I am moving all my old LJ content here too, so I might even go down the memory lane visiting old posts and good times...
Cheers to new forum!
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She is a maid still.
The thought had never even occurred to him – not after the Imp and Littlefinger. He had assumed she was experienced and knew what she was doing, and he had hoped…Aye, he had dared to hope, especially after she had started to sneak into his bed. But this changed everything. And he didn’t want to hurt her. Gods, if he did have her, there would be pain.
Yet Sandor’s resolution had been hard tested the previous night when she had beseeched him, no, begged him to take her. Never in his life had he fought as hard against a foe, the enemy being his own instincts and desires. But as always, he had won – a victory that tasted like ash in his mouth when he saw her that morning; her broad smile, blushing cheeks and sparkling blue eyes. And remembered the taste of her kisses, hesitant and awkward at first, and later, as they both gained more confidence, exploring and daring. That she had allowed him to touch her intimately had almost been his undoing, but he had controlled himself - mostly.
Later that day Sandor fled outdoors. He went to check the fish trap and found a plump, silvery fish, which he killed, gutted and scaled on a flat rock jutting out of the stream. Cold water made his skin tingle but that was good – it took his mind away from the only thing that had occupied his mind the whole day.( Read more... )
When Sandor reached the hut and dropped the rope of the sleigh on the ground, he had hardly time to straighten himself when the door burst open and the girl rushed out.
“Sandor!” She jumped at him and as surprised as he was, he extended his arms and caught her.
“Sandor, you came back!” He could hardly hear the words she mumbled against his shoulder, her face buried in his new furs.
Sandor? She had never called him thus and hearing it woke something in him. Not many people had, and even fewer of them had been women.
“Of course I came back…Sansa,” he rumbled, savouring the sound of her name as it came out of his mouth. He felt equally strange saying it, almost guilty, as if it was something forbidden. “The village was further than I thought, and the return trip slower going because of this.” He gestured at the sleigh piled full of supplies.
Carefully he lowered her on the ground but she didn’t let go, clutching at him. It took more soothing words, the same he had always used with his horses, to make her release her grip.( Read more... )
Actually, Sandor could count the times. Two times in King’s Landing; first when he had rescued her from the mob and she had clung to him, clutching his bare neck so desperately that her nails had made him bleed. The second time, when she had touched his face on the night of the green fire. The third time had been when he had sneaked into the Gates of the Moon. He had crept behind her and restrained her by covering her mouth with one bare hand and clasping her wrists with another. She had struggled at first, but hearing his voice she had stilled. Sandor had pressed her back against his chest and felt how frail she was, so small and delicate. Her fingers had twitched and when he had relaxed his grip, she had not pulled them away as he had expected but instead had held on tight, not letting go.
The Warrior Maid of Tarth had sent him there with words of valour and honour. The bag of gold dragons she had given him had clinked its own tale of the many things he could buy with it. Not that the Lannister gold had been his true motivation. Seeing the girl again had been its own reward, carefully considered in his calculations before he had accepted the mission.( Read more... )
Sandor pushed the door open, the old gnarled wood giving in reluctantly as if wanting to hold on to the secrets it held behind it.
Damp smell, musty whiff. Coarse wooden furniture knocked over, dust settled on surfaces. That mattered not.
His feet felt leaden when he stepped across the threshold and collapsed on the floor, the girl in his arms almost crushing under him. Deep ragged breaths filled his lungs with stale air. Safe.
After gathering his breath for a moment he scrambled onto his knees by pure force of his iron will – the same will that had seen them through the snowstorm and never-ending wind and howl. Slowly he climbed to his full height, supporting himself against the wall. He felt too weak to lift the girl but he dragged her from shoulders just the same to the pallet at the back of the room. She looked like a broken doll lying there, face paler than snow. Sandor leaned in slightly and saw her lips quivering, her face screwed in pain or cold or both. Good. She is still alive.
A tired tug at the reins of the horse, pulling him too into the only room in the hut. With his last remaining strength Sandor released the saddle strap and let it fall. Then he let himself go and his tall body crumpled on the floor.
Darkness took over him.( Read more... )
Jaime couldn’t sleep that night. He tossed and turned and covered his face with a blanket, despite the room already being pitch-black. It was all Sansa’s doing, he fumed, before acknowledging that Sansa was not at fault for the swirl of emotions drowning him. However, she was certainly not completely innocent either. She had, after all, burst into his room and stared at his semi-nakedness with the unnerving gaze of a woman who is familiar with the male form. She had, after all, initiated the kiss that Jaime had only by extreme willpower broken off. The desire surging in him had been a surprise; he wouldn’t have guessed he would respond to her so eagerly.
His session with Sandor tormented him as well. He had intended his clumsy admission as a way to lessen Sandor’s concerns. Only afterwards had he realised that it might also be taken as a rub and a reminder that his little bird could soon be expected to sleep with another man, and that her lover could do nothing about it.
Would he ever sleep with Sansa? Not bloody likely, the way things were between her and Sandor. Yet her visit and the incident it had triggered wouldn’t leave him alone. She might have started the kiss lightly, as a jape, or perhaps out of pity. Still, a jape wouldn’t have shortened her breath so, nor caused a red flush to spread across her face and neckline. Pity wouldn’t have made her tongue clash with his so forcefully, nor make her tremble under his touch as she had. He had reacted to her strongly and she had noticed it, yet hadn’t moved away in alarm. Jaime wondered had he put his hand under her dress and into her smallclothes, would she have been wet, because of him?
He pressed a pillow over his head and tried to suppress the thought. She is not mine to dream about, she is Sandor’s woman. However, that was an even worse idea, as next he found himself picturing her with Sandor, his big hands between her legs, his hard body pressed against her slight frame. The little glimpses Jaime had caught of Sansa’s loveliness made him sure she would be a sight to behold naked; so delicate, so soft, so feminine. The image of Sandor’s battle-hardened, dark and scarred body on hers made him hard again. He tried to fight against it, but inexorably his hand travelled lower over his body and he was soon panting and stroking himself as other visions of the two of them overtook him. This one time only – just to get it out of my system.
Afterwards he felt strangely guilty. Dreaming of Sandor was one thing, Sansa another – but of the two of them together…somehow that was even more exciting but also alarming. For a moment he deliberated on the depths of his degradation.
On top of everything else there was the looming threat of King Aegon, coming to snatch Sansa away. Any tensions between them would matter naught in the face of such a situation. Sansa may not accept Aegon’s proposal, but what would her refusal mean to her, to them, to the North?
At an early hour in the morning Jaime decided he had to take the lead in solving the most burning of their problems.
Jaime sent a polite word to Sansa through his squire, asking for an audience with his lady and her sworn shield regarding the upcoming royal visit. Soon he received an equally polite reply telling him to join them in her rooms after the midday meal.
When Jaime entered he could see that something was amiss with Sansa and Sandor. They sat in different parts of the room and instead of the usual sexual tension something else was simmering between them. He looked inquiringly at Sansa, lifting his eyebrow, but Sansa only shook her head slightly as if to say don’t ask.
Sandor looked worse for wear. The bruise on his forehead showed clearly, it’s blue and purple colour mixing with the angry red of his scar. He glanced at Jaime when he arrived, but with no special hostility as far as Jaime could discern. They greeted each other, both aware that Jaime wouldn’t have called the meeting at the busiest time of the day unless he had a good reason.
Jaime’s gaze flitted between his companions and his thoughts from the previous night came to him. He still had the grace to feel ashamed, and when Lenore bustled about, offering him a goblet of watered wine and pointing him to a tray of cheese and dried fruit, he exchanged a few words with her. Jaime hadn’t really paid much attention to Lenore before, but after Sansa’s announcement of how she too was aware of her secret, he had started to view the maid with a new appreciation. Jaime had some insights about the shrouded world of women and he knew how much close relationships meant to most of them. A strong Northern woman supporting Sansa was just what she needed in a world full of challenges for a young woman as a ruler. After some pleasantries Lenore curtsied and withdrew discreetly, leaving the three of them alone.
Jaime didn’t know what had transpired between Sansa and Sandor since the previous day, but none of that made any difference to his task anyhow. He took a sip from his goblet, stood up and moved into the middle of the room. At that moment he was not the third wheel, not the object of pity or compassion, but a commander about to reveal his strategy to his troops. He knew he was right in what he was about to propose, knew it as surely as he had known so many times before in his war campaigns. Assessing weaknesses of the enemy, planning a cunning way to exploit them, seizing the opportunity to act first rather than waiting to react to the actions of others – he had been good at it. He coughed and started.
“We all agree that King Aegon’s marriage considerations are the last thing Sansa needs, and would lead to poor outcomes for the North.” He didn’t need to look at his audience to know that they were paying attention.
“We have to avoid them at any cost. As it happens, we have a chance and the knowledge to do just that.” He saw Sansa looking at him with a keen expression, her head slightly cocked to one side. Sandor was attentive as well, but his countenance was somewhat resentful. Jaime chose to ignore it.
“Firstly, we know what Aegon plans, but he doesn’t know that we know. I believe what Tyrion wrote to Sansa about it being just between him and her. Tyrion chose to warn us.” Jaime pointed his finger at his listeners. Sansa nodded in acquiescence.
“If Sansa and I announce our betrothal before the royals arrive, it is extremely unlikely that Aegon would challenge it.”
Sansa gasped, her face betraying how unprepared she was for the suggestion Jaime had just put forward. Sandor’s face was a closed mask, but from the rigid line of his jaw Jaime could see he was equally dismayed. Before either of them had a chance to voice their objections, Jaime continued.
“He could – but what I learned about him in King’s Landing tells me that he is not prepared to be seen as a selfish ruler. A king who breaks a noble betrothal only to marry the lady himself would not be viewed favourably by his subjects and he knows that. He may bristle at the situation, but he would accept his defeat, of that I am almost certain.” Sandor and Sansa stared at him and he moved along to alleviate the trepidation he knew they must be feeling.
“This is not the same as marriage. Some engagements stretch out for years, and the main purpose here is to thwart Aegon’s suit. When he finds a new bride and the threat of a royal proposal subsides, we can always end it.”
Sansa started to open her mouth. Jaime anticipated what she was going to say; once publicly announced, betrothals were sacred and rarely rescinded, and only for the gravest of reasons. He smiled and looked at Sansa during his next statement.
“I am sure you could find a reason for ending it - known oath-breaker and scoundrel that I am. If needed, I could provide you with a scandal so big that you’d have no other choice but to declare it over, and gain the sympathy of the realm in doing so. Always at your service, my lady.” He gave Sansa a bow, exaggerating its sweep.
“What could such a reason be?! That is not a matter to be taken lightly,” Sansa spluttered.
Jaime smirked, clasping his hand to his elbow and rocking on his heels. “I am sure I could think of something.”
He knew exactly what he could do; the most scandalous affair ever to be discovered in noble circles of Westeros. Mind you, not the most audacious thing done, but one to be found out. He would seduce a soldier or a lesser knight, some poor sod who would be flattered by his attentions and succumb to carnal temptation. Public discovery, the humiliation of it all…nobody could blame Sansa for wanting to rid herself of such a man.
As if reading his thoughts Sansa murmured, “I couldn’t let you dishonour yourself just for my sake.” Sandor had clearly caught his meaning as well, but didn’t say anything. He had crossed his arms across his chest and scrutinised Jaime from under his brow.
“Why so? Are you concerned that I couldn’t endure the whole realm hating me, calling me names and detesting me for the unscrupulous acts I have committed?” Jaime sneered, knowing he had nothing to lose should it come to that. The only thing he’d miss would be the respect of the North – he had worked hard to gain it. Yet it would be worth it to help Sansa. Besides, maybe there would be no need for it; maybe someday Sansa would agree to wed him after all…
Jaime knew his suggestion to be sound and the only way to solve the issue. He examined his audience and deduced that they had come to the same conclusion. Sandor shifted his formidable bulk, looking irritated but not arguing against the plan. Sansa wrung her hands and threw apprehensive glances in Sandor’s direction.
“How do you suggest we should go about this...betrothal?”
Jaime strolled straight in front of Sandor and despite addressing his words to Sansa, he stared pointedly at Sandor.
“First we tell your council. Remember Sansa, you are not seeking their approval, but only letting them know. There may be voices of objection but you can ignore them. I may not be a favourite of all the Stark bannermen, but they know the conditions of the Iron Throne, how in any case you are not allowed to marry a Northern lord.”
Sandor stared back at him, challenging, but behind his defiant stare Jaime could see a trace of uncertainty. He knew Sandor well by now and recognised him to be prepared for the worst; to see how all he cared about was taken away from him or trampled to dust. Not if I can help it!
“Next, you will make a public announcement during a special celebration in the Great Hall. The sooner the better. This being in next to no time after your annulment, we can say that we want to keep the celebrations to a minimum, avoiding the need to invite all the lords to the feast. Besides, it is not as if either of us have our families around us, making it a stately affair.”
Sansa nodded at Jaime, seemingly reconciled with his idea.
Leaving Sandor, Jaime sat down next to Sansa and put his goblet on the table. He smiled at her and the way she looked at him, so full of trust, made his heart leap.
“It might be a good idea if we pretend that we are in love. The king could be tempted to put aside a political engagement of convenience, compensating for it with an even better proposal, but breaking apart a loving couple is another thing altogether.” He leaned back on the couch and pulled a face at Sandor, who was glaring at him. It was just too easy to annoy Sandor, he sighed. When will he accept that I will never do anything to hurt him?
“Oh,” Sansa said, throwing another look in Sandor’s direction. “I see that it makes sense.” She looked thoughtful and Jaime could see she had already grasped the advantages of his proposal.
“It wouldn’t require too much; just holding hands every now and then, maybe a public kiss here or there. Certainly a proper betrothal kiss at the feast; after all, that is one of the few times when the couple are allowed to express their feelings openly before the wedding. It probably wouldn’t hurt if you were heard to gush to your woman friends about your happiness and how you can hardly wait to be joined with your handsome lord…” Jaime found himself enjoying the situation; the more he painted the picture of a couple in love, the gloomier Sandor’s expression got. Sansa only stared at him hesitantly. Oh, this is priceless!
“You may also have to endure a swarm of excited women around you wanting to plan your wedding, dressmakers circling you with their suggestions for your wedding dress and bridal cloak, endless prattling of ladies in your ears…women seem to get excited about these things. As for me, I would have to suffer envious looks from all the men in the keep and their forced congratulations when in reality they would rather punch me in the face… As a matter of fact, some of them might even do that.” Jaime rubbed his chin pensively, but couldn’t pretend to be serious for long.
Laughing, he reached for his goblet again and knocked back a greedy gulp. “Cheer up, Sandor, it would be only a mummers’ farce! It would make our scheme better though. The king and queen rely on my brother as their Hand, and I dare say they wouldn’t want to offend him by stealing his beloved brother’s beloved bride. It will all work in our favour; in Sansa’s favour, in yours, even mine. And it doesn’t have to change anything between the two of you.”
Jaime didn’t miss the glances exchanged between Sansa and Sandor. Whatever was going on between them, it was clearly not his business. Reluctantly he concluded that he had had his fun and it was a time to leave. He snatched up some cheese and raisins and stuffed them into his mouth as he went to collect his cloak from the hook. At the door he turned and saw that neither of them had moved. Shrugging his shoulders he turned the latch.
“I leave you to consider this plan. If you agree with it, there is a council meeting tomorrow where you can make your plans known, Sansa. Just let me know what you decide so I know to act appropriately.”
Still neither of them wasted a look in his direction or noticed as he left the room. He wondered what happened after he was gone; did they fall into each other’s arms or was something seriously wrong between them? He hoped it had nothing to do with what had happened between Sansa and him. One thing was sure; he swore that this night he wouldn’t think of them doing unspeakable things to each other, nor would he fuck himself into his hand.
He failed miserably on both accounts.
The council meeting was easy. Its members stared open-mouthed at Sansa as she made her announcement in a steady voice, then turned their heads in one synchronised movement to look at Jaime. Jaime tried hard to maintain an appropriate expression on his face, smiling and nodding, looking over to his betrothed every now and then in a loving display of affection. They received the ensuing congratulations of the gathered group benevolently; the castellan Cellor, the master-builder Erwyth, the old lord of House Flint and Maester Weimar. The latter was hardly able to hide his excitement, spurting his sincerest wishes of happiness to them both. Sandor was there too, and Jaime noticed some of the men glancing at him warily. Do they suspect something?
The announcement for all and sundry took place only two days later. Sansa had cited her desire to announce the matter to her own people before the royal visit, and her reasons were well received. The feast was arranged; pigs slaughtered, casks of good ale brought into the hall, musicians from Winter Town arranged, all the people of the keep advised to attend the meal and told that there was going to be a special announcement.
The folk streamed into the hall at the allotted time, looking around and whispering to each other curiously: why the feast? What was the pronouncement they had heard about?
Jaime sat at the main table next to Sansa. They had agreed that from the outset he was to take the role of a consort, Sansa being the one talking on behalf of them both. That was unusual, and in other circumstances Jaime might have found it difficult to play second fiddle to a woman. With Sansa, he didn’t mind. Whether it was just a mummer’s play or – as he still dared to hope – someday a real thing, he didn’t mind Sansa taking the lead. The worst thing about being a follower was to be led by a fool, and with Sansa there was no danger of that.
Once everyone had taken their seats, Sansa stood up. Her household guards stomped the butts of their spears on the floor and soon all talk died, all eyes directed at her. Jaime saw her swallow, then square her shoulders and lift her chin in a familiar gesture which he had learned indicated that she was ready to proceed. The wolf is ready to leap.
“My dear bannermen, my people, folk of the North. You know you have been called to tonight’s festivities for a reason, although you don’t know what it is as yet.”
The crowd hollered its accord, but quieted at her raised hand.
“As you all know, my false marriage to the Hand of the King and Queen, Tyrion Lannister, was annulled a short while ago. It was never a real union, and not of my choosing. However, I am but a young woman and I need a companion by my side. I know that many of you expected my choice to fall upon a Northern lord, one of your own. However, for many reasons this is not possible. Besides, here in the North we also know how choosing a life’s companion is about more than political cunning or the dictates of expediency. We are free people, we make our own decisions!”
At that the feast-hall broke into cheers and whistles. Northern folk had always been proud of their free and independent ways, and liked to be reminded of that.
Sansa smiled broadly and Jaime felt a surge of pride looking at her. After the cheers had settled down, she continued.
“That is why we are here tonight; I am to be betrothed, and I want to share this joyous news first with you, my own people.” She glanced at Jaime and gestured for him to get up.
“My chosen is one of my most loyal companions and one of the noblest knights in the realm, Ser Jaime Lannister of Casterly Rock. Not only did he secure my return to my ancestral home when I was but a fugitive on the run, he also recently secured peace and an accord with the Iron Throne, and their help to defeat our foes beyond the Wall.”
Jaime knew his role and that was to look adoringly at Sansa – not so hard to do – and bow at her words. Sansa extended her hand to him and he took it into his, pressing a chaste kiss on her wrist before grabbing her by the waist and pressing his lips fully against hers as the official kiss of betrothal.
The crowd stared at them for a moment before breaking into boisterous applause. Sansa blushed and let her gaze sweep across the room. Jaime held his smile and felt the love directed at Sansa brushing over him as well. Is this what it feels like to be loved by people?
What followed were a few speeches by respected figures of the keep, congratulating their lady and her chosen consort. Ser Jorah stood up as well, raising his cup and toasting the happy couple. Jaime wondered if he was aware of King Aegon’s plans and what he thought of them, or the engagement. He looked sincere, but sometimes Jaime had an uneasy feeling that Ser Jorah saw more of what was going on between Sansa and Sandor than others. Maybe being in the same situation himself he was more attuned to subtle signs. Sure enough, his eyes rested on Sandor after he had finished, but if anything, his expression was slightly sad. That left Jaime questioning silently what his position would be should matters escalate with the royals.
The toasts were interspersed by food being brought into the hall: steaming fresh bread and yellow butter, whole roasted pigs and their blood made into sausages; turnips, potatoes and steamed greens, all accompanied with healthy helpings of ale and wine. The mood in the hall was jovial and merry, sweeping Jaime along with it. He ate heartily, fed the best morsels of his meal to Sansa and laughed at lewd japes some of the most daring guests ventured to make.
Sandor too was seated on the dais, and despite both Jaime and Sansa’s warnings not to show his irritation too clearly, Jaime could see that he was brooding.
Jaime stood up and lifted his goblet. The hall fell silent, only the sound of dogs growling at each other under the tables over scraps of meat penetrating the hushed reverence. People strained to listen to what the man of the hour, the betrothed of their beloved lady, would say.
“Dear Northerners! I don’t have to remind you about one of my darkest sins, that of not being born here. Nonetheless, since I have joined you and given my allegiance to House Stark, I have learned to love this land, its people, and especially one of them – the most beautiful flower in the North.” He turned and raised his goblet to Sansa, who looked at him with a bright smile on her face. The crowd cheered and howled and showed its approval.
“I am indeed the luckiest man alive. Not only has this lovely lady accepted my suit, but I am also surrounded by people I can call my friends. One of them especially is not only my friend, but also a man into whose hands I can entrust the most precious thing in my life, my lady love.” Jaime turned towards Sandor and raised his goblet in his direction.
“Sandor Clegane, the sworn shield of my betrothed! I commend her into your continuing protection, knowing you will take as good care of her safety, or better, as I could myself. Our thoughts and our gratitude are with you now, as always.” He lifted his drink and gulped it down, only marginally ashamed of the way he had put Sandor in focus. Yet he had his reasons; he wanted to show everyone how he had no intention of relieving his intended’s protector of duty, as some might expect. No, with his words he ensured that Sandor could continue to stay at Sansa’s side at all times.
Sandor glared at him but had no choice but to accept his toast and the clapping of the crowd. Jaime lifted his eyebrow and smirked at him, knowing he would pay for his words dearly come the next time they sparred in the training yard.
The rest of the evening descended into a blurry, hazy cavalcade of congratulatory drinks, back-slapping, blurred speeches and rousing tunes played by a rag-tag band of musicians. Jaime couldn’t remember when last he had had such a good time, just as he couldn’t remember how he ended up in his room in the wee hours of the morning.
He didn’t seem to be the only one, and overall everyone agreed afterwards that it had been the best betrothal feast in the North for a long, long time.
Sandor couldn’t shake Sansa’s proposed marriage to Jaime out of his mind, no matter how hard he tried. It persisted, popping up whenever he wasn’t careful. At first he resisted it, fighting against the disturbing images of seeing his little bird wed to another. Yet gradually his hesitation gave way to contemplation as he forced himself to face the reality of his – and Sansa’s - life.
Said life was busy enough to keep him occupied; luckily he didn’t have too many idle moments to brood over things. Filling the gaps left by the vast army which had robbed Winterfell of many men, training all the new men who had arrived with Jaime, and many other tasks besides required his attention.
Not all new recruits were soldiers. Gendry, as a capable tradesman, had been assigned to help the old smith of the keep. Sandor saw him often when he visited the smithy about the requirements of the troops. After the swelling on Sandor’s head and Gendry’s forehead had subsided, they had established a grudging truce and since then could often be found sharing a flagon or two of ale in the Great Hall, Jaime sometimes joining them. Their time spent in King’s Landing and their experiences with the Starks served as an opening to shared stories.
It didn’t take long for Sandor to realise the real reason why Gendry had arrived. Despite his amused curses and bewilderment that any man could be interested in the little wolf-bitch, he felt a twinge of sympathy. Poor bastard, alone in the world living a hard life, forming a bond with a girl almost as lost as him. It must have been a strong connection indeed to make him continue to search for her, especially knowing how impassable the gap was between their positions in the world. All he could hope for – should the feisty little sister be found – was a few kind words and a chance to see the object of his affections gliding past every now and then.
Sandor threw his drink back in a couple of big gulps, seeing himself in that same position not that long ago. He also knew that he would have stayed there, but for some fucking miracle – or weakness in the head on Sansa’s side. He closed his eyes momentarily and felt the familiar sense of utter satisfaction when he thought of what awaited him at the end of the evening; his little bird’s soft arms around his shoulders, her long legs wrapped around his waist, her sweet cunt wet for him… For a moment he wondered what Gendry would say if he told him that sometimes, just sometimes, the dreams of a madman can come true.
Sandor took any bond between the young man and Arya to have been rather innocent, as the wolf-bitch had been much too young for anything else at the time, and Gendry didn’t strike him as a molester of young girls. Hells, he didn’t even pay attention to the wenches who kept on throwing dove-eyed looks at him, handsome and strong lad that he was, and a man with a good profession as well. He had had his share of women, Sandor surmised from what he gleaned from him, and he liked him better for that. Nothing as suspicious as overly pious men, he had always reasoned. Those must hide bigger sins in their coffers instead.
Despite Gendry’s debatable motives for being there, Sandor recognised a skilled craftsperson when he saw one. And Gendry was clearly good at his trade. Sandor told him about his hound-shaped helm - long gone - and Gendry described his bull-horned creation to him. He asked if Sandor wanted him to forge a new hound-helm, but Sandor declined. He might still carry three dogs as his house sigil, but the Hound was gone.
To Sandor’s surprise Jaime joined that particular discussion with poorly hidden interest, asking Gendry about his time in the Street of Steel, whether he knew all the master smiths there and what he thought of them. He threw in a few questions about a particular member of the trade he had met on his last visit, someone called Meryn, and asked Gendry’s impressions of the man.
Sandor knew members of the Kingsguard were amply serviced by the Red Keep’s own armourers, and was curious as to why Jaime was interested in a common tradesman from the city. Gendry spoke highly of the man in question though, confessing to them that following in his footsteps had been one of the ambitions of his youth. To become skilled at his trade, to establish his own business, settle down as a respected professional and find a wife. By that stage both Sandor and Jaime felt free to mock him mercilessly about his unrequited love and didn’t let the delicious opportunity slip by, japing to each other about the first smith in King’s Landing with a real lady as his wife. Seeing Gendry turning redder than his forge amused them both, and only when Gendry tried to deflect their teasing by wondering aloud why Meryn had not taken a bride, although all the young ladies in the street had been keen to marry him, did Jaime change the topic and leave the smiths of the world alone.
Despite this, Sandor could detect that Gendry itched to do something more challenging than forging blades, arrows and horseshoes. One evening, over a plate of greasy pork knuckles and copious amounts of ale, Gendry started to draw outlines of animal motifs for a clasp or a belt buckle, using coal and scraps of parchment. At first he drew an outline of a growling hound, but at Sandor’s suggestion he sketched an image of a bird, tilting its head sideways. Initially it was a big, noble crow, but Sandor didn’t like it. “Make it smaller,” he urged, and after repeated urgings and attempts Gendry finally drew something Sandor liked; a diminutive bird sitting on a perch, its tail jutting upwards.
Sandor looked at the draft longingly. He wanted to give something like that to Sansa; a real gift. Mayhap with a yellow stone of some kind as its eyes; his own colours… Swearing aloud he pulled himself out of the foolish dream, feeling vaguely ashamed of behaving like a fucking love-sick youth. Yet as the evening ended, he swiped the delicate drawing from the table, rolled it up and hid it in his sleeve. One day, someday, perhaps…
Besides the notion of Jaime’s proposal that bothered him, there was also the ominous spectre of King Aegon’s suit.
Sandor had no doubt that the king would propose. Any man who had a chance for Sansa Stark’s hand and didn’t take it was a buggering fool as far as he was concerned. Of course he would want her. But where would it leave Sansa? Or him?
The idea of Sansa with any other man was still as painful as the first time it had hit him, but there were different degrees of pain. Sansa had told him it had been jealousy he had felt, after he had haltingly told her about the day when he had first experienced it. Sansa had also assured him that he had no reason for that, as nothing had happened between her and Jaime. Vague notions of a marriage had entered her mind but soon been abandoned when Sandor had returned. A farewell kiss, as well, but as Sandor had still not shared with her what had transpired between him and Jaime, he felt he was not in a position to judge.
Sandor tried to imagine what he would feel should the two of them wed. Hells, it wasn’t pleasant, but the more he allowed his mind to brood over it, the less it hurt. Less than what he would suffer to see Sansa as a queen, surrounded and protected by the fucking Kingsguard!
He started to observe Sansa and Jaime when they were together, playing cyvasse or going over preparations for the arrival of the royals. They looked just as comfortable in each other’s company as before, so nothing had changed in that respect. Jaime still made Sansa laugh, and Sansa showed her confidence in him, trusting his opinion and guidance in many matters. The best part of all was that when Sandor made his presence known - made a comment, asked a question, or even just coughed to get their attention - both of them readily turned to him, showered him with their attention and made room for him in their midst. Hells…could that work after all?
Besides, who knew; considering Jaime’s newly discovered traits maybe they wouldn’t even lie together? As for an heir for the North…somebody needed to father the babe. Fuck!
Sandor had to stop his train of thought right there. He was not a complete idiot and sticking rusty spikes under his fingernails was not his idea of fun. It would be just as well if he didn’t allow his mind to dwell on impossibilities.
He knew Jaime wanted children of his own, children he could actually be a father to. That had been obvious from the time they had first started to share confidences in the bleak forest camps of the Vale. He and Jaime had sometimes even japed that he should get a wench to push out a couple of cubs for him in Winterfell. If Jaime acknowledged the bastards and looked after them, they could have a good life and rise high in society. Never to become nobles, but sons could become respected professionals, maybe distinguished soldiers or maesters, and daughters could marry well into minor houses and rule over a keep of their own.
Should he marry Sansa, for the explicit purpose of begetting an heir… of course he would fuck her! And if he did so, Sandor’s time with Sansa would be over. No husband accepted his wife fucking another man, and besides, who was to say whose pup she would be carrying if she still allowed him into her bed?
At that point Sandor’s otherwise cool contemplations degenerated into seething curses, clenched fists and angry scowls, directed at whoever happened to be around. Like a starving man allowed to feast at a banqueting table with the succulent meats and sweetest wines, only to be turned away with a piece of hard bread in his hand, Sandor saw his days of contentment slipping out of his reach. Something in him started to toughen in preparation for the inevitable, and many a night he refused to go to Sansa despite her invitations. He saw her bewilderment, but hardened his heart. The fantasy had been sweet and beyond his wildest fucking dreams – but soon it would be time to face the harsh reality.
Sandor avoided Jaime’s forward thrust and swung his own sword towards him, but Jaime managed to duck out of its reach. Steel clashed against steel in the otherwise quiet training yard as the two of them practiced. Since Jaime had returned, they had fallen into their old habit of training together, Jaime forever striving to improve his left-handed battle skills.
Another habit they had fallen back into was the massages they gave to each other after such heavy bouts. It had started again the evening after Sansa had urged Sandor return to Jaime, and had soon become a routine.
Not much had changed from the times before, except Sandor himself. Human touch was not a mystery to him anymore, and although Jaime had initially appeared hesitant, Sandor never gave him any indication that he would have compared his touch to that of his little bird. As a matter of fact, he sometimes deliberately muttered how good it felt to have some force applied to his sore muscles, and how women simply didn’t have the required strength – which happened to be true, of course. Sandor however stayed quiet about all the things Sansa managed to do right, out of consideration for Jaime, and he appeared to be grateful for it.
“I heard you are ready to forsake yet another oath you have sworn,” gritted Sandor through his teeth as he examined Jaime, ready to swipe the second he saw the other man’s guard down.
“You did? And what oath would that be? There are so many.” Jaime had regained his stance and the two men circled each other warily.
“The one that forbids members of the Kingsguard to take wives.”
Jaime startled and dropped his defence, but rather than attack Sandor only approached him warily, studying the other man’s expression intensely.
“Sansa told you about it?” Jaime replied, watching attentively as Sandor came closer, but didn’t move.
“Aye, she did. Now, are you going to surrender without a fight like some pox-ridden whoreson or are you going to defend yourself?!”
Jaime responded by raising his sword to block the downward swing he had anticipated Sandor would throw at him. Hells! He may have lost his hand but none of his fighting instincts, Sandor had to acknowledge that.
“Did she also tell you that I don’t plan to press the suit, not with you and her playing house?”
Jaime was in attack mode now and pressed on Sandor, raining blow after blow on him as he swung his blade. Some of them went through Sandor’s defences and although they fought with blunted swords, Sandor felt stinging pain on the side of his face as the blade grazed it. He grunted and threw his weight against the shield he raised in front of him and used that as a battle ram to push Jaime back. At the same time he attempted a side-swipe with his sword – but suddenly the counter-pressure of Jaime’s resistance was gone and he found himself stumbling into something, which turned out to be Jaime’s foot. He fell heavily on the ground, but the memory ingrained in his muscles from the years of training helped him to just roll around, quick as a flash, and regain his footing some distance away from where he had fallen.
“Fuck! Was that something you picked up from those dastardly Unsullied?” Sandor couldn’t help croaking. Jaime only flashed a smile at him and approached again.
“Did Sansa make it clear that it was not my idea, but something Tyrion put forward, thinking it would solve all our problems?”
“Aye. She also said that you thought it might have worked. And that if you were not quick about it, the dragonspawn might come to whisk her away to the fucking capital again,” Sandor rumbled, swinging his sword savagely downward once more, straight towards Jaime’s armoured legs.
“Aegon is the real danger, not me. Yet even kings don’t always get what they want. Look what happened to Aerys - he wanted to burn everyone and got a blade across his throat instead. Robert wanted to fuck every pretty wench in the land – and oh well, he got pretty close to achieving that.” Jaime’s words came in rapid spurts as he danced around Sandor. He had avoided Sandor’s latest two attacks, but was panting heavily, his breath coming in shallow gasps.
“What everyone wants in this whole bloody business is a babe, an heir to House Stark and Winterfell.” Sandor couldn’t hide the bitterness in his voice, caused by people seeing Sansa as a brood mare, there only for pushing out sons and daughters to keep the bloody northerners and Iron Throne happy. “Several heirs, if they have their way.” His resentment spurred him on and he put all his strength and weight into his next blow. It hit home; Jaime stumbled and fell to the ground with a curse. Sandor withdrew, granting his opponent a chance to get up again.
“You have the right of it there. The more the better,” Jaime gasped at him.
“Winterfell needs heirs that stay in the North and become proper Northerners, not some dandy Southrons,” rasped Sandor at his fallen companion.
Suddenly, out of the blue, Jaime’s voice changed and he sounded dead serious and in control, contradicting his semi-prone position on the ground.
“Did you know, Sandor, that dogs, wolves and lions can learn to live with each other if raised together from a young age? Put a cub and a pup together and they don’t know any different.”
Sandor lowered his blade.
“Cubs and pups?”
Jaime looked straight into his eyes, still not rising from the kneeling position he had pulled himself into.
“Yes, hounds and lions.” Jaime’s voice was soft. “If the wolf agrees,” he added a heartbeat later.
For a while the only sound in the yard was that of their heavy breathing. Sandor had lowered his shield as well, stunned by what he had just heard. Jaime saw his chance and charged.
He rushed headlong towards Sandor, straight up from his squatting position, bombarding him with sword strikes, one after another. He had always been quick with his blade, and hadn’t lost that advantage with his hand. Sandor had a hard time defending against his attack, Jaime’s blows seemingly coming from all directions at once as Jaime made a full circle around him, dancing like a fucking dancing master. As Sandor turned to follow Jaime’s movements, Jaime did something – for the life of him he didn’t know what – and Sandor found himself on the ground once more. He hit the earth hard, head first, and felt his teeth clatter together painfully. He was dazed and just lay there, on his back like a whore on the army’s payday. He groaned as Jaime laughed at him from above.
“Fuck! You win, lion. I yield.”
“I accept your surrender. Now, let me help you up. I take no delight in gloating over a defeated challenger.”
Sandor cursed again and extended his gauntleted hand towards Jaime, who pulled him up. After collecting their weapons they started their weary walk towards the keep, each nursing their injuries. Sandor’s ribs hurt, his old leg-wound burned like hell and his head was pounding from his latest fall. Yet none of that could be compared to the punch Jaime had delivered with his words. The silence stretched between them as they trudged forward.
They both knew their last exchange hadn’t been about the fight.
Sansa sighed and pulled away from Sandor, sweat gluing strands of hair to her forehead. Sandor’s chest moved up and down as he breathed heavily, spent by the passion that had overtaken them. The sheets lay tangled and forgotten at the foot of the bed.
As much as Sansa cherished their lovemaking, she also enjoyed the moments afterwards. She murmured sweet nothings into Sandor’s ear, while he let his warm touch to do his talking. Sometimes they spoke about intimate matters; those that were too sensitive to be addressed in the light of day. This night Sansa had one such topic in mind.
“I have received yet another proposal of marriage, of which I haven’t told you until now. It was a roundabout offer, not made directly by the man in question.” Sansa wanted to make sure Sandor understood it had not been Jaime’s own initiative.
“By some pathetic gnat, not brave enough to make his own bid? Did his mother ask for your assent on his behalf?” grumbled Sandor, pulling Sansa closer. He turned onto his left side so that Sansa was completely trapped under his right arm and leg, her head resting against his left shoulder. The lingering sweat on her body caught the chill of the room and she shivered.
Initially Sandor had become sullen and withdrawn whenever talk turned to Sansa’s suitors, but gradually he had softened his stance. He didn’t like it and he hated the lords, near or far, who approached Sansa with their proposals. Yet Sansa knew him to be far too pragmatic to pretend that the matter would disappear if he ignored it.
“Everyone expects me to get married sooner rather than later. My annulment has opened the floodgates; you know that as well as I do.”
“I do, little bird. If they come from all across the realm, why couldn’t you marry some buggering old lord from across the sea, whom you would never have to even meet?”
“And if I carried a babe, wouldn’t that be just a bit too unbelievable? A babe is what this all comes down to. An heir for House Stark.”
“A babe…” Sandor’s voice sounded muffled. He never approached the subject, but the way he sometimes slid his palm across Sansa’s belly and stared at it told her that the subject was not new to him.
Sansa braced herself for what she needed to say by tensing slightly.
“Tyrion suggested the marriage. He and the king and queen think they might have found me a good match. A nobleman who is not from the North and has no ambition to pursue his own agenda through my claim.”
“Aye, and who’s that? The old cripple, Prince Doran?” Sandor spoke against the crown of her head, his right hand travelling down Sansa’s side, across her stomach and hip. His was not a touch meant to provoke her desire - this time - but one for his enjoyment. For him to feel Sansa’s soft skin, her womanly curves and her warmth. Sansa loved the heavy press of his palm on her body and sometimes wondered how a hard man like Sandor could enjoy such an unassuming thing so greatly.
Sometimes Sansa felt as if she was trying to tame a beast; one driven by instincts and focussing on survival. Unpredictable and cruel when needed, but without guile or treachery, like nature itself. A beast who had been kicked too many times and distrusted everyone, but still had the dignity that only wild animals possess, knowing its own true worth. That such a creature allowed her to pet him made her grateful in the strangest way.
Sansa drew her breath. “Jaime,” she exhaled, then stilled, waiting for Sandor’s reaction. He lifted his head and peered at Sansa with poorly hidden disbelief on his face.
“Yes, our Jaime.”
“Did you hear this from Tyrion, or from Jaime?”
“Tyrion wrote about it in his letter, assuming Jaime had already proposed. He hadn’t, after finding out about us…” Sansa’s voice trailed away. She knew Sandor would never unleash his anger on her as he had done a long, long time ago. Still she didn’t want to see him withdraw into his own world again and shut her out, as he was prone to do if something troubled him. Not that it happened often – but if ever there was a situation that might trigger it, this must be it.
To her surprise Sandor only looked at her, his expression betraying nothing but silent contemplation. Sansa wondered how long it would take for her to truly know him. How could he sometimes be so tender, the next moment ruthless, the next pragmatic? She swore she would never stop trying to understand, or being fascinated by this complex man resting next to her.
Finally Sandor spoke. “What did he say; does he want to marry you?”
Sansa raised her hand to touch his face. Scarred or unblemished skin, it mattered naught to her now.
“He said he was not going to even mention it, not after he learned what there is between you and me. Nonetheless, I have to give my answer to the king and queen when they arrive.”
“That was not the answer to my question, little bird.” His voice was flat, with just a hint of irritation in it.
“He said that he would have cherished and respected me, and not lorded over me. That it might have worked. That he might not be what I deserve in a husband, but he might be better than some others.”
Sandor turned on his back, releasing Sansa from his grip. He stared at the ceiling and Sansa saw his brow furrow.
“What about the Dragons, do they insist on this?”
“Jaime advised I should tell them that I am not ready to marry another Lannister. He thought I could still have some more time before I have to make my decision.” Sansa snuggled against him, wanting to dispel the frown on his face. Yet she knew she had to tell him everything.
“There is more,” she whispered.
“Hells, what next? Tyrion changed his mind and wants you back?” Sandor barked.
“No…and you are wrong in judging him so harshly. He has been nothing but good to us; to me, to Jaime and to the North. He doesn’t deserve your dislike.”
Sandor harrumphed, but didn’t interrupt her.
“King Aegon is in need of a bride. He wants to marry a Westerosi lady of high birth to forge new alliances. Tyrion wrote that he is considering me as his betrothed and has that in mind for his visit.”
There was no mistaking it now; Sandor was angry. Not at her, but at the whole world which seemed intent on disturbing and destroying their little world.
“King Aegon? You to become queen? I thought that was no longer your wish!”
“It is not! I would never accede to that and leave the North again, but this complicates things. If he takes a liking to me and proposes, turning him down could be politically risky.”
“What do you mean, if he takes a liking? Bloody hells, woman, any man only has to glance at you and they will be trapped; hook, line and stone. Why can’t that dragonspawn marry his aunt, isn’t that what Targaryens are so good at?”
Sansa wasn’t deterred by Sandor’s ranting. “She is apparently barren, and their house needs an heir even more than mine. Forming bonds of kinship between noble houses is important as well. I will never accept his proposal, should it come to that. I would rather face a war again.” Sansa knew she couldn’t contemplate that prospect, but surely there was something she could do to avoid Aegon’s attentions?
Her mind calmed as she thought of the challenge ahead. She had found a way out of worse, and with her two companions by her side, they’d find a solution.
“We can think about this later. Let’s talk about something else. Or better still, let’s not talk.” Sansa shimmied closer to Sandor, who had closed his eyes and exhaled a ragged breath, seemingly accepting Sansa’s suggestion.
Since Jaime had returned, Sandor had continued to come to her rooms as before, as often as possible. Only on some nights did his duties or the expectations of others keep him away. Yet the last few evenings Sansa had seen him restless in a way he hadn’t been before. A few times she caught him distracted, contemplating something only he knew. He could be holding her, next to her in body, but the faraway look on his face revealed his mind was somewhere else.
She urged Sandor to turn onto his stomach and started to stroke his back with her hands, determined to banish the unsettling thoughts from his mind. She tried to press as hard as she could, in the way Sandor had showed her, but her feeble attempts didn’t do much against the solid mass of his muscles. Sansa saw him close his eyes in response to her touch and felt him relax under her hands.
This is how Jaime must have touched him, she realised. Does he miss it? On a whim she leaned into his ear and whispered, “You can go to him. I don’t mind.”
Sandor opened his eyes and turned to stare at her. “What the hells are you talking about, little bird?”
Sansa felt hesitant, but the flash of insight she had just gained forced her to continue. Her words came out as a whisper.
“You can go to Jaime, I don’t mind. I know you miss his company.”
Sandor scooped her into his arms and pressed his face against her hair. “I miss only your company. Why would I want to waste time in the presence of the Kingslayer when I can have you?”
Sansa accepted his words and pulled him closer, all the while knowing that she had seen it true.
The next day Sandor asked her if she would mind if he came to her later. Sansa agreed readily, guessing where – to whom - he would go. A tiny flicker of doubt entered her mind, but she admonished herself soon enough. After all, she had suggested that. Knowing that besides her, Jaime was the only person who had gotten through Sandor’s defences, she accepted that if she truly loved him, she would let him go.
When Sandor came to her later, she didn’t ask him questions. She didn’t have to; she was confident of his love for her, however undeclared it was, and nothing else mattered.
Of all the visitors from the South, Sansa found Ser Jorah Mormont the most intriguing. He had stayed behind when the southern army departed, planning to visit his old home of Bear Island with Queen Daenerys once she arrived.
Excluding Sandor he was the most unusual man Sansa had met. He treated her as an equal to any man, and a leader, unlike most lords. Oh, the others acknowledged her claim, respected her as the daughter of Lord Eddard Stark and spoke of her beauty and her capabilities as a woman. Ser Jorah made no issue of her gender and treated her no differently to any other noble ruler. He was courteous and knightly, but when Sansa talked, he actually listened to her, instead of only feigning interest. Sansa could only conclude that to be due to his long association with Daenerys Targaryen, the woman who had risen from a penniless exile to the queen of the Seven Kingdoms.
Jaime had told Sansa about his widely known and seemingly accepted association with the queen. Although Sansa had no reason to doubt Jaime, the first time she saw Ser Jorah she found it difficult to believe. He was a balding, middle-aged man whose face was terribly marked with a crude demon tattoo. He is so ugly! As soon as the thought entered her head, she saw Sandor, on guard in the background as a sworn shield should be, and felt a twinge of shame. The realisation that the young queen could love a man like Ser Jorah made Sansa consider her in a completely new light.
So far she had seen the pending royal visit only as the final hurdle on the road towards peace in the North. Now she found herself curious about her sovereigns. What was the young queen really like? Would they have anything in common – besides kin killed in a cruel war, youth spent under the control of others and a difficult journey to be acknowledged as the head of their houses? And a hideously marred lover?
To her delight, even Sandor seemed to approve of Ser Jorah, and the two were often seen discussing different weapons and practices of war in the foreign kingdoms.
Sansa spent several afternoons with her new friend, who told her about exotic lands across the sea and answered her questions about the queen and king. When Ser Jorah spoke of his queen, his features softened and Sansa caught a glimpse of what Daenerys might see in him.
Sansa had specific reasons for her queries, wanting to get insight into what kind of a man Aegon was. Was he the type to take offense if rejected; was he known to bear grudges? Sansa didn’t want to think of him as a man she may have to marry – only as a threat to be thwarted. To her relief all Ser Jorah told her painted a picture of a reasonable young man, wise beyond his years. Not a spoiled brat like Joffrey had been, raised to privilege without ever having to earn it, but another exile making his way back to his heritage through patience, cunning and the support of those still loyal to his house.
Sansa started to feel better about her chances of avoiding another cursed betrothal with the royal house.
Ser Jorah also knew about Brienne’s quest in Braavos and had worked with Jaime in King’s Landing to expand her search with the help of the Iron Throne.
Jaime related to Sansa and Sandor what they had done, laughing that although he recognised his limitations in political strategies, he knew a thing or two about hunting and battle tactics. If a hunter had difficulties locating his quarry, rather than wasting time and effort in trying to rush after elusive beasts, it was better to trap them. Likewise, wars were lost if spent in wandering the countryside in search of an enemy. That was foolish – it was much better to entice a foe to exactly where you wanted them to be.
With that in mind he had come up with a plan for Brienne. Assisted by some local contacts, supplied by Ser Jorah, Brienne was to lure Arya to find her, rather than the other way around.
Jaime had sent drawings of the Stark direwolf sigil to Braavos, and Brienne was to turn them into a stamp in a workshop specialising in printing colours and shapes on fabric. The stamp was to contain a direwolf silhouette and the word NYMERIA, another stamp bearing a simple arrow alone. Brienne was then to go around in Braavos and paint those images on the walls of buildings, fences and rock-faces, arrows pointing to where she wanted Arya to come.
The direwolf itself had been slightly modified, but still clearly recognisable to anyone familiar with the Stark sigil. Jaime had chosen NYMERIA, as anything directly related to the Starks or Arya might alert undesired interest. For most people Nymeria meant the legendary warrior queen of the Rhoyne, but Jaime knew the word to have a special meaning to Arya, evoking memories of her lost direwolf. A wall drawing of a wolf and the name of a legendary figure from the past was unlikely to raise suspicions, being dismissed only as the idle scribblings of restless youths, common in such a big city.
Soon after Jaime’s return to Winterfell he had received a message from Brienne confirming she had done as planned. She had established her headquarters at an inn near the harbour and painted hundreds of signs all over the city; in poorer areas and in palatial neighbourhoods, in the markets, near training yards, whorehouses, religious buildings…everywhere. All of them pointed an arrow towards her inn. She had instructed the innkeeper and his staff to send anyone coming to ask about the signs to her.
Then Brienne had settled down to wait, while still continuing to follow any promising leads she heard. Yet she always returned to the inn to see if her trap had worked.
She wrote to Jaime in astonishment that the Braavosi seemed to be strangely fascinated by her. They approached her in the streets, followed her around, and when she was sitting in the common room, tried to join her. Her blond hair, freckles and bright blue eyes seemed to captivate men as they had never done in Westeros. To add to her puzzlement, her admirers didn’t seem to mind her size, her manly manners or even her habit of dressing in men’s clothes and carrying a sword. If anything, that seemed to turn them on even more.
In an aside she mentioned that some women seemed to behave in the same bizarre fashion, following her and seeking her company. As Jaime related that part of her letter to Sansa and Sandor, he laughed so hard that he had tears in his eyes. Sansa giggled as well, slightly embarrassed, but clearly grasping the joke as well as Jaime. Only Sandor was left frowning, looking at his companions with a perplexed expression. After that, there was no end to Jaime’s mirth, and he only stopped when he was hoarse and wheezing from lack of breath.
To Sandor’s indignant curses of how he didn’t see anything particularly funny about the situation, both Jaime and Sansa only shook their heads, trying to soothe Sandor’s flaring temper.
Later, in the privacy of their bed, Sansa told Sandor how there were women who were drawn to members of their own sex, just like men. She had heard whispers of such in the Vale, the ears of bastard daughters hearing more than those of a highborn girl.
Sandor was dumbfounded. What in the seven hells did women do? he asked. He understood men, as a man could be used as a woman, but it didn’t make any sense to him how a woman could act like a man. Gently Sansa had to remind him how often he had satisfied her by means other than using his manhood; with his hands, his mouth, his tongue… For some women that was enough, she told him breathlessly, thrilled to be able to tell him something of the ways of the world for once.
Sandor considered that for a long time, but eventually acknowledged that it might be so. Then they laughed together at poor Brienne, unlikely to have any knowledge of such matters. They didn’t laugh with malice, but with affection. Sansa felt true warmth towards the large warrior woman whom she had met only for a brief time. She sincerely hoped Brienne would be successful in her quest and come to Winterfell soon, so she could learn to know her better.