Fly, Little Bird || Sansa Stark & Decimate

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    fly, little bird
    sansa stark & decimate

    Running was all she knew. All she remembered. Sansa had been running for years it seemed, her life ticking by with the passing of trees and days and weather patterns. How long had she been gone from the Eyrie? Days? Weeks? Time had become a fickle thing, a luxury. She couldn't afford it. All that mattered was food and water, and a place to rest for the night. Sansa could feel her legs aching nearly beyond repair with the strain of her constant movement. Her dress was torn at the shoulders and hem, dyed black hair tangled in a mass of unkempt curls down her back. Dirt smothered a pale, once-beautiful face. She was nothing, now. A homeless wanderer without a name.

    Even Alayne Stone was dead.

    Unable to walk further, Sansa knelt beside a small pond and dipped her shaking hands in the water. She took a moment to scrub her face clean from the filth she found there, eyeing her reflection in the water's surface with hopelessness. I look like a stranger, she thought sorrowfully. A beaten, bruised stranger. Tears stung her eyes. Was there anything left of the girl she used to be? Sansa wept by the side of the pond and prayed to whatever gods were listening for some small justice. Enough to live a life away from here, enough to taste freedom once again. But Sansa could not cry forever. Like the warrior she had become, she wiped her tears and trekked onward toward whatever lay ahead.

    Hours passed. Sansa slept in the shade of a great oak tree and woke the following morning, watching the Trident looming on the horizon. How had she walked so far? Was this truly the Trident, or had she lost her bearings? Sansa wasn't sure. Forward was her only answer. She rose from her sleeping position and began her forward march, for it was all she knew.

    The cold became unbearable as the day progressed. The closer Sansa came to the river, the harsher autumn's wrath became. She stopped against a rock face and wiped the sweat from her weary brow, yearning for water or food. Comfort. Relief. Something, anything. She closed her eyes and dreamt of home, of snow and castles and warm evening fires. I could die here. I could close my eyes, go to sleep and never wake again. I could die here. I could die here.

    Rain began to fall. Slowly at first, then all at once, much like falling in love. Sansa opened her eyes. The river was closer, now. She was exhausted, malnourished and tired and completely separated from herself. It would be so nice to fall asleep, to dream and never wake again.

    It called to her. Sansa approached the river bank and curled up beside it. She didn't care if she was found anymore, Lord Baelish would be kind for a while, or maybe death would take her when the waters rose. She was half Tully; dying here seemed fitting after all.

    She closed her eyes and felt nothing but the cold as consciousness slipped away.​
  2. The Novice Gravedigger

    The bout of storms that had assaulted the Island by night had quieted by dawn of the following morning. The brothers and sisters living in penitence at the Island each rose dutifully at the first light and filed into the Sept to listen to the morning’s readings of the Seven Scriptures followed by a brief Sermon to be given by the Elder Brother. Many would go to the tables first off for the prayer, but a few would be sent to the kitchen so that the meal could be served. Among them was a figure so vast that he had to stoop his head below the doorway before he entered the room, his cowled head just a few feet short from scraping the ceiling. He walked with an awkward gait that made carrying trays of food and mead difficult, but somehow he managed to get by without unduly creating disturbance.

    After the morning meal, the hall would empty out as each individual went onto to do their appointed task for the day. This particular morning, most congregated at the old windmill to fix a leak that had sprung up during the night. The sound of hammers rang across the island were usually silence prevailed. Others, mostly the men too old to be counted on to climb into the rafters, toiled diligently in the garden or among the stables. But on the shore down by the ferry, there was only that one tall man limping through the wreckage, searching for the corpses that had bound to wash up during the night after such a storm. And indeed, there were more than usual. By midday, the novice gravedigger had unearthed 4 bodies from the wreckage. Three of the bodies were men bearing wounds that could have come from a knife as easily as a sword. Only the woman was free from them, though lacerations and abrasions lined her pale face. She’d most likely tripped into the Trident and drowned.

    With no aid despite his wound, the large novice slowly stooped over to drag the first of the bodies alongside a cart stopped in the grass. It took him awhile, but he eventually managed to tip the first man into the bottom with a solid meaty thunk. The second was faster for her was a slim man and free from armor. The third was the longest. And then it was the woman’s turn. But as the Gravedigger reached down to seize her wrists, they seemingly gave a feeble twitch in his hands. Being used to the dead whether by interning them into the earth or sending them there with a swing of the sword, the man knew by some gut instinct that these were not the hands of one whose life had ended. The hands were cold, but not chilled to ice like those of the men. Uncertain as to what else to do, the big man clapped a hand upon the shoulder and shook it roughly, the fingers clamping down like a vice. The shaking did not last long, however, as the sound of footsteps came up from behind.

    More bodies. It seems after every storm we are greeted by the sight of men, women, and children upon our shores. Some by the virtue of drowning, the others through a raid.

    The Gravedigger turned to be greeted by the Elder Brother himself as he trudged contemplatively through the grass. He had clearly been watching the Gravedigger for some time. For his part, the Gravedigger merely shrugged his large shoulders. What were a few more dead bodies compared to the ones he'd already been digging?

    "Aye, by dumb cunts who couldn't be bothered to get out of Westeros when they had the chance."

    The Novice's voice was harsh from a combination of disuse and a natural low growl. It wasn't due to the others on the island that he had taken up silence during the day. He had sworn no vows to it and nor did anyone expect him to. He was not a godly man. Just a tired and aimless vagrant who had agreed to do a turn to a man that had saved his skin. His silence was no atonement, but rather an act of avoidance save to be alone with his own thoughts as he worked.

    The Elder Brother knew all of this and respected it. He truly believed that the Seven had some higher purpose left for their Gravedigger that transcended all that they did there. Some path of redemption open that went beyond simply digging the graves.

    "You are right perhaps. Westeros has become a terribly unsafe place even now that the War of the Five Kings has come to an end. But the poor and the unfortunate have nowhere else to go. Even the most meager of hearths is far better than a life on these treacherous roads, my friend. "

    The Gravedigger grunted and picked up his shovel, unceremoniously resting it upon his shoulders as though it were a sword. It was in this moment that he released the hand of the woman he had scarce been conscious he had been holding. The Elder Brother did not miss this however. He approached the cart and looked over the faces within. Like the Gravedigger, his face hovered on that of the girl longest of all. Instead of trying to shake her as he had been doing, he placed a hand atop her forehead.

    "This young woman. Where did you find her?"

    The Gravedigger pointed to a section of beach where a small pool of gentle waves was evident. There was a hunk of driftwood floating there that indicated their victim might have washed up on it during the storm. The Elder Brother lowered his hand from his forehead to her cheeks and finally touched her wrist. He hovered there for a minute and then finally pulled her up from the cart, lifting her as though she were no more than a young child. The Gravedigger lifted his head questioningly, a pair of dark eyes blazing out from the hood. It was just for a split second ... but perhaps ... as the pale face of the girl turned his direction ... there was a shadow of recognition. A shadow from back when he was not the Novice Gravedigger, but one of the most feared men in Westeros: Sandor Clegane, the Hound.
    • Love Love x 1
  3. She did not remember her dreams. Lost in the small void between the living and the floating world, Sansa thought only of darkness as she slept. It was comforting to feel numb. Frightening perhaps as well, but not entirely unwelcome. She rested for an unknown amount of time that spanned hours, days, years, and only when she felt warmth tingle her skin did she begin the process of coming back. Sansa shifted on what felt like a bed--a cot, maybe?--and parted her lips to release a groan. Blue eyes opened. What had pulled her back from the darkness? Blurry at first, her surroundings came into view as Sansa rubbed her eyes free of the sleepiness she found there. A modest hut housed her. A small window brought a view to the open sea, and a hearth crackled with fire to her right.

    "Ah," said a voice. "Our castaway awakens."

    She turned her head. An elderly man wearing a necklace with the seven-pointed star smiled at her with eyes absent of lust. It had been too long since she'd seen eyes so pure. Sansa didn't know how to respond, pushing herself upright in bed despite the dull pain in her side. She was warm now, dry, and had been redressed in a simple gown more akin to a farmer's wife than the heir to Winterfell. Her legs were covered with a threadbare blanket. She clung to it. The man moved to a barrel at the corner of the room, filling a cup with water and offering it to her. "Drink, my dear. You need to stay healthy."

    Sansa could not refuse. Hesitantly, she outstretched her hand and took it, sipping lightly until she realized just how thirsty she was. She drank deep until the whole thing was empty and her breath was nearly gone, preferring to drink rather than breathe. "Where am I?" she asked meekly.

    "The Quiet Isle," the man replied. "A place of safety and solitude for the poor and unfortunate. And before you ask, you were not violated with your change of attire. We have women here, and they wanted to see you out of your wet clothes. We don't harm people on this land."

    Sansa didn't know why, but she believed him. Words are wind, Petyr once told her, not to be trusted without foundation in fact. But Petyr Baelish was far from her, or so she hoped, and his advice wouldn't help her now. She set the empty cup on the table at her side. "How did I get here?"

    "One of my gravediggers found you washed ashore. So cold, you were. I nursed you back to health. You should be alright in time." The septon pulled up a chair and sat at her bedside, hands folded in his lap politely. "Tell me, my dear, your name wouldn't happen to be Sansa Stark, would it?"

    She paled. Sansa wrung her hands. "My name is Alayne Stone," she asserted. "I'm a baseborn girl."

    "The daughter of Petyr Baelish?" He chuckled at her shock. "We have people here who know of him. We are a secluded little island, hard to reach, but we still hear news now and again. Alayne Stone was set to marry the new heir to the Vale, yes? How did that go for her?"

    Sansa chewed her lower lip. This man didn't seem threatening, but his words were enough to condemn her. She removed the blanket from her legs and made to leave. "Forgive me, sir, but I need to be on my--"

    "No, no. Please sit." The septon stood, his hands in the air to declare his innocence. "I mean you no harm, my lady. I could be wrong about you, it's true, and if you wish to be called 'Alayne' I will not argue, but a woman came by the Isle looking for Sansa Stark. She described you perfectly as you are now. And I've...heard stories about you. From a friend."

    "And which friend is that?" Sansa replied. She felt unsafe despite the septon's friendly nature, and she hugged herself absentmindedly.

    He grinned. "You'll find out soon enough. I swear by the old gods of your family and the new gods of mine that I will not lay a hand on you. We've no interest in the outside world. Turning you in would do nothing for us; we are a simple community. It seems you were delivered to a place of safety, and it must have been needed."

    It was. Oh, it was. Sansa sat down on the edge of the bed, resting her hands in her lap. Orange curls fell about her shoulders and back, and Sansa realized that the dye must have washed out. That was what gave me away. Sansa should have known that a man of the Riverlands would recognize a Tully when he saw one. "Please," she muttered "You can tell no one. They'll be looking for me, the Lannisters and Lord Baelish. I don't know what'll happen when they find me."

    "Like I said," replied the septon, placing a hand over his heart. "By my honor. Shall I have someone bring you something to eat? One of our cooks, he makes a mean stew."

    Sansa slowly nodded. What choice did she have? Her stomach growled at the mere mention of food, causing the strange priest to smile. "I'll have someone return shortly," he said, and left without another word.

    Sansa brought her knees to her chest. Waiting. Wondering. She found a small cutting knife by the mantle of the hearth and clutched it in her palm, just in case. Sansa sat on the bed and sighed, hugging her knees, and hoped that for once in her life, a stranger's words rang true.
  4. At the foot of the stairs, a hunched figure stood with his back pressed against the thatched wood of the cloister, his cowled head turned slightly upwards to the room above. When the elderly septon shut the door and descended, he turned his head quickly to the front. The movement was not quick enough to fool the Elder Brother, however.

    Back again, Sandor? You have visited this place often since the arrival of our new guest.

    The Hound grunted beneath the cloak. It was not the grunt of a man cornered by guilt. The Elder Brother smiled slightly and gestured for the man to follow which he did. They moved at a slow comfortable walk to the kitchens, in which the Elder Brother put in his request for her meal to be delivered by a Septa, and then they walked onward to come in to the room of confession. Normally, neither the Hound nor the Elder Brother ever entered this place unless to confess – a thing he had done only once when he was sure the damned infection was going to do him in – but today was an occasion where Sandor Clegane would have his due. At the Septon’s request, he sat stiffly on the simple stone bench, while the man sat beside him. It was silent for a long while and then …

    You were listening to my conversation with Alayne upstairs.

    Upon hearing the false name, Sandor resisted the urge to spit.

    Alayne. To hell with that name. It’s Sansa Stark, true enough. I don’t even need to see her to know that voice.

    It was the same tremulous voice he had heard wavering that night before he left from Kings Landing. The voice so high and sweet, it reminded him of one of the song birds from Volantis. Unlike those birds though, she was a mimic – a little bird that sung only because she was frightened. Frightened of him. Frightened of Joff. Frightened of that cunting whore Cersei and her false, simpering smiles. Frightened of Ilyn Payne and the sword he had used to hack Ned Stark’s head right from his shoulders. And she had every right to be. Everywhere she flew to landed her in yet another gilded cage.

    She has requested to continue using the name Alayne Stone. In regards to her safety as well as to her own personal security, I would urge you to do the same.

    He grunted sourly, but the man had a point. Playing around with names had saved him in the past when that big bitch with the Lannister sword had come calling to remove his head. She’d thought he’d had Sansa Stark with him then, too. Only it’d been her sister, Arya, he’d had. The damned ungrateful little shit.

    Remember where the heart is?

    And she’d just stared, her dark eyes cold as she absconded with his coin and left him there to slowly die. He'd been there nearly a whole week, starving for wine and food, his body covered in blood as well as his own shit, when the Elder Brother had happened on him. Even though the man wasn't supposed to hear him, he'd confessed with nothing else to lose. Like a damned coward even with no fire around to coax him. But even as he'd lost everything, he didn't die. He'd healed and come to the Quiet Isles, bringing with him his horse Stranger whom the brothers continued to avoid. He'd become the gravedigger, just a face in the crowd, someone almost normal ... until that morning.

    "Her presence here ... It bothers you, doesn't it? She reminds you of your sins."

    Sandor Clegane gave a bark of a laugh through his hood.

    "My sins. Bugger my sins. She doesn't bother me. The little bird's just escaped her cage for awhile. She'll go back soon enough. Hasn't got spit to do with me. "

    The Septon placed his hand on his shoulder.

    "Perhaps she will. She will not be going anywhere soon. Her condition is too poor to travel at the moment. And with her abandonment of Baelish, the world has become a small place for her. She might be here as our guest for quite sometime."

    "Like I said, it doesn't have spit to do with me. If your smart, you'll keep her away from me. She won't trust a word you say if she sees me here."

    His gaze stubbornly lingered away from the old man's, directing themselves back into the hall where the silent sisters were gathering up a tray of stew and plate of fresh bread to deliver upstairs. One of the sisters was even carrying a mess of dark powder similar to that used to disguise her hair. He leered at the sight as he watched the sisters disappear. The Elder Brother, too, had noticed their departure and he stood up, leaving Sandor sitting on the bench.

    "No one can force you to make decisions, Sandor Clegane. Not Me. Nor any of the other brothers here on this Island. But though I am just a humble priest, it seems to me that the Seven has delivered her here for a reason. "

    Because they're fools ... She isn't safe even here.
  5. Three days passed. Sansa did not say a word to anyone. She remained in the hut, letting her bruised ribs heal and eating whatever was given to her. The septon had been right about the food. It was delicious, perhaps even moreso than that of the Eyrie, but thinking of that place made Sansa's heart shiver. She did not want to go back there. Not now, not ever. And so she kept her head down, spoke to no one other than the healers, and tried to plan her next move. The first step to any plan was knowing the variables involved. After the third day of rest, Sansa, with her hair still as red as a Tully's, decided to leave the hut and see the Isle she'd landed on It may not have been the smartest move to go forth undisguised, but it seemed the people knew Alayne Stone better than Sansa Stark, and Lord Baelish would likely be seeking her as such.

    It seems my identity must change again.

    The people greeted her with curious looks when she passed them. Sansa kept mostly to herself, observing the landscape of the small Isle in the middle of nowhere. It was a rocky place. Filled with steep hills and treacherous beaches, but there was suitable land for growing food, and it seemed the small community was doing just that. Sansa counted at least thirty people, all here, all willing, and none of them gave her the time of day apart from a little "hello" or other common courtesies. It was strange, seeing somewhere so pure and humble, untouched by the war. But it was clear to Sansa that the people were all refugees, whether or not they looked the part. A small patch of land was filled with mounds of dirt signifying those they had lost. Sansa took a moment to watch a gravedigger, a massive man with an odd limp, plunge his spade into the dirt as though it were some beast he swore to slay. But looking at someone so large only made her miss a person from her past, and she continued on quite sadly, still uncertain what to do with the days that lay ahead of her.

    The stables held many horses. Sansa noticed at least five there, each minding it's own business. She plucked five apples from a nearby bag and set about feeding them; she'd always been more partial to animals than people after her sweet Lady was taken from her. Sansa walked down the row of beasts until stopping at the end before the most monstrous. Her eyes lifted. A coat as black as midnight held the massive body of a horse with a temper. A horse Sansa had known, and ridden before.

    "Stranger," she muttered. The beast seemed to hear her and reared it's head.

    "Don't talk to that one, miss," said the stablehand. "I just calmed 'im. Been rearin' and kickin' all morning. He's got a temper."

    "I know--I mean, I've seen him before. A man I knew rode this horse to save me, but..." She reached out her hand, the one with the last apple. Stranger sniffed at it before snatching it from her palm in one massive bite. If his horse was here, what could that mean...?

    "Please," she begged suddenly, turning to the stablehand. "Do you know who owns this horse? The man who can control it? Is he here? I need to find him, please, I beg of you." Sansa didn't realize she'd clutched the boys arms, desperate for information. She remembered the Hound so well, the only man she'd ever allowed to touch her. He kissed her on a night when jade fire filled the sky, and she sang him a song, and he'd wept. Surely the gods wouldn't bring her here if it meant she would be lonely again.

    "I-I think it's the gravedigger's horse," the man replied. "No one likes 'im. He kinda scares people."

    Sansa smiled. "Yes, that sounds exactly like him. Thank you. Oh, thank you!" She kissed the man on the cheek for making her so happy. But what was there to be happy about? Sandor Clegane left her as so many others had. He was harsh and brutal and he'd scared her more than once, but there was something in his eyes the night of the Blackwater, something deep and filled with longing. His kiss still haunted her like a disease of the sweetest kind. If the man who's promised to protect her and bring her home was here, among the people of this little commune, so close to her after all this time...

    It would be the blessing she'd always prayed for.

    Sansa knew where to start. There was something familiar about the man digging graves, why hadn't she thought of it? Put the pieces together in her troubled young mind? Sansa thought it was so impossible to reunite with someone she cared about that the notion of doing so made her feel sick, weak, like she'd been punched in the stomach and brought to life all at once. She couldn't fathom what it meant to feel secure again.

    When she made it back to the cemetery, the hooded man was still digging graves. She didn't know if it was him, wouldn't feel it until he came closer, but Sansa drew from her Stark strength and managed to pull words together. She rested her hands on the fence. Her eyes never left his back, as if his refusal to face her was a clue.

    "Did you think I wouldn't find you?"
  6. Did you think I wouldn’t find you?

    The shovel stopped at once. The man wielding it reaffirmed his grip after a few seconds, but he did not proceed with his task. He merely stood, facing away from her, his head lowered towards the earthy hole that was maybe seven feet long and three feet deep. There was a corpse already in the hole – the slim man he had pulled out shortly before pulling out Sansa herself. Only the former had not been quite so fortunate. He lay staring upwards unblinkingly towards the sky above, his dark eyes glazed over in death.

    After a long moment of peering into those unseeing eyes, the big gravedigger straightened up and cast the shovel aside. His calloused, dirty fingers would then come up to lower the cowl that covered his head, revealing in the process a head that looked odd even from the back. The left side had no hair at all while the right side was long and shaggy enough for both of them. When the figure turned to peer at her, the features were those of Sandor Clegane albeit with new features from his fight at the Trident. Try as one might to disguise them, there was no denying that the Hound had gone from bad to worse as far as looks went. But even so, the dull grey eyes peering back at her were undeniably the same as those that had gazed upon her so intently the night he had left the white cloak behind. Only these eyes were sober and lacked the same fire that had been there before as he looked into her face.

    Find who, girl? There’s nothing but the dead here.

    He spat into the grass before reaching up to take hold of his shovel. One boot would stamp the edge of the spade deep into the pile he made before pushing it forward over the face of the dead boy.
  7. "You're not dead." It was half reply, half declaration. Sansa's breath trembled as he turned away again, and for a moment she feared she would break. So many feelings were associated with this man, this brute who'd spat horror stories to scare her in the night. She'd thought of his kiss whenever Lord Baelish asked for one, and remembered him instead of Tyrion on her wedding night. But it didn't seem like he thought of her so fondly. Sansa's heart, already a fragile thing, sunk deep in her chest. She opened the gate to the cemetery and stepped through, wanting nothing more than to approach him and inspect what was left of Sandor Clegane.

    The anticipation frightened her. Auburn curls blew in the bitter winds, and she extended a hand to place gently on his arm.

    "Do you not remember me, ser?"
  8. You’re not dead.

    The grotesque side of Sandor’s face twitched at that. Her certainty sounded amusing. Had she not already heard story of the Hound’s death? Did she not know that his carcass lay in the dirt almost as certainly as this stupid lad he was burying? Or had the Septon decided to spare her that tale because she was not hunting him like that Brienne of fucking Tarth? Whatever the reason, he decided to spare her further illusion that he was the same man she found in her bed the night he left Kings Landing.

    I’m dead as any man here.

    His spade jammed into the earth where it lay quivering for moments afterwards. His gaze lifted towards where the men with their long robes shuffled forth to their daily tasks. There were a few among them who, much like Sandor himself, did not have the build of men destined to be monks. Yet they were here all the same. He watched them for a but a moment as he rubbed the dirt from his palms, but finally turned his head as he felt a warmth of smooth fingers upon his arm.

    "Do you not remember me, ser?"

    He wrenched his arm away, a shadow of the old ferocity flitting across his otherwise grim facade.

    "Hang your sers."

    Even though Gregor Clegane was dead, he would not be associated with the false title anymore so than when he was the Hound. The hate that made him may have died ... but the disgust and frustration, the memories of what it was like to be beneath the Mountain, would follow him for certain until the end of days.

    Just like other certain memories such as the song he had taken from a young girl at knife point while tears he had thought left him years ago slid down his withered face like a prayer.
  9. His retreat wounded her. Sansa felt like crying. He'd always had that effect on her, hadn't he? Even back then, even in the Eyrie. Even now. Sansa huffed and gathered her skirts to face him fully. She would not take his behavior now. She was stronger, more confident than the girl he'd threatened all those years ago. Sansa would not let him flee from her now. She'd regretted going with him once; she would not do so again.

    "Look at me," she begged, hands resting on his arms in the gentlest of touches. Her sweet voice cracked in desperation. "Please, don't--don't fight me, not after everything. Has the world made you harder than the man I knew? Are you lost...?"
  10. Sandor half expected the girl to retreat shortly after his outburst. The little bird he left at Kings Landing would have. She’d been too scared to do anything else other than tweet back the polite phrases her Septa had taught her. She’d been a true lady, a pretty but empty-headed thing who believed the entire world was one of her precious songs. It had always aggravated him before. With uncontrollable monsters like Joffrey, the Imp, and Gregor about, how could anyone believe in such things? No, she’d been a fool. A little fool that vexed him and made his blood pressure rise in ways he could not have thought possible.

    But when he looked up into the desperate eyes peering back at him, he did not see the same eyes he had left back in Kings Landing. These eyes were haunted. They were the same as his own. It disconcerted him and for but a few moments, he could do nothing but stare back into them, his own grey eyes chasing the shadows that lurked within her own.

    What happened to you, little bird?

    The Hound, vexed once more, looked her straight in the face.

    "What do you want from me, Bird? You didn't give a rats ass before. I offered to take you, didn't I? Offered to get you back to Winterfell --- though after what happened to your mother and brother ... "

    He stopped, grimacing some as he remembered again riding into the Twins and finding the place in chaos. He'd had to incapacitate the little girl before she'd gotten herself killed as well as several Freys who had gotten in his way.

    "And the last I heard, you had become Baelish's little bird. What happened there? Learn quicker than your dead father that Baelish is a cunt and should not be trusted?"
  11. "Don't do that." Sansa shook her head, but never once did her gaze leave his. "Don't--don't project your fears on me, it's not like that. I cared before. I sang to you before. You left, and I let you, because Stannis was supposed to save me and you were drunk." Her words wavered like the wind. Sandor knew how to bring pain to the surface of her heart, but not just her own pain. His as well. She had always kept a spot in her soul for him. She remembered laying awake at night in the Eyrie after dreaming of his kiss, wondering what had become of him. Now she knew. The gods had finally answered her prayers, but to what end if not their continued togetherness?

    "But...Stannis never won." Sansa's voice cracked with emotion. "They married me to Lord Tyrion. After Joffrey's death, Petyr stole me from King's Landing and..." Her eyes, filled with tears, fell to the center of his chest. She was focused on nothing, broken. Her chirping fell just below a whisper.

    "I should have gone with you."
  12. "Don't do that. Don't--don't project your fears on me, it's not like that. I cared before. I sang to you before. You left, and I let you, because Stannis was supposed to save me and you were drunk."

    A bark of bitter laughter left his lips. She cared? She who had shrank back before his every touch right up to the end? Seven hells, she remembered that night very differently than he himself had.

    You didn’t give me the song, little bird. I took the damned song. Took it on the edge of a knife.

    And though I meant to toss the bloody thing in the river as soon as I left Kings Landing, I left the cloak behind for her.

    Sandor swallowed. No emotion outside of vague suspicion showed on his scarred face. His insides were wrestling with one another as they had not in several days. The plea on her face tempted him much as it had before. But then, as he lingered on the subject, he recalled quite clearly what had happened when he got mixed up in his last attempt to help a Stark. It had ended with him burned, dying drunk on the side of the road until the monks had shown up for him. What had he gotten out of it? Not a damn thing. His coin was still lost. The girl had left him for dead. Sansa Stark was not her sister, he knew that. She had the gentler Tully in her while the other girl was strictly a wolf. Even so, the same problems that plagued Arya Stark held true for Sansa Stark. She was being hunted and there was no safety for her anywhere. Not even here.

    But...Stannis never won. They married me to Lord Tyrion. After Joffrey's death, Petyr stole me from King's Landing and...

    His hands resting on the edge of the spade clenched. He hated the Imp certainly. He hated Baelish, too. In fact, there were very few people in Kings Landing he held any liking for including himself. But there was a spasm of strong dislike there he hadn’t felt in a long time as the girl dropped her eyes to his chest, her eyes filling with tears of helplessness.

    I should have gone with you.

    Sandor stared for a long moment then reached inside his cloak to pull out a small kerchief he'd gotten from one of the monks. He passed it over towards her begrudgingly.

    "Don't start crying. I'm sick of your tears."

    It seemed like every time he saw her she was either on the verge of tears or openly weeping. It was vexing even more so than the situation itself. Perhaps it was because even after all this time, he still felt the old pity when he looked at her. She was a girl no longer, but his mental image of her was of the same lady that had been enamored with Joff at one time. At least, until she'd been forced to realize the truth that there was no such thing as a fucking Prince Charming in this world. And that handsome did not equal good. Reluctantly, he looked back at her the moment she'd calmed down.

    "Where do you go now, Bird? Back to your cage with Baelish? Or maybe you prefer to skulk about pretending to be a man like your sister with her bloody little sword?"

    He remembered she had a bastard brother who'd gone to the Wall. But the girl was more foolish than he'd thought if she imagined hiding out in the midst of petty thieves and rapers was the way to make a place for herself.
  13. Ashamed, Sansa took the handkerchief and wiped away her tears. She felt pathetic in his presence, not for the first time, but the feeling faded quickly with her newfound confidence. Confidence that Littlefinger had given her, the ability to rebuild her walls. She shook her head with a soft smile. "You're a fool," she muttered. Sansa cleared her throat to speak more loudly, wanting him to hear her words of conviction. She met his eyes. "You're a fool, Sandor Clegane. I gave my song to you. I kept your cloak. Stored it away where no one would see. But you could never let yourself think I cared, could you? Stuck in your ways as you are. You could never let yourself believe that a girl like me could feel something more."

    Before he could reply, Sansa stepped closer to him. Her eyes were her mother's rivers, but as strong as any Stark ice. "I wouldn't have sang for you if I didn't care. I wouldn't have thought of you all these years if I didn't care. And I wouldn't be here, now, talking to you out in the open if I didn't care. I don't want to go back to Petyr, not now, not ever. I don't know where I'll go next. But if you insist on continuing to belittle me, then perhaps meeting you here wasn't the answer to my years of praying after all. I have been through too much since our parting to stand here and let you speak to me like that."

    Sansa felt fractured. Disappointed. She knew he was a broken man, but something in her hoped there was a Hound who'd fallen for her as she'd fallen for him. A tale of a knight and his lady, only far more warped and twisted by terror. Still, it had been her story. She was content to sing that song if she could. But it seemed that Sandor was still hateful, still unkind, and as much as Sansa ached for him she would not suffer more under those pretenses.

    She handed the handkerchief out to him. Her eyes were sad and distant, as if he'd crushed her under his shoe.
  14. Her words took him aback. It wasn’t often he was startled like that anymore. After seeing the things he had seen in this world, how could anything get the drop on him like that? But this was different. She was different. The bird he remembered from Kings Landing had been totally enamored with the lies the tales had told her. Handsome people were always good. Knights were chivalrous heroes and upheld honor just like her pious father. Beautiful maidens romanced high lords just like the name of the one song … Florian and Jonquil?

    There had not been a place for a dog in one of her precious songs.

    But then, there hadn’t been a place where helpless maids were stripped naked and beaten in the throne room, or married to ugly little monsters such as the Imp. Perhaps the reality at how cruel the world actually was had gotten to the bird at last – a fact that both made him feel curiously smug and terrible at the same time. The Hound watched her with cautious eyes as she stepped forward until she was almost touching him, their bodies just inches apart. The desperation and fear were still evident on her face. He wanted to push her away from him out of instinct, but there was that other part that kept him warily still.

    Maybe we’re both damned fools,” he growled at last. “I had every intention of taking you that night, you know that? But then you sang your pretty song for me and touched my face. It was the first damn time you actually looked at my face. And I couldn’t do anything. Nothing. I was more ashamed that day than I’d been in my entire life.

    I’d almost become everything I fucking hated … but I wanted it more than I'd ever wanted anything before.

    And then he had left her behind for Stannis, his mind a jumble of fear, regret, and loathing as he slaughtered every last guard in his path and left the city by night as it burned … Shaking his head, he looked down into her face.

    I’ve always been honest with you, bird. I’m no better than they are. You’d do best to fly away from here. Run and marry some highborn lord. Or better yet ... get out of Westeros altogether.

    He twisted his head away from her, his eyes leaving hers in order to disguise what was really going on inside of his head.
  15. Sansa shook her head when he turned away. "You are. You are better than them, and I don't want to fly away. You can't make me do it. You can't tell me what I should or shouldn't do, either. I'm sick of people telling me how I should live." Her voice cracked with emotion. "You were never like them. But I don't know how to make you see..."

    Perhaps I can't. The thought was saddening, and Sansa wore that sadness on her sleeve.

    She hugged herself from the cold. She didn't know whether to continue pursuing him or to give up entirely, but the latter didn't feel like an option. She'd come so far, they both have. Sansa wouldn't see it end just because he was too stubborn to see his worth.

    "The Elder Brother," she said. "He has me in the small cabin, the one by the weeping willow tree. I'm going to stay there whether you want me to or not." Visit me, came her implication, but Sansa dare not say it aloud. She wanted him to look at her. To hold her, to protect her, something, anything. "I pray you're not lost to me," she whipsered, and Sansa turned away to leave him to his gravedigging, hoping he would not see the sorrow in her eyes.
  16. "You are. You are better than them, and I don't want to fly away. You can't make me do it. You can't tell me what I should or shouldn't do, either. I'm sick of people telling me how I should live. You were never like them. But I don't know how to make you see..."

    The fact of the matter was that she could not. To undo a lifetime of bitterness, ferocity, and self-loathing in such a short time was simply not in Sansa’s power. Even as the Hound wished it were so, he knew better than anyone the demons that still lurked within him brought on by what felt like a lifetime in Kings Landing. As he struggled to find the words, she suddenly turned about from him and hugged her tunic to her chest. The winds coming off the bay of crabs was cold that day even as Saltpans burned on the horizon.

    The Elder Brother … He has me in the small cabin, the one by the weeping willow tree. I'm going to stay there whether you want me to or not.

    He tightened his grip on the shovel but maintained his silence. He understood the implication of her sentence, one that would’ve made his former self hasten to take the bait. But just like before, the sight of her disappointment stilled him in place as she turned and spoke her last words to him. Words that echoed on the wind long after she had departed from the cemetery.

    I pray you are not lost to me.

    But I am lost, bird, and I’ve been lost a very long time.

    Without provocation, the events of his trial with the brotherhood without banners entered his thoughts. He had been vulnerable then. The most vulnerable he’d been in a long time. He’d shed tears then, too, for the first time in a long time. And through all of this, she had been on his mind even as he carted around her cunt of a sister. He’d nearly drank himself half to death after learning of her marriage to the Imp as well as the events that had come after. So why did her presence aggravate him so much now?

    Damn that girl … and damn me for fooling with her.

    He clapped a hand to his good side before handling the shovel forcefully again. He buried the lad with all the strength that he had before casting the shovel aside in a fit of bad temper. With nothing else to take his momentary internal frustration out on, he sat down heavily on a tombstone and stared over the water where the embers of the town burned away. Once or twice his hand went down to clasp the area where his wine skin used to hang, but fell away forlornly when his hands came upon nothing. He’d given it all up when he’d taken the cloak just as he had his sword and grey mail. There was nothing other than his face to give him away as Sandor Clegane.

    This continued for about another hour or so until finally the bell rang for lunch. The brothers began to put away their utensils to head inside for the meal. Sandor hesitated before falling in line, his eyes drifting away from the horizon. So lost in thought was he that he didn’t notice the sleek boats beginning to cross the waning flats at high tide, the white bird of the Eyrie at the prow.
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