Aug. 12th, 2013

ladytp: (by Giovanni de Campo)
Sansa

Sansa knew it was only a matter of time before Sandor brought up Jaime’s proposal – or was it Tyrion’s? – with the man himself. Yet it had been days since she had told him about it, and to her knowledge it had not happened.

Sandor had stayed away from her rooms for two nights in a row, and during the day Sansa sensed him withdrawing inside his barriers once again. Part of Sansa understood him; if he was to lose her, he wanted to be prepared. Nonetheless, she protested against it in her mind. If they were to be parted, shouldn’t they be together as much as possible, imprint each other onto their minds and bodies for the rest of their lives?

Sansa’s own thoughts ran around in circles; surprise that she hadn’t thought of the solution Jaime might provide, guilt for even thinking about the suggestion and a niggling sensation that by doing so she was somehow betraying Sandor. The memory of Jaime’s sad expression when he had brushed his suit aside haunted her. Anger at King Aegon bubbled to the surface and at times she cursed the occupants of the Iron Throne, who simply couldn’t leave her alone. She had learned quite a few colourful expressions from Sandor, and although she would have been horrified at being caught using such language in public, in the privacy of her chambers she had no such qualms. Somehow uttering a strong word directed against the faceless, shapeless adversary made her feel better.

Sansa was in the courtyard, conversing with the castellan about the state of Winterfell’s food stores when she saw Jaime and Sandor returning from the practice yard. That was not an uncommon sight. On the contrary, since Jaime had come back it had been an almost daily occurrence. However, this time something alerted her as she watched them getting closer. The way they avoided looking at each other, the silence between them, the slump of Sandor’s shoulders.

Sansa had to know; had Sandor confronted Jaime? Had he done something rash and ill-advised? She dismissed the castellan and rushed after her companions. She had to refrain from running, walking briskly instead, as was fitting for the lady of the keep.  She lifted her skirts slightly so she could take longer strides, avoiding animal droppings and piles of muck not yet cleaned from the yard. However, before she reached them, Jaime turned towards the bathhouse, curtly nodding at Sandor before walking away. Sandor stopped and stared at Jaime’s retreating back, his face strained with an emotion Sansa couldn’t decipher.

“Sandor.” He whisked around and seeing Sansa, schooled his face into an expressionless mask.

“My lady.” He lowered his head. Sansa could see that they had been practicing hard – or have they been fighting for true? Sandor’s attire was dirty and dishevelled, indicating that he had spent more time on the ground than he might have liked. The good side of his face was abraded and a nasty bruise had started to form on his forehead.

“Please walk with me to the Great Hall.” Sansa turned towards the other side of the yard, Sandor falling in step slightly behind her. She wanted to talk to him freely, but they were in public and she had to be careful. Yet she couldn’t wait until the evening to hear what had transpired.

“What happened?” she muttered in a low voice. “Did you and Jaime discuss the proposal?”

Sandor walked on as if he hadn’t heard her question. Sansa glanced at him.

“Tell me, Sandor, I can’t wait until the evening! At least tell me if anything bad happened.”

Sansa smiled and greeted a small group of women from Winter Town as they approached. They returned her greetings with hasty curtsies, peeping cautiously at Sandor, but luckily bypassed them without further words.

Still Sandor was quiet. Sansa’s impatience got the better of her and she stopped fully and turned to him.

“Sandor, I have to know! What did you tell Jaime? What did he say to you?” Sansa wanted to grasp his hand to emphasise her words but again was prevented from doing so because of the rules of propriety. Normally she could cope with them, knowing she would have her time with him come evening. Now she felt frustration growing inside her. All she could do was glower at him with her most regal expression, hoping it would indicate how badly she needed him to respond.

Sandor looked at her and in his grey eyes she saw a trapped animal, blinking at its captor.

“Ask the lion,” he finally grunted, then bowed and turned around, leaving Sansa standing alone in the middle of the yard.

----------

“Jaime, I need to talk to you!” Sansa knocked on the door of his room. She knew it was almost as inappropriate as holding the hand of her sworn shield in the middle of the yard, but her nerves were frayed and she didn’t care anymore. What has happened, what have they done?

She heard steps approaching and then Jaime’s voice through the door.

“Apologies, my lady, but I can’t open the door just now. May I attend you in a short while?”

Sansa’s frustration grew. Both of them seemed determined to brush her aside. She tapped her foot on the floor and swayed indecisively on the spot. She stared at the door, its old timber and gnarled grains, shrivelled and shrunken from countless years of wear and tear. It stood in the way of her finding out what had made the two men, who meant more to her than anything in this world, so evasive. Blast! She made her decision and pushed the door open.

She stepped into the room and surprised Jaime, who had already returned to his trunk and was crouched over it, digging through its contents, apparently in search of clothes. He wore only his breeches, which hadn’t been properly laced, hanging low on his hips. That he had just been bathing was clear from the dampness of his hair and the ruddy tinge on the bare skin of his upper body.

He startled and stood up, staring in astonishment at Sansa. He bore the marks of the scuffle as well, fresh grazes on his arms and on his cheek. He also had a nasty bruise just under his collarbone and that purplish welt drew Sansa’s eyes inexorably towards it. Or maybe it was not the bruise, but the outline of the well-defined muscles under his skin, the flat of his stomach and how the slight folds on it as he had been crouching had smoothed out as he stood up, leaving behind only hard planes without an inch of excess fat. Sansa had established a new appreciation for the male form since she had started to study Sandor, and she couldn’t avert her eyes from the distinct valleys of muscle and the indentations that curved from Jaime’s sides towards his front, disappearing under his breeches on their way to his groin…

Sansa snapped out of her trance.  Muttering apologies she turned around, focussing on a spot on the stone wall while she tried to gather her wits. She heard a rustle as Jaime pulled a tunic over his head, then heard him approaching. Her heart thumped at the memory of the unexpected sight, something in it affecting her profoundly. Oh yes, she was well aware what a handsome man Jaime was, but seeing him in such an exposed state of undress, seeing his body so clearly… Her eyes were accustomed to Sandor’s nakedness and his raw sexuality, but she hadn’t seen other men as she had just observed Jaime. He was a tall, strong man, muscled and well-proportioned.  Sandor was by all accounts taller, stronger and bigger than Jaime. Still, it was not Jaime’s raw strength or power that caught her eye, but something else…He was breathtaking and dangerous, oozing sensuality that Sansa felt directed at her, intentionally or not. She closed her eyes and let her gaze wander down Jaime’s body in her mind once again.

Sansa sensed Jaime standing right behind her and heard his voice.

“I am dressed now, you can turn around. I am sorry that you had to see that, although I did warn you. Or was this payback for the time when I so unforgivably forced my way into your room while you were – let’s say - less than ready to receive visitors?”

Sansa whirled around and indeed, Jaime was clothed in a fine brown tunic, his breeches up and fully laced. His feet were still bare and there was something vulnerable in that. Sansa stared at them and refused to lift her gaze, knowing that if she did so she wouldn’t be able to help following his form even under the clothes. She was not ready to let Jaime know how profoundly he had affected her.

She looked towards the window, then at the wall again, then finally at Jaime. He watched Sansa intently, a small tug at the corner of his mouth indicating that he was not quite as sorry as his words conveyed.

“I…I didn’t mean it like that. I should apologise – but I really needed to talk to you!” The reason for her visit flooded back into Sansa’s mind and she moved to sit down on the second bed in the room. Not the one where Jaime slept, she surmised, from the way how neat and flat it was. That little bit of propriety on her part made her feel more in control. She looked up at Jaime.

“What did you and Sandor do or talk about? I asked him but he refused to answer me, only telling me to ask you. Did you quarrel?”

Jaime ran his hand across his brow, swiping a few unruly locks of hair away from his face. Sansa could see small droplets of sweat on his forehead, remnants from the heat of the baths. He sighed and sat down opposite to Sansa.

“No, we didn’t. These,” he pointed at his cheek and generally to the direction of his chest, “are just the normal consequences of a hard practice.” He grimaced, touching the spot on the right side of his chest, where Sansa had seen the bruise.

“Although it seems Sandor took it particularly hard this time, no, we didn’t quarrel.” He directed his gaze to Sansa, who found herself staring at Jaime’s chest once again.

“You discussed your proposal? Tyrion’s proposal,” Sansa corrected her words immediately, lifting her head and feeling a blush spread across her face.

“Yes, I guess we did. He let me know you had told him about it, we acknowledged it all came down to the need for heirs, and that Aegon was the real threat.”

Jaime leaned his elbows on his thighs and looked at the floor. Sansa was relieved but something still didn’t make sense. If they had not quarrelled, if they agreed with each other, why had Sandor looked so unsettled? Why was Jaime now avoiding looking at her? She reached across the gap and placed her hand on Jaime’s knee. She had done it a hundred times; to catch his attention, to swat at him when he was being stupid, a few times for support – yet never had it felt so awkward as it did now. She removed her hand quickly and withdrew, Jaime’s attention having turned back to her.

“That is not all. I can sense there is more to this than what you just said. Jaime, tell me, whatever it is.”

Jaime straightened and stood up abruptly, walking to the other side of the room. His back turned to Sansa, he fiddled with pieces of his armour, hanging on the pegs on the wall.

“I wanted to let him know that should it come to pass, I wouldn’t presume to demand that you put an end to your…relationship.”

Sansa was surprised. She hadn’t truly thought that far ahead yet; what it would mean in practice to be married to Jaime, or how they would conduct their marital life. She had always assumed that once she wed, her lord husband would naturally expect her to perform her wifely duties as required. Further than that she had refused to speculate, especially after Sandor had started to visit her bed. How to reconcile a husband and a lover was such an impossible quandary that she had preferred to close her mind to it. Not now, I will think about it later, had become her mantra. Why she should be so deterred, she didn’t know. She was a woman wedded and bedded, after all. That it had been with two different men should have made her even more at ease with the topic.

What does he mean? Sansa was intrigued. Did Jaime mean to tell her that he wouldn’t demand her to be a wife to him in truth? To her surprise a small part of her was disappointed, even affronted. Yet if that was what he meant, why would Sandor be so upset about it?

“What are you saying, Jaime? Do you mean that…you wouldn’t want me?” Oh my! That came out all wrong, Sansa realised and hastily tried to make herself clearer.

“I mean, should we marry, you wouldn’t…” Why is this so difficult?

Jaime turned to face her and smiled again, that small sardonic smile of his, with only a hint of sadness.

“Wouldn’t want you? I doubt there is a red-blooded man in the realm who could say that. Your charms are way too abundant and obvious.” His appreciative gaze travelled down Sansa’s form, making Sansa blush, but at the same kick herself internally. What on earth was she doing, talking of such matters with Jaime? This was just too embarrassing!

Jaime walked back to the bed, seemingly determined to speak his mind. He sat next to Sansa, who could smell him; soap, herbs and the clean linen of his fresh tunic.

“Sansa, listen to me. It doesn’t matter what I think, or what Sandor thinks, or even what King Aegon thinks. You are the one who decides what you will do and with whom. Whatever you decide, both Sandor and I will support you and respect your wishes. He may grumble a bit but he will follow your lead. So if he and I discuss these things, it is only to clarify matters between ourselves. You are the one who has the last word.”

Sansa was even more confused now. Last word about what? Jaime took her hand and took a deep breath.

“I might have told Sandor that when it came to heirs, wolves, lions and hounds can be happy if brought up together.”

Wolves, lions and hounds? It took only a moment before Sansa grasped his meaning, and her eyes widened. He can’t mean…I couldn’t…surely Sandor wouldn’t agree? Thoughts chased each other inside her head and she snatched her hand away from Jaime’s grasp.

Jaime smiled again, a bit sadder this time. “I am sorry, Sansa, I didn’t mean to insult you. I know you are a lady.” He leaned across, taking Sansa’s hand again and placing a courtly kiss on it. He had done it plenty of times, both in public and in private – yet again Sansa felt unusually self-conscious.
“Believe me when I say that I do understand you not wanting me in your bed after…” Jaime shook his head in a way Sansa had learned meant he was unsure of something.

Him. Sansa knew Jaime was comparing himself to Sandor and had found himself wanting. Suddenly she had a flash of a memory of sneaking into Jaime’s bed. That had been before she had given herself to Sandor, but that had also been the first time she had sensed Jaime’s feline sensuality… That he thought so little of his own appeal made Sansa sad.

Without stopping to think whether it was a good idea to remind Jaime of that night, she blurted.

“At Greywater Watch, when I came to you – I hadn’t really thought of you as a man before that, but I felt it then. I didn’t intend to, and I meant what I said - how you didn’t seem to react to me like other men did.”

Jaime looked up and smirked, his sadness evaporating. “I remember it well. As a matter of fact, it is one of my most cherished memories. Especially as, quite contrary to what you were saying to me at the time, I did find myself in an extremely uncomfortable and hard position. With you playing with me so innocently in your flimsy shift, so awfully close to me.”

Sansa blushed even more, taking his meaning. Wanting to move away from such a sensitive topic, she continued.

“I even thought I might consider marrying you. That it might be a real option for me. Then Sandor came back and I…” She didn’t finish her sentence. Jaime knew Sandor came first for her, no need to try to hide it. No point in rubbing it in his face either.

“I know, I know.” Jaime patted her hand. Up close, Sansa could see the straight profile of his nose, the curve of his lips. He looked thoughtful and after a while, grimaced. He lifted his shoulders and looked directly at Sansa’s eyes.

“In King’s Landing I met a man. Nobody you know, and I saw him only a couple of times. He taught me things I hadn’t known before. Different things.” He moved his gaze and was lost in thought for a while, somewhere Sansa couldn’t see.

Sansa was captivated. A man? Not just any man from the sound of it. Understanding dawned on her. Oh…

She squeezed Jaime’s hand encouragingly. Neither of them spoke for a while. Suddenly Sansa saw the amusing side of the situation. So many desires, so many emotions, all jumbled up. Without intending to, she felt her mouth curving into a smile. Jaime noticed it and looked at her uncertainly.

“Oh Jaime! Maybe all this is just speculation, what might or might not happen between us, should we marry?! Would you really even want me; maybe it would be you who would turn away from your husbandly duties!” She laughed now, relieved to have found some lightness in the situation that could have become even more awkward had the two of them not been so close.

Jaime took her meaning and grinned back at her.

“Indeed, maybe I would be a disappointment to you and to the whole North!”

Sansa pointed her finger at him and pressed it against his nose. “I am sure you wouldn’t! But if you are so unsure, maybe we should try if you still have it in you?” She leaned towards him and pressed a playful kiss to his lips. She had meant it as a jape, as a tease, but before she realised what had happened, the kiss had deepened. Which one of them instigated that, she didn’t know. Just as she didn’t know which one of them opened their mouth first; she only felt Jaime’s tongue sliding against hers, and couldn’t prevent her own exploration of his mouth. The passion such a kiss elicited in her came unbidden and her breathing changed. Her body reacted to that primal stimulation without her conscious participation, a familiar heat emerging at the core of her body. Without noticing, her hand landed on Jaime’s thigh and she heard him muffle a groan.

Jaime withdrew suddenly, his hand, which had mysteriously appeared at the back of her head, dropping down. Sansa saw traces of her saliva on his lips, the flick of his tongue as he swiped it away and comported himself. The spell was broken and Sansa lowered her head, dazed by what had just happened. Her gaze fell to Jaime’s lap and she saw the outline of his hardness, clearly discernible in the folds of his breeches. Abruptly, she turned her head away and stared at the bedspread. The simple northern patterns of the weave were suddenly the most interesting thing she had seen for a long, long time.

She sensed Jaime shifting beside her, moving his hand to cover his lap and the indecent sight it offered.

“Sansa.”

“Jaime.”

“I am sorry, I didn’t mean to…”

“Me too. I started it, I am the one who…”

“No, I was in the wrong.”

Sansa gathered herself. Yes, the situation had gotten out of hand, but no lasting damage had occurred. She was embarrassed though, and Jaime seemed to share her feelings.

“It was just a kiss.”

“Yes, just a kiss. We have kissed before. A kiss is not a big thing, and nothing to make a big fuss about, just as I told Sandor.”

Sansa’s head shot up at that. Had she heard him correctly? Sandor?

“What do you mean? Sandor?”

Jaime looked at her, baffled. “You know, the few times we…Hells, do you mean to say he hasn’t told you?” He looked sheepish and the embarrassment of their situation fell away, to be replaced with another level of discomfort. Jaime glanced away, searching his room as if trying to locate an escape from Sansa’s penetrating scrutiny.

“Have you and Sandor kissed? When? Why?” Sansa’s heart missed a beat. She knew Jaime longed for Sandor, but had Sandor ever…?

Jaime returned his attention to Sansa. His smile was just a little less sure, the lightness in his tone just a little more forced.

“Twice, only two times. The first time just before I left for the South. I asked it of him, I presented him with a challenge. I thought I might never come back and… I was probably more surprised than him when he agreed to it. That was not much of a kiss anyway, just a quick peck.”

Sansa stared at him, trying to work out why Sandor wouldn’t have mentioned it. If it was so innocent and just a peck.

“And the second time?” It obviously had happened since his return – after she and Sandor had become lovers!

“The day I walked in on the two of you. Sandor came to see me afterwards and I made a jape to him about how much more experienced he must be in kissing by then, not having had much experience of it before. He…he must have thought that I was such a pathetic failure that I needed proof of it, or something…” Jaime’s tone was resigned.

Sansa’s heart fluttered and she strained to make sense of what Jaime was saying. The day when he discovered us… Suddenly she realised what it must have been; Sandor’s way of telling him that he had not been ejected from their pack. She remembered Sandor had told her about letting Jaime know that he still had a place with them, despite the new state of affairs. Had he actually told her that he had said it? Sansa wrinkled her brow trying to remember. Her head started to hurt. Why didn’t he tell me? What does it mean?

As if reading her thoughts Jaime sighed, moving further away from her but catching her attention just the same.

“Don’t read too much into it, Sansa. Whatever you may think, I know he only wants you. He doesn’t care about me, except as a friend – I hope.” He snorted. “He feels sorry for me, and pets me as one would a faithful dog. Or should I say a cat? I haven’t been a lion for a long time.”

Sansa turned her attention to him, once again disconcerted by the cynicism she sensed in him.

“Oh Jaime. I don’t know what to think anymore. All this is just so confusing. You and me and Sandor… It shouldn’t be this complicated, should it?”

“No, it shouldn’t be, but we are only human beings, carried away by our wants and desires. Maybe we have been spoiled and have it too easy, to concern ourselves with all this. Were we simply peasants or still bound by the rules of the society and our houses, we would do as we were told and wouldn’t worry about any of this.” He shrugged his shoulders and spread his hands to indicate the width of their depravity.

Sansa understood what he meant. She had lived that life once; done as her parents and society expected, hadn’t asked questions, hadn’t wondered what if. And that life had let her down. No, it was better to have too many choices than too few, no matter if they brought with them their own dilemmas.

She stood up. She had to go to her rooms and think about all this. Jaime, Sandor, her kiss with Jaime, Sandor’s kiss with him, the talk about hounds and lions and wolves… Jaime looked up at her expectantly. She smiled at him and it was not a forced smile but one of genuine affection.

“I leave you now. I have much to think about. Besides, I am afraid of what might happen if I stayed any longer!” She smiled broadly as she said so, intending to put Jaime at ease. Yet part of her was serious; she didn’t want to contemplate what might happen should she stay. She was afraid – not of Jaime but of herself.

Jaime chuckled at her, but soon turned thoughtful.

“I am not in favour of keeping secrets, Sansa, but maybe it would be better if you didn’t mention the kiss to Sandor. The one between him and I, I mean. I leave it up to you what you tell him about us.” He brushed his hand across his chest and grimaced, exaggerating his pain.

“Next time we practice I might wear my full armour anyway, just in case.”

Sansa leaned down and squeezed his shoulder. “I will not tell him. About you two. And if he chooses not to share with me who he kisses, maybe I will do the same.” She straightened, swiped her hands over her dress and then her head, checking that her hair was in place and that she could step out, the image of respectability once again.

She turned at the door and smiled once more at Jaime, who still sat on the bed, looking after her.

“I think we can call it even now. You compromised my modesty once, I did the same to you. Maybe from now on we both should knock on each other’s doors and wait for an invitation before entering.” Jaime grinned back at her and with his open smile the last thing she saw, she started towards her rooms.

----------

That night Sansa asked Lenore to pass a message to Sandor that she wasn’t able to see him. She couldn’t be sure if he had intended to come to her anyway, but nonetheless, she was not ready to see him just yet. She instructed Lenore to tell Sandor that she was tired and had many things to think over, but that she looked forward to seeing him the next evening. To make it clearer that she wasn’t turning him away in retaliation for his absence over the last few nights, she passed him a little note, a hastily scribbled little bird on a piece of parchment from her desk. She didn’t want him to think that she wanted to punish him in any way.

No, she only needed some time to sort her thoughts, so completely thrown into disarray by the day’s events.
could do nothing about it.

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