen it before, but now she could look openly without feeling guilty. And seeing him right now, above her and breathing hard in nothing but his underwear, was so much different than seeing him at the pool or in the gym. Right now he was solely focused on her, body tensed and overwhelming her in his size and strength.

Needing to touch him, she lifted one shaky hand to brush over the dips and angles of the muscles of his stomach. They tensed under her fingers, and she raked her fingers more firmly through the hair there, causing him to groan low in his throat. With a smug grin, Sansa looked up at his face only to gasp loudly when he pressed a finger deep inside of her.

"You'll always lose at this game, little girl." he smirked, gently pumping his finger without ever really pulling out.

"I think...oh yes!" she moaned when he added a second finger. "I think I'm okay with losing to you."

Sandor chuckled, then dropped his upper body down to his elbow braced by her head so he was closer to her face. With his free hand, he rubbed just under her bottom lip, then kissed her deeply. She moaned into his mouth, wrapping her free leg around his thigh and started to move her hips with his movements. Angling his head to the side, he kissed her harder, thrusting his tongue almost in time with his fingers, curling it around hers before licking the roof of her mouth.

"Gods." she pulled her mouth away from him, needing to breathe.

"You're so fucking pretty in the mornings." he growled into her ear, then licked it. "Now I wanna see how pretty you are when you come."

"Gods." she whimpered again. Somehow she had known he would have dirty mouth in bed. How could he not have when he had a dirty mouth in every day life?

With a particularly smug sounding chuckle, Sandor drug his teeth across the lobe of her ear and then lifted his head so he was looking at her face. She forced her eyes to stay open, to stay locked on the stormy intensity of his gaze.

"What do you need?" he asked. "Tell me what it is that'll make you sing for me?"

"Don't stop." she panted, arching her hips to meet his hand as he kept his fingers deep inside of her, pumping hard enough that the heel of his hand ground into her clit constantly. "Just...uh, just a little faster."

Speeding his fingers up just enough, Sansa moaned and tipped her head back into the pillows, one hand coming up to hold onto the back of his neck and the other grabbed the flexing muscle of his forearm between her thighs.

"Right here." he grasped her chin and tipped her head back down. "Like that?"

"Like that." she nodded. Her center started coiling tighter, those delicious little waves of pleasure gaining and spreading, the ends of her nerves tingling as her climax drew closer. Sandor held her face in his hand, not letting her turn away from him. Sansa watched his face through pleasure hazed eyes. He was breathing nearly as hard as she was, his bottom lip held between his teeth as he watched her intently. He grinned when her thighs started shaking, her inner walls fluttering around his fingers. That wicked expression warred with the glint of awe in his eyes and Sansa let go and closed her eyes as her entire body trembled with the orgasm that rolled through her.

"Bloody...fuck." he groaned, pushing in deep one last time and staying there as her body quaked around him. A shiver ran through her body when he pulled his fingers free, but then he was kissing her again and she could only hold onto his hair weakly as she tried to keep up. But she felt so boneless and relaxed it was mostly just her accommodating him.

"Sandor, that was..." she panted when he finally pulled away.

"Fucking hot." he supplied, smugness mostly overtaken by awe. "You have no idea how long I've wanted to do that."

"What?" she blinked, mind still a little sluggish and numb.

Sandor chuckled and kissed her lips gently. "Make you come."

"Oh." she breathed, then laughed lightly. "Well, you did do that." she twisted towards him and lifted a knee, her thigh brushing over the reminder that while she had, he hadn't.

"Later, little bird." he kissed her nose, grinding himself against her thigh for just a second. "I heard Eli's door open a second ago."

Sansa flushed and hurriedly pulled her nightshirt back down around her thighs while Sandor just chuckled and lay back against the pillows, pulling the blankets up around them. Sansa had just lifted herself up to a more dignified position, painfully aware of how wet she was between the thighs with no underwear, when her door flew open and Elias bounded in. He paused at the foot of the bed, noticing Sandor, and then a huge smile spread across his face.

"Sandy?"

"Hey, bud." Sandor patted the space beside him and Elias scrambled up onto the mattress and wrapped his arms around Sandor's neck.

"Morning, sweetheart." Sansa leaned across and kissed Elias' cheek. "Sleep good?"

"Yes." he nodded, fingers grabbing at Sandor's hair and tugging. "I hungry."

"Me too." Sandor agreed. "Let's go find some food."

As quick as he'd climbed onto the bed, Elias promptly flew off of it and out the door. Sandor shook his head with a chuckle and climbed out of bed as well.

"I need a moment to, um, clean up." Sansa hedged once she'd gotten up as well.

"Take it. I'll get Eli some cereal." he moved into the bathroom and Sansa followed, watching as he scooped up his jeans from the night before and pulled them back on.

"Sorry we couldn't...you know." she motioned to the space between them. "Elias isn't known for his timing." she added with a smile.

"No." Sandor agreed. "He isn't. But I really don't care." he moved to stand in front of her and bent to kiss her once again. "I gotta wake up next to you and watch you come apart around my fingers. I'm not complaining about shit."

Sansa smiled, running her hands across his stomach. "It was a pretty nice way to wake up."

"Mm." he took a step back. "We got time, Sansa. I'm not going anywhere. And I plan on showing you just how nice it can be when I'm all the way inside of you."

Sansa sucked in a breath, then gave him a mock glare. "Alright. That's enough." she pushed him towards the door with a laugh. "Go make sure Elias isn't climbing on the counter for his cereal."

With a wink and that damn tongue roll thing, Sandor did as she asked and left her in the bathroom to get herself together.

So much had changed in just a single night. They still had things to talk about, things to get straight and questions to ask and answer. Like Sandor had said though, they had time. And Sansa couldn't wait to see where it would take them.

Chapter Text

Sundays usually seemed like the shortest day of the week, seeing as they were Sandor's only day off from the gym. Today, when he wanted the day to hurry up and rush by, it seemed to drag on forever. Now that he had explicit permission, he wanted to do everything he'd always fantasized about with Sansa. All of which were inappropriate to do in front of a three year old.

Over the morning, Sandor got in every touch and grope he could manage without Elias seeing. When he would pass by Sansa, he'd purposefully brush up against her, or grab her ass. When she was doing the breakfast dishes, Sandor moved in close behind her and pressed his hips into hers. Sansa gasped, then giggled, angling her head to the side so he could mouth at her neck while his hands slid up her torso. Until Elias came bounding in.

After breakfast and helping Sansa clean up, Sandor went back to his place to shower and change. Once he returned they all loaded up and took Eli to the park down the road. Sansa had said it was a good idea, that way he would play himself out and take a good nap. They went to lunch at Sansa's favorite café before heading back to her place where Elias did fall asleep within minutes of laying down. Sansa and Sandor spent the hour and a half of alone time together on the sofa, making out like a couple of teenagers. Honestly, Sandor hadn't fondled so much tit under a shirt since he was in high school. Not that he was complaining. Back then the girls hadn't been near as full and firm as Sansa. Neither had they straddled his lap and ground down on his erection until he thought he'd come in his pants. To stop himself from doing that, he lay Sansa down on her back on the cushions and slowed things down. Best not to get something real heavy started when Elias could wake up at any second. His lips were almost numb by the time Eli's door clicked open and Sansa's were deliciously swollen and red.

The wait until it was time for Elias to go to bed was the worst. Sandor left for a couple of hours to get in a run to burn off some of the tension. Going back to his place, he packed a small bag with a change of clothes and his toothbrush seeing as Sansa had asked him to stay with her again tonight. He showed back up at dinner time with a take out from the Chinese place. After eating, Sandor chased Eli around the house playing dragons until the boy was a rosy cheeked, sweating ball of laughter.

"Alright, mister." Sansa scooped him up from the floor and ruffled his damp hair. "I think it's time for a bath."

Since bath time was one of Elias's favorite times, he went happily to the bathroom. While Sansa got him washed and changed into his pajamas, Sandor picked up the mess they'd made of the house before finding a cartoon for Eli to watch so he could settle down for bed. With his stuffed black dragon under one arm, Elias snuggled up into Sandor's side on the sofa so he could watch his cartoon. Once Sansa had finished cleaning up the bathroom, she joined them as well. Legs curled up under her, she leaned into his other side and rested her head on his shoulder. It was fairly innocent, but her hand on his leg, thumb rubbing circles into his thigh, was like some sort of slow, torturous foreplay. By the time Eli was sagging into his chest, Sandor was just about ready to go insane. As carefully as he could, he pushed up off the sofa and carried Eli to bed. Tucking him in quickly, Sandor started back towards the living room only to find Sansa waiting for him in the hall.

"Ready for bed?" she asked with a hopeful little smile and Sandor swallowed thickly before nodding. Grasping his hand, she pulled him into her bedroom, and Sandor made damn sure to lock the door.

"We should probably talk before we...you know." she motioned towards the bed.

"Talk about what?" he asked, moving in close to her and backing her up towards the bed while his fingers worked on the button of her jeans.

"Us." she breathed. "What's going on between us."

Sandor groaned, dropping his head to her shoulder. Following the band of her jeans to the swell of her bum he pushed his hands under the denim to palm her satin clad cheeks.

"Everything." he rasped into her shoulder. "I want to fuck you every night. I want to take you out. I want to be the only man that touches you, and I want to be everything Elias needs in a dad."

"Oh." she said shakily, hips lifting into his while his mouth began kissing and sucking on her neck. "So you want to date. To be boyfriend and girlfriend?"

"I don't give a fuck what you call me." he lifted his head to look at her. "I just want to be yours and you to be mine."

A soft smile spread across her face and she lifted both hands to cup either side of his face. "I thought you didn't do monogamy and relationships."

"It's been almost four years, Sansa." he pulled his hands free of her jeans to run up her back. "Haven't you noticed I'd do damn near anything for you?"

"Yeah." she laughed. "I have."

Silencing her laugh with his mouth, Sandor pulled her tighter to his body so he could feel her soft curves pressing into the hard lines of him. Sansa released his face to grasp his shoulders as she kissed him back, opening when he pressed for more.

"Are we done talking?" he asked against her mouth before sucking on her bottom lip. "Cause there's a hell of a lot I wanna do to you."

"Like what?" she questioned with heavy eyes.

"Take your clothes off and get in bed." he kissed her once more before stepping back and ridding himself of his own clothes. Once he was down to his briefs, Sandor crawled into bed on top of the covers with his back against the headboard and watched as Sansa shed the last of her clothes. Once she was naked, she stood hesitantly at the side of the bed, both hands covering her belly in nervousness.

"Come here." he parted his legs wide and Sansa quickly climbed into the space between them on her knees. Sandor pushed her hair back from her face before kissing her again. He didn't stop until she was kissing him back with a heat that nearly burnt him and she no longer seemed to feel so awkward in her nudity.

"Turn around." he grasped her hips and urged her to turn her back. "Lean back against me."

With gentle coaxing and encouragement, Sandor got her seated between his spread legs. The swell of her ass was pressed up against his erection and the length of her back was pressed into his chest and stomach. Running his hands up and down her arms for a minute, Sandor shifted them so he could sweep across her stomach and thighs.

"That's it." he pressed a kiss to her temple when she let her head fall back into his shoulder. "Is this okay?" he asked, hooking her ankles with his feet so she would drape her legs over his, causing her to be spread open for his touch and his gaze.

"I feel...I feel really exposed." she whispered in a shaking voice.

"You are." he agreed, running his hands back up her legs and stomach to cup each of her breasts. "I can touch every part of you like this."

Demonstrating that ability, he took one tight nipple between his fingers and started to gently roll it while he slipped his other hand down between her thighs. Sansa gasped and her hips gave an involuntary jerk forwards when his fingers danced over the cropped curls of her mound.

"Everything I've ever wanted to touch." he rasped in her ear, fingers dipping into the wet heat of her. "Everything I've imagined seeing." Spreading her apart, Sandor watched his hand feel out the shape and texture of her. He mapped out the folds and heat until his fingers skimmed over a part of her that was swollen and hard and Sansa moaned loudly.

"There." he groaned low in his throat as she started flexing her hips into his touch. Her hands, resting on top of his thighs, tightened as her head tipped towards his. Sandor angled his head to the side so he could give her the kiss she obviously wanted. He kept his touch between her thighs light, rolling the swelling bundle of her clitoris with two fingers in time with the pinch and pull of her nipple.

"Gods, Sandor." Sansa tore her mouth from his, using the hands on his thighs to help in her efforts with his hands. The movements caused her ass to rub against his erection and Sandor released her nipple to flatten that hand against her lower belly, trying to still her movements against him.

"Inside." she panted into his throat, lifting her hips so that his fingers slipped off her clit. "Put your fingers in...yes!""

Pushing two fingers inside of her, Sandor hooked his chin over her shoulder so he could watch her body writhe and jerk against him. Moving the hand on her pubis lower, he took up the movements against her clit with those fingers.

"Oh my gods." she gasped, one arm leaving his leg to wrap around his neck. Sandor grinned into her shoulder before biting there gently. Pumping his fingers into her at a pace that matched the rise and fall of her hips, Sandor damn near lost it himself when Sansa let go of his thigh and ran her hand across her own breasts.

"Fuck." he growled into her skin, speeding his fingers on her clit just a little. "Come on, little bird. Let me see it."

"Yes." she nodded frantically, arm tightening on his neck as her fingers pinched her nipple and suddenly her entire body tightened. The tightness around his fingers fluttered as a rush of moisture bathed them. Sandor couldn't help but rock his hips into back, rubbing the pulsing ache of his cock into her as he worked her down from her orgasm.

"Gods." she breathed, shivering deeply when he pulled his fingers free and raked both hands up her undulating belly and ribcage. "Those are so much better than ones I can manage myself."

"You'll have to show me sometime." he bit her neck softly, hands cupping her breasts and rubbing his thumbs over her nipples. Sansa moaned again, another little shiver rolling through her body.

"What about you?" she lifted her head enough to catch his mouth with hers.

"If you think I could watch you get yourself off without touching myself, you've greatly misunderstood the type of man I am."

Sansa laughed lightly, rolling her body so she was laying on her side against him, one arm wrapping around his waist. "I meant now, silly. What can I do for you?"

"You can roll off me so I can take these pants off."

With another giggle, Sansa did as he asked and moved out from between his legs. Sandor stood up from the bed and dug around in his duffle that he'd brought until he found the roll of condoms he'd stuck in there. Ripping one off, he tossed the others onto her nightstand before pulling his underwear off. Sansa watched from her spot on the bed as he opened the packet and rolled the condom on, her eyes a little wide and nervous looking.

"What?" he asked, smoothing the rubber in place.

"Nothing." she looked up at him a shy smile. "It's just been a really long time."

"I'm not going to hurt you." he assured her, moving back onto the bed and crawling so he was hovering over her.

"I know." she smiled again, hands smoothing up and down his chest.

"Here." he moved to sit up against her headboard and grabbed her hips, urging her to sit in his lap. "You control everything. Take me how you want."

Licking her lips before drawing the bottom one between her teeth, Sansa positioned herself over the tip of his cock. Her eyes fluttered shut as she rubbed herself against him for a few seconds. Sandor rolled his tongue against his teeth and gripped her hips in an effort to give her control. Opening her eyes, Sansa smiled down at him, one hand braced onto his shoulder.

"I love when you do that." she said softly, eyes on his mouth. "Every time I always imagined how your tongue would feel against me."

"I'll show you." Sandor growled, tightening his hold on her hips, trying to urge her to take him. "Fuck me now and I'll put my tongue on whatever part of your body you want it later."

With a breathy little laugh, Sansa readjusted his cock to her opening and then slowly slid down onto him. Sandor let his head fall back against the headboard with a thud, eyes rolling back into his head. She was tighter than he'd imagined since she'd had a baby. Like a hot, velvet fist enclosing him.

"I knew you'd feel this good." she whispered once she was fully seated, both arms wrapping around his neck and drawing him closer to her. Sandor did the same, wrapping arms around her waist until they were touching in every way possible. When she started moving, Sandor thought his head might explode. She moved in slow, subtle shifts of her hips, barely lifting and falling as she rocked back and forth. Sandor tried to help her find a rhythm, grabbing her ass and moving her in firmer, faster movements. It didn't seem to take very long before Sansa arched her back against his arm and threw her head back. She kept fairly quiet, but her hips ground harder and faster against him and then her body was shaking and gripping him tightly. His name slipped out from between her lips on a whisper.

Moving his hands from her ass to her hips, Sandor leaned back and started thrusting up into her, chasing his own climax. Sansa braced herself on his shoulders, letting him take her and trying to meet his movements. He looked up at her to find her looking right back at him, mouth open and eyes bright. Grabbing the back of her neck, he jerked her head towards his and kissed her hard, groaning out his release into her mouth.

"Fuck, don't stop doing that." he panted into her mouth when she kept rocking her hips, prolonging his climax and drawing out all the little aftershocks until Sandor was certain he'd pass out from the pleasure.

"I need to get off." Sansa mumbled before dropping her head against his shoulder after a few moments passed. "My hips are starting to ache."

Grumbling a little, Sandor wrapped an arm around her back and rolled her to the side before extracting his body from hers. Sansa whimpered and curled into herself. Sandor chuckled and rolled off the bed. Going to the bathroom, he tossed the condom and cleaned up before bringing a rag out to Sansa. Leaving her to clean up, he dug out his pajama bottoms from his bag. Having Eli come in tomorrow morning to find both of them naked wasn't really appealing.

Sansa managed to pull herself from the bed to pull on a pair of panties and a nightshirt. Once they were both back in bed, Sandor lay on his back and Sansa draped herself across his side, one leg thrown over his hips and an arm resting on his stomach. He curled an arm around her shoulders and rubbed her hair between his fingers.

"What should we say to Elias?" Sansa asked after a few moments of silence.

"He's three, Sansa." Sandor reminded her. "He's not going to understand any of this."

"I know, but he's going to see us kissing and touching more when we haven't before. He's going to be curious."

"Tell him the truth." Sandor shrugged. "You and I are together."

"That simple?" she tipped her head up to look at him.

"Should it be complicated?"

"No." she smiled. "I guess not."

"You're mom's going to shit herself." Sandor chuckled at the idea of Catelyn Starks reaction.

"She'll be surprised, that's for sure. But I'm sure she'll be fine. She just wants me to be happy."

Sandor swallowed, tucking her head back into his chest before pressing his lips to her forehead. "Are you?"

"I am." she answered without hesitation. "You make me happy, Sandor. You've always made me happy."