Apr. 28th, 2013

ladytp: (Anne of Cleves)
Sansa

Sansa and Sandor ate in silence. The food was modest but tasty; cold chicken and carrots in herb butter. Sandor ate as he did everything else, with economy of motion and with a purpose, only what he needed. When he had had his fill, he stopped. They shared a flagon of Arbor gold and in her nervousness Sansa filled her goblet more often than she normally would have. Sandor drank sparingly, but at Sansa’s insistence accepted more. If Sansa wouldn’t have known better, she might have thought that he looked anxious.  But no, it could not be. He was always in control of a situation.

“So what is it that you wanted to discuss?” Sandor leaned back in his chair, fingering the goblet in his hand. “It sounds like things are progressing as well as can be expected. The Targaryens are still taking their time to announce their decisions, but the Imp seems to think they can be made to see reason.”

He examined Sansa under his brow. “You will have that annulment as well, just as you wanted. You had better prepare yourself after that, all the buggering lords will be rushing to you with their proposals.”

“I think I will wait until Jaime and the party have returned before I announce the news. I am in no hurry to make it public any sooner than necessary,” Sansa replied distractedly.

“Is that what you wanted to talk about?” Sandor leaned forward, his grey eyes peering into Sansa’s. “I am not blind. I have seen how you have fretted lately. You seem preoccupied with something – so you better just cough up what it is. Whatever it is, I can handle it.”

Sansa didn’t know what to say so she stayed quiet.

“If it is those bloody suitors, don’t trouble yourself over them. You don’t have to marry if you don’t want to – you are the lady of the keep and no lord can tell you what to do. Hells, if anyone argues that you can’t rule on your own, you can even form a council of all the high and mighty lords who think the sun shines out of their asses – as if you needed any advice from them.”

Sansa winced. How could he think she cared about such matters when there was a matter of so much more importance occupying her mind? Sandor leaned closer, his fists clenched on the table and Sansa found herself staring at them. His hands were so big and strong and yet so gentle at times when they had touched her.

“Have any of those buggering lordlings bothered you? And you not wanting to tell me because you know I wouldn’t let them get away with it?”

Sansa wondered for a moment why he would suspect such a thing – all her suitors were nothing but courteous and respectful towards their liege lady.

“It is…neither of those things. I have been giving a lot of thought to my future happiness and the companionship I need, that much is true. That is why I asked you here tonight.”

Sandor leaned back again, a questioning look on his face. Sansa had learned to read his expressions over time and knew him to be curious, although he did his best to hide it. Yet there was also a hint of uncertainty she hadn’t seen in him before. It did nothing to ease her nerves.

Wanting to break the formality of the situation Sansa stood up and gestured for Sandor to follow her as she sat on the couch at the other end of her solar. The couch was meant for three people, but Sandor filled it so that there was not much room between the two of them. Sansa braced herself.

“Sandor, do you care about me?”

He stiffened and straightened his posture. “What do you mean, little bird? Of course I do. I am your sworn shield and would lay down my life to save yours. Isn’t that caring?”

“I didn’t mean it that way. Do you…” Sansa shifted imperceptibly closer to him “…care about me as a woman?”

Sandor swallowed and she could see his expression changing from bewildered to uncomfortable.

“What silliness is this? Why are you asking me this? Aren’t all those young fools enough for you; is this some kind of a game? Because if it is, it is a dangerous one, and you had better hear me when I warn you against playing that with me or anyone else.”

His features hardened further and Sansa felt her mouth drying as she pressed on.

“This is not a game and I won’t be asking this of anyone but you. Haven’t you felt anything…between us?” Sansa wasn’t sure if she could describe in words what she felt. Surely he knew what she was talking about?

Sandor’s eyes narrowed as he scrutinised her.

“Bloody hells! How could it be anything but what I have already told you; that I owe you my protection?”

Since Sandor had not flinched or moved away, it gave Sansa courage to continue. She moved her hand and placed it cautiously on his thigh. He winced at that, as she had expected, but she ignored it. Once again she felt herself woefully out of her depth. If Randa was here, she would surely know what to say and how to make a man respond to her. She wouldn’t be just a stupid little bird who didn’t know what to do.

Sandor didn’t make it any easier for her. Sansa knew that with her other suitors, no matter how considerate they were towards her, she would only have to give them the slightest hint and they would press their suit. But Sandor – he only recoiled from her.

“You can’t deny what we share, and have shared ever since King’s Landing. Something other than the usual bond between a sworn shield and his lady.”

Sandor’s eyes had not left hers and Sansa felt herself drowning in their intensity. “Little bird…” he growled cautiously.

Then Sansa made her mistake.

Thinking that maybe she was wrong in trying to explain to him something that couldn’t be put to words, she decided to act. Sandor was a man of action and maybe deeds would speak to him louder than her halting sentences. Maybe he would let down his guard if she showed him that she was serious?

Sansa started to open the laces in the front of her dress. She felt her cheeks redden, but was determined to prove to him that she was not only teasing him, not only playing games.

Her laces undone, she hesitated for a moment, then tugged at her bodice. It fell, revealing her breasts and the crimson creeping across her skin. She felt exposed in a way she had never felt before, revealing not only her body but also her heart to his scrutiny. She raised her eyes to meet his, waiting breathlessly for his reaction.

Sandor was quiet for a long time. Sansa could hear his ragged breathing and sense his tension, like a coiled spring ready to bounce. However, what he said next was nothing she had expected to hear.

“So that’s what this is. The little bird has realised she is a woman and needs a man. And since you can’t give yourself to any those fools without staining your reputation, nor want to marry anyone, you turn to your trusted servant, expecting him to do your bidding in this as well.”

Sandor’s voice was full of contained anger and he stood up abruptly.

“I am not your fool, my lady. I may be your dog but I am not your plaything!”

Sansa gasped, shocked, and covered herself hastily with the bodice. Her hands shook too much for her to lace it close again, so she just held it against her breasts while trying to comprehend Sandor’s words.

“Sandor, no! It isn’t like that at all! I am not playing with you, I only…” She felt the arrival of tears and couldn’t prevent them from flowing down her cheeks.

Sandor walked to the door and grasped his cloak from the hook he had hung it upon earlier. Sansa got up and rushed after him, awkwardly holding on to her dress and the shreds of her dignity.

“Please don’t go! This is not a game; you must know what I mean! It is only you…for me…”

Sandor turned to look at her from the door and she could see the hurt on his face as clearly as on the day she had called him ugly.

“It is cruel to taunt a man like this, my lady. You must be bloody desperate to fling yourself at someone like me.” He threw one more glance at her dishevelled state. “I thought you knew me better than that.”

Then he was gone.

----------

Sansa cried herself to sleep that evening, overwhelmed by her despair. In her wildest dreams she had not imagined that reaction from Sandor. She had conceived of him possibly declining her coolly and courteously, maybe even showing some contempt towards her inappropriateness. She had envisaged him resisting her on account of his unworthiness or because of some notion pertaining to her reputation. She had most of all hoped he would welcome her in the spirit that she offered herself; with recognition of the deep connection that existed between them.

To have been accused of playing with him, seeking him only for her carnal pleasures – never!

The next morning found her with a thudding headache. She examined her image in the mirror and saw a girl with red-rimmed, puffy eyes, hair in disarray and a wild expression on her face. She sniffled and felt tears spilling again. How could he want me? I have destroyed what we had. He will never look upon me the same way as before!

As she stared at her expression, a change gradually took over and she felt grim determination returning. If Sandor had mistaken her for something she was not, she had to make him see how wrong he was. She would not be beaten. If he truly didn’t want her – well, she would accept that and bury her feelings for him. Yet if that was the case, she wanted him to say that to her face, eye to eye, seriously and honestly, and only after he first accepted that she did want him, and only him.

Invigorated, Sansa got dressed and went to find Sandor. She went by his room first, knocking on the door but hearing no answer she continued to the Great Hall. He was not there, nor in the training yard or in the stables. There she noticed Stranger was missing and enquired after him from one of the squires.

“Clegane took him out at first light, my lady.”

“Do you know where they went?”

“No, my lady. He rode as if demons were after him though, and looked the same. I gathered he went on some important mission for you as he muttered something about the ‘Lady of Winterfell’ as he was saddling Stranger.” The squire was looking at her curiously.

“That is true, I sent him on an important task, I just didn’t know he planned to leave that early,” Sansa replied, thinking quickly on her feet. “Thank you for telling me, I am content to wait for his return.”

The boy bowed to her and she returned to her rooms, worried. Where could Sandor have gone? Looking as if demons were after him? It must mean something, it must mean that the previous night had affected him more than just hurting his pride.

The day went by in a daze. Sansa attended to her duties, discoursed with her people, but pleading a headache retired to her rooms early in the day. She asked Lenore to tell her as soon as Sandor and Stranger were back, using the same pretext of an important mission he was performing for her.

No announcement came by midday, nor in the afternoon. Finally Lenore came and told her the news a stable boy had passed to her about Sandor’s return. Sansa thanked her graciously and waved her away.

Then she waited. She waited for his knock on her door, to hear his footsteps in the corridor on his way to his own room… but heard neither. After enough time had passed she conceded that he was not coming and she had to find him herself.

Stranger was still lathered with dried sweat as she passed by the stables. She didn’t dare to enquire after Sandor but went looking for him in the keep, visiting all the places she could think he could be, starting from the kitchens and especially the wine stores.

After a futile search covering most of Winterfell, Sansa had to admit defeat. Sandor was nowhere to be found. Then inspiration struck, and she scolded herself for not thinking of it earlier. New strength imbued her steps as she ducked into the Godswood. The pools. That’s where he will be. Where he has to be.

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