ladytp: (Default)
2017-04-08 01:30 pm
Entry tags:

Inaugural post

Well, I did the move as so many others. Not that I would be spooking out about LJ as such - I am sure Putin has bigger concerns than to chase fangirls - but I am interested to see where this leads and what happens...

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!

ladytp: (St Teresa)
2014-01-14 09:24 pm

Changing my journal into friends-locked...

Not that I plan to reveal anything extraordinary or secretive here, but as I already have one public journal in my Tumblr blog, I thought the secong blog could be a bit more private.

If anyone is interested to meet me in Tumblr, it is http://ladytp.tumblr.com/ - I think...at least, my blog name is ladytp. 100 points for originality and inventiveness, I know! :-)

So anyone who may come across this, I still would love to interact with you - so if you feel the same, do send me a friend request!

All my fanfiction that I have posted in my LJ journal, should be pretty much also posted in AO3 (http://archiveofourown.org/users/LadyTP/works) and FF (https://www.fanfiction.net/u/4007366/LadyTP).

See you later...

 photo letmeloveyouLoM_zps67e0f34f.gif
ladytp: (St Teresa)
2014-01-01 12:15 pm
ladytp: (St Teresa)
2013-12-31 08:28 pm

Fannish Year 2013?

EDIT: If you do this, would you like to respond with a link to your journal where you post your own review?

all through the year
I recall seeing a post by [livejournal.com profile] the_moonmoth last year about Fannish Year 2013, and it was kind of cool so I thought I will post it here and see who likes to respond with their responses... As for mine, I have to think about them and I will respond to this one - after the NY celebrations! (only <4 h to go..)

1.  Your main fandom of the year:
2. Your favourite film this year:
3. Your favourite book this year:
4. Your favourite album or song this year:
5. Your favourite TV show this year:
6. Your favourite LJ community this year:
7. Your best new fandom discovery of the year:
8. Your biggest fandom disappointment of the year:
9. Your TV/movie boyfriend of the year:
10. Your TV/movie girlfriend of the year:
11.  Your biggest squee moment of the year:
12.  Your most missed old fandom:
13.  Your fandom you haven't tried yet, but want to?
14.  Your biggest anticipation of the New Year:
15.  Your Writing (if applicable):
15.1.                    Total Words
Jan -
Feb -
Mar -
Apr -
May -
Jun -
Jul -
Aug -
Sep –
Oct -
Nov -
Dec –


15.2.    Your favourite own story of this year:
15.3.    Most fun story to write:
15.4.    Your sexiest story:
15.5.    Your story with the single sexiest moment:
15.6.    Your story that shifted your own perceptions of the characters:
15.7.    Your hardest story to write:
16. Best story(ies)  you read this year:
17. The sexiest story(ies) you read this year :
18. The story with the single sexiest moment you read this year:
19. The story you read this year that shifted your own perceptions of the characters:
20. Biggest Disappointment:
21.  Biggest Surprise:
22. Your fanfic or profic goals for the New Year:
23. I'd like to thank the academy... (Thanks to your betas, frequent commenters/supporters, the people who stayed up with you late...)
ladytp: (St Teresa)
2013-12-29 11:04 am

Winter, thy enemy, thy friend - Part 4

ch19

Sandor

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... )

ladytp: (St Teresa)
2013-12-28 10:52 am

Winter, thy enemy, thy friend - Part 3

ch13

Sandor

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... )
ladytp: (St Teresa)
2013-12-26 12:10 pm

Winter, thy enemy, thy friend - Part 2

ch7

Sandor


Her hands were delicate with long fingers and smooth skin – not that he would have felt their touch often on him.

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... )

ladytp: (St Teresa)
2013-12-24 04:26 pm

Winter, thy enemy, thy friend - Part 1

This is my gift to [livejournal.com profile] irismoongarden, to fulfil her holiday-exchange prompt – happy holidays!

I gather this might be the one prompt you really want… The first hint was your original holiday-exchange post, although modestly only as the 3rd in your list (“would love it if someone would write a story where San/San leave the Vale and head to Winterfell, but get trapped in the snow and find a cabin and have to spend winter snowed in”.) There was “anything” and “Jaime and Brienne too” - but then I saw your wish again in sansaxsandor LJ (“I want a story where San/San get snowed in a little cozy cabin somewhere on their journey north post QI or something. Whatever could they do to pass the time”). Well, then I knew I simply couldn’t let this prompt pass…

I hope you enjoy it… I tried to avoid too much fluffiness, but may have succumbed to it in the end. *le sigh*

Ch1

Sandor

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... )

ladytp: (St Teresa)
2013-11-08 11:19 pm

The Prophecy in 38 sentences

I recall reading here a while back an interesting exercise about putting together a story from the first sentences of many fanfics. It stuck in my mind and I gave it go with one of my own finished stories - but this time putting a story together form the first sentences and also from the last sentences of each chapter.

The story is "The Prophecy" (http://archiveofourown.org/works/888167/chapters/1712585), and this is the story formed by its FIRST sentences. I am actually surprised, and it is kind of cool how much sense it really makes!
Ch 37
Image: ‘Aged Sandor’ by kallielefdrawward (http://kallielefdrawward.tumblr.com/)

Sandor sways to avoid grasping hands of the wizened old woman, but her gnarly fingers wind around his arm as roots of a tree. Sandor grunts and for a briefest moment radiant explosions from deep within his core transport him to another world filled with sensations, colours, smells and feels. For the longest time Sandor doesn’t even register the girl properly, nor her deep auburn head of hair.

A steady stream of travellers crowds the roads; fugitives from the battle, common people displaced from their homes and endless bands of soldiers travelling this way or that. Sandor sees the outlaws first, his instincts screaming alert as the caravan slowly trudges forward on a lonely stretch of road. The news trickle in steadily from other travellers, telling them that the War of Five Kings has finally and truly ended, the last nail on its coffin – literally – being the death of Balon Greyjoy.

Sansa laughs. Later that day Sandor sees the merchant’s daughters crowding around Sansa, and later his sons looking angrily at his direction. Part of Sandor wants to acknowledge the dizzying depths of his first love, letting it swallow him whole like a bottomless sea, not leaving even a ripple of his previous existence on its surface.

Sandor lies on the ground completely winded, with no air in his lungs, and when he tries to inhale he feels sharp pain in his side.  Young Ser Cley is as efficient in attending to his unexpected guests as he was in chasing the outlaws. Seeing Sansa finally being reunited with her family brings a bittersweet conclusion to the long journey he started on the day Stannis Baratheon’s troops conquered the Red Keep.

He swears himself a dullard, laughs derisively at his own antics, yet he can’t help himself. He stares at her, not absolutely convinced he understood her meaning correctly. The looks he receives when the new arrangement is announced publicly are mostly frosty; Ser Cley is heard to complain loudly how a worthy position such as this should have by rights been awarded to a Northerner rather than to a Westerner blown in by the wind.

Stranger snorts softly and his muzzle presses lightly on Sandor’s head as he crouches in front of the horse examining his front leg. Sansa’s voice is loud and clear, approaching from behind the direwolf. He always thought she would be sweet to kiss – but the feel of her soft lips, the taste of her, the way she pushes against him and yields to his touch overwhelms him in a way he couldn’t have anticipated.

Despite his qualms about whether all that happened was just a figment of his imagination, he taps on her door the next morning as normal. Suddenly many incidents from their past surface in his mind and take completely new meanings. Nothing in his life is as it was before. After understanding that she feels for him as strongly as he does for her, instead of life getting better and simpler, it becomes more complicated.

He sees no real harm in acceding to Sansa’s wish. He wishes he was anywhere but here.  The argument goes on and on, Lady Catelyn refusing to entertain the notion of marrying her eldest daughter to a landless non-lord, not even a knight.

Sandor wakes up, Sansa still curled against him in his arms, sleeping peacefully, her hand stretched across his chest and her legs entwined with his. Their reception back in Winterfell is subdued. What then? Sandor had asked Robb that, and the answer is still forthcoming.

The babe screams as the seven devils were sitting on his chest as he lies on his mother’s arms and wildly waves his little arms. Sandor eyes the man sitting on the other side of the table warily and with more than a hint of suspicion. The two men, leaders of their respected dominions, stay up late.

Years go by quickly. News from the rest of Westeros reaches Queenscrown quickly due to new trade routes and increased traffic between the North and the South. Sandor notices that the Red Keep has hardly changed, after having spent only a few days there. Their return trip is swift and they get back in plenty of time for Sansa to prepare for giving birth in Clegane’s Burrow once again.

Fira eventually marries. Sandor hears sounds of feet shuffling around his bed and knows them to be either Fira’s or Santina’s.

Lord Sandor Clegane, the First Warden of the Far-North, is buried in the little island in the shadow of the turret first built to honour the visit of a long past Targaryen Queen.
ladytp: (St Teresa)
2013-10-24 04:38 pm

Sharing a bed with Stannis Baratheon in Vaes Dotrak


The man was all hard angles and planes as he lied next to her in the bed, his bony hips and ribcage protruding against Ara’s soft body when she pressed it against him.

He had arrived earlier that day carrying a flaming sword, fire of which didn’t quench even in the scabbard. He was accompanied by a red-headed woman who carried a stone that shone bright and red as the evening sun about to disappear behind sandy dunes in a ribbon around her throat.

They were looking for a silver-haired former khaleesi among the dosh khaleen. The stern-eyed man had declared that they wanted to take her far, far away, to the North, to the man in black who needed her. This man - the Watcher on the Walls - needed her Fire for his Ice, and together they were to conquer the ancient enemy that threatened the whole world; Westeros, Essos and all the lands north and south, east and west.

Dothraki didn’t care about the enemies so far away, but the miracles this dark man and his companion had performed in front of their eyes had convinced even the most sceptical old crones. Hence they had been afforded all the help and support dosh khaleen could provide, including offering Ara to the man when it was seen that he didn’t share his bed with the woman he travelled with.

Ara veered even closer to the man, fascinated by his grimness, his noble features, his broad shoulders and sinewy form. That this man was destined to greatness was evident to her and she wanted to rub even a small part of that into herself. Yet the man only pushed her away, sighed and turned his back on her, leaving Ara to wonder what drove a man like that when not even the softest skin, the silkiest hair and the most voluptuous body could steer him away from his path.

========================================
This was inspired bythis thing )
doing rounds in Tumblr and other social media. I thought it might be a fun thing to write a one-sentence/ one- paragraph/ one-ficlet/ a full-blown 200K-word opus on the fate that fell on you on this one...

So how about you talented writing ladies, anyone willing to share theirs??
Carousel2
ladytp: (St Teresa)
2013-10-08 08:20 pm

One paragraph

Lately I have done some "one paragraph memes" (OK, sometimes two...), inspired by some of the wonderful images and gifs I come across in the Tumblrland. Some of you may have already seen these in that aforementioned land, so apologies about that and just skip & hop over this post, but I thought to share these with those who have not.

Images and paragraphs below...

I Could Love You )
Eyefuck )

Field of Destruction )
ladytp: (St Teresa)
2013-09-22 06:48 pm
Entry tags:

Awkward dance moves - Part 2

Awkward dance 2 photo awkwarddance_zps078bb8cb.gif

Has anyone heard of or attended "No Lights No Lycra" event? It is an event where people pay a small entrance fee to enter a big hall with dimmed lights and dance, dance, dance to their heart's content. No grog, no socialising (discussion is apparently actually discouraged), nobody checking out your moves (hence dimmed lights) - the aim is to play and exercise and express oneself moving in any way one wishes. Like awkward dancing when one is at home alone!

I haven't been to one but am dying to attend! Showing how cool and hip and oh so up to latest crazes I am (NOT!), I only heard about this this weekend, although it has been going on since 2009.

See more in http://nolightsnolycra.com/.

Anyone?

NLNL photo nlnl_zpsd0440473.gif
 
ladytp: (St Teresa)
2013-09-06 09:13 pm
Entry tags:

"I'm sorry you feel that way"

Finally I got to reply to a comment using that fine line!
That was in response to a comment for Chapter 42 of the Triangle. Not even a particularly negative comment, just one where the commenter had a different view about character's pairing, which is fair enough!
But I wonder if this means that I'm a proper author now?  :-)
author
ladytp: (St Teresa)
2013-09-03 09:17 pm
Entry tags:

The Ecstacy of St Teresa

I just uploaded a new userpic, from 'The Ecstasy of St Teresa' by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1652).

St Teresa photo theresa4_zpsdd3df627.jpg

The sculpture has two figures; the swooning nun and the angel with the spear. The sculptor Bernini apparently took his inspiration from this quote by Teresa of Avila in her autobiography:


"I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the iron's point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart, and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it. The soul is satisfied now with nothing less than God. The pain is not bodily, but spiritual; though the body has its share in it. It is a caressing of love so sweet which now takes place between the soul and God, that I pray God of His goodness to make him experience it who may think that I am lying."

I mean, wow. I mean, really, WOW!

I know there has been lots of debate about the nature of her ecstasy – yet whatever it is, it just blows my mind…

stteresa5
ladytp: (by Giovanni de Campo)
2013-09-01 12:46 pm

Titles?

Snoopy

Hi all!

Moony's recent contemplation about the title of her fics made me wonder: How do you guys choose titles for the stories you write?

Is it a long and tedious process, going through multiple options, or is it whatever comes to mind first? Do you choose something that describes the story contents, or do you go with an abstract notion? I know many titles come from snippets of poems or songs - is that the way you go?

Just curious...

As I mentioned in my comment to Moony, I have deliberately named my stories as minimally as possible, using only one or two words (except the very first one, when I had no clue or idea or plan). I like the minimalist approach, although trying to come up with one word only that summarises the story is not always easy. Also, simple names are more common across the fandoms and can cause confusion, which I didn’t think at first. Who knows, eventually I may change tact and start choosing over-flowing, multi-sentence monsters that take half the page just by themselves!

Anyone?
ladytp: (by Giovanni de Campo)
2013-08-24 04:07 pm
Entry tags:

Awkward dance moves

Have been by myself for several days now, hubby being away. Done all the things a girl does when left on her own devices (notwithstanding the requirement to go to work and behave as an adult): stayed up late, not changed out of the pajamas the whole day (even when walking the doggies - that's what large overcoats are for!), cooking and eating from one pot, listening to favourite music LOUD, writing and reading like there is no tomorrow..

The best part though are the awkward dance movements - nobody is here to see me anyway, and the combination of those and the enticing outfit of trackie-pants, hoodie and ugg boots - ay caramba! (The dogs are scratching their heads though. Oh well, maybe it's only fleas.)

dance photo MM_awkward_dancegif_zpsd4f40509.gif
ladytp: (by Giovanni de Campo)
2013-08-18 07:03 pm

The Triangle - Chapter 41: Betrothal

Jaime

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.

ladytp: (by Giovanni de Campo)
2013-08-12 07:04 pm

The Triangle - Chapter 40: Experimenting

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.
ladytp: (by Giovanni de Campo)
2013-08-06 05:48 pm

The Triangle - Chapter 39: Sandor Yields

Sandor


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.

ladytp: (by Giovanni de Campo)
2013-07-29 02:54 pm

The Triangle - Chapter 38: New Friends, New Plans

Sansa

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.

“The lion?”

“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.

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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.