A Song and A Kiss, blue "No." A shadow detached itself from the shadow of the wall, to become a tall man in dark grey armor. Sandor Clegane wrenched off his helm with both hands and let it fall to the ground. The steel was scorched and dented, the left ear of the snarling hound sheared off. A gash above one eye had sent a wash of blood down across the Hound's old burn scars, masking half his face. "Yes." Tyrion faced him. Clegane's breath came ragged. "Bugger that. And you." A sellsword stepped up beside him. "We been out. Three times. Half our menare killed or hurt. Wildfire bursting all around us, horses screaming like men and men like horses - " "Did you think we hired you to fight in a tourney? Shall I bring you a nice iced milk and a bowl of raspberries? No? Then get on your fucking horse. You too, dog." The blood on Clegane's face glistened red, but his eyes showed white. He drew his longsword. He is afraid, Tyrion realized, shocked. The Hound is frightened. He tried to explain their need. "They've taken a ram to the gate, you can hear them, we need to disperse them - " "Open the gates. When they rush inside, surround them and kill them." The Hound thrust the point of his longsword into the ground and leaned upon the pommel, swaying. "I've lost half my men. Horse as well. I'm not taking more into that fire." Ser Mandon Moore moved to Tyrion's side, immaculate in his enameled white plate. "The King's Hand commands you." "Bugger the King's Hand." Where the Hound's face was not sticky with blood, it was pale as milk. "Someone bring me a drink." A gold cloak officer handed him a cup. Clegane took a swallow, spit it out, flung the cup away. "Water? Fuck your water. Bring me wine." He is dead on his feet. Tyrion could see it now. The wound, the fire . . . he's done, I need to find someone else, but who? Ser Mandon? He looked at the men and knew it would not do. Clegane's fear had shaken them. Without a leader, they would refuse as well, and Ser Mandon . . . a dangerous man, Jaime said, yes, but not a man other men would follow. •••••••••• Her bedchamber was black as pitch. Sansa barred the door and fumbled through the dark to the window. When she ripped back the drapes, her breath caught in her throat. The southern sky was aswirl with glowing, shifting colors, the reflections of the great fires that burned below. Baleful green tides moved against the bellies of the clouds, and pools of orange light spread out across the heavens. The reds and yellows of common flame warred against the emeralds and jades of wildfire, each color flaring and then fading, birthing armies of short-lived shadows to die again an instant later. Green dawns gave way to orange dusks in half a heartbeat. The air itself smelled burnt, the way a soup kettle sometimes smelled if it was left on the fire too long and all the soup boiled away. Embers drifted through the night air like swarms of fireflies. Sansa backed away from the window, retreating toward the safety of her bed. I'll go to sleep, she told herself, and when I wake it will be a new day, and the sky will be blue again. The fighting will be done and someone will tell me whether I'm to live or die. "Lady," she whimpered softly, wondering if she would meet her wolf again when she was dead. Then something stirred behind her, and a hand reached out of the dark and grabbed her wrist. Sansa opened her mouth to scream, but another hand clamped down over her face, smothering her. His fingers were rough and callused, and sticky with blood. "Little bird. I knew you'd come." The voice was a drunken rasp. Outside, a swirling lance of jade light spit at the stars, filling the room with green glare. She saw him for a moment, all black and green, the blood on his face dark as tar, his eyes glowing like a dog's in the sudden glare. Then the light faded and he was only a hulking darkness in a stained white cloak. "If you scream I'll kill you. Believe that." He took his hand from her mouth. Her breath was coming ragged. The Hound had a flagon of wine on her bedside table. He took a long pull. "Don't you want to ask who's winning the battle, little bird?" "Who?" she said, too frightened to defy him. The Hound laughed. "I only know who's lost. Me." He is drunker than I've ever seen him. He was sleeping in my bed. What does he want here? "What have you lost?" "All." The burnt half of his face was a mask of dried blood. "Bloody dwarf. Should have killed him. Years ago." "He's dead, they say." "Dead? No. Bugger that. I don't want him dead." He cast the empty flagon aside. "I want him burned. If the gods are good, they'll burn him, but I won't be here to see. I'm going." "Going?" She tried to wriggle free, but his grasp was iron. "The little bird repeats whatever she hears. Going, yes." "Where will you go?" "Away from here. Away from the fires. Go out the Iron Gate, I suppose. North somewhere, anywhere." "You won't get out," Sansa said. "The queen's closed up Maegor's, and the city gates are shut as well." "Not to me. I have the white cloak. And I have this." He patted the pommel of his sword. "The man who tries to stop me is a dead man. Unless he's on fire." He laughed bitterly. "Why did you come here?" "You promised me a song, little bird. Have you forgotten?" She didn't know what he meant. She couldn't sing for him now, here, with the sky aswirl with fire and men dying in their hundreds and their thousands. "I can't," she said. "Let me go, you're scaring me." "Everything scares you. Look at me. Look at me." The blood masked the worst of his scars, but his eyes were white and wide and terrifying. The burnt corner of his mouth twitched and twitched again. Sansa could smell him; a stink of sweat and sour wine and stale vomit, and over it all the reek of blood, blood, blood. "I could keep you safe," he rasped. "They're all afraid of me. No one would hurt you again, or I'd kill them." He yanked her closer, and for a moment she thought he meant to kiss her. He was too strong to fight. She closed her eyes, wanting it to be over, but nothing happened. "Still can't bear to look, can you?" she heard him say. He gave her arm a hard wrench, pulling her around and shoving her down onto the bed. "I'll have that song. Florian and Jonquil, you said." His dagger was out, poised at her throat. "Sing, little bird. Sing for your little life." Her throat was dry and tight with fear, and every song she had ever known had fled from her mind. Please don't kill me, she wanted to scream, please don't. She could feel him twisting the point, pushing it into her throat, and she almost closed her eyes again, but then she remembered. It was not the song of Florian and Jonquil, but it was a song. Her voice sounded small and thin and tremulous in her ears. Gentle Mother, font of mercy, save our sons from war, we pray, stay the swords and stay the arrows, let them know a better day. Gentle Mother, strength of women, help our daughters through this fray, soothe the wrath and tame the fury, teach us all a kinder way. She had forgotten the other verses. When her voice trailed off, she feared he might kill her, but after a moment the Hound took the blade from her throat, never speaking. Some instinct made her lift her hand and cup his cheek with her fingers. The room was too dark for her to see him, but she could feel the stickiness of the blood, and a wetness that was not blood. "Little bird," he said once more, his voice raw and harsh as steel on stone. Then he rose from the bed. Sandor Clegane, grey She was so afraid. He could see it in her eyes and she was always afraid. Everywhere her eyes looked, they were afraid and though his thoughts were clouded with the drink and the fear, he could still see that fear. The little dove, in her cage of woven lies and secrets so entangled it was a wonder she could see her world clearly. "I could keep you safe." His voice was rough, slurred as the drink loosened his tongue. "They're all afraid of me. No one would hurt you again, or I'd kill them." He was a man who knew little of the feelings or the hearts of others, unless they were on the other end of his blade. He knew even less his own heart, crippled and afeared and burnt beyond all recognition that it was. For at times, he surmised, his heart was more deeply scarred than the wax-waved scars of his face. He grinned savagely, the tip of his scarred mouth twitching ever so slightly as it did at times. "Come with me. I'll take you North. I'll take you home, to whatever is left of it and you'll be safe. You cannot stay here. The queen is a cunning fox and it is she who you must fear. Fear for your honour and your heart when with Joffrey but it is your life that Cersei Lannister will strip from you. You are a little bird, trapped in a cage." He glanced away, into the sky lit green and the whites of his eyes still shone from the fear of the wildfire. "Are you going to wait for the cat to eat you or fly through an open door?" He had to leave- and soon. The gates would open for the white cloak but if news travelled of his desertion, he'd have only his blade to get out with. Even as the Hound, he would need more to 'entice' the guards to let him slip past. Her auburn red hair was spread like a wave around her and there were many things his brain demanded in the moments. Kiss her.Fuck her.Kill her.Possess her. He did none of those things but instead rose from the bed, swaying a little from the drink but standing firm on his feet, cloak drawn across his shoulders and the dried blood across his scars juxtaposing the desecration of his face. He needed an answer and soon. "Little bird?" His voice demanded an answer, now. For he would leave, with or without her. Stranger could carry two or one, it would not matter one way or the other.